Ex-inmate to sue for alleged abuse and humiliation at Ottawa jail

Mike Banks, a former university lacrosse player turned educator, is seeking aggravated and punitive damages from the provincial jail authority, according a notice filed Friday.

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Mike Banks wasn’t your typical inmate, and Sept. 11, 2021, wasn’t a typical day at the Ottawa jail as a drone came over the walls in a suspected dope drop into the yard below.


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If some inmates seemed excited, it was a fleeting moment cut short by the reported response of guards accused of physical abuse and humiliation at gunpoint.

Banks, a former American university lacrosse player turned educator known for youth outreach, is now suing the provincial jail authority for aggravated and punitive damages, according to a notice filed Friday.

“(Banks) was extremely shaken and distraught over this incident and the treatment he received. My client felt extreme stress and humiliation when he had to walk on his knees and hands with a gun pointed at him and then being dragged like an animal on the cement,” Ottawa lawyer Diane Magas wrote in the notice of intent.

“(He) was cramping in his stomach with stress, he wanted to move because of the cramping, but he was afraid he was going to be shot if he moved. He was shaking and scared for his life,” said Magas, who noted that the jail didn’t offer Banks any help to deal with the “stress and humiliation associated with this treatment.”


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The lawyer has requested that the jail authority preserve all video surveillance, photos, guards’ notes, nurses’ notes and any internal reports about the events in question on Sept. 11.

Banks, a U.S. citizen, was at the Ottawa jail awaiting a court hearing about his June 2020 arrest at the border — the result of a wrong turn, he says. Banks, 33, was charged with gun smuggling for having a shotgun in the back of his Jeep. (The firearm was legally registered in his name.)

His sworn account of what happened is revealed in an Oct. 22 letter drafted by Magas and sent to Christian Richer, superintendent of the old Innes Road jail.

In his October affidavit, Banks said he had nothing to do with the drone drop, then detailed the alleged abuse by guards.


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There was a suspicion of a drone drop, so the guards dressed in SWAT-type “uniforms,” with guns drawn from the rooftop. They tossed two flash grenades down into the yard, according to the complaint filed with the warden.

Inmates were told to lay on the ground and were instructed, “If you move, we’ll take it as a threat,” Banks said in his sworn account.

Inmates were told to strip and each inmate was searched. The inmates were required to kneel on all fours on the ground and walk backwards on their hands and knees on the pavement while wearing only boxer shorts, according to the complaint.

Then the inmates were told to lay face-down with their hands over their heads, only to be dragged by their ankles back into the jail after seven hours, according to the complaint.


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According to the court filings, Banks was subjected to a strip search, guards inspected his anus twice and he was not fed for seven hours. The guards also allegedly stripped Banks’ cell of all bedding and canteen items and didn’t let him out of his cell for three days.

In November, Banks was freed from jail after pleading guilty for smuggling his own gun across the border by mistake. The judge found that his registered firearm had no links to the criminal world. Prosecutors wanted the judge to send Banks to prison for up to five years, but the judge wasn’t having it and let him go after crediting him for pre-trial time spent in custody.

The judge said he was surprised that the border guards didn’t just turn Banks away, particularly in light of COVID-19 travel restrictions, which at the time prohibited U.S. citizens from entering Canada for non-essential reasons.

None of Banks’ allegations of mistreatment at the jail have been proven in court.



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