What say you, Minister?

Matthew Hines died in the Dorchester Penitentiary on May 27, 2015. For 13 months, his family in Cape Breton believed what they were told by Correctional Service of Canada, which said that Hines, who had a history of seizures, died from a drug-induced seizure.

CSC’s press release at the time said Hines was “found in need of medical attention” and staff “immediately” performed CPR.

Correctional Service of Canada’s own internal board of investigation report was released to the family in June of this year, and among other findings, noted that correctional staff were with Hines throughout the incident and prison medical staff did not treat him. It’s likely the cause of death was oxygen starvation after Hines was pepper sprayed five times by guards, four times by one guard within one minute.

No matter the CSC policy, it is common practice for prison guards to not only target the face, but the mouth in particular. The agency didn’t comment on the particulars of these policy violations.

Not only has a coroner’s final report on the cause of death not been released after 15 months, but Gregory Forestell, New Brunswick’s chief coroner, won’t say when the information will be made available.

It’s at this point that CBC News stepped in with its own August 22nd and 24th investigative reports. Google “Matthew Hines” for two relevant entries:- “Prison guards in N.B. used ‘inappropriate’ force”, and “Public must know what happened to Matthew Hines”.

In the second posting, Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale insists that allegations of inappropriate behavior be “thoroughly and transparently investigated.”

First, we wrote the New Brunswick coroner on August 24. After all, it doesn’t inspire confidence in our public institutions to have agencies from two levels of government appear to collude in withholding important information from the family and to which the public is entitled.

August 24, 2016

Gregory J. Forestell, Chief Coroner,
Office of the Chief Coroner,
Department of Public Safety, Province of New Brunswick,
P.O. Box 6000,
Fredericton, New Brunswick E3B 5HI

Re: Matthew Hines

Dear Chief Coroner Forestell:

I am a Correctional Service of Canada ‘specialist’, which means I would defer to an ‘expert’, but have nonetheless tracked the agency for over twenty years. I characterize CSC as dishonest, abusive, morally and ethically corrupt, and a blot on the landscape of this country. Supporting evidence is plentiful, and the circumstances around the death of Matthew Hines is a recent example.

According to “CBC Investigates”, fifteen months after Mr. Hines death, your office has not submitted a final report as to the cause of death and gives no indication when it will.

One wonders why. Speculation of your reasons for the delay can only fuel a distrust of the good work your office undertakes, and misgivings for your intent. Mr. Hines family is more than entitled to know your findings, no matter the consequences.

I encourage you to act promptly.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

We made an unsuccessful attempt to reach one of Matthew Hines’ sisters, intending to encourage her to speak to a lawyer. Her voice mail was full and it’s probable she’s had all the advice needed to pursue a remedy for the ordeal her brother suffered.

Then we dropped Ralph Goodale a line.  Again, if he feels so strongly about transparency in the public service, why are we having such difficulty getting Correctional Service of Canada to produce relevant material about Brennan Guigue’s July 22, 2014 tortuous experience in Montreal.

September 19, 2016

The Honourable Ralph Goodale,
Minister of Public Safety,
House of Commons,
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6

Re: Matthew Hines/Brennan Guigue

Dear Minister Goodale:

“But let me be clear that there can be no tolerance for inappropriate use of force or other serious misconduct.”

This is part of the statement issued by your office Wednesday evening, August 24, referencing the death of inmate Matthew Hines at Dorchester Penitentiary back on May 27, 2015. You not only insist the public has a right to know what happened to Mr. Hines, but “any allegation of inappropriate behavior must be thoroughly and transparently investigated.”

I agree. You reserve comment because this is under investigation by Correctional Service of Canada, but it’s no secret to federal inmates that guards using OC in aerosol cans target the mouth area, violating both policy and best practice.

If this is your position with respect to Matthew Hines, it should be no different in the matter of inmate Brennan Guigue who was pepper sprayed at the Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines on July 22, 2014. Mr. Guigue did not die as a result of this assault but the actions of CSC guards are no less questionable, disturbing, and deserving of a thorough and transparent investigation….and public disclosure.

