1 August 2018
Conflict of Interest Complaint Filed Over Prison Farm Panel
KINGSTON, ONTARIO – Justice advocacy group Evolve Our Prison Farms has filed a complaint with the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion regarding actions taken by Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale and the Prison Farm Advisory Panel in determining the future of the federally funded prison farm program.
The panel, appointed by Minister Goodale in 2017, is composed exclusively of leaders and supporters of the Save Our Prison Farms dairy activist group, most or all of whom are simultaneously shareholders in the Pen Herd Co-Operative which owns descendants of the former Pen Herd cows. These public office holders have publicly campaigned to influence and alter Minister Goodale’s decisions, and continue to actively lobby to sell their cows to CORCAN for the prison farm program. The structure and actions of the panel contravene Conflict of Interest Act rules which prohibit preferential treatment, soliciting funds, or seeking to influence decisions to further private interests.
Prison farms are a federal program that will carry significant rehabilitative, environmental, and social impacts.
The Conflict of Interest Act exists to govern the ethical conduct of public office holders and to ensure impartiality, integrity and fairness of decisions.
In June 2018, it was announced that prison farms in Kingston Ontario will house goat and cow dairy operations. Prisoners will be forcibly inseminating animals, removing their offspring, and sending animals to slaughter, in a program described by Minister Goodale as “emphasizing rehabilitation” through “animal therapy.” The milk will reportedly be sold to the Feihe International infant formula factory where it will be processed into powder and shipped to China.
Since 2016, Evolve Our Prison Farms has advocated a voluntary agricultural program that would produce healthful plant-based foods for prisoner consumption, provide training in green farming technologies and techniques, and offer animal-assisted therapy through a sanctuary model of care.
Despite endorsement by the CEO of CORCAN Kelly Hartle, this model has been precluded from consideration as a result of the preferential treatment given by Minister Goodale in appointing an advisory panel of prison dairy activists with vested interests.
Prisoners at Joyceville Institution, where the dairy operations will be established, have voiced strong opposition to the plan.
According to Calvin Neufeld, founder of Evolve Our Prison Farms, “the ethical issues here are myriad.”
“Our government has an obligation to ensure the highest degree of impartiality, transparency, due process, and evidence-based decision-making,” says Neufeld. “When it comes to prisoner rehabilitation and the ethics of prison labour, we simply can’t afford to toss the rulebook aside, or ignore the voices of Canadians and prisoners calling for a healthy, sustainable, and ethical model for our prison farms.”
The full report can be found here: http://evolveourprisonfarms.ca/prison-farms-conflict-of-interest/.
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