Guidelines 081-1
Offender Complaint and Grievance Process


Number: 081-1

In Effect: 2019-06-28

Related links

Policy Bulletin 640



To ensure a fair and expeditious offender complaint and grievance process by providing further information on the process and its application

To provide clarification regarding:


Applies to both staff members and offenders involved in the resolution of issues that may arise between the two parties

Applies to any staff member involved in processing, analysing, and/or responding to offender complaints and grievances, as well as those offenders utilizing the offender complaint and grievance process


General Information

  1. Once submitted, offender complaint and grievance submissions and responses are considered "Protected B" information. For details on the hierarchy of classified information, refer to the Guide to Information Security.

Levels of the Offender Complaint and Grievance Process

  1. Some grievances must be automatically initiated at higher levels than the complaint level, such as:
    1. allegations of harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination - initial grievance
    2. decisions or actions of the Institutional Head/District Director - final grievance
      Note: Grievances containing allegations of harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination against the Institutional Head/District Director must be addressed in a final grievance.
    3. submissions regarding institutional transfers - final grievance
    4. submissions concerning an appeal of a decision rendered on a claim against the Crown - final grievance
    5. submissions regarding reviewsthe decision to transfer an inmate to a Structured Intervention Unit - final grievance
    6. submissions concerning transfers to/from the Special Handling Unit - final grievance
    7. submissions concerning a placement in a dry cell - final grievance.

Deferring a Complaint/Grievance

  1. The Institutional Head/District Director or the Director, Offender Redress, will defer a complaint/grievance, when:
    1. the offender decides to pursue an alternate legal remedy for the complaint/grievance in addition to the complaint and grievance procedure
    2. the complaint/grievance is being reviewed by the Inmate Grievance Committee or by the Outside Review Board
    3. there is an ongoing outside investigation into allegations of harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination.
      Note: When an offender alleges harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination, and an outside investigation is convened, the grievance shall be deferred while the allegations are being investigated. The grievance will be automatically reactivated when the investigation report is received by the Institutional Head/District Director or the Director, Offender Redress.
  2. In all cases, when a complaint/grievance is deferred, the offender must be notified in writing of the deferral and of the reasons why, and, if possible, be provided the expected response date.
  3. Within 30 working days of receiving the final decision to their alternate legal remedy, or should they decide to abandon it, the offender must advise the Institutional Head/District Director or the Director, Offender Redress, in writing if they wish to have the complaint/grievance reactivated.
  4. When a complaint/grievance has been deferred for two years, the Grievance Coordinator will verify with the offender, or on their own, that the deferral remains appropriate.

Processing of Complaints/Grievances by the Grievance Coordinator

  1. Upon receipt of a complaint/grievance, the staff member performing the duties of Grievance Coordinator will:
    1. sign and date the complaint/grievance
    2. assign a grievance code (original submission only)
    3. prioritize the complaint/grievance as either high priority or routine
    4. forward sensitive or urgent complaints/grievances to the Institutional Head/District Director in a sealed envelope
    5. log the complaint/grievance in the Offender Management System Renewal (OMSR)
    6. if a complaint or initial grievance is against another site, the Grievance Coordinator where the complaint or grievance is received is responsible for registering it and forwarding the file to the identified site as soon as possible for response, or to add any relevant documentation to the file, if it is a final grievance.
  2. Upon receipt of a complaint/grievance, all Grievance Coordinators will:
    1. acknowledge receipt of the complaint/grievance by sending a letter to the grievor with the expected responses date
    2. ensure confidentiality of offender file and complaint/grievance information throughout the offender complaint and grievance process (i.e. share information only with those with a need to know)
    3. provide the grievor, upon request, with information regarding the status of their complaint/grievance at any level.

Assigning a Grievance Code

  1. When a complaint/grievance is first received, it must be assigned a grievance code in OMSR as follows:
    1. read the complaint/grievance and identify the overriding subject matter
    2. refer to the Grievance Code Reference Guide and select the code that corresponds with the identified subject matter. If the substantive issue is not obvious or not easily identifiable, or there are multiple subject matters, refer to the corrective action requested by the offender. This may indicate what the central issue of the complaint/grievance is and why it has been submitted. If the subject matter is still not clear, the Grievance Coordinator should discuss with the offender to determine the objective in filing the complaint/grievance and provide assistance if necessary.
  2. The grievance code will remain the same throughout the process. It is important that the submission be properly coded for statistical purposes and to ensure that it is prioritized appropriately. The National Grievance Coordinator may be consulted when determining the appropriate code is challenging (GEN-NHQ National Grievance Coordinator).
  3. The responsibility for assigning grievance codes rests solely with the individual performing the duties of Grievance Coordinator. This is inclusive of instances where the offender identifies a grievance code on their submission.

Prioritization and Classification of Offender Complaints and Grievances

  1. Once a complaint/grievance has been assigned a grievance code, it may also need to be classified as high priority if it relates to an issue that has a significant impact on an offender’s rights and freedoms. If high priority status is not required, the complaint/grievance will remain routine priority.

High Priority

  1. Certain grievance codes are automatically assigned a high priority status when entered in OMSR (see list in the Grievance Code Reference Guide). Other grievance codes can also be assigned a high priority status depending on the subject matter being grieved. High priority status is not limited to the identified list.

Urgent Complaints/Grievances

  1. Complaints/grievances that the Grievance Coordinator deems urgent must be identified and treated as such and assigned high priority status. Every effort should be made to provide a response as soon as possible. An example of an urgent complaint/grievance is the denial of a request for a temporary absence to visit a terminally ill relative.

Sensitive Complaints/Grievances

  1. Complaints/grievances that are considered sensitive by the offender or the Grievance Coordinator are to be identified and registered in OMSR as such. When providing a response, the sensitivity of the complaint/grievance should be taken into consideration.
  2. Information that might cause a complaint/grievance to be considered sensitive include:
    1. a reference to a third party who may retaliate if details were revealed
    2. an accusation of serious misconduct
    3. a culturally-sensitive issue
    4. confidential health information or need
    5. personal information where disclosure would violate a person’s sense of privacy.

