Prisons insist……


The minimum wage across Canada in 1980 was just over $3.00 an hour.  To give some perspective, as recorded here back in December of 2018, a sampling of 1980 prices listed milk at less than $2 a gallon, bread 50 cents/loaf, bacon $1.75/pound, flour $1.00/5 pounds, ground beef $1.00/pound, peanut butter $1.50/jar, potatoes $1.00/5 pounds, pork and beans 40 cents a can.  To add another context, a downtown apartment in major cities rented for about $250 per month.

At that time, a parliamentary committee established a pay-scale for federal prisoners based on the minimum wage, reduced by allowances for room and board, and other relevant expenses.  Those ‘relevant expenses’ have risen and fallen over the years, depending on the political party in power in Ottawa at any given point, and adjustments in prison industry policy.  For example, Correctional Service of Canada suspended the room and board charge for a period during the COVID pandemic to allow inmates to maintain family ties when no in-person visits were permitted.

Why is money given to federal inmates?  The Act under which the federal prison industry operates says it’s to encourage participation in institutional programs and social reintegration, but it’s not a compensation for work, as that would lead to ‘slave labour’ accusations.  Correctional Service of Canada will say that the money is to help inmates save for their release, help support family, pay for phone calls, supplement diets through canteen purchases, buy toiletries, clothing, tv’s. radios, games or whatever the CSC catalog offers

There’s never been an increase in the pay-scale, federal Conservative governments even made cuts at one point, and other factors have adjusted the figures over time. Basically, an inmate who has no job (there are few available, given the number of potential applicants) and is not involved in programming may end up with about $4 every two weeks.  Another inmate could qualify for ‘welfare pay’ at about $16/two weeks, others in programs or with jobs can see around $44/two weeks.  There are very few inmates at A-level pay, just over $60/two weeks.

Inmates have a $850 annual spending ceiling, although money applied to phone cards is not subject to limits.  Families/friends can and do send money to the incarcerated, but that doesn’t change what can be done with it.  No matter, the prices for whatever can be purchased is at market, the same or like what is available in the community.  So, what is this about saving money, supporting families, or buying canteen, toiletries, and clothing?  Any wonder there is a thriving black market in our federal institutions?

More on money, the assessed value of an inmate’s “cell effects” is capped at $1500.  From a pair of socks to shoes to a desk lamp to a television, the total can’t exceed that number.  The $1500 limit has been in place for at least the last 30 years, and possibly longer.  Again, $1500 bought a lot more in 1990 than it does in 2022.  What will it buy in 2032?

There is no arguing that a prison sentence imposes many restrictions, and limits on the use of money are necessarily a part of it.  But, when an inmate understands that their finances are restricted by policies that haven’t changed or been updated in more than a generation, how can Correctional Service of Canada claim it’s meeting a rehabilitative and correctional mandate?

The answer as always of course is that CSC doesn’t care, and with that, how can an offender not tell the prison industry, and the government that pretends to oversee its operation, and the society it represents, to turn around and bend over?

We deserve that.

Does drilling down over and over on these systemic failures ever become tedious?  No, not when what’s at stake is right over wrong!

Prison health care….not giving up….


Last week’s entry ended with a June 19 letter to Derek Janhevich at the Office of the Correctional Investigator in Ottawa.  Brennan Guigue was not happy with the outcome of his meeting with the investigator the OCI sent to Port-Cartier Institution.

In the meantime, another letter went to the health services commissioner at Correctional Service in Ottawa, a follow-up to a June 24 letter published here on July 3.

 July 1, 2022

Mr. Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner,
Health Services,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

 Re:       Brennan Guigue

 Dear Mr. Sethi:

 Further to my June 24th letter in response to yours dated May 24th, Brennan Guigue has authorized, approved, and requested I send you the enclosed psychiatric assessment.

