What say you, Minister?

Matthew Hines died in the Dorchester Penitentiary on May 27, 2015. For 13 months, his family in Cape Breton believed what they were told by Correctional Service of Canada, which said that Hines, who had a history of seizures, died from a drug-induced seizure.

CSC’s press release at the time said Hines was “found in need of medical attention” and staff “immediately” performed CPR.

Correctional Service of Canada’s own internal board of investigation report was released to the family in June of this year, and among other findings, noted that correctional staff were with Hines throughout the incident and prison medical staff did not treat him. It’s likely the cause of death was oxygen starvation after Hines was pepper sprayed five times by guards, four times by one guard within one minute.

No matter the CSC policy, it is common practice for prison guards to not only target the face, but the mouth in particular. The agency didn’t comment on the particulars of these policy violations.

Not only has a coroner’s final report on the cause of death not been released after 15 months, but Gregory Forestell, New Brunswick’s chief coroner, won’t say when the information will be made available.

It’s at this point that CBC News stepped in with its own August 22nd and 24th investigative reports. Google “Matthew Hines” for two relevant entries:- “Prison guards in N.B. used ‘inappropriate’ force”, and “Public must know what happened to Matthew Hines”.

In the second posting, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale insists that allegations of inappropriate behavior be “thoroughly and transparently investigated.”

First, we wrote the New Brunswick coroner on August 24. After all, it doesn’t inspire confidence in our public institutions to have agencies from two levels of government appear to collude in withholding important information from the family and to which the public is entitled.

August 24, 2016

Gregory J. Forestell, Chief Coroner,
Office of the Chief Coroner,
Department of Public Safety, Province of New Brunswick,
P.O. Box 6000,
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5HI

Re: Matthew Hines

Dear Chief Coroner Forestell:

I am a Correctional Service of Canada ‘specialist’, which means I would defer to an ‘expert’, but have nonetheless tracked the agency for over twenty years. I characterize CSC as dishonest, abusive, morally and ethically corrupt, and a blot on the landscape of this country. Supporting evidence is plentiful, and the circumstances around the death of Matthew Hines is a recent example.

According to “CBC Investigates”, fifteen months after Mr. Hines death, your office has not submitted a final report as to the cause of death and gives no indication when it will.

One wonders why. Speculation of your reasons for the delay can only fuel a distrust of the good work your office undertakes, and misgivings for your intent. Mr. Hines family is more than entitled to know your findings, no matter the consequences.

I encourage you to act promptly.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

We made an unsuccessful attempt to reach one of Matthew Hines’ sisters, intending to encourage her to speak to a lawyer. Her voice mail was full and it’s probable she’s had all the advice needed to pursue a remedy for the ordeal her brother suffered.

Then we dropped Ralph Goodale a line.  Again, if he feels so strongly about transparency in the public service, why are we having such difficulty getting Correctional Service of Canada to produce relevant material about Brennan Guigue’s July 22, 2014 tortuous experience in Montreal.

September 19, 2016

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Matthew Hines/Brennan Guigue

Dear Minister Goodale:

“But let me be clear that there can be no tolerance for inappropriate use of force or other serious misconduct.”

This is part of the statement issued by your office Wednesday evening, August 24, referencing the death of inmate Matthew Hines at Dorchester Penitentiary back on May 27, 2015. You not only insist the public has a right to know what happened to Mr. Hines, but “any allegation of inappropriate behavior must be thoroughly and transparently investigated.”

I agree. You reserve comment because this is under investigation by Correctional Service of Canada, but it’s no secret to federal inmates that guards using OC in aerosol cans target the mouth area, violating both policy and best practice.

If this is your position with respect to Matthew Hines, it should be no different in the matter of inmate Brennan Guigue who was pepper sprayed at the Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines on July 22, 2014. Mr. Guigue did not die as a result of this assault but the actions of CSC guards are no less questionable, disturbing, and deserving of a thorough and transparent investigation….and public disclosure.

There are a very few distinctions between the two incidents. One of import is that an OC aerosol can was used on Mr. Hines while guards at the RCC in Montreal deployed an OC canister with a nozzle to ‘paint’ Mr. Guigue’s naked body with pepper spray. Extensive data is published at http://www.turnoverarocktoday.com, scroll to Justice for Brennan Guigue.

It begins with “Just another day on the range? The Guigue summary”, published on September 26, 2014; three posts later see “Material/evidence requested from CSC” from November 2 of 2014. Of particular note much later is “…..now we have the names” from April 17 of this year.

