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

‘I’ve fallen through the cracks’: Victoria woman calls herself new face of homelessness

Tonya Alton has had to move almost ten times since a ‘wrongful eviction’ in March

View Royal teen inspired by pandemic creates thermal camera from scratch

14-year-old plans to make 10 touchless hand sanitizers for schools

20-storey hotel proposed for downtown Victoria

Wintergarden Hotel proposed for block of Blanshard Street between Fort and View streets

UPDATED: Young deckhands backed out of fatal Arctic Fox II trip just before fishboat departed

Inexperienced twin brothers had ‘gut feeling’ and bailed before going to open ocean

VIDEO: Seal pup and mom play and ‘kiss’ in Oak Bay Marina

BRNKL seal cam captures harbour seal growing up in busy harbour

B.C. records new COVID-19 death, 85 more cases; Horgan calls on celebrity help

This brings the total number of active confirmed cases to 531 across the province

Horvat scores 2 as Vancouver Canucks beat Blues 5-2 in NHL playoff opener

Game 2 in best-of-seven series goes Friday night

Old-growth forest defenders in Campbell River call for B.C. forest minister’s resignation

Protestors outside North Island MLA’s office ask government to stop old-growth logging

Teachers to get 2 extra days to prepare for students’ return, now set for Sept. 10

Students will first start with orientation and learn rules of COVID-19 classroom policies

High-volume littering at Cape Scott draws ire from hiking groups

Popular Vancouver Island hiking spot not closing, but frustration about crowding grows

SFU to drop ‘Clan’ varsity team name

The ‘Clan’ name is shortened from ‘Clansmen,’ and was introduced roughly 55 years ago

New Tory leader must build a strong team in Commons and for the campaign: Scheer

Scheer marked his final day in the House of Commons today as leader of the Opposition

B.C. to hire 500 more COVID-19 contact tracers ahead of fall

Contract tracers add an ‘extra layer’ in the fight against the novel coronavirus

Feds commit $305M in additional funds for Indigenous communities during COVID-19

Money can be used to battle food insecurity and support children and mental health

Most Read