Justice, redress and restitution for the widows of Marikana

 

(Speaking Wounds: Voices of Marikana Widows Through Art and Narrative)

(Image Credit: The Journalist)

Why does Canada refuse to assist Christine Delormier, an Aboriginal Canadian woman?

Toilet with no water after the water was shut off as sanction

On September 17, 2015, Christine Delormier, a 31-year-old Aboriginal Canadian woman, was arrested while on vacation in Mexico. She was charged with aggravated extortion. Since her arrest, Christine Delormier has been held in the women’s prison of Tepepan, in Mexico City, where she has suffered severe physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Despite numerous pleas to both Mexican and Canadian government, no one has come to her assistance. Why is that?

Christine Delormier has made multiple reports to the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City and to Global Affairs Canada, in Ottawa, concerning the treatment she is currently enduring. The Canadian representatives have stated there is nothing they can do to stop the ongoing torture and abuse because “it is not within our mandate to do so”. But it is within their mandate. The Canadian government’s Guide For Canadians Imprisoned Abroad states “consular officials can … seek to ensure you receive equitable treatment under the laws and in keeping with the standards of the host country, upon your arrest or detention.”

Christine Delormier has suffered beatings, prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement, malnutrition, and physical and sexual assaults by prison staff. The electricity in her cell has been cut off as has the water, forcing her to go to the bathroom in a juice jug. In three months, she has been forced to undergo 18 x-rays, allegedly in the service of body searches. Christine Delormier has been deprived of her universal prisoners right to one hour of sunshine and fresh air every day. Christine has not been outside in 17 weeks.

The court has repeatedly asked the prison director Rosa María LaGuardia Balcazar and the prison public defender Leydi Marisol Salizar to provide an end date to the use of solitary confinement. They reply that Christine is not in solitary confinement and that she has all the necessary amenities. Regardless of evidence to the contrary, the Mexican authorities accept the report and never investigate further. Canadian Embassy officials have stated it is not their job to confirm or deny any statements made by the prison. Why is that?

Meanwhile, Christine Delormier has been in solitary confinement for 17 weeks, a fact the Canadian embassy does not deny. The embassy is aware that there is no set date for the isolation to be finished and that the director has presented false information to the court, and still the Embassy has done nothing to report this to international authorities. Why?

When Ms. Delormier became aware that the director was lying to the courts, she took the initiative to find a way to verify her claims of torture, mental and physical abuse. Appalled at what he was forcing Ms. Delormier to endure daily, a prison guard lent her a cell phone to take pictures of her injuries and the inhuman conditions of her cell.

Ms. Delormier took multiple pictures of her injuries and the conditions of her cell and sent them to Philemon Leroux in Ottawa. Mr. Leroux is a Consular Case management officer for Global Affairs Canada. His response was “I have never seen anything like this before”, and then he blocked the pictures’ sender’s email address. Mr. Leroux explained that, since Ms. Delormier was not allowed to have a cell phone, the pictures were “unlawfully obtained ” and could not be used as evidence to verify her claims. Mr. Leroux also stated that since they cannot be certain of the extent of abuse Ms. Delormier is suffering, they would not be raising the issue with foreign affairs.

The catalogue of incompetence, delay and unwillingness to help exhibited by Canadian representatives is outrageous but not surprising. Considering Canada’s track record in stopping the abuse of aboriginal women in prison, it is likely that Ms. Delormier will endure torturous conduct until the day of her release.

Ms. Delormier maintains her innocence: “How did I become part of an organized crime ring of extortionists? I was in the country for 8 days on vacation and upon my arrest I did not speak a word of Spanish.” Currently awaiting trial, Ms. Delormier is asking people to write to the Native Women’s Association of Canada, Amnesty International and the Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau. Ask them to act to stop the abuse and torture. Ask them, “Why does the Canadian refuse to aid an Aboriginal woman citizen? Why does Canada refuse to assist Christine Delormier?”

