$125M Class Action Filed Against the Province of Ontario for the Mistreatment of Children While in Ontario Youth Justice Facilities

TORONTO, Nov. 4, 2015 /CNW/ - A $125M Class Action was filed today in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice against the Province of Ontario for the mistreatment of children in Ontario's Youth Justice Facilities.

The lawsuit alleges that the Crown breached its fiduciary duty to ensure the welfare of children and its own policies in its use of solitary confinement at Ontario's Youth Justice Facilities while children are under the Crown's exclusive control and care.

The Class includes all children who were incarcerated in Ontario Youth Justice Facilities and were subjected to solitary confinement between January 1, 2007 and present.

The Plaintiff, who cannot be named due to his or her status as a minor at the time of the alleged offences, was incarcerated at the Genest Detention Centre for Youth in London Ontario. Sutts, Strosberg LLP and Koskie Minsky LLP represent the Plaintiff. The Plaintiff alleges that he or she was subjected to lengthy periods of solitary confinement as a minor at the facility and that the extensive and improper use of cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments; such as the use of extended periods of solitary confinement on him or her and others at the Facilities cause irreparable harm.

"Canadians would be appalled to know the degree to which this inhuman punishment is used in governmentally-controlled Youth Justice Facilities," said Jay Strosberg, Partner at Sutts Strosberg LLP. "There are no circumstances where such punishments are reasonable, and the Province's inaction is disturbing."

"Ontario has, and continues to ignore calls for change within its own government and internationally," said Kirk Baert, a partner at Koskie Minsky LLP. "Placing minors in solitary confinement is not an acceptable practice in Canadian Society under any circumstance."

International organizations such as Human Rights Watch, the World Health Organization and the United Nations have issued strong condemnation of the use of solitary confinement on juveniles.

Under the Ontario Child and Family Services Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. C. 11 (the "Act"), solitary confinement is only to be employed in the Facilities in circumstances where a child's conduct indicates that he or she is likely in the immediate future to cause serious property damage or serious bodily harm to another person. It can only be used when no less restrictive method of restraining the child is practicable. Once the crisis has subsided, the child must be immediately removed from solitary confinement.

Among other things, the Class Action alleges that the Crown and its agents regularly breach their own policies, and that they keep children in solitary confinement long after a 'crisis' has passed; place children in solitary confinement when there is no threat to others or property; and that in the case of children under 16, regularly hold them in isolation for longer than 8 hours a day or 24 hours per week, and in the case of children over 16, regularly holds them in solitary confinement for more than 72 hours without regional director approval.

Furthermore, it alleges that they do not advise children of their rights to contact the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth or a lawyer when they are placed in solitary confinement and/or deny children access to the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth or a lawyer when they request it.

According to the Plaintiff, youth complained of lack of food, unsanitary cells and improper withholding of items that would facilitate the practice of religion while being held in solitary confinement.

In 2015, the Ontario Advocate for Children and Youth released a report titled It's A Matter of Time: Systemic Review of Secure Isolation in Ontario Youth Justice Facilities. In it, many concerns about the use of solitary confinement at the Facilities were raised. For example, the report stated:

            …it is recognized that young people's brains continue to develop into their mid-twenties. Indeed, the protections of a youth criminal justice system reflect an international acceptance of the immature brain of the adolescent. Considered a critical time period for mental health, adolescence is a stage marked by vulnerability. Substantial evidence from the research on the use of secure isolation with adults documents the harmful effects of prolonged isolation…. the use of secure isolation with adolescents presents considerable risk. Such an intrusive and risky intervention must only be used with heightened safeguards…

Despite the above report's findings and recommendations, the Class Action alleges that the Crown has continued to use solitary confinement in an inappropriate and unreasonable manner.

Further information can be found at www.strosbergco.com/youthconfinement.

SOURCE Sutts, Strosberg LLP Barristers & Solicitors

For further information: Jay Strosberg, Sutts Strosberg LLP, 519.561.6285; Kirk Baert, Koskie Minsky LLP, 416.595.2092


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