There are a very few distinctions between the two incidents. One of import is that an OC aerosol can was used on Mr. Hines while guards at the RCC in Montreal deployed an OC canister with a nozzle to ‘paint’ Mr. Guigue’s naked body with pepper spray. Extensive data is published at http://www.turnoverarocktoday.com, scroll to Justice for Brennan Guigue.

It begins with “Just another day on the range? The Guigue summary”, published on September 26, 2014; three posts later see “Material/evidence requested from CSC” from November 2 of 2014. Of particular note much later is “…..now we have the names” from April 17 of this year.

Correctional Service of Canada management confirms there were “violations of law or CSC policy” on July 22, 2014, but thumbs its nose at our attempts for disclosure. We have not had a satisfactory and complete response from CSC to our information and privacy requests, the agency is withholding incriminating video evidence in particular in spite of the alarming nature of the assault, and all staff members involved are still employed by CSC. In the meantime, the outcome of an investigation by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is pending.

“….there can be no tolerance for inappropriate use of force or other serious misconduct.”

What say you, Minister!

Charles H. Klassen

cc Honourable Bill Morneau
Stephen Fineberg
Brennan Guigue
turnoverarocktoday.com

 

Cover up…….what, more?

Toronto’s two largest dailies, the Star and Globe & Mail, gave front page coverage last week to an investigation into the reporting of inmate deaths in Canada’s federal prisons. The August 2nd “In the Dark: An Investigation of Death in Custody Information Sharing and Disclosure Practices in Federal Corrections” was issued by Howard Sapers, our Correctional Investigator, headquartered in Ottawa.

This year-long 41 page study was in response to a number of complaints from the families of prisoners who died while in custody, but were not receiving complete, timely and uncensored information about the death of a family member. In some cases, and Ashley Smith’s death is one example, Correctional Service of Canada took days to even locate a body, or CSC cremated remains before family had an opportunity to make arrangements. Some families had to submit Access to Information Requests even years after a death to get reports which were often heavily redacted. Appropriately, CSC’s insensitivity was a component of Mr. Sapers’ findings.

But beyond the concerns raised by families, Howard Sapers launched this investigation after years of failing to get our federal prison system to act on progressive recommendations from his office. Ominously, and just as important, the OCI office’s examination of relevant material also suggested that CSC redactions implicated failures on the part of the agency to follow policy. “There were some redactions that I think Correctional Service of Canada is going to have to explain”, Sapers said in an interview. While the present government’s commitment to openness and accountability encouraged Mr. Sapers to initiate this work, have no doubt Correctional Service of Canada will do whatever it can to remain condescending, aloof and defiant.

How does this impact on Brennan Guigue and the work that is underway to hold CSC responsible for the circumstances in which he was involved in July of 2014?

Our own information request asking CSC to confirm that the six guards and the officer overseeing them on the day of the incident are still employed by the agency is complete. All seven still work in the system, but we hesitate to publish names at this time without advice. For now, that isn’t of particular import. What is of note though, based on the correctional investigator’s conclusion in his report on deaths in custody, is the effort CSC will make to withhold as much information as it can, even pushing the ‘legal envelope’ in the process. Our experience to date justifies the cynicism.

Remember, these are your public servants.

………..still dancing!

“And the music goes on and on……” from February 28 of this year examples but one exercise in why our governments’ expenses appear so out of control. Why do our civil servants spend so much time and money to achieve so little? Why hasn’t our collective wisdom found a solution to expediently meet our needs from the bodies we set up to govern? A debate for the ages, that.

We’ve been patiently waiting for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to make a determination on our requests for information Correctional Service of Canada has withheld pertaining to July 22, 2014. Stephen Fineberg in Montreal, who is acting on Brennan Guigue’s behalf, has seen incremental steps toward that end, but his long experience in this area has nonetheless left him frustrated by the delays.

Here is the bulk of a July 11 update email:

…………. I was hoping it would be possible to supply you with news of a concrete development that I am waiting on. I can see now it is unrealistic to wait further, so I am writing with my news, such as it is.

As you already know, being dissatisfied with the results of our access and privacy requests to CSC’s access and privacy coordinator, I wrote on September 3, 2015 to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to initiate a complaint with the object of obtaining at least some of the material then withheld. On September 11, the OPC wrote to acknowledge receipt of our correspondence.

