. . . . .
Eddie Nalon sat in a solitary confinement cell at Millhaven Maximum
Security Prison near Kingston, Ontario. On August 10th, 1974, he was
expecting to be given the news that he was to be released from solitary
confinement. The guards neglected to tell him of his pending release.
Out of frustration or despair, he cut the vein in his inner elbow. The
cells were equipped with call buttons that could be used to summon the
guards in an emergency. He pushed the button in his cell, other
prisoners pushed their buttons, nobody responded, and he bled to death.
An inquest into his death found that the guards had deactivated the call
buttons in the unit. There were a number of recommendations made by the
coroner's jury, including the immediate repair of the emergency call
The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and the Native Women's Association of Canada made the original complaint to the Commission on behalf of women who were being held in Saskatchewan Maximum Security Penitentiary for Men. This complaint is also supported by the Aboriginal Women's Action Network, Assembly of First Nations, National Association of Friendship Centres, Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Strength in Sisterhood, Disabled Women's Network Canada, National Action Committee on the Status of Women, Canadian Bar Association and Amnesty International.
has breached its
fiduciary duties to federally sentenced
women in Canada
and has disregarded
of Rights and
and certain international
including the United
for the Treatment
of Prisoners, which,
in 1975, Canada
agreed to uphold.
Information on the full
the Canadian Human
can be viewed
on line at
Women in Prison
Imagine your reactions if you were just one Aboriginal woman, incarcerated since 1978 when - after suffering these assaults by uniformed men, in 1994 you are transferred to a men’s penitentiary in Saskatchewan. Termed “therapy.” You manage to ‘survive’ another more than eight years under segregated conditions until transferred in March, 2003 to one of the “new” maximum security units for women. Here you are denied all rehabilitation-relevant programs including your own rights under s.15 of the 1985 Charter enactment and the 1992 CCRA, which includes the right to full participation in all Aboriginal spirituality. You must complete the mandatory correctional “programming;” you must agree to be handcuffed and shackled and while accompanied by two officers, be degraded and be used to instil fear and from that fear - compliance throughout the rest of the population - all in order to gain a few hours in the gym while the other women are barred from the same gym and locked down during this movement! You are expected to show respect to your keepers throughout this ordeal.Female Aboriginal Prisoners
Aboriginal peoples are over-represented in Canadian prisons. In 1999, the incarceration rate for Aboriginal people was 735 per 100,000 of the Canadian population, compared to a national average incarceration rate of 151 per 100,000. “Discrimination against Aboriginal women is rampant in Canada's federal prisons”, says the Native Women's Association of Canada (NWAC). Aboriginal women represent 27 per cent of all women serving federal time, yet account for less than two per cent of Canada's population. Moreover, 50 per cent of women classified as ‘maximum security’ prisoners are Aboriginal women.
Aboriginal women in prison often go into federal facilities on lesser charges, and commit infractions in prison that lead to longer sentences. Those federally sentenced women classified as ‘maximum security’ have no access to core programs and services designed for women under federal law, and are denied specific programs designed for Aboriginal prisoners. Many of these female Aboriginal prisoners have been serving time involuntarily in men’s prisons and psychiatric wards. Serving time in a men’s prison not only puts these women at risk to male violence, but also denies them equal access to the programs and services that the men receive.
Kim Pate, the Executive Director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, draws attention to the fact that Aboriginal women and women with disabilities are particularly discriminated against: “Being Aboriginal means you are seen as higher risk; being poor means you are seen as higher risk; and being disabled means you are seen as higher risk. All of this results in women receiving a higher security classification, so if you are a poor, Aboriginal woman with a disability, they literally throw away the key.”
Women Prisoners with Mental and Developmental Disabilities
The Disabled Women's Network Canada states that federally sentenced women with mental and developmental disabilities are being discriminated against under Section 17 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulation, which equates mental disability with a security risk. This legislation applies higher security classifications to these women, and perpetuates negative stereotypes and assumptions, which characterise mental disability as dangerous. Because of their higher security classifications based on disability, women who are suicidal or have mental or cognitive disabilities, are often isolated, deprived of clothing, and placed in stripped or barren cells. Prisons have become a substitute for community-based mental health services. With the increased cutbacks to healthcare and social programs, the law is increasingly coming into conflict with women's lives, as they are relegated into prisons instead of receiving appropriate services within the community.
Vancouver Prison Justice Day Events
This year the Prisoners' Justice Day Committee is participating in a cross-country campaign to examine the situation of women in prison. It has joined with women's groups and prisoner rights organisations across the country in order to raise public awareness. We are demanding that the Government of Canada and the Correctional Service of Canada end its discriminatory treatment of women in prison and close the new maximum-security prisons for women. The Vancouver Committee has organised several community events, and encourages you to listen, watch, educate yourself, and get active. For more info about Prison Justice Day and the committee's work, you can check our website at www.prisonjustice.ca
July 13, 2003