Consultations at the National Level

  1. Further to CD 081 - Offender Complaints and Grievances, subject-matter experts may be consulted during the review of a final grievance, including:
    1. Deputy Commissioner for Women - grievances submitted by women offenders
    2. Director General, Indigenous Initiatives Directorate - grievances submitted by Indigenous offenders
    3. Director General, Security - grievances concerning the use of force
    4. Director General, Chaplaincy - grievances concerning religious and/or spiritual accommodation
    5. Director General, Clinical Services/Public Health - grievances concerning health services
    6. Chief Executive Officer, CORCAN - grievances concerning CORCAN operations, employment, etc.
  2. In the event that the proposed grievance response recommends to uphold or uphold in part the grievance, and includes a corrective action, the staff member responsible for implementing the proposed measure will normally be provided with three working days to comment on the proposed response before it is sent to the decision maker.

Closing a Complaint/Grievance File

  1. In all cases:
    1. ensure the response has been signed by the decision maker
    2. ensure that the complaint/grievance response form is properly completed (i.e. boxes are checked, form is signed and dated, and corrective action is noted, if required)
    3. photocopy the response and forward the original signed response to the offender, together with any documents that the offender submitted with the complaint/grievance; the supporting documentation added to the file by CSC is not provided to the offender
    4. after a decision has been rendered, a complete copy of the complaint/grievance and related documents (including all of the supporting documentation) are kept at the site where the complaint/grievance was filed and at the national level (National Headquarters). All documents are to be retained and processed in accordance with CSC information management and recordkeeping procedures.
  2. The original response and documentation submitted by the offender must be kept on file and the decision must be rendered on the offender’s complaint/grievance when an offender:
    1. is past their warrant expiry date and their current address is unknown
    2. is unlawfully at large
    3. has escaped
    4. is deceased.

Corrective Action

  1. The decision maker will determine the corrective action that best resolves the complaint/grievance so similar issues do not occur in the future. Some considerations for corrective action are the following:
    1. the redress sought by the grievor
    2. the seriousness of any misconduct involved and any further actions necessary to respond
    3. the potential for repetition by other staff members of the actions for which there was a complaint
    4. what is required to ensure future compliance with relevant legislation and policy
    5. who is accountable for implementing the corrective action.

Transmitting a Complaint/Grievance to the Next Level

  1. When transmitting a complaint or initial grievance to the next level for analysis and review:
    1. forward the original complaint/grievance submission(s) along with copies of the response(s) provided to the offender
    2. ensure that all supporting documentation is also forwarded with the grievance
    3. ensure that all documents submitted by the offender are clearly identified as "Offender Submission", and all documents added by CSC are clearly identified as "CSC Information". This step ensures that all documents submitted by offenders are returned to them.

Multiple Grievors

  1. In deciding whether to designate an offender as a multiple grievor, the Institutional Head/District Director may consider:
    1. the volume of complaints/grievances submitted by the offender
    2. the prioritization of previous complaints/grievances (number of complaints/grievances identified as routine vs. high priority)
    3. the decisions rendered for the previous complaints/grievances (the proportion that have been upheld or upheld in part)
    4. the site’s ability to process and respond to other offenders’ complaints/grievances.
    5. Note: The module "Multiple Grievor Designation" in OMSR is to be used for this exercise.

  2. The Institutional Head/District Director must also ensure the following:
    1. the offender is informed in writing of the fact that the multiple grievor status is being considered, the consequences of this designation and methods of informal resolution that could be used
    2. the offender will be given reasonable time to reply in writing to the proposed decision and the Institutional Head/District Director will consider the offender’s rebuttal in making their decision
    3. if, after considering these factors, the Institutional Head/District Director decides to designate the offender as a multiple grievor, the offender must be notified in writing and informed of the number of routine complaints and grievances that will be responded to each month
    4. the offender may submit a grievance to the national level against the decision to designate them as a multiple grievor
    5. the review of an offender’s status as a multiple grievor must occur every six months and the multiple grievor designation may only be maintained for as long as it is applicable. When the assessment is complete, the offender must be notified in writing of the review and whether or not the designation will be maintained.

Harassment, Sexual Harassment and Discrimination Grievances

  1. When receiving a grievance designated as harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination, the decision maker must first determine whether the allegation(s), if proven, meet(s) the applicable definition. At this point, it is not necessary to determine whether the conduct being grieved took place, only whether the allegation(s), if proven, meet(s) the applicable definition.

Designation Satisfies the Applicable Definition

  1. Where the decision maker determines that the allegation(s) meet(s) the definition of harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination, they must give consideration to convening an outside investigation into the matter in order to ascertain whether the alleged conduct actually occurred.
  2. The decision maker may decide to respond immediately to the issue(s) raised in the grievance, when they determine that there is sufficient information available to ascertain whether the alleged misconduct actually occurred, and make a determination as to whether the specific allegation(s) were founded or unfounded. The information on which they rely to make this determination must be documented in the response.

Designation Does Not Satisfy the Applicable Definition

  1. Where the decision maker determines that the alleged conduct does not meet the definition of harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination, they must provide the offender with a written rationale as to why the allegation(s) does (do) not meet the applicable definition.
  2. The offender may grieve to the next level the decision not to consider the grievance as harassment, sexual harassment, or discrimination.
  3. The offender must be informed that the substantive issue that they raised (e.g., an isolated incident related to staff performance or another decision) can be addressed at the lowest possible level.

Convening an Outside Investigation

  1. Where an investigation is convened, a copy of the Convening Order must be sent to the grievor, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, and the Director, Offender Redress. The grievance must also be deferred in OMSR pending the completion of the investigation.
  2. The party responsible for convening the outside investigation must ensure that:
    1. if it is in the best interest of the offender and the accused, these individuals are physically separated from one another during the outside investigation
    2. the investigation is conducted by a harassment investigator from outside the institution or parole office where the complaint/grievance originated, preferably trained by the Canada School of Public Service (or equivalent from an accredited institution) in conducting investigations of harassment, sexual harassment and discrimination
    3. persons investigating the allegations of harassment, sexual harassment or discrimination are free of a conflict of interest
    4. the principle of procedural fairness and appearance thereof is respected
    5. the investigator conducts the outside investigation in accordance with the terms of reference established in the Convening Order
    6. the region from which the grievance originated incurs the costs of the outside investigation.

