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Kim Pate: A Canadian Activist Working With and on Behalf of Women and Girls in Conflict with the Law

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Women & Criminal Justice
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Kim Pate
Colleen Anne Dell
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ontario, Canada
Online Publication Date: 19 August 2003
To cite this Article Dell, Colleen Anne(2003)'Kim Pate',Women & Criminal Justice,14:4,13 — 33
To link to this Article: DOI: 10.1300/J012v14n04_02
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Kim Pate:
A Canadian Activist
Working with and on Behalf
of Criminalized Women and Girls
Colleen Anne Dell
ABSTRACT. This essay provides an overview of the life of Kim Pate, a
Canadian activist who works with and on behalf of criminalized women
and girls. Highlights of Kim’s commendable personal, occupational, po-
litical and academic contributions and achievements in both Canada and
abroad are presented. Featuring pivotal occupational achievements in
Kim’s life simultaneously offers a glimpse into the state of affairs in the
past decade facing women in Canada’s criminal justice system. This es-
sayisbasedon interviewsheld withKim, hercolleagues andfriends, and
my personal acquaintance with her. It brings to life how Kim has and
continuesto challenge and progressthe Canadian criminal justicesystem
as an activist, and how her success is rooted in her extraordinary charac-
ter as an individual.
[Article copies available for a fee from The Haworth
Document Delivery Service: 1-800-HAWORTH. E-mail address: <docdelivery@> Website: <> © 2003 by The Haworth
Press, Inc. All rights reserved.]
Colleen Anne Dell, PhD, is Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology,
Carleton University, 1125 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1S 5B6 Canada
(E-mail: Dr. Dell holds a joint appointment with the Cana
dian Centre on Substance Abuse.
The author would like to express her appreciation to Donna Hale, Walter
DeKeseredy, and Roberta Sinclair for their comments, encouragement and sugges
tions.Theauthoroffersavery special thank youto Kim Pate forsharing parts of herex
traordinary life and to Kim’s friends and colleagues: Debbie Blunderfield, Karlene
Faith, Gayle Horrii, Lee Lakeman, Nancy Lewis-Horne, Donna Maidment, Lisa Neve,
and Dorothy Proctor.
Women & Criminal Justice, Vol. 14(4) 2003
2003 by The Haworth Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
10.1300/J012v14n04_02 13
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KEYWORDS. Kim Pate, biography, penal abolition, female offenders,
Oftenwhenwecommit our thoughts to paper, we begin with what we
identify as the most important or intriguing information. In chronicling
the life of an individual who has in countless ways challenged and pro
gressed the Canadian criminal justice system, this is a difficult task.
Kim Pate is a Canadian activist who works with and on behalf of
criminalized women and girls, and her life is characterized by impres
sive personal, occupational, political and academic accomplishments.
This biography begins by featuring pivotal achievements in Kim’s oc
cupational endeavors, which simultaneously offer a glimpse into the
state of affairs in the past decade facing women in Canada’s criminal
justice system. Attention is then turned toKim’s formative years, which
are the foundation of her commitment to political and social struggle.
Next, highlights of Kim’s current undertakings in pursuit of justice for
criminalized women in Canada and abroad are discussed. To begin, a
resounding impact Kim has had on the criminal justice system that can-
not be measured by her legislative undertakings or contributions to pe-
nal reform–her influential role as a mentor–is introduced.
Kim is a mentor and role model in the lives of numerous individuals,
some who commentat later pointsin this essay.I was introduced to Kim and
her work in the early 1990s through my employment with the Elizabeth Fry
Society of Manitoba, one of 24 sister agencies across Canada that assist
women and girls in or at risk of coming into conflict with the law. This was
an exciting time in Canadian history, signified by the re-structuring of the
federal correctional system’s approach to women’s imprisonment. It was a
time of potential growth for the system with signs of movement toward
adopting a women-centred approach to corrections. Canada’s one central
federal correctional facilityfor women wasscheduled to close, thePrison for
Women in Kingtson, Ontario, and the construction of six regional institu
tions were in the planning stage. During this time Kim provided informed,
innovative and solid leadership to the Elizabeth Fry network and the cor
rectional system. This will be detailed in a forthcoming section.
In1996 I met Kim in person at theCanadian Association of Elizabeth
Fry Societies (CAEFS) Annual General Meeting in Montreal, Quebec.
CAEFS is the umbrella association of the local Elizabeth Fry agencies.
This meeting took place soon after the first two new regional facilities
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for federally sentenced women were opened in Canada, the Edmonton
Institution for Women in the province of Alberta and the Okimaw Ohci
Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan. Although the construction of prisons
was not supported by the majority of the CAEFS network, the local
agencies and Kim as the network’s Executive Director were being
forced to advocate within the confines of state actions. Unbeknownst to
Kim,herleadership strengthened many people’s belief thatitwaspossi
ble to effect positive change for women and girls within the restrictive
boundaries of the Canadian criminal justice system, while continuing to
advocate for community alternatives to incarceration. Meeting with
Kim in 1996 became a defining point in my life; I decided to resign as
the Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba and to
pursue my PhD with the goal of effecting macro-level policy change for
incarceratedwomen in Canada. I wrotetoKimfollowing our meeting:
June 17, 1996
Dear Kim,
Hello! I am writing to express my enthusiasm regarding my PhD
research after finally meeting you in person in Montreal at the
CAEFS Annual General Meeting. I was particularly impressed
with your vision for progressive change within the Canadian crim-
inal justice system and commitment to follow-through. Your
knowledge and understanding of the system and example of how
to work to effect change is impressive. I find it both hopeful and
refreshing to see a woman established in her careerreveal such op-
timism and perseverance in her views and actions. Upon learning
of my acceptance to graduate school, my initial decision was to re
main in Winnipeg, Manitoba. However, I carried with me an inde
fatigable feeling that I was limiting my potential to work on behalf
of women involved in our criminal justice system. I was thor
oughly impressed with you and your work in Montreal, Kim,
which has made my decision to leave my position at (though not
my commitment to) the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba feel
right. . . .
