Freedom of Religion Violations Added to List of Complaints Concerning Canada’s ‘Cardboard Prison’

The Baffin Correctional Centre is one of many correctional facilities in Canada housing presumptively innocent persons in pre-trial custody. A Muslim inmate, speaking anonymously to the CBC, alleges that while on remand he was unable to freely practice his religion:

”Staff here told me that I don’t need to practise my religion because I might become radical,” he says. “I asked for no pork or no ham or bacon, and they just gave me what has touched bacon or ham, but I have refused those meals.”

Additional concerns regarding inmate treatment at the facility were detailed in a 2013 Office of the Correctional Investigator Report, obtained by the CBC. According to the report “[the Baffin Correctional Centre] has been grossly overcrowded for many years, and it is now well past its life expectancy. The current state of disrepair and crowding are nothing short of appalling, and negatively impacts on both inmates and staff.”

The report describes in detail the shortcomings that plague this troubled correctional facility. It states that 70% of the inmates are presumptively innocent and being held in remand awaiting trial, but goes on to note that infrastructual problems prevent segregation of those on remand from those serving custodial sentences.

The report concludes that the “[Baffin Correctional Centre] is past its best before date, and needs to be closed and replaced by a new facility or facilities. BCC physical infrastructure is not safe for either staff or inmates, and hinders the ability of NU Corrections to fulfil its legal mandate of humane custody and rehabilitation.”

Sources:

Muslim says he’s not allowed to practise religion at Baffin Correctional Centre

Baffin Correctional Centre ‘appalling’ and should be closed, report says

Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator (Canada)on the Baffin Correctional Centre and theLegal and Policy Framework of Nunavut Corrections

Human Rights Commission’s report into children in detention tabled by the government

On 11 February 2015, The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 report by the Australian Human Rights Commission was tabled by the Australian Parliament.

The report has called for a royal commission after finding 233 recorded assaults involving children and 33 incidents of reported sexual assault. It also reported  207 incidents of “actual self harm” and 436 incidents of threatened self harm. In addition, high rates of physical and mental illness have also been discovered among the child detainees.

Read the rest of this entry »

Penalties, Prison and Punishment

The Conservative government is determined to increase overall penalties and sentences for offenders and has been working on even more tough on crime initiatives these last couple of months.

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EU HR Court Rules Prisoner Voting Ban Against Convention, Again

In a recent ruling, the European Court of Human Rights ruled against the UK government when it decided that the right of over 1,000 prisoners to free elections had been violated. The prisoners were denied the vote in elections during the years 2009-2011.

Despite similar rulings in 2005 and 2014, the British government has yet to remedy the human rights violations. It is a contentious issue in British politics, with the government insisting that it be decided domestically. It has contributed to the move towards a British Bill of Rights.

However, the Court and the British government did agree on one matter: costs. The Court rejected the inmates’ request for both compensation and legal costs.

For more information, see here.

Supreme Court Will Consider Constitutionality of Enhanced Credit Provisions

The Supreme Court granted leave to appeal of the Ontario Court of Appeal decision R v Safarzadeh-Markhali, which considered the constitutionality of the new enhanced credit for pre-sentence custody provisions of the Criminal Code. Where an accused is remanded into custody pending their trial and subsequently convicted, courts would often apply a credit of 2 days for every 1 day spent in custody to their sentence. There are two main reasons for this: timelines for parole eligibility and statutory release do not take into account time spent in pre-sentence custody, and conditions in pre-sentence detention centres tend to be poor, with overcrowding and no access to programs. Read the rest of this entry »

Regional Psychiatric Centre could face eviction, student group argues

Solidarity for Those in Solitary, a University of Saskatchewan student group that advocates ending the practice of solitary confinement, says that there are legal grounds to close a federal corrections facility that operates on university lands.

Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre is a tenant of the university. The group argues that its ongoing use of segregation could be grounds for eviction under Saskatchewan’s community safety laws.

Dan LeBlanc, a third-year law student, explained that under Saskatchewan’s Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods laws “[y]ou just have to prove that there are activities occurring at the residence which pose a serious and immediate threat to one or more residents of the property.” LeBlanc argues that the use of solitary confinement for mentally ill inmates meets the threshold for eviction.

