'It’s time that we step up': Saskatoon inmate on hunger strike to support women in Prince Albert jail
SASKATOON -- Saskatoon inmate Cory Cardinal says he’s on hunger strike to support women in the Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert.
Pine Grove is the only women’s correctional facility in Saskatchewan. Cardinal, who also has family members there, says the women face many barriers to successfully reintegrating back into society.
He said the case of Kimberly Squirrel – whose family says was found frozen to death in Saskatoon three days after her release – is a prime example of the need for more support for inmates.
The Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety has requested a review into her death. In a statement, the ministry said Pine Grove staff escorted Squirrel to a bus going from Prince Albert to Saskatoon and that she had provided a residence to court as part of her release conditions.
Cardinal said he’s set up a GoFundMe to raise money for inmates to purchase call packages to connect with family and for other necessities, such as vitamins and hygiene products.
“Those girls in there are vulnerable,” he said.
“It’s time that we step up as protectors of our people to reclaim our social structure that existed a long time ago – and that’s to protect.”
Cardinal said it’s also important that governments enact Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls calls to action. He said Indigenous inmates often experience racism, which he said especially hinders incarcerated Indigenous women.
Kim Beaudin helped many female inmates during his time at Str8 Up, which works with people to escape gang and criminal lifestyles. He’s also the national vice-president for the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples.
“What I found is that Indigenous women, they were treated differently, even harder than Indigenous men in some ways,” he said.
“There was a huge increase in Indigenous women going through the system. I mean, we’re talking huge numbers, they were flying right off the graph within probably the last seven years … I used to attend court all of the time, and I couldn’t believe it, the amount of Indigenous women.”
He said Cardinal’s GoFundMe is a good way to help inmates get basic necessities needed for release, which they often have to pay for.
“That’s a lot of times why they are in prison or in jail, is because of poverty,” said Beaudin.
Last week, CTV News asked the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety about what’s available for inmates to prepare them for release in response to Squirrel’s death. The ministry confirmed she was released from remand custody on Jan. 20.
“The ministry’s ability to provide programming to remand accused is extremely limited – as remand accused have not been convicted of anything and as in our custody for an indeterminate length of time, we are not in a position to create a case management plan for them, or to provide them consistent services,” reads an emailed statement.
However, remand accused can contact defense counsel, elders and chaplains by phone for free, said the ministry. All inmates have one free 20-minute call and two free 10-minute calls per day to stay in contact with family and friends.