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More answers sought into death of Indigenous man in Abbotsford prison

Two organizations say Kendal Campeau was victim of ‘systemic issues’
Kendal Campeau died in Pacific Institution in Abbotsford on Nov. 14, 2021.

A organization that provides legal services to prisoners is urging Correctional Service Canada (CSC) to thoroughly investigate the treatment of an Indigenous man whose drug-related death occurred a year ago at Pacific Institution in Abbotsford.

Prisoners’ Legal Services (PLS) made submissions Monday (Nov. 21) on behalf of the family of Kendal Campeau to CSC’s National Board of Investigations.

Campeau died Nov. 14, 2021 at the age of 31 from methadone toxicity, according to a press release from PLS.

At the time, he had been serving a sentence of seven years and five months for offences that included assault, possession for the purpose of trafficking, intentional use of force, escape from lawful custody and robbery-related offences.

Campeau was a member of the Yellow Quill First Nation and grew up in Saskatchewan.

ALSO SEE: Mom of Indigenous teen who died in Abbotsford group home launches lawsuit

In their submissions, PLC said Campeau’s death in prison is “part of Canada’s history of forcibly separating Indigenous families and the mass incarceration of Indigenous peoples.”

“Mr. Campeau’s life and death represent many of the systemic issues experienced by Indigenous people in prison, including classification to higher levels of security, having his ‘Indigenous Social History’ used against him, transfer to prisons far away from his family and community, the use of prolonged solitary confinement, and violent assaults and abuse by correctional officers or facilitated by officers,” PLC states.

The organization says Campeau was transferred away from his family in Saskatchewan to B.C. in 2019 after he was violently assaulted in prison.

In B.C., he was violently assaulted again and placed in a “structured intervention unit” before being transferred to Pacific Institution, the press release states.

He was found unresponsive in his cell on Nov. 14, 2021. He was taken to an outside hospital and then returned to the prison, where he died later that day.

“Mr. Campeau had a long history of being harmed by colonial systems. Although he came from a loving family and did not experience any abuse in his home, he was removed from his family and placed in foster care at the age of 10,” the release states.

“His mother unsuccessfully attempted to regain custody. He spent time in group homes, where he was abused, including by being forcibly held down in restraints.

“At the age of 12 a police dog attacked him and tore his arm. In adult custody, Mr. Campeau suffered extensive abuse by correctional officers.”

ALSO SEE: Canada failing Black, Indigenous prisoners as overrepresentation persists: report

The abuse that Campeau was allegedly subjected to in prison included being beaten and raped by guards and being encouraged to end his life after a correctional officer gave him a razor blade, the press release states.

The Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC) issued a statement on Tuesday (Nov. 22), saying it supports PLS’s submission to the CSC investigation.

“We have long suffered at the hands of the Canadian legal systems and the creators of the laws that brand us as criminals of the state for merely existing,” said UBCIC president Grand Chief Stewart Phillip.

“The incarceration of our peoples began with the creation of the reserve systems, then residential schools and now takes place through the child welfare system and the prison industrial complex. We are pushed around from system to system, facing abuse, racism, and violent mistreatment at every turn.”

The UBCIC is calling on the CSC and the federal government to reform the Canadian penal system to fully implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and “to reflect a humane, just, culturally relevant and accountable system of justice that enables healing, rehabilitation and reduces recidivism.”

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Vikki Hopes

About the Author: Vikki Hopes

I have been a journalist for almost 40 years, and have been at the Abbotsford News since 1991.
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