Canadian Correctional Investigator – When Will Canada Sign the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture?

For a number of years, the Office of the Correctional Investigator has urged Canada to sign and ratify the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT).  This international human rights instrument, which at last count had 88 States Parties and an additional 14 States Signatories, would create an independent mechanism responsible for carrying out periodic inspections of all places of detention in Canada.  

Signing on to the OPCAT would send a clear message that the risk of abuse exists in all contexts and all places where persons are deprived of liberty, inclusive of psychiatric facilities, immigration detention, police lock-ups, remand (pre-trial) and youth custody centres, as well as all provincial jails and federal penitentiaries across the country. With accession, all places of detention in Canada would be brought under an independent structure with specific authorities and powers to access and inspect these facilities and to talk with detained persons in private with the aim of preventing ill-treatment. There should be a sense of urgency to sign the OPCAT as further delays have important human rights implications for individuals deprived of their liberty.

Grills prison
Grilled Prison Window Flickr Creative Commons (2007).

Since coming into force in June 2006, Canada has repeatedly stated its intention to become a party to the OPCAT and even used this pledge to advance its candidacy for membership on the new UN Human Rights Council that year. Even with changes in government, Canada’s pledge to the international community remains unfulfilled. In May 2016, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion declared that the Optional Protocol “will no longer be optional for Canada in the future.” However, in the latest Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Canada’s international human rights record, Canada reported back to the UN Human Rights Council in September 2018 that, while it accepted the UPR recommendation to “consider” ratification of the OPCAT, “…a decision on Canada’s accession has not yet been determined.” Twelve years later, we are no clearer or certain of whether or when Canada will make good on its promise.

The latest UN Committee against Torture exercise reveals that, while Justice Canada has completed its legal analysis of OPCAT obligations and some consultations on the impact of accession have occurred with the provinces and territories, there is still no transparent, inclusive or expedited roadmap for Canadian ratification of the OPCAT. I am of the view that the necessary legal and policy work should not delay Canada becoming a signatory.  Even after signing, Canada would still have the option, at ratification, to defer domestic implementation of the instrument by up to a maximum of three years to bring domestic practice into compliance with OPCAT obligations, which include establishing a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM).  Signing on to the OPCAT would have the added advantage of keeping the consultative process on a clearly defined timetable.  Government and civil society consultations are necessary, but these do not need to be protracted, and should not serve as an excuse for delays or not doing the right thing. Other states, with equally complex divisions of power, responsibility and representation, have ratified OPCAT, including Germany, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and, most recently, Australia. Canada is an outlier on this issue, which undermines our moral authority to act or condemn torture in places where it is still rife.

Prison by Insunlight (2007).

In meeting the terms of the OPCAT, there are considerable advantages in the federal government establishing a new, single and dedicated NPM for all places of detention under federal authority (penitentiaries, immigration holding centres, RCMP cells, Canadian Forces Service Prison and Detention Barracks).  The designated NPM would have the added benefit of serving as a centre of national expertise and assistance for the rest of the country as Canada moves toward full ratification of the treaty.  It is important that the designated NPM be independent, free from government influence, sufficiently resourced and properly mandated to carry out its work effectively.

Ratification and implementation of the OPCAT would add an additional layer to existing correctional oversight in Canada. In the case of federal corrections, a system of regular penitentiary inspections conducted at the national (NPM) level and internationally by the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture (SPT), with both bodies focused on prevention, would complement the roles and responsibilities of my Office, which is largely complaint-driven. The Concluding Observations of the UN Committee against Torture, adopted in December 2018, suggest that Canada is not sheltered from cases of individual or systemic ill-treatment of detained persons:

over-representation of Indigenous people in the prison population;

body cavity searches that may be abusive or violate human dignity;

lack of appropriate capacity, resources and infrastructure to manage seriously mentally ill prisoners;

deficiencies in general standards and conditions of detention, including sanitation, hygiene and insufficient food;

preventable deaths in custody; and,

use of solitary confinement. 

Regardless of whether a new or specialized body or combination of existing institutions are designated to meet OPCAT obligations, Canada needs to get on with the ratification process to make it clear that this country supports efforts, at home and abroad, to protect the rights and dignity of all persons deprived of their liberty regardless of cause, circumstance or context.  

Ivan Zinger, J.D., Ph.D.

Ivan Zinger, Correctional Investigator of Canada, published as a Linkedin article, 11 January 2019.

