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The Matsqui Transfers

On June 15, 1994, a number of prisoners were involuntarily transferred on an emergency basis from Matsqui to Kent. In the weeks that followed I spoke to staff at both institutions about what lay behind these transfers. I also interviewed some of the prisoners involved, reviewed the documentation supporting the transfers, and, in one case where disciplinary charges were laid, observed the hearing of those charges before the Independent Chairperson.

The IPSOs at Matsqui provided this background to the transfers. There had been a number of assaults by prisoners on both staff and other prisoners, and some staff were concerned that, with the summer coming up, there was potential for a disturbance or even a riot. Weapons were known to be in circulation in the living unit. The warden imposed a week-long lock-down, during which time a general search took place and a number of weapons were discovered. Staff were canvassed about which prisoners they felt were prime candidates for transfer because of their disruptive impact at Matsqui, and this generated a target list of twelve prisoners. The IPSOs were asked for the information they had on these prisoners. For some of them, the IPSOs had no information. There were several other prisoners whom the IPSOs did not see as high priorities for transfer but who had established a negative reputation among staff, particularly in relation to drug activity. In addition, there was a third group of prisoners who were found with weapons or were disruptive during the lock-down. The lock-down and targeting followed a remarkably similar pattern to that which preceded Operation Big Scoop at Matsqui in August 1993.

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