In Quebec, Inuit are 15 times more likely to be jailed than average: provincial data

Osman Irgun was arrested in September 2021 and immediately transferred to a detention center in the Inuit community of Quach Tak in the Nunavik region of Quebec, 1,500 kilometers from his home.

At a prison in Amos, Quebec, he was fed raw food – he believes guards have a stereotype that Inuit eat raw meat. He said he was forced to do so, adding that access to showers and phone calls with family members was restricted during that time.

Ilgun, who has been charged with sexual assault, said, “My mother was very worried because I couldn’t tell her what was going on on the phone. He pleaded not guilty. , awaiting trial.

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Irgun was one of 617 Inuit imprisoned in Quebec prisons in the 12 months to March 31, 2022. This number represents her 4.5% of the 13,613 Inuit living in Quebec. That’s 15 times her average incarceration rate in Quebec. State data show. They are also nearly twice as numerous as any other Indigenous group in the state.

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Inuit’s disproportionate detention rate is the result of an “exorbitant lack of resources unacceptable elsewhere in Quebec,” said David Boudreau, a legal aid attorney who has worked in the north for more than five years. I’m here.

Boudreau said programs aimed at preventing crime and diverting offenders from the justice system are often unavailable in the Nunavik region of Quebec, where most of Quebec’s Inuit live.

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The region has lacked sex education programs and services for decades to help people heal from trauma, “which has led to a never-ending vicious cycle of abuse,” he said. Nunavik’s courts handle many sexual abuse cases, but treatment programs open to offenders in southern Quebec are not available to those living in the north, he added.

Often the only professional support available to residents is provided by social workers, usually from the South, who are “often” called upon to deal with problems beyond their professional capabilities.

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As a result, Inuit offenders are more likely to be jailed than sentenced to house arrest or conditional sentences, he said.

“Judges are really sensitive to the lack of resources, but it’s beyond their power to do something about it,” he said. “They have to work with what they have.” What is missing is the political will to put in place some programs that will ultimately help bring down crime rates.”

Inuit make up just over 0.16% of Quebec’s population, but account for 2.45% of the province’s detainees for the year ending 31 March 2022.

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Mylène Jacquard, a professor of criminology at the University of Montreal who studies the criminalization of indigenous peoples in Quebec, says that while non-Inuit indigenous peoples are overrepresented in state prisons, “the Inuit are overrepresented. representative,” he said.

According to federal and provincial government data, 12.4% of Quebec’s Indigenous people are Inuit, but Inuit accounted for 35% of Indigenous people detained in the province in the year ending March 31, 2022.

Jacquard said the 1975 James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement gave the Inuit a degree of autonomy. But her self-government process is less advanced in the North than in other Indigenous communities, such as the Cree region, she said.

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“The Cree were in charge of administering the judiciary, the Inuit were not. In May 2022, out of his 88 officers working for the Nunavik police, he was only 4 Inuit, but about 90% of the people they served were Inuit.

The Nunavik Police Service denied the request for an interview.

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Since there are no prisons in the north, detainees are usually sent to Amos, Quebec, more than 1,000 kilometers south of Nunavik’s largest community, Cujuac.

A 2022 class action lawsuit filed against the state government on behalf of more than 1,500 Inuit detainees found that Inuit rights were systematically violated when they were moved far from home. is claimed.

The lawsuit has been approved by the judge and the Inuit

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Detainees are often detained before bail hearings are unconstitutional. They are often flown to Montreal before heading northwest to Amos, some 600 kilometers away. The complaint also alleges that Inuit detainees were frequently examined naked at multiple stages of their journey to Amos and often pleaded guilty to getting out of extended pretrial detention.

Ilgun, who worked as a firefighter and paramedic for 15 years, said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder after being unable to save a seriously injured relative. He said his colleague suffered similar trauma and took his own life.

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He said state regulations stipulate that first responders must not provide treatment to family members as a way to protect mental health. However, in a small community like his, paramedics may find that he is alone or has only one partner on the scene, and there is no time to wait for someone else to arrive.

“I got no help, became an alcoholic, and became violent because of past trauma,” he said. , you can prevent it.”

Makivik, which represents the Inuit in negotiations with various levels of government, did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The office of Ian Lafrenière, the minister in charge of Indigenous Peoples and Inuit Relations, Quebec, turned the question to the Department of Public Safety. Public Security Minister François Bonadel declined to comment for this article.

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