CAP Calls for Investigation Following Report of Trans Inmate Death
September 24th, 2021 (Ottawa, ON) – The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples was informed earlier this week by contacts in the Corrections system of the death by suicide of a transgender inmate at Edmonton Institution, managed by Corrections Services Canada. Earlier this week, the John Howard Society of Canada called on Police Chief Dale McFee to investigate conditions at Edmonton Institution where the incident occurred, citing concerns about maltreatment, solitary confinement, denial of medication and healthcare.
“We are deeply disturbed by these reports, in particular the claim that this inmate was encouraged by correctional officers to take her own life” said Kim Beaudin, National Vice Chief. “This fits with a pattern, also seen in the case of Curtis McKenzie, of correctional officers being complicit in self-harm incidents and failing to protect the physical and mental safety of inmates.”
Curtis McKenzie died by suicide in March of 2020, also while in the custody of Correctional Services Canada at Saskatchewan Penitentiary. He had previously mutilated his own face in an act of self-harm in 2017. Despite his demonstrated pattern of self-harm and mental illness, staff and officers failed to offer adequate mental health care or oversight to prevent his death by suicide in 2020 Reports in the case of Curtis McKenzie claimed that the items he used to engage in self-harm were provided by corrections officers.
The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples has called on improvements to culturally-appropriate mental health care supports for inmates, to address issues of suicide, self-harm and addressing trauma suffered by Indigenous people. This includes a strategy to address the unique needs of gender and sexual minorities, such as transgender and two-spirit inmates.
“We need to know the full story in these incidents, and right now that isn’t available,” said Kim Beaudin “I am calling on Correctional Services Canada to adopt system-wide body camera policies that have been invaluable for investigating abuse of power incidents in other jurisdictions.”
At the moment, body cameras in policing in Canada have seen limited roll-out, with Calgary Police Services as one of the few to adopt the equipment so far, and others examining adopting policies around their use. At present no correctional institutions have mandated their adoption in Canada, however there are examples internationally, in the United States and overseas.
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The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples is the national voice representing the interests of Métis, status and non–status Indians, and Southern Inuit Indigenous People living off–reserve. Today, over 70% of Indigenous people live off–reserve.