Friday, December 30, 2011

Russia and Harm Reduction

In Russia, numbers of those with problematic drug use issues have been increasing. This is especially true where opiate narcotics are concerned.  The numbers of those dependent on heroin are increasing at alarming rates.  Reasons for this trend reflect the usual culprits.  Poverty, increased desperation, trauma.  Once hooked, users have little chance of escape.  Russia bans substitution therapies like methadone.   Government officials and health experts alike have publically stated that substitution therapies are "no way to treat addiction."  Leaders in psychiatry and addiction issued this statement: “The effective way to solve the problem of drug addiction treatment is an intensive search for and introduction of new methods and means that focus on complete cessation of drugs use by patients with addiction, their socialization into a new life style free from drugs, but not on exchanging from one drug to another.” With the high levels of poverty in Russia many users cannot afford to purchase heroin.  Desperate to shake off the terrible flu like symptoms, users have turned to a homemade substance referred to as "Krocodile". The technical term, desomorphine is a derivative of morphine.   It is cheap and made fairly simply from codeine, which does not require a prescription.  It won its street name, Krocodile because of its effects on the user.   Injected without further purification, Krocodile literally rots the flesh.  Skin becomes scaly and green. These symptoms are actually signs of phlebitis and gangrene. Some studies have estimated the life span of Krocodile users to be 2-3 years.

Russia is facing a time of great civil unrest. People are tired of the awful conditions under which they have been forced to struggle for many years, tired of the lack of commitment from their leaders regarding change, and sickened by wide spread corruption. While “leaders” feel they are entitled to take from the people, even while the people do without basic necessities.
It has finally become widely accepted in many parts of the world that those who use drugs problematically do so in order to temper emotional agony.  Finally the misinformed belief that  drug use itself is the problem has been put to rest. There are underlying issues which make it undesirable to stop. If getting high is your only means of escaping from terrible life circumstances, and depression, then people really have no right to demand that you simply quit without providing opportunity and hope.
Unfortunately many countries like Russia criminalise drug use itself, and the treatments (save abstinence) which are known to save lives. This creates conditions where drug users are unnecessarily exposed to HIV, and HCV; a mentality of judgment; stigma which prevents people from seeking medical treatment; and high rates of preventable deaths.
Russia is faced with the fastest growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the world. And unlike many other countries sex is not the primary method of transmission. Injection drug use accounts for as many as 80% of new infections. See the following stats on Russia from 1996-2006 as documented by the UN.

  • Of the nearly 400,000 people living with HIV approximately 14,000 are receiving treatment.
  • 55% of those diagnosed with HIV are persons between 15-24 years of age.

Despite the degree of hopelessness, there are those who are fighting back and speaking out.
Alexei, a former prisoner advocates for drug users one person at a time. His sister is HIV positive and terrified to seek medical attention for fear of judgment and mis-treatment.
Read thier story here:
Tear Fund - Hope to the Marginalised

Masha Ovchinnikova is an activist and project coordinator at FrontAIDS, a Russian AIDS activist group in Moscow. The group advocates for expansion of needle distribution and exchange programs, as well as access to discrimination free AIDS treatment and for methadone maintenance programs to be widely instituted.

See their web page at: 

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Concerns Impacting Those Vulnerable to Criminalisation: Ontario's Watchdog

Ontario’s current Ombudsman, Andre Marin has proven himself to be a brave and outspoken critic regarding concerns within provincial government policy and law.  Each year the Ombudsman prepares an end of year report documenting the most serious issues investigated by the Ombudsman's office that year.  Many of the problems they identified are deeply systemic issues that impact the most vulnerable amongst us more often, and more harshly than other people.  
Those who live in poverty, who suffer the effects of trauma, people of colour, those who use drugs, people living with disability or health issues like HIV/AIDS, and the LGTBQ communities are just a few of those most vulnerable to systemic violence.
Mr. Marin identified 10 of the top problems and/or changes needed within provincial government services.  Some of these issues, he has a mandate to oversee, others he does not, and can do little more than to continue advocating for oversight.  
This article focuses on those areas Andre identified which are most likely to impact on the above populations.  

