Soleiman Faqiri – another comeback

On December 4, the day after we posted “A comeback – No-Fault Murder?”, a letter arrived over MCSCS Minister Marie-France Lalonde’s signature responding to ours of November 6, published here on November 12 in “No-Fault Murder?”

“…..regarding the death of Mr. Soleiman Faqiri,,,, ,” she began, “….as you know, the police investigation has concluded. Questions about this decision and the police investigation should be directed to the Kawartha Lakes Police Service. Although the police investigation has concluded, the ministry’s internal investigation of the circumstances surrounding Mr. Faqiri’s death remains active. As such, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on specific details of the internal investigation, including staff discipline, while it is underway.

On November 3, 2017, Dr. Paul Dungey, Regional Supervising Coroner for East Region, Kingston Office, announced that an inquest will be held in the death of Mr. Faqiri. The inquest will examine the events surrounding his death. In addition, the jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths. Details regarding the date and location will be provided at a later date when the information becomes available.”

Minister Lalonde ended by asking for our patience “while the ministry’s investigation and the inquest into the death of Mr. Faqiri continue.”

Do you know how often a provincial or federal minister overseeing a part of Canada’s prison industry has said much the same as Ms Lalonde? Do you know how many millions of dollars have been spent to come up with “recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths?” Do you know how little has ever been done to implement inquest recommendations?

That’s worth repeating to the minister:

February 2, 2018

The Honourable Marie-France Lalonde,
Minister of Community Safety & Correctional Services,

Re: Soleiman Faqiri

Dear Minister Lalonde:

Your December 4, 2017 letter in response to mine of November 6th is appreciated, and I accept that its composition was the only pathway you had. However, you underpin the status quo.

You suggested I question the Kawartha Lakes Police Service about its investigation into Mr. Faqiri’s death. A police spokesperson contacted me after receiving a copy of my letter, referring me to the Office of the Independent Police Review Director to pursue a complaint. That is a waste of good paper.

As for an inquest, do you know how often provincial and federal ministers overseeing Canada’s prison industry have claimed these will make a difference? Do you know how many millions have been spent to come up with “recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths?” Do you know how little is done to implement inquest recommendations?

Minister, when did you last execute an unannounced and unheralded inspection of a penal institution, be it at 2pm on a Monday, 8pm on a Friday, or 3am on a Sunday? When did any of your senior staff, or any minister in your position or senior staff in this country do likewise? We need that, and we need progressive unambiguous legislation, coupled with at-arms-length authorities to prioritize compliance.

Without that, we are simply peeing into the wind.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

We copied Kathleen Wynne, Nasir Naqvi, and Renue Mandhane.

Meanwhile, Fatima Syed, a Toronto Star staff reporter, published “Family of man who died in jail looking for answers a year later”, on December 15 of last year. “Why is the government so afraid to tell us the truth?” asks Soleiman’s father, Ghulam.

The family is pro-actively insisting on accountability and transparency, asking the same questions over the last year. “Why was Soleiman killed while in government care? Why was he found with 50 injuries on his body? Why haven’t any of the guards been held accountable for the three-hour confrontation that was caught on a video they still haven’t seen?”

The government denied the family and their lawyers’ request for information about Soleiman’s final moments before he died. A month before, the Kawartha Lakes Police Service advised them by email that no criminal charges would be laid. “It is very difficult to not feel like the family is being stonewalled,” said one of their legal team.

The “Justice for Soli” campaign, a group of Ontario university students, along with the family, held a vigil on that day at Yonge-Dundas Square in Toronto to mark the anniversary of Soleiman’s death. 50 people laid 50 white roses on his photo for the 50 bruises on his body. Earlier in the day, the family gathered at Soleiman’s grave in Ajax in remembrance. He would have turned 31 at the end of December.

And then, along came another Star Fatima Syed entry on Wednesday, February 7th, with a front-page headline, “Jail guard tag team involved in subduing mentally ill inmate,” and a deck, “Reports obtained by the Star detail what happened in the hours leading to Soleiman Faqiri’s death after a fight with correctional officers in 2016.”

