Journal of Correctional Health Care - April 2023 - 137

INDIGENOUS PARENTS AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
137
removed children from their parents and community
(CBC News, 2019; Centennial College, 2018; Longman,
2018), which breaks linkages of Indigenous health and
wellness while simultaneously introducing and normalizing
state involvement imposed upon Indigenous children
as well as Western practices as part of colonized
systems. As a result of these state-sanctioned and statefunded
practices, Indigenous children and their families
experience traumas that instill shame and leave them
questioning their identity and indigeneity (CBC News,
2019).
At the individual level, consequences of intergenerational
(from generation to generation) and intragenerational
(within a generation) traumas can translate into
coping behaviors (e.g., substance use, suicide, addiction
issues, overwork, negative self-talk), which, in turn,
influence family, community, and the overall health of
the population (Reading & Wien, 2009). At the broader
community level, trauma may result in outcomes such
as suicide, intimate partner violence/private violence,
and involvement with the criminal justice system
(Reading & Wien, 2009).
Having access to positive social and Indigenous
determinants of health prevents Indigenous Peoples-
especially mothers, mother figures, and their children-
from entering the cycle of incarceration and homelessness
(National Collaborating Centre, 2013; Singh et al.,
2019).
Our collective understanding of the issues that disproportionately
impact the well-being of Indigenous
mothers and mother figures is known. The Truth and
Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) has
been a prominent voice in Indigenous policy and advocacy.
Since the TRC was published in 2015, however,
only a few of the 94 TRC calls to action have been
implemented, which included a call for the implementation
of antiracism training in the Canadian criminal
justice system (TRC, 2015). The continued lack of
meaningful attention to the TRC calls to action continues
to be disheartening.
Similarly, the National Inquiry into Missing and
Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG)
also called for increased cultural competency training
among those who work in the criminal justice system
(e.g., police services) and drew attention for the need to
work in partnership with Indigenous communities and
leadership (National Inquiry, 2019a, 2019b). However,
significant process has yet to be made with respect to
this critical action item.
We recognize and are grateful for the critically important
sharing by Indigenous Peoples, who have been central
in portraying and shaping distinct narratives,
including stories of resilience, strength, and tenacity.
We acknowledge Indigenous mothers and mother figures
who continue to exercise resistance by making
good decisions for themselves and their families within
the context of their lived experiences, all of which happen
within a society embedded in racist ideologies and
systemic oppressions (Walsh et al., 2013).
We also acknowledge the broad understanding of
mothering in Indigenous communities, where mothers
and mother figures are not limited to biological relationships
but care for children and families within a variety of
social and cultural contexts (National Collaborating
Centre, 2013; Royal Commission, 1996). Before colonization,
many Indigenous communities regarded women
and Two-Spirit community members as respected leaders,
Healers, and Keepers of Culture who embraced leadership
roles based on kinship relations and Indigenous
governance practices.
However, present day structures founded in colonialism,
patriarchy, and racism against Indigenous communities
have inhibited the self-determination of some
Indigenous women and Two-Spirit community members.
Through sharing and listening to multiple stories, we can
depict the unique and nuanced experiences of being
Indigenous mothers or mother figures who are engaged
with justice systems in Canada.
Intersectional Approach to Indigenous Mothers
and Mother Figures in the Federal Criminal
Justice System
Intersectional approaches to understanding systemic
oppressions experienced by Indigenous mothers and
mother figures can be understood through an examination
of the combination of intersecting identity markers and
sociopolitical and legal structures. We engage with scholarship
written by Black feminist and legal scholar
KimberleĀ“ Crenshaw and are indebted by her contributions
that allow us to articulate the ''. broad-scale
system of domination that affects women as a class''
(Crenshaw, 1991, p. 1241).
We purposefully include and cite Crenshaw's scholarship
as a way to ensure our own scholarship does not
contribute to the epistemic violence and erasure of
Black women scholars within the academe (Bilge, 2020).
As Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars, we recognize
and uplift all who draw attention to the systems of
oppression that disproportionately impact Indigenous,
Black, and people of color.
We recognize that Indigenous mothers and mother figures
who are in contact with the criminal justice system
experience multiple disadvantages because of the simultaneous
interactions of being Indigenous, being a mother
or mother figure, and having the experience of incarceration
(Benson, 2020; Moe & Ferraro, 2007; National
Inquiry, 2019a). We also attend to the overarching structures
of systemic oppression that Indigenous mothers and
mother figures experience: Their identities and social

Journal of Correctional Health Care - April 2023

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