CAEFS calls for release of prisoners at risk due to COVID-19


OTTAWA, SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2020- COVID-19 & Incarcerated Peoples.

We are currently in the midst of a global outbreak of COVID-19.

As an organization dedicated to advocating for federally incarcerated women, CAEFS is concerned about the Correctional Service of Canada’s (CSC) preparedness to manage this outbreak and reduce the harm to people inside.

While Public Health has indicated that risk is low for the general public, they have identified several groups who are at increased risk of more severe outcomes; these include those who:

  • are aged 65 and over
  • have compromised immune systems
  • have underlying medical conditions

These same groups are also prevalent within our federal prisons.  In their most recent report, the Office of the Federal Investigator (OCI) noted that on 2017-18, 25.2% of the federally incarcerated population was 50 years of age and over.  Previous OCI reports also remind us that is it “universally established that correctional facilities house a number of health-compromised and vulnerable individuals”. The report also addresses the rapid aging of prisoners, making the link between prisoners aged 50-55+ having comparative health risks and those who are 65+ living outside of prisons, due to the overrepresentation of chronic health issues and lack of access to adequate health care.

Furthermore, Public Health has identified the risk of COVID-19 may be increased for certain settings including, “large gatherings in enclosed spaces”. Canadian provincial prisons are chronically overcrowded and both federal and provincial prisons are places where people cannot practice social isolation in the same ways that people outside of prisons can, it is nearly impossible. That all incarcerated people are at increased risk for infection is especially concerning given the past reports we have received from women inside indicating ongoing challenges with accessing adequate health care and preventative health measures inside, including even the most basic of necessities such as soap.

CAEFS advocates that:

  • Any person with complex or chronic medical conditions be immediately released to community for treatment;
  • People aged 50+ who are at the highest risk of serious illness and death should be released into the community on conditional release;
  • Section 81 and 84 should be utilized to transfer Indigenous women into community, and that ample supports be provided to these communities to respond;
  • The use of Community Residential Facilities, Community Based Residential Facilities, Transitional Housing, and ‘Parole to Other’ should be utilized to release incarcerated people as quickly as possible.
  • The immediate release of incarcerated mothers and their children in the mother-child program to their homes or Conditional Residential Facilities;
  • The immediate release of any incarcerated person who is currently at their parole eligibility day, who have completed their correctional programming, OR who could access programming to meet their correctional plan in community and resources should be provided in community.

Section 121(1.b) of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act states that “parole may be granted at any time to an offender […] whose physical or mental health is likely to suffer serious damage if the offender continues to be held in confinement”. We urge correctional authorities to release as many prisoners as they can using the tools that are at their disposal in order to alleviate the potentially severe negative mental and physical health impacts that come from being incarcerated at a time of national and global health emergency.

It is the responsibility of the government of Canada to protect the people for whom incarceration heightens the urgency of the danger that they face from a global pandemic.


Contact information:

Emilie Coyle

Executive Director

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Tel: 613-316-6785

Appalling and growing over-representation of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons highlighted by the Correctional Investigator.


Ottawa, January 22nd, 2020 – The Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada issued a news release with disturbing data on the number of Indigenous people in Canadian prisons-

Over the years, through our monitoring of the conditions of confinement and advocating for women in Canadian prisons, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) has consistently observed and spoken out about the over-representation of Indigenous women at all levels of the criminal justice system.

The Correctional Investigator of Canada, Dr. Ivan Zinger, states that indigenous people now make up more than 30% of people who are federally incarcerated, despite making up only 5% of the Canadian population.

More alarming is the fact that Indigenous women now account for 42% of all women who are incarcerated in federal prisons in Canada. This number is even more staggering within some provincial jails, particularly in the prairie regions where Indigenous women account for upwards of 90% of the prison population.

These disproportionately high numbers reflect the ongoing and systemic oppression and criminalization of Indigenous women and girls in Canada. CAEFS emphatically calls on the Canadian Government to implement the calls to action from the reports released by the National Inquiry into Missing Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) as well as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in order to help address this persistent and growing issue.

“We witness on a regular basis, the harmful, colonial, practice of incarcerating Indigenous women in Canadian prisons” stated Emilie Coyle, Executive Director of CAEFS. “We continue to advocate for legislative reform to address these alarming figures and we urge the government to treat the over-representation of Indigenous women as the emergency that it is and work toward fulfilling its promise of reconciliation with Indigenous peoples”.


Contact Information:

Emilie Coyle – Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies or 613-316-6785

De-criminalizing women in Newfoundland and Labrador: Options

The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) is hosting a public meeting in St John’s on the morning of September 14th , 2017. We are inviting stakeholders, organizations who work with criminalized women and men, and the general public to this meeting to discuss what we can do to provide more community support, programming and advocacy for criminalized women in Newfoundland before during and after their incarceration. For a number of years, CAEFS has been asked to expand our services to Newfoundland. As an organization that works from the ground up, we are interested in facilitating discussion of this possibility with the communities who are on the ground in Newfoundland.

