Diversity in the CSC workplace
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) ensures that its workforce reflects the Canadian population. A diverse workforce is more than just a great idea; it encourages staff to share their unique life experiences. It also supports learning about the different perspectives of others. It allows us to harness the full potential of our employees.
A diverse and inclusive workplace
CSC has a variety of initiatives that recognize the importance of adopting culturally relevant approaches that benefit our work environment. They help create and maintain inclusive workplaces that value the strengths of all employees:
- Diversity and employment equity: Access tools and resources about approaches to diversity and employment equity that aim to eliminate discriminatory employment barriers for all Canadians working for or aspiring to work for the Government of Canada.
Indigenous role models
CSC is the federal government's second largest employer of people who are:
- First Nations
Indigenous people develop correctional plans and deliver programs that combine modern correctional ideology with Indigenous:
- culture, and
The Indigenous Role Models Initiative highlights the contributions of Indigenous staff by talking about their experiences. They highlight employees from Inuit, Métis and First Nations backgrounds. You will get to read about their work in many of our key positions.
Peter Desjarlais is a National Aboriginal Health Coordinator at National Headquarters (NHQ). Peter shares knowledge and cultural understanding with inmates daily. He works hard to address health issues, needs and priorities of Indigenous inmates.
Peter is of Métis ancestry and belongs to the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan. He is originally from Regina, Saskatchewan but moved to Ottawa. He believes his ancestry has had a profound impact on where he is today.
According to Peter: "My ancestry has everything to do with my career choices. I have always been interested in justice. Growing up in the Prairies I saw firsthand the disproportionate number of Indigenous people who were struggling for the basic necessities of life."
Peter has always wanted to help people in whatever capacity he can, which is what inspired him to:
- begin his career at the Correctional Service of Canada
- help his own people involved in the criminal justice system
He works closely with key stakeholders like Elders and regional health service coordinators. These relationships provide advice from those with front line experience.
Peter believes that a relationship with the Elders is a key aspect in the rehabilitation of Indigenous inmates. He claims his proudest moments at CSC are while working with Elders:
"They are such an integral part of the work we do. Having the opportunity to speak with them and learn from them is something you don't normally get to do in other professions. I'm always truly humbled by their holistic approach to life. They demonstrate the importance of healing, rehabilitation and education of our Indigenous people through their teachings and lifestyle."
Of the many unique aspects of his job, Peter's favourite thing about working at CSC is seeing his co-workers go beyond the basic requirements of their job. "When you work with people who are passionate about what they do, it makes you want to push yourself more. You respect them and their contributions to your work."
Looking forward, Peter plans to:
- continue his education
- learn a new language
- work abroad, and
- one day use his experience and lessons learned from the Elders to take on a managerial role at CSC
Jerome Simon Bear
Jerome Bear is an Aboriginal Liaison Officer at Springhill Institution. He liaises between staff, Indigenous inmates and the outside community. With guidance from Elders, Jerome is proud he:
- helps inmates learn about their culture
- ensures they receive cultural services
Jerome was born and raised on the Tobique (Negootkook) First Nation Reserve in New Brunswick as part of a Maliseet Community of 1,800 people. His spirit name is Kinsecket-Muwin (Gin-Sack-ed Moo-win) means bear who stands tall/proud.
He is thankful for the opportunity to work with Elders in Institutions and the community. They have so much to offer by way of teachings, knowledge and culture. "Continually learning from them is probably my favourite aspect of the job. It allows me to assist my brothers [Indigenous inmates] in learning their culture and to grab onto their own healing journey," he said.
Jerome's proudest career moment was receiving the Bridging the Gap Award. The award recognized his work with CSC's Internal Communications Advisory Committee.
Currently he works with a committee to develop a staff sweat site at Springhill Institution where CSC staff can also experience the important ceremony.
