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Faces of CSC: Abigail Carleton

July 9, 2024

Abigail Carleton
Project Officer, Operations, Indigenous Initiatives Sector, National Headquarters, Ottawa.

Project Officer, Operations, Indigenous Initiatives Sector, National Headquarters, Ottawa

“I definitely would say, ‘yes, we are improving corrections for Indigenous offenders.’ Being at National Headquarters, it can feel like we are so far removed from the front lines that you don’t really impact the front lines. From time to time, we may have an opportunity to look at a file, a grievance, or make recommendations for an offender that on a microlevel make huge ripple effects for that person.”

Abigail was in her fourth year of a social work degree at Carleton University in Ottawa, when she got a work placement in CSC’s Learning and Development Branch. While there, she met the staff in the Aboriginal Initiatives Directorate, now the Indigenous Initiatives Sector. The positive connections she fostered with them led to a full-time job with the sector when she graduated in 2019. 

Five years in, Abigail works on the Inuit portfolio/file, which includes coordinating, delivering, and co-facilitating Inuit cultural awareness training for staff. The Ottawa born Inuk was also part of the team revitalizing, updating, and publishing the Anijaarniq Holistic Inuit Strategy—CSC’s approach to Inuit corrections. She explains that since it was developed in 2013, the strategy had only really existed within the Directorate. She helped develop it into a fuller piece that was published on CSC’s website and the Hub in March 2023.

“The goal of the strategy is the repatriation of the Inuit to their home communities,” says Abigail.

To help facilitate this and address any gaps in the service provided for federally sentenced Inuit, Abigail and her colleagues have recently established a working group with national Inuit organizations to partner with CSC, called the Anijaarniq Strategy Working Group.

CSC has great Indigenous-specific interventions and initiatives. For Inuit [offenders], we have Inuit Centres of Excellence, which are designated sites that should have an Inuk Elder, as well as Inuit staff, and where the offender can access the Inuit Integrated Correctional Program. They also have access to country food on a monthly basis—fresh meat from our Inuit Nunangant (Inuit homelands), such as caribou, seal, or char. Beavercreek Institution also has a designated space for carving.”

She explains that only four sites are designated as ICEs with these Inuit specific interventions and programming, located in the Atlantic, Ontario, Quebec, and Prairie regions. There are no federal penitentiaries in the North. And Abigail notes that incarceration in southern institutions can be a real struggle for Inuit, and especially Inuit women.

“They are all isolated from their home communities,” says Abigail. “There isn’t programming for Inuit women specifically. They might be looped into Indigenous or mainstream programming.”

But Abigail notes that Inuit have a different culture, different traditions, and no ceremony you would associate with Indigenous people generally. “So, they are doubly isolated.”

Inuit who are not housed at an ICE, and Inuit women in general, they might not have anyone in their institution who can speak their language. They also might not have access to an Inuk Elder or Indigenous liaison officer to speak or work with.  Abigail is hoping the Anijaarniq Strategy Working Group can help to address some of these gaps. She is also hoping to provide more Inuit Cultural Awareness training to staff at institutions that can help isolated Inuit offenders.

Abigail is proud of her Inuit heritage. She happily shares this with others when she is not at work. Her older sister taught her and her younger sister to throat sing. 

Abigail (left) and her sister Aneeka throat singing at an engagement, wearing their beaded and embroidered regalia (called “amauti”).”

Abigail (left) and her sister Aneeka throat singing at an engagement, wearing their beaded and embroidered regalia (called “amauti”).

“We’ve done performances usually around Indigenous People’s Day, at big conferences, or Truth and Reconciliation Day—getting the opportunity to share our culture, which I love.”

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk is a publication of Correctional Service Canada (CSC). Let’s Talk shares stories new and old of the people and programs at CSC. These stories provide an engaging window into how CSC fulfills its mission of contributing to public safety and assisting in rehabilitation. Let’s Talk is your home for informative articles, podcasts, and videos about CSC.

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