“I hear the train a coming”


MNN. Oct. 19, 2006. Howard Saper, the Ombudsman for Inmates, just came out with a report on the state of Indigenous prisoners. He said the incarceration rate for Indigenous people was nine times higher than for the Canadian population, even though we are 1.5 per cent of the population. The numbers are even worse for Indigenous women. One in three inmates in federally-run women’s prisons was Indigenous. Half are in maximum security institutions. One reason is because there was “routine over classification” of native prisoners. At least we’re higher class in something, eh!

So their family, community, friends and elders are robbed of their presence. They are sent more often into segregation and don’t get rehabilitative treatment so they can be released. Parole is not even a consideration.

Any lawyer will tell you that when someone looks native, they are more likely to be found guilty. Does that mean we have to powder our faces white when we go out in public?

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day rejected the report and said, “There is no evidence of systemic discrimination against native offenders in the prison system”. Is he telling us that he went to visit a jail one time and they didn’t complain to him? To him they all seem to be happy, like they never had it so good. A major problem with our people is that we don’t lie. We’re basically hospitable, honest and don’t B.S. our way out of the system. We have a hard time conning anybody. We even tell the truth on ourselves. We are apt to accept responsibility if we did a wrong. We are taken advantage of over what they think is our “character flaw”. Most of our people who go to jail are involved in bar fights and actions related to alcohol.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is introducing the “three strikes you’re out” and “you’re-going-to-jail-for-the-rest-of-your-life” legislation aimed at increasing the prison population. He says he wants to protect the “Canadian” way of life. Isn’t the Canadian way of life to be fair? Or is this a take on the old genocidal proclamations allowing British subjects in Nova Scotia to kill all Indian men, women, children and even babies? Let’s not forget that the first prisons were built in Prince Albert right after they hung Louis Riel for defending democracy. As far as we’re concerned it’s the same, old same old.

“If you do a serious crime, you’re going to do serious time”, Harper declared. He’s aiming at “violent offenders” like the Indigenous people. They want to go after spontaneous instinctive behavior which is done without premeditation. They are usually ashamed and do their time without complaint.

How about all those corrupt politicians? What about white collar criminals who steal millions and get away with it? Generally speaking it is considered worse if someone plans a crime. Slimy politicians, liars and deceivers who rob people of millions of dollars are not the targets of Harper’s law, even though they do more harm to society. What about contractors who skim on public works like overpasses that kill innocent people? A violent offense usually takes place between two individuals. In such cases the cops can easily set them up for two more charges and have them put away forever. What a weapon in the hands of the cops!

Imagine “super jails” run for profit by private companies eager to cash in on Harper’s plans to get tougher on crime.

Stockwell Day has made private security companies jump for joy. They are gloating over the “jackpot” they are going to hit by putting our people in jail. They just have to ask, “What’s your band number?” to get the payment from Indian Affairs. Harper is trying to convince Canadians that private prisons are cheaper so he can call on his private sector friends to build and operate them. This is part of the U.S. pro-privatization ideology adopted by the Conservative government. He will try wherever he can to turn over a growing range of public services to private operators, most of whom are his friends and backers.

It will be a for-profit business paid for by the tax payers. It looks like Indian Affairs can easily transfer $50,000 to $60,000 a head to these private prisons. Jailing Indians is big business. It’s a “cash cow” for the provinces which can get huge transfer payments from the federal government for every Indigenous inmate. They don’t get nothin’ for non-native inmates. That’s why it’s real attractive to keep us in jail.

At the same time the Conservative government has announced that Indian communities are going to be privatized. They want our communities to be run by corporations and trust companies for which the bottom line is profit. Band councils are now, for the most part, corporations which are being taken over by auditing firms such as PriceWaterhouse.

We’ve been giving the federal and provincial governments and corporations a hard time over theft of our lands and resources. They want to control us. They’ve figured out a way. They are going to privatize us and let the multinational corporations move in for a feast. We won’t know what’s going on with our money or anything. Corporations, of course, will want to cut costs so they can make a bigger profit. So our standard of living will go down, as if this is possible. If we don’t pay our mortgage or our taxes, the corporation will be able to seize our land and possessions.

Strange as it may seem, Canadians have never thought of registering mortgages against Newfoundland or British Columbia. So why do they think they can do this with with our land? The bluff and hypocrisy supporting this scheme is transparent. It’s meant to dispossess us.

It’s called the “Indian business”. In Kanehsatake PriceWaterhouse took over from James Gabriel who deliberately mismanaged the funds and affairs of the community. Every program and service was cut back. There was a lot “streamlining” or skimming off the top so there would be more for the corporation. $34 million is basically unaccounted for so far. Hey, Canada, did you ever wonder why your taxes are so high!

Trust companies will make money on privatizing our communities. The government will put up $50,000 a head and blow up the population figures to feed the corporate gluttons. They will do this in the jail system too. They want big jails full of Indians. We will be marketed on the stock exchange for the public to invest in our jails and our corporate controlled communities. The politicians will offer patronage plums to their friends to be trustees over Indigenous communities and jails. Why do they need to victimize us? Why don’t they just write checks to their friends? Do they think Canadians and Americans are so dumb they don’t know what’s going on?

The more they can cause mismanagement of band councils and criminalizing of Indians, the more justification there is for taking over Indigenous communities and putting us in jail. According to their business plan, warehousing Indians is a growth industry!

The United States corporations want to bring this system in. Is that the reason for that big agreement between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico called “deep integration?” They’re streamlining everything economically under a central control of 130 CEO’s who will make all the decisions for Harper, Bush and Fox.

In all of this, they are violating international law. Our incarcerated Indigenous inmates are not even citizens of Canada or the United States. They are from their own nations. They come under their own laws. This is like Guantanamo Bay!

Let’s think of how much the trustees of the Six Nations of Grand River Corporation would get under such privatization – $1.1 billion per year. Just think of the salaries for the CEO’s! Of course, there might not be anything left for the people. But, hey, since when did we count?

Kahentinetha Horn
MNN Mohawk Nation News

poster: Thahoketoteh