Correctional Service of Canada management confirms there were “violations of law or CSC policy” on July 22, 2014, but thumbs its nose at our attempts for disclosure. We have not had a satisfactory and complete response from CSC to our information and privacy requests, the agency is withholding incriminating video evidence in particular in spite of the alarming nature of the assault, and all staff members involved are still employed by CSC. In the meantime, the outcome of an investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is pending.

“….there can be no tolerance for inappropriate use of force or other serious misconduct.”

What say you, Minister!

Charles H. Klassen

cc Honourable Bill Morneau
Stephen Fineberg
Brennan Guigue



Hallelujah III!

A letter went to Correctional Services Minister David Orazietti back in the second week of July, commenting on conditions in Ontario’s jails that have been ongoing since the last century ….maybe longer. This letter was sparked by Health Minister Eric Hoskins’ use of an executive order in his ministry to override bureaucratic objections to a program he felt benefited Ontario, and he put it into play under his own authority. Would Minister Orazietti consider such a move to avoid protracted delays and initiate progressive measures at CSCS?

July 12, 2016

The Honourable David Orazietti,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
25 Grosvenor Street, 18th Floor,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6

Dear Minister Orazietti:

You are the latest in a long line of CSCS ministers during my almost thirty years of observing Ontario’s jails.

Liberal, Conservative, or New Democrat, all have overseen a system rife with continuing, and for the most part ignored, human rights violations and operational issues. Our courts have remedied specific complaints from time to time, like the recent award to two Maplehurst inmates, but a fundamental reboot of this ministry branch hasn’t materialized.

Yasir Naqvi, your predecessor, began a review of segregation policies, and addressed staffing concerns that lead to rampant lockdowns, the two current “flavours of the month.” Unfortunately, the policy process Mr. Naqvi initiated may meander through a bureaucratic maze for months with minimal or no progressive results. Dr. Eric Hoskins’ refreshing ‘executive order’ to begin distributing naxolone kits to at risk newly released inmates is an option you also have in your arsenal to effect changes with segregation and SHU policies.

Staff shortages continue to drive almost daily lockdowns in some institutions, but are not always related to too few guards, albeit that contributes to the problem. CSCS is now engaged in a recruitment/hiring blitz, assuming that will resolve a long-standing complaint from OPSEU. However, tucked away almost out of sight, is the matter of the number of uniformed staff who do not report for scheduled shifts, making lockdowns/partial lockdowns unavoidable.

An analysis of absenteeism might prove enlightening.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen
cc Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General

‘Courageous’ actions by politicians are rare. They are, after all, politically risky. We got what we expected from Mr. Orazietti.

And now, along has come the ‘lockdowns’ class-actions which will challenge the government to pay up, and put up, in that order. There is no short-cut or easy path to reform. After all, your governments have plenty of your tax dollars, and influence, to waylay the crusaders, “kettle” the troops in the rain ‘til the armour rusts, and all the while argue the kingdom is orderly and nothing is amiss, nothing is amiss, nothing is amiss, nothing………!

Remember too, experience tells us that just because a court supports a claim and orders restitution and action for fairness in policy doesn’t guarantee the expected and anticipated outcome. Only the vigilance of the people will have an impact.

To that end, we wanted to be heard again.

September 13, 2016

The Honourable David Orazietti,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,
25 Grosvenor Street, 18th Floor,
Toronto, ON M7A 1Y6

Re: Class-Actions

Dear Minister Orazietti:

Regrettably, you didn’t respond to my July 12th letter. Your silence could be construed as backing the status quo. My staff absenteeism in provincial jails comment, and research through information access requests indicates this is a contributing factor to the rampant lockdowns leading to the three class actions against Ontario’s government.

The suits are a start in support of reform, accountability, and transparency, although your senior bureaucrats no doubt will disagree. But then, I don’t expect otherwise when conditions in the provincial jails have been as they are for so long, and tolerated by public servants in a position to right what is so obviously wrong.

It isn’t only the tyranny of lockdowns that discredit CSCS. These institutions can be taken to task for a number of infringements of civilized and professional conduct that society at large wouldn’t accept. From the vagaries of health care, through failures to follow prescribed procedures and policies, to the malfeasance of authority to act on violations of operational practices, there is tinder enough to fuel more legal actions. To boot, inmates have no substantive recourse for redress outside the courts. Only the want of private will and resources saves the government from telling embarrassments.

