Canadian government appeals ruling denying adjournment of  lawsuit challenging solitary confinement regime

ON Tuesday, the B.C. Supreme Court rejected the Canadian government’s eleventh-hour efforts to delay a historic lawsuit challenging Canada’s solitary confinement regime. On Wednesday, just six days before the trial was set to begin, the government made it clear that it intends to appeal the Court’s decision allowing the trial to go on.

Caily DiPuma, Acting Litigation Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, said: “We are deeply disappointed to see Canada once again trying to deny those who have suffered under Canada’s current solitary confinement regime their day in court. Today’s appeal is no more than a delay tactic. Canada has had decades to deal with the problems of solitary confinement, years to implement the Ashley Smith recommendations, and has already had one adjournment in this case. Yesterday, the BC Supreme Court made it clear that this case deserves to be heard, and it deserves to be heard now.”

The Canadian government has argued that the trial should be adjourned because the newly introduced Bill 56 — if passed— would render the litigation superfluous.

But DiPuma pointed out: “What happened to Ashley Smith is still possible under the proposed law. Under both Bill C-56 and the current unconstitutional law, all of the decision-making power remains with correctional officials. There are no hard time limits or caps on the amount of time a person can spend in solitary. All the bill does is create more paperwork to keep a person in a solitary cell.”

The BCCLA and their co-plaintiffs, the John Howard Society of Canada, continue to strongly oppose any further adjournment, arguing that the proposed law still does not comply with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and that its mere introduction should not derail a trial that has been years in the making.