The union for Ontario’s prison guards wants the province to update policies regarding transgender prisoners after a woman with male anatomy was housed in the all-female section of the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre.
Dan Sidsworth, who represents corrections and parole officers in Ontario, says the number of inmates who identify as transgender is rising.
Sidsworth said, as a result, he has received more calls from guards asking how they should treat and place inmates.
CBC News has learned an inmate with male anatomy, who identifies as female, is currently housed in the all-female section of the Ottawa jail on Innes Road.
Sidsworth said he received a call from guards there seeking guidance.
“Every time an inmate comes into custody, there seems to be a higher level of confusion. Where are they going to be housed? Are they going to be housed in female population or housed in male population?” Sidsworth told the CBC’s Ryan Gibson.
“Right now the policy doesn't speak to that clearly.”
Sidsworth said a transgender who identifies as female, with male anatomy, is usually housed with the male population.
But on Wednesday, an inmate in Ottawa was placed with women and “special accommodations” were made to assure the transgender person’s safety, Sidsworth said.
Toronto lawyer and legal scholar, Kyle Kirkup, agrees with the decision in Ottawa.
Kirkup, who specializes in LGBTQ issues within the legal system, said the change should be made province-wide.
“I think that's exactly the approach that should be adopted and I think that's the approach that most complies with the ministry’s obligation under Ontario Human's rights laws,” Kirkup said.
Toronto case led to online outcry
Earlier this month, a transgender person who identified as female, but had male anatomy, was housed with the male population in a Toronto jail.
The inmate’s passport also indicated the person was female, and the decision led to outcry online. Subsequently, the transgender woman was moved to a women’s jail.
That is another case where corrections officers were a bit lost, Sidsworth added, and they need clear instructions for transgender inmates.
The Ontario Ministry of Community and Correctional Services could not be reached for comment, but Sidsworth said the ministry is conducting an ongoing review.