You’re not responsible for this, but you are today’s CSCS point person. I am but one of thousands, if not tens of thousands, of aware Ontarians…….waiting, waiting, waiting.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

copied to:
Kathleen Wynne, Premier, Province of Ontario
Yasir Naqvi, Attorney General, Province of Ontario
Matthew Torigian, Deputy Minister, Community Safety & Correctional Services,
Margaret Welch, Assistant Deputy Minister, Community Safety & Correctional Services
Rohan Thompson, Chief of Oversight & Investigation, MCSCS
Christina Danylchenko, Assistant Deputy Minister, Institutional Services, MCSCS
Nancy Sanders, Assistant Deputy Minister, Operational Support, MCSCS
Paul Dubé, Ombudsman, Province of Ontario
Amy Dempsey, The Toronto Star
Patrick White, The Globe and Mail


Hallelujah II!

We wrote Anthony Laycock of the Criminal Lawyers Association back on April 28, challenging him, the association he heads, and its members to confront the Ontario government over its operation of the province’s jails. “Where are the angry lawyers?” was published on May 15, along with the letter and some supporting background. No response was expected, although some of you assumed one would follow, but Mr. Laycock has so far been silent.

We had an extensive exchange on the issue with a criminal lawyer who carries a large case load. It began amiably but dissolved into an unintentionally contentious debate when we appeared to question why peer relationships within the practice of law and government ministries might outweigh the best interests of clients. Quite simply, we were accused of being impertinent and insulting. So be it.

Now that class actions are in the works, we went back to Mr. Laycock. Don’t expect him to comment this time ‘round either.

September 2, 2016

Anthony Laycock, Executive Director,
Criminal Lawyers Association,
189 Queen Street East, Suite #1,
Toronto, ON M5A 1S2

Re: Provincial Jails – Encore

Dear Director Laycock:

My April 28th letter questioned the apparent reluctance by those in positions of advantage to champion reforms in Ontario’s provincial jails and initiate calls for change. I had looked forward to your comments.

A criminal lawyer with whom I discussed this admitted that conditions in the jails were troubling and difficult, but suggested I didn’t understand how the justice system functioned. On the contrary, my business career before I left to pursue other interests was dominated by the politics of business and the business of politics. I’m not a lawyer, but business relationships have similar characteristics across the full spectrum of human experience.

It’s heartening to have Superior Court Justice Douglas Gray take up the cause of two Maplehurst inmates in a May judgement against the province for excessive lockdowns. Even more impressive, the Koskie Minsky LLP filings of three class actions against Ontario are a victory for progress. The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services has had enough latitude to do its job, and should be penalized for its complacency and failures.

Your association can best serve justice by calling on its members to assist jailed clients in connecting with Koskie Minsky. This surely cannot be an onerous burden, and I encourage you to act.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen


“As many as 200,000 current and former Ontario inmates could be headed for a massive payday if allegations contained in a new lawsuit against the provincial government hold up in court.”

This is how Patrick White began his “Inmates file lockdown class-action suit” in the Tuesday, August 16th Globe and Mail. He later referenced in his article the May award of $85,000 in damages to two Maplehurst inmates for excessive lockdowns, calculating this worked out to $21,250 for every year these two men spent in custody. (See “Do your job…..or pay”, published June 19) He went on to suggest, “Scale that up to thousands, tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of inmates and the total payout could be colossal.”

Toronto-based Koskie Minsky LLP, one of Canada’s premier class-action law firms, added in its own announcement the day before, “The action alleges that endemic lockdowns arising from the Province of Ontario’s failure to properly staff its correctional institution facilities have caused and continue to cause tremendous physical and psychological damage to inmates across the Province.”

The action is open to almost all inmates who have spent time in an Ontario jail since 2002. That’s when judges first began awarding compensations in their sentencing decisions for the province’s practice of locking down ranges because of short staffing levels.

According to Jonathan Ptak, one of the lawyers involved, “We’re talking about an extremely large claim.”

The class action announced on August 15 excludes prisoners of Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre (solely with respect to their incarceration at the facility), as a separate action was filed earlier on their behalf. A judge certified this suit on August 24, allowing it to go forward.

Koskie Minsky had already announced on August 11 the commencement of a class-action against the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario alleging human rights violations relating to the treatment of immigrant detainees in Ontario’s prisons. It accuses Canada Border Services Agency and the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services of negligence, breach of fiduciary duties and violations of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by holding immigrant detainees in Ontario jails.

Current and former prisoners are encouraged to visit http://www.kmlaw.ca or call 1-866-777-6339.

Class-actions have a history of taking a long time to reach a resolution, but the wait can be rewarding for the complainants.