Auditor General calls treatment of First Nations “beyond unacceptable”

Auditor General Michael Ferguson condemned the government of Canada’s treatment of First Nations peoples and the ongoing disparity in services and programs for indigenous people in a series of seven reports released today, calling the situation “beyond acceptable” and stating in the fall report’s preamble that “until a problem-solving mindset is brought to these issues to develop solutions built around people instead of defaulting to litigation, arguments about money and process roadblocks, this country will continue to squander the potential and lives of much of its Indigenous population.”

Ferguson said he is frustrated that auditors identify problems and make recommendations but the problems continue to persist for months or years.

“It’s frustrating to see that there’s a lack of emphasis on what the citizen has to live through in these types of programs and there needs to be a change on how these programs are actually delivered,” he said.

Treasury Board President Scott Brison said, “we agree with the basic premise of the auditor general today, that we have to up our game as government … We have to deliver better results to Canadians, better value for taxpayers.”

Auditors also found that most indigenous offenders were more likely to be released from maximum or medium security prisons directly on statutory release dates rather than through a gradual release program, which reduces their chances of being reintegrated into the community successfully.

Only 31% of indigenous offenders were released on parole in 2015-16, compared with 48% of non-Indigenous offenders.

The audit noted that “offenders who have more time to benefit from a gradual and structured release into the community under supervision to the end of their sentences are less likely to reoffend.”

In addition, indigenous offenders did not have timely access to rehabilitation programs to help them reintegrate into the community, even though Correctional Service Canada provides such programs.

The audit concluded that Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada has not resolved First Nations land, legal, and compensation claims adequately. Cuts to funding and a lack of communication between government and First Nations impede negotiations and create “barriers” to the process.

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