Menu Close

To Mike Farnworth and David Eby, BC government ministers

Hon Mike Farnworth, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General and Hon. David Eby, Attorney General, Government of British Columbia

18 January 2020

Dear Mr Farnworth and Mr Eby

We were encouraged to hear that the B.C. government is looking at the issue of solitary confinement (separate confinement), possibly by legislation, possibly by regulation. Naturally we would prefer legislation, as it is harder to undo it when put into place than regulations.

You are aware that Yukon is the first jurisdiction to legislate limits on solitary: 15 days at any one time, a 5 day space between, and a maximum of 60 days over a 365-day period. This is the same as that legislated by the Ontario government in 2018, just before the provincial election that resulted in a change of government, hence no implementation. (The NDP supported the then Liberal government’s bill, the Progressive Conservatives, now the government, opposed it.)

The Yukon legislation is a start, but we hope that BC will go further, at the very least to add a complete ban for the use of solitary for those under 25, for young people are more likely than older to suffer long-term consequences of such isolation.

We would urge you to reduce the limits, say 10 days, for a maximum of 40 days per year. You perhaps realize that the 15-day limit, the “Mandela Rules,” is not based on any evidence that 15 days is a safe limit for solitary, that harm only occurs after it. The 15 days was evidently a compromise, for jurisdictions that had not had any limits. Nelson Mandela himself never proposed anything of the kind, but he was clear that solitary confinement was soul destroying.

Yours sincerely

Harry Arthurs, OC, OONt, dean and president emeritus, York University
Ann Cameron, PhD, professor emerita of developmental psychology
Max Cameron, PhD, professor of political science, UBC
Paul Copeland, CM, LLB, life bencher
Pauline Couture, president PCA, co-CEO, BlockFilmInc.
Myim Bakan Kline, B.A., law student, University of Toronto
Lynn McDonald, CM, PhD, LLD (hon), professor emerita
Ian Morrison
Debra Parkes, Professor and Chair in Feminist Legal Studies, Allard Law School
(Very Rev.) Lois Wilson, CC, retired senator, former moderator, United Church of Canada

Please reply to