Faces of CSC: Ellen Connor


Let's Talk: Sharing the stories and voices of CSC

You throw a stone and you might not see the ripple effect go all the way. But guess what? That ripple effect keeps going. And so that's really what I'm about: gender, equality, inclusivity, diversity. Those are all things that matter to me—to the core of me.

Ellen Connor, Correctional Manager, William Head Institution, Pacific Region

Ellen wants to empower people to be the best they can be. The correctional manager is chair of the Employment Equity and Diversity Committee (EEDC) at William Head Institution. She is finding innovative ways to change attitudes and cultivate a supportive culture for everyone: staff and inmates. 

“My mantra revolves around empowering individuals and ensuring everyone's voice is heard. There's room for all at the table of progress,” said Ellen.

Ellen started her career with Correctional Service Canada (CSC) in 1998, as a correctional officer at Kent Institution in British Columbia. She worked at Mountain Institution and Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village before moving to Vancouver Island to work at William Head in 2004. She became correctional manager in 2021.

Twenty-five years ago, Ellen was only one of a handful of women correctional officers. She has seen significant shifts in workplace dynamics over the years. Now about 30 percent are women.

“The seismic events of recent times, from the COVID-19 pandemic to movements, like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, really propelled my commitment to effect change,” she said. “I think gender, equality, inclusion, those are keywords that are not just words anymore. They're actions. And I think that we have movement in those areas now.”

Ellen Connor stands smiling, wearing T-shirt that says West Coast Wonder Women on it
Ellen Connor, Correctional Manager, William Head Institution, Pacific Region

Ellen literally fights to make change happen. In her mid 30s, while going through a divorce, she discovered boxing.

“I found a boxing coach who believed in me before I believed in me, and it changed my life,” said Ellen. “It wasn't about the person across the ring from me. It was all about my journey, and for me to find that belief in me.”

She wanted to share that confidence-building experience with other women and girls. In 2016, Ellen opened a boxing club in Sooke, B.C. In 2018, she created West Coast Wonder Women, a sanctioned international all-female boxing event—the only one in Canada. This May long weekend, women and girls from boxing clubs across the country, the United States, Mexico, and Africa will take their turn in the ring at the fifth annual event.

Ellen's dedication extends beyond the ring. She uses the sense of empowerment she gained in boxing to inspire positive change at William Head. 

The Progressive Pride sidewalk at William Head’s entrance is one example. Ellen and other correctional officers painted it one night after work in 2022.

“It's paint on the ground. And the way I look at it is, all those staff that identify or have somebody in their lives that identify, isn't that a beacon?”

Ellen also pitched the idea of a rainbow sidewalk to the inmate committee. After some education and conversation, inmates joined Ellen in painting a Progressive Pride sidewalk inside the compound.

The sidewalks are symbols of acceptance and equality and respect within the facility.

“When I do leave CSC, I want to leave it better than when I came into it,” said Ellen.

And she will.

Keep an eye on CSC's new podcast series, Prisons Inside/Out for an upcoming episode featuring Ellen!

Let's Talk

Let’s Talk is a publication of Correctional Service Canada (CSC). Let’s Talk shares stories new and old of the people and programs at CSC. These stories provide an engaging window into how CSC fulfills its mission of contributing to public safety and assisting in rehabilitation. Let’s Talk is your home for informative articles, podcasts, and videos about CSC.

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