February 28, 2023

By Natalie Batkis, APTN Promotions Producer

In March, APTN’s award-winning investigative news program, APTN Investigates, is launching an important four-part series from inside corrections facilities to uncover why there is an overrepresentation of Indigenous Peoples within these institutions. 

In a 2022 report released by the Correctional Investigator of Canada Dr. Ivan Zinger, Indigenous Peoples account for more than 32 per cent of all inmates incarcerated. On April 28, 2022, the number of incarcerated Indigenous women reached 50 per cent for the first time.

After reviewing the findings of the report and looking back on the many stories they had conducted over the years, the APTN Investigates team started to piece together what was happening behind the walls of these institutions. Interviews with inmates, former inmates and human rights advocates revealed there was more to the story than the statistics filed in the report.

We spoke with Cullen Crozier, producer of APTN Investigates, to get a better understanding of what the team discovered in producing this pivotal series.

Q: Why did APTN Investigates decide that this was the time to look more closely at what was happening inside corrections facilities in Canada?

We have been covering stories about the overrepresentation and mistreatment Indigenous Peoples face inside Canada’s legal system for years and nothing seems to change. With our four-part series, we are hoping to shine a light on some of those injustices and hopefully spark some meaningful conversations as to where we go from here.

Q: Were there certain statistics within the 2022 report released by the Correctional Investigator of Canada that stood out to the APTN Investigates team as major red flags?

The Correctional Investigator’s Annual Report gives much-needed insight into the issues and concerns inmates face in federal prisons across the country. Unfortunately for the Indigenous inmate population, these reports and recommendations go largely ignored. Indigenous Peoples continue to be overrepresented at all levels of Canada’s legal system. Thirty-two per cent of all inmates in federal prisons are Indigenous and more than 50 per cent of all federally sentenced women are Indigenous. Those statistics are shocking and each year they continue to rise.

Q: After conducting your interviews for the series, was there anything you heard that was surprising?

I don’t think anyone on the team were necessarily surprised by what we were hearing from the people we spoke to inside the correctional system. The systemic racism and discrimination Indigenous people continue to face is widespread. Part of our series will try to give some historical context on the continued failings of the Canadian state as it relates to the Indigenous experience in Canada, and the legal system plays a big part in that.

Q: How open were the correctional facilities in having you come to the prisons and conduct interviews?

There are always a certain number of roadblocks all journalists face with every story we work on—it just comes with the territory. Trying to secure on-camera interviews with people that are currently incarcerated requires an extra level of time and planning. Obviously, there are safety and privacy concerns that we needed to address, but the staff at corrections both behind the scenes and on the ground were accommodating and most of our requests were approved.

Q: Did you feel that your interviewees seemed comfortable sharing their stories with you? What was the overall message they wanted to share about their experiences?

I’m always surprised by the strength people find when sharing their truths with us. Keep in mind that most of the people that we spoke to have been incarcerated for decades and have faced years of trauma and abuse within the correctional system. It’s never easy to ask people to relive some of the most traumatic moments in their lives, so I’m not sure that ‘comfortable’ is the right word. If there was an overall message to the series, I think it would be that the system is broken and there doesn’t seem to be any political will to fix it.

Q: APTN Investigates has interviewed current and former inmates for many years in various stories. Do you feel that you could sense a shift was happening within the judicial system before this report was released last year?

Unfortunately, no. As you can see from the most recent report from the Correctional Investigator, things are only getting worse.

APTN Investigates: Inside Corrections airs Fridays in March beginning March 10. Visit the website for more information: https://www.aptnnews.ca/ourstories/insidecorrections/