Statement for Use of Force

Jun 8


On January 5-6, Officer Kay Blair will be in court on a single charge of assault with a weapon for participating in a brutal assault on me at Millhaven Institute in 2012. As we know, prison guards (much like the police) operate with impunity and rarely see their day in court after committing violent acts. This charge is only being brought forward because I refused to give up and obtained video evidence of the assault. But as we get closer to Blair’s day in court, it has become clear that I will not see justice without the attention and support of the community.

And that is why I am coming to you today. Sharing this statement may have far-reaching implications and profoundly affect my day-to-day life as a partially free man. But unfortunately, I don’t have many other options.

Although I’ve told this story many times, most people still don’t know that there were approximately 30+ prison guards involved in assaulting me at Millhaven Maximum Institution on November 19, 2012. The assault occurred after one of the female prison guards demanded to strip search me, and as protocol requires, I requested to be searched by a male. As a response, the guards piled into a small room, fired pepper spray into my eyes, punched and kicked me, and put me into a banned chokehold until I passed out.

The attack was unprovoked, vicious, and excessive, and took place within a three-minute timespan. I posed no threat to anyone, and as you can see from the video, the officers used no de-escalation tactics and appeared to carry out a pre-planned assault.

And the abuse and mistreatment didn’t stop there. Initially, I knew that I had to speak out because not doing so would leave the rampant racism within the institution unchallenged.

When I obtained video evidence and came forward, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) conducted an investigation and the Crown attorney decided to charge only one of the prison guards – Officer Kay Blair.

They left me completely out of the loop. I only recently became aware that charges were still before the courts when my own private council informed me that the trial for Officer Kay Blair is scheduled for January 5-6. To date, I have received no information from the Crown, nor have I been asked to provide a victim impact statement. I constantly wonder, how could they possibly go to trial without having spoken to me? Is this normal?

It is becoming clearer to me that there are two separate justice systems—one for the condemned and another for the privileged. In the past, I would not have even considered laying charges on prison guards or anybody. I am mindful that CSC is infamous for trumping up charges on prisoners they don’t like, which can ultimately lead to security hikes from a minimum, to medium, to maximum, to supermax or, in my case, day parole to closed custody. However, my days of letting those who are there to “serve and protect” continue to evade their own “system of justice” is a thing of the past. I understand that I may be subjected to backlash and/or further inhumane treatment for releasing these facts, but enough is enough. I would rather be remembered as a man standing up for himself, and what’s right, than a coward cowering down to an oppressive system.

While Officer Kay Blair is the only person taking the stand, the entire system was complicit in the attack on me. The respondent to my initial third-level grievance following the assault was Senior Commissioner Anne Kelly, who has since been promoted to Commissioner of CSC. While she did uphold my grievance, in light of the Correctional Investigator’s finding that the prison guards used excessive force on me, she absolved the guards and placed the blame on me – the victim.

To add insult to injury, after being assaulted, all the guards who assaulted me remained at work (to the best of my knowledge). Some would even call me names, threaten me, and deny me showers, phone calls and meals when they saw fit. All this was taking place as I was housed in administrative segregation, with 23-hour lock-up per day. It was clear that the guards were only emboldened after attacking me. They even institutionally charged me, fined me $20 and suspended my visits indefinitely.

All this after they wrongly assaulted me.

Ever since the assault I experienced in November 2012, I have suffered regular nightmares and significant post-traumatic stress. While it has taken more than ten years to get to this point, there is a real opportunity that someone will be held accountable for the physical, psychological and emotional harm I’ve experienced at their hands. However, I fear that if it is up to the court alone, these guards and all of the other staff and guards watching will feel that they can oppress us and continue to operate with impunity.

But it isn’t up to the court alone. I need your support.

Please show up at the Napanee Courthouse on January 5 and 6, 9am. To send a strong message to Correctional Services Canada that this case will not be swept under the rug.

Please share this video with your family and friends and ask for their support.

And continue to follow me as I offer updates on this case and speak more about my experiences inside.

This fight isn’t about me alone. Every day people that look like me are assaulted and brutalized in their communities and behind prison walls. We must stand together and fight back every time – not just when they’ve killed one of us.

Thank you for taking the time.

Freedom is a must, but essentially it is a state of mind.


Christophe Lewis

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