A One-Day Snapshot of Aboriginal Youth in Custody Across Canada : Phase II

3. SNAPSHOT RESULTS ( cont'd )

3. SNAPSHOT RESULTS ( cont'd )

3.8 Additional Information on Aboriginal Youth in Custody

Additional data were collected on Aboriginal youth in custody but were not collected on non-Aboriginal youth. The decision was made to restrict the amount of data each facility was required to collect in order to reduce response burden.

Table 4 provides information on the Aboriginal origin and status of Aboriginal youth in custody. The majority of Aboriginal youth in custody (78%) were reported to be of First Nations origin. Three-quarters of Aboriginal youth in custody (74%) were reported to be Status Indians.

Table 4, Aboriginal Origin and Status of Aboriginal Youth in Custody

Aboriginal Origin
  n %
First Nations 550 78
Metis 114 16
Inuit 19 3
Other/unknown 19 3
Aboriginal Status
  n %
Status Indian 515 74
Non-Status Indian 179 26

1. Frequencies do not total 720 due to missing data.

Table 5 provides information on the living arrangements of Aboriginal youth in custody at the time of their admission to custody. Sixty-three percent of Aboriginal youth in custody were living with parents at the time of their admission and 16% were living with extended family members.

Table 5, Living Arrangements of Aboriginal Youth in Custody
Living Arrangements n %
Dual-parent 146 21
Lone-parent 292 42
Extended family 108 16
Foster parents 36 5
Group home 60 9
Transient/on the streets 15 2
Independent living 32 5
Other arrangements 7 1
  1. Frequencies do not total 720 due to missing data.
  2. Percentages do not total 100% due to rounding.

Thirty-nine percent of Aboriginal youth in custody were reported to be involved with child protection agencies at the time of their admission - 16% were a ward of the state and 23% had an active file. Almost half (47%) of Aboriginal youth resided in a family that received social assistance as a primary source of income.

Thirty percent of Aboriginal youth in custody experienced their first conviction at the age of 12, while 23% were first convicted at the age of 13 and 22% at the age of 14 ( M =13.6, SD =1.45).

On average, the highest grade completed by Aboriginal youth, at the time of their admission to custody, was grade eight ( M =8.3, SD =1.43). Only 2% of Aboriginal youth in custody aged 18 and over had successfully completed high school.

Approximately one in six Aboriginal youth in custody were suspected or confirmed to have had Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) - 4% reported a confirmed medical diagnosis, 5% were suspected by the custody facility, and 8% self-reported that they had FASD.

More than eight out of every ten Aboriginal youth in custody were suspected or confirmed to have a substance abuse problem - 57% had a confirmed problem and 24% were suspected to have had a problem.

Information was also collected on the prevalence of self-harm and suicide in custody, and on prior suicidal attempts and thoughts. Self-harm includes intentional acts such as cutting, slashing, and burning. Eight percent of Aboriginal youth were reported to have harmed themselves while in custody. Approximately 11% of Aboriginal youth were reported to have had suicidal thoughts and 3% had attempted suicide while in custody. One in five Aboriginal youth were reported to have attempted suicide and 14% were reported to have had suicidal thoughts prior to admission to custody.

3.9 Youth Custody Facilities in Canada

A total of 229 facilities were reported in Canada on Snapshot Day. This number should be interpreted with caution as some provinces may not have reported information on each facility, especially if there were no youth in custody on Snapshot Day. Table 6 provides the number of facilities and the number of permanent beds available in each participating province/territory. The majority of facilities and available beds in the country are located in Ontario .

Facilities also indicated the type of custody that they provided. [11] Approximately 26% of facilities provided secure custody and 80% provided open custody. Facilities also offered remand (44%) or another type of custodial service (12%). Other custodial services may include psychological or forensic assessment placements or child welfare placements.

A description of facilities was also provided by respondents. The majority of facilities were described as being either a group home (50%) or a secure detention/custody facility (32%). Foster or community homes comprised 10% of the sample. The remainder of facilities (8%) were wilderness camps/ranches, adult facilities, or therapeutic foster homes.

Table 6 Total Custodial Facilities by Province and Beds Available
Province Total Facilities Reported n (%) Permanent Beds Available n
British Columbia 6 ( 3) 273 ( 6)
Saskatchewan 11 ( 5) 364 ( 8)
Alberta 14 ( 6) 716 (16)
Manitoba 3 ( 1) 272 ( 6)
Ontario 139 (61) 2,296 (51)
New Brunswick 21 ( 9) 163 ( 4)
Prince Edward Island 2 ( 1) 24 ( 1)
Nova Scotia 3 ( 1) 164 ( 4)
Newfoundland and Labrador 13 ( 6) 128 ( 3)
Yukon 3 ( 3) 13 ( 0)
Nunavut 1 ( 0) 15 ( 0)
Northwest Territories 13 ( 6) 83 ( 2)
TOTAL 229 (100) 4,511 (100)

1. Percentages do not always total 100% due to rounding.

Figure 7 provides the percentage of beds in each province that were filled on Snapshot Day. [12] Approximately 43% of all available beds in Canada were occupied on Snapshot Day. The Northwest Territories (34%) and Alberta (35%) were the provinces with the lowest occupancy rate. While Nunavut appears to have been running at a high capacity (75%), there was only one facility reported in the territory, with only 15 permanent beds available.

Figure 7 - Percentage of Available Beds Occupied in each Province

Figure 7 - Percentage of Available Beds Occupied in each Province

[Description of Figure 7]

Finally, over half (53%) of facilities in Canada provide Aboriginal cultural programming. However, this number should also be interpreted with caution. Some facilities may provide Aboriginal programming within the facility itself, whereas others may have linkages with programming and cultural groups outside the facility, and will offer the programs on an as needed basis (i.e., when there is an Aboriginal youth in custody). It is not clear if some facilities understood the question to mean only within the facility . Therefore, those facilities that did not report the presence of Aboriginal programming may still have access to community-based programming on an as needed basis. There were 59 Aboriginal youth in custody on Snapshot Day within facilities that did not report the presence of Aboriginal cultural programming.


  • [11] Total percentage is greater than 100% as facilities may provide more than one type of custody.
  • [12] The rate of occupancy should be viewed in reference to the number of permanent beds in each province reported in Table 6.
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