Cheyenne Pattinson

 

(Photo Credit: Tortura en el Distrito Federal Carcel)

 

Christiane Taubira: “Parfois résister c’est rester, parfois résister c’est partir”

Christiane Taubira

Christiane Taubira, France’s Minister of Justice, resigned today. As she explained, “Sometimes staying is resisting, sometimes leaving is resisting”. We’ll have something on Christiane Taubira in the next couple days. For the last four years, Brigitte Marti has written regularly, at Women In and Beyond the Global, about Christiane Taubira’s struggles to reform the French penal system, to restore justice to so-called criminal justice, all the while combating racist sexist attacks on her and her policies. Christiane Taubira may be leaving the government, but she is not leaving the struggle for women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, workers’ rights, prisoners’ rights, gay rights, minority rights and more, all in the context of a vision of a realizable just world. A just world is possible!

Christiane Taubira explains prison

Here’s a partial list of Brigitte Marti’s pieces that, from June 2012 to last year, profiled Taubira’s varied engagements and interventions:

Resistances, les femmes, le pouvoir et l’élection (June 18, 2012)

From Paris to Baltimore, our prisons are full but empty of sense (November 21, 2012)

In France, mandatory minimum sentences kill (June 27, 2013)

Scandal in France! Prison as a last resort! (August 19, 2013)

Evolution of a scandal in France (August 29, 2013)

Must punishment mean prison? Why are you asking? (September 21, 2013)

These racist attacks assault the heart of the Republic (November 13, 2013)

It is the responsibility of the State to defend reproductive rights and health (November 21, 2013)

French prison guards strike for global incarceration and dehumanization (May 13, 2014)

The false case against Christiane Taubira (May 24, 2014)

Can Christiane Taubira move France from repressive to restorative justice? (June 2, 2014)

France’s twisted road to restorative justice (July 22, 2014)

From Paris to Washington, all women need easy access to real help in times of crisis (August 29, 2014)

In France, isolation is not the answer to anything! (July 22, 2015)

Prison reform looks to the future, to a Republican society that cares for all its people.

 

(Photo Credit: Women In and Beyond the Global)

Remember Marikana

 

(Photo Credit: Dave Mann / The Con)

#FeesMustFall

Fees Must Fall

 

(Image Credit: Faith47 / Daily Maverick)

We remember: Send a message of solidarity to the widows of Marikana

 

(Photo Credit: Greg Nicolson / Daily Maverick)

Those Who Fell Through The Gap of Justice

Marie “Mechie” Scott

Marie “Mechie” Scott has been serving a life sentence without parole since she was 19 years old in Pennsylvania. She is now 60 years old.  Mechie developed a persuasive legal essay arguing that under rulings by the SCOTUS that take into account that “children are different” when sentenced to the harshest prison sentences, life without parole along with research in brain development which proves that the youthful brain is not fully developed until the age of 25, rulings such as Graham, Roper, Miller/Jackson ought to apply to offenders up to the age of 25 retroactively.  Below is an excerpt from Mechie’s essay:

Personal Background

My co-defendant was 16, I was 19. He is the principal offender of our case. He will be released on the SCOTUS decision in Miller/Jackson if the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania accepts the decision retroactively.  Yet I will remain in prison based on the felony act law that he is no longer governed by. My brain at 19 was no more developed than his and he was more culpable than I was.  I was only a teenager, who had been physically and sexually abused from the age of five to 15, I had been hospitalized in a mental institution in my adolescent years,  I had become a severe co-dependent who had my life saved at my job during a hold-up in Philadelphia by my co-defendant 10 days prior to this terrible tragedy.  I didn’t have the ability to say no when he asked me to be the look out in his hold up 10 days later. Afterwards, I had tried to overdose on pills.

Imprisoning me until I die alters the remainder of my life by a “forfeiture that is irrevocable.” If this lengthiest possible incarceration  is an “especially harsh punishment” for my co-defendant, then it is the same for me. I will have inevitably served more years and a greater percentage of my life in prison than an adult offender.  Forty years ago, my judge sentenced me to life while at the same time, instructed my lawyer to explain to me that my release on parole would be the sole discretion  of the PA Board of Pardons.  I had no reason not to believe that the judge, district attorney  and defense attorney didn’t know what they were talking about! Soon after I met my judge on a tour of SCI Muncy and he visited with me.  He told me that if I “behaved” myself, that he would sign my parole papers after I have served at least the maximum sentenced required for 3rd degree murder.  Unfortunately when I matured, the PA legislature had changed the maximum to 40 years. The is my 40th year in prison. I applied for parole. The BOP responded that they have no jurisdiction over my life sentence.  This leaves me with no meaningful opportunity to obtain my release based on demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation.  (There have been only nine women in PA to be granted commutation since 1971.  Therefore, commutation of a life sentence in Pennsylvania is currently not a meaningful option.)

