Fifty-two months of torture and the four men responsible

Scott Gilmore on the case of Adam Capay, and how the province of Ontario allowed his horrific torture to happen

Adam Capay going into court in 2012. (Jeff Labine/DougallMedia/

Adam Capay going into court in 2012. (Jeff Labine/DougallMedia/

There is a young First Nations man in Thunder Bay who the province of Ontario has kept in a hole for 52 months. His name is Adam Capay. When he was 19 he was arrested on minor charges and sent to jail. There he got into a fight and another man died. We don’t know if Capay is guilty—he has been waiting an incredible four years for his trial.

While he has been waiting, he has been kept in solitary confinement, in a Plexiglas box, in an empty cellblock with no windows, and with the lights kept on for 24 hours. Capay has interacted with so few people over the last four years he is losing the ability to speak.

One thousand five hundred and sixty days in solitary confinement. To put this in perspective, consider that the United Nations has declared this form of segregation should never surpass 15 days. They did this because it is considered one of the worst forms of psychological torture.

How bad is it? In the 1950s, a well-regarded psychologist named Harry Harlow decided to find out. He placed rhesus macaque monkeys in solitary confinement for 20 days and recorded the effects. Every monkey emerged badly damaged. Harlow was universally condemned for his cruel and unethical experiment, and his reputation was permanently ruined. And yet the province of Ontario has effectively conducted this experiment on Adam Capay 78 times in a row.

We don’t know how many other cases there are like this. Incredibly, it appears that the politicians and officials responsible don’t either. Renu Mandhane, Ontario’s chief human rights commissioner has been trying to find out. So far, she has identified 1,383 cases of prisoners being held in solitary confinement for more than 15 days. Twelve of these people have been subjected to this for more than a year.

If this happened in a country that is notorious for violating human rights, like Saudi Arabia, we would be outraged. Discovering this is occurring in Canada is so shocking it is difficult to process.

To find out how this is possible, there are a few men who need to answer some questions. Bill Wheeler is the superintendent of the Thunder Bay jail. When his corrections officers put a prisoner in solitary, protocols dictate he must sign off on an extension after five days. How can he justify extending Capay’s torture week after week, for four years?

If a prisoner with mental health issues (like Adam Capay) is kept in solitary for more than 30 days, the provincial minister responsible for correctional services must be informed, in this case that is David Orazietti. But Mandhane told me she believes he only learned about the case when she raised it with him on Oct. 12. Why did his ministry fail to follow procedures? And what has he done since then to fix it?

Regardless, Orazietti has known about Capay for 13 days now, and yet he remains in solitary. When asked how this is possible he shamelessly told the legislature, “That is a decision that is made by the individuals operating our jails. I will not take individual action on a specific circumstance.”

There is a line that ministers are not meant to cross. Governments are elected to tell the bureaucrats what to do, not how to do it. In this case, Orazietti should not dictate how a particular inmate is treated. But he can tell his department: “You have 24 hours to ensure the province of Ontario is no longer violating the UN mandated limit of 15 days. I suggest you start with the most egregious cases first.” Why didn’t he?

I am informed that in the case of Capay, there is a readily available solution. St. Lawrence Valley Correctional and Treatment Centre is specifically designed to house and treat prisoners like Capay who suffer from mental illness and may pose a threat to themselves or others. Superintendent Wheeler, and the senior officials who report to him, starting with deputy minister Matthew Torigian, need to explain why they failed to do so.

Another person who needs to answer questions is Attorney General Yasir Naqvi. How is it possible his ministry has allowed people to be held for four years without trial? How many people are in this situation? He too was informed of the Capay case 13 days ago. What has he done since then to address it?

I am sure each of these four men can explain to themselves and us why they are not responsible for the torture that Adam Capay has endured now for 52 months. They can tell us they didn’t know, that it isn’t their responsibility, that they don’t have the resources. Many times when something goes wrong, this is defensible. The system isn’t perfect. Mistakes are made. But when those mistakes are as horrific as the Capay case, these excuses won’t do. These men failed. They need to be held accountable and if found responsible, resign.

Canadian politics is filled with spurious and cynical demands that officials resign. But, as Adam Capay still sits alone in solitary, is there any way this could be a more obvious case of official incompetence and culpability?


