Correctional Service Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Women Offender Programs and Issues

Warning This Web page has been archived on the Web.

Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections



CSC Action Plan Update – March 2006

Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston,
The Honourable Louise Arbour, Commissioner

April 1996

Arbour Recommendations
With respect to complaints and grievances, I recommend:  
11(a) that a system be put in place to assign a priority to all complaints and grievances received, and that the prioritization be effected on the day on which the complaint or grievance is received at that level; priority should obviously be given to complaints that relate to an ongoing matter of a serious nature; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

CSC’s policy was amended to ensure that offenders are provided with complete, written responses to issues raised in complaints and grievances within 15 working days of receipt by the respondent, when the complaint or grievance is assessed as being a priority case, and within 25 working days of receipt by the respondent in all other cases.

Criteria for determining whether a complaint or grievance is high priority or routine is located in the Offender Complaints and Grievance Manual.

11(b) that where a complaint or grievance was well founded when it was made, but requires no direct action at the time of the response, in light of a change in the circumstances which gave rise to the complaint, the Service be required to recognize that the complaint was valid and indicate to the inmate what measures, if any, have been or will be taken to avoid the reoccurrence of the problem; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

When responses to grievances are delayed and the original issue is resolved, or has been addressed prior to receiving the response, the grievances at the third level are normally upheld, upheld in part or resolved.

11(c) that all persons in the Correctional Service empowered or required to dispose of complaints and grievances be given the specific authority to admit error on the part of, and on behalf of the Correctional Service; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

If, on review of a grievance at any level, the offender’s submission is considered fully or partly justified, the grievance is upheld in whole or in part.

11(d) that all members of the Correctional Service empowered or required to respond to complaints or grievances be advised of the means by which to obtain legal assistance, if such appears to be required for the proper disposition of a matter which could realistically engage the civil or criminal liability of the Correctional Service, or some of its members; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Staff who respond to grievances consult with Legal Services whenever required.

11(e) that, if a grievance requires legal input prior to its disposition, the inmate be informed of the expected delay and the reasons thereof; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Offenders are informed of expected delays when timelines will not be met because additional legal input is required.

11(f) that the Deputy Commissioner for Women be mandated to explore and experiment, in the new facilities, with alternative dispute resolution techniques; ACCEPTED IN PRINCIPLE. (ONGOING)

In 1996, a Restorative Justice and Dispute Resolution Unit was established at National Headquarters in order to explore and promote the development of these approaches within CSC. In 1998, a Framework Paper on Restorative Justice was released that outlined core strategies for advancing this work. In 1999, a National Steering Committee on Restorative Justice and Dispute Resolution was established that served to provide leadership throughout the organization. Chief activities have included the promotion of Restorative Justice Week, the development of the national Ron Wiebe Restorative Justice Award, the implementation of various pilot projects throughout the organization, the establishment of victim-offender mediation services nationally, the delivery of training to staff, managers and offenders on conflict resolution approaches as well as research and evaluation of the effectiveness of these approaches.

In terms of specific applications in the institutions for women offenders, conflict resolution approaches and restorative justice have been actively pursued. In addition to active involvement in the above mentioned initiatives, several of these facilities have developed and integrated unique conflict resolution approaches.

Components of conflict resolution are in the Correctional Training Program and will be included in updated modules of the Women-Centred Training Program.

Survey on mediation and conflict resolution strategies:

A letter was forwarded to all Wardens asking them to identify practices that promote formal and informal resolution to resolve offender complaints and grievances. Staff, Inmate Committees and various stakeholders were invited to participate in the survey. The internal report from this survey was completed and a pilot was developed in a men’s institution using staff mediators. Data from this pilot is being collated and an analysis of results is scheduled for completion in 2006. The results of the pilot will be reviewed to revisit options for the women’s institutions.

11(g) that dispute resolution at the institutional level be focused on the rapid resolution of irritants, and, most importantly, be directed at the reconciliation of people; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Refer to Recommendation 11(f).

11(h) that the Commissioner personally review some, if not all, grievances brought to him, as third level grievances, as the most effective, if not the only method for him to keep abreast of the conditions of life in the institutions under his care and supervision; NOT ACCEPTED.

The signing of responses to third level grievances is currently delegated to the Senior Deputy Commissioner. Where a grievance concerns a decision of the Senior Deputy Commissioner, the Commissioner of CSC signs the response. Regular information bulletins are published which highlight grievances which have been upheld and clarify CSC’s obligations. The Assistant Commissioner Strategic Policy and Human Rights reports to the Executive Committee on the Offender Redress system as required (normally twice per year).

