Policy Sectors

Prisoner Rights & Criminalization

NWAC is dedicated to advocating for systemic criminal justice reformation and the implementation of a new system that understands the underlying impacts colonization has presented for Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people.

Our goals are to:

  • NWAC believes the practice of segregation by name in prisons should be abolished.
  • The Canadian Government should fulfill its legislative duty and engage with S. 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
  • Restorative justice practices should be adopted into the criminal justice system to account for existing trauma faced by Indigenous women, girls, and gender-diverse people.


NWAC has consistently advocated for the rights of victimized, marginalized, and criminalized Indigenous women in Canada. Historically, the experience of incarceration and institutional violence has been closely connected to colonial policies, which continue to have a profound impact on Indigenous women today.

Indigenous women in Canada are over-represented in the prison system, accounting for 42 percent of all federally sentenced women in Canada1, and 50 percent of maximum-security placements for women.2 Despite these staggering numbers, the Canadian justice system has not responded to the unique circumstances faced by Indigenous women, and instead prioritize the use of incarceration over proven community-based alternatives to rehabilitation.

Attempts to fix discrepancies in the Canadian justice system have seen lackluster results. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act and Gladue [1999] Supreme Court decision—which intended to correct over-representation of Indigenous people in federal prisons through collaboration with Indigenous communities to provide specialized services for Indigenous prisoners—has shown little improvement. NWAC believes a restorative justice approach should be adopted to allow convicted Indigenous people to stay in their communities to rehabilitate.

References & Citations

Office of the Correctional Inestigator. 2017. Annual Report of the Office of teh Correctional Investigator 2016-2017.Ottawa: OCI.

Office of the Correctional Investigator. 2020. Office of the Correctional Investigator 2019-2020. Ottawa: OCI.