The OPC subsequently responded that, despite the existing correspondence confirming CSC recognizes me as Brennan’s representative, a new authorization signed by Brennan would be needed before I would enjoy that status with the OPC. Such authorization was provided by Brennan to the OPC, and on November 13, 2015 I wrote again to the OPC to initiate our complaint. I highlighted the fact that it made little sense for CSC to claim there were no entries in the medical file since Brennan’s previous privacy request (which predates the incident of July 22, 2014), and that we have been given CSC reports admitting rules were not followed, but have been prevented from reading the descriptions of those violations.

Eventually Brennan was able to view the shared video material and informed us that the hand-held camera footage is cut off early, so that material of great interest has not been made available In February I wrote to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to communicate Brennan’s position on the hand-held camera sharing.

On March 11, 2016 the OPC called. I imagine it was at this point that an investigator had made sufficient sense of the file to discuss it for the first time. The OPC asked me if Brennan was still insisting on what they term “a standard investigation,” meaning that the OPC would demand the entire record from CSC and examine it to determine if the existing sharing was in compliance with the law. I answered in the affirmative. The call proved a useful opportunity to help them understand what we needed, especially in terms of visual material.

On April 5, 2016, I called the OPC and spoke with Chantal Latour, Senior Privacy Investigator. Despite her evident wish to assist, it was impossible to get an idea of when there might be results in our file.

On May 2, 2016, I received an undated letter from Mme. Latour confirming the nature of Brennan’s allegations to her office. It reads in part, “Based on the information you provided, a complaint file has been opened and it has been assigned to me. I have notified CSC of the details of your complaint and asked for a copy of the information held in the processing files that is relevant to your complaint. (….) I will make every effort to complete the investigation as soon as possible. Should you have any additional information or wish an update on my investigation, please do not hesitate…”

This is where things stand. I was hoping there would be something concrete to report from the OPC investigation, but I don’t know if that will take another month or another year. At some point Brennan will need to file in court if he wishes to hold CSC responsible in a civil suit, and that point must be before the third anniversary of the July 22, 2014 incident. You will remember that my mandate was to obtain material evidencing the illegal conduct of CSC so that Brennan (and you) could decide if it is worth pursing before the courts. What we have obtained to date is undoubtedly of some help, but Brennan claims the most damning visual evidence is that which has been withheld, and as of today we cannot know if the OPC will succeed in locating and sharing more, and, if so, when.

The civil litigation rules regarding discovery may succeed in turning up more than the access and privacy route has produced to date. Your dilemma, as I see it, is that you were hoping to have the material illustrating Brennan’s allegations before deciding if you should underwrite civil litigation. It may prove necessary eventually to decide on the basis of what you have. Still, you are not at the deadline for that decision yet…………

Our thanks for this status update were emailed to Stephen Fineberg along with two questions, one pertaining to the availability of the civil litigator he had recommended back in 2014, and the other on a point of clarification arising from the last part of his report. Was it correct to assume that CSC may not provide as much information to the OPC as they may be required to make available under a court order?

Imagine how many of your tax dollars have been spent to this point, and we have yet to go face to face with Correctional Service of Canada.

Pepper spray……yes, it burns.

Pepper spray, or OC spray (from “oleoresin capsicum”), is a lachrymatory agent, a chemical compound irritating the eyes to cause tears, pain, and temporary blindness. Considered a less-than-lethal control option, it has been deadly in rare cases.

According to Dr. Gregory Smith, Adjunct Associate Professor, Department of Epidemiology, UNC School of Public Health and Chair, NCMS Occupational and Environmental Health Committee:-
“The ill effects of OC. Dermal exposure to OC spray causes tingling, intense burning pain, swelling, redness, and, occasionally, blistering (capsaicin alone causes redness and pain, but not vesiculation). A severe dermatitis, called “human hand”, is found in people who process chili peppers in Mexico. Capsaicin amplifies inflammation by releasing substance P from the skin and nasal mucosa. Multiple exposures of skin or mucous membranes over a period of seconds or minutes exaggerate the response. Capsaicin augments allergic sensitization and worsens allergic dermatitis. Exposure may diminish sensitivity to heat-or-chemical-induced pain, thus increasing the risk and severity of skin burns. Capsaicin powerfully stimulates heat receptors, causing reflex sweating and vasodilation, and activates hypothalamus-mediated cooling; this dual effect increases the risk of hypothermia if victims are decontaminated with cold water on cold days”
http://web.archive.org/web/20000817004624/http://www.ncmedicaljournal.com/Smith-OK.htm