The Commissioner makes regular visits to institutions and parole offices and, whenever possible, speaks to inmates and/or Inmate Committees during these visits.

11(i) that, should the Commissioner be unwilling or unable to participate significantly in the disposition of third level grievances, such grievances be channelled to a source outside the Correctional Service for disposition and that the disposition be binding on the Correctional Service; NOT ACCEPTED.

It should be noted that offenders have redress mechanisms other than the grievance system which are external to CSC such as the Office of the Correctional Investigator; Members of Parliament; legal counsel; and advocacy organizations such as Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

As well, Commissioner’s Directive 081, Offender Complaints and Grievances, paragraphs 21‑22 includes a provision for review of grievances by an Outside Review Board.

With respect to outside agencies, I recommend:  
12(a) that Citizens’ Advisory Committees continue to play the important role assigned to them by the CCRA and that the Correctional Service refrain from taking or permitting to be taken any action to chastise CAC members if they take a bona fide position in the course of their functions. ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Citizens' Advisory Committees (CAC’s) were established in CSC in 1965, but it was not until 1977 that the CSC made CAC’s mandatory for every federal penitentiary in Canada. The decision came after the Parliamentary Sub-committee on the Penitentiary System endorsed the value of such committees. The Service accepts and continues to support the important role of CAC’s. There are currently 105 CACs across Canada. Members represent various social, cultural, and demographic backgrounds and occupations, and usually reside in proximity to the respective operational unit. The only cause of termination of a CAC member would be if the member acts contrary to the Mission of the Citizens’ Advisory Committee or CSC. Refer to Commissioner's Directive 023, Citizens’ Advisory Committees, for more information. (

In terms of the women’s institutions, the members of the CAC regularly visit the institutions and are on the call-sheet to be contacted during incidents.

As well, the national CAC has a Women Offender Sub-Committee made up of the local Chairpersons of the women's institutions. In addition to the regional and national CAC meetings/conferences, the Sub-Committee maintains contact through conference calls held five times per year in which a manager from the Women Offender Sector participates. The sub-committee meets once per year at the national annual CAC meeting and the DCW participates in the sub-committee meeting. They provide input into policy documents and other discussion papers as well as participating in stakeholder consultations arranged by the DCW.

CSC has a collaborative partnership with the National Executive Committee (NEC) which is comprised of the five CAC Regional Chairpersons plus a National Chairperson. The NEC is responsible for the national coordination of CAC's across Canada. They are also responsible for the coordination of recommendations made by local and regional CAC's on policies and programs that affect CSC’s operational units. These recommendations are presented by the NEC to the Commissioner of CSC and issues are also discussed at NEC-CSC meetings four to five times per year.

With respect to the interaction of the Correctional Service with other participants in the administration of criminal justice, I recommend:  
13(a) that in recruitment and staffing throughout the Correctional Service, including at the highest managerial levels, there be input from people experienced in the other branches of the criminal justice system, such as lawyers and police officers. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

The Public Service Commission requires an external representative on Selection Boards for staffing at the Executive (EX) level. For non-EX staffing processes, generally there will someone on the Selection Board who is not from the respective work area.

13(b) that the legal profession increase the awareness of its members to correctional issues, through Bar Associations, defence lawyers’ organizations, and others involved in continuing legal education, offering training to their members in correctional law; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING) The lead for this issue has been taken by Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada. CSC is involved in criminal justice partnership bodies and actively seeks opportunities to inform government and external partners on correctional issues. Senior CSC officials contribute through presentations to various external bodies, both nationally and internationally.
13(c) that the judiciary be further sensitized to correctional issues through programs developed by the National Judicial Institute, which would include a reminder to all judges of their right to visit any part of any penitentiary in Canada, pursuant to the provisions of s.72 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Judges are provided with social context training, which includes gender issues, through regional and local judicial organizations. The National Judicial Institute (NJI) has received support from the Department of Justice for a three-year Social Awareness Training project. Training modules are being developed in four key areas: Aboriginal issues; gender equality; issues for disabled persons; and race relations. The NJI also acts as a clearinghouse for the judiciary and publishes a quarterly bulletin. The NJI also assists judicial organizations and courts, on request, by identifying appropriate experts for training sessions.

