Only 7 days day left to reach our goal!

Help make 3 major investigative reports happen in 2021.
Goal: 30,000
21,327

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin is calling for accountability after a panel of experts assigned to look into the use of Structured Intervention Units (SIUs), in Canadian prisons released a scathing report on 19 Aug. detailing how their work was obstructed, undermined and blocked by the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC).

“The panel has now disbanded and will not be able to complete its work to ensure safety for prisoners in Canada,” said Beaudin, who worked as a justice of the peace for the Province of Saskatchewan for five years, and later as an advocate for incarcerated Indigenous youth.

SIUs are meant as a way to avoid solitary confinement and are implemented when an inmate is found to be a danger to themselves or others. The panel was supposed to gauge their effectiveness. Beaudin said they are essentially one and the same.

"I’m dealing with people in prison that have been cut completely off from their families. Literally cut right off. They're not even allowed to talk to them. Their mothers can’t even visit them when they’re in prison. They’re not allowed," Beaudin said.

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples Vice-Chief Kim Beaudin with Vancouver Granville Independent MP Jody Wilson-Raybould. Photo courtesy of CAP.

University of Toronto Criminologist Anthony Doob, who chaired the inquiry, said their work was thwarted by a lack of cooperation from the Correctional Service of Canada.

“Very simply, this panel has not been allowed to do its work,” Doob, wrote in an Aug. 19 memo attached to the report. Doob said the CSC did not provide workable data to go by.

Beaudin pointed to the death of Curtis McKenzie, a 27-year-old member of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, who took his own life in March while in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert.

“He suffered from (having been) in solitary confinement… We fought so hard trying to get some oversight and trying to make sure that Canada was following international law about torture, and obviously they’re not,” Beaudin told Canada’s National Observer in an interview on Thursday.

“It seems like once you are in the system you’re done. You’re hidden in the system. There’s no transparency, there’s no accountability for officials. They can do whatever they want.”

Curtis McKenzie, a 27-year-old member of Lac La Ronge Indian Band, took his own life in March while in the custody of the Correctional Service of Canada at Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert. Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock.

Beaudin said McKenzie was one of many.

"I’m dealing with people in prison that have been cut completely off from their families. They're not even allowed to talk to them. Their mothers can’t even visit them when they’re in prison." Kim Beaudin. @CongAboPeoples @BillBlair @CSC_SCC_en

“We have no oversight. I’ve counted four people who died in prison as a result of suicide alone. I believe two out of federal (prison) and two provincial (prison) in Saskatchewan ... That was just in the last month and a half,” Beaudin said.

“This is another way of silencing people. These are the kinds of things that happen behind closed doors that we don’t hear about.”

Beaudin said the panel of experts appointed to investigate SIUs gave him hope that change was on the horizon.

“It was a faint hope but that’s gone now.”

Beaudin pointed the finger at CSC Commissioner Anne Kelly, who he said has responsibility within the public service for the actions of her department, and for implementing the policies set out by cabinet to lower the disproportionate rate of Indigenous people in federal prisons.

“It’s time for her to step down. That’s what I think. She should step down because she’s clearly not doing her job ... She was given a mandate by Trudeau. It’s clear that she’s not following that mandate,” Beaudin said.

Beaudin also called for Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair to bring fresh blood to the CSC leadership. Ideally someone with a background other than corrections, he said.

“Somebody who has a different way of looking at things. Who comes to it with a different lens. Not bringing the stereotypes that they learned when they went through the system themselves,” Beaudin said.

The CSC said Commissioner, Anne Kelly, personally met with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and has had ongoing correspondence with them this Spring about ways to work together. Photo: CPAC footage.

Beaudin lambasted the CSC for what he called a "failure to expedite releases of prisoners due to COVID-19, and a failure to implement oversight promised in 2018 relating to suicide in prisons."

He said it's time to reexamine the CSC's spending priorities.

"I know that after this pandemic passes they’re going to have to look at making cuts overall to Canada’s budget where they spend money and prioritize money" Beaudin said.

"Increasing a budget at Correctional Service of Canada shouldn’t even be a priority. It’s time that we defunded the Correctional Service of Canada"

Blair’s office said the government continues to value and support the SIU Implementation Advisory Panel (IAP) and intends to renew the appointments of the Chair and its members so that it may complete its work.

