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 complaint.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

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

3:45 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Thank you.

No. Quite frankly, two of them are very litigious individuals. They are not lower functioning; they are of average functioning, and I would argue that one is probably mildly above-average functioning. They are not representing anybody else. They really use this as a means to draw attention to or to focus on certain staff members—to call to attention that they may have had issues with them on the range, whether it is putting down a rule or making sure that policies and routines are followed.

I've reviewed the ones at our site and I can certainly say there are no lower-functioning ones there. I more often hear from our lower-functioning offenders through inmate requests, or what we refer to as “kites”—any kind of note on a piece of paper addressed to a manager or the warden. They put down their concerns and we take action on them separately from this process.

But the three at Kingston penitentiary are by all means normal-functioning individuals. They usually operate on their own; they don't operate in concert with other inmates. They don't usually have the support—and I can only speak to KP—of the general population.

April 3rd, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you.

Bill C-293 indicates that, when the commissioner prepares to designate that person a vexatious complainant, he must first inform the individual that he is about to be given that designation. Then, if the person continues, he must inform him a second time that, from now on, he is a vexatious complainant and he must give reasons for his decision.

The bill also provides that the offender will, in certain conditions, be able to continue to submit grievances or request judicial review. As you said, that type of person is going to use all the recourse available. It seems to me that this creates a lot of paperwork, a lot of information exchanges, and so on. I don't have the impression that this will really unclog the grievance process.

What do you think about that?

3:45 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I can't speak exclusively to the process because I don't have an operational process yet. I don't have something from a commissioner's directive to direct me to what the process would look like. I certainly have looked at it from the same proposal as you.

It would allow us the means to separate these inmates from the other inmates who are submitting genuine complaints and try to work with them, at least. I mentioned the MBIS, the motivation-based intervention strategies to try to sit down to root out the problem behind the submission of all these complaints and grievances. At this point I don't have a process to get to the root of what this is really about and what's driving it. They just continue to submit them.

The other significant impact is that this will allow us to prevent them from moving it on to the grievance process in our current system, where they can now take a grievance. They can actually grieve the fact that I've identified them as multiple grievers in our current process. So this policy will assist us in stopping them from moving it beyond the local institutional level to a grievance process.

Any inmate can pursue judicial review if they so choose. But I truly believe there is some merit to the process, in my experience.

I hope that answers your question.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

The decision maker—you, in this case—can already dismiss a vexatious complaint. Have you already applied that directive? Have you already used this power to dismiss certain complaints?

3:50 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I have, on very limited occasions. What I'll say is that there's a lot of work that goes into naming somebody as a vexatious or frivolous complainant. I have to, one, basically answer the complaint or the grievance, and then, two, justify why it is that I am identifying this as a frivolous or vexatious complaint and submit it.

Again, the problem with the current process is that in turn they will turn around and grieve it to the next level, saying that they don't follow what I say as the warden, that they don't agree with what I say, and therefore they're going to go to the regional deputy commissioner and see what they have to say. If they don't like that, it will progress up.

I guess that's a big one for me: it's their ability to do that. Quite frankly, it's a bit of an arduous task to sit down with as many as you have.... Again, 500 is a significant number in a site where you have a lot of other operations going on at the same time. To sit down with these individuals and try to follow the letter of the current policy...I do find it rather time-tasking, and I'm not sure we're rooting out what we're trying to do.

I mean, they want a response. That's what motivates a lot of it. They want a response from the senior individuals and they're getting it. And now they're getting even more because I'm having to put more into explaining.

There's no merit to this, but all they care about, quite frankly, a lot of them—and it's my opinion—is the fact that they have a response from me. They've had to sit down and get a response from me.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Chicoine.

We'll now move to Ms. Hoeppner, please, for seven minutes.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I also want to thank the warden, as well as Ms. MacCrimmon, for being here and for providing this information.

For Canadians listening to this, I think it's obvious that at the time this complaints process was set up, it was set up with the best of intentions in mind and in good faith that it would be used for the right means. You've indicated why you appreciate a complaints process and how it helps you do your job and helps offender accountability, and I think all of us recognize that, but as we're listening to some of the things that you're telling us, and we've heard other evidence from other witnesses....

For any common-sense Canadian, I think, making these changes is really a no-brainer. It's really hard to believe that.... I know that it's our job in that we have to look at bills completely and make sure we see the impact and if there are unintended consequences, but I think when we look at the simplicity of this bill and what it does, it really makes sense. I cannot imagine the frustration that you and the correctional officers must feel in having to deal with some of these complaints. When I hear about inmates....

I'm sorry, sir, but there are 390 inmates in the facility where you're the warden?

3:50 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

That's correct.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

So there are 390 individuals who are convicted criminals and who obviously don't know how to operate within the confines of Canadian law, and they are generating 501 complaints. The frustration level must be very, very difficult.

We've heard some concern from opposition members that if an inmate is designated as a vexatious complainant there could be a risk of one of your correctional officers taking advantage of that, and then maybe—I'm not sure, I don't know what the hypothetical would be—doing something wrong to this inmate because they would know that they have no way of complaining—

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, no one on this side has said anything remotely like that.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

All right—

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

We can speak for ourselves on this, and I would appreciate it if the member—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Okay. Well—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

I could find the quote, but anyway, there has been that suggestion.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Chair, I think the point that was raised was what the safeguards are in case somebody found that their hands were tied—