Correctional Service Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Resource Manual

Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.

Chapter 2 - The CAC System

The CAC Structure

Local committees

Local committees and their contribution to the program (operational unit) they serve, remains the fundamental element of an effective, voluntary network of citizens.

"Citizen Advisory Committeess, if properly structured, can provide a real service to (The Correctional Service of Canada) in terms of informing the public about the realities of prison life and informing the Service itself as to its shortcomings." Report to Parliament, by the Sub-Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada. MacGuigan Report, 1977, p 126. The responsibility for creating and supporting local Citizen Advisory Committeess, normally made up of no less than five members, rests with the designated CSC Warden or Parole Director. The Regional Deputy Commissioner is responsible to approve appointments on the recommendation of the CSC operational unit head in consultation with the respective CAC chairperson. Every CSC institution and parole office is obliged to establish an advisory committee.

In consultation with the (elected) chairperson of the local CAC, the appropriate CSC manager will convene a committee meeting approximately once every month. Committees are strongly advised to hold these meetings in the operational unit being represented in order to facilitate and encourage familiarity with the facility and contact with staff, offenders, and management.

Regional Committees

All local Citizen Advisory Committeess are members of a 'regional' CAC for each of the administrative regions of the CSC (Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies and Pacific). The local CACs are represented regionally by the Regional Executive Committee elected by the members of the region. The (elected) Regional Chairperson is automatically a member of the National Executive Committee.

The CSC Regional Headquarter is responsible for ensuring that CACs in the region are active and well-supported with the help of a CAC Regional Executive.

The Regional Deputy Commissioner, and staff, are responsible for ensuring its CAC members are consulted in the development and implementation of CSC policies and programs, at the regional level.

The National Executive Committee (NEC)

Recognizing the need for a cohesive approach and a national system that would have a strong impact at all levels of the Correctional Service, the first CAC National Executive was established in 1979.

The National Executive Committee (NEC) is made up of the five CAC Regional Chairpersons as well as by the National Chairperson. The election of a National Chairperson is held every two years.

The NEC, along with the responsible unit and the CSC/CAC liaison representatives located at CSC's National Headquarters, are responsible for the national coordination of all CACs across Canada.

The NEC is responsible for the coordination of recommendations made by local and regional CACs, on policies and programs that affect all operational units of the CSC. These recommendations are then presented by the NEC to the Commissioner of CSC. The NEC meets three to five times per year in differing locations throughout Canada.

Some of the aims and objectives of the NEC, as outlined in its constitution, are to:

  • Monitor and review all policies or actions of the CSC at the local, regional and national levels, as they relate to offenders, and make those recommendations that are deemed appropriate for the betterment of the correctional system and Canadian society;
  • Recognize and support the autonomy of each individual Citizen Advisory Committees;
  • Ensure that the CSC provides the orientation materials required for supporting the orientation of new committee members in each region and to support the regions in their orientation of new members;
  • Encourage the active participation and the effective utilization of all CACs;
  • Encourage the utilization of CAC expertise at regional and national CSC conferences, meetings and workshops;
  • To promote the dissemination of information among CACs, and to stimulate and encourage communication between CACs;
  • Plan and organize national conferences, in partnership with CSC;
  • Reflect a national position regarding major issues affecting all units of CSC; and
  • Coordinate and support the consultation between the CSC and CACs prior to the adoption of national, regional and local policies and directives.


Organizing the Committee

An effective and efficient Citizen Advisory Committees should operate in an organized fashion. It must have, at least, an elected chairperson and a set of by-laws that explain the committee's functions and rules. By-laws need not be lengthy but should be clear and distinct while allowing flexibility. The most important parts of a set of by-laws are a process for the election of the chair and an accepted procedure for taking decisions.

The success or failure of an advisory committee often depends upon its cohesiveness and use of democratic procedures. Only the committee, as a whole, should be empowered by the Correctional Service of Canada. Individual members cannot "act" on behalf of the committee without its authorization. The Chairperson, or designate is usually the official spokesperson for each committee but others can be appointed to that function if the committee so decides.

Not all committee members will agree on some issues. To prevent contradictory messages being given, it is necessary for the committee to adopt one recommendation on a particular issue. The Service, however, should also be advised of any dissenting opinions. CSC will consider all input from the CAC.


Orientation of the Committee

Critical to the success of any community advisory committee is the proper training and orientation of its members. More committees have failed because the members were not fully informed, than for any other reason.

