Councillors chose wrong option going to cross-gender guarding

A third option included calling in women guards when there was a girl or woman in custody.

To the Editor,

It was shocking last Monday night to witness five men on Nanaimo city council totally ignore the impassioned speeches of women on council and from the community and run roughshod over the rights of women detainees in our jail, trading women’s rights for money.

Council had three options with regard to guarding. With cross-gender monitoring, council could save $360,000 but would lose four full-time positions and abandon the practice of women guarding women. The second choice was to leave things as they are, allowing detained women their privacy and respect but save no money. A third option included calling in women guards when there was a girl or woman in custody. With this last option they would have saved $100,000 allowing them to respect the rights of women and still save money. Councillors Bill Bestwick, Bill Yoachim, Gord Fuller, Jim Kipp and Jerry Hong voted for cross-gender monitoring.

The male guards do not want to be put in the position of having to watch while girls and women use the toilet, are undressed or in a state of confusion lying naked on the floor. Girls may be drunk or drugged or have mental health problems. A high percentage will have been already been physically or sexually abused by men. Others are detained while waiting to be charged and there is a presumption of innocence. The guards understand this.

This treatment of women is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the United Nations Covenant for Treatment of Prisoners and Corrections Canada protocols for treatment of girls and women in custody.

Until now Nanaimo has shown ‘best practice’ and given us reason to be proud. We need to keep this status and model it for other B.C. communities. I sincerely hope these councillors will change their votes at the Nov. 7 council meeting when the issue is raised again.

Dyane BrownpresidentNanaimo chapter, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom