Dear Toronto Sun Editor………

……Brennan Guigue comments.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

The Khadr settlement has nothing to do with Omar Khadr……it has to do with Canada’s complicity in the torture of a human being.

Ottawa is apologizing for its lack of adherence to the values Canadians profess to hold dear.

Get off this trip about the soldiers who died by his actions. When U.S. Marines went into that house, they went in with guns blazing. Khadr’s throwing of the grenade was simply the knee- jerk reaction of a scared 15 year-old kid.

Why isn’t it okay to argue that kids of his age are not capable of making rational adult decisions as their brains have still more development to undergo?

He’s an adult now because he was held in an adult prison – which was infinitely worse than the public was led to believe – and subjected to devastating mental, emotional, AND (yes) physical torture – for several years of his childhood.

Is it so hard to believe that a smart, manipulative, scheming adult couldn’t have indoctrinated a young, impressionable teenager into believing he was involved in something honourable or righteous?


Okay…..then if a 25, 26, or even 30 year-old has sex with a 16 year-old girl because……she wanted to, why do we condemn the man involved as a predator, or rapist?

Double standard……?

After all, EVERY single person in uniform going into a HOT ZONE EXPECTS TO BE IN THE LINE OF FIRE!

They, as adults, enter into that risk freely and willingly, knowing their enemy is NOT going to be throwing tulips at them.


I am not trying to diminish the sympathies felt for the family and friends of the deceased soldier….they are no doubt suffering for their loss.

I just think everyone should keep things in perspective.


The lack of financial support for our physically and mentally wounded veterans should not be placed at the feet of Omar Khadr….that problem existed long before he came along.

Once again though, here’s the Toronto Sun, Liberal-hating RAG of a newspaper, distracting people from serious issues.

Enough already!

Oh, by the way……

I have been meaning to ask you, Mr. Editor, why aren’t you advocating for a national day of mourning for all the wrongfully convicted, or all those who’ve been murdered by police?

Hey….I don’t anticipate a worthwhile response……., just curious.

Now, here’s an idea…….

….let’s lighten the load in Ontario’s courts.

The Toronto Police Accountability Coalition received a small grant which it used for research on pre-charge screening, a practice where Crown prosecutors vet charges police wish to lay. British Columbia, Quebec, and New Brunswick were the models studied, and we’re quoting the results of the research from the TPAC Bulletin No. 104, June 12, 2017.

“The courts in pre-charge provinces have considerably lower caseloads, and average of 22 per cent lower than the other provinces. If Ontario used the pre-charge system established in Quebec, the case load in Ontario would have been 70,500 rather than 93,700. (Note: No time period specified by TPAC)

Multi-charge cases – often a sign of over-charging – are much less frequent in pre-charge provinces. Ontario has 1.5 times as many multi-charge cases per capita as Quebec.

In pre-charge provinces many fewer cases are either stayed or withdrawn. The number stayed or withdrawn in Quebec is 9 per cent; in Ontario, 46 per cent.

Pre-charge screening leads to better use of precious court time, as well as the time and energy of those in the criminal justice system, and protects members of the public from charges deemed no supportable by the court.”

More information is available from, referencing bulletin No. 104.

Bulletin: Pre-screening is not a new idea in Ontario……and TPAC is not the first to suggest the province could benefit from it.

A Globe and Mail editorial back on September 23 of 2016 commented on a MacDonald-Laurier Institute study which noted: “In Ontario, 43 per cent of charges laid are ultimately stayed or withdrawn. Of those that do go to trial, the conviction rate is just 55 per cent. Ontario has by far the lowest conviction rate in the country, and the highest number, again by far, of cases that are dropped.

In Quebec, where police must get the approval of a Crown prosecutor before laying charges, a mere 8.6 per cent of charges are stayed or withdrawn, and the conviction rate is 75 per cent. In British Columbia, where the Crown similarly has to approve charges, only 29 per cent of charges are dropped and the conviction rate is 70 per cent.”

