The Criminalization of Aboriginal Women: Commentary by a Community Activist

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... It should be no surprise, then, that Aboriginal women victims of violence do not fit with Christie's conceptualization of the ideal victim (Dell, 2001;Razack, 2000), which is imbued with racist and classist notions of who is socially accepted as a victim in a patriarchal and predominantly white society. This means that Aboriginal women who use drugs experience a double negation. ...
... Denial of special consideration for Aboriginal women in the criminal justice system reflects an increasing state and public acceptance of intolerant stereotypes about Aboriginal women as offenders (Carter, 2002;Hannah-Moffat and Maurutto, 2010;Monture-Angus, 1999). Dell (2001;Dell et al., 2009) documents how Aboriginal women are unfairly stigmatized within the justice system and consequently face misunderstanding, neglect, and misrepresentation in the courtroom. In recognition of the effects of these labels on the execution of justice, the Canadian Human Rights Commission 5 (2003: 21) includes as its guiding principle: '[E]quality is based on the real needs and identities of federally sentenced women, not on stereotypes, perceptions or generalizations'. ...
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This article illustrates how the Aboriginal female drug user is responded to as an expected offender based on the intersection of her gender, race, and class. Drawing on the findings of a national Canadian study documenting the lived experiences of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit female drug users, we argue that the strengthening of cultural identity can potentially disrupt this expected status at both the individual and social system levels. Within the framework of critical victimology, the challenge then becomes to translate this understanding into praxis. In response, we suggest advancing women's agency at the individual level in the face of disempowering images and practices related to the offender, the victim, and Aboriginality. For change at the system level, we return to Christie's notion of the need to dismantle the stereotypical construction of the Aboriginal female drug user. We illustrate both levels of change with an innovative form of knowledge sharing, which aims to evoke transformation with respect to individual and socially constructed conceptualizations of identity.
... recommendations for change. The commonalities of the discussions revealed that service providers felt violence is normalized and pervasive in the lives of marginalized girls, and oclcurs across all contexts of their lives, including institutional contexts such as in the criminal justice (see also Dell, 2002) arid health systems (see also Health Canada, 1996). ...
... Between 1998 and2003, 66.9 per cent of all HIVpositive tests among Aboriginal women were attributable to IDU (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2004). Aboriginal women, including First Nations, are also over-represented in Canada's criminal justice system, including incarceration at the federal and provincial levels (Balfour & Comack, 2006;Canadian Human Rights Commission, 2003;Dell, 2001). In 2006, Aboriginal women made up 31 per cent of the federal prison population (Correctional Service Canada, 2006, p. 12), while Aboriginal Peoples represented approximately 3.3 per cent of Canada's total population (Statistics Canada, 2003). ...
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The purpose of this paper is to review how the experiential stories of First Nations women contribute to a national research project. The project focuses on how women's healing is impacted by their views about themselves as-and the stigma associated with being-a drug user, involved in crime and an Aboriginal woman. Our project began with three First Nations women on our research team documenting the role of stigma and self-identity in their personal healing journeys from problematically using drugs and being in conflict with the law. In this paper we discuss how key components of feminist research practices, Aboriginal methodology and community-based research helped us position the women's experiential stories in authoritative, recognized and celebrated ways in our study. We illustrate how the women's stories uniquely contributed to the creation of our interview questions and the research project in general. We also discuss how the women personally benefited from writing about and sharing their experiences. Key benefits include the women discovering the impact of the written word, promotion of their healing, personal recognition of their ability to offer hope to women in need, increased self-esteem, and increased appreciation of the importance of sharing their lived experiences with others. Our method of research differs from a conventional western scientific approach to understanding, and as such made important contributions to both the project itself and the women who shared their experiential stories.
... Between 1998 and2003, 66.9 percent of all HIV-positive tests among Aboriginal women were attributable to IDU (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2004). Aboriginal women, including First Nations, are also overrepresented in Canada's criminal justice system, including incarceration at the federal and provincial levels ( Balfour and Comack, 2006;Dell, 2001a). Incarceration itself is a welldocumented health risk (e.g. ...
Le présent article examine comment les juges chargés de déterminer les peines tiennent compte des inégalités croisées que subissent les femmes autochtones touchées par l’analyse de l’arrêt Gladue. En passant en revue toutes les décisions pertinentes sur une période de deux ans (2017–18), l'auteure suggère que les juges qui appliquent l’arrêt Gladue pour déterminer les peines ne contextualisent pas adéquatement les circonstances spécifiques aux femmes autochtones à l’intersection du sexe et de l’indigénéité. L’auteure pointe du doigt la réduction au silence du genre dans la décision fondamentale de R c Gladue et recommande une nouvelle approche — une lentille intersectionnelle — qui tient compte spécifiquement des expériences vécues par une femme autochtone en particulier en matière d’inégalités intersectionnelles lors de l’évaluation de (1) sa culpabilité morale pour une infraction et (2) des sanctions appropriées dans sa situation particulière.
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