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60s scoop: Government practice of the mass removal of Indigenous children from their homes, to be fostered by or adopted into non-Indigenous families, in most cases without the consent of their families or communities. The practice began in the late 1950s and continued into the 1980s, but was most common in the 1960s.

Assimilation: Requiring a minority group to fit in with the dominant group.

Bail: Release of a person charged with a crime before they are tried in court or sentenced.

Colonialism: Policy of taking political and economic control of a territory and the people who are indigenous to that area underpinned by racist doctrines of superiority.

Cultural alienation: Placing little value on one’s own culture and instead adopting the dominant culture.

Distinction-based approach: An approach that recognizes the unique rights, interests and circumstances of the First Nations, Inuit, and the Métis Nation as distinct groups.

Gladue courts: Specialized courts that apply the Gladue principles identified by the Supreme Court of Canada: understanding and accounting for Indigenous offenders’ background and history, and the systemic discrimination and socio-economic marginalization Indigenous peoples in Canada experience. Gladue courts encourage restorative justice instead of jail and provide opportunities for Indigenous communities to help rehabilitate Indigenous offenders.

Indigenous Identity: Individuals who identify as First Nations, Inuit, or Métis.

Intergenerational trauma: Trauma that is passed from one generation to the next generation(s). Coping and adaptation patterns developed in response to traumatic experiences may be learned from or otherwise impact subsequent generations living with survivors, which in turn may be handed down to future generations. Intergenerational trauma may be experienced by groups of people with shared histories, and has resulted from, for example, the historical, systemic mistreatment of First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation.

Intersectionality:The interconnected nature of various social or identity factors, such as sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity, Indigenous identity, economic status, immigrant status, sexual orientation, disability, and geography, as they apply to a given individual or group, viewed as impacting experiences of discrimination or disadvantage. For example, intersectionality recognizes that Indigenous women hold more than one identity. They are women and share some common experiences with other women, and they are Indigenous and have shared experiences with Indigenous men. Trying to understand Indigenous women’s experiences by focusing only on sex or only on Indigenous identity prevents us from seeing how these identities intersect to create a unique lived experience for Indigenous women that is different from the experiences of Indigenous men and non-Indigenous women.

Normative behaviours: Unwritten rules that govern social behaviour, and require members of society to obey, conform and comply with those rules.

Men: All people who identify as men, whether they are cisgender or transgender men.

Overrepresented: A minority disproportionately represented in an area compared with the population as a whole, for example having more of its members in prison.

Remand: Detaining a person in custody, while they are awaiting trial or sentencing.

Restorative justice principles: The principles of restorative justice are based on respect, compassion and inclusivity. Restorative justice encourages meaningful engagement and accountability and provides an opportunity for healing, reparation and reintegration. Restorative justice processes take various forms and may take place at all stages of the criminal justice system.

Social determinants of health: Range of personal, social, economic and environmental factors that determine people’s health; these include income and social status, education, social supports and access to health services.

Social exclusion: Describes a state in which individuals do not have full access to opportunities available to others. This access may be denied because of factors such as race, class, disability or gender.

Socio-economic marginalization: Being blocked from or denied full access to economic opportunities, social opportunities, or resources (e.g., education, employment, housing) that other members of society have because of one or more personal characteristic(s) (e.g., poverty, health and mental health, sex and gender, race, ethnicity, Indigenous identity, immigrant status).

Systemic discrimination: Patterns of behaviour, as well as policies and practices that create or continue disadvantages for a group of people with common characteristics, such as race.

Territorial dispossession: Forcibly removing a group of people from their land.

Truth and reconciliation: Reconciliation is a process of healing of relationships that requires public truth sharing, apology, and commemoration that acknowledges and redresses past harms.

Women: All people who identify as women, whether they are cisgender or transgender women.


The following references were used to provide the overview on Understanding the Overrepresentation of Indigenous people in the Criminal Justice System section. For additional information on the experiences of Indigenous people in the criminal justice system and causes of overrepresentation click on the Studies link at the bottom of the page.

Barker, B., G. T. Alfred, K. Fleming, P. Nguyen, E. Wood, T. Kerr, and K. DeBeck 2015. “Aboriginal Street-Involved Youth Experience Elevated Risk of Incarceration.” Public Health, 129(12), 1662-1668. Available at:

Barron, F. L. 1988.“The Indian Pass System in the Canadian West, 1882-1935.” Prairie Forum, 13(1), 25-42. Available at:

Bombay, A., K. Matheson, and H. Anisman. 2014. “The Intergenerational Effects of Indian Residential Schools: Implications for the concept of historical trauma.” Transcultural Psychiatry, 51(3), 320-338. Available at:

Boyce, J. 2016. “Victimization of Aboriginal People in Canada, 2014.” Juristat. Statistics Canada. Available at:

Bressan, A. and K. Coady. 2017. “Guilty Pleas among Indigenous People in Canada.” Ottawa, ON: Research & Statistics Division, Department of Justice. Available at:

Chansonneuve, D. 2005. “Reclaiming Connections: Understanding residential school trauma among Aboriginal people.” Ottawa, ON: The Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Available at:

Chartrand, L. and K. Horn. 2016. “A Report on the Relationship Between Restorative Justice and Indigenous Legal Traditions in Canada.” Ottawa, ON: Department of Justice Available at:

Clark, S. 2016. “Evaluation of the Gladue Court, Old City Hall, Toronto.” Toronto, ON: Aboriginal Legal Services. Available at:

Clark, S. 2019. “Overrepresentation of Indigenous People in the Canadian Criminal Justice System: Causes and Responses.” Ottawa, ON: Department of Justice. Available at:

Cohen, I. M., R. R. Corrado, and D. Beavon. 2004. “Urban Aboriginal Victims of Crime and their Police Reporting Practices.” Journal of Police and Security Services, 2(1). Available at:

Commission on First Nations and Métis Peoples and Justice Reform. 2004. “Legacy of Hope: An agenda for change.” Volume 1, Chapters 5-6. [Final Report]. Available at:

Department of Justice Canada. 2016. “Evaluation of the Aboriginal Justice Strategy.” Available at:

Dickson-Gilmore, J. 2014. “Whither Restorativeness? Restorative justice and the challenge of intimate violence in Aboriginal communities.” Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 56(4), 417-446. Available at:

Dylan, A., C. Regehr, and R. Alaggia. 2008. “And Justice for All? Aboriginal victims of sexual violence.” Violence Against Women, 14(6), 678-696.

