Correctional Officer DARIN GOUGH…… Guards……#3

So read the lead of Nicole Brockbank’s CBC News posting on October 16, 2019.

Paul Saliba has an accessible parking permit due to injuries from a serious car accident.  He had permission from Correctional Service of Canada to use a disabled spot in the staff parking lot when he visited his son at the Bath Institution just west of Kingston.  On February 28 in 2017, about four months after CSC granted him use of the parking space, Correctional Officer Darin Gough cancelled his visit over an argument about parking in the staff lot.

Mr. Saliba is in his late sixties and was stopped by C.O. Gough before he could enter the prison.  A disagreement over the use of the parking spot escalated when the guard cancelled his visit and Mr. Saliba would not identify himself out of fear for retribution against his son.  Gough escorted him back to his car where he took pictures of his licence plate while Saliba reached into his car for his cellphone, intending to take a picture of the guard.  “I was going to try and take pictures of him, but I’m not savvy with that,” Saliba told CBC News.  “The next thing I know he slammed me up against the vehicle next to my vehicle.”

He believes he would have been charged for assaulting the guard had it not been for a security camera that shows C.O. Gough grabbing him by the coat and pushing him against a vehicle.  Gough insists he never touched Saliba, even after looking at the video, and claims he was “the true victim” of the altercation.  CSC investigators disagreed.  “There is no doubt (Gough) did touch Mr. Saliba, although he is adamant he did not.”

As a brief interjection, federal prison video has no audio, and it is Correctional Service of Canada’s standard operating practice to discount video evidence that does not support a CSC narrative.  What is more, and despite the finding of the investigators, neither CSC nor C.O. Gough will accept culpability for its treatment of Mr.Saliba

To move on, he reported the incident to the Ontario Provincial Police and the prison warden.  The police declined to lay assault charges against Darin Gough, and Saliba then laid a private charge against the guard following the release of the prison investigation.  In September of this year, Crown Julie Scott stayed the charge by arguing that the effort to get a conviction was not warranted, given the possible penalty.

Paul Saliba is now focusing on his civil lawsuit against Darin Gough and the Attorney General of Canada.  His $500,000 action claims C.O. Gough “concocted false criminal accusations” against him “to cover up Office Gough’s own wrongdoing” and that the Correctional Service of Canada owed him a duty of care as a visitor at their institution.  A Justice of the Peace earlier told him to exercise patience in the process, as “they protect their own.”  The first Discovery Hearing was not until December 8 and 10 of this year, with a second scheduled for late January.


Brendan Kennedy’s report in the Toronto Star, August 21, 2018

Paul Saliba almost walked away from his lawsuit against Darin Gough more than a year ago, until he came across media coverage of another incident involving Gough and a visitor to Bath Institution, this time in February of 2016.

Tammy Truesdell was visiting her husband Jason Lauzon on February 17, 2016.  She left her phone in the car; later, Darin Gough and a drug detector dog checked the vehicle in a random search.  When Ms. Truesdell checked her phone after the visit, she found an email from her security feature app.  The email was titled “someone tried to unlock your hangouts,” and included a close-up photo of Darin Gough, his face a portrait of concentration, his eyes focused and the tip of his tongue sticking out.  The phone’s security takes an “Intruder Selfie” when someone incorrectly enters its four-digit passcode twice, then emails it to the phone’s owner.

She was shocked and angry.  Visitors may be subject to a search of their person and sometimes their vehicles, but CSC guards do not have the right to search the contents of phones.  Ms. Truesdell recognized Gough as the guard who had searched her earlier in the day and spoke to her husband that evening.  He filed a complaint using the prison’s internal grievance system.

The complaint went nowhere, not surprising given that the grievance process is a sop.  Prison management discounted the photo it was given.  Gough denied trying to unlock the phone, saying he must have inadvertently triggered the security function when he moved the phone into the glove compartment so it would not be damaged by the drug dog.

Lauzon took the government to court in the face of “unequivocal photographic evidence.”  He was not suing prison officials or looking for damages, but he asked the Federal Court to review the Correctional Service of Canada’s handling of his grievance.  All he wanted was an acknowledgement of what occurred and an apology.  Lauzon’s lawyer, Paul Quick of the Queen’s Prison Law Clinic, said the case may be minor but was important, “because it clearly illustrates the dynamic that allows prison staff to commit abuses and act outside the law without fear of being held accountable.”

When Lauzon raised the matter with a supervisor, assistant warden Tim Hamilton told him if he ever wanted to be transferred to a minimum-security facility, he should “keep (his) head down, stay off the radar and don’t flood us with paperwork,” which Lauzon understood as thinly veiled threats.  According to Paul Quick, “the word of a guard will not only be believed over that of a prisoner but will be accepted over all other evidence….,” adding that “time and again” CSC is “fundamentally incapable of acknowledging wrongdoing.”  He went on. “It sends prisoners a message that it is not the law that matters, but simply power and the ability to get away with it.”