You can read the entire document at: .

1.   Special Investigations Unit (SIU) - Investigation

Number one on Andre’s list is an Ombudsman’s office investigation into operations at Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU).  They are a civilian organization, mandated to investigate issues where police have been involved in causing injury or death to civilians.  Mr. Marin pointed out that the SIU does not have enough bite and the power it does have, often is not used.  Andre pointed out incidents where police refused to communicate with the SIU, ignoring letters and holding back notes.  In some cases police even refused to fill out shift reports until they had been vetted by legal council.  When hearings into deaths and injury’s were taking place, those officers involved and other police witnesses used the same council.  Mr. Marin and others pointed out the conflict of interest problem and stated that this routine opened the possibility of collusion.

2.   Mush Sector Investigation

Lack of Ombudsman oversight of the so called MUSH sector has been an ongoing complaint for 35 years in Ontario.  MUSH stands for Municipalities, Universities, School Boards, and Hospitals.  It includes things like long term care facilities, nursing homes, student unions, police, and child protection services like the Children’s Aid Society (CAS).  The Ombudsman’s office receives hundreds of calls each year surrounding issues in these sectors, yet they cannot investigate.

a.  Municipalities (MUSH)

There were 758 complaints regarding municipalities, which included things like evictions and delays in obtaining public housing, and poor service in the administration of welfare.  In 2009 the city of Toronto instituted its own Ombudsman to oversee municipalities.  However this covers only a small portion of agencies within the MUSH sector and it leaves out the rest of the population of Ontario. 

b.  Universities (MUSH)

Most of Ontario’s vulnerable populations will not be given the opportunity to attend university.  There are a host of reasons for this, but to sum it in a few words, vulnerable people face more barriers than the average person.  Its why we are referred to as vulnerable.  When marginalised persons are able to overcome multiple barriers to higher education, often it will be a college level program.  And thankfully, here Mr. Marin can intervene.  However for those who manage to persevere and push on to university, the Ombudsman's office is unable to step in when problems do arise.  There were 39 complaints in the 2010/2011 year.

c.  School Boards (MUSH)

The ombudsman received 99 complaints about school boards.  Most of those complaints revolved around issues with boards not providing adequate support to students with special or disciplinary needs.  It also included issues with transportation services and bullying.  These issues are likely to impact the children of vulnerable families most often.  Because families are subjected to issues such as poor wages, low welfare rates, poor enforcement of job related rights, inadequate access to healthcare and counselling services, because these families are often singled out for criminalisation, they face a great deal of instability.  These are forms of violence with intergenerational impacts which for children can include poor school attendance, an inability to focus, and certain behavioural effects.

d.  Children’s Aid Societies (CAS)   (MUSH)

Probably the single greatest impact on marginalised families is at the hands of these arms length government officials.  Also I believe the least talked about, even within progressive communities that care.
People who are criminalised and who have children will also be targeted to have their children apprehended.  There are many CAS workers in Ontario who despite changing policy, believe that parents who use drugs are automatically “bad” parents and may have their children stolen while they are in school.  Children’s Aid requires no warrant to apprehend a child.  They will be required to define their reasons later on in a court room.  However it is highly unusual for a judge to go against a CAS official.  They are given a great deal of latitude and until a judge has reason to believe this “impartial” worker is anything less than that, they will assume there is no reason to suspect wrong doing.  This idea that people who use drugs can’t be good parents is of course a moral and hypocritical one.  The majority of people in this province drink alcohol, about 1/3rd smoke cigarettes.  These substances are known to do more harm both individually and socially than all other substances combined.
People who use drugs are not the only ones targeted for CAS exploitation.  Single parent families are prime suspects, as are those who school their children at home.  New immigrants to Canada, and those with cultural practices that vary from the Canadian “norm” are also targets of CAS intervention.
Anyone wishing to launch an official complaint can expect lots of red tape, and a solid wall of silence, a culture of collusion, and an environment of animosity from that point forward.  you better be sure this is your last option, because from here on out it will get worse.  The people who you need to complain about will be the same ones investigating the complaint.  Complaints must first be launched at the office where you have an issue.  If supervisor’s here fail to resolve the issue, you may than take it to the Child and Family Services Review Board at the Ministry of Children and Youth.  Keep in mind that these people are mandated by the same legislation as individual CAS offices and they often work together on policy and procedure.  The Ministry is not independent from the Children’s Aid Society.
The Ombudsman’s office received 386 complaints about CAS’s this past year.
There are citizen action groups attempting to make CAS’s a purview of the Ombudsman, as well as documenting the behaviour of individuals within the organization.
Please visit some of the below sites to learn more about the child protection industry in Ontario and the terrible impacts on those with little power to fight back.
(this group has been unfairly shut down before as a result of supporters of CAS complaints)
Parents and Grandparents Doing Their Own Advocacy:

