An inmate in a federal institution was unsuccessful on an appeal of a decision of a Supreme Court judge, dismissing an application for a writ of habeas corpus for lack of jurisdiction

Administrative law – Prisons – Transfer of inmates – Statutory provisions – Remedies – Habeas corpus – Jurisdiction of court

Hickey v. Kent Institution, [2003] B.C.J. No. 61, British Columbia Court of Appeal, January 16, 2003, Rowles, Ryan and Saunders JJ.A.

The appellant, an inmate in a federal institution, made application to a judge of the Supreme Court of British Columbia for an order quashing the decision of Corrections Services Canada to transfer him to the Special Handling Unit, and an order that he not be transferred from the Pacific Region without leave of the court. The matter proceeded on the basis that it was an application for a writ of habeas corpus with certiorari in aid. The court dismissed the application for lack of jurisdiction.

The appellant filed a motion in the Federal Court, Trial Division, to extend the time for filing an application for judicial review of the transfer decision, along with an application to stay the transfer. Those motions were dismissed.

The appellant also filed an appeal from the decision of the B.C. Supreme Court. The decision of the Federal Court, Trial Division, rendered this appeal moot. However, the court agreed to hear the appeal, since it raised questions regarding access to the provincial superior courts to federal prisoners who seek to challenge involuntary inter-provincial transfers on the basis of manifest unfairness.

The appellant is serving a sentence of life imprisonment, imposed on April 17, 1996. In September 1999, he was ordered transferred to the Special Handling Unit, pursuant to s. 29 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, S.C. 1992, c. 20. The Special Handling Unit is a facility located within the regional reception centre at Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Quebec. Its policy objective is to “create an environment in which dangerous offenders are motivated and assisted to behave in a responsible manner so as to facilitate their integration in a maximum security institution.”

The issue on appeal was whether the Supreme Court judge erred in law in finding that the B.C. Supreme Court had no jurisdiction to grant relief in the nature of habeas corpus for an imminent deprivation of liberty by virtue of a contested involuntary order of transfer made within the prison system.

The court held that, in the circumstances of the case at bar, the B.C. Supreme Court has the jurisdiction to entertain an application for habeas corpus where an order for transfer is imminent. It was further held that the trial judge erred in law in concluding that she had no jurisdiction to entertain an application for habeas corpus. However, since no evidence was led to demonstrate that the grievance procedures under the Act, or judicial review to the Federal Court were inadequate, the Chambers judge was bound to exercise her discretion and refuse to consider the application. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.

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