Isolating people in prison for up to 23 hours per day is against the law.

Today, we are back in court to intervene in the ongoing Charter challenge to solitary confinement together with our friends at the Native Women’s Association of Canada (NWAC).

In January 2018, the BC Supreme Court ruled that prolonged and indefinite solitary confinement for so-called administrative reasons violates the rights to life, liberty and security of the person, and discriminates against Indigenous prisoners and prisoners with mental illness. The challenge was brought by the BC Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada.

Despite promising reform, the federal government is moving ahead with its appeal to overturn that decision. Among other arguments, the government says that the prisoners have been directly impacted by solitary confinement should bring their own legal challenges, instead of the organizations presently before the court.

We believe it is unacceptable to argue that the very people held in solitary confinement – some of the most marginalized people in our society – should be the ones responsible for bringing complex constitutional challenges to the courts.

In our joint intervention with NWAC, we are asking the Court of Appeal to pay attention to how solitary confinement is particularly harmful to women, especially Indigenous women and women with disabling mental illness. We are also arguing that all violations of Charter rights require effective and meaningful remedies.

Indigenous women are being criminalized and imprisoned at a rate faster than any other population. And women’s histories of trauma, violence, and abuse make confinement in isolation especially harmful, increasing the likelihood of self-harm and suicidal thoughts and behaviour. It is impossible to understand the impact of indefinite solitary confinement on the human rights of prisoners without understanding the unique impacts on women.

Visit our blog next week for our post to read more about why ending solitary confinement is critical to the fight for gender equality and justice.

The appeal is being heard on Tuesday, November 13 and Wednesday, November 14.