How often police in Ontario overcharge to guarantee that something sticks is a subjective assessment, but it happens. Considering the complaints and concerns about court backlogs, the delays in bringing cases to trial, and the July 2016 Supreme Court decision in R v. Jordan setting time limits from charge to resolution, why wouldn’t the province have jumped on the pre-screening bandwagon?

Why not indeed? The question won’t get an answer, but it’s only too easy to surmise someone is protecting turf.

Another look………

..….at life inside the Toronto South Detention Centre

The purpose of these narratives is not to illicit any sympathy for the inmates being housed at this (and many others like it) facility, but instead to show the hypocrisy (as with any governmental ‘institution’) which permeates through this ‘environment’. What ‘they’ tell ‘you’ about the running of this place is a FAR CRY from the truth of what actually goes on.

This is mostly about the guards. The support staff trying to do good within these walls tend to be hobbled in their efforts by the Security Department and the bureaucracy which accompanies it. ‘Security’ has VETO powers on all things pertaining to inmates…..everything. From the fact that there is no real complaint/grievance process available to inmates all the way down to not being allowed to possess personal toothpaste while on disciplinary L.O.A.P. status in segregation. (Editor’s note: Although L.O.A.P. was ended by a MCSCS policy change as of October 16-17, 2016, it seems that not all guards got the memo.) Some of the rules change with every shift, many times the laying of a misconduct against an inmate depends on the guard working that day, and whether he/she likes or dislikes the inmate in question. There is no real consistency in it at all…..AND, the same applies to whether said inmate is sent to segregation.

I have seen – and experienced – guys who were sent to segregation for the most minor, barest of infractions, while others have remained on the Unit (albeit locked in their cell) after throwing violent temper tantrums, or having been found with large home-brews and various other forms of contraband in their possession/or cells.

The thing that most people in the community tend not to realize is that the guards who work here are human beings and so are not immune to the character flaws which are a trait to all.

There are all the same – but more so – faults among them such as laziness, revenge, vindictive personalities, holier-than-thou attitudes, jealousy, insecurity (many feel they must assert their authority out of a sense of inadequacy… proof of their manhood. The female staff do it to prove they measure up.)….anything you can think of. It exists among many (majority) of the guards here.

At times, I wonder if all of the unpopular, bullied, or picked-on kids from high school signed up to be guards. Then you’ve got the ‘wannabe’ cops with their….,’you’re-all-pieces-of-shit” attitudes, or the ex-military types who – in their robot-like ways – just fall into line with whatever they’re told.

Some break the law by smuggling drugs, denying basic human rights, and, in some cases, assaults on inmates (although that’s less frequent than in the past due to the installation of the many surveillance cameras throughout the building). Although there are ‘blind spots’….., just order the inmate to step to the back wall of the cell before you punch him in the face.

I see – and have been subjected to – the petty whims of guards who will routinely withhold an inmate’s food and showers….even toilet paper, for days at a time!

For those of you who may think….”so what, they’re a bunch of criminals anyway”, you’re forgetting that it’s not about them as I said. It’s about this being a “correctional” centre, touting top-of-the-line medical facilities, inmate recreational and rehabilitation programs. “So stay outta jail”……you say. Well, as much as we’d all like to live in such a society where there is no need of ‘jails’…..unfortunately such an utopia is unlikely to come ‘round any time soon.

So, in the meantime……send all of your criminals, mentally ill, emotionally scarred addicts, and whichever ‘undesirables’ society deems as ‘riff-raff’ into these so-called Correctional Centres to be mistreated and further damaged.

Truly….prison guards believe themselves to be of a special breed, guardians watching over the worst society has to offer. While in some cases (admittedly many) this may be true….in far too many cases one finds it hard to distinguish who is worse.

