New Petition to the House of Commons: A Sad, Solitary Sign of the Prison Times?

Despite the supposed abolition of solitary confinement in federal prisons in Canada, in a defiantly post-logic manner of practice resort to isolation has continued in the country.

Regardless of the entry into force of Bill C-83 in late 2019, which supposedly replaced the relatively widespread use of solitary confinement with so-called ‘Structured Intervention Units’, the frequent practice of placing prisoners in isolation has continued, albeit in different forms riddled with semantic bunkum.

In a very welcome turn of events, the civil society actors behind Petition e-3023 to the House of Commons rightly contend that the Canadian federal prison service has chanced its arm for far too long in this regard.

Spearheaded by the John Howard Society of Canada, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, Prisoners’ Legal Services, and Dr. Adelina Iftene of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University (in her individual capacity) the ‘Petition e-3023’ initiative marks out the contours for meaningful change in relation to the blight of solitary confinement in Canada.

It is no coincidence that the very same organizations were behind last November’s excellent 15-Day Spotlight on Solitary campaign.

Prison – Steve Mays (2013).

As a result, you too can raise your paddle to herald an end to solitary confinement in Canada.

Also striking is that, among the various key objectives of Petition e-3023, is the long overdue ratification by the Government of Canada of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.

Now there’s an idea!

Just click on Petition e-3023 to find out more or please see below.

Alternatively, COPCAT Project readers seeking more in-depth information about this first-class initiative are kindly invited to contact Murray Fallis, Articling Fellow at the John Howard Society of Canada at the following email address: mfallis@johnhoward.ca.


Petition to the House of Commons (e-3023)

Whereas:

  • Bill C-83 came into force on November 30, 2019, replacing segregation with Structured Intervention Units (SIU);
  • The SIUs aimed to end long-term solitary confinement in accordance with international law and Canadian court decisions that found its use unconstitutional;
  • The Implementation Advisory Panel, which oversaw SIU implementation, found solitary confinement is ongoing;
  • COVID-19 has exacerbated this situation;
  • Prisoners report they often end up in SIU due to conflict with officers who antagonize and provoke them to act out; and
  • Other evidence suggests that solitary confinement is occurring both within and outside of the SIUs.

We, the undersigned, Citizens of Canada, call upon the Government of Canada to:

1. Establish a Commission of Inquiry to examine solitary confinement, in all forms, to ensure prisoners’ rights are safeguarded and promote transformational change in the culture of the Correctional Service;

2. Immediately define solitary confinement in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and prohibit its prolonged use, pursuant to the definition in United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners;

3. Prohibit all forms of solitary confinement which are not expressly authorized by legislation;

4. Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture;

5. Fund legal aid for federal prisoners to ensure access to counsel; and

6. Require all correctional officers to wear body cameras whenever they interact with prisoners.


See Petition e-3023 to the House of Commons in English and French.

Find out more about the work of the John Howard Society of Canada and its joint Spotlight on Solitary campaign.

Read Articling Fellow Murray Fallis’ article on the OPCAT, ‘Can’t we agree to end torture?’, published in The Hill Times, 2 December 2020.

Read more about the November 2020 Spotlight on Solitary initiative, as covered by the Canada OPCAT Project.