The MCSCS community
The MCSCS community
The diverse staff of MCSCS serve Ontarians in their workplaces and in their communities.
We will use this space to tell their stories and how we all benefit from their commitment, compassion and professionalism. We will also highlight key achievements and initiatives in fostering stronger, safer communities across the province.
Humanitarianism comes full circle for probation and parole officer
Forty-two years ago, a Canadian immigration officer approved the application of an Armenian family seeking a fresh start in Canada. With the stroke of a pen, the lives of Maida Icliates and her family changed forever. Now, she has set the wheels in motion to assist other families escaping war-torn Syria.
Maida has never lost her gratitude for a life in Canada. “I will always be thankful to the immigration officer who approved our case so I could live in one of the best countries in the world and become an Ontario probation and parole officer.” Her gratitude turned into passionate action when Maida founded the Armenian Family Support Services (AFSS) of Holy Trinity Armenian Church in 2004. The organization is designed to close the gap between available social services and those being accessed by Armenian Canadians in the Greater Toronto Area.
As a member of AFSS’s Refugee and Sponsorship committee, Maida interviews and approves applicants wishing to sponsor families from Syria before submitting each case for approval. “When I signed off on our first application, I was overcome with emotion as it was my signature that would now forever change a desperate family. As I mailed the application, I was transported back to 1974 and realized that life had truly come full circle.”
When the first flight touched down in Toronto last December, Maida and her colleagues were at the hotel to greet the newcomers. “There were a lot of tears. They were overwhelmed with happiness and were thankful for a life of hope and promise.”
Above: Community Support Circle: AFSS Board members Houry Aznavourian (L) and Maida Icliates (R), lead the Community Support Circle for Syrian-Armenian refugees in both English and Armenian.
AFSS has been working hard to submit as many applications as possible while continuing to greet those who arrive. “My Christmas holiday was filled with airport arrivals, hotel runs and furniture and food deliveries. It was exhausting but we prevailed.”
In January, AFSS organized two refugee job fairs in collaboration with the Armenian Community Centre. In March, they partnered with the YMCA Newcomer Information Centre to facilitate a career needs-assessment and resume-writing workshop. In April, the Community Support Circle was launched, a bi-weekly support group for sharing challenges and learning about life in Toronto. Guest speakers discuss various community resources, depending on the week’s theme.
One man’s story is typical of these successful sponsorships. Last August, AFSS presented cases of vulnerable Syrian Armenians who don’t have sponsors to a national teleconference with Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH). The Kingston Anglican Church agreed to several sponsorships. This man had contacted AFSS via Facebook for help as his life as a hairdresser and university student studying Hotel Management was extremely dangerous. Extremists in the Syrian conflict harassed and threatened him for touching women’s hair. They warned they would chop off his hands. His alarmed parents sent him to Lebanon, where he barely subsisted on cleaning buildings and fixing wigs for cancer patients.
AFSS hastily prepared documentation for the Kingston SAH. When Maida told him the church would sponsor him, he said, “This is unbelievable. It’s like a dream come true.”
Above: AFSS Hospitality: (L to R) Maida Icliates, Mariam Aramyan and Sareen Khatchadourian, AFSS members, host a hospitality table for the Syrian newcomers.
Today, he is safe and believes in his new life. He refers to his sponsors as ‘tantik’, meaning ‘aunt’ in Armenian, as they are like family. Several weeks after arriving, he was hired as an apprentice hairdresser at a reputable salon.
His story is just one of many successes. The AFSS will continue their work to help refugees live safe, happy lives with dignity. Thank you, Maida, for your dedication to humanitarian work.
Strengthening Ontario’s death investigation system, one recommendation at a time
On December 16, Ontario’s Death Investigation Oversight Council (DIOC) celebrates its fifth anniversary – five years of hard work to make Ontario’s death investigation system more transparent and accountable and to help families who have tragically lost a loved one find answers.