e.  Police  (MUSH)

An obvious service when talking about impacts on marginalised people.  The Ombudsman’s office received 356 complaints about police and an additional 15 complaints about the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), which is the Ministry of the Attorney General’s service to investigate civilian complaints.  The Ombudsman does not have power of oversight with regards to the police.

3.   G20 Investigation

Mr. Marin’s office was able to investigate police actions during the G20 through their investigation into the use of the 1939 Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) which was brought into effect during an era of world unrest and prior to Canada’s implementation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The implementation during the G20 of the PWPA expanded police powers of search, seizure and arrest.
Some of the main findings of the Ombudsman’s investigation were, criticism of the Minister’s decision to implement war time measures during a time of peace; the Public Works Protection Act was not legal in the context to which it was applied during the G20; It was intended to be used for the protection of infrastructure and not visiting world leaders; Mr. Marin called the use of this legislation opportunistic and inappropriate; hundreds of people were unnecessarily arrested under authority of the PWPA; the Charter of Rights and Freedoms protects people against arbitrary arrest or arbitrary detention; “The police had no business detaining anyone without lawful authority, and ordinarily – where no special laws operate – their lawful authority to arrest or detain is closely restricted in the interests of civil liberties.”
To read the full report, Caught in the Act, from the Ombudsman’s Investigation of events during the G20 see;

4.   Use of Force Investigation


100 prisoners called the office of the Ombudsman to report incidents involving excessive use of force during the 2010/2011 year.  No results have been released yet regarding this investigation.  In a press release the Ombudsman’s office stated that they would investigate how incidents involving excessive use of force are handled within the system as well as allegations by prisoners that these incidents are often ignored or covered up.  Because reports of cover up come from many institutions, the Ombudsman will investigate a suspected “code of silence” among correctional staff.

check here for updates:

All of the investigations the Ombudsman carries out are on serious issues and allegations.  As Ontarians we should consider these issues with a critical lens.  And decide for ourselves whether increased support of investigative powers for the Ombudsman is warranted.  

I believe we could go a long way to resolving many of these issues by completely eliminating those  bodies, services, and organizations doing damage to our families and to us as individuals. We could than create civilian committees to direct ideas, and insight towards just and reasonable solutions which are inclusive of all those involved.

To sign a petition giving the provincial Ombudsman in Ontario oversight of the MUSH sector go to:

To see work students at York University in Toronto are doing around this issue:

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Access to Pain Medication - Discrimination

As a known drug user I am terrified of the day I find myself in crisis resulting from pain. Hospitals automatically and notoriously treat those on Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT) and other people known to them as drug users as “drug seekers”.

Staff don't care whether or not you have presented with a condition normally warranting pain medication and treatment. You will almost certainly be made to wait while arguments against your treatment are considered at length, or you may be provided with alternative measures which are at best ineffective or you could be completely turned away, and refused medication period.

In fact despite what some medical professionals may prefer to claim, there is a culture of “addiction paranoia” within practitioner circles. Even if you have zero history of illicit drug use, you may be refused pain medications or not provided with a high enough dose or for a long enough time. All because doctors fear the possibility of addiction.

Over the next weeks I am going to provide some information, tips, and advice about how best to advocate for yourself when you are in need of pain medications. And I am also going to be talking about current initiatives to change the paranoia practice in Canada and internationally.

