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A Chairperson’s Perspective

As a member of the Task Force, I participated in the visits to Matsqui, Kent, Mission, and Mountain Institutions in the Pacific Region; Renous, Springhill, and Dorchester Institutions in the Atlantic Region; and the newly opened Edmonton Institution for Women in the Prairies Region. By the time the Task Force visited the Pacific Region institutions in September 1996, preliminary audits and visits to the Ontario, Prairies, and Quebec Regions had been completed, and it was clear that the lack of legal compliance found by Madam Justice Arbour at the P4W was a systemic national problem for the CSC. Dan Kane painted the contours of that picture at a briefing at Matsqui on September 3, 1996. His first response to the Arbour Report, he said, like that of many CSC staff, had been that the events at the Prison for Women were an aberration. While this was true in one sense -- the strip searching of women prisoners by male staff could not happen anywhere except at a women’s prison -- the other elements of correctional operations that had drawn Madam Justice Arbour’s condemnation, particularly the lack of adequate legal grounds for segregation and the denial of prisoners’ legal rights in segregation, were things that, based on the Task Force’s preliminary review, did happen at other institutions.

Mr. Kane, reflecting his own experiences as a warden, suggested that the CSC was a pragmatic, operationally driven culture, and that this operational pragmatism undermined the CSC’s ability to comply with what the law requires. For example, when a correctional supervisor came on shift in segregation, he or she checked to see how many prisoners were there, how many hours were available for exercise and showers, which prisoners could exercise together, how long it would take to provide meals, and what security escorts were required: all this determined how much exercise each prisoner would get, whatever the law might say. As he expressed it, based on Task Force observations, "If the Service were charged with lack of respect for the law, it would be found guilty." Mr. Kane stressed that the CCRA was not something imposed upon the Service; at all stages, the Service was involved in the development and drafting of the legislation, and therefore it was hardly unreasonable to expect its operations to be consistent with the law’s requirements. Yet staff often reacted to the CCRA as if it were an alien force.

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