B.C. court gives federal government more time to fix solitary confinement

VANCOUVER — British Columbia's top court has stayed its recent decision on Canada's solitary confinement law until the end of November to give the government more time to fix its prison practices.

The B.C. Court of Appeal ruled unanimously on Monday that the law allowing prolonged, indefinite solitary confinement "offends the fundamental norms of a free and democratic society."

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The court struck down the law and also declared that Correctional Services Canada had breached its obligations to consider the health care needs of mentally ill or disabled inmates before placing them in segregation.

Parliament replaced the law last Friday with new legislation that creates "structured intervention units," which allow segregated inmates a minimum of four hours outside their cells and at least two hours to interact with others per day.

The federal government asked the Appeal Court for more time to implement the legislative changes and the court ruled Wednesday to stay its decision until Nov. 30 with progress reports expected on Aug. 30 and Oct. 15.

The court says while Canada has taken "a long time" to amend the legislative scheme, it is satisfied that the current plans to implement it by Nov. 30 represent a diligent and realistic timetable.

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