Investigation Report

  1. A draft of the investigation report should be completed within the timeframe outlined in the Convening Order, which should not exceed three months from the time the investigation was convened.
  2. The draft investigation report and final investigation report are subject to the Privacy Act. Vetting of this report may be required. The decision maker makes this decision after consulting with the Access to Information and Privacy Division. In the interest of fairness and the perceived integrity of the process, and in order to ensure accuracy, completeness and accountability, there should be maximum disclosure of information to the parties prior to final sign-off of the report.
  3. The investigator will provide appropriate versions of the draft report, vetted for administrative fairness and privacy purposes, to the grievor, the respondent, the individual who convened the investigation, and other persons about whom adverse comments are included.
  4. The final investigation report should be an accurate and complete account of findings and conclusions. It should include both the grievor’s and the accused’s comments on the draft report.
  5. The final investigation report should be provided to the person who convened the investigation and a copy should be shared with the Director, Offender Redress, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator.
  6. The person who convened the outside investigation must inform the grievor and the accused, in writing, of the outcome of the investigation. A vetted copy of the final report must be shared with the grievor and the accused.

Grievance Response

  1. Upon receipt of the final investigation report, the decision maker will ensure that the grievance is reactivated in OMSR at the level at which the investigation was convened. A grievance response will be prepared taking into account the conclusions of the outside investigation.


  1. During the analysis and review of a complaint/grievance, an analyst may contact appropriate persons involved in the grievance such as operational staff, subject-matter experts and, if required, the offender.
  2. An interview must be conducted with the offender if the offender has requested an interview, when the complaint/initial grievance is first received at the institution, parole office or Community Correctional Centre (only one interview required, not one for the complaint and then for the grievance), unless there are unusual or exceptional circumstances which do not permit it or the offender refuses. If the offender resides at a different site than where the analysis and recommendation is taking place, an interview must still be conducted. At the national level, the offender may be interviewed if it is considered necessary in order to perform a thorough analysis and review.

Inmate Grievance Committee

  1. Where the Institutional Head wishes to refer an offender’s grievance to the Inmate Grievance Committee, the grievor must sign a Consent for Disclosure of Personal Information (Inmate) (CSC/SCC 0487) prior to the sharing of information with the Inmate Grievance Committee.
  2. The Institutional Head must refer the case to the Inmate Grievance Committee as soon as possible, and the grievance will be deferred in OMSR. The deferral and the purpose of the deferral must be clearly indicated in OMSR.
  3. The Inmate Grievance Committee will review the response to the complaint, if one exists, and any relevant documents referred to, or prepared, in support of the response.
  4. Documents of a sensitive or confidential nature will not be shared with the Inmate Grievance Committee.
  5. The recommendation(s) of the Inmate Grievance Committee will be forwarded to the Institutional Head within 10 working days from the Institutional Head’s referral to the Inmate Grievance Committee.
  6. The Institutional Head may accept the recommendation(s) of the Inmate Grievance Committee or not. However, where the Institutional Head disagrees with the Inmate Grievance Committee, they must record the reasons for the disagreement in the response to the offender.
  7. The initial grievance is reactivated in OMSR upon receipt of the recommendations and the Institutional Head will render a new decision.

Outside Review Board

  1. Where an offender requests that the Institutional Head refer their initial grievance submission and the corresponding response to the Outside Review Board for review before appealing to the national level, the offender must complete the Request for Outside Review (CSC/SCC 0359).
  2. When an outside review has been requested, the Institutional Head must refer the case to the Outside Review Board as soon as possible.
  3. The Outside Review Board reviews are limited to an examination of the same information and documentation that was before the decision maker at the time a decision on the initial grievance was rendered. Therefore, the Outside Review Board’s analysis and recommendation(s) will include, but not be limited to, such things as ensuring that:
    1. all concerns identified by the offender were addressed in the initial grievance response
    2. all relevant documentation/information to support the initial grievance decision was communicated to the offender
    3. the grievance response provided a clear rationale, supported by law and policy
    4. the principles of procedural fairness were adequately adhered to.
  4. The Outside Review Board Chairperson will record a summary of the analysis and the recommendation(s) on the offender’s original Request for Outside Review (CSC/SCC 0359).
  5. The Institutional Head will inform the offender, in writing, of the Outside Review Board’s recommendation(s).
  6. Upon receipt of the Outside Review Board’s recommendation(s), the grievance will be reactivated in OMSR and the Institutional Head will issue a new response taking into consideration those recommendations.

Use Of Force Grievances

  1. A separate administrative review process is in place for use of force incidents pursuant to CD 567‑1 - Use of Force.
  2. Any grievance related to a reported use of force incident, or the use of force review process, will be registered as a final grievance. If the incident grieved has not been recorded in OMSR as a confirmed use of force, the submission must be registered at the lowest possible level.
  3. As part of the analysis and review of these grievances, consultation may occur with the Director General, Security, and an analysis will be conducted to determine whether the administrative review process for incidents involving use of force was followed. The result(s) of the review(s) of the incident will be considered.
  4. This does not apply to a grievance concerning an issue that arose as a result of a use of force incident (e.g., an involuntary transfer as a result of the incident leading to a use of force), nor does it apply to grievances about health care treatments or assessments outside the medical assessment required by CD 567-1 - Use of Force. These matters will continue to be reviewed at the appropriate levels of the offender complaint and grievance process.

