CBC News has learned that Aboriginal women make up, on average, more than 90 per cent of female inmates at the Kenora jail.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services said the proportion of Aboriginal inmates fluctuates on a daily basis. Last year, 93 per cent of female admissions to the facility were Aboriginal women. Based on statistics, that's more than four times their representation in the general population in the region.

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Vanessa Lucky, an Aboriginal Victim and Family Liaison with the Ontario Native Women’s Association, says Aboriginal women in Kenora need more culturally appropriate services. (Ontario Native Women's Association)

A women’s advocate in Kenora said those numbers are "shocking and disturbing."

"You’d be hard pressed to find one [Aboriginal woman in jail in Kenora] who doesn’t have a history of abuse and trauma in her life," said Vanessa Lucky, the Aboriginal Victim and Family Liaison with the Ontario Native Women’s Association.

"Those factors all contribute to those interactions with the legal system that ultimately lead to incarceration."

Numbers on the rise

The number of Aboriginal women in jail is on the rise across Canada according to a recent report.

In Kenora, it has increased 10 per cent over the past ten years.

Lucky said Aboriginal women in Kenora need more culturally appropriate services, both inside and outside the jail, in order to break a cycle of trauma, abuse, and poverty in their lives.

"When we’re dealing with this level of historical trauma and violence, we’re not necessarily dealing with people who need to be incarcerated," Lucky said. "They need help. They need services."

Aboriginal women in jail

  • The Kenora jail has 30 beds for women.
  • Proportion of Aboriginal women admitted in 2011/12 — 93%
  • Proportion of Aboriginal women admitted l in 2001/02 —  83%
  • Proportion of Aboriginal women in all provincial jails in 2011/12 — 19%
  • Proportion of Aboriginal women in all provincial jails in 2001/02 — 11%

*source: Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services

  • Proportion of Aboriginal people in the general population in the Kenora region — 41%, approximately half of which would be Aboriginal women

*source 2006 census data