Fifty-two months of torture and the four men responsible

  1. NO questions. Just fire all these incompetents &/or throw them into a similar situation. As a Canadian I am shocked and embarrassed …. disgusting!!!

    • 4 years of solitary confinement is your right fairly barbaric he should be realeased back in to a more normal jail environment, but let us not ignore the fact he killed another human being. This is a person with some degree of moral problems. How would you or myself feel if he had killed our child?

  2. Open that door immediately….for him and then everyone else in solitary.

    Fire everyone who knew, or should have known, about the situation.

    This is appalling.

  3. put these 4 in solitary until the govt. has a commission ( or 2 ) and decides what to do .

    • You would think in a serious case like this that Criminal Charges should be laid. Further, Adam Capay needs to be transferred immediately to the St. Lawrence Centre for treatment and rehabilitation.

    • This is the absolute best solution. Even if they spent a month in the hole it would do the dirty bastards a world of good but alas….I, for one, am glad Hell has enlargened her gates ’cause there’s a whole lot heading straight there besides these four.

  4. We keep reading that young Adam was incarcerated for a minor offense, that in no time grew into a murder charge. Maybe he threw a crab apple at a postman like Ashley Smith? Neither should ever have been jailed in the first place. But the rule (law?) today seems to be to incarcerate for minor infractions, keep them where they know they don’t deserve to be, watch resentment grow into anguish and despair, ’til some bigger trouble finds them, then get them good (good and dead in Ashley’s case, good and deranged, forever? in Adams?). His treatment now, if the damage isn’t permanent, and might have only been depression or mild bi-polar fifteen hundred and sixty days ago, will cost the tax payers a hell of a lot more now than if he’d been properly placed in the beginning. No wonder certain civilized countries (Australia, for one) are now warning their citizens not to come here even to vacation,

  5. Pretty savage, this goes on all the time, even out west here in vancouver, my son Josh who turned 20 in May has spent the better part of his 2 year less a day sentence in “the hole” as well. I as his mother have read articles and watched a documentary made in the U.S about the effects this can have on a human being and have been very concerned about my son, who before being incarcerated this time has not even spent any amount of time, even in a juvenile facility, why are their lawyers allowing this to happen? Im terrified to see what this has done to my son who was remanded and is still waiting for trial on other charges that allegedly took place around the same time as his sentenced charges, speedy trial???? the system wanted to make an example of him and have offered absolutely no rehabilitation programs to him what so ever.

    • Sent up a wish, hope, prayer for your Josh.

  6. I HAVE PERSONALLY SEEN RIGHT IN MY HOME TOWN RED DEER ALBERTA natives get charged with failing to appear while in custody…. the sheriffs and guards refuse to take them TO COURT….. TWO TIER JUSTICE

    • I agree that those 4 men need to be held accountable for what has happened and should resign from their positions as they have failed. Weather they were aware of what was happening or not they failed.

      Just as important is the people that work at the facility and how their lack of actions in this situation is unacceptable. These people are responsible to uphold the law and have completely failed at their jobs as well. How is this acceptable? Why are they still allowed to have this power and have their jobs?

      I challenge the Canadian Government to give this case the attention that it deserves and conduct an investigation into what has happened to this boy. I challenge them to keep the process transparent and public and to identify the people responsible for this horrific act.

      We need show the people of this country that this is unacceptable and that we take it very seriously. Let’s keep the spotlight on what happened here and maybe we can make a difference.

      Let’s hit the pause button in this country and start fixing the problems we have.

    • Nevermind, Mr. Berry. I’ve seen them, not far south at Airdrie, arrest people (white people, even) on their way to court so they wouldn’t have a chance to clear their name. A mountie out there told me I needed to understand that in the early 60’s the govt., in response to the oil boom and problems, real or anticipated with oil field workers, hired or sent out the meanest cops they knew they had (thugs for hire basically) to “take care of the problem” and that these men stayed, are no longer transferred out, entrenched, and their mean/sick kids have replaced them, literally, today. Made sense when I saw the unbelieveable corruption in policing and justice in AB.

  7. The Ontario Liberal’s already have the worst approval rating in the country. Do the right thing here Mr. Orazietti! Your government can’t do any worse can it?

