Greenpeace demands action on abuse of activists in Calgary Remand Centre

Feature story - June 14, 2011
Calgary — Greenpeace today called for an investigation into the abuse of Greenpeace activists last summer by Correctional Peace Officers in the Calgary Remand Centre.

Greenpeace executive director Bruce Cox announced the call for an investigation, disciplinary action and criminal charges where warranted outside the Calgary courthouse. Greenpeace is filing complaints about correctional officers with the Alberta Human Rights Commission and with the head of the remand centre.

“Corrections officers in the Calgary Remand Centre used threats of rape and beatings to intimidate peaceful activists who were being processed for release from detention,” said Cox. “They conducted multiple, aggressive strip searches as a punitive measure and hurled an anti-French slur against one activist,” said Bruce Cox. “This behaviour is an affront to the Canadian Charter of Rights, our justice system and every citizen who values our democracy. It is unacceptable behaviour from public servants and we think an investigation will show criminal charges should be filed.”

Nine Greenpeace activists were arrested on August 3, 2010 at a peaceful protest at the Calgary Tower that included hanging a banner reading “Separate Oil and State.” After being held in police custody for about 30 hours, they were taken to the Calgary Remand Centre and held for several hours while being processed for release on bail.

The Greenpeace activists’ complaints against remand centre corrections officers include being:

  • threatened by corrections officers with having their bones broken,
  • subjected to degrading and unconstitutional strip searches,
  • threatened with attack from guard dogs
  • yelled at and intimidated for asserting their right to remain silent,
  • threatened with being locked up with other inmates who would rape them,
  • threatened with abuse by other inmates, and
  • asked who should be contacted in case they die.

Given that the activists had been granted bail, were simply being processed for release and had been in constant custody for 30 hours following their initial search by police, the actions of the corrections officers — particularly the strip searches — were obviously meant to humiliate and were punitive in nature. The Supreme Court of Canada has clearly recognized that the growing use of strip searches as a punitive measure is in need of regulation and restriction.

“We have made our complaints public because this behaviour is systemic in the remand centre and restricts the rights of those people peacefully exercising their right to dissent and protest against government policies” said Cox. “We blame Premier Stelmach. When the Premier inappropriately interfered in the judicial system and called for the full force of the law to be brought down on peaceful Greenpeace protestors, Stelmach set an inflammatory and potentially dangerous tone that leads to abuse of peaceful protesters. Since then, we have seen a growing effort by authorities in Alberta to silence and restrict opposition to an oil industry that is out of control by all measures.”

Greenpeace filed a letter with Kim Canning, director of the remand centre, calling for a full investigation of the ill-treatment of the activists and disciplinary measures against officers, including criminal charges where appropriate. Greenpeace also filed with the Alberta Human Rights commission a request for an investigation into an anti-French slur. A remand officer closed a line of aggressive questioning with: “Don’t you know we don’t like French people here?”

“I was threatened with rape, asked if I wanted my bones broken and saw a colleague screamed at for being French,” said Fred Bleau, Greenpeace actions campaigner. “The charges against me were dropped for lack of evidence, yet I was subjected to abusive treatment. This kind of improper treatment of people must be stopped.”

Greenpeace list of potential violations

Letter to Calgary Remand Centre requesting investigation

Letter to Alberta Human Rights Commission