West Coast Prison Justice Society

Joint News Release: Changes to the way transgender offenders are accommodated in Canada’s federal prison system

January 31, 2018 – Ottawa, Ontario – The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS)

An important collaboration spanning several years between the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) has resulted in changes to the way transgender offenders are accommodated in Canada’s federal prison system.

These changes come in the wake of Parliament’s recent change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which added “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

In the context of its daily operations, CSC will continue to provide education and awareness to staff and offenders and work to ensure that the health, safety and dignity of everyone is respected at all times. New operational practices for CSC include:

  • Placing an offender in a men’s or women’s institution according to their gender identity, if it is their preference, regardless of their anatomy or gender on their identification documents, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved.
  • Using an offender’s preferred name and pronoun in all oral interaction and written documentation.
  • Allowing offenders to purchase authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health or security concerns according to the security level of their institution.
  • Taking steps to maximize the privacy and confidentiality of information related to an offender’s gender identity. Information about an offender’s gender identity will only be shared with those directly involved with the offender’s care, and only when relevant.
  • Offering individualized protocols for offenders who seek to be accommodated on the basis of gender identity or expression to ensure, among other things:
    • the safety, privacy and dignity of an offender when they access shower and/or toilet facilities; and
    • the choice of male or female staff to conduct frisk and strip searches, urinalysis testing, and camera surveillance.

All three organizations look forward to further collaboration and successful implementation of these changes. As CSC updates its individual policies, it will continue to count on the valuable contribution of correctional experts and stakeholders, such as the CHRC and PLS, labour partners, academia and experts in gender and identity issues.

For more information, please read CSC’s Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression.


“We are overjoyed that CSC is making so many positive changes that recognize the human rights of trans people in the correctional system. These changes will improve the safety and dignity of transgender federal offenders in Canada, affecting every aspect of their daily lives.”
-Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director, Prisoners’ Legal Services

“We have heard the concerns raised by trans individuals and advocates, and we are pleased to see these significant improvements become a reality, for the rights of transgender offenders, and their families. This is about respect and human dignity—something that every person, including those in our prison system, is entitled to.”
—Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission

“These changes ensure that offenders who identify as transgender are afforded the same protections, dignity and treatment as others. CSC is committed to building a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone, including transgender staff, offenders, volunteers and visitors.”
—Don Head, Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada

Associated Links

CSC Interim Policy Bulletin on Gender Identity or Expression

CHRC Website – Prisoner Rights

Prisoner’s Legal Services

Stay Connected

Follow us on Twitter @CdnHumanRights and Facebook.

Watch us on YouTube

Follow CSC on Facebook and Twitter @CSC_SCC_en


Media Contacts

Prisoners’ Legal Services Media Relations
Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director:

Canadian Human Rights Commission Media Relations

Correctional Service Canada Media Relations



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Status of Women – Study on Indigenous Women Prisoners

Prisoners’ Legal Services executive director, Jennifer Metcalfe, appeared today before the House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women as part of their current study on Indigenous women prisoners. Click here to read her speaking notes.

Ms. Metcalfe called on government to engage with First Nations and Indigenous organizations for self-determination in the administration of correctional services, and to ensure that they are well resourced to provide full wrap-around support for women who have experienced multi-generational trauma.

Inside/Out: A Prison Memoir at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival

Join us at the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival for Inside/Out, a memoir about life in the Canadian prison system.

Inside/Out follows Patrick Keating’s journey as a child growing up in Montreal, getting into drugs and crime, entering the juvenile detention system at the age of 16, and serving a total of three sentences, one for bank robbery. Patrick’s honest and engaging delivery of his funny, sad, and stirring true story helps dismantle our ideas of what a ‘criminal’ looks like – and helps us better understand how language, race, and class play a very real part in our lives as Canadians. It’s about a man’s search for community: the community of the street, the community of prison, and of the theatre.

There will be post-show talkbacks after each performance hosted by Pivot Legal Society with Prisoners’ Legal Services.

January 17–21, 2018
80 minutes, no intermission

7:00PM (January 17–20)
2:00PM (January 21)

There will be a captioned performance on Sunday, January 21st at 2:00 pm for Deaf, deaf and hard of hearing.

Regular tickets are $39 (incl. taxes) | Group tickets (10 or more) are only $28.20! BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE For questions or accessibility concerns, please contact Accessible PuSh Coordinator Anika Vervecken: access@pushfestival.ca | 604.605.8284 ext. 204

CSC Policy: Consideration of Aboriginal Social History

Correctional Service Canada is currently updating policy regarding the consideration of Aboriginal Social History in the administration of Indigenous prisoners’ sentences. PLS supports these initiatives and provided feedback on making this policy even stronger. You can read our comments here.