  8. A Ontario Defense lawyer in needs to take up this case on pro bono and start filing some charter violations for this poor young man. This is far beyond cruel and unusual punishment.It is so sad how aboriginal offenders constantly get loss in the system because of systemic discrimination that is still so prevalent. I hope who ever comes to this young man’s aid puts in a stay of proceeding application right away!

  9. Does anyone need more proof that our government continues its genocidal policies against the native people? It’s a brutality that just does not end. Justin Trudeau can end this young mans misery with a simple gesture, but he wont. There is a dark energy prevalent within all our institutions that run interference with human evolution.

  10. Clearly our justice system is broken on many many levels….now that we all know that, we can demand and follow closely the process to fix it. It is “Our” Justice System…not theirs to do what they want

  11. A young indigenous man is tortured for four years while awaiting trial and the best we can do is to ask men in isolated positions of power to resign? This was an act of torture. How is that accountability?

    • Too right and this fear or complacency is destroying our land, one way and another.

    • Interesting how the torture happened in Thunder Bay eh? Did he also happen to get the sonic boom to the head day in, day out? Quite common for both Thunder Bay and Alberta. Just ask Harper. He and his gang have been in the know for years. Haven’t you darlins’? Canada, a safe and clear headed place to live.

      Could be me posting or one of my stalkers. My stalkers love following me around as well as coming in my home. They don’t even bother to wait until I leave the house. Just come in and help themselves. Hard to call the cops when nothing of real value has been taken. Better to post on all the boards so people from all over the world know how wonderfully lightheaded Albertans have it. The Brothers know, don’t they darlins’?

      I don’t speak Chinese, economics, German or stock market. Have your Stanley Cup winner all picked out yet?

  12. and why is he not out of that horrible holding cell and solitary confinement. There should be no questions right now of who’s responsible and blah blah blah. GET HIM OUT OF THERE! Citizens of that area storm the place if you have to. How can any of you just sit idly by waiting for answers. Do something for this poor kid. Get off your butts and do for once in your miserable existances. How can any of you sleep at night knowing he’s right around the corner from you and suffering. And for any of these people, officials, cops, whoever to say they didn’t know and just found out 13 days ago is BS and bold faced lies. And you all know it. You’re all just as guilty for continuing to allow him to remain as he is. Just do it!!!

  13. This is horrible, especially since he has not been proven guilty. It sounds a lot like a case in New Jersey with Caleb kai McGillivary. Not proven guilty, not given a trail, evidence hidden, destroyed and lied about and locked up for 23 hours everyday, some days not let out at all. What happened to innocent until proven guiltyÉ Those who have tried to go to our government to help get told there is nothing they can do…this should not be like this here or there. I sure hope this young fellow gets the help that he needs to be able to integrate back into society.There is no payment big enough to give him back the lost years though.

  14. Bill Wheeler, David Orazietti, David Orazietti, David Orazietti. Who has gave these men license to recklessly torture the most vulnerable young Canadians? I wonder if they’ve yet paraded to the basement to have their selfies taken with the latest victim of their inhumanity? Who has performed the greater crime? This cabal of torturers conspiring to maim and harm? Or the boy trapped in the plexiglass box already teetering on the edge of madness because of their pathetically evil need for power.

    • Bill Wheeler, David Orazietti, Matthew Torigian and Yasir Naqvi . Who gave these men license to recklessly torture the most vulnerable young Canadians? I wonder if they’ve yet paraded to the basement to have their selfies taken with the latest victim of their inhumanity? Who has performed the greater crime? This cabal of torturers conspiring to maim and harm? Or the boy trapped in the plexiglass box already teetering on the edge of madness because of their pathetically evil need for power.

