ALGONQUIN TERRITORY (Ottawa) – egregious restrictions imposed due to COVID-19 and dangerously lax health measures at the Ottawa-Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC) are violating the constitutional rights of prisoners as well as international law, according to a Charter application filed by a group of nine prisoners, which will be heard by the court today in Ottawa.
The pandemic, prisoners say, has worsened existing appalling prisoners’ rights violations by the OCDC, where approximately 70% of prisoners are legally innocent.
Despite the global pandemic, guards did not wear masks until April 25. Since then, guards have not been wearing their masks regularly, putting the health of prisoners in potential harm’s way. The prison has still not provided masks, sanitizer, or soap to prisoners, according to the complaint.
While confinement measures are being lifted across the province of Ontario, the Ministry of the Solicitor General (MSG) is still denying prisoners their right to visits without providing any alternative. The MSG cancelled visits from 10 March 2020 onward. Ministerial policy and rule 58(b) of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners — known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules” — require prisoners to be allowed regular visits.
“Without first-hand experience of the deprivation of freedoms one deals with in pre-trial detention, it is impossible to fully understand the effects of losing what could be considered even the smallest of liberties.,” said Michael Wiwczaruk, one of the nine prisoners making the Charter complaint and one of the two representatives in this case.
These conditions amount to “state-imposed psychological stress,” the prisoners say in their complaint, and amounts to a violation of Section 7 of the Charter.
“The injustice that happens while we are in the care of the Minister of Solicitor General are unacceptable and significantly violates our rights under international law and the Charter,” said Deepan Budlakoti, the second representative and one of the people confined at OCDC.
This is not the first time OCDC has been accused of violating prisoner rights. In 2016, several prisoners filed a class action lawsuit against OCDC, citing its “deplorable” constitutions.
“The JAIL hotline consistently receives calls from prisoners at OCDC whose rights are violated and who cannot access any redress within the jail. Human caging is wrong, even without a pandemic. It is unacceptable and inhumane that the OCDC and MSG would impose these restrictions in the teeth of a pandemic,” said Portia Larlee, a volunteer with the Jail Accountability and Information Line.
Download the Section 7 Application here: https://cp-ep.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/Section-7-Application-ocdc-prisoners-july-2020.pdf
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