Does Canada have the death penalty? That is an easy question to answer. Of course we do. It is called death by solitary confinement.
Ask Ashley Smith (deceased) or Eddie Snowshoe (deceased), or many of the still-living long-term solitary confinement inmates.
In Ashley’s case, her crime was having a mental illness. There are many ways to kill a person.
One is actual death, another is to kill their soul, and another is to cause irreparable damage to a prisoner who did not have mental illness before the overuse of solitary confinement.
There are cases where prisoners have been left to rot in excess of 30 months. If you don’t believe this, simply ask Michael Nehass who remains in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre. The United Nations recommends no more than 15 consecutive days of solitary confinement.
I am going to quote our prime minister, Stephen Harper: “it is hard for any of us, as rational and compassionate people, to understand terrorism – to understand why people would want, in the name of some political cause, to simply terrorize, hurt, kill innocent people, whole sections of society.”
Of course this was not said regarding the overuse of solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. It was his response to the terrorist attack on the Pakistani school in Peshawar in mid-December of last year. But think of the similarities.
If you had a mental disorder and were left in solitary confinement out of convenience, is that not terrorism? Is tough on crime not a political cause? Are the mentally ill not a section of society? Is Stephen Harper (and all of the justice ministers of Canada) aware that this is happening to the mentally ill? That is a clear “yes” unless he has not heard of the Ashley Smith case.
Are there changes being made, and if not, cannot we consider the next death in solitary confinement “capital punishment”?