According to Brendan Kennedy’s report, “The inmate grievance was denied at each stage of the process until a judge dismissed the couple’s application for judicial review because the potential wrongdoing happened to Ms. Truesdell, a visitor, not to an inmate.”  But Justice Glennys McVeigh noted in her decision that “the idea that two incorrect four-digit codes could be imputed simply by moving a phone into the glovebox is an unlikely explanation for what occurred.”


Paul Saliba is forging ahead with his action: “The judge in Napanee was on my side and made us come back to court 8 times before Crown Julie Scott had the charges stayed.  He warned the Crown that I was passionate about this and I would not stop there if he had to stay the charges.  He was so correct!  I will not stop until we see changes.  We cannot continue like this.”

We know Tammy Truesdall and Jason Lauzon were not satisfied with the outcome of their action against the prison agency.  We do not know what their experience with the system has been since they stood up to it.  No doubt their names are red flagged.  No doubt they are subject to biased scrutiny.  Hopefully, they are alert and cautious, but not cowered.

Expect Paul Saliba to be challenged, frustrated, and oppressed as he pushes against a government service not regulated by the mechanisms of popular control.  There’s more to come.

….and, there’s still more guards to come, too.


An inmate assaulted a guard at the Ontario provincial Maplehurst Correctional Complex west of Toronto.  This happens; it’s not uncommon.  Regardless of sound arguments that some guards in provincial and federal institutions invite and coerce physical confrontations with offenders, it is not a good idea to attack staff and, understandably, criminal charges result.  And what is more, inmates who assault a guard are in turn ‘punished’ by other guards.  This should not happen either.  It’s against policy for one, and it’s illegal for another.

Let’s call this inmate Fred.  Fred’s encounter goes back several years but is illustrative of others before and since.  Fred was so savagely beaten by a group of guards and his injuries so severe that management transferred him to the old Toronto West Detention Centre, a jail the province closed at the end of 2014.  Once there, he was hidden away.  No visitors, no family were allowed to see Fred while he received medical attention and healed.

Fred’s lawyer was also barred, a major no-no.  Inmates and their lawyers meet by right.  A lawyer associated with us went into a rant when hearing of this incident, claiming that under the same circumstances he would quickly appear before a judge.  Well, on second thought, he might not do that.  Why?  Going that far could mean any future appointment to see a client in a provincial institution might just as likely as not be delayed and even abandoned.  It’s not unusual that social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists …and lawyers…with arrangements to meet with inmates, many with a court order, are sometimes left hanging in a barren small room waiting for clients.

Did Fred’s story get media coverage?  No. Were guards charged?  No.  This was one of many extreme interactions between guards and inmates, and while charges do make the news occasionally, most incidents get no attention from the media, from the ombudsman, from law enforcement or from the Courts.


Toronto South Detention Centre opened in January of 2014.  Its brief and controversial history is marked by censure from lawyers, civil liberty groups, citizen advocates, and the media.  Bad press has slowed recently, likely due to a more potent management on the one hand, and control of what information escapes the facility on the other

In 2017, an inmate is charged with assaulting two guards there, an inmate we’ll call George.  There’s video (no audio) of the incident from a camera mounted several metres away.  George is in custody on remand awaiting the disposition of charges that will eventually earn him prison time.  His lawyer might normally advise a client in this situation to plead guilty to the assaults and put them behind him.  This wouldn’t affect the outcome on his criminal charges or necessarily impact sentencing negatively, and it could even work in his favour.

But this lawyer saw something more than an assault in that video.  This lawyer saw a Charter of Rights Section 8 violation, a section that states that “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.”  This incident began when a guard interfered with George’s rightful access to property and then escalated a confrontation by pepper spraying him in the face….twice…when George objected to the obstruction.  George entered a not guilty plea.  An action on the Charter violation couldn’t begin unless the assault charges were dismissed.

In the end, the trial, scheduled for two days, was cut short midway on the second day when the judge became ill before he could rule.  He withdrew, and the Crown stayed the charges rather than start over.  During the hearing, the video evidence could have supported either side of the question, except for witness testimony and the Crown’s argument that George was guilty mainly because he had a prior criminal record, prompting doubt of George’s guilt.

The guard who initiated the incident was ex-military, not uncommon in the ranks of ‘correctional officers.’  Before the trial began he re-enlisted and was sent overseas, conveniently unavailable to the Court.  The second guard involved and a third guard close-by who witnessed the assault testified in practised unison, except for one relevant detail, and were also under observation in Court by a representative from their union.

This came off as a wash….nobody won.  So, why report it here?  Well, it illustrates daily frustrations encountered by inmates in jails and prisons that foster disrespect for their keepers and for the law.  Offenders in custody will say, “they don’t care” and “things will never change,” while advocates will argue that if guards are not a part of the correctional process, then they are a part of the problem with the correctional process.


