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PACC Committee Report

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Pursuant to Standing Order 108(3)(e), the Standing Committee on Public Accounts has the honour to present its


The Standing Committee on Public Accounts has considered Chapter 4 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General of Canada (Correctional Service Canada — Reintegration of Women Offenders) and has agreed to report the following:


A dual mandate of incarcerating offenders and reintegrating them into Canadian society makes the role of Correctional Service Canada (the Service) among the most important in government. Should the Service fail to deliver on either mandate, the consequences for Canadians would be potentially quite serious.

A minority of offenders — approximately 5% of the offender population (both inside institutions and on parole in the community) — is made up of women. In 1990, the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women issued its report (Creating Choices) that was critical of the way women offenders were treated in the federal correctional system. Although the report became the foundation for a new approach, change was slow in coming. In 1996, Madame Justice Louise Arbour restated many of the Task Force’s conclusions. Since then, Correctional Service Canada has been making efforts to modernize its procedures for incarcerating and reintegrating women offenders.

For fiscal year 2001-02, Correctional Service Canada spent more than $1.5 billion to fulfil its mandate.[1] Of this amount, the Service spent $57 million on women offenders. Custody-related costs totalled $44 million, with another $13 million spent on activities to prepare offenders for reintegration.

The needs of women offenders differ significantly from those of their male counterparts and the process of returning them to society is important and involves significant expenditures. Accordingly, the Committee decided to review the results of an audit that assessed how well Correctional Service Canada was managing the reintegration process for women offenders. Consequently, the Committee met on 14 May 2003 with Mr. Hugh McRoberts, (Assistant Auditor General), Mr. Ron Wolchuk (Principal), and Ms. Jocelyne Therrien (Director) from the Office of the Auditor General. Mrs. Lucie McClung (Commissioner), Ms. Nancy Stableforth (Deputy Commissioner, Ontario Region) and Dr. Larry Motiuk (Director General, Research Branch) represented Correctional Service Canada.


The audit found that progress has been achieved in the way women offenders are accommodated. A single, aging facility has been replaced by five regionally based women’s’ facilities. Nevertheless, the Committee notes with particular concern that the practice of housing women offenders in male institutions, especially at the Matsqui Institution in British Columbia, has continued. The Committee accordingly recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada complete plans to house all women offenders in institutions that are entirely separate from institutions for male offenders, and that are designed specifically to meet their particular needs.

More attention has been given to the unique needs of Aboriginal women offenders and there has been an emphasis on programs for women offenders generally.

The Committee is pleased that Correctional Service Canada continues to update its approach to women offenders and that it has generally agreed with the Auditor General’s recommendations. These recommendations have the full support of the Committee.

The commitment to implement the recommendations must be strengthened and made more specific. In addition, Parliament requires more detailed information regarding what the Service intends to do and when so that it can follow progress. The Committee therefore welcomes the Commissioner’s provision of an action plan that addressed each of the Auditor General’s recommendations. The Committee wishes to see this plan implemented and therefore recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada implement its action plan that addresses the recommendations contained in Chapter 4 of the April 2003 Report of the Auditor General according to the timetable set forth in the plan, and report the results to Parliament in its annual performance reports.

The ability of the Service to accurately assign newly incarcerated offenders to facilities with the correct level of security and to match them with appropriate correctional programs is crucial. If not done properly, there is a risk that offenders might be sent to facilities with higher than necessary levels of security which are costly and provide restricted access to correctional programs and activities. Conversely, dangerous offenders might be assigned to lower security facilities with all of the implied risks to correctional workers and fellow inmates.

The Service currently uses the Custody Rating Scale to evaluate offenders entering the system for the first time. That scale was designed in 1987 and is based on the characteristics of male offenders. Two basic tests are required to provide assurance that this approach is working. The first involves making sure that the assessment tool measures what it is intended to measure (validity); the second determines if different users will use the tool consistently and come up with the same results (reliability). The audit found that the Service had not done validity testing while reliability tests were incomplete.

The Auditor General recommended that the Service complete the tests and take appropriate action based on the results. In response, the Service indicated that it would “embark on a further review” as part of its 2003-2004 Research Program. During the meeting, Dr. Motiuk was slightly more specific, indicating that the Service would undertake to complete the tests in 2003.

The initial assessment is of such vital importance that greater certainty surrounding the instruments that the Service employs is necessary. The Committee therefore recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada (a) develop a classification instrument based on the specific characteristics of women, and (b) draw up a schedule for reliability testing and the completion of validity testing of classification instruments used for women offenders to ensure that they are placed in an appropriate level of security and submit it to the Committee no later than 31 March 2004.


