TORONTO — A Jewish-Indigenous inmate is suing prison authorities for alleged brutality by guards that he says has cost him income and left him with permanent injuries.
In his unproven statement of claim, Timothy (Mitch) Nome, 44, who is serving an indeterminate sentence for punching a guard in 2005, makes several allegations against correctional officers he says warrant compensation of more than $1.4 million — half in punitive damages.
Lawyer Max Silverman said the lawsuit is also an effort to shine a light on the “darkness behind the walls” of Canada’s prison system.
“Before I started working on this case, I never would have suspected such profound cruelty in Canadian prisons,” Silverman said from Montreal.
Nome is now incarcerated at Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba — where he was moved in March 2017 after he said guards in British Columbia had deliberately housed him with known white supremacists.
However, the claim filed on Thursday with Superior Court in Montreal, relates to the 15 months Nome spent from December 2009 to March 2012 in the special handling unit of the Quebec Regional Reception Centre in Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines.
“Plaintiff experienced particularly brutal and violent treatment in the course of his incarceration at the special handling unit,” the claim alleges. “As a result of the incidents alleged herewithin, plaintiff began a cycle of hatred, paranoia and psychological distress that not only caused him suffering, but prolonged his correctional plan and his incarceration.”
Video exists for some of the eight incidents he alleges. In some cases, the federal prison ombudsman found fault with the guards. Among the incidents:
— Two guards broke his wrist and dislocated his shoulder;
— A guard pulled Nome’s pants down and tried to penetrate him by hand;
— A guard threatened to kill Nome’s rabbi, leading to an altercation that left the prisoner pepper-sprayed and with a broken finger;
— Two guards forced him against a wall, beat him, then vandalized his skull cap;
— Guards assaulted him while he was handcuffed, while one emptied a canister of gas in his face. He lost two teeth and his nose was badly broken;
“Plaintiff suffered severe damage to his nose, which has yet to receive proper care as of the time of filing of this application,” the claim alleges. “Plaintiff’s fingers have been damaged and redamaged to the point that they no longer have the same function they once did.”
Correctional Service Canada refused comment on Nome’s litigation because it is before the courts. It also did not say whether any correctional officers had faced disciplinary proceedings as a result of their interactions with him.
“Our employees are expected to act according to the highest legal and ethical standards, and are subject to the rules of professional conduct and code of discipline,” a CSC spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “We do not tolerate any breach of our policies and incidents of employee misconduct are investigated.”
Originally from Williams Lake, B.C., Nome was born to an Orthodox Jewish mother and Cree father. He has been mostly in custody since he was 13 years old and, as an adult, has been outside prison for a mere nine months during which he groped a 14-year-old girl.
Most of his offences, more than 100, occurred in custody. His current incarceration stems from August 2005 when he punched a guard.
In all, the inmate spent more than 12 years in segregation at various institutions but is now classified as medium security. Although not detailed in the claim, he has previously alleged guards at a prison in B.C. poured pig lard on his kosher food or beat him. Two Federal Court suits Nome filed last year related to those incidents are in progress.
Nome’s situation has previously attracted the attention of a civil liberties group, which said authorities had kept him in segregation for an unreasonable amount of time. He has had no charges since arriving at Stony Mountain, is no longer in solitary, and hoping for day parole, he said.
“They’re professional staff here,” Nome said in a recent interview. “For the first time in my life, I really don’t have anything bad to say about the administration.”