One last example of an irritant that compromises peace in custody comes from the Toronto East Detention Centre.  This is a dirty jail.  Toronto East is a grimy, mucky, unwashed provincial jail.  The facility probably thinks otherwise, but even the large cube-like visitor waiting room and the two adjacent areas where inmates are brought to meet family/friends beg for soap, water, and….bleach.  The condition of the two visitor washrooms ranges week to week from terrible to unusable.

Jack was transferred to Toronto East awaiting trial and noted the conditions of the jail in mail and conversations.  Inmates who have visits first submit to a security check that includes leaning face-first against a wall for a pat-down, a reasonable and expected routine.  Jack had previously picked up skin infections elsewhere in the system and then had to contend with inconsistent health care.  When he was called for a visit at the East and butted his fists against that wall for a pat-down rather than the palms of his hand, guards refused to clear him.

His visitor waited two hours, inquired about the delay, was told the visit was cancelled, and left the institution.  All the while Jack was making his argument with management on what in reality was a non-issue, finally was given the okay for his visit….except by that time his visitor had left the premises.  This was nothing more than a Little Napoleon guard looking for an excuse to stir up resentment, perhaps provoke an inmate, and then complain about the difficulties and risks in his job that justify the demands his union will make in the next round of contract negotiations.


These three provincial jails are no different than others in Ontario.  The Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre in London, Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre, Central East in Lindsay, and Thunder Bay predominate significantly among them for attracting unwanted attention.  And the jails in Ontario figure no differently in the prison industry’s landscape than provincial jails in the rest of the country.

….#3 next time.

Who’s afraid of the big, bad prison guards?

WELL, IT APPEARS EVERY SERVANT OF THE CROWN in Canada from the executive through to the legislative branches of federal and provincial governments, and the judiciary to some extent, are paralyzed by the sight of the uniform worn by “correctional officers.”  Thus it has been for decades.

Let’s cite a relevant posting by CBC News on October 28 of this year:-

“CBC News cross-referenced a decade of Toronto police disciplinary decisions with all of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) investigations in which the police watchdog laid charges against Toronto police officers, and against available data on public complaints.

The review revealed that only 12 per cent of investigations where the SIU laid charges against Toronto cops have led to a disciplinary hearing decision against the officer involved in the last 10 years.

For public complaints, the numbers are even lower.  Just one per cent of complaints made to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) about Toronto police officers in the last five years has led to a disciplinary hearing.”

The CBC release did not analyze how police were disciplined at these hearings, if at all.


No, this isn’t a misplaced “Policing” posting.  That will come, but for the moment, let’s also look at an excerpt from The Senate of Canada, Human Rights Committee, Interim Report, February 2019 we’ve printed before:-

“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 gist of where this is going?  Despite some indicators to the contrary, police practices are more open to public audit than the environments in which prison/jail guards work.  If the results of complaints against Toronto police are as CBC research concluded, then where would one suppose grievances against guards end up?


Correctional Service of Canada and its provincial equivalents are bureaucracies, systems characterized by a division of labour, a clearly defined hierarchy, detailed rules and regulations, and impersonal relationships.  Not exactly an arrangement conducive to the rehabilitation of offenders.

Guards have been featured frequently here (e.g. the numerous Soleiman Faqiri entries, “Prison light switch #3” August 4, 2019, “Toronto South…..again” April 28, 2019, “Bob’s ‘Blue Wall’” November 18, 2018) and as with all else with Correctional Service of Canada and the provincial counterparts, guards will continue to attract our attention.

First, let’s define who a guard is, and how the role of a correctional officer (CO) figures into penal system operations.  The CSC site’s details could apply for all custodial agencies:-

  • guards supervise and interact with offenders
  • regularly watch for signs that the safety of others or security of the institution might be at risk
  • take appropriate security measures when necessary

Brief and broadly subjective, the functions are further defined and limited by a plethora of laws, policies, and directives.  This surfeit of regulations burdens all civil servants, and some empathy is deserved.  Regardless, right and wrong doesn’t need a handbook.


As bleak and tense as the relationship between inmates and guards is much of the time, there are occasional exceptions to the norms.  One example:-

A few inmates are out of their cells on an evening in a maximum security institution.  They’re told to lock up by guards earlier than expected.  They comply.  But, one inmate’s clothes are still in the washer.  He calls to a nearby guard, asking politely if his clothes could be moved from the washer to the dryer.  The guard puts the inmate’s laundry in the dryer.
On his way off the range, that guard stops at the cell of a seasoned long-time inmate who has motioned him over to quietly thank him for helping an inmate in need.  That older inmate knows this young and inexperienced new guard has done a good deed but will pay for it when other guards razz and dig at him for what he did.