Officials with Correctional Service Canada declined to comment.

The CCLA and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies recently filed a petition in the Ontario Superior Court challenging the constitutionality of legislative provisions which permit solitary confinement.

Whole-Life Sentences Not Against Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights just ruled on an appeal by a UK man sentenced to a whole-life tariff for the brutal murder of three victims.  They decided in a six to one judgment that under the current interpretations of the law, there is no human rights violations in the application of a whole-life sentence.

In 2013, the same Court ruled that whole-life sentences were incompatible with Article 3 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which reads “no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” However, since then, the allegedly unclear laws regarding whole-life sentences have been clarified by domestic courts which accounts for the change in rulings.

The Court has ruled that as long as there is a “mechanism or possibility for review”, whole-life sentences are compatible with Article 3 of the Convention.

Commentators are saying “the ruling is perhaps more significant politically than it is legally” as the Conservative government had cited the 2013 ruling as impetus to replacing the European Human Rights Act with a domestic British Bill of Rights.

New Bill Threatens Privacy, Liberty and Citizenship

Bill C-44 was tabled by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. The Bill named, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts will have large repercussions on privacy and Canadian citizenship. On January 28th it was reported back to the House without amendment and it received concurrence at the Report Stage in the House of Commons. A motion was also passed on that day in order to allocate no more than one further sitting day for debate of C-44 at both the report stage and third reading.

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L’affaire Badawi : L’Arabie Saudite sous pression

Jour après jour, le nombre d’organisations internationales qui défendent la libération de Raif Badawi ne cesse de monter.

La semaine passée, le Haut-Commissaire des Nations unies aux droits de l’homme, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a demandé au roi saoudien de suspendre la peine de Badawi. Selon lui, la sanction corporelle appliquée au citoyen de cet État viole la dignité humaine et ne respecte pas la Convention contre la torture.

De son côté, l’Amnistie internationale a lancé récemment la campagne « #jesuisbadawi », à travers laquelle elle exige que les coups de fouet cessent et que Raif soit mis en libéré inconditionnellement. Il faut que l’État saoudien « respecte ses obligations en matière de droits humains et qu’il abolisse la flagellation », argumente l’ONG.

Des manifestations populaires font du bruit.

Selon La Presse Canadienne, un mouvement de protestation est de plus en plus fort à travers le monde. Les ambassades de l’Arabie saoudite font face à des manifestants qui dénoncent le dossier Badawi et la cruauté des peines corporelles.

Blogueur et fondateur du site Free Saudi Liberals, par lequel il défendait la liberté religieuse en Arabie Saoudite, Raif a été condamné en 2012 à 1 000 coups de fouet et 10 années de prison pour insulte à l’islam. Après sa condamnation, sa femme et ses jeunes enfants se sont réfugiés au Canada, vivant depuis lors à Sherbrooke, dans l’est du Québec.

Il est difficile de déterminer si les demandes seront accueillies par les Saoudiens. Au moins, il est clair que la mobilisation vient de remporter une importante victoire : la deuxième séance de flagellation de 50 coups de fouet que le blogueur devait recevoir ce vendredi a été annulée.

Battle for Burnaby Mountain: Part Three (The Protestors)

To read more about the National Energy Board hearings and the City of Burnaby’s legal challenges, read Parts One and Two of this series.

Public protests against the Kinder Morgan pipeline have been making news since September, when workers first cut down trees as part of they survey work. Since then protestors have grown in numbers, and the standoff reached an apex in November when Kinder Morgan won an injunction from the BC Supreme Court. The court ordered protestors to stay away, starting on November 16, from certain areas in which Kinder Morgan was conducting survey work or risk being arrested (2014 BCSC 2133). The BCSC found an injunction to be necessary, and relied on the distinction between legitimate protest involving freedom of expression and that of unlawful activity, as set out in MacMillan Bloedel Ltd. v. Simpson ([1996] 2 SCR 1048). The court found that while there would be some harm to the rights of the protestors, Kinder Morgan’s interests as a private member would be more severely and irreparably harmed, given the substantial costs and potential loss of revenue associated with the delays caused by the protests. A more complete analysis of the legal arguments and defenses presented by both sides can be found here. Read the rest of this entry »

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