The federal government is making a last-minute bid to halt a trial set to challenge Canada’s solitary confinement prison policies as “cruel and unusual punishment.”
A short-notice application filed with the Supreme Court of British Columbia argues that going ahead with the case would be a waste of court resources, since concerns about prolonged segregation are being addressed in new government legislation.
It was filed in Vancouver Tuesday, just one day after the government tabled a bill setting a 15-day limit for segregation, and just two weeks before the landmark case was set to begin.
The government wants to throw out the case, or at least delay it until its legislation passes through Parliament.
”A Charter challenge to a statutory scheme that is subject to a legislative process for the purpose of significant changes is no longer an efficient and worthwhile use of the court’s scarce resources,” reads the application from the attorney general of Canada.
The lawsuit, launched by the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Canada in January 2015, argues current practices cause prisoner suffering and deaths, deprive fundamental protections, and discriminate against mentally ill and Indigenous inmates.
The trial is scheduled to begin July 4 and last about nine weeks.
Under the new bill C-56, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) will have an 18-month transition period, during which time the cap will be set at 21 days.
Bill addresses concerns
The government’s application says the new statutory scheme will be significantly different from the one now being challenged. An adjournment would allow Parliament to debate the proposed changes, along with new CSC policies that address concerns raised by the challenge.
New directives that come alongside the bill say inmates with serious mental disorders — who are engaging in self-injury or are at risk of suicide, are pregnant, have mobility issues or are in palliative…