Fighting for the rights of the incarcerated.

CCLA fights for the dignity and rights of those behind bars, with a focus on issues and cases that will result in broad, systemic change.

On an average day, over 40,000 people are incarcerated in Canada’s jails and prisons. Many of these people are waiting for their trial or a bail decision and have only been accused of a crime. These people are subject to a deprivation of their liberty and basic rights that most of us will never experience or truly understand. For decades, provincial and federal inquests, inquiries, commissions and investigations into the treatment of Canadian prisoners have made repeated recommendations concerning oversight, accountability, and transparency; few have ever been implemented.

Although various laws and policies exist to protect prisoners and detainees from arbitrary or excessive use of power, systemic violations of human rights continue to occur behind bars. Prisoners who experience rights violations face significant, and at times insurmountable, barriers to sharing their experiences and pursuing legal remedies. 

A landmark 2014 Supreme Court win

Khela, a prisoner in a medium-security facility, was transferred to a high-security facility after the government received information that he was involved in the stabbing of an inmate. Khela applied for habeas corpus, which is an ancient legal tool that has protected people against unjustified detention since 1215. The government attempted to argue that habeas corpus should be limited in the context of involuntary prison transfers.

Our lawyers went to court to argue that habeas corpus should remain accessible in all contexts and that the government can only withhold information on why a person is being detained when there are security-related reasons for doing so. Thankfully, the Supreme Court agreed and issued a judgment that affirmed the value of robust habeas corpus review.

Everyone should be granted protection against deprivations of their liberty, and the onus is on the government to justify any detention.
Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Strip Searches in Ontario Prisons

Ontario's law gives provincial prisons carte blanche to strip search any prisoner, at any time, for no reason. We believe the law is unconstitutional.
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Fighting Strip Searches

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada called strip searches “one of the most extreme exercises of police power” and “inherently humiliating and degrading”. So why has Canada’s federal prison system carried out hundreds of thousands of unnecessary strip searches since then? These are not trivial intrusions. Canadians serving sentences are forced to undergo highly invasive searches in low-risk situations, such as leaving a secure area, or even upon release from prison. These searches can inflict severe psychological trauma, particularly for those with a history of being abused. We’re asking the federal government to end these harmful practices.

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Strip Searches in Ontario Prisons

June 21, 2022

Fighting Strip Searches

In 2001, the Supreme Court of Canada called strip searches “one of the most extreme exercises of police power” and “inherently humiliating and degrading”. So why has Canada’s federal prison system carried out hundreds of thousands of unnecessary strip searches since then? These are not trivial intrusions. Canadians serving sentences are forced to undergo highly invasive searches in low-risk situations, such as leaving a secure area, or even upon release from prison. These searches can inflict severe psychological trauma, particularly for those with a history of being abused. We’re asking the federal government to end these harmful practices.

Our Work in Protecting the Rights of the Incarcerated

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Canadian Civil Liberties Association launches constitutional challenge to Ontario’s strip search law

June 20, 2022
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a woman with personal experience have launched a major…

CCLA Argues for Basic Human Dignity as Fundamental Value in Criminal-Penal System Before the Supreme Court

March 29, 2022
Eliminating all hope of release by revisiting a person's incarceration in light of personal change…

Prison Pandemic Papers Documenting Impact of COVID-19 in Jails, Prisons & Penitentiaries Across Canada Launched

March 8, 2022
Today, the Prison Pandemic Papers were launched online, making available previously unpublished government records.

Coalition Pens Open Letter to CSC, Renews Calls to End Prolonged Solitary Confinement

July 6, 2021
In June 2021, the Correctional Service of Canada (“CSC”) invited dozens of community organizations to…

CCLA on Ontario’s Proposed Changes to Regulations Governing Solitary Confinement

June 9, 2021
On June 4, 2021, the CCLA made submissions to the Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor…

CCLA and Partners Release Update on COVID-19 and Prison Settings

March 19, 2021
CCLA along with its organizational partners in the Prison Pandemic Partnership is calling upon federal,…

CCLA and Partners Notch New Legal Win in Thunder Bay

March 12, 2021
Thunder Bay’s Medical Officer of Health has rescinded her February 8th Class Order targeting individuals…

CCLA Calls Out Thunder Bay’s Unconstitutional COVID-19 Order

March 8, 2021
On February 8, 2021, Thunder Bay’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. DeMille, issued a Class…

New Analysis of COVID-19 Infections Behind Bars Underscores the Need to Depopulate Prisons

February 3, 2021
CCLA, as part of its Prison Pandemic Partnership Project, is helping to track the spread…

National Coalition Calls on Government to Act to Protect Prisoners Against COVID-19

January 21, 2021
Yesterday, CCLA joined with a coalition of organizations to again call on the Canadian government…

CCLA Sounds Alarm as COVID in Prisons Reaches Unprecedented Levels

January 12, 2021
Preliminary findings released today by the Prison Pandemic Partnership, which includes the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, reveal…

Justice Vs. Solitary Confinement: Torture in Canadian Prisons

November 30, 2020
Justice Vs. looks at how solitary confinement is used within the Canadian criminal justice system,…

Class Action Launched re Illegal Strip Searches

July 7, 2020
A major class action is being launched today on behalf of Canadians illegally strip searched…

Coalition Calls on Government to Release COVID Information on Ontario Jails

July 7, 2020
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

CCLA and Partners File Legal Case Against the Correctional Service of Canada

May 12, 2020
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and its coalition partners have filed a constitutional challenge to…

Letter to Correctional Service of Canada

April 22, 2020
We express our deep concern regarding the health and well-being of the inmates and staff…

Drastic Action Needed; Protect Incarcerated, Correctional Workers & Broader Communities

April 2, 2020
A Letter from CCLA to All Provinces and Territories: New Brunswick

CCLA to Provinces & Territories: Drastic Action Needed Now

April 2, 2020
CCLA to Provinces and Territories: CCLA has written to government ministers across the country to…

Protecting the Forgotten During Canada’s Response to Coronavirus: The Jailed

March 19, 2020
Canada must protect those who are often forgotten in a crisis: legally innocent people held…

Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Appeal by Government against CCLA’s Challenge of Solitary Confinement Laws

February 13, 2020
Today, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision granting the government of Canada leave…

Attorney General of Canada V. Corporation of The Canadian Civil Liberties Association Factum

June 28, 2019
Attorney General Of Canada V. Corporation of The Canadian Civil Liberties Association Factum

Solitary Confinement: The Case Goes On

June 18, 2019
Canada’s solitary confinement regime is due to end on Monday but the government has sought…

Solitary confinement is no joking matter – and the courts are not amused – AGAIN!

April 29, 2019
The Ontario Court of Appeal has once more handed down a scathing decision to the…

Ontario Court of Appeals on Federal Governments Second Request for an Extension on Solitary Confinement

April 26, 2019
Ontario Court of Appeals on Federal Governments Second Request for an Extension on Solitary Confinement

End to Solitary Confinement as We Know It

March 28, 2019
In an extraordinary decision, the Ontario Court of Appeal has ordered an end to prolonged…

No Remedy and No Right – SCC Strikes a Double Blow

February 8, 2019
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Being in a wheelchair is no reason for being held in solitary

February 7, 2019
Gregory Allen was placed in solitary confinement because he is in a wheelchair. He was held in…

CCLA at the Supreme Court: Does a Charter violation require a remedy?

February 6, 2019
Mr. Bird doing too much bird is the issue before the Supreme Court of Canada…

CCLA Wins Important Battle Against Feds On Solitary Confinement

December 17, 2018
The feds were scolded today by the Chief Justice of Ontario and its highest court,…

Rights groups challenging solitary confinement in court release joint statement on Bill C-83

October 16, 2018
Today the three organizations fighting the federal government in BC and Ontario courts on solitary…

Keep Your Promise On Solitary Confinement, Groups Tell Ottawa

May 14, 2018
Rights groups in legal challenges unite to urge government to comply with court orders.

CCLA Court Challenge To Solitary Confinement: The Next Step

April 6, 2018
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Legal Fight Against Solitary Confinement Continues

January 17, 2018
On December 18, 2017, Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco of the Ontario Superior Court released…

Court Strikes Down Solitary Confinement Regime in Response to CCLA’s Challenge

December 18, 2017
TORONTO, Ont. – In a victory for civil liberties, Associate Chief Justice Frank Marrocco of…

CCLA Segregation Challenge

September 13, 2017
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

CCLA Calls on Court to End Solitary Confinement – Hearing Starts September 11th

September 8, 2017
TORONTO, Ont. – On September 11th, 13th, 14th and 15th, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association…

CCLA Concerned by Coroner’s Report Findings of Soleiman Faqiri’s Death

July 21, 2017
The CCLA is greatly troubled by findings of the Coroner’s report concerning the death of…

International Women’s Day: Highlighting Issues of Indigenous Women in Prison System

March 8, 2017
On this International Women’s Day, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association recognizes the many women in…

Ontario Must Curtail Segregation In Provincial Jails

May 12, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
Know your rights

Loku Inquest Must Address Bias In Policing

May 9, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Canada To Join Critical Anti-Torture Protocol

May 3, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Government must end solitary confinement of mentally ill prisoners.

March 10, 2010
PRESS RELEASE: Canadian prisons need to drastically re-evaluate their use of solitary confinement, especially where…