Colleen Anne Dell
Almost six years to the date of this letter I completed my dissertation re
search on women’s imprisonment in an area Kim assisted in conceptual
Colleen Anne Dell 15
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izing, Correctional Service of Canada Ideology and “Violent” Aboriginal
Female Offenders. My experience of knowing Kim is a minor illustration
of her ability to invigorate and advance others’ struggle for change.
Kim’s resounding influence on people is evident in all realms of her
life, from the women and girls with whom and on whose behalf she
works, to her colleagues, friends and family. Possibly their words are the
best testament to this. Donna Maidment, co-founder of the Newfound
land and Labrador Elizabeth Fry Society expresses the impact Kim has
had on her life and work: “I have had the tremendous pleasure of witness
ing first hand Kim’s influence on the lives of women in prison. The sheer
joy and sense of connectedness Kim elicits from others is truly amazing.
me and others to seek to effect progressive change in the area of women
and social justice.” Karlene Faith (see biography in WCJ 12(1), 2000),
Kim’s ally in prison abolition work states: “There’s no one like Kim. Ev-
ery day she gets a hundred e-mails, and everyone wants something from
her. And she delivers. She’s responding routinely to women in crisis, of-
ten in person at prisons everywhere in the country. She’s routinely con-
sulting with one or another agency or group, or giving public lectures.
She’s also responding to people like me, and there are a lot of us who rely
on her first-hand information. She knows the system like no other out-
sider.” But quite possibly Kim’s influence is clearest in the voices of the
womenshe endeavors for. Lisa Neve, the first womanin Canada to be de-
clared under the Dangerous Offenders Act states: “Kim has never been
prejudiced toward me, she hasalways respected and cared about me,she is
able to look past my actions. I have known Kim since I was twelve and she
has always strived to help me. She is a role model and wonderful person
and I strive to be like her.” The enduringqualities and wealth of knowledge
Kim brings to and depends on in her work are deeply embedded in her
character as an individual. And these qualities are evident in her employ
ment with the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
On January 20, 1992, Kim started work as the Executive Director of
the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies. The network is
founded on the work of Ms. Elizabeth Fry, an early nineteenth-century
social activist who worked to educate prison officials and the public re
garding the abhorrent conditions for women at the Newgate Prison in
London, England, and later throughout Europe. Today, the 24 sister
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agencies carry on Elizabeth Fry’s legacy through promotion of commu
nity education and awareness about women in conflict with the law as
well as by offering supports, services and programs to women and their
As the Executive Director of CAEFS, Kim not only embodies Eliza
beth Fry’s original vision in her work, but she also coincidently es
pouses her personal qualities; that is, understanding, humility, honesty,
vigor, intellect, and unwavering dedication to women, girls and social
justice. Dorothy Proctor, who came to know Kim several years ago as a
result of Dorothy’s law suit against the Canadian government regarding
herconditions of incarceration in the1960s,eloquentlystates: “If I were
to believe in reincarnation, I would say that Elizabeth Fry has returned.
In my opinion, in what I know historically of Elizabeth Fry, there has
been no one since who carries the spirit with such grace, dignity and
feistiness as Kim Pate.”
January 2002 marked Kim’s 10-year anniversary as the Executive
Director of CAEFS. In review of her labor over the past decade, it can
most simply be described as embracing challenge and enacting change.
Kim’s executive position requires a multi-faceted and broad based
awareness of rising national and provincial criminal justice issues. A
liberal characterization of her role is that it entails encouraging suitable
legislative and policy reform within the criminal and juvenile justice
systems; maintaining direct contact with federally sentenced women
across the country, including visiting at least twice a year the eleven Ca-
nadian federal prisons, including four male institutions and one provin-
cialjailwherewomenserving two years or more are imprisoned; liaison
with the Elizabeth Fry sister societies across Canada and responsibility
to a Board of Directors for the effective management of the Associa
tion; developing and maintaining positive working relationships with
political and bureaucratic contacts and other women’s groups, First Na
tions,social and justice organizations; and, challenging negative stereo
typical depictions of women and girls who come into conflict with the
Kim admits that it was not until she worked for CAEFS that she fully
comprehended the extent to which women were marginalized inthe Ca
nadian criminal and social justice systems. She knew from her earlier
occupational experiences with the youth justice system, male prisoners
and her legal training that females were treated different from males,
but she was not aware of the boundless impact patriarchal ideology had
on the system. Kim recalls her first visit to the Prison for Women as an
utterly mentally and emotionally exhausting experience. From this one
Colleen Anne Dell 17
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visit it was very apparent to Kim that her new position with CAEFS was
not comparable to work she had done in the past. She immediately iden
tified the foundation of her struggles as being in the system’s unwilling
ness to treat women as women, and instead as “add-ons” to rules,
programs, assessment tools and the like designed for men. Since Kim’s
first visit to the Prison for Women her work has focused on attempting
to ensure women in prison have choices, are treated with dignity, hu
manity and respect, are empowered from a woman-directed perspec
tive, and are provided with adequate supports and services.
The impact of Kim’s work in the criminal justice field is apparent in
countless ways, and possibly the most multi-dimensional illustration is
with regard to the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the
Prison for Women in Kingston, Ontario. Commonly referred to as the
Arbour Inquiry, reflecting the Honourable Madam Justice Louise Ar
bourpresidingover the Commission, it was mandatedtoinvestigateand
report on the state and management of the federal correctional system,
the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), pertaining to incidents that
occurred at the Prison for Women and CSC’s response in April 1994
and the months that followed. In brief, an Institutional Emergency Re-
sponse Team (IERT) was called into the P4W on April 26, 1994, to ex-
tract eight women from their cells following four days of institutionally
instigatedresistance to authority. A videooftheincident was made pub-
lic on February 21, 1995, on the Canadian television program the Fifth
Estate, despite attempted legal injunctions on the part of CSC. The
video showed women being stripped, shackled, prodded with batons
and forcibly removed from their cells by a primarily male IERT. In the
months following the IERT’s cell extractions, the human rights of the
women involved in the incident were continually violated, including
extended periods in solitary confinement, personal harassment and in
voluntary transfers.
