Evidence of meeting #32 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was offender.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Don Head  Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
  • Michael Côté  Director General, Rights, Redress and Resolution, Correctional Service of Canada
  • Shane Dalton  Acting Analyst, Offender Redress , Correctional Service of Canada

4:40 p.m.

Acting Analyst, Offender Redress , Correctional Service of Canada

Shane Dalton

No. It would have to be escalated through the various levels. I work at the third level, so for it to reach me, depending on the nature of the complaint.... Certain complaints can be submitted directly at higher levels, depending on their nature, but if you look at your more typical complaint, it would start off as a complaint, then escalate to the first, then to the second, and then eventually we'd respond to it at the third.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Would you be able to give us two examples, one example of a legitimate complaint that has come through your office, and one of a multiple vexatious complaint, just so we can hear what it is and what you're dealing with?

4:45 p.m.

Acting Analyst, Offender Redress , Correctional Service of Canada

Shane Dalton

Legitimate complaints are anything you can think of, anything from.... By and large, a lot of these legitimate complaints deal with explanations. A lot of the time it's not so much that what is being done is necessarily incorrect; it's that the offender maybe doesn't understand why it's being done. That's by and large what these responses are: an explanation of where our policies are and the background behind what the front-line staff is doing. I mean, legitimate complaints can be anything.

As for your vexatious grievances or grievances that are not made in good faith, the commissioner referred to a bunch of them. The ones that I see are along those same lines. They are things where there's not.... You can often find it by looking at what the inmate is asking for; by and large, these are things that don't present an actual remedy.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

So there's no explanation for why the ice cream is so cold, except that it's a frozen food.

4:45 p.m.

Acting Analyst, Offender Redress , Correctional Service of Canada

Shane Dalton

It could even be something where it's not “This ice cream is cold”; it could be anything to the extent of “This is ice cream. I don't like it.” There's nothing that precludes them from complaining about anything. So anything you can think of can fit into that bracket.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Ms. Hoeppner, Mr. Dalton.

Monsieur Chicoine again.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just thought of a possibility. Let's say the bill became law and a complainant was designated as vexatious. I assume there are complainants who may be hated by the staff because they complain repeatedly.

Wouldn't there be a risk of those complainants being somewhat mistreated, with staff knowing full well that they will not be able to complain? It wouldn't be the majority. Only a small minority would probably do something like that, but wouldn't there be a risk of staff members taking their revenge and mistreating certain complainants, knowing they won't be able to submit a complaint?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

No, it's a good point. The way the bill's laid out, there is a bit of check and balance in looking at whether a serious life, liberty, or safety issue is raised by the offender and then is able to be activated and pursued.

The other avenue always available to any inmate, even under this scheme, is that if such a situation has happened, the inmate can make a call to the Office of the Correctional Investigator, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator could then investigate such a complaint.

March 27th, 2012 / 4:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

For example, a prisoner may complain that the potatoes are too small. In that case, he could be given only two or three small potatoes. That's the kind of situation I am talking about. I have another example. For instance, a mistreated prisoner may be hit over the head.

Isn't there a risk of recourse becoming limited? I perceive a risk when it comes to that, though obviously not a life-threatening one. The habit of complaining is being exaggerated. The offender submitted a complaint, which may have been frivolous in nature. From that point on, that offender will no longer be able to complain, but he will have reason to.

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

No. And again, I feel confident that through the checks and balances, even the way it's proposed in the bill, the life, liberty, or security issues would be dealt with, and the fact that the offender could as well make the complaint to the Office of the Correctional Investigator. Again, if it were a serious liberty issue, for example, the offender could immediately seek some kind of judicial review of the matter.

To be honest, I really don't care If they're complaining about the size of their potatoes, as long as they're getting fed and it's meeting the dietary requirements, maybe meeting religious dietary requirements, that those things are being met. If you have a smaller potato today than Mr. Côté or Mr. Dalton, unfortunately, that was the luck of the draw, or the luck of the scoop, whatever it was.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

I want to go back to an answer you gave to Mr. Scarpaleggia. You said that 44% of complaints had been resolved since November, following the implementation of one of Mr. Mullan's recommendations.

Which recommendation were you talking about, and under what circumstances was it implemented? I would like you to talk about that again because I find it beneficial.

4:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

We've implemented the alternative dispute resolution pilot project in ten institutions. In those ten institutions, we've been monitoring the number of complaints that have come forward. Overall, 34% of those dealt with through the ADR process--the local, mediative, informal kind of resolution approach--have been resolved. The other 66% have been resolved in other ways, through the normal complaint and grievance process. The 34% resolved through alternative dispute resolution we see as encouraging.

It's still early days. I think we're running the pilot for 18 months. We're into month five now.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

The result seems encouraging.

4:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

Yes, exactly.

At this point, we don't have enough data to say whether this is going to have any impact on what would be deemed as frivolous and vexatious grievances. We tend to think that at least with that core 25, this probably won't change anything. For the rest of the offender population, it will help to get far more expeditious decisions, which is really what we're trying to get at.

Going back to one of the earlier questions, it's like anything, even labour law. If you tinker with one little thing, you can create a whole bunch of problems. Rather than tinkering with one thing, we're trying to make sure we have all the pieces lined up. Your suggestion earlier, if we can compress the number of levels, that's a solution, but if you do that in isolation of the three or four other pieces we have, we could end up creating more processes with more time, energy, and money being spent.

We're trying to look for the right continuum for both, for what we call legitimate grievances and for those that fall into the frivolous and vexatious category.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much.

We'll now move back to Mr. Rathgeber and Mr. Aspin in a split.