A few days ago, I saw three large men (175 lbs. plus) wrestling a little old man (couldn’t have been younger than 70), maybe 5’6”, 140-150 lbs. into a segregation cell. All the while pleading with them from the wheelchair and beyond….., “please stop, I just need my pills!” Believe what I say or not…., but it’s no exaggeration!

Or, what about the schizophrenic guy who was charged with obstruction of justice because when the cops stopped him, he gave the name of one of his alter egos instead of his real one (and who’s to say that – according to him – the name he gave wasn’t his real one?) He’s now being housed in a segregation cell two doors down from me…..should he be ridiculed and called a ‘cry baby’ simply because he spends most of his time crying and asking to “please be allowed to go home.” He’s been in that cell for 17 days….(24 on 24!).

As much as you’d like to scoff at these stories…., or suggest that they must be fabrications, or – at best – exaggerations, you’re only making assumptions…., they couldn’t possibly be true, could they? Couldn’t they?

Uh…..hellooo? The subjugation of the weak by the strong, the rich over the poor, is a human trait! No….? Pick up any history book…..or even your daily newspaper…, ‘get yur head outta yur ass and take an honest look around!’ What would you do if you saw an elderly man being manhandled by three much younger, larger, and stronger men on the street? Or, what would you feel if you saw a pathetic, mentally ill man or woman crying for help to “go home”?

Would you try to help that elderly man….., would you have sympathy for that desperate, crying person…?

So why should ANY rational HUMAN BEING feel any different because those ‘people’ exist in society’s waste baskets? And, do you think these injustices (those who live them and those who witness them), and inhumane practices make the people ‘coming out’ better or worse? Or how about from the opposite angle…., if you can agree that having a sense of humanity for all, sharing kindness with others, and doing charity can make a person feel better in life…., wouldn’t it stand to reason then that doing the opposite of those same things will invariably have a negative impact on a person’s outlook on the world, and themselves?

I’m not saying that guards/staff ‘round here need to pamper anyone, but – HOLY! – with some of the things I’ve witnessed and personally experienced….., one must wonder what effect some of the behaviours have on the practitioner.

Is it really possible to ‘turn off’ when at work, then ‘turn on’ at home….., how long before it takes a toll?

And, how are any of the ‘sufferers’ supposed to ‘keep their chin up’ when they’re constantly being beaten down?

There is NOTHING correcting about corrections!

Quote of the day……
“Strength lies unseen in many unexpected places; it merely awaits the right key to release it.”

Everything these people teach their children about right and wrong, good and bad…..truth and lies means nothing in their dealings with ‘you’….’you’ are sub-human so a lie is not a lie, an injustice is not so when levied against ‘you’/’us’…’s okay.

…..written by Brennan Guigue, and dated March 3, 2016

Editor’s note: This is only a brief capsule of conditions inside Toronto South Detention Centre, and Brennan Guigue has recalled just a few to make his point. Don’t look at TSDC as a template for the many other MCSCS institutions in Ontario, though. While abuses of power and questionable practices can be experienced elsewhere and to varying degrees, the dynamics at TSDC make it a stand-out.

Omar Khadr

… explanation needed.

July 7, 2017

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Office of the Prime Minister,
80 Wellington Street,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Re: Thank you

Dear Prime Minister:

If I’m prone to be quick to criticize, a common characteristic, I should also promptly applaud when credit is due.

Thank you and your government for settling the claim Omar Khadr made against Canada. Yes, it can be argued the courts would have awarded him a more substantial compensation, but you did the right thing, nonetheless.

It’s only a shame your Conservative opposition can’t shake their medievalist mindset.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

…….and further…..

July 7, 2017

Andrew Sheer,
House of Commons,
Parliament Building,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Omar Khadr

Mr. Sheer:

Just how poorly informed do you want to make yourself out to be?

You know very well how shamefully Canada treated Omar Khadr. You know very well there wasn’t a court in this country that would support the position you and the other troglodytes in the last government held on the question. You know very well you’re now simply playing politics to arouse the worst among us, when you should be contrite and remorseful. And, you know very well Canada can pay Mr. Khadr $10million now or a lot more at trial.

