Correctional Service of Canada…..


Try this:  Google “prison criticisms of Canada’s federal system.”

The Office of the Correctional Investigator releases an Annual Report as a review of Correctional Service of Canada’s operation during its previous twelve months.  There are few laurels, many barbs, numerous recommendations, and a lengthy section of charted statistics.  What is notable throughout these dozens of pages is the year after year repetitiveness of some of the report’s judgements, and the prison agency’s evasions and rejections of the OCI’s counsel for improved outcomes.

The correctional investigator heads a multi-million-dollar-a-year exercise, backed by investigators and support staff, to scrutinize a cocooned government bureau.  The OCI can access people, places, papers where conversation, observation, and examination flows to the summaries, deliberations, and suggestions that are the meat of its work.  That yearly report justifies the effort.  It represents millions of spent dollars and thousands of public service hours in preparation.  Parliament expresses its gratitude, moves on to other business, the report is carefully filed, and another groundhog-year begins.

At what point do honest, straight-shooting, stand-up men and women cry “enough”?  At what point is there the demand that their hard work has meaning, that the annual thanks-very-much-and-now-go-back-and-start-over doesn’t cut it, ignores the unsound status quo, and won’t make Canada safer?  Where is the screaming from the rooftops?

There are rooftops in Ottawa.  Why is it so quiet?  Why indeed.


The correctional investigator mirrors in a very public way the experience of hundreds of individuals and organizations who work for carceral change and reform in this country, included.

In searching our files for data on another topic, an issue of Klassen Mailing List relevant to this posting stood out.  The precursor to, Klassen Mailing List had the same purpose as its digital successor but was printed and distributed to a cross-country mailing list.

Issue #12 was published on November 6, 2007 with the title “Correctional Service of Canada….making me proud to be an ashamed Canadian!”  In part, it reported on an information picket we set up outside CSC’s Ontario District Office on Dundas Street West in Toronto on Thursday, October 11 of that year.

Issue #12 also set out a list of eleven ‘bones to pick’ with CSC:

  • Limitations and delays in health care delivery,
  • the scam the Millennium telephone system is,
  • the inconsequential grievance and complaints process,
  • lack of adequate accountability and transparency,
  • the absence of due process in so many instances,
  • some dubious professionalism,
  • examples of inaccuracies and fabrications to the information in offenders’ files,
  • limited educational opportunities,
  • the inefficacy of cookie-cutter programs,
  • a dearth of substantive job skills and trades training programs, and,
  • in general, a pervasive failure to meet the burden of the CSC Mission Statement.

Only one item from this list has been resolved.  For the last many years, Bell Canada’s telephone system in federal prisons now reflects reasonable tariffs for prepaid and collect calls.  Bell still is securely in control of the telephone service contracts and continues to gather benefits from its monopoly.

That’s it.  That’s all.  And other sources have a longer list.  Then too, Klassen Mailing List was more polite than

Where is the minister in all this?  A good question.  We’ve contacted current Minister of Public Safety Marco Mendicino often.  He seems to be absent from the prison file.

Portage-free letters will reach him at the House of Commons, Ottawa, K1A 0A6.  His office phone is 613-992-6361, and there’s a fax number, 613-992-9791.


The prison machine – can’t say “I’m sorry.”

FORCING A PERSON INTO SOLITARY CONFINEMENT for more than a few days, or repeatedly putting that same man or woman into those barren bathroom-sized cells even for a few days at a time, is mentally corrosive, can cause permanent damage, and is torture, plain and simple.  This is as true today as it has been at any time in our history, and the United Nations Human Rights Council and its Committee Against Torture came to recognize it as such during the last half of twentieth century.

The Office of the Correctional Investigator, Canada’s prison watchdog, noted in its 2020-2021 Annual Report that its work during the previous year “has shown us just how vulnerable those in institutional settings are – from long-term care homes to prisons – and how we must ensure their protection to the highest extent possible.”

The report went on point out that, “Canada has been known as a world leader in protecting human rights and democratic values……Canada has also been a leader by joining many international human rights treaties and making a commitment to report to the United Nations on their implementation.”

As an example, Canada signed the Convention against Torture (CAT) in 1985 and ratified it in 1987.  “However,” the correctional investigator goes on, “merely reporting on how it meets its CAT obligations is not enough to ensure that the most vulnerable who are in places of detention are protected against mistreatment and torture behind closed doors.  There exists a gap in Canada’s human rights system in protecting those in detention.”