That upon completion of the tests, Correctional Service Canada report the results and any actions taken in response to the outcomes in its annual performance report for the year in which testing occurred.

The Committee also notes that the Service has developed a new reclassification instrument for women offenders, has validated it, and intends to implement it this fall. The Committee intends to monitor implementation of this new instrument and expects that the Service will provide this information as per Recommendation 1.

The Committee notes that the Service has made some progress in developing programs designed to meet the needs of women. It has developed the Correctional Program Strategy for federally sentenced women offenders, which has formed the basis for a new menu of core program areas. The implementation of these programs has suffered delays, with a very important impact on conditional release, and the programs have not been uniformly provided to all women offenders. The Committee notes that there has been an increase in offenders who have been reincarcerated as a result of a return to substance abuse and mental health problems. The audit also found that the Service has yet to evaluate the effectiveness of those programs designed to help women offenders change inappropriate behaviour patterns (intervention programs). Since this category of program is of particular importance, the Committee recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada conduct and integrate into its decision-making process a regular evaluation of its intervention programs for women to determine their effectiveness and report the results to Parliament in its annual performance report. The Service should also reference any adjustments to its intervention programs made in response to the evaluation findings. Correctional Service Canada’s evaluation should include programs to address the physical and sexual abuse suffered by offenders in their lives, and the accessibility of mental health support programs and the linkages between programs intended for women offenders within institutions and the community.

Despite the progress being made with respect to programs for women offenders, the Committee harbours some concerns regarding programs intended to prepare women for employment once their sentences have been served. Few programs are offered, access to them is limited, and the subjects taught — dog training, food preparation, horticulture, home maintenance and cosmetology are listed by the Auditor General — do not offer much choice and do not appear to hold out much opportunity for rewarding careers.

Although the Service accepted the Auditor General’s recommendation to develop and implement a women’s employment strategy, it pointed to challenges that might complicate its efforts: short sentences do not allow the Service to complete programming requirements. The Committee believes that acquiring the marketable skills and knowledge necessary to secure rewarding and fulfilling employment represents the key to successful reintegration; challenges blocking the way must be overcome. The Committee accordingly recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada place an emphasis on the timely provision of, and full access to, adequately resourced programs that will assist women offenders obtain skills relevant to the current job market and secure meaningful, rewarding employment following completion of their sentences. This emphasis must result in an employment strategy for inclusion in the Service’s Report on Plans and Priorities for 2004.


That following implementation of programs geared towards the provision of marketable skills for women offenders, Correctional Service Canada regularly evaluate the success of its efforts and report the results to Parliament in its annual performance reports.

The most difficult, but probably most crucial phase of reintegration takes place while offenders are under supervision in the community. The Auditor General found that despite some improvements in this area, many of the problems identified by the 1990 Task Force persist. Some of these problems are the result of the relatively small numbers of women offenders and their dispersal across the country. Programs and facilities are thus both rare and costly to provide. In particular, the Committee notes the lack of halfway accommodations for women and limited access to programs providing psychiatric and other forms of support. The Committee was therefore encouraged by the Commissioner’s ideas involving possible co-operation with her provincial counterparts to find joint solutions in this area. The Committee accordingly recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada work with its counterparts in the provinces and territories and with non-governmental women’s advocacy organizations to develop a shared approach to addressing the needs of female offenders under community supervision and discuss the results in its annual performance reports to Parliament.

According to the Auditor General, the lack of suitable accommodation within the community continues to work against the assignment of women offenders to appropriate institutional and post-institutional environments and undermines the success of programs aimed at their reintegration. It has also been identified as a factor in the re‑institutionalization of women offenders for minor parole violations. The Committee therefore recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada in each region together with its provincial and territorial counterparts and community stakeholders establish targets for the significant improvement of community accommodation for women in conflict with the law and make every effort to secure adequate public funding to meet those targets.

The Committee wishes to take special note of the unique challenges faced by Aboriginal women offenders. While at 26%, they are a minority in the incarcerated population, they are greatly overrepresented in terms of their proportion of the Canadian population. They have needs that make them distinct from other women offenders and the set of circumstances that resulted in their incarceration are likely to be unique as well.

