History of the Canadian Correctional System - Glossary

History of the Canadian Correctional System


British North America Act: On March 29, 1867, the British Parliament enacted the British North America Act establishing the terms of the Confederation of the Province of Canada (Québec and Ontario), New Brunswick and Nova Scotia with a parliamentary system directly modelled on the British one. This Act established the division of powers or jurisdictions between the central Parliament and the provincial legislatures.

Offender: The term “offender” is used to refer to any person who commits an offence.

Quaker: Known also as the Religious Society of Friends, this is a religious movement founded in England in the 17th century by some Anglican dissidents led by George Fox. Quakerism advocates pacifism and a simple lifestyle.

Penitentiary: A correctional facility where inmates are offered the chance to educate themselves and work; correctional facility is the generic term for any place of detention.

Penal colonies: Countries such as Canada and Australia were used as penal colonies, to which the colonizing countries (France, England) sent their common-law offenders; the latter often hoped to build a better life in this New World, which seemed to them less hostile than the institutions of the time.

Great Depression: Period of American history following Black Thursday on October 24, 1929, the day of the New York stock market crash. The events of that day triggered a worldwide economic crisis generating unemployment and poverty.

Death penalty: In Canada, hanging was the only method of execution used. In 1859, the offences punishable by death in Canada included murder, rape, treason, poisoning or injuring a person with the intent to commit murder, mistreatment of a girl under 10 years of age, arson, etc.

As of 1869, only three offences were punishable by death: murder, rape and treason.

After many years of debate, the death penalty was struck from the Criminal Code of Canada in 1976. Parliament made this decision because it felt that the State could not put an end to a person’s life, that there was always the risk of convicting an innocent person, and that there was no certainty that the death penalty was an effective deterrent.

Parliament replaced the death penalty for murder with a mandatory life sentence with no eligibility for parole for 25 years in the case of first-degree murder, and for 10 to 25 years in the case of second-degree murder.

Security levels: Canadian penitentiaries are classified by security level, which is related to the danger to the community posed by the inmate. There are minimum security, medium-security, maximum-security and multi-level security institutions.