Prisoners’ Legal Services has filed a complaint to the Canada Human Rights Commission on behalf of a 29-year-old Two-Spirit First Nations individual after they reportedly experienced harassment and violence from corrections officers and inmates in at least four prisons, including Kent Institution.
According to a statement from their legal team released last week, Nick Dinardo, who uses they/them pronouns, informed Correctional Service Canada (CSC) of their gender identity last year and requested to be transferred to a facility for women. Instead, Dinardo has since been transferred between multiple institutions for men, where they experienced violence, harassment and isolation in Structured Intervention Units. Their requests to transfer to an institution designated for women – where they would feel safer and more able to express their gender – have been denied.
Two-Spirit refers to a person who identifies as having both a masculine and a feminine spirit, used by some Indigenous Peoples.
“Nick has been repeatedly subject to physical force by correctional officers, and in May 2021 officers broke Nick’s arm,” the statement said. “Officers have discussed Nick’s gender identity openly, putting Nick’s safety at risk. Both prisoners and staff have called them transphobic slurs.”
Lawyers claim Dinardo has not showered in approximately two months as they fear further violence and harassment if they exit their cell, and is also targeted with frequent searches by male officers – which violates Corrections Canada policy – and was frequently watched using the toilet.
The other three facilities involved in Dinardo’s 2021 complaint are Atlantic Institution and Shepody Healing Centre in New Brunswick and Port Cartier Institution in Quebec.
Dinardo, a member of Piapot First Nation, has a family that survived residential schools and 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’s complaint states that the inability to live freely and safely as a Two-Spirit person is a result of colonization and genocide against Indigenous people.
Last July, Dinardo filed a different human rights complaint against the Corrections Service of Canada for reported failure to address mental health needs and for reportedly responding to their emotional distress with violence and isolation – including the use of pepper spray and officers in riot gear. This complaint is ongoing.
The CSC said that they were aware of the complaint but declined to comment further.
“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.”