The who’s, where’s, and when’s can’t always be put in print.  There are risks.

… installment….more guards.

Defunding prisons……


As it is now for example, Correctional Service of Canada which operates our federal prisons can’t meet its mandate for “actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens,” without more resources.  Efficacious audits underscore the failures of the system to meet the objectives of its Mission Statement.  Or, as has been argued here and elsewhere, is the health of the industry a greater priority for CSC than the success of its commission? 

Isn’t the primary assignment of everyone employed by Canada’s “correctional services” to put themselves out of a job?  Now, that’s an unrealistic ideal but it can’t be dismissed as a target.    No matter, the response from prison ranges is, “They don’t care!”  Meanwhile, Canada’s federal and provincial prison industry does not like media attention focused on inmates and what they have to say.  That detracts from their messaging.  We reviewed that issue here on November 4, in 2018 with “The Firewall…..”

A recent John Howard Society report based on prisoner accounts of life behind the walls had many common themes, many mirroring earlier narratives.  Quoting from John Howard….

  • Poor conditions that got worse in recent years, such as poor food, expensive phone calls, poor ‘pay’ for prisoners (about $3 per day after compulsory deductions).
  • Lack of opportunity to do positive things, such as improve one’s education or learn real job skills.  It’s hard to use one’s time productively in prison, which works against rehabilitation.
  • Lack of access to effective programs to address the problems such as addictions that brought people into prison.  Many prisoners feel that they are released in worse shape than when they were first imprisoned.
  • Poor health care; lack of access to doctors and medication; absence of dental care.
  • Many staff who have no interest in being positive or helpful.
  • Challenges in visiting and communication, making it hard to maintain contact with family and friends.

According to the Society there are other issues that surface like a lack of privacy, endless petty requirements, and threats of abusive treatment if staff don’t approve of behaviour.


Food is not simply a life necessity but more importantly is life affirming.  Note the 19th century axiom that an army marches on its stomach.  Likewise, if our penal systems were correctional, then a proper provisioning for inmates is basic to the process.  It comes first.  Yet, the Canadian Senate’s 2018 interim report on its study of human rights in federal prisons notes one inmate issue is that the “quality and quantity of food is severely substandard.”  Even a 2019 federal audit of institutions found major problems with prison food services and raised concerns about quality, safety, a warning of food waste, unsatisfactory meal portions, and a “food-related health event” behind the walls. 

Dr. Ivan Zinger, Canada’s Correctional Investigator, used this audit and his office’s own findings to flesh out a case study of Correctional Service of Canada’s prison food in his 2018-2019 Annual Report.  From his report, “CSC’s food services program nominally operates on a national average per diem ration rate of $6.12 per inmate per day………” 
That provides for a 2600 daily caloric intake which is recommended for a low activity male, aged 31 – 50!  Inmates argue that unless they have funds to supplement the diet with canteen food, they would ‘starve.’

More from Dr. Zinger’s report:  “Because food is so foundational to inmate health and well-being, and has other impacts on the order and security of the institution, I am publicly reporting on concerns shared with the Commissioner (Anne Kelly) regarding the findings and, in my view, omissions of this particular audit………I am particularly concerned by some very disturbing developments and adaptations that have accompanied the implementation of CSC’s food services modernization project:

  1. The significant, predictable (and undocumented) amount of ‘cook-chill’ meals that are spoiled, wasted or considered inedible on the regular menu cycle.
  2. An inadequately low (and unreliable) per diem food metric that may unnecessarily put inmate health and safety at risk in an institutional setting.
  3. The rise of food as a commodity in the parallel (or underground) inmate economy.
  4. Inmate canteens that supplement or substitute for meals or portion sizes that are unappetizing, inadequate, poor of inconsistent quality.
  5. Loss of local autonomy to address deficiencies in meal quality and quantity (e.g., running out of certain food items or meals on the service line), which increases the risk of inmate frustration, tension, protest and/or violence.”

Dr. Zinger went on to make two food recommendations to CSC, both graciously received with florid comment but ultimately bound for a file drawer.

In a comment to us, one inmate sourly noted that at Millhaven Institution, considered the worst prison in Canada, a salad with the evening meal consisted of a handful of lettuce with a packet of salad dressing.  But, when he was transferred to Collins Bay Institution a few miles away for a multi-day program, salad included radish, onion, celery, etc. along with lettuce.  But, both prisons are on the same national menu, stressing inconsistencies with the food program.


Yes, “food is so foundational to inmate health and well-being”, and just so, it is the same for everyone and anyone on Earth.  There’s no intention here to ignore world hunger by spotlighting Canadian prisoners, or federal prisoners in particular.  