Correctional Investigator Dr Ivan Zinger

Read the Correctional Investigator’s Linkedin article in French.

Read the Correctional Investigator’s Annual Report 2017-2018 comments in support of Canada’s adhesion to the OPCAT.

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Looking to Ireland for OPCAT Inspiration

As the discussion continues about if and when Canada will ratify the OPCAT, attention has very recently fallen onto this same OPCAT process in Ireland.

Ireland signed the OPCAT as long ago as October 2007. More than a decade later, however, the country has yet to ratify the instrument, although ratification is expected sooner as opposed to Canada’s later.

With this distinct possibility in mind, the leading domestic civil society actors, Irish Penal Reform Trust and Irish Criminal Bar Association co-hosted a short seminar on the OPCAT in Dublin, Ireland on 12 November 2018.

Titled ‘Detention, Human Rights and the OPCAT’, the highlights of the event have recently been made available in a short 15-minute YouTube video.  

‘Detention, Human Rights & the OPCAT’, Dublin 12 November 2018.

This highlights-video comes as recommended watching for Canadian human rights actors who may be interested in learning more about an on-going OPCAT ratification process in a neighbouring European country. Moreover, like Canada, Ireland may designate multiple existing monitoring bodies as its future NPM, which will throw up certain distinct practical challenges.  

This snap-shot overview of the recent Ireland OPCAT event additionally offers some illuminating insights into how the ratification of the OPCAT could potentially make a positive impact on a range of detention settings in the country.    

In view of the imminence of OPCAT ratification-related legislation being tabled in Ireland, the Irish Penal Reform Trust has also developed a highly useful so-called ‘Statement of Principles’ document. This short paper outlines the minimum legislative requirements for any legislation intended to ratify the OPCAT across the following three areas:

  • Independence of the future NPM;
  • Functions of the NPM;
  • Members/staff of the NPM.

This document, which can be downloaded in English here, will be of particular interest to Canadian readers keen on knowing more about the key attributes which NPMs should possess, if they are to meet the minimum requirements of the OPCAT text. Regarding the practical utility of the said ‘Statement of Principles’, according to its IPRT authors:

“This statement of principles is intended to inform legal professionals, legislators, members of the judiciary, advocacy groups, and those who are supporting individuals deprived of their liberty, to engage with the legislation when it is introduced.

This documents closely reflects the most recently published Guidance from the Office of the United Nations Human Rights Commissioner. In the preparation of this document IPRT also consulted several lawyers with expertise in this area as well as the Chair of the UN Sub-Committee for the Prevention of Torture.”

The Canada OPCAT Project will keep you posted about these fascinating OPCAT-related developments across the Atlantic. Until then, readers may wish to watch the following animation produced by the IPRT, which argues why the country should move forward to ratify this important anti-torture instrument. After all, the parallel arguments in the Canadian context are not at all dissimilar.

The OHCHR 2018 publication, referred to above in the quotation, Preventing Torture: The Role of National Preventive Mechanisms, can be found under NPM Resources.   

Other videos about the OPCAT can also be found under Electronic OPCAT.

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COPCAT Shorts: Why Should Anyone Care about the Human Rights of Prisoners?

Presentation on ‘Why Should Anyone Care about the Human Rights of Prisoners’ delivered by Professor Nick Hardwick on 21 November 2018 in London as part of the University College London’s Global Governance Event Series.

Nick Hardwick is the Professor of Criminal Justice at Royal Holloway University in the United Kingdom. He acted as Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons in England and Wales from 2010 to 2016, which formed a core part of the UK’s NPM under the OPCAT.

While the focus of the presentation was mainly on the rights of prisoners in the context of the United Kingdom, many of the issues covered could equally have rung true in the Canadian context.

The respected Canadian academic and lawyer, Dr Carla Ferstman, Senior Lecturer at the University of Essex’s School of Law, chaired this timely discussion.

Readers can follow Nick Hardwick and Carla Ferstman on Twitter.

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COPCAT Shorts: Global Compact for Migration

Objective 13: Use immigration detention only as a measure of last resort and work towards alternatives

29. We commit to ensure that any detention in the context of international migration follows due process, is non-arbitrary, is based on law, necessity, proportionality and individual assessments, is carried out by authorized officials and is for the shortest possible period of time, irrespective of whether detention occurs at the moment of entry, in transit or in proceedings of return, and regardless of the type of place where the detention occurs. We further commit to prioritize non-custodial alternatives to detention that are in line with international law, and to take a human rights-based approach to any detention of migrants, using detention as a measure of last resort only.

