Levity. Brevity.

For years Stephen Harper and his crew played politics with logic. His government’s so-called tough-on-crime agenda defied the best available evidence in the field, costing taxpayers dearly and playing to a base that, like him and his colleagues, relished the wrong side of right.

Much can be written of the damage done, the thorny path to navigate the murky maze to daylight, and the challenges to initiating more progressive solutions. In the meantime though, and given recent Supreme Court decisions, a short and pointed jab to twisted egos offered a sunny spring recess from the serious business of resetting our priorities.

April 23, 2016

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, Ontario,
K1A 0A6

Mr. Harper:

“Supreme Court rules against tough-on-crime legislation”
Toronto Star, Friday, April 15, 2016
“Supreme Court rulings signal end for Tories’ tough-on –crime sentences”
Globe and Mail, Friday, April 15, 2016
“Scrap these laws”
Toronto Star Editorial, Monday, April 18, 2016
“No longer mandatory”
Globe and Mail Editorial, Monday, April 18, 2016

And who didn’t know that reason would prevail as soon as the medievalists were booted from office.

I told ya, I told ya, I told ya…….

Charles H. Klassen

copies to: Rob Nicholson/Victor Toews/Steven Blaney

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“…..now we have the names”

From the February 28 entry this year under this category:

“The printed material Correctional Service of Canada submitted in response to our information and privacy requests has been reviewed, along with Stephen Fineberg’s translations. Most of the reports, declarations, observations, and evaluations are in French. Just as with the video discs, the delay in analyzing the 40 pages CSC released shows our reluctance to confront what is a difficult event.
Nonetheless, before we comment, further consultation with Brennan Guigue is necessary.”

Brennan saw an obvious contradiction on a first read-through, and when he did focus on these many pages later, he felt comments weren’t necessary. Everything he needed to say was put on paper on July 24, 2014 at Donnacona Institution. “Just another day on the range? The Guigue Summary”, was the first entry on ‘Justice for Brennan Guigue’, posted here on September 26, 2014. What’s important to him with this printed material is that we have the names of all involved.

From the many names on these pages, the correctional officers involved directly in this assault are Steeve Longpré, Eric Charbonneau, D. Nantel, Samuel Penka, and Jean Pratte, acting under the direction of Correctional Manager George Jean-Pierre. Tran D. Nguyen videotaped the event for about two hours. All of these men are employed by Correctional Service of Canada, they are public servants, and on July 22, 2014, they were on duty at RCC (Regional Reception Centre) in Ste-Annes-des-Plaines,
on the north edge of Montreal.

In spite of the words, sentences, paragraphs, and sections that are blacked out, and parts of reports that aren’t filled in, there are interesting conflicts. As a for instance, Samuel Penka’s observation report noted, “My role in this team was to escort prisoner after handcuffed. Prisoner resisting verbally and physically so was gassed with MK().” We have that portion of the video tape, and it’s obvious Mr. Penka ‘misremembers’ how this unfolded, although he filed his report on the same day as the event, and it was counter-signed by George Jean-Pierre.

On the same day again, Correctional Manager George Jean-Pierre filled out his portion of the Use of Force Report. Of the ten questions posed, three are of particular interest.
Total weight of canister before? g After? g (This refers to the canister of OC gas in liquid form, and it is a requirement to note how much is used each time this is deployed. CM Jean-Pierre could not provide this data without incriminating himself and his team in an illegal act of torture.)
Was the forced used necessary and proportionate to the situation at hand?   YES
Were there any violations of the law or CSC’s policies?   NO

Contrast that with the senior managers’ observations. We are including only relevant assessments.

In the section reserved for the Correctional Manager (Operations) [name, signature and date do not appear]:
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate in the situation:   NO
Any violations of law or CSC policies?   YES

Deputy Warden Cynthia Racicot answering the same questions: [section is not dated]
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate in the situation:   NO
Violations of the law or CSC policies?   YES
The deputy warden also attached a note which was not made available.

The section reserved for Institutional Head Stéphane Lalande is dated November 24, 2014.
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate to the situation:   NO
Any violations of the law or CSC policies?   YES

Robert Piorier, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Operations completed the section reserved for him on January 8, 2015.
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate to the situation:   NO
Were all health standards met?   NO
Any violations of law or CSC policies?   YES

A September 14, 2014 evaluation of the event by Anik Desgagnés, a representative of the institution, was circumspect in its criticism, given its own employees were involved. He contradicted the video evidence at one point, but acknowledged there were “failures.” One paragraph here is blacked out, but continued, “I conclude the staff did not use a good management strategy with respect to the situation…….”

The Regional evaluation was received on December 3, 2014, but the entire section has been withheld.

