Transcript: The Code of Silence | Apr 28, 2021

ANNOUNCER: You're listening
to a TVO podcast.
WOMAN: The following podcast
contains coarse language,
descriptions of violence,
and sensitive themes
which may not be suitable for
younger audiences.
Listener discretion is advised.
YUSUF ZINE:
Previously, on
Unascertained.
WITNESS: They started struggling
in the hall,
he didn't want to go
in the cell,
and then that's when pepper
spray was out
and he was macing him
in his face.
Eyes, mouth, nose, everything.
Stomping his head. Wham.
Punched him.
He had his knee on his neck
every time they got on
the ground
but the third time,
he couldn't get back up.
MAN: There's a small percent
of officers
that are doing a lot
of bad things.
LAWYER: And we learned that when
Kawartha Lakes Police Service
went to interview him--
WITNESS: I'm like, "I'm not
doing this film in custody.
"I'll help you when I get out."
Two days before I got out,
I read that the guards
were cleared of any wrongdoing.
LAWYER: My question would be,
what's the rush
not to charge someone?
REPORTER:
Now there's a break in the case.
2ND REPORTER: Ontario Provincial
Police have reopened a case
we first told you about
two years ago.
REPORTER: The case has now
been reopened.

MAN:
Okay.
WOMAN:
Yeah, I've witnessed staff...
calling inmates, you know,
derogatory terms.
MAN: I've found myself in
a couple of situations
I was in disbelief of,
and mind you,
not everyone at that facility
is racist, however,
I walked by the staff room once,
and clear as day,
overheard somebody use
the N-word.
YUSUF:
The voices you're hearing
are current and former
correctional staff from
Ontario jails.
After years of experiencing
racism,
witnessing the abuse of power
and corruption,
they became fed up and wanted
to expose what was happening.
One whistleblower recorded
these calls
with fellow correctional
officers, managers,
and sergeants, and released
them back in May of 2019.
WOMAN ON PHONE: I feel that
a lot of the bullying
and harassment that
I experienced
were from the administration.
From people who were
my superiors.
They-- they're just like,
"Well, I don't like this inmate,
"so I'm just gonna
throw something in his cell,
"just to pretend
that I found it there,
"then we can put him in psych."
When I would try to report
something to the union,
the union president said,
"If anybody witnesses anything,
"I'm going to find out, and make
your life hell at work."
And I filed a complaint against
him, and at that point,
he started suspending me
every two weeks
for absolutely no reason.
Those complaints were
going nowhere,
they were just being hidden,
but at the same time,
I became a target.
So I just basically got pushed
out by the superintendent.
They would rather get rid of
people, whistleblowers,
then fix the damage,
because it's cheaper.
It's cheaper to get rid of me.
MAN: The subculture is very
negative, very toxic.
I would describe it as
a poisoned work environment.
YUSUF:
That whistleblower who
recorded those phone calls
was this man, Iosko Assenov.
In May of 2019, he released a
17 minute video
detailing his and his former
colleagues' experiences
with racism, corruption,
and harassment in corrections.
IOSKO: Corrections is a very
challenging, very difficult job.
You know, I think a lot
of times, from what I've heard
from society and people
that talk to me,
they think it's like, okay,
it's a glorified babysitter.
You know, it's a jail guard.
They don't realize
the challenges of that job.
It's more than just feeding
a guy, and, you know,
tossing him in a cell.
YUSUF:
Iosko was a correctional
officer in Ontario for 6 years.
In 2016, he resigned from his
position due to the racism
he experienced as a person
of colour.
When he spoke out about what he
went through, others followed.
After watching Iosko's video,
I reached out to him.
I wanted to make sense of why
the correctional officers
in Soleiman's case made the
decisions they made.
Because I couldn't speak to any
of those officers,
and also since their statements
haven't been made public,
I needed someone who could tell
me what really goes on
inside Ontario jails.
IOSKO: But it's the entire
subculture.
It goes towards that mentality
of "Us versus them."
"We're in control,
we're powerful."
And unfortunately, the people
that are kinda like,
running the show, are the ones
that are abusing people.
YUSUF:
I'm Yusuf Zine,
and this is
Unascertained.
After the Kawartha Lakes
police investigation
into Soleiman's death
closed in 2017,
an internal investigation by
the Ontario Ministry
of the Solicitor General
took place.
In the summer of 2018,
it concluded.
Shortly after, four Lindsay
jail staff were fired.
Two captains, one deputy,
and one officer.
Several others also received
20-day suspensions.
The local newspaper,
the Peterborough Examiner,
picked up the story on
August 2nd, 2018.
The article confirmed that the
firings were, quote,
"In connection
with Soleiman's death."