To realize this commitment, we will draw from the following actions:

(a) Use existing relevant human rights mechanisms to improve independent monitoring of migrant detention, ensuring that it is a measure of last resort, that human rights violations do not occur, and that States promote, implement and expand alternatives to detention, favouring non-custodial measures and community-based care arrangements, especially in the case of families and children;

Global Compact
UN Photo – Detail from Conference on Global Compact on Migration, 11 December 2018.

Read the Global Compact for Migration in English, adopted on 10 December at the intergovernmental conference held in Marrakesh, Morocco.

Read the UN Committee against Torture’s recommendations on immigration detention in Canada from 7 December 2018.

Posted by mp in Immigration detention, Oversight bodies, UNCAT, 0 comments

COPCAT en bref: Pacte mondial pour des migrations

Objectif 13 : Ne recourir au placement en rétention administrative des migrants qu’en dernier ressort et chercher des solutions de rechange

29. Nous nous engageons à ce que le placement en rétention administrative dans le contexte des migrations internationales fasse suite à une procédure régulière, ne soit pas arbitraire, soit fondé sur le droit, dans le respect des principes de nécessité et de proportionnalité, et sur les conclusions d’évaluations individuelles, et soit opéré par des fonctionnaires autorisés et pour la période la plus courte possible, qu ’il intervienne lors de l’entrée sur le territoire, lors du transit ou dans le cadre d’une procédure de retour, et quel que soit le type de centre de rétention administrative utilisé. Nous nous engageons en outre à donner la priorité aux solutions non privatives de liberté qui sont conformes au droit international et à adopter une approche fondée sur les droits de l’homme en ce qui concerne la rétention administrative des migrants, en ne recourant à cette dernière qu’en dernier recours.

Afin de tenir ces engagements, nous puiserons dans les actions suivantes:

a) Utiliser les mécanismes de défense des droits de l’homme existants pour assurer un meilleur suivi indépendant de la rétention administrative des migrants, en veillant à ce que celle-ci ne soit utilisée qu’en dernier recours, qu’elle ne donne lieu à aucune violation des droits de l’homme et que les États encouragent, appliquent et cherchent d’autres solutions, en privilégiant les mesures non privatives de liberté et la prise en charge communautaire, en particulier pour les familles et les enfants;

Global Compact
UN Photo – Detail from Conference on Global Compact on Migration, 11 December 2018.

Lire le Pacte mondial pour des migrations en français, adopté le 10 décembre à Marrakech au Maroc.

Lire les recommandations du Comité des Nations unies contre la torture sur la détention d’immigration au Canada, publiées le 7 décembre 2018.

Posted by mp in Immigration detention, Independent detention monitors, 0 comments

COPCAT Shorts: Launch of ICPA Planning & Design Hub

The ICPA Planning and Design Hub strives to inspire, challenge and motivate architects, administrators and professionals from across the world to create more humane correctional facilities. The Hub includes projects, resources and discussion threads regarding exemplary practice in correctional planning and design. We believe that this website will be a valuable tool for all of you who are interested in the built environment. Thus far, projects and resources from several countries and various focus areas are posted.

Abstract from International Corrections & Prisons Association – ‘ICPA Launches a Planning and Design Hub’ at the following website.

Planning & Design Hub

Visit the ICPA Planning and Design Hub.

Lean more about the recent launch of the ICPA’s External Prison Oversight and Human Rights Network and read its first newsletter.

Read the related ICRC publication, Towards Humane Prisons: A Principled & Participatory Approach To Prisons Planning & Design.

Planning & Design

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Serving Up The OPCAT Down Under

Probably rarely has the OPCAT ever been served for breakfast, but earlier this week Melbourne community radio station 3CR 855 AM broke new ground in this connection!

During the Tuesday Breakfast Show this week 3CR presenter Anya Saravanan interviewed Australian OPCAT expert Steven Caruana on the implications for Australia of ratifying the OPCAT.

Canadian human rights actors may be especially interested in this interview, as Australia is currently in the process of putting in place an NPM. Like Canada, Australia is also likely to designate multiple bodies as the future NPM.