The morning will feature a presentation by Senator Kim Pate, former Executive Director of CAEFS. Kim’s presentation will be followed by a roundtable of people who work on issues relating to criminalized women in Newfoundland so that we can explore together some of the ways we might move forward to address problems and concerns. And there will be lots of time for general discussion. Your participation in this meeting, as well as that of your co-workers, would be hugely important. We hope that you will be able to join us.

WHEN: Thursday, September 14 at 9:30 AM – 1 PM
WHERE: Meeting Room Salon F, Holiday Inn, 180 Portugal Cove Road

Link to location:

Joint NGO statement in advance of Canada’s examination by UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

Joint NGO statement in advance of Canada’s examination by UN CERD Committee

August 9, 2017 — This joint statement is released by Canadian non-governmental organizations (NGOs) appearing before the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD Committee), which will review Canada’s compliance with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) on August 14–15, 2017, in Geneva.

Canada enjoys a global reputation as a country that respects human rights. Yet it has in many ways failed to comply with its international human rights obligations, including the obligation to guarantee equal rights and protection to all people in Canada on the basis of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, and other related grounds. While Canada espouses a commitment to non-discrimination it has failed to comply with its own domestic human rights laws regarding racial discrimination and Indigenous rights. For example, the federal government has failed to abide by four Canadian Human Rights Tribunal orders issued between January 2016 and May 2017 to cease racially discriminating 165,000 First Nations children. Canada has failed to comprehensively address gender discrimination rooted in the Indian Act, despite being made aware of it by courts, the Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples, and outside legal experts. In so doing, Canada places itself above its own laws forbidding discrimination, sending a reckless and disturbing message to Canadians that discrimination is not allowed — unless it is the government doing it.

State control over Indigenous Peoples in Canada has not changed. Indigenous Peoples are still wards of the government. Unceded territorial lands and resources are continually taken away and very little is provided by the State in form of programs and services, creating a dependency as well as poverty. Indigenous People do not hold title even on reserve lands, nor are recognized as a People. Recognition of Indigenous title, laws and People is paramount.

As Canadian NGOs, we believe that any UN review of Canada’s record on racial equality and non-discrimination must first recognize nation to nation relationships between Canada and Indigenous Peoples as a fundamental starting point and must include Indigenous Women institutions within this Nation to Nation relationship. We call on the UN to require all governments in Canada to comprehensively deliver on the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as a part of this acknowledgement, and put into practice the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples without further delay. Canada must put into action its stated commitment to a nation to nation relationship.

Canada has a long history of racism targeting Indigenous Peoples and communities of colour, including the enslavement of people of African descent, and various forms of legislated racism targeting Chinese, South Asian and other communities of colour. Racism has affected each of these communities differently. For Indigenous peoples in particular, racism is a matter of life and death as they experience the lowest socio-economic indicators, the highest rates of suicide and incarceration in the world, pre-mature deaths, and the murders and disappearances of thousands of Indigenous peoples. In the spirit of the International Decade for People of African Descent (2015–2024), we expect to see concrete actions by the Government of Canada to specifically address anti-Black racism. This includes, but is not limited to, recognizing the rich legacy, historical struggle and many contributions of African Canadian peoples living in the lands now known as Canada for over 300 years. We also expect the Government of Canada to address other unique and specific experiences of racism, and urge it to introduce a new national Action Plan Against Racism, one that will address the universal and particular impacts of racism as experienced by different communities, including through mechanisms such as the consistent collection of disaggregated data across all of its various ministries and departments.

We ask the Committee to adopt an intersectional approach to examining the impact of racism on different racialized communities in Canada. We ask the UN to pay particular attention to the intersection between race and gender and gender identity as it affects Indigenous communities and communities of colour, recognizing in particular the deeply harmful reframing of Indigenous women’s roles as a result of gender discrimination in legislation and as a legacy of residential schools, and the disruption in roles and relationship between Indigenous mothers and children.

Canada devotes significant resources to defending its failure to address the marginalization and victimization – including the criminalization and incarceration — of racialized communities, particularly Indigenous Peoples and African Canadians. Indigenous women represent 39% of women in prison and 43% of 12-18 year-old young women imprisoned in Canada. In 2010, the Parliamentary Budget Officer calculated the cost to keep one woman in a federal penitentiary as $348,000 per year – more than $90 MILLION per year is being spent to jail Indigenous women in federal penitentiaries alone. Canada can and must remedy these egregious policy decisions.

We urge the Committee to examine the discriminatory impact of Canada’s immigration and refugee laws as they affect immigrants, migrants, and people with precarious status, particularly those from the Global South.

Finally, access to justice is a fundamental component of an effective human rights system to ensure non-discrimination. Canada has failed to provide sufficient support to persons or organizations filing equity-seeking claims, and it has taken no meaningful measures to ensure the full and proper implementation of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders domestically. For example, several NGOs in Canada experienced funding cuts after advocating different levels of government to end racial discrimination. Furthermore, Canada’s revised Court Challenges Program limits funding to Charter-based litigation (thereby excluding cases pursued under the Canadian Human Rights Act and other legal avenues challenging discrimination) and offers no funding for cases involving Indigenous rights or human rights defenders. The lack of protection for human rights defenders and the failure to ensure access to justice mute the ability of persons in Canada to seek redress for racial discrimination.

