Gotta minute? (11)

If you open a window so that the people in a prison can breathe and see the sun, it is good….but it’s still a prison and still just a window.
Mahdi Abdul-Hadi

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Carding….tell them to get lost!

The Toronto Star and Globe and Mail both ran a story on May 13 about Mutaz Elmardy’s carding experience with the Toronto police in January of 2011, and Ontario Superior Court Justice Frederick Myers’ award of $27,000 in damages to Mr.Elmardy after he sued the Toronto Police Services Board and a TPS constable.

Wendy Gillis’ column in the Star, “Being carded? Judge says you can tell cops to get lost”, made the paper’s front page. It’s a frank and detailed account of the interaction between Elmardy and six police officers four years ago, and the court’s findings based on the evidence presented during the trial. What was unusual here is there were no independent witnesses and no video documentation for the court to examine.

Sean Fine’s “Toronto man wins controversial police ‘carding’ case” in the Globe and Mail is a shorter and slightly muted account of Mr. Elmardy’s experience and the ensuing court action. Nonetheless, the judge’s ruling leaves no doubt of his disapproval of the behaviour of the officers involved.

As of the date of publication in the Star and Globe, no decision had been made by the police about an appeal of Myers’ decision.

Same ‘ol, same ‘ol…….

The day after Patrick White’s April 29 Globe and Mail “Ferguson outlines parole shortcomings” story appeared, another Globe article was published under his byline. “New inmates often denied essential medications for weeks”, from the paper’s April 30 edition revealed that the delay in medical assessments for incoming inmates in the federal system was a dangerous practice with potentially serious consequences, particularly for prisoners with mental health issues.

This time, the source was an unreleased prison ombudsman investigation into the flaws with Correctional Service of Canada’s drug plan. According to Howard Sapers, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, his latest Annual Report notes that CSC is conducting a prevalence study of chronic health care conditions within the system, and he applauds what is a challenging initiative for an increasingly complex population’s health care needs.

Nonetheless, health care in the federal prison system has been an ongoing source of friction for decades as institutions struggle to stay within their budgets while inmates clamour for the attention to which the law says they are entitled. Lately, CSC is facing further budget constraints imposed by a federal government that makes no excuses for cutting funds at a time when new and expensive therapies for conditions such as Hep C offer benefits that will eventually make for healthier and safer communities.

Through all these years, and even now when faced with dire conditions threatening the health of thousands of men and women who will eventually come back into our neighbourhoods and become a burden to already overstretched health care resources, CSC has consistently tried to paint a very different image. In response to the April 30 Globe article and Patrick White’s request for a comment from Ottawa, Esther Mailhot acted as CSC’s spokesperson. She not only argued the situation was not as CSC’s own prison doctors claimed, but defended the practice of withholding some medications for the sake of offender and staff safety. This position contradicts both the evidence that these policies have negative impacts on the security of everyone in the system, but also the opinions of their own health care professionals.

Nothing seems to change. We couldn’t resist sending off a note to Ms. Mailhot:-

May 4, 2015

Ms Esther Mailhot,
Correctional Service of Canada,
340 Laurier Avenue West,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0P9

Re: New inmates often denied essential medications for weeks
Globe and Mail, Thursday, April 30, 2015

Ms Mailhot:

It’s become a striking hallmark of CSC over the twenty plus years I’ve observed the Service for management to deny, deflect and distract critics and criticisms, even when evidence is as close to irrefutable as is possible.

The sources the Globe and Mail cite warrant attention, and one would expect you to at least review the material, and go further still by dispatching a head office agent to determine the degree to which CSC policies are followed.

My own research over the years has found that health-care within the federal prison system is problematic, to be as kind as possible on the subject. I’m willing to allow that CSC looks to reexamine policy, but changes are slow in coming, and there remains a difference between what comes out of CSC Ottawa and how health-care is delivered in the trenches.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Slowly, the Wheels Turn…..An Update

Brennan requested a status report from his Montreal lawyer at the beginning of April.
With apologies for not keeping him better informed without a prompt, Stephen Fineberg replied with a lengthy and detailed two-page email on April 13. The Access to Information and Privacy Division of Correctional Service of Canada had provided nothing to him as of that date. The bottom line: “The Access office now estimates that it will complete its work soon and have such material as exists and can be shared at my office by the end of April.”

