The Honourable Sylvia Jones
Minister of the Solicitor General
18th Floor, 25 Grosvenor Street
Toronto ON M7A 1Y6
June 6, 2021
Dear Ms Jones,
Subject: Concern About the Disbanding of the Community Advisory Boards in all Ontario Correctional Institutions
MOMS Ottawa (Mothers Offering Mutual Support) feels betrayed, blindsided and outraged by the news that Community Advisory Boards (CABs) for all Ontario correctional institutions have been disbanded as of June 4, 2021.
We view this as a grave mistake for many reasons, but mostly because it will decrease transparency across the system. It appears as if the Ontario Correctional Institutions may have something to hide.
CABs were set up to “increase transparency and accountability within Correctional services by strengthening the links between correctional facilities and the communities they serve” to quote the website of the Solicitor General.
CABs have had access to inspect and tour institutions, with access to inmates and staff alike on a 24/7 basis. In addition, they met with superintendents monthly to discuss and resolve issues. Inmates were able to request a visit from the CAB. The CAB were required to present annual reports to the Minister, which they did. Unfortunately, we noted that the last report the Minister allowed to be publicly posted was in 2016, an indication to us that the government was already minimizing their role.
MOMS Ottawa has had an excellent relationship with the OCDC CAB. We communicated frequently to report on and hear of related issues. We were able to ask questions that our members raised. We relied on them for advice on the workings and conditions inside. The CAB always responded promptly and professionally to our requests. They were able to bridge the divide that separates us, the families of prisoners, and the superintendent of OCDC.
MOMS has been a stakeholder in Corrections for over a decade. Our essential function, as a strictly volunteer group, is to give support to women who have criminalized family members, liaise with other stakeholders in corrections and advocate for improvements in the criminal justice system.
A few of MOMS involvements in corrections include:
- MOMS was a member of the 2016 Task Force on OCDC
- we were granted official standing to participate in the inquests into the OCDC deaths by suicide of both Cleve Geddes and Justin St. Amour
- we contributed our ideas and expertise into Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act (2018) which the present government has unfortunately not brought into force
- we are a member of the Community Adult Justice Network (CAJN)
- we are a member of the Correctional Reform Coalition
- we were invited to participate in the stakeholders meeting with SolGen to discuss the proposed new jail in Kemptville
The Solicitor General’s discarding of the CABs serves to eliminate a layer of transparency and accountability that is essential to inmates and their families and that was implemented after much thought for the benefit of communities and institutions alike.
In our opinion, to eliminate these boards will put a lie to the objective of transparency in the system.
We, MOMS OTTAWA, request that the government rescind the decision to disband the CABS in Ontario Corrections. The Community Advisory Boards are seen by criminal justice experts and advocates as an important independent body in the Government’s promise of transparency and accountability.
We request a detailed explanation for this decision.
Members of MOMS Ottawa Advocacy Committee
cc: Premier Doug Ford
Deputy Premier Christine Elliott
Michael Tibollo, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Opposition
Gilles Bisson, Critic, Community Safety and Corrections
Lucille Collard, Vice-chair Standing Committee on Justice
Kevin Yarde, Member Standing Committee on Justice
Parm Gill, Member Standing Committee on Justice
Joel Harden, Member Standing Committee on Social Policy
Paul Dube, Ontario Ombudsman
Correctional Reform Coalition
Criminalization Punishment and Education Project (CPEP)
Community Adult Justice Network (CAJN)
Michael Spratt, Criminal Law Specialist, Abergel Goldstein & Partners
Paul Champ, Champ and Associate, Principal Lawyer
Senator Kim Pate
Louise Leonardi, Executive Director, CFCN
Howard Sapers, Independent Review of Ontario Corrections