These effects assume pepper spray is used as recommended by the manufacturer. Brennan on the other hand was attacked by a group of guards using a concentrated form of OC (see Just Another Day on the Range? The Guigue Summary posted Sept. 26/14). These men didn’t use hand-held dispensers, but instead a heavy canister with a hose and spray nozzle. The entire rear of his naked body was “painted”, and the aerosol spray in the air came into contact with much of the rest of his unprotected skin.

If any of us were to do this, we’d be charged with a number of indictable Criminal Code offenses, possibly even attempted murder. Be reminded that Brennan Guigue cannot be the only victim of such treatment by our public servants for one, and two, we are responsible for their behaviour.

Last month’s April 17th posting, “…now we have the names”, under the Justice for Brennan Guigue banner was important, given how much the forty pages of printed material submitted by Correctional Service of Canada reveals, and in spite of how much more was withheld (see Material/Evidence Requested from CSC, Nov. 2/14), and for which we continue to press CSC to release.

“…..now we have the names”

From the February 28 entry this year under this category:

“The printed material Correctional Service of Canada submitted in response to our information and privacy requests has been reviewed, along with Stephen Fineberg’s translations. Most of the reports, declarations, observations, and evaluations are in French. Just as with the video discs, the delay in analyzing the 40 pages CSC released shows our reluctance to confront what is a difficult event.
Nonetheless, before we comment, further consultation with Brennan Guigue is necessary.”

Brennan saw an obvious contradiction on a first read-through, and when he did focus on these many pages later, he felt comments weren’t necessary. Everything he needed to say was put on paper on July 24, 2014 at Donnacona Institution. “Just another day on the range? The Guigue Summary”, was the first entry on ‘Justice for Brennan Guigue’, posted here on September 26, 2014. What’s important to him with this printed material is that we have the names of all involved.

From the many names on these pages, the correctional officers involved directly in this assault are Steeve Longpré, Eric Charbonneau, D. Nantel, Samuel Penka, and Jean Pratte, acting under the direction of Correctional Manager George Jean-Pierre. Tran D. Nguyen videotaped the event for about two hours. All of these men are employed by Correctional Service of Canada, they are public servants, and on July 22, 2014, they were on duty at RCC (Regional Reception Centre) in Ste-Annes-des-Plaines,
on the north edge of Montreal.

In spite of the words, sentences, paragraphs, and sections that are blacked out, and parts of reports that aren’t filled in, there are interesting conflicts. As a for instance, Samuel Penka’s observation report noted, “My role in this team was to escort prisoner after handcuffed. Prisoner resisting verbally and physically so was gassed with MK().” We have that portion of the video tape, and it’s obvious Mr. Penka ‘misremembers’ how this unfolded, although he filed his report on the same day as the event, and it was counter-signed by George Jean-Pierre.

On the same day again, Correctional Manager George Jean-Pierre filled out his portion of the Use of Force Report. Of the ten questions posed, three are of particular interest.
Total weight of canister before? g After? g (This refers to the canister of OC gas in liquid form, and it is a requirement to note how much is used each time this is deployed. CM Jean-Pierre could not provide this data without incriminating himself and his team in an illegal act of torture.)
Was the forced used necessary and proportionate to the situation at hand?   YES
Were there any violations of the law or CSC’s policies?   NO

Contrast that with the senior managers’ observations. We are including only relevant assessments.

In the section reserved for the Correctional Manager (Operations) [name, signature and date do not appear]:
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate in the situation:   NO
Any violations of law or CSC policies?   YES

Deputy Warden Cynthia Racicot answering the same questions: [section is not dated]
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate in the situation:   NO
Violations of the law or CSC policies?   YES
The deputy warden also attached a note which was not made available.