The long and detailed account is based on documents the paper received through a freedom of information request, and is material from the police investigation of Soleiman’s death, and the files of the ministry, jail, and members of its staff.

Lawyers for the Faqiri family call what they’ve read ‘very troubling,’ but what is most telling for seasoned observers of the country’s penal systems is this extract from Ms Syed article: “Interviews (by the Kawartha Lakes police) of other inmates didn’t provide much information, said the report, as jail guards had closed the hatches to the doors of each inmate’s cell, thus preventing them from looking out into the common hallway or getting involved.”

We’ve passed a comment on to the Star’s reporter.

The Ontario government’s priority is to get past this, pursue a quiet and expedient resolution, and move on……’til next time.

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The dark side…a glimpse

Now that Brennan Guigue is no longer under the Ontario provincial jail system’s control, we can open a Pandora’s box on life ‘down inside’ the Toronto South Detention Centre.

TSDC is one of two newer provincial institutions (the other is in Windsor) allowing only video link visits. It’s expected to be a template for the future. An approved visitor arrives at a pre-booked time, is screened, and then waits at an assigned video booth, one of about 70. The screen comes on at the appointed time, and hopefully the inmate is sitting at the video booth on his range, because a timer is counting down the 20 allotted minutes. Communication is by hand-held telephone receiver, and both parties have a colour head and shoulder view of one another.

This is a novelty at first, and technical problems are common, but reception staff does its best to accommodate visitor and inmate. In the end, there is no comparison between a Skype-type visit and an in-person face to face conversation through plexi-glass and metal bars, as is the case at other Ontario jails. Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services has in fact abandoned the concept of the beneficial ties to the community for inmates, even if it continues to pay lip service to the premise.

Brennan Guigue was held at Toronto South from late November of 2015 to the third week of January of 2017, when he was transferred to Toronto East Detention Centre. That is a story for another time. There is a world of difference though between the TSDC operation and Toronto East, a point we’ll repeat more than once. For now though, this documents a visit to Toronto South on Saturday, September 3rd in 2016, and the follow-up over the ensuing months…..and, we’ll switch to the first person.

The appointment was for 10am that day, Brennan appeared on screen promptly and my notes say he’d spent the first part of the morning reading, was awakened from a nap for the visit, and was a little groggy. I asked early on if he needed money in his canteen account. He didn’t know and excused himself to check his balance at the control post.

Each range has a ‘bubble’ where the guards oversee their charges; a computer terminal there has the information Brennan needed. He went to the window and asked his question. One of the four guards in the post, one with red hair and a prosthetic leg, told him to “get away from the window, you f——g piece of shit.” Brennan objected to the language, he didn’t deserve the response, and he said so.

He was quiet and a little perturbed when he returned to the video booth. I had to prod him into telling me what had happened.

As it turned out, after the visit that same guard came on to the range to put him back in his cell. He was itching to coerce Brennan into some retaliatory action, a not uncommon practice with some guards in our ‘prison industry’, but Brennan wouldn’t take the bait. The next day, a sergeant showed up at his cell, charging him with a misconduct for threatening. Brennan filed a grievance. On one of my later visits, on September 30, Brennan said that same guard was on duty but was very, very quiet. He assumed the guard had been given a copy of his complaint.

Why would a guard do this? Draw your own conclusions. How do they get await with it? One, who’s going to complain, and two, management turns a blind eye.

Not to let this go, I filed a freedom of information request with the ministry’s North Bay address, an office dedicated to this purpose. I asked for the names and i.d. tag numbers of the guards on duty on that range when the September 3rd incident occurred.

After a time, North Bay came back with two names:

William Thompson, #11557
Ronald Shapiro, #009922

But, there were four guards in the control post. Perhaps there should have been only two, but there were four at that time, on that date. I filed an appeal with Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner. North Bay went back to Toronto South for a clarification and eventually reported back to the IPC that the TSDC Deputy Superintendent in charge of security had reviewed the tape of the control post and saw only two guards.

Brennan contends that is a lie.

