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

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

FILE – Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have agreed to sign a memorandum on rights and title with B.C. and Ottawa, but elected chiefs are demanding it be called off over lack of consultation. (Thom Barker photo)
Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, Lake Babine Nation get provincial funding for land, title rights

Government says it’s a new, flexible model for future agreements between Canada, B.C. and First Nations.

Kieran Christison, manager of Daybreak Farms in Terrace inspects eggs on Oct. 30, 2020. Christison wants to transition to a zero waste, cage-free facility. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Daybreak Farms aiming to achieve zero-waste, cage-free facility

Kieran Christison, manager, presented the farm’s future plans to Terrace city council

Mercedes Trigo, assistant manager, said that Trigo’s Lifestyle Store in Terrace has experienced four broken windows and an attempted break-in recently, leaving her feeling unsupported by bystanders and the police. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)
Trigo’s management frustrated by property damage, theft

In a little over a month there have been four broken windows and an attempted break-in at the store

Two RCMP officers have been recognized for their actions in responding to an incident involving a man with a weapon at 4501 Park Ave. on the afternoon of April 27, 2020. RCMP say it was an isolated incident and there is no danger to the general public. (Jake Wray photo)
Terrace RCMP officers recognized for acts of bravery

Two involved in arrest of armed suspect

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

Most Read