In the interview Steven Caruana throws a timely spotlight on the importance of the OPCAT as a human rights instrument, its relevance and added value in the Australian context, and the wide scope of the definition of deprivation of liberty under the OPCAT. You can listen to Anya’s interview with Steven at around the 21 minute mark – please click here.

Steven Caruana 3CR interview
Steven Caruana 3CR

The thoughts of Steven Caruana on the OPCAT in Australia have previously been explored on the Canada OPCAT Project website, including an in-depth
interview conducted with him by Sydney Criminal Lawyers’ writer Paul Gregoire in September 2018.

In the course of 2017 Steven Caruana undertook in-depth research into the wider issue of how the OPCAT was functioning in reality as part of his Winston Churchill Trust Fellowship. The resulting publication (which has also been featured on this website), Enhancing best practice inspection methodologies for oversight bodies with an Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture focus, identifies both good practice inspection methodologies as well as a concept of what constitutes a framework for good practice for NPMs.

Visit the Melbourne community radio station 3CR website and listen to their many other shows live or on podcast.

Listen to an audio-recording of the work of the New Zealand NPM, as highlighted in these pages.

Readers may also wish to listen to an earlier Soundcloud interview featured on this website with the Norwegian NPM, the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

Posted by mp in NPMs, OPCAT, 0 comments

The UNCAT 65th Session: Important OPCAT Lessons for Canada

The UN Committee against Torture reached a remarkable milestone in its lifetime earlier this month, having successfully completed its 65th session, some 34 years after the adoption of the UN Convention. Nonetheless, it was business as usual for this body of international experts, who had another tranche of states to review in Geneva from 12 November to 7 December.

Canada numbered one of the six countries whose periodic reports were examined by the UN Committee, the others being Guatemala, Maldives, Netherlands, Peru and Viet Nam. Over the past week or two the outcome of this review of Canada has been explored in some detail on this website.

In particular, UN Committee key recommendations have been discussed in relation to the need for independent oversight of immigration detention as well as psychiatric care settings, and the urgency for Canada to push ahead with the ratification of the OPCAT. In this latter connection it will be recalled that the UN Committee urged Canada to:

“Complete the process towards accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention, while introducing mechanisms to ensure the participation of civil society, Indigenous groups and other stakeholders in the entire process”

Unfortunately, to date, the process of consultation has mainly sought the opinions of the different provincial and territorial governments and not those of civil society and the country’s many Indigenous groups.

UNCAT 65th session Canada Probed
Palais Wilson – Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

Surprisingly, among the six countries examined by the UN Committee during the 65th session, only Canada and Viet Nam have yet to ratify the instrument – not a human rights comparison usually made between these two countries. Similar to Canada, the UN Committee called on Viet Nam to consider acceding to the OPCAT as well as, in the interim, to establish a national mechanism that independently, effectively and regularly monitors and inspects all places of detention in the country without prior notice (see §34-35).

Even though Canada has yet to ratify the instrument, certain of the OPCAT-related outputs of the other country reviews have possible direct relevance in the Canadian context, particularly at a moment when the country is considering how it might implement the instrument.

UNCAT 65th session concerns vis-à-vis the OPCAT

During the 65th session the UN Committee advanced recommendations in relation to all four countries under review which are States Parties to the OPCAT. As will be revealed, certain common concerns arose repeatedly.

The UN Committee’s concerns about the Guatemalan NPM were far-reaching and related primarily to the election process of the different members of the National Office for the Prevention of Torture and its general ineffective operation and performance in practice. However, other serious concerns existed, including the NPM’s alleged use as a tool to pressurize anti-corruption judges and the limited involvement of civil society in the NPM’s activities (§14). A whole raft of recommendations were directed at Guatemala in order to address such extensive concerns (§15).

The UN Committee’s concerns about the Netherlands’ NPM were also relatively sweeping, several of which had previously been voiced by other key UN human rights actors, most notably the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) during a 2015 visit to the Netherlands.

As in a small number of other states, the Dutch NPM is a multi-body mechanism, comprising four monitoring bodies. These include: its coordinating body, the Inspectorate of Security and Justice; Health Care Inspectorate; Inspectorate for Youth Care; and the Administration of Criminal Justice and Protection of Juveniles. In 2015 the SPT regretted that the four NPM bodies had not been allocated additional financial and human resources to take on the NPM mandate and adequately fulfil its related functions (§46). It also found the almost complete absence of an independent legal basis for the NPM’s activities had marred the operation of the Dutch NPM (§14-15).

