Administrative law – Prisons – Visiting rights – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Prison Commissioner – Judicial review – Compliance with legislation – Standard of review – Correctness
Edwards v. Canada (Attorney General),  F.C.J. No. 1887, Federal Court, December 10, 2003, Von Finckenstein
Mr. Edwards was a federal inmate at Joyceville Institution. He was serving a 10-year sentence for attempted murder, assault with a weapon, forcible confinement and uttering threats against his former girlfriend. Mr. Edward had not been convicted of any sexual offences. In considering rehabilitation a prison case management team considered police reports which summarized allegations from several victims, including a former girlfriend who alleged that Mr. Edwards had committed sexual offences. The team concluded that Mr. Edwards should undergo a Specialized Sex Offender Assessment. Mr. Edwards refused to partake in the assessment and as a result was denied access to prison family visits.
The inmate appealed to the Federal Court raising two issues: (1) Is the requirement that a prisoner undergo an assessment ultra vires the Corrections and Conditional Release Act; and (2) Is it a proper exercise of the Commissioner’s discretion to require that an inmate who has not been convicted of a sex offence undergo a Sex Offender Program before being granted family visits.
The court concluded that the standard of review for the interpretation of a statutory provision is correctness. After reviewing the legislation in question, the court held that the purpose of the Act was the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society. The court noted that Mr. Edwards had successfully completed the “High Intensity Family Violence Prevention Program” and that the Act provides that Mr. Edwards has a right to family visits subject only to “reasonable limits”. The court held that in spite of allegations of sexual offences the inmate had not been convicted of a sexual offence. As this was the case, the court held that the Commissioner erred in concluding that the inmate’s refusal to participate in the Specialized Sex Offender Assessment was a reasonable ground on which to disallow Mr. Edwards’ right to personal family visits. The matter was referred back to the Commissioner for reconsideration.
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