In June 2013, the Ombudsman released his report on allegations of excessive use of force against inmates by correctional officers in the province’s correctional facilities. The investigation exposed the “code of silence” among some correctional staff that led to serious cases of assault being covered up or improperly investigated. The Ministry acknowledged this grave problem and committed to implementing theOmbudsman’s recommendations.

The investigation stemmed from complaint trends that Ombudsman staff had tracked for years – more than 350 complaints about unreasonable force from 2009 to present. In November 2010, the Ombudsman brought several cases to the Ministry’s attention where policies were not followed and there was evidence of violence being covered up by correctional staff.

The Ministry initially dismissed the Ombudsman’s concerns, although after reviewing the cases and confirming the Ombudsman’s assessments, it began its own review to address the issues. But its progress was slow, and in August 2011, the Ombudsman notified the Ministry that he was launching a systemic investigation into its response to allegations of excessive use of force against inmates, including the adequacy and enforcement of policies and investigation of such incidents.

The announcement sparked 147 complaints from inmates, former inmates, and their families and legal representatives, as well as from whistleblowers within the Ministry itself. The investigation team reviewed thousands of documents and conducted 182 interviews across the province, including with inmates and former inmates, correctional officers and managers, nurses and institution administrators. They also interviewed numerous officials at various levels of the Ministry, union officials and other stakeholders.

During the course of the investigation, the Ministry developed and implemented a number of initiatives and policies aimed at addressing many of the issues the Ombudsman raised. It also fired more than 30 staff, disciplined more than 100 and saw five charged with criminal assault.

The Ombudsman made 45 recommendations in the report. The Ministry committed to reporting back to the Ombudsman every six months on its progress in implementing them. 

[I]t is clear that we must do more to crack the “code of silence” that hampers investigations and intimidates inmates and staff members who come forward.” Deputy Minister of Correctional Services, letter responding to Ombudsman’s draft report, May 22, 2013

The Ministry has taken some solid initial steps in the right direction, but it will need to follow through…. It must take all reasonable precautions to protect inmates from abuse by those responsible for their protection. This includes ensuring vigorous action is taken to eradicate the code of silence that threatens the security of inmates and staff alike.” Ombudsman André Marin, The Code, June 2013