Bar None recently expanded the land acknowledgment on our About page to state that we are “based out of Treaty 1 territory, on the land of Anishinaabeg (Ojibway), Ininew (Cree), Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene Peoples, and the homeland of the Métis Nation” and that “we view our commitment to prison abolition as related to the dismantling of the ongoing occupation and theft of these lands.”
The new acknowledgment strives to recognize the many nations and peoples who have used the lands and waterways now known as Winnipeg, Manitoba, over centuries and millennia. Indigenous knowledge, resistance and self-determination not only make it possible for all of us to share this land today, but also mark the path forward out of colonization and dispossession.
Prisons and policing on these lands are a product of the colonial project that is Canada. Canada’s first prison, Kingston Penitentiary, was established by settlers more than 3 decades before Canada even existed. It was designed to subject each of its prisoners to an environment “so irksome and so terrible that during his afterlife he may dread nothing so much as a repetition of the punishment.” Ensuring that prisoners experience terror and dread until and beyond the grave: this was the intended treatment for all those who did not conform to English law, mandated by the Consolidation Acts following Confederation in 1867.
Imprisonment has always gone against the spirit of non-interference, consent, and reciprocity that Treaty 1 is all about. Anishinaabe negotiators insisted on this when they refused to discuss Treaty 1 until Canada released people imprisoned at Lower Fort Garry. Two years later, Canada created a mounted police force to impose colonial order across the West, through violent suppression of Indigenous resistance, sovereignty and laws.
Alongside the genocidal projects of Residential Schools and the Sixties Scoop, policing and legal systems have been complicit in the disappearance and murder of Indigenous women and girls. Yet Indigenous persons are also imprisoned in Canada at rates seven times that of the general population, and those rates are increasing. Manitoba, where ¾ of prisoners are Indigenous, has the second-highest rate of incarceration of Indigenous peoples among all provinces. There is absolutely no carceral solution to this gross travesty of justice. No prisons on stolen land!
An inquest conducted by Judge Heather Pullan into the 2016 death of 26-year-old Errol Greene in the Winnipeg Remand Centre has concluded that the facility’s medical unit is lacking oversight and requires a third-party review to ensure that medical operations are up to standard.
Greene died on May 1, 2016, after having two epileptic seizures and not being given his anti-seizure medication by staff at the Winnipeg Remand Centre. An inquest into his death was called December 6, 2016, following pressure from his family and community of supporters. Twenty-three days of hearings began in late 2017 and concluded in October 2018, with one lawyer representing Greene’s family and six government lawyers participating. Rochelle Pranteau, Errol’s spouse, along with her network of community supporters, were present in Court for nearly the entire inquest.
Judge Pullan released her inquest report on June 11, 2019, making several important findings, including that:
- Greene was clear about his diagnosis and his needs with staff. When admitted to the Winnipeg Remand Centre, he clearly described his epilepsy, his prescription for anti-seizure medication Valproic Acid and the frequency at which he took the medication, and his recent seizure history. By making that finding, the judge rejected the attempt by Manitoba corrections to write Errol off as unreliable.
(pg. 5, para. 2)
- Errol was repeatedly restrained after having seizures. When the paramedics arrived and Errol didn’t have a pulse, the correctional officers initially refused to remove the restraints. The epilepsy expert who testified explained that the fact he was restrained could have contributed to his death. (pg. 16, para. 60)
As a result of finding multiple issues and significant challenges with the medical unit at the Winnipeg Remand Centre, Judge Pullan recommended “an independent, third party agency with no relationship with Manitoba corrections, with a mandate to recommend change in all operational and clinical areas, to perform a full and comprehensive review of the medical unit at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.” This was part of one of the recommendations proposed by Rochelle Pranteau.
This recommendation and the evidence supporting it (see pg. 160, para. 708) is crucial: it shows that the judge had serious concerns about multiple critical issues in health care delivery at the Remand Centre. These issues included: physician availability and accessibility; deficiencies in nurse training; nurse recruitment and retention; nurse staffing levels; quality of medical charts; nurse access to patient information; medical staff performance reviews; and bed usage in the medical unit.