 This is a December 23rd, 2016, 43-page, court-ordered psychiatric assessment authored by forensic psychiatrist Dr. Philip Klassen (no relation), intended to inform the Court as it weighed the evidence in the criminal proceedings against Brennan.  This was requested by the Crown and was Brennan Guigue’s last psychiatric evaluation.

 Your letter claims that Brennan “was last assessed by a psychiatrist at Millhaven Institution on October 5, 2020.”  That was a part of an inmate transfer process consisting of two/three questions.  Was he suicidal?  Was he thinking of self harm?  Did he ideate suicidal thoughts?  If the answer is “no”, then he was good to go.

 You and Correctional Service of Canada label that a psychiatric assessment?  Really?

 Likewise, upon arrival at every federal institution, a nurse asks the same questions of each offender.  So, those nurses, and the health care unit at every institution, along with you and CSC, consider that a psychiatric assessment?  You no doubt expect me to accept that this passes for health care and is compliant with the CCRA.

 Shame on you.  Shame on Correctional Service of Canada.

 Charles H. Klassen

Yes, a 43-page psychiatric assessment was sent with this letter, a report written by a doctor with a practice in forensic psychiatrist who is also an assistant professor of psychiatry and medicine at the University of Toronto.  The point in sending this to Mr. Sethi was to differentiate between what Correctional Service of Canada calls a psychiatric assessment from what, in fact, is a psychiatric assessment.

The next day, a follow-up letter was sent to Nadia Pelletier. In charge of the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution.

July 2, 2022

Mrs. Nadia Pelletier, A/Programs, Health Care Services,
Port-Cartier Institution,
Port-Cartier, QC  G5B 0N2

Re:       Brennan Guigue

Dear Mrs. Pelletier:

My May 9th letter to Health Care Services Chief at Port-Cartier Institution was answered by Mr. Manjeet Sethi at Health Services at NHQ Ottawa on May 24th.  I’ve enclosed a copy although you may already have a duplicate.

I’ve also enclosed copies of my two letters to Mr. Sethi in response, dated June 24th and July 1st.  I did not include here a copy of Brennan Guigue’s December 23, 2016, psychiatrist assessment.

“I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs.”  This is how Mr. Sethi ended his letter.  This is blatantly untrue.  On just one point, when did Brennan Guigue last see Dr. Cote?

While this concerns the care Brennan Guigue is not receiving, it exemplifies what is also the case for other inmates in Port-Cartier, and in every Correctional Service of Canada facility from coast to coast to coast.  Numerous studies castigate the Agency’s health care programs as non-compliant with the CCRA mandate, making too often for poor outcomes on the one hand and fodder for litigation on the other.

Would that it was not so.

Charles H. Klassen

Derek Janhevich in Ottawa was copied on those two letters.

July 12, 2022

Derek Janhevich,
Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Re:      Brennan Guigue

Dear Director Janhevich:

I’ve enclosed two follow-up letters regarding Brennan’s Guigue’s lack of health care at Port-Cartier Institution.

One is to Nadia Pelletier, Health Care Services at Port-Cartier Institution, while the second is to Manjeet Sethi, Assistant Commissioner at CSC NHQ in Ottawa.  I have included here with this only the title page of the 43-page psychiatric assessment that I sent to Mr. Sethi.

Brennan Guigue is writing a rebuttal to the claims the institution and NHQ are making. 

The seesaw exchange over the last two months has focused primarily on Brennan’s effort to access mental health care at Port-Cartier.  There is a back story that exacerbates Brennan’s justifiable indignation at his treatment by Correctional Service of Canada. 

The health care unit has for weeks refused to stabilize his suboxone dosage.  Health care diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation months ago, and then ignored it.  Two-and-a-half years ago, he was told a knee required surgery.  You got it.  He’s waiting.

Is it any wonder there are tens of thousands of us in the community who are outraged at Correctional Service of Canada’s intentional neglect of its obligation to us and to the incarcerated.

Charles H. Klassen

There will be a pause while waiting to receive Brennan Guigue’s rebuttal.

Stay tuned.

