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Open Letter: Healing Lodges, Community-based Residential Facilities Help To Ensure Public Safety

2 October 2018

The Honourable Ralph Goodale, MP, PC
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
House of Commons
Ottawa ON K1A 0A6

 

Open Letter: Healing Lodges, Community-based Residential Facilities Help to Ensure
Public Safety

As Members of Parliament prepare to vote on an opposition motion about one individual’s
transfer to a healing lodge, leading national organizations that are well-established in the field of
community corrections are writing so that you and your colleagues may make a well-informed
decision based on accurate information.

While we are not in a position to discuss the circumstances of any particular case, it is critical for
Parliamentarians and the Canadian public to recognize that:

• All healing lodges are unique, just like the individuals they serve
• The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a secure correctional institution
• The designation of “healing lodge” has no bearing on its ability to manage people who
are classified as medium security
• All institutions under the auspices of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) are
required to meet an extensive list of security provisions

We urge you and all MPs to allow the Commissioner of CSC to accept her responsibility to
conduct a review of the transfer process, and make appropriate decisions within her scope that
are based on evidence and experience that contribute to long-term public safety.

We applaud your recommendation to the Commissioner of CSC to “work with Indigenous
partners to increase the number of community-run healing lodges established under Section 81 of
the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (CCRA),” further to the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission’s Call to Action #35, and we trust you will reinforce this commitment.

By eliminating “barriers to the creation of additional Aboriginal healing lodges within the federal
correctional system,” your department, in collaboration with communities across the country,
will create greater opportunities for people to obtain the healing, programming, treatment and
rehabilitation they need prior to their release from incarceration.

This is also consistent with research indicating that healing lodges – as well as other community-
based residential facilities – improve public safety by addressing individual needs through effective, meaningful and culturally specific programs and services in the community. In fact, it
can be significantly more effective for people to work toward positive change through healing
and rehabilitation than through simple retribution.

The majority of people in prison will eventually return home as our neighbours. Whether they
reside in a healing lodge or other penitentiary, they must be given the opportunity to demonstrate
their capability and commitment to become law-abiding citizens.

We implore you and your colleagues to reflect upon the values and principles that we as
Canadians want to espouse, and to entrust the Commissioner of Corrections and her team with
the tremendous responsibility to contribute to long-term safety through personal development,
rehabilitation and healing.

Canadians deserve no less.

Sincerely,

Original signed by

Dr. Allen Benson, Hon. LLD
CEO, Native Counselling Services of Alberta

Co-signed by

David Henry
Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec

Rev. Dr. Carol Finlay
Book Clubs for Inmates

Kassandra Churcher
Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Fred Phelps
Canadian Association of Social Workers

Irving Kulik
Canadian Criminal Justice Association

Duncan Gillespie
Canadian Training Institute

Rebecca Bromwich
Church Council on Justice and Corrections

George Myette
Seventh Step Society of Canada

Anita Desai
St. Leonard’s Society of Canada

cc All Members of Parliament

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