Judge Pullan’s role was to determine the circumstances of Errol’s death and make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. However, the inquest she conducted had no real power to hold individuals responsible, and Manitoba Corrections is not obligated to take action upon any of her recommendations. It has been difficult for Errol’s family to place faith in a process designed by the very system that failed him and ultimately cost him his life. Attempts to consider systemic racism as a factor in Errol’s death were repeatedly objected to and blocked from consideration—although it is hard to imagine that it played no part. Still, this process was the only way for Errol’s family to seek even this limited form of accountability and demand answers from the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
Judge Pullan made a total of 11 recommendations, all of which address the issues raised by Rochelle Pranteau at the Inquest—issues around training, ensuring that epilepsy experts are involved in policy-making and training, ensuring inmates can be properly identified, and ensuring better access to medical treatment.
The Judge strongly criticized Manitoba corrections for not having external accreditation for the medical unit at the Winnipeg Remand Centre. She explained:
“The medical unit at the Winnipeg Remand Centre is not accredited. It is not clear from the evidence why this is the case. If the focus on healthcare delivery in an institution is on quality and excellence, surely being held to an objective standard, assessed externally, is the best means by which excellence can be achieved and maintained.” (pg. 156, para. 687)
The Judge also criticized Manitoba’s claim that accreditation would be too expensive and labour-intensive. She explained:
“I appreciate that bringing the medical unit at the Winnipeg Remand Centre up to accreditation standard may be resource and labour intensive. That would only be the case should the current operations of the medical unit at the Winnipeg Remand Centre fall far short of standards required. If that is the case, it enhances the need for accreditation.” (pg. 157-58, para. 694, emphasis added)
Pranteau would like to receive an apology and recognition of their family’s deep loss. She hopes that Manitoba Corrections takes these recommendations seriously and that no one else needlessly suffers this way – “I never want another family to go through what we had to”. With the Inquest now concluded, Pranteau will be proceeding with a civil claim for damages against Manitoba Corrections on behalf of herself and her family.
It’s time to rock out in Stonewall, Manitoba! Sign up to give a ride to Stony Mountain for the Bar None prison visiting ride share and start planning your Stonewall getaway. With the Summit Café (RIP) in Stony Mountain shutting down, Bar None drivers are becoming better acquainted with Stonewall and realizing that it has quite a bit to offer the abolitionist day tripper. Here’s a little guide to spark your imagination.
A six-minute drive north from Stony Mountain, Stonewall greets visitors with a shrine to its most beloved former resident, the oddball painter William Kurelek. A steel and limestone sculpture inspired by Kurelek’s “Manitoba Party” stands at the crossroads of highways 7 and 67 and offers a series of reproductions of Kurelek’s prairie paintings. The tribute is no bluff: Stonewall is serious about art. The delightful South Interlake Regional Library is a perfect, sunny, comfy literary refuge to dive into your recent purchases from the Bar None book sale. (The library’s own ongoing book sale is not to be missed, either). Flicks Cinema is still going strong on First Street, showcasing the latest Hollywood goof-ups. Architecture is also in abundance in Stonewall, where a number of unusual old citadels remain. Many were produced – as Stony Mountain Penitentiary was – from the town’s original raison d’etre, the famous Stonewall Quarry.
Food and Coffee
When it comes time to grab a Bar None-subsidized bite, the chefs of Stonewall do not disappoint. The Kiln Drive-In (named for the kilns that tower over the town from the quarry), famous for burgers and ice cream, is the town’s summertime hub. Sig’s Grill and Coffee Shop is the classic diner of your dreams, Red Star Chinese Cuisine lets you mix and match from its long list of specialties, Appy Place Lounge is the place for wings, and Chicken Chef is a local favourite for good reasons (not least the two-piece chicken dinner and the clubhouse sandwich). If you’d rather just hang out, check out McLeod House Tearoom, Pizza Hotline, or Tim Hortons.
The biggest attraction in Stonewall is the grounds of the abandoned quarry and the old kiln towers. A gleaming new museum offers insights into the ancient geological foundations of the region and the dynamics of settler occupation and industrial capitalism that fuelled limestone production and construction there. A network of hiking trails spans out from the park – grab a map at the museum. The park boasts Manitoba’s first man-made lake, Kinsmen Lake, which hosts throngs of beachgoers every summer. Oak Hammock Marsh, another pleasant nature preserve, is just a 15-minute drive away. For indoor fun, play some laser tag at the Laser Jungle or bowl a few games at Quarry Bowling Lanes.
Shop ’til you drop
Stonewall offers a bevy of enchanting independent shops from The Grande Bazaar, to Something Beautiful, to Meta Cannibis Supply Co, and many more. Make sure to check out the magnificent plant life on display at Stonewall Florist and TJ’s Garden Centre on Main Street. If there’s something you’ve been meaning to pick up in the city, perhaps you can find it here at the Family Foods, Red Apple, or Deals for Dollars.