Assistant Commissioner, Policy


Original signed by:

Larry Motiuk

Annex A

CD 081 - Offender Complaints and Grievances

CD 567-1 - Use of Force

CD 710-6 - Review of Inmate Security Classification

Privacy Act

Grievance Code Reference Guide

Guide to Information Security

Offender Complaint and Grievance Training Modules

Offender Redress OMSR User Guide

Annex B
Grievance codes

Segregated populations

Placement or maintenance in observation cell
The offender believes that a decision for or against placement in an observation cell was unfair or improperly made, or an offender wants to be placed in or removed from an observation cell. Includes the procedures pertaining to placement in an observation cell; the decision for maintenance in an observation cell; and the level of enhanced observation (high watch vs. modified watch). (Note: Concerns pertaining to mental health monitoring as an enhanced observation level fall under 03B - Mental Health Services.)
Living conditions in observation cell
Some aspect of the living conditions in the observation cell or perceived unfair treatment experienced by an offender placed in an observation cell because of the assigned observation level (high watch vs. modified watch). Includes the programs and services available based on the assigned observation level; staff visits to the observation cell; daily visits from health services professionals; the opportunity to exercise daily; and access to showers and telephones.
Structured Intervention Unit Transfer
The inmate believes that a decision for or against a transfer to a Structured Intervention Unit was unfair or improperly made, or an inmate wants to get into or out of a Structured Intervention unit. Includes the procedures pertaining to a transfer to a Structured Intervention Unit; right of recourse to the services of legal counsel at the time of transfer; any subsequent reviews and recommendations; and the rationale for maintenance in a Structured Intervention Unit. (Note: Decisions made by independent external decision makers cannot be grieved.)
Living Conditions in Structured Intervention Unit
Some aspect of the living conditions in a Structured Intervention Unit or on restricted movement. Includes access to intervention and programming; daily visits from health services professionals; being provided with time outside of the cell; the opportunity to exercise daily; and access to showers and telephones.

General subject matters

Amenities - Personal
The provision of clothing, footwear, linens and other personal care items, excluding those prescribed for medical or health reasons. (Note: Concerns pertaining to personal amenities prescribed for medical or health reasons fall under 03D - Non-Urgent Health Services and Treatment.)
Amenities - Institutional
The provision of physical shelter or the use of physical space in the institution as it relates to offenders, such as the delivery of water, heat, light, ventilation, cell furniture, cell sanitation, and cell assignment. This also covers institutional grounds, trailer units and issues such as the CSC smoking policy. Note: Issues related to cell assignment, as they pertain to shared cell accommodation, fall under 02E - Shared Accommodation.)
Amenities - Food and diet
The quality or quantity of food or the food service. (Note: Concerns pertaining to special diets provided for a firmly held religious, spiritual or conscientious conviction(s) fall under 06A - Religious and/or Spiritual Programs. Concerns pertaining to special diets provided for medical or therapeutic reasons fall under 03D - Non-Urgent Health Services and Treatment.
Conditions and routine in the institution
Issues related to the institutional routine. Includes the timing of meals or activities; the frequency and timing of offender counts; control of offender movements inside the perimeter; opportunities for socializing and offender privileges during incarceration; the use of identification cards; and access to basic legal documents.
Shared accommodation
Issues related to shared accommodation, double occupancy, move from single occupancy to shared accommodation, and the assessment and/or decision to place an offender in shared accommodations.
Deductions for food, accommodation and telephone administration
Issues related to food and accommodation deductions, as well as deductions for the administrative costs associated with the access to telephone services.

Health services

Administration of health services
The operation of the institutional health services centre. Includes the procedures for appointments, hours of clinics, availability of physicians and specialists, distribution of medication, and availability and allocation of health services beds. This category also includes any issues regarding an offender’s request for medical assistance in dying. (Note: Concerns pertaining to accessing medical assistance in dying must be treated as urgent and assigned high priority status.)
Mental health services
This category encompasses all aspects of mental health services, including psychiatric and psychological services, access to treatment, staff, medication, the quality of treatment, counselling, monitoring, and psychological and psychiatric assessments.
Urgent health services and treatment
Urgent or emergency medical treatment. Includes access to medication and treatment (when a delay or lack of treatment might endanger the life of an offender); problems concerning prescriptions; emergency health services (i.e. delay of the service will endanger the life of the offender); and urgent health services (i.e. the condition is likely to deteriorate to an emergency or affect the offender's ability to carry on the activities of daily living).
Non-urgent health services and treatment
Reasonable access to routine medical care (i.e. treatment not listed as urgent). Includes the acquisition of medical or optometric prostheses and appliances; medical decisions relating to therapeutic diets; refusal by a physician to excuse an offender from their work assignment because of alleged symptoms of physical or mental incapacity; refusals or delays in obtaining orthopedic shoes; and refusal to provide a special or supplemental mattress for an offender claiming to have back problems.
Community health services
Health services treatment provided in the community to offenders on day parole, full parole, statutory release, or subject to a long-term supervision order.
Health services staff performance
The personal and professional requirements, as well as the code of conduct applicable to institutional health services staff.
Protection of personal health information
The communication or release of personal health information, including medical history, information on the offender’s current medical or mental health condition, or results of a psychiatric or psychological evaluation, in a manner that does not respect pertinent legislation, or for uses other than authorised.
Opioid substitution therapy
This category encompasses all concerns pertaining to the prescription and administration of Opioid Substitution Therapy (Methadone/Suboxone) as well as access to the Opioid Substitution Therapy Program and the removal of an offender from this program.
Dental services
With regard to dental care, access to medication and treatment (when a delay or lack of treatment might endanger the life of an offender) as well as problems concerning prescriptions. This category also includes dental care for acute dental conditions where the offender is experiencing swelling, pain or trauma (i.e. necessary fillings, extractions, etc.), and reasonable access to routine dental care. (Note: The acquisition of removable dental prostheses and appliances is considered routine.)

Employment/program assignment

Program board decisions
This category encompasses all aspects of an offender’s placement in employment, therapy, vocational training or an academic study program; changes to the types of programs to which the offender is assigned; the removal of an offender from an employment, training or study position; and procedural violations (e.g. the Board’s decision and reasons were not communicated to the offender in writing within the prescribed timeframe, or the offender was not given the opportunity to respond to the Board orally or in writing).
Work program conditions
The conditions of a work, training and/or study program, including staff, the work environment and the workload.
Program board decisions - offender pay
The offender pay system, including evaluation methods and ratings, and the Board’s decisions regarding an offender's pay level (termination of pay, a reduction in pay level, or refusal to approve a recommendation for a pay increase); and procedural violations (e.g. the Board’s decision and reasons were not communicated to the offender in writing within the prescribed timeframe, or the offender was not given the opportunity to respond to the Board orally or in writing).
Offender pay administration
Alleged errors in the calculation of hours of employment or in the amount remitted to an offender with respect to pay.

Leisure activities

Recreational activities
Leisure activities, including availability, quality, staff, policies on leisure activities, arts and crafts and other leisure issues. This category also includes videos, movies, games, special events, exercise and access to community television and radio programs.