I then asked North Bay for a copy of that tape. My request could not be granted because the jail retains their tapes for only 30 days.

I went on to ask for the identity of the guard with red hair and a prosthetic. I was denied that information as too sensitive and personal, and that “disclosure would reasonably be expected to facilitate the commission of an unlawful act or hamper the control of crime.”

We can assume that William Thompson and Ronald Shapiro were assigned for duty on that range on September 3rd, and that one of them is red-headed, and has a prosthetic leg.

Let’s leave that behind. We’ll move on to something else soon.

Played for pawns……

…..but sit back and enjoy the game. You’re paying for it.

There’s an internecine conflict going on in the Toronto Police Service, and it’s likely playing out in other law enforcement agencies in North America.

Toronto is spending just over a billion dollars a year for policing, and there are parties working to trend this upwards.

That’s a lot of money for a city with a prolonged revenue problem, and both Ontario and its municipalities are initiating programs to revision the financing and operation of police services.

The province’s Safer Ontario Act replaces the Police Services Act, and while police oversight is its primary focus, and not operations, officers and the police associations that speak for them are touchy about any attempts to impose outside influences on the force.

So now, along comes the Toronto police “transformational taskforce” plan, a modernization process, on top of the new legislation. It’s expected to save $100 million over three years, a part of that directed to a hiring freeze. Those are not words officers want to hear. But, why should a skilled, uniformed and highly paid civil servant guard a broken water main, for example, when civilian workers can free up police resources for duties better suited to their training?

Yes, there have been challenges with staffing levels, and the difficulties and stresses that change brings. This is, however, a work in progress, and police management is pressured to stay the course on the one hand, while dealing with internal discontent from front-line officers on the other.

This is a battle some police employees have taken to the media, warning of low morale and threats to public safety. The chief though denies the city is not getting the service it needs, while acknowledging the turmoil of reorganization. This is a contest with an implied competition for community support.

turnoverarocktoday is not considered police-friendly, although it’s police culture that’s more often the target. Law enforcement bodies are a regrettable social necessity, but if we need them, at least let’s ensure they are under the people’s thumb at all times.

Omar Khadr….one last time?

Dear Canadians: Don’t sit on your brains; it’s not becoming.

Here we go again. It seems a lot of Canadians don’t like the settlement Omar Khadr received.

Let’s keep this simple.

First, this can’t be dumped on Justin Trudeau, or the government he leads, or Stephen Harper and his team. Okay, Trudeau’s taking some heat ‘cause he’s the point person now, but the responsibility lies with government bureaucrats and agencies like our CSIS.

The bottom line is that the government could settle with Khadr for the 10.5 million it did hand over, or it could have stalled like the Harper people tried to do. It could have let the process play out, and then cough up 20, 30, or even 40 million, once costs came into play.

Why? There isn’t a court in Canada that would not have sided with Omar Khadr.

Why? We did him wrong! And, we did him wrong in a big way! Period!

We should be thanking the prime minister for saving taxpayer dollars.

Second, Guantanamo exists solely to allow the United States not to follow any of the principles defined in its Constitution or Bill of Rights.

All men held in the facility are abused and tortured by American military personnel.

Omar Khadr pleaded guilty to a crime for which there is no conclusive proof of guilt in exchange for an opportunity to leave Guantanamo behind. No American or Canadian court would have convicted him of killing an American medic in Afghanistan.

His appeal of that conviction in the United States could drag on for years, and might easily fail. The United States can’t allow one of its courts to find the country culpable for the heinous acts it permitted and still condones, and the kangaroo courts it supported. “Coming clean” would open a pathway for Khadr and dozens of other men to severely tax the U.S. Treasury.

Lastly, let’s briefly review a few of the other settlements Canada has reached with victims of the questionable behaviour in which some of our public servants engaged:-

Stephen Harper apologized to Maher Arar on January 26 in 2007 and awarded him 10.5 million for his 2002 detention in Syria.