In November of 2018, Ontario's
Chief Coroner,
Dr. Dirk Huyer, announced the
investigation would be reopened
and lead by the Ontario
Provincial Police,
due to new evidence.
While that was underway,
the Faqiri family
also filed a civil lawsuit
against the ministry
and the correctional staff
involved.
On October 25th, 2019,
they got a response.
Two managers and one officer
who were fired
released a statement of
defense. Here's what they said.
They claim that Soleiman's
death was accidental,
but if it was due to
negligence,
it was the ministry that should
be held responsible, not them.
They claim the ministry failed
to get Soleiman
a psychiatric assessment,
failed to deploy the crisis
intervention team,
and failed to properly train
them with the use of handcuffs,
spit hoods, and pepper spray.
Ultimately, they felt that they
were being used as scapegoats.

Let's just assume Soleiman was
being aggressive
and the guards used the force
that they did,
uh, with the intent to defend
themselves.
Is there an argument there that
they were defending themselves
because they felt that their
lives were in danger?
TED: They don't plead self
defense,
NADER: Yeah, and the real
question is were they doing
what they were trained to do,
and following the training
correctly?
YUSUF:
That's Nader and Ted,
the Faqiri family lawyers.
NADER: I think
the answer is no,
they were not doing what they
were trained to do,
and they were not following
the training correctly,
and one of the reasons I think
that is because
you don't fire people for
following the training
and carrying out the procedures
correctly.
So to answer your question, no,
I don't think you get to get out
of this by saying,
"We were just doing
the best we could
"and we thought it was
a tough situation."
That's not how it works.
YUSUF:
So we know that
four staff were fired.
And they're not saying
they acted in self defense.
Rather, they say,
if they were negligent,
they blame it on the ministry
for not training them properly
and they're saying they were
thrown under the bus.
If that's the case,
who is responsible?
None of this comes as a
surprise to Iosko Assenov.
IOSKO: There's no actual
accountability.
The staff know this is going on.
They know who the people who are
using excessive force is.
They know who the people
that are harassing
and discriminating people,
they know who those people are.
The question is
why is nobody speaking out?
Iosko Assenov is 33 years old,
with Bulgarian and Turkish
parents.
He has a calm yet authoritative
vibe about him.
When we met him in his home,
there were balloons
and decorations from a
baby shower the previous day.
Iosko and his wife were
expecting their first child.
IOSKO: Growing up, I've kinda
like, fallen in love
with the humanities field,
with law enforcement,
uh, social work, anything to do
with helping human beings
and diving into their
psychology,
into the emotional side of
really helping people
and being connected to them.
I went to the University
of Waterloo, I did criminology.
Uh, I kinda debated, like,
do I want to go to law school?
Do I want to go into policing
or corrections?
I began to do some volunteer
work for the ministry,
through Probation and Parole,
and I decided that one of the
best ways to get into government
and to have an opportunity at
Probation and Parole
would be to get into
corrections.
But his idealism was shattered
almost immediately.
IOSKO: Well, my first
week there,
a senior union member comes up
to me and says,
"This is a racist jail,
watch your back." I mean--
YUSUF:
He said that to you?
IOSKO: Yeah, to my face.
Not just to me,
but to another officer,
a Black officer, as well.
Like, I mean, we're looking at
each other, like,
"What's going on here?"
Like, somebody with a position
of authority
that you would look up to,
and go to if you have any issues
is telling you "Watch your back,
this place is racist."
Black and Indigenous inmates
are overrepresented
in Canada's prison system.
According to the John Howard
Society of Canada,
in 2017, Black people were
over-represented
in federal prisons by more than
300% versus their population.
Well, for Indigenous people,
the over-representation
was nearly 500%.
it was hard to find many
statistics from Ontario jails
but it's clear the same
disparities exist.
A 2016 report on the Ontario
bail system found that
Indigenous peoples and people
of colour are, quote,
"More likely to find themselves
in pre-trial detention."
That same year in the Toronto
South detention centre alone,
40% of inmates in segregation
were Black.
For Iosko, he says he's
experienced and witnessed
racism in corrections
first hand.
IOSKO: This is actually not
covert, but overt,
in-your-face racism,
and this is happening,
out of all places,
in law enforcement,
which is something that I truly
believe should never happen.
So to me,
perhaps I was very naive,
'cause I thought everybody
should be upholding this badge,
and then you get in there, and
the first week throws me off.
I hear a Black colleague talking
about, you know,
"I was in the lunch room and
these guys are calling me
"the N-word, I can clearly hear
they're talking about me.
"They're using my name."
Then you hear about an officer
that's now off on sick leave
and her unborn daughter was
being called the N-word.
While she was pregnant and
working here.
She reported it to management
and nobody cared.
Being called a monkey, being
called a terrorist.
You know, forcing me to strip
search all the Muslim inmates
because my manager assumed I was
Muslim when I'm not.
You're hearing these things,
right, and you're working,
and you're trying to continue
to be ambitious,
and continue to do good work.
But in the background,
I started thinking, how am
I supposed to earn a paycheque,
take that money home,
feed myself, feed my family,
with that same money that's
being earned
through people abusing
their power?
And if they can do that with
their own staff,
what are they doing to
other people?
Members of the public?
The inmates?
YUSUF:
For Iosko, he believed
that part of the problem
was the training, or lack
thereof.
Until 2020, to become a CO,
or correctional officer,
you needed to attend a program
called COTA,
the Correctional Officer
Training Assessment.
It was a course that taught
both the theory
and practice of corrections.
In order to enroll, you need to
pay the $1,000 admission fee
and have a high school diploma.
IOSKO:
That's it.
YUSUF:
Potentially someone who's 18.
IOSKO:
Out of high school.
YUSUF:
Right out of high school.
IOSKO: Well, that's the thing.
I've worked with people
that are 21 years old,
20 years old, right?
And they're at the police
college and they're training.
You know, like, a police officer
will have their training,
their one-year training, and
they'll go around on ride-alongs
and all that stuff,
and be able to have, like, a--
usually a manager, somebody
that's a training officer,
if not a manager,
but at least somebody
with a lot more experience
is training people.
In corrections,
you don't have that.
For Iosko, the program
took 13 weeks.
But over the years, it was
eventually reduced to 8 weeks.
IOSKO: I personally think
it should be
a lot longer than that.
I think they don't dive into
things as much as they should.
It was very general knowledge,
it was like, literally,
a small course on Aboriginal
studies, and human rights,
workplace discrimination,
harassment policy,
and you know, very, very
quick courses.
And the majority of the
rest of the time
was on the physical part,
on the use of force,
on the defensive tactics,
and because we have to know
both the written component of,
you know,
how to use your OC spray,
and your handcuffs,
and also be able
to apply it physically.
So the majority of our training
was focused on that.
YUSUF: Was there any training
for dealing with an inmate
with mental health illness?
IOSKO: No. When we did our
scenario training,
it would be scenario training
of an unruly offender,
somebody who is, you know, in a
cell, they don't wanna come out,
or they're refusing orders.
Well, that's not the same thing
as dealing with schizophrenia,
dealing with bipolar, dealing
with somebody with depression,
dealing with somebody with
suicidal ideation.
What is the understanding of
what those look like,
and then how do you deal
with that?
But I don't remember ever
doing any kind
of mental health-specific
training.
In January 2020, the Ministry
of the Solicitor General
announced that they were
replacing the COTA program
with a new curriculum.
It's now called the Corrections
Foundational Training.
This time, it has more of an
emphasis on human rights,
de-escalation,
and mental health.
But there were still things
Iosko felt like
were not being taught
to new recruits.
IOSKO: How do you go home to
your family after
you've seen death, you know?
How do you deal with sexual
assault,
sexual abuse in a workplace,
with inmate-on-inmate,
or abuse with staff-on-inmate?
Seeing that and then going home,
how do you deal with that?
YUSUF: None of that
is ever addressed?
IOSKO:
Not once was that addressed.
YUSUF: Looking back at your
experience, in hindsight,
would you say that you were
properly trained,
and you were--
it prepared you?
IOSKO: Absolutely not.
No. Not at all.
I was surprised at the lack of
training Iosko received.
And I'm not kidding myself
thinking jails are havens
for rehabilitation, but from
what Iosko described,
it didn't seem like a healthy
environment
for inmates or staff.
IOSKO: When you're thinking
about the word "corrections,"
the word "correct" is in
"corrections,"
so what are we correcting?
I mean, in many ways,
a lot of people have a positive
mindset going in,
and they want to make a
difference,
and I've seen it with brand new
officers shaking hands
with an inmate, helping him read
if he can't read,
reading his probation order,
telling him where to be.
Three months later, he's calling
everybody "cockroaches"
and "pieces of crap."
And this is what surprised
Iosko the most.
It wasn't just those
who were locked up
that he had to worry about.
IOSKO: We called it
"the three headed monster."
You have the inmates,
you have the other officers,
and you have the management.
There is a huge issue
with the work culture
in terms of toxicity.
What I mean by toxicity is,
like,
things that would never
fly anywhere
in any other private sector job.
Or even if they did, somebody
would be held accountable.
Somebody would be at least,
at the very least, investigated.
Go on, it's not just pervasive,
it's literally perpetuated
by the same people that you
don't even expect
to perpetuate these things.
