Candidate responds

Liberal candidate concerned about federal government's solitary confinement policy

Regarding Colin Mayes’ column (Morning Star, Jan. 30: “Zero tolerance for barbaric practices”),  if the Harper Conservative government were serious about ending “barbaric cultural practices”, they could start in Canada by abolishing indefinite solitary confinement.

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on taking care of those with mental illness.

That’s why ordinary Canadians were shocked when Ashley Smith, 19, tragically choked to death in her solitary confinement cell at a jail in Kitchener, Ont.

An Ontario coroner’s jury, made up of average citizens from the community, ruled her death a homicide.

They recommended the federal government abolish indefinite solitary confinement. Ms. Smith spent 2,000 days in segregation and was described as being  treated like a,  “caged animal”. She was suffering mentally,  aggravated by the deleterious effects of solitary confinement.

Forensic psychologists have long determined indefinite solitary confinement  to juveniles causes thoughts of suicide, self-harm, hallucinations, depression, acute anxiety, nightmares and uncontrollable anger or rage.

As a civilized country, it is time we abandoned this crude practice in our jails. It is an egregious punitive policy that does violence to the dignity of the person and serves no useful purpose in reducing crime or in protecting Canadians.

However, the Conservative government refuses to accept the common sense recommendation of those average Canadians who sat on the coroner’s jury. Why isn’t the government listening to mainstream Canadians?

Coralee Smith, Ashley’s mother, puts it well when she says, “Disgustin, it’s an abomination!” Ms. Smith’s family’s lawyer, Jonathon Roy stated, “They’re (the Conservatives) playing an Orwellian game.”

Canadians do not want to live in a country where the government ignores the good advice of its people and ignores the basic dignity of a human being.

It’s time for a change in Ottawa.

Cindy Derkaz,

Liberal candidate

Okanagan-Shuswap