There may be less hunger in the world now than a few decades ago, but we still have no excuse for allowing people anywhere to be food poor.  We produce more than we can consume but getting it to where it’s needed is a challenge, and not just that, but putting it into the hands of the people in want and getting it past the impediments that are often thrown up by unscrupulous intermediaries and corrupt governments is a cause looking for help.  A cause looking for your lhelp.

Even here in Canada, the National Zero Waste Council says we waste almost 2.2 million tonnes of edible food each year, costing us more than $17 billion.  58 percent of all food produced in Canada – 35.5 million tonnes – is lost or wasted according to new information, and about a third of that could be rescued for communities in need.  So, why are children going to bed hungry within a few blocks of where you live?  Can you spare some time?

More to come next time……..

DEFUND PRISONS!… ’bout that?

Just because the movement to defund police won’t gain traction unless people exercise the control they have by right of the power a democracy gives them doesn’t silence the call to action.

Likewise, prison reform has been a part of societal dialogue at least since the nineteenth century.  While the ebb and flow of incremental changes have benefited the effort in Canada, outcomes still don’t warrant the use of  “corrections,” “correctional,” and “correcting” in labeling what our jails and prisons are, as opposed to what they are intended to be.  After all these decades, the work goes on.

Over long years. innumerable organizations, groups and individuals have contributed voluminous and often repetitive entreaties, arguments, lawsuits, and demands for progressive initiatives to prioritize rehabilitation, recovery, and reintegration.  Ignored, denied, shunted aside, the responses spill from a yellowed and tattered ancient partisan script in use across the penal landscape.

Even the annual reports of the federal Office of the Correctional Investigator, along with human rights agency surveys that monitor provincial jails, bodies whose purpose is to work with the public service to encourage constructive upgraded practices, are patronized, humored, and neutralized.

But, the resistance cannot dampen the chorus for change; impediments only invigorate.  New voices will always replace those that drop away.  And as for this space, it’ll continue to press arguments for custodial sanity.


“The Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), as part of the criminal justice system and respecting the rule of law, contributes to public safety by actively encouraging and assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while exercising reasonable, safe, secure and humane control.”

That is the Mission Statement of the federal prison industry and it could summarize how the provincial penal systems across Canada see their purpose as well.  The men and women who wrote and approved and adopted this summary of objectives for Correctional Service of Canada no doubt believed it upheld the highest principles for improving the lives of those who come into conflict with the law, while protecting the best interests of the community.

One can wonder if the authors of the mission statement assumed these ideals would flow down through the ranks of institutional staff to be taken on as professional goals.  Or would they assume that?  Like it or not though, management’s mission may not be celebrated in the trenches….would that it was otherwise.


Our reaction to that lofty mission statement, to that declaration of a vision guiding the objectives of the prison industry, is reminiscence of an unrelated event of recent memory.

On January 20 in 2017 Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States in Washington.  As Mr. Trump took the oath of office and addressed the crowd on that day, he was surrounded on the dais by dozens of VIPs, including previous presidents and first ladies.

As the newly sworn-in president finished speaking, George W. Bush leaned toward Hilary Clinton and said, “Well, that was some weird shit.”


TRUMP on the one hand….. COVID on the other…..



The world is preoccupied by the threat of COVID-19, as it should be, and with trying to cope with death and ruin as the virus spreads.

And, people who aren’t appalled by America’s political climate are laughing at how far the international prestige of the United States has plummeted under the current administration.


Do no harm….the first rule of medicine.
If you hear the sound of hoofbeats, think of horses first….the second rule of medicine.

COVID-19 is perilous, it’s real, it’s deadly.

Do five things…
follow the science…wear a mask…social distance…make hand hygiene a habit…
and don’t pay attention to the b.s.

There’s a lot of manic drivel, gibberish, and nonsense defying reason with this virus.  Don’t bite.

Vaccines will come.


Dear Americans:  It’s one thing to support Republican Party candidates.  It’s quite another to legitimize Donald Trump.  The world knows this man is a dangerous idiot, a domestic terrorist, an international thug, a Russian stooge, and a failed businessman who wouldn’t know truth if it f–ked him up the ass dry.  And, he’s personally responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans.  That’s only a start.

Nonetheless, there are large numbers of people in the United States who enthusiastically say, “Hey, this is the kind of person we want in the White House.”

Bottom line:  How is it possible for a voter’s moral compass to become so corrupted?


America can be rid of Trump easily. 
The virus is a challenge the world will meet.

In the meantime, inequities and sanctioned state abuse, misdirected resources and indifferent opportunists, and a lack of potent accountability and transparency in public life still plague societies. 

This space will now get back to grappling with that.



You control policing


Accountability, transparency…..and control….are long ago prototypical standards waylaid by a self-serving agenda licensed by complicit civic leaders and an inattentive citizenry.  This lives wherever democracy is presumed but unguarded, and it can’t be put on police or politicians.  It rests at the feet of everyone and anyone who ignores their inherent communal responsibility.  As former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner liked to say, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident.”