Prison health care?


“Federal prisons…..MAKE’EM CARE?” posted here on June 12 included a May 9 letter to the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution, which was copied to CSC’s regional office in Quebec, the national headquarters in Ottawa, the correctional investigator, and others.

This is the May 9 covering letter also posted on June 12 that was sent to the correctional investigator with his copy of the Port-Cartier letter:-

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Enclosed is a copy of a May 9, 2022, letter to the Chief of Health Care Services at Port-Cartier Institution in Quebec, where my son, Brennan Guigue is incarcerated.

This is not a complaint on behalf of my son.  I’m simply sharing my annoyance after decades of advocacy and as I enter the late stages of my life that CSC seems impervious to the sound of any voice but its own.

Mark Twain is reported to have said, “When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained.”  Brennan, who is adopted and half indigenous, gets tired of telling me that when I ask ‘why’ questions about what goes on with Correctional Service of Canada, I must begin by reminding myself that, “They don’t care.”  By starting with that, the mysteries disappear, and CSC stands explained.

I’ll buy that.

Thank you for the work you do.

The correctional investigator’s office was the first to respond in a May 20 letter over Derek Janhevich’s signature:-

Mr. Charles H. Klassen,
Toronto, Ontario

On behalf of Dr. Zinger, thank you for reaching out to our Office,

While you indicate that you interaction with our Office is not a formal complaint, please allow me to note that we will nonetheless trat it as an issue that warrants further examination.  As always, the matter will be raised in a discrete manner while also ensuring the importance of the issue.

The Senior Investigator assigned to Port-Cartier is set to visit the institution soon and is aware of your concerns.  We will make an effort to meet with Brendan (sic) and will most certainly raise the matters with the Warden and the Chief of Health Care Services.

I noticed that you have also included the relevant stakeholders in your letter, including the Assistant Commissioner Health Services, with whom we continue to have numerous discussions on the exact issues you raise.

The mental health needs of patients residing in federal correctional facilities continues to be a top priority for our Office,


Derek Janhevich
OCI, Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec

What came out of that?

June 19, 2022

Derek Janhevich,
Director of Investigations – Ontario & Quebec,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator,
Ottawa, ON  K1P 6L4

Thank you for acknowledging my May 9 letters to Dr. Zinger and the health care unit at Port-Cartier Institution. 

Manjeet Sethi, Acting Assistant Commissioner-Health Services wrote on behalf of Correctional Service of Canada on May 24.  I was offended by his lack of accurate and complete information regarding Brennan Guigue’s care, or more accurately, Brennan’s non-care, knowing too that this is an issue with hundreds and perhaps thousands of CSC prisoners.  I will address that with him.

**In the meantime, Brennan did meet with your Senior Investigator last week during his visit to Port-Cartier.  It did not go well from Brennan’s perspective.  Brennan said, “I sat there talking to him for ten minutes.  ‘I can’t help you,’ was his answer.  Useless.” 

It’s a challenge to be polite here given that the deficiencies in prison health care are so widely known and explain in part why the average age of death from natural causes in CSC custody is 60.  CSC cannot be unaware of its neglect while it intentionally ignores and deflects the calls for reform from many authors, including the OCI.

I appreciate the attention you’ve given this matter.

(**emphasis is ours)

The Office of the Correctional Investigator can only make recommendations to Correctional Service of Canada.  It has no authority to impose change.  All the same, their lack of support in the face of CSC neglect and intransigence is surprising.

This is not over.

Prison health care units……

…..WANT US TO BELIEVE THEY CARE.  They want us to believe they are acting according to the provisions in the Corrections & Conditional Release Act (CCRA).

“Federal prisons…..make’em care” on June 12 included a May 9 letter sent to Port-Cartier Institution’s Health Care Services Chief critical of the lack of mental health care services available to Brennan Guigue specifically and other inmates in general.  An addendum listed six individuals who were copied, along with covering letters for three on the list.

