Policy Sectors

Press Release

Number of Incarcerated Indigenous Women at New High

Ottawa, ON, January 21, 2020 – The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is alarmed by the findings released today by the Correctional Investigator of Canada, including the record high rate of incarceration among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis women. Today’s report shows that Indigenous women now represent 42-percent of incarcerated women in Canada. The total percentage of incarcerated Indigenous peoples has now surpassed 30-percent despite representing only 5-percent of the country’s population.

“These findings are nothing short of problematic,” says NWAC President Lorraine Whitman. “It is time that Canada recognizes the overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in correctional systems. These findings are a symptom of historical and current systems of colonialism, racism and sexism against First Nations, Métis, and Inuit women.”

The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls’ (MMIWG) Calls for Justice and the National Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action both demand transformative change within the criminal justice system. It is NWAC’s position that all governments must commit to urgent action to address the growing and persistent cycle of colonial violence and genocide perpetrated against First Nations, Metis, and Inuit women, girls and gender-diverse people. NWAC urges the Federal Government to make changes to the correctional system, in partnership with Indigenous peoples, to amend systemic oppression and reduce recidivism as well as the social determinants of health that lead to crime.

“All levels of government need to take real action now to reduce the number of incarcerated Indigenous peoples,” says Whitman. “To support the successful reintegration of Indigenous women in a holistic manner, the response needs to recognize the impacts of lived trauma and offer access to gender-based, culturally safe and trauma informed programs and services for women throughout their sentences and upon release.”

The MMIWG Report outlines the reality that Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people face in the criminal justice system, including the many societal issues that lead to their incarceration. The report’s Calls for Justice demand comprehensive changes to the criminal justice system, including creating a Deputy Commissioner for Indigenous Corrections, mandatory cultural training for those involved in the legal system, and asking police services to change the way in which they handle cases involving Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people. NWAC has done significant analysis on these issues – to find out more, visit https://www.nwac.ca/policy-areas/prisons-criminalization/.

To find out more about the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s report, visit https://www.oci-bec.gc.ca/cnt/comm/press/press20200121-eng.aspx.

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The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations, Métis and Inuit women. NWAC is an aggregate of thirteen Native women’s organizations from across Canada and was incorporated as a non-profit organization in 1974.

NWAC Media Relations


Media Contact:

For information, or to arrange an interview, contact:

Roselie LeBlanc roselie@sparkadvocacy.ca or 604-928-3233

Pour obtenir plus d’information ou prendre des dispositions pour une interview, contacter:

Roselie LeBlanc, par courriel : roselie@sparkadvocacy.ca ou par téléphone: 604-928-3233

About The Native Women’s Association of Canada
The Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC) is a National Indigenous Organization representing the political voice of Indigenous women, girls and gender diverse people in Canada, inclusive of First Nations on and off reserve, status and non-status, disenfranchised, Métis and Inuit. An aggregate of Indigenous women’s organizations from across the country, NWAC was founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote and foster the social, economic, cultural and political well-being of Indigenous women within their respective communities and Canada societies.