Our Mission and Context
The mission of the Office of the Correctional Investigator is to ensure the fair and humane treatment of persons serving federal sentences. This is done by drawing attention to human rights obligations and holding the CSC accountable for administering federal corrections in a way that is compliant to law, policy and fair decision-making.
Roles and Responsibilities
The Correctional Investigator is mandated by Part III of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as an independent Ombudsman for individuals under the custody or supervision of the Correctional Service of Canada. The primary function of the Office is to investigate and bring resolution to individual complaints under its jurisdiction. The Office as well, has a responsibility to review and make recommendations on the Correctional Service’s policies and procedures associated with the areas of individual complaints to ensure that systemic areas of concern are identified and appropriately addressed.
The notion of righting a wrong is central to the Ombudsman concept. This involves measurably more than simply responding to specific legal, policy or technical elements associated with the area of concern under review or being investigated. It requires the provision of independent, informed and objective opinions on the fairness of the action taken so as to counterbalance the relative strength of public institutions against that of individuals. When dealing with the findings and recommendations of an ombudsman’s office, public institutions are expected to be fair, open and accountable.
The “function” of the Correctional Investigator, as defined by section 167 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, is purposefully broad: “to conduct investigations into the problems of offenders related to decisions, recommendations, acts or omissions of the Commissioner (of Corrections) or any person under the control and management of, or performing services for, or on behalf of, the Commissioner, that affect offenders either individually or as a group”.
Investigations can be initiated on the basis of a complaint or at the initiative of the Correctional Investigator with full discretion resting with the Office in deciding whether to conduct an investigation, how that investigation will be carried out and whether any investigation should be terminated before its completion (Sections 170 and 175 CCRA).
In the course of an investigation, the Office is afforded significant authority to require the production of information up to, and including, a formal hearing involving examination under oath (Sections 171 to 174 CCRA). The Office has the power to request any documentation, record or information which CSC is required to produce (Section 172 CCRA). Further, the Office has the authority to enter and inspect any facility under the control and management of the Commissioner and inspect the premises and carry out any investigation or inspection thereof (Section 174 CCRA).
This authority is tempered, and the integrity of our function protected, by the strict obligation that we limit the disclosure of information acquired in the course of our duties to that which is necessary to the progress of the investigation and to the establishing of grounds for our conclusions and recommendations. Our disclosure of information, to all parties, is further governed by legal and security considerations and the provisions of the Privacy Act and Access to Information Act (Sections 182 and 183 CCRA).
The provisions above, which limit our disclosure of information, are complemented by other provisions within Part III of the Act which prevent our being summoned in legal proceedings and which underline that our process exists without affecting, or being affected by, appeals or remedies before the courts or under any other Act. The purpose of these measures is to protect the independence and impartiality of the Office and ensure the integrity of its Ombudsman function (Sections 186 to 190 CCRA).
The Office’s observations and findings, subsequent to an investigation, are not limited to a determination that a decision, recommendation, act or omission was contrary to existing law or established policy. In keeping with the purposefully broad nature of our Ombudsman function, the Correctional Investigator can determine that a decision, recommendation, act or omission was: “unreasonable, unjust, oppressive and improperly discriminatory; or based wholly or partly on a mistake of law or fact” or that a discretionary power has been exercised, “for an improper purpose, on irrelevant grounds, on the taking into account of irrelevant considerations, or without reasons having been given” (Sections 177 and 178 CCRA).
The legislation as well provides that the Correctional Investigator, when informing the Commissioner of the existence of a problem, may make any recommendation relevant to the resolution of the problem that the Correctional Investigator considers appropriate (Section 179 CCRA). Although these recommendations are not binding, consistent with the Ombudsman function, the authority of the Office lies in its ability to thoroughly and objectively investigate a wide spectrum of administrative actions and present its findings and recommendations to an equally broad spectrum of decision-makers, inclusive of Parliament, which can cause reasonable corrective action to be taken if earlier attempts at resolutions have failed.
A significant step in this resolution process is the provision at Section 180 of the Act which requires the Correctional Investigator to give notice and report to the Minister if, within a reasonable time, no action is taken by the Commissioner that seems to the Correctional Investigator to be adequate and appropriate. Sections 192 and 193 of the legislation continue this process by requiring the Minister to table in both Houses of Parliament, within a prescribed time period, the Annual Report and any Special Report Issues by the Correctional Investigator.
The vast majority of the concerns raised on complaints by individuals under CSC’s custody are addressed by this Office at the institutional level through discussion and negotiation. In those cases where a resolution is not reached at the institution, the matter is referred to regional or national headquarters, depending upon the area of concern, with a specific recommendation for further review and corrective action. If at this level the Service, in the opinion of the Correctional Investigator fails to address the matter in a reasonable and timely fashion, it will be referred to the Minister and eventually may be detailed within an Annual or Special Report.
In any given year, the Office receives and responds to 4,000–5,000 complaints. In addition to responding to individual complaints, the Office meets regularly with incarcerated persons’ committees and other organizations and makes regularly scheduled announced visits at each institution during which the investigator will meet with any individuals or groups upon request. We had, over the course of this reporting year, in excess of three hundred meetings with various incarcerated persons organizations, including inmate welfare committees (IWC), lifer groups, black inmate and friends’ associations (BIFA), Indigenous brotherhoods and sisterhoods.
The areas of complaints continue to focus on those long-standing issues which have been detailed in past Annual Reports. A specific breakdown of the areas of complaints, dispositions, institutional visits and interviews are provided in the statistics section of our annual reports.