Drop confinement appeal: lawyers
Ottawa wants to overturn a ruling that orders a fix to the use of solitary confinement
Lawyers who won a landmark B.C. Supreme Court case ordering Canada to stop throwing federal inmates into solitary confinement for nondisciplinary reasons called on Ottawa to drop its appeal of the decision on Monday.
But as Ottawa continues its attempt to have the B.C. Court of Appeals overturn that January 2018 decision, the B.C. Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) said it remains confident the province’s highest court will side with the earlier ruling that administrative solitary confinement is unconstitutional, discriminatory against Indigenous people, and will order a change to the federal law.
“We’re continuing to fight it all the way,” said BCCLA litigation counsel Jay Aubrey at a news conference after the appeals court granted Ottawa an extension to June. “We’re hopeful to get a great decision … But absolutely we’re hopeful the Attorney General will drop the appeal.
“Human beings need meaningful human contact.
(Solitary confinement) causes severe psychological distress, creates mental illness, and in some cases causes death.”
But the federal government says current legislation before Parliament addresses the constitutional concerns raised by the courts in both B.C. and in Ontario, which separately ordered changes to solitary practices.
In court last November, Crown lawyer Mitchell Taylor acknowledged that even if
Correction Services Canada had interpreted federal administrative segregation laws unconstitutionally, it does not follow that those laws themselves must be tossed out.
One in four federal inmates have been put into solitary confinement at some point, some spending years in a cell the size of a bathroom. Court documents show there were 14,000 inmates in federal prisons in the 2016-2017 fiscal
year, and the percentage of segregated Indigenous inmates increased by 31 per cent between 2005 and 2015, whereas segregated non-indigenous inmates grew by only 2 per cent.
The appeal court may have extended the deadline, but it ordered the federal government to immediately address key rights violations.
B.C. Civil Liberties Association staff lawyers Jay Aubrey, left, and Kate Oja adress the media outside the British Columbia Court of Appeals on Monday.