The UN’s Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) fills that gap.  Countries who ratify OPCAT must adhere to human rights obligations under international law for detention facilities, and replace the secrecy traditionally associated with prisons with openness, transparency, and accountability.

“The most effective way of preventing torture therefore is to expose all places of detention to public scrutiny,” says a conclusion adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on August 14, 2006.

Canada has not signed OPCAT.  Can you wonder why?

Administrative segregation is how Correctional Service of Canada labelled solitary confinement.  CSC is fully aware of its consequences to prisoners from the earliest days of the country’s prison system.  After all, it was the perpetrator, and outcomes were plainly visible.  And yet, even as late at 2012 Correctional Service of Canada refused to limit its use.  It would take another seven years before parliament adopted Bill C-83 to end solitary, or more correctly, to technically end solitary confinement.

In the meantime, Arlene Gallone had had enough.  She was a former federal inmate in Quebec who became the lead plaintiff in a class action against the government over the use of solitary confinement.  The suit was launched on February 24, 2013, and the Superior Court of Quebec authorized the class action on January 13, 2017.  In Ontario, two similar actions were underway with Christopher Brazeau and Jullian Reddock as the leads.  These were filed jointly with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on March 12, 2021.

Negotiations began.  There was no course where the government would allow this to be heard in open court, just as it is with any legal matter arising with Correctional Service of Canada.  In the end, the Brazeau, Reddock and Gallone (BRG) class actions were settled together, with $28 million in aggregate damages awarded to eligible claimants, and a further assumed undisclosed settlement for legal fees.  The judgement applied to all federal institutions across the country.  Canada was required by the court to turn over all relevant documentation and CSC was to assist inmates with the claims process.

That it did.  Lawyers began the interviews of class action members during 2022.  The claims administrator made disbursements in January of 2023.  All claimants received an equal share of the award, calculated at $5,469.85.  Class members whose solitary confinement experience was egregious were also able to proceed further on one of two different ‘tracks’ to claim up to $50,000 or more in addition to the base amount, dependant upon the severity of their confinements.  These payments are scheduled for later in the year, but participants have been told that the full value of the claims can’t be met with the funds available.  All the same, the amounts awarded will be relatively substantial.

These are your tax dollars going out the door.  And the BRG class actions represent only a portion of the outstanding lawsuits against our prison industry.

There’s one striking observation in what Correctional Service of Canada published on its website for assisting class members with their claims.  No doubt it is following the instructions agreed by the government, nothing more, nothing less.  It reads at one point, “Three separate class actions lawsuits have ended with the Courts finding that the rights of inmates were violated.”

Nowhere does CSC acknowledge wrongdoing.  Nowhere does it say, “I’m sorry.”

“I just want to be treated like a human being.”

In Canada?  Why would anyone say that?  What’s going on?  Who is this?  What is happening?

It’s not likely the average Canadian would hear it face to face from another person.  You might pick it up in a radio or television newscast, or when paging through a newspaper in hand or on-line.  Or could it be overheard from the conversation of others in a busy mall food court?  “I just want to be treated like a human being.”

This isn’t about a journalist’s reporting from countries where human rights are ignored.  This is here, in this country, in real time.  “I just want to be treated like a human being.”

This could come from a seasonal agricultural worker, brought here to help grow and harvest our food.  We know there are complaints about the treatment of foreign workers by some corporate farmers.  Or it could be the kids in our child welfare system, housed in foster and group homes where abuses are not uncommon, and where the overdosing of controlling drugs is too frequently a catch-all alternative to therapies.  Are victims of domestic violence and schoolyard bullying whispering this under their breath?

Most of us won’t hear this and don’t hear this from prisoners.  It’s there but it doesn’t get past prison security barriers “designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out,” as Canada’s Senate said in a 2019 report about carceral human rights.  The management of the prison “population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny,” the report continued.  Prison inmates can become inured to the vagaries, hypocrisy, and dishonesty that pervades the institutional environment and the air they breathe.  It smothers hope, it chokes the screams.  The words are there though.  Can you hear them? “I just want to be treated like a human being.”

This space has frequently highlighted the proposed revision to a commissioner’s directive on media relations to bring inmate/media access into line with the law and the Charter.  It’s been over three years since Anne Kelly, the head of what we call Correctional Service of Canada, committed to make changes.  A draft is ready and available, but it isn’t in effect.  Why?

