Riot-protest at Warkworth Penitentiary
Canadian Press refuses to call prison riot a “riot”
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What can only be described as a riot began Tuesday evening at a federal penitentiary in Ontario. Warkworth Institution, a medium security facility located just east of Toronto houses about 570 inmates and has a staff of 340. Around 9 pm, 211 prisoners refused to come back in from the yard. Fires were set to the shouts of “let it burn”.
The institution’s health centre was broken into and large quantities of drugs were taken. Emergency Response Teams, made up of specially trained correctional officers, were called in from three other institutions to join Warkworth’s ERT. The Ontario Provincial Police were called and those officers manned the outside perimeters of the jail.
At 5:50 am Wednesday morning the Riot Act was read. Section 67 of the Criminal Code contains a proclamation that can be read by a very limited number of officials including the warden or deputy warden of a prison. The Riot Act can be read when at least 12 people are “unlawfully and riotously assembled”. The proclamation demands that those who have assembled disperse and go back to “their habitations or to their lawful business”. Anyone who refuses to comply with the proclamation after it is read aloud is guilty of an offence and liable to imprisonment for life. None of the 211 prisoners complied and although none of them will see the maximum punishment imposed, all of them could be charged with an offence that carries a life sentence.
After the reading of the Riot Act, the Emergency Response Teams entered the institution and later in the day all of the inmates were returned to their cells where they remain in lockdown. Several prisoners were taken to outside hospitals, four with apparent drug overdoses. One of the inmates later died from what is believed to be a drug related cause. No one at the institution knows exactly what precipitated the deadly riot; between the time that it started and when the institution regained full control, no demands were made by the rioters.
Although it could have been much worse, the incident at Warkworth was serious. The harsh provisions of the Riot Act make it clear that its provisions are to be used sparingly and they have been; it is hard for anyone to remember the last time that the Riot Act was read in Canada. There is simply no other way to characterize what happened; it was a prison riot.
However, the Canadian Press (CP) refused to call what happened at the Warkworth Institution, a riot. Both in the headlines and in the body of their articles the incident was referred to as a “protest”. A protest! In recent years we are used to mushy left wing media referring to terrorists as insurgents or fighters. Some of us still chuckle when the CBC describes people who fish for a living as fishers. But even in an era where political correctness runs amok, the use of the word “protest” to describe the events this week at Warkworth stands out. It is totally misleading. A protest implies a purpose to the actions of those who protest. Here there was no purpose other than perhaps the boys felt that they weren’t being able to access enough drugs to overdose on. This was nothing more than a riot where over 200 people spent hours setting fires, damaging property and stealing drugs.
The city of Toronto is now in the second month of a civic workers strike and the actions of the city have caused occasional protests to spring up. The most common protests are those by people who complain that their local parks are being turned into garbage dumps. What the Canadian Press did was to put the rioting inmates in the same category as those law abiding citizens who take objection to what their local government is doing and exercise their democratic right to protest. CP has insulted every peaceful protester by including the rioting inmates in with them. It’s absurd. There was a time when words actually had meaning.
If anyone does agree with the Canadian Press’s characterization of what happened at Warkworth as a protest they should write the Prime Minister or their Member of Parliament. Demand that the Riot Act be changed to the Protest Act. That will please the bleeding heart saps at Canadian Press feel good.