THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
ABBOTSFORD, Saturday, August 11, 2018
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 6:05 p.m. to study the issues relating to the human rights of prisoners in the correctional system.
Senator Salma Ataullahjan (Deputy Chair) in the chair.
The Deputy Chair: I call the meeting to order. Before we do anything else, I have a motion that we need to pass. Is it agreed that photography and filming be authorized during the meeting?
Senator Cordy: Agreed.
Senator Pate: Agreed.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Good morning, senators and guests. I see that we have a quorum and we will begin. Before we begin, I would like senators to introduce themselves, and we will begin with the deputy chair.
Senator Cordy: Hi. I am Jane Cordy, and I am a senator from Nova Scotia.
Senator Pate: I am Kim Pate from Ottawa.
The Deputy Chair: And I am Salma Ataullahjan from Ontario.
We are honoured to be in Abbotsford tonight to continue our study on the issues relating to the human rights of prisoners in the correctional system. Earlier this week, we were in Edmonton where we visited institutions and held a public hearing. These past two days in Abbotsford, we have visited Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village, Kent Institution, Pacific Institution, the Regional Treatment Centre, Fraser Valley Institution for Women, and we will be visiting Mission Institution tomorrow. That's a lot of places we have visited in the past two days.
For our first panel today, we are pleased to welcome, as individuals, Ms. Wendy Bariteau and Ms. Renee Acoby; and from the West Coast Prison Justice Society, Jennifer Metcalfe, Prisoners' Legal Services.
Ms. Bariteau, you have the floor first, to be followed by Ms. Acoby and Ms. Metcalfe. We will hear your presentations and then we will have some questions.
Wendy Bariteau, as an individual: I would like to thank the committee for hearing us, from beginning to end, from the East Coast to the West Coast, and I would humbly hope that my small contribution will be able to do some change in the system.
I'm 50 years old. I'm presently serving a life sentence with possibility of parole in 10 years, which means I will be eligible for my parole in January 2020. I left Fraser Valley Institution in January 2018, just a little over six months ago. I am presently residing at Columbia Place, which is an E. Fry halfway house, E. Fry of Greater Vancouver.
I am studying presently as a paralegal, so it will help me also in my advocacy for change in the prison system. I volunteer for a joint effort in Prisoner Justice Day, and also for other associations, like Prisoners' Legal Services, and hopefully for BCCLA in September.
I just wanted to mention presently a joint effort and the problems volunteers are having entering the FV Institution because of the reliability clearance, which, so far as we know, is only requested of volunteers at Fraser Valley Institution. Reliability clearance is a security access that is usually requested from staff of institutions, and now they're requesting it for volunteers. This means credit checks, information on spouses and very intrusive information that can be used for CSIS or the RCMP. A lot of volunteers don't want to go through it because of, let's say, credit checks. It doesn't mean because you have bad credit that you shouldn't be a volunteer.
I am nervous.
The Deputy Chair: Don't be.
Ms. Bariteau: I can feel the heat rising.
Senator Cordy: The worst is over now. You have already started, so it is all uphill.
Ms. Bariteau: I was sentenced to a life sentence for murder in 2010. I started my sentence, like every murder sentence, in maximum security. I couldn't have a dérogation to be in maximum security, so I had to do my full two years in maximum security in Joliette Institution in Quebec.
Maximum security is basically solitary confinement or isolation. You're completely isolated from the rest of the population. In Joliette, everything is internal. Even if you want to go, let's say, to the gym, they actually they freeze the corridors. That means every inmate on the grounds, minimum or medium, are frozen out of that section, so you can go from your maximum security, let's say, to the gym, or to visit. They can't talk to you. I mean, even if they look at you and do signs, they are not encouraged to do that. So you're completely isolated from the rest of the population of the prison.
Within maximum security, you're locked up at 10:00. The door is closed and reopened at 7:00. So it is an isolation system and you're in there, isolated, for two years.
They give you no information on your rights. They just tell you the books are there. So somebody like me, that had never encountered the prison system, knew nothing of what my rights were or that I even had rights. I found that out in 2012 when I left and started working for the Inmate Committee. I actually found out that CSC has Commissioner's Directives that are rules that CSC must follow, or should follow, including rules that inmates have to follow also, that were pretty much not followed by CSC within maximum security.
What saved me in maximum security was education. In Quebec, we have access to CÉGEP for free, and so they provided this in my second year of maximum security, and I studied until my transfer to FVI in 2016. From what I understand, CSC pays for half and the education minister pays for the other half, which unfortunately is an advantage that the other provinces do not have, because since educational is provincial, GVI has to go through Walls to Bridges and FVI has nothing other than high school. So personal education is basically non-existent in federal institutions if you are not in Quebec or if universities are not willing to dish out the bucks.
Distance education is also unavailable, usually, because with technology nowadays, every distance education is on the Internet. Since we're not allowed the Internet, it is very rare that you can find a course that actually has books. So 20 years ago, you could probably get a doctorate in federal prison, and in 2018 you can't even get a high school diploma by distance anymore. When it comes to education in the CSC system, we have gone backwards instead of going forward. Just like Creating Choices in the early 1990s, it was a great idea for women's institutions, and we have been going backwards on that, too.
My main issue — I have many, but I will just focus on one today — is freedom of speech. With any institution, freedom of speech I would consider is practically non-existent for anything that is of consequence. You can talk about your everyday life, but you can't complain. If you grieve, you are held accountable for your grievances. Even though they are not allowed, they find ways to basically make you pay for grieving. On one of my security reports, the security reports that I was allowed to grieve, within 11 paragraphs they told me that my grievance was part of my criminal cycle, which actually it is not, and that I was reverting into my criminal cycle because I was grieving and I was not living in the moment. Basically, you can complain. You can call the correctional investigators. You can put grievances in, but eventually you will pay for it, either by staying in longer, or some people get put into segregation because they are called disruptive security threats.
I was made president for three years and was very active in Joliette, and I was told by my parole officer that I was an aggressive person, even though there was no report of me being aggressive. There are no observation reports of me being aggressive. I was never put into isolation. I had no reports whatsoever, and I was considered a person that was very aggressive, that did not take no for an answer, that didn't want to follow the rules, and that I would basically stay in jail until 2021. Because my security was medium, she would not change it for another two years. And when I did get to medium, I would stay there for two years with escorted outings and another two years with unescorted outings, until I could even apply for parole. My 10-year ends 2020. She was putting me up for parole in 2021. And I have no reports, nothing. I follow the rules. I do what needs to be done.
So I requested a transfer to FVI. I learnt my lesson. I did not advocate mostly in FVI. When I thought things were getting a little tense, I would back down, and I managed to get out in 2018. But I had to leave my promise to do so.
When you fight, you become a target, and this happens when you're out also. As a lifer, I am owned by CSC until the day I die. They can send me back in anytime they want. I'm supposed to be sent back in because I breach or I'm not transparent. A month ago I was threatened to be sent back in because my halfway house was going to withdraw their support of me. The supervisor of the parole officer said that if my halfway house does not want me anymore and there's no room, they will have to send me back to prison, that it was up to her to decide when I was going to leave prison, and she was going to put me at the bottom of the list because other people had priority over me.
I have been in school since April. I've been functioning very well. I asked for the heat to be turned off in June. I asked maybe if we can get Wi-Fi in 2018. The acting supervisor didn't like the fact that I went over her head, because she said no to all these demands. And I asked the E. Fry director. So she said the — she called the supervisor of the parole officers and threatened to send me back to jail because I requested, because I wanted my life to be better in a halfway house. So when you're in, if you fight, you stay in; and when you are out and you fight, then you go back in.
She did her job. We ran out of bowls, so we were eating out of sour cream bowls. Nobody complained. Well, I think that was the whole point, right? So they can run whatever they want, however they want, without anybody advocating for anybody else.
So as an inmate, freedom of speech doesn't exist. It does not matter what the CCRA says. It doesn't matter what the CD says. It doesn't matter what anybody says. If you voice your opinions, you'll be held accountable for it. And that was my major point, because I think our country is based on freedom of speech, and we fought long for it, but as an inmate, there's nothing you can do.
Even if you do grieve, it takes about three years before your grievance is heard. So if you have an important grievance, by the time the grievance is heard and sent back, whatever you grieved about is pretty much done. And that's what they tell you inside. They say, “Go ahead, grieve.” But they know, by the time it's held or by the time they have agreed with you, whatever you grieved about is three years past. So whatever you grieved about has an impact on your sentencing, on how long you are staying inside. It doesn't change anything. You are still — by the time it's back, it's three years in. You have spent your three years in.
That's it for me. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much.
Renee Acoby, you are next.
Renee Acoby, as an individual: My name is Renee Acoby. I am currently a dangerous offender. I received a dangerous offender designation in 2011. That's an indeterminate sentence, so I get reviewed every two years. I started off with a three-and-a-half-year sentence for trafficking cocaine and other minor charges, and picked up 18 years inside for various offences against inmates and staff until I was designated a dangerous offender in 2011. I put in 18 years before I was finally released on parole in May of this year.
I was let out on limited day parole for two months to readjust to the community. There was no expectation for me to get a job. They just wanted to see if I was going to adjust to the community without any problems, and that was going to be for two months with the possibility that I would have to go back to prison before I would get a longer day parole.
But I actually got two jobs the first week I was out. It was contract writing and a contract job. And I adjusted pretty quickly. I started a job at the Downtown Eastside Women's Centre. I started doing overnight shifts pretty quickly for like 10 hours, but because I had been in the system for so long and was usually in bed by 10:30, the overnight shifts were really hard for me. It was difficult because it was a union job. So even as my role was a peer advocate inside prison, I wasn't actually allowed to give any of the women my contact information. If I wanted to file human rights complaints for them, I was told by my co-workers that I wasn't allowed to do that. So I found the job very restrictive and decided to resign.
But going back to prison, when I first came in, they didn't have the women's units that they do now. I was actually sent to a men's penitentiary in Saskatchewan, and I was pregnant. While I was there, before I actually arrived at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, there had been nine hostage takings. There had been a suicide. And the environment was very different back then. We didn't talk to the guards, unless necessary. They didn't talk to us. It was very volatile. I think they said it was unfit for bears, basically. The environment was really chaotic, really tense.
I actually had to go to a provincial prison to get a parenting program because they didn't have basic programs in the women's unit in the men's penitentiary. So every day I would go over to provincial and do the parenting program, go back, get strip searched every day, until I finally got lowered down to medium security and transferred to the healing lodge with my child when she was born.
I was at the healing lodge for close to a year, and then I made a bad decision to get involved in smoking a joint and taking two Valiums. So my child was taken from me. But the way that it was done, I think everybody can admit that it was not done properly. It was my responsibility. I should not have done drugs, period. But there were a lot of mistakes. When the Board of Investigation conducted their investigation, they concluded that there was a lot of stuff that the system did wrong.
Probably for the first five years of my sentence, I kept racking up charges after that. I was kind of, like, really hopeless; just gave up on myself and being a mother. So I just developed this mentality that if anybody hurt me, I was going to hurt them first.
That went on for many years until finally I was placed on the Management Protocol, which is similar to or actually more restrictive than the supermax routine for male offenders. There were actually seven of us across Canada that ended up being placed on the Management Protocol. I was on it first, and I was the last one to be taken off.
The Management Protocol entailed three steps. I spent eight years on the Management Protocol and six of them were in 23-hour lockup. In the time that I was on the protocol, it was different for everybody. There was really no direction. So basic stuff, like I had to earn bushing my teeth. I had to earn toothpaste. I had to earn toilet paper. They actually put 10 squares of toilet paper aside per day for me. I had to eat my food out of Dixie cups and paper boats that they use for french fries and stuff. Trying to eat something like a bowl of cereal, the milk would go through. I had to earn my hot water tap being turned on in my cell. There was a lot of stuff that they did wrong.
That's why I have a human rights complaint and a civil suit against CSC right now for pretty much most of my incarceration, but mainly with the focus being on the Management Protocol.
The protocol was only rescinded after another woman that was on it brought a lawsuit against CSC. A few months later, I brought one. It never went to court because the protocol was rescinded. But because the Correctional Service of Canada deemed me to be the most dangerous one, they actually still kept me on a routine where I still, you know, was kept, expected to earn my way out of my cell, even though it had been found to be illegal, and to be rescinded. So they still weren't following policies or any of the human rights declarations that Canada is a signatory to, all that stuff.
And there was other stuff with the protocol. I think out of the seven that were placed on the protocol, six of us were either Indigenous or African American, and the Caucasian woman that was on it got off in less than a year. The rest of us spent years in segregation earning basic stuff that you don't need to earn. We couldn't even be in the same institution. So, if one woman was in Edmonton, and there was another woman there on the protocol, we weren't actually allowed to transfer to that institution because that person was there.
They started to build Plexiglas rooms. We would actually be handcuffed and shackled, even if it was to go from here to over there. There was a whole other set of security procedures they wanted. I would have to back up to the door. They would handcuff me behind my back, and then I would have to back out of the cell, and they would place the shackles on. I was usually moved with between five and six guards, and there had to always be a correctional manager there. The CM is basically in charge of the guards. So if there was not a correctional manager on the floor that day, I wouldn't get out to shower or do any of the normal routine, which really impacted the other women who were on normal segregation routines, or even in the max unit, because I required so much staff to be moved.
So, yeah, one of the main things I noticed is there is a lot of racism inside the Correctional Service of Canada. Indigenous women spend a lot more time in segregation. They spend a lot more time in maximum security. They have a harder time earning any type of lower security classification, any type of escorted temporary absence, perimeter work clearance. All of that stuff is really hard to get if you're not Caucasian inside.
The other thing I wanted to bring up is that I had my hearing delayed at least three times, even though I'm reviewed every two years. I was reviewed in November. My hearing got put over two or three times after that, and one of the reasons that they had adjourned my hearing was because they had received over 20 pages of confidential informant information. So pretty much 90 per cent of the population was making allegations. I had no idea that all of these allegations were being said about me. But in the end, the Parole Board concluded that most of the allegations were unreliable, unsubstantiated.
The other thing I wanted to bring up was that I think the use of confidential informants inside prisons should not be allowed. There's a lot of information and literature on the use of confidential informants and police informants, and it's highly unreliable. They basically don't take the word of people who have been in prison. I think that needs to be changed. What CSC uses is called the management of human sources, and that's a policy, so it's not governed by anything under legislation.
So what the CD allows them to do is to pay inmates to give information about stuff that's going on in the yard. I think that's really flawed because inside women's prison, it's kind of like a crab-in-the-bucket syndrome where the women don't really help each other out. They try to get each other in trouble. It's really different from when I first came in. So I think that needs to be addressed, whether it's by a human rights complaint or something, but it needs to be taken out of there.
I think that with the stuff that has happened with — even in the Ashley Smith inquiry. I was beside Ashley Smith in 2007. While I was on the protocol, I actually seen them, three weeks before she arrived there, retrofit the cell. They actually had about five different types of windows that they could take on and off the window. They put some sort of gazebo in the back so staff could sit there, watch her through the back window, remove these windows in the front if she covered the windows, which she usually did with her own feces, because she had nothing in the cell, and she was in a security gown. They wouldn't give her any underwear or pads when she was on her moon time. So I actually started to record all of this in a book.
And she must have got pepper sprayed at least three or four times a day, and normally you're supposed to decontaminate for at least 15 minutes. I've been pepper sprayed myself. It actually takes longer than 15 minutes. They really didn't do that with her. They didn't go decontaminate the cell. So she would go back into a cell with pepper spray still all over the floor. They treated her really horrifically, and all she was trying to do was ask for help.
I called Kim one day and let her know what was going on and that I had filed seven grievances on Ashley's behalf because she wasn't allowed to have access to pens, pencils, paper. They were doing the same thing to her as — they were managing like she was a Management Protocol inmate but just unofficially. So I ended up putting these grievances in for her. I got in trouble for it. I actually got an institutional offence charge. They said I was inciting another inmate, and I said, “I don't care. I'm putting in the complaints.” And the complaints weren't actually taken out of the box until a month after her death.
So the complaint system inside I think needs to be completely removed, not, like, completely removed to the women or the men, but there needs to be a different mechanism where maybe an independent organization will actually look into complaints. Because if you're putting in a complaint against CSC staff or some sort of policy that's against CSC, and the people who are analyzing those complaints are CSC staff, so, generally, they don't uphold complaints or grievances. And even if you take it to the third level, that usually goes into about a six-month waiting period. So something that could have been rectified immediately by an independent committee is not.
I think that the dangerous offender legislation needs to be abolished. It was originally designed for sex offenders under the old habitual criminal act, and a lot of the guys that were on it were small-time, petty offenders that put about 40 years inside before they were actually let out, and they had to apply for royal mercy. So I think that the dangerous offender legislation needs to be looked at.
That's all I can think to say right now.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Metcalfe is next.
Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director, Prisoners' Legal Services, West Coast Prison Justice Society: Thank you very much for the opportunity to appear before this committee, and thank you for initiating this important study on the human rights of prisoners in Canada.
I'm the Executive Director of Prisoners' Legal Services, which is a clinic for federal and provincial prisoners in British Columbia that provides legal aid on issues that affect liberty rights under section 7 of the Charter, as well as on health care and human rights issues. In the past year, we have assisted prisoners with more than 2,500 legal issues.
As you know, the vast majority of prisoners suffer from mental health problems, including addictions. It's estimated that 80 per cent of prisoners in Canada suffer from addictions, and the link between mental health problems, trauma, addiction and criminal justice involvement are widely acknowledged.