DIOC was established in response to the Goudge Inquiry, which made a number of recommendations that focused on strengthening and modernizing Ontario’s death investigation system, including the need for a governing council to provide oversight. DIOC now provides oversight of Ontario’s coroners and forensic pathologists by administering a public complaints process and making recommendations to increase transparency and better meet the diverse needs of Ontarians.
The council is made up of 14 medical and legal professionals, senior health executives, government representatives and members of the public, including The Honourable Joseph James, DIOC’s Chair. With an accomplished career as a former criminal lawyer, Crown attorney and judge, he brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the table. Of his experience in working directly with council members to improve services for Ontarians, he says, “Reaching consensus amongst a group of people who are experts in such a wide variety of fields is challenging at times, but it’s also exciting to work with such highly skilled and passionate individuals who are intensely interested in our shared agenda. They want Ontarians to have the best death investigation services in the world and they are determined to achieve it.”
The DIOC represents the public, and as such, the views of the public and their need to understand the death investigation system, are at the heart of everything they do. Unless you work in the field, or have had a loved one pass in an unexplained or unexpected manner, chances are you aren’t very familiar with how or why death investigations are carried out. The creation of a new public complaints process has been one of DIOC’s biggest accomplishments to date. Concerns expressed by the public are sometimes indicative of the need for greater transparency about the death investigation process and the roles played by different individuals within that process. People now have the option to file a formal complaint to an independent body with the opportunity for a face-to-face meeting where their concerns can be better addressed.
Emily Musing, DIOC member and Executive Director and Patient Safety Officer at the University Health Network explains what having a transparent, accessible and responsive complaints process means for Ontarians: “At the point that a member of the public interacts with the death investigation system, they are already under stress because of a death. During this time of vulnerability, they need to have confidence that Ontario’s death investigation system will efficiently and effectively investigate the death and provide findings to the appropriate bodies, as well as to the family as required.”
Over the past five years, DIOC has made a number of recommendations to government, all geared towards improving the overall death investigation system.
One key recommendation included appointing forensic pathologists as coroners in all cases of suspected or suspicious death or homicide. This recommendation ensures the most accredited skills are applied in the most critical death investigations. It also establishes an integrated and inclusive service to the criminal justice system by aligning accountability for certification with the provision of expert testimony in court. According to Dr. Michael Pollanen, Ontario’s Chief Forensic Pathologist, “The insight and expertise offered by the DIOC has enabled us to adopt new ways of delivering service in Ontario. This recommendation is one example of how it has contributed to making Ontario’s death investigation system more responsive to the diverse needs of the province.”
DIOC, along with key partners at the Office of the Chief Coroner (OCC) and Ontario Forensic Pathology Services (OFPS) have implemented this recommendation which is currently being piloted in Toronto.
Justice James says that the acceptance and implementation of many of DIOC’s recommendations is the accomplishment of which he is most proud. He attributes the achievement to the council’s goal to “make simple, to-the-point recommendations that just made sense. We wanted to make sure they were practical, workable, accountable and measurable,” he says.
As a result, Ontario’s death investigation system is more responsive to the needs of families, which has a lot to do with the leadership in both the OCC and OFPS. Ontario’s Chief Coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer recognizes that “DIOC is a valuable source of advice and feedback to us, especially in supporting our efforts to improve communication with families.” Ontarians are benefitting from a system that recognizes that families have a right to information concerning their loved ones and the organization itself is better equipped to provide people the answers they need to help them cope with their loss.
Justice James, along with other council members, recognize that the strides that have been made over the last five years would not have been possible without the support of its Secretariat, along with MCSCS staff who have engaged with DIOC on a regular basis, provided incredible amounts of information, offered valuable feedback, and implemented the final recommendations. “All within stressful time constraints and with the utmost professionalism and good cheer!” he says.
Congratulations to DIOC and its Secretariat: you are supporting Ontarians during the times when they need it most.
