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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

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I won't ask any hypothetical questions; instead, I'll talk about a situation that might arise.

Let's suppose that the prison population is growing. This type of bill, which would prevent certain inmates from complaining, wouldn't it create some violent situations? Not being able to complain, the inmates would use other methods.

Do you think, for example, that this could damage the atmosphere in your institution or in other institutions?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

That's a good question.

4:10 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I think, quite frankly, it would help, because if I have an increased number of general population inmates, the likelihood of them being vexatious or frivolous grievers is statistically low based on what we know of these individuals. I think the absence of it could be bad in the sense that if my timeframes are already slow and my population increases by 10%, that puts on a further strain. If, for example, an offender submits on average four complaints a year, those complaints that are frivolous or vexatious will bog down the system. In the absence of those, we're better positioned to meet the timeframes in the legislation for the new offenders coming in, which to me means there is less likely to be a pre-incident indicator in terms of concern. They're not hearing from managers. They're not getting any leverage related to their complaints. I quite frankly, given my experience, see it as a benefit the other way. With regard to violence in institutions, we have a whole variety of checks and measures related to those indicators.

I hope that has answered your question.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Madame Morin.

Thank you, Mr. Pyke.

We'll now move back to Mr. Leef.

Mr. Leef, go ahead, please.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Sir, you mentioned in your report that a lot of the complaints create a great deal of frustration for staff who have to continue to investigate complaints when the merits of those complaints are a concern. I want to shift over to the staff who are the subject of a complaint. Do you notice any impact on staff who are the subjects of these frivolous complaints? Do they have increased levels of stress and frustration?

4:15 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Absolutely. I'll speak, if I can, to the eight complaints of harassment submitted by one inmate, with regard to which I brought in the external review group. Those complaints create a lot of anxiety for these individuals. They see personnel come from national headquarters and regional headquarters and from outside of the site, and their immediate reaction is, “What have I done wrong?”

I've spoken to these individuals subsequent to the review to indicate that it's about transparency. I can tell you there is angst that goes with being subjected to any type of review, and any of us would have it if we felt we were doing our job and all of a sudden we had an outside review come in to sort of peel the onion or look at everything.

So, yes, it absolutely creates stress.

It has a tendency to create animosity at times between, obviously, the offender population and the staff involved. It affects morale. Really and truly it affects the morale of those individuals, for some more than others. Some are absolutely okay with it. They say, “Hey, they can ask and I'm okay.” Others take it quite personally. They feel that it's a process under which they could be doing their job and still be subjected to what they feel is an unfair review or unfair supervision when they're simply carrying out their duties.

I can tell you from first-hand experience and first-hand conversations with those individuals that it absolutely can impact morale, and it can impact their interpretation and their everyday job.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

From your experience, from what you know, would that contribute to an increased level of leave—stress, sick, or other? Would it lead to a certain degree of decrease in motivation for those staff to work directly with the specific inmate who has laid the complaint, and perhaps even with the greater inmate population in general?

In turn, if that's the case, would it have an increased cost overall to the institution in terms of both the human and the financial resources?

4:15 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

It's an excellent question.

I don't have any quantitative statistics to support what I'm about to say. I'm sorry.

Does a person who is impacted and has increased stress use their leave? Will they use sick leave or have an increase in sick leave? Sure. They certainly have that ability. I can only speak for myself as a person. If I feel stressed, if I feel the work environment is a bit poisoned, am I more apt to seek assistance or take some time off? Absolutely.

The other thing is that we have an employee assistance program within the service. It's confidential, so I don't know how many of the staff might seek assistance from the employee assistance program. I'm not privy to that information. That would be a big piece. I would think that absolutely it would be a resource utilized that I'm just simply not aware of.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

Okay.

We've been talking a fair bit about the grievance process. When you hear there are 500, that averages over one a day. Can you give us a quick backgrounder on it?

I'm assuming that each grievance doesn't come with just one piece of paper. Can you give us some indication of how thick some of these files can actually get in terms of the in-depth investigation that's required? It's one thing to say that we have one grievance a day, but can you maybe give us some perspective on the volume these grievances can actually reach for you and your staff?

