The Supreme Court of Canada is seen Friday, April 25, 2014 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Feds give up fight against 15-day hard cap on solitary confinement

The court gave correctional authorities 15 days to end the practice in March 2019

The federal government has given up its fight against court rulings that effectively outlawed placements in solitary confinement lasting longer than 15 days.

In a notice to the Supreme Court of Canada on Tuesday, the government said it was discontinuing its attempt to appeal a ruling from Ontario’s top court that found long-term segregation to be cruel and unusual punishment.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which pushed the case, called Ottawa’s decision a belated good day for justice.

“It is just disappointing that it was so long coming,” said association lawyer Michael Rosenberg. “Far too many suffered needlessly before the country turned a corner.”

In its ruling in March last year, the Ontario Court of Appeal said placing prisoners deemed a risk to themselves or others in segregation for more than 15 days amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and was therefore unconstitutional. The court gave correctional authorities 15 days to end the practice.

However, the federal government sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court, obtaining an emergency stay pending the outcome. The government had maintained the lower court did not take into account the consequences of capping administrative segregation, and warned that imposing a hard limit in all cases could be dangerous.

“There is currently no alternative recourse to address these situations, placing the safety and security of all federal institutions, the inmates and the staff at high risk,” the government said in its notice of leave to appeal.

Similarly, Ottawa said it was abandoning related appeals, one from British Columbia’s top court pressed by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

“It is shameful that the government brought this appeal in the first place,” the B.C. association said in a statement.

In a statement of its own on Tuesday, the government said it decided against pursuing the appeals given that it had repealed the offending provisions and replaced it with a new regime that took effect in November.

“The (new) system is supported with an investment of $448 million for new staff, infrastructure and mental healthcare,” the ministers of public safety and justice said.

Studies indicate that depriving inmates of meaningful human contact for much of their day can cause long-term, even permanent psychological damage. Solitary confinement has been the subject of several successful lawsuits across the country.

In one such case, an Ontario judge last August ordered the federal government to pay about 9,000 inmates who had been placed in solitary confinement for long periods a preliminary $20 million for breaching their rights.

“The Correctional Service operated administrative segregation in a way that unnecessarily caused harm to the inmates,” Justice Paul Perell said in the ruling. “Class members suffered harm because of a systemic failure.”

In response to the various lawsuits and criticism, the government revamped the law to put in place a system of “structured intervention units.” The aim, it said, was to ensure inmates would get a minimum of four hours a day outside their cell, including two hours a day of meaningful interaction with others, and any segregation placements would be reviewed.

“Continued vigilance will be required, given the serious harms caused by prolonged solitary confinement,” Rosenberg said.

Colin Perkel, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

solitary confinement

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

Just Posted

Salmon Arm man reported missing by RCMP has been found unharmed

Ken Derkach apologizes for having caused anyone concern

Preparations for flooding in the Shuswap accelerate

A sandbagging machine and a crew to run it have been set up in Silver Creek.

Severe thunderstorm watch in effect for Okanagan, Shuswap

Environment Canada is forecasting strong wind gusts, large hail and heavy downpours in parts of the Interior

From mouldy attics to giant wasp nests, Shuswap home inspector shares surprising finds

Salmon Arm’s Brad Campbell assembling photo gallery of disturbing discoveries

WorkSafe BC conducted 70 inspections in the Okanagan amid B.C.’s reopening plan

WorkSafe BC has conducted 100 inspections at restaurants across the province since May 19

11 new COVID-19 cases in B.C. as top doc urges caution amid ‘encouraging’ low rates

Dr. Bonnie Henry also announced that two care home outbreaks would be declared over

District offers safety tips after cougar spotted near Lake Country school

The animal was seen on a walking trail near Peter Greer Elementary Saturday morning

Surrey mayor’s party under fire for ‘sickening’ tweet accusing northern B.C. RCMP of murder

Mayor Doug McCallum says tweet, Facebook post ‘sent out by unauthorized person’

Father’s Day Walk Run for prostate cancer will be virtual event this year throughout B.C.

The annual fundraiser for Prostate Cancer Foundation BC has brought in $2.5 million since 1999

Similkameen winery co-owned by Dr. Bonnie Henry

B.C.’s provincial health officer is part of the original ownership group of Clos du Soleil in Keremeos

Emergency crews rush youth to hospital after quadding accident in West Kelowna

West Kelowna Fire Rescue’s new off-road vehicle was used in the rescue

Shuswap History in Pictures: Floodwater food run

A young boy rows through Sicamous’ streets during the 1972 flood.

Dr. Bonnie Henry announces official ban on overnight kids’ camps this summer

New ban comes after talking with other provincial health officials across the country, Henry says

Senior man in hospital after unprovoked wolf attack near Prince Rupert

Conservation officers are on site looking for the wolf

Most Read