Prisoners’ Legal Services recommends reforms to British Columbia correctional laws.

Today, Prisoners’ Legal Services wrote to Premier John Horgan, Attorney General David Eby and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth with a list of recommendations for legislative reforms that would improve the lives of BC provincial prisoners. You can read our list of recommendations here.

We hope the new BC government will take this opportunity to reform prison law to be in compliance with the United Nations’ Mandela Rules and abolish the use of solitary confinement in BC which is considered to be torture or cruel treatment if it is used for more than 15 days or on prisoners with mental disabilities. We also call for more resources to support prisoners with mental health needs.

Correctional Service Canada is failing to treat prisoners with drug addictions. Read our letter.


On July 17, 2017, Prisoners’ Legal Services wrote to Correctional Service Canada on behalf of 33 prisoners struggling with addiction who are unable to get appropriate medical treatment. The letter raises urgent concerns about woefully inadequate resources and the abrupt and inhumane discontinuation of medication for patients who do receive Opioid Substitution Therapy.

As the letter explains, many clients say they are looking for help to stop using drugs and are afraid of overdosing, but that they are unable to get the help they need. Some have been waiting months—and some even years—for treatment. Others have been cut off their life-saving medication after allegations of diversion with no meaningful opportunity to defend themselves or exploration of alternatives to termination.

The letter urges Correctional Service Canada to make immediate changes to its Opioid Substitution Therapy program to ensure everyone who needs this life-saving treatment has access to it.  Read the letter here

British Columbia is saving lives by giving drugs to opioid-addicted prisoners

British Columbia is dramatically expanding a key drug treatment program in prisons, winning praise from experts who say jails are important venues for reducing drug-related crime, overdoses, and transmission of HIV and Hepatitis C. Read the whole story at the National Observer.

Canada’s prison agency closes in on new solitary confinement rules

Canada’s prison agency is close to establishing new rules that would prohibit the placement of vulnerable people in solitary confinement and increase the time segregated inmates can spend out of cells. Read the whole story at the Globe and Mail

Supporting Prisoners’ Mental Health: Conference Agenda

Best practices and alternatives to solitary confinement

Friday, June 2, 2017 – Vancouver Convention Centre – Register for the conference at Eventbrite.


8:00 – 8:30            Registration

8:30 – 8:50            Welcome

Aline LaFlamme, Métis Nation Elder

Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director, Prisoners’ Legal Services/West Coast Prison Justice Society

Stephanie Macpherson, Provincial Director, BC Corrections

Anuradha Marisetti, Pacific Regional Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

I.  Where We Are Now: International Law, Ethics and Current Policy on Solitary Confinement

8:50 – 11:15

Howard Sapers, Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform to the Ontario provincial government and former Correctional Investigator of Canada – Mental Health and Segregation in Ontario

Dr. Terry Kupers, Professor Emeritus at The Wright Institute and author of Solitary: The Inside Story of Supermax Isolation and How We Can Abolish It – The Mental Health Effects of Solitary Confinement

Jennifer Wheatley, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services, Correctional Service CanadaThe UN Mandela Rules that Apply to Medical and Mental Health Professionals

Dr. Ruth Elwood Martin, Clinical Professor, University of British Columbia – Canadian Family Physicians and Solitary Confinement

II. Understanding Prisoners with Mental Health Issues

 11:15 – 3:30

Dr. Diane A. Rothon, Medical Director, BC Corrections – Understanding Addiction: When Caring is Treatment

Lunch & small group discussions

Dr. Gabor Maté, Best-selling author and retired medical doctor – Prisoners of Childhood: Trauma and Mental Illness in Our Criminal Justice System    

Dr. John Livesley, Professor Emeritus, University of British Columbia – Treating Personality Disorder and Associated Self-Harming Behaviour

III. Complying with the UN Mandela Rules: Best Practices for Mental Health Care in the Correctional Setting

3:30 – 4:45           Panel Discussion

Moderator:  Benjamin Goold, Professor, Allard School of Law

Melissa Taylor, A/Executive Director, Regional Treatment Centre – Pacific, Correctional Service Canada

Dr. Maureen Olley, Director of Mental Health, BC Corrections

Dr. Diane A. Rothon, Medical Director, BC Corrections

Aline LaFlamme, Métis Elder

Jennifer Metcalfe, Executive Director, Prisoners’ Legal Services/West Coast Prison Justice Society

4:45 – 5:00         Closing remarks

Michael Jackson, Q.C., President, West Coast Prison Justice Society and Professor Emeritus, Peter A. Allard School of Law

Register for the conference at Eventbrite.

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