COVID-19 update for correctional employees: October 30, 2020
This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada (CSC) staff from CSC's Commissioner.
As the month of October comes to an end, I would like to thank you for your continued commitment and hard work, and for demonstrating such agility and innovation during this time of change. As we continue to manage through the pandemic and implement infection prevention and control measures, our other work continues as well, in support of our mandate. I know there is often lots to juggle. Please keep up the good work but also be mindful of maintaining your physical and mental health.
I would like to share some important updates with you.
Each year, CSC celebrates Diversity Week during the first week of November, which is an opportunity to promote and embrace our diversity. CSC has almost 19,000 employees who vary in:
- sexual orientations
- languages, and
I see you and take pride in this diversity. I hope all of you do too.
As you know, there is an important conversation taking place right now about systemic racism in our society, including our criminal justice system and corrections. This is healthy and important. We need to take this issue seriously and take a closer look at everything we do. More than ever, it is crucial that we recognize that all perspectives, especially those of individuals who have lived situations of racism and discrimination, can help us learn and explore ways to remove barriers and improve the correctional system - and our outcomes. Productive and constructive dialogue, and collaboration, at all levels - internal and external to CSC - is key in achieving greater inclusion, equity and diversity.
On November 2, 2020, at 12 p.m. EST, don't miss the virtual launch of this year's Diversity Week. This will be a great opportunity to gather, discuss and learn from one another.
Office of the Correctional Investigator Annual Report
On Tuesday, the Office of the Correctional Investigator (OCI) tabled its Annual Report in Parliament. I would invite you to read our response and my statement, which outlines the progress we have made to date in addressing the issues outlined in the report, as well as further efforts that we will continue to undertake.
Several recommendations in the OCI report addressed Sexual Coercion and Violence (SCV) in institutions. We take this issue very seriously. We have a zero-tolerance approach to SCV, as we work to protect the physical and mental health, and overall safety, of offenders. Correctional officers are trained to recognize and deal with all types of criminal behaviour between inmates, including sexual coercion and violence. We have an obligation to report such incidents, work to identify offenders who are vulnerable or are predatory, monitor them and adopt appropriate population management strategies. We will also be working with Public Safety Canada to conduct research to inform a strategy to detect, prevent, and respond to sexual coercion and violence in correctional institutions, with consideration of vulnerable populations such as inmates with prior trauma, LGBTQ2+, women, and those with mental health issues.
We welcome the opportunity to work further with the OCI to address the issues raised and work towards our common goal of supporting offender rehabilitation and reintegration, while maintaining public safety.
Report on Structured Intervention Units
Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) continue to be a priority for CSC. SIUs are a new correctional model that saw the abolition of administrative segregation. We implemented them almost a year ago, marking a significant historic and transformational change in federal corrections. I know many of you continue to work hard everyday to run the SIUs and provide proper supports to inmates, and I appreciate your efforts.
This week, a report was issued by Dr. Anthony Doob and Dr. Jane Sprott including preliminary findings on Structured Intervention Units (SIUs). You can read my statement on this report.
All information and external input on SIUs will help us examine and learn about how we continue to shape and improve this new model. I know I can count on your continued dedication and support as we work to continue to identify and build on lessons learned over the past year.
As community transmission of COVID-19 continues to rise in various areas, I want to stress that if you have any symptoms at all - even mild ones - please tell your manager right away, including on days that you are not working. CSC does not wait for a positive result to begin contact tracing. Given many of us work in closed living environments; we begin contact tracing at symptom onset. This helps us get a head start in identifying any close contacts and conducting additional testing, as needed.
We are working very hard to prevent introducing the virus into our workplaces and rely on each and every one of you to play an active role in helping us protect everyone. We currently have no COVID-19 cases among federal inmates. However, we do have a small number of active cases among our employees. I wish those affected a speedy recovery and thank all of you working with us to prevent any spread in our institutions.
Our responsibility is to care for offenders and keep them healthy. This makes it extra important that CSC staff continue to take the public health measures seriously by keeping our personal bubbles small, avoiding social activities, and being extra vigilant in following the infection prevention guidelines. Please continue to wear your mask. It is not always easy to maintain a physical distance at all times, especially in shared spaces. Keeping your mask on as much as possible is a good practice.
Since March, we have trained over 250 employees to be contact tracers. Reaching out quickly to people who were in contact with someone who is symptomatic or has tested positive for COVID-19 is critical to containing the spread. These teams have been very busy in parts of our country where community transmission is prevalent. I am very grateful for your dedication and professionalism over what are sometimes long hours. You are an important part of our fight against the virus. Thank you.
I would like to remind you that this year the Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign (GCWCC) is hosting a national virtual silent auction to raise funds. The online auction will take place from Monday, November 23, to Wednesday, December 2. Proceeds will be shared between the GCWCC's two named recipients (HealthPartners and the United Way Centraide Canada). There are many ways to give and the easiest is through an e-pledge. This can be a one-time donation or you can set-up a payroll deduction, which will appear on your T4 slip. Every act of giving counts.
In closing, I know that for many of you Halloween will look at bit different this year given public health recommendations in some provinces. It calls for creativity in how we approach celebrations and mark key moments. I have often talk about the importance of finding the "silver lining" in every situation. It means that a positive attitude can go a long way in helping us see what is possible. For those celebrating, I hope you all have an enjoyable Halloween this weekend.
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