Despite all, word can escape the darkness.  Google Joey Toutsaint to read his 3-page complaint to the Canadian Human Rights Committee.  To see Joey Toutsaint in conversation, call up YouTube’s “APTN investigates – 2180 days inside corrections.”  Listen to Mary Wiens interview Nathanael Williams March 10 and March 23 of this year, broadcast on CBC’s Metro Morning.  As a by the way, Nathanael did not get parole.

“I just want to be treated like a human being.”

Soleiman Faqiri – Canada’s George Floyd?

No, not if we continue to allow our police services and provincial government to erase Soleiman’s existence with a gag-order-settlement and a years-from-now nonconsequential inquest.

No, not if we don’t demand all three levels of government address the need for mental health initiatives and social programming in our neighbourhoods and change the way we treat people in distress who come into conflict with the law.

No, not if we don’t stop jail and prison guards from disregarding policy, the law, and just simple human decency.

Two events in early March presented another opportunity to keep Soleiman’s name in front of the men who would rather not hear it.   Two events that open this latest letter…….

April 5, 2023

Thomas Corrique, Commissioner,                  Mark Mitchell, Chief,
Ontario Provincial Police,                              Office of the Chief of Police,
Lincoln Alexander Building,                           Kawartha Lakes Police Service,
777 Memorial Avenue,                                    6 Victoria Avenue North,
Orillia, ON  L3V 7V3                                      Lindsay, ON  K9N 4E5

Commissioner Corrique & Chief Mitchell:

In the early hours of March 6, 2023, Jeffrey Munro was assaulted by four men and stabbed in downtown Toronto.  He died later in hospital.  Police in Toronto have named four men who have been or will be charged with second-degree murder.

Irvo Otieno died in custody at about the same date in a facility near Richmond, Virginia.  Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital employees have been charged with second-degree murder.

The outcome of the charges against these fourteen men and women will be determined by the courts, but police in both cases understood that Jeffrey Munro and Irvo Otieno did not die from an act of God, but rather was due to the deliberate actions of the people who have been charged.

And so it was that the Kawartha Lakes Police Service investigated the death of Soleiman Faqiri on December 15. 2016 at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario, but could not assign blame.  A second investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police came to the same conclusion.  The OPP was prompted to look again, but with the same result.

You have the names of every person who entered Soleiman Faqiri’s cell during the assault.  You know the only reason the jail guards were there was to “teach the inmate a lesson” for giving them a hard time earlier, a common practice in Canada’s jails and prisons.  You know that every one of those individuals was either actively or passively responsible for this man’s death. 

The family and supporters of the thus-far absent justice for Soleiman are now to be satisfied with a far-off inquest, years from now when the man’s name will be archival to the general public.  The inquest’s recommendations will focus on avoiding future such deaths, even though others will die similarly in the meantime.

No matter.  It will come to nothing.  Good on you.

Charles H. Klassen

cc:       Myron Demkiw, Chief, Toronto Police Services         Wendy Gillis, Toronto Star
Michael Kerzner, Solicitor General, Ontario             Yusuf Faqiri

Nothing will change the narrative around Soleiman’s death without the participation of people like you and like me.

Nothing will change the outcome of future deaths in custody without the participation of people like you and like me.

You can’t do nothing when you can do something.
Joyce Milgaard (1930-2020)

The smell of bull dung?

Brennan Guigue was speaking recently about the total absence of social or rehabilitative programming at Port-Cartier Institution in the far reaches of eastern Quebec where he’s been incarcerated since early November of 2021.  He dug into his personal archives for an earlier experience to underscore how little Correctional Service of Canada, or the Parole Board of Canada for that matter, cares about returning inmates safely to the community, then and now.

Brennan has been in prison on and off for most of his adult life.  He has repeatedly asked for mental health care intervention that would help break his cycle of criminal behaviour.  He’s still waiting.  Along the way, there has also been a lack of health care in general, which is the basis for so many inmate complaints to CSC, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, and the provincial professional bodies that regulate doctors and nurses.  Treatments for physiological ailments become more urgent with age, and inmate requests, pleas, and petitions for help often gather dust.

But for this outing, an experience from several years ago about safe reintegration into society is worth the telling.

