A lawsuit is before the Yukon Supreme Court with allegations against the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and some of its corrections officers. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

A lawsuit is before the Yukon Supreme Court with allegations against the Whitehorse Correctional Centre and some of its corrections officers. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

Lawsuit alleges beating of man experiencing mental health crisis at Whitehorse jail

Defendants include the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, two managers and five corrections officers.

A Yukon man is suing the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) over alleged excessive use of force and lack of accommodations made for his bipolar disorder.

Sixty-year-old Dennis Merrick Day filed the lawsuit on Aug. 13. The Attorney General of Yukon is named as a defendant along with two managers and five corrections officers at the facility.

The statement of claim filed on Day’s behalf offers background details on his bipolar type 1 disorder which says he was initially diagnosed with it in the 1980s. It states that the events that form the subject of the lawsuit began when Day was arrested for involvement in an incident at the Whitehorse Emergency Shelter on Feb. 27, 2020. Court documents say he was admitted to the WCC’s Arrest Processing Unit at around 4 p.m. to await his court appearance the next day.

The lawsuit states that the unit is supposed to provide onsite medical assessment and care as well as supervision from specially trained corrections officers. It says that Day had hypomanic or manic symptoms when admitted or developed them afterward. It further claims that he was not medically assessed and that he was not properly searched on admittance to make sure he didn’t have anything he could harm himself with in his manic state.

Day and his lawyers claim these failures resulted in a breach of his rights to life, liberty and security of person guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

According to the statement of claim, Day’s lodging was uneventful until early the morning after he was brought in. It says he tried to get the attention of a correctional officer to get another blanket. After repeated attempts to get a guard’s attention, the document claims that Day set the blanket that he had on fire with the lighter that wasn’t confiscated when he arrived.

It states that the corrections officers assembled a use of force team. Day is then said to have extinguished the blanket fire by stomping it out. It says the officers did not try to de-escalate the situation before pinning him to a wall.

“Correctional officers Treusch and Dickson assaulted and battered Day by pushing him with extreme force with a shield into the wall of the unit, causing him to fall, hitting his head against the wall, punching him and violently restrained him in a painful wrist hold,” the statement of claim reads.

The statement goes on to claim that the officers acted unlawfully, exceeded their authority and breached his charter rights. It says that Day suffered injuries including lacerations on his scalp, abrasions to his arms and hands and soft tissue injuries to his spine. The lawsuit claims this amounts to assault and battery and that his treatment violated his charter protections against cruel and unusual punishment and his rights to liberty and security of person.

As of Aug. 23, a statement of defence had not been filed and the allegations in the lawsuit had not been heard or proven in court.

Contact Jim Elliot at jim.elliot@yukon-news.com

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