COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: January 22, 2021

This content is a message to Correctional Service Canada's (CSC’s) stakeholders from the Commissioner of CSC.

I hope that you are doing well and staying safe during this public health pandemic. I wanted to provide an update on a variety of items as well as highlight important dates that CSC has recently marked.

COVID-19

We continue to work hard and diligently in all of our operations to prevent and contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. Thank you for the part each of you play in helping us fulfill our mandate as we manage through this pandemic.

I am pleased to see that many inmates who have contracted COVID-19 have now recovered. We currently have 32 active cases among inmates across the country.

As we know, vaccines have begun rolling out. We are in the process of finalizing a first dose of vaccinations for some older, medically vulnerable inmates as part of phase 1, as per National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidelines [see the News Release].

At the same time, CSC and the Public Health Agency of Canada are working closely with provinces and territories to ensure that CSC health care and frontline workers are prioritized for vaccination in the first phase of vaccination programs. Several provinces have vaccinated our health care staff. As well, we are working to ensure access to the COVID-19 vaccine for all other frontline staff in accordance with the priority groups identified by NACI.

It will be several months before vaccines are available to all of us. It is important that we keep up with our infection prevention control measures. I write to inmates and employees weekly to urge everyone to continue to wear their mask, keep practicing physical distancing, and sanitize/wash their hands often. Until we are all vaccinated, these measures are our best defence against contracting and spreading the virus.

Release of a National Joint Board of Investigation report

The tragic death of Marylène Levesque in January 2020, in Quebec, came as a shock for all of us. The offender, who was on day parole when this happened, pled guilty and was sentenced in February 2020 for his crime.

Violent crimes committed by offenders in the community are rare, and understanding the circumstances around this case was a priority for our organization. Shortly after the incident, CSC and the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) convened a National Joint Board of Investigation (BOI) to ensure accountability and transparency, and to reinforce our capacity to contribute strengthen public safety.

Yesterday, we publically released the BOI’s findings and recommendations. A summary is online. You can read by statement as well as CSC’s Action Plan in response to the Board’s recommendations.

The BOI’s findings are grouped into four main themes: information collection and sharing, community supervision, training, and the PBC decision-making process. The BOI made five recommendations related to CSC’s policies and operations. Work is underway to implement all of the recommendations.

I recognize that situations in which an offender on Day Parole commits a violent offence are extremely rare, in part, because of the important work of community frontline staff. I believe in the good work that we do to protect Canadians and improve lives every day. It is imperative that public safety be at the forefront of all our actions and decisions, and that we remain focused on delivering on our mandate and continue to perform our work with professionalism and integrity.

Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let’s Talk Day, which aims to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, is Thursday, January 28.

This has been a challenging year and it is important to take time to talk about mental health and actions that each of us can take to maintain our wellbeing during this time. It is equally important that we maintain strong virtual connections with colleagues, friends, family members, and communities during this pandemic.

The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) and the Lady Davis Institute at the Jewish General Hospital officially launched the Multicultural Mental Health Resource Centre (MMHRC).  This unique online resource seeks to improve the quality and availability of mental health services for people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, including new Canadians, refugees and members of established ethnocultural communities.  With these populations being disproportionally affected by the global pandemic, the MMHRC will provide a timely and critical new resource. 

National menu

On Monday, January 25, a new version of the national menu will be introduced at all men’s institutions across the country. The menu was updated to increase the amount of calories provided and some recipes were changed or items replaced based on feedback received from inmate committees across the country.  This includes incorporating food items from different cultures. Inmates were provided with an information sheet to highlight changes, and information about who to speak with should they have special diet requirements they would like addressed.

At this time, the menus at women’s institutions are unchanged. In most cases, inmates in these facilities prepare their own food.

CAC Awareness Week – January 17–23, 2021

This week is Citizen Advisory Committee (CAC) Awareness Week. This year, the week's theme was CAC: Embracing the Future – COVID-19. CACs have been active in Canada for more than 50 years! Close to 400 Canadians are involved with CACs at our sites.

CAC members are in important part of the correctional community. They contribute to public safety by doing such things as: connecting employers with offenders looking for work, providing objective advice, and teaching communities about the correctional and criminal justice process.

Congratulations to Raynald Martel who is this year’s recipient of the James A Murphy CAC Award. He has been a CAC member of the Donnacona Institution in Québec since 1986, helping resolve major incidents or disruptions at the site. His personal experience and familiarity with correctional environments enable him to provide CSC with thoughtful advice. Raynald’s contribution to public safety throughout his 34 years of volunteering with the Donnaconna CAC has been exemplary and is greatly appreciated.

Please join me in thanking your local CAC members.

Thank you, once again, for your continued support and collaboration. Stay safe and healthy.

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