*Note: We changed the name of this post because of the hurtfully light-hearted way it invoked the Stonewall Riots of 1969. We are always interested in feedback from comrades and we want to thank everyone who shared their thoughts with us about this.
Bar None member Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land appeared on CBC Manitoba’s “Up to Speed” with Ismaila Alfa on March 27, 2019. A lightly-edited transcript appears below.
- Ismaila Alfa
- What’s the city’s response to a meth crisis? More security, including police. We’ve seen airport-like security at the Millennium Library and police officers stationed at liquor stores. Liquor stores are also checking bags and asking to see ID at the door as you enter. And recently, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries has taken the controversial step of publishing the names of people charged with theft. But does it work? And is more security the only answer? Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land is an assistant professor in criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg.
- Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land
- Good afternoon, thanks so much for having me.
- Really happy to have you here. So a lot of increased security seen in this city is in direct response to the ongoing meth crisis. I mean, you hear about it all the time. What are your views on the crisis?
- Yeah, well that’s a great question. I think my views on the crisis is that we have crises but I don’t think they are meth crises. I don’t think we have a meth crisis. There’s nothing inherently about meth use that makes somebody act violently or makes somebody act unpredictably. When meth use is mixed with being underfed, underslept, maybe being homeless, maybe that’s why you’re underslept and underfed: these are the situations in which people might begin to have meth-induced psychosis, might be acting violently unpredictably.
So I think we need to, first of all, call the crisis what it is: we have a housing crisis, we have a lack of income crisis, a welfare crisis, a remand crisis, we have a crisis of over-surveillance and under-support.
And I think we’re reaching a crisis of too much policing. There’s actually a point at which increasing security and increasing policing makes people’s lives less stable and I think we need to take that seriously in Winnipeg.
- So where is that line, then? I mean, I mentioned a number of different types of security that we’re seeing implemented here in Winnipeg, at the Millennium Library checking bags, police, and that sort of thing. Where is the line? Where did we pass?
- We passed the line a while ago I think I mean the city budget for policing in Winnipeg has been going up over the past 15 years, now it’s a third of the city budget. So the city spends around 300 million dollars a year on policing with no increased safety to show for it and in fact there’s no evidence that increasing policing prevents crime or makes people more safe.
There’s no evidence that putting these security checkpoints at the library are going to make people safer. I do understand that they make people feel safer, right, but so, I understand that workers in the library have been feeling unsafe by the behaviour of people who are acting unpredictably. But you know, if
somebody wants to make a weapon in the library they can find a way to
make it inside the library.
We’re not dealing with the the root causes, so to speak, of what is causing people themselves to be in crisis. If we put the safety of the people who are suffering these crises at the centre, we would see that the way to take these crises seriously is to surround those people with supports. Anything less than that is actually not taking anybody’s safety seriously.
- How can we take this on then… is there a way to balance those two things? Because the perception of safety is important as well for the public.
- As are the crises you mentioned there. I mean, making sure that we reduce homelessness and reduce poverty and that sort of thing, very important as well. But can we do both of those things at the same time?
- Well let me speak to the part about addressing poverty and homelessness: I don’t think that a police response is ever going to be an appropriate response to a drug crisis. When police respond to people in crises they are much more likely to escalate the situation than to actually solve the situation.
But if we think about the scale of funding that the police get, from last year to this year the police budget increased by ten million dollars. That represents three percent of the police budget. Just this week the West End 24-hour safe space is having to close their doors because they can’t afford to stay open seven nights a week in order to serve dozens and dozens, hundreds of people, thousands of visits over the years for people who would otherwise be on the streets at night.
For $500,000 a year, they could operate a safe space that has a social worker, a public health worker, other frontline staff there. There could be 20 of those safe spaces for the amount of money by which we increased the police budget last year.
So I can say that the police likely wouldn’t have felt that decrease that much, the lack of increase rather, but increasing the number of safe spaces where people who would otherwise be on the street can go to chill out, sleep, get some food, reduce the stress, the incredible stress that they’re facing in their lives for all sorts of reasons. That is actually a really quick fix that that we can do in the short term. So it’s not just about, I mean I think there are short medium and long term solutions.
And of course we need more housing, we need more income opportunities for people and those are those are longer-term solutions. But there are also things, really concrete things we can do in the short term that aren’t policing.
