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

Just Posted

100 Mile House Blind Curling team comes in third on home ice

Club will be going to the 2019 Western Blind Curling Association Championship in March

Combination of skiing and yoga is a hit for the 100 Mile House Nordics Club

The club offers a new program where women can night ski together and wind down with yoga

100 Mile House’s Youth Zone to be given a new name and branding

CFEC hoping rebrand will help them with youth engagement

Athlete in Focus: Harley Bootsma of the 100 Mile House Wranglers

“I definitely play a lot more here then I did in Revelstoke”

Ferry connecting Port Hardy and Bella Coola expected to set sail this summer

Its first in-service route will sail in central coast waters on May 18, 2019.

REPLAY: B.C’s best videos this week

In case you missed it, here’s a look at the replay-worth highlights from this week across the province

Patriots make 3rd straight Super Bowl, beat Chiefs 37-31 in OT

New England will meet L.A. Rams in NFL title game

Pettersson returns to lead Canucks to 3-2 win over Red Wings

Vancouver’s super rookie has 2 points in first game back after knee injury

Skaters stranded in Saint John, NB, amid storm on last day of championships

More than half of the flights out of the city’s airport were cancelled due to the weather

Call for tighter bail rules after Saudi sex-crime suspect vanishes

Mohammed Zuraibi Alzoabi was facing charges related to alleged sexual assault, criminal harassment, assault and forcible confinement of a woman

12 poisoned eagles found on Vancouver Island

Improper disposal of euthanized animal suspected

Olympic softball qualifier to be held in B.C.

Tournament is to be held Aug. 25 to Sept. 1

B.C. resident creates global sport training program

The 20 hour course teaches the science and application of interval training at the university level

B.C. VIEWS: Fact-checking the NDP’s speculation tax on empty homes

Negative-option billing is still legal for governments

Most Read