March 22, 2022 – Increasing access to conditional sentences is one way to combat the mass incarceration of Indigenous women, says the Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund (LEAF).
Tomorrow, LEAF will appear before the Supreme Court of Canada as an intervener in R. v. Sharma. This case concerns limits on the use of conditional sentences, a community-based alternative to a jail sentence. As a result of these limits, Ms. Sharma – a young Indigenous woman, an intergenerational residential school survivor, and a low-income single mother – was sent to a provincial jail instead of being allowed to serve her sentence in her community.
“Sending Indigenous women to jail separates them from their communities and their support systems,” says Pam Hrick, Executive Director & General Counsel of LEAF. “The limits on conditional sentences needlessly separate Indigenous mothers from their children.”
The impact of this systemic discrimination is significant: in addition to the vast over-incarceration of Indigenous women in Canada, 64 percent of incarcerated Indigenous mothers are single parents. Putting these women in jail worsens the already staggeringly high rates of Indigenous children in care. Despite being only 7% of the child population in Canada, Indigenous children make up 48% of children in the foster care system.
“When imposed and carried out lawfully, conditional sentences can keep families together and encourage community healing,” says Hrick. “Through this case, the Court has the opportunity to take a small but important step towards reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in this country.”
Alisa Lombard and Aubrey Charette will represent LEAF before the Supreme Court when it hears the case on March 23, 2022. The hearing will be available by webcast.
LEAF is grateful to the members of the case committee that are guiding, informing, and supporting this intervention: Gillian Balfour, Maria Dugas, Mary Eberts, Koren Lightning-Earle, Naiomi Metallic, and Maggie Wente.
For media inquiries, please contact:
Executive Director & General Counsel, LEAF
416-595-7170 ext. 2002
Counsel to LEAF