A solitary confinement cell is shown in a undated handout photo from the Office of the Correctional Investigator. (Office of the Correctional Investigator via The Canadian Press)

B.C.’s top court gives Ottawa more time to fix solitary confinement law

Federal government now has until mid-June to bring in replacement legislation

The Court of Appeal of B.C. has given the federal government more time to fix its solitary confinement law after a lower court declared indefinite prisoner segregation unconstitutional.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruling last January gave Ottawa a year to enact replacement legislation, and the Appeal Court has now extended the deadline to June 17, with conditions to protect prisoners’ constitutional rights in the meantime.

READ MORE: B.C. Supreme court rules indefinite solitary confinement in prisons unconstitutional

“While we are prepared to extend the suspension of the declaration of constitutional invalidity, that cannot be a justification for the federal government to maintain unchanged the conditions of inmates kept in administrative segregation,” a three-judge panel wrote in a joint ruling released Monday.

The conditions to protect prisoners include that health-care professionals must complete daily visual observations of inmates in solitary confinement and advise the institutional head within 24 hours if they believe the inmate must be removed from segregation.

The institutional head must then either remove the prisoner from solitary confinement “without delay,” or provide a written explanation of why the recommendation is not being implemented, the court said.

Segregated inmates must also be offered an extra 30 minutes of daily yard time, bringing their total time allowed outside their cells to 2 1/2 hours a day.

The court also ordered the Correctional Service of Canada to direct staff to inform segregated prisoners of their right to a lawyer and to allow lawyers to make submissions on behalf of inmates at solitary confinement review board hearings.

The correctional service must also take steps to have Indigenous elders routinely visit segregation units and offer counselling to Indigenous inmates, the court said.

The deadline to have most of the conditions in place is Jan. 18.

The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada launched the legal challenge.

A nine-week trial in 2017 heard from former inmates who continue to experience mental health issues after being released and from the father of a 37-year-old man who hanged himself at Matsqui Institution in Abbotsford, B.C., following his placement in a segregation cell.

Jay Aubrey, litigation counsel for the civil liberties association, said Monday that prolonged solitary confinement causes severe psychological distress, causing some inmates to take their lives.

“This is the cost of solitary confinement. It’s human lives. It’s people that we love,” she said.

The advocacy groups also oppose a bill introduced in October. Bill C-83 would mean prisoners who pose risks to security or themselves would instead be moved to new “structured intervention units” and offered the opportunity to spend four hours a day outside their cells, with a minimum of two hours to interact with others.

However, the bill does not include hard caps on how many days or months inmates can be isolated from the general prison population.

Laura Kane, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Pubs accused of ‘negligently’ serving alcohol before Surrey traffic crash

The case concerns an Aug. 2, 2015 single-vehicle crash

Surrey mayor says Newton needs more recreation facilities

Surrey council has approved the “Stage 2 Final Report” of the Newton Town Centre Plan

Parallel crises: How COVID-19 has exacerbated the drug overdose emergency

Part 1: Surrey, White Rock officials say isolation, CERB, contributing to crisis

Surrey city staff hears restricting recovery homes to six clients won’t cut it

Corporate report notes there are more recovery homes in Surrey than in every other community in B.C. combined

Gravestones repaired at Surrey Centre Cemetery

Restoration now complete on seven pioneer grave markers vandalized in April

Camping offers a great pandemic escape, for less money than you might think

But for many first-timers, knowing what to bring can be a challenge

Turbulence in Canadian opinion on airlines COVID-19 response: poll

Thousands of people have beseeched Transport Minister Marc Garneau to compel airlines to issue refunds,

Police issue warning after baby comes across suspected drugs in Kamloops park

The 11-month-old girl’s mother posted photos on social media showing a small plastic bag containing a purple substance

Collision results in train derailment just east of Golden

The derailment occurred Sunday night, according to a statement from CP

Missing Fraser Valley man’s car found in Harrison

Michael Denham has been missing since June 27

Lower Mainland woman says llama farming neighbour shot her 11-month-old pup

Young dog was on owner’s Maple Ridge property when it was killed on June 21

B.C. records 31 new cases, six deaths over three days due to COVID-19

There are 166 active cases in B.C., 16 people in hospital

Most Read