Social, cultural and correctional programs

Religious and/or spiritual programs
Religious and spiritual programs, including any policies, procedures and institutional provisions for the free exercise of religion. This category encompasses access to a religious leader of the same faith as the offender; approval of religious diets; religious holidays; use and ownership of religious items; possession of religious literature; and alleged institutional impediments to the free practice of the offender's religion. (Note: Concerns pertaining to any component of Indigenous spirituality fall under 06D - Indigenous Spirituality, Cultural Programs and Activities.)
Social and/or cultural activities
Issues related to social and cultural activities offered in the institutions, whether organised by offender organizations or by community volunteers (e.g. lifers groups). (Note: Concerns pertaining to any component of Indigenous cultural activities fall under 06D - Indigenous Spirituality, Cultural Programs and Cultural Activities.)
Correctional programs
Correctional programs or program areas in the institution or in the community. Includes access to programs, their availability, staff and the quality of the programs offered. It applies particularly to programs for the acquisition of cognitive or reasoning skills, substance abuse programs, sex offender programs, family violence programs and literacy or education programs.
Indigenous spirituality, cultural programs and activities
Issues related to the accommodation of Indigenous spirituality at the institutional and national levels, and the access to cultural programs. Also includes concerns pertaining to Indigenous cultural activities offered in the institutions, whether organised by offender organizations or by community volunteers.

Visits and correspondence

Correspondence and/or telephone communication
Decisions or procedures regarding mail or correspondence (general and privileged) and parcels. Includes measures to check the contents of envelopes, as well as the opening or reading of letters received or sent by offenders; fair and regular access to telephones; the authorization of telephone use for humanitarian reasons; the addition of a telephone number to the list of authorised calls; the standards governing offender access to the telephone system available for their use; and impediments to communicating with a member of the community in writing or by telephone.
Decisions or procedures regarding visits in general (contact visits or non-contact visits) and private family visits, including the approval, suspension or cancellation of visits. This category also includes the number of authorised visits, audio surveillance of conversations between offenders and visitors, and the duration and frequency of private family visits.

Penitentiary placement and transfers

Penitentiary placement
Issues related to a penitentiary placement decision, such as the reasons for selecting a particular institution or region. (Note: Concerns pertaining to the security level - i.e. maximum instead of medium - of the institution at which the offender has been placed fall under 08E - Security Classification.)
Voluntary transfer
Issues related to a transfer requested by an offender to another institution or region. Includes the decision rendered, the timeframes for rendering the decision and the timeframes for effecting the voluntary transfer.
Involuntary transfer
Issues related to an involuntary transfer or a procedural violation. Includes the decision rendered, the timeframes for rendering the decision and the timeframes for effecting the involuntary transfer.
Decision of the national review board - special handling unit
Issues related to a decision made by the National Review Board. Includes the Board’s initial decision to place the offender in the SHU at the end of the assessment period, or a decision made during a subsequent review to keep an offender in the SHU; the offender's interview with the Board members; and the choice of destination to which the offender is moved from the SHU at the end of the assessment period or at any other time afterward.
Security classification
Issues related to an offender’s classification. Includes the assignment of the initial security classification; the maintenance of the current classification or a change to the current classification; and the overall assessment of the classification or the assessment of one of the three critical factors stated in the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations (CCRR), namely, institutional adjustment, escape risk and public safety.
Security classification - life sentence
Where a security classification is assigned or revised for an offender serving a life sentence for first or second-degree murder. The Institutional Head cannot delegate the authority for authorising an offender’s security classification to the Deputy Warden in cases where the security classification is related to a transfer decision and/or involved an offender serving a life sentence for first or second-degree murder who is currently classified as maximum security pursuant to CD 710-6 - Review of Offender Security Classification.

Disciplinary matters

Disciplinary court - minor offences
When an offender has been charged with a minor offence under section 40 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA), they may grieve issues regarding the procedures or decisions related to their disciplinary hearing.
Disciplinary court - serious offences
When an offender has been charged with a serious offence under section 40 of the CCRA, they may grieve issues regarding informal resolution at the disciplinary hearing. They may not grieve those procedures or decisions related to disciplinary hearings for serious offences that are the exclusive jurisdiction of the Independent Chairperson.
Observation reports/security information or intelligence
Issues related to the accuracy or pertinence of the information contained in observation reports and security/intelligence information. Includes decisions to affiliate an offender with a security threat group, terminate the affiliation, or change the offender’s role or status.
Urinalysis program
Issues related to the standards, decisions, guidelines or operational procedures for the implementation and maintenance of the urinalysis program at the institutional or community level. Includes issues raised pertaining to the selection of offenders and collection of samples as well as the results of the urinalysis test.

Sentence calculation

Sentence calculation
Issues related to the calculation or interpretation of the offender’s sentence by the Chief, Sentence Management, or details pertaining to the sentence calculation sheet that must be issued to each offender.

Case management

Case preparation activities
Issues related to CSC's preparation of a case for the purpose of a decision or hearing. This category encompasses the assessments of all case management activities as well as the recommendations for transfers, temporary absences, work releases, perimeter work clearances, day parole, full parole, statutory release, detention reviews and judicial reviews and the prerogative of mercy (changing of a sentence/penalty). It also includes information placed in a case preparation file, and changes requested by the offender to the contents of their files.
Case preparation - decisions
Issues related to decisions of the Institutional Head regarding temporary absences (escorted and unescorted) under CSC jurisdiction, work releases and perimeter work clearances.
Correctional plan
Issues related to the Correctional Plan and its contents, the deadlines for its preparation or the plan's periodic reviews, the goals and objectives identified in the plan, and the programs, resources and supervision techniques deemed necessary for their achievement.

Official languages issues

Official languages
When the offender believes there has been a breach of the Official Languages Act, particularly the right to be served and to express oneself in one of Canada's two official languages (French or English) with respect to matters such as disciplinary charges, transfers and parole decisions. This category also includes interpretation services provided to an offender who understands neither of the country's two official languages.