It is a human right to be provided with adequate, effective, and speedy access to pain relief of all kinds, including access to narcotic pain medications.

SOROS is one of the leading international agencies dealing with denial of pain medications for all kinds of reasons including unfair pricing and policy for so called 3r world countries, and refusal for reasons related to discrimination. Check out some of their work here:

This web site talks about the practice of refusing patients pain medication world wide. They also deal with issues of forced sterilization and forced drug treatment. There is an interactive map allowing you a glimpse into practices by continent.

In Canada
Activists in Canada such as the Canadian Pain Society ( and the Canadian
Pain Coalition ( are calling for a National Pain Strategy.

Read about what is needed in a national strategy here:
  •  Access to the treatment of pain without discrimination is a fundamental human right
  • The treatment of pain requires an inter-professional approach to care
  • The treatment of pain must be patient and family centered
  • Pain is a continuum (from acute to chronic and from birth to death)
Endorse the strategy demanding the federal government implement a National Pain Strategy here:

To Learn More attend one of the upcoming Canadian pain conferences in 2012.

  1. Rise Up Against Pain. Ottawa, On April 24, 2012 See the call for submissions too!

  1. Pain Hurts Everyone, Searching for Solutions – Whistler, BC - May 23-26, 2012

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Additional Thoughts At Least Harper Got One Thing Right, Locking Up Sex Offenders?....

After thinking through the issues surrounding child sex predators and how the system deals with "offenders", I felt I needed to add to my last remarks and expand a little on this issue.  I talked about how the "lock em up" approach doesn't address any social issues including sex offences against children.  And I believe this is true especially if the only approach we take is prison.  

I am not implying that people who hurt other people, especially those who hurt children should simply be allowed to roam where they may, doing harm as they please.  A period of incapacitation is likely going to be necessary for those we were not able to apply effective prevention techniques with before they hurt anyone.

Should this period of incapacitation take shape under the  banner of retribution in prison, and then for only 15-45 days?  I don't see the point.  This kind of action does not one thing to address the survivor's needs, nor does it minimize the likelihood that a particular "offender" will not cause future harm.  There must be treatment grounded in human rights for everyone involved.  I make the point of stating that treatment must involve consideration of human rights, and this may seem obvious to many of us.  But treatment has often been applied without the slightest consideration of emotional well being, or anti-oppression practice.

Sexual predators often don't receive any "treatment" until they have multiple victims and a path of destruction many years long behind them.  When they finally get "treatment" it involves a prison term and cycles of ammonia injected up their noses if demonstrating arousal while viewing images of children.  I believe this "intervention" to be based on theory developed by Pavlov in his experiments with dogs.  Apparently this type of "treatment" has a success rate of a few percentage points.  Which by the way, Corrections Services Canada considers successful.  The vast majority of these mostly male prisoners will one day be released and some of them will harm another child.

I don't consider anything about it a success.

At the same time I am aware that there are no viable - up and running alternatives.  I am also aware that even if we provided the best treatment imaginable with the highest attainment of success...there will always be in the words of prison abolitionist, Ruth Moore "the dangerous few" for whom permanent imprisonment is the only conceivable means to ensure the safety of others.  I won't mention the names of serial offenders here.  They get enough notoriety  as it is.  

I have however included a survivor's story.  Survivors tend to fade from view over the years, while their assailants continue to receive press mention on into infinity.

I have also included some resources for learning more about child sexual abuse and other violent acts.

Articles for Learning More About Acts of Violence for Survivors and Family/Friends

Resources for Survivors and Those Who Care About Them                                                                                                                         Child and Adult Survivor's offered counselling services in a safe environment Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multi-cultural Women Against Rape                Provides crisis line and counselling services, including support group for criminalised women    email:   and phone  (416) 597-8808 Ontario Network of Sexual Assault and Treatment Centre's    Will provide you with information for the resources you need in your community.

