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The Correctional Investigator's Millennium Report

The Correctional Investigator's 1998-99 annual report provided an overview of systemic issues detailed in previous reports; it identified specific areas of concern associated with each of these issues and presented a series of recommendations designed to address them.

In October 1999, the Office of the Correctional Investigator signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Correctional Service of Canada. The memorandum was intended to provide "a structure for interaction between the two agencies during the course of the OCI's investigations into offender concerns." To this end, it set out procedures to ensure that "the CSC provide accurate information in a timely manner to the OCI in response to requests which stem from matters under the OCI's jurisdiction" and that "timely corrective action in relation to valid offender concerns is taken by the CSC."

In order to bring "closure" to the issues raised and recommendations made by the Correctional Investigator, the parties agreed "to attempt resolution on points on which agreement has not been achieved"; disputes could be referred to "mediation, facilitation, non-binding arbitration or other alternative dispute resolution mechanism" (Memorandum of Understanding between the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Correctional Service of Canada, October 1999. Appendix A, Report of the Correctional Investigator 1999-2000 [Ottawa: Public Works and Goverment Services Canada, 2000]. Online ).

If the Memorandum of Understanding was expected to bring a new responsiveness on the part of the CSC to the CI's recommendations, that expectation was quickly dashed. The CI's first report of the new millennium proved to be one of the most damning in the twenty-seven years of the Office's existence.

Although progress has been made on a number of issues, I am quite frankly disappointed in the results of the Service's efforts to address these systemic areas of concern. While I believed last year that our agencies had come to an agreement on what needed to be done to begin addressing these issues, the Service's undertakings appear to have been overwhelmed by a bureaucratic process of excessive review, consultations and endless study . . .

I stated in my Annual Report a decade ago that "the Correctional Service of Canada is a direct service agency whose policies and decisions impact directly and immediately on the offender population. There is a need, and an urgent need for the Service to take steps to ensure that its review and decision-making processes, especially at the national level, are capable of responding and resolving issues in a timely fashion . . ."

The concerns of the offenders tend to be forgotten at times during the review of these issues . . .

The positive impact on the offender population of the Service's efforts to address these systemic issues over the past year, I suspect, has been negligible. ( Annual Report 1999-2000 at 5-6)

In relation to the inmate grievance process, the report acknowledged significant improvements in the system's operations over the years but identified three remaining areas of concern.

  • continuing instances of excessive delay in responding at the institutional and regional levels of the process.
  • the non-acceptance by senior management of the responsibility and accountability for specifically addressing offender concerns as recommended by Madam Justice Arbour; and
  • the effectiveness of the current procedure in addressing the concerns of Female and Aboriginal offenders. ( Annual Report 1999-2000, p. 11)

The report also commented on the Service's own characterization of "improvement".

In terms of delays in responding last year, the Service indicated that 48 per cent of the grievances at the regional level were late. We are advised that this year 33 per cent of the regional level grievances were late. Although this is an improvement, having one in three grievances responded to outside of the established timeframe, a timeframe which has been extended by fifteen working days, is unreasonable and does little to promote offender confidence in the process. ( Annual Report 1999-2000 at 11)

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