Big Changes for Transgender Inmates in Canada’s Federal Prisons

Published February 15, 2018 at 8:38 pm


Major changes are on the way for transgender offenders in Canada’s federal prison system.

“We have heard the concerns raised by trans individuals and advocates, and we are pleased to see these significant improvements become a reality for the rights of transgender offenders and their families,” said chief commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission Marie-Claude Landry.

“This is about respect and human dignity—something that every person, including those in our prison system, is entitled to.”

Privacy, preferred names and pronouns, and choosing a men’s or women’s institution according to their gender identity are some the modifications in store.

The revisions come in the wake of Parliament’s recent change to the Canadian Human Rights Act, which added “gender identity or expression” to the list of prohibited grounds of discrimination.

The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC), and Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) have been collaborating.

New operational practices for CSC include:

  • Placing an offender in a men’s or women’s institution according to their gender identity, if it is their preference, regardless of their anatomy or gender on their identification documents, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved.
  • Using an offender’s preferred name and pronoun in all oral interaction and written documentation.
  • Allowing offenders to purchase authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health or security concerns according to the security level of their institution.
  • Taking steps to maximize the privacy and confidentiality of information related to an offender’s gender identity. Information about an offender’s gender identity will only be shared with those directly involved with the offender’s care, and only when relevant.

In addition, offering individualized protocols for offenders looking to be accommodated on the basis of gender identity or expression to ensure, among other things:

  • The safety, privacy and dignity of an offender when they access shower and/or toilet facilities.
  • The choice of male or female staff to conduct frisk and strip searches, urinalysis testing, and camera surveillance.

“We are overjoyed that CSC is making so many positive changes that recognize the human rights of trans people in the correctional system,” said Prisoners’ Legal Services executive director Jennifer Metcalfe.

“These changes will improve the safety and dignity of transgender federal offenders in Canada, affecting every aspect of their daily lives.”

These changes ensure “that offenders who identify as transgender are afforded the same protections, dignity and treatment as others. CSC is committed to building a safe, inclusive and respectful environment for everyone, including transgender staff, offenders, volunteers and visitors,” said Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada Don Head.

All three organizations “look forward to further collaboration and successful implementation of these changes,” a news release reads.

“As CSC updates its individual policies, it will continue to count on the valuable contribution of correctional experts and stakeholders, such as the CHRC and PLS, labour partners, academia and experts in gender and identity issues.”

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