During its 65th session the UN Committee echoed these sentiments, stating that it was concerned “… about consistent reports on the NPM’s lack of both resources and independence.” (§22) The Committee urged the country to address these and other shortcomings (§23).

UNCAT 65th session
Nations Unies by MPDO1605

An absence of resources and autonomy also arose in relation to Peru, where the Ombudsman was belatedly designated as the country’s NPM. It noted:

“…the Committee regrets that the national preventive mechanism does not enjoy the functional autonomy required for the normal exercise of its functions, nor does it still have the human, material and technical resources necessary for its proper functioning (Article 2).” (§14)

The country was urged to address such shortcomings (§15).

Regrettably, a shortfall in resources commonly afflicts national torture prevention bodies. In relation to the Maldives it was significant that the UN Committee also commented negatively on the financial base of the country’s NPM, the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives. In so doing, it stated that the Maldives should provide it with additional financial resources “… in order to enable it to carry out more visits and better fulfil its functions as National Preventive Mechanism, including the function of conducting unannounced visits to all places of deprivation of liberty”. (§38a)

It is an incontrovertible reality that a significant number of NPMs struggle to operate effectively with the financial, human and material resources made available to them. Even NPMs located in the stronger economies of Western and Northern Europe have been found to be poorly resourced.

For Canada the challenge of securing adequate resources for its future NPM will be significant. Irrespective of whether existing human rights institutions are re-purposed as NPMs or whether new entities are established, the task of effectively implementing the OPCAT at the national level will require a significant government commitment of resources. It therefore remains important for Canada to draw on the above lessons and to ensure that its future NPM has the resources to effectively tackle the task at hand.

Read the Concluding observations on Canada’s seventh periodic report.

Read OMCT’s E-Bulletin from November-December 2018 on the 65th session of the Committee against Torture in English.

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COPCAT Shorts: The Greek Ombudsman on the OPCAT

The declared objective of the Optional Protocol was to establish a system of monitoring, by international and independent national bodies, of the conditions in deprivation of liberty in order to avoid acts of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Its necessity, obvious: without the Optional Protocol, the UN Convention against torture would lack the necessary and effective mechanism for the control of detention conditions. It would remain a declaration of intent, without an assessment of practices and applied policies. Its importance, highly significant: the fact that a significant number of countries that have subscribed to the UN Convention against torture, has yet to ratify the Optional Protocol, thus abstaining from the substantive application of the Convention itself serves as indicative proof: from the US and Canada to the Russian Federation, the countries of the Middle East, northern and eastern Africa and Asia.

OPCAT: National Preventive Mechanism Against Torture And Ill-treatment, Annual Special Report 2016 – The Greek Ombudsman (page 4).

Read the recently published Greek Ombudsman Special Report 2016 in English.

Explore the Greek Ombudsman website.

Read the UN Committee against Torture’s recent Concluding observations on Canada.

Greek Ombudsman
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What the UNCAT Said: Oversight of Psychiatric Detention

The challenge of ensuring adequate oversight of psychiatric detention in Canada has once again come onto the United Nation’s radar. At a time when Canada is considering the ratification of the OPCAT, the UN’s observations are extremely relevant in this respect. 

As highlighted in these pages, late last week the UN Committee against Torture published its findings of its 21-22 November 2018 examination of Canada in Geneva, Switzerland. In its Concluding observations, published on 7 December, the 10-person expert Committee expressed concern about deficiencies in relation to the oversight of psychiatric detention and made a recommendation in this same connection.

Psychiatric detention
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva
by UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferre

During Canada’s examination by the UN Committee’s Co-rapporteur on Canada, Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, on 21 November the question was raised about the absence of independent oversight of psychiatric institutions. He noted that under the OPCAT certain States Parties to the OPCAT were adopting a broad definition of deprivation of liberty which took in psychiatric, social care and educational detention settings. He therefore queried Canada’s approach to this matter.      

In its Concluding observations the UN Committee stated (§20):

“While taking note of the existing prison monitoring bodies, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Committee observes with concern the absence of independent oversight bodies to inspect other places of deprivation of liberty, in particular psychiatric institutions.”

