Prisoners’ Justice Day
August 10th

On August 10th each year since it began in 1975, current and former prisoners, and their allies in Canada and around the world honour Prisoners’ Justice Day (PJD) in various ways. Every year on August 10th since P4W’s closure in the year 2000, a group of women who were in prison there have gathered on these grounds to hold a healing circle in honour of the sisters they lost inside. The first large-scale healing circle was organized by the P4WMC in 2018, followed by an open public gathering and feast where people are invited to speak and share stories. The Healing Circle is a sacred Indigenous ceremony with a fire-keeper and sacred fire burning with sweet grass and smudging led by an Elder. There are also drummers, dancers, and singers. This healing ceremony has grown over the years to include formerly imprisoned men, women, and gender-diverse people from other prisons and jails, along with family members, friends, allies, Elders, and other supporters. Since P4W was the only prison designated for women until the late 1990s, former prisoners travel from across Canada to Kingston each year to join together for this important day.

Prisoners’ Justice Day Observed
August 10, 2023

The Honorable Kim Pate, Senator for Ontario
Algonquin Anishinabe Aki
Homeland of the Algonquin Anishinabeg Nation

On Prisoners’ Justice Day, we stand in solidarity with prisoners, their families, supporters and allies across the country as they honour the memory of the youth, men and women who have died in prisons.

Prisoners’ Justice Day began as a commemoration of the preventable death of a prisoner in segregation at Millhaven Penitentiary 5 decades ago. Today it is recognized around the world as a day that marks the international struggles against continued neglect, silence and inaction regarding the human rights and legal protections of and for prisoners.

As more and more graves sites are confirmed, we must face the colonial legacy that has rendered prisons the current day residential schools for too many Indigenous Peoples. In addition, the Black Lives Matter movement has underscored deep-rooted and systemic racism and discrimination that costs too many racialized peoples their well-being and lives within Canada’s criminal legal and prison systems. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted and exacerbated pre-existing human rights violations including long- term conditions of isolation and solitary confinement and a lack of access to the community-based alternatives to prison, particularly health and mental health care options.

Along with long term care and other forms of institutionalization, prisons must be called to account. We must ensure that the recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights with respect to the Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons are implemented to end and remedy egregious human and Charter rights violations and ensure judicial oversight and accountability of correctional services.

This Prisoners’ Justice Day, and every day, let us honour those who have died as a result of systemic silence, neglect, discrimination and violence.

Let us honour those inside, their loved ones, advocates and allies who are working tirelessly to uphold human rights and dignity for all. Let us honour those seeking an end to systemic discrimination, including based on race, gender and ability. Let us honour the women who lived and died in the Prison for Women in Kingston and support the work of all whose courage and leadership both inside prisons and in their communities amount to decades of work to decolonize, decriminalize and decarcerate.

With humility and gratitude, we extend appreciation and respect to all marking this Prisoners’ Justice Day. It is vital to hold Canada to account for its victimization, criminalization and imprisonment of those most economically, racially, socially and personally marginalized. Together, in solidarity, we can, and we must build a fair, just and inclusive future for all.

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For more information: Office of Senator Kim Pate – – Tel: 613-995-9220

The Evolution of Prisoners' Justice Day

On August 10th, 1974, a prisoner named Eddie Nalon died by suicide alone in a segregation cell of Millhaven Maximum Security Prison located in Bath, Ontario. Eddie was serving a life sentence and was frequently placed in segregation for peaceful resistance of unjust prison policies and practices. The following year on the anniversary of his death, August 10th, 1975, prisoners at Millhaven participated in a one-day hunger strike, refused to work, and held a memorial service for Eddie. Many of these prisoners who participated in this first Prisoners’ Justice Day were placed in segregation for over a year. On August 10th, 1976, thousands of prisoners across Canada joined in this one-day peaceful protest against the use of segregation while community organizers in various provinces also held events to raise public awareness about prisoners’ concerns. Since then, hundreds of prisoners across the country have been segregated for participating in the struggle for prisoner justice, many of whom have died at the hands of the system.

In 1983 prisoners in France participated in a hunger strike to recognize August 10th and by the mid-1990s prisoners from other European countries and the United States joined together in solidarity to peacefully protest harmful prison conditions.

An International Beacon of Solidarity and Advocacy

Over the decades this movement for prisoner justice has grown into an international struggle and show of solidarity with imprisoned and criminalized people around the world. August 10th is a day to honour everyone who has lived and died behind prison walls, with many prisoners refusing to work, fasting, or holding events to oppose systemic violence. Community organizers hold vigils, healing circles, protests, public demonstrations, and other events aimed at supporting prisoner resistance. Prisoners’ Justice Day is a time to acknowledge the overrepresentation of Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour, women and gender-diverse people, and people who struggle with mental health issues, poverty, and addiction inside a brutal, inhumane system.


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