Ahmad El Maati, Muayyed Nureddin, and Abdullah Amalki were held in Syria….and Egypt as well in the case of El Maati….for periods during 2001/2002/2003. They sued Canada for 100 million. In March of 2017, public safety and correctional services minister Ralph Goodale apologized, and gave them a total of 31.25 million.

Benamar Benatta crossed the border into the States in September of 2001, and then spent 5 years in a federal prison in Brooklyn. On December 7 in 2015, it was quietly disclosed in the annual Public Accounts that Canada has paid him 1.7 million.

Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Sudanese-born Canadian, went home for a family visit in 2003, was imprisoned there for a year, and then spent six more years waiting for Canada to allow him to return home to Montreal. As of 2015, he was suing the government but we have no information of a resolution.

Djamel Ameziane left Canada 15 years ago to visit family in Algeria, was detained by American security forces, and spent 11 years in Guantanamo until his release in December of 2013 when he was returned to Algeria. He was never charged or prosecuted, and is suing Canada for 50 million.

There may be others.

In all cases, these men were abused and tortured by their keepers. Where money has been awarded, courts and investigations in this country have found Canada complicit in their mistreatment, and deserving of compensation.

Now, can we move on?

Canada killed Matthew Hines….

….just as we said last June.

A persistent and distressed family, along with CBC News, and journalists like the Toronto Globe and Mail’s Patrick White would not accept Correctional Service of Canada’s explanation that Matthew Hines died from a drug-induced seizure, and died despite the efforts of CSC staff members to save him.

Correctional Service of Canada lied. Our prison industry killed this man, and then tried to cover it up.

33 year-old Matthew Hines died in Dorchester Penitentiary on May 26 in 2015. Since then, we’ve published “What say you, Minister?” September 25, 2016, “Matthew Hines died. Chapter the second.” October 2 of 2016, and “Matthew Hines’ death was a homicide…..” on June 4, 2017.

On Wednesday, January 3 of this year, New Brunswick RCMP charged two prison guards with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death. Alvida Ross, 48, and Mathieu Bourgin, 31, had been on administrative leave since the investigation began, but the two men will not appear in Moncton Provincial Court until the end of February.

The particulars around Matthew’s ordeal will not be reviewed again here, but after 2 ½ years, four investigations, and a determined Hines’ family, the death was ruled a criminal act. A spokeswoman for Correctional Service of Canada said the agency co-operated with the investigation and is committed to “learn from Mr. Hines’ death and continually work to improve our response to individuals in medical crisis.” This is CSC’s necessarily politically correct position, and it’s not the first time it has made this statement, and it’s not the last.

Correctional Investigator Ivan Zinger released his own report on this death-in-custody last May, citing numerous “staff errors and omissions”, and criticized all levels of CSC, from correctional officers to senior staff for releasing misleading information and denying accountability. “Nearly everything that could have gone wrong in a use of force response went wrong,” the CI report said.

The Hines family is grateful for the work done to get at the truth, but rightly suggests that responsibility for Matthew’s death goes well beyond the two men accused. That includes, for example, an inexperienced duty nurse who did not even check the inmate’s vital signs, in spite of the man’s obvious medical distress. The family nonetheless accepts the decision to charge only two employees, but “we trust that all who saw Matthew before and during his death look in the mirror every day with the knowledge of what they did and did not do.”

And, as we’ve noted twice before, the family has a lawyer. This is going to cost every Canadian taxpayer.

Remember that Matthew had to die for this to get so much attention. What would we know if he had survived this assault? What do we know about the experience of other inmates who’ve been subject to the same treatment?

A Hitler-esque rising?

“With this, we hope not to feel the need to bring up the topic again. There is a plenitude who recognize the danger and can rally for right.”

That’s how last year’s January 29th posting “On Trump……a word……or two” ended. Apparently, and unfortunately, Americans seem to be deer frozen in the glare of the oncoming headlights of a ‘trumptruck’ barreling toward them.

What was one of the questions asked in “Where have all the flowers gone?”
”When will they ever learn?”