Canada must invest in mental health services in the community so that people with mental health problems can lead productive lives as members of society, rather than ending up languishing in prison.
Our justice and correctional systems need to be transformed to find community-based alternatives to prisons and to address the needs of those in custody so that they can heal from trauma and re-enter society and succeed.
Instead of working to address the mental health crisis in our prisons, the Correctional Service of Canada continues to place people in solitary confinement, a practice the United Nations considers to be torture or cruel treatment for people who suffer from mental disabilities or for anyone after 15 days. Research demonstrates that solitary confinement is psychologically damaging and increases the risk of suicide.
Last year the government introduced Bill C-56, which the media wrongly reported capped the use of segregation at 21 days, but, in fact, Bill C-56 does nothing to limit the use of segregation. The warden has the authority to continue segregation indefinitely.
Prime Minister Trudeau's mandate letter to the Minister of Justice directed her to implement the recommendation of the Ashley Smith inquiry to restrict the use of solitary confinement and “to end appeals or positions that are not consistent with our commitments, the Charter or our values.” However, the Canadian government is now appealing the ruling of Justice Leask in the B.C. civil liberties case that found the government's use of solitary confinement violated sections 7 and 15 in the case of Indigenous prisoners and those with mental disabilities. Why is the government fighting for the right to continue a practice against its most vulnerable citizens that the United Nations considers torture or cruel treatment?
I would like to talk about one of my clients who has given me permission to share his story. Joey Toutsaint grew up traditionally as a member of the Dene Nation. After his mother and grandfather died when he was a teenager, he became involved in the youth justice system and entered the adult system at 18.
Like so many other Indigenous prisoners, Joey entered custody on relatively minor charges, but his experiences in custody led to more serious charges including serious violence. He's now 31 and he estimates that he has spent a total of seven or eight years in solitary confinement since 2005, where he is locked in a small cell, alone for 23 to 24 hours a day, with very little meaningful human contact. If he gets an hour out of his cell, that is spent alone in the yard or shower. He has experienced multiple uses of force by correctional officers, including the use of chemical agents, often in response to acts of self-harm.
Joey has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder and major depressive disorder.
As a coping mechanism, Joey engages in self-harm. His body is covered in scars. On three occasions he chewed into his arm to reach an artery. He recently slashed his own throat and almost died from blood loss, and after a short stay in the community hospital, he was returned to solitary confinement in prison.
When Joey self-harms, the Correctional Service of Canada puts him in an observation cell where he is isolated and often further deprived of all of his belongings, including his clothes, anything to occupy his mind, like television, radio, books or drawing materials. He's an artist. He describes his mattress as blanket thin on the concrete floor. He is provided only finger food called “bag feed.” Cells are often very cold or very hot, and the lights are on 24 hours a day. He can't sleep and his body aches. His cell is often filthy and contaminated with chemical agents, so his skin burns. An officer sits outside his cell with a canister of pepper spray and does not speak to him.
Joey is currently on his eighteenth day in an observation cell on suicide watch. He describes his conditions as torture. CSC has refused to transfer him to a psychiatric facility.
In either observation or segregation, Joey has very little meaningful human contact. Meetings with health care professionals are generally through the cell door and last only a few minutes. He says officers and nurses are rude. They refuse to address his concerns or give their names. He says they treat him like a dog or a child. When he asks for his care plan, all he is told is that he needs to take baby steps. He reports that officers insult him, they laugh at him and raise their voices. He says all officers and nurses do is threaten him with gas and Pinel restraints over and over again. For the most part, the only time Joey speaks to staff is to ask for pain medication or legal calls. He does not trust CSC staff, including medical and mental health staff.
CSC's national senior psychiatrist told us that although he has not met with Joey, he has determined that Joey does not meet the serious mental illness definition to prohibit use of administrative segregation. He denies that Joey has PTSD. He characterizes Joey's self-harm as manipulative. He also advises us that he is not involved in determining Joey's treatment plan and that he will no longer respond to our emails about Joey.
Prisoners' Legal Services calls on the government to partner with the provincial ministries of health to provide independent health care services to federal prisoners so that they can develop the trusting relationship necessary for effective care. Confidentiality guidelines must also be established.
Every prisoner should be assessed for mental health needs, including the need for trauma or addiction services at intake. In every case where a need is identified, a care plan should be developed without delay which should include an offer of trauma and addiction counselling. CSC must help people at risk of mental health deterioration before they begin to engage in self-harm by providing therapeutic living units to everyone who would benefit from them.
Prisoners at risk of self-harm or suicide should be placed in community psychiatric hospitals or treatment centres where they can heal from trauma in a therapeutic environment. The process for admission to a treatment centre should be procedurally fair and transparent.
If observation cells must be used to prevent self-harm or suicide, their use should be authorized by medical professionals in a hospital setting and be subject to time limits. Anyone at risk of isolation should have offers and acceptance of meaningful human contact, including therapy, tracked with a goal of preventing isolation.
People with mental health problems are classified to higher levels of security under current regulations and policy. Security classification should not be based on a person's mental health concerns.
Canada should engage with First Nations on a nation-to-nation basis to negotiate self-determination and corrections so that no Indigenous person should be subjected to incarceration in a colonial prison, which is a continuation of the genocidal residential school system. Indigenous prisoners should have access to Indigenous-run healing lodges where they can recover from intergenerational trauma.
Solitary confinement should be abolished in Canada. No prisoner should be subjected to torture or cruel treatment in Canada. Canada should reach out to experts and stakeholders and develop alternatives to solitary confinement.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Now we will turn to the senators for questions.
Senator Cordy: Thank you very much.
If we hadn't spent the last week in prisons, I would be wondering where these stories were coming from, but we have certainly seen a lot here and in Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada. I'm not sure how you get these stories out and about so that people really understand. One would have thought that after Ashley Smith, segregation would be no more, because that's a horrendous story of somebody who went to prison for something very minor. I think it was throwing crabapples at somebody, wasn't it?
Senator Pate: It was for breach of probation.
Senator Cordy: Breach of probation, and she ended up dying in prison, in Canada no less.
I'm just curious, Wendy, when you were — sorry, Ms. Bariteau.
Ms. Bariteau: Wendy is fine.
Senator Cordy: You said that as an inmate freedom of speech does not exist. And we have heard over and over again that they are going to find a way to get back at you for the grievance process. So what do you recommend to somebody who is in prison? Just be quiet until your sentence is up?
Ms. Bariteau: I think the women recommend it to themselves. They see what's happening and they're quiet themselves. Like I said, just at the halfway house, nobody is complaining about the dishes. Nobody wants to. They have managed to gag you. It's like cutting the head off the strongest threat, right? Everybody else is going to fall in line. And that's what they do in jail.
I think Renee has felt that same thing, as an advocate, and I think every prison advocate, or inmates that work to better the system and help others, have felt that. Unfortunately, you learn by watching the process and seeing what's happening to others.
Also, the federal system is a two plus one. Women that have shorter sentences want to get out. So they know that if they speak up, their time will be longer. So they just don't. They just want to do their time and get out to their families.
I think most of the advocates, and this is my thought, are mostly long-term offenders, people that are in there for a longer period of time and need a change.
Senator Cordy: And they have nothing to lose basically.
Ms. Bariteau: We have everything to lose. My motto is, if I can't advocate for myself, I can't ask anybody out there to advocate for themselves. So my attitude in Joliette, and I will admit, would be, like, I don't care what's going to happen to me. If I have to stay longer, I will stay longer, but my rights will be held up.
And it got to a point where actually my family is the one that pushed me and said, “No, you've got to get out. You can help more out than you can in.” But I had passed a point of no return and I had to transfer out. And that's why I said my attitude did change in FVI. I was less controversial.
Senator Cordy: Ms. Acoby, you spoke about getting to finally see your report, and you were quite shocked at confidential information that had been given. We have heard this before, that things were twisted around and put in people's reports. We also heard that the way you are at 18 is not the way that you are at 30. And you spoke about paid confidential informants, prisoners. Did I hear you correctly when you said that?
Ms. Acoby: Yes. It was a policy that I happened to stumble across in 2013. It was called the management of human sources. I think it was just implemented in 2012 or 2013. And the original Commissioner's Directive — that's what it's called — had two paid positions that would be offered to two inmates in the yard to act as human sources and to bring forward information. Then when I looked at it about six or eight months later, that specific entry was gone, because they revise policy all the time.
But even if you take that policy away, they have another policy called dynamic security and supervision. I think it's in the five hundreds. And they actually used that policy as well, before the implementation of the management of human sources, to justify talking to certain inmates who liked to give information or give false information as was the case with me, obviously. So what they will do is go and solicit information from different inmates, just say, “Hey, how are you,” and kind of make it sound like they're chitchatting with them and ask them how things are going in the yard. I have seen it happen a lot inside prison. And obviously there are some inmates who think that giving that type of information is going to get them out quicker. I really don't know. I don't want to just suggest each confidential informant's motivation.
But I know that a lot of the information that came up in my over 20 pages of it, I was stunned, because when I had actually been approved for escorted temporary absences and perimeter work clearance, none of the information was in there. When I brought that up to the Parole Board, I said, “I am just a little bit stunned that all of this information is coming up now, because this should have come up in my other reports. Instead I got really glowing reports to do the perimeter work clearance, which was outside of the prison, and to go on ETAs into the community. So I don't understand why, a day before my second Parole Board hearing, the security intelligence officer is now giving you guys over 20 pages of confidential informant information.”
A lot of the information that was contained in there was not able to be corroborated. I think Confidential Informant B was found to be unreliable because she was engaged in subversive activities, yet four pages down, they're saying they found certain information to be reliable. And a lot of it was not stuff that could possibly be true.
So I think it's important that that somehow gets overturned or is rectified, because it could really harm somebody's chance at getting anything. It's a lot of slander when it's not true, and there was just no need for it. So I think something needs to be done to change that.
Senator Cordy: You both spoke about the challenges if you do complain or bring forward a grievance. I think, Ms. Acoby, you said there should be another process — and we have heard that before — to avoid ramifications, that it not go to staff within the prison, but that it go, they just said, to an outside body, which is what you said, Ms. Acoby, was it?
Ms. Acoby: Yes.
Senator Cordy: That's interesting, and we've heard it. Thank you.
Senator Pate: Thank you to all of you and for all the work you've done both inside and out, and for the work you continue to do.
I have questions for each of you, but I wanted to start with you, Ms. Metcalfe. When you talk about developing external health care, one of the challenges that has occurred in some places where that has been developed is the impact of institutional culture on individuals who come in regardless of who they're initially responding to. Have you looked at the option of section 29 transfers as an alternative to that, so you could have externally governed health care by provincial and territorial health services, but also not have actual mental health units in prisons? Because, as we heard again today and as we have heard in other parts of the country, security tends to trump mental health issues when it comes to even those units that are dually designated hospitals, psychiatric hospitals and penitentiaries. So that's one question.
Also, when we were meeting with people, one of the things that came up is some confusion about mandates. One of the things that would be helpful for us as well is to have a clear idea of what your mandate is so that we know what kinds of resources are available when there are the very rare clinics, like the one that you're heading, and that provide vital information.
Ms. Metcalfe: On the issue about health care providers becoming co-opted by the security mentality, I think it's a great idea to provide some services outside of prisons especially for people who should be in psychiatric hospitals who require longer-term care. But if you consider that 80 per cent of prisoners have addiction issues, we don't know the rates of trauma experienced by male prisoners. There's research on women prisoners that shows that it's 80 to 90 per cent. But from our experience dealing with our clients, I think that the rates of men experiencing trauma are also very high. So if we're looking at the vast majority of prisoners who require therapeutic units, then we would have to create an entirely different system that's secure, because they're in prison, or address things in the community before people get into prison.
But the problem of providing all of the health services outside of prison is what Renee spoke about, of having to be strip searched every time you come and go, and I think that a lot of people wouldn't want to have to go through that.
I know that it's a problem in prison about being co-opted, but I think there's a fear among the general population and a lot of biases against prisoners. When I've had clients who have gone into community facilities, like the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre — I had a client who was paraplegic and couldn't speak. There were nurses there who complained about him being inappropriate, when it seemed like those were not based on anything that he had done.
So I think that's an issue that has to be addressed, but I'm not sure that that's the answer entirely. It's not a hundred per cent of the answer.
Two days ago I received a decision from the B.C. Health Professions Review Board where I represented a client in a complaint against a psychiatrist in the provincial system for participating actively or passively in his solitary confinement in violation of the Mandela Rules. The decision came out that the College of Physicians and Surgeons hadn't addressed that issue and that they have to take it back and address that issue. They suggested that they develop guidelines, which is where we started with the College of Physicians of Surgeons, asking that they develop guidelines for their members to comply with the Mandela Rules. I think that might be a way to address those kinds of concerns about co-optation and to ensure that health care providers are acting in the best interests of their patients, abiding by confidentiality rules, and are not facilitating torture and cruel treatment.
I should have brought our bylaws. Eddie is here. He's on our board. Our mandate is to provide legal services to federal and provincial prisoners in British Columbia on areas that affect people's liberty rights under section 7 of the Charter, and to promote human rights in prisons, the rule of law. A handful of other ones are along those lines.
Senator Pate: All right. Thank you.
When you were talking about ending solitary confinement, and in my experience, given what I was doing before here, we had seen in the prisons for women across the country the development of all maximum security units as segregated units, as Ms. Bariteau has spoken about. And now, after being in Edmonton Institution and then Kent just this week, it's clear that the same thing is happening in the men's now.
It strikes me that one of the issues, and Ms. Acoby raised this, is the encouragement of a culture of everybody fighting amongst each other, rather than a culture of human rights.
As well, we have heard lots of complaints from particularly staff within the prisons about the role the union plays in actually developing policy. Certainly in the women's situation, we know that the very first recommendation for the Management Protocol was actually written on the UCCO letterhead at the Edmonton Institution at the time that Ms. Acoby was there, and they commenced that process.
I'm curious whether you're seeing that as well, if you think it's just anomalous that we have seen this, because it strikes me that the focus needs to be not just on solitary confinement but actually interfering with that whole process of developing structures that encourage prisoners to have antisocial behaviour and behaviour that's combative against each other. It's the absolute antithesis of what dynamic security was supposed to be.
Ms. Metcalfe: Yes, I agree. I'm not sure if this committee has looked at the Margo Rivera report from a few years ago that talks about staff culture as being a real problem for prisoners who have mental disabilities, and she advocates for the development of therapeutic units.
Recently I was at the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre, a provincially run correctional centre, where they have opened a therapeutic unit. We were just meeting with the warden. It wasn't a planned tour, but we asked to go see the unit. There was a book on trauma-informed care on the desk, which they hadn't placed there for our benefit, so that was impressive. We chatted with the woman who was running the program, and she was talking about how they were getting people who would normally be in segregation voluntarily — so-called voluntarily — just offering them opportunities to come out and interact with people and trying to get them out of their isolation.
Another officer by the computer was a big, beefy guy, and he didn't seem very interested in our conversation, but then at the end he came over and said he used to work in the segregation unit and wouldn't interact with prisoners and just thought they got what they deserved. They asked him to work in this unit, and he kind of scoffed at the idea, but he worked in it. He said that he learned a lot, that if you treat people like humans, then they respond humanely. He was really impressed with the development of the people in that unit. And he was talking to his friends who had the mentality that he had before.
Margo Rivera advocates hiring and promoting people based on their ability to be kind to prisoners and treat people with dignity and respect, and to promote that culture through promotions, and discipline people who violate people's dignity and human rights.
I think if we develop these kinds of therapeutic units, it can help to change the culture. I think that's the approach that B.C. Corrections is taking. I think that has a lot more potential for success than we have federally, where the staff are protesting against the needle program that's been introduced to the institutions and things like that. If people can see the benefits and how treating people with dignity and respect reduces the risk of violence, there will be more buy-in from the unions.
Senator Pate: Thank you for that.
Ms. Acoby and Ms. Bariteau, picking up on that whole piece, one of the things I have observed, but I haven't been in your shoes, is that sometimes you will have a leader who will lead in a very positive way and can have some influence. But many of the units Ms. Metcalfe talks about, therapeutic units, are controlled by the administration. One of the recommendations made for women's corrections historically, and made repeatedly around men's as well and in different contexts around youth, is that any kind of therapeutic intervention be controlled outside of the prison. I know that some have had access to outside therapists who are not accountable to corrections and have seen very positive results.
But in terms of a therapeutic unit, during our visits we heard from a number of even very senior people, as high as wardens, that if they want to do something and don't have the buy-in of the union, in fact they are unable to make those changes. So I'm curious as to how you would see addressing this issue in terms of particularly mental health, whether you have seen sections 81, 84 used, both for Indigenous and non-Indigenous, and section 29 transfers as well, and if you have any thoughts on what I mentioned.
Dynamic security is being used now. You used it when you spoke, Ms. Acoby, to describe a process that actually is not what dynamic security was initially supposed to be. Dynamic security, when the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women started talking about it, was supposed to be outside groups like Joint Effort, E. Fry and others coming in, providing supports, such as rape crisis centres, because of the number of individuals, women in particular, particularly Indigenous women who have histories of abuse, and providing programs. And only when the women couldn't themselves go out to those programs, there have been challenges. In 2005, all the deputy wardens of women's prisons argued to get rid of routine strip searches, because they recognized that it rarely produced anything except more trauma for women.
