Statement – Canadian prisoners continue to experience conditions of solitary confinement

November 30, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario – Canadian Human Rights Commission

On the anniversary of the implementation of Correctional Service Canada’s Structured Intervention Units, Marie-Claude Landry, Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, releases the following statement:

The Canadian Human Rights Commission is deeply concerned and troubled by reports that prisoners being held in Correctional Service Canada’s new Structured Intervention Units (SIU) continue to experience conditions of solitary confinement.

The courts have ruled that Correctional Service Canada’s previous regime of administrative segregation, and the conditions of solitary confinement it created, violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The SIUs, implemented last year, were intended to address this serious human rights issue and put an end to solitary confinement in Canada. They were intended to provide a safe living environment where meaningful human contact and access to programs and services would continue to be available to meet an inmate’s needs.

A report from the SIU Implementation Advisory Panel and a subsequent report from Dr. Anthony Doob and Dr. Jane Sprott suggest that this is not happening.

Prisoners are already among the most vulnerable members of our society. Within that population, there are various groups who are experiencing intersectional vulnerabilities. Special attention must be given to how the following specific groups are experiencing conditions of isolation: Indigenous and racialized prisoners, women, trans and gender non-binary prisoners and those with serious physical, mental health and intellectual disabilities.

The Commission is also concerned by reports that Correctional Service Canada did not provide the necessary data to allow the SIU Implementation Advisory Panel to properly serve its oversight function.

Oversight is essential. It is crucial that Correctional Service Canada implement effective data collection practices to facilitate the analysis and monitoring of the experiences of prisoners placed in SIUs.

Everyone in Canada has the right to be treated with dignity. It has long been recognized that the use of solitary confinement can lead to irreparable harm, and in the case of inmates with mental health issues, can amount to cruel and unusual punishment.

The Commission calls on Correctional Service Canada to take all steps necessary, without delay, to ensure that it is meeting its domestic and international obligations under Canada’s Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and the Nelson Mandela Rules.

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