The following is an op-ed from staff at the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, which advocates with and on behalf of women and girls in prison. These commands are difficult to read, let alone carry out. Yet women must perform these tasks upon command nearly every day, every week in prisons across Canada. After women visit with their children, with their partners, with their parents; when they go to work, to church, or to a drumming circle. If a woman refuses to be strip searched, policy enables guards to cut the clothes from her body. In the wake of the MeToo movement, we are hard-pressed to understand how forcing women to remove their clothes and perform humiliating actions with intimate parts of their bodies is not understood as sexual assault.
Former Sunday School teacher Jill Knapp says she was falsely accused of being a drug smuggler, detained at the Vancouver International Airport and subsequently strip-searched. She is only now speaking out about her experience because she was diagnosed with anxiety after her airport ordeal. She said she has no criminal record and had nothing in her luggage that would call for a closer look. She requested to speak with a lawyer and was told staff placed a call but she never heard from anyone. She says CBSA staff denied her requests to use the bathroom. She was then ordered to strip.
In the 36 months she was behind bars, Bianca Mercer estimates she was strip searched around 1, times. Every time she received her methadone treatment, she was strip searched. Pregnant during her second incarceration at Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility, she was strip searched each time she went to the hospital. She was strip searched when she saw family.
The report finds police procedures regarding strip searches are inconsistent across the province and often inadequate as to what constitutes a strip search and when and how strip searches should be conducted, authorized or supervised. The report also finds significant deficiencies in strip search data collection, documentation and officer training. In , in R. Golden , a landmark decision on the constitutionality of strip search practices, the Supreme Court of Canada defined what amounts to a strip search and when and how they can lawfully be done. Breaking the Golden Rule: A Review of Police Strip Searches in Ontario , provides a template for strip search procedures and a sample strip search form, and makes 50 detailed recommendations on how Ontario police services should conduct, document and receive training on strip searches, including:.