When Breonna Taylor’s family recently agreed to a U.S.$12 million settlement with the city of Louisville in Kentucky after she was killed by police, it included an apology from the mayor and an undertaking to “reform” police practices.  This included changes to how warrants are handled, establishing a housing credit program to prod officers to live in some low-income areas, encouraging police to volunteer two paid hours of work every two weeks in the neighbourhoods they serve, and tracking police use-of-force incidents and citizen complaints. 

Ms. Taylor’s family insists that this is “only the beginning of getting full justice for Breonna,” her mother said.  “We must not lose focus on what the real job is…’s time to move forward with the criminal charges (against the police officers involved)…..”  Aside from cashing the cheque, what changes happen in Louisville will depend a whole lot more on Breonna’s family and the people of Louisville than on its civic leaders and the police.


Eric Adams pushed for police reforms from the inside.  He is presently the 60-year-old Borough President of Brooklyn, New York City, was a Democratic State Senator in New York for eight years, and previously served 22 years in the NYPD, leaving with the rank of captain.  In 1995, he co-founded the reform group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.

When Adams was 15 years old, he and his brother were arrested for criminal trespassing.  “My brother and I were both arrested together, and we were both abused together, and the police officers who arrested us did not hit us all over our body.  They just kicked us in our groin repeatedly. ……it caused the urination of blood for almost seven days.”  He suffered from post traumatic stress disorder after the incident and believes his brother still suffers from mental health illness in 2020 because of the beating in 1975.

This space can only sketch a sampling of what Eric Adams learned during those 22 years in the service. He and other black NYPD officers constantly fought systemic racism within police culture to get the promotions and placements they earned.  And, while he didn’t see the changes he hoped, his comments are informative and revealing.

“….if every encounter you’ve had with a police officer was a negative symbol, then when you see that uniform, that shield, that gun, it becomes a symbol of repressive behaviour.  We police based on the behaviour of the numerical minority that is committing crime.  That small percentage of people who commit crimes in a community becomes the methods that’s used for the entire community.”

“If police show up at a birthday party, they’re not there because they were invited.  Police see only the worst in a community.”  Adams criticized the policing of communities by cops who don’t live in the communities they police.

“Police have two rights that even the president does not have, the right to take liberty and to take life…….And that is why I critiqued and looked at how we were policing to say, if you’re going to wear this uniform and this badge, you must be of the highest quality.”

“The arrogance of – don’t question us because we protect you – is a thing of the past.  Steve Jobs made everyone now a director of a movie that could determine what the end of the script would be.  For many years, people of colour were talking about being shot, being brutalized, being arrested.  And it was ignored because – I always borrow from Jack Nicholson’s comment in ‘A Few Good Men’ when he said that you really don’t want to know the truth – the reality is that much of America did not want…..(to handle the truth).”


Racism, systemic racism, hate groups have taken centre stage in 2020 to challenge both police and policing.  These are major concerns facing law enforcement everywhere, and with Toronto’s police service and other Ontario police forces, they head a long list of issues that have been neglected for decades.

This is but a short primer on where we stand in Toronto. 

“Province blasted over ‘outdated’ police training” read the headline over Wendy Gillis’ byline under the Toronto Star banner on Tuesday, October 6 of this year.  The deck added, “Ombudsman wrote damning report in 2016 lashes out at the ‘glacial’ pace of reform.”  Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé’s 2016 report, A Matter of Life and Death, received short shrift from the Toronto police board and city politicians who claimed it was under careful review while in truth it was stuck in an intentional gridlock looking for a path to nowhere.  “If you persistently fail to respond to calls for reforms that are evolutionary, you eventually get demands for changes that are revolutionary,” Mr. Dubé concluded in the Star story.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission ( presented the Toronto Police Service Board with its latest report, a follow-up on ‘A Collective Impact’ that focused on use of force by Toronto police.  Dated August 2020, ‘A Disparate Impact – Second interim report on the inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service,’ it found that the charge rate against Black persons was 3.9 times higher than against White persons.  The OHRC gave this report to the police board in July followed by a two-hour briefing in August, but then said the board talks a lot about collaboration but doesn’t do it.

The Toronto Police Accountability Coalition ( is a group which encourages debate about police policy issues, and is devoted to making the police more accountable to the public.  It publishes a bulletin at least once a month.
The TPAC noted that of the 81 recommendations in the Toronto Police Service Board’s ‘Police Reform in Toronto’ report, all of which were accepted at the Board’s August meeting, few “actually involve specific actions apart from preparing reports.”  Further, “It was clear the Board has no intention of responding to public interest in changing the way in which policing works in Toronto.”

