CAT/C/CAN/CO/7

Conditions of detention
12.
While appreciating the measures taken by the State party to improve conditions of
detention in general and reduce prison overcrowding in some detention facilities, the
Committee remains concerned about reports of deplorable conditions in some police
stations and other detention facilities, as well as insufficient food. It is also concerned at
reported arbitrary practices, in particular extended questioning, sleep deprivation and
abusive strip-searches and body cavity searches. Moreover, the Committee observes with
concern the almost constant increase in the number of persons being held in pretrial
detention during the period under review, with an increase of 18 per cent from 2013 to 2016.
As stated by the delegation, delays in the delivery of justice have to be addressed. The
Committee also echoes the concerns raised by both the Canadian Human Rights
Commission and the Office of the Correctional Investigator that the recent inmate
population growth has been exclusively driven by increases in the rate of incarceration of
members of indigenous peoples and other minority groups, including Asian, Latin
American and black offenders, leading to their overrepresentation in the prison population.
In this respect, the Committee notes that the delegation acknowledged that a
transformational change is required to reverse this trend, and that, in order to achieve that
change, the State party has started to implement comprehensive measures that include, inter
alia, legislative and policy reforms. The above-mentioned institutions also reported a
marked increase in the number of inmates with disabilities, in particular mental health
disabilities, in federal prisons. The Committee appreciates the information on the new
procedures implemented by the Correctional Service of Canada to improve the response to
offenders with complex mental health needs, including enhancing intervention strategies for
offenders with suicidal and self-injurious behaviour. However, while noting that in 2017
and 2018 the authorities increased funding for mental health issues in correctional facilities,
the Committee remains concerned at reports indicating that there is excessive use of means
of restraint and that correctional institutions lack the appropriate capacity, resources and
infrastructure to manage serious mental health conditions, a problem that is particularly
acute in women’s institutions (arts. 11 and 16).
13.

The State party should:

(a)
Continue its efforts to improve conditions of detention and alleviate the
overcrowding of penitentiary institutions and other detention facilities, including
through the application of non-custodial measures. In that connection, the Committee
draws the State party’s attention to the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for
the Treatment of Prisoners (the Nelson Mandela Rules) and the United Nations Rules
for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women
Offenders (the Bangkok Rules);
(b)
Urgently adopt practical measures to remedy any deficiencies related to
general living conditions in police and other detention facilities, including those
related to sanitation and hygiene standards and access to sufficient food;
(c)
Ensure, in law and practice, that pretrial detention is not excessively
applied or prolonged;
(d)
Increase its efforts to address the overrepresentation of indigenous
peoples and other minority groups in prisons and its underlying causes;
(e)
Allocate the resources required for adapting detention facilities and their
staffing to prisoners with physical disabilities, in accordance with international
standards;
(f)
Improve the provision of gender- and age-specific medical services to
prisoners, particularly for those with psychosocial disabilities;
(g)
Ensure that means of restraint are used only as a last resort to prevent
the risk of harm to the individual or others and only when all other reasonable options
would fail to satisfactorily contain the risk;
(h)
Ensure that body searches of persons deprived of their liberty are
performed in a manner that respects the inmate’s dignity. Invasive body searches

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