The section reserved for Institutional Head Stéphane Lalande is dated November 24, 2014.
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate to the situation:   NO
Any violations of the law or CSC policies?   YES

Robert Piorier, Assistant Deputy Commissioner of Operations completed the section reserved for him on January 8, 2015.
I am satisfied amount of force used was necessary and proportionate to the situation:   NO
Were all health standards met?   NO
Any violations of law or CSC policies?   YES

A September 14, 2014 evaluation of the event by Anik Desgagnés, a representative of the institution, was circumspect in its criticism, given its own employees were involved. He contradicted the video evidence at one point, but acknowledged there were “failures.” One paragraph here is blacked out, but continued, “I conclude the staff did not use a good management strategy with respect to the situation…….”

The Regional evaluation was received on December 3, 2014, but the entire section has been withheld.

The National evaluation was submitted on January 6, 2015 by Stéphane Descroches, and noted the status of the evaluation was ongoing and the “file remains open.” This report began by disagreeing with the evaluation and intervention by the institution. Three sections are blacked out. In the end, “…we conclude that the MGS (situation management model) was not respected and the use of inflammatory agents was not justified. The behaviour of the prisoner represented no threat for him of our agents.”

There was further information we requested where CSC simply dismissed the necessity of including it in the package.

Remember, what happened to Brennan Guigue should not be seen as an isolated incident, that all involved are civil servants paid from the public purse, using your tax dollars ( You pay for their underwear! ), and that all are undoubtedly still employed by your government.

And the music goes on and on……

The printed material Correctional Service of Canada submitted in response to our information and privacy requests has been reviewed, along with Stephen Fineberg’s translations. Most of the reports, declarations, observations, and evaluations are in French. Just as with the video discs, the delay in analyzing the 40 pages CSC released shows our reluctance to confront what is a difficult event.
Nonetheless, before we comment, further consultation with Brennan Guigue is necessary.

In the meantime, our Montreal lawyer, impatient with the lack of any response from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to a complaint first filed last September, wrote again:-

Stephen Fineberg, Avocat/Attorney,
625, boul. René-Lévesque Ouest,
Suite 900,
Montreal, Québec,
H3B 1R2

February 15, 2016

Monsieur Jean Plamondon,
For the Registrar,
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada,
30 Victoria Street, 1st Floor,
Gatineau, QC K1A 1H3

Re: Complaint re Privacy Request P-2014-04423
& Access Request A-2014-00314

Monsieur Plamondon:

On September 3, 2015, I wrote on behalf of my client, Mr. Brennan Guigue to file a complaint concerning the action taken by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) on my client’s Access and Privacy requests. In response you explained an authorization signed by Mr. Guigue was required for me to serve as his representative. Mr. Guigue accordingly forwarded such an authorization to your office. On November 13, 2015 I again wrote to file a complaint on his behalf. I am writing now to inquire if that complaint has indeed been initiated.

Furthermore, Mr. Guigue wishes to advise your office that he is convinced the video material forwarded by CSC did not include all the footage of him that was recorded by the hand-held camera. To be more specific, he believes CSC has withheld relevant material which the hand-held camera recorded subsequent to the footage which was shared. He asks that your office take this into consideration in your examination of the existing footage of the incident in question.

Sincerely,

Stephen Fineberg
Counsel to Brennan Guigue

Now, while Mr. Fineberg didn’t suggest I intervene, I also wrote to underscore the point he made in his letter:

February 19, 2016

Mr. Jean Plamondon,
For the Registrar,
Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada,
30 Victoria Street, 1st Floor,
Gatineau, QC K1A 1H3

Re: Your file 041614
Complaint re Privacy Request P-2014-04423
& Access Request A-2014-00314
Brennan Wayne Guigue

Dear Sir:

I have a copy of Stephen Fineberg’s February 15th follow-up to his November 13, 2014 letter filing a complaint on behalf on Brennan Guigue.

I am Brennan’s father. While I don’t expect your office to include me in your correspondence on this matter, I am compelled to comment on the outrageous behaviour of Correctional Service of Canada.

