Indigenous youth overrepresented in custody: advocate group

Bianca Bharti, Daily Herald

Recent numbers by Statistics Canada show that Indigenous youth are overrepresented in custody, compared to non-Indigenous counterparts, according to a press release Saskatchewan Advocate for Children and Youth.

In Saskatchewan, 92 per cent of male youth are admitted into custody and 98 per cent of female youth admitted are Indigenous. While national data shows a decrease in overall youth incarceration, the percentage of Indigenous youth rises. Across the country they represent eight per cent of the population but makeup nearly 50 per cent of kids in custody.

“We cannot continue to ignore the Truth and Reconciliation calls to action and must work harder to do better for these young people,” said Corey O’Soup of Advocate for Children and Youth.

O’Soup said the statistics reflect a crisis in the province. “Indigenous children in Saskatchewan are more likely to live in poverty, drop out of high school, be incarcerated and die by suicide than their non-Indigenous counterparts.”

Providing quality education, healthcare and mental health supports are key to prevention and intervention of Indigenous incarceration, said O’Soup.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls upon all levels of government to eliminate overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in custody over the next decade and conduct annual reports to monitor progress.

“These young people know what they need to be successful but for most of them, they cannot attain it and the reality is that far too many of these kids are being locked up or dying for reasons that stem from a history that they cannot yet escape.”