So, sexual harassment to
female colleagues.
Mocking gay people.
Racially abusing inmates.
Racially abusing other staff.
Corruption.
You know, abuse of power.
Excessive use of force.
Iosko told me this story about
an experience he had
with an inmate one evening.
Something that he'd
never forget.
IOSKO: An inmate that ended up--
somebody that I talked to
all the time on my unit,
and somebody that I--
I could feel, for the most part,
he was kind of a very mellow guy
and very soft-spoken to begin
with, but I could tell
that he was not himself, I could
tell that something was off.
He was very depressed. And one
shift, I'm working night shift,
and late in the evening,
I'm doing my rounds,
I'm doing my checks,
I'm looking inside cells,
and I walk by him,
and he's got a bed sheet,
and he's trying to take
his life.
So in that situation
specifically, I ask for support,
like, I called a medical alarm.
Other staff begin to come
into the unit.
I opened up his cell,
helped him out of it,
and he's on the floor.
And you know,
I can't forget, like,
the look in somebody's eyes
when they're trying to take
their life,
and it didn't happen.
It's a weird feeling, you know?
So, you know,
he falls to the floor,
and I'm kinda holding him down,
I'm starting to talk to him,
and a couple of the guys come
in, some bigger guys,
bigger COs, they push me
out of the way.
And for no reason at all,
just jacked this guy's arms up,
pull out pepper spray.
Handcuff this guy to the rear,
grab him and drag him into seg.
Like, the guy literally just
tried to kill himself
and we're dragging him to seg?
And it actually caused me
a lot of, like,
trauma in a sense, right?
Not so much because I saw this
guy trying to kill himself
but the way that they use force,
it's so inhumane.
This guy is already vulnerable,
he's already on the floor.
He's crying. What's the sense
in jacking his arms up
and using aggressing force,
and lifting him up?
It's that-- that kind of stuff
that I see also as,
like, as a problem.
YUSUF: And how do you
account for that?
IOSKO:
They don't care.
The guys who were in the cell
did not care.
And the thing is, it's not like
anybody talked to the guy.
They literally chucked him
in the cell,
told me to write a report.
That's it.
YUSUF: So I want to walk you
through, um,
what happened that day...
Iosko agreed to hear the
timeline of Soleiman's death
and point out any red flags
he noticed.
We decided to stick to the
timeline from the official
Kawartha Lakes police report.
We set aside John Thibeault's
eyewitness testimony.
I wanted to know if Iosko only
had the facts the police had,
would he notice any
irregularities?
I started with the shower
incident on December 15th.
After Soleiman refused to leave
the showers,
a psychologist arrived and
calmed him down.
IOSKO: I can yell you guys,
like, I'm actually shocked
that a psychologist came.
YUSUF: But the fact that they
called a psychologist--
IOSKO: It points to that they
recognized that this guy
has some major distress going
on in his life,
and some concerns of mental
health, you know.
To put it simply,
they need support ASAP.
Soleiman's hands were cuffed
to the front
through the shower door hatch
and he was left in that
position
for approximately one minute.
IOSKO: So you can tell,
if somebody has handcuffed
somebody to the front, that
means that they're compliant,
and that you have no worries,
really, they're gonna hurt you.
If they're to the rear, you only
do that when somebody's a danger
and you fear that they're going
to assault other people.
During that time, staff
discussed whether they should
escort Soleiman to his cell.
IOSKO: So generally speaking,
I would say, okay,
he's locked in, you know,
let's figure it out.
If we don't have the staff to be
able to move this guy
or we think that he's a threat,
then obviously,
you're going to consult with
a manager, right?
'Cause a manager needs to manage
the situation,
and act on this.
What do you want us to do?
Do you want
the ICIT team called?
Okay, then they make
that decision.
So again, that's the way it's
supposed to work.
The request for the Crisis
Intervention Team,
or ICIT, to take over the
situation was denied.
The officers were advised to
try and continue
to manage Soleiman by
themselves.
IOSKO: So now you have
no backup, no witnesses,
no cameras really on you,
nobody else to support you.
So now that's a potential
for use of force,
where nobody would have seen it.
Soli was escorted down the hall
to his cell
by five correctional officers.
A sixth guard joined, and this
seemed to escalate
Soleiman's behaviour.
Soleiman started resisting the
efforts of the guards
and spat in the direction
of one of them.
IOSKO: Now spitting on somebody
is looked at
as a very degrading thing,
and very much in corrections.
My experience is whenever has
somebody has spat on somebody,
people have taken that situation
a lot more serious
with that inmate, and have been
quicker to respond,
or there's a genuine disregard
for that person at that point.