4:20 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Okay. Quite frankly, Melinda oftentimes puts the dockets together, and I know she's probably anxious to speak. But I will say that some of those files can get incredibly large. The problem in regard to the docket is that we have to put together prior investigations, because oftentimes they'll try to re-grieve or re-complain on a similar issue. We actually include prior investigations in the document so that we don't end up reinvestigating something that we've already provided an answer to.

The other thing with some of these fellows is that they'll actually put three complaints in one docket. One might be on staff performance, one might be on health care, and one might be on admissions and discharge. They're all under one docket. The coordinator actually has to break down each one of those issues in the file and create a file for each one as it relates to what the complaint is. So very much so....

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

We'll now move to Mr. Sandhu, please, for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Thank you for being here, Warden Pyke.

I'm looking forward to coming out to see you in person sometime.

4:20 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Excellent.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

For the record, the official opposition believes that the CSC should be investigating and resolving complaints that have actual merit.

Warden Pyke, how do you determine what complaint has actual merit?

4:20 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Well, quite frankly, that's the initial purpose of the investigation. As the docket comes in, if it's related to health care issues, for example, and they're indicating that they've put down to see the doctor and they haven't been able to see the doctor in a month's time or the likes.... As we investigate, we would go to the health care area and inquire with the nursing staff or the chief of health care as to whether this individual has been seen or an appointment has been made.

Oftentimes it may come across that, yes, he's listed for the doctor, or he's listed for an appointment. The clinic is.... Some of these fellows have been inside for quite a long period of time. As Canadian citizens, we recognize that things aren't immediate sometimes. The clinic only runs on certain days. So there's merit to his concern in terms of the timeframe, but the reality of it is that the information hasn't been relayed properly to him in terms of the timeframes or what's involved.

The frivolous or vexatious ones surface after we've done a bunch of investigating, unfortunately, and have determined in no uncertain terms that there is no merit. The example would be that the harassment complaints increase in number. That's very concerning to me as the warden; all of a sudden I have a whole bunch of harassment complaints on staff from a particular inmate.

You can be in an external review. They review everybody independently. They're not known to the institution. They're not part of any kind of institutional culture. What comes back is no, there was no merit to what was being put forward there, other than the fact that the inmate was told to get off the phone at lock-up time and was locked up and the like.

I don't know if that answers your question.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Warden, I'm going to stop you there, because I have follow-up questions and I only have five minutes.

Would you agree that if we find out after investigation if a complaint is merited or not...?

4:20 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

No, I believe that the purpose of the investigation is to determine, at that point, whether there's merit. That's how we form our response: is there merit to it?

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Right.

4:20 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

If there's merit, we will uphold it, or uphold it in part. If there's not....

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

Right. So you spend a lot of time investigating and finding out whether or not a complaint has merit.

My follow-up question would be this. If it takes a lot of resources to determine if a complaint has merit, and those are the ones we should be investigating, the merited ones, would you say that...?

You said in your statement that this puts a lot of strain on your staff, investigating these frivolous complaints and all that, but the investigation would actually happen before a complaint is determined, or a lot of resources are already spent before a complaint is actually merited or not merited.

Would you say it's a lack of resources on your part, less resources for you to function, to figure out whether these complaints are merited or not?

4:20 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I actually...you know, it's the initial investigation where there's the investment in resources. We would treat everybody as having merit initially. What we find is that after numerous investigations—I referred to three of them in my statement—and often in cases of tens or twenties, there's an absence of merit here.

So I think how we would go about looking at those cases, in terms of putting an additional onus to demonstrate merit before we move forward with an investigation, is the key piece to that part of the proposed policy.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

So the resources are already expended.

You also mentioned this in your brief:

It is also significant to note that, in the case of the three primary complaint/grievance submitters at KP, many of those complaints submitted were moved up by the offenders to the first-level grievance....

Can you tell us how many?

4:25 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

No, I'm sorry. I can certainly provide that information to the committee. I know we're on a very tight timeframe. I don't have it right before me, but I can certainly submit it to the committee.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu NDP Surrey North, BC

How long does it take for you to look at a complaint? Does it take hours, minutes...?

4:25 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

It depends on the nature of the complaint. After it's filed in the complaint process, I get that docket in terms of what work's been done up to that point. Depending on what's said in the grievance as it proceeds to the next step, it can certainly entail....

Again, I'll reference the external investigation: that was my response based on the concerns.