Protection of transgender prisoners urged by southern Alberta advocacy groups

By Lara Fominoff - Lethbridge News Now
May 21, 2018 - 11:41am

LETHBRIDGE, AB – The Lethbridge Public Interest Research Group, the University of Lethbridge Student Union’s Pride Centre, OUTreach Southern Alberta Society, and Lawyer Miranda Hlady among others are reaching out to the provincial government in the hopes of addressing policies concerning transgender, binary and two-spirited inmates housed at provincial correctional facilities.

Hlady says in December 2017, changes were made to federal correctional institutions to allow for those who are transgender to choose whether they are placed in the population units they identify with.

She says B.C. and Ontario already have those policies in place, which also takes into account how searches are performed, the kind of clothing they wear, and would not require them to share cells with others. If preferences are denied there should be a clear appeal process to determine whether that's appropriate.

To that end, Hlady says letters have been sent to Premier Rachel Notley requesting current inmate policies be changed.

"The biggest concerns we seem to be seeing are the individuals, the trans women, are being placed in men's units. And that's what prompted action in the federal system, in B.C. and in Ontario."

As for the argument that the individual broke the law and didn't have to end up in jail or 'you get what you get' behind bars, Hlady says human rights should always be valued.

"We aren't necessarily dealing with people who will ever become convicted of any crimes. Our provincial facilities have an important role to play and what it comes down to, is that we need to treat people with dignity and respect regardless of how they find themselves in these facilities and how long they're going to be staying in these facilities."

As for the issue of smuggling drugs or other contraband into jails, and drug testing, Hlady explains that they're not opposed to transgender people being searched or tested, it's who is doing the searches and tests, and how they are performed.

"We're talking about considerations for things like prosthetics and individuals should be consulted about how they can be searched in a proper and respectful way.”

"People in custody are in a very vulnerable position, and sometimes it can be very difficult for people in prison to advocate for themselves. When we're dealing with remand for example, we might be dealing with an individual who might be in custody for a very brief period and sometimes advocating for themselves might not seem worth it."

Hlady hopes the provincial government responds their requests and begins consultations so that meaningful changes soon occur.

The ultimate goal she says, is the safety of all trans, non- binary and two-spirited individuals. 

RCMP charge pilot with impaired operation following small plane crash near Swift Current