Look at My Life: Access to Education for the Remand Population in Ontario

By George, Purnima; Gopal, Tina Nadia et al. | Canadian Review of Social Policy, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Look at My Life: Access to Education for the Remand Population in Ontario


George, Purnima, Gopal, Tina Nadia, Woods, Sarah, Canadian Review of Social Policy


Introduction

Relative to other education systems across the world, access to education and the right to education in Canada do not, at first glance, appear to be denied or infringed upon. In Canada, elementary and secondary schooling are free (tax funded) and readily available to both children and adults. Canada ranks among the top countries in the world in education. In 2009, Canada had the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates (50 percent) in the 25-64 year age group among member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development and the G7 (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2011). Education attainment has been a provincial policy priority in recent years as evidenced by improvement in important indicators of educational attainment levels. Using Statistics Canada data, The Indicators of Well- Being in Canada (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2012) found: 1. a higher percentage of women (72 percent) than men (65 percent) aged 25 to 44 had completed post- secondary school; 2. the percentage of persons 15 years and over without high school diplomas decreased from 37.8 percent in 1990 to 19.5 percent in 2011, following similar trends in an increase in post-secondary certification (9.4 percent increase in college/trade certification and 10.9 percent in university degrees); 3. Canada's dropout rate has declined steadily since 1990/91, reaching a low of 7.8 percent in 2011/12; and 4. the percentage of those aged 20-24 in Canada who were not attending school and had not graduated high school decreased steadily from 1990/91 (16.6 percent) to 2011-2012 (7.8 percent).

Unfortunately, these optimistic statistics are not the reality for a specific segment of Canada's population: the incarcerated. It is well established that Canada's incarcerated population is significantly less formally educated than the general population of Canada (Harris, 2002; Boe, 2005; Correctional Service Canada, 2011). As will be argued throughout this paper, despite this known fact, a specific segment of the incarcerated population, individuals detained in pre-trial custody (remand population), do not have equal and fair access to education.

Drawing on the theoretical framework of human rights and conflict theory, this paper considers lack of educational programs for the remand population as a violation of their right to education and therefore, their human rights. Human rights claims are a way to achieve a pre- determined goal and can be used to change domestic law and the systems in our society (Clapham, 2007). Based on research findings and the experience of Amadeusz's 'The Look at My Life Project', this paper examines the right to education in Canada, the failure to provide equal and fair access to education for all Canadians and defines 'the right to education' in relation to the remand population (in particular to Ontarians). As such, this paper concludes with policy recommendations for creating equal access to education, in particular for the remand population.

Setting the Context: Who are the violated?

The focus population of this paper is the adult (age 18+) remand population in Ontario's custody facilities. Responsibility for adult incarceration in Canada is divided between federal and provincial/territorial governments, resulting in two types of custody: sentenced and remand (Dauvergne, 2012). The federal government is responsible for overseeing the incarceration and care of individuals sentenced to two years or more and provincial/territorial governments are similarly responsible for individuals sentenced to two years less a day and pre-trial custody (Christian, 2006; Dauvergne, 2012). Remand, or pre-trial custody encompasses individuals who have received a court-ordered temporary detention as they await a further court appearance (i.e., hearing, trial, sentencing) or the start of a custodial sentence; also housed in provincial/territorial facilities (Dauvergne, 2012). …

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