Tuesday, November 22, 2005

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To: Hon. Gord Mackintosh

I am writing to express my dissatisfaction with the conditions in the Winnipeg Remand Centre. It is common knowledge that the majority of inmates in Manitoba’s correctional system are Aboriginal. Many of these inmates request culturally appropriate services, such as the ability to speak to and be counseled by Aboriginal people. It has come to my attention that the Remand Centre has four non-Aboriginal Chaplains, all male and only one Aboriginal Elder, also male. There are no female Elders in the Remand Centre, even though there are a significant number of female inmates in the facility.

I recently had the opportunity to speak to the Elder at the Remand Centre, Neil Hall who indicated that he cannot keep up with the number of requests he receives from inmates on a daily basis. I understand that while there may be 8-12 requests for his services per day which he must contend with alone, the Chaplains receive only up to 4 requests per day each. This is absolutely unreasonable and is a disservice to the Aboriginal population in the facility, particularly the women.

Neil indicated that he has requested that a female Elder or a female helper be hired, but that his requests have fallen on deaf ears. I understand that one of the Chaplain positions recently opened and another Chaplain was promptly hired. This would have been a good opportunity for the facility to hire another Elder, preferably female.

I want to recommend that this issue at the Remand Centre be looked at immediately and that the appropriate staff be hired, given the inmate population. Please let me know what steps you are taking to address this issue. Thank you for your anticipated serious consideration of this matter.


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