Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, August 10, 2015

Male Explicit Entitlements versus Female Dignity

"[The role of the court was] not to determine whether or not inmates in CSC's [Correctional Service of Canada] institutions should have access to sexually explicit television programs, but rather to assess the legality of the commissioner's decision."
"[That decision] does not fall within a range of possible, acceptable outcomes which is defensible in respect of the facts and law."
"Security issues and emotional harm resulting from inmates' access to sexually explicit material was not the focus of the two testimonies. The focus was rather on the lack of awareness, support and responsive action on the employer's part to prevent female officers from being sexually harassed by inmates."
"[If the Correctional Service could establish] causality [between inmates viewing pornography and sexual harassment of female correctional officers] it would justify the imposition of a ban. However, there was no such evidence before the commissioner."
Federal Court Justice Jocelyn Gagne

"I don't think this should be characterized in any way as a victory for pornography. t was simply a requirement -- the same as with any other decision where there are rights involved -- that they be done in accordance with the law."
"[Viewing the sexually explicit programs was of importance to the client and fellow inmates] because they are things that people in the community would be able to view if they paid for them [and] because they consider themselves to be adults and wish to view that kind of material."
Todd Sloan, lawyer representing  complainant

Haris Naraine, 46, filed a complaint after corrections officials cancelled two cable channels in March 2013.
Haris Naraine, 46, filed a complaint after corrections officials cancelled two cable channels in March 2013. (Canadian Press)
"Our position is clear -- we do not believe that [prison] inmates should have access to pornographic material. We will explore all avenues to correct this unacceptable situation."
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney

The Correctional Service of Canada offended the human rights of prison inmates, contends Haris Naraine, 46, currently incarcerated at Archambault Institution, a federal penitentiary north of Montreal. He and a handful of other prison inmates had paid for a local cable package that included two specific channels geared to showing pornography. They had become accustomed to viewing the sexually explicit programs in their cells on closed circuit channels.

And they were horribly affronted that their rights had been suborned by the institution to which they had been assigned as punishment for criminal acts they had been found guilty of at trial and sentenced for. Mr. Naraine submitted an affidavit through his lawyer stating that he had viewed such material at Archambault and two other institutions for the past seven years, with no complaints forthcoming from corrections officers.

He had submitted a grievance over the complaints leading to the two cable channels being cut off at the discretion of the Correctional Service of Canada, and his grievance was denied by CSC's acting senior deputy commissioner in 2014. And then, in a judgement that came down on July 30, Federal Court Justice Jocelyn Gagne overturned the decision, sending the issue back, to a different commissioner at CSC to adjudicate, presumably to reach a more acceptable determination.

Jana Chytilova for National Post

In all the back-and-forth of claims and rejections, lies the issue at the heart of the matter that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is held to entitle these prisoners to the kind of lifestyle within prison that they prefer, at least when it comes to their viewing material on closed-circuit television. Needless to say, as free men whose activities would not have brought them to the circumstances they find themselves in, they could indulge as they wish. In prison it represents a total absurdity.

But the good justice feels otherwise inclined to their complaint, upholding the view that their rights have been deleteriously impacted. Their lawyer's argument that the CSC's ruling effectively violated his client's constitutional rights to freedom of expression expresses a forgiveness of social deviance in the commission of crimes against society that the Charter never intended. Yet Judge Gagnon claimed the court was unable to assess whether a disproportionate impact on freedom of expression resulted from the ban "as no real balancing exercise was conducted by the commissioner".

And as far as the complainant's lawyer is concerned, it was clear the court had "determined that the issue of freedom of expression can't be restricted without justifiable, demonstrable reasons for doing so." This, despite the fact that the pornography stations were banned soon after two female correctional officers gave testimony before the [House of] Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women in January of 2013.

The two female correctional employees expressed their legitimate concerns relating to sexual harassment of female officers by inmates, and that moreover it was their opinion that Correctional Services of Canada had failed to deal with the issue in an appropriate manner. The CSC commissioner had responded to serious concerns raised by female correctional officers relating to their security and personal dignity, resulting from sexually explicit material viewed by inmates.

The lawyer's claims that his client and other inmates were deserving of accessing programs readily available to members of the general community, is specious sophistry of the most aggravating variety; a lawyer who has made an effort to turn the law to the advantage of his client. A direct causal link between men focused on pornography and the security of women working in close contact with those men has been proven by sociologists, and is obvious.

Whereas lawyers representing the federal government pointed out that while the ban did have the effect of limiting the inmates' freedom of expression, a "proportionate balance" had been struck between the Charter guarantee and the statutory objectives of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

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