Establishment and Operation of Pathways Initiatives




Applies to all staff working with Indigenous offenders


  1. As part of the Continuum of Care (see Annex B of CD 702 – Indigenous Offenders), a Pathways Initiative provides a path of healing within institutions for offenders who demonstrate a commitment to follow traditional healing as a way of life, 24 hours a day. Pathways is first and foremost an Elder-driven intensive healing initiative, that reinforces a traditional Indigenous way of life through more intensive one-to-one counselling, increased ceremonial access, and an increased ability to follow a more traditional Indigenous healing path consistent with Indigenous traditional values and beliefs. Only offenders who have already made a serious commitment to pursue their healing journey, and who have worked significantly with Elders to address areas of healing, are to be placed on a Pathways Initiative. The Elder services, programming and interventions provided in this environment are intensive and directed to individuals’ personal healing. The services available must be above and beyond the services that CSC is required to make available to all Indigenous offenders. Although it is clearly most appropriate for Indigenous offenders, on rare occasions a non-Indigenous offender may be a good candidate for Pathways interventions.


  1. The Director General, Indigenous Initiatives Directorate, is responsible for the approval of all Pathways Initiatives and will ensure regular reviews of existing Pathways Initiatives are completed as required.
  2. The Regional Administrator, Indigenous Initiatives, will provide functional support for the operation of Pathways Initiatives within the region. He/she must be supportive of, and involved in, the development of any proposed Pathways Initiatives and will work with the Director General, Indigenous Initiatives Directorate, to review existing Pathways Initiatives.
  3. The Institutional Head will ensure the resources dedicated to Pathways are utilized for Pathways specific activities and positions (Elder, Indigenous Liaison Officer) and is the deciding authority for activities relating to the operation of the Pathways Initiative.
  4. The Assistant Warden, Interventions, is responsible for managing and supporting the Elder/Spiritual Advisor. He/she is the primary manager responsible for the oversight of Pathways Initiatives and is a member of the decision-making team with regards to acceptance and removal from the Pathways Initiative.
  5. The Elder/Spiritual Advisor will provide the cultural and spiritual direction for Pathways. Individual counselling, ceremonial services and teachings are the main aspects of the Elder’s role within Pathways. The Elder will be part of the decision-making team with regards to acceptance and removal of offenders from the Pathways Initiative. The Elder will assess the commitment and dedication of an offender and provide a recommendation on acceptance for the waiting list.
  6. The Manager, Assessment and Interventions/Manager, Intensive Intervention Strategy, works closely with the Pathways team members in relation to case management processes. He/she is part of the decision-making team with regards to acceptance and removal from the Pathways Initiative.
  7. Each region will ensure there is a Regional Pathways Coordinator who will assist with the development of the initiative and monitor implementation and results. The Regional Pathways Coordinator will:
    1. assist in the development of new Pathways Initiatives in the region
    2. manage and ensure culturally competent operations, interventions and services within designated Pathways Initiatives for Indigenous offenders
    3. facilitate the management of initiatives and activities relating to Pathways regionally
    4. support and monitor the management of new and existing Pathways Initiatives, train Institutional Pathways staff members on the Offender Management System (OMS) data entry process, work with Institutional Pathways on implementing and reviewing the Pathways Initiatives, and work with Institutional Pathways Coordinators (where applicable) ensuring that recording, reporting tools and tracking systems are maintained
    5. provide reports on results derived from OMS, expenditures and best practices to the Regional Administrator, Indigenous Initiatives, for submission to National Headquarters
    6. coordinate activities within the Pathways Initiatives in conjunction with the institutional Pathways teams.
  8. For sites with 40 or more Pathways participants, an Institutional Pathways Coordinator will be in place to coordinate Indigenous services. The Institutional Pathways Coordinator (where applicable) will:
    1. coordinate and organize all activities and interventions within the dedicated Pathways Initiative in collaboration with the Elder, institutional management and the Regional Pathways Coordinator
    2. facilitate and coordinate all activities within the Pathways Initiative for the purposes of providing advice and making recommendations to senior managers. The Coordinator is responsible for the OMS data entry for Pathways. He/she is part of the decision-making team with regards to acceptance and removal from the Pathways Initiative in consultation with the Elder.
  9. The Indigenous Liaison Officer assigned to Pathways is responsible for entering the updated Elder Review document upon initial placement and final departure into the OMS and will share it with the offender. He/she will provide a mechanism for advancing the cultural and spiritual needs of Indigenous offenders through communication with case management and correctional program staff. He/she will work closely with the Pathways team members to ensure there is an understanding of the offender’s work with the Elder/Spiritual Advisor. In institutions where there is no Institutional Pathways Coordinator, the Indigenous Liaison Officer will be responsible for data entry. He/she will also be part of the decision-making team with regards to acceptance and removal from the Pathways Initiative. He/she has a critical role in supporting the Pathways Elder.
  10. It is recommended that each site have a dedicated Parole Officer as part of the Case Management Team. Any other staff identified by the institution as part of the Pathways team will have their roles identified in the proposal or outline of the Pathways Initiative.


