Sun Feb 2: Crisis Point & Final Panel

Posted: January 13, 2014 in Uncategorized

Sunday, February 2nd – 1pm – 4pm (Tolpuddle Meeting Room – 380 Adelaide St. N)

Crisis Point: Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (1pm-3pm) and Intersecting Movements and the Prison Industrial Complex (3pm-4pm)

The final day of the Prisoners Justice Film Festival (PJFF) will include a screening of the short film, “Daisy: A Story of Hope” by Peter Collins. This will be followed by a presentation from Kevin Egan, the lawyer litigating the class action suit against EMDC. Giselle Dias will engage in a dialogue with Kevin about the current situation in EMDC, and his experience in litigating the case. Giselle will be speaking about her 20 years of experience working with prisoners and victims and her political understanding of the prison industrial complex. This discussion will be moderated by Naomi Sayers (activist and Indigenous feminist). The discussion will actively engage the audience in dialogue (for those interested) while interweaving the topics presented throughout the duration of the PJFF.

The crisis at Elgin Middlesex Detention Center has been going on for too long. Despite inquests, increased complaints by guards, prisoners and family members of prisoners: overcrowding, violence, poor medical care, lack of resources for staff continue to plague the prison. On February 2nd, Kevin Egan will be speaking about his work on behalf of prisoners at EMDC. Over 150 inmates and former inmates of Ontario institutions have suffered abuse and extreme violence while imprisoned on behalf of the State.  In late 2013, McKenzie Lake Lawyers served the Crown with a class action lawsuit claiming, among other things, that inmates’ rights, guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have been violated.

Short film:

Rehabilitation of Daisy: A Story of Hope by Peter Collins (an artist, activist scholar and federal prisoner serving a life sentence at Bath Prison). Daisy is a flower that becomes causality to Harpers “Tough on Crime” agenda.

Guest speakers:

Kevin Egan is a partner at McKenzie Lake Lawyers LLP and has always had a strong interest in social justice. Kevin is interested in finding solutions for those who have suffered a personal injury. In addition to the more traditional areas of personal injury law, his recent legal work has brought him to the emerging area of “Charter Torts”. He first became involved with seeking remedies under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms following the 2009 homicide death of an inmate at the Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre. He now represents a very large number of victims of police or prison system misconduct in Ontario in which we are seeking constitutional and other remedies. Additionally, Kevin has significant experience in the areas of labour and employment, workplace safety and insurance, disability insurance, human rights, and criminal and provincial offences. Kevin’s practice also includes assault and battery, historic sexual assault, medical malpractice and negligent investigation claims against police and other investigators.

Giselle Dias has been actively working on social justice issues for the past 20 years. She is passionate about helping create a better world that focuses on relationships and interdependency. Giselle believes in creating alternative systems that work outside of conventional norms and therefore works from an anti-colonial, anti-racist, feminist, gender-queer framework. She has worked in a variety of community organizations that have focused on issues ranging from transformative justice, harm reduction, victims and prisoners’ rights, 2-spirit, queer and trans communities, HIV/AIDS/HCV and penal abolition. Giselle has been involved in community organizing, community development, systemic advocacy, counseling and support for most of her life. In 2010, she made a decision to start a private psychotherapy practice and has been settled into her comfortable, cozy office since.

Naomi Sayers is an activist and Indigenous feminist from the Garden River First Nation, just east of Sault Ste. Marie ON. She is also the creator of Currently, she is in her fourth year of studies at Western University for the honors specialization in criminology program with a minor in women’s studies. In the fall, she is planning on attending the University of Ottawa Common Law Program. Her motto is: Tell me I can’t and I will show you I can.

A note from Kevin Egan:

In 2009, Randy Drysdale died while incarcerated at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre.  The Ministry in charge of the jail initially labeled his death an “accident”.  Randy’s mother, brothers, and sisters approached me to represent them at the mandatory inquest.  It took more than 2 years after his death for the inquest to finally get underway.  Over the course of that inquest, I came to realize the deplorable conditions present at the jail.  I was shocked by the poor physical design, overcrowded conditions, lack of proper supervision and medical care, the disdain for inmates’ human rights, and the pervasive culture of fear and violence.  The Ministry lawyers, the Crown, and other lawyers participating in the inquest all advanced a theory that Randy Drysdale had somehow slipped and fell in the washroom, causing such a severe brain injury that he died from internal bleeding a few days later.  This was despite evidence that he had, in fact, been punched in the head by two or more inmates, rendered unconscious and then dragged to the washroom area.  The evidence also showed that there was an “inmates’ code” at work in the prison system.  Simply put, if you were beaten up, you didn’t say anything or you would get it worse the next time.  Inmates seemed to be aware that the guards could not or would not offer them any protection against being assaulted.

I was the only lawyer at the inquest who argued Randy Drysdale was the victim of a homicide.  The jury agreed with me.  Flowing from the Drysdale inquest, and an earlier inquest that year into the death of Laura Straughan, a number of recommendations were made to prevent similar deaths from occurring in the future.  The recommendations made in the Fall of 2011 included the installation of video cameras, monitoring the cameras in real time, better communications systems, more staffing, more training, better health care, and 24/7  nursing staff.

We are now in 2014 and very few of the recommendations have been fully implemented or even accepted as necessary by the government.  It’s alarming to realize that conditions now are worse than ever before.  Beatings occur on a regular basis.  Inmates are locked down for days at a time.  They are denied medications and proper medical treatment.

This past Halloween night, another brutal murder took place.   Eyewitnesses to his murder have told me that Adam Kargus was assaulted over a period of several hours.  No guards were present to intervene.  The guards not only did not see what was going on – they didn’t even find Adam Kargus’ body until approximately 12 hours after he had been killed.  I will now, regrettably, be representing yet another family whose loved one has been the victim of homicide while in the care and custody of our government.  The details that will emerge in regard to Adam’s death are absolutely terrifying and will shock anyone who suffers under the impression that we are a civilized society.

I now represent well over 150 inmates and former inmates of Ontario institutions who have suffered abuse and extreme violence while a “guest” of her Majesty.  In late 2013, we served the Crown with a class action lawsuit claiming, among other things, that inmates’ rights, guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, have been violated.


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