Prisons & torture….still? Really?


“Why does Canada still allow torture?” questioned an editorial in the Toronto Star on Wednesday, August 10.

Authored by Catherine Latimer, Executive Director of the John Howard Society of Canada, she began with Eddy Nalon, an inmate who bled to death in a segregation cell on that day in 1974 at Millhaven Penitentiary.  August 10 is commemorated every year since as Prisoners Justice Day.  Prisoners fast, refuse to work, and think about the men and women whose lives have been lost in Canada’s prison industry.

Prisoners knew long before science backed them up that prolonged solitary confinement is torture.  Courts in B.C. and Ontario ruled that indeterminate isolation was a Charter violation, and successful lawsuits awarded damages.  The United Nations called it cruel and a form of torture.  In response, Canada abolished legislation permitting administrative segregation in 2019, and ministers claimed this would end the practice.

Catherine Latimer says they were wrong.  She writes that solitary has worsened in the last two years, with dry celling, lockdowns, medical observation, and more.  Structured intervention units (SIUs) were touted as the solution to abusive confinement but only served to perpetuate it.  As she wrote, “the correctional investigator, auditor general, senators, and advocates have raised countless failings in our correctional system.  They are frustrated that recommended reforms have been ignored.”

Why?  We wrote her on August 11:-

Dear Executive Director Latimer:

Mark Twain is reputed to have said, “When we remember that we are all mad, the mysteries disappear, and life stands explained.”

From my conversations with federal inmates, your question can be answered with Twain’s help.  When we remember that Correctional Service of Canada doesn’t care, the mysteries disappear, and our prison industry stands explained.

I hope this helps.

Does it help?  It doesn’t explain federal ministers’ lack of courage to stare down Correctional Service of Canada.  Shame on them, and shame on us for tolerating their apathy and indifference.


UPDATE:  “One prison……One health care follow-up” published August 28 was a compendium of the current health-care challenges facing Brennan Guigue, an inmate at the federal Port-Cartier Institution.

From that, “Kim Morin can’t overrule a doctor, acknowledged a review of the suboxone prescription is in order, but left this in Brennan’s hands.  He previously filed a complaint with Quebec’s College of Physicians, and I doubled down in our conversation later with Ms. Morin, suggesting another complaint would be filed if the doctor continued to defer.”

That second complaint was submitted on September 6th.  One week later, Brennan’s suboxone dosage was restored to where it had been some months prior.  He now no longer resorts to the institution’s black market to maintain the efficacy of the medication, a practice he did not hide from the prison’s staff and health-care unit.

Another point at issue was an order for a knee MRI that had been on Brennan’s file from two other prisons for at least two years, if not more.  Despite multiple requests for compliance, Port-Cartier’s health care unit declined/refused to acknowledge the order, telling him to use an access to information request to see the contents of the file, a process that could take months.

During this last week, Brennan met with the institution’s Dr. Roxanne Coté to discuss his suboxone routine.  She admitted the MRI order is on his file when he asked, but claimed it was appended only in January of 2021 which is incorrect, but even that concession is a victory.  Wait times in Quebec for an MRI are about a year according to the doctor, and he should expect to be called in the spring.  We’ll see.  He may still go ahead with his access to information request.

The doctor gave him an opportunity to address mental health and emotional issues.  It’s basic to medicine that drugs to counteract opioid addictions are partnered with counselling if positive results are expected.  He had previously been told that those services are triaged, which has meant he’s never had that support….ever.  Dr. Coté pointed to a specific program CSC has developed to meet his needs.  It’s just not available in his institution.  Yet.  No timeline, but that’s a subject for another day.

So, now there’s some action.  Wonder why.  Wonder too about the State’s good faith.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.