  15. Let me tell you about the Canada I grew up in. When I was fifteen years old I was put in solitary confinement for six weeks in a small concrete cell in the basement of a juvenile facility in Quebec we called Berthelette. I was stripped down to my underwear and socks, given two blankets and thrown into a dank cell. The only light came through a small window in the door. The bed was plywood over concrete. I used one blanket to cover myself and the other as a pillow. For breakfast I was given two pieces of toast and a small Styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee. Lunch and dinner was either a plain baloney sandwich or a plain cheese sandwich and a cup of powdered milk. Those cups were important as there was no toilet in the cells so we were forced to use them and carry them to the toilet to empty the once a day we were taken out to use the facilities. We got showers twice a week but otherwise stayed in our cells. There was one child down there who was twelve years old. I’m sixty-two now and remember that like it was yesterday. My crime? I ran away from Boys Farm and Training School in Shawbridge Quebec because I felt I had done enough time after serving twelve months of an open ended sentence for breaking into a pastry shop, causing NO damage and stealing about two dollars in change from a cash register. All of the children at Shawbridge were serving open ended sentences and no matter how old they were when sentenced (some as young as eight) and could have been kept indefinitely even being transferred to an adult prison on their twenty-second birthday. This is just one small part of my treatment by Canada’s third rate justice system and the one of the reasons I have never had any respect for the people in our justice system from the pig on the street to the pig on the bench and all the way to the pigs in parliament who made such foul laws. Anyone who could do that to a child deserves no respect and Adam Capay shows me that things haven’t changed in Canada one bit.

    • Most Canadians won’t even believe that the thing you described here, Nite Owl, could have ever happened in Canada which is one of the reasons its still happening. But I had a friend who worked in the juvenile justice system and she warned me (I had teenagers) twentyfive years ago about the very same kind of thing happening here in SK (kids, children getting into a cruel system for no real good reason whatsoever, a system they sometimes never escaped) and on a fairly large scale. It is terrifying. One day my eight year old grandson picked up a payphone in the foyer of a service station. I told him to hang it up, which he did immediately. The phone then rang. It was the police. I told the woman everything was fine, that a child had just picked up the phone, neither of us realizing it would dial out without coins. She insisted on engaging me, telling me we were not allowed to leave, that I was not allowed to hang up, which of course I did. It was all of the theatre of the absurd. She sent the RCMP who must have been around the corner or in the building and one big, mean, highly agitated older “officer” started losing his marbles on my grandchild. I interrupted firmly, in spite of his aggression, with, “This is an eight year old child you are talking (snarling at) to! An eight year old!” When he saw I wasn’t going to be pushed around, nor let my grandson, he straightened himself out and we were allowed to leave. He definitely made an impression on our wide eyed, suddenly pale, children: Bully in a uniform wearing a gun that I was asked if I saw. And grandma informed them that this bully was paid a handsome salary with a lot of perks, too. The disgust, once they felt safe again, on their young faces….Yes, third rate system is right and I understand your anger, it burns me up too but please know there are a few good ones among them. Don’t lose sight of it and try to be, if you’re not, grateful that you were one of the lucky ones who escaped when how many (we will never know, in many cases) others did not ?

      • Hi Anna. Thanks for your kind reply. One thing though. I can’t agree with your statement that there are a few good people left in Canada’s injustice system. Good honest people don’t turn their heads and look away when they see their fellow officers, judges or members of parliament committing a crime. Our system is so riddled with rot that if they do the right thing and report said crimes they’ll find themselves out of a job and to them having the job is more important than doing the job we expect of them and pay them extremely well for, properly and with honour. They’re willing to look the other way for a paycheque. The whole system stinks from top to bottom and needs reform that our parliamentarians haven’t the courage to take on. I always found it odd that when anyone simply asks that the police be held accountable for their crimes like anyone else they are immediately attacked and called cop haters by the police and their blind supporters. Cop haters for expecting our hundred thousand dollar a year cops to be held to account for any crimes they commit. And when the crimes committed are so heinous that the officer, judge or politician, heaven forbid, lose their jobs their supporters and fellow criminals say that the price they paid is too high. Too High! One thing I know for sure. Any Canadian currently sitting in jail, often for far lesser crimes, would gladly have accepted a sentence of losing their job in place of doing time as they’re currently losing them anyway by being in jail. No, there are no good cops, judges or politicians Anna. They all lack honour and the courage required to clean out our Augean stable of a system.

    • seventeen years ago my then wife convinced an untrained emergency room
      doctor i was bipolar because i was doing strange things to finance a new business.the doctor decide i should be form oned and sent for observation.i was sent to penetang where there was no room and then transferred 90 mile by ambulance to the psychiatric ward in owen sound.i spent 3 weeks there(my wife brought my kids to see me once .i was in a glass room in my underwear.i ran my business from there on payphone.after three weeks they just let me go with no order of treatment.i have been under the care of a bipolar specialist for fifiteen years under my own choice,i went to collingwood hospital with a broken finger.they did nothing except check my medication this day my finger is not right.i know i am different but i was never a threat to anyone but myself.canada prides itself on human rights.does this mean i am not human?

