Coronavirus: Quebec federal inmates file application for class-action lawsuit

An overhead view of the women's prison in Joliette, Que., on June 1, 2005. A federal inmate in Quebec who contracted COVID-19 has filed a class action lawsuit over Correctional Service Canada's handling of the pandemic. Ryan Remiorz/CP

A federal inmate who contracted COVID-19 has filed a proposed class-action lawsuit over Correctional Service Canada’s handling of the pandemic at its Quebec-based prisons.

The application for a lawsuit for plaintiff Joelle Beaulieu, an inmate at the federal women’s prison in Joliette, Que., was filed at the Montreal courthouse on Monday.

The filing is on behalf of all federal inmates incarcerated in Quebec since March 13, and alleges that federal prison officials acted too slowly in implementing protective measures at the institutions.

Beaulieu’s action seeks $100 per day for all federal inmates since Quebec declared a medical emergency on March 13, and an additional $500 lump sum for those stricken by COVID-19.

READ MORE: Inmate with serious health issues to be released amid fears of COVID-19 in prisons

The allegations have not been tested in court and Quebec Superior Court has not authorized the application.

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Correctional Service Canada did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Beaulieu said in a 24-page court document that she believes she’s “Patient Zero” at the institution northeast of Montreal.

She has been housed at the facility for about a year and performed cleaning chores around the facility, which is how she believes she was infected.

Beaulieu alleges in the filing that she was rebuffed when she sought gloves and a mask, and says she wasn’t immediately tested for COVID-19 despite exhibiting clear symptoms.

READ MORE: Coronavirus: First federal inmate death reported at B.C. prison as case count climbs

She further alleges she did not have the necessary help and care when she became very sick.

“The applicant, Ms. Beaulieu, felt diminished and discredited,” the filing states. “She felt that she had been overlooked by prison authorities and that her life was of little value to them.”

According to figures published by Correctional Service Canada on Monday, three federal prisons in Quebec have reported cases of COVID-19 — Port Cartier, the Federal Training Centre and the Joliette Institution.

Of the 114 confirmed cases in Quebec, 51 were at the women’s only facility where Beaulieu is an inmate.

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There are also 64 positive cases in British Columbia — where one inmate has died –and eight cases in federal prisons in Ontario.

The situation in Quebec provincial jails is different — a spokeswoman for the Public Security Department said as of Tuesday, there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates.

There are, however, six cases among correctional agents and one in the management of a provincial jail.

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