London Free Press and First Nations Youth

This post is in response to an article titled Siblings Jailed After Fatal Stabbing..

When I first read this article, I was thinking to myself, “Why would a news source announce that these youth were First Nations?” Then I read the readers’ comments, and it made more sense to me now.

A bit of background information (This information is available through the LF press news articles): This occurred last year in August. Both offenders are First Nations. One is a 22 year old mother of three, the other is 18 years old. Both pretty young. One received 2 years (the mother) and the other sentenced to 17 months.

In the Criminal Code of Canada, Section 718.2(e) states the following:

718.2 A court that imposes a sentence shall also take into consideration the following principles:

(e) all available sanctions other than imprisonment that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

The interpretation of this section was conducted during an Appeal to the decision made in R. v. Gladue. That decision can be read HERE.

It must be highlighted that this section of the Criminal Code of Canada does not give special consideration to Aboriginal peoples but in reality acknowledges the fact that many of them occupy prison systems. Harper’s Truth in Sentencing Act was seen as a step back because it failed to acknowledge this state of Aboriginal peoples in Canada. This Act removed the 2-4-1 sentencing, where time already served would not be acknowledged in final sentencing. Further exacerbating the rate at which Aboriginals populate prison systems.

Now, I won’t comment on the sentencing and the length that they received but it must be highlighted some of the factors that court’s consider when sentencing.

Some of these include:

  • First Time Offender?
  • Present Situation: education, family, employment
  • Social background: family life, childhood, etc.

In the case of these two individuals, they were both young, one was obviously drinking underage, and one already had three children before reaching the age of 25. This is what life is like in Canada for most Aboriginals. There is alcohol abuse, young parenthood, violent environments (Wasn’t one already carrying a knife…who carries a knife around if they are in a “safe” environment).

I am not promoting bad behaviour or violent behaviour among Aboriginal youth in any way. I am just attempting to address the comments some of the readers had in the article which can be read HERE.

They ask why was the term First Nations used? Why did that have to be mentioned? And one even states that using this term contributes to stereotypes in society. I thought the same thing.

But then I read a comment that said:

Look at the bright side, if you’re a white male, you’ll get at least 15 years for the same crime.

Hmmm, but race is not the case here. What is the case is that Aboriginals are over-represented in the Criminal Court system, including prisons. You say that still is dealing with race. No, it is dealing with the social situation that Aboriginals presently face. The decision in the appeal in R. v. Gladue highlights this.

Within this decision, it states:

  1. This section does not mean that judges should pay more attention to Aboriginal offenders, but attention to their unique characteristics.
  2. That Aboriginals are over-represented in prison systems.
  3. “The unbalanced ratio of imprisonment for aboriginal offenders flows from a number of sources, including poverty, substance abuse, lack of education, and the lack of employment opportunities for Aboriginal people. quoted @ para. 65.
  4. “It arises also from bias against Aboriginal people and from an unfortunate institutional approach that is more inclined to refuse bail and to impose more and longer prison terms for Aboriginal offenders.” quoted @ para. 65.
  5. Aboriginal people who suffer from systemic and direct discrimination are then both offenders to society and fall victim to society.

With the above, I tried my best to grasp the most important points, although this case is significantly important in every which way as it pertains to Aboriginals who enter the criminal court system. I guess by mentioning that the two offenders were First Nations, the news source may have been acknowledging the fact that Aboriginal people still face great disparities when it comes to society.

Relating to this LFpress article, this situation is nothing new to Aboriginal people in Canadian Society–violence amongst its young or its young going to jail, leaving behind futures and children. The thing that I am most annoyed with in this article is the fact that the comments just focus on “First Nations” and fails to acknowledge that some Aboriginal people face huge disparities in comparison to other groups within Canada. Not one comment, showed concern for the 3 children left behind or showed concern for young person who chose to throw their life away.

In the end, some people might respond to this post and say, “Well, who cares? That is their fault.” No, this isn’t their fault. Some Aboriginal people lag behind in education, employment, and some even live in poverty… despite having social supports. These are the inter-generational effects of colonialism, displacement of culture, loss of identity, and most importantly the effects of the Residential School system.

I hope more people begin to understand that Aboriginal people do not have it the best in Canada, and that we don’t get everything “for free.”

Read my post titled I get everything for free! and also my post titled Tax Exemption.

I hope this post changes one individual after reading it. Not everyone. I am content with one 🙂

Education? Really…

I am currently reading and doing some necessary catching up in some of my classes right now before the next semester starts. The last chapter I was required to read from one of my texts consists of a journal article entitled “Teaching Challenges in Higher Education” by Anton L. Allahar (this article led to the writing of this blog). Nevertheless, my catching up right now: not the most ideal position because I would much rather be relaxing. However, this past year has proven to be a very hard walk uphill for me. Not that I deserve a break, but I worked very hard.

This year I graduated from a law clerk program; co op endorsed. I chose to go to university because of the level of success I had in college. The two are completely different. In class size, class content, and expectations from you as a student.

First year at the university is not very ideal for anyone. There are large classrooms, possibly packed to the max. Sometimes classes use what is called a “clicker.” So as the number of students in a class goes up, I believe that the quality of classroom interaction has gone down. I think classroom interaction is essential to quality education. It creates debate, discussion, and allows other individuals to see what others can possibly be thinking or how others are even interpreting the data. I guess today the debate and discussion occurs online in message boards and interactive live chat rooms during lecture times.

I am also noticing that more and more people are choosing a higher education not just at an undergrad level but at a graduate/post graduate/PhD level. I am meeting more and more people who are interested in obtaining their masters or are currently in their masters level of education. This makes me wonder “What will be the value of my degree by the time I graduate?” Should I have even applied to this program and ensued in four years of university education, to only by the end of it realize that my undergraduate studies are worth next to nothing unless I earn a “masters”? Sometimes I debate on a daily basis with myself, was I wrong or right to not go into the work force?

Even with thinking about the work force, the quality of jobs out there for my generation has gone down. There are more and more contract jobs (what good is a job to only stress about if you might have it or not when your contract period ends) and only people being hired for certain time periods for certain tasks (not being hired long term, I think, is a growing trend). More businesses are only hiring people who are experts at one thing–just look at law firms today. In the past, lawyers could practically defend anyone or represent various cases in court. Now, you have to contact the right lawyer for the right situation. Whatever happened to being “general?” Is “general” too boring? Is “general,” not the right fit for society today? This trend of specialities and “experts” can be seen even in the most simplest settings: Wal-mart. If you go in any Wal-Mart today, and you need help finding something or have a question about something, you best hope that you get an employee that is in their appropriate section. If you just ask an employee passing by, the only answer you will get is “I’m sorry this isn’t my section, but I will page someone to come help you.” You may be left waiting forever for that person to come, and left wondering “how does the person coming know which person needs help in the section I am in now when there are several other people beside me?” More likely than not, your page goes unanswered.

The heavy reliance on people with specific knowledge is where our society is left divided. Education creates this difference. For some, quality education is only available to those who can afford it and only those who qualify (re: scholarships, grants). If education was made equal and available to everyone, what would be the outcome on that? If the level of education that is required by more and more jobs, continues to rise, will we all become scholars or experts? If not, then why are we even bothering with education at all?

What good is education when the it continues to divide society?