About us

Our goals and objectives, history, team, locations and more.

Goals and Objectives

  • To promote and advance the physical, mental, and spiritual development of inmates in Canada through the practice of meditation and yoga
  • To support meditation and yoga teachers who offer classes in correctional facilities
History of Freeing the Human Spirit

Our Beginnings

Sister Elaine MacInnes started a charitable organization called Freeing the Human Spirit (‘FTHS’) in 2003. This followed a career where Sister MacInnes, a member of the Our Lady’s Missionaries Order, had been serving as a Catholic nun in the Orient for 32 years. She became an advocate of the benefits of meditation and yoga for prisoners: for political prisoners in the Philippines during the Marcos regime; with the Prison Phoenix Trust, which organizes such instruction in over half of the United Kingdom’s prisons; and latterly in the Canadian prison system through FTHS. Sister MacInnes, an accredited zen teacher, and an officer of the Order of Canada, managed to establish FTHS in 28 prisons, largely in Southern Ontario, before she retired in 2013, at the age of 89, to her Toronto convent, where she continues to meditate every day.

History of Freeing the Human Spirit

A Period of Change

In 2013, seeking the best possible means to carry on and expand the good work to more prisons in more regions, she handed the reins over to the John Howard Society (‘JHS’), who saw an opportunity to support a positive program that fell within its mission to deliver ‘effective, just and humane responses to the causes and consequences of crime’. Further, the organizational infrastructure and breadth of operation of JHS would permit an efficient expansion of the program beyond its Southern Ontario base.

Sadly, the loss of Sister MacInnes’ advocacy and passion; volunteer fatigue; and the organizational challenges and costs of the FTHS program, led to a deterioration in the breadth of the FTHS services from 2013 to early 2019.

However, there continues to be service delivery of meditation and yoga in a variety of institutions, both in association with FTHS/JHS but also services initiated under FTHS but now delivered rather independently by those teachers who started with FTHS some time ago, but who have lost the connection to FTHS. A comprehensive reach-out to those volunteer teachers has generated a widespread enthusiasm and encouragement to rebuild the organization.

History of Freeing the Human Spirit

Time for Revitalization

Two new teachers of the meditation and yoga program in prison, are Richard Boadway and Dan de Luis. Richard is a zen practitioner and a recently certified yoga teacher. Dan is a professional yoga and Wim Hof teacher. Together, they began teaching in three Kingston-area federal penitentiaries-Bath, Millhaven and Joyceville. They were struck by the thankfulness of the inmates and their dedication to practice.

President’s Letter
A bit about the team

Organization

Richard and Dan became passionate about the mission of bringing the benefits of teaching yoga and meditation to more inmates across Canada through the reinvigoration of purpose and enthusiasm in FTHS. Richard spoke to several inmates, teachers, chaplains and to Sister Elaine before preparing a business plan for a renewed FTHS. This plan was presented at a meeting of the board of FTHS on April 2, 2019 and the board agreed to present a new board slate at the ensuing Annual General Meeting on the same date. On April 23, 2019, the new board met and appointed Richard as its President and Chair.

The new board draws on the experience of its members in yoga, meditation, wellness and criminal justice. Three board members with experience in criminal justice, both at FTHS and the John Howard Society (‘JHS’), remained on the board: Catherine Latimer, Janis Aitken, and Pamela Smith-Gander. Two more new members were added, in addition to Richard and Dan: Peter McRae, a lawyer and zen practitioner, who had been involved in teaching meditation in Bath prison; and Dr. Andy Thomas, a doctor, holistic wellness advocate and certified yoga instructor. Finally, Mary Lou Howarth, who is Financial Manager of JHS, has agreed to serve as Secretary-Treasurer of FTHS.

Richard Boadway, P.Eng, ICD.D

President and Chair

Catherine Latimer

Director

Dan de Luis

Director

Pamela Smith-Gander

Director

Janis Aitken

Director

Andy Thomas

Director

Peter McRae

Peter McRae

Director

Mary Lou Howarth

Mary Lou Howarth

Secretary and Treasurer

Locations