Open letter to Dr. Bonnie Henry: speading COVID-19 in prisons
Dear Dr. Henry,
Thank you profusely, Dr. Henry, for everything you and your ministry staff have done these past many months to safeguard British Columbians from the suffering of the global novel coronavirus (COVID 19) pandemic.
I am a sixty-six year old Extinction Rebellion climate activist residing in Victoria, and am writing to share my recent worrisome personal experience in respect to current provincial COVID 19 protocols having been held in custody in a BC jail (i.e. 25 hours) following my arrest for blockading logging trucks carrying old growth logs from Fairy Creek watershed near Port Renfrew, on Vancouver Island.
Specifically, during the early morning hours of Tuesday, September 29th, I wore a COVID protective mask during my civil disobedience action whereupon I was arrested by RCMP Nanaimo detachment officers for impeding logging trucks attempting to enter the Teal Jones raw log sorting yard at Duke Point, in Nanaimo.
I was taken directly to the Nanaimo RCMP basement intake hall (main RCMP station on Fitzwilliam Street), where my COVID protective mask was removed. On intake, I was never asked if I had any medical conditions (I have asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and had viral pneumonia just prior to the COVID lockdown). Having raised COVID safety precautions with my arresting officer, he asked if I would feel more comfortable if he wore a mask, which I affirmed. When he requested one from jail staff he was told there were none available.
I was photographed, and placed in a private cell. Over the next twenty five hours I had three further encounters with RCMP officers (further photographing/fingerprinting and a bail hearing) each often breaching the two meter social distancing proximity (for approximately an hour in total) before being released after having Crown Counsel stay my charges.
Only upon my escort in exiting the jail facility did I encounter an RCMP staff person wearing a protective mask (the RCMP watch commander), in spite of another person in a nearby cell coughing relentlessly for the better part of an hour beforehand.
I strongly concur with the similar sentiments and experience of Adam DeVries (held in custody in the Surrey Pretrial Services Centre awaiting trial), interviewed by CBC investigative reporter Eric Rankin, referenced in the article linked below.
Given the often very close contact RCMP staff (both officers and guards) working 12 hour shifts have to jailed individuals, and one another, both in cells, offices, narrow hallways (and external vehicles), it is not a reach to strongly anticipate that the current COVID 19 resurgence will place both BC law enforcement personnel, lawyers, prisoners, their families, and the general public at much greater risk if B.C. does not enact a much more restrictive COVID protocol regime, especially in respect to the nonsensical exemption on protective mask-wearing.
As you no doubt already realize Dr. Henry, the coronavirus disease pandemic and the global climate emergency are devastating symptoms of the unsustainability of human society and the decreasing resilience of an unhealthy planet. COVID 19 and the climate emergency have the same underlying causes, and therefore common solutions, and Extinction Rebellion will continue to work to join you in animating the public to be more COVID responsible, and climate responsible.
Together, we can hopefully democratize survival for the many,
Howard Breen, Victoria, BC
Co-founder and organizer of Extinction Rebellion Vancouver Island
Honourable Adrian Dix
Honourable Mike Farnworth
Honourable Harry Bains
Honourable Judy Darcy
Honourable Scott Fraser
Honourable Shane Simpson
Michael T. Mulligan
COVID ‘would kill me,’ says inmate denied face mask at Surrey pretrial centre
B.C. solicitor general’s office says there’s no need for masks in jails because of safety precautions in place