CSC/Legal Services provided the National Judicial Institute with an interactive sentence calculation learning module. This module informed judges as to how sentences interact and how CSC calculates release dates and eligibility dates. The module will be updated as required to address amendments in the area of sentencing and conditional release and other issues related to sentencing.

CSC staff also participate in providing seminars and workshops at conferences aimed at informing the judiciary about correctional issues. For example, in March 2005, CSC and NPB jointly delivered a seminar on “A Guided Tour of a Federal Institution” in which 24 judges participated.

13(d) that judges be sensitized to the specifics of women’s correctional issues, particularly in light of the concerns expressed to this Commission that the opening of the new regional facilities could lead to an inflation in the length of the sentences imposed on women as the new federal institutions will be perceived as better suited to meet their needs; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

Invitations from CSC are regularly extended to judges to tour regional women’s institutions to increase their level of knowledge about correctional institutions. Most recently, this occurred in 2005 at Nova Institution and Edmonton Institution for Women.

13(e) that Bar Associations and judiciary draw on the expertise of corrections personnel to increase their awareness of correctional issues; Refer to Recommendation 13 (c) and (d). As well, CSC staff are regularly used as subject-matter experts in court.
13(f) that the intensive training of Correctional Officers developed and applied for the opening of the new regional facilities be continued as a permanent form of training for officers expected to work in women’s facilities; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

The DCW will continue to employ the Women-Centred Training Program that was developed for staff at women’s institutions.

CSC provides Women-Centred Training to all staff who work in women’s institutions, in accordance with the National Training Standards (mandatory training):

  • Ten-day intensive course for all Primary Workers and Assistant Team Leaders, who are the front line staff with women offenders;
  • Three-day version covers the same topics and is designed for staff who periodically work with women; and
  • One-day version for managers which provides an overview of the ten-day and three-day courses. Managers are assessed through the selection process for their knowledge of, and sensitivity to, women’s issues. As a result, it was felt that the intensive training need not be mandatory for these staff.

In addition to the Women-Centred Training Program, all CSC staff must participate in a mandatory Anti-Harassment Training Workshop which promotes an awareness of, and sensitivity to, human rights issues and a better understanding of each person’s role in the prevention, identification and resolution of harassment complaints.

13(g) that this model be evaluated and expanded, if appropriate, through the Correctional Service; ACCEPTED. (ONGOING)

The Women-Centred Training Program is a reference point for the re-development of the Correctional Training Program (CTP) required for all new Correctional Officers.

As well, in the CTP, a module on human rights has been enhanced within a new on-line component of the course. This module specifically addresses the protection of the human rights of offenders and there is a specific section on the human rights of women offenders. Also included is a discussion of Canada’s and CSC’s obligations to international covenants and declarations. This revised program will be implemented by January 2007.

For Parole Officer Orientation (required for all new Parole Officers and Primary Workers) human rights is dealt with mostly from a legal point of view. There are sessions on the rights and freedoms under the Charter and on principles of fairness within the context of parole. The topic of Human Rights from an ethical perspective is addressed in the session on “Ethics in Corrections”. Aboriginal and women offenders are addressed in other sessions such as risk assessment and programming. This program is being redesigned over the next several months. Staff from CSC's Human Rights Division are contributing to this redesign by helping to build some scenarios that will highlight human rights issues.

13(h) that in continuing education and training, the Correctional Service draw from the expertise of the judiciary, the Bar, and the police, in an effort to expose the Service to a culture committed to the values expressed in the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedoms, throughout the administration of criminal justice; ACCEPTED.

CSC’s policy reflects the Service’s Ethics Strategy and reaffirms the importance of integrating values into our everyday actions. The elements of the Ethics Strategy include: an Ethics “Champion”, the Senior Deputy Commissioner; a code of ethics based on behavioural expectations as described in the Standards of Professional Conduct and Code of Discipline; and, training upon induction and professional development.