Brennan was in a maximum-security prison several years ago, and approaching his warrant expiry date, that date a criminal sentence imposed by a court at sentencing officially ends.  The Parole Board of Canada in a scheduled hearing a few months prior had ruled he was too great a risk for an earlier release.  He would be held to the end of his sentence.  Brennan was getting no programing and of course no mental health care.  He asked the board for support prior to and after his release to lessen his risk to the community, post-release help like counselling and a residency period in a halfway house.  The answer was ‘no.’  The parole board would do nothing to help him or reduce the risk it judged him to be.

Now, some time before that scene played out, Brennan was in a session with a prison social worker.  He talked about his concerns for not completing his correctional plan because there were no programs available, how unprepared he was for the outside, and the fear he would do something to prevent his release.  After that last parole board hearing, the social worker went to the institution’s security unit and told them about that conversation.  No issue of confidentiality here.

Brennan was put into solitary confinement as a preventative measure for the entire three months before his release.  Better to increase his risk to the community with what has become recognized as torture than chance a mishap in the institution, according to CSC logic.  This was before Bill C-83 nominally eliminated solitary confinement in November of 2019.  The practice continues of course by other means, but that’s for another time, another place.

Thirty days before his release, Brennan wrote to the parole board, again asking for help to mitigate his risk to the community.  His letter was ignored.  He went to his institutional parole officer with the same plea.  His parole office told him it wasn’t his responsibility to help.

So, if he was considered too great a risk for parole before spending 90 days in solitary confinement, he would have been an even greater risk to reoffend when he was dropped off on a street corner at the end of his sentence.

How about this.  The Parole Board of Canada and Correctional Service of Canada are much more concerned about covering their own butts than they are committed to community safety.  Looks that way, doesn’t it.

As a by the way, how long do you think it was before Brennan reoffended?

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.

Prisons – The “why” question

This writer lived a year in Vancouver in the late 60s, and at one point spent a spring weekend visiting a friend in the town of Duncan on Vancouver Island, travelling by ferry to Nanaimo and then a bus south to Duncan, about half-way to Victoria.  The routing along Trans-Canada Highway 1 passed down the main street of picturesque and colourful Ladysmith where some of the town’s buildings appeared to have façades larger than the structures behind them, reminiscence of early Western settlements.

That begged the question of how and why those false fronts were an architectural feature in frontier towns.  Possibilities come easily, but more important for this purpose here and now is how Correctional Service of Canada is a constant reminder of those long-ago buildings in Ladysmith.  What one sees, what one hears, what one is expected to assume, accept, and believe about our prison agency and its operations is too often a false front masking a reality that is purposely and aggressively shrouded to protect the status quo.

There have been frequent references in this space, including the lead-in for the last posting, to a relevant quote from the Senate of Canada’s 2019 interim report on prison human rights, references such as, “The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out.”  Why is that?  What is it that Canada’s prison industry so intent on keeping from the public eye?

Why that is has been on turnoverarocktoday’s front burner since the site’s inception in the fall of 2014, and before that with Klassen’s Mailing List and earlier with Klassen’s Korner.  More importantly, so it is too with the Office of the Correctional Investigator, established in 1973 as an ombudsman for prisoners and which has recently published its 49th Annual Report.

The OCI is government funded, with several investigators and support staff.  Copied from its site:- “In any given year, the Office receives and responds to 5,000-6000 offender complaints….the Office meets regularly with inmate committees and other offender organizations and makes regularly scheduled announced visits at each institution….will meet with any inmate, or group of inmates, upon request….over the course of reporting year 2021-2022, in excess of three hundred meetings with various offender organizations, including inmate committees, lifer groups, black inmate associations, native brotherhoods and sisterhoods.”

The correctional investigator and his staff annually make several recommendations to accompany its annual reports (there were 18 in 2021-2022).  Many are repeated from previous years, and some have been on the list for up to a decade or more.  To the discredit of the Ministry of Public Safety which oversees Correction Service of Canada and, in an earlier incarnation, created the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the ombudsman was made a paper tiger, unable to do more than consult, recommend, and advise.

Why did CSC wait through years of OCI recommendations to agree to establish an office of an assistant commissioner for Indigenous affairs?  And as is the case when it announced last year an intent to do that, the order came from the boss, Minister Mendicino of Public Safety, and not because of OCI multiple requests.  Is there a timeline for getting the office up and running?  Why has turnovrarocktoday published numerous entries about an agreed-on revision between CSC and OCI for prison policy regarding inmate contact with the media when three years have passed since the commissioner of prisons undertook to have it on the books by June of 2020?  That has still to materialize.