I'm curious as to what your thoughts are around some of that, that if we're looking at dynamic security in the way that it was initially intended, as opposed to dynamic security being about encouraging more people to inform on each other and not work together for the betterment of all. I wonder if you have recommendations for us in those areas.
Ms. Bariteau: Unions, yeah, they're strong. I'll give a very simple example of how pretty powerful they are.
As an inmate president, we requested the memos that are sent to us, like for passes to the doctors, be sent to every house in Joliette, or in our mailbox, instead of being called to reception all the time, because they call at 6:00 or 7:00, when some people are sleeping, and you have to get dressed and you have to walk out. And when it's minus 30 in Montreal, sometimes it's . . . .
So at the women's meeting, everyone in security approved, everything was approved. I even got the minutes saying that it was approved, and the guards didn't like that because it would take them more time. They would have to pass out the memos. It would take more of their time. They went to their union and, no, it was turned down, even though everybody in the security end approved it.
So if the union or the guards decide that it's not something they want to do, they probably won't have to do it. And that's just one. It's a minor example. There are more examples, like, bigger examples. So the union does have a lot of pull, and the guards also, themselves.
In Joliette you have six counts a day. Well, now eight. They used to have six counts a day, including checks every two hours at night. If they don't think you're breathing, they will wake you up. When they wake you up and you get mad, they say, “Well, we have to make sure you're breathing, you're not dead.” So one way of getting back at you is they'll wake you up every two hours claiming that they can't see you breathe.
So for five days I didn't sleep. Every two hours I was woken up. It was the same guards. They were on for five days, so they all got together, because I put a complaint against another guard. And I get angry and cranky when I don't sleep. So not only was I not sleeping, but they were pushing my buttons and then —
Senator Pate: So retaliation.
Ms. Bariteau: Retaliation.
Senator Pate: Ms. Acoby?
Ms. Acoby: That's a pretty good proposal for the mental health or therapy, just based on the fact that I actually started working with an independent therapist that does not have to report to CSC. I started working with him, I believe, in 2015 or 2016, and I still work with him now. It's actually part of my conditions of parole. But even if it wouldn't have been my conditions, I would have asked to continue working with him, because had this happened a lot sooner, like, if this was something that is offered I think to people inside prison, a lot of trauma issues would be addressed.
Senator Pate: Sorry to interrupt, but you are talking about someone outside of corrections coming in to provide therapeutic support?
Ms. Acoby: Yes. He is an independent psychiatrist. Actually, he does not have to report anything to CSC. So anything that I do want to talk about — it's a lot different than when you are working with a CSC psychologist or psychiatrist. They can write risk assessment reports using all kinds of assessment tools and risk prediction tools that are actually outdated and not valid or reliable for women, especially Indigenous women.
I'll give you an example. The PCL-R, the Psychopathy Checklist - Revised, has been found to not be reliable or valid for women and Indigenous people, period. But they will still reference stuff with regards to the PCL-R. And there is actually CSC's own policy, I think it's on the criminal profile CD that actually says that the PCL-R is not to be used on women.
In my case, they kept referencing assessments I did not participate in, that were done by CSC people who just read my file — I didn't agree to meet with them — who used Dr. Woodside's assessment, who I also didn't see for my dangerous offender assessment in 2006, who labelled me a psychopath in the ninetieth percentile range. So even though there are other policies within CSC that state only psychological or psychiatric assessments that have been written or submitted in the past two years are valid, they were still referencing outdated reports, because it kind of fit with what they wanted to say about me. And when I put in complaints about it, it was turned down, basically.
So I kind of think that if they introduced independent psychiatrists and psychologists for people — there has to be some sort of fund, I mean, that they can do this, or allow it, because I think it would be really beneficial to the women inside, and to the men if they agree to capitalize on it and take that opportunity.
The benefit of that is that this independent psychiatrist was actually able to overturn the psychopath label and point out ways why it's not applicable to me as a woman and as an Indigenous woman, but also I don't exhibit any of the characteristics.
With sections 81 and 84, section 81 is really underutilized. If you actually look at the contract phase for sections 81 and 84, it's daunting. It's tedious. And there's hardly — I don't think there's a high number of Indigenous people, or non-Indigenous, who follow the Red Road, who have actually been let out on section 81. Both are really underutilized.
I think that there is also some resistance from maybe Indigenous communities. I'm not saying a hundred per cent. That's just something I heard, that some communities don't want to take on the contract of having federal inmates reintegrate into the community. But I also think that before you could even get to a section 81 or 84 application, there's a lot of stuff that you need to do. There are requirements. They want you to go to Pathways sometimes. But they can be very strict inside with what they want you to do. So that can change as well.
Say you're in a Pathways unit. There are certain conditions you have to follow in the Pathways unit. And a lot of the Pathways units that are run inside prison are — there's a lot of inter-fighting. There's not a whole lot of agreement about the way the unit should be run. There are different teachings. So I think it's kind of chaotic in that way.
I really don't know what needs to be done for sections 81 and 84. I think what they need to do is try to look at everything before that, and there needs to be more involvement from Indigenous communities to want to sign on to sections 81 and 84 applications and accept inmates who are interested in pursuing that route.
What was the other question? There was section 81 and 84.
Senator Pate: And section 29 about mental health, but, really, you've answered by talking about the need for external people.
Ms. Acoby: Okay.
Senator Pate: One of the things you mentioned was the psychopathy checklist, in addition to what was done in your situation for your parole. I don't know if you're aware that we heard from Lisa Neve a couple of nights ago in Edmonton, who was labelled a dangerous offender in 1993. At that point, when the Alberta Court of Appeal overturned her decision, they actually said the psychopathy checklist shouldn't have applied also. So it's been a long-standing issue.
One of the things we have heard is that Indigenous communities are basically told they have to open many institutions if they want to do section 81 agreements. There seems to be some confusion about what kind of information they're getting as well. So thank you for your piece.
The Deputy Chair: I think I would rather you answer the question. I think it's very important and we would like to have it on the record.
Senator Pate: So have you heard about Indigenous communities not even understanding what it means to do a section 81 or 84?
Ms. Acoby: I think there's a lot of confusion about what it is, because if you actually look at the policy around sections 81 and 84, there are so many different sections that it can become really overwhelming, because it's really vague, some of the policies.
Senator Pate: So the policies versus the law, which is pretty clear.
Ms. Acoby: Yes.
Senator Pate: The focus is to allow Indigenous communities to take responsibility for Indigenous and non-Indigenous prisoners under section 81 and for parolees under section 84.
Ms. Acoby: Yes.
Senator Pate: But then the policies are the ones that compound it.
Ms. Acoby: Yes.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
Ms. Bariteau: I just want to add, for the mental health issues, if there's an outside, external unit or system to be done, and also, whatever they decide, a diagnostic or treatment, has to be followed by CSC. Right now you can get an outside diagnostic or treatment and CSC doesn't have to follow them.
I went to Philippe-Pinel for three weeks in 2013, and they diagnosed me as being not bipolar, but the psychiatrist at Joliette was giving me bipolar medication that made me in a manic state. So the recommendation sent to CSC was to take me off the medication and just to supervise me, make sure I didn't go into a depression, because I'm allergic to antidepressant and mood stabilizers.
CSC did not follow Pinel's advice. They requested me to keep on taking my medication. I refused to take my medication. My PO kept writing in my reports that I was refusing to take my medication and, therefore, could still be a risk to society, even though in 2013, Pinel gave out the report.
So it's all nice to say that we need external, but if CSC does not follow whatever is recommended, then the use is moot.
Senator Pate: Thank you for that point.
Ms. Acoby, did you get to go out to see the external psychiatrist, or did he come in, and did you have any difficulties with that access?
Ms. Acoby: I started seeing him when I was still at maximum security, and it was actually the old warden who got him inside the prison. I think because I was really uncooperative with psychologists and psychiatrists in the past, they probably figured the same thing was going to happen. But once I actually learned that he didn't have to report anything to them, we started to build a rapport that way.
But in the beginning, because I was in the max unit, there were a lot of difficulties, which he outlined in his report, in getting access to me. I remember there was a particular officer I had an issue with, and he would come like clockwork to be there at 8:30. I would get ready and, you know, buzz the wall and say, like, “He should be here by now, can I go?” There was always something that would happen, like, the first three times that he was going to come. So they decided to start searching the unit at 8:25, and I'm like, “Okay, but I have to go see this psychiatrist at 8:30,” and they're, like, “Well, he can wait.”
Something else happened. Finally, I put in a complaint that there was always something happening with this particular officer to kind of interfere with treatment, and that was reflected in his report as well I think a year ago.
So there was a whole bunch of stuff. I really can't remember all of it. I know that in the beginning, maybe for the first year, there were a lot of difficulties with him getting in or getting access to me and stuff like that.
Then I actually got approved to go on ETAs. That was my first set of ETAs that were approved to actually go and see him at UBC, and I had to go with two guards. All three of the visits went well, and they said they would look at taking me down to one guard, because they weren't letting me go with citizen escorts at that point. But at that point, I would have gone with five, because I hadn't been in the community since 2001 on ETAs.
There were never any problems when I came back. I think that after the third time, I had to get renewed to go see him again. The warden pulled me in to let me know that the ETAs were put on hold because they needed to reassess everything.
So there was a whole bunch of stuff happening that normally in the past, 10 years ago, I really would have been upset about, but I was just like, whatever, I am not going to do anything to jeopardize my treatment, my ETA, that type of stuff. I will just have to work with these guys, even if I know they're — pardon my language — fucking me around.
I think over the next year or so, especially after they got his report, they started to actually try to make it more consistent, but there were still a lot of things that went wrong. ETAs that were supposed to get lowered down to one guard never happened, and a large part of that decision was because of the union.
UCCO was recommending — they had a big say, which didn't really make sense to me, because UCCO doesn't get to predict risk. They're not qualified to predict risk. But because the union is so big, and they have a lot of power, they're saying, “No, we don't want her down to one staff, because if she has a bad day in treatment, one of us has to drive her back and we don't know how she is going to respond.”
And since I had been out of maximum security, I had not gone back to segregation at all, once, for anything. I didn't get into any type of major disturbances. I had maybe two minor charges, and one of them was for my wife hiding in my room. That was pretty much the extent of my behaviour problems, which was a huge, drastic change. But a lot of that stuff wasn't recognized. I only found out later that it was because the union was really vocal about a lot of the stuff that was going on.
The Deputy Chair: I'm sorry, but we have to end. We have gone almost 18 minutes over, so I thank all the witnesses.
For our second panel this evening, we're pleased to welcome, from Correctional Service Canada Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committee, Mr. Sherman Chan, Co-Chair; from the B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, Mr. Dylan Cohen; and from the South Asian Bar Association of B.C., Mr. Rubinder Dhanu.
Mr. Chan, you have the floor, to be followed by Mr. Cohen and Mr. Dhanu.
Siu Man (Sherman) Chan, Co-Chair, Correctional Service Canada Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committee: Good evening. Thank you for inviting me to take part in your study on issues relating to the human rights of prisoners in the correction system.
I started to serve at the Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committee since its inception in B.C. in 2004. Currently, I'm the Co-Chair of Pacific REAC and work with REAC on a voluntary basis.
In addition to my work with REAC, I am the Director of Family and Settlement Services at MOSAIC, a multilingual non-profit organization that helps immigrants and refugees settle and integrate into Canadian society. I hold a Master of Science in Applied Social Studies from the U.K. and am a registered social worker with over 30 years of experience in Canada, Hong Kong, the United States and Britain.
REAC is part of CSC's effort to ensure the specific needs and cultural interests of ethnocultural offenders are identified and met through the provision of effective services and interventions that will contribute to successful reintegration of ethnic minority offenders and enhanced public safety. CSC defines an ethnocultural offender as any offender who has specific needs based on race, language or culture, and who has a desire to preserve their cultural identity and practices.
REAC provides advice to CSC about programs, services and interventions designed to meet the needs of ethnocultural offenders. In particular, REAC shares expertise with CSC staff and helps identify the needs and cultural interests of ethnocultural offenders; builds and maintains partnerships and networks within ethnocultural communities and with service agencies to assist in the safe reintegration of ethnocultural offenders; assists CSC in raising awareness and/or providing training on issues related to ethnocultural services, including, but not limited to, employment equity and discrimination in the workplace; and liaises with staff and offenders in order to promote ethnocultural services.
REAC's guiding legislation is from the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Canadian Multiculturalism Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, and Commissioner's Directive 767.
From my perspective, the REAC approach to human rights is creating a culturally responsive policy through an ethnocultural lens. The goal is to address the rights of ethnocultural offenders to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination, to identify the needs and cultural interests of offenders, to develop policies, programs and practices that respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences, and to be sensitive and responsive to the multicultural reality of Canada.
Pacific REAC meets at least three times per fiscal year. The meetings are held in the institutions and at the community parole offices or community residential facilities. We meet with ethnocultural inmates, and then we talk in confidence with them, without any presence of the institution staff. Many issues that they raise relate to food choice, shampoo, personal hygiene products and computer access.
Management and staff organize community forums. For example, in B.C. we organized Cultural Well-Being of Ethnic Offenders and Their Families, and Reintegration Through Employment: Innovative Solutions to Challenges Faced by Offenders. We also implement pilot projects, allocate small funds to supplement ethnocultural events or activities — for example, language-specific newspapers, ESL classes, cultural celebrations — and participate in National Ethnocultural Advisory Committee meetings and internal policy dialogue with CAC, for example on segregation policy.
Our priorities are aligned with CSC's national priority to support offenders in three areas. The first one is employment, helping ethnocultural offenders to find and keep jobs after they return to the community; mental health, finding or creating environments that support the mental well-being of offenders in the community; the third one is finding housing options that help ethnocultural offenders transition into the community.
Some of our recent accomplishments include, with the Pacific REAC, an Employment to Empowerment pilot project that helped increase the number of offenders who found a job. For example, there has been a 10 per cent increase in the length of time offenders are employed. And 11 specific employer partnerships have resulted in 450-plus job opportunities across the Pacific region.
Another example is that an ethnocultural liaison officer pilot project helped offenders to connect to their communities with the development of a resource guide and demonstrating the effectiveness of having an ethnocultural liaison office in the community.
Pacific REAC and NEAC recently accomplished a cultural competency course that has been made mandatory for CSC staff. CD 767 has been revised to enhance interventions and services to offenders, which includes documentation of ethnocultural interventions. That is an intervention process which encompasses the offender's cultural beliefs and the social history factors that may have impacted their life, with the goal of assisting them to regain abilities to reintegrate into the community.
There are issues that REAC, NEAC and CSC need to continue working on: increased consultation with REAC and NEAC; policy review to eliminate discriminatory practices — and we have done what we call fireside chats; for example, we will be working on gender identity, CSC innovation projects, and then immigration and deportation — also, increased recruitment of culturally diverse staff across all CSC departments; create a specific ethnocultural position at each institution and strengthen relationships with ethnocultural groups and communities; engage in research that would clarify cultural impacts and provide improved cultural programs in the offender's language both in and out of prison; and work with individual communities to assist them in understanding how the CSC manages, involving them in developing supportive interventions for offenders when they return to the community.
In conclusion, I'm glad the Senate Committee on Human Rights invited me to present on this important study, and I thank you for your ongoing work across Canada. I am hopeful, with the work of REAC and NEAC, that we will bring a strengthened policy framework and practice to continually improve CSC's ethnocultural offenders service delivery model.
I am happy to answer any questions that you have. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Mr. Cohen.
Dylan Cohen, B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition: To start, I am thankful to the Sto:lo people whose traditional and unceded territory I have the privilege of speaking on today and have been an uninvited guest here.
My name is Dylan Cohen. I'm a Metis, former youth in care, from Treaty 1 in Manitoba. I'm fortunate to be alongside dozens of other young people with lived experience in care, in challenging systemic injustice. I now work for First Call — BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition as a youth organizer, campaigning for fostering change. Together, we seek that all youth from care have comprehensive and universal supports after aging out, that bring us to equity and opportunity with our peers.
Before I continue, I want to acknowledge that there are many community members with lived experience in care that can speak to their own personal experiences in incarceration. I have not spent time in a correctional facility at any point in my life, but many of my brothers and sisters have. And to encompass the full youth picture, I think it's integral that we look at other youths that have lived experience in the system for future meetings.
The system must understand that upstream solutions to prisoner justice ensure that adults come from experiences free of harm and trauma that lead to police and criminal justice involvement. This means that youth-in-care justice is synonymous with prisoner justice. This means we need to ensure youth leaving care are supported, and it means a stop to the flow of the care-to-prison pipeline.
My first contact with the system was terrifying but typical. I found myself, a young Jewish kid from the suburbs in Winnipeg, terrified as I tightly clutched my sweater and wallet in a shelter in Winnipeg's North End. I was in the first shelter that would characterize my experience growing up in child welfare, and one that I have embraced since.
That night, I was visited by two police officers who came down to my bedroom in my home and interviewed me about pushing my mother aside and flushing her drugs. The officers told me, “If anyone is the parent here, it's you.” Then I was placed into the back of a police cruiser and brought into an unknown, cold and alone shelter that began my experience as a youth in care.
In care, I faced a great deal of obstacles and challenges like so many of my peers. I navigated unfit placements, oppressive and challenging workers, bureaucracy about basic life decisions that consistently distinguished me from my peers, and traumatic separation from my family.