Staff conduct

Use of force
Issues pertaining to any action by staff, on or off of institutional property, that is intended to obtain the cooperation and gain control of an offender, by using one or more of the following measures: non-routine use of restraint equipment; physical handling/control; a chemical or inflammatory agent intentionally aimed at an individual or dispensed to gain compliance; use of batons or other intermediary weapons; display and/or use of firearms; and any direct intervention by the Emergency Response Team with an offender.

  • If the offender is grieving a use of force incident which was recorded in OMSR as a confirmed use of force, the submission must be registered as a final grievance.
  • If the incident grieved has not been recorded in OMSR as a confirmed use of force, the submission must be registered at the lowest possible level in accordance with policy.
Harassment by staff
When an offender believes that there has been improper conduct by a CSC staff member that is directed at and offensive to them, and that the individual knew or ought reasonably to have known would cause offence or harm. It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles, or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Examples of what generally constitutes harassment:
  • serious or repeated rude, degrading or offensive remarks, such as teasing about a person's physical characteristics or appearance, put-downs or insults
  • displaying sexist, racist or other offensive pictures, or posters
  • threats, intimidation or retaliation.
Staff performance
When the offender believes that staff members have been careless or negligent in the performance of their duties or they have failed to conform to the regulations and/or procedures in force (in the institution or in the community). (Note: concerns pertaining to a staff member’s performance as it relates to preparing case management documents should be coded as 11A - Case Preparation Activities.)
Sexual harassment
When the offender believes that any verbal comments or non-verbal gesture(s) or contact of a sexual nature, by a CSC staff member, whether on a one-time basis or in a continuous series of incidents, that might reasonably be expected to cause offence or humiliation, was directed at them. Examples include lewd or suggestive remarks, gestures or actions on the part of staff, or failure to ensure privacy during searches.
Cross-gender staffing
Any cross-gender staffing policy issue arising from interaction between male staff/contractors/ volunteers and women offenders.


When the offender believes that CSC staff actions, language or decision(s) were made in a discriminatory manner based on one of the prohibited grounds of discrimination as defined in section 3 of the Canadian Human Rights Act.


Issues related to personal searches (non-intrusive searches or frisk searches), or searches of items, cells, rooms or vehicles. This category includes searches using drug detecting dogs and other technologies.
Strip searches
Issues related to strip searches, their frequency, the decision to conduct a strip search or the way in which the strip search was conducted; strip searches that involve body cavity searches; strip searches of visitors; and the impact of the search on the offender.
Articles seized
Issues related to articles seized during searches, the return of seized items to their rightful owner, the forfeiture of items seized pursuant to the CCRR, and requests to cancel the forfeiture of a seized article.
Placement in a dry cell
The offender believes that a decision for placement in a dry cell was unfair and arbitrary, or believes they were not informed of the reasons for the placement. Includes the opportunity to communicate with or retain and instruct legal counsel and/or the opportunity to make written representations for the Institutional Head’s consideration at the daily review. Also includes the length of placement and whether contraband was found.
Living conditions in a dry cell
Issues pertaining to the living conditions in the dry cell. Includes adequate bedding, food, clothing and toiletry articles; reasonable access to medical, spiritual and psychological assistance; and daily visits from a medical professional.

Personal effects

Personal effects
Issues pertaining to the access to, or the purchase, ownership, repair, storage, sale or usage of personal effects. Includes the personal effects that the offender had in their possession at the time of admission, as well as those received from the outside within the following 30 days; the procedures to obtain personal effects after this period; and the amount and maximum value of effects that the offender may keep as cell effects or in storage in the containers provided by the institution.

Inmate accounts

Offender accounts
Any aspect of the management of inmate monies. Includes personal bank accounts, group accounts and the Inmate Welfare Fund; withdrawals from savings accounts; requests for loans from the Inmate Welfare Fund; and any applicable attachments or deductions (such as mandatory contributions to the Welfare Fund, repayment of an outstanding loan, or payment of a fine imposed because of a disciplinary offence). (Note: Concerns pertaining to contributions toward the cost of food, accommodation and telephone system administration fall under 02F - Deductions for Food, Accommodation and Telephone Administration.)

Inmate canteen

Offender canteen
Any aspect of canteen operations, including availability of products, choice of vendors, and hours of operation.

Appeals on claims against the Crown

Appeals on claims against the Crown
The denial of a claim against the Crown or the settlement offered to the claimant. This may be because of seizure, disposal or loss of the offender's personal effects, or damage to them.

Grievance process

Offender complaint and grievance process
Concerns pertaining to any aspect of the offender complaint and grievance process. Includes access to complaint/grievance forms; access to the process for settling complaints/grievances during labour disputes; the priority and level of review assigned to a complaint/grievance; measures taken against offenders who submit numerous complaints/grievances; delays in receiving a response to a complaint/grievance; and objectivity and fairness in the review of complaints/grievances.
Corrective action on complaints and/or grievances
Issues related to corrective actions prescribed in an offender complaint/grievance response. Includes timeliness of corrective action, and dissatisfaction with the outcome of the corrective action.

Non-grievable subject matters

Non-grievable subject matters
Subject matters that do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of the CSC. The most common situations include: decisions made by the Independent Chairperson; charges laid before an outside court; court convictions; the judge's sentencing decisions; police action; action taken while the offender was in provincial custody; Parole Board of Canada decisions (the Board has its own appeal system); and decisions made by an agency other than the CSC, such as legal aid or Citizenship and Immigration Canada.


A grievable subject matter that cannot be easily coded in one of the above categories. Use the "Other" category conservatively, only when there is no clear correspondence between a complaint/grievance and the categories available in the coding system.

Mother-child program

Mother-child program - general issues
Decisions or procedures related to any aspect of both the residential and non-residential components of the Institutional Mother-Child Program. (Note: Concerns pertaining to decisions or procedures affecting access to the residential component fall under 23B - Mother Child Program - Access to Residential Component.)
Mother-child program - access to residential component
Decisions or procedures related to the offender’s access to the residential component of the Institutional Mother-Child Program, including approval, suspension, or termination of participation in said component on a part-time or full-time basis.

Annex C


If an offender no longer wishes to pursue a complaint/grievance through the redress process, they must submit a written explanation indicating how the matter was resolved. The written explanation must then be signed by the offender and the staff member involved in resolving the issue before being forwarded to the decision maker.