And finally, we posted “Toronto police – mercenaries?” on May 1 of 2016, and “As we said….mercenaries!” on February 10, 2019.  From the 2019 entry, “The problem with parachute policing.”……“When neighbourhood residents know their officers as invested stakeholders in the community’s fortunes, the relationship generally changes for the better..…as it stands now, the perception that officers have no stake in the community once they’ve stowed their badges and guns can only further erode resident trust of police, given the history of random street checks, brutal force applied to citizens who have committed no crime, and failure to report incidents to the civilian oversight agency.”

Last word….if people want change, people can make change.


Prisons & the law


Repeating again federal Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger’s citation that we send people to prison as punishment, not for punishment.

This applies equally to provincial and federal prison industries.

So why has the Ontario Human Rights Commission gone after the province’s ministry responsible for its jails….for the third time in seven years…..asking the Human Rights Tribunal to hold Ontario accountable for failing to meet its legal obligations?

Ontario agreed to a comprehensive settlement with Christina Jahn in 2013 that included a provision to not place persons with a mental illness in solitary confinement except as a last resort. Ms. Jahn had mental health and addiction disabilities but was held in segregation in Ottawa for more than 200 days. Not only has Ontario been taken to task more than once for not obeying the provisions of this settlement, but under two different governments even more people with noted mental disorders have been placed in solitary. Soleiman Faqiri was one, highlighted again in our September 13 posting. He was killed by jail guards in Lindsay in 2016 after a segregation placement.

This time though, the OHRC is also asking that no provincial inmate without a mental health condition be placed in segregation for more than 15 continuous days and a total of 60 days in a year. This would be in line with the latest case law and international standards.

As counterpoint, a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of the Solicitor General said the province has met “all 31 deliverables specified in the consent orders.”

Right. Now tell us, who are the compliance supervisors?


Meanwhile federally, Dr. Anthony Doob, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto Centre for Criminology, chaired the Implementation Advisory Panel established by Ottawa to monitor the ending of solitary confinement in federal prisons. Included among the eight members of the panel was Ed McIsaac, executive director of the federal prison ombudsman’s office from the late 1980s until about 10 years ago.

The panel never received data it needed from Correctional Service of Canada despite repeated requests, and its members were appointed for only one-year terms, which ended this past summer. “We have accomplished nothing,” Dr. Doob said. “How much confidence do we have that the experience of a prisoner has changed? My answer is none, because we don’t have any information.” The professor accused Public Safety Minister Bill Blair and CSC of back-pedaling and delaying promises to provide even basic information.

Minister Bill Blair has committed to revive the panel as its term lapsed before it could accomplish anything. In response, Mr. McIsaac commented, “I don’t see it coming back to life absent of having the information we requested in hand, and I don’t think further promises are going to get us very far.” Professor Doob added, “I guess I’m tired of being jerked around. Nobody’s watching. Nobody’s watching the keepers. The irony of it all is that a well-run organization would have wanted to have the data collection we’re asking for in place on Day 1. It’s not rocket science to say: ‘Start recording it with a paper and a pencil – and here’s how you sharpen a pencil.’”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government is making good on Bill C-83.

We wrote Mr. Trudeau:

August 28, 2020

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau,
Ottawa, ON

Dear Prime Minister:

About the time your father was chasing the federal government out of the nation’s bedrooms back in the 60s, I was beginning to delve into our country’s prison industry.

According to Colin Freeze in yesterday’s Globe and Mail, “Ottawa not adhering to law on solitary, watchdog says,” he noted that “Prime Minister Trudeau said to reporters on Wednesday that the Liberal government is living up to its commitment to do away with solitary confinement.”

How would you know?

A little experience with Correctional Service of Canada teaches that the agency can be Trumpian with the truth. What CSC says is so may be smoke and mirrors, and what it lives by as true may not survive beyond the front gates. Assessing C-83’s efficacy must include the perspectives of the men and women who are intended to benefit from its provision, namely the inmates. As one said to me about the difficulties CSC is having with the new handheld technology, “That’s b.s.!”

Prime Minister, keep you smellmeter handy.

Yours truly……

Copies went to Professor Anthony Doob, Minister Bill Blair, and Correctional Service of Canada Commissioner Anne Kelly.

Thanks to the panel for being refreshingly frank.

Soleiman Faqiri……say the name!


So, why isn’t the reaction here like it is there? Soleiman is but one of many seriously harmed or killed by men in uniform in Canada, just a George Floyd is one of many harmed or killed by men in uniform in the U.S. Why the difference in public response? There was no camera recording Soleiman’s murder for one thing. Not only that, the perpetrators purposely blocked witnesses while they assaulted Soleiman in tandem.

There have been seven postings in this space since October of 2017 framing the grievance Soleiman’s friends and family have over his abuse and death at the hands of Ontario public servants. They want justice and are determined to persevere until the responsible jail guards are charged and convicted.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is now also taking Ontario to task for failing to meet its commitment to end putting prisoners with mental health disabilities in segregation. Soleiman’s death is a direct result of the province’s negligence.

