Justice, child welfare systems 'failing our people,' say Yukon First Nations
Indigenous people over-represented in Yukon's justice system, says Kwanlin Dün chief
First Nations leaders in Yukon say the territorial government needs to do more to reduce the number of Indigenous people behind bars.
"We can do a lot more, I think, but we need government to come on board to help us," said Kwanlin Dün Chief Doris Bill, at a news conference on Tuesday.
"Both the criminal justice and child welfare systems, we feel, are failing our people. That's reflected in the fact that our people are over-represented in the system."
According to 2011 census data, roughly a quarter (23 per cent) of Yukoners identify as Indigenous. But a 2015 report by the auditor general of Canada found that "between 70 and 90 per cent of offenders in Yukon are members of a Yukon First Nation."
The auditor general's report also highlighted the need for better rehabilitation programs at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, including programs that incorporate and reflect First Nations culture.
"It's the system that is failing the individuals," said Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.
"We're building bigger jails and smaller high schools, rather than the opposite way."
Bill says it's time for Yukon First Nations to play a greater role in rehabilitation programs and services for inmates, as well as other community-based initiatives to deal with issues such as homelessness.
She says Kwanlin Dün can take the lead on many initiatives because "we're right here in the city."
"Government certainly has the resources, we have the expertise. So let's come together and build some programs and services that are meaningful for our people," Bill said.
With files from Mike Rudyk