Brennan answered the next day, reminding Stephen Fineberg that the Office of the Correctional Investigator agreed with CSC’s assessment that it had acted inappropriately. The implication was that the OCI had reviewed the video tapes as well, that they do exist, and the Correctional Investigator may be helpful in providing the information. The video tapes are the most sensitive material in question and CSC’s Access office had been advised to give them their priority.

Again, Brennan contacted Montreal on May 16. Was the CSC able to meet its end-of-April target? Montreal answered immediately and briefly to say messages had been left daily with the CSC access office asking for an explanation for the delay but there had been no response. Brennan wanted more details, and asked if Howard Sapers, the Correctional Investigator might be of help.

Stephen Fineberg’s answered on May 20: “In the unlikely event that the office of CSC’s Privacy Coordinator remains invisible, I shall seek assistance from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada rather than Mr. Sapers.
The former is an official of CSC, dedicated to suppressing info. The latter is a neutral officer outside of and above individual government departments and agencies, dedicated to squeezing the info out of reluctant departmental privacy coordinators. The Privacy Commissioner is supposed to be approached on appeal from an unacceptable result from the Coordinator, but I suppose it should be possible to solicit his assistance where the Coordinator is definitely declining to act at all. Such an allegation would be premature at this point.”

The wheels turn slowly.

Omar Khadr & Elizabeth May

Well, okay, Ms. May delivered a different kind of address at Ottawa’s annual press gallery dinner on the weekend, but her apologies have been more effusive than necessary.
The media has focused on small parts of her unconventional attempt at humour, but included also her comment on Omar Khadr’s release from prison.
For us, there’s no such thing as going too far when it comes to talking about the government’s treatment of Khadr.
We sent Ms. May a short letter of support:-

May 12, 2015

Elizabeth May, MP,
518 Confederation Building,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Omar Khadr

Dear MP May:

Congratulations!

Stephen Harper is a Machiavellian Neanderthal’s anus, bartering his humanity for the few votes his Omar rants may be worth among this country’s fascist zealots. He deserves to be tossed from office, and exiled from this country. And, if his sycophantic cabinet colleagues are going to stick their heads up his butt, they can join him in Texas.

You need to go without sleep more often.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen
cc The Honourable Lisa Raitt

Omar Khadr

We have two thick files on Omar Khadr, covering just the last five and a half years. The issue as we see it has nothing to do with liking or not liking who Omar Khadr was or is, or what he did or didn’t do.

It has to do with a Canadian citizen, a minor, railroaded through an American kangaroo court in support of the discredited agenda of a foreign power with the aid of his own country. It has to do with knowing that no civilian court in the United States or Canada would have permitted any charges against Omar Khadr to stand. It has to do with a Canadian government and a Canadian prime minister complicit in the torture, abuse and mistreatment of a child soldier for political purposes. It has to do with the shame that the likes of Stephen Harper, Vic Toews, Steven Blaney, Peter MacKay, et al, have brought upon us and our country. It has to do with how they’ve demeaned the value of citizenship in it.

It’s very possible Canada will one day have to write a large cheque to satisfy a judgment in Omar’s favour. Should that happen, we’d like to see Stephen Harper brought back from exile in Texas, made to get down on all fours, that cheque clenched in his teeth, have to crawl up to Khadr, present the money to him, and kiss him on the butt.

Those two files contain a number of letters to our politicians. The latest, published below, is in response to the Globe and Mail’s May 9th “PM has no apologies for Omar Khadr.”

May 12, 2015

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper,
Prime Minister of Canada,
Office of the Prime Minister,
80 Wellington Street,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Re: Omar Khadr

Prime Minister:

Omar Khadr should never have been charged with any crime. You know that.

Omar Khadr’s U.S. appeal of his military tribunal conviction will succeed. You know that, too.

You are complicit in the torture, abuse and mistreatment of a child soldier. What do you think that makes you?

You got nothin’ but medieval Machiavellian motives for ragging on Khadr, selling your soul for a few bigoted votes.

How could you do that to yourself? How could you do that to your country?

Charles H. Klassen