With respect to miscellaneous issues arising from the facts of this case, I recommend:  
14(a) that the Correctional Service improve accessibility to basic legal and policy requirements by:
undertaking a review of its administrative directives in order to ensure compliance with the law and avoid errors and duplications between existing Commissioner’s Directives, Regional Instructions, Standing Orders and Post Orders; and
reducing the multiplicity of sources, possibly by the elimination of Regional Instructions;

To implement this recommendation, CSC decided that a comprehensive review and revision of the policy framework was required. Therefore, the Task Force on Policy Review was established in August 1996 and reported in November 1996. The Task Force recommended a significant reduction of policy instruments overall. Implementation of the Task Force recommendation resulted in a policy-by-policy review to ensure that all policies accurately reflected the legislative requirements of the CCRA and the CCRR. A model format of Commissioner’s Directives and Standard Operating Practices (SOP) was adopted to ensure the Commissioner’s Directives focused on mandatory legal requirements while the SOP’s provided the additional operational guidelines required to ensure an acceptable level of national operational consistency. As part of the review exercise, Regional Instructions largely ceased to exist, although regional procedures which address operations unique to one region are permitted. Finally, a model format was developed for Standing Orders based on a pilot exercise at Drumheller Institution and approved by CSC in September 1997.

Since the Task Force review, steps have been taken, and continue to be taken, to keep the policy framework current and viable. These include:

  • posting of all policies on CSC’s intranet;
  • use of Policy Bulletins to explain policy updates (1997‑98);
  • standardization of the format elements, citing applicable legislative and government policy authorities and cross-references to other related Commissioner’s Directives (1999‑2000);
  • use of hyperlinks to facilitate access to authority (e.g. the CCRA and CCRR) and cross-referenced documents as well as to CSC forms cited in the document (2004);
  • use of electronic mail bulletins to inform all staff as soon as a policy update is posted on CSC’s intranet; and
  • establishment of revised guidelines on the development of policy.

The policy development and approval process is also subject to rigorous requirements. Consultation is mandatory and formal sign-off is required from Executive Committee members. As part of the final sign-off by the Commissioner, the sponsoring sector must demonstrate that approval was received from Legal Counsel (review for compliance with the law); Linguistic Services (policy conveys same information in both official languages); Aboriginal Initiatives Branch (cultural appropriateness); Executive Committee; and the Sector Head.

The implementation of the Management Control Framework process ensures that areas of policy non-compliance are identified on an ongoing basis and action is taken at the management level – either addressing performance to move to compliance or changing policy through policy clarification or adjustments. This is in addition to corporate audits and national incident investigations, all of which review the issue of policy compliance as a standard process element.

Accessibility to legal and policy requirements has also been addressed through training initiatives. For example, in 1997 CSC introduced training programs for managers and operational staff on CSC and the Law, with specific reference to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the CCRA/CCRR.

In January 2000, the legal training programs were incorporated into the Correctional Training Program (CTP) which is mandatory for all Correctional Officer/Primary Worker recruits. The CTP covers the Charter; CCRA/CCRR; Duty to Act Fairly; Mission of CSC; law on Search & Seizure; Law on Use of Force; Peace Officer Status. In addition to these specific global topics, there are additional sessions on specific duty- related topics where participants are required to access relevant law and policy in order to decide how they should respond to various correctional situations.

In June 2001, CSC launched the Correctional Supervisor Orientation Course. This training program is mandatory for all Correctional Supervisors and Assistant Team Leaders to support them in acquiring and developing the knowledge, skills and abilities required to manage the correctional environment and reintegration process in a safe, secure and humane manner while respecting the rule of law and modelling the values of CSC. The Correctional Supervisor Orientation Course has extensive requirements for participants to access, in hardcopy and electronic copy, appropriate sections of the CCRA/CCRR, Canadian Criminal Code as well as Commissioner's Directives in order to make appropriate decisions regarding topic areas such as: Administrative Segregation decisions; Search & Seizure; Preventing & Managing Security Incidents; Emergency Situations; Labour Code Part II; and Offender Discipline.

14(b) that all IERT interventions continue to be videotaped in the future, and that similar types of interventions in the women’s facilities also be recorded on videotape; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

All Institutional Emergency Response Team (ERT) interventions are videotaped and subsequently reviewed at the local and regional level.

An Interim Instruction was first issued in February 1997 and revised in May 2000, establishing a process of recording, viewing and transmitting of videotapes to both the Correctional Investigator and the Director General Security, at NHQ. In addition, all videotapes of incidents involving women offenders are reviewed by CSC through the Office of the DCW.

Commissioner's Directive 567‑1, Use of Force (2001‑10) provides direction on both what and when to videotape and how the various reviews (local, regional, national) are conducted. Refer to paragraphs 15‑38 (

Commissioner's Directive 577, Operational Requirements for Cross-Gender Staffing in Women Offender Institutions, which replaced the National Protocol for Front Line Staffing, provides direction on reviewing videotapes in paragraph 34 (

14(c) that the videotapes be understood to constitute a record of the events; the videotape should, if possible, capture the scene as it existed prior to the team’s intervention, and should contain an indication of the reasons why certain events may not be recorded; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

See Recommendation 14(b) and procedures outlined in Commissioner's Directive 567‑1, Use of Force.

