Canada's Original Think Tank

Open Caucus

In the spring of 2014, the Senate Liberals began our Open Caucus initiative. The goal of these meetings is to foster nonpartisan discussion on issues facing our country. We invite all parliamentarians as well as the public to take part in the discussion with a panel of experts on any given topic, and focus informing ourselves and others on matters that are important to Canadians.


Open Caucus Themes

  • April 18, 2018 – Women in Prison

    The Open Caucus, a forum for discussion on issues of national importance, was first established in 2014 when Senate Liberals opened their Caucus doors to the public on Wednesday mornings. The Open Caucus is now co-sponsored by the Independent Senate Liberals, the Independent Senators Group, and the Office of the Government Representative in the Senate. This non-partisan collaboration now brings together three groups representing the majority of the Senate’s current membership.

    The discussion is open to all Members of Parliament, Senators, parliamentary staff, media, and the public.

    Women – particularly Indigenous women – are the fastest growing population in Canadian prisons. According to the 2017 Correctional Investigator report the total number of female prisoners has increased by 30% in the last ten years. The number of Indigenous female prisoners has increased by 60% over the same period. There is no evidence to suggest that this is due to increased female criminality. Furthermore, while Indigenous women represent only 4.3% of the nation’s population, they represent 37% of all incarcerated women, and 50% of the women in maximum-security.

    One of the challenges of managing this growing population may be security classifications. As outlined in the 2017 Fall Auditor General report, the security classification of prisoners is determined by an outdated model that was designed for males. Security classifications determine female prisoners access to programs, resources and conditions upon release. With the aim of successful reintegration in the community, what measures can be taken to mitigate the risk of inappropriate classification? What type of judicial oversight is needed to ensure that this process is monitored, and decision-makers are held accountable?

    The panelists were:

    • Senator Kim Pate: Former Executive Director of Elizabeth Fry Society, and nationally renowned advocate for imprisoned youth, men and women
    • Howard Sapers: Former Correctional Investigator of Canada. Independent adviser to the Ontario government on corrections reform
    • Jennifer Kilty: Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at University of Ottawa
    • Pam Palmater: Associate Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University and Mi’kmaq lawyer

    The meeting took place:

    Wednesday April 18th, 2018
    9:15am – 11:15am
    Room 160-S, Centre Block

    Read Senator Eggleton and Senator Saint-Germain’s thoughts on the topic of women in prison here.

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