A complaint/grievance may be rejected when:

1. The issue being grieved is not under the jurisdiction of the Commissioner.

The decision maker must inform the offender in writing that the subject is non-grievable and provide the appropriate information on the means of redress available based on the subject. Refer to Annex F for a list of non-grievable subject matters and the available alternative means of redress.

2. The complaint is deemed to meet the definition of frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith as set out in Annex A of CD 081 - Offender Complaints and Grievances.

Applies to complaints ONLY. Rejection under these categories can only occur on a case-by-case basis. Each issue in the complaint must be analysed separately to determine if it is frivolous, vexatious, or submitted in bad faith.

In addition, pursuant to CD 081 - Offender Complaints and Grievances, it is possible to reject only portions of a complaint if it is determined that it is frivolous, vexatious or not made in good faith. It is not always reasonable to reject an entire grievance and respondents should always consider this option when rejecting complaints.

3. The issue occurred more than 30 working days prior to the offender submitting the complaint/ grievance.

The complaint/grievance may be rejected for this reason unless it can be reasonably concluded that the offender only became aware of or was first affected by the matter less than 30 working days before the complaint/grievance was submitted.

The decision maker may extend this 30-working-day timeframe. In deciding whether to review a complaint/grievance that has been submitted outside of this timeframe, the decision maker should consider whether the interests of the Service and the offender could be best served by reviewing the matter.

4. The offender escalated the complaint/grievance more than 30 working days after receiving the preceding response.

The complaint/grievance may be rejected for this reason unless it can be reasonably concluded that the offender attempted to have the submission escalated or that they were not able to escalate the submission due to unforeseen issues, such as, but not limited to, a transfer to a Structured Intervention or an institutional transfer.

The decision maker may extend this 30-working-day timeframe. In deciding whether to review a complaint/grievance that has been escalated outside of this timeframe, the decision maker should consider whether the interests of the Service and the offender could be best served by reviewing the matter.

5. The issue is being, or has been, addressed in a separate complaint/grievance.

If, during the analysis of a complaint/grievance at any given level, it is established that the issue is being, or has been, addressed in a separate complaint/grievance, the complaint/grievance may be rejected. However, if a submission is going to be rejected on this basis, it must be clear that the issue was the same and was addressed in the separate complaint/grievance. The response should also clearly outline the reason(s) for rejecting the complaint/grievance as well as the reference number(s) of the submission that already addressed the issue.

6. The offender raises a new issue that has not been addressed at the lowest possible level.

Each case should be reviewed on its own merits in order to determine whether a new issue being raised at a higher level should be addressed. That being said, it is possible to reject a grievance or part(s) thereof, especially if the new issue does not relate to the initial subject in any way.

Example: If the complaint is concerning the denial of a request to purchase running shoes, it is reasonable that a respondent at the subsequent level would reject a new issue regarding the offender’s suspension from their program assignment.

Some factors that should be considered in determining whether new issues will be responded to include:

  1. whether the new issue is closely related to the original subject matter
  2. the potential prejudice suffered by the grievor should they be required to start at the beginning of the offender complaint and grievance process
  3. the nature of the issue being grieved (e.g., issues of life, liberty, and security will tend to require a response)
  4. the time that has elapsed since the issue first arose.

The decision to reject a grievance, or part(s) thereof, when an issue is raised for the first time at a subsequent level, should be made after balancing the preceding interests.

Beyond authority

A complaint or initial grievance is beyond authority when the decision maker establishes that the issue must be addressed at the next level (is beyond the authority of the current level to address).


After reviewing the complaint/grievance and conducting the analysis, the issue is considered unfounded or the decisions or actions of staff members were deemed appropriate and in accordance with legislation and policy.


When a complaint/grievance is justified because the decision being grieved, the treatment of the offender or the procedure was unfairly or arbitrarily applied, or contrary to guiding legislation or policy.

The decision maker responding to the complaint/grievance will determine the corrective action that would effectively respond to the upheld complaint/grievance.

It is important to differentiate between the issue raised by the offender and the corrective action requested. The complaint/grievance may be upheld but the corrective action requested by the offender may not be granted. For example, an offender’s request to have an officer dismissed for improperly conducting a search may not be the appropriate corrective action under the circumstances. Alternatively, corrective action requiring the Institutional Head to educate staff on the correct procedures for conducting a search may be appropriate. Any corrective action required is to be undertaken by the appropriate authorities depending on the nature of the action required.

Upheld in part

A complaint/grievance will be upheld in part when several issues are grieved and/or elements are addressed in the response but not all of them are upheld (i.e. other elements are denied, rejected, no further action).

Example: An offender grieves the decision to deny a transfer and the length of time it took to receive the decision. Upon review, the decision to not approve the transfer is found to be valid, but it is also found that the required timeframes were not respected. In such a case, the grievance would be upheld in part. The response would indicate that the timeframes were not respected (therefore upheld) but the reasons for denying the transfer were appropriate (therefore denied).

No further action

When it has been determined that the response at the previous level(s) was complete and appropriate or when it is deemed that the action taken at previous level(s), or since the submission of the complaint/grievance, rectified the situation in accordance with law and policy, the issue therefore requires no further action. Though the action may not be to the offender’s satisfaction, the issue is nonetheless deemed to have been appropriately addressed.

Annex D
Informal resolution

In accordance with subsection 74(2) of the CCRR, where a complaint is submitted, every effort shall be made by staff members and the offender to resolve the matter informally through discussion.

Alternative dispute resolution mechanisms such as coaching, counselling, mediation, healing/ resolution circles, and facilitation should be offered to the parties involved and must remain available throughout the redress process.

1. Healing/Resolution Circles

A healing/resolution circle is an Indigenous cultural ceremony normally led by an Elder. There are many purposes for holding a circle depending on the circumstances and/or need at that time. The resolution of disputes, complaints or misunderstandings is one possibility. The circle could be called various names depending on the Elder and the traditions of the region.