DIOC is supported by its Secretariat, including some of these staff members pictured here at the event on December 8: (L to R) Stephanie Romain, Administrative Assistant; Sienna Leung, Policy Analyst; Danielle Hryniewicz, Senior Policy Advisor; Lema Salaymeh, former Policy Analyst
Many were in attendance to celebrate DIOC’s successes over the past five years including (Back row) Brian Loewen, Director, Legal and Dr. Reuven Jhirad, Deputy Chief Coroner and (Front Row) Minister Meilleur, Dr. Fiona Smaill, DIOC Member, Denise St-Jean, DIOC Member, Shane Gonsalves, Chief of Staff to Minister Meilleur and Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner
Minister Naqvi mingles with guests at the fifth anniversary celebration on December 8, 2015.
Attorney General and former Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services Madeleine Meilleur says a few congratulatory words at the event.
DIOC Chair, the Honourable Joseph James, thanks DIOC members and OPS staff for their hard work and dedication over the last five years.
Correctional Officer Inducted into the Special Olympics Ontario Sponsors and Benefactors Hall of Fame
It was the honour of a lifetime for Correctional Officer Warren Giertuga when he was inducted into the Special Olympics Ontario Sponsors and Benefactors Hall of Fame on October 15, 2015. This marked the culmination of almost two decades of service to an organization he loves. Giertuga is the first correctional officer to be inducted into the prestigious group and joins previous inductee Captain (Operational Manager) Jim McIlveen as the only other member of Ontario’s Correctional Services to receive the honour.
According Glenn MacDonell, President and CEO, Special Olympics Ontario, Giertuga is “a stalwart volunteer, with a propensity for sport and most certainly a passion for Special Olympics. While the policing community may be the face of the Law Enforcement Torch Run, thousands of Corrections personnel have and continue to have an impact on the LETR on a day-to-day basis.”
The 26-year Corrections veteran works at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre (TBCC) where, in addition to his correctional officer duties, he is active in a number of important initiatives. Giertuga is team lead on the Thunder Bay Institution Crisis Intervention Team (ICIT); a defensive tactics instructor; a suicide awareness and prevention instructor; a member of the Correctional Services Ceremonial Unit and an associate instructor of the northern Correctional Officer Training and Assessment classes.
An integral part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run and Special Olympics for 17 years, Giertuga is currently a regional coordinator. He also recently completed two consecutive terms on the operations committee where he led Corrections and regional fundraising campaigns. His accomplishments are many: for an unprecedented five consecutive years, TBCC was recognized as the highest-grossing agency in region one, and in 2014, they achieved the highest percentage increase in gross revenue in Ontario. This year, Giertuga spearheaded TBCC‘s campaign for the Thunder Bay Conquer the Fort Mud Run event and raised $106,000 - setting a new record for the single largest one-day fundraiser in the 28-year history of the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics.
Giertuga’s innovation and leadership earlier this year at another Special Olympics fundraiser, the Polar Plunge, also set a one-day record with an amazing $79,000 raised for athletes with intellectual disabilities, surpassing last year’s milestone of $70,000 when he was one of the lead organizers of the inaugural Conquer the Fort Mud Run.
According to TBCC Superintendent Karen Machado, Giertuga is “the driving force behind the success of Special Olympics in Corrections. His new and innovative ideas ensure Correctional Services is professionally profiled and participants have fun.”
Giertuga was attracted to Special Olympics when he met with the athletes’ families and heard first-hand what it meant to them. “It was the first time I was involved in something that had such a deep and personal effect. I was hooked,” he says. He credits retired TBCC site rep Pat O’Connor as his mentor. “My fundraising philosophy is to set a goal and stick to it, while remaining open to new ideas and change to attain the goal. I work each event like a business plan and challenge myself to improve on last year by introducing new ideas.”
Giertuga’s Hall of Fame induction is icing on the cake for such rewarding work. “This is a huge tribute and a credit to the work in the Thunder Bay region and the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre. None of it would be possible without the support of Superintendent Karen Machado, my colleagues and my wife and children,” Giertuga says.
