The Termite Collective, a self-described Montreal-based collective that supports “folks doing time,” organized its first “Lunch and Learn” event on January 26 alongside Midnight Kitchen at the Shatner building.
While the grassroots organization collectively hopes to expose the increasingly repressive nature of prisons through workshops, political parody, and criminal cabaret, the Termite Collective does not hold a singular line of thinking that members have to follow. One member explained that the Termite Collective prioritizes a “shared value system brought together by concerns regarding life inside prisons.”
The night’s discussion began with an overview of the history of prisons in Canada, and their relation to Canada’s colonial and expansionist past. The topic transitioned to a discussion about the lived experiences of Canadian inmates, particularly Black and Indigenous populations, who are overrepresented in prison.
Members of the collective explained how Black and Indigenous people are more likely to receive poor treatment in prison: in 2015-2016, out of 1,800 “use of force” incidents in federal institutions (i.e. the use of inflammatory agents, such as pepper spray, the use of restraint equipment, weapons, as well as the display and/or use of firearms), 30 per cent involved Indigenous inmates and 18 per cent involved Black inmates. According to the report, 36.6 per cent of the incidents involve inmates with an identified mental health issue, and people of colour in prison are far less likely to receive counselling for mental health issues.
The discussion eventually gravitated toward the understanding of the debate around prisons. The collective stressed the importance of being critical of laws that function to control rather than to prevent harm, which are often put in place to empower elites. Concepts of restorative and transformative justice were also discussed. The “Lunch and Learn” event concluded with a group discussion where participants engaged with members of the collective to share experiences.