Rights in detention

Disproportionate detention of certain groups, particularly Indigenous people, reveal systemic and substantive inequality in the operation of the law. These public institutions are required to interact with people when they are at their most vulnerable (including detained people, victims and family members of both) and they are therefore charged with upholding human rights protections in highly challenging and important circumstances. Our Office is committed to ensuring that laws and practices around detention are applied sparingly, proportionately and equitably. We will make certain that public bodies are held accountable for treating people in their custody in accordance with human rights protections.

Below are some of the examples of our work in this area.

Protecting the rights of prisoners amid

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, B.C. faced the possibility of an outbreak in provincial jails and the Commissioner raised her concerns to government, about holding prisoners in close quarters during the pandemic.

The Office urged government to apply a human rights lens to reducing transmission of COVID-19 in detention centres in British Columbia and issued a series of recommendations. Among them, a call to enable social distancing through targeted release of non-violent offenders and to ensure access to services upon release to enable them to self-isolate and protect their health.

Given the suspension of in-person family visits during the pandemic, the Commissioner also advocated that prisoners should have open, ongoing free access to phone calls so they can communicate with family during this period of heightened insecurity and fear.

What we know


of street checks in Vancouver were of Indigenous people

despite representing just over two per cent of the population. (source)


of street checks in Vancouver were of Black people

despite representing less than one per cent of the population. (source)


of involuntary patient admissions did not have forms completed

in psychiatric facilities across B,C,, violating the legal rights of people involuntarily admitted for mental health reasons. (source)


of the male youth in custody in B.C. are Indigenous

and 32 per cent of imprisoned women in B.C. are Indigenous. (source)