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B.C. prison guard assaulted 200+ inmates, lawsuit alleges

"Being coerced and sexually assaulted by a correctional officer is never part of the jail sentence," said the notice of civil claim.
A cell block inside Oakalla prison in the mid-1980s.

A former B.C. prison guard alleged to have assaulted more than 200 prisoners is named along with B.C.’s government as a defendant in a new class-action suit.

“These sexual assaults all took place while the men were serving their rehabilitative jail sentences,” said a B.C. Supreme Court notice of civil claim filed April 15. “Being coerced and sexually assaulted by a correctional officer is never part of the jail sentence.”

The suit said the focus of the action is on the province’s failure to investigate, prevent and report the assaults allegedly committed by Roderic David MacDougall during his 21-year tenure as a guard.

He and the attorney general of B.C. are named as defendants.

The representative claimant is Joseph Madore who, starting at age 18, was an inmate at the Lower Mainland Correctional Centre, better known as Oakhalla.

The suit said MacDougall, now retired and living in Burnaby, was a corrections officer at Oakhalla, Fraser Regional Correctional Centre, Surrey Pretrial Centre and Alouette Regional Correctional Centre between 1976 and 1997.

The court documents said he was convicted in 2000 for sexual assaults, indecent assaults and extortion in relation to five inmates at Oakhalla.

The suit alleged MacDougall abused his position to facilitate the sexual assaults by offering preferential treatment, suggesting sexual or physical abuse from other inmates or saying their lives would be more difficult or they could be transferred to riskier or more violent prisons.

The suit further said the “serial sexual predation over more than two decades” was made possible because B.C. Corrections did not investigate rumours, complaints and reports of sexual assaults; did not establish processes and safeguards to protect inmates; did not report MacDougall’s activity to law enforcement; and did not fire MacDougall.

The claim said other Oakhalla officers as well as inmates had reported MacDougall but nothing was done.

Other officers confronted MacDougall, according to the court documents.

“Unchecked, Mr. MacDougall continued with his sexual predation,” the claim said.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Despite the convictions and RCMP charge recommendations in 2010, the BC Prosecution Service did not proceed, the claim said.

And, it said, despite an increasing number of lawsuits, neither the province nor B.C. Corrections has undertaken a review to determine how the alleged crime could have continued for two decades.

The suit seeks compensatory, punitive and aggravated damages and declarations that the province breached its duty to class members and that the province’s failure to investigate and prevent sexual assaults was a violation of their right not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.

The claim said that, since 2002 the province and/or MacDougall have been sued by more than 200 former inmates alleging sexual abuse at his hands. About half have been adjudicated or settled, it said.

The new action, the claim said, is for those whose cases remain unresolved or have yet to commence a claim.

B.C.’s Ministry of Attorney General said it could not comment on the suit as it is before the courts.