Regional Ethnocultural Advisory Committees (REACs) are an essential part of the Correctional Service of Canada’s efforts to help ethnocultural offenders reintegrate successfully into the community. REACs provide advice to CSC about programs, services and interventions designed to meet the needs of ethnocultural offenders and help CSC staff, volunteers and the community learn about their unique needs and cultural interests.
Sophia Brown Ramsay is Vice-Chair of the Ontario REAC, and like all REAC members, she takes on this important advisory role as a volunteer.
Sophia began her career in the criminal justice system working with young offenders and women and is now the Community Development Manager at the Black Community Action Network of Peel (BCAN). Sophia works to promote equity and address gaps in services available to marginalized people by building connections between ethnocultural community leaders, non-profit agencies, governments, and grassroots movements. She also facilitates workshops where she helps participants learn to focus on their goals in order to achieve their desired outcomes.
In 2015, Sophia led the launch of a BCAN position paper, Pathways and Prevention of Disproportionalities in the Child Welfare System, which examined and made recommendations to address the overrepresentation of African Canadians in the child welfare system.
As part of its study on the issues relating to the human rights of prisoners in the correctional system, Sophia recently appeared before the Senate Committee on Human Rights where she spoke about the importance of addressing the overrepresentation of ethnocultural, particularly Black, offenders in the Canadian correctional system.
Working with REAC, Sophia has already started taking concrete action to address the needs of African Canadian offenders. The Ontario REAC has partnered with community organization the Tabono Institute to create a mental health initiative for African Canadian inmates. They also launched an initiative called “Resilience and Mental Toughness for African Canadian Inmates” which provides an Afrocentric approach for African Canadian inmates preparing to reintegrate into society.
Sophia says that Canada must make amendments to legislation “so that we may address the history of enslavement, racial segregation, and the marginalization that Black Canadians have experienced in society and the justice system. It is our responsibility to ensure that everyone is given the same opportunity as it is not just our generation that we must care for but future generations to come.”
Sophia has also mentored young offenders, including Natalie Charles, who also appeared before the Senate Committee on Human Rights. Ms. Charles told the committee that when she was incarcerated as a young woman, working with Sophia and “speaking about the fact that I am this phenomenal person, and I can be this person if I just choose to change my life” made her realize she “didn’t want to get in trouble anymore.” In June 2018, Ms. Charles graduated from Sheridan College’s paralegal program and was presented the college’s Passion for Law and Advocacy Award.
Sophia has been recognized for her community work with the Role Model Black Canadian Award, the JunCtian Excellence in Diversity and Community Impact Award, and the Legacy Award for Deduction, Vision and Leadership in Community. Her wide-ranging experience in community work is the foundation of her important contribution to NEAC and the Ontario REAC, committees that she believes have the opportunity to implement lasting changes for future generations.