Jerome is also a recognized leader in his community. To name a few of his accomplishments, he is or has been:
- a volunteer firefighter
- president of the Westmorland Chapter of Crimestoppers: a non-profit volunteer organization that promotes crime prevention
- a member of the municipal council
- mayor of the Village of Dorchester
Throughout his career, Jerome has made a commitment to helping Indigenous inmates in their healing journey. He can see himself doing this long after retirement from CSC:
"I am quite content in the position that I have. I wish to come back and offer Elder services to inmates after retirement, whether in the institutions or in the community. I've made the commitment to carry the knowledge and cultural teachings of my people so that I can offer them to future generations."
Julie Dion is a Correctional Manager at Donnaconna and Drummondville Institutions. She is proud to be a member of a team of CSC employees working together to provide a safe and secure working environment for offenders.
Julie is a Wendat woman from the Wendake reserve in Quebec City. In 1986, she applied for a job as a correctional officer after CSC published a notice in her Aboriginal community to recruit new employees. "The factor that had the greatest influence on me choosing a career at CSC is the wide variety of jobs and occupations available," she says. Julie was able to take advantage of these opportunities. Her knowledge of Indigenous culture enabled her to work previously with Indigenous inmates as a liaison officer.
Julie is also the local chair of the Employment Equity and Diversity Committee (EEDC). She understands the importance of a strong and diverse workforce. For her, working in an environment where her colleagues are accepting and value the differences of others is what motivates her.
In 27 years at CSC, it is not the difficult situations that have surprised Julie. Rather, all her colleagues have personal accountability towards society:
"We face tremendous challenges on a daily basis. Every day we come up against many different realities. We work together to improve ourselves and to ensure that the organization's objectives are met."
In the future, Julie would like to continue to grow in her career at CSC. That people appreciate her work daily encourages her to continue along this path. Julie aspires to a management position, building on the experience she has acquired.
Mary Alainga is an Inuit Community Liaison Officer with the Ottawa Parole Office. She helps Inuit offenders get to know their new city. For example, she offers information and assistance to offenders who are looking for Inuit services and resources, like the:
- Tungasuvvingat Inuit (TI) Health Team Clinic
- Inuit Family Resource Centre
- Mamisarvik Healing Centre
- TI Employment and Training Centre
Feeling connected to the Inuit community in Ottawa helps offenders make progress in their correctional plan. It speeds up their return to their home communities.
Mary is from Iqaluit, Nunavut. Growing up, she spoke Inuktitut at home and English was her second language. Her father inspired her to seek a career at CSC. He worked with territorial corrections, as a lands manager at the Baffin Correctional Centre in Iqaluit. "When I was younger I was inspired by seeing Inuit men return home to their families to be whole again," she says. Mary did not know of any Inuit correctional workers working with Inuit offenders in the south. She thought that would be a worthwhile occupation.
Watching CSC staff interacting with and learning from Inuit inmates has been one of the most pleasant surprises of her career so far. Seeing her colleagues make the effort to understand the ways of Inuit culture and their practices motivates her. "When staff understands the culture, they are able to treat Inuit inmates in a more sensitive way," she comments.
Working with Nunavut, Nunatsiavut, and Nunavik Justice Committees and health clinics is particularly gratifying to Mary. Between Inuit offenders in Ottawa and their families up north, Mary:
- helps establish connections
- facilitates communication
She finds this beneficial to the rehabilitation of offenders. It helps strengthen their personal relationships with their families. "I believe that a family member seeing a loved one who has been incarcerated eases their worry and allows both the family, and inmate to move forward."
Mary plans to continue her work with Inuit offenders. She even hopes to:
- refine the transition/reintegration process
- make it easier for Inuit offenders when they return to their northern communities and families
Employment equity and diversity committees
The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) ensures its facilities function in an inclusive way that values the merits and strengths of all its employees. As a result, CSC established employment equity and diversity committees in all six regions: Pacific, Prairies, Ontario, National Headquarters, Quebec and Atlantic.
Volunteers make up these committees. CSC encourages all employees to:
- share their stories of diversity
- actively participate in initiatives the committees organize throughout the year
Stories of diversity in the workplace
CSC challenged employees to join the diversity conversation. The premise is simple: find your place, share your story. Thousands of unique individuals with compelling stories and experiences work at CSC.
