Release: BC court rules solitary confinement violates the Charter

VANCOUVER – This morning, the BC Supreme Court released its judgment in an historic court case challenging the use of solitary confinement in Canada’s federal prisons. Justice Peter Leask found the prolonged and indefinite segregation of federal prisoners violates their rights to life, liberty, and security of the person (s. 7 of the Charter) and discriminates against mentally ill and Indigenous prisoners (s. 15 of the Charter).

The case is brought by the BC Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada. West Coast LEAF (Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund) intervened in the case to highlight the gendered dimensions of solitary confinement, particularly as it impacts Indigenous women and women who experience mental illness.

“The judgment recognizes what we have long known: solitary confinement exists in Canada no matter what the government chooses to call it, it harms everyone, and it must end,” says Raji Mangat, West Coast LEAF’s Director of Litigation and counsel in this case. “These harms – which include triggering and worsening mental illness, and increasing risk of self-harm and suicide – severely impact women in solitary confinement. Additionally, the court accepted evidence that Indigenous women are particularly vulnerable, in light of the greater prevalence of trauma, violence, and abuse in their pasts.”

“We call upon all correctional authorities in Canada – including provincial authorities – to end isolated confinement in all its forms,” adds Mangat. “We aspire to a world in which no one is detained in isolation. This judgment is a win for human rights. We will continue to advocate for women inside – and outside – of prison.”