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August 19-23: Negotiating a Peace Treaty

On August 19, my next visit to Kent, I checked with IPSO Wayne Culbert on the developments since Claude Forget’s release from segregation. Officers’ observation reports indicated that there had been some tense moments and some stare-downs between the prisoners in C and A units, but nothing more. Mr. Forget was keeping a low profile, spending most of his time in his cell.

I spoke next with Darryl Bates and Pat McKenna. Each of them had spoken to Claude Forget, and both were satisfied that he had no "beef" with either Jimmy Whitmore or Glen Rosenthal. Those two prisoners could be brought back into the population without reigniting the conflict. I explained to them that no prisoners would be returned to the population unless the warden was satisfied there would be no retaliation on either side. Their task was to assure her she could leave the institution at the end of the day without worrying about finding an armed camp or more dead bodies the next morning. Mr. Bates suggested a meeting of selected GP prisoners, which I would attend, to see if some agreement could be reached for the gradual release of the prisoners in segregation. With someone who had the confidence of all parties and was seen as independent of the administration, the prisoners involved might be prepared to put their cards on the table. I agreed, contingent on a consensus among the principals that this would be a useful and desired process.

I returned to Kent on August 22. I began the day by talking with Pat McKenna, who filled me in on his recent discussions with the players in C unit. There were some common messages from these conversations. All agreed that Kenny Makichuk and Neil Simpson could not return to the population at Kent, but since they were facing transfer packages to the SHU, this was not an issue. The two prisoners who had struck Mr. Forget with baseball bats would be in danger if they returned to the population. However, one of these prisoners had just received his statutory release from Kent and the other was due for release in less than a month. It made sense therefore for him not to come back to the population to face the risk of possible retaliation with so little time left on his sentence. The other prisoners, including Jimmy Whitmore, Glen Rosenthal, and Shawn Preddy, would face no problems in the population, but C unit wanted no role in securing their release.

I then went to C unit to talk with Cacane Tremblay and Claude Forget. Before our meeting began, Mr. Tremblay showed me his most recent paintings. The canvasses featured a complex landscape of characters and creatures within an urban architecture which moved from the real to the surreal. As remarkable as the compositions themselves was the layering and moulding of the paint, so that the canvas took on the characteristics of a sculpture or carving. In one of the paintings, there was so much activity that exploring the canvas almost required a map. Mr. Tremblay took me through the characters and gave me a partial key to understanding what I was seeing. In many ways, his painting was a metaphor for what had been happening at Kent Institution. A surface understanding was not difficult to achieve, but a deeper understanding required divining artistic intention and the hidden meanings of subtle interactions between characters. Depending upon one’s perspective, the same picture bore many different interpretations.

During the meeting with Cacane Tremblay and Claude Forget, I explained why I thought that mediation involving people independent of the administration might help to resolve problems which otherwise could be resolved only through segregation or transfer. While they might see mediation in this case as potentially benefiting prisoners they had no interest in helping, in the long term mediation was a process that could benefit many other prisoners, including their friends. Cacane Tremblay had no difficulty understanding the larger, long term implications and impressed upon me that his own approach in dealing with the administration when he was on the Inmate Committee was to look at the larger picture and what would ultimately benefit "the guys." I then asked Mr. Tremblay whether he would participate in a meeting with his people on one side and Pat McKenna and his people on the other, with my role that of exploring the possibilities of a peaceful settlement or treaty. He told me frankly that such a meeting would not be helpful to a real, lasting settlement. His statements at such a meeting would be political, and all he could promise was that he would do nothing to prevent the release of the prisoners. He could make no promises as to what would happen after that. However, the reality as he saw it was that for all the prisoners implicated in the killing of Christian Grenier, their days were numbered. While there might be other situations in which independent mediation was effective, in this case the lines had already been drawn. After my meeting in C unit, I returned to A unit and advised Pat McKenna that I did not believe that a joint meeting would be productive in producing a peace treaty.

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