Hall of Famer: Correctional Officer Warren Giertuga proudly accepts a plaque from Glenn MacDonell, President and CEO of Special Olympics Ontario, commemorating his induction into the Special Olympics Ontario Sponsors and Benefactors Hall of Fame.
Top Fundraiser: Warren Giertuga holds a plaque awarded to the 2014 Top Fundraising Agency in Region One. TBCC received the honour for an unprecedented five consecutive years from 2009-2014.
Recognition: Warren Giertuga (L) poses with his Provincial Operations Committee Recognition Award alongside Thunder Bay Police Staff Sergeant Ryan Gibson (R) who received the Rising Flame Award at the Provincial Final Leg and Annual Workshop in North Bay.
Taking the Plunge: (L to R) Correctional Officers Shawn Bradshaw and Raff Tassone take the Polar Plunge last winter with Senior Staff Development Officer Chris Willems and Correctional Officer Warren Giertuga
Major-General honoured at Ontario Police College
The Ontario Police College (OPC) welcomed one of Canada’s most decorated citizens, Major-General (R) Richard Rohmer, to an event on June 3, 2015 in celebration of his distinguished career. Staff and students at the OPC, as well as senior officials from the ministry and the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) gathered for a plaque unveiling and dedication of the school’s library in General Rohmer’s honour. “It was a moving moment for Major-General Rohmer and a tribute we were pleased to make,” said OPC Director Bruce Herridge.
Ontario Police College Director Bruce Herridge, left, welcomes Maj.-Gen. Richard Rohmer, the new namesake of the school's library, at the formal announcement and plaque unveiling. Rohmer completed his pilot training at the site, a former air force base, more than 70 years ago.
General Rohmer began his career in the fall of 1942 at the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) base in Alymer, now the site of the college, to complete his formal flight training. Given Rohmer’s connection to the college as well as his literary accomplishments, the library dedication was particularly fitting.
Major-General Richard Rohmer and Commissioner Vince Hawkes pose with a replica Harvard, the very aircraft the General learned to fly at RCAF Aylmer.
General Rohmer toured the college grounds and reflected on his past with the college, the military, and on his role in Canadian history. Following the library dedication, he addressed an audience of current police recruits, instructors, and staff. At 91, Rohmer remembers how his time at the Alymer base helped shape the course of his life. “It was a formative time for me, because when you're 18, you're learning lots; you're soaking up a great deal,” said Rohmer, who had dreamed of being a pilot since he was a young boy.
After earning his wings, Rohmer was sent to fight in the Second World War, participating in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. In the decades since, he became a best-selling author of fiction and non-fiction, historian, political advisor, lawyer and was honoured as an Officer of the Order of Canada.
Major-General Richard Rohmer inscribes a copy of his book Generally Speaking that will be prominently displayed with the OPC library dedication.
The General has maintained strong ties to the MCSCS community. In 2006, the OPP paid tribute to Rohmer by naming him an Honorary Deputy Commissioner. In addition, he is also the Honorary Fire Chief of Collingwood, Honorary Chief of Toronto Police Service and in 2012, was named the first Honorary Chief of Paramedics in Ontario by the Ontario Association of Paramedic Chiefs.
The Ontario Police College was thrilled to have been able to celebrate General Rohmer’s distinguished career and professional accomplishments. Following the library dedication ceremony, Major-General Rohmer spoke onstage with Herridge about leadership. “One of the key factors to being a good leader is influence. Taking any opportunity to influence whatever one can, no matter how big or small, can have a profound and far-reaching effect.”
It was a fitting discussion to have in a building full of new police recruits, themselves now embarking upon careers in law enforcement. These recruits will soon learn by experience from their own leaders and take inspiration from this great Canadian as they begin their own careers.
The Ontario Police College was honoured to pay tribute to General Rohmer, who is not only a part of the site's heritage, but a living Canadian legend.
