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Ontario Superior Court ruling upheld 2014 decision refusing to certify suit as class action.

Former Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews banned T-shirts in prison featuring an upside-down Maple Leaf, saying it dishonoured police andÊ veterans.


Former Canadian Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews banned T-shirts in prison featuring an upside-down Maple Leaf, saying it dishonoured police and veterans.

A group of prisoners has lost an appeal in their attempt to sue the federal government over a decision barring them from wearing t-shirts marked with an upside-down maple leaf.

Ontario’s Superior Court of Justice dismissed the appeal on Tuesday after another judge refused to certify the class action lawsuit in 2014, arguing that the inmates should have filed a grievance with the corrections authorities instead.

The $1.25 million lawsuit claimed that the Attorney General of Canada violated the Charter rights of prisoners at Joyceville Institution, near Kingston, when guards seized the controversial t-shirts worn by inmates on Prisoners Justice Day in 2010.

Then-Public Safety Minister Vic Toews ordered the t-shirts confiscated two weeks after the event, saying their design dishonoured police and soldiers.

The lawsuit argued that this was a violation of the prisoners’ free speech.

”The right to freedom of expression is of great importance to society at large, and to inmates especially,” wrote Davin Charney and Shane MartÌÄ_nez, lawyers for the prisoners, in their factum last year.”It is one of the few freedoms they maintain while incarcerated.”

The suit’s representative plaintiffs are both serving life sentences for murder: John Chaif, 57, for first-degree murder in 1983, and Jason Lauzon, 41, for second-degree murder in 1997.

Prisoners Justice Day, held since 1976, sees inmates across the country perform acts of civil disobedience such as food strikes in memory of people who have died in penal institutions.

In an email, MartÌÄ_nez said his clients were weighing their options for appeal, and noted that this week’s decision only quashes the attempt to have the case treated as a class action.

He added that the Correctional Services grievance process, the route suggested by the Superior Court judges, is inadequate and doesn’t cover plaintiffs who have since been released from prison.

With files from Curtis Rush


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