From policing to courts to incarceration, Canada’s justice system can exacerbate marginalization and poverty. A lack of resources can be a barrier to addressing legal issues and at the same time having legal issues can lead to a lack of resources.
VCC is having some conversations right now about the issues at play and how we can advance policy in this area. We’ve assembled five resources to start the conversation.
Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present
Robin Maynard examines the past and present of anti-Blackness in Canada, covering topics like slavery, policing, gendered violence, and incarceration. This book will make you say, “I never learned that in school!” repeatedly. Maynard draws a clear line between Canada’s history and why Black Canadians are over-represented in the criminal justice system. Read this book to challenge your assumptions about the prevalence of anti-Black racism in Canada.
Indigenous Peoples and the Injustice of Justice
Interview with Laura Arndt
Read this piece by Mohawk scholar Laura Arndt, then listen to the full podcast series “Advancing Justice” from the Maytree Foundation. She writes about the systemic injustice Indigenous people experience through Canada’s justice system, focusing on the Gladue and Barton cases. Arendt explains how the justice system fails Indigenous people as both victims and offenders, contextualizing her arguments within Canada’s ongoing history of settler colonialism. If you’re not sure how the dots connect between colonialism and inequities in the justice system, read this piece.
Coming Back to Jail: Women, Trauma, and Incarceration
Elizabeth Comack interviewed 42 incarcerated women for this research project, which explores how experiences of trauma, colonialism, gendered violence, and poverty have shaped these women’s lives and their involvement in the criminal justice system. If you want to understand the experiences of incarcerated women as people, rather than just as data or statistics, this is an excellent book.
The Uncuffed Podcast
KALW, San Quentin State Prison and Solano Prison
This award-winning podcast is run by KALW, a radio station in San Francisco that offers audio production classes and media training in prisons. Uncuffed features the voices and lived experiences of incarcerated men in San Quentin State Prison and Solano Prison in California. “The Uncuffed podcast is a showcase for personal stories and deep roundtable conversations with the incarcerated Uncuffed producers. We also catch up with Uncuffed producers post-release, and hear from the friends and family of incarcerated people.” This show is all about sharing the humanity and vulnerability of its producers.
Are Prisons Obsolete?
Angela Y. Davis
This short read from Black feminist icon Angela Y. Davis asks: do we need to improve the prison system or abolish it entirely? Read this book with an open mind and see how it might challenge your assumptions about what prisons do and how well they serve society and individuals who are incarcerated.
- Justice is one of 10 levers of change in the Enough for All Strategy.
- The Let's Talk Poverty podcast explores creating equal access to justice for Indigenous people, how Indigenous Law brings healing, and the need for systemic change in the legal system. Check out Episode 12: Systemic Change – Indigenous People and the Legal System.
- Calls to action 25-42 and 50-52 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada are related to justice. Curious about what progress has been made so far? See the latest updates on these calls to action from Indigenous Watchdog.
- Take the Poverty and the Law: Expanding Perspectives module, a free online course developed by the Justice Sector Constellation. Learn about the context and causes of poverty, how poverty intersects with the law, and how you can engage and take action.