Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Debra Parkes]

Published In

University of British Columbia Law Review

Document Type


Publication Date



rights adjudication, prisons


This paper examines over twenty years of prisoner litigation under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, beginning with a brief consideration of the social and political context for prisoners into which the Charter was entrenched in 1982, before moving on to consider a variety of successful and unsuccessful prisoners' Charter claims. The author notes some ways in which the impact of the Charter has been diminished at the prison walls, including through a lack of full and meaningful access by prisoners to courts or other means of independent review of prison decisions and conditions, as well as by the persistence of a pre-Charter judicial tendency to pay deference to prison decisions. Some promising developments in recent cases such as Sauvé v. Canada and May v. Ferndale Institution are discussed before attention is turned briefly to the future of prisoners' rights claims in Canada. The author suggests that by examining the extent to which judicial review of prisoners' rights claims has or is capable of fostering a "Charter culture" within prisons entails reflection on the climate and respect for rights in Canada, as well as the problems and contradictions of giving meaning to rights in a penal context.



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