- How do we impact the public opinion on that, then, because I think, now, I may be mistaken, if you were to walk down the street here and talk to ten people and you gave them the option of putting more money into a drop-in centre, or putting more money in the purse of the police to help them stay safe, do you think that people would consider putting that money into the drop-in centre?
- I think we have to give the public a little bit of credit. I think people have pretty contradictory ideas about policing and safety. I think people understand that when people are vulnerable, and they have a lot of needs, and their lives are unstable, that they pose a risk to themselves and potentially to other people. I think also we might find that the people we stop on the street might have loved ones who have been in jail, who have been drug users, who have been in situations where they could have been met with care, but instead were met with punishment.
And I think that we really need to start with talking to meth users, former meth users, and the people who love them and are trying so hard to surround them with the supports that will allow them to survive; trying so hard often to keep them out of contact with the police too, while at the same time we’re flooding the streets with more police and making their lives more difficult, less safe, more precarious, which is actually only amping up the stress levels that could make their meth use dangerous.
- You just a moment ago mentioned care versus punishment, I wonder what you think of Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries’ latest decision to publish the names of people charged, not necessarily convicted, but charged with theft in liquor stores?
- I think that’s horrible. I mean, they’ve been charged, they haven’t been convicted, first of all. I don’t understand the point. I think that it’s shocking to me that we have so much panic around liquor theft. You know, people are dying on the streets because they don’t have a place to sleep.
I think that we really need to think about whose safety and security we are considering in these moments. I’ve seen people walk out of the LC that I go to with bottles of liquor; it only becomes a violent situation if somebody tries to intervene.
So if we’re just talking about property theft and we’re not talking about violence, I’d say knock it down on the list of priorities because there are people dying and suffering out there, they’re starving, and they’re freezing to death.
- Pushing, I know this is, pushing the ethics of that aside yeah for just a moment.
- Is it effective as a deterrent?
- No, no. It’s not an effective deterrent. Public shaming and punishment: there is no evidence that those things are effective deterrents, and you can read any criminological scholarship on it.
We have an attachment to punishment, an attachment to policing, I think, because people intuit, they feel that that is a quick fix, a quick resolution, but if we were really going to be implementing evidence-based policies, these would be policies that address the needs of the people who are, you know, supposedly causing these threats.
- Bronwyn, it’s been great speaking with you, I hope we get a chance to do this again.
- Thank you so much.
- Bronwyn Dobchuk-Land is an assistant professor in criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg.
We are excited to host a visit from Ann Hansen, activist and author of two books: Direct Action: Memoirs of an Urban Guerilla (2001), and Taking the Rap: Women Doing Time for Society’s Crimes (2018).
Hansen‘s first book documents her involvement in the guerilla campaigns of Direct Action (also known as the Squamish Five) during the 1980s. Hansen has just published a second book about her years in prison and parole from 1984 until the present. Taking the Rap: Women Doing Time for Society’s Crimes is a series of short stories about prison life based on Ann’s time in the Prison for Women from 1984-1991 and in the Grand Valley Institution for Women between 2006-2012.
Ann will be speaking about these experiences and discussing with the audience the role of prisons in Canada.
We hope you will join us at one or both of her speaking engagements:
On-site child minding available (please RSVP to confirm, if possible)
Our first ever newsletter was published this past fall. Producing a newsletter has been a dream of the Bar None prison rideshare since we began over three years ago, and we are so excited that we’re finally making it happen. Our goal is to put out a newsletter four times a year: fall, winter, spring and summer. Through this newsletter we hope to let people already involved in the rideshare as well as potential collaborators, know what Bar None has been up to and invite input on our work. We also hope to share news of some of the anti-prison struggles we hear about from around the world.
BarNone met with youth at Art City to discuss our rideshare project, how prisons can be harmful and make some great abolitionist art. Check out these posters they made!
Join us for a night of good sounds in support of the Justice for Errol Group’s Fundraiser for legal fees associated with the inquest into Errol Greene’s death.
When: August 18th 8pm-10:30pm. Doors at 7pm.
Where: aceartinc. – 2-290 McDermot Ave, Winnipeg
$8-$15 Pay What You Can — Performers:
- Burden: deconstructed piano legends – https://bbrrddnn.bandcamp.com/
- Rosa Reaper: vocal loop blair witch project – https://rosareaper.bandcamp.com/
- Hypat1a: dreamy fearie experiments for laying around – https://soundcloud.com/queenhypat1a
Amazing Poster by Kelly Grub