Regional Advocacy Program
CAEFS advocacy utilizes an intersectional feminist rights-based approach to advocate for federally incarcerated women and gender-diverse people and is rooted in the understanding that, in order to create substantive equality, unique attention and approaches are needed to respond to incarcerated equity-deserving groups.
CAEFS’ regional advocates are organized into five regional advocacy teams: Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, Prairies, and Pacific. The teams make regular advocacy visits to the federal prison designated for women and/or psychiatric centre in their region. Each team aims to visit the prison in their region once a month, on average. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been limited in our access to the prisons and have instead been reliant on individuals calling our toll-free advocacy lines.
When advocacy teams go into the prisons, they meet with individuals, heads of peer-led committees, and living-unit representatives. Through these meetings they work alongside incarcerated people to develop mutual understandings of issues related to conditions of confinement and other key concerns facing the prison populations. Advocacy teams are especially attuned to human rights violations and strive to foster legal and rights-based literacy among imprisoned populations. Our approach—rooted in intersectional feminist and anti-oppression analyses—is unique in the Canadian carceral context.
Regional advocates work closely with their incarcerated counterparts: peer advocates. The CAEFS peer advocate program trains and supports individuals in prison to fulfill many of the same functions as regional advocates. Part of this training is based on CAEFS’ widely circulated Human Rights in Action handbook, a rights-based resource designed to give federally incarcerated women and gender-diverse people the tools and resources to defend and advocate for their rights while they are in prison. After advocates meet with individuals and identify issues, they meet with the warden and other prison administrators to address issues.
The ongoing advocacy work is documented through CAEFS’ regional advocacy letters. The letters are written by each team following their meeting. These letters are sent to the warden, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the Citizens’ Advisory Committee, and key Senators. These letters, and the concerns raised therein, not only inform CAEFS’ direction and systemic actions, but provide real-time access to the scope of issues in prisons designated for women to key policy-makers and stakeholders. A summary of our regional advocacy letters can be found in our Annual Report, starting in 2020.
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