Et tu, Trudeau, et tu?

……continues from May 21.

Our civil service is an important and crucial component in developing and executing the programs and policies laid out through the democratic legislative process our politicians have promised to deliver. As cumbersome as it often appears to be, its role is a fundamental necessity, and any criticism must be tempered with the gratitude it and our public servants are owed.

Why then does the work of governing a country like Canada most often move at such a glacial pace, and more, that outcomes are so frequently not what we want, expect and anticipate? Our politicians themselves are sometimes baffled by the difference between where they began with a proposition and what resulted at the end of the process.

On the one hand, Mr. Trudeau and his ministers are purposed to institute programs they believe are necessary and in the best public interest. On the other, the bureaucrats and mandarins who surround these elected representatives and people their staff, and have been a part of the civil service under different governments, know they will outlast current fashion. They have answered to other masters in the past and will be responsible to still more in the future. Their perspectives and priorities and biases may differ from the government of the day. What to do? What to do?

Within a set of parameters, the civil service is a power onto itself, a government within a government, ruled by dynamics and protocols developed over time to manage what it sees as the true calling of men and women dedicated to efficient governance. We’ll example the Minister of Public Safety, and the quandary around reforming the use of solitary confinement in our federal prisons.

Ralph Goodale tells Toronto’s Globe and Mail in its May 9th article, “Ottawa fails to act in time to stop lawsuit on segregation”, that the government is not stonewalling on segregation reform and is “hard at work at the various options that could serve to achieve the objective.” He further says legislation “may well be” part of the plan. Meanwhile, supporters of change have argued all along that legislation is the only path to reform, after years of recommendations by any number of sources that have been shunted aside.

A cabinet minister’s resources are under constant stress and in great demand. Mr. Goodale’s principal private secretary organizes his schedule, taking numerous priorities into account, often conflicting with the minister’s personal agenda. It is up to the PPS to keep his minister safely busy and away from interfering with the smooth operation of the department under the minister’s jurisdiction.

Mr. Goodale’s permanent secretary, the senior civil servant in his office, will meet at least daily with him when the House is in session, and perhaps occasionally when it is not, to review current agenda items, update their status, and make the recommendations ministry staff have determined will offer the best outcomes for the primary stakeholders……the civil service and the government.

Mr. Goodale will tell his staff what’s on his mind and the directions he’d like to take. He will always be encouraged to be forthright, and complimented on his insight. His permanent secretary will take the minister’s comments under advisement, tell him a committee will be struck to consider the question and report back in 90 days…..or so. What comes back will weigh every conceivable consideration, particularly if red flags are raised, and cautions advised.

Of course the minister is able to convene his own committees to study particular actions, exercise executive authority, and dictate his wishes. That, however, almost never happens. His senior staff will remind him that arbitrary decisions are ‘courageous’, something no ambitious or seasoned politician wants to hear.

The last thing the Ministry of Public Safety wants is a legislated solitary confinement policy. Law can take control out of the hands of people who abhor any infringements into their domains. It will take ‘courageous’ and determined politicians to change that. They need to be encouraged.


Et tu, Trudeau?

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society were scheduled to be in court on January 3rd of this year to begin the first ever comprehensive challenge of solitary confinement practices in federal prisons. As their literature put it, “International bodies and experts, including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, have been unwilling to mince words. Solitary by any other name is still torture.”

In the middle of December last year, a judge postponed the start of the case until July 4 due to a “reasonable expectation” that federal legislation will be enacted. BCCLA and John Howard will continue to prepare their case to ensure proposed reforms meet the expected standards.

This excerpt from the March 5th post, “Segregation – a federal snapshot”, is relevant to a Toronto Globe and Mail item published last week in its May 9 edition. A letter to Justin Trudeau voices the concern………….

