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CANADIAN CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS - Legal rights - Protection against cruel and unusual treatment or punishment

Thursday, September 14, 2017 @ 11:42 AM  


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Appeal by the Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada from a Superior Court of Justice decision finding that frequent lockdowns at Maplehurst Correctional Complex (Maplehurst) violated Ogiamien’s and Nguyen’s Charter rights. Ogiamien and Nguyen were detained for three years and one year, respectively, at Maplehurst, while awaiting an immigration hearing and a trial on firearms charges, respectively. Lockdowns were frequent during their detention, during which Ogiamien and Nguyen remained locked in their cells without access to a dayroom and programs. Both Ogiamien and Nguyen brought an application under s. 24(1) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Charter), claiming the lockdowns violated their rights under ss. 7, 9 and 12. The application judge concluded the frequent lockdowns subjected Ogiamien and Nguyen to cruel and unusual treatment contrary to s. 12 of the Charter. He found most of the lockdowns resulted from staff shortages and the frequency and duration of these lockdowns alone violated s. 12. He made no finding on s. 7 or s. 9. He awarded Charter damages of $60,000 for Ogiamien and $25,000 for Nguyen. The Attorneys General of Ontario and Canada appealed. They raised four issues on appeal: 1) whether the application judge overstated the frequency, duration and impact of the lockdowns affecting Ogiamien and Nguyen; 2) whether the treatment of Ogiamien and Nguyen under the lockdowns that affected them constituted cruel and unusual treatment contrary to s. 12 of the Charter; 3) whether the application judge erred in awarding Charter damages without giving the Attorneys General an opportunity to make submissions on whether damages were an appropriate and just remedy; and 4) if Ogiamien’s and Nguyen’s s. 12 rights were violated, whether Charter damages were an appropriate and just remedy.

HELD: Appeals allowed. The lockdowns at Maplehurst did not violate Ogiamien’s and Nguyen’s Charter rights. The application judge’s order was set aside. The application judge overstated the frequency, duration and impact of the lockdowns affecting Ogiamien and Nguyen. The lockdowns affecting Ogiamien and Nguyen occurred about half as frequently as found by the application judge and in some instances were of a shorter duration and had less of an impact than found by the application judge. The treatment of Ogiamien and Nguyen under the lockdowns that affected them did not constitute cruel and unusual treatment contrary to s. 12 of the Charter. While their treatment under lockdowns undoubtedly added to the hardships they experienced at Maplehurst, it was not treatment that met the high bar of being grossly disproportionate or so excessive as to outrage standards of decency. The application judge erred in awarding Charter damages without giving the Attorneys General an opportunity to make submissions on whether damages were an appropriate and just remedy. It was unnecessary to answer the question posed in fourth issue in light of the conclusion that s. 12 of the Charter was not violated.

Ogiamien v. Ontario (Community Safety and Correctional Services), [2017] O.J. No. 4401, Ontario Court of Appeal, G.R. Strathy C.J.O., J.I. Laskin and G.T. Trotter JJ.A., August 23, 2017. Digest No. TLD-Sept112017008