  16. To: Moderator and Senior Editor; please ensure that this extraordinary article and its related comments is not removed from this Website … until there is official confirmation that Adam Capay is being humanely cared for.

    One could imagine a huge petition developed for delivery to the P.M. (If there is one, please provide details here).

  17. The Provincial and Federal Governments in Canada are criminal organizations engaged in a form of genocide against native people.

    The government classes in Canada are also attacking non – natives and stealing their lands and other property. Kidnapping their children and selling them into sexual slavery.

    See for information on the public service pension plan.

  18. Adam Capay is a First Nations person, how else would he be treated. If he was a white kid he would not have been incarcerated in the first place. WTF is wrong with the system when a young man is kept in the hole in these conditions for 52 months waiting to go to trial? This is the kind of cruelty you expect from third world totalitarian dictatorships. Sad very,very sad.

  19. At the end of the day Premier Kathleen Wynn is “accountable” for the action/in-action of her ministers. If she is not capable/competent to provide us with good government she should resign, so should the Attorney General, and the Minster for Correctional Services.
    The problem with our system there is no “accountability”. These uncaring incompetent people should be charged with torture and crimes against humanity.

    • Being accountable and taking responsibility are two different things. Power is the only thing politicians care about – power corrupts. The premier’s take on Grassy Narrows shows clearly that people’s lives are of no concern: in that case, the province specifically assumed accountability and responsibility (a point reinforced by the courts on several occasions) yet over the intervening 5 decades politicians have staunchly refused to be accountable or take any responsibility. In this specific case and others like it, Canadian politicians and civil servants can hide behind the fact that Canadian law is weak on the prohibition of torture although by international agreement Canada is committed to consider torture illegal. The problem with this is that no one is ever punished for acts of torture and politicians will rationalize egregious actions, justify injustice and make ‘dangerous criminals’ out of ordinary people in order to justify extra-legal actions. Within this story we see repeated use of common political ruses including the minimization and/or disassociation from individual cases and specifics, essentially dehumanizing the situation, refusal to discuss specifics for a host of nebulous reasons and shifting responsibility in so many directions in order to cloud the issue even if it means disclaiming the chain of command. The mistake we make when considering the actions of politicians and civil servants is assuming that individual lives matter and/or that they care: “if you think they’re looking out for you, you ain’t even number 2” (Zappa).

  20. I’m 47 years old and a couple years ago was being stalked by a girl I had a brief relationship with that lasted 10 months. She used to show up at places I was having dinner dates with other girls and sabotage my date then tell me to move back in with her even though she was responsible for the break up. She then told people in the complex we lived in that I was a drug dealer and kept spreading rumours about me. I wrote a long letter and gave it to everyone in the complex about her antics as she then went to the police and said I was a drug dealer and was harassing her. The police approached me about 3 times over the next year telling me to stop giving the neighbors this letter for which I refused as I had done nothing wrong and was clearing my name. They left me alone each time then one day I was arrested. She made up some stories about how I was harassing her and now feared for her safety which wasn’t true. She told the police I had been physical with her and that was also a lie. This particular cop decided to be a hero and come to save the say and arrested me. Then my mother died and I had a lot on my plate so I told this girl just to stay the he’ll away from me and quit lying to the police. She then got her friend that lived in the complex to phone the police and say she was worried for her safety once again. This friend met me ONE time for ONE minute prior and never witnessed ANYTHING that said she needed to be saved from me or I was hurting her in any way shape or form. Nexr thing I knew I was off to jail for a month just to get my bail hearing. At the time I learned some thing’s about the system. First of all if you apply and get legal aide for a ‘free’ lawyer, you’re screwed right there. That lawyer will screw you every chance he can because the more times he goes before a judge for you the more money he gets. $500 a pop every time even if the court appearance is 30 seconds long. The longer he keeps you in custody the more appearances he gets for you and the next thing I knew he was questioning my ‘mental stability’ and I was sent to an insane asylum 4 hours away for a one month assessment. He actually recommended this to the judge as I sat there with my jaw open.