The Correctional Service will provide an orientation program that allows new members to fully understand the unique and important role they are called upon to play within the correctional service. The CAC National Executive has as one of its responsibilities to ensure the regular updating of a national orientation program occurs and that it be available to the regions for orienting its new members. It will include not only information on the functioning of CACs but also review the daily and overall operations of the various CAC facilities, the legal issues involved in CSC work and the practical limitations of the correctional process. Members should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of both the CAC and CSC Missions and philosophies, conduct and security responsibilities, and a realistic expectation of what can be accomplished. New members are expected to avail themselves of the orientation provided.


An Effective Committee

Simply establishing a Citizen Advisory Committees does not automatically guarantee its success. Planning, training, monitoring and management are all vital to promoting a successful endeavor. Effective committees are those which:

  • are based on clearly-articulated beliefs, where their Mission and Values are clearly understood, and shared; they form the basis for all decision making;
  • are characterized by easy access and open communication, both within and outside the committee (i.e., between institution and parole CACs, etc.);
  • undertake decision-making through a collaborative process that seeks out and respects individual views, resolves conflict, builds relationships, and provides positive direction to the committee;
  • undertake a review of all goals, programs and services on a regular basis. This evaluation process includes assessment of the committee's progress towards its Mission;
  • use meetings as a positive, constructive use of time and resources. Meetings are used to make decisions, determine directions and exchange information, face-to-face;
  • have rules and guidelines that provide a framework for getting on with the job in a consistent collaborative and streamlined manner. These policies and procedures assist in the efficient operation of the committee.


The CAC Code of Behaviour

As Citizen Advisory Committees members we believe in the need for acceptable norms and standards for the responsible conduct of our individual members. We believe that:

  • We have a duty to remain impartial. We are impartial observers, not advocates. We must, therefore be careful that any involvement with other groups or individuals, does not influence this impartiality, but serves only to enrich our knowledge and help guide our actions appropriately. We can be full members of only one Citizen Advisory Committees, in order that our loyalty is not divided, although we may help others in their actions.
  • We have absolute duty to be truthful, open and accountable in our dealings with any person or group within the correctional process and the community.
  • We have the responsibility to maintain confidences, if this does not affect the good order, discipline or security provisions of the Correctional Service of Canada, its staff, offenders, or the public.
  • We must respect the intent and provisions of the Privacy Act, as it pertains to information accessed by or within our activities (i.e., in balancing the privacy of individuals versus a "need to know", we must be careful about what information we share, respecting the privacy and security of other CAC members, CSC staff or offenders).
  • We must observe the security regulations of any institution or parole office we visit. We must ensure appropriate staff are aware of our actions or plans.
  • We must respect the proper process and procedures for the resolution of questions or problems arising from our activities, both with the CSC, or within the CAC system itself.

Issue should first be addressed at the local level (i.e., with the head of operational unit or with the local advisory committee). Unresolved issues should then be taken to the Regional CAC Executive. The Regional Executive will, if necessary, first address the issue with the Regional Deputy Commissioner, and if required, through the National Executive to the Commissioner.

Contact with other Citizen Advisory Committeess should be made initially with the Chair of that Committee. If we wish to visit other institutions, courtesy dictates that we advise the Citizen Advisory Committees Chair of that institution.

  • We must exercise proper caution in avoiding personal, or another member's exposure to any situation which may pose a potential danger or conflict of interest (i.e., disclosing personal information, such as home addresses, etc.).


CAC Membership and Recruitment

Existing members can and should assist in the recruitment process. A good rule of thumb for selecting advisory members is to select them much the same as you would good staff, expecting them to be thoughtful, sincere, firm, but fair. It should be noted that under the Regulations of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, CSC employees (including those under contract) and offenders, cannot be considered as CAC members. Committees can have a maximum of one member who is a former employee or who is retired from Correctional Service.

In general, people should not be rejected as potential members simply because they might be critical. In fact, they might enhance the committee's positive impact. Often, after becoming involved and witnessing the entire operation of the program or facility, a critic becomes a supporter - and an avid one, at that.

The key to any successful human relations activity is the people involved. Therefore, the selection of good CAC members is of critical importance.

Members of Citizen Advisory Committeess are appointed for a period of not less than two years. Appointments are approved by the deputy commissioner of the region based on the recommendations of the local operational head and the facility's CAC chairperson.

