Court: Tests fail In­dige­nous in­mates

Times Colonist - - The Capital / Island -

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.

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