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Globe editorial: Ontario’s sickening mistreatment of Adam Capay

The Liberal government moved Monday to limit solitary confinement. This is one of our earlier editorials on Adam Capay.

Learn the name of Adam Capay. He is the living symbol of everything that is wrong with Canada's prisons, its justice system and its treatment of indigenous people.

Mr. Capay, 23, has been held in solitary confinement in an Ontario provincial prison for four years. He is housed alone in a basement, at the end of a long corridor, in a cell sheathed in plexiglass. The lights are on 24 hours a day.

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Mr. Capay has no idea if it is day or night. When Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, visited him this month, she said he appeared to have memory and speech problems brought on by his prison conditions.

Related: Minister refuses to release Adam Capay from solitary confinement

Related: First Nations chief calls prisoner's treatment in solitary 'inhumane'

Read more: 640 days, four walls and one tiny window: Richard Wolfe's dispatches from solitary

Read more: Who killed Eddie Snowshoe: The fatal sentence of solitary confinement

The only thing Ontario prison officials haven't done to this poor man is shackle him upside down on a dungeon wall. But they may as well have. Mr. Capay is arguably being tortured by the state. The sensory deprivation caused by constant light is an acknowledged torture technique, and the United Nations says that holding a person for more than 15 days in solitary is in itself a form of torture.

But there is more. Mr. Capay is legally innocent. He was charged with first-degree murder in 2012 after the death of a fellow inmate in a Thunder Bay prison where Mr. Capay was being held on minor charges. Four years later, he has still not been to trial.

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The Supreme Court of Canada says that any delay between the laying of charges and the completion of trial longer than 30 months is a violation of an accused person's Charter right to be tried within a reasonable time.

Mr. Capay has been held without trial for 52 months. And he has been in solitary confinement 100 times longer than the 15-day maximum the UN considers to be the threshold for torture.

This young, native Canadian man's human rights have been stolen from him. And he would still be forgotten in a prison basement, were it not for a brave prison guard who brought his plight to the attention of Ontario's chief human rights commissioner.

The inhuman treatment of Adam Capay defies categorization. He must be released from solitary and given medical care – by the end of this week. His murder charge should be stayed. And those who allowed this to happen must be held to account. Nothing less can compensate for this sickening cruelty.

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