Charter violation / justice / prisoners' rights / Shane Martinez

Canadian inmates sue government over t-shirt ban

Toronto Star

August 30th, 2012

by Curtis Rush


“Some 150 inmates have filed a $1.25 million class-action lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada to wear the T-shirts on Prisoners Justice Day. The shirt also shows two hands grasping jail bars.

The prisoners in Joyceville Institution, 20 kilometres northeast of Kingston, brought the shirts into the prison two years ago, but they were banned shortly after Public Safety Minister Vic Toews condemned the “misuse” of Canada’s national symbol.

Toews said the design “dishonours those who have upheld Canadian laws in the line of duty and fought in support of Canadian values at home and abroad.”

Inmates wore the shirts on Prisoners Justice Day, Aug. 10, 2010, to demonstrate that Canada is in a state of “political and social distress,” the lawsuit states.

Their lawyers, Shane Martinez and Davin Charney, say the government’s ban violates the inmates’ freedom of expression, among other abuses.

“It’s critical for people who aren’t incarcerated to know and remember that people do not — and should not — automatically lose all their rights simply because they are incarcerated,” Martinez said.

“Those rights can only be restricted in a way that is reasonable and justified in a free and democratic society. People’s ability to engage in free expression is very important.”



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