The United Nations treaty body system for human rights allows for a focused examination of specific elements of human rights and of particularly vulnerable populations (e.g., children, persons with disabilities, women). These specialized reviews by treaty bodies such as Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) are vital to ensuring States fully comply with their international human rights obligations. We are grateful to CERD for its work and urge Canada to undertake special measures to resist any efforts to eliminate or erode the efficacy of UN human rights treaty bodies and to advocate with other State parties to ensure the treaty bodies are provided with the resources and support needed to complete their work.

We, the signatories to this statement, will use our appearance before the UN CERD Committee to speak out strongly on Canada’s record on Indigenous rights, anti-Black racism, racial discrimination and human rights, and hold the Canadian government accountable in this important international forum.

Signed by:

Aboriginal Legal Services

African Canadian Legal Clinic

Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action

Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic

Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change

First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada

Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants

Ontario Native Women’s Association

South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario

Statement in Senate about 2017 EFry Conference

“Honourable Senators,

This past Friday, Senator St. Germaine and I had the honour of presenting at the conference, entitled, “The Need for Justice and Equality for Indigenous and All Women” cohosted by the Elixabeth fry society du Quebec, the association canadienne des societies Elizabeth fry et l’University de Montreal.

Held on unceded Mohawk territory, opened by Kanehsatake Elder John Cree, andEllen Gabriel, Cultural consultant for the Kanehsata:ke Language and Cultural Centre. The conference included a message from Senator Murray Sinclair and presentations by Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada, and  six courageous Indigenous women, 5 of whom have experienced marginalization and victimization, as well as criminalization and imprisonment.

Two attended residential schools – all experienced the inter-generational impact, and against all odds, are now building their lives, as they integrate into communities across this country.  The youngest was born in prison and is graduating high school this month and commencing her studies at the University of Saskatchewan this fall.

To each of them, to Joey, Yvonne, Odelia, Lisa, Kaila and to Haley, I say, Meegwetch. Thank you for your bravery, your resilience and your strength …. Thank you for surviving some of the most unimaginable horrors. Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to walk with, learn from and advocate on behalf of you.

We also heard about the extreme lack of funding allotted to First Nations communities for the education of children – 1/3rd less than any other Canadian child living off reserve. In fact, only one in six has grown up with clean drinking water – that would be as if only 17 of us in this Chamber would have had the opportunity to actually drink water from our taps…

It was Supreme Court of Canada Justice Rosalee Abella who once observed, “We have no business figuring out the cost of justice until we can figure out the cost of injustice,”…Honourable Senators.

It was Gord Downie who said that when it comes to the poverty, racism and discrimination suffered by the Aboriginal people of Canada – we have been trained to look away. I urge each and every one of us to not look away.

As stated by, Cindy Blackstock, we must act now to ensure that future generations of Indigenous children don’t have to recover from their childhood – and future generations non Indigenous children don’t have to say they’re sorry…

Thank you, Merci, Meegwetch”

— Senator Kim Pate

ANNONCE – Semaine nationale Elizabeth Fry : 8 au 14 Mai 2017

National Elizabeth Fry Week – May 8 – 14, 2017

CAEFS is now accepting applications for Executive Director

Click the links for more information:

CAEFS Executive Director Job Description – 2017

CAEFS Executive Director Job Posting – 2017

Sign the E-petition: A push to end segregation

Petition to the House of Commons

  • Ms. Terry Baker, born July 14, 1985, was pronounced dead on July 6, 2016, when doctors removed the life support that allowed them to retrieve the organs she wished to donate. Terry had significant, well-documented mental health issues and spent much of her 14 years in prison in segregation. She died in the same segregation unit where Ashley Smith died in 2007, more than 30 months after the jury in the Ashley Smith inquest condemned the use of segregation for women with mental health issues;
  • Indigenous women and those with disabling mental health issues are amongst the fastest growing prison populations in Canada, and at the greatest risk of being harmed by or dying in segregation;
  • The Honourable Louise Arbour recently called for an end to the use of segregation and a review and remediation of the cases of those whose sentences have been made harsher due to their conditions of confinement;
  • The United Nations, Ontario and Canadian Human Rights Commissions, Supreme Court of Canada, and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have variously urged Canada to remedy the inequalities, isolation and over-incarceration of Indigenous Peoples, those with mental health issues, and women; and
  • The Prime Minister mandated the Ministers of Justice and Public Safety to implement the recommendations from the Ashley Smith Inquest and reduce incarceration.

We, the undersigned, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, call upon the Government of Canada to review and remedy the cases of all women prisoners placed in segregation in federal prisons for women over the past five years.

The Petition is open for signature until November 30, 2016, at 1:16 p.m. (EDT)

Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women on the Occasion of the Committee’s Eighth and Ninth Periodic Review of Canada