Indigenous Over-representation in Canada’s Youth Correctional System: An Assessment of Regional Variability [2020]

Although Indigenous youth make up 8% of Canada’s population, they are over-represented in the youth correctional system – comprising 46% of admissions in the 2016/17 fiscal year. The Youth Criminal Justice Act (YCJA) of 2003 calls for attention to the unique needs of Indigenous youth at all points of justice system contact, yet despite these special considerations and emphasis on fair treatment, overrepresentation has grown steadily in recent years. Examination of the number of correctional admissions for Indigenous and non-Indigenous youth, as well as the percentage of Indigenous admissions, across the provinces and territories provides insight into this unexpected trend. By incorporating regional population data, this research uncovers the areas that report the greatest levels of over-representation and those which have successfully reduced the percentage of system-involved Indigenous youth or maintained proportionate representation. This information provides a starting point for future research to uncover the systemic causes of the over-representation problem. These findings also draw attention to issues with recording and reporting practices – a problem that must be addressed in order to act on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s call to reduce criminal justice disparities among Indigenous youth.

Stephanie A. Wiley, Helene Love, Kelin A. Emmett
Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, September 21, 2020
DOI: 10.3138/cjccj.2019-0049