May 16, 2017

Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Office of the Prime Minister,
80 Wellington Street,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Re: Ashley Smith inquest recommendations

Dear Prime Minister:

Your letter to the Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould in 2015 instructed the minister to implement changes to the prison system as recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest. This included the scrutiny of Correctional Service Canada solitary confinement policies.

Justice Peter Leask of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled on May 8 that a suit by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society first brought in January of 2015 can proceed, as no legislation to reform segregation has appeared. This action, which claims solitary confinement violates Charter rights, was originally scheduled to begin in January of this year. The trial was delayed until July when your government applied for an adjournment, arguing new legislation would address the issue.

Do not let yourself or members of your government be cowed, obstructed and delayed by CSC management or UCCO-SACC-CSN(*) members. Correctional Service has had more than sufficient time to do right, and do it without government prodding. Expediency and efficiency demands Don Head and his subordinates at 340 Laurier Avenue West(*) be swept away, and replaced by progressive revisionists in some European and African countries.

You have both the mandate and the power to do just that.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

cc Honourable Jody Wilson-Raybould
Honourable Ralph Goodale

(*)UCCO-SACC-CSN is the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, representing prison guards, and 340 Laurier Avenue West is the Ottawa address of the National Headquarters of Correctional Service Canada.

The Globe’s May 9th “Ottawa fails to act in time to stop lawsuit on segregation” is an ideal example of how well-intentioned objectives are subverted by opposing agendas.

Are the prime minister and his cabinet falling prey to the same tactics that have thwarted government innovators since the dawn of democracy?

We’ll examine how this works next time……

“Medication is a privilege, not a right.”

So said a nurse to an inmate a few years ago at the now-closed Toronto West Detention Centre.

There isn’t a provincial or federal jurisdiction in this country that would not tell us millions of dollars are spent every year on health-care needs in our jails and prisons. Tending to the physical and mental health of offenders is a top priority in the penal systems, and every option is explored to ensure timely resolutions as conditions dictate.

Why then is health-care the most consistent source of inmate complaints across the country?

Millions, no, tens of millions are spent annually to provide medical services in our institutions. Not long ago, Ralph Goodale, the federal minister responsible for Correctional Service of Canada, noted that $77-million was earmarked for mental health services in the federal system alone. Lots of our money is spent, but where are the benefits?

A point we can’t overlook is the difference between how we in the community access medical attention, and how prison inmates look for help. We have doctors and dentists to call, walk-in clinics, trauma centres, and 24-hour-a-day help lines. Generally, the more urgent the need, the faster the service. Even the pesky toothache can be dealt within 24 hours, or less.

Inmates, on the other hand, are put on lists for medical attention, fill out forms, and look for help by speaking to nurses during daily rounds. Unless in an emergency, meaning a critical and potentially fatal circumstance where outside intervention is necessary, inmates wait. And they wait. And they wait. It’s not unusual for that wait to continue for weeks and even months. To quote from Daz Dreisinger’s “Incarceration Nations”, “….knowing the circumstances of your oppression and being powerless to do anything about it—that’s torture.” Ergo, more complaints.

Yet, no prison/jail official will easily admit to failures in providing “timely resolutions.” All the same, examples proliferate. There’s the inmate in British Columbia whose lawyer took Correctional Service of Canada to court to force treatment and surgery for a cancer. Then, there’s the prisoner in Kingston Penitentiary a few years ago who waited seven months to see a dentist. Or, Mary Dwyer, head of health care in Ontario’s Toronto South Detention Centre, who testified at a legal action two years ago that she had never heard of any problems with the delivery of care at TSDC, and hadn’t read any newspaper reports to the contrary, but insisted that newspapers are not accurate in any case (a real Trumpist assertion, that).

As a rule, the incarcerated have higher rates of ill-health than the general population and therefore place a greater demand on available resources. Mental and emotional health issues affect a high percentage of inmates, and while medications are available and prescribed, counselling services are almost non-existent. Band-aids for symptoms are only the first step towards addressing mental illness and emotional stressors.