The National evaluation was submitted on January 6, 2015 by Stéphane Descroches, and noted the status of the evaluation was ongoing and the “file remains open.” This report began by disagreeing with the evaluation and intervention by the institution. Three sections are blacked out. In the end, “…we conclude that the MGS (situation management model) was not respected and the use of inflammatory agents was not justified. The behaviour of the prisoner represented no threat for him of our agents.”

There was further information we requested where CSC simply dismissed the necessity of including it in the package.

Remember, what happened to Brennan Guigue should not be seen as an isolated incident, that all involved are civil servants paid from the public purse, using your tax dollars ( You pay for their underwear! ), and that all are undoubtedly still employed by your government.

Jail health care? Ontario, challenge this!

If the health care unit in Toronto South Detention Centre, Ontario’s 2 year-old superjail located in the southwest corner of the city, was moved to a location outside the institution, let’s say two kilometers or so away at the corner of Islington and Evans Avenues, and was open to the public, it would be a health care clinic threatened with a criminal investigation.

Strong words, yes, and not the first time we’ve addressed the subject. Ameliorating this critique if only a little, it may be unfair to single out this one penal institution when other provincial jails are comparable. TSDC, though, is supposed to be the end-all and be-all for custodial management in Ontario, and is an easy target.

While we are unaware of how jails in other provinces and territories stack up, we can speak to health care in our federal prisons under the domain of Correctional Service of Canada. This won’t be a lengthy analysis of any shortcomings to the health care our prison populations can access, but rather challenges bureaucratic misrepresentations of the quality of care in Ontario and federal institutions.

Prison populations have higher rates of mental health issues, substance abuse and communicable diseases than the community at large. This circumstance has been a constant, and subject to numerous studies. Fiona Kouyoumdjian, a postdoctoral fellow with the Centre for Research on Inner City Health of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, has recently released the first-of-its-kind comprehensive portrait of prisoner health across the country. Nothing in this paper is new to jail/prison administrators, but the ‘party line’ everywhere has always been that inmates get the same level of health care as the general population.

This just isn’t true. Not only that, but these same administrators know it.

To cite only one example in the federal penal system, we had an ongoing letter exchange over a few years with an inmate in Agassiz, British Columbia. He was diagnosed with testicular cancer at one point during his sentence, and had to retain his lawyer and take Correctional Service of Canada to court in order to get the surgery he needed and the necessary after-care.

As for Ontario, we’ll go into more detail. Mary Dwyer is the current manager of health care services at the Toronto South Detention Centre. She came to our attention when she testified in early February in an action by a TSDC inmate looking for redress from the lack of proper medical care in the institution, particularly during lockdowns which are rampant there. Lauren Callighen, a spokesperson for the ministry, when asked for a comment, said, “We work hard every day to ensure that inmates receive the same access to health care in our institutions as they would in the community.” I believe firefighters were then called to her office to extinguish the flames from the lightning strike.

The court’s decision is pending in that case, but we contacted Mary Dwyer for another inmate in a similar situation at TSDC. This particular inmate had more than one health concern but of immediate import was an infected pre-molar in his fourth quadrant. He had been able to pierce the infection with a sharpened staple and was able to drain the puss every couple of days. He made two requests to see the dentist, plus a dental referral was placed in his file by a doctor at the institution. It still took almost four weeks before he got some attention. The inmate was put on penicillin for seven days and then left for another two weeks before he saw the dentist again, and the infection returned in the meantime. This has been ongoing now since the beginning of February.

I pointed out to Ms Dwyer that, in the same situation, she would have seen her dentist the day an infection became apparent. Nonetheless, her email response to mine included this: “I can say that the Toronto South Detention Centre takes the healthcare concerns of all inmates in our care very seriously.”

Consider that the Ontario Ombudsman’s 2014-2015 Annual Report noted there were 2138 health care complaints from inmates in Ontario’s jails during that reporting period. Consider that not all healthcare complaints end up crossing the ombudsman’s desk. Consider that, unlike the federal system where there is some recourse for prisoners, Ontario’s inmates have no substantive remedy other than the courts.

We did indicate this wouldn’t be a long analysis, didn’t we. Lengthy this may be, but an analysis it is not. There’s one more thing we’ll add, just for comic relief, if that’s possible.

The TSDC inmate with the abscessed tooth? In one of his requests to see a dentist, he had described how he was able to drain the infection with a sharpened staple and thereby avoid the pain that normally accompanies this kind of condition. About two weeks after submitting that request, a Sergeant Tsonga showed up at his cell to ask for his “weapon”. The institution’s security department had sent her to retrieve the staple! No kidding!

All this is but one indicator that a person consigned to a provincial jail in Ontario is no longer in Canada!