At least 2 corrections officers suspended from N.W.T. jail

The territorial government would not confirm the number of employees suspended or the nature of the investigations.

North Slave Correctional Complex officers put on leave pending outcome of investigations, confirms gov't

The North Slave Correctional Complex in Yellowknife. At least two officers there have been suspended, the territorial Justice Department has confirmed. (Walter Strong/CBC)

At least two corrections officers at the Yellowknife jail are under investigation and have been suspended from their jobs.

A spokesperson for the Northwest Territories Department of Justice, Sue Glowach, confirmed in an email to CBC News that "the corrections officers are on suspension pending outcome of the investigation."

Glowach would not provide information about the nature of the investigations, the number of employees suspended, or whether they were suspended with pay. She said the government doesn't comment on personnel issues.

Earlier this month, News/North reported that Kelly Canadian, who is 26 years old and openly gay, alleged having multiple sexual encounters with two male jail staff members while he was incarcerated.

One of the alleged relationships began in September 2016 and continued after Canadian's release, according to the News/North report. That jail employee is also alleged to have sent Canadian money via e-transfer.

In the same article, Canadian alleges having a relationship with a second jail employee that was sexual in nature.

Yellowknife radio station CKLB reported on Friday that Martin Goldney, deputy minister of justice, confirmed that two North Slave Correctional Complex guards were suspended with pay while an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct at the jail is underway.

CBC News asked Glowach for an interview with Goldney, but the request was denied.

Canadian filing lawsuit

Lawyer Steven Cooper, who represents Canadian, is preparing to file a lawsuit in relation to allegations Canadian has made against corrections workers.

Cooper declined to go into detail about Canadian's case.

"We'll do our talking through the pleadings, which we anticipate filing, and ultimately a trial if the matter's not settled in a reasonable form and for a reasonable amount," Cooper said on Monday.

Cooper said there is an inherent "imbalance of power" between a corrections worker and an inmate, which makes sexual relationships between the two problematic.

"Generally speaking, when you have somebody like Mr. Canadian making allegations against people where there is an obvious imbalance of power, there is the presumption that something untoward has happened," said Cooper.

The relationship may appear to be consensual, he said, but the fact that one person has control and the other does not undermines that consent.

"Consent is always vitiated potentially, if not actually, by the fact that one is in custody and one is the custodian, or a representative or agent of the custodian."

Kelly Canadian settled a human rights complaint with the territorial government in 2017, alleging employees harassed and discriminated against him. The complaint was settled out of court for $5,000. (Kelly Canadian/Facebook)

According to a directive on professional conduct from N.W.T. Corrections, staff are encouraged to build "constructive relationships" with inmates that "demonstrate honesty, fairness and integrity."

Employees may, with permission from a supervisor, start a personal or business relationship with an inmate or ex-inmate.

"Let's face it," said Cooper, "policies that are established internally are not law."

"What is allowable and what is actionable is determined by the courts and the legislature, not by the bureaucrats that may run an institution, nor by the minister to whom they may report," he said.

Canadian has complained about jail guards in the past.

In 2017, he filed a human rights complaint alleging North Slave Correctional Complex employees harassed him and discriminated against him based on his sexual orientation.   

The complaint was settled out of court for $5,000.

Right now, Canadian is facing 20 charges, including harassment, theft and breach of probation.