"It is essential that Citizen Advisory Committeess represent a true cross-section of society, including individuals from all walks of life. Lacking such a composition they will not be able to reach the public at all levels." Report to Parliament, by the Sub-Committee on the Penitentiary System in Canada. MacGuigan Report, 1977, p 126. Membership on local committees should reflect the community served by the program or facility (i.e., be representative of the various social, cultural and demographic backgrounds and occupations). Members should, if possible, reside in close proximity to the facility. Membership of the committees should also reflect as much as possible the cultural, ethnic and religious mix of the offenders being served by the facility or program.

The following are some ideas on how to go about recruiting new members. Special consideration must be given to recruiting members who are representative of a cross-section of the community, and who correspond to the needs and characteristics (e.g. ethnic composition) of the operational unit.

Possible Means of Recruitment

Recruitment should be incorporated into all of the committee's public education activities, and is often the most successful when CAC members recruit one-on-one through colleagues and acquaintances. All activities are in partnership with the CSC and must respect federal government policies, procedures and guidelines.

Recruitment Through Events:

  • Host a Community forum: issue media releases, advertise through posters, community listings (media notices are often far more effective than posters),
  • Host an open house at your institution/parole office,
  • Host a media day at your institution/parole office (invite the media on a tour and provide them with speakers, CAC information, program information, etc.),
  • Invite non-governmental groups to attend CAC meetings.

Recruitment Through Public Education:

  • Be sure to let people know that new members are welcome, and include a contact name and number with any information your CAC produces;
  • Develop pamphlets or information sheets about your CAC to distribute at public events and locations: conferences, libraries, universities, churches, non-governmental organizations (ngos), grocery stores, book stores, schools, community centres, recreation centres, coffee shops, community bulletin boards);
  • Advertizing: newspapers, radio (free community listings are available on some local television stations, radio, newspapers);
  • Promote new members by placing their photos in local newspapers (with the member's approval);
  • Submit an information article--mentioning recruitment opportunities--to organizations (non-profits, unions, and professional associations) that produce their own newsletters;
  • Become a member of your local volunteer centre--most post volunteer opportunities on the Internet.

Recruitment Opportunities:

  • Universities, Colleges
  • Religion-based groups or communities of faith
  • Social Clubs
  • Seniors' Organizations
  • Volunteer Centres
  • Local School Boards, Parent-teacher Committees
  • Health Boards
  • Professional Associations, Unions (teachers', etc.)
  • Police, Firefighters, Paramedics, Doctors, Nurses
  • Chambers of Commerce, Mayors, Councillors
  • Community Centres
  • Non-profit Organizations (Multicultural, Aboriginal, Disability Groups)


CAC Conflict of Interest Guidelines

Why have guidelines?

Central to the credibility of the Citizen Advisory Committees (CAC) system is the perception by all the principle stakeholders in the correctional process that CACs are impartial, independent and fair-minded. Perceived biases can quickly compromise any committee's ability to do its work and will cause stakeholders to give less weight to useful and potentially valuable recommendations. Understanding and managing conflicts of interest, therefore, is an important part of preserving the credibility of the CAC.

The CAC guidelines on conflicts of interest set out as clearly as possible the formal procedures by which conflicts of interest can be managed. All members are encouraged to become familiar with these guidelines and to review them periodically. It is the responsibility of each member to be aware of possible conflicts of interest that may affect their membership on a CAC and to report and discuss it with their chair and institutional head if a conflict of interest develops.

Committees are encouraged to avoid becoming overly dogmatic in applying these guidelines. The word "manage" is carefully chosen in this instance and is meant to convey the message that conflicts of interest vary from very minor to important. In almost all circumstances, these can be managed without having to ask the member involved to excuse themselves from the committee.

For example, a CAC member may own a business that provides materials to a contractor who is working in a facility. Should the committee want to discuss the progress of the work, the member involved can simply declare a conflict of interest on this one item and abstain from the discussions on that one item. The member can then rejoin the committee on other deliberations. Should a committee member have a close friend who works in a parole office and should that person's department come under scrutiny, that member can likewise simply abstain from discussions on the subject.

Individuals can also declare at the start of their term any activities or financial activities that may be seen as a potential conflict of interest, thus allowing the whole committee to help the member identify and manage any possible conflicts of interest. A member, for example, may own property near an institution that is preparing to expand. This member would be obliged to declare the possible conflict of interest and the committee could help manage that conflict by having a third party deal with any property transactions.

