COVID-19 update for correctional stakeholders: December 10, 2021
With the holiday season already here and the end of the year fast approaching, we have so much to be proud of collectively. Below highlights some of our more recent accomplishments. Since my last update, on November 8, we have commemorated many important days, including Remembrance Day.
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to present challenges, I look forward to what the new year will bring for us all.
With the new COVID-19 variant called Omicron, we continue our focus on vaccinations, both COVID-19 and influenza, in combination with other infection prevention and control measures, to help reduce the spread of illness in our facilities. However, evidence is emerging that the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine may decrease over time. Therefore, in mid-November, we began offering booster vaccines for inmates across the country to further protect everyone in our congregate living settings. We began by prioritizing individuals aged 65 and over, and those who had their second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine more than six months ago.
COVID-19 is still quite active in our communities and it is important not to let our guard down, even with higher rates of vaccination. In late November, the Atlantic region experienced its first COVID-19 outbreak at Dorchester Penitentiary, in the medium security unit. Everyone worked hard to contain and prevent the spread of the virus and, thankfully, the vaccination rates are high. While there have been 58 total positive inmate cases to date, 49 have recovered and, as of December 5, 2021, there remains 9 active cases at Dorchester. Across the country, the reported cases remain lower but, consistent with the community, we are seeing a surge in cases after several months of not seeing any outbreaks.
Parliament back in session
On Tuesday, November 23, her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary Simon, Governor General of Canada, delivered the Speech from the Throne to formally open the first session of the 44th Parliament of Canada. I look forward to working with our new minister, the Honourable Marco Mendicino, and newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Pam Damoff, to support the Government of Canada in fulfilling its goals, which you can read here:
Second anniversary of Structured Intervention Units and health care reforms
On November 30, 2019, CSC implemented Structured Intervention Units (SIUs) and undertook important changes to our health care delivery model. We knew that a transformation of this magnitude would come with some challenges. This is why, over the past two years, CSC has closely monitored the implementation of SIUs across the country and is building on concrete actions in a number of areas.
We continue to work closely with independent bodies, such as:
- Independent External Decision Makers (IEDMs)
- the Implementation Advisory Panel, chaired by Howard Sapers, and
- the Office of the Correctional Investigator.
Their work contributes to our ongoing actions.
We have also been implementing substantive enhancements to CSC’s health system for inmates, which help identify mental health needs to ensure inmates with mental illnesses are directed to the right pathway of care so that they can receive appropriate and timely treatment. We are also making significant strides in supporting autonomous clinical decision-making and have undertaken activities to support patient advocacy and patient-centred care. CSC will continue to receive additional health resources over the next two fiscal years to support timely, safe, patient-centred care in our institutions.
Anti-racism, diversity, and inclusion
Earlier this year, the Clerk of the Privy Council issued a Call to Action on Anti-racism, Equity, and Inclusion in the Federal Public Service. In August, I replied to the Clerk and I am pleased to share my response with you. It was an opportunity to share the initiatives we have put in place and the actions taken at CSC to:
- address systemic racism
- build a diverse, and inclusive workforce, and
- foster a safe, respectful and healthy environment
I am pleased to announce that Kirstan Gagnon, Assistant Commissioner, Communications and Engagement, has taken on the role of Champion of:
- diversity, and
In addition, in order to support and advance the work we are doing on this at CSC, a new unit dedicated to anti-racism, diversity and inclusion is being created. We are currently in the process of staffing a Director to lead this new team. This person will provide:
- set priorities
- consult broadly, and
- ensure coordination and progress.
This is an area of tremendous importance to CSC and we are committed to taking bold action to address barriers and foster an environment that is:
- inclusive, and
Tackling these issues is a priority for me and the creation of this team is a firm commitment for change. I look forward to the improvements we will make as an organization.
Victims and Survivors of Crime Week
November 14 to 20 was Victims and Survivors of Crime Week (VSCW). I am proud that CSC provides a range of services to victims of federal offenders. Our National Victim Services Program helps victims and survivors of crime, through:
- information sharing
- promotion of services
- collaboration with community partners, and
- outreach to local communities.
We strive to ensure that they have an active voice in the correctional system. During VSCW, CSC launched a revised edition of the Correctional Plan Progress Report Guide for Victims, which is an important service provided to victims required by legislation.
Restorative Justice Week
Restorative Justice Week took place virtually from November 21 to 28. CSC is proud to advance restorative justice practices in Canada. For almost two decades, we have provided victim-offender mediation services nationally through the Restorative Opportunities program. Thank you to everyone who is involved in supporting this empowering, transformative, and innovative work.
CSC recently published an article on its restorative justice victim-offender mediation services in the journal of the American Probation and Parole Association. I invite you to read the article to learn more about this practice, as well as the Let’s Talk Express article that shares perspectives from frontline staff.
- APPA article (available in English only)
- Transforming lives, one victim and offender at a time
International Volunteer Day
December 5th was International Volunteer Day. This year’s theme was about working towards a better tomorrow and future for everyone. I would like to recognize and thank the thousands of volunteers who dedicate their time to supporting our organization, those in our care and custody and our communities. Volunteers, including members of committees such as the:
- Citizen Advisory Committees
- the National and Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committees, and
- the Regional Victim Advisory Committees
all play an important role in the federal correctional system.
I also extend this thank you to our many community partners and stakeholders, whose organizations promote and support their volunteers to work with people inside our institutions and those on conditional release across Canada.
The acts of kindness and goodwill of volunteers are invaluable and their active role in our institutions and communities make tomorrow better for all offenders. My sincerest thanks!
Movember is an annual event that raises awareness of men’s health issues. The Canadian Families and Corrections Network (CFCN), through funding from Movember, offers a Dad HERO program to incarcerated men in seven CSC institutions. The program, now available virtually, helps dads learn about bonding with their children, how to improve communication skills and co-parent. CFCN is an important partner for the federal correctional system, assisting with offender reintegration through information dissemination, research, unique programs, and support to families of incarcerated people. CSC values this partnership and the important work of CFCN!
Education Services agreement with the Kativik School Board
I would like to share with you another partnership that makes me very proud. Thanks to a recent agreement that CSC signed with the Kativik School Board of Nunavik, in the Quebec Region, Inuit offenders of the Federal Training Centre now have access to general adult education training tailored to their community. The Kativik School Board offers various courses, such as language training in:
- French, and
Offenders have the support of a teacher, as well as access to an innovative IT platform to help them move forward in their academic journey, and therefore assist them in their reintegration.
Inmate talent show raises research funds
Bath Institution recently held an offender talent show to raise money for Prostate Cancer Research in honour of Movember. There were 15 musical and comedy acts, involving approximately 30 offenders. The event raised over $1,200, which will be submitted to Prostate Cancer Research through the local Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaign. Offenders, as witnessed recently in British Columbia, are eager and proud to give back to their communities. I believe it is a testament to their commitment to rehabilitation.
In closing, I would like to share that I began my 39th year with CSC in October. I took this opportunity to recognize all of the different groups in our organization for their contributions to corrections. At CSC, we also have many:
- advisory committees
- Indigenous groups
- volunteers, and
- community partners
who participate in our business and contribute an important external perspective to our work. I am thankful for your contributions.
My warmest holiday greetings to you all.
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