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Edmonton prison guards discussed violent sex fantasies involving female colleagues, transcripts show

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 6/8/2018 CBC/Radio-Canada
a person standing in front of a door: An unidentified female corrections officer is seen on duty at a federal prison. © Correctional Service of Canada/Flickr An unidentified female corrections officer is seen on duty at a federal prison.

Two more women have come forward alleging a culture of systematic sexual harassment and abuse at the Edmonton Institution that left them degraded and depressed and one of them suicidal.

Recently filed court documents paint a disturbing picture of a workplace where female correctional officers were regularly propositioned for sex, harassed and assaulted by their male colleagues, and dehumanized through vulgar nicknames and graphic sexual conversations that male correctional officers had about them.

"The [correctional service] culture is hostile to women," the document states. "Women are used and managed as needed, but not part of the team. They are viewed as objects and not appreciated for their contributions."

The Edmonton Institution was first named in a lawsuit by four unnamed women in March. The $57.1-million lawsuit is against the Correctional Service of Canada and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers.

In the recently amended lawsuit, two more women have come forward. The statement of claim now contains transcripts of recorded conversations between male correctional officers about their female colleagues.

The transcribed conversations span more than 15 pages. It's not clear how many more recorded conversations exist.

Previous reporting from CBC News found the transcripts first came to light via an internal intelligence worker who was investigating why multiple calls for help went unanswered on the prison's internal phone system.

The transcripts reveal men who dwelled on sexual fantasies about their colleagues and, in one instance, the rape of a colleague. The men are not identified.

At one point, one of the men says, "No need to dwell on her … find someone more vulnerable. You know, with daddy issues, low self-esteem. You know, the women you like to target," says one speaker.

The other speaker laughs and replies. "The wounded birds."

The next five pages of the conversation are redacted.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. A call to the Correctional Service of Canada from CBC News was not returned on Thursday.

Christina's story

One of the women who most recently added her name to the lawsuit is identified by the pseudonym Christine. She started working at the Edmonton Institution in 2014. She says she was almost immediately told she would need to sleep with colleagues in order to "get ahead."

She was the subject of most of the recorded conversations.

a building with snow on the ground: The lawsuit seeks $43.4M for general, aggravated and punitive damages, loss of income and promotions, and pain and suffering. © CBC The lawsuit seeks $43.4M for general, aggravated and punitive damages, loss of income and promotions, and pain and suffering.

At one point, one of the speakers imagines her as a child rape victim.

At another point, the speakers suggest they could have "stuck [her] with a camera system" at work. One of the men suggests that some cameras were installed at the prison to facilitate surveillance of female colleagues, rather than inmate safety. The other speaker denies it.

The men discuss raping her.

"Christine was traumatized by the recorded conversations," reads the statement of claim.

"The idea that co-workers, upon whom she relied for safety, would use surveillance equipment, not for the intended purposes of ensuring safety but to plan sexual assaults on her causes her enormous stress and anxiety,"

The conversations took place in August 2016, but Christine didn't learn about them until October of that year.

The documents note that Christine was, at one point, alone with one of the speakers in a small, isolated room with locking doors as part of her work duties.

"Remembering this incident traumatized Christine because she realized she could very easily have been sexually assaulted or killed by a man who had openly and repeatedly discussed doing her harm."

When Christine first learned of the recordings, she was told the conversations were nothing more than "locker room talk." The acting warden said the word "rape" did not appear in the recordings, says the statement of claim.

Christine resigned her position in December 2016, citing "legitimate apprehension of sexual battery and harassment" and "wilful embarrassment by the boys club that populates corrections."

Alleged privacy breach for Sophia

A correctional officer looks on at the Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, Ont., in this May 2016 file photo. © Lars Hagberg/Canadian Press A correctional officer looks on at the Collins Bay Institution in Kingston, Ont., in this May 2016 file photo.

As soon as "Sophia" started working there, the guard identified in the statement of claim as Mr. Doe #1 was sexually aggressive toward her — trying to kiss her, lick her, pull off her Kevlar vest, and frequently and loudly talking about having sex with her to colleagues.

"All of her experiences indicated ... that in order to make it through the probationary period, she had to go along with mistreatment from Mr. Doe #1 and his cronies," the document states.

The behaviour continued later, with the same guard showing up at her home uninvited and asking to "fool around," discussing her body in the context of pornographic images, and frequently propositioning her for sex.

The document states that in one incident, Mr. Doe #1 told Sophia he had to tell her something "confidential" and "important." He asked her to meet him on a road near the institution, and used the meeting to corner her near her vehicle and kiss her.

Sophia has been on medical leave since March 2015. The document states that toward the end of her employment she started to feel suicidal.

She eventually agreed to participate anonymously in an internal investigation into working conditions at the prison.

In 2017, the statement of claim states, a correctional service manager told Sophia her name had been released to the people being investigated.

"The manager also said there were concerns about retaliation against her and recommended that Sophia contact police."

Aftermath for the plaintiffs

Sophia and Christine say they suffer long-term psychological trauma as a result of their experiences at the Edmonton Institution.

"To date, the defendants have shown no remorse and refused to apologize," states the court document.

No statement of defence has been filed.

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