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Tough-on-crime bill will hurt First Nations, says Atleo

The national chief of the Assembly of First Nations says the Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda will be tough on First Nations.

The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations says the Conservative government's tough-on-crime agenda will be tough on First Nations.

The Conservative government is moving forward with an omnibus crime bill that promises to put more people in jail.

Atleo is concerned that means more First Nations, who already make up a disproportionate number in jails now, will be locked up.

He says First Nations have not been consulted on the changes.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo says the Conservative government's tough-on-crime bill will hurt First Nations people, who are already disproportionately represented in federal, provincial and territorial jails. (Sean kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

"There is a great concern. We certainly would want to express to the federal government that [it needs] to work with us, to design solutions for the future," said Atleo.

The chief said Ottawa should work with First Nations to ensure they're not caught up in its tough on crime agenda.

He says the disproportionate number of aboriginal people in jails can be traced back to government education policy.

"That's poverty. That's the underlying trauma of the Indian Residential School system," he said.

Atleo says if education can be used to take away people's culture and pride, it can also be used to replace it.

He says spending more on education will mean a huge pool of skilled workers.

Atleo added that by downsizing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development and giving First Nations more control over programs would also help move communities away from poverty and crime.

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