Because it is known that 80-100% of women survivors of rape and childhood sexual abuse, use substances problematically, I have included the number for Jean Tweed Addiction Treatment 416-255-7359

 Rachel's Story: From a Survivor

When I was 12 I didn’t know I couldn’t get pregnant by kissing and fondling. I was scared. I was even more scared because the person who was doing the kissing and fondling was my father. I wanted to make him stop, especially after he went on to touch my two younger sisters in the bedroom we shared, but I thought if I told, it would destroy my family.
When I was 39 years old, I had an overwhelmingly frightening nightmare about my father coming into my bedroom to sexually abuse me, but this time in my own home. This was a safe space that I had created for myself as a loving adult. I thought I was done dealing with the sexual abuse, but I realized that the abuse I experienced as a child was still a family secret. I finally confronted my father with the abuse and he did acknowledge what he had done.
At the time, I thought that this confrontation would be enough. Three years later when I saw a photograph of my father holding my young niece, I realized I had to talk about this within my whole family if I wanted my niece to be safe.
I call this a story of hope because in this second confrontation my father admitted what he did — not just to me, but to the whole family — and apologized. The family is now aware that we have a problem that can’t be buried any longer, even though they wish it would just go away. It’s a story of hope because maybe more abusers will understand they can admit what they did and help their families heal. Maybe more survivors of abuse will realize they can confront the history that haunts them and regain control over their lives.
Don’t get me wrong — this story does not have a fairytale ending. Life isn’t usually like that. The first time I confronted my father was in a letter after I had a nightmare that was really a flashback to when I was 12 and my father came into my room at night to fondle my breasts and kiss me. But in my dream, my father was in my own house, the home and safety I created for myself as an adult.
After a couple of years, he stopped touching me, but it was worse watching him kiss and fondle my younger sister. When I caught him touching her, he would tell me to go away and I would simply walk away. I was the oldest. I was supposed to protect my younger sisters, and I couldn't. I'd lie awake in bed at night and try to figure out how to stop him. I thought if I could just understand why he was doing this, I could make him stop.
I wrote that first letter nearly 20 years after I left home for college. My father acknowledged what he did, but that was it. My sister, who had just given birth to a daughter, wrote me a long letter. She was afraid, she said, that if her husband found out about the abuse, it would ruin her marriage. She asked why it was coming up now and why I wanted to hurt mom and dad. After all, she wrote, "dad never hurt us, he meant no harm". She urged me to resolve this in my own mind so we could be a family again, and so that I would not live in regret if my parents died before we were reconciled.
I had very little communication with my family during this time. The communication I did have was minimal and there were no family visits except for major holidays. After three years of further silence around the sexual abuse, I received a photograph from my sister of my dad holding my three-year-old niece. A chill went up my spine. He molested his own daughters, so how could my sister trust him with her daughter? To keep my niece safe I had to bring it all up again and make sure the whole family understood about dad sexually abusing us.
I called and asked my parents if they would come to one of my therapy sessions. My dad didn’t argue: where and when I wanted him there was all he asked.
When I got to the therapist’s office, my parents were already there. My mother was crying, "What are you doing to me?" I had to explain that this session wasn’t about her, it was about me and the pain I had been through. She said that when I was a child, she felt trapped, too. "I told your father not to go into your bedroom, but he still did. I just didn’t know what to do to stop him."
My father first tried to excuse his actions by saying that in the culture of the time, "my daughters were my property and I could do anything I wanted to with them." At least he admitted the abuse. My therapist said I should tell my parents what I wanted from them.
I wanted my father to tell my brother about the abuse and to acknowledge to my two sisters that what he did to us as children was abuse and to apologize to them. I was also very passionate about making sure that everyone agreed to never let my niece be left alone with my father, hopefully protecting her from any sexually abusive behavior. I know he told my brother, who wrote me a letter of support. As far as I know he apologized to my sisters. And we’re all involved in keeping my niece safe.
I think my dad is "getting it" about his inappropriate actions, and when he doesn’t I feel confident about talking to him directly. For example, at their 50th anniversary party, he asked me to slow dance with him. I looked him directly in the face and told him that this was not something I could do with him. He respected my decision. A few days later he called me to ask how I was doing and to apologize for his poor choices in that situation. That feels like progress. Now, if only he can learn to think about it before instead of after!
We're not living an everybody-lives-happily-ever-after fairytale. It’s not easy. But I’ve done enough work on my own issues to let me claim my own life and find my own sense of peace. My family isn’t perfect by a long shot. But there’s hope.

