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10 Things to know about inmate complaints and grievances

When offenders have issues with Correctional Service Canada staff members and decisions, they can go through the offender complaint and grievance process. Below are a few things to know:

  • Inmates on parole may also file a complaint or grievance. The system doesn’t just apply to those still in prison.
  • The inmate complaint and grievance process has three levels. First, there is a written complaint to the supervisor of the staff member at issue. Second, there is an initial grievance to the Institutional Head/District Director, which may be referred to the Inmate Grievance Committee (if it exists in the institution) or (at the request of the grievor) sent for review by the Outside Review Board. Third, there is a final grievance at the national level that is submitted to the Commissioner. Inmates need to start at the first level, and they can then escalate to the next if they are unsatisfied with the response provided.
  • Complaints and grievances generally need to be submitted by the grievor within 30 working days of the action/decision at issue. This time frame can be extended in some cases.
  • There are time frames for responding to complaints and grievances. For complaints and initial grievances, a response is due with 15 days for high priority cases and 25 working days for routine priority cases. For final grievances, a decision is to be rendered in 60 working days for high priority cases and 80 days for routine priority cases.
  • However, the decision-maker can give himself or herself more time to make a decision. This is regularly done, and the inmate whose decision is delayed will be sent a letter explaining the delay and the new anticipated date for the decision. Therefore, it may take many months (even over a year) to get a final decision.
  • Complaints and grievances may be rejected if they are considered frivolous, vexatious, or not made in good faith. The whole complaint or grievance can be rejected or just parts of it. The decision to reject all or part of a grievance or complaint can then be grieved.
  • If an offender submits a significant number of complaints and grievances, then the offender can be designated as a “multiple grievor.” A multiple grievor is advised of how many routine complaints and grievances will be responded to each month, as well as the length of the designation. Before being designated a multiple grievor, the inmate has a chance to rebut and present an alternative resolution. The designation is reassessed every 6 months.
  • There are various remedies available. Money may be awarded for loss or damage to personal property, or for money CSC is required to provide under legislation or CSC policy. Corrective action can also be ordered, which needs to be completed within 30 days of the decision.
  • Alternative legal remedies can be sought at the same time. If an alternative remedy is sought, the complaint or grievance is deferred until the other remedy is complete (and the offender can choose to reactivate the complaint or grievance).
  • An inmate may need to go through the complaint and grievance procedure before having access to judicial review. A court may dismiss a judicial review application if the inmate has not gone through the three-stage complaint and grievance procedure.
Past performance is not indicative of future results, and outcomes will vary according to the facts of individual cases. This site is intended for information purposes only. None of the information on this site should be considered “legal advice.” Information on this website (including blog posts and answers to frequently asked questions) is the opinion of the author only and is not warrantied or guaranteed to be an exhaustive, definitive, or accurate statement of the law. The proper interpretation and application of the law must always be done on a case specific basis; therefore, you should not rely on the general information on this site as a substitute for proper legal research or the advice of a licenced lawyer.