It's at the most traumatic and sensitive times that the criminal system comes into play for youth in care. Youth from care are constantly under surveillance, including by the police. We're taken into a system by police, brought into placements by policing workers, and guided by rules and regulations stemming from provincial laws and child welfare standards.
At 16, I did what a lot of us may have, and I punched a hole in my wall. Despite my hormonal teenage self, struggling with relationships with abusive caregivers and challenging bureaucracy, this was not acceptable.
Shortly after I fled, I was picked up from rural Manitoba in a ditch, in the height of winter, with nothing but a thin jacket on my shoulders. The police encouraged my foster parents to write a police report and put me in jail so that I would have somewhere safe to sleep that night. This is a common experience for many youth in care.
In 2015, Winnipeg police reported that over 80 per cent of missing persons come from family services providers. This staggering overrepresentation speaks to the consistent nature of child welfare's relationship to police. While safety protocols ensure that foster parents and workers are covering their bases, and avoid responsibility during an absence, there's little thought into the consequences that police presence has on youth's lives moving forward. Many child welfare placements, strict in their organizational mandate and order, have zero tolerance policies in group homes.
Cora Morgan, First Nations child advocate for the Association of Manitoba Chiefs, states that children in care will end up with charges for punching holes in their walls or throwing empty water bottles at group homes. These youth end up charged. Judges have difficulty releasing them later because there are no safe foster placements for them to go.
After the death of Manitoba youth Tina Fontaine and several scandals, Manitoba discontinued the use of hotel placements. As a result, this isolated solution meant some judges had trouble releasing their children into safe placements.
The system says that this is due to a lack of foster placements. We must eliminate the use of criminal justice facilities for youth from care. One of my brothers in the system says that we need to start seeing youth as troubled instead of in trouble. I agree.
Youth in care also face the challenges of privacy protection in the laws surrounding their experiences in the criminal justice system. Jane Kovarikova writes that juvenile offenders often have greater privacy rights than children in care. When a juvenile offender reaches the age of majority, their records are sealed. But if you're like the more than one third of youth in care that come out of the child welfare system with criminal records, these identifying charges are often well maintained in the data and records of children who have had ministry involvement. In Ontario, any child who has spent time in the system has openly accessible records that any society, social worker, can look up without leaving a digital footprint of their access.
These records, produced by social workers, care providers and group home staff, and youth workers at any level of their professional career, can often highlight intimate details of a child's life and involvement with the system as a young person. This carries with them every day in their future. When we think of the rights of children in youth in care, we must consider privacy and potential implications of notes and records as we're producing them.
In Kovarikova's piece, she writes that privacy protection for youth in care must include mandatory sealing and auditable access records.
While every jurisdiction has its own system for navigating child welfare records, we must ensure that youth across Canada have a bare standard of privacy rights. This is integral to national oversight over a provincial issue affecting vulnerable people. National oversight and responsibility for youth in care means ensuring rights for all youth in care across the country. If my social worker is the parent, then our senators are aunts and uncles.
The Manitoba Children's Advocate found that in one sample, a provincial correctional facility found that 88 per cent of Aboriginal inmates and 63 per cent of non-Aboriginal inmates had not been living at home during their adolescence, mainly due to living in foster care. This staggering overrepresentation might surprise you, but it's of no shock to advocates and Indigenous communities that see overrepresentation in mental health, indigeneity, poverty and other forms of marginalization present in the child welfare system solutions. Jails become de facto mental health institutions for many of our untreated barriers.
I also want to point out cases like Abdoul Abdi, the refugee that was placed into foster care as a young person, ended up in the criminal justice system as an adult, and upon release was facing deportation. This is something that isn't unique to Abdoul Abdi. I know other of my brothers in care, one person in B.C. that I know in particular, who, because of poor case planning, faced deportation at 19. When we look at the reality that over one third of youth from care have criminal records, if the social workers are not doing adequate care and making sure that we're applying for permanent residence or citizenship while they're the caregivers, we have a real challenge on our hands.
Working with adults with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, we also understand a predominant trend. Youth adults coming from vulnerable situations — parents who drank — end up in tumultuous care systems, living in dozens of placements without high school completion or a number to call. FASD affects cognitive functioning and, therefore, one's ability to understand consequences.
The system also fails to understand consequences of massive under-resourcing services, systemic discrimination, and tragedy after tragedy. For youth with FASD, with this cognitive challenge, we imprison them. For the system, we see no intervention.
As two of my care siblings, Melanie Doucet and Harrison Pratt write:
Youth in care who exhibit behavioural issues should be considered troubled rather than labelled as trouble, as often their behaviour is a symptom of complex underlying issues such as victimization, ongoing trauma and displacement.
For privacy, it's integral that we consider the rights of children and youth in care as paramount to prisoner justice. We need to protect the experiences and tragedies of vulnerable youth in care, while in a system that has so many failures. This includes mandating these privacy rights on a national scale and holding the system to account for failures.
Youth in care live in dozens of placements. We have caregiver after caregiver and worker after worker change. While our lives are deeply contextualized by the 9:00 to 5:00 hours our authorities work, we live the consequences and outcomes every day. When we leave jail, we have no numbers to call.
What we do for criminal justice requires upstream solutions. When looking at poor outcomes that affect youth in care, the Opportunities in Transition report released by Fostering Change indicates three potential cost areas to society: low educational attainment, poverty and poor mental well-being. All three areas are closely related to criminal justice involvement, exacerbated by one more move a youth goes through, one more worker in our life or one more traumatic experience.
A true solution looks at ensuring justice for youth in care. Our community is consistent about this. We need comprehensive and universal supports available for all of us who have aged out. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you, Mr. Cohen.
Mr. Dhanu, you're next.
Rubinder Dhanu, Lawyer, Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group, South Asian Bar Association of British Columbia: Well, I must say it's an absolute pleasure to be here. I don't say that just because I have three children I would typically be feeding dinner around this time of night.
Thank you, honourable chair and honourable senators, for allowing me to speak on behalf of the South Asian Bar Association of British Columbia.
Human rights in prisons is perhaps not the most popular issue in the public domain, but it is certainly a very pertinent and important issue for the South Asian community, and I think for society at large as well. It makes me extremely proud to be a Canadian, to be having this conversation here today. We're not just speaking about human rights. We're speaking about human rights in prisons. I firmly believe that any society should be judged on not how it treats its most privileged but its most marginalized, and tonight we're giving voice to the voiceless, so I really appreciate that.
My name is Rob Dhanu. I am a former federal Crown prosecutor for the Department of Justice. When I served in that role, I dealt primarily with drug trafficking and organized crime files. At that time, I had far more hair on my head, far less on my face, and I was an idealistic young man. I wanted to be on the good side of the law. I thought the law and society at large was very black and white, and my goal was to put bad guys in prison.
I worked in the Downtown Eastside at 222 Main Street, which was the largest open-air drug market, and still is, in all of Canada I think. I would go into court with my marching orders from Ottawa, which were to put anyone who traffics in jail, no matter how little they traffic and no matter their background, and to ask the judge to put them in jail. I did that quite proudly. I would ask, first of all, for a first offender, three months jail, and then I would notice that they came back after two months; they did their two-thirds sentence. Then the next time I would ask for six months in jail for that same offender, and then they would come back after serving their sentence. Then I would ask for nine months and then twelve months, and it would go on from there.
I started to become a little disillusioned. It seemed like my original philosophy might be a little bit off base, and so I transitioned to a defence practice and what we called, at the Crown at that time, the dark side. And to my pleasant surprise, I did not sprout horns or grow a tail. It's been quite a rewarding practice. I practise here in Abbotsford, B.C., for Dhanu Dhaliwal Law Group.
Human rights, for me, encompass equal rights. However, treating everyone the same does not necessarily mean they're being treated equally. The main point I'm here to make today is that there's a significant need for corrections to formulate specific responses and specific programs to the issues facing the South Asian community and South Asian prisoners in the correctional system so that they may be treated equally and effectively.
The South Asian community in B.C. is large, vibrant and thriving, but with prosperity and growth come challenges. The human rights challenge I'm going to speak to you about today concerns two particular segments of the South Asian population.
First, for young South Asians who are typically born in Canada and find themselves in prison because they have entered into a world of gangs, drugs, and violence, the challenge is how to provide effective options for them in a correctional system, rather than them becoming further entrenched because they're spending time in prison.
The second segment or population of the South Asian community I want to talk about here today is first-generation South Asians who have immigrated to Canada and find themselves behind bars, the challenge being how to deal with their linguistic and cultural barriers in a prison setting.
I will address the gang issue first, as that is the issue highlighting our media and certainly deserves significant attention.
We were greeted just this week by another headline in the local newspaper, and I'm sure in other papers across the province, of a young man shot dead who was involved quite possibly in a gang lifestyle, according to police. He was 19 years of age. He was murdered in cold blood in his garage. He died on the cold cement in the arms of his family whose echoes of grief were heard throughout the neighborhood. We are dealing with real people and real lives.
There's currently an epidemic of violence plaguing our streets. As a new generation of young boys and young men enter this world of gangs fuelled by drugs and violence, this new generation has actually not, for the most part, entered the correctional stream yet in any significant way. So there's still time to act.
What has happened now with R. v. Jordan and the timelines that the Supreme Court of Canada has imposed is that police are not charging immediately and then building a case later. To comply with those timelines, they are building a case first and then charging after. That means there's a lag between when police feel that they have a suspect and when they actually proceed to charge that individual.
However, that time is going to run out sooner or later. Charges will be laid, convictions will mount, and this new generation is going to enter the correctional stream. When it does, our correctional system will either be an incubator for their further entrenchment in a gang lifestyle, or the correctional system will be a possible lifeline which will provide options for them to leave that lifestyle.
Now, my feeling is that basic human rights in prison must include a real right to secure proper programming and be provided with a realistic and effective opportunity to effect change. My clients and corrections officers I have spoken to indicate that currently the correctional system is primarily operating as more of a networking opportunity for individuals who enter its stream. What occurs is that individuals become further involved in the gang lifestyle, rather than find the tools to be able to break away from it. By virtue of this networking opportunity that prison presents, we're seeing that young men who enter the correctional stream are more connected and more deeply entrenched in their gang lifestyle by the time they leave prison.
There are two primary problems. First, we have a prison culture where it is taboo to approach correctional officers for assistance, even if one wishes to seek assistance to break out of this type of lifestyle. If other inmates see that you are too friendly with correctional staff, your safety, well-being and even your life may be in jeopardy. So it's not always the case that these individuals don't want to break free. It is often the case, or at least sometimes the case, that they fear to break free. Instead, what happens is that prisoners and inmates are conditioned by the prevailing prison culture to rely upon other gang members for the help, support and guidance they need in an institutional setting, and obviously that support does not include leaving gang life.
The second issue that young South Asian males and I'm sure males from other backgrounds face is that even if an inmate is willing to access programming in a correctional setting, the programming available is very limited and is not specific to the issues that the South Asian community is facing, that the individual of a South Asian background is facing.
Corrections currently employs what's called the ICPM model, which is an Integrated Correctional Program Module. ICPM provides the same type of programing to every offender regardless of the issues that they have, regardless of their background. For those involved with gangs, corrections will go and identify certain targets that these individuals should meet, such as, “Well, you should stop your association with gangs,” or “You should get drug and alcohol counselling.” However, the options and targets that are given, the program that is given, are very generic and of little real utility, according to what I'm hearing from my clients.
It must be recognized that the South Asian gang issue is not necessarily the same as other gang issues. South Asians involved in gang life are typically from middle-class backgrounds. They don't typically come from difficult material circumstances, as we often see traditionally when we see links between poverty and gang life. These individuals typically have loving parents and family. They do not typically come from broken homes, as we often see in other scenarios involving entry into gang life. There are deep layers of cultural and social issues at play here.
There's a real need, I feel, for corrections to lower its walls in order to forge relationships with outside agencies that are trying to deal with this problem on the ground level. By working with police and community agencies that are already dealing with the South Asian gang issue, corrections will gain valuable knowledge to formulate more effective and specific programming. Forging relationships with outside agencies also allows for programming to be provided by individuals who are not always wearing a correctional or police uniform, thus avoiding the taboo of dealing with correctional officers.
But forging relationships and gaining knowledge is not enough in and of itself. My understanding is that corrections already liaises with the police, including CFSEU, which is the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C., which deals specifically with South Asian gang issues. That knowledge actually has to be transformed into specific programming provided to South Asian prisoners. A generic one-size-fits-all approach does not provide a real path or a real choice to live a life free from gangs.
That takes me to the second issue and the second segment of the population I would ask the honourable senators to consider, and that is first-generation South Asians who find themselves in prison. These individuals often face significant cultural and linguistic barriers, yet there's no programming made available to them in a language that they would actually understand. My clients inform me that they have sat through programming as a part of their correctional plan, in order to pass their correctional plan, but they actually gain nothing from the programming itself because they did not have an adequate comprehension of English. As a result, they lose out on the programming meant to assist with their rehabilitation that other prisoners benefit from, and society loses out because the underlying issue that landed them in jail in the first place is not addressed. There's a need for programming in Punjabi or other South Asian languages, and more South Asian language-speaking officers.
Basic human rights, for me, do not simply extend to programming. An important component of rehabilitation is also spirituality. I have had many clients who have channelled the power of spirituality to break their cycle of offending. Corrections also obviously recognizes this, as there is a Christian chaplain available to inmates on a full-time basis, which is great. First-generation South Asians are often very devout. Yet access to Punjabi-speaking priests is very limited, or other South Asian language-speaking priests, often, one to two hours every two weeks.
A similar double standard seems to apply to the celebration of religious and cultural holidays in a correctional setting. Celebrating these events lends a sense of humanity to prisoners. It assists in their rehabilitation. It provides a window to happier times. Turkey dinners are provided on Christmas and Thanksgiving, while important cultural traditions, such as Vaisakhi, Diwali, Ramadan are not paid nearly as much heed.
It's my belief that human rights include equal and fair treatment, especially with regard to the process of rehabilitation. In order to help ensure human rights are protected and advanced, the corrections system will be required to implement flexible, creative and specific approaches. I think we will find that protection of human rights in a prison setting will lead to greater protection and betterment of society at large. Thank you, honourable senators.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you all for your presentations.
As chair, I normally don't ask the first questions, but Mr. Dhanu, you have raised some very important issues, and as a South Asian it would be remiss of me if I did not take this opportunity to ask you a few questions.
When we started this study, we visited some of the facilities. For me, as a South Asian woman, the shock was to see a sizeable South Asian population that was incarcerated, and some females too. Everything that you have said is what I have felt and what we have heard. In certain institutions, they're very good. They will make sure that they can observe Ramadan. They have spiritual guidance. The imam will come. They will pray. In certain institutions, some of the prisoners were having a hard time even getting their religious books.
The other thing that I have learned through this study, which has been ongoing for a year and a half, is that when a person has spiritual values and they get in touch with those spiritual values, it seems to be a source of great strength for them.
How do we engage a community to realize that this is a problem, one that I feel, in the South Asian community, is just beginning? Unless it's tackled, it's going to be a huge issue.
Mr. Dhanu: That’s a very good question, because the difficulty that we face is these cultural barriers. It's not just between prisoners and the correctional system but within the community itself. When individuals are incarcerated, it's considered a source of great shame for the community, for the family. What happens is that the family and community seem to automatically disengage with that person. They are almost a pariah to them, other than their immediate family.
What I would suggest, and the great, grand scheme I have always thought about in terms of what I've observed in the criminal justice system, is that we need funding to unite these various agencies that are doing this work and bring them under one umbrella so they're talking to one another. What's happening now is that many agencies are doing good work. Some people are doing it individually, some people are doing it as part of a group, and they don't know what each other is doing. When you have that critical mass where people are talking to one another, we can then begin to engage on a more fundamental level with temples, with masjids, with gurdwaras, and involve the community. But first we have to talk amongst ourselves. Those who have knowledge need to share that knowledge and begin that dialog, and then we can reach out and take the next step and engage the community. Right now we're not even talking to one another, which is a big problem.
The Deputy Chair: I couldn't agree more. I find that there's a great disconnect between the parents and the children. A lot of times the parents don't know what their children are doing, who they're meeting and what gangs they're involved in. And when the child does get charged or is arrested, they're in shock. So I thank you for that.
I will turn to the senators now.
Senator Pate: Thank you for the suggestions you have made around particularly youth in care, Mr. Cohen. If you could send some of those reports you referred to, it would be extremely useful to have them. I'm sure the analysts got the names, but it would be great to have links to them.
One of the things we know, and both you and Mr. Dhanu spoke about it, is there are often misperceptions about what happens in the prison system. For instance, youth records don't disappear anymore. They did years ago, but it has been more than 35 years since records have disappeared for young people.
Similarly, in terms of encouraging people to speak with staff about these issues, part of the reason that is not encouraged is not just because of the issues you raised but because oftentimes that won't necessarily assist people in moving forward. And so, as Senator Ataullahjan has raised, if you have recommendations about how to engage the communities in actually supporting young people in those contexts so that they actually have exit strategies, that would be helpful.
Given my very limited experience in the area that you have spoken about, oftentimes if someone has gone rogue according to their family or their community, they may be cut loose. So part of the issue is that the gang or the group of people who are labelled a gang are the people who embrace that young person still, and the rest aren't. With regard to approaches that might be useful, it would be helpful to hear from all of you about what kinds of supports could be put in place earlier so that young people can feel supported.
