(Ottawa, Dec. 2016) – Correctional Service Canada (CSC) Commissioner Don Head sent this open letter to Auditor General Michael Ferguson in response to the Fall 2016 Audit Report:
Dear Mr. Ferguson,
I would like to thank you for your Performance Audit on ‘Preparing Aboriginal Offenders for Release’, and the accompanying recommendations. The CSC fully accepts the findings and recommendations. We agree that change is needed, and change will happen. We are committed to our Aboriginal Initiatives with a renewed determination; more can and will be done to support the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of Indigenous offenders.
CSC has always embraced the spirit and intent of the Gladue principles. For years now, providing effective programs for Indigenous offenders has been a key priority for us. While we have made significant progress in recognizing and addressing the specific needs of Indigenous offenders, much remains to be done.
Our mission now is to close the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous offenders. While we cannot control the number of Indigenous Canadians receiving federal sentences, we can do something about the length of time they remain under our care. In order to radically improve their correctional results, we will start by turning a critical eye on the way we assess and rehabilitate Indigenous offenders.
To achieve this, I will ensure there is inspired leadership as we implement our recently-expanded Aboriginal Integrated Correctional Program Model. From coast to coast to coast, my senior executives will empower their teams to achieve the results Canadians expect. Together, we will be accountable for delivering significant progress and sustainable results.
Keeping the Gladue principles in mind, we will be innovative in our approach. Going forward, our team will look for ways we can improve and enhance several key areas of our policies and operations:
- We will review the way we manage individual offender’s case files. If need be, we will change our policy to ensure parole officers proactively prepare these cases for the earliest appropriate release into the community.
- We will place a renewed focus on preparing low-risk offenders for this early release.
- We will do whatever we can to increase the availability of and access to programs tailored to the needs of Indigenous offenders.
- We will look at making the best use of our Elders, Pathways Initiatives and Healing Lodges to provide a strong and culturally supportive environment for Indigenous offenders on the path to rehabilitation and reintegration.
But – even with the best intentions – we cannot do this alone. CSC will continue to work closely with our partners in the criminal justice system, Indigenous organizations and community stakeholders. Together, we can strengthen the rehabilitation and reintegration of First Nations, Métis and Inuit men and women offenders in the community.
Your Audit report marks a milestone in Canada’s correctional history. It is the catalyst for strengthening our nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous peoples. It offers our government the opportunity to deliver a coordinated and cohesive strategy for improving reintegration results for Indigenous offenders.
We are proud to have this opportunity to be a part of the change toward a better, safer country and community for our fellow citizens.
Don Head, Commissioner of Correction Services Canada