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

BC Ferries’ Northern Expedition holding in Port Hardy while technicians repair the S-radar. The sailing was delayed by two days, leaving passengers stranded. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Northern Expedition rescheduled to sail for Bella Bella, Prince Rupert after mechanical issues

The S-radar malfunctioned twice, causing a two-day delay in Port Hardy

The River Forecast Centre is maintaining a flood watch for the area, including the Bella Coola River and tributaries, Kingcome River, Owikeeno-Rivers Inlet, and surrounding areas.
Wuikinuxv under evacuation order, more rain in forecast

Bella Coola’s Hill has re-opened but road conditions are muddy and wet

One person was killed in a two-vehicle crash south of Williams Lake on Highway 97 Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo submitted)
Highway 97 crash south of Williams Lake claims one life

Road conditions at the time were slippery and covered with slush: RCMP

Highway 20 is closed from the top Avalanche gate to the bottom Avalanche gate as of 19:30 on Tuesday October 27, 2020 (WL Tribune photo)
Rockslide closes the Hill as rain pours down in Bella Coola

Bad weather has resulted in rockfall on the Hill on Highway 20

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Central Coast including Bella Coola River (file photo)
Flood watch issued for Bella Coola River

The River Forecast Centre is issuing a Flood Watch for the Bella Coola River

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

BC Ferries lower car deck. (Zoe Ducklow photo)
Northern Expedition ferry holding in Port Hardy

Radar issues caused the ferry to turn around

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Most Read