YUSUF: So is it possible that
could have been, maybe the--
IOSKO:
Yeah.
YUSUF: Maybe the emotional
trigger for that guard to..?
IOSKO: Yeah, absolutely.
Absolutely.
And again, if one person
starts striking,
other people will start thinking
that's okay as well,
and they follow suit because
that person is doing it.
It's group think.
After the spit, one officer
attempted to give Soleiman
an open-handed strike,
but missed.
IOSKO:
Open-hand strike, yeah.
YUSUF:
Is that-- why?
IOSKO:
I just, um...
(Sighing)
"Open-hand strike" is something
you get told to, right?
Is something that happens, like,
it's this, right?
It's this motion of...
forward motion,
where you're literally hitting
somebody with, like, your palm.
The bottom of your palm with
your fingertips up.
But they tell you to do that so
you're not creating bruising
or cutting or that kind
of thing.
When you're doing use of force,
you're taught to do
only one level above
the necessary use of force
that you need for
that particular situation,
and as soon as that person is
handcuffed, it's done.
It's simple as that,
but I just kind of laugh,
because a lot of time
in reports,
they would write things that are
terminology that is used
in the defensive tactics
training,
but that's not actually
what happens.
Open-hand strike, when you're
saying that, it's very vague.
That's very open for
interpretation.
YUSUF:
It could be a push.
IOSKO: It could be a push!
It could be a punch.
What exactly is that,
and how did you do that?
You know, and why? What was the
reasoning for you to do that?
YUSUF: Right after he was pepper
sprayed, um, and again,
this is still them trying to
get him into the cell,
'cause he's resisting,
does that seem like
the proper course of action?
If you have an inmate
who you're trying to get
in there and he's pushing back?
IOSKO: Yeah, I mean, pepper
spraying is seen as,
in defensive tactics,
the least intrusive way.
You're not using a baton,
you're not striking people
across the face or across the--
the legs or anything like that.
You're not punching
and kicking them,
you're pepper spraying them.
In a sense, it keeps you safe,
it keeps them safe.
They're far enough away.
Generally speaking,
very few people have any issues
with pepper spray.
It's pretty safe, you'd just
have to decontaminate
their eyes after, but you spray
from a couple feet away
and that allows for you to be
able to then go and take control
and handcuff them,
and get them to comply.
YUSUF:
Once inside the cell,
officers got Soleiman
to the ground
while he tried to get up.
They delivered body strikes
that ground Soleiman.
while one officer kneed him
in the back.
A code blue was eventually
called,
which is an emergency call
for any available
correctional officers
to come help.
We don't know the exact time of
when the code blue was called.
All we know is that it didn't
happen until a few minutes
after they entered the cell.
IOSKO:
That-- that's crazy to me.
YUSUF:
Why?
IOSKO: You're supposed to call a
code blue right away.
YUSUF:
Right away.
IOSKO: Right away,
you'd do it on your radio,
or somebody else will call it.
I mean, everybody has
a radio for that reason,
but you can also, uh,
there's things that we wear for,
like, emergencies.
Like, you can literally pull it,
and that will call
in the system, the system will
see that, you know,
code blue, somebody is in need.
And that's within 30 seconds.
YUSUF:
So it's just like--
IOSKO: That's what
it's supposed to look like.
YUSUF:
All hands on deck.
IOSKO: All hands on deck
to support.
Whoever can come can come,
and then most people will.
Hearing this reminded me of
something John Thibeault said
about the code blue in
his interview.
JOHN: She had the mic,
the radio in her hand,
and was already asking,
"I'm gonna call it,
"should I call it,
should I call it?"
and the guy guards kept telling
her, "No, don't call it.
"Don't call it yet."
And they always called.
I've seen them call code blue
over nothing.
When you've got 30, 40 guards
from all over the jail,
if a guy's even thinking about
fighting back,
he's gonna stop.
So why wouldn't they call a code
blue right away?
IOSKO: Generally speaking,
the moment that we have
a combative inmate,
I've always called code blue,
and that's usually what's
happened.
YUSUF:
So then why would it take...
IOSKO:
I have no idea about that.
I have no idea.
The police report said that
when the officers
exited the cell, Soleiman was
left face-down on his stomach,
ankles bound by leg irons,
and his hands cuffed
behind his back.
In the police report, there
were references
to the phrase "hog-tying."
That's where your hands are
tied behind your back
and bound to your feet while
you're lying on your stomach.
We don't know if that's what
happened to Soleiman.
The coroner's report said
witnesses denied
that he was hog-tied,
but the police report says
at one point, his legs were
crossed and pushed up
to his buttocks.
The police also found a nurse's
note in the cell
with the words, quote,
"hog-tied him"
with a question mark.
