An exterior shot of the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge

Ex-inmates win victory for moms and babies behind bars

B.C. Supreme Court rules government closure of program at Maple Ridge women's prison violated constitutional rights

The provincial government’s decision to close the mother-baby program at a Maple Ridge women’s prison has been deemed unconstitutional.

Issued Monday, the B.C. Supreme Court decision marks the end of five-year-long battle for Amanda Inglis and Patricia Block, two former inmates at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women who sued the province after the program was suddenly shut down in 2008.

The court held that mothers’ and babies’ equality rights, as well as their rights to security of the person, were violated by the government’s decision to end the program.

It found the decision to end the program did not consider the best interests of children or the constitutional rights of mothers.

The mother-baby program began at the provincial prison, on Alouette Road off 249th Street, not long after it opened in April 2004. The four-year experiment saw 12 mothers live with their children inside the prison fences. Of the 12, three mother-baby pairs were aboriginal.

B.C. Corrections ended the program in 2008, citing an increase in prison population and the safety of infants for its demise. Since then, inmates who have given birth have had their babies placed in foster care or with relatives.

The plaintiffs argued the closure deprived mothers and babies of the opportunity to bond, breastfeed, and develop close familial attachments, despite the fact that mothers wished to, and were deemed to be able to care for their children.

The West Coast Women’s Legal Education and Action Fund, which intervened in the case, applauded the B.C. Supreme Court decision.

“Aboriginal, poor and otherwise marginalized women are over-represented in prisons, and it is these women and their children who were also disproportionately affected by the cancellation of the mother-baby program,” said executive director Kasari Govender. “First Nations families have faced historic dislocation and state interference, from residential schools to the Sixties Scoop to the gross over-representation of Aboriginal children in state care today. This decision is a victory for highly vulnerable women and their children, who will now have much better prospects for future well-being.”

According to B.C. Corrections, the program was terminated because the safety of the babies was jeopardized. One of the mothers was caught using marijuana, others got into fights, and some left their babies unsupervised.

However a doctor and therapist, who both worked at the prison, testified that the program was beneficial to mothers, babies, and had a positive impact on the entire prison as well as other inmates.

If government decides to not pursue an appeal, B.C. Corrections has six months to fulfill the direction from the court.

“We appreciate the thoughtful consideration the court gave to this case,” said B.C. Corrections spokesperson Marnie Mayhew.

“B.C. Corrections will be carefully reviewing the decision and will determine how to best to move forward.  Regardless of the outcome, I can assure you we are committed to ensuring supports for all women – including pregnant women – continue to be in place at Alouette Correctional Centre for Women.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LETTER:

Catch much more BC Votes 2020 coverage from the Black Press Media in days and weeks to come

Langley man arrested in connection with $264,000 drug and cash bust in Grand Prairie

Police have warrants out for Christine Emes and Christopher Gilliat, also from Langley

Former Maple Ridge resident is a finalist for 2020 CBC nonfiction prize

Garibaldi Secondary grad, Jonathan Poh, writes about second-hand clothing stores in Value Village

SHARE: Fall in all its splendid colour arrived this week

Send us your photo showing how you view Maple Ridge or Pitt Meadows, and it could be featured soon

Record number of visitors hit Maple Ridge parks and trails

More than 630,000 people Apr. 1 and Aug. 31

B.C.’s top doctor thanks supporters after revealing threats over COVID-19 measures

Dr. Bonnie Henry says COVID-19 has caused some people to lash out in anger and frustration out of fear

B.C.-born Trybe social media app’s award system connects with Nickelback singer

Rock stars, jet planes, scooter tricks and the creation of a new platform ready for launch

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

B.C. VOTES 2020: Speculation tax misses speculators, B.C. Liberals say

Andrew Wilkinson, John Horgan clash over housing costs, solutions

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

NDP, Greens divided on pace of child care improvements in B.C. election campaign

NDP Leader John Horgan recommitted to $10-a-day child care and blamed the Greens for not supporting his efforts

Wind warning for White Rock, South Surrey

Gusts up to 90 km/h expected from Richmond to Langley Friday (Sept. 25) morning

Most Read