Quebec man tortured in Mexican prison wants answers from federal government
CBC CBCMarch 26, 2018
Régent Boily is asking the federal government for answers on why he was extradited to Mexico in 2007, where he was tortured by prison guards. (Radio-Canada)
Régent Boily sits in his kitchen at his home near Montreal, where he has been living since he was released from a Mexican prison. Daylight streams in from a large window.
This is "his favourite spot," after spending more than 10 years locked away.
That incarceration left its mark on the 74-year-old. Though still quick-witted, his gestures are marked by nervousness.
"If I go to a restaurant, I have to sit with my back against the wall, because I have to see who's around me. I'm afraid of being assaulted," the ex-convict said, his hands clenched.
"I have nightmares where I drown or there are rats eating me from the inside."
Those nightmares have shaken Boily from his sleep ever since he was first tortured in a Mexican prison on Aug. 17, 2007. He described how guards dunked his head under water about 10 times in a row.
"The barrel was full of water. There was a bag of potato chips and a dead rat floating on the surface, and I could see little bugs swimming around," Boily said.
"I could feel things coming into my mouth. It was the worst moment of anxiety that a human being can experience. Each time I went under, I was sure I was going to die … I was spitting, vomiting. They kept dunking my head back into my vomit."
A troubled past
Boily, originally from Hull, Que., accepts that he has made mistakes in his life. Grave mistakes.
The first was in 1998. At the time, he was living in Mexico and had agreed to transport some 580 kilograms (about 1,300 pounds) of marijuana in his motorhome.
Boily was caught, arrested, convicted of drug trafficking, sentenced to 14 years and thrown in jail. He escaped in 1999: while he was on an escorted trip outside the prison for an eye exam, accomplices freed him from a car.
During the escape, a prison guard was killed. Boily says he only learned of the guard's death later from the TV news.
Boily fled to the Outaouais region of Quebec, where he lived uneventfully for six years.
In 2005, justice caught up with him. He was arrested at his home in La Pêche, Que., north of Gatineau. Nicknamed the "fugitive of La Pêche," Boily was wanted by Mexican authorities who called for his extradition.
At the time, Boily was ready to serve a sentence for the crimes, but feared returning to Mexico, where he was tortured by police after his initial arrest in 1998.
From 2005 to 2007, he remained in custody at the Hull prison, while his lawyers, Michel Swanston and Christian Deslauriers, exhausted all possible avenues to prevent his extradition to Mexico.
"Back then, we went on Yahoo — a search engine — we typed 'torture' and 'Mexico,' and there were over a million hits that came back," Deslauriers told Radio-Canada in an interview.
Canadian and international law prohibits Canada from deporting anyone to a country where there is a serious risk they may be tortured.
But in 2007, the Harper government convinced Canadian courts that this risk had been ruled out in Boily's case. Rob Nicholson, who was then justice minister, obtained diplomatic assurances from the Mexican government that it would respect Boily's rights.
An eight-page document lists the guarantees provided by the Mexican constitution.
The Harper government promised that a monitoring mechanism would be put in place by the Canadian Embassy in Mexico to ensure that Boily's rights were respected once he was back on Mexican soil.
"All of that was just smoke and mirrors," Swanston said in an interview with Radio-Canada. "Through an access to information request, we learned that no monitoring whatsoever was ever put in place."
Emails from Canadian officials at the time show that Boily's extradition took them by surprise.
On Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2007, officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa and the Canadian Embassy in Mexico circulated a newspaper article.
"I see from the media that it may be imminent that Mr. Boily will be extradited back to Mexico," an email said. It also said officials didn't even have a copy of the diplomatic assurances made by Mexico.
Another surprise came the following day — Thursday, Aug. 16, 2007 — when embassy staff learned that Boily would be extradited to the Zacatecas prison, the same one from which he had escaped.
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