Although the Yalden Report concluded that "Canada is generally compliant with all the relevant international and domestic human rights norms, as are most other advanced democracies in terms of their legal and policy frameworks" (Yalden Report at 8), it noted that the CCRA did not invoke or even allude to those international obligations and norms. The Report therefore recommended the Act be amended to say explicitly that its principles and provisions are aimed at meeting Canada's international commitments. That way, correctional staff could see their mandate in its full human rights dimensions.
Part of the Yalden Working Group's mandate was to compare the CSC's legislative and policy framework with those of other countries demonstrating a strong commitment to human rights. Surveying the regimes in France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia, and the United States, it found that virtually all of these jurisdictions made use of parallel mechanisms for the protection of human rights: an internal monitoring mechanism that includes a grievance redress system and an external monitoring mechanism that makes or reviews decisions seriously impinging on prisoners' rights to fair and humane treatment. In concluding that a system of independent oversight is necessary to ensure "an unbiased reading on the extent of a system's compliance with its lawful obligations," the Yalden Report observed that, generally speaking, such oversight was "not intended to provide an additional level of operational management" (Yalden Report at 16). However:
In instances where significant loss of prisoners' rights is at stake, the simple monitoring of a correctional authority's decisions by an external entity may not be sufficient to ensure compliance; it is arguable that the decision itself should be made by some external entity. Currently, most jurisdictions we have reviewed recognize that serious disciplinary matters and parole decisions should at least involve some authority independent of the correctional service. We believe this requirement should be a component of any effective correctional model. (Yalden Report at 17)
In keeping with this statement of principle, the Working Group recommended, as discussed in Sector 4, that the experiment on independent adjudication put forward by the Task Force on Segregation be implemented. However, even Mr. Yalden's endorsement of this recommendation failed to convince the Commissioner of Corrections that the experiment on independent adjudication should proceed.
In identifying a strategy for improving the CSC's communication of its mandate regarding human rights to the general public and the international community, the Yalden Report acknowledged that the Service was "caught in a cross-fire between those who perceive the correctional system as soft on criminals and those who worry that incarceration further degrades them, or fails to assist them in becoming more positive members of society" (Yalden Report at 36). Based on the results of a 1996 CSC staff survey, the Report also observed that a substantial proportion of staff either do not accept the rationale for their professional conduct or question its effectiveness. The Report concluded:
If staff are to see themselves as part of a lawful and socially constructive enterprise, they not only need a firm grasp of clear and practical professional guidelines, they must also have some personal understanding of why such rules are lawful and the social purpose that they serve. (Yalden Report at 37)
The Report offered what it saw as the best argument for observing human rights in a correctional context:
[It] is not merely that [these rules] are required by international convention or domestic law, or even that they are intrinsically more civilizing, but that they actually work better than any known alternatives -- for inmates, for staff and for society at large. By preserving such fundamental social rules within the institutional setting, so the argument goes, one improves the odds of eventually releasing a more responsible person. (Yalden Report at 40)
The Yalden Report proposed a broad platform of reforms, all premised on a "rights-related strategy." In addition to those already mentioned, these included improvements in the quantity, quality, and accessibility of rights-related training, particularly for front-line staff, and the establishment of a Human Rights Unit, headed by an individual with appropriate seniority, to monitor compliance with human rights standards.
The Yalden Report was generally well received by the Commissioner of Corrections, and one of the first recommendations to be implemented was the establishment of a Human Rights Unit at National Headquarters. However, far from being given the profile and resources suggested by the Yalden Report, the CSC's Human Rights Unit has a smaller staff than any other at National Headquarters and remains outside the loop of decision-making. Ivan Zinger, the first Human Rights Officer and himself one of the three members of the Working Group on Human Rights, resigned from his position within a year, in large measure because of the CSC's resistance to his recommendation that new policy initiatives be reviewed and "signed off" by the Human Rights Unit.
The Human Rights Unit has initiated workshops with senior managers and staff in every region of the country to promote greater understanding of the human-rights-related strategy. However, as with the one-shot legal workshops conducted in the wake of the Task Force on Segregation, these workshops reach very few line staff. The extent to which the strategy endorsed by the Yalden Report has seeped into CSC operational reality can be assessed by my own experience at a training session held for Matsqui staff in September 1999. The session was for all staff and managers at the Regional Reception and Assessment Centre, located within the institution. Because the Reception Centre contains in its upper ranges the segregation unit for Matsqui, I was asked to speak on the changes that have occurred in the segregation regime. In the course of my presentation, made to about fifty staff members, I asked whether any of them had read either the report of the Task Force on Administrative Segregation or the report of the Working Group on Human Rights. No hands were raised. Both documents are posted on the Service's Intranet, and the deputy warden advised me that a few copies of each were "floating around" the institution. Yet few staff were even aware that they existed. For them, the human-rights-related knowledge, perspective and strategy of the Yalden Report was still out there in the ether.
Page 2 of 4