As the Executive Director of CAEFS and in sisterhood with other eq
uityseeking and social justice groups,Kimgarnereda significant role in
the Commission happenings and the events leading up to and following
it.Under Kim’s leadership, CAEFS in partnership with theOffice of the
Correctional Investigator and other groups was instrumental in calling
for and insisting the Inquiry took place. Possibly Kim’s greatest accom
plishment was her role in facilitating the women prisoners’ granting of
standing at the Inquiry as witnesses, which was a first in Canadian his
tory. Their voices were given equal weight with Corrections officials
and community agencies in re-constructing the incidents that led to the
Inquiry. In addition, as a representative of CAEFS, Kim was the only
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non-CSCcommunitygroup invitee to present at the fact finding stage of
the Inquiry. Further, in the year proceeding the Inquiry Kim was greatly
involved in advocating against the blatant disregard and extreme viola
tion of the women’s rights, such as assisting in the launching of habeas
corpus applications for five of the women who wereinvoluntarily trans
ferred to the wing of a male psychiatric treatment facility. And, of
course, Kim’s personal support to the women prisoners in such volatile
times of need was unwavering.
Since the release of the Arbour Inquiry report in 1996, Kim has been
an enduring voice in communicating the continuation of abhorrent hu
man rights violations by CSC, and most unfortunately in the operation
of the newly constructed regional federal female facilities. In a 1999 ar
ticle published in the Women’s Studies journal, Kim states:
[the following examples] provide a mere taste of the sorts of human
rights issues we have tried to address since Arbour: women being
strip searched outside the legislation and policy and mandatory rou-
tine way where ever the Correctional Service of Canada policy per-
mits strip-searching for cause; women being stripped, shackled and
left chained naked to a metal bed frame, without a mattress, in seg-
regation; women being strapped to body boards in segregation;
[and] minimum security women being sent into the community in
shackles for various forms of temporary absences....(45)
The figurative walls of the Prison for Women may be gone, but its con-
temptible conditions of incarceration persist and so Kim’s role and ded
icated work remains ever so vital. In fact, in a panel presentation on
women’s imprisonment at the Canadian Congress on the Social Sci
ences and Humanities in June 2002, Kim claimed that in her 10 years
with CAEFS, it has been within the past 12 months that she has wit
nessed the greatest number and most blatant violations of human rights
againstwomenprisonersin Canada. Kim links this to the increasing law
and order agenda of the state.
Today Kim views herself as a feminist penal abolitionist who strug
gles to achieve equality in society by raising awareness of the need to
create opportunities to enact such equality. She mobilizes her perspec
tive through what she refers to as contributing to a platform for social
justice, and there are countless ways in which she has and continues to
effect meaningful change. Before such examples are discussed, Kim’s
introduction to penal reform through her employment with the John
Colleen Anne Dell 19
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Howard Society is established. Much of the knowledge Kim acquired
withthe Society laid the foundationforherwork with women prisoners.
Kim’s work with the John Howard Society of Calgary marked her
initiation into the arena of penal reform in Canada. The John Howard
Society is a counterpart of the Elizabeth Fry network and provides di
rect service to mainly male youth and adults in the justice system. Kim
accepted an appointment with the Society in 1984 to develop a literacy
program for the school boards of Calgary. This position merged Kim’s
training as a lawyer and a high school teacher, and as well addressed her
growing lack of interest in practicing law and increasing desire to advo-
cate for social justice.
Earlyevidence of Kim’s impending impact upon the Canadiancrimi-
nal justice system was her design andimplementation of the Calgary lit-
eracy program. Setting in motion her pedagogical philosophy, Kim
matched adult literacy tutors from the community with youth and adults
in the justice system. The project was effective in addressing more than
literacy skills; it established a bridge between the public, youth and
adult-serving social justice community organizations and correctional
facilities. The program was the first of its kind in Calgary and continues
to run today with increased emphasis on criminalized youth in the com-
munity. In fact, the program was so successful that Kim was seconded
in 1988 and 1989 to work with the John Howard Society of Canada on a
national literacy project, which set the foundation for prison literacy
programs across the nation.
Inherent to Kim’s early struggles for change in the criminal justice
systemand in particular prison, was her unwavering commitmentto ini
tiatives being done in tandem with individuals, not just for them. To il
lustrate, Calgary Social Services approached Kim while she was at the
John Howard Society as the Director of Research and Development, for
assistance in accommodating approximately 50-60 youth who, for vari
ous reasons, chose not to reside in their assigned child welfare group
homes and were consequently identified as “at large” by the state. In the
spiritofcollaborationKimapproached the youth to discuss the situation
andtheoutcomewasa “kid run safe house.” The youth were involved in
all aspects of its establishment and operation, from the tendering pro
cess, to the hiring of the Executive Director, staff selection and training,
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representation on the Board of Directors, and payment for their work at
the house (e.g., peer counseling). The house remains in operation today
as an incorporated entity. Kim similarly adhered to this approach in her
concluding role with the John Howard Society of Calgary as the Assis
tant Executive Director. A few of her legacies include attaining ap
proval to have a former prisoner on the Board of Directors, hiring a
former prisoner on staff, and incorporation of a team supervision model
within the agency to replace the traditional hierarchical management
Kim’s employment at the John Howard Society strengthened her
ability to work as an advocate for individuals in conflict with the law by
working with and gaining the respect of representatives of the system.