The Committee recognizes that Correctional Service Canada has made efforts to take into account these needs and circumstances, but it deeply regrets that there are two approaches to the reintegration of Aboriginal women offenders that are available to the Service but that it uses too seldom. Section 81 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act authorizes the Service to enter into agreements with Aboriginal communities for the provision of services and the care and custody of inmates. Section 84 permits an Aboriginal inmate to apply for parole into an Aboriginal community. The audit found that from April 2001 to November 2002, there were eight section 84 releases of Aboriginal women and no section 81 agreements.

Commissioner McClung indicated that the infrequent use of these sections of the Act was largely based on doubts held by Aboriginal communities regarding their capacity to participate. The Committee therefore recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada work closely with interested Aboriginal communities to help them develop the capacity to participate in reintegration efforts for Aboriginal women offenders, and report progress in its annual performance reports to Parliament. In so doing, that Correctional Service Canada, together with other federal government departments, its provincial and territorial counterparts and Aboriginal

organizations, explore new means of providing the necessary financial resources to those communities wishing to undertake the responsibility of assisting in the reintegration of women offenders.

It is evident throughout the Auditor General’s report that federally sentenced women are the recipients of discrimination based on sex, race, and disability. This is aggravated by inadequate resources. Department officials informed the Committee that staff working directly with federally sentenced women receive 10 days of training to address these specific areas of sensitivity. The Committee believes this training should be increased and extended. It therefore recommends:


That all staff working with federally sentenced women receive in depth and ongoing training on sex, race, and disability sensitization.

The Committee also learned that federally sentenced women may initiate grievances when they believe they have been discriminated against. The Committee believes that an outside body should oversee this grievance process, instead of the internal oversight in place currently. The Committee therefore recommends:


That Correctional Service Canada establish an external body to monitor the grievance system in place for federally sentenced women.


It is now widely recognized that women offenders are significantly different from their male counterparts and that they must be treated differently if they are to be reintegrated into society successfully. Correctional Service Canada has recognized this and has made some commendable progress in improving the institutional accommodation and programs offered to women under its supervision.

The audit by the Auditor General of Canada has been useful in assessing progress, identifying those areas in which further work is required, and making recommendations as to how this can be accomplished. The Committee looks forward to improvements that will result in a better future for federally sentenced women offenders, and enhanced security for all Canadians.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the Committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.

A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meeting No. 30, 45 and 46) is tabled.

Respectfully submitted,


[1]       Receiver General for Canada, Public Accounts of Canada 2001-02, Volume II, Part I, Table 5, 1:30.


Supplementary Bloc Québécois opinion on
the report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on
“Reintegration of Women Offenders”

The Bloc Québécois views the report of the Auditor General of Canada, presented in April 2003, as highly relevant. It reiterates recommendations already set out more than ten years ago by the Task Force on Federally Sentenced Women.

The 1990 report Creating Choices said that women’s correctional needs were profoundly different from men’s and that the correctional system should allow for this. The report also found that “federal Aboriginal offenders were less likely to benefit from temporary absence programs, were more likely to be detained, were granted parole later in their sentence, and were more likely to have their parole suspended or revoked”.[2]

Several years later (1996), the Commission of Inquiry into the Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston made a series of recommendations aimed at amending management practices in the correctional services intended for offenders at the time. The Solicitor General said that he accepted the Commission’s report and would create the position of a Deputy Commissioner of Women’s Corrections, responsible for implementing the recommendations on “related organizational and program changes”.[3]

A little closer in time, the annual reports of the Correctional Investigator for 2001‑02 and 2002‑03 show that the situation has not changed: “This alarmingly remains the reality.”[4]

In 2003, the Auditor General is still pointing to the same shortcomings and observing in addition that “women offenders’ needs for programs and services in the community are not being met consistently, particularly in such areas as substance abuse programs and mental health services.”[5]

Like the authors of these various reports, the Bloc Québécois deplores the lack of “respect for the rule of law by the Correctional Service in the way it carries out its responsibilities”,[6] and demands that the recommendations in these various reports be implemented immediately.

[2]       Correctional Investigator of Canada, 2001-02 Annual Report. Ottawa. Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2002, p. 9.

[3]       Idem, p. 11.

[4]       Idem, p. 9.

[5]       Office of the Auditor General of Canada. Report of the Auditor General of Canada to the House of Commons. Chapter 4 — Correctional Service Canada: Reintegration of Women Offenders. April 2003, p. 25.

[6]       Correctional Investigator of Canada, 2002-03 Annual Report. Ottawa. Public Works and Government Services Canada, 2002, p. 20.