A Voice in the Wilderness……

……FROM BEHIND THE WALLS.

Worth repeating:

“The security features inherent to federal correctional facilities are designed to keep people in as much as they are to keep people out. As a result, the management of the federally-sentenced population is largely conducted away from public scrutiny. Invisible to the general population, federally-sentenced persons are often forgotten.”
The Senate of Canada, Human Rights Committee, Interim Report, February 2019

Brennan Guigue composed a testimony earlier this year from confinement in Millhaven Institution near Kingston in a letter addressed to no one….but intended for all. There is much to say about the cloistered reality of life under a penal system that is often cited as correctional in name only, and from a prison that is little more than a barren warehouse, desolate of hope.

In this first excerpt, inmate Brennan Guigue begins:-

“I am not sure to whom I should address this letter, nor am I certain that anyone will take up our cause.” He than references the proprietor of turnoverarocktoday.com as saying, “everyone loves to pick on inmates….to be tough-on-crime,” and describes the site as “a place he has created as a means of getting his opinions ‘out there’. He writes a lot about the hypocrisy of our democracy, as well as the incorrectness of Canada’s Correctional System (federal & provincial). How, through person experience, he has come to see that though the various media pages produced by these entities ‘talk’ a good game about justice, reform, and rehabilitation, the reality of what is really happening ‘behind the walls’ is truly a contradiction.

I guess that this letter is simply about venting some of the frustrations I live with as there seems not to be many other options available to me. Contrary to popular (mis)conception, prison is not all weight-pits, and video games. There are very real issues affecting the state of inmates in this country, issues which impede the desire of a society which claims to want better, healthier, contributing citizens to be reintegrated back into communities. How can this be true when the reality of the situation is so dismal? Did you know that inmates at Millhaven Maximum Penitentiary spend on average 20-22 hours a day locked up in their cells? Did you also know that there are absolutely no social development programs currently offered at the institution? So basically, inmates are expected to just vegetate in their cages until the powers that be see fit to allow them to move on. Tell me how much spiritual, emotional, or moral growth does one expect to happen under these conditions? As much as many of those in ‘society’ would like to lock us all away, that simply is not going to happen. Most of us will be getting out into your communities……like it or not. Now, I am not saying anything that hasn’t already been said many times over. Nor do I believe that what I will say is likely to have any real effect on what people think or say on the issue of ‘prison reform,’ but I’m gonna say it anyway.

The issue I want to speak about at the moment does not seem like such a big deal on the surface, but like most things with CSC, it is poorly thought out. However, policy makers don’t really care to think it out; it doesn’t have to make sense. After all, who’s gonna notice, who’s gonna care should anyone notice?”

……will be continued.

THE POLICE – What’s new in Montreal?

…..picking up from the October 23 posting.

Police in Montreal seem somehow different than in Toronto. Are Montreal cops less retrained, more aggressive, militaristic and cocky, as if there is an ultra-alpha police culture at work in the force? At the same time, self-ennoblement allows a level of benevolence missing elsewhere. Or do we in Toronto miss subtle cultural influences that are only perceptual?

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In the early 1960s, the writer befriended a family transplanted to Toronto from Montreal when the husband’s employer promoted him to a position in their Bay Street head office. The couple, originally from the Maritimes, moved to Montreal for a job opportunity and raised a family there. Driving in downtown Toronto one day and passing a police traffic stop, this man recalled a Montreal habit he abandoned after arriving in Toronto. Montreal drivers, he said, were wise to tuck a five-dollar bill into their wallets with their license. That sometimes avoided a summons if the police pulled them over.

Later, in the mid-1970s, while visiting a Toronto friend living in Montreal, the writer was driven on a tour of the old city. Slowly cruising downhill on a quiet Sunday morning, the distracted friend didn’t notice a red light and braked as the car skidded into the intersection. He had no choice but to coast through the intersection; luckily there was no opposing traffic, but a police cruiser was parked at the opposite curb in full view of the infraction. We continued cautiously and slowly, the cruiser did not move, and finally the friend said quietly, “You must remember that in Montreal, red lights are only a suggestion.”

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“The Montreal police force engages in systemic racial profiling that targets Arab, black and Indigenous people, a report by independent academics and commissioned by the city has found.”

So began the account by Montreal reporter Les Perreaux published in Toronto’s Globe and Mail on October 8, referring to a comprehensive study released the day before.

Described as the most exhaustive study of police racial profiling in Canada, sociologists Victor Armory and Mariam Hassaoui along with criminologist Massimiliano Mulone assembled data from tens of thousands of incident reports from 2014 to 2017. They found police stops increased 143 per cent during those years, even though the level of crime in the city remained constant. Indigenous people and Arabs accounted for most of the increase. Overall, black people are four times more likely to be stopped than whites, indigenous people 4.61 times more likely, and an Arab person twice the rate for a white person.

Black and Indigenous advocacy groups have been calling for action on racial profiling for years, and a Quebec inquiry on Indigenous people released at the beginning of October supported the claim of “systemic discrimination” against that community. As the Perreaux article continued, “Other advocates were startled by the scope of the problem, which has not improved after a series of incidents, reports and police promises over a decade.” Instead, the Montreal police force has denied a problem exists.

With the release of this report, Montreal’s police chief and the city’s mayor have committed to take “concrete” and “vigorous” action on its recommendations, and to make solutions a priority. In the meantime, various community groups have called for an end to street checks….an end to carding.

Quoted in the Globe, Nakuset, the director of the Montreal Native Women’s Shelter said, “We’ll see what they do this time.”

Reprise: Note there are ‘good cops’ in all police services who work in the best interests of the people they serve and respect their badges of office and what they represent. Unfortunately, that formidable police blue wall silences these men and women, shackling them to a corrupt code that challenges good order and threatens community safety.