Toronto

Lawsuit over youth placed solitary confinement in Ontario allowed to proceed

A lawsuit against the Ontario government on behalf of juvenile inmates placed in solitary confinement has been certified as a class action at an uncontested hearing.

Lawsuit, certified as a class action in December, alleges practice is 'shocking and unacceptable'

The Ontario Superior Court has certified a class action lawsuit against the Ontario government over the placement of juvenile inmates in solitary confinement. (Shutterstock/cunaplus)

A lawsuit against the Ontario government on behalf of juvenile inmates placed in solitary confinement has been certified as a class action at an uncontested hearing.

In a decision on Dec. 17, Superior Court Justice Paul Perell certified the class action. Ontario did not oppose the certification.

"The class members are all young people who are subject to segregation for extended periods of time," Kirk M. Baert, lead counsel at Koskie Minsky LLP, said in a news release on Saturday.

"This practice is shocking and unacceptable. We will continue to push the case forward seeking justice for all class members."

According to the amended statement of claim, the province allegedly improperly placed a number of inmates under the age of 18 in "youth segregation" at youth justice facilities operated by the Ontario ministry of children and youth services between April 1, 2004 and Dec. 17, 2018.

Kirk M. Baert, lead counsel at Koskie Minsky LLP, said in a news release on Saturday: 'This practice is shocking and unacceptable. We will continue to push the case forward seeking justice for all class members.' (Peerayot/Shutterstock)

Youth segregation is defined as the placing of a person under 18 alone in a given room or area for more than six hours straight without "any meaningful human contact."

It doesn't include segregation by reason of a lockdown or the routine locking up of young people in their rooms overnight at youth justice facilities.

The claim alleges the government has been negligent, breached its fiduciary duties, and violated the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The representative plaintiff is identified as only C.S., who the claim alleges was incarcerated at the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre and Brookside Youth Centre and spent time in solitary on several occasions.

Nine facilities named in the decision are Bluewater, Brookside, Cecil Facer, Donald Doucet, Invictus, Justice Ronald Lester, Roy McMurtry, Sprucedale and the Toronto Youth Assessment Centre.

Allegations not proven in court

The decision identifies several issues that a court would have to determine at trial. They include whether the province was wrong to place the teens in solitary and whether it breached a duty of care to the inmates by "permitting and/or failing to take reasonable steps to prevent those uses."

Other issues relate to whether the placements violated their various constitutional rights.

None of the allegations have been proven in court. 

Koskie Minsky LLP and Strosberg Sasso Sutts LLP have been appointed as class counsel.

With files from The Canadian Press