Deaths in custody

CSC takes the death of an inmate very seriously. Death in custody is a complex and difficult issue and we need to always work to enhance prevention and intervention strategies.

CSC is committed to learning from these deaths in custody and to preventing future non-natural deaths. Over the five fiscal years from 2011/2012 to 2015/2016, an average of 58 deaths in custody occurred per year. Natural deaths accounted for more than half of all deaths, and suicide was the most common type of non-natural death.

Whenever a person dies in federal custody, the police and coroner or medical examiner are notified. If the death appears to be of natural causes, we will conduct a mortality review. Circumstances of the death will determine if the coroner or medical examiner will investigate and CSC will hold a National Board of Investigation (BOI). A BOI will always include a member of the community as a board member to enhance accountability and transparency. BOIs and coroner's inquests offer an opportunity for CSC to improve the way we manage inmates under our care and custody.

In 2017, CSC released guidelines giving direction to CSC health care professional and institutional staff in responding to requests from inmates seeking medical assistance in dying. Changes to laws in Canada now allow eligible Canadian adults, including federal inmates, to request medical assistance in dying. CSC’s guidelines are in accordance with eligibility criteria, safeguards and processes outlined in legislation. A formal investigation is not required.

CSC produces an annual report on deaths in custody, which includes compiled information gathered by the CSC’s Research Branch. These reports enhance accountability and transparency and informs prevention and intervention strategies.

Learn more

All deaths

Death by natural causes

Death by non-natural causes

Medical assistance in dying

Published reports on deaths in custody


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