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REV Dr. Pierre Allrd: Crusader for Justice and Truth

Reverend Pierre Allard is the Assistant Commissioner, Community Engagement for the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC). In that capacity, he is responsible for engaging the public in ensuring the protection of society.

Mr. Allard began working with the CSC in 1972 as a chaplain at Archambault Penitentiary. In 1977, he worked as chaplain at Dorchester Penitentiary and as Regional Chaplain for the Atlantic Region. In 1987, he became Director of Chaplaincy at CSC National Headquarters.

Between 1960 and 1986, Mr. Allard obtained various diplomas from colleges and universities in Canada and the United States. In 1986, he obtained his Doctorate in Ministry from the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Illinois. In addition, in 1996 and 1998 respectively, he was granted honorary doctorates of divinity from McMaster and Queen’s universities.

For over a quarter of a century, Rev. Allard has been engaged in the spiritual sustenance of prisoners. His work has placed him at the forefront of the new restorative justice movement, which brings together communities, offenders, and victims of crime to discuss the effects of criminal acts on the community. He speaks regularly about Corrections both nationally and internationally and is a course instructor in Restorative at Queen’s Theological College.

Throughout his career, Mr. Allard has been the recipient of numerous awards in recognition of his work in the community and in the field of correctional services. Of note is the Head of the Public Service Award in 1998 and at the Canadian Criminal Justice Association congress in Halifax, June 2001, both the Good Samaritan Award and the Achievement Award.

Rev. Allard also is the President of the International Prison Chaplain’s Association (IPCA).

Chaplain Pierre Allard, Judith and Sophia

By Lloyd Mackey

SHORTER versions of this piece appeared recently in both ChristianWeek and The Hill Times. But many of the most interesting aspects of Pierre Allard’s leadership in prison chaplaincy relate to the role that his wife, Judith, and their relationship, has played. And of the many stories that Allard likes to tell, about his work, one of the best is about their firstborn daughter, Sophia.

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As he winds toward his mid-60s, it has become almost an annual event for Pierre Allard to receive a prestigious honor or award.

The latest is the Maude Booth Correctional Services Award from Volunteers of America, described in a Correctional Services Canada (CSC) press release as “a non-profit, spiritually-based organization . . . with nearly 70,000 volunteers providing . . . social services and correctional programs to 1.8 million Americans.”

Dr. Allard is CSC assistant commissioner for community engagement, a post that permits him to encourage development of restorative justice programs and community links with the federal correctional system. His present position is, in effect, an outgrowth of his three decades as a prison chaplain. From 1987 to 1998, he was CSC chaplain-general.

While Allard’s formal link with CSC will likely wrap up in a couple of years, his involvement in prison chaplaincy will continue through the International Prison Chaplains’ Association, which he and his wife, Judith, initiated a few years ago.

Their focus, for now, is on the August 19 – 24, 2005 IPCA conference, which is expected to draw up to 350 prison chaplains to the NavCentre in Cornwall, one hour south of Ottawa. Half of the attending chaplains will be from developing nations, where prison conditions and correctional philosophy differ considerably from those prevailing in Canada.

Dr. Allard mentions Judith often in his story-telling. Indeed, she has been pivotal to what he believes he has been able to accomplish in corrections chaplaincy.

He began his working life as a Catholic priest and college chaplain for several years in the late 60s.

At the time he befriended several non-Catholic Christians, including Judith. They married in the early 70s — an act which did not detract him from his sense that he had a clergy “calling”. So, he became a Baptist minister, but continued to rely on a Catholic spiritual director for spiritual counsel. And, he became a part of the CSC chaplaincy. His first posting was to Archambault Institution, in 1972.

A favorite Allard story flows from the birth of their first daughter, Sophia. Shortly after she was born, he and Judith took her to the prison one Sunday for a chapel service. At the service, 50 inmates gathered in a circle, where Judith handed off Sophia to the inmate standing beside her. Then, slowly, the baby was passed from hand to hand, around the dewy-eyed circle. When she was returned to her parents, the chaplain talked to the men about new life and a new start, suggesting that it was available to everyone, even those who are incarcerated.

That event, and the 1980 murder of his brother, Andre, have helped to shape his strong belief in restorative justice — the concept that stresses restoration of relationships between offender and victim. He is also a strong supporter of “circles of support and accountability.” This is a program especially applicable to sexual offenders who have completed their sentences. Circles of volunteers, often church-based, figuratively surround the offender, providing social and physical blockages to re-offending. Dr. Allard says the program, about a decade old, is over 90 per cent successful so far.

In commenting on the Maude Booth award, CSC Commissioner Lucie McClung notes: “His vision and his commitment stem from deeply-held beliefs in the human potential of each offender.”

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