$23M lawsuit claims inmates being racially profiled

By Jasminee Sahoye

The Black Action Defense Committee (BADC) has filed a lawsuit against Steven Blaney, Federal Minister of Public Safety, Ministry of Public Safety; and Correctional Services Canada for racial profiling and unequal treatment of Black inmates in federal penitentiaries.
According to Dr. Munyonzwe Hamalengwa, Barrister and Solicitor for the BADC, the lawsuit follows the disclosure of massive mistreatment of Black Inmates in these institutions by the Correctional Investigator in his report released on November 26th, 2013.
“We are tired of being discriminated against in our own country Canada. If the government cannot protect you, the only recourse is the Judiciary. The treatment of Black inmates in Federal institutions as disclosed in the report is a violation of Sections 7, 15(1) and 27 of the Charter as well as various sections of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and its Regulations; the Canadian Human Rights Act; Canadian Multiculturalism Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, not to mention the International Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination. We are on solid legal grounds,” says Dr. Hamalengwa
He said he has personally verified the information contained in the report.
According to the 18-page statement of claim, Black inmates are unequally treated and racially profiled throughout the entire Federal penitentiaries ranging from being concentrated in a few prisons to not being accommodated in terms of products and sanitary provisions appropriate to their race and culture.
It added that Black inmates are unjustifiably regarded as belonging to “criminal gangs” or regarded as “drug dealers” or “trouble makers” as being prone to violence and thus justifying their unequal treatment by the Defendants.
“Black inmates are targeted for special scrutiny which involves their being charged for discretionary prison infractions and subjected to discretionary disciplinary measures which ultimately result in these inmates being denied early parole or spending some time in segregation.”
The BADC further claims that Black inmates are disproportionately classified for maximum security unjustifiably mainly because they are stereotypically profiled to belong to gangs and are prone to be violent and are drug users.
It also claims among other things that Black inmates are called the “N” word more often as they are called their real names or are made fun of because of their accents and backgrounds. This has caused severe loss of dignity.
The lawsuit also claims that the Government of Canada has also failed to restrain the defendants from engaging in behaviour that include racial profiling and unequal treatment of Black inmates in Federal Penitentiaries and failed to enact anti-racial profiling laws that would enable the defendants to be accountable and punishable.
The class is seeking $23 million in damages other and appropriate systemic remedies pursuant to section 24(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The defendants have thirty days to respond to the statement of claim. The BADC (the plaintiff) is asking for the action to be tried in Toronto.