The Yukon government has tabled proposed amendments to the territorial Corrections Act, many of which deal with the use of segregation. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Yukon Liberals table proposed amendments to territorial Corrections Act

Many of the amendments are related to the use of segregation

The Yukon government has tabled proposed amendments to the Corrections Act, which officials says will bring greater structure and guidance to operations at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, particularly around the use of segregation.

A lawyer who represented a former inmate who brought a landmark case against jail officials, though, says the proposed amendments lack teeth.

Acting justice minister John Streicker tabled Bill No. 6, Act to Amend the Corrections Act, 2009, in the legislative assembly Oct. 8.

The Corrections Act sets up a legal framework on how corrections facilities in the territory must be run (currently, there’s only one — the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, or WCC). Many of the proposed amendments deal with the use of separating inmates from general population.

Among the proposed changes are the creation of definitions for “segregation” and “restrictive confinement” based on how much time an inmate is deprived of meaningful social interaction instead of their physical locations within the jail.

“Restrictive confinement” is defined as “any type of custody where an inmate’s association with other persons is significantly restricted” for at least 18 hours per day, and up to 22. “Segregation” has the same definition, except that the inmate is under those conditions for 22 hours or more.

The bill also proposes limits on how long inmates may spend in segregation, under what conditions segregation would be inappropriate, and allowing for the appointment of independent adjudicators to review the circumstances under which inmates are kept in segregation or restrictive confinement.

In an interview Oct. 17, director of corrections Andrea Monteiro said that work on the amendments began after a legal expert, David Loukidelis, conducted an independent inspection of the WCC in 2018 and produced a report containing 40 recommendations.

Once the amendments are enacted, the Department of Justice will then develop associated regulations and policies to “operationalize” the changes.

“For the staff working at the institution and the inmates, what this will equate to is a safer environment for the staff and the inmates by having us be able to appropriately house people based on their individualized needs,” she said.

The department is already training and educating staff on how the changes may affect operations on the ground, Monteiro said, and has began “fleshing out” the creation of “alternate units” in the jail.

Monteiro said the amendments also address concerns that inmates may be placed in segregation-like conditions in a unit by a different name.

“By ensuring that in the legislation we’re defining segregation and we’re defining restrictive confinement and then making sure that we actually have appropriate internal and external review processes … that’s how we’re going to ensure that we have this matrix of accountability and oversight to ensure that people are not placed in conditions that amount to segregation but are called something else,” she said.

However, Whitehorse criminal defence lawyer Vincent Larochelle was skeptical of what impact the proposed amendments would have at the WCC, if any.

Larochelle represented former WCC inmate Darryl Sheepway, who brought a petition against WCC officials over how the jail uses its secure living unit (SLU), in which Sheepway was kept for the vast majority of his time at the WCC.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale found earlier this year that the WCC did not have the legal authority to create the SLU, which he concluded was separate confinement by a different name. He gave the WCC nine months to address the issues.

“There are no genuine amendments being made to the Corrections Act, other than perhaps the review mechanism, but the whole part of the amendments dealing with restrictive confinement, segregation, that’s just the government continuing its lexical war that it lost in court,” Larochelle said in an interview Oct. 17.

“So they’re trying now to do what they weren’t able to do in court, which is to re-define what segregation means and what solitary confinement means and if it needs to be done again, we’ll do it again, but they’re going to lose again. They can’t do what they’re trying to do.”

“I think government is still playing semantics,” he continued. “… In one sentence, I think that Bill No. 6, Act to Amend the Corrections Act 2009, does not display on behalf of the Government of the Yukon, and genuine and clear intention to stop the routine use of segregation at the Whitehorse Correctional Centre, period.”

Larochelle said he thinks the WCC is taking a “top-down” approach when it should be taking a “bottom-up” approach, and working to change the culture and work environment at the jail.

“They don’t need a 10-page law. They need to change their philosophy, they need to change their view,” he said.

In an emailed response, Department of Justice spokesperson Fiona Azizaj said that the proposed amendments are just “one piece of the solution” when it comes to dealing with segregation. She added that the department is “confident that the proposed amendments address the Sheepway decision.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Bill No. 6 received its second reading Oct. 17. In fact, while the bill is in the second reading stage, it has not yet received a second reading. The News regrets the error.

Whitehorse Correctional CentreYukon justice department

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

The Yukon government responded to a petition calling the SCAN Act “draconian” on Feb. 19. (Yukon News file)
Yukon government accuses SCAN petitioner of mischaracterizing her eviction

A response to the Jan. 7 petition was filed to court on Feb. 19

City councillor Samson Hartland in Whitehorse on Dec. 3, 2018. Hartland has announced his plans to run for mayor in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillor sets sights on mayor’s chair

Hartland declares election plans

Whitehorse RCMP will provide internet safety training due to an uptick of child luring offences. (iStock photo)
RCMP hosting internet safety webinars for parents and caregivers

The webinars will take place on March 23 and 25

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

A rendering of the Normandy Manor seniors housing facility. (Photo courtesy KBC Developments)
Work on seniors housing project moves forward

Funding announced for Normandy Manor

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

Most Read