    • I was never allowed to speak at any time for anything when I made my court appearances and was disgusted at how easily a girl could lie and have all these charges brought against me. She then made up text messages and emails and told the crown they were from me after I was arrested so they added 6 more charges against me. Fast for ward a bit after I finally got out of jail on bail which by the way you can not post for yourself even if you have the money IN YOUR HAND. Doesn’t matter….you have to have someone else post it for you. Now at this time the only person I could have had post my bail was now dead and thanks to that bitch of a liar I missed her funeral. I had to then try and find someone else to post my $1000 bail money for me and call them on the prison phone. To call anyone on the phone from prison you have to have a calling card which you need to buy from the prison. Minimum $10 for one. Luckily I had $25 in my pocket at the time of my arrest or I wouldn’t be able to make a call to anyone. When you’re in a facility like prison awaiting for your bail hearing you get a very limited window to access the phones. There’s two phones for 30 inmates and they are always being used all the time. Your electronic calling card is done by voice recognition over the phone line and you get three chances to say your name into the receiver to make it work. If it fails three times you go to the back of the line. IT NEVER WORKS. Most inmates have to get another inmate that it actually does work for and get them to activate it on their line for you then you can proceed if you have your calling card on you with minutes left on it. 10 minutes is $10 and if you get an answering service it’s an automatic $1.50 charge. Now what you need to understand is this part. This is only if you KNOW the number you’re calling as there is no 411 in prison. What there IS in prison is the phone book for the town the prison is in. NO ONE is from the town the prison is in. I came from a town four hours away so all the numbers I needed came from MY local towns phone book. You do NOT get Internet services in prison awaiting bail or awaiting trial if you couldn’t get bail posted for you by someone else.

      • Since all my contacts were in my cell phone that was locked away with my personal things I had no access to them at all and even if I did….my phone wasn’t charged anymore that’s for sure. How many contacts numbers can anyone remember anymore other than family? Not many and it was a huge problem for everyone. Cell numbers even if you could access the www or 411 aren’t given out these days or change a lot so you’re screwed for contacting your contacts. Your contacts are a thumbnail picture of them anyways and you’ll never remember anyone’s number so good luck with that. Luckily a guard that was nice enough went online for me and contacted an aunt that was in the 411 system and I got a land line number for her that I could call. She lived 9 hours away and I hadn’t chatted with her in years. What a time to catch up with family.

      • Since all my contacts were in my cell phone that was locked away with my personal things I had no access to them at all and even if I did….my phone wasn’t charged anymore that’s for sure. How many contacts numbers can anyone remember anymore other than family? Not many and it was a huge problem for everyone. Cell numbers even if you could access the www or 411 aren’t given out these days or change a lot so you’re screwed for contacting your contacts. Your contacts are a thumbnail picture of them anyways and you’ll never remember anyone’s number so good luck with that. Luckily a guard that was nice enough went online for me and contacted an aunt that was in the 411 system and I got a land line number for her that I could call. She lived 9 hours away and I hadn’t chatted with her in years. What a time to catch up with family.

  21. Then we hear how Canada is going to teach lessons to other countries about Human Rights, when you have government ministers so how of touch like Orazietti and Naqvi who take no action then you have to wonder can we really preach to anyone. As for the bureaucrats in charge of the jail, they are ignorant of their duties and international law and have a firm eye on their bonus and promotions, so what is a little crime against humanity.

  22. It’s sad to see how the world views a Native in prison; compared to any other race…if he had been any other race and killed a native he would of been given a day extra in jail…must of been a white guy who he killed, or he would never of been forgotten about. Yes I know I sound Racist and am turning this into a race issue because it is a race issue.


  24. I am appalled at this treatment of this young man. This needs to be corrected immediately, regardless of who is at fault, and charges need to be filed against every person who has known about this young mans confinement for the last four years and have not spoken for him. There needs to be an hour intervention on young Adams behalf because clearly nobody had stepped forward. What can I do to help? If there is anything. Please let me know.

  25. 4 years of solitary confinement! There’s no doubt this is far too long and a terrible injustice against the young man. But let us not forgot that he most likely killed another human being. ” mental illness” or not the worst crime you can commit. If it had been our son that had been killed by this man how much clemency would you have for him;?

  26. Thank you for excellent, solutions-oriented journalism.