Mr. Cohen, when you talk about your own foster parents being encouraged to charge you under the presumption that you might get assistance or that they would get respite, those kinds of situations don't happen if you have a supportive family. Yet, so many young people end up charged because of issues that arise while they're in foster care. Any other recommendations you have for us along those lines would be helpful to hear, and it can be now or it can come to us later.
Mr. Dhanu: We're dealing with the prison system here, so I will suggest, in terms of something referred to in my presentation as well, is for corrections to liaise and actually work with agencies that are non-enforcement agencies. As I have explained, we have individuals who are simply not going to approach corrections officers when it comes to gang issues, or police officers.
If corrections speaks and invites these civilian agencies into the correctional system, and actually facilitates their access to that system and their ability to provide programming, we will find that individuals will be far more open, I think, to discuss. It can begin with a very basic discussion, “Tell me about your life,” and you work your way from there as you gain trust.
But what we're going to find is that the prison culture is so very powerful and the safety issues are so very real that we need real different approaches than we have now. Anything involving a strictly correctional approach is likely not going to work. So we need civilians in there. The benefit is that these agencies have knowledge that corrections doesn't necessarily have, so they're providing knowledge and they are able to provide programming.
Mr. Chan: Senators, going back to the whole spirituality piece, it's a matter of funding and resources. Currently, in the last few years, the whole contracting of chaplaincy is more centralized. It's more like on a national level. So it's cutting the ability to bring in local chaplains, or local churches, or a mosque or temple, that people can go in there. It's a disconnect in that sense. So, if you can examine that centralized process because of funding. I think that's something where corrections may think they can save money, but I think, looking at the consequences, that may be worth a revisit.
The second is that, because I work with a community-based organization, we see organizations go into the prisons, but many of them, they are not well connected with the ethnocultural communities. Right now, we don't have any other channels except volunteers — church members would go there as volunteers — but not more of a direct contract specifically serving ethnocultural groups. I think that is something that corrections should consider, having specific agencies contract to do the work locally.
Mr. Dhanu: Following up on Mr. Chan's comment in terms of funding, one of the beauties of engaging with civilian agencies is that they're mostly not-for-profit. What will happen is that corrections won't necessarily be paying for them to come and provide programming. They can try to obtain grants or funding from their funding stream, to say, “Look, corrections is opening the door for us. Can we get some funding to go into these prisons?” which is of huge benefit to corrections as well.
Senator Pate: With respect, having worked in non-profits, I suspect that's a little easier said than done. But given that you have raised that — and I apologize, Mr. Cohen; I know you were about to respond — I suggest one of the things that would be really useful, if you're interested in doing it, is looking at the cost to corrections of, for instance, hiring a whole bunch of staff to do security interventions versus hiring or providing supports and opening the doors to provide access for the community to come in and have greater access to individuals, which we know does a number of things. One, it provides things for people to do that are constructive and meaningful and means that they're less likely to be sitting with nothing to do, and in more and more isolation, as we have been seeing. It would certainly be the more effective and less costly way to allocate resources than more and more security interventions, and static security interventions as opposed to dynamic interventions.
Mr. Cohen: In terms of youth involved with the criminal justice system, in Manitoba, 63 per cent of Indigenous inmates in one prison reported care experiences growing up. What that means for my peers is that the vast majority of us had no support after 18 or 19, whatever the age of majority is, and were left to languish, really, without any of the supports that our peers from out-of-care have.
The research consistently points to the equivalent of a guaranteed annual income for youth from care, and we have seen really big successes when we look at the communities that are provided support, mostly youth that are accessing post-secondary. But there are huge cost savings when you look at health and the criminal justice system and education, and all of these other components, when we commit to the lives of youth in care after the age of majority.
The costs vastly are outweighed by the benefits. And it perplexes me to see the average age of children in Canada still living with their parents, being around 25, yet for folks in some of the most vulnerable situations, the system completely walks away from us at 19. That means that if we have criminal justice involvement, we're not likely to see a way out when we leave the system.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
Senator Cordy: This has been really good testimony.
What I have seen is that things tend to be pretty universal. I think, Mr. Chan, you used the term “centralized” for the chaplaincy. I'm seeing it's centralized for most things in the prison system. It's one size fits all, and clearly, listening to your testimonies today, that's not helpful.
Mr. Cohen, you spoke about being a youth in care. I was on the board of Phoenix House in Halifax, and it was a very successful program. So why are you successful? How did you make it, and what do we have to do? When we look at the number of people in prisons and the number of minorities in prisons, we don't want recidivism. We don't want people going in once they get out, but of course the optimum is not to get them into prison in the first place. So what successes work? In your experience as a child in care, what worked and what didn’t work?
Mr. Cohen: The Harvard Centre on the Developing Child has a lot of research on resilience and what supports resilience for our children who have had adverse childhood experiences. The consistent thing amongst the research is that for children who have had at least one consistent adult caregiver and authority figure in their life, they do well. But when we look at the care system, it's characterized by dozens of placements. Many of us have lived in 30-plus placements in our time in care. We have many workers and many different service providers, including correctional officers, parole officers and all of these other folks that have some role in our life, and they're the opposite of consistent. Where the system comes in is ensuring that there's a base level of support that will get us through that, and the rest of that will come later. Because if we keep waiting for the right mentorship program or the right number of foster placements, it's never going to come.
Senator Cordy: Thank you.
Mr. Dhanu, you spoke about prison culture as so powerful, and that it's working with the agencies. And you rightfully spoke about South Asian gangs being different than stereotypical gangs. For the first-generation South Asians who go to prison, it's a totally different experience because you're throwing language and culture into the mix. How do you get your voice heard so the changes are made — and certainly that's what we're going to try to do in our report — for minorities within the prison system?
Mr. Dhanu: I think we have to begin with understanding. It's a really fascinating issue, and I think when people actually start to dig through the layers of it, it's really eye opening.
The honourable chair indicated that oftentimes these families are loving families. They are trying to do the best for their children, but there's a disconnect in terms of involvement with the children. There's a disconnect in terms of communication in these families.
When I speak to police officers, corrections officers and my own clients, and my understanding increases as to why they're doing what they're doing, I feel more compelled to act, to assist, because I actually understand the problem. It's not just gangsters who are these punks killing each other and that one more dead gangster is a great thing that happens. You understand that these are real human beings. When you actually provide context and texture as to who these people are, rather than another headline, you touch people's hearts. And when you touch people's hearts, you compel them to act.
When I learn about these families and when I see my clients, these tough gangsters that are sitting in my office, I actually talk to them. I'm going to defend them. I'm a defence lawyer. But I also give them an option. I say, “Look, do you want to continue in your lifestyle? I mean, what about your parents?”
My parents are the same. They came here from another country. My dad worked in a mill. My mom worked in a nursery. When I relate to them on that level, these same gangsters that are so tough on the streets, they are crying and telling me their story. Once I learn their story, I feel that they are humanized. Once they're humanized, I want to help them. So I think we need to humanize the issue. I think we need to understand the issue, rather than simply treating it in a stereotypical manner.
Senator Cordy: Mr. Chan, you spoke about your advisory committee recommending pilot projects. To whom do you bring the pilot projects? Do you bring them to the warden? How do you make them happen, and what is the uptake on the pilot projects that you are suggesting?
Mr. Chan: Thank you for asking, senator.
The pilot projects are mainly working with CSC and seeing that there will be an impact. An example I gave was the Employment to Empowerment project. It was through two community forums that the community agencies, the volunteers and the leaders, talking with CSC in B.C., looked at how we're able to increase the employment outcome of many of its offenders when they release to the committees.
From our perspective, because we are in the community, we see there are ways that we can contribute. For example, we bring in the WorkBC Centres example, because it's funded by the provincial government. They have all the mandates to help anyone in B.C. to look for a job. So we are pushing them to make more connections in the community with their employers, because CSC is also looking at employment outcomes. So it is more like mutual benefit.
And then it's important that we have a really good team of staff from CSC who are willing to do it. What we call it is “champion,” many of the staff wanting to do good work, not just watching or looking at the inmates. They want to see that there's a difference. So we have good internal champions. They champion it and work with it because they have all the connections with the institutions in B.C. So they talk to those people who want to do it.
And we have employment fairs. We bring in employers. We bring employment agencies into the institutions and have inmates come out and talk to the employment case workers, et cetera. They say, “Oh, I have the skills. I can do it. I have transferrable skills,” and then they make a connection. And we see results. What we want to do as a pilot is to make sure they can continue the work after these two years of a pilot project. So it's really bringing the expertise within the institution and in the community to make it happen.
Senator Cordy: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: I want to thank all of you. You have got three senators here and we have gone over 15 minutes. Can you imagine if you had all nine of us present? But I thank each and every one of you.
For our third panel this evening, we are pleased to welcome, as individuals, Mr. Aaron Devor, Founder and Inaugural Chair in Transgender Studies, Founder and Academic Director of the Transgender Archives, Professor of Sociology, University of Victoria; Mr. Seamus Heffernan, Manager, Constituency Office of MP Jati Sidhu, who is the MP for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon; Ms. Alison Granger-Brown, Independent Co-Investigator from the Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education; and Ms. Gillian Gough, Regional Advocate from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Mr. Devor, you have the floor, to be followed by Mr. Heffernan, Ms. Granger-Brown and Ms. Gough.
Aaron Devor, Founder and Inaugural Chair in Transgender Studies, Founder and Academic Director of the Transgender Archives, Professor of Sociology, University of Victoria, as an individual: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the senators and the people assembled in the room.
I would like to start by explaining a little about what brought me here today. I have been studying and publishing about gender diversity for over 30 years, since the early 1980s, which was before we used the word “transgender.” Among many other activities in trans studies, I have worked as an academic social science researcher and, with the World Professional Association for Transgender Health, as an author of several versions of their “Standards of Care for the Health of Transsexual, Transgender and Gender Nonconforming People.” I also have strong connections with the trans community activists going back several decades, and I've received a number of awards for this work, including those from the trans community.
I founded and now hold the inaugural position as the world's only Chair in Transgender Studies. The chair is a research, leadership and community outreach office. I founded and host a series of international conferences called Moving Trans History Forward, which brings together a roughly equal mix of trans community members and academics. And I founded and serve as the academic director of the world's largest transgender archives, with records going back over 125 years, from 20 countries on five continents.
In terms of my prison experience, I think what got me the invitation to attend here today was that 30 years ago I taught several courses in women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism at Mountain and Matsqui prisons as part of the Federal Prison Education Program, and published a couple of articles about that, and I understand that's what brought me to the attention of this committee.
More recently, in September 2016, I was commissioned by the CSC to deliver a one-day training workshop on trans inmates for the federal Heads of Corrections Sub-committee on Females as Correctional Clients. Institutions from across the country were represented at that one-day workshop.
For the past two years, I have been working with B.C. Corrections revising their guidelines for working with trans inmates, and I'm also on retainer to B.C. Corrections' legal counsel concerning a human rights complaint brought forward by a trans inmate.
Relatively recently, in response to the passage of Bill C-16, ensuring human rights protections on the basis of gender identity and gender expression, Correctional Services of Canada brought in an interim policy effective December 2018. It has been rolling out over the past year, and I understand it is still in the process of being implemented. I have to say that I'm very pleased with that interim policy. Pretty much everything that I would have recommended a year ago be put in place is in that policy. So let me give kudos to CSC for that.
I would like to speak briefly about a few of the provisions in that policy. First of all, the policy states that CSC will continue to provide education and awareness to staff and offenders, and work to ensure that the health, safety and dignity of everyone is respected at all times. I couldn't ask for better statements.
Policies, good policies, are not enough. Good implementation is necessary. We have heard many testimonies already today, and I'm sure you have heard it on your travels across the country, that although there are policies in place, they are often not followed, and that many people on staff and many inmates do things that are quite outside of the policy. So implementation of these good policies is what I'm calling for.
In that rolling out, in that implementation, it's essential that knowledgeable trans community people must be consulted and must be consulted regularly and repeatedly over time, not just once.
Every institution should have an expert trans team, a team of people who are knowledgeable, who spend time and effort learning and understanding the needs of trans inmates, trans people. And that team should have access to people with further expertise than their own, because no matter how expert they are, they will come up against knotty problems that they don't know what to do with.
Extensive training and education is needed in order to bring these good policies to fruition and see them actually act in the prisons. Staff at all levels need to know the policies, but that's not enough. That's the first step in the education. Staff at all levels also need to have ongoing sensitivity training. It's very easy to see where it is on paper. It's very easy to sit in a classroom and get instruction and not understand what that means in a real person's life. This is, again, where trans people need to be engaged and involved in that educational process, to bring the realities of what it means to be a trans person into the lives, the hearts and the minds of the people who are working with them.
In addition, we see a lot of the things that happen to trans inmates coming from other inmates, so it's not all about staff. Staff need to monitor what's going on in inmate interactions and be cognizant of what dignity means and safety means for trans inmates.
Compliance has to be recorded. Training, good policy, good training, implementation, how is it working? We need to know what's going on so that we can track it, and it needs to be reported in public ways so that further action can follow, because it is a moving target. It's not going to happen all at once. So, records tracked and reported so that we can see better outcomes.
Another aspect of this good policy says that we should place offenders in a men's or women's institution according to their gender identity, if it is their preference, regardless of their anatomy or gender on their identification documents. This is also a very good policy that I think we all know is not being followed consistently, so that needs to be beefed up.
In addition, I would like to point out that inmates may change their gender identity after incarceration. Where this is best dealt with is at the time of entry into the system. Certainly, I have heard reports, and I assume that you have as well by now, of inmates who figure out or finally have the courage to announce that their gender is not what it seemed and are not taken seriously. They're ridiculed and refused to be dealt with in a serious and dignified way. So gender identity must be taken seriously. This comes back again to that sensitivity training and the knowledge that's not there.
I'll alert you to something that is coming in the future that this policy does not entertain, which is that we're seeing — and we have just heard about youth — a very strong trend among young people to non-binary identities. The prison system is set up very much on the basis of male prisons female prisons. There is an increasing minority of young people — this is not big yet, but it will be in the future — who do not identify as either male or female. I don't know what the prison system is going to do with that, but it's coming. I'm just mentioning that.
Another point in this policy, which I think is good, follows the previous statement about being placed according to their gender identity. It says, “. . . unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved.” Now, this provision has been, and I'm sure will continue to be for some time, invoked on quite flimsy grounds. Almost anything can be claimed by CSC staff, who do not want to accommodate trans prisoners, as a safety or a health concern.
Trans women's safety must be taken seriously. We have data that shows that trans inmates in men's prison — and those can be trans women or trans men, but most frequently trans women in men's prisons — are very likely to be repeatedly and violently raped. Their safety and their lives are endangered if they are placed in men's prisons.
Some data from the U.S. — I don't have Canadian data because we don't officially track trans inmates. Perhaps that will come out of this new policy. It's not noted yet. From the U.S., we see that 34 per cent of inmates in federal prisons in the U.S. report that they were sexually victimized in the year before the study was done. Of those, 24 per cent report that that sexual victimization came from other inmates; 17 per cent report victimization by staff. Those two figures put together will tell you that many inmates are victimized both by staff and other inmates. Compare that to, in the same population, 4 per cent of cisgender — that is, non-trans inmates — report sexual victimization inside; 34 per cent versus 4 per cent. So when we're talking about the safety of all inmates, we need to take the safety of trans women, in particular trans inmates, into account and take it seriously.
What I hear is that we need to protect women in the prisons — cisgender women in the prisons, non-trans women in the prisons — many of whom have histories of abuse by men, sexual assault by men, and that they will be triggered and fearful if someone comes into the prison as an inmate who appears to them to be a man. I completely agree that we need to take that very seriously, and there are ways to take that seriously without throwing those trans women into a prison where they will be raped and physically assaulted. Trans inmates are no more likely to violate cisgender women in women's prisons than any other people in those prisons, and we have procedures in place to deal with those who do violate.
A couple of more points I would like to mention. In this policy, it also says:
Information about an offender's gender identity will only be shared with those directly involved with the offender's care and only when relevant.
This is also a good policy. I completely endorse that.
I wanted to emphasize that privacy and dignity must be safeguarded. It is very common in the prisons for staff, and certainly other inmates as well, to disclose the status of trans inmates and to talk about what their bodies look like, what their genders are, and to put them into dangerous situations by doing that. Names and pronouns must be scrupulously respected verbally and in written records. Even one slip can jeopardize an inmate's safety.
Information must not be gratuitously shared as scintillating gossip, because that is what happens now. “This is juicy gossip; let's pass it around.” Trans people are not, and should not be, a ribald joke for staff and inmates to laugh about. It's about dignity.
Those are from the new policy. I endorse those, and I'm just making suggestions about how it might be implemented.
In addition, I would like to mention that health care for trans inmates can be quite complicated.
The Deputy Chair: If you could —
Mr. Devor: This is my last point.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Mr. Devor: Being trans in and of itself should not be considered a mental health issue. Specialized health care knowledge may be required both for transition and for regular health care.
I will just finish with a quote from the standards of care that I mentioned earlier on.
The SOC [Standards of Care] in their entirety apply to prisons . . . . Health care . . . should mirror that which would be available to them if they were living in a non-institutional setting within the same community . . . .
That's international policy. Thank you very much.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much.
To the witnesses, please keep your presentations short. We want enough time for questions.
Mr. Heffernan, you are on next.