Police Week, May 1-16, 2015
May 10-16 is recognized as Police Week all across Ontario. It’s an annual event to the recognize the work of police services and individual police officers in the community. It is an opportunity for all of us to honour the police who work so hard to help keep our communities safe.
Read the unique stories of police officers from across Ontario, to learn the diversity a career in policing has to offer.
Making Human Rights Right
“Equity, inclusion, diversity, and accessibility are the values that guide our Human Rights Plan. However, for it to truly embody those values, it must be more than words. Thank you to the subcommittees’ dedication, service, guidance, and tireless work to help bring this plan to life and ensure our ministry, specifically Correctional Services, is more inclusive for Aboriginal peoples and all staff and clients. Our common bond is that everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Being a diverse and inclusive organization that delivers excellent public service and supports all employees is the only way to achieve their full potential.”
Yasir Naqvi, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services
In 2011, the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services began a unique partnership within the Ontario Public Service called the Human Rights Project Charter. This partnership, which is among the ministry, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, was designed to identify and address human rights-related issues for our diverse employees and client communities, with a special focus on the unique needs and concerns of Aboriginal peoples.
“I’m pleased with the excellent progress we’ve made on the Human Rights Project Charter, which has led to the creation of the Human Rights Plan. Organizational change is difficult and it involves a long-term commitment to make it sustainable. As partners with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, we will provide advice and expertise to support the implementation of this important plan.”
Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission
Front-line staff and managers from across the province identified what is working, and how to make it better by suggesting new ways to address long-standing human rights issues in Correctional Services. We have worked hard to make it better, but we have more work to do to make human rights right.
The Human Rights Project Charter led to the development of a multi-year Human Rights Plan – an action plan that firmly plants human rights and Aboriginal peoples’ perspectives in all aspects of Correctional Services’ workplaces and service delivery (including learning/training, complaints management and operational and employment policies, practices and procedures).
Through the Human Rights Plan, the ministry and its partners will ensure:
- human rights are a more prominent part of our day-to-day work
- improved capacity to understand, respond to and address employees’ and inmates’ or clients’ diverse backgrounds, cultures and human rights-related issues
- Aboriginal peoples’ contributions and perspectives are present in all areas of Correctional Services
- increased accountability and shared responsibility – at both individual and organizational levels to help make these human rights changes sustainable.
“The Human Rights Plan is a direct result of both the subcommittees’ work and our collaboration with our partners at various levels who shared their experience, knowledge and recommendations for change. We’ve built a strong partnership with the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services and the Ontario Human Rights Commission over the last three years and it makes sense to continue the work we began together as we roll out the plan. We want to ensure our workplace and service delivery are inclusive, diverse, equitable, accessible, professional, respectful, and consistent with human rights principles. Together, we will get it right.”
Stephen Rhodes, Deputy Minister of Correctional Services
“The Human Rights Project Charter brought together a diverse group of staff and subject matter experts from across partner organizations to consider inclusion from the ground up. Their dedicated efforts resulted in the Human Rights Plan, which provides a strong action plan to improve workplaces and services in Correctional Services and across government. We are committed to working collaboratively with Correctional Services and the Ontario Human Rights Commission on the important work ahead to better support employees and the clients we serve.”
Wendy Tilford, Deputy Minister, Government and Consumer Services
Phase 1 of the Human Rights Plan was launched in September 2014 and through an agreement with the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, we have extended our partnership for up to three more years. This extension will sustain the momentum of our progress to date and assist with measuring, evaluating and reporting on the Human Rights Plan’s progress.
The Human Rights Plan builds on a lot of other work already underway to make our workplaces and services healthier and more inclusive, such as a transgender policy review and the ongoing support of employee network groups representing Aboriginal, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and racialized employees, as well as a network specifically for women working in Correctional Services.
We all recognize the role we need to play in ensuring we make human rights right in Correctional Services, and we look forward to the support of our partners in the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services as we implement the Human Rights Plan.