Three civil rights organizations joined forces Monday to voice their concern over the ongoing use of indefinite solitary confinement for prison inmates — a practice they say is akin to torture and a violation of human rights.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the John Howard Society and the B.C. Civil Liberties Association are calling for a hard 15-day cap to be placed on the use of solitary confinement — or 'administrative segregation,' as it is officially known.
The groups also want to see a full ban on segregation of inmates who are mentally ill and for Indigenous offenders.
They are highly critical of the federal government for mounting an appeal against a British Columbia Supreme Court ruling in January that struck down Canada's law on indefinite solitary confinement.
"We are here to expose the truth, and the truth is that the government of Canada is fighting in the courts for the right to put mentally ill and Indigenous people in a torture box," said Michael Bryant, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
The Trudeau government promised to restrict long-term solitary confinement for federal inmates following the inquest into the death of teenager Ashley Smith, who died by self-strangulation after spending more than 1,000 days in segregation.
The Liberal government introduced Bill C-56 last year to phase in a cap on the number of days an inmate can be held in solitary confinement, starting at 21 days and eventually moving to 15. But such caps would only apply to cases of disciplinary segregation, not for administrative segregation, which involve different processes, Bryant said.
Meanwhile, both the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have delivered decisions saying administrative solitary confinement is inhumane and, in the Ontario decision, unconstitutional if longer than five days.