Until recently in Canada, the health-related needs of offenders were administered by the ministries responsible for the operation of our penal institutions, rather than our health ministries. “To suggest correctional authorities should provide health care is like saying plumbers should do your electrical work”, is how Ruth Elwood Martin, a family doctor and clinical professor at the University of British Columbia, put it.

This also means, among other things, that the cost of health care in our jails and prisons is a budget line, subject to what controls are necessary to keep costs in line. And, keeping costs in line affects management performance bonuses. So, health care for prisoners is dictated more by what resources are available rather than what resources are needed.

Times are beginning to change though. Alberta and Nova Scotia recently placed prison medical care under their health ministries. British Columbia will join them on October 1st of this year. Howard Sapers, the former federal prison ombudsman, and now reporting to Ontario on changes to its segregation policies, suggested Ontario do the same in the province’s institutions. Correctional Service of Canada has been encouraged for years to partner health care with the provincial systems.

The college of Family Physicians of Canada released a position statement in March asking Ottawa, the provinces and territories to act as B.C., Alberta and Nova Scotia have. In 2003, the World Health Organization called on nations to follow the lead of Norway, Britain and France, and deliver inmate health care through their respective ministries of health.

Jurisdictions that have made the switch report lower recidivism, improved file-sharing, greater participation in studies, more robust statistical monitoring and better treatment of TB, HIV, hepatitis C, and STDs.

Why should we care about this? No, why should we insist on change? A better response to the physical and mental health needs of the incarcerated translates into lower crime rates, and lower costs overall. Remember, these men and women in our institutions will one day return to the community.

This is a win-win issue!

A day in the life…a conclusion…of a sort…

… Toronto South Detention Centre

Brennan Guigue is now sitting in segregation. The staff members involved have not followed sanctioned procedures, they know that but don’t care. There is no level of accountability, no transparency, and no concern for adherence to their oaths of office.

To continue………

Let’s jump back to Monday, February 22, for a second.
I was admitted to segregation at around 11am. Seven hours later, CO McCormick shows up to inform me that upon conducting a search in my cell, he found three items of contraband: l, “brew”, 2. tobacco-like substance (dried banana peel), 3. metal spring.

When Sgt. Tsenga and CO McCormick came into my cell in the morning, they came right into my cell. There was no indication of “brew”, there was no smell, nothing. The dried banana peel was chewed up and resting in a bowl out in plain sight. Why would I think to hide it? It’s only dried banana. As for the metal spring, where the hell am I gonna get a spring from? Nuts!

When I left my cell 7 hours earlier, there was NOT a “brew” in my cell. When my cell was searched at 4 – 4:30am that very morning, there was no “brew” in my cell. Between then and when I left my cell for segregation, I was not ever out of my cell (locked).

When I mentioned this to Sgt. John Edgington, he implied that some inmates figure putting down a “brew” right after a search is the perfect time.

Fair enough.

I put in a request to question the CO making the allegation, as is my RIGHT.
I had three simple question to ask him:
1. You say you found “brew” in my cell?
2. What constitutes a “brew”, as far as you know?
3. How do you know it was “brew” that you found?

He (McCormick) came to my cell accompanied by Cpt. Sellick, Sgt. Edgington, and one other CO as a witness.
I asked my three questions.

His answers were:
1. “Yes, I found a bag of ‘brew’ in you cell.”
2. “A brew is usually juice, water, sugar, bread & some fruit put together to make home wine”
3. “I knew it was home wine because I could smell its fermentation; it was rancid.”
So, you’re saying that it was definitely fermented? “Yes.” “OK, thanks.”

My argument is this:
There is no way that I could put together a bag of water, juice, bread (yeast), sugar and fruit, having NOT ever been out of my cell from the time of the early morning search, and when I left for segregation….and have it ‘ferment’ to a state of rancidness. It’s impossible to ferment it by that process in five hours. It needs at least a couple of days to ‘turn-over.’ Sgt. Edgington supported this logic as he professes to have a small home micro-brewery. He knows the process. I further argued that since the ‘servers’ (inmate trustees of a type) were out on the range, my cellie could’ve had it passed to him through the door hatch. After ALL of my explanations, and reasonable arguments….., Cpt. Sellick found my guilty of all allegations. Sentenced to another 10 days, but on LOAP (loss of all privileges).

