Rights Groups Fight Government’s Appeal Of Solitary Confinement Ruling

Vancouver – The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) and the John Howard Society of Canada (JHSC) filed its response to the Canadian government’s recent attempt to overturn the court-ordered end to indefinite solitary confinement in prisons across Canada. [The summary of federal government and BCCLA/JHSC arguments can be found below]

The federal government appealed a decision of the BC Supreme Court, which found that the laws allowing for the use of solitary confinement violate the Charter rights of prisoners, cause permanent harm, and make prisons and society less safe.

Rob Roy, a witness in the solitary confinement trial, responded to the government’s decision to appeal: “Prolonged solitary confinement drove my son Chris to the brink of desperation. Solitary confinement led him to take his own life. Chris needed addiction help and mental illness help. Unfortunately, that’s not what he got. I am by no means an expert on solitary confinement. I am simply a father of a really good young man. I speak as a family member who was affected by solitary confinement in the worst possible way. And I know this is not how we should be treating any human being.”

Jay Aubrey, Counsel for BCCLA, stated: “Incarcerated people remain trapped in small cells without meaningful human contact. The severe physical and psychological harm that results from this isolation has been proven over and over again. The B.C. Supreme Court heard from individuals, like Bobby Lee Worm and Amanda Lepine, who suffered under this unconstitutional regime and the Court ruled that the practice of indefinite solitary confinement must end in Canada. Despite all of this, the government continues to fight to defend this torturous practice.”

The decision under appeal, which struck down the federal government’s administrative segregation regime as unconstitutional, was the result of a legal challenge brought by the BCCLA and JHSC. “We are appalled by the federal government’s decision to appeal when this government came into office on a promise to end indefinite solitary confinement. Instead, this appeal shows that they intend to fight to save a system that violates the Charter rights of Canadians, and makes our society less safe,” stated Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BCCLA.

Catherine Latimer, Executive Director of the JHSC, added: “The problems with solitary confinement have been obvious for decades, with recommendations for reform coming from all quarters of society, including the Correctional Investigator of Canada and the United Nations Committee against Torture. Now, the B.C. Supreme Court has recognized that the practice discriminated against Indigenous people and persons with mental illness. It is deeply unfortunate that, rather than accept that truth and work to correct it, the government wishes to ignore it.”

BCCLA and JHSC are represented in this case by Joseph Arvay, Q.C., and Alison Latimer of Arvay Finlay LLP, Vancouver, and Caily DiPuma of Woodward and Company, Victoria.

Summary of arguments linked here.
BCCLA and JHSC’s factum is available here.
To hear more from Rob Roy, click here for the video.

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