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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

3:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

Yes, that is possible.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Would you not feel more comfortable if clear decision-making criteria were established? The bill says nothing about the number of complaints; it only states that a complainant could be designated as a vexatious complainant. It could be a matter of only one or two complaints.

Would you not feel better if somewhat stricter standards provided you with a bit more guidance in designating a vexatious claimant and if, for instance, there was a set number of complaints that person would have to have submitted?

3:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

I would actually be reluctant to have anything that was driven by a specific number. It would allow certain individuals to just keep flooding the system until they got to that number. I don't see that being practical. I think that with the kinds of definitions we've used.... Also, for us, one of the things we have been looking at very carefully are the criteria that the Federal Court and other provincial courts apply in terms of determining a vexatious litigant—looking at those kinds of parameters as opposed to something that's guided by a number.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

The Mullan report pointed out problems in terms of rendering decisions within the timeframes set out in directive 081. Many complaints that could be seen as vexatious are actually repeated complaints for the Correctional Service of Canada to respond to those complaints within the established timeframes.

Wouldn't the problem be partially resolved if the Correctional Service of Canada was meeting the timeframes? The report went as far as to recommend that timeframes be shortened in order to expedite the process.

3:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

No. It's more than just the timeframe issue.

For us, we do have vexatious complaints and grievances that.... Just to go back to the definition I shared in my opening comments, we do have offenders who file what we consider vexatious complaints, for the purposes of harassing staff. It's not unusual for certain individuals to send us grievances that make their way all the way up to the third level that say “I want the warden fired”. That's the essence of their grievance. Or, because staff members are doing their job on the range, they will claim that they are being harassed by the staff member. They will name every staff member on the shift and file a grievance for every staff member.

These are more than a timeframe issue. These are purpose-driven complaints and grievances that are meant to target individual staff members.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Wouldn't it have been better to introduce a bill that would address the general issue of complaints management? I am saying this because, the Mullan report, for instance, also states that there are too many levels, and it implies that the second level is completely useless.

If the second level were removed to allow the prison to be more independent and even to appeal to the commissioner's office, wouldn't the bill be more adequate?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Chicoine.

3:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

That's a piece of a larger formula; it's more than just that. You have to look at these types of complaints and grievances separately from the other, legitimate ones.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

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

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to all the witnesses.

Mr. Head, the proposed bill uses and we have talked about two terms somewhat interchangeably; those two terms are “complaint” and “grievance”. We use them almost interchangeably in this committee, and I'm not entirely certain that as a matter of law they are.

Does your service distinguish between a complaint and a grievance?

3:50 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

Yes, we very much do.

For us, a complaint is the beginning of a discussion around an issue. Ideally, we would like to see, when an offender has a complaint about something, that it's resolved at the lowest level possible in the organization—resolved with the front-line staff member or front-line manager. If it can't be resolved, or if the offender inmate is not happy with that answer, then they can bring forward a grievance, which then has some very specific timeframes attached to it.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Does that trigger the right to a hearing?

3:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

It triggers a more formal process, in terms of documentation that's followed, the guidelines setting timeframes, categorization of the issue—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Do complaints or grievances have to be filed in any specific form, or can I just write something out on a piece of paper, hand it to one of the officials, and have that constitute filing a complaint?

3:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

We have specific forms, but we've made it clear that at the end of the day an offender can submit it basically on a piece of paper, if they don't have access to the form for some reason or if there weren't enough copies on the range. It can take the shape of a formal document that we have in place or a piece of paper that then triggers the rest of the process.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

In law, specifically in labour law, “grievance” has a very specific definition in terms of what it triggers by way of a response. I asked this a second ago, and you started answering, and then I asked you about forms. Does the filing of a formal grievance trigger the right to some sort of hearing?

3:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

It triggers the right for the offender to put forward their case. There are a couple of occasions at the lower levels when the offender, once they've filed a grievance, can ask that the matter be referred to an inmate grievance committee or to an outside review board at the first level. A grievance would trigger those kinds of opportunities as well.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

If the grievance is filed against a specific official from the Correctional Service of Canada, is that individual allowed to attend and represent himself or herself?

3:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

There isn't a formal hearing, such as in a board room, but what would happen is that the individual who is responsible for investigating the matter would get the viewer perspective or the story of the particular staff members named.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Statistically, you have 28,800 complaints and grievances. Would you be able to break those down as to how many are complaints and how many are grievances?

3:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Do you have that number handy?

It appears to me that the grievance is something that you take quite a bit more seriously in terms of your response.

3:55 p.m.

Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada

Don Head

Yes.

We take it all very seriously and we try to encourage inmates to work with our front line supervisors and managers to resolve a complaint so that it doesn't become a formal grievance. It's part of the reason that we've implemented this pilot project around alternative dispute resolutions.

March 27th, 2012 / 3:55 p.m.

Michael Côté Director General, Rights, Redress and Resolution, Correctional Service of Canada

The number of complaints so far, in percentage terms, is that 71% are submitted at the complaint stage. Then it goes to the first level. About 11.6% are escalated up to that level—

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Oh, I missed this. In order to file a grievance, must it have first been filed as a complaint?