Prison Guard Abuse Leads to Criminal Investigation


The Edmonton Institute (EI), a federal maximum-security prison for male inmates, has been under the microscope since 2016 for its ‘toxic workplace’[1]. The Canadian Correctional Services (CSC) launched, that summer, an investigation into sexually explicit phone calls made by male co-workers about their female colleagues at EI. This prompted past and present workers to come forward, anonymously, with knowledge of sexual harassment, intimidation and misconduct.[2]

“The office earlier investigated a series of policy violations and potential human rights abuses which seemed to originate from a dysfunctional and toxic workplace”[3]

In March of this year, an internal report of EI revealed that there is a systemic abuse of power within the prison, led by a handful of employees, including management.[4] Tactics include forcing lockdowns, riling up the inmates to get back at management or ‘shirk their responsibilities’.[5]

In addition to the intimidating behaviour, male guards have reportedly sexually harassment the female workers and guards. There have been reports of male trainers suggesting to new female recruits that they would not pass their training if they did not perform sexual favours.[6] Some have used the tactic of ‘Double-Dooring’ which is strictly prohibited in the protocol.[7] It involves a guard in the control room, not opening a door at a specific time, leaving a guard in a confined space with one or more inmates. This has been another intimidation tactic used to threaten women into not reporting their behaviour.[8] Women have reported that they have been followed and even their families have been threatened if they spoke of the harassment.[9]

Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale, spoke at the House of Commons Tuesday saying that the that he has addressed the problems with the Police Commissioner, who has launched a criminal investigation into the matter, claiming that the behaviours will be seriously addressed immediately.[10] Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator who conducted the CSC’s annual report into all federal prisons, singled out EI’s abuse as well as for their egregiously unsuitable conditions for inmates.[11] He also stated that “…this is not going to change overnight. It could take years for the culture to be re-established”.[12]

The serious issues and allegations of abuse at Edmonton Institute are not isolated to this one facility. Zinger’s report shed some light on the multitude of problems surround the Canadian Correctional system, including highlighting the under-reporting of sexual harassment.


This blog post was written by a CCLA-PBSC RightsWatch student. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA or PBSC.





[3] Annual Report: Office of the Correctional Investigator 2016-2017, Ivan Zinger, The Correctional Investigator Canada


[5] supra

[6] supra


[8] supra

[9] supra


[11] Annual Report: Office of the Correctional Investigator 2016-2017, Ivan Zinger, The Correctional Investigator Canada