Drop con­fine­ment ap­peal: lawyers

Ot­tawa wants to over­turn a rul­ing that or­ders a fix to the use of soli­tary con­fine­ment

StarMetro Vancouver - - NEWS - DAVID P. BALL Ot­tawa has dead­line to meet. Full story at thes­tar.com/van­cou­ver

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.

DAVID P. BALL/STARMETRO VAN­COU­VER

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.

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