BCCLA and JHSC v. AG of Canada: challenging solitary confinement in Canadian prisons

BCCLA and John Howard Society Sue Federal Government Over Solitary Confinement in Canadian Prisons

On January 19, 2015, the BCCLA and the John Howard Society of Canada filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada challenging the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons.

The lawsuit alleges that the use of solitary confinement – where prisoners are isolated for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and years at a time – amounts to cruel and unusual punishment. The lawsuit argues that the solitary confinement regime leads to prisoner suffering and deaths and is discriminatory against both mentally ill and Aboriginal prisoners. The Canadian solitary confinement regime offends fundamental procedural safeguards in that it employs indefinite solitary confinement without recourse to objective criteria, without informing the prisoner of the reasons for their isolation, without the ability for the prisoner to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right, and without the right to external oversight of the continuing solitary confinement.

Our lawsuit claims that sections 31, 32 and 33 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which sets out the “administrative segregation” regime, violate s. 7 (protection of life, liberty and security of the person), ss. 9 and 10 (protections against arbitrary detention), s. 12 (prohibition against cruel and unusual treatment) and s. 15 (protection of equality) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

On July 4, 2017 the case began trial at the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The BCCLA and John Howard Society are represented by Joseph Arvay, QC and Alison Latimer of Farris, Vaughan, Wills & Murphy LLP.

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