Dear Sir or Madam,
I was recently released from the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton and am writing to report a serious situation that is occurring there. An inmate I was incarcerated with and who is nearly eight months pregnant, Eva Okello, is being pressured by staff into having the delivery of her baby induced one month early. No medical indicators have been given to necessitate such a procedure. There was only talk by a female doctor of “safe facilitation”, of which I am suspect.
Not willing to agree to such an induction, Eva was first placed into segregation for “non-compliance”. There, she was repeatedly presented with a form to sign, which would see her agree to a medical appointment to induce. Later, she was placed back in a regular range of prisoners and met with a male doctor. She advised him she was consulting legal counsel regarding her treatment. The doctor made a note on her file that she should no longer be asked to comply with an induction, as she was not consenting.
This did not end the matter, however. Eva was placed back into segregation at the medical department?s dictate and remained there for four more days. During that time, she was put on a restricted diet consisting only of eight slices of bread and apple juice. The container holding this food was, for some reason, labeled “finger food”.
I have one such label in my possession. Normally, women in segregation are served the same food as those in other ranges. When she inquired as to why she was being served such “finger food” and on a restricted diet, Eva was told that it was part of an administrative directive regarding her failure to comply with the medical department’s request.
Further in segregation, she was visited by a psychiatrist for an assessment and then was prepared to be taken to a meeting outside Vanier with the doctor who was to perform the induction. However, she refused to sign to be taken to the appointment and was returned to the maximum security range. Eva was then told by a nurse that the appointment was being rescheduled for the following week and that she ought to comply. The nurse added that if Eva agreed, she could be moved to the medium security area of the prison and get her hair and nails done. At this point, a letter had been sent by a lawyer to the jail and she registered a complaint with the Ombudsman’s Office.
Despite this, Eva was subjected to another meeting with the medical department, which this time included a Children?s Aid worker. The worker suggested that Eva had nothing to be worried about, as Children’s Aid would ensure care of the child after labour was induced. Eva reiterated that the child would be born when the natural birth process occurred and not before. For remaining intransigent, she was told she would not be permitted to go to medium security and would remain in maximum security until delivery.
Eva told me personally that she was fearful for the safety and well-being of her child and that she felt she was being treated punitively. These are the facts of the situation as I have understood them. I witnessed first-hand how she was taken to the segregation unit twice for no apparent reason. As an inmate, it was impossible for me to bring this to anyone’s attention from the inside. Now that I have been released, however, I am making an urgent appeal for action to be taken to remedy Eva’s situation at Vanier. The abuse of process here is obvious and compelling. Even a correctional ministry spokesperson, Greg Flood, has indicated treatment must only be with the consent of the pregnant mother. The onus is on the appropriate authorities to intervene on Eva’s behalf to ensure her rights are respected and her wishes are honoured.
Remaining in the womb for nine months should not be regarded as some kind of offence and mothers wanting to carry their babies to term should not be punished. I call on the authorities to ensure that Eva’s human rights are respected as she waits for her baby to come to term on his or her own natural timetable.