Events Leading to the Arbour Commission of Inquiry

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End of an Era, the closing of the Prison for Women in Kingston

As plans were being made, numerous issues at the Prison for Women came to a head in April 1994 with violent confrontations between six inmates and a number of correctional staff. Within days of the first incident, several other inmates took a hostage and attempted suicide. Disruptions continued at the prison, particularly in the segregation unit. On the evening of April 26, 1994, the Warden of the Prison for Women called in a male Institutional Emergency Response Team (IERT) from Kingston Penitentiary to conduct a cell extraction and to strip search eight women in segregation: the six who had been involved in the original confrontation, and two others. CSC taped the event and the footage was eventually aired on national television. Many people were outraged by what they saw. Many others began to seriously question the state of women's corrections and the Correctional Service of Canada.

In response, the Government appointed Madam Justice Louise Arbour to conduct an investigation into those incidents and the Correctional Service of Canada's management of related issues and events. The Commission investigated incidents beginning April 22, 1994, including the role of the IERT, its conduct, and the subsequent confinement in administrative segregation of the inmates concerned, the reasonableness of their treatment while in segregation and the duration of the segregation.

In April 1996, the Solicitor General released the report Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston prepared by Madam Justice Arbour. The report was exhaustive. Many recommendations resulted from this report, not the least of which was recommending the establishment of a Deputy Commissioner for Women. These events served to underscore the need to accelerate the move toward modern regional institutions specifically designed to meet the security and programming needs of women inmates.