Respect from the criminal justice system is often an insurmountable
barrier when working for an advocacy agency. Kim admits that she too
initially dubbed the John Howard Society as “a group of 60’s throw
back, hand holding do-gooders!” However, Kim has been able to over-
come such stereotypes held by others, as evidenced in her receipt of two
community contribution awards from the Calgary Police Service in the
early 1990s.
Kim’s various occupational positions with the John Howard Society
also took her into the prison environment, which provided her with a
lived understanding of the criminal justice system and its devastating
impacts upon individuals’ lives. In turn, it introduced and over time so-
lidifiedKim’s dedication to the need for policy andlegislative reform in
Canada, and culminating in her on-going support for prison abolition.
Kim’s work with the John Howard Society also introduced her to her
partner, Mark Green. Kim met Mark while he, too, worked at the John
Howard Society of Calgary. Mark’s own reasons for entering the crimi
nal justice field are rooted in the experience of the murder of his father.
This was a reality that furthered Kim’s awareness of the importance of
social justice work for all involved in the criminal justice system. Mark
iscurrently a lawyer in Ottawa, Canada. Kim attests that a foundation of
her commitment to penal reform and, more broadly, social justice in
Canada is her supportive and understanding family. Kim appreciatively
acknowledges that she is able to accomplish all she does because of the
strength and succor of her relationship with her partner, and the under
standing of her children and their willingness to sometimes “share their
Working for nearly eight years with the John Howard Society of Cal
gary exposed Kim to the successes and struggles of the national office,
the John Howard Society of Canada. It also introduced her to an expan
Colleen Anne Dell 21
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sive network of community agencies whose mandates it was to address
revisited her law school goal of implementing macro-level political and
legal change. This ideal translated into practice when Kim accepted the
positionofExecutiveDirector of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth
FrySocieties in 1991. Her workwiththeJohn Howard Society provided
her with an excellent foundation for her occupational endeavors. More
over,an even earlier foundation toKim’scurrentwork is her upbringing.
Kim was born the eldest of four sisters, Alison, Tracy and Shelley, on
November 10, 1959, in the small village of Arvida, Quebec, where she
resided until the age of four. Kim is a self-identified “service brat” and
acknowledges that the associated upbringing had a very influential im-
pact on the person she is today. Her father, Peter, was a Master Corporal
in the Canadian Armed Forces (Air Force) and had determinate post-
ings throughout Canada and West Germany during Kim’s childhood
and adolescent years. With her father being an uncommissioned mem-
ber of the Canadian military and her mother, Marion, a civilian hair-
dresser, Kim experienced early in life the negative ramifications of the
military hierarchy and social stratification. Kim attests that she learned
privilege was not impartially afforded based on her father’s low mili
tary ranking and family’s social class position.
Though Kim’s family’s social ranking did not afford her material op
portunities in Canada, the travel associated with her father’s postings
and both parents’ desire to expose her and her sisters to a broad range of
personal, cultural and ethnic experiences, offered her a broad landscape
of educational adventures. Kim credits her parents for making their
travelsscholastic and stimulating her passion for history. Incomparison
to Canada, Kim was introduced to “a very different world.” She recalls
being in Spain at the age of 8 and seeing children begging on the street,
and her father introducing Kim and her sisters to the slums in Barce
lona. Kim similarly recalls experiencing distressing nightmares about
children starving and being beaten, and struggling with the reality that
literally there were “those who had and those who had not.” Kim’s ex
periences of and witness to the realities of Canadian military ranking
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and the social class hierarchy in Canada and abroad superseded her
commitment to social justice in the coming years.
As an adolescent Kim may be best described as “independent,” a trait
her grandmother fostered–whom she adoringly called “Happy” and
identifies as a mentor in her life–and her parents skillfully managed.
Kim cherishes the wisdom Happy passed on to her, some of it captured
in her grandmother’s frequently recited phrase: “Love many. Trust few.
Always paddle your own canoe!” There was a period during Kim’s
early adolescence in Canada when her parents were not supportive of
some of her choices and peers, yet endured to provide her with enough
freedom and support to foster her independence. Looking back today
with children of her own, Kim can appreciate her parents’ concern.
Mr. and Mrs. Pate identify Kim’s entry into the workforce as the
“turning point” in her young life. At 14 years of age Kim acquired two
part-time jobs, one as a student marker and the other as an aide in a re-
tirement home. The home hired girls under the age of 16 so that they did
not have to pay minimum wage. At the retirement home Kim also en-
countered stratification by social class, but this time as a spectator. The
retirement home operated for profit and Kim recalls notable disparity in
the treatment of affluent residents and those who were supported by the
state. She recalls feeling that the owners of the home did not treat the
latter residents as people, but rather as pay cheques. Kim was also intro-
duced to the merits of volunteering in this job. She frequently attended
the retirement residence on her days off to provide companionship to
residents who did not have family orfriends to visit with. Kim remained
at the job until she was nearly 16, at which time the home was sold and
she went to work in other helping fields, including with individuals who
had cognitive disabilities, mental health patients and at a community
crisis center.
Sitting with Kim on her back porch and watching her children play
outside–Michael, 12, and Madison, 4–Kim comments that her con
sciousness and celebration of individuality and difference was an inher
ent part of the early years of her life. She reminisces today about how
her awareness of social differences between people based on the social
structure and social conditions impacted her life choices. She further
feels that she has a responsibility to teach her children to recognize their
currentpositionof privilege and the need to work to achieve equalityfor
Colleen Anne Dell 23
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others. Kim also reveals that she decided early in her life that education
would be her “way out” of the lower ranks of the social strata.