Applicable policy: CD 702 - Indigenous Offenders, definitions in Annex A:

Cultural ceremonies: the purpose of a ceremony will depend on the Elder/Spiritual Advisor and their teaching as there are many reasons for attending or requesting a ceremony. Cultural ceremonies can include, but are not limited to, the following: smudging, sweat lodge ceremonies, traditional pow-wows, changing of the seasons ceremonies, sundance ceremonies, round dances, healing or sacred circles, pipe ceremonies, shaking tent ceremonies, potlatches, longhouse, fasts, feasts, moon ceremonies, tea ceremonies, waterbath ceremonies, PakKUjalitauvvik (Inuit candle light ceremony), return of the sun ceremonies, and return of the community hunt ceremonies.

Cultural competence: ability of individuals and systems to respond respectfully and effectively to people of all cultures, classes, races, faiths and ethnic backgrounds in a manner that recognises, affirms, and values the cultural differences and similarities, the worth of individuals, families and communities and protects and preserves the dignity of each.

2. Alternative Dispute Resolution Mechanisms

Various forms of alternative dispute resolution exist to facilitate principled, interest-based resolution of problems. Some involve facilitation by a third party and some are more structured than others. The Offender Redress Division is prepared to assist institutions in identifying and implementing alternative dispute resolution mechanisms.

Annex E
How to analyse a complaint or grievance

1. Steps for Analysing a Complaint/Grievance

  1. Read the complaint/grievance to determine the exact nature of the issue(s). If an offender has submitted two or more complaints/grievances on related issues, they may be addressed in one response, pursuant to CD 081 - Offender Complaints and Grievances.
  2. Develop a plan for analysing the complaint/grievance.
  3. Create a timeline in accordance with the timeframes established in CD 081 - Offender Complaints and Grievances.
  4. Analyse all information and draw conclusions.
  5. Prepare a response that is clear, complete, accurate, timely, and addresses all issues raised in the original complaint/grievance.

2. Preparing the Response

Step 1: Read the submission carefully to determine what the offender is alleging or seeking. The offender may be contacted if the substantive issue cannot be determined.

Step 2: Determine what information is required to complete the analysis. Obtain supporting documentation as required and refer to applicable legislation, policies, institutional/regional policies, etc. If necessary, consult the Revoked Policy Documents if the policy references have changed since the decision or action being grieved.

Step 3: Identify precedents related to the case and previous submissions by the offender.

Step 4: Determine the accuracy and credibility of the information by evaluating the facts alleged by the offender or stated by other persons. Conduct interviews, contact appropriate persons involved in the grievance, subject-matter experts, the offender (when applicable), etc. Include any information gathered, including interview questions and notes. Normally, if information is accurate, it will be supported by another source, whether it is written or verbal. Seek out information that could corroborate or contradict unsupported statements or documentation provided by the offender or other persons.

Some examples of assessing allegations:

Note: Where a person has the onus of proving facts, they must show that it is more likely than not that their allegations are true. Normally, where the offender alleges some misconduct or breach of rules, the onus is on the offender to prove the allegations. At other times, the onus is on others to disprove the offender’s allegations.

Some examples of "reversed onus":

Note: There are numerous cases where CSC policy dictates that the recording of some information is proof of the information. In such cases, the onus becomes to disprove this information (e.g., information on a signed Personal Property Record is presumed accurate unless it can be proven otherwise).

Step 5: Analyse all relevant information. Determine whether the offender’s allegations are valid based on gathered evidence and/or supporting documentation. Evidence (video, audio, logbooks, etc.) and supporting documentation must be kept on file with the complaint/grievance so that it can be transmitted to the next level when applicable.

Step 6: Record your findings and set out your response as follows:

  1. What was alleged by the offender
  2. Information considered in responding
  3. Any necessary examination of the credibility of offender’s or others’ evidence
  4. How accurate, relevant information leads to a conclusion
  5. If the grievance is upheld in any respect, what can be done to resolve the matter? What directions can be given to ensure that any discrepancy does not occur again in the future?

Prepare a response that is accurate, clear, complete, impartial and fair. The text of the response must reflect these qualities.

A) Criteria for Accurate, Clear, and Complete Responses

The response must identify the assertions (arguments, contentions) that the offender is making. It must set out the issue(s) and the specific question(s) raised by the submission. It must then identify:

B) Impartiality of Responses

The text of the response must demonstrate that the relevant statements, allegations and points of view of all persons who contributed to the analysis and review are provided without bias, preconceptions, undue assumptions, "editorial slant" or other improper considerations on the part of the analyst.

The impression of impartiality is created by:

C) Responses that are Fair

Annex F
Non-grievable subject matters and alternative means of redress

Subject matter Means of redress
Matters relating to the Privacy Act (e.g., delays, exemptions, and completeness of documents)

Privacy Commissioner of Canada

30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 1H3
Phone: 819-994-5444 or 1-800-282-1376

Matters relating to the Access to Information Act

Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada

30 Victoria Street
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 1H3
Phone: 1-800-267-0441

Content of files accessed under subsection 12(2) of the Privacy Act

Director, Access to Information and Privacy

340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario K1A OP9

Complaints relating to the Official Languages Act (These complaints may be addressed through the offender complaint and grievance process, or sent to the Commissioner of Official Languages.)

Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

30 Victoria Street, 6th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 0T8
Phone: 819-420-4877 or 1-877-996-6368

Matters under the jurisdiction of the provinces

Provincial authorities (as applicable)

Matters under the jurisdiction of agencies such as the Parole Board of Canada

Agency (as applicable)

Matters relating to the Office of the Correctional Investigator and staff

Office of the Correctional Investigator

P.O. Box 3421, Station "D"
Ottawa, Ontario K1P 6L4
Phone: 613-990-2692 or 1-877-885-8848

Matters relating to claims against the Crown for the loss of personal effects

Must file a claim against the Crown. The decision regarding that claim is grievable.

Matters relating to compensation for work injuries

Federal Workers' Compensation Service

Phone: 1-855-535-7299

Matters relating to convictions and sentencing by the courts

Appeal process through the applicable court

Matters relating to the administration of justice including courts and police forces

Responsible court or police agency or responsible level of government

Matters relating to the treatment provided by non-CSC agencies or organizations (e.g., outside hospitals)

The agency or the government ultimately in charge of the agency

Decisions of the Independent Chairperson

Federal Court - Administrative procedures leading to the hearing may be grieved. Decisions of minor court may be grieved.

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