FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Solidarity rally being held today at 10am at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre in support of more than 70 hunger strikers at the jail
24 July 2020 (unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin Territory) – Today marks the third day of the second hunger strike at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) in less that two months. Members of the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project (CPEP) and other community members will rally in front of OCDC today at 10:00am in support of the demands made by more than 70 hunger strikers at the Ottawa jail. Their demands are supported by others within the jail including the womxn at OCDC and beyond, with a group of prisoners at the Central East Correctional Centre (CECC) in Lindsay, incarcerated people held at the Burnside jail in Nova Scotia, and others across Canada also demanding prisons change while pursuing alternatives to human caging. Their demands highlight the jail’s inability to fulfill the basic needs of prisoners, let alone deal with the complex social problems it’s supposed to tackle. The prisoners’ experiences also reflect the colonialism, anti-Blackness, ableism, xenophobia, authoritarianism, and other oppressions enforced and reproduced by sites of human caging like OCDC.
Indigenous drummers will kick-off the event in the hopes that Indigenous prisoners, who OCDC denies access to their cultural and spiritual rights and practices, hear the drums. While OCDC prisoners don’t believe sites of human caging can be Indigenized, they’re demanding that so long as imprisonment exists everyone should be able to practice their cultures, spiritualities, and religions while incarcerated, especially Indigenous peoples whose land we gratefully exist upon and who are survivors of Canadian genocide, colonialism, and state violence.
Hunger strikers and rally participants alike are demanding change in light of OCDC’s harmful policies and practices, which are forcing prisoners to put their health and well-being at heightened risk of harm. Concerned community members will gather to show the strikers that they’re not forgotten, despite the walls and the fences that keep them hidden from sight, which make them more vulnerable to state violence. Aside from refusing to eat, many prisoners are also refusing to digest their prescription medication. Justin Piché, an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminology at the University of Ottawa and CPEP member, notes the seriousness of the hunger strikers’ actions and consequences of provincial government duplicity having not honoured the terms of the June 4th agreement that ended the previous hunger strike at OCDC: “The fact that the human beings at the Innes Road jail feel that they again need to hunger strike and, in some cases, need to stop using their medications to be taken seriously is particularly alarming since some of their prescriptions treat serious diseases and illnesses such as diabetes, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The Ministry of the Solicitor General is forcing prisoners to go to extreme lengths to impact change and they need to not only secure an agreement as quickly as possible with the hunger strikers, they need to honour its terms”.
Hours before the protest that will honour the life of Abdirahman Abdi and denounce racism, CPEP members are gathering to be in solidarity with Indigenous, Black, and other prisoners at the jail who are currently suffering from oppression. CPEP member Souheil Benslimane explains the importance of such action at this time: “Racialized people are fed up with being targeted by state violence. We can’t understand the uprising at the Ottawa jail as an insular event. It’s an inextricable part of the wider revolt against state tools of violence, racism, and oppression, which has millions across the world calling for the defunding and the abolition of policing. The jail is an extension of and works in tandem with the violent and repressive system that’s policing, and we also need to divest from imprisonment in order to invest in people and communities. The need to enhance our collective well-being and safety demands it”.
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