Seamus Heffernan, Manager, Office of Jati Sidhu, M.P. for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon, as an individual: First, I want to thank the committee for having me here and taking me in on short notice.
My name is Seamus Heffernan. I work for Jati Sidhu, the Member of Parliament for Mission—Matsqui—Fraser Canyon. I should make two things clear off the start. I do not speak for Mr. Sidhu here today or the government in any way. And unlike the people who I am joining here, I am not an expert. I do have a background in criminology. I have a master's degree in criminal justice from the University of Fraser Valley. My topic of study was not related to prisoner issues.
I work in the constituency office and help service the people in our community. As you can imagine, we get a number of calls from prisoners. One thing that prisoners have is quite a bit of time on their hands, and many of them do fancy themselves occasionally as jailhouse lawyers. So we have quite a few sometimes that we have to weed through for legitimate concerns.
However, there is a case that I have been working on that I wanted to bring to the committee's attention, and I'm sure that this isn't anything that will come as a surprise. You have been talking to people throughout the country. It's related to food. A prisoner contacted me who had his medically approved special diet for colitis changed on ridiculously short notice and without explanation.
After investigating the claim and speaking to the inmate in person, I visited the prison to interview him, where I was able to also have access to his medical reports and more background information. I believe that even though the prisoner is well-known and well documented to be a vexatious complainer, he is correct in this regard.
I brought the issue to my boss who simply said, “I trust you; take it as far as you can.” My boss contacted Mr. Goodale's office, and we were told the diet would not be reinstated. I went as far as to contact the Archbishop of Vancouver, who I knew had met with the inmate. As I said to the archbishop's assistant, “I grew up in St. John's, Newfoundland. I have 12 years of Catholic schooling. It's about time maybe it paid off for me in one way.” The archbishop wrote a letter on behalf of the inmate, and the institution has yet to respond.
I have also been working closely with the prisoners' defence fund, an advocacy group in Vancouver who work on behalf of inmates.
Not surprisingly, once I took this case forward, my phone started ringing more and more with calls from the prison, and we're getting more and more complaints related to food. Again, as I said earlier, you have to be very careful with these calls, and you have to do your due diligence to figure out the legitimate against merely the time wasting.
However, after speaking to a number of people in the prison, including religious leaders, they say that food is an increasingly volatile and problematic area for their inmates, particularly as related to Jewish prisoners and Muslim prisoners, whose meal plans are not being respected, which brings us to where we are right now.
I have no idea why the policy or standards of food have changed so drastically in this area. I haven't been able to get any straight answers about it, and we're being stymied in our pursuits.
What I wanted to leave with the committee is that we will be continuing to pursue this. We will be in continuous contact with the ministry responsible. My boss, as I said, has trusted me to take this and run with it. He is wholly committed to serving all of the people in his riding, not just the ones who exist outside of the criminal justice system.
I would be more than happy to keep this community updated on our work in progress going forward, because this one case now has escalated. Thank you very much.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for that.
Next is Ms. Granger-Brown.
Alison Granger-Brown, Independent Co-Investigator, Collaborating Centre for Prison Health and Education: Good evening and thank you for this opportunity to speak. I'm grateful to be on the unceded territory of the Sto:lo Nation.
I have worked for almost 20 years inside the prison system. I have almost always been on contract as an independent person coming in day after day behind that fence in both federal and provincial correctional settings. While I can say it has been the most fascinating and incredible journey, it has also been extremely hard, because you're seen as the enemy by correctional officers a lot of the time and often by some of the community organizations that you tend to try to advocate with. And so I'm looking at this from the overall aspect of the fact that we have to find a way to humanize the entire system.
My advocacy today is to discuss trauma-informed practice. I have developed a training program that I have delivered here in British Columbia and also at the women's prison in Nova Scotia. Recently I was contacted by the Regional Treatment Centre for the Atlantic region to go and to deliver this training on trauma-informed practice.
I think that the idea of trauma has come up. Dylan mentioned the ACEs study, the Adverse Childhood Experiences study. It's a massive study. We have to take a serious look at this idea of trauma-informed practice and not just pay lip service to it. And because I think people dismiss often — when I talk about the trauma, and the rates of trauma amongst people that are incarcerated, I want to just read very quickly one small definition of trauma from a book on trauma and recovery:
Traumatic events . . . breach attachments of family, friendship, love, and community. They shatter the construction of the self that is formed and sustained in relation to others. They undermine the belief systems that give meaning to human experience. They violate the victim's faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into a state of existential crisis.
So when we talk about trauma-informed practice, and I have been advocating for this in multiple areas, people tend to dismiss this idea of trauma. I want to recognize how deeply it changes the life and the trajectory of development for individuals, so much so that we know that at least 90 per cent of women serving custodial sentences have experienced sexual abuse in their history.
What's true is that when a young woman or a young girl is sexually abused, it actually changes her physiological development. It changes the neurochemistry, the neurobiology. It will speed up her early childhood development so that it actually changes the time that she will enter puberty, and with that come massive social interruptions to her normal development. So when we talk about trauma, we're not just talking about some bad experience that happened. We're talking about things that change the whole life course of so many of the people that we work with.
I haven't worked very much with men, but I did spend a year as the clinical lead of a specialized unit for men from across the country who significantly self-harm. I can say, just from my experience there with some men on parole, that the trauma experiences and the devastating childhoods are very similar. I don't have the statistics for men, but they are very similar.
When we talk about trauma-informed practice, I want people to understand how massively devastating these childhood experiences can be. Just recently the World Health Organization has given credibility to a diagnosis of complex post-traumatic stress disorder. What I would say is that the people we work with in the prison system are not just suffering from PTSD, and we know we have very high rates of that, but what we're actually seeing is complex PTSD, which comes from multiple events that are devastating to the development of children. As you know, looking at this definition of trauma, it sends them into a state of existential crisis, a place of not understanding who they are and their relationship to society.
We know that 80 per cent plus of our folks in prison are suffering and working through addiction. We know that addiction is not the problem. Addiction is the problematic solution to devastating experiences in life prior to that, so repeated events of trauma, creating early lives that are chaotic, unmanageable and unpredictable.
Trauma-informed care can assist in so many ways to reorganize how we understand assisting people through a sentence in order to have an outcome where there is healing and movement forward. It's important on both sides. It's important for the increased awareness of staff. I found in training staff about developmental trauma that it helps them to not personalize some of the difficult behaviours they're sometimes dealing with. It assists in how we manage the vicariousness of some of the trauma that we listen to, that we work with.
We know that 36 per cent of our correctional officers have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Fifty per cent of that we know has happened between colleagues. This is not trauma; this is not post-traumatic stress disorder from their interactions with people who are incarcerated.
Over the last decade or so, I have watched this system change in such a negative way from when I first began working in 1999. I know that as this idea of hard time and longer sentences and the tough-on-crime agenda was promoted and increased, it significantly changed the dynamics inside the organization and increased the detrimental behaviours between staff, as well as between staff and people who are incarcerated.
We know that if we have more understanding of trauma, as it significantly changes people's ability to learn and aspects of the brain for memory, if we take a trauma-informed approach to the interventions that we deliver in the prison system, we will be able to actually live up to the RRN, the risk and responsivity and needs aspect that is supposed to drive all interventions in the prison system, and we do not live up to it. We're supposed to create the interventions in such a way and deliver them in such a way that they match and are responsive with the learning styles and the learning capabilities of the individuals that we're working with. We don't come anywhere close to that.
In a trauma-informed practice, really understanding the devastating nature of trauma will increase our ability to live by dynamic security. By dynamic security, I do not mean the way that it has been presented earlier this evening, and I understand those issues completely. Dynamic security is that aspect where the relationships between everybody behind that fence must be about building and trying to create a safer setting for everybody.
I think it was in 2008 that another $121 million was given to Correctional Service Canada for security. Not one dollar was spent on dynamic security and the development of building safer environments. Every penny of it was put into static security, so increasing cameras and other scanning equipment.
A trauma-informed practice will decrease the significant aspects of the shame that so many people who live inside the fence experience every day, the shame not only of perhaps the crime they have committed but the shame that is from their childhood. And we know that there is a significant correlation between shame and the outcome of violence. If we could reduce this, I know that we could create safer places for people to do the work and the healing that they need to do.
Ultimately, trauma-informed practice I think will build a foundation that will humanize the system and open the possibility for new strategies of reform, which we badly need. It's a very broken system. And unless a very significant shift is undertaken, we will just be putting Band-Aids on issues that are not ready and not able to heal.
None of what I'm discussing is just my idea. I have spent 13 years of my education — my master degrees and my PhD have all been studying how we can help people to heal from devastating early lives and the outcome that they have engaged in criminal activity. Advocating for the implementation of creating a correctional system that is truly trauma-informed is based on significant research that is evidence based and in other parts of the world is being taken very seriously.
Thank you for allowing me to make my presentation.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much for that.
I turn to you, Ms. Gough.
Gillian Gough, Regional Advocate, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies: Thank you, honourable senators, for the very important work and the extraordinary task that you have as part of this committee and for welcoming me to present.
I come before you as a regional advocate with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. I go in regularly to the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, into the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge on the Nekaneet First Nation, and into the Edmonton Institution for Women in Edmonton and, from time to time, the Fraser Valley Institution here.
As a lawyer practising in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, who had the honour of representing CAEFS and the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan in the inquest into the death of Kinew James in May 2017, my submissions are centered around the story of Ke She Ba Nudin Nuke Kinew James, which translates to Eagle in the Whirlwind, an Anishinaabe woman from Manitoba, and her experience in federal prisons in Canada and her untimely death in the Correctional Service of Canada.
The accepted narrative of Kinew's death in the custody of CSC was that she died of cardiac arrest due to hyperglycemia, a complication associated with diabetes.
Kinew suffered from Type 2 diabetes. This was diagnosed in jail. For years, her diabetes was managed with oral medication. In January 2013, shortly after arriving at RPC, she was prescribed insulin. A week later, her blood glucose levels were so high that she went into cardiac arrest and died. That is the short story. There is a longer one.
CAEFS and E. Fry Saskatchewan strongly believe that Kinew James' conditions of confinement — spending upwards of six years locked in a segregation cell for 23 hours a day, and spending almost the rest of her time in segregation-like maximum security conditions, her very limited control over her diet and her mental health issues — resulted in her being unable to manage her diabetes and caused her death.
Kinew's unfortunate early story is not dissimilar from that of other Indigenous women who are imprisoned. It is replete with trauma. Kinew was one day shy of her twenty-first birthday when she began her federal prison sentence. Her original sentence was for six years. The prison system failed Kinew James. Almost 15 years later, at the age of 35, Kinew died in custody in the care of the Correctional Service of Canada.
Kinew suffered from mental health issues. Her medical issues were well documented, particularly in her prison file. The initial reports at the time of her intake make clear that isolation was contraindicated vis-a-vis her mental health issues. Despite this admonition, long-term lockdowns were Kinew's norm, and within eight months of her imprisonment, she was displaying heightened mental health symptoms, directly due to her long stays in segregation. As a direct result of her mental health issues, Kinew was subject to extensive periods of segregation. She was often transferred between prisons, which brought its own related challenges.
To put it in context, Kinew had inflicted upon her approximately 50 segregation placements and spent a total of approximately six years in segregation, 40 per cent of her sentence. On one occasion, she was segregated for 21 months straight. Not surprisingly, this led to Kinew having difficulties in prison, and she was frequently subjected to the use of force, including pepper spray, by prison guards. The last time this happened was only six weeks before her death.
During her time in prison, Kinew was subjected to the Management Protocol. Obviously, we had an expert present in relation to that issue earlier. Of course, the protocol was even more restrictive than the Custody Rating Scale and it only applied to women. Women ensnared by the protocol were presumptively segregated and they had to earn their way out.
Kinew lived under the protocol from October 2006 to May 2011, escaping it when it was abolished. When she was not subject to the protocol, Kinew's time in custody was incredibly restrictive. Other than two short periods as a medium security prisoner, Kinew spent nearly all of her time in federal jail as a maximum security prisoner. Other than medical escorted temporary absences, Kinew never had access to any form of conditional release.
Kinew died on January 20, 2013. She was in prison at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon at the time of her death. Women reported that she repeatedly asked for help, including pressing her cell call alarm, and they called on her behalf, but she did not get the medical attention she needed until she was unresponsive in her cell hours later.
Kinew died at the very place that CSC identifies as their treatment facility, a dually designated hospital and prison. I cannot imagine a more concrete example of the stark dissonance between treatment and prison.
A public inquest was held in May 2017. Unfortunately, the inquest coroner limited the scope of the inquest, despite numerous attempts by CAEFS and E. Fry to expand the scope, obtain further disclosure and allow for a proper examination of the systemic issues. Only the most proximal cause of death was considered.
Kinew's experience in federal prison remains relevant because of the persistent thread of common issues. Many of these issues that arose in Kinew's case are the very same ones that have arisen in inquests, commissions of inquiry, task forces and so on. In addition, they continue to be faced by women today, and if things don't change, they are the same issues that will arise again and again in the deaths of many other prisoners.
Yesterday, of course, was Prisoner Justice Day, a day prisoners in Canada remember and stand in solidarity with their brothers and sisters who have died behind bars. We spent the day at Fraser Valley Institution for Women and a solidarity gathering was held. Women shared their agony of being present and watching the deaths of their sisters in years gone by at P4W, and recently in Nova and GVI. Ironically, despite the fact that many of the prisoners who died in prison died when either in segregation or maximum security, the women imprisoned in those two locations were not permitted to join in the gathering. Their exclusion from yesterday's event was indicative of women's experiences in the segregated maximum security units at FVI and other prisons I regularly attend.
I want to highlight two systemic issues that came out of Kinew's case that are still very relevant to today: the segregated maximum security units and the lack of conditional release.
With respect to segregated maximum security, women in maximum security are routinely denied access to education, programs, gym or library. They are shackled when they leave maximum security for any reason, even when going to health care. Women describe the rare occasions when they get to leave the unit as degrading. Women are frequently strip searched and shackled.
Kinew was subject to the Management Protocol. Women in maximum security are now subject to the level system, a system that the OCI has labelled as tantamount to the illegal Management Protocol. Like the protocol, the level system only applies to women. Women are imprisoned in maximum security cells, largely indistinguishable from segregation cells, and must earn their way out.
Kinew spent almost six years in segregation. Despite recent changes to Commissioner's Directives designed to reduce the reliance on segregation, women continue to experience segregation. There are examples right now of women in segregation. When I recently was at EIFW, there was a woman who had been in segregation for upwards of five months.
In addition to actual segregation cells, women experience similarly restrictive conditions in maximum security. It is CAEFS' view, and my experience, that CSC is using maximum security as a de facto segregation while representing publicly that the use of segregation is down. I can say that for the women suffering the loss of liberty, that it is called “maximum” rather than “segregation” makes no real difference.
This also applies to mental health monitoring. Women who have experienced mental health crisis have described their experience on mental health monitoring as indistinguishable from being in segregation. Mental health monitoring occurs in segregation cells. The women experience these placements the same. A woman just described spending four nights on a concrete floor on a small mat in a segregation cell on mental health watch after an incident of self-harm.
With respect to the lack of conditional release, it is clear that the Corrections and Conditional Release Act provides for many forms of conditional release, escorted and unescorted temporary absences, and it includes specific releases for Indigenous prisoners. We have heard about sections 81 and 84, and releases to mental health facilities for prisoners with complex mental health needs, section 29. Kinew James did not benefit from any of these releases, in large part due to her maximum security classification.
The very provisions of the act that were intended to address the overrepresentation of Indigenous people in prisons are inaccessible for many Indigenous prisoners due to policies and practices such as the reliance on the Custody Rating Scale, which frequently results in Indigenous prisoners being overclassified.
In my experience, going into women's federal prisons on a regular basis for the past seven years, it has become eminently clear that prisons are incapable of rehabilitation, treatment and, I would argue, improving the safety of our communities.
A full dismantling of this ineffective system is needed. Some concrete first steps would be to abolish all forms of segregation, which include mental health monitoring and maximum security. It would also be to breathe life into the underutilized sections of the CCRA, including sections 29, 81 and 84, to get women into community at the earliest possible date with adequate supports, and to stop the practice of utilizing the Custody Rating Scale for women, particularly racialized women.
If Kinew had been in community, with adequate supports, I am strongly of the opinion that she would be alive today. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
We will start with Senator Cordy.
Senator Cordy: Thank you very much to each of you for your presentations, which were all different but held a lot of commonalities. One of the things that struck me when we visited a number of prisons was the comment that “We're not treated like humans.” I think Ms. Granger-Brown made your comment about trauma-informed practices would help to humanize the population.
Dr. Devor, I agree wholeheartedly with your comment that policies are not enough. We have to implement the policies properly and thoroughly so that everybody is well informed about them. We do know, however, that many women in prison have been traumatized sexually before and possibly even while they're in prison. So they do have a fear of a trans person coming into their pod, and it's a genuine fear. It's not, you know, “This person is different.” They have been traumatized.
How do we alleviate those fears, which are genuine? People are locked up. It's not like you can move down the street or you can move across the street. It's a genuine fear. Yet, at the same time, we have to recognize that that is the place for a person who is transitioning to a woman.
Mr. Devor: Right. This is a very tough question, and this is what I expected to hear, to be asked about.
