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On July 7 a broad coalition of civil society groups called on the Ontario government to immediately release data surrounding the prevalence of COVID-19 in provincial correctional facilities and the steps being taken to prevent the spread of the virus. This information is vital for the health of all Ontarians, but especially for Indigenous and Black communities who are vastly over-represented inside these institutions.

Individuals in congregate living settings face a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. This is why there has been a focus on collecting and making publicly available data related to long-term care and retirement homes and homeless shelters. It is also why the Correctional Service of Canada has created a website that is regularly updated and shows inmate COVID-19 testing in federal correctional institutions.

Currently however, there is no public information available about the current data related to COVID-19 testing and positive diagnoses in Ontario correctional facilities.

This leaves families fearing for the well-being of their loved ones and relying on sporadic local media reports for information about outbreaks. The lack of public information about how people in Ontario jails are being tested before they are released creates a challenge for discharge planning, especially for Indigenous people returning to remote communities.

The coalition includes Aboriginal Legal Services, the Alliance for Healthier Communities, the Black Legal Action Centre, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Criminal Law Group at Queen’s University, Grand Council Treaty 3, the HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Nishnawbe-Aski Legal Services and Queen’s Prison Law Clinic.

Read the full letter and the coalition’s press release.

About the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The CCLA is an independent, non-profit organization with supporters from across the country. Founded in 1964, the CCLA is a national human rights organization committed to defending the rights, dignity, safety, and freedoms of all people in Canada.

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