Why is it that there are so many complaints from prisoners?  Why so many recommendations from the OCI?  Correctional Service of Canada has a mandate to rehabilitate and safely return inmates to the community, it operates with a considerable number of policy directives to meet those outcomes and has its own self-monitoring process.  What’s more, CSC says it’s doing what is should be doing, admitting to challenges along the way, but messaging that all’s well to the OCI, its political and bureaucratic masters, the public, and of course the offenders in its charge, and the families, supporters and organizations that advocate for their welfare.

Lawsuits are an option when complaints and grievances don’t get results.  (Grievances are a subject for another time.)  Lawyers employed by or under the direction of the Ministry of the Attorney General respond to actions against the government, and given the ministry’s workload, the process is grueling and drawn out.  Actions against the prison system are filed by inmates as individuals or in groups as class actions.  There are millions in costs, settlements and awards every year, all financed by tax dollars.

We submitted an access to information request to the Attorney General a year ago asking for the total amount paid to satisfy court awards and settlements during the latest fiscal year with respect to claims against CSC.   It took time to answer the ministry’s requests for clarification.  The response came in late summer.  Apparently, money is a matter of solicitor client privilege and exempt from disclosure.  We passed on an opportunity to appeal on the grounds that we wanted a single total amount, rather than a breakdown by case.

What was sent instead was thirty-two pages listing current cases involving our prison system.  Many entries involved the same complaint, but the total still numbered in the 100s.

Why wouldn’t we be asking “why”?

Prisons vs the dreaded media

“The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out.  As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny.  Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
THE SENATE OF CANADA, HUMAN RIGHTS IN PRISON, FEBRUARY, 2019 (Reprinted last in November of 2022)

That’s how Correctional Service of Canada wants it.  Accountability and transparency are what it says they are.  So, when CSC jurisdiction over media scrutiny through contact with inmates came into question in 2019, damage control ramped up.

The revision to Commissioner’s Directive 022 – Media Relations has been under observation here since late 2021, when it seemed apparent changes promised by CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly in February, 2020, hadn’t materialized.  Numerous entries in this space catalog the process from Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger’s introduction of the subject to CSC late in 2019, to the present, where we are still waiting to see the fruit of this policy reshaping.

Through an access to information request almost a year ago, we received a copy of Commissioner Kelly’s February 24, 2020, letter to Correctional Investigator Zinger, acknowledging his December 18, 2019, letter to her on the subject, writing that “the revised CD 022 will be available by the end of June 2020.”  What we had not done until very recently was to make an access to information request to the correctional investigator’s office for a copy of Dr. Zinger’s December 18, 2019, letter to Ms. Kelly.  The response with a copy of that two-and-a-half-page letter arrived quickly and it underscored our oversight in not asking for it earlier.

Quotes rather than a reprint of Dr. Zinger’s entire letter will avoid wading through details that, while important, do not address the bottom line.

To note a point on familiarity, the OCI acts as an ombudsman for prison inmates.  Its relationship with CSC need not be confrontational, even though the OCI Annual Reports takes CSC to task, and often with a hard edge.  All the same, there must be a distance between the two agencies to allow for critical engagement.  The copy of Dr. Zinger’s December 18, 2019, letter arrived with a Correctional Service of Canada date stamp, acknowledging receipt in the commissioner’s office on December 19.  Further, Dr. Zinger crossed out “Ms. Kelly” on the typed “Dear Ms. Kelly” salutation and wrote “Anne” instead.  Too collegial?

We learn that the CSC policy regarding media relations has been due for revision since January of 2016.  We learn that Dr. Zinger and Ms. Kelly met on November 26, 2019, to “share concerns” about “certain aspects” of CD 022.  We learn that those certain aspects “appear to overstep the law and authority conferred by the Corrections and Conditional Release Ace (CCRA) and Regulations (CCRR).”

What brought this to the forefront was a woman journalist (all names, dates, and identifying information is redacted) who contacted the OCI office regarding a request to interview an inmate, a request that was initially rejected by CSC, and then followed by lengthy delays with a reconsideration of the decision.  We don’t learn if that interview with the inmate took place, but “the legality and unreasonableness” of the section of the policy that led to her contacting the OCI is where the current circumstance began.

