Chelsea Novak: Breaking news — prisoners have rights

In actual fact, the “benefits” laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are rights.

It may come as a surprise to some readers, but in Canada people who have been convicted of a crime and sentenced to time in prison have rights.

I say this not because some new survey shows Canadians don’t know that prisoners have rights, but because recent activity on Facebook has suggested that some of our readers don’t know the basics.

On Jan. 17, the story “Indefinite solitary confinement in prisons unconstitutional: B.C. Supreme Court” was published to Black Pre websites and shared on the Facebook pages.

We received many responses to the story via Facebook, including a number of comments that either implied or explicitly stated that Canadian prisoners should not or do not have rights.

“If found guilty you don’t get rights!…..our system is seriously flawed,” wrote one commenter — who was apparently torn between stating that prisoners don’t have rights and simultaneously bemoaning the system that does, in fact, grant them rights.

“The benefits of our constitution are a privilege, not a right,” wrote another.

Facepalm.

In actual fact, the “benefits” laid out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are rights — as per the title and wording of the charter — as well as freedoms.

And this piece of our constitution — which can be read at laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html — does in fact address the circumstances under which any of those rights may be denied to a Canadian citizen: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act — laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/C-44.6 — further clarifies that prisoners retain their rights except those removed or restricted by their sentence: “offenders retain the rights of all members of society except those that are, as a consequence of the sentence, lawfully and necessarily removed or restricted.”

We received more demeaning comments aimed at prisoners after the story “‘Violated and humiliated’: Inmate claims privacy breach in jail” was published to our site on Mar. 27.

“No, some people are not human,” wrote one commenter, in response to another comment saying that prisoners were “still human and people have rights.”

First off, let’s take this opportunity to clarify the difference between fact and opinion.

Saying “prisoners don’t have rights” is a statement of fact. Anyone reading this without previous knowledge, or with little knowledge, of Canadian laws and the constitution could be led to believe that Canadian prisoners do not, in fact, have rights.

“I don’t think prisoners should have rights” is an opinion. The wording doesn’t make it clear whether or not prisoners do have rights, but it makes it pretty clear how the speaker feels about the issue. And this is a pretty important distinction, particularly in the age of fake news. More specifically in the age where y’all want come at me with “fake news” when I accidentally spell someone’s name wrong while you spew this misinformed slop on Facebook.

Second, can we please address the irony of a bunch of people railing against prisoners while simultaneously eyeing up Canada’s laws and constitutions and concluding “I don’t agree with this piece of legislation, therefore I shall behave as if it does not exist.”

And before those commenters pull out their right to an opinion — because they’ve already forgotten the difference between a fact and an opinion, and I can see the saliva gathering at the corners of their mouths and hear their heartrates increasing as they prepare to joyfully slap it in my face — I ask them to remember that the “freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression” is theirs to claim because it’s in the charter. The same one that protects the rights of all Canadians, including prisoners.

And before they get all up on their high horses defending their own rights, they should remember that the charter comes with the responsibility of defending all of the rights and freedoms, as they apply to all Canadians.

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

Just Posted

Two new COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health

The total number of Interior Health cases since the beginning of the pandemic is now at 522

West Kootenay mother searching for son missing since Sept. 1

Police are investigating the disappearance of Cory Westcott

Students/staff evacuate Rossland Summit School due to smell of smoke

SD20 says students in different learning groups didn’t come in contact with each other in evacuation

Man whose crime spree began in Nelson pleads guilty in death of female passenger

Anthony Cortez scheduled to be sentenced for 2017 incidents

Castlegar Rebels hold three-day camp before upcoming season

The camp looked a little different this year due to COVID-19 protocols

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

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

2 British Columbians arrested, 3 at large in massive Alberta drug bust

Eight people are facing 33 charges in what police have dubbed Project Incumbent

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

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Liberals reach deal with NDP on COVID-19 aid bill, likely averting election

NDP and the Liberals have reached an agreement on COVID-19 sick-leave

Money laundering inquiry delayed over of B.C. election: commissioner

Austin Cullen says the hearings will start again on Oct. 26

Most Read