Alumnus headlines SACPA event

University of Lethbridge alumnus Rick Soop (BA'81) will address the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs (SACPA) Thursday, May 27 as the topic of closing the Kainai Corrections Centre is addressed. The title of the SACPA event, Is Aboriginal Justice Being Served?

In the early 1990's, each of the three prairie provinces held judicial inquiries into aboriginal justice. The Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples followed these inquiries with a national analysis. All of these important studies reviewed the disproportionate representation of aboriginal peoples in the Canadian Justice System.

At present about 20 per cent of federal offenders are aboriginal. On the prairies, provincial aboriginal incarceration rates range from 35 per cent in Alberta to 80 per cent in Saskatchewan.

In the words of Justice Cawsey from the Alberta Inquiry: "The only things that have worked for Natives have come from Natives".

Since his graduation with a political science degree from the University of Lethbridge in 1981, Rick Soop has worked in the criminal justice system and witnessed first hand the disproportionate representation of aboriginal peoples.

For the last 10 years, Soop has been the director of the Kainai Community Corrections Society. He is an active participant on various boards and committees for the Blood Tribe, and is helping to develop the Kainai Peacemaking Centre.

There are consistent statistics demonstrating the decreased rate of reoffending or recidivism where Aboriginal offenders have gone through Aboriginal programming including healing lodges, ceremonies and opportunities to commune with Elders.

Just this past winter, Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator for Correctional Services of Canada underlined these facts. Mr. Sapers emphasized the need for urgent action to improve support programs for Aboriginal prisoners or face a potential crisis.

In the face of these truths and the young and vulnerable demographic of the Aboriginal population, it defies logic that the Alberta Government would suddenly and arbitrarily decide to close the Kainai Minimum Security Corrections Centre and cut Aboriginal Correctional Programming on Reserves.

It is in the interests of everyone in Alberta that these worthwhile programs on Kainai and other reserves be supported. The Director of Kainai Corrections will speak to this issue, its implications and what can be done about it.

Moderated by James Moore, Thursday's SACPA event is from noon to 1:30 p.m. at Country Kitchen Catering. Admission is $10 and includes lunch.