What wasn't found in the cell
when the police arrived
were the restraints used
on Soleiman.
In an email found
in the police report,
a few Kawartha Lakes
investigators were tasked
to locate them, and we don't
know if they ever did.
Whether Soleiman was hog-tied
or not,
that still doesn't change the
fact that being restrained
on your stomach is something
the Ministry warns against.
IOSKO: So he was face down,
with his hands--
YUSUF: His hands still--
IOSKO:
Tied from the back.
YUSUF: Yeah.
Okay. I am just thrown off
by the-- like,
leaving somebody face down and
handcuffed to the rear.
YUSUF:
Why?
IOSKO: I mean, especially if
this guy was having, like,
breathing issues, right?
Like, I mean, he's probably
exhausted, fighting, just...
It is not easy being in this
situations, right?
So I know from the officer's
standpoint,
I get where they're coming from,
I understand, like,
what has to happen, and you have
to maintain control,
and you have a big guy,
and who knows, right?
It could be a couple
small officers
that are dealing with him,
so I can understand.
I understand the pepper
spraying,
I understand, like, you know,
if they had to use force.
You cannot leave somebody
like that,
face down with their hands
in the back.
YUSUF:
Mm-hm.
IOSKO: Yeah, that just--
that part shocks me.
YUSUF: So what stands out for
you about this
is the fact that he was left--
IOSKO:
Lying down.
YUSUF:
On-- on his stomach.
IOSKO: Yeah, whereas--
like, I just can't imagine
like, why you would leave
somebody face down.
I went looking in the Ministry
policies and procedures manual
for any references to the
positions used
to subdue an inmate.
I did find something linked to
the use of a spit hood.
A spit hood is a device made
out of mesh fabric
that slips over your head with
an elastic band
around your neck.
This prevents spitting, biting,
and spreading diseases.
The police report states that
a spit hood was placed
on Soleiman after he was
pepper sprayed.
And while he was on his
stomach.
IOSKO: You're still able to
breathe in it.
YUSUF: You're still able
to breathe.
IOSKO: It might be more
difficult, that's for sure.
That's for sure. It's more
difficult to breathe in.
And that's why I was surprised,
like, if they left him
face down with a spit hood on
and handcuffed to the rear,
like, if people walk away from
that cell, even,
that's a difficult thing, right?
The policies clearly state
that while an inmate
is wearing a spit hood,
staff must ensure
that they are not placed on
their stomach,
they are never left unattended,
and if they have been
pepper sprayed,
their eyes must be
decontaminated.
Decontaminated,
what does that mean?
IOSKO: It just means, like,
you're running water
through their eyes so that
they can get the--
the pepper fragments out.
Usually speaking,
like, we try to get somebody
decontaminated soon after,
right, 'cause it's burning,
and it's painful for them.
And once they've complied,
you might be able to,
but it all depends on their
behaviour, right?
I didn't read anything in the
police report
about Soleiman's eyes being
decontaminated
after he was pepper sprayed.
And according to John
Thibeault,
it wasn't just the eyes.
It was his face, mouth,
and nose.
But it is policy to
decontaminate, quote,
"as soon as feasible."
However, the officers may not
have been able to do that
in the midst of the struggle.
But once the decision was made
to place a spit hood
on Soleiman's head without
decontaminating,
the policy was broken.
Oh, and if the inmate
is experiencing a psychotic
episode,
the spit hood can increase
those symptoms.
This thing is no joke.
According to the manual,
the application of a spit hood
is considered a use of force.
IOSKO: It exacerbates that
situation more,
I would say, the spit shield
and face down,
like, so much more.
I mean, anybody who's ever
been face down,
and if you put your hands behind
to back and try to breathe,
it's difficult enough.
The police's timeline we shared
with Iosko Assenov
didn't include anything
about an assault,
so I finally told him about
John Thibeault's
eyewitness testimony,
to hear what he made of it.
IOSKO: I mean, it sounds like
it was very intense,
and it sounds like they did
not have a good grip
on the situation at all,
and they probably should never
have moved him to begin with.
Um, it's not at all uncommon or
implausible for me to think
that officers were striking him
to get him to comply.
But that doesn't excuse the
right to start striking people.
You're literally trained not
to do that.
Unless you're being rushed
by other inmates,
you're outnumbering them
every time,
so there's really no real
justification,
especially once they get
to the ground
where you're able to
control them.
YUSUF: It's not like you just
get in this kind of drunk rage
where you just start kicking
and punching?
IOSKO: Well, if you do,
you don't belong there.
I mean, like that's--
you belong in orange at that
point, right?
What difference is that
between the crime
that other people have
committed?
It's the same thing.