The Lead Now Campaign

Lead Now has demonstrated to those within the Canadian state just how to do a mainstream, national advocacy project while also including voices with more radical ideas.  And the project seems to be having some success at the government level.

Some Updates;

Senator Percy Downe posted this to his twitter account during the Lead Now senator letter campaign.

 Lead Now goes on to restate what the media have already informed us, that Senate voting on Bill C10 will not take place before February.   A move away from "the first 100 days" initially promised by conservatives.

Then as almost an after thought, Lead Now informs us that they contacted criminologists from around Canada and asked them to sign on to the open letter addressed to Senators.  Here is the list, but I see at least one name missing who should have been invited - perhaps you notice others....  Though I applaud Lead Now in all of their initiatives, a small suggestion might have been to ask members to contribute suggestions around who to contact.  I would have suggested Eugene Oscapella.

"PS - We asked some of the country's leading criminologists to add their names to our open letter asking the Senate to provide the sober second thought we need on the Crime Bill. The response was amazing. Here's the initial list of signatories:"

  • Anthony Doob, Professor of Criminology, Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto
  • Frank Cormier, Criminology/Sociology Coordinator, Department of Sociology, University of Manitoba
  • Gordon Darroch, Professor of Sociology, Emeritus, Senior Scholar, York University
  • Lorna Stefanick, Associate Professor, Governance Law and Management Program, Faculty of Humanities and Social Science, Athabasca University
  • Penni Stewart, Associate Professor, Sociology, York University
  • Deborah Brock, Department of Sociology, Sociolegal Studies, Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, York University
  • John Edward Deukmedjian, Ayssociate Professor, Criminology, Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminology, University of Windsor
  • Margaret E. Beare, Professor, Law and Sociology, York University
  • Marc Nesca, Forensic Psychologist, Associate Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Athabasca University
  • Frederick Desroches, Professor, Sociology, Criminology, and Legal Studies, St. Jerome's University, University of Waterloo
  • Michael Weinrath, Professor & Chair, Department of Criminal Justice, University of Winnipeg
  • Joanna Pozzulo, Director, Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Carleton University
  • Russell C. Smandych, Professor of Sociology and Criminology, Department of Sociology, University of Manitoba

Monday, December 12, 2011

Jailed Refugees Held Without Charge and Refused Medical Care - Ontario and Vancouver

While the below stories of human rights abuses have occurred in one form or another throughout Canadian history, and right up to the present,incidents are sure to increase and intensify during this period of severe conservative, right wing, christian, fundamentalist ideology.  The safe streets and communities act is only one disgusting portrayal of a widespread, mainstream rhetoric which blames the oppressed for the outcomes of policies designed by the oppressors!

Ontario Prisoners
Refugee claimants in Ontario are engaged in a water only hunger strike which began in mid November. Unfortunately the issues facing these men is nothing unusual for correctional facilities of the Canadian state.

They are being held in Niagara detention centre far from family and supporters who live here in Toronto. They have been denied medical care, which for at least one of them is urgent and must be provided immediately.

From My Own Experience;
As some of you may know I have done all of my time in detention centres and regional facilities throughout Southern Ontario. It is far too common for medical needs to be brushed aside by non-medial staff (guards) who should have no say one way or the other about who gets to see a doctor or nurse and who does not!

  • Please see below for details on organizing support for these prisoners.
  • Please read on for details about the process to attain medical care and what prisoners in these type of facilities are subjected to in that process. (if I have left anything out or you have your own story to share please leave a comment!)

Process to Request Medical Attention inside
  1. Ask a guard for a request form
  2. Guard will often ignore you for 1-5 days or more
  3. Finally you receive a request form, fill it out and drop it in a bin to be retrieved and processed by guards later on. (This part of the process can take several days as well)
  4. Approximately 3-6 weeks after your initial request you are finally called to attend the doctor. Depending on the reason for requesting a doctors visit this time frame can be much longer. 

