In a Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019 file photo, detainees walk with their hands clasped behind their backs along a line painted on a walkway inside the Winn Correctional Center in Winnfield, La. A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges authorities illegally strip searched federal prison inmates hundreds of thousands of times over almost three decades. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Gerald Herbert

Planned class-action lawsuit alleges illegal strip-searches of federal prisoners

The action proposes to cover all federal inmates imprisoned on or after June 18, 1992,

A proposed class-action lawsuit alleges authorities illegally strip-searched Canadian federal prison inmates hundreds of thousands of times over almost three decades.

Officials routinely flout a Corrections and Conditional Release Act provision that limits suspicionless strip-searches to instances when an inmate might have had access to drugs or other contraband, says a statement of claim filed in Ontario Superior Court.

It accuses federal authorities of improperly conducting strip-searches whenever inmates leave a prison or a secure area, enter a family visitation area or undergo a transfer to another prison.

Although this is purportedly authorized by regulation, it is “clearly contrary” to the federal legislation, the statement of claim says.

The action proposes to cover all federal inmates imprisoned on or after June 18, 1992, when the legislation took effect.

The statement says inmates have been forced to remove all their clothing, bend over, spread their buttocks, manipulate their genitalia, remove soiled tampons and squat naked while their bodily orifices were inspected.

The court action seeks an end to strip-searches not authorized by federal law as well as compensation for the proposed class members.

The action has yet to be certified as a class proceeding and the merits of the claim have not been tested in court.

Correctional Service of Canada spokeswoman Esther Mailhot said the prison service had received the statement of claim and was reviewing it.

Strip-searches are incredible intrusions on individual liberty, said Abby Deshman, co-counsel for the class and a program director with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

“They must be clearly authorized and governed by law,” Deshman said. “That is not happening here.”

The statement of claim says being strip-searched was particularly traumatic for inmate Michael Farrell, one of two class representatives, because of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child.

When Farrell, 52, was forced to stand naked in front of other men, he relived the emotions of being abused as a child, such as powerlessness, humiliation and shame, the court filing says.

“These emotions occurred immediately and lingered long afterwards, with different negative feelings coming to the fore at different times. Knowing this to be the case, Mr. Farrell fears strip-searches and is anxious whenever he expects to be strip-searched in the near future.”

Kent Elson, the other co-counsel for the class, said illegal strip-searches make the public less safe.

“They psychologically scar prisoners, making rehabilitation harder and reoffending more likely.”

READ MORE: Some residents still don’t feel safe nearly one year after Greater Victoria prison escape

Jim Bronskill , The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Canadaclass-action lawsuitprison

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

North Island All Candidates Meeting scheduled virtually for Oct. 14

‘our local candidates for the B.C. Provincial Election will be joining us’

Abandoned Neucel mill in Port Alice to cost at least $17 million to decommission

Removing hazardous waste and de-risking the site ratchet up bill to taxpayers

Growing food sovereignty at Klemtu

Greenhouse and grow boxes help create circular food economy for Kitasoo/Xai’xais First Nations

B.C. salmon farms challenge activists’ demands for site closures

News reporting also unfair, inaccurate and distorted

Gratitude is a great thing, what are you grateful for?

‘I want to say a heartfelt thanks to Steven Cahill for all his hard work over the years’

B.C. counts 125 new COVID-19 cases, up to 1,284 active

No new deaths or health care facility outbreaks

B.C. VOTES 2020: Wilkinson to stop 24-hour camping in city parks

Ban on ‘unsafe roadside panhandling’ to be enforced

Lessons from a pandemic: How to design a nursing home that’s safe and love-filled

A look at how one care home is battling the pandemic with the social needs of the elderly in their care

B.C. salmon farm opponents demand answers from DFO

First Nations, conservation groups dismayed by omission of sea lice in risk assessments

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Health Canada green-lights rapid COVID-19 test

Health Canada approved the BCube test from Hyris Ltd. in the United Kingdom Sept. 23

First Nations Health Authority chief medical officer concerned with rising COVID-19 cases

“There’s still so much we don’t know and we’re learning everyday about this particular virus.”

FINLAYSON: COVID-related job losses concentrated in urban areas… especially Metro Vancouver

The biggest job losses, in absolute terms, have been in Metro Vancouver

Most Read