Indigenous Peoples are vastly overrepresented in Canada’s justice system, both as victims of crime and as potential offenders. According to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, Indigenous Peoples make up 4.3% of the Canadian population, yet represent 28% of the total federal in-custody population. Indigenous women account for 40% of the female federal prison population, and nearly half of all youth who end up in custody are Indigenous. Poverty, food insecurity, mental health issues, addiction, and violence – all parts of Canada’s past and present colonial legacy – are systemic factors that lead to the incarceration of Indigenous Peoples. Reintegrating into the community upon release from the criminal justice system can be challenging for any incarcerated individual. However, the additional barriers faced by Indigenous Peoples, compounded by the lack of Indigenous-focused reintegration supports, can greatly impact the experience, and success, of reintegrating back into society.
We are proud and honoured that our Indigenous-focused CBRF opened its doors this past year. Miyàq’elhà:wetawt was developed in partnership with Correctional Services Canada and the Stó:lō Nation, and provides housing and supports to individuals who self-identify as Indigenous or follow an Indigenous life path, who are on conditional release from federal and provincial correctional institutions.
Miyàq’elhà:wetawt provide residents with opportunities to practice ceremonies, cook traditional meals, eat together, paint, carve, and do beadwork in addition to other activities that help them stay connected to their spirituality and culture.
Residents of our Abbotsford-based CBRFs have access to an Elder, Indigenous community services, traditional medicines, and other cultural and spiritual resources through Miyàq’elhà:wetawt. The name of the program was developed by Stó:lō linguists and Elders in the Halqˈeméylem language to represent many aspects of the program:
Melmél ∙ To make a mistake
Iyáqthel ∙ Change yourself
P’elh ∙ To get sober
Q’ál ∙ To believe in yourself
Selá:we ∙ To be humble
Elh ∙ From our ancestors
Miyàq’elhà:wetawt provide residents with opportunities to practice ceremonies, cook traditional meals, eat together, paint, carve, and do beadwork in addition to other activities that help them stay connected to their spirituality and culture. Rather than us designing and delivering these resources ourselves, Miyàq’elhà:wetawt creates space for residents, Elders, and Indigenous community partners to lead programming that meets the particular needs and interests of our CBRF residents. Miyàq’elhà:wetawt is currently undergoing renovations in order to expand and improve the delivery of Indigenous programming taking place there.