End Remand of Pregnant People and Caregivers
The Canadian Criminal Code must be amended to provide that non-custodial pre-trial measures are preferred for pregnant people and primary caregivers of young children or people with disabilities.
Several countries have taken measures to keep pregnant women and parents with primary care of young children out of prisons. These include Russia, Algeria, China, Iceland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Norway, and Sweden. Some countries, such as Italy and Brazil, specifically recognize that pregnant women and parents who are primary caregivers of young children or of people with disabilities should not be remanded – that is, held in prison before they have been convicted of a crime or sentenced to prison time. Canada is not among these countries.
Canada is a United Nations Member State. The UN voted unanimously to adopt the 2010 Bangkok Rules governing the rights of women prisoners internationally. In adopting the Rules, the UN General Assembly emphasized that, “when sentencing or deciding on pretrial measures for a pregnant woman or a child’s sole or primary caretaker, non-custodial measures should be preferred where possible and appropriate”.
Many people who are remanded do not go on to be convicted. Most people convicted of crimes in Canada are given non-custodial sentences served in the community.
Incarceration is associated with serious psychological, physical, and social harms for pregnant people and primary caregivers of young children, and for the children themselves. To prevent these harms, pregnant people and primary caregivers of young children and people with disabilities should not be incarcerated when they have not yet been, and may never be, convicted of a crime.
We call on the federal government to amend the provisions of the Criminal Code regarding Judicial Interim Release to provide that pregnant people and primary caregivers of young children or people with disabilities, who would otherwise be remanded to prison, be instead placed under house arrest.