For Immediate Release – 9 February 2016, Ottawa, Canada
Protest Calls For End To Inhumane Treatment Of Mentally-Ill First Nations Woman
What: Rally for Marlene Carter: End the Use of Seclusion!
Where: Brockville Mental Health Centre, 1831 Oxford Ave, Brockville, ON
When: 10:00-11:00am on Thursday February 11th, 2016
Marlene Carter, a First Nations woman (Onion Lake Cree Nation, Sask.) has been held in seclusion at the Brockville Mental Health Centre, Forensic Treatment Unit, since autumn of last year. For Ms. Carter, seclusion (solitary confinement) means a tiny 8’ x 10’ room containing a cot and a sink/toilet, no TV or radio or internet, no tea or coffee, no shower privileges, no right to a smudging ceremony (spirituality), no right to private one-on-one counsel with her spiritual advisor, no right to spend even one precious minute outdoors. It also means limited access to the phone.
Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and professor of law at the University of Ottawa, has known Ms. Carter for nearly two decades and says, “Like so many other women, especially Indigenous women and those with disabling mental health issues, Marlene should be in the community – her community of support – with supportive and therapeutic resources, not in isolated and dehumanizing conditions of confinement. The monies being used to keep Marlene in such isolation should be invested in the community and utilized to provide appropriate therapeutic supports with and for Marlene. Prisons are not and can not be treatment centres!”
Elder Albert Dumont (Kitigan Zibi, QC) has served as Ms. Carter’s spiritual advisor for the past year beginning in January 2015, approximately 6 months after she arrived in Brockville. He is leading a rally outside the Brockville Mental Health Centre at 10am on Thursday, February 11th to demand that Ms. Carter be released from seclusion. The rally will condemn the use of seclusion for long periods of time against any Canadian, regardless of cultural background, anywhere in the nation’s prison system.
The Current Situation at Brockville Mental Health Centre
Marlene was transferred from Saskatchewan to the Brockville Mental Health Centre Forensic Treatment Unit in the summer of 2014. At the request of the Brockville therapeutic staff, Algonquin Elder Albert Dumont began to visit Ms. Carter regularly as her spiritual advisor in January 2015. They were allowed to sit outdoors and smudge, something Marlene had not been permitted to do for a number of years. Mr. Dumont witnessed an amazing transformation, with Ms. Carter going from a mind-frame of mistrust and inner rage to becoming calm and hopeful. He also observed that she was intelligent and soft spoken. But by the fall of 2015 she deteriorated once more after Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT’) was imposed on her against her will. A series of assaults followed soon thereafter, leaving staff members shaken and fearful. There are still two outstanding charges for her assaults on staff members, one as recent as Jan. 6.
Mr. Dumont believes that Ms. Carter’s traumatic past combined with the way she is currently being treated are responsible for any regression Ms. Carter has experienced.
“Marlene Carter is neither a criminal nor is she a rabid dog,” states Mr. Dumont. “For most of her adult life, especially the past 7 years, she has been treated as one or the other by Canada’s mental health system and by our justice system. She is a woman whose mind has been devastated by a mental illness brought down on her by the unspeakable traumas of her past. She should be treated with kindness, patience, compassion and proper medication until she recovers to find peace of mind and can live a life worth living supported by her family and community.”
Mr. Dumont also wants to draw attention to the fact that numerous reports and studies confirm that no one – in particular those with mental health issues – should be subjected to seclusion (solitary confinement).
The Ontario Review Board determined in January that Ms. Carter should be returned to Saskatchewan to be closer to her community and family. However, she is still being kept in seclusion and the date has not been set for when she will return to Saskatchewan. At the very least, she should not endure seclusion while she waits to go home.
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Albert Dumont, info.albert.dumont [@] gmail.com
Julie Comber (bilingual), info.albert.dumont [@] gmail.com
Background on Marlene Carter
Ms. Carter was sexually and physically abused as an infant and throughout her childhood. Due to the abuse, Marlene attempted suicide on a number of occasions.
The mental and spiritual downward spiral that lead to much of Ms. Carter’s adult life being spent in institutions began with a conviction in 1999 for non-violent offences. She was sentenced to nine months, but an assault with a weapon while incarcerated extended her sentence until 2003. She was then convicted of several assaults on correctional officers and inmates in 2004. She was in and out of custody on breaches until 2006. In 2009, she was convicted of several assaults on peace officers and a stranger in the community. She received a 30-month sentence, but further assaults while incarcerated extended her sentence until 2014.
From 2009 to 2014, Ms. Carter was in Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre (RPC). She began hearing voices instructing her to bash her head against the floor or other hard surfaces. RPC responded by keeping her in restraints for so long her muscles atrophied, leaving her unable to stand or walk on her own.
In 2014, Saskatchewan tried to have Ms. Carter designated a dangerous offender. The judge did not label her a dangerous offender, and instead stated she should be transferred to a mental health facility that would focus on supporting her mental health.