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Members of the Senate Human Rights Committee are speaking out about the state of Canada’s prisons, urging “human rights for all” be upheld as Bill C-83, an Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Records Act , is considered by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Senators Kim Pate, Jane Cordy and Wanda Bernard are pointing to the Office of the Correctional Investigator’s (OCI’s) Annual Report , released June 29, 2018, to illustrate the plethora of issues faced by inmates that require immediate attention. Senator Jane Cordy “The Correctional Investigator exposes the superficial and inaccurate nature of Correctional Service Canada’s (CSC) own internal investigations, including their examination of the December 2016 ‘riot’ at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, which resulted in the death of a prisoner,” said Cordy, deputy chair of the Senate committee, in a release.

“The OCI recommendation for independent and external investigations into deaths that occur in federal prisons mirror what we have heard, from nearly every prisoner and many staff. Frustrations abound regarding the inability of prisoners to receive remedial action for breaches of law and policy by CSC, from inadequate food to long periods of isolation without access to programming to racism and violent uses of force or incitement by staff,” she added.

The OCI report recommends that Indigenous prisoners be allowed to transfer into the care of Indigenous communities, while inmates with mental health issues should be able to transfer to mental health facilities.

Bernard said the Senate committee has heard from prisoners, allies and experts in the field, all of whom have implored the senators to “do all we can to improve the circumstances of prisoners, especially those living with mental illness by getting them into appropriate community-based mental health services.” Senator Wanda Bernard “Again and again we heard cries for the decarceration of Indigenous prisoners, especially women, people with disabilities and people dealing with poverty,” added Bernard, chair of the Senate Human Rights Committee, in a release.

In an interview with The Lawyer’s Daily , Cordy stressed that in “a country like Canada, we can do better.”

The senator highlighted food quality as a major issue for inmates. She said that on a visit to the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, she noted that all the food was covered with a tray to try to keep the meal warm. The problem with that is the items that were meant to be kept cold, such as salad, would then heat up. Inmates eating poor quality food day after day becomes an issue, she said.

“And it wasn’t just in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary that we heard that,” she explained, adding that complaints about food quality were shared by inmates at most prisons.

“One institution we were in, we heard from the prisoners that they got spaghetti with a meat sauce over it, but they weren’t really sure whether or not it was meat,” explained Cordy, noting that this small portion, along with a green banana, was the main meal of the day. By the time the inmates were given their food, it was cold.

“The thought of cold spaghetti and that being my main meal of the day, would not be particularly appetizing to me,” she added. She stressed that although individuals are sent to prison as a form of punishment, they still need to be treated humanely.

Cordy described visiting the Stan Daniels Healing Centre where the senators noticed the paint was peeling off the walls of the aging facility. She said the group asked an inmate if he was bothered by the state of the building and he responded with: “No, that doesn’t bother me. We don’t care about […]

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