Over the course of four years, the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights has put together a list of 71 recommendations to better uphold human rights within Canada’s corrections system.
The 300-plus page report found that those with mental health struggles, women, Black, Indigenous and racialized people are among those most at risk of having their human rights violated.
Angela is an Indigenous mother who has served time in a federal corrections facility.
She says that during her incarceration, she struggled to access proper healthcare — everything from dental services to feminine hygiene products.
“Once a month you were allowed 10 tampons. If you needed more, you’d need to use your own currency on canteen to purchase more feminine hygiene products,” says Angela.
“Those are two to three times the amount of what you would get if you bought it out on road.”
She also claims dentists in the system are more likely to pull problem teeth than fix them.
“The dentist there, he likes to rip everything out,” she adds.
“And then when you get released, you don’t even have teeth to come out with, which makes it hard to get a job.”
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Angela’s experiences are an example of what the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights heard about recently.
The committee found problems in the prison system when it came to access to health care, nutritious food and other basic services.
They found that those most affected are Black, Indigenous and racialized people, especially women, as well as those with mental health needs.
“You know, when we talk about people that are incarcerated, we can forget they’re humans too,” says Senator Salma Ataullahjan, deputy chair for the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.
“The interesting thing is that the issues we’ve heard are almost exactly the same from one end of Canada to the other.”
The committee issued a number of recommendations to repair some of the shortcomings.
“The conclusions that many of my colleagues came to was that people emerge worse from the prisons,” says Senator Kim Pate.
“There were very few programs and services that the legislation, and the policies and the government programs promise.”
Judy Burrill, of prisoner’s support group The Elizabeth Fry Society, says she doesn’t know whether the committee’s findings will change anything, but she’s glad to hear about them.
“Realistically, there have been many documents,” says Burrill.
“Sometimes we fail to meet the recommendations in there, but I don’t think that we should ever stop making recommendations or educating people.”