What is a juvenile under Pennsylvania Law

In the Commonwealth of PA, when juveniles are sentenced to juvenile facilities for violent crimes, they can be held in such facilities until they turn 21.  Pennsylvania child labor laws state that minors are between the ages of 12 and 21.  Juvenile Matters classify disorderly minors between the ages of 18 and 20. A child is an individual who is under the age of 21 who committed as act of delinquency before reaching the age of 18.  A juvenile is a person who has attained 10 years of age and is not yet 21 who is alleged to have, upon or after the juveniles’s 10th birthday, committed a delinquent act before reaching 18  years of age.

Felony Murder

I recognize that in the context of felony-murder cases the question of intent is complicated.  Felony-murder is based on “transferred intent.”  In my opinion transferred intent is not sufficient to satisfy the intent to murder that could subject a juvenile to LWOP. We do not rely on transferred intent if an adult may receive the death penalty.  For juveniles, the inability to consider the full range of consequences  is precisely what we know about the brain under the age of 25.

Wait no longer

The Honorable Judge Mary Jane Bowes wrote in the decision of Commonwealth v. Ludwig that, “Perhaps the SCOTUS may in the future determine mandatory life sentences  for adults under the age of 25, violates the 8th Amendment…that day has not come yet.”  I say that day has come and it is now!  As I enter my 40th year of incarceration at the age of 60 and experience the deaths and terminal illnesses of my aging sisters who have been serving life, I’d like to hold on to the hope that I will one day be released.

Marie “Mechie” Scott

OO4901

SCI Muncy

PO Box 180

Muncy, PA 17756

(Photo Credit: Worldwide Womens Criminal Justice Network)

Man to man

Man to man

Do not Rape in my name as a man!
A woman’s body, a lesbian’s body, a girl’s body is sacred, it is her sacred
temple.
Revere it in my name as a man!

Do not make mother-in-law
Jokes in my name as a man
Your mother-in-law gave birth to
Your wife, she is the grandparent of your children
Honour  her as a woman
In my name as a man!

Do not ridicule your wife in my name as a man!
Respect the woman you chose to marry, to be mother to your children, to be
your partner, your friend.
Respect, cherish and honour  her on bended knee in my name as a man!

Do not demean your female co-workers in my name as a man!
Recognize their abilities to think, to be productive, their contribution,
Accept their intelligence, their equal standing in my name as a man!

Do not disrespect, diminish your girl-child’s capabilities in my name as a
man.
Encourage her, love her unconditionally,  nurture her ambitions, her
passions and sing her praises,  so that she may be grow to be a woman of
substance, a woman of worth in my name as a man!

Do not disrespect humanity with violence and sexism and oppression in my
name as a man!
In my name as a man let ALL of humankind live, work, love and play in
freedom from oppression and violence and hatred.

Lavona George

A Celebration: Barack Obama and Sojourner Truth share a moment

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.”

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again!”

The struggle continues.

Domestics: For Children of Filipino Transnational Families, Classification as Control

Geraldine Pratt’s recent work with Filipina domestic workers in Canada examines the narratives of ambitious mothers who travel overseas to take care of others’ children in order to provide for their own. Once their children are able to reunite with them in Canada, mothers cite issues of deskilling, where they “lose their skills during the years that they work as caregivers,” limiting them to caretaking jobs and unable to further develop their human capital. Furthermore, Pratt reports that these mothers usually spend an average of eight to twelve years engaged in domestic work overseas and separated from their families before reunification.

