Justice for Nathanael Williams

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I write this letter as a Mother but also as a member of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Debra Medhanit Medane Alem whose priest, Father Tekle Dingel Bennett, of Debre Medhanit Medhane Alem Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church has confirmed with the institution that Nathanael Williams was fasting and could not drink. 

My son is Nathanael Williams. He was charged as a Young Offender and accepted responsibility for his action and pleaded guilty. He was given an adult sentence. Twenty-One years later, now 37 he is looking forward to being released to a lower institution where he can apply for parole. He has a strong family support system, his wife, and children, me, his brothers, and their partners. A strong community support system as well, Marion Newrick Community Worker, and Justin Newrick, Law Student, Michael Brito, Lawyer.  He has goals and plans to work supporting challenged communities, as I work in community development, I can support this. Nathanael believes he can use his life experience to affect change in the lives of other challenged youths. He has the support of the Priests of Debra Medhanit Medhani Alem, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, and the members of the Church community. He has come to be the "captain of his soul." As he has chosen to follow the Orthodox Faith for over four years now. His Priests have a strong relationship with him, he has changed and touched the lives of me, and his brothers, by his following the Orthodox lifestyle. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church requires members to fast 180 days out of the year including Wednesdays and Fridays. The Institutions is in communication with the Priests and it has been reiterated to them, the specific instructions for fasting including, dates, and dietary restrictions and times. Nathanael was requested to provide a urine sample, during his observing of his major Fast, because the request to consume water would have impeded on his religious obligations and his Charter of Rights, he refused. He was then given a major institutional charge for not providing a urine sample during the observing of his Fast. Even after it was confirmed by our Priest that yes, it was a fast period and he was following religious instruction. Gestionnaire Domonique Goulet has ignored the religious accommodation set out by Correctional Services Canada, by refusing to withdraw the charges.  Correctional Services Canada's, Guidelines for Inmate Religious Accommodation, is authorized by, the Canadian Charter of Rights & Freedom, Section 2 and 15. And the Canadian Human Rights Act Subsection 3(1), it's purpose is to "accommodate an inmates religious rights that are supported by the faith community with which the inmate is affiliated. And in its "application" applies to all staff, contractors and volunteers involved in the administration of inmates’ religious accommodation.  The Commissioners Directive, Section 566-Paragraph 14, says, “alternate arrangements can be made where an inmates’ religious obligations (such as fasting) would impede his ability to provide a sample. And inmates name may be skipped until he becomes able to provide a sample”, which is what should have been done when Nathanael informed the staff that he was fasting.

Gestionnaire Domonique Goulet does not respect religious accommodations in refusing to drop the charges.  We want to bring attention to this matter publicly, so that Warden Pierre Lauzon, is aware that Gestionnaire Domonique Goulet’s decision to ignore these guidelines, is partial and unjust, and ignorant.

He wants to bring attention to this matter and make the public aware of the behaviour of our Public Servants.  How individuals can and do, yield power within institutions like Drummond, make personal decisions on the lives of the incarcerated based on the intrenched systematic racism, existing within these institutions, that gives them power to deny the rights set forth,  and the guidelines that Correctional Services Canada has in place.  My son believes they are playing with his life, he also believes that there is racism in play here, citing Gestionnaire Domonique Goulet’s decision, and refusal to drop the charges.  He wants to get the public support; My son has an August 12th, 2020 Court date, each time I spoke to the office I made it clear as to the time sensitivity of this matter. We feel this needs to be addressed at a higher level, within the Correctional Services Canada.

REGIONAL DEPUTY COMMISSIONER -QUEBEC CYNTHIA RACICOT