Just about to turn 17, Kim entered the University of Victoria in Brit
ish Columbia, Canada. Rooted in the enlightenment of her childhood
travels, Kim received her Bachelor of Arts degree in 1980 with a major
in history. The course Kim remembers most fondly as having an impact
onherwas offered by the psychology department.Thecourseaddressed
the civil rights and treatment of the mentally handicapped and stirred
within Kim a growing discomfort with the social structure and its detri
mental influence on individual lives. The course also introduced Kim to
the importance of critical analysis. Although social stratification was a
theme in Kim’s lived experience, she did not yet commit to pursing it in
her studies.
In 1980 Kim entered a post-degree professional program at the Uni-
versity of Victoria in the faculty of education and gained certification at
thesecondary school level. As imparted earlier, Kim admitsthat being a
teacher was not one of her long-term objectives and that she entered it
foremost to allow her to earn sufficient resources to attend law school.
However, once Kim started teaching she thoroughly enjoyed it and rec-
ognizedshe had to soon gotolawschool for fear thatsheneverwould.
In 1981 at the age of 21, Kim enrolled in law school at Dalhousie
University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She graduated from the Faculty of
Law in 1984. Kim admits that her initial intention for attending law
school was also economic; that is, a ticket out of poverty for her and her
family. However, her experiences significantly altered this.
Law school acquainted Kim with a refined awareness and under
standing of gender inequality. This culminated in numerous ways dur
ing her time as a student, and a few illustrations are provided. In Kim’s
first year it was disturbingly apparent to her that less than one-third of
her class was female. During her introductory year she also met Profes
sor Christine Boyle and Anne Derrick, well-known Canadian feminists.
Both the feminist legal scholar and activist lawyer became significant
mentors in Kim’s life. Kim participated in Professor Boyle’s courses as
well as a research focus group onrape, with the latter eventually leading
to the historic reform of rape legislation in Canada. In Kim’s second
yearshejoinedtheassociation of Women and Law Society at Dalhousie
Law School and this heightened her awareness of misogynous practices
withinthe law school, the university and society in general. Kim also at
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tended her first Take Back the Night March and recalls being thor
oughly energized by it.
Kim claims that while in law school her understanding of gender in
equality seemed new, but upon reflection this understanding was rooted
in snippets of her displayed intolerance of inequality while growing up.
Illustrations range from Kim as a young girl rebelling against her
mother’s efforts to have her adhere to the traditional female role and act
like a “young lady,” to Kim questioning why at the age of 12 she could
not be a member of the Air Cadets Squadron. Through perseverance
Kim won the latter battle to be faced with yet another; as a female mem
ber of the Air Cadets Squadron she was required to wear a skirt and
pumps! Such social adversity and advocacy have become indicative of
Kim’s adult life.
During law school a new and disturbing dimension was appended to
Kim’s understanding of social stratification. The influence of money
became flagrantly apparent and it alarmed Kim that she felt ashamed of
her social background. True to herself, Kim decided she was not going
to practice law–where the economic rewards were and as revealed her
initial intent for entering law school resided–but instead she was going
to change the law. Kim’s new goal was to work for the Department of
JusticeinOttawa,Canada. Today Kim characterizes this as a young, na-
ive perspective, but I would hasten to add that Kim has influenced pol-
icy and legal change in Canada by both working closely with the
criminal justice system and at odds with it. Examples of this are pro-
vided in the next section of the essay.
Kim’s experiences growing up, and later with the John Howard Soci
ety, provided a solid foundation for her future work with CAEFS. Four
themes that characterize Kim’s work toward penal reform and abolition
withCAEFSare highlighted here: changing policy andpractice;coalition
building; facilitating communication; and, enacting change within the
CAEFS network. To start, it is important to point out that although Kim
works on behalf of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies,
the progress of the Association is highly contingent upon the effective
ness of her position. CAEFS is governed by a Board of Directors and
staffed by Kim and her Administrative Assistant. Kim’s pivotal role with
the Association is supported in the message from CAEFS President,
Dawn McBride, in the 2001 annual report. Dawn states: “Kim Pate, our
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Executive Director, continues to challenge and energize all of us. I have
enjoyed working with Kim throughout this past year and I wish to recog
nize and thank her for her efforts and commitment to our organization.
Kim has brought a national and international face and voice to CAEFS.
She has been at the forefront of our accomplishments...(2001:5).
Kim has been involved with and influenced numerous policy and
practice changes in the Canadian criminal justice system, a few of
which have been identified (e.g., the granting of standing for women
prisoners at the Arbour Inquiry). An achievement early in Kim’s posi
tion at CAEFS that was particularly gratifying for her was a direct con
sequence of her first visit to the P4W. Kim assumed that when she
attended the prison she would be granted visitation throughout the insti
tution, including the segregation unit. To her bewilderment this was not
the practice of CAEFS or the prison; the women were to be seen only in
the visiting room. Consequently, Kim’s initial victory in women’s cor-
rectional policy reform was ensuring that CAEFS and the local Eliza-
beth Fry agencies had access to federally incarcerated women 24 hours
a day and without restrictions on their meeting location.
Over the past decade with CAEFS, one of Kim’s most personally sat-
isfying accomplishments has been her active role in facilitating neces-
sary and open dialogue and working toward solidarity with other
equality seeking groups, with the goal of countering the increasingly re-
gressive law and order agenda in Canada. Kim refers to her efforts as
coalition building; that is, bringing primarily women’s groups on side
for a stronger voice and presence. In her view, coalition building is the
foundation to facilitating sustainable change. Kim’s success at working
with such groups was evident in CAEFS’s partnership with the Cana
dian Association of Sexual Assault Centers and other equality seeking
women’s groups in the 1996 Canadian Battered Women’s Self-Defense
Review. Together, the groups adopted a unanimous position and put
pressureon the Canadian Department ofJusticetoenact the review. The
consequent review examined the cases of 98 Canadian women who
claimed to have killed their partners in self-defense, with seven being
recommended for and five receiving some form of relief (e.g., termina
tion of sentences and conditional pardons; although one of the enduring
tragedies is that no woman was released from prison). Kim believes the
review would most likely not have occurred had she and CAEFS con
tinued to work in isolation.