    Games they Play:
    If you keep asking the guards at any part during this process in the hopes of speeding things up, they will make you pay.
  • They may do "funny" things like give you the wrong type of request form and not tell you until weeks later when you inquire to find out when you will be attending the doctor. Then the process begins again.
  • They may write you up for approaching them at all
  • You could end up in Seg.
  • You could lose good time.
  • They could come into your cell at night and kick the shit out of you... (it happens - dont doubt it)
  • You may find yourself in serious medical crisis at some point and then find yourself ignored.

    I have personally witnessed this last on many occasions.  And have witnessed the worst that could happen in this situation, happen.  It instills a kind of fear thats hard to imagine unless you experience being held somewhere against your will and knowing that there is little and sometimes nothing you can do for your own safety and even your own survival.  It rests in the hands of people who not only don't give a fuck, but who are often times sadistic.  They work in a culture which encourages the deepest degree of violence and callousness as twisted badges of honour.
  • Always proceed with caution, try to think about the worst that could happen and try to avoid it
  • There are times to keep your head down and let them run their games if it is the straightest route to getting medical care, do it
  • There are other times to put your foot down and make demands – but always consider your future safety and let family/friends/supports know if you have decided on the “put your foot down” route

Practical Tips:
  • Try to figure out from other prisoners who is the best guard to ask for a request form
  • You are not supposed to make request directly from medical staff but can get away with it under certain circumstances. The nurse delivers meds to each range twice per day at least. Stand in line for some “aspirin” and ask to be put on the doctors list. She may ask for some form of proof. If there is physical evidence I suggest showing it or referencing mention of it in your med file, etc.
  • You can approach a third party in the community for support. There are two agencies who take collect calls and who have experience advocating for prisoners. They know how best to approach a situation so as to minimise a prisoners risk of retaliatory action.
    PASAN: Toll Free: 1-866-224-9978 Phone: 416-920-9567
    Office of the Ontario Ombudsman: Phone: 1-800-263-1830 – Complaints Line
Either of these services can direct you to other numbers if a more appropriate one exists.

Organizing Supporters for Ontario
EMAIL: Regional Director
CALL HIM: 905-994-6000
CALL: Niagara Detention Centre 905-227-6321
DEMAND: that the hunger strikers be immediately transferred to Toronto and get access to urgent medical care.
EMERGENCY PUBLIC MTG.: Thursday, December 15, 6:30pm OPIRG Info Shop - 21 King St. (St. Catharines, ON)

Ontario Prisoners
Sergio Puerto, Sandro Philippe, Jesus Galban, and Ibrahim Ali Farrah refugee claimants from Latin America and the Caribbean and Southern Africa have been jailed at the Niagara Detention Centre for between 3 to 6 months. Other then 10 minutes a day in a concrete yard - they have been locked up without community support. In mid-November, they began water-only hunger strike demanding that their release be expedited and that they be moved to Toronto where they hope their files will be processed quicker. On November 23, Jesus Galban, fell six feet and was denied medical aid until they ended the hunger strike. Officers from Canada Border Services Agency promised immediate action on their file, but did nothing. On December 11, 2011, Sergio Puerto, Sandro Philippe, Jesus Galban and Ibrahim Ali Farrah re-initiated a rolling hunger strike.

  • That the inmates be immediately transferred to Toronto where they believe their cases will be quickly expedited and where they all have family and community support.
  • That Citizenship and Immigration stop delaying justice by keeping all immigration detainees an unreasonably long time in detention for no reason.
  • Immediate medical assistance for: Jesus - had an accident on November 23rd. Fell off a six foot bunk that had no ladder. Back severely injured and no doctor has attended despite repeated requests. Only medication given so far has been Tylenol Pain Relief. Sandro also having problems with his back- slipped and fell (water on floor) in mid November. Has still received no medical attention.
Canada Border Services Agency has given endless excuses for holding these men. They claim that they are flight risks, even before some of their refugee claims have been processed. Some are facing deportation because of criminal convictions in Canada and the United States even though they have already served their sentences - a clear example of unjust double punishment.
Attempts by community members to act as bonds-people and even put up financial sureties have been rejected. Faced with lack of information, and continued lies by Canada Border Services Agency, Sergio, Sandro, Jesus and Ibrahim have decided to initiate a hunger strike.
It is critical that we support them.

