An Ontario senator is calling for additional accountability of the Correctional Service of Canada now that a former correctional officer is facing more than a dozen criminal charges after a year-long investigation.
Truro Police Service in Nova Scotia this month announced former corrections officer Brian Wilson faces six sexual assault charges, six charges of breach of trust and one charge of communication for the purpose of obtaining sexual services.
Police said they received a complaint in March, 2019, alleging inappropriate relationships between a corrections officer and female inmates at the federal Nova Institution for Women in Truro – one of six federal corrections facilities for women across Canada.
The allegations have not been proved in court.
Senator Kim Pate, an advocate who has spent nearly four decades working around legal and penal systems, told The Globe and Mail she called police after her office was contacted about allegations at Nova.
Last May, the CSC apologized for saying it called police right away when it heard allegations that the service waited three months to contact police while it conducted an internal investigation of the alleged incidents.
Ms. Pate said this case and others underscore the lack of accountability and the lack of oversight of corrections.
Situations inside institutions rarely happen without people knowing about them, Ms. Pate said, adding that victims are often individuals who suffer from mental health challenges.
It is very difficult for those who have the least power and authority, particularly prisoners and junior staff, to bring forward allegations and to have them taken seriously and properly investigated, she said.
“I think we all have to think about the accountability of those involved in working in environments with people who are institutionalized that are vulnerable,” she said.
In the case of female prisoners, it is known that 91 per cent of Indigenous women and 87 per cent of women over all have histories of abuse including sexual abuse, she said, adding this background makes them particularly at risk for further abuse.
In a statement to The Globe, the CSC said it is aware of the charges laid against a former correctional officer, adding it cannot comment further because these matters are the subject of litigation before the courts.
Halifax lawyer Mike Dull has confirmed seven women have made allegations of sexual assault that are now part of a lawsuit.
The CSC said its employees are expected to carry out their duties with “professionalism and consistently with our policies and mission – and, of course, the law.”
“Offenders have a number of avenues to report inappropriate behaviours from staff whether they are a victim or a witness,” media relations adviser Stephanie McGlashan said. "CSC investigates all allegations of inappropriate behaviours from staff, when such behaviour is reported to it.”
Last July, the correctional service changed its policy on staff protocols for female offender institutions as a result of the allegations.
The policy says that institutional heads must ensure any allegation of harassment or sexual misconduct is immediately reviewed to determine how to proceed, and any allegation of sexual misconduct should be referred to the local police force of jurisdiction “without delay” for review and investigation.
The CSC confirmed to The Globe the allegations involving the former correctional officer prompted it to review and amend the protocol.
With a report from The Canadian Press
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