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Proposed class-action lawsuit filed against N.S. government over solitary confinement

Proposed class-action lawsuit filed against N.S. government over solitary confinement
WATCH: A proposed class-action lawsuit has been filed in the hopes of stopping the provincial government from ever putting someone in solitary confinement for 15 consecutive days or longer. Steve Silva reports.

A proposed class-action lawsuit on behalf of people who have been in solitary confinement in Nova Scotia’s correctional facilities for 15 consecutive days or more was filed on Monday against the provincial government.

“We’re alleging a breach of the [Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms],” said lawyer Mike Dull.

“From the statistics that we have, there have been thousands of Nova Scotians who’ve been subjected to prolonged periods of solitary confinement, ‘prolonged’ being 15 days or more.”

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READ: Judge rules lawsuit over solitary confinement in Ontario jails can proceed as a class action

The aim is to stop that from ever happening again, he said. As for any financial compensation, Dull said there’s no number in mind, and that will be decided by the court.

The lawsuit is also about treatment of offenders, Dull said.

“There’s precedent across Canada now,” he said referencing the Supreme Court of British Columbia ruling that putting inmates in solitary confinement indefinitely is unconstitutional.

Dull also referenced a report from earlier this year by Nova Scotia’s auditor general, who found that offenders in solitary confinement were not always properly monitored.

“The [United Nations] has defined the use solitary confinement as 15 days or more as torture,” he said.
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Robert Bailey is one of two representative plaintiffs who are part of the legal action. He said he served time in the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility several times over about a couple years earlier this decade due to breaking his bail conditions.

WATCH: Man charged after demonstration outside Halifax jail

Man charged after demonstration outside Halifax jail
Man charged after demonstration outside Halifax jail

Bailey said he time spent much of his time at the facility in solitary confinement upon entry. He’s not sure what his greatest stretch in solitary confinement was, but it may have lasted up to about three weeks.

He said he was sleep-deprived, the light inside was on all day, there was no bed, and he was told he would be in there for an indefinite period of time.

“It’s very hard on your emotions,” Bailey said.

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“It’s also going to make you plea out differently to whatever legal reason you’re in there because you want to get out of there.”

Dull said he hopes the proposal will be certified by the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia by late next year.

“I think one of the real values of this case is it allows us, allows the court and allows us as a society, to shine a light at what’s going on within our prisons, and I think people would be shocked,” he said.

In a statement to Global News, Nova Scotia Department of Justice and Labour spokesperson Heather Fairbairn said close confinement is a “measure of last resort” and it is “utilized in situations that protect inmates and staff.”

Fairbairn added that the department will begin to consider its next steps once legal action is served.

With a file from Global’s Alexander Quon