Conservative Leader Stephen Harper's latest tough-on-crime measures are getting a harsh review from aboriginal justice workers, who say they fear his move to end conditional sentencing for more than 30 crimes will lead to more aboriginal Canadians in jails.
Jonathan Rudin, a lawyer with Aboriginal Legal Services in Toronto, said the Conservatives' proposed measures do not take into account what the government's own statistics indicate is a fundamental imbalance in sentencing for aboriginal Canadians in the criminal justice system.
About three per cent of Canada's population is aboriginal, but they make up about 20 per cent of the prison population, according to Statistics Canada.
"It's not that aboriginal people are more prone to criminality, it's that when aboriginal people commit crime, they go to jail," Rudin told CBC News. "Whereas when non-aboriginal people commit crime, they don't necessarily go to jail."
When asked on Tuesday how his plan to cut down on conditional sentencing would affect aboriginal people, Harper acknowledged that they were more likely to be convicted of a crime.
But he added aboriginal people are also disproportionately more likely to be themselves victims of crimes, and said the measures would give those people the justice they deserve.
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