Court: Tests fail Indigenous inmates
OTTAWA — The federal prison service has failed to ensure its psychological assessment tools are fair to Indigenous inmates, the Supreme Court of Canada says in a ruling that could open the door to a wholesale examination of the techniques.
In a 7-2 decision Wednesday, the high court accepted prisoner Jeffrey Ewert’s challenge of five assessment tools the Correctional Service of Canada uses to gauge the risk of re-offending and potential for violence.
It effectively means the Correctional Service must review the tools to make certain they are free of cultural bias, or stop using them altogether. “For the correctional system, like the criminal justice system as a whole, to operate fairly and effectively, those administering it must abandon the assumption that all offenders can be treated fairly by being treated the same way,” a majority of the court said in its reasons.
Chief Bob Chamberlin, vice-president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, welcomed the court ruling. “Today’s decision is a step forward in the fight to reduce the over-incarceration of our people.”
The Correctional Service is reviewing the decision and “will determine next steps,” said prison service spokeswoman Stephanie Stevenson.
Ewert, who was raised in Surrey and identifies as Métis, alleged the prison service’s assessment techniques were not proven to be reliable for Indigenous inmates because they were developed and tested on predominantly non-Indigenous subjects.