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.
Protecting the rights of prisoners amid COVID-19
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 in a letter with the Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnsworth and Provincial Director of BC Corrections Stephanie Macpherson, with the intent of raising human rights concerns facing prisoners held 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 with health conditions and a request 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 were of Indigenous people
despite representing just over two per cent of the population. (source)
of street checks 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 BC. 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)