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Tribunal dismisses Okanagan inmate’s complaint over being denied Nike Airs in jail

A former Okanagan Correctional Centre (OCC) inmate’s dispute regarding his footwear while serving time has been dismissed by the BC Human Rights Tribunal.

In a decision published earlier this month, tribunal member Edward Takayanagi determined that Daniel Smith had “no reasonable prospect of succeeding with his complaint.”

Smith made the complaint against the Provincial Health Authority (PHA), which provides healthcare to people incarcerated at the OCC.

While locked up from Oct. 3, 2019, until Nov. 22, 2019, Smith saw his requests to wear his own personal shoes, described as “new Nike Airs,” denied by the PHA.

Inmates are not permitted to wear personal shoes while incarcerated unless they receive the appropriate medical approval to do so.

Smith had said that his Nike Airs would help with his back pain and was instructed to submit a healthcare request to wear his shoes.

<who>Photo Credit: 123rf

“Mr. Smith did not submit a healthcare request,” reads Takayanagi’s decision. “Instead, he made a second request for his shoes on Oct. 13, 2019. Mr. Smith’s second request for his shoes was denied.”

Eight days after the failed second request, Smith reportedly submitted another request to wear his Nikes citing a “biometrics system,” but not a medical professional.

For a third time, his request was denied and he was told that the Nike Airs could not be deemed orthopedic shoes.

Takayanagi noted that the OCC and PHA did not dispute Smith’s physical disability, but called his allegations “vague” and claimed he failed to prove that he suffered an adverse impact from the shoes provided to him in jail.

“Mr. Smith says that being denied the use of his shoes inflicted ‘pain and suffering due to injuries directly impacted by the improper footwear’ he was forced to wear,” the decision explained.

“The respondents dispute that Mr. Smith suffered an adverse impact connected to a disability when he was denied the use of his shoes. They argue that there is no reasonable prospect Mr. Smith could show that use of his shoes could have prevented his pain.”

It added that there was no evidence a doctor approved Smith’s shoes, that they had any medical qualities or that not wearing them had any negative health effects.

Takayanagi said the only document referencing Smith’s use of footwear was a note from a foot clinic in October 2020 that said he required a quality of shoe that offers functional support.

While that note was produced a year after his time in the OCC, Smith claimed it was evidence that being denied the use of his shoes during his prison stay had an adverse impact on his physical disability.

However, Takayanagi said the single medical note “written nearly a year after his incarceration” does not counteract several documents provided by the OCC and PHA in this case.

“(The OCC and PHA) have provided health service records, including Mr. Smith’s own requests stating that his shoes had no orthotic element or medically prescribed benefits,” Takayanagi wrote.

In the end, Takayanagi determined that Smith did not establish that he suffered an adverse impact as a result of the jail’s refusal to let him wear Nike Airs and dismissed his complaint.

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