There are some things we can do, not necessarily alleviate that fear because I think that fear is not going to go away. It's deep-seated and real. It's based on real trauma, and we have just been hearing on how that changes your whole life. So I don't think we can alleviate the fear, but perhaps we can do things that will make it more manageable and protect everybody's safety. As I have said, we can't really throw trans women into the men's prisons because terrible things will happen to them there.
There are a few things that have been taken up and are in this new policy and are in policies in other places. For one, we do not ask anybody to share a bunk with someone they are afraid of, someone that triggers them, that brings their trauma back. Trans inmates generally should be housed in single-bunk units. They should be given access to privacy in any situation where they need to be naked, not exposed to cisgender women inmates who are in the system.
As for being at meals together, in programming together, all I can say is that there are probably cisgender women in the system that scare other cisgender women in the system. This is something that we have to manage with the most sensitivity and dignity that we can. But the privacy issues and not forcing anybody into an intimate situation with a trans woman, not forcing a trans woman into an intimate situation with someone who doesn't want to be with her, I think, is essential to making it work.
Senator Cordy: Thank you.
Mr. Heffernan, we have heard over and over again about the food in the system. When I think of all the things that have been nationalized, it's the food in each of the prisons. It's actually processed. For New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, it's done at Springhill and then sent to the various prisons. I haven't seen it, but I understand it comes in large bags.
Did you do any research on the cost of it, when food was cooked in the prisons — which was really good. The side effect to that was that you were teaching people to be cooks and prep cooks, and they could get a job when they left the prison. Did you do any analysis of the cost of what it was before, when the cooking was done in individual prisons, and as compared to now when it's centralized and sent out in packages?
Mr. Heffernan: Well, my first instinct, when this issue was brought to our office's attention, was that this simply has to be related to costs and that it would have been a cost-saving measure.
Senator Cordy: Yes.
Mr. Heffernan: However, I could get nobody to either confirm or deny that when I asked and pursued that line of thought.
It is my belief, based on my dealings — and I speak only about this specific prisoner. This is the case I know the most, but we're all looking into other food cases. I believe that part of it is cost, but as it relates directly to this prisoner, I believe it's also punitive. I believe that they're using food to punish him. And a mental health professional, who interviewed the prisoner, confirmed that to me. She believes quite strongly that he's telling the truth. That's a long way of saying that no, I don't know exactly the price difference there.
Senator Cordy: I was hoping. I was going to research it when I got back, but I thought if you had the answer, that would be perfect.
Mr. Heffernan: I would be happy to help with that research, senator.
Senator Cordy: Or you would like to get it if I get the answer.
Mr. Heffernan: Yes, ma'am.
Senator Cordy: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Senator Pate.
Senator Pate: Thanks to all of you, as the night wears on. I have a whole bunch of stuff about the food, so we may need to send you some of that.
Mr. Heffernan: Please do.
Senator Pate: Ms. Gough, thank you for all the work you did, not just on Kinew's case but on many other cases.
What kind of accountability mechanisms do you see that would be effective in pushing to have some of the changes you were talking about to dismantle a lot of what has been put together? You mentioned sections 29, 81, 84 of the legislation. But on the road to that, are there accountability mechanisms that you would recommend we look at?
Do you want me to ask all of my questions?
The Deputy Chair: Yes, if you could ask all the questions, because we have kind of run out of time.
Senator Pate: Okay.
The Deputy Chair: And if you could provide short answers.
Ms. Gough: Sure.
Senator Pate: And Ms. Granger-Brown, thank you for all the work you've done. I know on an individual level that you have offered tremendous support for many, many women, and that's commendable.
One of the things we know, though, is that the substantive inequality experience, particular for women, is at the root of — even when you have trauma-informed approaches, if you don't actually change the available supports or fundamentally change what's available for women in the community, you don't change anything, quite frankly. And in the prison system, we have heard a lot from women about the lack of trust in those who are supposed to be the care and control. There are real concerns about opening up these sorts of approaches only to have them make people more vulnerable. So have you looked at ways that this could be done in the community rather than in the prison setting and how to actually facilitate that through mechanisms that currently exist that could get people out?
And Mr. Devor, thank you very much. As a U of Vic alumnus myself, I am very interested in the work you're doing. One of the challenges that has come up that you haven't talked about and isn't getting talked about, in my experience, is that a lot of the transphobic responses you're talking about actually were first homophobic responses that have never been dealt with. So we have never been able to have good supports for women who identify as lesbian, or whatever other, and men who identify as gay in the prisons.
To my knowledge, not one trans man wants to be in a men's prison. There are many trans women who want to be in prisons for women. I appreciate, of course, that people have fluid gender identity. But one of the challenges we're hearing about is a number of men who did not identify as anything but heterosexual prior to incarceration have convictions for significant acts of violence against women, and sometimes children, who are then claiming to have now identified as trans women. And some of those have then perpetrated violence once transferred.
You are absolutely correct: There are cisgendered men and women who would be seen as risks to other cisgendered men and women, or lesbians or gay men and women and are trans. But it's a very real challenge, and the policy currently doesn't seem to contemplate any of that.
It sounds like, from what you have presented, that you have thought about this. So what recommendations would you have to try and prevent abuses of policy in a number of contexts and in terms of people being put at risk in any of those situations?
Mr. Devor: You have identified a couple of excellent issues and points. One of the things that we see happen quite frequently is that people relate to trans folks as just uber gay. So we take “gay” and we push it all the way, and that's what a trans person is. But, in fact, that's not the case.
But there is a theme that goes through. The theme is that we live in a society — not just the prisons, the whole society — based on binary divisions, and anyone who steps outside of their expected gender presentation is punished in one way or another, socially or otherwise. That's what gays and lesbians have in common with trans people.
Senator Pate: And two-spirited.
Mr. Devor: Two-spirited and non-binary, and we could add a whole long list there.
What they all have in common is that they violate gender norms, so being gay or lesbian is violating a gender norm. Being non-binary, being two-spirit, being trans, is violating a gender norm. That's a common point of view.
And, yes, I would agree with you that a lot of the fear of trans people is rooted in what was homophobia, but really at the root of both is this fear about people stepping out of their gender roles. So I think you have identified something very true there, and that's not going away. That has been with us for a long time and will continue to be with us for a long time.
You also identified a very real gap in the way that this policy and society in general deals with the trans question. So people, at this point in society, understand that there are folks who change from one gender to another, and they have trouble with the idea that people might move back and forth, might be fluid. So there are people who are born male, who live as men, who have a kind of part-time, temporary — sometimes they feel like a woman. Some of those people will show up at the gates of the prison and say, “You know, I have been presenting as a man all this time, but actually I feel like a woman,” and ask to be in the women's prison. For them, it may not be very convincing to observers that they identify as a woman because they have lived completely as a man. Some of those people are very sincere.
We are also dealing with many people in the prison system are there through unfortunate life circumstances, and some of them are there because they're not very nice people. And there are people who will take advantage of the system and show up and say, “I like taking advantage of women; I'll just claim I'm a woman.” We just had a case in the news of a fellow in Alberta who simply declared himself a woman because it would get him better insurance rates. And he didn't for a minute pretend that he was transgender. He just said, “It will get me better insurance rates,” and he changed his ID.
Now, people who are not so nice will in fact show up at the prisons just as you have described, and the policy, as stated now, simply says, whatever you identify as. And that's been the interpretation of Bill C-16, and that's been the legal interpretation. I am not a lawyer and so I can't tell you the way out of that. But I can tell you that the way the law has been interpreted thus far, all across the provinces and in many countries, we have moved to self-declared gender being your legal gender. So we could just as easily have the same kind of individual that you described go and get their legal gender changed and show up with legal documents that say, “I'm a woman,” and that gives them access to a situation where they can be a predator.
The only answer I have for that is throw the book at them. If somebody is going to be a sexual predator, there are consequences, and those consequences should be vigorously employed.
Senator Pate: I don't want to put words in your mouth, but one other option would be some of the suggestions that Ms. Gough has made around dismantling some of these processes. I think it sounded like that's some of what you were suggesting as well. When I have been meeting with folks who were advocating for trans prisoners, I strongly urge them to use things like sections 29 and 81 to develop specific community-based options for individuals.
Mr. Devor: If those are available, yes. Get them out of the prison system and put them into some kind of process that will help rehabilitate those behaviours. But what I know is that it's extremely difficult to rehabilitate those behaviours.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
Ms. Granger-Brown: I would just like to respond to your question and identify the difference between trauma-informed practice and doing trauma therapy. I agree with you, absolutely, that if you are delving into the deep roots of the trauma history, that should be done with an outside therapist if that's at all possible.
I also know that when we have been bringing people in, that's been very difficult.
I just wanted to identify that there's a difference between trauma-informed care and trauma-informed practice, which is what I'm advocating for, which will shift some of the nature of the environment, and recognizing that we can do some trauma work without delving into the story, and building skills and abilities in people to have the capacity to do the work later.
Senator Pate: Before you launch into what I think you're going to say, one of the challenges we also have is how do we deal with the impact of the union in the federal prison system and I would say in the provincial system, too? We have heard from many people at all levels, and I think you heard me ask questions of others earlier about the ability to change things, when you can't even change or can't even take all the staff you know are doing really good work, and want to do the sort of work you're doing, and put them in the right places. How do you do that in addition to providing the training? You provide the training. How do you ensure that it's put in place?
Ms. Granger-Brown: Well, two things. It requires a transformational culture shift within the system, which is huge, and I recognize that. But what I have experienced from doing the training for trauma-informed care, practice and training, we have seen a shift in many of the staff, and what we need to do is to build capacity and create a tipping point.
As I said, as I watched the system change so much through the years when we had that tough-on-crime agenda, we saw that the staff who were particularly difficult and problematic became more empowered by that notion, and so they became louder and added to the toxic nature of the environment. So if there is a culture shift where we begin to recognize that trauma is the underlying issue, then I think that we can create a tipping point to get there.
About a year ago, myself and Dr. Gabor Maté did a presentation. We spent a day at the University of the Fraser Valley, and we now have a section in the library there on trauma-informed care. It is being implemented in the criminology, psychology, nursing programs, Indigenous studies and women's studies. They are bringing in an understanding of trauma-informed practice to multiple programs within the school. And so it needs to start not just from within the system but as we're educating future correctional officers so that this becomes understood rather than just something that's marginalized and often ignored. When we have done the training in the correctional centres, we have seen significant and very positive feedback from officers, and it changes their understanding.
The other thing that I wanted to say, finally, is that it's good for the officers as well. It's good for the health and well-being of the officers to understand that their behaviour is not personalized towards them, to understand the origins of some of the difficult behaviours, particularly the self-harming behaviour, which is very difficult for everybody to understand and to witness. So it requires a transformational culture shift, and I realize that, but it comes with education.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
Ms. Gough: Your question was about accountability. We heard earlier from Ms. Acoby and others about the lack of accountability within the prison walls in terms of the grievance system, and that's what we see with respect to most of these systems.
What I would suggest is that accountability can't happen within CSC. It has to happen externally. Madam Justice Arbour recommended that accountability with respect to segregation, if it had to happen, should be nothing less than judicial oversight.
As we work towards dismantling these systems, I would strongly recommend that outside judicial oversight be essential. The only example I know of a section 29 release happened as a result of a recommendation made by a judge. Psychiatrists, psychologists who work inside prisons — not being one, I certainly can't speak to how they feel. I can't but imagine that they have an internal professional conflict that they're dealing with on a regular basis, an employer and a patient, who are often at odds. How you deal with that situation I can't but imagine is a complicated one.
I certainly haven't seen any section 29 recommendations come from within the prison walls. Any that I have seen have come from outside. So in terms of accountability, I think it has to be outside of CSC.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you to all the witnesses.
The next portion of our meeting is a town hall. I think just one person has signed up, so if anybody in the audience would like to be part of the town hall, please sign up. It's very easy. It’s just people talking to each other. I know that if you don't have experience doing this kind of stuff, it can look intimidating, but believe me, it's not. We will be very kind to you.
Without further ado, I turn to Mr. Peterson.
Kenneth Peterson, as an individual: Thank you very much, senator.
My name is Ken Peterson and I have been around corrections for about 40 years. I'd say 40 years of experience, but some people say I have had one year's experience 40 times over.
I started as a teacher at B.C. Penitentiary and was later an assistant warden there, deputy warden, and acting warden for several years; and then to Kent Institution as a deputy warden and acting warden; and Mission Institution as a warden. I retired in the year 2000. For the past 10 years, I have been on the senate at Kwìkwèxwelhp. You were there yesterday.
I have a question for the honourable senators. What did you see that was different yesterday? Perhaps I can answer it for you. You sat among the residents in the longhouse. It is very difficult to differentiate the officers from the residents whilst you were there, I would think, unless you were introduced specifically to the officers and you knew who was who.
One of the reasons I think Kwìkwèxwelhp works so well is they understand that if you want a person to behave personally, you have to treat them as a person. You have to treat someone as a person if you want them to behave personally, and you have to treat them personally, know them by their name, know their story. And the more you know about them, the more they know about you, because you are taking an interest in them.
Over the years, it has become my opinion that if you treat people with respect, if you treat people with recognition, if you treat them with appreciation and you treat them with acceptance, they have a sense of belonging. I think that's all any of us want, a sense of belonging.
And from the toughest of situations — well, if you think about the Bloods and the Crips down in Los Angeles, “Why did you murder the person?” “He didn't show me no respect.” You know, it's respect. It's recognition. It's appreciation. It's acceptance. It's the very thing that everybody wants. And it makes it very easy to deal with people in a situation where that exists.
One of the major problems I think we're confronted with today, as was mentioned by one of the earlier witnesses, is that we spend a tremendous amount of money — I don't know if it is $3 billion, $4 billion, whatever it is — to run the system, but how much time do we actually spend teaching people how to deal with people? Because it's a people business, and there are people in this business who don't like people, and that causes trouble. There are people who aren't aware of living within rules, and that causes trouble.
But for the most part, my experience has been — and I acted as a warden for a number of years — that once you know a person as a person, it's very difficult to treat them in a negative manner. Over the years, I've known their families, their children, their grandchildren. And some of the people who have been the major troublemakers are not troublemakers, really, once you learn their story. They have created many problems and have been dangerous, but once you understand their stories, you can begin to understand.
The trauma they have gone through was mentioned, and trauma seems to be at the very root of everything we're dealing with in the prison system. It's the very root itself. The difficulty is it's difficult to deal with things like that in a classroom-type situation because people don't want to speak about their problems. People won't dive down into themselves if it's a classroom situation.
But I would give an example where it does work. My wife is a trauma therapist. She worked in prison. She has a big practice and also goes into the institutions. We have people coming out in a trauma program, to her office, and they mix with people from the street, from the medical profession, from different professions, and it works very well. People are treated with respect. People are treated as individuals. And I think we have better results. When you were at Kwìkwèxwelhp, they have better results there, and it's from treating people as people. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
Next is Alia Pieriwi.
Alia Pieriwi, as an individual: First, thank you. I actually sat before you guys probably a year and a half ago in Ottawa as one of the original people to testify. I just wanted to thank you guys all for your hard work, actually following through in going across Canada and taking your time and your hard work to come to our prisons. You actually listen to our words and are seeing it firsthand. So, first off, I would really like to say thank you.
Second, I will try to keep this brief, because I know it's getting late and you guys have been everywhere today. I just want to touch on something.
I am a regional advocate for the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Society, and as the regional advocate with lived experience, I just wanted to bring up the whole way we have been talking tonight about the access and access to the community and getting women and men into the community doing things.
I want to briefly touch on the new issue we are having under the CD 564-5 is the access to CPIC. And now, to make it brief, I have been asked — I have basically been kicked out of the institution on allegations and they won't even tell me what these allegations are. Every time that I went into the institution, I was actually with Senator Pate. So there's no way I did anything wrong. However, they have asked me to not come back. They won't give me the answers. We have had numerous phone calls with the previous warden, with the new warden, trying to get me access.
Now what I'm seeing with other advocates, women that don't even have lived experience, women that have been going into the institutions is, because of this, they're asking for reliability status. And this is causing a lot of problems with our regional advocates, as they're not even allowed to access the houses anymore because they don't have this clearance.
So this is something that we found really problematic and something that, like I said, I know across Canada, we're still having our troubles getting access to these women, which I think is going backwards.
The other thing I wanted to touch on, and it's the topic that nobody wants to talk about again, is the trans issue that we brought up earlier with the new policies and whatnot. From my experience as an advocate for women, and talking to women in the institution here, there are two trans women living there who have not had the surgery yet. And we're talking again about sending these people that identify as women, which I understand is also very important, but we're sending them into an institution where we heard earlier that 90 per cent of these women have been sexually abused by men. So me talking to the women in there about personal experiences, I have heard them tell me the fear that they are living in and the triggers that they get.
In the instance that we have now, we had a man identify as a woman come into the prison, who now has a girlfriend, and they're calling each other girlfriend/boyfriend in the jail. That's something that I feel is a really high risk. And we have other women telling us that they're unsafe because this man is allowed to walk around in a nightie and his male genitals are hanging out.
Like I said, I know this is a very touchy subject. However, I do think that there are very big gaps in these policies that need to be looked at before these women are going to be abused; or these women are going to retaliate against these men, or sorry, trans people, and act violent towards them, because they're scared. And many women that have committed violent crimes have committed them against their abuser, and I am really worried that we're going to start seeing this inside our prisons, too, if we continue to not tighten up this policy.
