Evidence of meeting #33 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 complaints.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jay Pyke  Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

So the question is, what happens then?

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Right. My question to the warden, if I could continue—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Yes, your time starts again.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much.

What would your response be to that? Now we're talking about correctional officers who have actually proven not only that they obey the laws of the land and that they contribute as citizens but also that their professions are of the highest integrity and that they perform their duties with the highest integrity.

Is there ever that concern? Maybe you could link it to the review process, which happens every six months. I'm wondering how you feel about that six-month timeframe.

Could you speak to that? Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Thank you for recognizing that. I am proud of my staff. I'm very partial to the public service values they demonstrate daily.

I guess that would be my first response. As the warden, I like to believe we follow the public service values in essence, in principle, and in practice. That said, I know we're dealing in hypotheticals here. I caught that clearly, I think, given what I heard. Hypothetically, if we were to have wrongdoing...I guess for me, from my experience—I've been a correctional officer, and I've been on the floor and supervised that group—there's never one correctional officer operating by himself, especially in a living unit situation. You always have at least two officers down a living unit. You always have at least one other officer “vestibuling” that living unit. There are always three individuals, in general terms—in a maximum environment, which is my experience—related to any inmate contact in those contexts.

In terms of recourse, further to the complaint process, there's the correctional manager who's assigned to the living units themselves, who oversees the living units. I guess if an inmate were to be subjected to an issue of that nature, one recourse would be to approach the correctional manager, who's on the unit daily, to indicate there had been an altercation or a problem.

There's an assigned correctional officer, too, or a parole officer who's also part of the case management team for that inmate. The inmate could also approach a member of the case management team to indicate that there had been a concern.

Ultimately, they can pick up the phone. They can call the Office of the Correctional Investigator. Its ombudsman role is outside of our CSC functioning, period. The Office of the Correctional Investigator certainly could investigate a complaint of that nature as well.

That's what I can think of off the top, but I would think there are several measures of recourse or checks and balances in there. There have certainly been allegations of wrongdoing, which have been investigated through internal investigations, fact-finding investigations, that have been disciplinary in nature at times. Again, individuals of this nature would be designated due to the frivolous nature of complaints, so the process would be to determine whether there was merit to what was being put forward. That would be where we'd start it.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you.

How much time do I have?

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You actually have another minute and a half.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much.

Can you comment? I know in the bill there's a provision that the designation would be reviewed every six months. I'm wondering how you feel about that. Is that too soon? What are your thoughts on that timing?

4 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I'm actually quite fine with the six-month timeframe. I think it's another check and balance for us as well. It allows us to see whether what we have tried to put in place with these individuals has had any kind of impact, and whether it has worked. It allows us to keep track so they don't become lost, so it's another check and balance that way.

It's a limited recourse block, if you will, or prevention from moving on in the system. I think it helps keep us, quite frankly, honest and paying attention in relation to what we've done under the legislation.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Part of the bill talks about a plan for a vexatious complainant. We've heard from the woman who introduced the bill that there is some concern with that terminology. We heard it from the commissioner as well.

Would you have some concern with that as it relates to the correctional plan? Would it be misinterpreted as a larger document than was intended?

4 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Yes, I think we'd definitely have to operationalize at the institutional level. And I'm sorry I keep saying operationalize, but I mean in no uncertain terms, through a commissioner's directive, we would have to know the plan and the parameters around the plan. We use the plan a lot in our system, whether it be the correctional plan or something like that. I think this might be something that would operate in concert with the correctional plan, but it's altogether separate in terms of what we have framed in here.

Again, this is a concept right now. We haven't had discussions related to what this would look like in real play, so I can't speak specifically to it, but I will say that I think it could work.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Pyke and Ms. Hoeppner.

We'll now move to Mr. Scarpaleggia, please, for seven minutes.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you very much.

Thank you for joining us, Mr. Pyke.

Just to set the record straight, we believe that corrections officers are individuals of the highest integrity, that they do subscribe to the values of the public service, and that they are, by and large, decent individuals. The question I asked a couple of meetings ago was not to suggest that an officer would commit an act of physical violence. It was more to explore whether it would be possible, if there weren't sufficient checks and balances, for a situation of personal rancour to develop, which you know can happen in human relationships.

But you actually provided some important information that had not been provided to this point, which is that there are some significant checks and balances. For example, we didn't know that correctional officers were accompanied by other correctional officers and so on and so forth.

Just staying on that point, but looking at it slightly differently, Commissioner Head actually acknowledged this point last week. Under this bill, if somebody were to be designated a vexatious complainant and then actually did have a legitimate urgent complaint, which can happen, what sort of safety valve would there be so that one would know that this legitimate complaint, which could involve life, liberty, and security, would in fact be brought to your attention? Make no mistake, we don't want to see the resources of the warden, the institution, or the department monopolized by complaints that aren't legitimate.

Under the bill as it's presently drafted, do you see a check to make sure that, out of 100 vexatious complaints, if number 101 is actually a serious one affecting life, liberty, security.... Are there safeguards to ensure that it would get your attention and that it would be acted on?

4:05 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Thank you.

Again, I'm speaking in hypotheticals somewhat here, because I don't have in front of me what it would actually look like. I do understand the principle, which is that all complaints that would be brought forward would be heard, related to the plan. I'm sorry that I'm speaking ambiguously about a plan; it's because I'm not sure what the plan would look like.

But I do feel that my understanding of it is that they would still get the opportunity to present a complaint. It's that they would have the absence of being able to move it on to a grievance process unless it was deemed merited by the review. So to speak to how we would review the 101st complaint to determine whether it's.... I can only speak to the process that may be in place with these individuals related to demonstrating where the merit is. I mean, what is the merit? Maybe it's in conjunction with the Officer of the Correctional Investigator, where they've also submitted a third-party concern or complaint and I've received a call from the Office of the Correctional Investigator indicating that they have a concern as well or that there's merit to it.

I can only speak to what I know, what I've seen, and what my understanding is. My understanding is that it would still be seen at the complaint level. To speak to how we would determine in fact, in no uncertain terms, that there's no merit...that would be my question as the institutional head to the investigator. How do we determine there's no merit? If it's against a particular staff member consistently, I'd have to see what the investigation report related to that concern produces to me.

I can't speak specifically to it. My apologies. I just don't know operationally what exactly it would look like.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

How does this bill really save your time? You said you're still dealing with the complaints. It's just that they don't move on to a higher level, which saves somebody's time, I guess. But how does it really save your time if you're still dealing with the complaints?