The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) says an Indigenous man was assaulted by guards at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert and is calling for change.
FSIN Vice-Chief Edward Dutch Lerat and executive director of justice Jason Stonechild held a news conference in Saskatoon on Thursday about the alleged incident. Darla Fourstar, the mother of Kihiw Fourstar, was present. She said her son was assaulted in his cell by correctional officers.
"My message is hard to hear. My child wasn't in a safe place. It's a mother's worst nightmare," said Darla.
She said Kihiw was beaten by guards while in handcuffs on Nov. 7 and wasn't able to call her until Nov. 10.
The FSIN represents Saskatchewan's First Nations.
"The over incarceration of First Nations people speaks to the systemic racism brought upon our people by colonialism and residential schools. In a situation where the family is already hurting by having a son in jail, it's appalling to see a mother living with constant worry and fear that her son may die at the hands of federally employed guards," said FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron in an emailed statement.
In that same email, Lerat said that the public should not dismiss this as a justified assault.
"It happened off-camera with calculated rage unleashed on a person the guards were charged with keeping safe," said Lerat.
Darla said Kihiw needs medication and healing. She said he told her during a phone call that he was being denied the medication he needs for his mental health issues.
"I feel sorry for him. I love him and he's been telling me he feels empty and depressed," she said.
"I know he's in jail, but he suffers mental health issues and there's nothing I can do about it. Sometimes I was afraid to hang up with my boy."
Kihiw has been moved to Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba. Darla said the facility is a better location for him and he is doing much better. However, Darla said she and her son never want anyone else to go through what he did.
"If this helps one person. It has been successful," she said.
The FSIN was informed of the incident on Nov. 10.
Lerat said the Saskatchewan Penitentiary and the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) displayed transparency and acted decisively to correct the incident and provide some security for the prisoner.
"Our investigation determined that the allegations were factual. We have learned that prior to our involvement, Saskatchewan Penitentiary leadership had already acted on this incident," Lerat said.
CBC News reached out to Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) for comment. It said it is aware of an incident at Saskatchewan Penitentiary and is investigating.
"As soon as management was made aware, Saskatchewan Penitentiary contacted the local RCMP detachment and both agencies immediately initiated their own separate investigations. Those involved in the incident have been placed on leave during the disciplinary investigation," said CSC in an emailed statement.
CSC said misconduct toward an offender is a violation of its mission, which is to provide a safe, secure, and humane environment, conducive to the rehabilitation of all offenders in CSC's care.
"CSC employees are expected to act according to legal and ethical standards," the organization said.
"CSC does not tolerate any breach of its policies and all allegations are thoroughly investigated regardless of the source and appropriate action is taken."
Lerat said he was pleased with CSC's response, but that he does not believe this is an isolated incident.
"This incident reflects additional concerns we have about humane treatment of our people who were in the care of correctional institutions both provincially and federally," said Lerat during Thursday's news conference.
"We have received complaints from inmates that detailed incidents of physical, mental and physical abuse, denial of access for equitable treatment surrounding both mental and [physical] health issues."
Lerat said the FSIN is calling for a thorough investigation into what happened to Kihiw, as well as additional institutional protection and professional rehabilitation not only for Kihiw, but for other inmates who experience similar incidents.
"Mr. Fourstar requires advanced mental health and physical health healing that should include access to proper medication and, more importantly, cultural supports."