Dr. Zinger points out as an example that a CSC policy criterion that includes how a media interview might influence how inmates conduct themselves and demonstrate respect for others cannot reasonably be considered relevant.  Further, section 4 of the CCRA provides that “CSC must facilitate the involvement of members of the public in matters relating to the operations of the Service, and, offenders retain the right of all members of society except those that are, as a consequence of the sentence, lawfully and necessarily removed or restricted.  These authorities govern inmate access to the median, not behavioural expectations.”

“There is a more pressing point to be considered here, namely, access to the media in a free and democratic society.  Media access is a recognized democratic principle, a constitutionally guaranteed right of all citizens, including those deprived of liberty.  An incarcerated person does not forfeit the right to freedom of expression, and the wider public has a right to be informed of what goes on behind prison walls.”

Okay, so these are brief excerpts from this much more detailed letter, but the bottom line is front and centre.
Why are we still waiting?  Why are we waiting for an explanation for why we’re still waiting?

The House is back in session….


Correctional Service of Canada, Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations

Three letters posted on January 30th addressed the delay in releasing the new prison policy on inmate contact with the media, a focus of this space many times over the last two years.

First, to the commissioner….

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

Dear Commissioner Kelly:

I ask you to review your February 24, 2020, letter to Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger concerning the revision of Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations.

As you recall, Dr. Zinger pointed out that this CD may not follow the Charter and “recognized democratic principles” with respect to offender media contacts, as the OCI 2019-2020 Annual Report detailed.  To quote from your February 24 letter, “We have reviewed the comments that you and your organization provided when CD 022 was distributed for external consultation on February 4, 2020.  I am confident that you will find the revise version reflects the elements you raised in both your letter and during the consultation.  We expect that the revised CD 022 will be available by the end of June 2020.”

Associate Assistant Commissioner Colette Cibula from the CSC Communications & Engagement office wrote me on February 8 of 2022 that the renewal of the directive “is now nearly complete……and are finalizing internal reviews before publishing it.”  On June 27, Ms. Cibula wrote, “CD-022 is in the final stages of approval before being published.”  Lastly, Ms. Cibula wrote again on July 28 to say, “I am happy to commit to you, Mr. Klassen, to share with you the CD directly once it is promulgated.  In short order.”

Three years?  That models a test of patience.  When will we see a compliant media relations directive?

cc         Colette Cibula. Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement

Copied also:-

The Honourable Marco Mendicino, Minister of Public Safety,
MP, Eglinton – Lawrence

The Honourable Marci Ien, Minister of Women & Gender Equality & Youth,
MP, Toronto Centre

The Honourable Senator Salma Ataullahjan, Chair,
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights

The Honourable Senator Kim Pate
The Senate of Canada

Mr. Ron McKinnon, MP, Chair,
Standing Committee on Public Safety & National Security

Ms. Raquel Dancho, MP, Vice-Chair,
Standing Committee on Public Safety & National Security

Ms. Kristina Michaud, MP, Vice-Chair,
Standing Committee on Public Safety & National Security

Ms. Pam Damoff, MP, Parliamentary Secretary,
Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Shawn Tupper, Deputy Minister of Public Safety,
Public Safety Canada

Ms. Tricia Geddes, Associate Deputy Minister of Public Safety,
Public Safety Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator

Ms. Stacie Ogg, Deputy Director,
The Office of the Correctional Investigator

Catherine Latimer, Executive Director,
The John Howard Society of Canada

Mr. Patrick White,
The Globe and Mail, Toronto

Secondly, a cover letter went with Minister Mendicino’s copy:-

The Honourable Marco Mendicino,
Minister of Public Safety,
Ottawa, ON  K1A 0A6

Re:      Correctional Service of Canada
Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations

Dear Minister Mendicino:

I am a Liberal Party supporter, albeit an unhappy Liberal Party supporter.  One leading irritation is my government’s minister’s readiness to sidestep accountability.

You or one of your senior staff would do well to remind CSC Commissioner Kelly that her prolonged delay in publishing the revised CD 022 while touting the importance of accountability and transparency within her Agency is a cloud over your ministry.  This alone is my fourth prompt that the delay is untenable.

Minister, this begs the question that if doing the right thing here seems so easily dismissed, one might ask just how widespread this practice is?

