This article was first published by APTN News Canada. It has been republished with permission.

Nation to Nation

Renu Mandhane has visited Ontario’s provincial jails in northern Ontario where inmates largely identity as First Nation.

In fact, Mandhane visited the Thunder Bay, Ont. jail last Tuesday in her official role as the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

“I did a walk through and I asked the superintendent there how many of the folks were Indigenous and he said about 75 per cent of the population,” said Mandhane on Nation to Nation Thursday.

“I’ve been to the Kenora jail where they told me it was close to 100 per cent.”

Mandhane also previously dug into Ontario’s child welfare population finding First Nations children represent a higher rate of children in care compared to other races.

There’s a connection between child welfare and jail – something she calls the “child welfare to prison pipeline.”

“Many of the people I spoke to Tuesday talked about their experiences of institutionalization and that those experiences started in the child welfare system where they weren’t given the capacity to really live an independent life and to get an education,” said Mandhane.

Another report this week said the number of the Indigenous inmates in federal prisons across Canada is at an all time high with 30 per cent identifying as Indigenous.

No one knows the total number of First Nations, Metis and Inuit children in child welfare but it’s believed to be at least over 40,000 across Canada.

Mandhane also sounded the alarm earlier this week on provincial jails saying they were in crisis.