Everything Iosko told
made me think,
was any of this related to why
those staff were fired
back in 2018?
And if so, why haven't we heard
anything about it?
IOSKO: Well, you won't hear
about it, right?
Like, who's gonna really stand
up and talk about it?
They risk their own job,
their own reputation,
their own safety by doing that.
YUSUF: Is it different
in every jail?
IOSKO: I-- you know,
I can't speak for all jails,
I definitely will not do that,
but from my experience,
a lot of people were connected.
Managers, you meet people's
nephews, family,
managers are like, husband
and wife.
People are connected and have
a vested interest
in protecting other people,
and those same people
that are abusing other people,
or that are creating
the toxic work environment that
I'm talking about,
are the same ones that are
protected.
And that is the number one thing
that I want people to
understand.
That is the biggest issue for
corrections,
it's the code of silence
and conforming.
YUSUF: Can you explain
what that is?
IOSKO:
It just basically means, like,
you don't snitch on each other,
it's a brotherhood,
and you protect your brothers
and sisters.
You do what's best for
each other.
That's really what it is.
YUSUF: No matter what.
No matter what you see?
IOSKO: Yeah, no matter what.
No matter what, really, right?
You've gotta remember, too,
these officers become friends.
They go to each other's
barbecues,
they become more than
just colleagues.
They become a family.
And when you, at any time,
where you're protecting
each other,
through assaults,
through serious things,
that builds that bond, right?
That builds that solidarity.
For Iosko,
it was clear what needed to
change in corrections.
IOSKO: Make it okay
for officers to speak up.
Change that "snitch"
culture, right?
Like that "rat" culture
that we have.
It is not being a snitch,
it is not ratting on anybody.
That, to me, is the very
definition of having the badge,
it's going against all odds and
doing the difficult work
of going against the subculture,
and staying true
to that oath that you took when
you had the badge.
After six years of what he says
was continued harassment
and discrimination,
Iosko finally had enough.
IOSKO: It was not
an easy choice at all.
I think very few people would
leave a 100k a year job,
right, a six-figure salary,
and especially when you have
your own office area to work in,
but do I even believe in this?
Like, what was my mission
to begin with
going into the police college
and going into corrections
was to correct, to help people.
So am I part of the change
or am I part of the problem
by staying here?

After speaking with Iosko,
it was clear
there were a lot of red flags
in the handling of Soleiman.
And it's likely that some of
the correctional officers'
decisions played a part
in his death.
Then when you hear John
Thibeault's
eyewitness testimony,
and evaluate the policies
and protocols, it may answer
why the Ontario Chief Coroner
wanted a second investigation.
Perhaps they also found some of
the same red flags in the case.
There was a lot of hope from
the Faqiri family
and their lawyers that this new
investigation
would provide some answers.
But on August 5th, 2020,
the news hit.
REPORTER: We have an update now
to a case we've been following.
A second investigation into
Faqiri's death has now concluded
after reaching the
same conclusion as the first.
No evidence to substantiate
criminal charges
against any of the guards
who restrained
and allegedly beat Faqiri
prior to his death.
YUSUF:
After a nearly two-year
investigation,
the OPP found no one criminally
responsible
for Soleiman Faqiri's death.
They came to the same
conclusion
as the local police
investigation.
And the forensic pathologist
who made the first report
didn't change their opinion
on the cause of death,
meaning that it remained
unascertained.
Yusuf Faqiri, Soleiman's
brother, attended a meeting
with the OPP, and this is what
he was told.
YUSUF FAQIRI:
We cannot press charges,
even though they admitted that
the eyewitness was credible.
He's talking about John
Thibeault.
Kawartha Lakes Police never
interviewed him,
but the OPP did.
YUSUF FAQIRI: This is their
word, it's not from me,
the eyewitness is credible,
but they say that we cannot
press charges
because they don't know who
gave the fatal blow.
I mean, what a preposterous and
a ridiculous statement.
Uh, we left the meeting with
more questions than answers.
I reached out to the OPP.
They said they cannot speak
about the specifics
of an investigation to protect
the integrity
of any ensuing court processes,
including a pending coroner's
inquest.
Ultimately, they said the Crown
determined that there was
no reasonable prospect of
conviction,
based on the evidence
in this matter.
CLAYTON: It's a fake argument,
I don't think it's real,
I don't think it's convincing.
Clayton Ruby is one of
the top criminal
and constitutional lawyers
in Canada.
He's been involved in several
high profile cases,
including many of those who
were wrongly convicted.
I met with him
in the spacious backyard
of his downtown Toronto home.
I wanted to know what
his opinion was on this news.
CLAYTON: The decision was
inexplicable.