Copied to:-

cc         MPs Marci Ien/Ron McKinnon/Raquel Dancho/Kristina Michaud/Pam Damoff
Senators Salma Ataullahjan/Kim Pate
Public Safety Canada Shawn Tupper/Tricia Geddes

Thirdly was a cover letter added to the Correctional Investigator’s copy:-

January 30, 2023

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

Re:      Correctional Service of Canada,
Commissioner’s Directive (CD) 022 – Media Relations

Dear Dr. Zinger:

No doubt your resources are stretched, and your patience constantly tested.

The delay in seeing the publication of the revised CD 022 must be among the many items on your follow-up list.

Is Commissioner Kelly unaware that refusing to release this update, three years after initiating the process, makes a lie of the Agency’s commitment to accountability and transparency?

I assume you message her often to that point.

cc         Stacie Ogg, Deputy Director

To finish this with some whipped cream topped by a maraschino cherry, an access to information request asking for a copy of the new directive went to Correctional Service of Canada in Ottawa.

You’ve read it here before…..this isn’t going away.


Why are we still talking about…..


“I can only say that I do not think it is absurd to suggest that a person should not be kept locked up in a small cell 24 hours a day, and that if there were security concerns , they should be dealt with otherwise than by simply denying an inmate an opportunity to step out of her cell…..However, once again it seems that even if the law is known, there is a general perception that it can always be departed from for a valid reason, and that, in any event compliance with prisoners’ rights is not a priority… was part of a general punitive attitude which required inmates to earn entitlements to everything perceived as a privilege rather than a right.”
The Honourable Louise Arbour, Arbour Report 1996, Commission of Inquiry into certain events at the Prison for Women in Kingston.


Canada’s Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger submitted the 49th Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator to Parliament on June 30, 2022.  As a part of the report’s National Level Investigations section, “Restrictive forms of Confinement in Federal Corrections” focused specifically on the six standalone maximum-security institutions for men, Atlantic in New Brunswick, Donnacona and Port-Cartier in Quebec, Millhaven in Ontario, Edmonton in Alberta, and Kent in British Columbia.

The extract from Madam Arbour’s 1996 report was the foreword to this investigative segment into the continued uses and forms of administrative segregation (solitary confinement) in Canada’s prisons.  Maximum-security prisons are a restrictive form of confinement by design, and while the report identified and described how this environment can negatively impact inmates in general, we will limit ourselves here to how old practices of segregation persist.

Ontario and British Columbia courts determined that solitary confinement violated fundamental rights protected by the Charter.  The federal government responded with Bill C-83 in 2019 to eliminate the practice and replace it with Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) which put minimum standards into law and required external oversight and external review.

The correctional investigator determined these standards are vulnerable to interpretation on the one hand, while the legislation that governs SIUs does not require Correctional Service of Canada to apply it provisions to other areas in federal prisons.  As the Annual Report put it, “a wide range of restrictive confinement conditions and practices exist outside of SIUs that are subject to little or no external oversight or independent monitoring.”

The OCI resolved that a reasonable definition for a restrictive confinement is anything less than four hours a day out-of-cell time.  Its investigation uncovered a number of areas, outside of SIUs and temporary lockdowns in place for COVID-19, where prisoners were given less than four hours of out-of-cell time.

In one institution (the report does not identify specific prisons), and aside from the prevailing standards in the SIU unit, the rest of the prison operated like a former administrative segregation range, allowing inmates less than three hours of out-of-cell time.  At another institution, what staff at the facility often referred to as “hidden cells” were used to keep prisoners in solitary confinement-like conditions for weeks at a time.  As a contrast, staff at a third institution were using their discretion to allow for more out-of-cell time than was standard.  As a result, none of the inmates interviewed complained about out-of-cell time and they all reported having more than four hours a day.  They did complain about having nothing to do with the time, but that is another maximum-security prison issue to be addressed in the future.

The Annual Report noted too that while the investigation focused on maximum-security institutions, their findings applied equally to some medium-security institutions as well.

What we have here is an instance of the disparity between policy and practice in our federal prisons which may include a disregard for the law.  Not only is there no uniform exercise of all prescribed standards across the system, but the CSC national headquarters in Ottawa will face down calls for accountability.  Not even parliament and the courts are spared.

Thus it has ever been, as Madam Arbour would find if she were to revisit operations in our federal prison system today.