Quebec's ombudsman has released a scathing report on the treatment of Inuit in the provincial justice system.
Raymonde Saint-Germain describes the conditions of people arrested and convicted as "unacceptable."
She says the detention conditions are "below current standards" and infringe on the constitutional right to human dignity.
Among her concerns:
- Holding cells are often unsanitary and overcrowded.
- People arrested in Nunavik, Quebec's Inuit territory, are detained 24 hours a day, which doesn't happen anywhere else in the province.
- The wait for a bail hearing can take as long as 10 days.
- The lack of videoconferencing technology and jails in northern Quebec means millions of dollars are spent transferring the accused to Amos for pre-trial detention. Amos is 600 kilometres northwest of Montreal, however prisoners are often routed through Montreal and St-Jérôme.
- Being detained so far from home means family members are not able to visit those detained.
Report makes 30 recommendations
Saint-Germain has made 30 recommendations to improve the situation.
Her report also notes a dramatic rise in the number of Inuit in provincial jails.
That number has increased from 549 to 898 in the last six years.
The number of weeks the traveling court spends in the communities has almost doubled in the last decade.