As a former educator, I taught in a rural high school in Hawaii, where we had a high Filipino student population whose parents and/or grandparents were immigrants. Many of my students’ family members had limited English speaking ability. When calling home, older sibling often translated my messages for me. We also saw low attendance for parent-teacher conferences. However, when mothers did attend these conferences, they shared their frustrations at being unable to help their children with schoolwork, emphasizing their hopes that their hard work would enable their children to gain “a better life.”

My experience with immigrant Filipino families as an educator prompted me to investigate the education for Filipino American students from transnational families. However, I must stress that Filipino students were also among my best students. It is important to remember that stereotyping all Filipino students according to ethnicity is more dangerous than excluding these narratives. We must look at all contributing factors, such as family education and class in host country, discrimination, and generation.

Despite popular depictions of Filipino migrants as working in highly skilled professions, the US continues to recruit domestic and home care workers. Among Filipino domestic and home care workers: 80% are women, the median age is 44, 60% hold US citizenship, the median annual income was $17,050 in 2005, 1/3 have at least a college-level degree and another 30% attended college without completion, and 3% have graduate and post-BA level degrees. Filipino women are disproportionately represented among domestic workers, and, contrary to prevailing views of Filipinos in the US, a majority of Filipino domestic workers are neither highly educated nor have much opportunity to leave domestic work to enter other skilled professions. The median annual income is just below the federal poverty line. With only 60% of domestic workers reporting citizenship status, some Filipino domestic workers lack access to most social services.

I wrote to Geraldine Pratt on the topic of classifying Filipinos and the use of “Asian/Pacific Islander.” Pratt responded:

“I think in Canada there is a tendency not to lump Filipino youths with other Asian-Canadian youths, because the migration of Filipinos to Canada has been so particular.”

For example, consider how the Canadian and the US census approach the question of race and ethnicity. The Canadian census uses an open-ended question, along with examples and guidelines, which requires respondents to write in their race/ethnicity. The US census requires respondents to check off one or more race/ethnicity box (where Filipinos would fall under “Asian”) and allows respondents to specify their subgroup. Since respondents are not required to specify their subgroup, the US Census Bureau is continuously working on better ways to track race/ethnicity. At the same time, Canadian research tends to give more attention to Filipino academic achievement while research focused on Filipino Americans generally still include Filipino Americans in the pan-ethnic group of “Asians.”

As Michel Foucault suggested, the classification of individuals drives governmental strategies of control. By inventing all-encompassing pan-ethnic terms, which represent group otherness rather than group needs, the counting of certain “kinds of people” informs state allocation of resources and penalties. The state’s power to name a people translates into a power over people’s daily lives. When I report my ethnicity, which box(es) am I allowed to check off, how is it packaged and interpreted in study results, and later, how does someone else’s interpretation of my identity continue to mold my everyday identity and life chances, and consequently, manipulate my identity further through defining my race/ethnicity?

In Pratt’s study, Filipino domestic workers are “sacrificed for the vitality of the Canadian population”, and Canadian families “prosper” while Filipino domestic workers labor and live under conditions “unacceptable to national citizens.” Following Foucault’s critique of the state, state racism and discrimination against certain “inferiorized races” serves a “murderous function” in order to regenerate the general population. In this way, the state “saves” by denying care to domestic workers and their families, but the state also “gains” when domestic workers provide privatized services, such as health care and child care, which the state normally provides its citizens. The state denies transnational domestic workers’ full citizenship rights in order to sustain citizenship rights for others without actually investing in those services.

Though there are issues with the education system and its reinforcement of capitalist ideals and hierarchies of power, a lack of support for Filipino students from transnational families could prove to be more detrimental. When we assume that all Filipino or all Asian students are successful and fail to recognize specific needs, we allow false assumptions to further deny students their rights. For Filipino children of transnational families, lower academic performance and higher dropout rates perpetuate their place among low-waged workers. Filipino Canadian youth struggle to exceed their parents’ educational levels and work almost exclusively in certain service professions. More academic support and guidance can help Filipino American youth from transnational backgrounds overcome these statistics and use education as a tool to achieve the social mobility which originally prompted their parents to become transnational domestic workers.

Amy Sun, amysunis@gmail.com