“Minister Blair has spoken with the chair of the Implementation Advisory Panel, Dr. Anthony Doob about the Panel‘s serious concerns and has asked the Correctional Service of Canada to work with the Chair to develop a work plan that will help ensure the Panel gets all the information it needs to complete its work in a timely manner,” Blair’s Press Secretary Mary-Liz Power told Canada’s National Observer in a written statement.

Power said the government has made commitments to expand programs to keep at-risk youth out of the criminal justice system, make drug treatment courts the default option for first-time non-violent offenders, and introduce legislation to implement the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Bill Blair is Minister of Public Safety and Liberal MP for the Ontario riding of Scarborough Southwest. Blair is a former chief of the Toronto Police Service. Photo: Twitter/@BillBlair.

"The SIUs are supported with an investment of $448 million for new staff, infrastructure and mental healthcare. These investments will support enhanced assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhanced mental health care, support for patient advocacy services and 24/7 health care at designated institutions," Power said.

The federal inmate population increased 1.2 per cent since 2010, while the Indigenous inmate population increased by 52.1 per cent.

The rate of Indigenous incarceration within provincial correctional facilities in Saskatchewan is 76 per cent and is 65 per cent at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary.

According to the most recent national data available from the annual report of the office of the correctional investigator (2018-2019), “Indigenous offenders are over-represented in the number of incidents of attempted suicide, accounting for 39 per cent of all such incidents in the last 10 years.”

The CSC said it is working to improve those numbers, but said it could not provide the number of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people who have died by suicide in their custody by press time.

“We recognize that there is an overrepresentation of Indigenous offenders in our correctional institutions, which is a reflection of the disparities within our society that we must all work to fix — here at CSC as well as within our criminal justice system," CSC spokesperson Marie Pier Lécuyer told Canada’s National Observer in a written response.

“Addressing this systemic issue takes time and we know there is more work to do. We are committed to ensuring that Indigenous, Black and other racialized offenders are afforded the same protections, dignity and treatment as others, consistent with the Canadian Human Rights Act, and CSC’s policies,” Lécuyer said.

She said a critical component of addressing systemic racism at CSC lies in “our ability to listen, learn and take action by working in partnership.”

On November 30, 2019, a new correctional model was introduced which eliminated administrative segregation, also known as solitary confinement.

“CSC has been – and continues to – actively work on the IAP to provide the data they requested, so they can complete their important work. We are committed to providing the Panel with what it needs as we continue to work collaboratively with them,” Lécuyer said.

The CSC said Commissioner, Anne Kelly, personally met with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and has had ongoing correspondence with them this Spring about ways to work together.

"We have a positive relationship," Lécuyer said.

The Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert is a federally run institution. The CSC said it could not provide the number of Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people who have died by suicide in their custody by press time. The CSC has promised to fulfill National Observer's request for those numbers as soon as possible. Photo by Michael Bramadat-Willcock.

Kelly said she reached out to the National Chief, Robert Bertrand, again after Canada's National Observer asked for comment on Friday.

"There is great strength that comes from working collaboratively with Indigenous partners, both nationally and locally, and we benefit greatly from their knowledge and involvement," Lécuyer said.

Congress of Aboriginal Peoples National Chief, Robert Bertrand, told Canada's National Observer that solutions don't lie in keeping Indigenous people locked up, but in working to lower that number. He said the CSC has to find a way to "bring fresh air" to the discussion.

"So many times, if an Indigenous person has a mental problem the answer (from Canada) was 'let's throw them in jail.' That's not a solution," Bertrand said. Bertrand said the number of Indigenous inmates in Canada needs to go down and that he's willing to work with the CSC to that end.

"We are the perfect organization to sit down with the Corrections Service of Canada to find these solutions. Let's bring the percentage down of incarcerated Indigenous people... Let's change the system... Let's sit down and work cooperatively," Bertrand said.

Bertrand said what has happened to Curtis McKenzie and others while in CSC care is unacceptable.

"Let's go into these prisons, find these people and bring their files to the light for the Canadian public."