  1. Prior to the development of a Pathways Initiative, institutions are required to complete a self-assessment on the following 10 elements of a supportive environment for Indigenous corrections:
    1. Management Commitment – A supportive environment includes management commitment at all levels, especially senior levels that are committed to Indigenous initiatives within the institution. Management commitment ensures that the spiritual and cultural needs of the Indigenous offenders are met. As well, it involves regular communication with the Elder and integration of the Pathways team as part of management team meetings and briefings.
    2. Regional Approach – Regions where there is a high level of communication between institutional sites and Regional Headquarters will have greater success with Pathways Initiatives as they will have the ability to move an offender through the Continuum of Care and safely back into the community.
    3. Elder-Driven – The Elder is the spiritual leader of Pathways, and thus he/she is responsible for the spiritual and cultural integrity of the Initiative. Pathways, as with all spiritual and cultural activities, is Elder-driven. The Elder determines, with an offender, the spiritual path and healing, including participation in ceremonies. He/she establishes the schedule of circles, ceremonies, and one-to-one sessions with the offender, in collaboration with institutional management. He/she is also the best person to determine if an offender is ready to be accepted into a Pathways Initiative. No offender should be placed in Pathways or on the waiting list without consultation and agreement of the Elder.
    4. Infrastructure – There must be an identified indoor space within the institution for personal and group smudging (evenings and weekends included) and other ceremonies that involve group activities.
    5. Cultural and Spiritual Activities – A supportive environment for Indigenous initiatives will include time and a place for cultural activities. The spiritual and cultural activities for the institutions will be developed by the Pathways and the institutional Elder and supported by the rest of the Pathways team.
    6. Physical Environment – Having an appropriate physical environment is critical to the success of a Pathways Initiative. A Pathways transition unit must have a minimum of one entire housing unit designated for Pathways. A Pathways unit at a medium security institution requires a full range or unit where the physical structure of the unit can be identified and recognized as a Pathways unit. An indoor location is also required for Pathways specific activities. In the case of Pre-Pathways interventions, an indoor space designated for activities is required. Any exceptions to this criteria will be made to and approved by the Director General, Indigenous Initiatives Directorate.
    7. Populations and Identified Needs – Any institution considering a Pathways Initiative must have an Indigenous population to support it. At a maximum security facility, a Pathways day program may begin with as few as four offenders, from at least two ranges. For medium security and multi-level facilities, as well as for minimum security transition units/houses, the size of the Pathways should be no more than one-fifth to one-quarter of the total Indigenous population. In some cases, this maximum allowance will produce too large a Pathways where a waiting list cannot be sustained and intensive work with the Elder cannot take place. In these instances, the numbers shall be agreed upon by the institution, the region and the Director, Operations, Indigenous Initiatives Directorate. This ensures that the institution may select the most committed offenders for Pathways participation, and ensures a continual flow of participants to choose from. Inadequate numbers of offenders usually result in unsuitable or unprepared offenders being placed on Pathways due to population pressures. Pathways participants must be offenders that are committed to working with the Elders and living a traditional Indigenous lifestyle 24 hours a day/7 days a week. The population numbers of those that are committed to working with the Elders must be one and a half times the available bed space for Pathways. Having a waiting list that is at least half of the available bed space ensures a continual flow of offenders moving through Pathways to lower security or Healing Lodges. Lifers or other offenders who do not have the potential to transfer to lower security or be conditionally released within three years may be admitted to Pathways where appropriate. The available bed space for lifers should not normally exceed 20% of available bed space.
    8. Staff Education – Education about Indigenous traditions and values will help staff understand why certain protocols must be followed. Training (such as Indigenous Perceptions Training), should be offered to staff, as well as informal learning opportunities. Attendance at events and/or ceremonies where applicable, as well as speaking to Elders, Indigenous Liaison Officers or Indigenous offenders about their culture, can enhance a person’s knowledge of Indigenous culture.
    9. Team Work – Developing and operating a Pathways Initiative will require a dedicated team. During the assessment, sites will review their capacity to create/provide a dynamic team to work on their Pathways Initiative.
    10. Community Connection – Having Indigenous offenders connected to the Indigenous community and family members external to CSC is an important element within the Continuum of Care. Institutions will assess whether or not they have the capacity to connect with the Indigenous community through the use of escorted temporary absences where appropriate.
  2. If an institution believes it has an appropriate environment for a Pathways Initiative, it will submit its self-assessment to the Regional Administrator, Indigenous Initiatives. If the Regional Administrator, Indigenous Initiatives, recommends and supports the Pathways Initiative, he/she will forward the assessment to the Director General, Indigenous Initiatives, at National Headquarters, for approval.
  3. If the Director General, Indigenous Initiatives Directorate, determines the environment is suitable, he/she will inform the region and the institution, and request a proposal detailing their Pathways Initiative plans. The proposal must meet the Pathways requirements outlined below.


  1. The following requirements apply to new Pathways Initiatives as well as all existing Initiatives. If an existing Initiative does not meet these requirements, corrective action must be taken.
    1. Vision Statement – The Vision describes an ideal state that the Pathways Initiative is striving to achieve. It focuses on the specific features of a desirable future state. This should be documented and shared in the information available to offenders and staff regarding Pathways.
    2. Pathways Team – The team members for the Pathways Initiative must be identified, including a Pathways Coordinator (regional or institutional), Manager, Assessment and Interventions/Manager, Intensive Intervention Strategy, Parole Officers, Indigenous Liaison Officers, Elders, Correctional Manager and all other staff connected to the Pathways Initiative. The team members must be supportive of the Vision of the Pathways Initiative as well as the Elders and other team members. The Assistant Warden, Interventions, provides leadership and oversees the operations of the Pathways and is the link to the senior management team at the institution.
    3. Designated Space – There must be space in the institution for Pathways Initiatives. In a medium security site, there must be a designated range/unit, as well as a designated indoor location for Pathways specific activities where smudging and other ceremonies can occur at any time. Pathways designated cells are normally to be single cells and not double-bunked as this will facilitate the intensive healing process in which the offenders are participating. Smudging shall be allowed on the range. The offices of staff associated with the Pathways Initiative should be within close proximity to the cell locations where possible. A Pathways transition unit will consist at a minimum of one entire housing unit. Pre-Pathways interventions do not require cell designation, but there must be a designated indoor location for activities and ceremonies.
    4. Admission Criteria – A documented set of criteria is in place to determine who is eligible for admission to the unit. Offenders must have already been working with the Elders for three to six months and have demonstrated a commitment to following a traditional lifestyle.
    5. Referral and Application Process – This process will be outlined and documented in a manner that is easily accessible to the offender population as well as staff.
    6. Decision Process – The decision to admit an offender to Pathways will be a team effort including the Elder, the Indigenous Liaison Officer, the Parole Officer, the Pathways Coordinator and other staff deemed appropriate. The population Elder and Indigenous Liaison Officer will also be included as they can identify which offenders have been working closely with them in preparation for Pathways. No offender should be placed in Pathways or on the waiting list without consultation and agreement of the Elders. This is first and foremost a healing intervention and demonstrated commitment, identified by the Elder, is critical.
    7. Waiting List – The size of the Pathways Initiative and the availability of appropriate referrals/applications should result in a waiting list of at least half the available bed space designated for Pathways.
    8. Expectation Documentation – Documentation exists to clearly outline the rules of the Pathways Initiative. The expectations with regards to the offender will be clearly outlined ensuring he/she is aware of what is required in order to maintain residence in the Pathways unit. There is zero tolerance for the use of intoxicating substances of any kind. Offenders will normally be removed for 90 days if they refuse to provide or test positive for non-prescription substances using urinalysis. The process for allowing someone to return to Pathways after the 90 days will be determined by the Pathways team.
    9. Dispute Resolution and Discipline – A process for resolving disputes is documented and clearly outlines the manner in which dispute resolution and discipline will be carried out. Informal resolutions using circles, etc. are normally led or directed by the Elder.
    10. Consequences/Criteria for Removal – Documentation exists to clearly outline what would cause an offender to be removed from the Pathways Initiative. A link to the discipline process is included to ensure only those offenders who are committed to healing remain on the unit.
    11. Data Entry – An offender’s referral and placement in a Pathways Initiative will be tracked using the Pathways specific process in OMS.
    12. Information Dissemination – Documentation exists to ensure that other staff and offenders are aware of the Pathways Initiative, including Vision, Admission Criteria, Application Process, Decision Criteria and Expectations.
    13. Schedule of Activities – There is a clearly identified, documented schedule for increased ceremonial, spiritual and cultural activities so that there is a visible difference between Pathways and non-Pathways.
    14. Temporary Absences/Indigenous Community Engagement – There must be a clear link to the Indigenous community and engagement with the community through the use of escorted temporary absences, unescorted temporary absences as well as community partners attending the institution. Although escorted temporary absences are not appropriate in Pre Pathways interventions, there are still opportunities to have community members and/or volunteers coming into the institution.
    15. Movement to Healing Lodges or Lower Security – The purpose of Pathways Initiatives is to provide offenders who are committed to a healing path an opportunity to engage in increased cultural and spiritual interventions in order to address risk factors. The result should be movement to lower security institutions, healing lodges or the community on conditional release when appropriate. Ideally, a participant in Pathways would stay no longer than one year prior to movement to lower security (with the exception of lifers who may require a longer intervention).


