Tuesday, February 8, 2022**
Dear Mr. Klassen,
Thank you for your letter dated May 6, 2021**, and for your interest in how the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) communicates with the media. I am happy to provide you an update on our work to renew the Service’s policy on Media Relations. I do apologize for the lateness of the reply.
CSC makes a great effort to be transparent and open about our work. We respond to about 100 media queries a month on a wide variety of topics and we issue regular news releases on our operations. As you stated, it is true that we facilitate all requests by media to interview inmates. It is extremely rare that CSC will deny or delay an interview. We take into consideration the security of the individual, others, and the facility as well as the impact on victims. For example, in 2021, CSC denied only 1 of 23 interviews, and this was based on a publication ban in place to protect the victims.
The renewal of the directive of media relations, where this is spelled out, is still underway. It was delayed as the tempo of media relations as well as the need for communications with inmates, staff, stakeholders increased significantly during the pandemic. I can assure you that it is now nearly complete. We have conducted external consultations and are finalizing internal reviews before publishing it.
I thank you again for your interest, and I wish you good health in 2022.
Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement
Correctional Service of Canada
**Highlights the 9 months between the letter to CSC Commissioner Kelly and the reply from Ms. Cibula.
February 10, 2022
Dear Ms. Cibula:
I thank you for your February 8, 2022, email responding to my May 6, 2021, letter to Commissioner Kelly. You must be facing a considerable communications backlog for my letter to come before you for attention after so long in limbo.
The information you’ve provided is of great import as it underscores the need for a revision of Commissioner’s Directive 022 Media Relations. You note CSC responds to about 100 media requests a month on the one hand, but that there were only 23 media interviews with inmates in all of 2021. One was denied for cause, as you wrote, but my interest in a CD-022 revision suggests that just as the Service accommodates about 100 media contacts every month, so should inmate interactions with media number at least that as well.
CSC has made a point of headlining transparency as you referenced and having Charter compliant policies is paramount to meeting that objective. True accountability and transparency are only possible however if the offenders in your care have an equal opportunity to lawfully communicate with the world outside the walls.
I look forward to reviewing the new directive in the near future.
Thank you again.
Charles H. Klassen
908-31 Alexander Street
Toronto, ON M4Y 1B2
The revision to Correctional Service of Canada’s Commissioner’s Directive – 022 Media Relations was first featured back on May 9, 2021, in “Inmates have no rights!”, calling proposed changes, “One first step to letting in the light on the CSC prison environment…” At that point it had been about a year since Commissioner Kelly committed to bringing the directive in line with the Charter.
May 23rd’s “Prison Security. How much? Too much?” included the May 6 letter to the commissioner, wondering in the nicest possible means, if CSC might be dogging it in getting the changes on the books. Ms. Cibula’s February 8 letter above is an answer to that query to Commissioner Kelly.
“Prison – Media Relations revisited” posted September 12 last fall included a June 22nd letter to Correctional Investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger noting the delay with the revision of the directive. There’s also an excerpt from his office’s August 27 answer.
“What’s the big deal,” we asked in the entry, “about inmate access to the media? Think about ‘the wider public has a right to be informed of what goes on behind prison walls.’” “The wider public is ill-informed now and doesn’t grasp the impact prison environments have on the community.”
Finally, “Prisons – IS MEDIA RELATIONS AN ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM?” from December 19 posted a November 29th letter to Marco Mendicino, Minister of Community Safety. In part it read, “A year on from this undertaking, and in the absence of a CD-022 update, I wrote Commissioner Kelly on May 6 encouraging her to avoid any suspicion that ‘the Service is trying to prevent inmate contact with the media.’” “It is now the end of November. ‘Nuff said.”
A copy of the February 8 letter from CSC and the February 10 reply was sent to the correctional investigator’s office. It appreciated having the information. “It is quite helpful,” its note said.
Associate Assistant Commissioner, Communications & Engagement, Colette Cibula hits all the right notes in commenting on the letter sent to the commissioner nine months earlier. But she was writing for members of the public who know nothing about our prison industry. For any conversant Canadian, Ms. Cibula seems a Correctional Service of Canada ambassador who has never been inside a prison in this country, has never toured the ranges, and has never spoken to the inmates housed there.
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