The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples (CAP) is speaking out about prisoners rights.

Thursday was Prisoners’ Justice Day and the organization is looking to use the day to raise awareness about the plight many prisoners are facing. CAP National Vice Chief Kim Beaudin said the day presents the chance to talk about the plight that many prisoners face in the current system. He added the issue is not one which many Indigenous leaders are as interested in touching on in comparison to constitutional issues, however Beaudin believes it is just as vital.

“I believe that the impact on our people, Indigenous people in this country is profound and especially when you’re tied up in the justice system, once that happens to you it’s really hard to get out,” he said.

Beaudin as well talked about the case of Odelia and Nerissa Quewezance, who are currently free pending review of their convictions for second degree murder. Both have long maintained their innocence. Beaudin and CAP have worked with the two sisters in their legal fight to have their convictions overturned. The CAP national vice chief said the two have shared stories with him about dealing with issues of food insecurity and challenges accessing medical care while incarcerated.

“Some of the stories they shared are just, you know, on one hand its shocking cause if you’re on the outside you’re thinking why should that be going on, on the other hand, it’s not so shocking, because you know (what happens) behind prison walls tends to stay there,” he said.

When it comes to dealing with the problems in the country’s prison system, Beaudin believes one step involves having more independent oversight process inside the facilities themselves. Beaudin said it remains a major source of concern that the prison populations in the country, especially in the western provinces are predominately made up of Indigenous people. He said stressed those high numbers indicate some major systemic issues that need to be addressed.

“It just shouldn’t be happening, those numbers are, there’s something seriously wrong,” he said.

(Top Photo: File Photo.)