B.C. civil rights group sues federal government over prolonged confinement in prisons

Suing over solitary in jails

A civil liberties group has filed a lawsuit against the federal government over prolonged solitary confinement two years after British Columbia's top court ruled it is a violation of prisoners' human rights.

Grace Pastine, litigation director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, says thousands of Canadians are still being isolated in their cells for 22 hours a day or more with little access to human contact despite international consensus that the practice amounts to torture.

The association says in a notice of civil claim filed in B.C. Supreme Court that such conditions infringe on inmates' charter rights because they are exposed to physical, psychological, social and spiritual trauma.

It says wardens are isolating prisoners by using lockdowns to keep people in their cells for days, weeks and months at a time, and such practices have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous and racialized people or those with mental disabilities.

Neither the federal government nor anyone from Correctional Service Canada was immediately available to comment on the lawsuit.

The civil liberties group challenged the practice of administrative segregation and won in a 2019 decision when the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled unanimously that prolonged, indefinite segregation deprives inmates of life, liberty and security of the person as guaranteed in the charter.

However, the civil liberties group says reforms introduced by the federal government don't go far enough and could still cause permanent harm to inmates.

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