14(d) that all IERT videotapes be immediately reviewed for clarity and accuracy, and be supplemented by written Use of Force or Occurrence Reports when they prove inadequate as a recording device; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

See Recommendation 14(b) and procedures outlined in Commissioner's Directive 567‑1, Use of Force (‑

14(e) that all IERT intervention videotapes be immediately forwarded to the Correctional Investigator, along with any supplementary Use of Force or Occurrence Report; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

See Recommendation 14(b) and procedures outlined in Commissioner's Directive 567‑1, Use of Force (‑

14(f) that the present policies with respect to the use of mace and other spray irritants be strictly enforced; and that over-use be discouraged by the following requirements:
that medically adequate decontamination procedures be put in effect after its use;
that, in the absence of medical direction, the persons affected be allowed to shower, be provided with a change of clothing, and moved from the immediate area;
that mace continue to be used only by specially trained staff;
that the exact amount of mace used on every occasion be properly recorded, by the mace can being weighed after each use, and the weight recorded;
that mace be issued to an institution only in small quantities, and that re-issuance only be done after a review of the appropriateness of prior usage;

Use of chemical agents has been in CSC policy since the mid-1980’s. Following the release of the Arbour Report, further direction was covered in policy and in the Security Manual Part 1 (Use of Force). A separate Commissioner's Directive on Use of Chemical Agents and Spray Irritants was first published in 2001.

Commissioner's Directive 567‑4, Use of Chemical Agents and Inflammatory Sprays (2002-06) (refer to paragraphs 6‑17), covers the details regarding recommendation 14(f) and all sub-recommendations. Commissioner's Directive 570, Security Equipment, provides direction on the disposal of chemical agents (

14(g) that electronic cell monitoring never be used solely as a matter of convenience, and that it be used only when required by imminent security concerns, such as indications of possible suicide; even in that case, camera surveillance should not be used as a substitute for frequent rounds which permit human contact and ensure effective monitoring of the condition of the inmate; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Electronic cell monitoring is undertaken when an offender presents an imminent security concern such as being at a high risk of suicide. Staff are mindful that camera surveillance should be utilized only in high risk cases and as a means to augment their capacity to effectively monitor an offender’s condition. This does not replace the human contact and monitoring through rounds. This is in addition to the provision that an offender have access to a psychologist while in the monitored cell. Commisioner’s Directive 843, Prevention, Management and Response to Suicide and Self-injuries, paragraph 23 addresses the use of a “suicide watch cell” and “continuous observation by staff”. Commissioner’s Directive 567-3, Use of Restraint Equipment, paragraphs 20‑26 addresses use of restraint equipment for suicidal and self-mutiliating inmates (‑

The Security Manual (Part I) identifies the specific equipment used for electronic cell monitoring and indicates that its use is not intended to diminish staff interaction with these offenders. The Security Manual (Part I) also specifies monitoring requirements for suicidal and self-mutilating inmates, including 15‑minute checks or constant view, depending on the risk presented and while maintaining respect for dignity at all times (

14(h) that appropriateness measures be put in place to ensure that men do not observe on camera the private activities that women may be engaged in in their cells, and that inmates are aware of the procedures by which their privacy is protected, such as by a light signal indicating whether the camera is on or off; ACCEPTED. (COMPLETE)

Under no circumstances will a male staff member be assigned to a 24‑hour camera monitor of women offenders. This was first reflected in the National Operational Protocol – Front Line Staffing (1998) and is also in the new policy document based on the Protocol, Commissioner's Directive 577, Operational Requirements for Cross-Gender Staffing in Women Offender Institutions (

A woman offender is always made aware when the camera in a monitored cell is on.

See also response to Recommendation 14 (g).

14(i) that the women who were the subject of the cell extraction conducted by the male IERT on April 26/27, 1994 and who were kept in prolonged segregation afterwards, be properly compensated by the Correctional Service of Canada for the infringement of all their legal rights as found in this report, commencing on April 22, 1994. RESOLVED.

The lawsuits in connection with these compensation claims have been resolved. Details of settlement are subject to non-disclosure provision for all parties.