Within days of that letter’s arrival in Port-Cartier, Brennan Guigue was called to the institution’s health care unit to sign a release, allowing Correctional Service of Canada to respond.  Their answer came by letter dated May 24 from CSC National Headquarters in Ottawa.

To avoid any hint of biased editing, the complete response is copied here:-

May 24, 2022

Dear Mr. Klassen,

Thank you for your correspondence of May 9, 2022, addressed to Chief of Health Services at Port-Cartier Institution.  In your letter, you raise concerns about mental health services management and treatment for your adopted son, Brennan Guigue, while incarcerated at Port-Cartier Institution.

I am responding to your correspondence on behalf of the Chief of Health Services at Port-Cartier Institution.

According to documentation in Mr. Guigue’s electronic health care records, he was last assessed by a psychiatrist at Millhaven Institution on October 5, 2020.  The psychiatrist noted that Mr. Guigue was stable and no further psychiatric follow-up was required, however guidance was provided for him on how to access Mental Health Services if needed.

In November 2021, Mr. Guigue was transferred to Port-Cartier Institution.  On arrival, his health care records were reviewed by Health Services.  His diagnoses were noted, his medications were continued accordingly and his mental health needs were assessed as low.  Since then, Mr. Guigue has not voiced any mental health concerns to staff nor has he submitted a request to be assessed by Mental Health Services.  He is assessed by the nursing staff and the institutional physician as needed and his condition is described as stable.

In regards to the concerns you raised for referrals submitted by Parole Officers, correctional staff can submit a mental health referral if necessary.  Commissioner’s Directive 800 entitled Health Services, paragraph 11(a), requires all institutional staff/contractors to inform a health care professional of the condition of any offender who appears to have a physical or mental health care concern, whether or not the offender identifies a health concern.  However, there is no CSC policies stating that only Parole Officers can make such referrals.  The individuals federally incarcerated are provided with the information on how to access Health Services along with the process on how to submit an Inmate’s Request on admission and transfers to CSC institutions.

I would like to assure you that the Correctional Service Canada (CSC) is mandated, under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), to provide every inmate with essential health care and reasonable access to non-essential health care.  Our comprehensive legal and policy framework outlines what we must do to deliver our essential services and I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs.

Thank you for writing.


Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner Health Services.

To a lay person, this would appear to be a reasonable response to issues raised in the May 9th letter.  To everyone with CSC experience, it’s offensive.

June 24, 2022

Mr. Manjeet Sethi, A/Assistant Commissioner,
Health Services,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

Re:       Your May 24 letter re Brennan Guigue.

Dear Mr. Sethi:

I feel confident that I first dipped my toe into advocacy and activism before you were born, and certainly before Brennan Guigue in 1970. 

Over time, my focus honed primarily on prisons and the justice system, particularly after Brennan was adopted.  His health care needs were not being met by the practices in place, practices not always compliant with policy.  And so it is too with many others in the system.  This isn’t conjecture.  You have at least the same reports, studies, findings, and recommendations that are in my files.

As for Brennan Guigue, I appreciate you have only what’s been put in front of you to form a response to my May 9th letter.  At a minimum, I’d characterize your material as incomplete.  From your May 24 letter, “I can assure you that Health Services are always available to Mr. Guigue, and that he is receiving care in accordance to his actual diagnoses and needs,” is factually incorrect.  But that is not for me to argue here.

It is notable that our exchange of letters drew only upon Brennan’s concern for his psychological well-being, and CSC’s response to that.  His physiological challenges include a diagnosed but untreated condition that’s potentially lethal, but again, that’s not relevant here.

Mr. Sethi, what is important is you have, as an officer in the national headquarters of Correctional Service of Canada, offered an interpretation of health care policy and its practices, as well as an address to one specific circumstance.

For that I thank you.

Charles H. Klassen

There will be a frank second letter to Mr. Sethi. 

Before that though, what’s next is Brennan Guigue’s experience with the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s examination of this claim.