Michael Bramadat-Willcock/Local Journalism Initiative/Canada's National Observer


If you are or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, help is available at all hours. Support can be found at the Canada Suicide Prevention Service website. If you are in immediate danger, you can call 911.

You can learn more about suicide prevention in the province at Saskatchewan.ca.

Editor's note: This article was updated on September 12 to add statements from the office of Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair.

Keep reading

In Dickens' novel, Dr. Manette is isolated in the Bastille for endless years, an object of the horrific politics of the French Revolution. Solitary confinement, a curse and an instance of cruel and unusual punishment, continues to this day. The BCCLA is actively challenging it, and although I live in Ontario, I'm a member and donor.
Is it surprising that a human being in extreme isolation from every other human would rather die than continue? To me, this is a mark of the suicide's humanity- and a mark of the barbarism and inhumanity of those wolves in power who defend the persistence of solitary confinement.
I suggest those who find it justifiable, especially those in control of its continuation, try it out for themselves: the same barren, closed and tiny cell; the same endless lack of contact with fellow humans; the same meaningless isolation and closeting. Check out the BCCLA 's research and discussion of it.

Canadians should never be smug about the racial politics in this country. Where the U.S. focused on the control and enslavement of its imported African labourers while simultaneously exterminating the indigenous inhabitants of the continent, Canada focused all its racial policies first on eliminating the indigenous, and secondly, banning the undesirable immigrants from non-white nations as well as the Jewish peoples of Europe.

The only exceptions we made were for the workers needed for our nation building projects; railroads and canals in the east built largely by Irish navvies, and in the west imported temporary Chinese workers for the western half of the transcontinental railroad.

Throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th century successive Canadian Governments failed, despite multiple efforts, to subdue, and exterminate or assimilate our indigenous population. All the usual methods; intentional starvation, re-location, unilateral destruction of treaties, apartheid, family destruction, relentless demonizing of "natives" in the popular press and in government policy making were used then and many continue to be used today.

The over-incarceration and the continued demonizing of "natives" and people of colour remains. in both nations. as the glaring example of desperate white supremacy.

It appears that people predisposed to this racist, discriminatory policy are attracted to the infrastructure of oppression, the justice and policing systems and finally the incarceration system. I suspect that even people who oppose such overt oppression who join this system are, in one way or another, co-opted into its pervasive force field.

While Canada's record of police brutality and judicial manipulation does not, on the surface, appear to be as egregious as in the U.S. it is still a defining and shaming hallmark, as the un-impeachable statistics prove. The growing(?) presence and recognition of the extreme white power influences in our police/justice and military are a completely unacceptable phenomenon in a nation that boasts about and officially espouses diversity.

I wish there was a magic method for turning white people into global citizens, but it has so far not been found. World wide, except in places too large, like China and Africa, determined efforts have been expended to colonize, subdue and exploit the "locals". China has thrown off this assault but their past history with the west looms large in their psyche and they are making heroic efforts to nullify the white domination of global trade and power. Africa is still a force gathering it's strength. When and if, it and the middle east can sort out their respective internecine battles, together with Asia, the west will loose its preeminence.

Certainly not in my lifetime and, of course, given our global existential climate problems, all bets are conditional on the actual survival of humanity. None of which is an excuse for the continued thuggery of European whiteness.

I can't stand the sanctimonious dribble coming out of those CSC bureaucrats. "Minister Blair has spoken with the chair of the Implementation Advisory Panel, Dr. Anthony Doob about the Panel‘s serious concerns and has asked the Correctional Service of Canada to work with the Chair to develop a work plan that will help ensure the Panel gets all the information it needs to complete its work in a timely manner" . . . which they will ignore just like before.

“CSC has been – and continues to – actively work on the IAP to provide the data they requested, so they can complete their important work. We are committed to providing the Panel with what it needs as we continue to work collaboratively with them,” Lécuyer said.
Yeah, sure, that's why their report said you were stonewalling them and totally unaccountable.

The CSC said Commissioner, Anne Kelly, personally met with the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and has had ongoing correspondence with them this Spring about ways to work together.
"We have a positive relationship," Lécuyer said.
Such a positive relationship that they called for Kelly to be sacked.

They are so full of toxic waste.