These stories form part of our identity and become part of the culture of our organization. They will give you more insight into what it is like to work at CSC.
I have worked in the detector dog program for nearly 11 years. Aside from the diversity of amazing dogs (all shades of Labs, Spaniels, Retrievers and the occasional Duck Toller), I have been exposed to a plethora of diversity in both inmates and visitors to our institutions.
The first story occurred about nine years ago when I first deployed to Bath Institution as their dog handler. I was conducting routine cell searches with my partner Ben, who retired five years ago. Upon completion of the cells, I was sitting in the unit office completing paper work and chatting with other officers. An inmate entered the office absolutely livid. He accused me of breaking several tubes of his lip stick and mascara. The inmate was further outraged when I began laughing as I thought it was a joke set up by the other officers. Until this moment I had never met a transgender person, let alone an inmate with gender identity issues.
I soon learned that Bath had three such inmates. I was quickly labelled by these inmates as anti gay. I met with the offender who alleged I had damaged his make-up. I apologized for my seemingly immature response. I then took the time to chat with him and committed that I would do my utmost to retain a professional level of empathy for the significant and specific issues surrounding his, and the other offenders with similar needs. These included various amendments to searching protocol with them, but more importantly we developed a meaningful professional relationship. Without going into details, upon a voluntary transfer this inmate spoke to my then supervisor and stated that I had become one of his favourite officers! I have shared my knowledge and tact toward individuals with gender identity issues with other staff in hopes it will assist them in dealing with these offenders, as well as others in our community.
Since becoming a dog handler, I have had to learn and then modify my searching techniques to respect certain religious requirements. This carries over to all religions, but I am going to discuss Islam specifically.
Back when I first started this job, I had several run-ins with Muslim inmates and visitors who were lodging complaints against me and my four-legged partner. Concerned about the frequency of these complaints, I spoke with an Imam, as well as a friend of mine who is a Muslim. They explained to me that when dog saliva and dog dander gets on religious items, such as prayer mats, holy books or other prayer clothes, that these items may not be used in further prayer.
I immediately altered my searching practices. I had to balance the searching requirements, with the specific needs of the inmates and visitors. In searching cells I always explained to Muslim inmates that the dog would be in their room, and would encourage them to take, or move all religious items to a spot where the dog would not contaminate them. Prior to the items either leaving, or being moved, I would ensure they were searched, thereby adhering to security practices, but also respecting the sanctity of the item.
When dealing with visitors, I obtained a large window screen. I would have the visitors who were Muslim hold the screen in front of them while the dog searched them. This allowed the dog to smell the visitor, allowing his search, but also respected their need to remain clean of any contaminant from my partner. Upon implementing these practices these complaints ceased.
Again, I have shared these practices and suggestions with other handlers, other staff and with members of the community. I embrace the diversity I encounter with my role at the Correctional Service of Canada and constantly strive to learn about all our specific groups, to not only to make me a better officer, but to make me a better person.
When I was born, my parents named me Connie and I was the second daughter. Today, my name is Conner and I have become my parent's first son. I am transgender and currently undergoing gender reassignment while working as a Primary Worker at Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVI).
I began my career with the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), November 2005, at the age of 24, working as a Primary Worker at Edmonton Institution for Women. At that time in my career, I was openly identified as a "lesbian". It was in 2006 that I began to re-explore being transgendered, what that meant to me and did I fit into it? It made sense to me, but I was afraid. I wanted to appear male to people as that is how I felt on the inside. In saying that, I wanted to take testosterone and have surgeries. I wanted to go the whole way to appear the way I have always felt.
I was thinking primarily about my career before I decided to proceed with anything. I had many questions and thoughts:
- What will people think of me?
- Will I be shunned?
- Will I be discriminated against, and if so, what would that look like?
- Am I strong enough to handle the criticism?
- Am I courageous enough to come out?
In 2006, I began with surgery. I began with chest reconstruction, but that is where it ended for quite some time. To be honest, I was afraid to let people really know that I was transgender. I was unsure about how I would be treated at work.
How many people can say they love their job? Well, I am one of those people. I love my job! If I was to feel less about my job because of discrimination or peoples' ignorance towards my gender reassignment, it would devastate me. I did not want to risk it. I was not confident that I would receive the support. I was not confident it would have been a positive environment for me to transition openly in. I may have been hyper-sensitive at the time, but with good reason. I felt self- conscious, unsure of what was going on inside of me and again, I love my job.
In 2008, I transferred institutions from Edmonton Institution for Women to Grand Valley Institution for Women in Ontario. In 2010, I decided that this was the place to continue my gender reassignment openly and felt confident that I would be supported. I was wary that there may be a few people that I may have a problem with, but I felt that I would receive at least 80% support.
I began by speaking to a union representative. I discussed my situation with her and asked if there was anything management could do to me for wanting to transition on the job. After the discussion I felt confident that I could let it out. In July 2010, I met with a member of management and explained that I was transgendered. I explained that I was planning to go forward with gender reassignment and what that would look like at work, and how my job duties would change. I was certainly expecting a little twinge of shock, but that is not at all what I received. I received openness, acceptance and surety that I would be okay. A sigh of relief came over me at the end of that meeting: for a moment. After the meeting, I was relieved like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders, but then I remembered that I worked with about 120 other people. How was I going to tackle that?
It was the very next day, July 8, 2010 when I received an e-mail from the Warden stating:
Best wishes for your transition. I expect things will go smoothly at GVI and you should find a supportive atmosphere. It's a big step and I can only imagine the amount of thought that has gone into it… If there is anything I can do to facilitate things, please let me know. More critically, if you experience any difficulties from staff, I need to know and help you deal with that - though I wouldn't expect problems.
All the best,
I took him up on his offer and I decided to just let it out for everyone to know. After all, it was not something I was ashamed of. I was definitely unsure of reactions I would receive, but not ashamed.
Through the Warden I sent an e-mail to ALL staff at Grand Valley Institution for Women. This is what was written on July 23, 2010:
Following is a message from Primary Worker CJ Bryant. I'd like to thank CJ for his openness and am confident he will feel supported by all of us through this transition:
I want to advise everyone of a personal journey I am beginning. This information is going out to ensure everything goes smoothly. I am currently undergoing gender reassignment as I am transgender. What this means is that I am receiving hormone replacement therapy (testosterone). So what you will notice is my voice gets lower, my body structure changing and the obvious facial hair. I am open about this journey it is not something that I am ashamed of.
Please, if you have any questions please feel free to ask and I will do my best to answer them.
I was absolutely nervous after this e-mail went out. I was not sure what people would say or how they would respond. I was amazed at the support I received. People were asking questions, which I was more than happy to answer because I figured that I'd rather they ask what they are thinking than talk behind my back.
This is a sample of some emails I received:
- I'm so proud of you! ;)
- I know you and I don't really know each other that well, but I just wanted to say that you're absolutely courageous and I think it's really cool that you're so in tune with who you are on the inside – so few people are. All the power to you, man. :)
- Wow, CJ! Way to go on having the balls (funny choice of words, huh?!) to just put it out there like that. There's absolutely nothing to be ashamed about and I applaud you on doing what's right for you, and hope that you get nothing but support and encouragement from everyone here.
The support was overwhelming and still is! With all of the support and encouragement I received I was thinking to myself that I should have done it earlier, but I am a firm believer that things happen when and where they were meant to. This was my time and place.
I am currently 18 months into my gender reassignment. I have never felt better about myself as a person or as a Primary Worker at the Correctional Service of Canada. I feel indebted to my fellow Primary Workers for allowing me to feel safe and secure in being me, and to management for their support and encouragement. CSC is not only a great place for accepting diversity, it is encouraging and supportive!
I jumped in with both feet hoping they would land firmly onto the ground. I jumped in and both my feet are firmly planted on the ground. I will not go anywhere. I am here. I am confident. I am proud. I am courageous. I am transgender. I am me.
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