Government of Canada responses to the 2020-2021 Annual Report of the Correctional Investigator

The Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) publicly releases annual and special reports in which recommendations are made to improve the federal correctional system.

These are the Government of Canada's responses to the OCI's recommendations made in the 2020-2021 Annual Report, in addition to the responses from the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

Responses to Recommendations

1. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety engage the Public Health Agency of Canada to conduct an independent epidemiological study of the differential rates of COVID-19 infection and spread in Canadian federal prisons and report results and recommendations publicly.

The COVID-19 Pandemic had a particularly strong impact on Canadian federal correctional institutions, and other residential facilities responsible for the care and custody of vulnerable populations. The Minister of Public Safety concurs with the OCI's observation that CSC employees, volunteers, and health care professionals should be commended for their diligence and hard work in ensuring the health and safety of inmates, staff, and the public. Thanks are also owed to federal, provincial, and municipal health authorities whose collaboration and assistance was integral to ensuring timely and effective management of this national crisis.

Such an event is unprecedented in CSC's history. A full, timely review of CSC's response will be instrumental in documenting areas of success and those that could be improved with the benefit of hindsight.

At the time of the writing of this response, the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is firmly focused on responding to the crisis. However, Public Safety Canada, in consultation with CSC, commits to liaising with PHAC at the earliest opportunity to conduct a review of the Service's response to the Pandemic. A full report is anticipated by Winter 2022-2023.

2. I recommend that the Minister of Public Safety promptly conduct an in-depth review of the community corrections sector with a view to considerably enhancing financial, technical and infrastructure supports. Funding for a reinvigorated community corrections model could be re-profiled from institutional corrections in direct proportion to declining warrant of committal and returning admissions, and the planned and gradual closures of redundant or archaic penitentiaries.

Public Safety Canada and CSC continue to actively support a strategic approach to community corrections that promotes safe and timely rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders under federal custody.

In 2013, CSC released a Federal Community Corrections Strategy, which aimed to guide the departmental plans and priority in this area up until 2020. In recent years, government bodies including the Office of the Auditor General, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, and committees in the Senate and House of Commons have tabled reports on community corrections and the process of preparing offenders for conditional release.

With the benefit of these reports and findings, Public Safety Canada will work with CSC, community stakeholders, and Indigenous communities to develop a federal community corrections strategy that builds off existing capacities and relationships, and responds to emerging trends and needs in corrections. A preliminary framework is expected by Summer 2022 and a full report is anticipated by Spring 2023.

3. I recommend that the President of Treasury Board recognize the reporting burden of small and micro agencies, and play a leadership role by developing a whole-of-government approach to alleviate this burden. Before full legal and regulatory reforms can be introduced, I recommend that TBS consider legal exemptions for eligible small and micro agencies to start reporting differently.

The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) recognizes the particular challenges that small and micro organizations face in meeting their various reporting requirements. TBS has worked in good faith with the Heads of Federal Agencies (HFA), including with the Reporting Burden Working Group, to discuss the specific issues faced by small organizations and explore options for reducing reporting burden with respect to Treasury Board policy requirements.

While this collaborative work has been ongoing, TBS has had to focus on supporting the Government's COVID-19 pandemic response. During this time period, TBS temporarily suspended a number of reporting requirements for all departments and agencies. This experience will help inform deliberations on whether to streamline or eliminate reporting requirements in the future. TBS will continue to work with HFA to look at ways to relieve the burden associated with Treasury Board policy requirements while maintaining transparency and accountability to Parliament and Canadians.

20. I recommend that the Prime Minister of Canada fulfill this Government's commitment by signing the Optional Protocol Against Torture and taking concrete steps within the next four years to ensure that this important human rights instrument is ratified.

Torture is an abhorrent practice that Canada – a signatory to the UN Convention against Torture – fervently opposes.

Canada is one of the original signatories to the UN Convention Against Torture. Torture is prohibited in Canada under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Criminal Code.

Canada values independent oversight of conditions in places of detention, which plays a crucial role in improving conditions and preventing ill-treatment. Canada has many well-established, robust domestic mechanisms in place to ensure that detainees are treated in accordance with international standards.

Consideration of potential accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OP-CAT) is ongoing. To date, this process has involved extensive consultation with the provincial and territorial governments, and also within the Government of Canada. Further consultations and analysis are required to ensure we do the important advance work to build an effective and efficient system of independent monitoring in Canada's federal system.

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