Indigenous People in Criminal Court in Canada: An Exploration Using the Relative Rate Index

Infographic: Indigenous people in criminal courts in Canada 2005-06 to 2015-16

Executive Summary

This report presents findings on the representation and outcomes of Indigenous people as accused in Canadian criminal courts. This is the first time that national statistics on Indigenous accused in criminal courts are reported in Canada.

This study addresses four key objectives:

This study was a collaborative effort between the Research and Statistics Division at the Department of Justice Canada and the Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics at Statistics Canada. The data used in this study were obtained through a data linkage whereby records from Statistics Canada’s 2016 Census of Population long-form (Census) and the Integrated Criminal Court Survey (ICCS) were linked together to obtain the Indigenous identity of accused. The linked data were used to generate two types of metrics: 1) proportions of Indigenous and White accused in criminal courts; and 2) the Relative Rate Index (RRI).

RRIs were calculated to measure the likelihood of Indigenous accused encountering specific court outcomes relative to White accused. The study examines five key court outcomes (i.e., stages/decision points within the court process): 1) whether a preliminary inquiry occurred; 2) whether a trial occurred; 3) the final court decision (e.g., found guilty, acquitted); 4) the type of sentence received (e.g., custody, probation); and 5) the length of custodial sentence. The RRI method involves calculating the rate of Indigenous and White accused experiencing a specific court outcome based on the number of Indigenous and White accused “at risk” of experiencing that court outcome.

Key findings indicate that Indigenous people are overrepresented as accused in criminal courts relative to their representation in the Canadian population. Further, compared to their White counterparts, Indigenous accused are:

These findings suggest that Canadian criminal courts are contributing to differential and disproportionate outcomes for Indigenous accused. Some of these outcomes (e.g., more likely to be found guilty) result in prolonged involvement with the CJS, including entry into correctional supervision.

The report identifies a number of areas in which further research is necessary to better understand why disproportionality is occurring at specific stages/decision points in the criminal court process, most notably around findings of guilt. In addition, further analyses are required to better understand the representation of Indigenous people at other key stages/decision points in the criminal court process (e.g., bail, guilty pleas).