Plus, the decision by the Ontario Provincial Police in August of this year not to lay charges in the death of Soleiman Faqiri following a second investigation of this crime has been condemned by 60 groups including legal, mental health advocacy and faith-based organizations across Canada.

This sad obstruction of justice by Ontario prompted another letter to the culpable provincial government minister:-

September 8, 2020

The Honourable Sylvia Jones, Solicitor General,
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Minister Jones:

The Ontario Human Rights Commission is far too polite in the motion it’s filed against Ontario for a continuing “breach of legal obligation(s) to keep prisoners with mental health disabilities out of segregation.”

Soleiman Faqiri is dead because your ministry failed to do what it agreed to do back in 2013 and again in 2018. Simply put, a mentally ill provincial inmate was murdered by gangs of guards acting in tandem for no better reason than to “teach him a lesson.”

Your provincial jail guards “teach lessons” to inmates every day in Ontario. Soleiman just so happened to die during the “instruction.” It’s against policy and procedure, it’s illegal, and it’s just plain wrong. And, it’s happening on your watch, Minister.

Following the OPP decision not to lay charges in what is so obviously a state sanctioned homicide, Yusuf Faqiri, Soleiman’s older brother, told an August 15 rally outside your office that if one wants to commit murder with impunity, then do it in a group.

Your ministry seems content with the status quo. What say you?

A cautionary note to Soleiman’s family. The government will one day come to the table to pay off the family, and one condition of a settlement is likely to be that they take the money, go away, and shut up. Government offices are well stocked with carpets and brooms.

Let’s hope the Faqiri family doesn’t allow that, but even so, Ontario can’t silence us all.

“Fighting crime by building more jails……

Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly’s quotation appeared here five years ago. It was relevant long before he said it first, is still timely today, as it will be tomorrow.

Suppose you were able to tour our provincial jails and federal prisons from Victoria to St. John’s. Aside from a gender imbalance, a noticeable observation is the difference between the racial make-up of an incarcerated population and the people in the communities from which they came. No matter what perspective you choose to explain the contrast, it remains a symptom of societal inequity.

The COVID pandemic has exposed the inadequacies of our supports and safety nets for vulnerable groups, conditions we’ve conveniently ignored and allowed to deteriorate through negligence, lack of resources and even intentional defunding. We’ve seen the tragic outcomes from viral infections in our seniors’ care facilities as an example, and are now attempting to save face, even though we’ve been aware of the unacceptable state of the situation for years.

At risk from any and all hazards facing the disadvantaged along with the elderly are the poor and homeless and addicted and people with physical and mental health conditions, and…….prisoners. The pandemic has underscored a lack of help for an increasing number of jail/prison inmates with mental health issues, with access to rehabilitative programming, and with support in transitioning back into the community upon release.

Addressing provincial conditions, Rajean Hoilett with the Toronto Prisoners’ Rights Project and quoted from a June Toronto Star article says, “We’ve seen a lot of folks who’ve been released without any support, who are telling us they don’t have shoes, they don’t have clothes, they don’t have a place to go. We know that there’s a lot of folks who use drugs who are coming out without any sort of harm reduction supplies, and we already know we’ve lost people in this way to overdoses.” Ergo, recidivism’s revolving door.

For offenders sentenced to a federal prison, we have what is called Correctional Service of Canada.
Many could and would argue the agency is better tagged Punitive Service of Canada, or Offender Warehousing Service of Canada, or Criminal Retention Service of Canada, or our preference, Prison Industries of Canada.
No, Canada calls what we have a “correctional” service. That, and “corrections” is the label provincial and territorial governments use to describe the role of ministries that oversee their jails.

This space has argued for years that putting a name to something does not necessarily make it so, like the offices that manage our jails and prisons for instance. It seems that either what we call them is a sop to people who believe they should serve that better purpose, or the intention to be a correcting influence on lawbreakers is genuine if not a touch jaded. No one in authority looks to be paying attention to compliance in the trenches with policy, procedure, or the law, or the efficacy of the way things are or what more can be done.

The criminal justice conglomerate is a mammoth monolith, costing billions of taxpayer dollars a year and employing tens of thousand of people. Most of these men and women, from policing to the courts and on through to our penal institutions and all the attendant supports and apparatus, are or believe they are working for the best interests of the country. And as we pointed out earlier, it works well….for those who control it.

Rehashing earlier critical appraisals isn’t on today’s agenda. How to fight “City Hall” is. How to effect change is. Quite simply, don’t give up, don’t give in.

Joshua and his army marched around the walls of Jericho for seven days until the noise of the shouting and rams’ horns caused those defenses to collapse.

Congressman and civil rights leader John Lewis learned from that old Biblical battle.

Persist. Persist. Persist.

That is the lesson.

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”
Edward R. Murrow