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SCC to hear case about judicial oversight of prison law and life

Ottawa – On Wednesday, October 16, the Supreme Court of Canada will hear arguments in Diane Knopf, Warden of Mission Institution, et al. v. Gurkirpal Singh Khela. The BCCLA is an intervener in the case.

This case concerns the critical role that the provincial superior courts play in ensuring that prisoners have access to meaningful judicial review when their rights inside the prison walls are violated. Among the issues on appeal in this case is whether the right to habeas corpus should be construed narrowly or broadly. A habeas corpus application is a legal action that allows a prisoner to challenge in provincial court conditions of his confinement, such as placement in solitary confinement.

The BCCLA will argue that a robust interpretation of the right to habeas corpus is essential to maintaining the rule of law in the Canadian prison system. Locked out of sight and separated from family and community, prisoners are vulnerable to abuse. A succession of commissions of inquiry and correctional investigator reports, from the Arbour Commission that condemned the strip searching of women prisoners by male guards at the Kingston Prison for Women, to the 2008 report of the Correctional Investigator on the death of teenager Ashley Smith, have documented recurring human rights abuses in the correctional system. The BCCLA’s position is that the right to habeas corpus is necessary to safeguard the human rights and civil liberties of prisoners, and to ensure that the rule of law is applied behind prison walls.

The BCCLA is represented in this case by Professor Michael Jackson, Q.C. of the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law and Joana Thackeray of Heenan Blaikie LLP.

The BCCLA’s argument in this case is available here.

What: Supreme Court of Canada will hear oral arguments in Knopf, et al. v. Khela
When: Oral arguments begin on Wednesday, October 16 at 9:30 am EST/6:30 am PST
Where: Supreme Court of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)
Who: Lawyers for the BCCLA available for comment