January 18th, 2018

Solitary confinement: NDP welcomes BC Supreme Court decision

New Democrats welcome yesterday’s decision by the BC Supreme Court which ruled that indefinite solitary confinement is unconstitutional in federal prisons across Canada. Advocacy groups successfully argued in court that this practice constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates the Charter-protected rights to life, security of the person, and equality under the law, since the practice discriminates against mentally ill and Indigenous prisoners.

“Many experts – including the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture – have said that solitary confinement over 15 days is a form of torture,” said Matthew Dubé, NDP Critic for Public Safety. “Subjecting prisoners to isolation for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months or years, is an unconscionable form of punishment and should end immediately.”

While the Liberal government has taken some steps to limit the use of solitary confinement, it has not acted with the urgency that the issue deserves. The government may have established a 15-day limit to solitary confinement, but it does not plan on implementing it for at least another year.

“It has been over 18 months since the government announced they would accede to the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, which establishes a system of regular visits to places of detention,” added Dubé. “If the government truly understands the urgency of need to end indefinite solitary confinement immediately, they will not only respect the BC Supreme Court’s decision, but they will also immediately implement the provisions of this protocol to be fully transparent about the conditions of prisoners.”