Canada's prison system overhauls transgender inmate policy

Canada's prison system has overhauled its policy on transgender inmates and will now place offenders in a men's or women's institution based on their gender identity.

Offenders can now be placed in prison based on gender identity rather than anatomy

Correctional Service Canada has adopted new policies for transgender inmates. (Shutterstock)

Canada's prison system has overhauled its policies around transgender inmates and will now place offenders in a men's or women's institution based on their gender identity.

Under a new Correctional Service Canada (CSC) policy, transgender inmates can be placed in an institution of their preference, "regardless of their anatomy (sex) or gender on their identification documents, unless there are overriding health or safety concerns which cannot be resolved."

The policy changes, which kicked in Dec. 27, 2017, will ensure federal offenders who identify as transgender are afforded the same protections, dignity and treatment as others, according to CSC.

"We are overjoyed that CSC is making so many positive changes that recognize the human rights of trans people in the correctional system. These changes will improve the safety and dignity of transgender federal offenders in Canada, affecting every aspect of their daily lives," Jennifer Metcalfe, executive director of the B.C. based Prisoners' Legal Services, said in a statement.

Policy overhaul

Under the new policy guidelines:

  • Communication products will reflect gender-inclusive language.
  • Steps will be taken to ensure privacy and confidentiality of information related to an offender's gender identity ensuring it will only be shared with those directly involved with the offender's care, and only when relevant.
  • CSC will use an offender's preferred name and pronoun in all oral interaction and written documentation.
  • Individualized protocols will be developed for offenders who seek to be accommodated on the basis of gender identity or expression, including spiritual ceremonies, showers and toilets, frisk and strip searches, urinalysis, decontamination showers and monitoring under camera surveillance.
  • Offenders may purchase authorized items from CSC catalogues for either men or women if there are no safety, health or security concerns according to the security level of their institution. Preferred clothing and personal effects will be accommodated "to the greatest extent possible."

CBC News reported last year that the first federal transgender inmate was being transferred from a men's prison to a women's institution in B.C.

Fallon Aubee, who had been serving a life sentence at B.C.'s Mission Institution was transferred to Fraser Valley Institution for Women under an interim policy to consider requests on a case-by-case basis.

The change was prompted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after he was asked about the issue at a town hall meeting in Kingston, Ont. by participant Teresa Windsor.

Trudeau promised to promote equality for all transgender Canadians, including those behind bars, and made an off-the-cuff pledge to address what advocates see as a human rights issue.

While at a town hall meeting in Kingston, Ontario, PM Justin Trudeau is asked about the treatment of transgender people in the prison system. 2:29