It is not the law in Canada
that if all the criminals
keep their mouths shut,
you can't figure out
what each one of them did,
that they all go free.
Rather, the law of aiding and
abetting sets in.
Even if you know that one person
committed a fatal blow
and you can't tell who it is,
each and every one of them are
aiding and abetting
the principle actor.
Each one of them is
a jail guard.
A peace officer, under our law,
with powers and duties
given by statute.
And the most principle
of those duties
is to safeguard those
in your charge.
The prisoner was not free
to leave the cell and seek help.
He was not free to call
a doctor and say,
"I need medical attention."
It was their duty to do that.
They failed in that statutory
duty, miserably.
That's the crime of criminal
negligence causing death,
or criminal negligence causing
bodily harm.
It is an aggravated assault,
as well.
Both extremely serious offenses,
punishable by many, many
years in prison.
According to the Federal
Criminal Code,
aggravated assault carries
a maximum sentence of 14 years,
whereas criminal negligence
causing death
is life in prison.
CLAYTON: In the criminal law,
you don't have to prove
that a blow, for example,
was the cause of death
in the sense of
"that's what did it."
That's an entirely
different reason why
this result is inexplicable.
YUSUF: And so in a sense,
who gave the final blow
doesn't really matter.
CLAYTON: There are cases in
which it would matter.
If you were trying to show a
first degree murder,
by virtue of-- which requires
planning and deliberation
by the individual who struck the
blow, then yes, it matters.
But for almost all other crimes,
it does not matter.
And you have to be sort of
an idiot to say,
"He's got bruises all over
his body, and cuts,
"but that had nothing to do
with the death."
You don't have to have a
scientific opinion
that blow X was the sole
cause of death.
YUSUF:
Clayton told me that if
you're what's called
"party to the offense,"
everyone gets slapped with
the same charge.
Even if you didn't strike
any blows.
CLAYTON: Otherwise gang violence
would not be prosecuted
in Canada.
It is elementary and
fundamental.
Police charging correctional
officers when someone
is killed in jail isn't common,
but it's not unheard of,
either.
For example,
on March 6th, 2020,
five correctional officers were
charged with aggravated assault
on an inmate at the Toronto
South detention centre,
and then again on December
22nd, 2020,
ten correctional officers were
charged with crimes
ranging from manslaughter to
criminal negligence
causing death at a St. John's
jail in Newfoundland.
So why was this case any
different?
CLAYTON: There are lots of cases
where people--
where medical science cannot
afterwards discern
the cause of death,
and people do expire for no
reason other than stress.
Clayton's opinion was clear.
CLAYTON: But if the stress of
the beating caused the death,
there's no mystery to it.
You interfere with somebody,
bodily and emotional harm,
you've committed a crime
in my view.
And then there's the testimony
of John Thibeault,
the eyewitness.
If the OPP found him credible,
why not lay charges?
Did there need to be more
eyewitnesses?
CLAYTON: It's rare that you have
more than one eyewitness.
But having one witness makes
it a good case.
And you have a relatively strong
case with an eyewitness.
Many, many cases are
successfully prosecuted
with no eyewitness.
I guess, well, the reason why
we're all here,
upset about this, is because we
expect the system to work.
Here, the system just
didn't work,
and that's why it's upsetting.
There's nothing wrong
with the system,
but it's supposed to work
and it didn't.
YUSUF:
For most of this
investigation,
I've been focused on this idea
of the fatal blow.
Who was responsible for
the strike
that ultimately killed
Soleiman?
But if Clayton Ruby is saying
that it doesn't
necessarily matter who,
then why wasn't anyone
held responsible?
But then I wondered,
maybe this whole time,
I was looking in the wrong
direction.
Perhaps the question wasn't
"Who gave the fatal blow,"
but what was the fatal blow?
And there was one last
piece of evidence
that could help answer that.
REPORTER:
...Floor of a jail cell,
newly filed court documents
suggest that the guards
who were restraining him
in his final moments
violated the use of force rules
set out in their training.
YUSUF:
Next time on
Unascertained.
MAN: There's no law enforcement
agency in the world that
cannot be aware that that is a
highly risky position to be in.
YUSUF: Unascertained
is written
and produced by me,
Yusuf Zine, and Kevin Young.
Kevin Young is also our
audio engineer.
Our story editor
is Michelle Shephard.
Our intern is Celina Gallardo.
Our legal counsel is
Willa Marcus.
Katie O'Connor is our producer
for TVO podcasts.
The executive producer of
digital for TVO is Laurie Few.
The executive for current
affairs and documentaries
for TVO is John Ferry.
Theme song and music by
Blue Dot Sessions.
Unascertained
is produced by
InnerSpeak and TVO.

Watch: The Code of Silence