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Ontario Court of Appeal sets limits on administrative segregation

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March 28, 2019

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Today, the Court of Appeal for Ontario unanimously held that administrative segregation of any prisoner for more than 15 days is cruel and unusual treatment, contrary to s. 12 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. While Canadian Civil Liberties Association v Canada addressed federal legislation, the Court’s findings apply equally to the Ontario government.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) intervened in this matter, and the Court relied on the OHRC’s submissions in finding that the discretion of correctional authorities to limit the use of segregation is an insufficient safeguard against cruel and inhuman treatment. The Court found that “administrative segregation causes foreseeable and expected harm which may be permanent” and concluded that segregation beyond 15 days “outrages standards of decency.”

The Court further noted that, “In principle…those with mental illness should not be placed in administration segregation,” and found that a cap of 15 days would reduce the risk of harm to prisoners who suffer from mental health disabilities.

Prisoners in Ontario suffer the same harms from segregation (i.e. solitary confinement) as people in federal institutions. The latest Ontario data shows that in April and May 2018 alone, at least 778 placements exceeded 15 days in provincial correctional institutions.

“Solitary confinement is cruel and inhuman treatment. It causes harm to prisoners whether they are held in a federal penitentiary or a provincial institution,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “Ontario’s constitutional obligations require it to implement a 15-day hard cap on solitary confinement.”

Media contact:

Yves Massicotte
Communications & Issues Management
Ontario Human Rights Commission/Commission ontarienne des droits de la personne
Phone: 416-314-4491