Commissioner's Directive

Inmate Owned Canteens


  • To allow inmates to purchase items sold through an inmate canteen operation, run according to generally accepted business practice and, to the fullest extent possible, by inmates


Applies to staff involved with inmate owned canteens


  1. The Executive Committee will approve any change to the annual limit for holiday canteen purchases by September 15. Otherwise, the previous annual limit will apply.
  2. The Regional Deputy Commissioner will:
    1. establish a regional list of products to be sold in canteens and a maximum number of items that will be carried at any one time. The list will be reviewed annually and can be revised annually in consultation with the Institutional Heads
    2. ensure that the regional canteen list takes into consideration the religious, spiritual, cultural, and gender diversity of the inmate population, including specific products for Indigenous and women offenders
    3. ensure that procedures are established to regulate and control institutional canteen operations, including the storage of sales receipts and records.
  3. The Institutional Head will:
    1. identify the approved canteen items (pursuant to the regional list) and their sale prices
    2. stipulate in writing the circumstances under which a canteen advance against inmate pay/allowances is granted, the maximum amount of advances, and a mechanism and timing for reimbursement of advances
    3. fix profit margin at 10% for canteen sales, specify any profit margin greater or less than 10% in consultation with the Inmate Committee, and review profit margins annually
    4. specify the debit of funds for reimbursement when canteen losses occur, and the credit of funds for canteen profits
    5. ensure quarterly audits of the canteen operations
    6. ensure eligible inmates have access to their $4 credit for the purchase of health and hygiene products listed in Annex B
    7. ensure the position of Inmate Canteen Operator is included in the employment program, a job description exists, and the individuals occupying this position do not pose a safety or security risk
    8. identify the list of items available for the holiday canteen. The items should take into consideration the religious, spiritual, and cultural diversity of the institution
    9. ensure the amount for holiday canteen purchases will be spent between November 1st and December 31st and includes taxes
    10. allow inmates whose equivalent major holiday occurs at a time other than that of the majority of the inmates to purchase holiday canteen items at that time. The items and amount will be the same. Inmates will only be allowed one holiday canteen per calendar year

Health and Hygiene Products

  1. In order to assist in fulfilling the requirements set out in paragraph 83(2)(c) of the CCRR, inmates will receive a credit of $4 per payment period for the purchase of health and hygiene products listed in Annex B.
  2. Every inmate will receive the credit, except if they are in a provincial institution and are not receiving any inmate payment or do not have an active Inmate Trust Fund.
  3. The $4 credit is cumulative but cannot exceed $104 at any time and can only be used for its intended purpose. The credits are not part of the Inmate's Trust Account and cannot be cashed or used for any other type of canteen purchases.
  4. When an inmate transfers to a different institution, the sending institution will advise the receiving institution of the inmate's hygiene account balance to be transferred.

Canteen Operations

  1. Access to the canteen operations will be restricted to the Inmate Canteen Operator(s) or other authorized persons as determined by the Institutional Head.
  2. Hiring of Inmate Canteen Operators will be made pursuant to CD  568-3 - Identification and Management of Security Threat Groups and CD  730 - Inmate Program Assignment and Payments.
  3. The Inmate Canteen Operator(s) will be provided only minimal personal information necessary for their job.
  4. The maximum amount allowed for canteen purchases, including perishable items and items of similar nature to those available in the institutional canteen purchased through clubs/groups or external suppliers, and health and hygiene products pursuant to Annex B, will not exceed $90 per payment period, including taxes. Canteen items will be purchased with funds from the inmate's current account.
  5. The profit margin will be fixed at 10% for canteen sales. Any profit margins above or below 10% may only be specified through the Institutional Head, who will have consultations with the Inmate Committee, and will review the profit margin annually.
  6. The Inmate Welfare Fund and/or canteen account will be used to purchase canteen stocks.
  7. An inventory of canteen stock will be made by the Inmate Canteen Operator(s) or other authorized person at the end of each payment period and every time an Inmate Canteen Operator changes. The inventory should be kept at the lowest level possible.
  8. Where canteen stock losses occur, an investigation will take place to determine the cause. Any person found responsible for the canteen stock losses may be charged. Reimbursement for the losses will be from the Inmate Welfare Fund.


  1. Strategic Policy Division
    National Headquarters


Original Signed by:

Don Head






  Categories Examples of types of products Does not include


Liquid or tablet format

Products containing acetylsalicylic acid


Cough syrup

Liquid or capsule format

Products containing alcohol
or dextromethorphan


Analgesic, antipyretic, antibiotic

Antibiotic ointment
Oral pain relief products

Extra strength
Products containing alcohol
A-535 antiphlogestine
Products containing methyl salicylate,
triethanolamine salicylate and menthol


Cold remedy

Cough drops
Cold sore ointment


Personal care

Cotton swabs
Lactose intolerance pills
Lip balm
Hemorrhoidal relief ointment
Nail clippers
Moisturizing lotion
Bladder control protection
Insect repellent
Laundry detergent

Aerosol or pump
insect repellent

Multivitamins containing iron


Oral hygiene

Any tooth brush
Any tooth paste
Any dental floss or dental pick
Mouth wash (alcohol free)
Denture adhesive
Denture cleanser


Sun block

Sun block minimum SPF 30

Sun tan lotion


Skin soap, deodorant

Any regular soap or
soap for sensitive,
problem prone skin

Any alcohol free anti-perspirant
or deodorant

Moisturizing body wash


Hair products

Comb, afro-comb
Products with vitamins
Special needs products

Gel or mousse


Shaving products

Shaving cream

Aftershave lotion


Smoking cessation product

Nicotine chewing gum (any strength)

Nicotine patch



Feminine care

Hygienic pads

Vaginal douche


Hair removal products

Hair remover lotion

Hot wax

N.B.: The objective is to allow inmates to purchase basic health and hygiene articles currently available at the inmate canteen with the credit from their hygiene account; each institution will ensure that these categories of products currently available are offered at the canteen from the hygiene account. Institutions will also ensure that the religious, spiritual, cultural and gender diversity of the inmate population is also taken into consideration for the types of products currently available. Institutions could reduce the availability of certain categories or types of products if the limitation of their clientele requires it or because of the size of the canteen or the limited turnaround of the products or for security reasons.



  1. Prescription items
  2. Dextromethorphan
  3. Alcohol
  4. Ephedrine/Pseupdoephedrine
  5. Creatine
  6. Dimenhydrinate
  7. Diphenhydramine
  8. Triethanolamine salicylate
  9. Nicotine
  10. Menthol
  11. Controlled substances

N.B.: All dietary supplements and alternative remedies that inmates wish to purchase must be non prescription items and have a Drug Identification Number (DIN), a Natural Product Number (NPN) or Drug Identification Number-Homeopathic Medicine (DIN-HM) letters preceding the product licence number on the product label.

For more information

To learn about upcoming or ongoing consultations on proposed federal regulations, visit the Canada Gazette and Consulting with Canadians websites.