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This week, we recap New Years Eve prison noise demos that took place across so-called Canada. We also look at a string of recent deaths in prisons and migrant detention centres, as well as prisoners’ ongoing struggles to keep each other safe and have their voices heard.
New Years Eve Noise Demonstrations
This year, cities across so-called Canada including Montreal, Hamilton and Prince George participated in the international anarchist tradition of new years eve noise demonstrations outside prisons.
In Montreal, a crew of around 60-80 visited Mnt Saint-Francois, where several federal prisons and a migrant detention center are located. As in past years, they traveled past multiple facilities, setting off fireworks and waving to folks inside. A new addition this year was a visit to the Bordeaux provincial prison, where a young man was killed by guards on Christmas day. Some participants who had loved ones inside Bordeaux were able to pass on New Years greetings by phone as the fireworks went off outside.
In Hamilton, folks visited two local facilities: a youth detention centre and Hamilton’s local provincial prison, the Barton Jail. A report back reads:
We had about 15 people make the drive out to the remote southern edge of Hamilton to set off fireworks for the youth. Youth prisons in Ontario are privatized, so Arrell is run by Banyan, a youth-focused social service agency. But don’t let the fact that they also run summer camps fool you — this place is a prison, complete with razor wire and cells…For the Barton Jail, thirty people gathered in a nearby park before heading to the prison…Some tags and paintbombs accompanied the massive number of fireworks, and we could see prisoners banging on the windows and making noise back to us.
In Prince George, BC, a crew held a demo outside the Prince George Correctional Centre. They were met with a heavy police presence, with one social media report back stating that participants held their ground, and that multiple people ended up pepper sprayed and arrested.
Montreal Man Killed in Bordeaux Prison
On Christmas day, 21-year-old Nicous D’Andre Spring died of injuries inflicted by guards at Bordeaux Prison in Montreal. News soon emerged that Nicous was being held illegally on the day the fatal injuries occurred – he was supposed to have been released on bail the previous day. While full details have not been released about his injuries, it has been confirmed that he was pepper sprayed while wearing a spit hood, which is meant to prevent prisoners from spitting at or biting guards.
On December 30th, around 100 friends, family and community members held a vigil to mourn the death of Nicous. A report from No Borders Media wrote:
More than one-hundred friends, family and supporters gathered in Benny Park in NDG (Montréal) earlier this evening to grieve and remember Nicous D’Andre Spring, 21. Nicous died on Christmas Day after being pepper-sprayed and injured by prison guards at the Montreal Detention Center (Bordeaux) on Christmas Eve. When Nicous was attacked by prison guards, he was being illegally detained since he should have been already released on bail. Nicous was an aspiring rapper with the performer name YK Lyrical. Between tears and crying at tonite’s vigil, family members and friends remembered Nicous fondly, but also with defiance. In the words of Nicous’ sister, Sarafina: “This is not going to go down like this. I need justice for my brother.”
While some guards involved have been suspended and an internal audit and coroner’s investigation have been announced, there is no justice in these procedures. Prisons are deadly, racist, rotten institutions, and no amount of review or reform will change this fact.
Violence in Canadian Prisons Past and Present
On December 30th, the Disability Justice Network of Ontario released a call for support for prisoners at the Millhaven federal prison near Kingston. The group had been contacted by prisoners at Millhaven after a guard shot one of the prisoners in the face at close range with an impact weapon on December 22. After the assault, the person was denied medical care. By witnessing the assault and speaking out in solidarity, prisoners at Millhaven have placed themselves at higher risk of backlash from guards – in moments where prisoners speak out and seek support, it is crucial to answer their call.
On December 30th, 2022 our #DJNOprisonproject team received a call from prisoners at Millhaven who were very concerned about fellow prisoner Raffat Mohamed after a corrections officer shot Raffat in the face at close range with a canister weapon. pic.twitter.com/prM3yPUThK
— Disability Justice Network of Ontario (@djnontario) January 1, 2023
The recent incident at Millhaven comes as a former prisoner is drawing attention to an assault he experienced at Millhaven a decade ago, of which video has recently been released. In 2012, Christophe Lewis experienced a “vicious and unprovoked attack” at the hands of guards. After many years, Christophe finally gained access to a recording of the assault in 2021. One of the guards involved is now facing charges for the assault. On January 5th, a rally was held outside the Napanee Superior Court in support of Christophe on the first day of the guard’s trial. Updates on the trial are being shared on Christophe’s instagram @freedom_is_amust and @incarcerated_voters_on.
Both incidents highlight how violence in Canadian prisons is continued and ongoing, and how prisons are an institution beyond justice or reform.
Finally, on January 8th, the Ontario Provincial Police announced that they are investigating the death of a 29-year-old man in Millhaven. Victor James is reported to have died of injuries from a serious assault. At the time of writing, no other details have been released.
Deaths of Migrants Caught in a Deadly Immigration System
The past two weeks have been a deadly time for those facing impossible choices in a world ruled by borders. A statement published by Solidarity Across Borders (SAB), and signed by migrant justice organizations across so-called Canada reads:
The death on Christmas Day of a person detained by the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) at the Surrey’s CBSA detention center in British Columbia was announced on December 27 by CBSA. On January 5, Sûreté du Québec confirmed they found the dead body of a man near Roxham Road, an irregular crossing of migrants between the USA and Canada.
We deplore the death of the migrant man near Roxham Road and hold the Canadian government responsible and accountable for it. While we do not know the cause of the death, we can say with certainty that no one should have to die alone trying to cross the border at great personal stress, danger, and grave expense. Every person has the right to migrate, the right to resist forced displacement, and the right to return to their country of origin if they so choose.
No details have been released by the CBSA on the person who died in Surrey, or the circumstances around their death. In their statement, SAB explains that CBSA will delay the details of deaths in custody indefinitely, citing ‘privacy’ and ‘ongoing investigation, with the ultimate result of obscuring the violence that occurs within their institutions and erasing those whose lives they have stolen.
The statement continues:
The person in Surrey, BC who was under CBSA custody died in the newly built immigration detention center. Ironically, in Montreal, groups have been protesting the newly built migrant prison – the so-called detention center, that is marketed as a more comfortable place for those detained. A prison is a prison whether there is a yard inside or not. These facilities are inhumane and the treatment of people detained therein remains harsh and as we saw, at times, lethal. Millions of dollars spent in new facilities does not replace freedom. No imprisonment provides justice or dignity.
photo: Clash MTL