The UN Committee therefore recommended that Canada (§21a):

“(a) Ensure an effective and independent monitoring and reporting system for mental health institutions”

As a country which is currently considering the potential implementation of the OPCAT, the above concern and recommendation are especially relevant, for reasons to be outlined below.

The scope of psychiatric detention in Canada

In Canada the provision of health care is largely a provincial concern and social care homes and psychiatric institutions fall within the purview of the provincial and territorial authorities.

In 2018 the Canada OPCAT Project embarked upon the process of mapping different places of detention in the country. While still very much a work-in-progress, to date, the initiative has mapped out some 234 acute in-patient mental health units and other psychiatric facilities in Canada. As statistics have yet to be obtained for the province of Québec, the figure of 234 facilities will be a distinct underestimation (readers are kindly invited to submit this missing information).

Psychiatric detention
Prisoner by Premnath Thirumalaisamy (2017)

This mapping-exercise did not attempt to tally the number of social care homes in Canada due to their potentially very large number and the lack of access to centralized provincial and territorial data.

Nonetheless, if Canada ever ratifies the OPCAT, upon being requested to provide detailed lists of all custodial settings (on the basis of OPCAT Article 20a), the future Canadian State Party to the OPCAT will be required to furnish both the NPM and UN Subcommittee on Prevention with accurate information in this regard.

The exercise of mapping out the numbers, location and size population-wise of social care homes will be an especially challenging task, more so as the numbers of facilities involved are potentially very large.

In Germany for example, a country with more than double Canada’s population albeit much smaller geographically in size, the NPM has calculated that some 550 psychiatric wards in special clinics or general hospitals and around 10, 900 social care homes and homes for the elderly fall within its detention monitoring mandate.

In the United Kingdom as part of its so-called now annual Detention Population Data Mapping Project for the fiscal year 2016–17, the NPM noted that 68, 843 persons were involuntarily detained under mental health legislation, while a further 100, 065 detained persons lacked the capacity to consent to deprivation of liberty.

In a word, the examples of the United Kingdom and Germany point to the scope of the task ahead in Canada of ensuring that all detention settings are potentially covered by the future Canadian NPM.

Existing oversight of psychiatric detention

At present psychiatric care settings are a detention domain which are mainly served by a combination of existing provincial and territorial complaints bodies and not the type of preventive mechanisms as envisaged under the OPCAT. Thus, a series of extensive modifications to the statutes, mandates and operational focus, structures, budgets and composition of such bodies would be required to make them OPCAT compliant.

There also appears to exist significant differences in oversight of psychiatric settings at the provincial and territorial level. While in a small number of provinces there exist specialized ombudspersons offices, in most, specialized bodies do not appear to exist. In such instances, wide mandate ombudspersons offices and internal ‘patient relations’-type processes exist to channel patients’ concerns and complaints.

Ontario is unique as a province, as patients in psychiatric settings and long-term care homes have the real possibility of recourse to two specialized ombudsperson-type bodies, namely the Ontario Patient Ombudsman and Psychiatric Patient Advocacy Office. Similarly, in British Columbia various Patient Care Quality Review Boards exist for the purpose of processing complaints.

In other provinces where specialized ombudspersons offices do not exist, members of the public should take their concerns to more general ombudsperson-type institutions. Thus, in Manitoba complainants can refer to the Manitoba Ombudsman, which in the past acted on a series of complaints of abuse in care settings to undertake a related inquiry. Likewise, in Québec, if a complaint about health and social service provision is not responded to within 45 days, or with satisfaction, by the service provider’s complaints commissioner, a complaint can be lodged with the Protecteur du Citoyen. In Yukon the Yukon Ombudsman is mandated to receive complaints into hospitals.

The limitations of these complaints-handling bodies from an OPCAT perspective were noted previously. Thus, the prevailing concerns about the need to change legal statutes, mandates, operational focus, budgets and in-house expertise would ring true for the domains of psychiatric detention and social care settings. In short, a proactively focused Canadian NPM would function very differently to how these entities currently operate in practice.

Whether the UN Committee’s Co-rapporteur on Canada, Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, had such concerns in mind when he broached the issue of oversight of psychiatric detention is not known. Nonetheless, the UN Committee’s recommendation in this respect has arrived at a timely moment, as Canada considers the ratification and implementation of the OPCAT.       

See the UN Committee against Torture’s Concluding observations on Canada.

Posted by mp in Mapping-exercise, NPMs, OPCAT, Oversight bodies, Places of detention, 0 comments