CSC responded to a request for video files by providing five discs. The same 32 minutes and 26 seconds is readable on the first four. All other information is unavailable. Those 32 minutes and 26 seconds set the stage for what the hand-held camera continued to record after, and the following 45 to 75 minutes at least are most relevant to Brennan’s complaint. Correctional Service of Canada is purposely withholding evidence of its culpability.

You should also note that both Correctional Service of Canada, and the Office of the Correctional Investigator, concluded from their investigation of this July 22, 2014 incident at RCC in Montreal that the level of force used was “inappropriate”.

We expect Correctional Service of Canada to substantiate their own conclusion with the video evidence for which we’ve asked.

Yours truly,

Charles H. Klassen

In a later comment on this ‘project’, Stephen intimated that it might be necessary to take this to court to obtain what we should have had in the first place.

And, as a by-the-way, this is apparently not unusual when trying to wrench something from the government’s fingers. Outliving a complainant seems a legitimate ploy from our public servants.

Brennan Guigue – Justice takes time.

Our latest data revises some of what is published in “The Light Beam Flickers” on November 9th last year. Specifically, the videos are both more and less revealing than we originally understood …. and expected.

Of the five discs received from Correctional Service Canada in response to our Access to Information request, the first copies video shot using a hand-held camera on July 22, 2014 at the Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines north of Montreal. It commences at 5:11 pm on that day and runs for 32 minutes and 26 seconds. This material was quickly reviewed by Brennan last fall.

Discs #2 through #4 repeat what is on disc #1 and adds additional information, presumably shot in the same mode, except that disc #4 also contains material that may come from a fixed camera. Disc #5 appears to contain information from a fixed camera only. None of the material on discs #2 through #5 is readable, other than what we were able to review from disc #1 and it’s repetition on the next three discs.

Correctional Service of Canada has withheld everything other than those 32 minutes and 26 seconds. Stephen Fineberg has filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, suggesting CSC has withheld more than it is legally entitled to prevent us from seeing.

An analysis of that first disc confirms what both CSC and the Office of the Correctional Investigator earlier admitted; namely, the level of force used was inappropriate and inconsistent with their ‘Situation Management Model’, there was no emergency, and the use of OC (pepper spray) was not appropriate.

A closer examination of that video reveals that CSC guards intentionally ignored their employer’s policy, and engaged in prohibited activity. Further, their use of OC did not meet the manufacturer’s recommendations for the proper use of the chemical. Most notably, the CSC guards involved in this incident crossed the line into criminality and acted unlawfully under sections of Canada’s Criminal Code. They also violated provisions of the United Nation’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, to which this country is a signatory. At a point in the video after the attack, Brennan warns the six CSC employees they will have to answer for their behaviour.

To go further, staff at the RCC was aware boundaries had been overstepped and substituted Brennan on a “load” to Donnacona the following day, where he was placed in segregation and on cuff status, all in an attempt to hide him away. As previously noted, health care at Donnacona refused to document his injuries.

Brennan has insisted that video shot after what we’ve seen is more incriminating (refer to Just Another Day on the Range? from September 26 of 2014), and we’ve asked Stephen Fineberg to relay this to the OPC.

The printed material and translations are also in our possession. An initial read indicates at least a few contradictions. As expected though, no CSC employee will implicate the wrongdoing of another, or admit to breaking rules or the law themselves. We’ll report more on this after additional study.

As always, please stand by………

The light beam flickers…….

In the last posting on Brennan’s trek for justice (“Finally…a beam of light”, August 16), he wanted copies of everything Stephen Fineberg received from Correctional Service of Canada in response to Access to Information requests, even though the written material was in French. Brennan is most anxious to get his hands on the video showing him screaming in pain, the sounds coming out of him not like one would expect from a human being, while guards are laughing off camera.

It’s likely however that getting all the relevant material, like the video content Brennan specified above, will take much more effort. Here’s why.