We will be organizing actions in St. Catharines, Niagara and Toronto.
Please email if you would like to attend an organizing meeting or if you would like to be informed about upcoming action.
Join our facebook page:

Immigration enforcement injustices are forcing migrants, undocumented people in detention across Canada to act.

Vancouver Prisoner
We have heard of a hunger strike taking place at the Fraser Regional Correctional Centre (BC): Examples are being set by imprisoned undocumented people - it is imperative that we follow and support. For a world without detentions and deportations, for a world where all can move freely, Niagara Migrant Hunger Strikers Support Network

Vancouver Man Detained for Years Without Charge, on Hunger Strike!
Yes its true! Yet another prisoner held for years on Canadian soil and without charges! He is also on hunger strike! Keep reading:

Court Support at Detention Hearing. Thursday, December 15th at 11:00 am. Citizenship and Immigration Offices, 300 West Georgia Street
Nader is a 46 year old Iranian refugee who has been detained and imprisoned by Canadian Border Services Agency since 2005. Nader has spent over six years behind bars, without any specific charges, under the jurisdiction of the Immigration Act.
His length of detention is unprecedented in Canada.
Nader has now been on a three-week hunger strike and will be appearing yet again for a detention review on Thursday December 15th at 11 am at CIC offices (300 West Georgia). He is calling on the public and allies in the anti-detention movement to bear witness to this arbitrary, inhumane, and indefinite detention hearing. No One Is Illegal attended his last hearing and he said that it was a huge boost in morale for him. (We ask supporters to please keep in mind about bearing witness and to be cautious of how our conduct will reflect/impact on him.)
Nader arrived to Canada from Iran with his wife and young son in 1997 as political refugees. At the time they made a claim based on her persecution in Iran as a dissident. The family’s claim was initially rejected by the Immigration and Refugee Board in 2000 and shortly after Nader and his wife separated. His (now ex) wife and son subsequently were granted legal status but Nader was ordered removed from Canada.
The unjust and cruel rationale provided for his ongoing detention by the Immigration and Refugee Board is simply the fact that he refuses to sign documents for his own deportation to Iran. Canadian Border Services have argued for ongoing (essentially infinite) detention because Nader is deemed to be “non cooperative in signing documents”. They want him to sign a document which states he is returning ‘voluntarily’, absolving Canada of its complicity in his involuntary removal and using detention to pressure him to lie about his own deportation!
Though he has not been charged or convicted, for six years Nader has been incarcerated at Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, a maximum security provincial facility. This facility is mandated for short-term offenders whose sentence does not exceed two years. Short term facilities such as FRCC lack the infrastructure and resources to house and accommodate long-term inmates. Nader has reported that he has been subjected to a poor diet and lack of quality health care at FRCC. Without internet and law library materials (which are available at other federal facilities), he has been unable to defend and advocate for himself.
Nader continues to face risk in Iran – the same risk his (now ex) wife and son were granted asylum for in Canada. Nader has never even had a refugee claim heard on the basis of his own experience in Iran and fear of persecution if deported back to Iran. Nader has recently filed a Pre Removal Risk Assessment and will be pursuing other legal avenues given the trauma he has suffered in Iran and now in Canada.
According to Nader, “The length of my detention has not been predicated on any evidence that I am a ‘threat to national security’ or that my release poses any ‘risk to the public safety’. Yet I have endured the psychological trauma of confinement and the emotional suffering and anxiety of being separated from my son (who has since been granted asylum in Canada).”
There will be ongoing support for Nader, we invite you to please come out on Thursday December 15th and say no to detentions and deportations!
For more information please email or call 778 552 2099.