Clearly, however, there are situations where a member's objectivity will be unavoidably compromised by their activity. Being hired directly or indirectly to provide a service to the CSC would be an example of a career development that would prevent a committee member from carrying out his/her responsibilities as a committee member. In such cases, the committee should readily thank and recognize the member for his/her contribution but recognize that continued membership may not be possible.

As in all things, committees should be thoughtful and creative when addressing issues of conflict of interest. For the citizens who chose to give of their time to this enterprise, it is incumbent on all to be vigilant yet supportive. Preserving the integrity and good will of committee members should be of the highest concern for each CAC committee.


The framework for the guidelines

The following Conflict of Interest Guidelines are based primarily on the Treasury Board Policy, "Conflict of Interest and Post-employment Guidelines", applicable to federal public servants. Individual government departments establish more detailed guidelines for the application of the TB Policy to their special circumstances, see for example the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) Commissioner's Directive #060, Code of Conduct. Guidelines from various other federal and provincial government departments, non-governmental organizations, professional governing bodies, and the private sector have also been reviewed to better inform the following guidelines.

The interpretation and application of Citizen Advisory Committee Conflict of Interest Guidelines requires an appreciation of the legal, policy and practical context within which CACs operate. Citizen Advisory Committees are statutory/regulatory creations that are subject to the jurisdiction of the Commissioner's authority to make rules. The Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA) states at section 97:

Subject to this Part and the regulations, the Commissioner may make rules

  1. for the management of the Service;
  2. for the matters described in section 4; and
  3. generally for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Part and the regulations.

The CCRA explicitly states its fundamental purpose and guiding principles at sections 3 and 4:

The purpose of the federal correctional system is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by

  1. carrying out sentences imposed by courts through the safe and humane custody and supervision of offenders; and
  2. assisting the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community as law-abiding citizens through the provision of programs in penitentiaries and in the community.

The principles that shall guide the Service in achieving the purpose referred to in section 3 are

  1. that the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the corrections process;
  2. that the sentence be carried out having regard to all relevant available information, including the stated reasons and recommendations of the sentencing judge, other information from the trial or sentencing process, the release policies of, and any comments from, the National Parole Board, and information obtained from victims and offenders;
  3. that the Service enhance its effectiveness and openness through the timely exchange of relevant information with other components of the criminal justice system, and through communication about its correctional policies and programs to offenders, victims and the public;
  4. that the Service use the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of the public, staff members and offenders;
  5. that offenders retain the rights and privileges of all members of society, except those rights and privileges that are necessarily removed or restricted as a consequence of the sentence;
  6. that the Service facilitate the involvement of members of the public in matters relating to the operations of the Service;
  7. that correctional decisions be made in a forthright and fair manner, with access by the offender to an effective grievance procedure;
  8. that correctional policies, programs and practices respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and be responsive to the special needs of women and aboriginal peoples, as well as to the needs of other groups of offenders with special requirements;
  9. that offenders are expected to obey penitentiary rules and conditions governing temporary absence, work release, parole and statutory release, and to actively participate in programs designed to promote their rehabilitation and reintegration; and
  10. that staff members be properly selected and trained, and be given
    • appropriate career development opportunities,
    • good working conditions, including a workplace environment that is free of practices that undermine a person's sense of personal dignity, and
    • opportunities to participate in the development of correctional policies and programs.

The regulation making power for the establishment of CACs is found at CCRA section 96(z.4) to wit: for the involvement of members of the community in the operation of the Service. CACs are one important way that the Service carries out its legal mandates. Regulation 7 provides:

  1. An institutional head or a person responsible for a parole office may, in accordance with this section, set up a Citizen Advisory Committee that consists of members of the community in which the penitentiary or parole office is situated to promote and facilitate the involvement of members of the community in the operation of the Service.
  2. An institutional head or a person responsible for a parole office shall ensure that the Citizen Advisory Committee is representative of the community in which the penitentiary or parole office, as the case may be, is situated.
  3. No staff member or offender may be appointed to a Citizen Advisory Committee.
  4. A Citizen Advisory Committee
    • may advise an institutional head or a person responsible for a parole office on any matter within the institutional head's or person's jurisdiction; and
    • shall make itself available for discussions and consultations with the public, offenders, staff members and Service management.
  5. The institutional head or a person responsible for a parole office shall ensure that the members of the Citizen Advisory Committee that relates to the penitentiary or parole office have reasonable access, for the purpose of carrying out the functions of the Committee, to
    • every part of the penitentiary or parole office;
    • every staff member of the penitentiary or parole office;
    • any offender in the penitentiary or under the supervision of the parole office; and
    • any hearing, conducted under this Part or Part I of the Act, respecting an offender in the penitentiary or under the supervision of the parole office, if the offender consents to the access.

