Yellowknife RCMP jail Indigenous woman for 11 days and nights in holding cells; practice called cruel and unusual

(CKLB file photo).

Yellowknife RCMP have confirmed that an Indigenous woman was forced to spend 11 straight days and nights jailed in an RCMP holding cell over the Christmas holidays.

CKLB is choosing not to use the young woman’s name at this time.

She says she was arrested for breaching her bail conditions.

There was outrage in the city a few years back when another young Indigenous woman was held under the same circumstances – one lawyer calling it cruel and unusual punishment.

It is unclear exactly how often this is still happening.

The lights are kept on in the cell 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

RCMP spokesperson Julie Plourde now say the woman was provided with a mattress and other necessities.

“While with us in these circumstances, prisoners receive exercise and out-of cell time throughout the day, access to showers, customized meals, mattress, blanket and reading materials,” Plourde states in an email to CKLB. “Clean, fresh clothes are provided and we try our best  to made the stay as comfortable as possible, including coordinating visits if requested and medical appointments.

It appears the woman was not given a pillow or access to a telephone.

Female prisoners in the Northwest Territories are often taken to the female correctional facility in Fort Smith.

But because of complaints from lawyers, prisoner advocates and others, a women’s section was created at the North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC), mainly for women awaiting court appearances, which is believed to be the case for this woman.

It’s unclear why she wasn’t housed at NSCC.

Plourde says territorial government legislation allows them to hold prisoners under these conditions.

Although this situation was not ideal, it was due to a series of circumstances, such as the availability of flights to and from Fort Smith, court appearances and capacity,” stated Plourde in an email to CKLB. “RCMP in Yellowknife remained in constant communication with various stakeholders during this period to find suitable arrangements for the individual. Under the NWT Corrections Act a place of detention managed by the RCMP can be used to supplement the existing correctional facilities. The woman, throughout her detention at the detachment, was provided care to ensure her safety and well-being.”

CKLB has reached out to RCMP for an answer on how often this is still being allowed to happen.

We’ve also contacted Justice Minister Caroline Wawzonek for a reaction.

We are waiting to hear back from them.

About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.