I don't have any academic suggestions on how we can provide both, because I do agree that these women need to be housed as what they're identified as. However, like I said, as an advocate for women, I need to come here and address these concerns that I have had women express to me in the institutions that the guards have told them not even to worry about it, because that's lady penis, they told them. In my mind, like I said, when you have women that are traumatized, that's wrong. So I just wanted to come here and bring that up from an advocate standpoint of what I've actually been hearing firsthand about what's happening inside the institution, in Fraser Valley at least.
My last little go is the whole trauma thing. I totally agree. We have all had trauma, the centred care, all of that. However, I just want to remind you that prisons are not a place for healing. You can't heal somewhere where you are constantly being hurt. So whether we introduce trauma-induced care into these prisons, I really feel that it needs to be something in the community. And I still want to get across the importance that women should be in the community serving their sentences and not in a prison, because they're not healing; they're just being more hurt.
So thank you, guys, for your time, and thanks again for coming all the way out here.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you for taking the time and thank you for being on the panel.
Next is Mr. Rouse, and thank you for signing up.
Eddie Rouse, as an individual: My name is Eddie Rouse. I have worked with prisoners for the past 35, maybe 40 years, and I agree with Ken Peterson about treating people inside as people and getting that back.
I went into the B.C. Pen in 1975 when I was 22. I'm a lifer. I worked for the Vancouver Eastside Educational Enrichment Society when I was released, working with prisoners coming out of the system, under the umbrella at that time of People Facing Barriers to Employment, and I have worked in that area ever since.
I also worked with MOSAIC. And Mr. Chan mentioned REAC and cultural programs for the community.
During the mid-1970s and up to the mid-1980s, I call that the age of enlightenment of the CSC, because they implemented more programs inside for education. I think Ken Peterson would agree that the prison education program, which ended up becoming a world model, was a great one because it gave people the opportunity to get an education that they didn't have the opportunity to have before. It also reduced the recidivism rate for the people who took part in it, way down, to about 16 per cent. But out of that 16 per cent, the majority of people who were returned back to prison weren't returned for other crimes. They were returned for technical violations of their paroles, like being out of the area, being in contact with somebody who might be involved in crime.
In 1981, there were riots due to changes in the mandatory supervision laws. People were getting screwed around about the reviews, so the riots occurred. After that, the program started being cut. There has been a lot of talk about lack of medical care or proper medical care within the system, and I can probably give you several examples of it, but that would take a little while.
There seems to be an increasing isolationist policy in the CSC for outside groups going into the prisons, such as Books to Prisoners, that were traditionally going into Matsqui, into the B.C. Pen, into Mission Institution, helping to socialize people who had been in the prison system.
One of the other things that has not been occurring, from what I understand, is preparing people who are doing long-term incarceration, if they have not been moved out of maximum security institutions, for eventual release. One example is a person who flattened out 30 years. He was escorted to the Belkin House in Vancouver and dropped off, and the guards said, “You're on your own.” Because he was out of sentence, he couldn't get any help from the John Howard Society or the other ones. But he also suffers from PTSD because he also went through some horrendous things down in the U.S. prison system prior to being finally granted to come up here on a U.S. federal transfer.
There has been, on a constant basis, a lack of consistency across the country in applying the CSC rules or the CCRA. The Commissioner's Directives, because they flow down from Ottawa, they're very vague. They go to the region and the region reinterprets them, and then they go to the individual institution. Everybody has got a chance to reinterpret them the way they want to, and there's no consistency from one institution to another.
I think one of the most innovative programs was the restorative justice program. I don't know if that's even occurring in many of the prisons. It was started here in B.C., and there's some restorative justice thing at SFU right now.
I retired at the beginning of April, so I'm just doing other work. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much.
And Marian Zadra.
Marian Zadra, as an individual: You can hardly wait for me to be done. Okay, I promise to be brief. Typically, I am not known for that.
My name is Marian Zadra, and I'm the adult guardian of a brother with schizophrenia. I am actually here purely by chance this evening. Eddie invited me. I really know nothing about the justice system, but I hear a lot about it in the arena in which I travel, and that's in the mental health care system.
My brother had several encounters with police before we could get him involuntarily admitted about four years ago. For the first time in his life he was medicated, and he has probably been sick since puberty. The health care system, in fact, almost encourages the youths of the criminal justice system to get someone help.
Our parents passed away, a sad situation, within two months of each other and left this brother, who had never lived on his own, at home. His symptoms escalated. He found himself alone, and then there was an incident where he basically — let's say he — yes, he assaulted me. I know it wasn't really assault. He threw me around. I used the opportunity to call the police as a means of getting him help.
He was put on probation for a year. That probation officer let everything fall through the cracks and my brother never got any help. He was calling me at home and saying things like if he had a doctor — I'm quite sure I could get him in front of that doctor for some help. What I missed out here was that a condition of his appearing before the judge was that he got an assessment, but that assessment was completely reliant upon the probation officer having it happen, and it never happened.
So four years ago, I decided that enough was enough. He was living in a home where water was coming in. He was at risk of a fire, a hoarder house. I needed to do some serious research of my own, so I researched the Mental Health Act inside and out and realized that he met the criteria for involuntary admission, but the different mental health teams had all let us down. So I actually hired two doctors independently to do an assessment and brought my brother to a hospital with two signatures, and still they were going to put him to the door and send him away.
Our Mental Health Act allows for involuntary admission. Also, I don't know what to call it, but as a part that, my brother is now on extended leave. Once you have been in hospital, involuntarily admitted, typically you go off on extended leave, which is an extension of the Mental Health Act. But what I didn't realize was that, in the process, I became his legal guardian to the tune of about $20,000. It’s the best money ever spent, but what I didn't realize was that the Mental Health Act would be so manipulable. At this time, the health authorities are saying that because he is still under extended leave, that overrides my ability to direct his health care as his legal guardian, when he himself is incapable of directing it. I know that if I go before a judge again, for about another $5,000, I can get him off extended leave and I can manage his health care, but this is wrong. It's all wrong.
The last thing I want to leave you with is just some food for thought. What is absolutely fascinating to me this evening is that while this is an entirely different government system — the judicial system, prison system — as opposed to the one in which I travel, the commonalities are absolutely surreal. Why is that? It saddens me when, at the base of all this, there seems to be a lack of humanity or acknowledgement. That's sad to me. I think it's people like you who could raise the standards.
One area in which I really struggle, and we heard this tonight, is with the interaction of doctors and patients. They operate under an act that is basically a law, and it says they must treat the patient opposite them unbiasedly and that they present a professional opinion. But I heard tonight that whether it's the justice system or the health care system, they're stuck in a bit of a conflict of interest, because the pressures of the system seem to affect them. That is so very wrong, and someone needs to hold that profession entirely accountable. If it means removing them away from the system so that they're entirely independent, then so be it. But it's not working. It's the greatest challenge that I have: The pressures of the mental health system override a doctor's ability to view that patient independently and assess and prescribe accordingly.
The last thing I want to say is that I don't know how people came together here. I seem to understand it might have been by invitation. I wanted to say that there is this great group out there called Parents Forever. They're a group of parents who represent and advocate for adult children who suffer from concurrent disorders, and I think that they are always looking to have a voice. They're very disappointed that they have had no voice, and I would encourage you to reach out to them. Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you very much for that.
Before I turn to Senator Cordy and Senator Pate for their questions, I just want to say that what Mr. Peterson said is one thing we have heard consistently. Every inmate that we have spoken to, whether male or female, says they want to be treated as human beings and with respect. You wouldn't think that that's difficult to do, but it seems to be the most difficult thing.
Mr. Peterson: Senator, I was speaking the other day to a group. I said, “If you take the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and put it in the floor, and on top of that you put the directions from commissioners, and you put the instructions, and you put the standing orders, you have papers up about this high and will not find the word ‘love’ mentioned anywhere in there.” Yet, my experience is I go to movies, and the movies are about love. I've read good novels. The novels are about love. Shakespeare is about love. Everything in life is about love. But it's the one thing you don't hear about. And yet belonging, giving someone a sense of belonging, by showing them that respect, it's love. It's not mushy love; it's true love. It's a love of humanity. It's a love of life. It's a love of the gift of life that we all have.
The Deputy Chair: Thank you.
And I have to thank you, Ms. Zadra, for sharing that personal story. That takes a lot of courage.
I will turn to you, Senator Cordy, if you have any comments or questions.
Senator Cordy: I don't really have any questions.
I want to thank you very much. You have reinforced a lot of the things that we have heard as we have travelled across the country. For me, I had never been in a prison before we started this study. It's been eye opening. I think, as Senator Ataullahjan said, the comment I can remember hearing in Edmonton at the Stan Daniels Healing Centre was, “Here, we are treated like humans.” It was great to hear, but it was also very sad to hear that all the places we had been to, and all the things that we had seen and heard, and this was the most important thing to the men who were there. We heard in many other places that they needed to be treated with dignity and as humans in order to heal.
A number of years ago, I did a Senate study with Mike Kirby on mental health, mental illness and addictions. I have heard so many stories like the ones that you have told. We know that the prison system is filled with people who should not be in a prison. They should be in a medical setting. They have poor mental health, and the health system is not working particularly well for those with mental illness. I have spoken across the country on mental health and mental illness and heard stories about what families are going through in trying to get help. So thank you for sharing that.
Ms. Zadra: Just one small thing, please. I think it's important for you to know that the mental health system, they will still say to this day, “There's nothing to do. Let your loved one spiral down. Let them do something wrong so that you can use the justice system.” And you wonder why they end up in prison. It's so very wrong. And to this day, I will fight forever for my brother. My brother is not a criminal.
That one big experience he had where he threw me around and ended up spending a night in jail, I couldn't go get him because now I was the enemy. I sent our brother. I said, “You go pick him up. You bring him home. He's going to be hungry. Be as calm as you can be. Offer him breakfast. Try to let him see, hopefully, that we're on his side in some way.”
It was a mess that went nowhere, and to this day, he talks about it. “You know, Marian, if I didn't have that” — because he thinks he has a criminal record; he doesn't. But it was very traumatic. So here is a sick person who — that was abuse. It was absolute abuse.
The police now, there has certainly been, over the years, more education, and they're treating people better, I think. For as much as we have heard the opposite, it used to be worse.
There was one police incident when my mother was still alive and they came to the house. My brother was very afraid of authority, and he was literally sweating. The sweat was falling on the ground, and he was frozen, standing. This police officer told him to go upstairs and pack his bag, and in that situation, he put him in his car and told him to drive away.
My mother was fit to be tied. My other brother and I spent the whole night at the police station. We were terrified he was either going to kill himself or someone else. They put him in a car to drive away, and he went to a motel somewhere. In the morning, my mother was crying. She said, “I found him, I found him.” This is the history that led up to finally my brother getting care only because I hired two doctors to go to him.
Senator Cordy: What we heard at the time was that when they closed what they called the asylums at the time, no community resources were put in place, so the streets and the prisons became the mental asylums of years gone by, which is just what you're saying now.
Ms. Zadra: It is very true. There has been talk about reopening Riverview, and it needs to reopen. We need to treat these people before they become criminals.
Mental health takes time, one thing we heard tonight that nobody is providing. There is no blood test to diagnose someone with a mental health disorder. There isn't one. It takes time. You need to gain their trust, their comfort, their confidence, and still to this day, even the best psychiatrists will come up with a diagnosis within one hour.
Senator Pate: I also want to thank all of you for coming and for presenting.
Ms. Zadra, if the Parents Forever group wants to make a submission, one of the things they could do is send something in writing. Our clerk was probably going to tell you that anyway. But thank you for drawing attention to the national standards that are required for this area and the lack of community resources.
Certainly dollars better spent, as you pointed out, Mr. Peterson, would be putting those in the community rather than in more prisons. So thank you for that.
Ms. Acoby, I didn't ask you this earlier because of the sensitivity of it. We have had very little testimony about the Institutional Mother-Child Program and what happens for parents. Perhaps you could talk a bit about what happened in your situation as a mother. You touched on that. You had your daughter in prison but to my knowledge only ever had one visit with your daughter in prison. It was always held as a carrot over your head. I don't know if you're comfortable, Ms. Acoby, saying anything else about that.
Ms. Acoby: Yes.
Senator Pate: Many people know that 90 per cent of the women who end up in prison lose their children. They end in the care of the state. It's about 10 per cent of the children of men who end up in prison, usually because there's a mother or aunt or somebody left.
Ms. Acoby: What did you want me to speak about?
Senator Pate: Well, what support was provided to you as a mother? Your daughter was taken from you after the incident you talked about. What support was put in place for you to continue to have contact with her?
Ms. Acoby: There wasn't really anything put into place, because the way that they had removed my daughter from me was we went into a lockdown at the healing lodge. A few days had passed. Six guards came into my room with a camera when we were just getting ready for bed and told me that they were going to take her from me because they got information that about 14 of us were in a condition other than normal. I actually wouldn't let them take her from me for about 20 minutes.
Then they had told me that they were going to let me see her the next day because I had been breastfeeding. So the next morning when I asked if I could go up, they told me that we had to attend a morning circle first at 10:00. When I went to the morning circle, I was only in there for five minutes, and one of the staff members asked me to come out. When I went to the daycare where they let me see her, on the way up, they told me that I had five minutes to spend with her because they were sending her out to my sister. Other mothers that had been there, who had relapsed, were given different alternatives, like either a healing circle, a talking circle or something. Their child wasn't removed from them.
So they did that with me, and I was kind of in shock. We were still in a lockdown when they took my child out of the lodge to send her to my sister in Winnipeg, but nobody told me that I could get her back. Nobody really tried to talk to me. They just put the rest of us still on lockdown.
I had never been really apart from my child, aside from ETAs, and I didn't even want to go home on the next one because I had to go to the remand centre for the night when I was away from her. And I had my child in bed with — like she slept beside me. I could never put her in a crib with bars, so she was in bed with me every night. I didn't let her sleep in the crib.
It was really difficult, and I kind of decided that I was just going to leave from there, but it didn't turn out that way. And I forcibly confined three or four officers, in the process hurt one of them to escape, and that wasn't originally what I wanted to do. But at that time, I was thinking nobody is going to stop me from seeing my child.
So there were no supports in place for that. And over the next, I think it was until you actually offered to bring my daughter to see me, there were no attempts from anybody to help me try to maintain that connection. It was actually held over my head as a behaviour modification so that if I wanted to see my child, I had to do A, B, C, D, E, F. And I hadn't lost my parental rights or signed them away.
What I have noticed inside, even when I was in Fraser Valley, we had a couple of mothers there that had — well, there was one that had her child with her. The moms don't get to pick their caregivers. They're picked by CSC staff. And there was one woman who had a caregiver that was very aggressive, and even though the staff were aware of what was going on, they actually turned it around on the mother and said that if she launched a complaint, she would end up being suspended from the Mother-Child Program and would lose her child.
So I tried to intervene as a peer advocate, but because of my own — it was really hard for me not to get emotionally involved, so I was really upset. But you're kind of in that helpless situation where you're trying to do the right thing, but you also don't want to jeopardize possibly having the mother be separated from the baby.
So there are not a lot of really good supports in place for the mothers in prison still. They can come up with the Board of Investigation reports as many times as they want, but they're really restricted in what they can do, what they can offer.
Now with the transgender issue, with men wanting to come into the prison, whether it's right or wrong, some of them are coming into the women's system for the wrong reason. And it's not to get away from a bad environment that they're having in the men's prison. It's to come there and have sex with women. I'm not saying all of them; I am saying some of them. And it's a dangerous situation, because some of the men that are coming over into the institution, there are children there, and there are moms there. So I don't think mothers with kids should be in prison. I think they should in the community, and there has to be something done about that.
Senator Pate: Thank you. My understanding is there was eventually, a bit too late, an apology to you by the warden of the healing lodge for the approach they took with you.
Ms. Acoby: Yeah, I think it was about five or six years later. They admitted that they didn't handle things right.
I think three weeks after that happened, they had come to Sask Pen while I was on the enhanced secure unit. I was put into segregation for obviously what I did, but I'm kind of glad the bars were there. I was really upset to see them come to me and try to talk to me about it. I didn't want to have anything to do with them.
And then later, I think when I got the Board of Investigation report, I found out that one of the daycare staff that I actually got along with had volunteered to have temporary custody of my daughter who — and she lived on the reserve — in order so I could keep breastfeeding and that I could actually visit her every day. But the warden and other staff decided that that was not an option. But they also didn't tell me about that. They didn't ask me about that, if I would be okay to have my daughter with the daycare staff worker on the reserve. They just made a decision while I was in the circle that they were going to send my daughter to my sister.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: Senator Pate, do have more questions?
Senator Pate: No. I just want to point out that there has been much written by you and others about what happened to you as that being really the point you seemed to lose hope, and there was really no investment in anything else for you in the system for many years. I don't know if that's a fair assessment.
Ms. Acoby: Yes.
Senator Pate: Thank you.
The Deputy Chair: I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone on the panel, but I also want to thank everyone who is still sitting in the audience, a few brave souls who stuck with us. As we come to the end of what has been over a 14-hour working day for us, I thank all of you for sitting and listening to us. I think this is a very important topic.
The one recurring theme is that as we have gone from coast to coast to coast, we hear very similar things. When we're talking to the inmates, we're just sitting there and shaking our heads because we're hearing the same things.
I thank you again for sharing your personal stories. Those are very hard to tell.
Good night everyone.
(The committee adjourned.)