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MPP says inmates still suffering

By Randy Thoms Jun 2, 2023 | 6:14 PM

A renewed call to improve mental health programs in Ontario’s jails.

A recent visit to the jail in Kenora has Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa suggesting says nothing has changed since a 2017 report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The Commission found that all of the prisoners housed at the time had either mental health disabilities, intellectual disabilities and/or addiction-related issues.

Ninety per cent of the inmate identified as First Nations, many from remote communities in northern Ontario, and for some, English was not their first language.

Speaking at Queen’s Park, Mamakwa told the legislature the situation is not getting any better.

“What I saw, it’s as if the people that are there are not human. Ontario needs to act on its promises to provide more treatment in jails, especially the addictions crisis,” said Mamakwa.

The commission recommended that the senior levels of government work with Indigenous communities to provide culturally relevant services that addressed issues such as substance abuse, family and domestic violence, and overcoming the experience of having been sexually abused.
Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner says they have acted.

” I’ve toured a lot of facilities all over Ontario, and it has been an eye opener for me to see the investments that we made in the facilities to meet the cultural needs of the Indigenous peoples there, such as the smudging spaces, the sweat lodges, and the teaching lodges,” replied Kerzner.

But Mamakwa says it is not working.

During his visit, he was told fifty inmates should not be in jail and needed mental health support.

“The lack of resources inside the provincial jails is simply a reflection of society. Out of sight, out of mind. The answer is not building more correctional facilities,” said Mamakwa.

He says if there were proper addictions and mental health treatment available in communities, there wouldn’t be nearly as many people in jails in the first place.

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