Monday, November 30, 2015

A new federal government, a new direction for solitary confinement in Canada? Leading experts to discuss future directions of isolation in Canadian prisons

Tomorrow a panel will be held between noon and 1:00pm at the University of Ottawa (Faculty of Social Sciences building, Room 14001) to discuss the future of solitary confinement in Canada. Speakers include Kim Pate (Executive Director, Canadian Asssociation of Elizabeth Fry Societies / Sallows Chair in Human Rights, University of Saskatchewan), Catherine Latimer (Executive Director, John Howard Society of Canada) and Paul Champ (Lawyer, Champ & Associates), who have all played instrumental roles in challenging isolation in Canadian federal penitentiaries and/or provincial prisons and remand centres. 

This event is taking place in a context where the new federal government has made a commitment to place additional restrictions on the use of solitary confinement in Canada as outlined in the mandate letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General. The panel aims to rekindle discussions about the negative consequences of this practice, which are accentuated when used on more vulnerable parts of the prisoner population, such as youth and individuals with mental health concerns. Speakers will also discuss potential avenues for policy reform concerning solitary confinement and will press the Government of Canada to ensure that their words translate into concrete actions and gains as it concerns the treatment of its prisoners. 

This discussion is important to have now in the wake of a decade of punitive reforms by previous administrations that worsened prison conditions and negatively affected the successful re-entry of prisoners into Canadian society. Previous federal governments have also ignored key recommendations proposed after tragic deaths in custody while in isolation such as the highly publicized cases of Ashley Smith who died in Grand Valley Institution in 2007 and Edward Snowshoe who died in Edmonton Institution in 2010. Action is needed immediately to prevent deaths in custody going forward. Tomorrow’s panel is being organized by four concerned undergraduate students under the supervision of their professor Dr. Justin Piché (Criminology, University of Ottawa) in partnership with the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project ( 

 Through an in-depth class research project on the use of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons, as well as its consequences on prisoners and society (see on 1 December 2015), we have come to the conclusion that the abolition of this form of torture should be a long-term goal. In the short-term, we encourage federal and provincial governments to set shorter limits on the time adults spend in isolation and to ban its use for youth and individuals with mental health concerns. 

Media Contacts: 

Paul Champ, Champ & Associates / 613-237-4740 ext. 2 

Catherine Latimer, John Howard Society of Canada, 613-384-6272 

Kim Pate, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies / University of Sasketchewan, 613-238 2422

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