There was a hiatus on this project here in Toronto while other matters needed attention, but Brennan and Stephen Fineberg finally spoke on Wednesday, October 7. Firstly, Stephen had some equipment difficulty initially viewing the videos. That was resolved and he was sending all five on to Toronto. Secondly, he’d made copies of the written material, and asked if he should send that as well, recommending that he draw up an English summary. Our decision on that would be forthcoming. Thirdly, he had filed a complaint with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, suggesting Correctional Service of Canada may have held back more than the law strictly requires. The OPC may support CSC’s decisions, but anything at all which might be released as a result of the complaint would be a positive outcome. However, the OPC would not take the process further until it received written authorization from Brennan that Stephen Fineberg acts on his behalf, and this in spite of already available information indicating he does represent Brennan.

A few days later, we advised Fineberg that Brennan didn’t want the written material. And, Brennan’s letter to the OPC authorizing his lawyer to act on his behalf was mailed on the 14th, with a copy to Fineberg.

The videos arrived on the 17th. Only the first has been viewed to date. CSC has edited out any portion of that segment which shows CSC guards violating policy and the Criminal Code. It was difficult to watch, and our reaction has delayed further work, but it’s a job that must be completed within the next week or two.

Keep in mind this ‘event’ at the Regional Reception Centre in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines on July 22, 2014 began about 3 in the afternoon when Brennan was taken from his cell, did not finish until 11 that night when he was returned, and video was shot for 100% of those 8 hours. Stephen Fineberg’s October 26 email answered questions we had around the identity of the guards involved that day. He strongly suggested we authorize him to send us copies of the French written material along with his English summaries. We gave him an okay. In addition, once we can recognize and identify the gaps in the videos, he will include that in his complaint to the OPC.

You’d think we would be moving quickly on this, but we’re in an environment in Toronto where conflicting priorities challenge our best efforts to move forward as we’d prefer.

Please stand by………

Finally…..a beam of light.

Late on the night of Wednesday, August 5th, an email from Montreal lawyer Stephen Fineberg began with…..

..THIS EVENING I HAVE THE MATERIAL IN MY HANDS….

He hadn’t started his review, but the packaging indicated there were 4 DVD discs recorded by a hand-held camera, and one DVD disc from a fixed camera.

As well, “we have also received a number of pages of written reports. Some material has been withheld on the authority of Privacy Act section 22(1)(c): disclosure would be injurious to the security of penal institutions; and section 26: requested material concerns another individual who has not given his consent, and certain conditions listed in section 8 are met. Section 8 allows for exclusion in multiple situations, including the public interest in disclosure does not clearly outweigh any invasion of privacy that could result from the disclosure.”

No conclusions should be assumed about the contents. Time will tell if/what information has been excluded, particularly the most incriminating of the DVDs.

Brennan wants copies of everything when that can be arranged although much, if not all, is in French.

This can’t be repeated often enough. We elect, appoint, and employ men and women to be our nation’s housekeepers. This isn’t easy work. But, it’s unfortunate that one of the first things these men and women servants do is build firewalls to protect themselves from………us.

Oh Canada…..really?

Another update…….

On Wednesday, July 1, as we were going around town, ending at the church for the noon Eucharist, “Happy Canada Day” was floating through the air, tripping off tongues as easily as ‘how-de-do’. We weren’t so ready to be patriotic, and disappointed ourselves by limply answering with “and to you, too”, rather than speaking out.

Why? Just that morning, another email from our Montreal lawyer told us that federal civil servants, our federal civil servants, employees of Correctional Service of Canada, are continuing to procrastinate on delivering potentially incriminating and damaging information which they are compelled by law to disclose. This is how CSC operates……obstruct, delay, challenge, obfuscate, stall. For instance, this lawyer has a client who has been waiting five years so far for CSC HQ in Ottawa to respond to a third-level grievance.

What to do, we asked in a response to Montreal? Take it up a notch. Go over their heads. Go to Ottawa and picket CSC headquarters on Laurier Avenue. Get some media attention. Tell their mothers. Options there are. But, the need for them is inexcusable.

We received another email on Monday, July 6, after Montreal made further efforts to shake fruit from the tree. Not to worry, he was told by the information and privacy division of CSC, but processing requests that include 5 videos takes longer than projects involving only the scanning of documents. That’s their story now, but they know we’re approaching the end of their line. The new estimate for completion of the work is one week, and Montreal asks us to wait for an outcome before looking at options.

Oh, Canada? …..not so much for us.