Cultural Alienation and Community Dislocation

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Themes: Cultural Alienation; Culture and Community in the Justice System; Identity; Impacts on Health and Identity; R v Moses; Sentencing Circles

Acknowledgement: This research document was reviewed by Joshua Favel, LL.M (Cantab), professor at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Law. The research document was reviewed for comprehensiveness and accuracy to ensure quality and validity of the research. The information in this document is current as of April 2024.

Executive Summary: Indigenous identity is deeply intertwined with land. Displacement and forced relocation by colonial powers shattered Indigenous communities' spiritual ties to their ancestral lands, leading to cultural alienation and communal dislocation. This disruption profoundly affects Indigenous peoples' mental health, exacerbating trauma and identity crises. These factors further contribute to the over-incarceration epidemic of Indigenous individuals. Efforts to reconnect with cultural heritage and community offer paths to healing and resilience. Cultural continuity, affirmed through traditional practices and collective memory, fosters a sense of belonging and self-worth. Moreover, initiatives like sentencing circles within the justice system reflect a shift towards culturally appropriate rehabilitation, emphasizing community involvement and holistic healing over punitive measures. By recognizing the intrinsic link between cultural identity, land, and community, societies can better support Indigenous peoples in reclaiming their heritage and rebuilding their sense of self.

Purpose of the document: What are "Systemic and Background Factors" and how are they relevant to the Gladue Principles? Systemic and background factors (also known as Gladue Factors) are the unique experiences, circumstances, and challenges that an Indigenous person, their family, community, or Nation has faced. They relate to the harmful effects of colonialism and discrimination, past and present. Systemic and Background factors must be considered in a Gladue analysis (e.g. the direct and intergenerational impacts of residential school and the Sixties Scoop, among others). These factors are broader circumstances known to contribute to the over-incarceration of Indigenous persons in particular, as well as those that figure prominently in the causation of crime more generally. The purpose of this Research Summary is to help provide social context and background information for judges, lawyers, and Gladue report writers to better unpack the complex ways systemic discrimination and settler colonialism can impact an Indigenous person’s life. As well, these summaries will provide evidence-based research that speak to alternatives to incarceration, restorative options, and ways to support an individual through healing, aftercare, and release planning. While these summaries cannot replace the need for case-specific information about Indigenous individuals or the contemporary dynamics within their families and Nations, they can be used to craft more effective submissions and reports that better tie those case-specific details to the broader social context surrounding Indigenous overincarceration.

Access a copy of the Cultural Alienation and Community Dislocation Summary by downloading the PDF attached at the top of this entry