But, then I suppose we should expect nothing better from the intransigent medievalist thinking of the conservative mind.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen.

The same letter went to Tony Clement, Peter Kent, and Jason Kenny.

Canada’s federal, provincial, and territorial governments routinely ignore their own policies and procedures, and violate both the law and Charter rights. Yes, sometimes it’s done clandestinely, sometimes with a rationalized good purpose, but most often unintentionally…. innocent mistakes.

No matter the cause, a government must accept responsibility and exact a punitive consequence. We need to ensure that happens.

Sorry, Prime Minister…..

… can’t hide.

“Et tu, Trudeau?” from May 21 included the contents of a letter to Justin Trudeau, encouraging him to move forward aggressively with his agenda for reforms to our justice and federal penal systems.

As always, we didn’t expect or anticipate a response. However, a May 25th letter arrived from the Prime Minister’s office over the signature of R. Olshansky, Executive Correspondence Officer:-

On behalf of the Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence of May 16, 2017, regarding solitary confinement.

Thank you for taking the time to share your concerns with the Prime Minister. You may be assured that your correspondence has been carefully reviewed.

As you may know, the issue you raise falls within the portfolios of the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. I am certain that the Ministers, to whom you sent copies of your letter, appreciated being made aware of your views.

Once again, thank you for writing to the Prime Minister.

Oh now, that’s just too easy. Better not to have had an answer at all. It took only a moment to correct the PMO:-

June 7, 2017

R. Olshansky, Executive Correspondence Officer,
Office of the Prime Minister,

Re: Not so fast.

Dear R. Olshansky:

I didn’t expect the Prime Minister to answer my May 16 letter around the use of solitary confinement in our federal prisons, and I thank you for your May 25 response on his behalf.

Sorry, but I take issue with your perspective. “The buck stops here”, said a sign sitting on Harry Truman’s desk, and that same axiom applies to Justin Trudeau. If Ministers Wilson-Raybould and Goodale do not deliver on the goals the Prime Minister has set for his government’s reforms, it is the Prime Minister who will answer for his ministers.

It is of paramount importance that changes to policy and practice be enshrined in legislation, no matter the howls of objection from some quarters. After all, it is we, the people, who must be satisfied.

Thank you for the attention you have already given this; it need not take up more of your time.

Yes, and Ministers Wilson-Raybould & Goodale were copied.

An end to Ontario’s scourge?

……..or is optimism wasted?

From last week, “By early May, with Howard Sapers preliminary report in hand, the government announced reforms for solitary confinement, and an ‘overhaul’ of its jails”

Just so, Patrick White’s “Ontario jails to be overhauled, minister says” from the May 25th Globe and Mail began by saying that, “The minister in charge….determined to make the province an international model for humane correctional practices……” Minister Lalonde said Howard Sapers initial report released two weeks prior was “fair”, and she promised to “tackle” and “address” each of his 63 recommendations.

The Globe article continued, “She refused to say whether addressing the recommendations would be analogous to implementing them”, but said she would be introducing new legislation this fall to reflect those recommended changes. That’s a tall order; Mr. White reminded us that current laws have gone untouched since the nineties.

A long, two-page April 26th letter arrived from Minister Marie-France Lalonde, responding to four of ours from last fall, winter, and into 2017. As could be expected, it reviewed the changes and improvements that have been implemented and are upcoming in Ontario’s institutions, committing further to work with the Ombudsman’s report and the Howard Sapers review.

The minister’s confidence led her to stumble with two paragraphs deep into this letter about the Toronto South Detention Centre, by writing, “….the ministry is proud to have opened this modern, state-of-the-art detention centre……” and went on to herald what she and her staff believe are the considerable assets of TSDC. The minister forgot she wasn’t writing a grade-school class.

