Improve Health Care in Canadian Prisons!

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Prisoners in Canada are suffering and dying due to inadequate health care.  Many prisoners report long waits (up to years) for medical attention, misdiagnoses, poor pain management, a lack of mental health support, as well as difficult living conditions including sweltering heat in the summer,  cold in the winter, poor quality food, disturbing noise levels, restrictive communication with families and more. On several occasions, the Correctional Investigator (CI) has raised serious questions about the quality of health care and diagnostic processes in federal prisons without any adequate changes from Correctional Services Canada (CSC). The release of healthy individuals from prisons is important to public health. Prison health is public health!

Although this petition focuses on the federal prison system in Canada, the substance of these recommendations should also be implemented within prisons under provincial and territorial jurisdiction as well as in all prisons worldwide, in which prisoners can regularly experience poor health care.

This petition calls on the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau to mandate the Hon. Ralph Goodale, the Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, and the Hon. David Lametti to work together to ensure those in Canadian prisons have full access to health care that meets the requirements of the World Health Organization’s Prison Health Policy guidelines, the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the UN’s Bangkok Rules. This includes decent and compassionate health care of prisoners with respect to their dignity and human rights (note 1).

Specifically, we call on the federal government to:

1.  Ensure that all prisoners have access to:

o   full yearly physical and dental examinations based on a standard protocol for all prisoners in Canadian correctional institutions;

o   prompt professional medical appointments leading to swift diagnoses and treatment of potentially serious conditions, such as cancer;

o   prompt professional medical appointments, treatment, and support, which must include eye care, dental care, mental health care, humane substance withdrawal protocols, uninterrupted medical prescriptions upon incarceration and medical care for chronic and episodic conditions such as HIV and AIDS, hepatitis C virus (HCV), multiple sclerosis (MS), Parkinson's disease, diabetes, lung disease, heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and others;

o   palliative care and simple, swift compassionate release when terminally ill;

o   culturally specific and holistic treatment in support of the WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023;

2.  Ensure conditions that protect and enhance health by not violating protections against cruel and unusual punishment under the Charter or international human rights law. This would, in effect, reduce the number of prisoners in each prison (note 2).

3.  Transfer responsibility for the health of prisoners to community health care services away from correctional authorities.  This is important because the prison system does not meet  acceptable standards of care because of a lack of health resources and conflicts between healthcare and security protocols;

4.  Fund community health care services to be able to provide health care services to prisoners and fund the training of community health care personnel in the provision of health care in the prison context, including the legal obligation to ensure equivalent quality health care for prisoners;

5.  Support the rotation of health care personnel between working with prisoners and working with the public outside prisons;

6.  Ratify Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and implement its mechanisms for monitoring places of detention;

7.  Establish panels of independent specialist physicians and nurses to carry out mortality reviews on prisoners who die while in the custody or control of Correctional Services Canada;

8.  Be accountable for implementing recommendations made by the Office of the Correctional Investigator, including by mandating publicly provided detailed rationale in the event any recommendations are not implemented within given time frames.

This petition has been launched by the families of David Huxtable and Peter Collins. Both suffered extreme pain and died of cancer following a lack of adequate medical care and medical attention by Correctional Services Canada.

This petition is raised in the names of all prisoners who have suffered and died under inadequate health care in all prisons everywhere.

Thank you for signing and circulating this petition both within and outside of Canada.

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The recommendations listed in this petition are endorsed by:

The John Howard Society of Canada:
The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies:        
Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network:
St. Leonard's Society of Canada
Rittenhouse: A New Vision:                   
Prison Lives USA:
International CURE:
The West Coast Prison Justice Society:
South Riverdale Community Health Centre https:
Professor Terri Leclercq:
Prison Justice Film Festival:
St. Leonard's Society of North Vancouver
Journal of Prisoners on Prisons
Criminalization and Punishment Education Project
Writing Across Walls
Restoring Dignity and Hope
The John Howard Society of Manitoba

 Note 1:  Particularly via the use of ss. 29, 81, 84, 85, 86 and 87 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, accompanied by adequate funding as required.

Note 2:  By the use of ss. 29, 81, 84, 85, 86 and 87 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, accompanied by funding as required.


UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners including clear health guidelines latest revision 17 December 2015 (The Nelson Mandela Rules):

The WHO Traditional Medicine Strategy 2014–2023:

Corrections and Conditional Release Act:

UN Bangkok Rules:

 “Providing Better Health Services in Prisons can Help Improve Lives”:

WHO Guide to the essentials in prison health:

Article in Canadian Medical Association Journal: (This is still the case.)

Open letter to Justin Trudeau from prisoners demanding changes, including in health care:

“Report gives diagnosis of poor health in Canadian Prisons.”:

2014-2015 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, including a large section on health care:

2015/2016 Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, including a section on health care:

“An Investigation of the Correctional Service of Canada’s Mortality Review Process”:

In the Dark: An Investigation of Death in Custody Information Sharing and Disclosure Practices in Federal Corrections - Final Report. August 2, 2016:

The College of Family Physicians in Canada – Prison Health Program Committee- resource: