Two-Spirit Inmate Alleges Enduring Slurs, Violence in Multiple Canadian Prisons

Written on 08/30/2021
Contributing Columnist

Agassiz, BC — A Two-Spirit, First Nations prisoner at Kent Institution in Agassiz has filed a complaint to Canada’s Human Rights Commission against corrections officers and other inmates in four prisons — The Abbotsford News reported.

After experiencing harassment and violence on multiple occasions, Nick Dinardo (pronouns: they/them) told Correctional Service Canada (CSC) about their gender identity a year ago and asked to be transferred to a women’s penitentiary.

Instead, Dinardo was brought to several different male institutions where they experienced violence, bullying and isolation. Dinardo said they would feel more safe and able to express their gender in a female prison, but the request was refused.

“Nick has been repeatedly subject to physical force by correctional officers, and in May 2021, officers broke Nick’s arm,” Dinardo’s legal team said in a statement. “Officers have discussed Nick’s gender identity openly, putting Nick’s safety at risk. Both prisoners and staff have called them transphobic slurs.”

The lawyers added that Dinardo did not shower for two months out of the fear that they could be harassed or physically harmed upon exiting their cell. The statement went on to say that Dinardo was often the target of searches by male officers, which is against Corrections Canada policy, and was continually looked at while using the toilet.

The other penitentiaries mentioned in the 2021 complaint are Atlantic Institution and Shepody Healing Centre in New Brunswick and Port Cartier Institution in Quebec.

Dinardo is a Piapot First Nations person and has family members who are residential school survivors with a history of trauma and abuse.

“CSC has written that it is seeking specialists in gender identity disorder for me, but my gender and culture are not a mental disorder,” Dinardo said in a statement. Dinardo claims they are unable to live without risk as a Two-Spirit person, which is part of the colonization and genocide of Indigenous peoples in Canada and all over the world.

In July 2020, Dinardo filed a separate human rights complaint against CSC because it refused to provide them with proper care for their mental health and emotional distress. Instead, it was met with isolation, contributing to the unhealthy mental state Dinardo was facing. Officers often used pepper spray and riot gear to deal with Dinardo, and the complaint is still being looked at in court.

The CSC told The Abbotsford News, “We have not yet received this claim and are therefore not in a position to comment on any specific allegations. We take such complaints very seriously and will review it in detail.”

(Image Credit: The Abbotsford News)