A recentexampleof Kim’s coalition buildingeffortwasher co-organiz
ing role for the Women’s Resistance: From Victimization to Criminal
ization conference, held in Ottawa, Canada, from October 1-3, 2001. This
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conference, co-sponsored by the CanadianAssociation of Elizabeth Fry
Societies and the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault Centres
brought together over 650 activists, academics, researchers, practitio
ners, allies, policy makers, lawyers and individuals with lived experi
ences to serve as a springboard for longer-term social program, policy
and law reform for women who are criminalized or have been the vic
tims of violence. The conference was designed to build upon strategic
discussions and alliances that have characterized some of Canada’s
unique contributions to policy and law reform. One of a multitude of
man rights complaint against the Government of Canada on behalf of
women prisoners serving sentences of two years and more (see below).
In addition, a woman on contract with the Swedish Government is now
working in partnership with a rape crisis centre in Vancouver and a
women’s centre in Quebec to address prostitution and trafficking of
women in Canada. A second conference is in the planning stage.
Partnerships and alliances such as those fostered at the Women’s Re-
sistance conference supported CAEFS’s registration of a complaint re-
garding the discriminatory treatment of federally sentenced women by
the Canadian government in March 2001. Under Kim’s leadership,
CAEFS is requesting that the Commission conduct a broad-based, sys-
temic review and issue a special report regarding the treatment of
women serving federal terms of imprisonment. This complaint is made
on the grounds that the manner in which women prisoners are treated is
discriminatory,asit contravenes several of the prohibited grounds artic-
ulated in s. 3(1) of the Canadian Human Rights Act. It is further sug-
gested that special attention be paid to discrimination experienced by
Aboriginal and other racialized women, as well as discrimination on the
basis of disability experienced by federally sentenced women with cog
nitive and mental disabilities. The Human Rights Commission under
took a systematic review and issued a special report in March 2003.
A new direction for CAEFS under Kim’s guidance has been its com
mitment to increasing public awareness about the plight of criminalized
women and girls. Kim has extended thisto include public presentations,
academic participation through guest lectures, publications and confer
ence presentations, and participation in grassroots gatherings. Kim
rarelydeclinesan opportunity to speak publically, whichisfortunatefor
the network because she is a powerful speaker. Debbie Blunderfield,
Executive Director of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba, character
izes Kim in her public speaking role as: “a woman who speaks with ex
treme passion and empathy for circumstances that lead many lives into
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conflict with the law.” Nancy Lewis-Horne, a professor at SUNY Col
legeatPotsdam,NewYork, describes Kim’s guest lectures in her crimi
nology courses as: “bridging the gap between academic theory and
community activism which students have a desire to learn about. Stu
dents hang on her every word.”
Although public speaking may not have been Kim’s chosen role (she
admits to still getting nervous), she describes herself as energized into
action as a result of oscillating between rage and absolute despair over
the plight of women in prison in Canada and internationally. She has
been involved in countless television and radio interviews since she
started with CAEFS in 1992. A notable few which I encourage the
reader to access are The Voice Set Free, the documentary of Jo-Ann
Mayhew’s life, which has been nominated for a Gemini Award, and the
Fifth Estate’s exposure of the April 1994 strip search and shackling of
women by the men’s riot squad at the Prison for Women.
Kim’spublicspeaking engagements are geared toward national audi-
ences, though her international reputation is fervently increasing. Re-
cently Kim presented with Angela Davis and Debbie Kilroy, founder of
the Australian prisoner run group Sisters Inside, at the Women in Prison
Round Table in New York City in June 2002. Previously, she was se-
lected as a Canadian representative to attend the 10th United Nations
Congress on Crime Prevention and Treatment of Offenders in Austria
in September 2000; she was the Key Note Speaker for the Institute of
Criminology, Women and Corrections Conference, held in Australia in
November 2000; she facilitated workshops on women and prison and
young women in conflict with the law for the Indo-Canadian Shastri In-
stitute in India in April 2000; she spoke about battered women and
women who kill at the International Conference on Penal Abolition in
NewZealandinFebruary,1997; and she spoke, along with thousands of
other international activists at the Berkeley launch of the Critical Resis
tance Conference: Beyond the Prison Industrial Complex in September
1998. Lee Lakeman of the Canadian Association of Sexual Assault
Centres comments that “Kim is working for an international perspec
tive, with as one example, Critical Resistance, whose mission it is to
build a national campaign to challenge the Prison Industrial Complex.
There are also key American and Australian feminist socialist activists
Kim is currently working in partnership with and learning from. Kim is
trying to lead a movement.” Kim is currently working on collaborative
projects with individuals involved in work with women in conflict with
the law in Nepal, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Costa Rica, and the
United States.
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Kim’s public speaking role transcends beyond her own presenta
tions. She sees part of her position as encouraging and promoting the
voices of women who have the lived experience of prison. With the
guidance and support of Kim, Dorothy Proctor spoke publically for
the first time at the CAEFS Annual General Meeting about her experi
ences in the Canadian criminal justice system and has been vocal ever
since. Similar experiences resulted from the Women’s Resistance con
Kim’s communication building efforts have also extended to repre
sentatives of the criminal justice system. As revealed, her success at
communicating with representatives of the system was evident in her
early work with the John Howard Society of Calgary. In her current po
sition, Kim maintains regular contact with the Correctional Service of
Canada’s Deputy Commissioner for Women, and various Ministers and
Deputy Ministers to identify and discuss advocacy issues, impending
concerns and other pressing matters. She remarks that takingon the sys-
tem is at times a daunting task (with her views not always welcomed or
appreciated), but regardless she believes such communication efforts
are vital if CAEFS is to continue to be a contributing and valued mem-
ber of the criminal justice community.
Although Kim is known for posing tough opposition to current poli-
cies and practices of the criminal justice system, she is well respected
by the community. Kim was recently invited to conduct training for
membersof the National Parole BoardofCanada.She focused on issues
specific to working with marginalized women and spoke to global
trendstowardthe criminalization of women and girls.Shealsoprovided
concrete suggestions to the Board members about the need to review
gender biased Parole Board hearings, assessment tools and processes.
Likewise, the Honourable Madam Justice Louise Arbour has high re
gard for Kim. In her 1996 report following the Commission of Inquiry
into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston, of Kim,
Madam Justice stated: “[t]he level of involvement of CAEFS, not only
in the events under investigation by this Commission, but in the life of
the Prison for Women in general is nothing short of remarkable. One is
hard pressed to think of other voluntary organizations which exhibit the
leveland intensity of commitment anddedicationthatKim Pate, the Ex
ecutive Director of CAEFS, exhibited before this Commission (1996:
195). Further, in 2001, commenting on her decision to decline speaking
engagements for a specified period of time but accepting Kim’s invita
tion as a panel presenter at the Women’s Resistance conference, Madam
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Justice stated with a smile, “If you know Kim, you know you cannot say
In addition to Kim’s success at individual policy and practice
changes, efforts at sustainable coalition building, and facilitating com
munication among the criminal justice community, she has spear
headed change within the CAEFS organization. True to her efforts that
commenced at the John Howard Society, under Kim’s leadership
CAEFS has renewed its effort to hear women’s voices and incorporate
them into their own operating policies and procedures. The organiza
tion has reconfirmed its commitment to be a voice with and on behalf of
womenandgirlsin the justice system. Kim frequently quotes Lilla Wat
son, an Aboriginal woman from Australia whose words were intro
duced to her by Gayle Horrii when Gayle was incarcerated at the P4W:
“If you’ve come here to help me you’re wasting your time. If you’ve
come here because your liberation is bound up in mine, then let us work
together.” Gayle comments: “Because of Kim, Federally Sentenced
Women have a voice. She is clearly responsible for including our
voices, and different voices. It was because of Kim that Federally Sen-
tenced Women were at the Arbour Commission meetings.” Expressing
similar sentiment, Dorothy Proctor asserts that CAEFS was the first
group to come into solidarity with her in her law suit against the Cana-
dian government, and that Kim provided her with immense assistance
andsupport. She states: “I benefittedsomuchfrom Kim’s humanity and
understanding, and not just as a representative of Elizabeth Fry, but
Kim Pate as an individual in solidarity with me.”
Ongoing Efforts to Address Critical Issues
As the primary representative of the CAEFS membership, Kim’s po
sition involves establishing and addressing several priority issues each
year. Areas she is currently addressing reflect the state of affairs for
women involved in the Canadian criminal justice system. Three key is
sues Kim currently faces in dealing with the criminal justice system are
presented. First, Kim continues to challenge mandatory minimum sen
tencing laws in Canada. Similar to the United States, mandatory mini
mum sentences for murder in Canada produce extraordinarily long
sentences of incarceration. Compared with international standards,
Canada falls just behind the United States by having the second longest
average sentence for first degree murder (28.4 years), while the average
sentence served among other nations is 14.3 years (CAEFS 2000). The
position of the CAEFS network is to abolish the mandatory minimum
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sentence of life imprisonment, recognizing the realities experienced by
battered women who defend themselves and others with lethal force.
Recent evidence of Kim’s notable work was her invitation as the only
Canadianto attend the 2002 National Clearing House forthe Defense of
Battered Women working group meeting in Philadelphia on the overre
liance of the battered women’s movement on the criminal legal system,
including the role of mandatory minimum sentences.
Second, community release issues continue to be an area of extreme
neglect by the federal correctional system in Canada. There remains the
absence of a national community reintegration strategy for the provi
sion of community release or supervision options for federally sen
tenced women. To illustrate the desperate need for attention to this area,
there are currently no women-only day parole opportunities for feder
ally sentenced women west of central Canada. In Kim’s extensive pub
lic speaking efforts, heightened awareness of and mobilization to
address this are repeatedly sought.
And third, the criminalization of women with mental and cognitive
disabilities is a growing concern. In fact, it is an integral component of
the mentioned Human Rights complaint put forth by CAEFS. Physical
and mental disability are included in Section 17 of the regulations of the
Corrections and Conditional Release Act as factors which must be con-
sidered in determining security classification. To address this issue,
Kimputsforththat using the need of mental health treatment as a reason
to classify women as maximum security imposes harsher treatment on
such women. Further, there is an overrepresentation of Aboriginal
women classified as having serious mental health concerns; conse
quently, these women are classified as maximum security offenders and,
in turn, do not have access to the Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge or the
other regional federal prisons for women due to their high security clas
sification. On behalf of CAEFS, Kim continues to pursue opportunities
to challenge the increased criminalization of women.
Kim credits the foundation of her effective work at CAEFS to other
Canadian feminist and social activists with whomshe has and continues
to work in cross-country coalition alliances, such as Lee Lakeman,
Anne Derrisk, Gayle Horrii, Karlene Faith and the late Clare Culhane.
Kim identifies her solid and encouraging relationships with other activ
ists as an imperative source of support and education. Likewise,
Karlene Faith comments of Kim: “I have an image of all the women
prisoners’ rights activists in Canada forming an ever-expanding circle
of informed support for new ways of thinking about women, crime and
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punishment. At the very center of that circle is Kim Pate. We all de
pend on her.”
Kim has equally been mentored by women who have shared their
experiences of imprisonment with her, in particular Gayle Horrii,
Jo-AnnMayhewandLisaNeve. And as others have expressed, she too
has had an imminent influence on their lives. Lisa comments: “Kim
stands for everyone. She is a strong woman. She helps us strive to be
like that. I have so much respect for her. I was in for life and it was not
clear if I was ever getting out. She still fought for me, never judged me
based on my actions. She believed in me when I did not believe in my
self. Kim is a good friend.”
