This blog represents my own personal opinions, thoughts and ideas, and should never be relied on as legal advice. My goal is have a national discussion with the grass roots citizens to see where we can affect the changes we want for our families, communities, and Nations. We owe it to our ancestors to protect our cultures and territories for our future generations.
*Originally published in Lawyer's Daily on November 6, 2017 (edited to include links)
integrity of Canada’s policing and corrections system has been called into
disrepute from the sexualized violence committed by its police and corrections
officers against Indigenous women and girls, female prisoners and even their
own female colleagues.
officials at Edmonton’s maximum security prison suspended seven employees —
including managers — for allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The male guards are now under investigation not only for the sexual harassment
and assaults but also for their retaliatory actions against their female
colleagues who tried to report the harassment. In some cases, it is alleged
that protocols were breached risking the safety and security of the female
prison guards including using inmates as weapons of intimidation.
many would like to believe that this is an example of “a few bad apples,” the
number of similar complaints across the country points to a much deeper problem
in corrections. Earlier this year, in another maximum security prison in
Agassiz, B.C., the sexual assault of a female prison guard by her male
colleague was actually caught on camera. Far from an isolated incident, the
union representing various locals in B.C. say they regularly assist female
corrections employees in similar harassment cases.
widespread sexually abusive actions by corrections officers is not limited to
female colleagues. In 2012, prison guards at Ontario’s Grand Valley Institution
for Women were accused of sexual abuse of female prisoners by trading tobacco
and drugs for sexual acts. This was not news to the Correctional Service of
Canada (CSC). The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which
represents women and girls in the justice system, has filed many reports on
such incidents calling for an external review and for the CSC to stop using
male guards in women’s prisons.
advocates also made calls for surveillance cameras in all institutions after
surveillance videos captured numerous incidents of prison guards beating
prisoners in Ontario and Quebec prisons in 2013. Several videos depict
prisoners cowering in fear in what some lawyers have referred to as absolute
“terrorism” committed by prison guards. The Office of the Correctional
Investigator responded that not only that video surveillance procedures failed
70 per cent of the time, but that “it’s probably not a coincidence that some
alleged prison beatings occur in spots where there’s no surveillance cameras.”
The importance of surveillance cameras cannot be overstated. It was
surveillance footage that showed Vancouver police dragging an unconscious
Mi’kmaw man, Frank Paul, out of a jail cell and into an alleyway where he died
of hypothermia in 1998.
are the arrested, detained, or imprisoned supposed to call when they have been
beaten or sexually abused by corrections officers? There is a major power
imbalance between corrections and prisoners, and the police are part of the
same abusive system that protects its own before protecting those in their
charge. The RCMP have been inundated with class actions and public complaints
about their long-standing racism, sexism, abuse and harassment against the
public and its own members.
not admitting any wrongdoing, this year, the RCMP recently settled a class
action suit against it for the long-standing sexual harassment and assault of
thousands of female RCMP members. In 2016, a second class action suit against
the RCMP — this time male members — allege harassment and bullying. Also in
2016, another complaint alleges RCMP bullying and unwanted sexual touching and
nudity at their own police college run by the RCMP in Ottawa. This is all on
top of the 2014 report which documented hundreds of cases of corruption,
involving hundreds of officers in the RCMP.
deep-rooted problem of racism, sexism and abuse in policing and corrections is
not new in the male-dominated system. The Royal Commission on Donald Marshall
Jr.’s wrongful imprisonment highlighted police racism back in 1989. The 1991
Report of the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry was instigated at the failure by
police to properly investigate the sexual assault and murder of Indigenous
woman Helen Betty Osborne and the police shooting of unarmed Indigenous leader
J.J. Harper. The report highlighted the fact that the police do little to
protect Indigenous peoples, especially women and girls.
2012 Missing Women Commission of Inquiry from B.C. found “blatant failures” and
systemic bias against the victims and their families, many of whom were
Indigenous. One of the most damning reports comes from Human Rights Watch in
2013 on abusive policing in B.C. which documented reports of RCMP physical and
sexual abuse of Indigenous women and girls.
CSC and RCMP have both been implicated in the bullying, harassment, physical
assaults, sexual assaults and/or deaths of female officers, female civilian
employees, fellow male officers, male and female prisoners, and Indigenous
women and girls. The class actions against the RCMP should have been a wakeup
call for Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to take immediate remedial
action. The 2017 CSC survey which reported that 40 per cent of CSC had been a
victim of workplace harassment — 60 per cent of cases from their own CSC
co-workers. The survey also showed that the problem is getting worse — having
increased by over 30 per cent since 2014. Even the Canadian Human Rights
Tribunal has noted that sexual harassment “continues to take place in
organizations with a historical male dominance.”
very fact that the terms of reference for the national inquiry into murdered
and missing Indigenous women and girls excludes a review of police conduct is
yet another example of the resistance of Canadian officials to address the
problem. The knee-jerk reaction of governments to protect their police forces
at all costs, may well cost them the loss of public confidence in policing and
fact that the federal government chose a commissioner, Qajaq Robinson, for the
national inquiry whose husband is a RCMP officer who pleaded guilty to beating
Indigenous prisoners in 2009, begs the question as to whether PM Trudeau and
his cabinet had any real intention of getting at the truth — which so far, all
points directly at racism, sexism, abuse and corruption in policing and
would have thought with a self-professed feminist prime minister and an
experienced minister like Ralph Goodale, there would have been some immediate
and substantive actions over the last two years since they took office. But,
much like the perpetually absent Minister on the Status of Women Maryam Monsef
— there are very few federal voices willing to tackle the monumental problem of
racism, sexism, abuse and corruption in policing and corrections in Canada. It
is hard to imagine a minister on the Status of Women as willfully blind on such
high profile incidences of sexism and sexual abuse as Monsef.
those entrusted to serve and protect serve only their own interests and abuse
those in their care, the system will inevitably start to unravel — becoming a
national crisis. Trudeau ought to use the revelations about sexual abuse in the
Edmonton’s maximum security prison to dismantle this broken system of male
dominance and sexualized violence in government institutions and restore public safety.
*Link to the article originally published in Lawyer's Daily on November 6, 2017: