Statement on the death of Guy Langlois
Another preventable death in solitary confinement. The CBC reports today that Guy Langlois, a 38-year-old Métis man from Québec, hanged himself in his cell in the Atlantic Institution in Renous, N.B., on April 24. Langlois had spent 118 days in segregation, or solitary confinement. Although he had requested this status initially, CCLA and other critics are deeply concerned about the circumstances in which he was held.
“It is a tragedy that Guy Langois took his life. The circumstances in which he was held are also tragic. It is unacceptable and unconstitutional for the Canadian correctional system to keep individuals in long-term segregation, and all the more so for individuals with mental health issues,” says Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Director, Equality Program at CCLA.
More than 15 days in solitary confinement violates the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel treatment, according to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture. Such prolonged solitary confinement therefore violates Canada’s binding legal obligations under the UN Convention Against Torture. This should also be held as contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Solitary confinement can be severely detrimental to the psychological wellbeing of individuals, especially those who deal with existing mental health issues.
Indigenous people and those with mental health issues are generally over-represented in the prison system. Mr. Langlois reportedly had a long history of mental illness and suicide attempts. Placing an individual with this mental health history in solitary confinement for this period can never be a legitimate use of state power. A French-speaker, Mr. Langlois hanged himself on the day he was due to be transferred to British Columbia, far from his family and his linguistic communities.
Correctional Service Canada’s over-reliance on solitary confinement as a tool of control must come to an end before more individuals lose their lives.
The CCLA will continue to vigorously challenge the use of segregation in Canadian federal prisons.