A demonstration is planned outside of Napanee Superior Court on Thursday morning, as a correctional services officer is facing trial for a 2012 assault.
YGK News was unable to confirm with the courthouse before it closed whether there is a publication ban on the guard’s identity.
The rally is in support of Christophe Lewis as he seeks justice for what he calls an “unprovoked and vicious” attack at the hands of guards at Millhaven Institution, a maximum-security prison near Kingston.
Lewis was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2011 for a second degree murder in Toronto, most recently he has been granted day parole to a transition house.
On November 19, 2012 Lewis was transferred to Millhaven Institution.
Upon arrival at Millhaven, a female guard told Lewis to undress so she could strip search him, at which point he requested a male guard instead.
In video of the incident, after Lewis’ initial objection several officers crowd into the small room – at least seven visible in frame – and engage in what appears to be a reasonably calm argument with Lewis.
After a little over a minute, an officer suddenly pepper sprays Lewis and several officers converge on him, with one putting Lewis in a choke hold that has been banned by Correctional Services Canada since 1999.
Lewis says the assault was ultimately unsurprising given the behaviour of guards.
In his statement recorded over the video, he says he hopes releasing the video will help to hammer home the need for systemic change.
“The attack on me was unprovoked and vicious,” said Lewis.
“I have decided to raise awareness about some injustices that are affecting some inmates on the daily.”
Lewis says in the video that a staggering 97.7% of inmate grievances are declined, and added that by pursuing justice he opened himself up to further mistreatment by corrections officers.
He was finally able to retrieve the video with help from legal counsel and community support in 2021, and released it requesting a police investigation.
Matthew Campbell-Williams, a criminal defense lawyer who has acted as general legal support for Lewis since meeting him a few months ago, says the rally is mainly to support Lewis and raise awareness that the kind of thing that happened to him isn’t a rarity.
That was highlighted over the holiday season, when Nicous Spring was killed on Christmas Eve after an incident with guards in Montreal’s Bordeaux Prison.
Allegations of mistreatment by guards have also been previously made at Millhaven by prisoners’ and their loved ones.
Without the video obtained by Lewis it’s a near certainty that there would be no trial, and Campbell-Williams says that getting it was no easy task for Lewis.
“Extremely uphill battle, just to get the video out there was a huge challenge,” Campbell-Williams said.
“It’s a wall of secrecy behind jails.”
Campbell-Williams added that it’s disappointing to see only one of the many guards involved facing charges at this time, but that it isn’t overly surprising.
“Everyone can see the video, it’s multiple guards all assaulting him,” Campbell-Williams said.
“In a way, not in a good way, it’s almost monumental that any guard was charged. This happens all the time and most guards never see a courtroom.”
Charging one guard almost seems like a way to appease critics, he says.
As recently as Tuesday, Lewis said on his Instagram that he had not been called by the Crown to act as a witness or even contacted whatsoever, however on Wednesday Campbell-Williams said Lewis was expected to testify.
He said initially he and Lewis had to reach out to the Crown’s office in order to get the trial dates at all.
Campbell-Williams says it’s unfortunate that many people struggle to separate the reason for Lewis’ incarceration from the assault itself.
“Whatever you did that shouldn’t happen to you and it definitely shouldn’t happen by people who are sworn to uphold the law and who are sworn to do their duty to protect people and be fair,” Campbell-Williams said.
“If the reason that people don’t care is that he was in there for a crime, then they should be even more appalled to see a crime being done.”
The court case for the officer, along with the rally outside the courthouse, will begin at 9 am at Napanee Superior Court.