Open letter to Public Safety Minister, the Hon. Mr. Ralph Goodale

Prisoners’ Legal Services congratulates Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his team on their election win. We look forward to working with the Minister of Public Safety, the Hon. Mr. Ralph Goodale, to restore a correctional system to one that is evidence-based, that focusses on the rehabilitation of prisoners and that respects the human rights and dignity of all members of society.

Prisoners’ Legal Services is the only legal aid clinic for prisoners in Canada. We assist federal and provincial prisoners in British Columbia with issues that affect their liberty and human rights.

The Harper regime’s “tough on crime” agenda has set Canada down the road toward disaster from which the Americans are now desperately trying to retreat. Canada’s penal policy is no longer in line with international standards for the minimum treatment of prisoners.

Prisoners’ Legal Services calls on parliament to:

  • Review and revise the government’s approach to public safety;
  • Make legislative amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act so that its purpose and principles again reflect the Charter and the jurisprudence;
  • Repeal all elements of former Bill C-479 that delay parole and detention reviews;
  • Reinstating automatic parole suspension hearings;
  • Address what the Supreme Court of Canada has described as “a crisis in the criminal justice system” and the “staggering injustice” of over representation of Aboriginal people in federal custody;
  • Re-appoint Mr. Howard Sapers as the Correctional Investigator of Canada;
  • Make appointments to lead the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada that reflect Canada’s commitment to human rights standards and to reintegration;
  •  End long-term solitary confinement and the use of solitary confinement on prisoners who suffer from mental disabilities, in accordance with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules);
  •  Increase mental and physical health services to prisoners;
  •  Improve harm reduction strategies in prisons;
  •  Appropriately accommodate transgender prisoners;
  •  Establish an effective and timely grievance system for prisoners;
  •  Review the procedure for record suspensions (pardons) to ensure that it is timely and accessible in order to prevent delays that are a barrier to ex-offenders finding employment and successfully reintegrating as law abiding citizens;
  •  Increase prisoner access to rehabilitative programs;
  •  End the policy of keeping prisoners sentenced to life in maximum security for the first two  years of their sentences, regardless of their actual security risk; and
  • Restore reporting requirements for life parolees who have been in the community for 10 years to once per year.

Prisoners’ Legal Services understands that it will take a great deal of planning to undo the harm to the prison system done by the Harper regime. We look forward to consulting with the Ministry along with other stakeholders on how best to address these issues in the future.

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