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(en) Canada, common cause, Linchpin #17 - There is no justice at Grand Valley by TAMMY LEE, Kitchener

Date Wed, 13 Feb 2013 17:51:35 +0200

On the early evening of January 28th protestors gathered outside of the Grand Valley Institution for Women (GVI), a federal prison in Kitchener, ON. Approximately 30 people came out to show their support for the women inside, and to draw attention to the ongoing abuse at the institution, which in recent months has garnered substantial media attention in the wake of a drugs-for-sex scandal. ---- A little over a week before the protest, Kinew James was found unresponsive in her cell at a psychiatric prison in Saskatoon, and later died in hospital of an apparent heart attack. Kinew, 35, had been serving a 15-year sentence, and was set to be released this August. Fellow inmates had heard Kinew shouting for help from her cell, and repeatedly pushing the distress call alarm. Despite the calls for help, guards ignored the alarm and allowed over an hour to pass before responding with the health care unit.

A prompt response to the distress alarm could have been the
difference between life and death for Kinew. Her
family and several prisoner rights’ advocate groups are
demanding an inquiry into her death.

Observers have been quick to draw parallels
between the experiences of Kinew James and that of
Ashley Smith. Both Kinew and Ashley had histories
of struggling with mental illness and self-harm, had
their sentences extended for charges incurred while in
prison, were routinely placed in solitary confinement,
and died while incarcerated. In 2007 Ashley who was
19 and an inmate at Grand Valley Institution, died of
asphyxiation after tying a cloth around her neck as
guards watched, but did not intervene. An inquest
into her death is ongoing, and continues to reveal
exceedingly disturbing facts about the practices and
conditions at Grand Valley.

Kinew up until only a few months ago was also an
inmate at GVI, but was transferred to Saskatoon after
coming forward with allegations that a guard at Grand
Valley Institution was exchanging drugs and cigarettes
for sex with inmates. Kinew was not the only person
to make such an accusation. According to Kim Pate,
executive director of the Canadian Association of
Elizabeth Fry Societies, at least 3 other women had
made similar claims. These allegations hit the media in
early November, and the guard in question (a relative
of a senior manager at the prison) was suspended, and
an internal investigation launched.

Only days after the death of Kinew James, the
findings of the investigation were released. The
Correctional Service of Canada and the Waterloo
Regional Police announced that their investigation
had concluded that the drugs-for-sex accusations were
unfounded. Several outside groups raised concerns
throughout the investigation that evidence would be
difficult to gather due to the fact that inmates, having
no protection from the potential reprisals of guards
are too afraid to speak up of abuse and offer testimony.
This concern was dismissed by investigators who
claimed that it had no basis. The accused guard, who
had been suspended with
pay, has since returned to
work and the investigation

To say that GVI and the
prison system in general
failed both Ashley Smith
and Kinew James would be
a massive understatement.
However, to view their
tragic stories as exceptional
would also be a mistake
– their experiences are
not an exception to the
rule, but rather the brutal
norm of a system that fails
all incarcerated women.
No internal investigation
or inquiry will address
this. The formal complaint mechanisms of guards
investigating guards, of police investigating prisons,
will never favour these women. There is no justice, and
there is no accountability at Grand Valley. Isolation,
deprivation, abuse, and sexual exploitation are inherent
to the violent institution.


Community picket line held at Hamilton school by DEVIN K, Hamilton

Around 30 people walked the picket lines at Sir John
A. McDonald highschool in Hamilton Wednesday
morning. Rather than representing an official union
on strike, the picket was organized by an assortment of
community members acting autonomously. Cars were
held for 2 minutes each, snarling morning rush hour
traffic on Cannon Street, and created a line up which
lasted into first period that day. The action served to
demonstrate the potential for acting outside of official
bodies meant to represent workers, and the laws that
inhibit them.

Wednesday January 16th had been slated for a one
day strike by the Ontario Secondary School Teacher
Federation (OSSTF). The action had been called
by the union as a result of a rank-and-file petition
demanding the leadership respond to the imposition
of Bill 115. Following the announcement of a similar
action by elementary teachers for January 11th, the
provincial government went to the Labour Relations
Board to have both declared illegal. Unfortunately the
unwillingness of labour leadership to openly defy such
a ruling meant that both unions backed down from the
threatened job action.

The complicity of the state and the official channels
meant to mediate labour conflict in acting against
workers is a defining feature of our current era of
austerity. Bill 115 and other such legislation have
implications beyond the workers which they target, and
therefor are in the interests of our entire class to find
creative and militant ways to defy. The pickets at Sir
John A McDonald exemplified an effective and easily
reproducible tactic capable of, if they are to spread
geographically and transcend particular workplaces or
struggles, seriously throwing a wrench in this process.

The picket line on the 16th was met with an
overwhelmingly positive response from teachers as
they made their way into work. Police had one unit
stationed keeping watch on the situation, but the
picket line continued uninterrupted until they were
voluntarily taken down shortly after 9:00AM.

Struggle Changes Everything

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