Barack Obama’s warning to Americans to “pay attention” when he spoke to an audience of 2,800 on Tuesday, December 6th at the Economic Club of Chicago is a welcome relief. “The danger is [to] grow complacent. We have to tend to this garden of democracy or else things could fall apart quickly. That’s what happened in Germany in the 1930s.” he said in part.

‘Complacency’ is an American watchword. When all the hoopla over the 2016 U.S. presidential election last November was over, only about 55.5% of the voting age population bothered to cast a ballot. Why didn’t we hear more about that? Well, the last time voter turnout hit 60% in the States was in 1968 when Richard Nixon was first elected. This has been the country’s pro forma for the last century, and makes the United States vulnerable to the fringe crazies.

In the meantime, Canadian media recently noted that Donald Trump hasn’t visited Canada, unusual for an American leader over the last many decades. When asked, the federal government simply referred to an outstanding invitation. Is that what we want?

Let’s not be silent…….

January 2, 2018

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

Re: Donald Trump

Dear Prime Minister:

So, while Mr. Trump has not visited Canada…..yet, your government tells us there is an outstanding invitation.

I can grudgingly accept the politically expedient relationship you have with this man. I can join the chorus of admiration for your skill in coping with the difficulties this must present. I can even condone with reservations the manner in which you approach Mr. Trump, as you would any other world leader. I can hope too that circumstances will not one day call for a comparison between you and Neville Chamberlain.

But please sir, do not expect all Canadians to be as forbearing. A Trump visit to Canada would provoke a considerable and negative reaction to Mr. Trump, and the sycophants, idiots and opportunists who surround him. I for one would welcome an opportunity to participate in such a demonstration of outrage.

Better Mr. Trump stays in Washington.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

Now, will someone please give those deer good swift kicks in the rump, shake them out of their apathetic and indifferent stupor, and let us get back to pursuits worth our while!

Stop already!

American Kelly Craft is a Republican Party donor, and a contributor to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. She’s the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada, and in a true contemporary White House smear, suggested that Canadians need to improve and be more like Americans. Her suggestion wasn’t well-received.
We don’t usually reprint newspaper items verbatim, but Robert Macdonald’s Ottawa Citizen counterpoint has appeared widely. We’ll copy it too:-

“Canada’s doing just fine, thanks.

U. S. Ambassador Kelly Craft, in her first Canadian print interview, stated, “The golden rule is we want Canadians to be as successful as Americans.”

I doubt Canadians want to be ‘as successful as Americans.’ In February, Scott Gilmore, writing in MacLean’s magazine, provided some statistics that show Canadians are already more successful than Americans. We live 2.5 years longer than Americans. Americans are six times more likely to be incarcerated. The World Economic Forum ranks Canadians as the sixth happiest people in the world. Americans are 13th.

Fifty-nine per cent of Canadians have college degrees versus 46 per cent in the U.S. Home ownership rates are five per cent higher in Canada than in the U.S. Canadians are twice as likely as Americans to move from the poorest quintile of the population to the wealthiest. And perhaps most telling for the citizens of the “Land of the Free,” the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index considers Canadians to be the sixth freest people in the world. Americans are way behind, in the 23rd place.

So Ambassador Craft, I suggest to you revisit your Golden Rule. Instead, during your appointment as Ambassador to Canada, you should try to help your citizens be as successful as Canadians. As helpful Canadians, we would be happy to show you how.”

We added a comment of our own:-

January 2, 2018

The Honourable Kelly Craft, Ambassador,
U.S. Embassy, Ottawa,
490 Sussex Drive,
Ottawa, ON K1N 1G8

Re: “Canada’s doing just fine, thanks”

Madam:

A Canadian expat living in Los Angeles for the last 35 years sent me Robert Macdonald’s Ottawa Citizen piece responding to your comment about wanting Canadians to be as successful as Americans. I’m sure your staff has put this in front of you.

Mr. Macdonald is succinct. I would only add that at this particular point in your country’s history, the very best thing about being a Canadian is that I’m not an American.

I wish you and your fellow U.S. citizens the best of good fortune. You’ll need it.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

What in hell is going into the drinking water in the United States?