Kim’s commitment to addressing the social, structural and personal
needs of women and girls in conflict with the law in Canada tran
scends from her occupational commitments into her community vol-
unteer service. Since Kim’s introduction to the merits of volunteering
in the retirement residence where she worked as a youth, she has been
an active and contributing member of her community. Since the late
1980s, Kim has been involved as an adult resource with the National
Youth in Care Network and as a supporting member of Strength in
Sisterhood. From June 1994-1998 she was a member of the National
Crime Prevention Council, appointed by the Justice Minister and So-
licitor General of Canada. Kim is also the current President and Chair
of the National Associations Active in Criminal Justice. Volunteering
time to marginalized women and children is a priority in Kim’s life.
Kim envisions her efforts to effect change for women and girls in
conflict with the law in Canada continuing into the foreseeable future.
She also anticipates a growing solidarity among community partners,
both in Canada and abroad, in addressing gender inequality and dis
crimination within the criminal justice system. And alongside Kim’s
struggle for equality and social justice, she will continue to take great
comfort and enjoyment in her family and friends, traveling, and hob
bies such as reading–with 5 or 6 books often on the go at once–biking
and volunteering in her community. Donna Maidment remarks: “What
follows on from Kim’s role as Executive Director of CAEFS is any
one’s guess. However, it is without a doubt that she will continue to
blaze trails for women’s equality and social justice reform both na
tionally and internationally. She will continue to effect change, enlist
compassion, and make progressive waves for feminist reform. It is her
very being.”
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At the conclusion of the biographical essay of Edna Mahan, who
served as the superintendent of the New Jersey Reformatory for
Women for 40 years (1928-1968) (see biography in WCJ 9(3), 1998),
the author Mary Q. Hawkes states: “Today we need leaders with the
courage to accept innovative challenges and who are not afraid to take
risks. Edna Mahan was such a leader” (p. 20). North of the American
boarder and three decades later Canada is very fortunate to have exem
plary women activists, such as Kim Pate who are dauntless in address
ing gender inequality and effecting pro-social change within the
criminal justice system. Through Kim’s efforts and accomplishments,
only partially evidenced in this essay, she has and continues to lead the
way for others in coming together for social advocacy. In Canada and
abroad, this will contribute to a strengthened social justice network and
continuation of the legacy of Ms. Elizabeth Fry.
Arbour, L. (1996). Commission of InquiryintoCertain Events at the Prison for Women
in Kingston (Canada). Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada.
CAEFS (2000). Annual Report. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Soci-
DeKeseredy, W. (2000). “Taking a Position and Staying Grounded: A Biography of
Karlene Faith.” Women and Criminal Justice. Vol. 12(1).
Dell, C.A. (2001). Correctional Service of Canada Ideology and “Violent” Aboriginal
Female Offenders. Ottawa: Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation.
Hawkes, M. Q. (1998). “Edna Mahan: Sustaining the Reformatory Tradition.” Women
and Criminal Justice. Vol. 9(3).
Pate, K. (2000). “Young Female Offenders and the Young Offenders Act.” In J. Rob
erts (Ed.), Criminal Justice in Canada–A Reader. Toronto: Harcourt Canada Ltd.
Pate, K. (1999). 50 Years of Canada’s International Milestones in Correcting Correc
tions. Canadian Woman Studies. Vol. 20(3).
Pate,K. (1999). “CSC and the 2Percent Solution: The P4W Inquiry?” Womenand Jus
tice. Vol. 19(1/2).
Colleen Anne Dell 33
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ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Edna Mahan served as Superintendent of the New Jersey Reformatory for Women for forty years (1928-1968). She rescued the reformatory tradition of separate, rehabilitative institutions for female offenders as it was beginning to flag and sustaining it into the 1960s. She served as a link with the original philosophy of female prisons and is a model for those who, today, seek to rehabilitate, not punish. She was one of the most powerful and successful of twentieth century women's prison superintendents. The article is based on my biography of Edna Mahan, Excellent Effect: The Edna Mahan Story, published in 1994 by the American Correctional Association. It draws on institutional board minutes, reports, and studies; Mahan's diaries, correspondence, and professional papers; American Correctional Association publications; interviews: and my personal acquaintance with Mahan.
Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston (Canada). Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • L Arbour
Arbour, L. (1996). Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston (Canada). Ottawa: Public Works and Government Services Canada.
Taking a Position and Staying Grounded: A Biography of Karlene Faith
  • W Dekeseredy
DeKeseredy, W. (2000). "Taking a Position and Staying Grounded: A Biography of Karlene Faith." Women and Criminal Justice. Vol. 12(1).
Correctional Service of Canada Ideology and " Violent " Aboriginal Female Offenders
  • C A Dell
Dell, C.A. (2001). Correctional Service of Canada Ideology and " Violent " Aboriginal Female Offenders. Ottawa: Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation.
Young Female Offenders and the Young Offenders Act
  • K Pate
Pate, K. (2000). "Young Female Offenders and the Young Offenders Act." In J. Roberts (Ed.), Criminal Justice in Canada-A Reader. Toronto: Harcourt Canada Ltd.
50 Years of Canada's International Milestones in Correcting Corrections
  • K Pate
Pate, K. (1999). 50 Years of Canada's International Milestones in Correcting Corrections. Canadian Woman Studies. Vol. 20(3).
Annual Report. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
CAEFS (2000). Annual Report. Ottawa: Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Correctional Service of Canada Ideology and "Violent" Aboriginal Female Offenders. Ottawa: Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation
  • C A Dell
Dell, C.A. (2001). Correctional Service of Canada Ideology and "Violent" Aboriginal Female Offenders. Ottawa: Unpublished Doctor of Philosophy Dissertation.