Of course, a response was warranted:-

May 29, 2017

The Honourable Marie-France Lalonde,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
18th Floor, George Drew Building,
25 Grosvenor Street,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6

Re: Bury the truth; hide the facts

Dear Minister:

Thank you for your April 25th letter in response to four of mine from 2016 and 2017. Ministry staff may be responsible for its composition, but your signature endorses the contents.

The remarks around Toronto South Detention Centre are troublesome. Only last week I had yet another call from a TSDC inmate to say he was denied a copy of Raizel Robin’s Toronto Life March cover article, “The $1-billion hellhole” that I sent him. In my experience, inmates at other provincial institutions have not had the same problem with their mail. Criminal defense lawyers and social workers familiar with TSDC would have preferred that the Toronto Life article reflected the full scope of Ms. Robin’s research, but assumed the magazine would only publish a balanced perspective.

The facts contest your ministry’s pride in Toronto South. The institution discounts inmate discord because of its source, and lawyers know complaints they have can compromise their ability to connect with clients. Simply, the MCSCS public position is not supportable under scrutiny.

In any case, with Howard Sapers’ interim report in hand, you announced a new vision for Ontario’s jails, focused primarily but not exclusively on the use of solitary confinement. Progress is welcome but you’ll be challenged to legislate changes on the one hand, and guarantee compliance on the other. Judgements will have to await outcomes.

I wish you good luck.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc: Mike Wasylyk, Superintendent, Toronto South Detention Centre

And, she is wished the best of luck. Let’s see where this goes.

Segregation – an Ontario scourge

“Researchers believe it damages the body and brain as well, but they can’t test this hypothesis, because what we do to prisoners every day – house them in prolonged isolation – is illegal to do to laboratory animals. It is against the law to treat rats the way we treat people in solitary.”
…….from “Buried alive – stories from inside solitary confinement”, by Dan Winters
GQ Magazine, March 2017

This feature in GQ examples the extremes of segregation practices in some American prisons, but the principle Dan Winters espouses has a place everywhere prisoners are isolated for more than 22 hours a day over periods of more than two weeks. Even then, or when a segregation placement is frequent, the mental and physical outcomes can be damaging.

We’ve already looked at the challenges confronting federal segregation (Segregation – a federal snapshot, March 5 and March 12, for instance), but our provinces and territories are facing similar scrutiny. Intransigent Manitoba stands out in its support for the status quo, but what is needed in Winnipeg are the same levels of activism that is leading to reviews of solitary confinement elsewhere in the country. British Columbia in particular has made a commitment to progressive change.

The assault on Ontario’s segregation policies in its jails has been led by Patrick White at Toronto’s Globe and Mail. Mr. White, with the support of the paper’s editorial board, is not alone in condemning solitary confinement, but their work was instrumental in bringing the issue to the forefront. From “Solitary confinement review accomplishes little, critics say” on October 18, to “High ratio of isolated inmates have mental-health issues” the next day, along with an editorial also on the 19th criticizing the ministry’s delay in dealing with a problem of its own making, the spotlight is persistent.

On through the fall, with some considerable input from the Toronto Star, the government was pressed to do something. Patrick White reported on November 9 that Ontario had enlisted the help of Howard Sapers, former Correctional Investigator for Canada, to review conditions in the province’s jails. A November 11 Globe editorial encouraged Mr. Sapers to “speak truth to power,” a habit for which he’s noted.

By late November, the minister responsible at least acknowledged the matter of segregation deserved attention, but critics continued to accuse Ontario of indifference and ignoring calls for reform. By December, even the provinces ombudsman announced his intention to look at what was described as the ‘torture’ of inmates by Ontario. The Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced it would ‘tackle’ inmates’ mental health and segregation, admitting there were ‘serious problems’ with segregation.

