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Women Offender Programs and Issues

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Cross Gender Monitoring Project

e) Sexual Harassment, Sexual Exploitation, and Sexual Assault:

In the Team's first report, the following recommendation was advanced:

"Recommendation 2:

That Commissioner's Directives explicitly define and prohibit sexual harassment of inmates by staff, and include an appropriate range of penalties, including dismissal "

As for the progress concerning the implementation of this recommendation, CSC officials have provided the following information:

"The Women Offender Sector has completed a literature review and an issues paper on the subject. Initial internal consultation indicated that there were different perspectives on approaches to the question of whether there should be one harassment policy applicable to all staff [indeterminate, determinate, casual, contract] and to all offenders; or, whether there should be two policies, one for staff and a separate one for offenders; and, whether sexual harassment should be the subject of a separate policy or included in a comprehensive harassment policy. It should be noted that there are existing CSC policy documents prohibiting staff from harassment of offenders and their family and friends and personal relationships with offenders, their family and friends. These policy documents include the Mission, the Code of Professional Conduct and the Code of Discipline. There is a mandatory managerial obligation to investigate and take corrective action if such incidents are observed or brought to their attention. If there are allegations of assault, including sexual assault, the police are informed and they investigate the allegations.

In May 1997, the Commissioner established the Working Group on Human Rights and Corrections under the chair of Mr. Max Yalden. The Report, submitted in December 1997, made a number of recommendations including that CSC establish one comprehensive harassment policy which would cover all situations, types of harassment as well as be applicable to all staff and offenders. A Steering Committee was established in January 1998 to review the recommendations, develop action plans and report back to EXCOM (Executive Committee comprised of CSC Senior Managers). The Steering Committee will be reporting to EXCOM in Fall 1999. In the interim, the RDC Pacific Region was tasked by EXCOM to review the existing harassment policy which covers staff-staff harassment; the RDC circulated a draft report for internal consultation in May 1999. Given the various perspectives and review under way on this subject, the Steering Committee on Human Rights has recently established a sub-committee to develop a proposal for EXCOM approval. The Women Offender Sector is represented on the sub-committee which will be completing its work over this summer."14

We note that the Canadian Human Rights Commission has endorsed this recommendation in its 1998 Annual Report15. This lack of progress is of great concern as this recommendation was seen as a minimal first step towards addressing sexual harassment of inmates by non-inmates. The Monitoring Team strongly encourage CSC to implement this recommendation. We understand that the Human Rights Division of CSC has completed some work in this area towards creating a broad based policy on harassment that would include all forms of harassment in all types of relationships within the penitentiary system, including staff/staff, inmate/staff and staff/inmate.

Our cross country visits to facilities housing Federally Sentenced Women, and our review of the documentation secured to date, underscore the need for major policy development, and possibly regulatory or legislative amendments, to address not only sexual harassment of women prisoners, but sexual exploitation and sexual assault by any non-inmate. An example of this is the possible explicit prohibition of "consensual sex" which will be emphasized in Phase 3.

During the course of our interviews and document review, a number of suggestions and options have emerged for consideration during our final year of monitoring. Some of these are discussed under the Grievance System section below with respect to policy and procedural changes.

Some respondents suggested that Canada should amend the Corrections and

Conditional Release Act to define these three areas of sexual misconduct in law, i.e. sexual harassment, sexual exploitation and sexual assault, and possibly laying out the fiduciary relationship between staff and inmates such that consent to sexual activity is not a defense. Such legislative amendments could also stipulate the range of penalties. Other suggestions include amending CSC's Mission Statement such that a "zero tolerance" towards sexual misconduct and harassment in general is clearly articulated. Others feel that regulations need to be amended to send a clear message as to what conduct is prohibited rather than leaving these matters to policy alone. We look forward to hearing the views of all interested people on what systemic changes, if any, are necessary to address sexual harassment, sexual exploitation, and sexual assault of women inmates.

14 Personal e-mail communication from Hilda Vanneste to Thérèse Lajeunesse, June 15, 1999.

15 The Canadian Human Rights Commission. 1998 Annual Report. p. 14