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Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.

Introduction

A Word from the Commissioner
"...Wherever possible community involvement in institutional programs is essential. Such community involvement in institutional programs ensures that inmates are kept in touch with the society into which nearly all of them will some day return. This type of community participation also has the effect of humanizing and individualizing the inmates in the eyes of the community - the public perception of inmates as dangerous is dispelled by the contact the community has with them." Taking Responsibility, Report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Solicitor General on its Review of Sentencing, Conditional Release and Related Aspects of Corrections, (David Daubney, Chair) August 1988, p 203

Since the creation in 1965 of the first Citizen Advisory Committees and then, their official recognition in 1977, by the MacGuigan Report, members of CACs have played three fundamental roles within the federal correctional process: observers, impartial advisors and liaising between their communities and institutions/parole offices.

By actively playing these roles, CAC members directly support the delivery of corrections, enabling the safe reintegration of offenders.

Involvement of citizens like you, in the correctional process, is essential to the vitality and quality of corrections in Canada - to indeed contribute to the safety and thus, the well-being of Canadians.

I thank you for your personal commitment towards corrections and invite you to initiate and maintain dialogue with the Unit Head of the institution or parole office to ensure on-going sharing of information, observations and feedback.

Your contribution to corrections in Canada is invaluable.

Yours sincerely,

Lucie McClung

Lucie McClung

A Word from the National Chair
It is with considerable pleasure that I welcome this latest revision of the Citizen Advisory Committees Resource Manual. Over the years the original text has served as a clear and comprehensive guide for committee members as they engaged in making their contribution to the evolution of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). This latest revision attempts to reflect the important progress made in better defining the role of Citizen Advisory Committeess (CACs) within the CSC and within the larger community. It is our hope that CAC members will find the material useful and instructive.

As the manual tries to make clear, the roles that we are asked to carry out are challenging and unique within the CSC. Committees are called upon to be informed observers, good communicators, able advice givers and bridge builders in one of the most complex and emotionally charged environments in our society. To do this, we must wade through an ocean of acronyms and orient ourselves as best we can in one of the largest bureaucracies in the country. We must then make meaningful recommendations to managers whose knowledge and experience are always greater than our own. And finally, we must act in a way that preserves our impartiality and independence.

To succeed, committees have had to build strong and constructive relationships with the four constituencies most involved in correctional issues, namely the management group of the CSC, the offender population, the front line staff of the CSC and finally the Canadian public. We, in fact, must place ourselves at the intersection point of all of these groups and be ready to carry out an ongoing dialogue that includes each one.

It is useful here to reflect on these relationships and the challenges that each represents. Let me start with what is perhaps the most challenging relationship of all, namely the one we must develop with CSC management. Committees clearly need to form a close working relationship with the management team of their parole office or institution given that these managers are the ones that will receive and possibly act on the advice the committee will offer. Since the advice is meant to be persuasive but not binding, the receptivity of managers to it will be greatly affected by the level of respect that exists between us. To garner this respect, all of us need to find the right balance between being cooperative and being independent. This has often been referred to as "finding the right distance" or "setting the appropriate boundary" between the CAC and management. Unfortunately there are no rules or guidelines that can show us clearly where this line is. It is for each committee to find that right distance that allows them to be supportive of good practices and yet free to question, challenge or even criticize ones that seem less so.

One of the more sobering dimensions of the relationship between CACs and CSC managers is the fact that committee will, at some point in the year, give an account of their observations and recommendations to the public. Managers, therefore, become keenly aware that sitting with their committee is opening up the workings of their facility to public scrutiny. For managers to be comfortable in such a context, they need to be convinced that the conclusions we arrive at will be truly impartial and guided by a firm desire to improve the system and better the safety of Canadians. We are credible to the extent that our observations and recommendations achieve this. If we inadvertently become advocates for the CSC or the offenders, we will loose credibility with all the groups we interact with, including the public.

The CACs' relationship with offenders requires just as much work even if it is easier to define. As CAC members, we must remain in constant contact with the offender population to hear their stories and to appreciate their view of the correctional system. The offender's perspective is essential to gaining a full and balanced understanding of the workings of the Correctional Service. It is also true, however, that the perspective provided by offenders is coloured by the fact that the CSC in administering their sentence imposes certain controls on their behaviors and freedoms. Anger and resentment are emotions that frequently colour offender accounts of how the system works. It is for us to develop the skills needed to identify in offenders' stories the important issues that we need to explore and address to make the system better.

Contacts with front line staff are also important if CACs are to develop a truly balanced perspective on the functioning of the correctional system. Front line staff see the system close up and are intimately aware of every aspect of the life of the facility. Establishing a respectful relationship with staff unions and representative groups is immensely valuable for us and will add considerably to our effectiveness.

Finally, we CACs must be actively engaged with our community and carry out two important roles. These roles are to inform the public about the correctional service and to report to the public on how well the system is doing. Though we are not specialists in corrections, nor are we completely system savvy, what we do bring to the community is an outsider's impartial view of the system that is informed by the values and standards that we share with our fellow citizens. It is to each committee to develop their own public voice that contributes positively to the public dialogue on corrections in their community. But we must be visible.

Clearly, this manual will be but one of many tools that CAC members will use to orient themselves to their role as impartial observers, community liaison and advice givers. Each of us will also bring our own personal set of skills and knowledge that will enrich the way we carry out this important public service. Committees can also benefit from the support of their regional and national executives whose mandate includes providing all committees with the educational materials needed to carry out our work in a way that is consistent with other committees across the country. If this manual can contribute to helping committees from across Canada give a clearer and consistent focus to their activities then it will have achieved its goal.

Charles Emmrys

Charles Emmrys
National Chair
National Executive Committee
Citizen Advisory Committeess

About this Resource Manual
"Communities must get involved in solving their moral problems...Official institutions can only assist, they cannot bring about a just, peaceful and safe society. Giving Canadians a more realistic perception of crime, and ways of resolving conflicts more positively, would diminish the helplessness which most people now experience in the face of crime." Brief by The Church Council on Justice and Corrections. Taking Responsibility, Daubney Report. Ibid. p 44.

The manual is organized so that it can be used in two ways:

  1. as a quick reference for someone who needs help on a particular topic such as how to fill out forms, and
  2. as a guide for a CAC that wants to develop a comprehensive program.

The manual was written with three different audiences in mind, namely;

  1. for individual CAC members, to help them understand their roles and responsibilities, to both the CSC, and within the Citizen Advisory Committees system;
  2. for each CAC, to help them understand and implement the vital components of an effective voluntary organization; and
  3. for the groups we serve - the CSC, its staff and offenders, other criminal justice agencies, and the general public - in order to help them understand where CACs come from, how we function and where we are going. These groups must be informed of our activities if we are to achieve our Mission.

We hope that you will find this material both instructive and enjoyable.

Other resources such as "Basic Facts about Federal Corrections, "Myths and Realities - How Federal Corrections Contributes to Public Safety", the CSC Mission Document, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations can also be viewed and downloaded from the internet at www.csc-scc.gc.ca.