Furniss, E. 2001. “Aboriginal Justice, the Media, and the Symbolic Management of Aboriginal/Euro-Canadian Relations.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 25(2), 1-36. Available at:

Hansen, J. G. 2012. “Countering Imperial Justice: The implications of a Cree response to crime.” Indigenous Policy Journal, 23(1). Available at:

Jackson, M. 1989. “Locking Up Natives in Canada.” University of British Columbia Law Review, 23(2), 215-300. Available at:

Kellough, G., and S. Wortley. 2002. “Remand for Plea: Bail decisions and plea bargaining as commensurate decisions.” British Journal of Criminology, 42(1), 186-210.

Kubik, W., Bourassa, C., and Hampton, M. 2009. “Stolen Sisters, Second Class Citizens, Poor Health: The legacy of colonization in Canada.” Humanity & Society, Volume 33 Issue 1-2. (pp. 18-34).

LaPrairie, C. 1990. “The Role of Sentencing in the Overrepresentation of Aboriginal People in Correctional Institutions.” Canadian Journal of Criminology, 32, 429-440.

Malakieh, J. 2018. “Adult and Youth Correctional Statistics in Canada, 2016/2017.” Juristat. Statistics Canada. Available at:

Martel, J. and R. Brassard. 2008. “Painting the Prison ‘Red’: Constructing and experiencing Aboriginal identities in prison.” British Journal of Social Work, 38(2), 340-361. Available at:

Martel, J., R. Brassard, and M. Jaccoud. 2011. “When Two Worlds Collide: Aboriginal risk management in Canadian corrections.” British Journal of Criminology, 51, 235-255. Available at:

McGlade, H. 2010. “New Solutions to Enduring Problems: The task of restoring justice to victims and communities.” Indigenous Law Bulletin, 7(6), 8-11. Available at:

Motiuk, L. and Keown, L.-A. 2021. “Identified Needs of Federal Offenders in Custody: 2020.” Ottawa, ON: Correctional Service Canada. Research in Brief available:

National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. 2017. “Interim Report: Our women and girls are sacred.” Available at:

Niman, S. 2018. “The Healing Power of Gladue Reports.” In Widening the Lens on Criminal Justice Reform (article series). Available on the Policy Options website:

Office of the Correctional Investigator. 2012. “Spirit Matters: Aboriginal people and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.” Available at:

Office of the Correctional Investigator. 2018. “Annual Report, 2017-2018.” Available at:

Proulx, C. 2000. “Current Directions in Aboriginal Law/Justice in Canada.” The Canadian Journal of Native Studies, 20(2), 371-409. Available at:

Public Safety Canada. 2017. “Corrections and Conditional Release Statistical Overview.” Available at:

Reading, C. and S. de Leeuw. 2014. “Aboriginal Experiences with Racism and its Impacts” [Technical Report]. Available on the National Collaborating Centre for Aboriginal Health website:

Ross, R. n.d. “Criminal Conduct and Colonization: Exploring the link.” Kenora, ON. Available at:

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). 1996a. “Bridging the Cultural Divide: A report on Aboriginal people and criminal justice in Canada.” Ottawa, ON: Minister of Supply and Services Canada. Available at:

Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. 1996b. “VOLUME 4 Perspectives and Realities.” Ottawa, ON: Canada Communication Group – Publishing. Available at:

Rudin, J. n.d.. “Aboriginal Peoples and the Criminal Justice System.” Available at:

Rudin, J. 2018. “The (In)justice System and Indigenous People. “ In Widening the lens on criminal justice reform (article series). Available on the Policy Options website:

Statistics Canada. 2017a. “Aboriginal Peoples in Canada: Key results from the 2016 census.” The Daily. Statistics Canada catalogue no. 11-001-X. Available at:

Statistics Canada. 2017b. “Aboriginal People Living Off-Reserve and the Labour Market: Estimates from the Labour Force Survey, 2007-2015.” Statistics Canada catalogue no.71-588-X. Available at:

Statistics Canada. 2017c. “Census in Brief: The housing conditions of Aboriginal people in Canada.” Available at:

Trevethan, S. Forthcoming. “The Intersections of Social and Economic Systems with the Criminal Justice System.” Ottawa, ON: Department of Justice. Available upon request

Truth and Reconciliation Commission. 2015. Truth and Reconciliation Commission Reports. Winnipeg, MB: National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation. Available at:

United Nations. 2008. “United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.” Available at:

Wesley-Esquimaux, C. C. and M. Smolewski. 2004. “Historic Trauma and Aboriginal Healing.” Ottawa, ON: Aboriginal Healing Foundation. Available at:

van Eijk, G. 2017. “Socioeconomic Marginality in Sentencing: The built-in bias in risk assessment tools and the reproduction of social inequality.” Punishment & Society, 19(4), 463-481. Available at:

For related studies and resources, please click on the link above.

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