In April of this year, Ontario’s ombudsman released his findings, saying Ontario’s segregation practices were ‘unacceptable’. A Globe editorial did not mince words, calling on the province to define segregation, document it, reform it, and end it. And then, the lawsuits began. By early May, with Howard Sapers preliminary report in hand, the government announced reforms for solitary confinement, and an ‘overhaul’ of its jails.

In recognition of his work, Patrick White won a National Newspaper Award in the spring in the beat reporting category for his coverage of federal and provincial prisons.

It’s worth noting that ‘policies’ can become simple guidelines, subject to the whims and vagaries of OPSEU members who work as guards in the province’s institutions. These too came under the media’s probing, with numerous articles beginning last fall and through the winter. Whatever the outcome of all this, it’s important that reforms be enshrined in legislation. Otherwise, they can become mere suggestions.

Remember this, too. Nowhere in this country does a custodial sentence in response to a criminal act permit the mistreatment of a human being, physically or mentally. More, that is specifically prohibited in both provincial and federal jurisdictions. All the same, it not only can be a common occurrence, but our governments tend to claim immunity from the acts and consequences for which their employees may be responsible. To boot, these our governments use your tax dollars to defend the indefensible.


“We are both encouraged and relieved to be on the move, to be stepping out onto the field. It just may take a while before we broadcast a play.”

‘…..ON THE MOVE!’ from last October 30 ended with those words. Now, we’re about to make that play.

Montreal attorney Stephen Fineberg spent over two years prodding Correctional Service Canada through access to information requests to release material and evidence of the July 22, 2014 assault on Brennan Guigue by CSC guards at the Regional Reception Centre north of Montreal. When they stalled delivery of the complete video information in particular, he turned to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, which ruled there was no justification for the delay.

Let’s be frank. Correctional Service of Canada, a self-serving agency of your federal government, your civil servant, is wilfully and intentionally withholding video to which it has no restrictive legal claim. CSC does not want anyone to see the major portion of the tapes it has so far refused to release. It knows the contents will be another public relations disaster for our federal prison system, another embarrassment for national headquarters in Ottawa, and perhaps even go so far as to expose management and employees to a legal liability.

Late last October, Montreal attorney Dan Romano of Kalman Samuels, QC & Associates agreed to take on Brennan Guigue’s claim against CSC. Stephen Fineberg no longer litigates, Dan Romano was his recommendation, and all relevant material was turned over to the firm. We have only praise and thanks for Stephen’s experience and expertise in his field, and for his help. We are the better for the efforts he made on Brennan’s behalf.

Attorneys at Kalman Samuels have used the last few months to accomplish those “incremental stages” referenced on October 30 and have developed a strategy going forward. After a couple of fits and starts, a Demand Letter, the first step in the process, will be on it’s way to the Regional Reception Centre’s superintendent this week. Correctional Service of Canada will have 30 days to respond.

This is one chapter of our Canada 150 celebrations!  Fireworks optional!


Matthew Hines’ death was a homicide……..

…..and the perpetrators have not been charged!

Referencing the posting on Matthew Hines from October 2 of last year (Matthew Hines died. Chapter the second), a use-of-force incident at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick ended with the death of an inmate with a history of mental illness.

“In this case, everything that could go wrong in a use-of-force intervention went wrong,” is how Canada’s new Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger summed up his May 2nd report. The Toronto Globe and Mail’s Patrick White added in his “Ombudsman report slams N.B. prison for inmate’s death”, that the report’s conclusion “is damning and far-reaching: Correctional Service Canada (CSC) failed Mr. Hines, his family and the public from the moment officers tackled him that night (May 25, 2015) on through to misleading public explanations and, finally to an absence of accountability for a ‘preventable’ death.”

The New Brunswick coroner finally released his report, after lengthy stalls, and concluded the 33-year-old died from acute asphyxia due to pulmonary edema, a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs. The family was initially told that he died of a seizure.

