Minister McLellan Must Remedy Human Rights Violations
Changes Could Mean Fewer Women in Canadian Prisons
January 28, 2004 - Ottawa -
Equality rights groups are urging Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan to immediately implement the
recommendations released today by the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The special report
on systemic human rights violations experienced by women serving sentences of two years or more
in Canada is a response to a complaint filed by the Canadian Association of
Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) and the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC) in 2001.
"The number of times that the Commission calls for reviews, audits and external accountability
shows they understand the urgent need to address the human rights violations experienced by women
prisoners," stated Dr. Ailsa M. Watkinson, President of CAEFS, which called for the review.
"We commend the Commission and we are especially pleased that they recognize the fundamental flaws
in the classification system. It results in the unnecessary labeling of so many women as maximum
security with 'the harsh treatment this entails'. We welcome the Commission's call for CSC to
design a classification system and corresponding programs that accommodate women's needs, rather
than continuing to treat women like men 'based on stereotypes and perceptions'," continued Dr.
As part of the process of developing submissions to the Canadian Human Rights Commission,
CAEFS consulted with approximately 30 national and international women's, Aboriginal, disability
and social justice groups.
Throughout the report, the Commission points to the tragic consequences that result from the
defective manner in which women are initially assessed. Aboriginal women and women with mental
disabilities are especially over-classified, often kept in segregated, isolated living conditions.
"Fewer women classified as maximum security prisoners will mean more women can be reintegrated into
the community in a much shorter time," says Kim Pate, Executive Director of the Canadian Association
of Elizabeth Societies. "We hope that Minister McLellan will act immediately to introduce a new
classification system and the decarceration strategies that this will necessitate."
CAEFS strongly supports the Commission's proposal for independent monitoring and accountability
mechanisms. The call for judicial oversight reiterates the recommendations of Madam Justice
Louise Arbour. In 1996, Arbour reported on the failure of the Correctional Service of Canada
(CSC) to follow the law and its own policies in dealing with women prisoners. "We are hopeful
that Minister McLellan will recognize the vital need for such a body to monitor CSC's adherence
to principles of justice, fairness and the rule of law."
"The Commission's report clearly identifies the discrimination experienced by women
prisoners. CAEFS welcomes the opportunity to work with CSC, as well as the Ministers
of Public Safety and Justice, to help implement recommendations that are vital to improving
the lives of some of Canada's most vulnerable women," concluded Pate.
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For additional information contact: Dr. Ailsa Watkinson or Kim Pate at 613-298-2422
and refer to the CAEFS' web site at www.elizabethfry.ca
Full Canadian Human Rights Commission Report "Protecting Their Rights" www.chrc-ccdp.ca
Related CBC story Rights commission blasts treatment of women prisoners