Two of the three guards who were fired in the wake of the 2016 death of inmate Soleiman Faqiri in a segregation cell at a Lindsay, Ont. super-jail are counter-suing the province, saying it’s “deliberately and maliciously” refusing to defend them in a lawsuit filed by the mentally ill man’s family.
The third unionized guard who was fired has since been reinstated, according to the statement of defence and cross claim filed this fall, a copy of which was provided to the Star.
“The Ministry’s refusal to protect and defend its managers is at all times intended to deflect blame from themselves and scapegoat the defendants,” says the counter claim.
They also contend that, if there was any negligence, which they deny, it was the fault of the province for not providing adequate training and staff.
The guards’ lawyer, Andrew Camman declined to comment by deadline.
The family filed a $14.3-million lawsuit last January against the province for “excessive force.” The lawsuit names the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the superintendent of the Central East Correctional Centre and several individual correctional staff members.
Its claims include that Faqiri’s charter rights were breached, that there was battery amounting to “intentional” physical harm, negligence, abuse of public office, false imprisonment, and, a breach of duty of care and the inflicting of psychiatric damage.
Thirty-year-old Faqiri was arrested in December 2016 for charges of aggravated assault, assault and uttering threats. Faqiri, a smart and athletic young man living in Ajax, had once attended the University of Waterloo for environmental engineering.
He did not have a criminal record, but had been apprehended under the Mental Health Act about 10 times in the last 10 years, and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia.
He was placed in solitary confinement in the Lindsay, Ont. super-jail, while awaiting a mental health assessment.
He died 11 days later after what police, at the time, described as an “altercation” with corrections officers.
Documents obtained by the Star through a freedom of information request said that 20 to 30 officers were involved in subduing him, he was pepper sprayed twice, his face covered with a spit hood, and his body held down with leg irons.
He repeatedly covered himself in his own urine and feces, in the last days leading up to his death and refused to wear anything but his underwear, according to the internal investigation by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service.
According to that report, he was seeing a ministry psychiatrist but refused to take his medication, something he had history of doing.
A coroner’s report in 2017 found he had suffered more than 50 injuries including a bruised laceration on his forehead, and multiple bruises and abrasions on his face, torso and limbs, from a three-hour confrontation with prison officers.
The report said it was unknown what injuries were from his struggle with the officers, and it couldn’t ascertain the cause of death.
Ministry of the Attorney General spokesperson Brian Gray said it would be “inappropriate to comment,” as the matter is before the court.
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Faqiri’s family has started a “Justice for Soli” campaign, and marked the three-year anniversary of his death with vigils.
His brother Yusuf said the family is still looking for answers.
“We have now been waiting for years, three years, since my brother was given to us in a body bag,” he said.
“At the end of the day, the most important question is: ‘Why still after three years is there still no accountability on the killing of my late brother?’ ”
Yusuf would like to see criminal charges for all of the guards involved in his brother’s death and he wants to know why the family was not allowed to see Soleiman, despite it trying several times, and why he was not transferred to a mental health facility.
“This was a Canadian citizen, a vulnerable Canadian,” Yusuf said.
“Soleiman’s story, although it’s painful for my family to fight everyday, is a story that’s a catalyst that’s inspired people across the nation,” he added.“To come and say enough is enough. To make sure another family doesn’t go through what we’re going through.”
The Ministry of the Attorney General directed questions on Faqiri’s time in jail to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, who declined to comment given the lawsuit and an OPP investigation, which continues, spokesperson Kerry Schmidt confirmed.
Cheryl Mahyr, a spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner, said it will be “conducting an inquest into the circumstances of the death.” There is no start date or location yet for the inquest.
With files from Fatima Sayed and The Canadian Press