How did this happen? Correctional Service Canada employees….guards…. repeatedly pepper-sprayed the inmate directly in the face and at close range, not only without apparent cause, but contrary to CSC policy and against the manufacturer’s recommendations. These same guards had earlier viciously and unnecessarily beat this man bloody. What’s more, an institutional duty nurse, arriving on the scene of an inmate in distress and not moving, didn’t even check the man’s vital signs. The Correctional Investigator found 21 legal and policy violations, seven of them major, listing failures and violations that would certainly result with criminal charges in any other setting.

So, what has happened? According to CSC, one person was fired and three others were disciplined, whatever that means………CSC isn’t talking. And, as the ombudsman questioned, no senior management was held accountable after an internal investigation.

Yes, the RCMP reopened its investigation after the details of this incident came to public attention, but months later there is still no word on its findings.

Makes one proud, doesn’t it?

And, as we wrote back in October, Matthew Hines two sisters have hired a lawyer.

Et tu, Trudeau, et tu?

……continues from May 21.

Our civil service is an important and crucial component in developing and executing the programs and policies laid out through the democratic legislative process our politicians have promised to deliver. As cumbersome as it often appears to be, its role is a fundamental necessity, and any criticism must be tempered with the gratitude it and our public servants are owed.

Why then does the work of governing a country like Canada most often move at such a glacial pace, and more, that outcomes are so frequently not what we want, expect and anticipate? Our politicians themselves are sometimes baffled by the difference between where they began with a proposition and what resulted at the end of the process.

On the one hand, Mr. Trudeau and his ministers are purposed to institute programs they believe are necessary and in the best public interest. On the other, the bureaucrats and mandarins who surround these elected representatives and people their staff, and have been a part of the civil service under different governments, know they will outlast current fashion. They have answered to other masters in the past and will be responsible to still more in the future. Their perspectives and priorities and biases may differ from the government of the day. What to do? What to do?

Within a set of parameters, the civil service is a power onto itself, a government within a government, ruled by dynamics and protocols developed over time to manage what it sees as the true calling of men and women dedicated to efficient governance. We’ll example the Minister of Public Safety, and the quandary around reforming the use of solitary confinement in our federal prisons.

Ralph Goodale tells Toronto’s Globe and Mail in its May 9th article, “Ottawa fails to act in time to stop lawsuit on segregation”, that the government is not stonewalling on segregation reform and is “hard at work at the various options that could serve to achieve the objective.” He further says legislation “may well be” part of the plan. Meanwhile, supporters of change have argued all along that legislation is the only path to reform, after years of recommendations by any number of sources that have been shunted aside.

A cabinet minister’s resources are under constant stress and in great demand. Mr. Goodale’s principal private secretary organizes his schedule, taking numerous priorities into account, often conflicting with the minister’s personal agenda. It is up to the PPS to keep his minister safely busy and away from interfering with the smooth operation of the department under the minister’s jurisdiction.

Mr. Goodale’s permanent secretary, the senior civil servant in his office, will meet at least daily with him when the House is in session, and perhaps occasionally when it is not, to review current agenda items, update their status, and make the recommendations ministry staff have determined will offer the best outcomes for the primary stakeholders……the civil service and the government.

Mr. Goodale will tell his staff what’s on his mind and the directions he’d like to take. He will always be encouraged to be forthright, and complimented on his insight. His permanent secretary will take the minister’s comments under advisement, tell him a committee will be struck to consider the question and report back in 90 days…..or so. What comes back will weigh every conceivable consideration, particularly if red flags are raised, and cautions advised.

Of course the minister is able to convene his own committees to study particular actions, exercise executive authority, and dictate his wishes. That, however, almost never happens. His senior staff will remind him that arbitrary decisions are ‘courageous’, something no ambitious or seasoned politician wants to hear.

The last thing the Ministry of Public Safety wants is a legislated solitary confinement policy. Law can take control out of the hands of people who abhor any infringements into their domains. It will take ‘courageous’ and determined politicians to change that. They need to be encouraged.