October 24, 2012 | 19 Comments
In the previous post about the increase in the rate of self-harm among inmates, I wrote that this is “a great shame that we all wear”, without elaborating. In the comments, Peter pushed back:
Thanks for dropping in to give us a heads-up about the shame and responsibility we all bear for this, Jonathan. I can hardly wait for you to tell us why.
“Hear, O Israel, thou hast sinned. I’m too busy to tell you how right now, but I’ll get back to you.”
First off, gold. Pure gold.
I wrote that line knowing that it was a tad provocative and a tad unfair. Initially, I was about to write that it was a shame for which we were all responsible, but I backed away from that wording. Clearly, we are not each individually responsible. I am certainly not one to conflate the fault of governments and public servants with the fault of individuals. It’s not really our fault.
But it is still a shame that we wear. It is a failing of this government – especially considering their adoration for more and bigger prisons even as their correctional policies are out-of-whack with current research – and it is a failing of all the individual actors who could ameliorate the situation but don’t. Those people are responsible, but it will still fall back on us.
Societies are judged on a little of different things. The way that a society treats its inmates says a lot about the society, in general. So if we are just going to let this sort of thing happen, then we eventually become complicit. If we do nothing in response to this, if we do not hold our politicians’ feet to the fire on this, then we’re accomplices. Until we start doing something to address this matter, the shame that our government has brought upon us is something that our society will continue to wear. That this tragedy falls disproportionately on the Aboriginal population, a population whose treatment in Canada has been historically quite wretched, only magnifies this shame.
So, I tend to agree with the spirit of Peter’s comment. I don’t mean to blame Canadians for this. I just think this is something that Canadian society wears until we try to fix it.