On May 10, 2016, the Ontario Superior Court released its
decision in Ogiamien v Ontario, 2016 ONSC 3080.
This case stems from a habeus corpus application
brought by two inmates housed at the maximum-security Maplehurst
Correctional Complex ("Maplehurst"). The applicants
alleged that frequent and unpredictable use of 'lockdowns'
constituted cruel and unusual treatment under the
Inmates in the general population at Maplehurst were typically
allowed out of their cells for up to seven hours a day, during
which time they were able to receive visitors and telephone calls,
exercise, socialize, and attend religious and educational programs
amongst other activities. However, during a lockdown, inmates were
restricted to their cells. Over a three-year period, inmates at
Maplehurst were subject to lockdown approximately 49% of the time,
totalling 402 days. There was evidence before the Court that while
lockdowns were sometimes necessary for safety and security reasons,
they were also frequently used to compensate for staff shortages as
a tool to control inmates.
The issues on the application were whether the conditions at
Maplehurst violated the applicants' Charter rights,
and, if so, the appropriate remedy.
The Court determined that while the use of lockdowns for genuine
safety concerns was appropriate, the Federal Government's
knowledge of the staffing shortages at Maplehurst, stretching back
to approximately 2002, meant that the lockdowns were being
inappropriately and routinely employed as a means of managing
inmates. The Court found that this was an improper use of lockdowns
in a manner that constituted a violation of the applicants'
Turning to the issue of remedies, Justice Gray considered that
the case was an application brought by two inmates — it was
not a class proceeding. Systemic remedies, for example, including a
requirement that Maplehurst make certain procedural changes, would
be more appropriate in the context of a class of individuals.
Similarly, the Judge held that a declaration of rights alone, while
alerting the authorities to the issues faced by the two applicants,
would not go far enough to vindicate the applicants' individual
Justice Gray held that in addition to a declaration of rights,
the repeated and unpredictable disruptions caused by lockdowns on
the applicants' daily life merited an award of damages. In
applying the criteria outlined in the Supreme Court of Canada's
decision in Vancouver (City) v. Ward, Justice Gray held
that this approach would serve to deter future breaches while also
appropriately vindicating the applicants' rights. Justice Gray
further noted that there were no applicable countervailing factors
against awarding damages.
In assessing quantum, Justice Gray considered that one of the
applicants had been in lockdown for approximately 50% of his nearly
three-year incarceration pending a decision by immigration
authorities. He was awarded $60,000. The other applicant, an inmate
held for a considerably shorter period of time pending his trial on
various weapons-related offences, was awarded $25,000.
This decision follows a recent line of cases furthering the
Court's incremental development of Charter damage
awards. While this case does not reference a particular framework
for the scope of damages awarded, the quantum represents
significant awards under s. 24(1). Moreover, the Judge's
comments situating the facts of the case within the framework of a
hypothetical class proceeding appear to have opened the door to
potential further litigation. We understand that certain parties
are considering appealing the decision. However, at the time of
writing, Notices of Appeal had not yet been filed.
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