Damage from a major riot at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary is shown in a in December, 2016 handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Office of the Correctional Investigator

Prison watchdog slams investigation of deadly riot in Saskatchewan

The 2016 riot involved 185 prisoners and left one inmate dead, eight prisoners injured and a large part of the institution uninhabitable

The Correctional Service of Canada told the public a story about a deadly 2016 riot at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary that didn’t match the findings of its own investigation, which was itself “superficial, expedient and self-serving,” the federal watchdog on prisons reported Tuesday.

Correctional investigator Ivan Zinger wrote in his annual report that the prison service should not investigate itself in cases involving a riot, a death or a suicide in solitary confinement.

The violence at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary involved 185 prisoners and left one inmate dead, eight prisoners injured and a large part of the institution uninhabitable.

Jason Leonard Bird, who was serving a sentence of less than three years, was stabbed to death during the riot; five other inmates have been charged with murder. Most of the injured were hit by shotgun pellets when the prison authorities moved in. The riot did an estimated $3.6 million in damage.

Zinger said that while the prison service’s internal investigation concluded the riot was random, spontaneous and unforeseen, his office found that bad food, and not enough of it, were contributing factors to the riot, contradicting the prison service.

After the board concluded that the riot was unrelated to food, which was not supported by his office’s preliminary findings, he launched an investigation. The correctional service finally acknowledged that food was a factor in March, in a summary released publicly that still omitted other facts, Zinger said.

“CSC’S public account of these events, released in March of this year, is selective and misleading. It does not match the findings of its own internal investigation,” he said.

Zinger said his report on the riot raises serious concerns about the adequacy and the appropriateness of the correctional service investigating itself though its internal National Board of Investigation.

“When I first received the board’s report in late November last year, it raised a series of red flags. Its ‘random event’ theory was not credible and the rest of its findings struck me as superficial, expedient and self-serving,” Zinger told reporters in Ottawa on Tuesday.

The corrections ombudsman also takes issue with the fact that although 85 per cent of riot participants were Indigenous and 49 per cent of those who rioted were affiliated with gangs, neither factor was mentioned in either version of CSC’s report.

“My own review concluded that the riot and violence cannot be explained or understood without reference to the prevailing conditions of confinement and population management at Saskatchewan Penitentiary.”

He said those who rioted were housed in integrated living units, meaning different Indigenous gang members were living in close quarters, and few were in rehabilitation programs.

“Given these circumstances, and the fact that CSC does not have a co-ordinated national gang and gang-affiliation strategy, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that the majority of these young Indigenous men who participated or incited riot were warehoused in a federal facility that offered little hope for early release, opportunity or opportunity for a better life,” he said. “The reality is that many of these men had little to lose.”

He said the internal board of investigation made no recommendation about Indigenous people in the prison system and had nothing to say about the influence of gangs in Canadian penitentiaries.

Anne Kelly, the correctional service’s commissioner, said it’s continuing to integrate the lessons learned from the Saskatchewan Penitentiary riot into its daily operations to ensure that similar situations can be prevented in the future.

“The riot’s impact on staff, offenders and others has not been forgotten, and we are using the results of the subsequent investigation to address the factors that resulted in this tragic incident.”

The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

‘Manny’s Motel’ badly damaged by fire Jan. 15

Police say 40 Ave. closed due to fire, use alternate route

From courthouse to council’s house

Old courthouse had long history before becoming City Hall

Revenue Canada, RCMP don’t accept Bitcoin: police

RCMP issue Bitcoin warning posters

Writer says Alberta highway system falling apart

Highways in ‘deplorable’ condition: writer

County council denies request for parking lot

Buck Lake groups are welcome to raise funds and return to council

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

RCMP Major Crimes Unit lays charges in Stettler death

Nicholas Climb Johnson, 32, of Stettler is charged with second degree murder in the death of his father

Metis nations ask Ottawa to negotiate directly with them, not national body

Three provincial Metis nations will work through the national council until after the federal government releases its 2020 budget

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Sylvan Lake RCMP seek assistance in locating missing male

Mark Crier, 17, was last seen in Sylvan Lake on Jan. 13

UPDATE: Supreme Court dismisses B.C.’s appeal in Trans Mountain pipeline case

Judges decide whether B.C.’s power to protect environment can include impeding a federal project

Alberta says universities over-budget; need to freeze travel, hiring, hosting

Demetrios Nicolaides says spending is not meeting expectations

Over 16,000 people nabbed by RCMP between border crossings in 2019

In 2019, 63,830 claims were filed, up from 55,040 in 2018

Most Read