History of women’s corrections

From 1934-2000 the only federal institution for women offenders in Canada was the Prison for Women. It was a maximum-security prison in Kingston, Ontario. It housed all federal women offenders, regardless of security level.

In the 1950s, a variety of task forces and Royal Commissions examined the disadvantaged situation of women offenders. Throughout that time, there were many requests to close the Prison for Women. Concerns included:

  • the lack of a multi-level security environment
  • the distance between many women and their families and home communities

In 1989, the federal government commissioned a task force to review the situation of women offenders and to chart a new direction. The task force released its report, Creating Choices, in April 1990.

Creating Choices

In 1990, the federal government unanimously endorsed all recommendations contained in Creating Choices. The report identified five overarching principles. They serve as the foundation for a correctional strategy for women offenders:

  • empowerment
  • meaningful and responsible choices
  • respect and dignity
  • supportive environment
  • shared responsibility

CSC subsequently opened:

  • in 1995:
    • Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia
    • Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan
    • Edmonton Institution for Women, in Alberta
  • in 1997:
    • Joliette Institution in Joliette, Quebec, and
    • Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ontario
  • in 2004:
    • Fraser Valley Institution (FVI), in Abbotsford, British Colombia (BC)

      Note: Before FVI opened, federally-sentenced women in BC were incarcerated at Burnaby Correctional Centre. FVI opened when CSC's exchange of services agreement with British Colombia ended.

Although the principles of Creating Choices were developed in 1990, they remain as relevant as ever and will continue to guide progress in the area of women’s corrections.

Creating Choices: The Report of the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women - Learn more about the principles that govern corrections for women offenders.

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