Why did I even waste my breath?

Here we have a “hearing” (yeah right, a hearing is supposed to imply there’s a 3rd impartial and unbiased party adjudicating over the proceedings….., no?) I present my arguments… now here I sit 20 days in segregation, I. for an assault I didn’t commit, 2. and for a “brew” I knew nothing about.

To make matters worse, Sgt. Edgington took it upon himself to begin my LOAP sentence immediately (it’s not supposed to come in effect ‘til the 5th, I’m writing this on the 2nd and my LOAP began on he 1st. So then, I should be done on the 14rh, right?

So finally, after a week of all this bullshit, I finally snap. I tell Sgt. Edgington that neither he nor any of his staff have any integrity. I call him a piece of shit and mock for teaching his children to be honest and truthful, and then he comes to work and turns into an asshole……hypocrite! I ranted and raved for a week’s work of frustration and ill treatment. It lasted about 20 minutes before I was able to calm down.

Now today, the 2nd, I cannot get anything from the staff. No lawyer’s call. No request forms. No envelopes. NOTHING!

I got some toilet paper, but it took three hours of “please and thank you” and even then it was given begrudgingly.

So now I’m sitting in segregation, no mattress, no telephone, no shower, no envelope for lawyer’s letters. NOTHING. All because of things I did NOT do. By the way, Sgt. Boccega found me guilty on the assault misconduct after she took into account staff comments.

Who was the “staff” in question?…….Guess.

Why, CO Casciani with a grudge against me for not allowing her to bully me.
Hey….I dropped out of high school in grade 10. While I was there, I was one of the ‘cool’ kids…my, how the mighty have fallen.

Someone should tell CO Casciani that just because she had no friends or voice in high school, she does not have the right to take it out on us. Does she feel so inadequate, or insecure, that she feels it necessary to come to work and beat us down, just to give herself a sense of importance?
How pathetic is that!

I feel sorry for her.

Yes! I’m venting.

P.S. Let me tell you about doing time in the ‘hole’ at the Toronto South Detention Centre. Just one thing can sum it up, maybe two…..

First, you have guards laying fabricated misconducts which are then investigated by other guards, THEN yet another guard adjudicates the inmate arbitrarily, finding him guilty, and then that same guard passes down a sentence.

That’s like cops investigating cops….and we all know how that usually goes.

Secondly, now you are in segregation serving your sentence. LOAP means that you get nothing but the barest minimums, a “low mattress” (it’s no more than a padded blanket), 2 blankets, toilet paper, only religious books – Quaran, Bible, etc., MAYBE a pencil and paper. I was lucky to have already had these things.

Get this. Every day with every meal we are given a hot beverage of some sort….coffee, tea, powdered juice packet, sugars, and powder creams. But here’s the joke….NO CUPS. Then when these things build up in your cell….they accuse you of hoarding, which is yet another violation of the rules, and open to contraband misconducts.

Cool, eh?


…..written by Brennan Guigue, and dated Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Editor’s note: This is only one incident with one inmate in one Ontario penal institution. It speaks for itself. There will be more to come in time, but what’s in the last three posts could be repeated endlessly with numerous prisoners. Brennan Guigue has chosen to share what he’s witnessed, what he’s had to accommodate. His voice echoes through the ranges of Ontario’s many jails, and the corridors of the ministry’s building on Grosvenor Street in Toronto. Who’s paying attention?
A note of one recent change by the ministry. LOAP (loss of all privileges) was a medievalist measure, punitive and counterproductive… October 17, 2016 directive ended the practice. Compliance is anticipated.