  1. All Pathways Initiatives will be reviewed on a regular basis by the Indigenous Initiatives Directorate at National Headquarters. The reviews will be based on the content of these guidelines.


  1. Strategic Policy Division
    National Headquarters

Acting Senior Deputy Commissioner,

Original Signed by:
Lori MacDonald




CD 702 – Indigenous Offenders


Pathways transition units/houses: these are located at minimum security institutions. Pathways transition houses would support offenders being transferred from Pathways units/ranges to continue their healing journey in preparation for release to the community. Although the most appropriate step for a medium security pathways unit offender would be to transfer to a healing lodge, not all offenders will have this option due to their location or their community. Offenders selected or waitlisted for Pathways transition units/houses are those offenders who have demonstrated on a continual basis their commitment to traditional healing, values and beliefs, and are able to take responsibility for their own healing, in preparation for release to the community.

Pathways units/ranges: these are specifically located at men’s medium security institutions or women’s multi-level institutions, as this is where the most intensive interventions and programming are best delivered and where the majority of the correctional plan is addressed. Offenders selected or waitlisted for Pathways units are those offenders who have demonstrated a significant and ongoing commitment to working with Elders utilizing traditional healing interventions as determined by the Elder, and who are ready for a more intensive healing environment on a 24-hour/7-day basis. These men and women are committed to their Correctional Plan, and would normally have an ability to transfer to lower security, or seek a conditional release within six to twelve months of placement on a healing unit.

Pre-pathways Interventions (Day Program): : these interventions occur in maximum security institutions. Pre-Pathways interventions focus on the preparation of individuals to move to a designated Pathways unit/range at a medium security institution through the exposure and introduction to healing and ceremony. There should be the ability to have offenders from various populations participating in interventions in a neutral location on a daily basis. Offenders selected or waitlisted for Pre-Pathways should have participated in ceremonies with Elders regularly in advance of being selected, and will have demonstrated the ability to work with other offenders in a positive, non-confrontational manner.

For more information

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