Prison & the media. Progress?

SEE “The House is back in session….” published on February 5 of this year.  That January 30 letter to Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly about a long-delayed revision to a media relations policy was copied to a member of her staff, plus six politicians, two senators, two public servants working with the public safety ministry, the correctional investigator, and one of his deputies.  No partridge in a pear tree.

Three years in the making, so far, this revised Commissioner’s Directive first promised for June of 2020 is still not on the books.  The tardiness in updating a delinquent internal regulation should have been a straightforward exercise to comply with the law and the Charter.  Instead, it meandered through a bureaucratic labyrinth on its way to God knows where.

Could the shame of being called out for typical government excessive procrastination explain why not one of those elected, appointed, and employed civil servants even acknowledged a concern for the human rights of one group of Canadians?

What was more or less a footnote to that February 5 posting noted that an access to information request was sent to Correctional Service of Canada asking for a copy of the new directive.  It was meant to be cheeky.  Impudent as it was, an 18-page draft copy of the revised media relations policy showed up on email.  It’s a “controlled version 2023-02-98” and it’s still due to review according to the title page, but also indicates it’ll be in effect in 2023.

A letter to CSC Commissioner Kelly is self-explanatory:

March 15, 2023

Anne Kelly, Commissioner,
Correctional Service of Canada,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0P9

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

By way of an information request to CSC, I received a copy of an otherwise undated 2022 revision to Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations.  The draft is dated February 8, 2023, and labelled “Controlled Version 2023-02-08.”  A notation on the title page suggests this will come into effect in 2023 although there’s no specific date.

I cannot offer an opinion on the degree to which the revisions to the media relations policy meet the recommendations in Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger’s December 19, 2019, letter to you.  I am not a lawyer and cannot make a judgement on the policy’s compliance with the word and spirit of the Acts and Regulations that govern CSC, and the relevant Charter provisions.  No doubt, Dr. Zinger was once encouraged when your February 24, 2020, letter to him expected the revised CD 22 to be available by the end of June 2020.  I can say that, like him, many in the community are relieved to finally see this project come to fruition.

Three years have passed since this process began.  An old cliché is appropriate here.  “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes it.”  You’ve got to publish sometime, don’t you?

Yours truly,

The other 15 named on February 5th in “The House is back in session….” were copied.   A note was added for the six politicians and the two public safety ministry public servants as a reminder that doing the right thing is more important than playing politics.

The message to Marco Mendicino samples the body of that memo to the other seven:

March 15, 2023

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A2

Minister Mendicino:

This covers a copy of today’s letter to Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly, a follow-up to my January 30 letter, also copied to you.  Through an access to information request, I did receive a draft copy of the revised Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations.

Noteworthy is that none of the six MPs and two public safety ministry civil servants who were copied on that January 30th letter acknowledged the concern it raised about the human rights of inmates incarcerated in Canada’s federal prison industry.

Doing the right thing is eclipsed by politics, isn’t it.  It seems the Canadian government’s attitude to Correctional Service of Canada has a Victorian perspective.  You know, the one that says, “I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

It’s a pity covering one’s butt takes top billing.

Progress?  We’ll see.


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