Federal inmate in Quebec seeks class-action alleging mishandling of COVID-19 crisis in prisons
MONTREAL -- A federal inmate serving time at a women’s prison in Quebec filed a proposed class-action lawsuit against Correctional Service Canada (CSC) on Monday.
The application was filed on behalf of all inmates incarcerated at federal institutions across the province since March 13, for the way the COVID-19 pandemic has been handled.
Joelle Beaulieu is an inmate at the Joliette Institution, a federal women’s prison located in Joliette, Quebec, where 51 inmates and 49 employees have tested positive for the virus. Beaulieu received a positive diagnosis on April 1.
“Instead of quickly adopting measures that could have prevented the spread of COVID-19 to inmates, those in charge of the federal institutions in Quebec remained inactive amid the pandemic,” the court documents read.
Beaulieu’s proposed class-action is seeking $100 per day for all federal inmates who have been incarcerated since the start of the pandemic, and a $500 lump sum for those who have contracted the virus.
The documents claim individual institutions were left to improvise how to react to the pandemic, which meant regulations that were swiftly implemented across the province were only later applied to prisons. Inmates were allegedly quarantined much later than they should have been, were sometimes transferred to different areas in within their institutions, infecting people in those areas, and staff didn’t wear personal protective equipment at the beginning of the pandemic.
Inmate cases at federal institutions in Quebec are concentrated in three facilities, according to data released by CSC on Sunday – the Joliette Institution where Beaulieu is incarcerated being the one with the most. The other two are the Federal Training Centre in Laval, which has 44 confirmed cases among inmates and 10 among employees, and the Port-Cartier Institution near Sept-Iles, where 14 inmates and 26 employees have tested positive.
The delayed reaction on the part of CSC is how the virus managed to spread within federal institutions, according to the documents.
In an email to CTV News, CSC said "Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, (CSC) management teams at all levels are engaging with local, provincial and federal public health authorities to navigate these unprecedented times."
They would not comment on the proposed class-action.
With files from The Canadian Press.