The CCRA Review, following parliamentary sub-committee and other recommendations, is proposing that the above regulatory framework be incorporated into the statute itself.

The CSC policy for CACs is Commissioner's Directive 023. The policy was modified in March 2003 because it pre-dates the promulgation of the CCRA and Regulations on November 1, 1992. This policy was improved to better reflect the practices and expectations of both the Service and CAC members. Salient features of the policy and revisions include, inter alia, primary responsibility for CAC membership and activities with the head of the operational unit, a consultative and dispute resolution role for the regional Deputy Commissioner, and an apparently growing expectation for more active involvement by local CAC chairpersons and the national executive body.


CAC Conflict of Interest Guidelines

The objects of the Conflict of Interest Guidelines for Citizens Advisory Committee members are to enhance CSC, offender and public confidence in the integrity of CAC members by:

  1. facilitating involvement of members of the community in the operation of the Service;
  2. encouraging experienced and competent persons to seek and accept CAC membership;
  3. establishing clear rules of conduct respecting conflict of interest; and
  4. minimizing the possibility of conflicts arising between the private interests and public service duties of CAC members and providing for the resolution of such conflicts in the public interest should they arise.

"Conflict of Interest" means a conflict that arises from an activity, relationship or situation that places a CAC member in a real, potential or apparent conflict between their private interests and their CAC membership duties and responsibilities.

Every CAC member shall conform to the following principles:

  1. members shall perform their duties and arrange their private affairs in such a manner that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of CACs is conserved and enhanced;
  2. members have an obligation to act in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law;
  3. members shall not have private interests, other than those permitted pursuant to these Guidelines, that would be affected particularly or significantly by CAC activities in which they participate;
  4. on appointment to a CAC, and thereafter, members shall arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest from arising, but if such a conflict does arise between the private interests of a member and the duties and responsibilities of that member, the conflict shall be disclosed to the operational head and resolved in favour of the public interest;
  5. members shall not solicit or accept transfers of economic benefit, other than incidental gifts, customary hospitality, or other benefits of nominal value, unless the transfer is pursuant to an enforceable contract or property right of the member;
  6. members shall not step out of their CAC roles to personally assist offenders or other persons in their dealings with the Service or National Parole Board where this would result in preferential treatment to any person;
  7. members shall not knowingly disclose to an unauthorized person, take advantage of, or benefit from, information that is obtained in the course of their CAC duties and responsibilities and that is not generally available to the public;
  8. members shall not directly or indirectly use, or allow the use of, government property of any kind for anything other than officially approved activities; and
  9. members shall not act, after they leave a CAC, in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their previous membership.

A member may comply with the Guidelines in the following ways:

  1. avoidance: by avoiding or withdrawing from activities, relationships or situations that would place the member in a real, potential or apparent conflict of interest relative to his or her CAC duties and responsibilities;
  2. disclosure: by providing a written statement to the operational head indicating the nature and extent of the activity, relationship or situation, ownership of an asset, receipt of a gift, hospitality, or other benefit, or participation in any outside employment or activity that could be perceived as inconsistent with the principles; and
  3. divestment: where continued ownership by an member would constitute a real or potential conflict of interest with the member's CAC duties and responsibilities, the member may elect to sell the asset "at arm's length" or place that asset in trust.


Members must not accord preferential treatment in relation to any CAC matter to family members or friends, or to organizations in which the member, family members or friends have an interest. Care must be taken to avoid being placed, or appearing to be placed, under obligation to any person or organization that might benefit or profit from special consideration by the member.

A member shall disclose to the operational head the nature and extent of personal or financial relationships with the following persons:

  1. other CAC members;
  2. CSC staff members;
  3. CSC contractors and their employees or sub-contractors;
  4. offenders;
  5. CSC volunteers;
  6. external CSC stakeholders; and
  7. any person known to have previously been one of the above.

An operational head may consult with the local CAC chairperson and/or the regional CAC representative in determining whether a member's activity, relationship or situation is sufficiently inconsistent with these guidelines that reasonably informed members of the community would consider the conflict unmanageable or unacceptable in the circumstances. Termination of CAC membership for this reason shall only be approved by the regional Deputy Commissioner.