A cell in the Whitehorse Correctional Centre photographed during a media tour in 2012. Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee ordered an inspection of the jail’s policies and practices regarding the mental health of inmates. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)

Loukidelis named as head of WCC inspection

Terms of reference ‘very broad on purpose so the inspector is not directed to do a certain thing’

Legal advisor David Loukidelis was appointed as head of the inspection of the Whitehorse Correctional Centre (WCC) by Minister of Justice Tracy-Anne McPhee Nov. 22.

The inspection is set to begin by Jan. 1, 2018.

Loukidelis will “inspect the policies and practices of the WCC which involve, affect or may impact the mental health of inmates; the inspection shall include but is not limited to the use of the WCC of separate confinement and segregation of inmates with mental illness,” according to the terms of reference for the inspection.

The inspection was first ordered in September by McPhee in the wake of the case of Michael Nehass, an inmate with mental health issues who served time at the WCC for nearly six years. During that time, serious concerns were raised about his treatment and the treatment of other inmates with similar issues at the facility, including the use of solitary confinement.

Nehass was released in September 2017 following a lengthy legal battle which saw a Crown prosecutor put a stay on his charges. He was released into psychiatric care in Kamloops, B.C., and has since been released.

The British Columbia Provincial Court issued a warrant for Nehass’ arrest Oct. 19 following an application for a peace bond by the province’s prosecution service. Nehass made his first appearance in a Fort St. John courthouse Oct. 20 and was released Nov. 3. His next court date is set for Jan. 2.

He was initially arrested in 2010 following a knifepoint assault in Watson Lake.

Section 36 of the Yukon Corrections Act allows for this kind of inspection to take place. This is the first time it has ever been invoked.

Nehass is not specifically named in the terms of reference for the inspection. When asked after question period if the Nehass case would be specifically addressed by Loukidelis in his investigation, McPhee replied that was “going to be up to the inspector.” The parameters of the inspection are intentionally vague in order to give Loukidelis “free range” in the scope of the project, she said.

“The terms of reference are very broad on purpose so the inspector is not directed to do a certain thing or go a certain way … and deals with the concept of the entire process, ” she said.

“I’m very pleased that the terms of reference are as broad as they are.”

Whether or not specific people will be named in the report is within Loukidelis’ power. Whether that happens is at his discretion, she said, depending how he wants to proceed.

Loukidelis will have access to and be able to record and examine anything within the WCC — with the exception of an inmate’s medical records— during the investigation. He can, however, request access to those records if he feels he needs them.

“Mr.Loukidelis is an expert in privacy law,” McPhee said. “If he is interested in having discussions with particular people about their personal records and they agree to waive that requirement, then presumably he will make that decision at that time.”

Loukidelis is an expert in privacy, information and conflict-of-interest law. He is a member of the bar of British Columbia and Alberta, with degrees from Osgoode Hall Law School, the University of Oxford and the University of Edinburgh. In 2010 he was appointed as Queen’s Counsel in British Columbia, an honour which denotes exceptional competence and expertise as a lawyer.

In a press release, McPhee said she was confident Loukidelis will “bring a wealth of experience and expertise to his role and … provide an impartial report that will enhance the administration of justice in the territory.”

Loukidelis will submit his final report on the inspection to McPhee on March 29, 2018.

With files from Ashley Joannou

Contact Lori Fox at lori.fox@yukon-news.com

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