What is Happening with Adam Capay?

For immediate release: November 6, 2017

More than five years have now passed since the event that led to Adam Capay’s solitary confinement for more than 1500 days. When this came to light, it was front page news. Now the silence around Adam Capay is deafening. There were reports he would have a hearing for a “stay” in May. That was postponed.


From Howard Sapers’ report on Segregation in Ontario jails (March 2017).

What is happening with Adam Capay? As he is seemingly still on the remand side of the system, he will not be getting the therapeutic services he needs to recover from the abuses done to him through the torture of his confinement. When will he have his ‘day in court’? When will he be released? After release, will he get the aftercare he needs? What is being done now in Ontario, and across Canada, to ensure this never happens again?

“The penal system had the opportunity to practice real reconciliation by handling Adam Capay’s case with fairness, timeliness, and compassion, all of which are essential for a young Indigenous offender from a rural, isolated community where poverty and residential school syndrome are widespread. Instead, the system aggravated his mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health with four consecutive years of solitary confinement. The silence around these official abuses continues to this day,” said Ann Pohl, on behalf of the Kent County NB chapter of the Council of Canadians. “Our chapter calls on the media to continue reporting on Capay. This young man’s plight must stay in the public eye.”

“Upholding human rights is a core concern for all members and supporters of the national Council of Canadians,” said Pohl, “but our chapter also has two specific reasons for speaking up on this matter. Firstly, Capay’s horrendous treatment brings to mind and heart the tragic story of New Brunswicker Ashley Smith. Smith’s death clearly showed the failure of Canada’s prison system to address the needs of a teenager with mental health issues. As with Capay, Smith was extensively held in segregation.”

“Secondly,” continued Pohl, “during our anti-fracking actions in 2013 we saw that Indigenous and non-Indigenous people are not treated the same in the judicial system and, after incarceration, Indigenous persons are often not accorded the human dignity and respect guaranteed to all Canadians. The many human rights critiques regarding Indigenous overrepresentation, harsher sentencing, and lack of supports are valid. Capay’s situation is clearly a worst case scenario, but international human rights bodies’ and Howard Sapers’ reports make clear it is not unique. We hold the government to account on these issues by demanding justice for serious cases like this one.”

Media refer: Ann Pohl: 506-521-0465


Who is Adam Capay?

One year ago, Canadians learned that Adam Capay, an Indigenous young man from the Kejick Bay community in the Lac Seul Reserve, had been held in solitary confinement at the Thunder Bay Jail for over 1500 days, much of it continuous. The 170-bed facility was built in 1926, and Capay’s plexiglass 5’x10′ cell was on a windowless floor. Overhead lights were left on 24 hours per day. Anything beyond 15 days in solitary confinement has been strongly condemned as torture by the international human rights community.

The public learned about this after Renu Mandhane, head of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, inquired about Capay during a tour of the facility. Capay had great difficulty speaking to Mandhane: it was reported that Capay spent much of his time “drifting in and out of consciousness,” being constantly hungry. He got out into the yard only once or twice a month, and had no contact with other people. He was being held far from his home community so family and friend visits were very rare for cost reasons. Apparently Capay only saw a psychiatrist when the system needed authorization for his continued segregation, which was under-reported dramatically at 50 days. Capay bore evidence of considerable physical self-harming activity on his wrists and scalp.

What has happened to Adam Capay since October 2016?

To date, he is still in captivity, awaiting trial. In November 2016, Capay was moved to the troubled Waypoint Centre in Penetanguishene, the only secure facility in Ontario for forensic mental health assessment of adult males. By March 22nd, he was back in Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay NewsWatch reported, “A psychiatric assessment has been completed, but details of that evaluation are under a publication ban,” as Capay appeared in court via video conference. His lawyers made an “application to drop the prosecution,” which was scheduled to be heard on May 23 at the Thunder Bay Courthouse.

There has been no news on the psychiatric assessment or Capay’s lawyers’ request to stay the prosecution in light of the Charter violations created by the prolonged delay in processing Capay’s case, the unfathomable duration of his time in segregation, and more.

Change is needed in Ontario’s prison system

In his Spring and Fall 2017 reports, Ontario’s Independent Advisor on Corrections Reform Howard Sapers calls for the fastest possible action on the extensive overuse of segregation. This is not caused by prison population growth: in the past decade, Ontario’s prison population dropped 11% but the number of inmates held in segregation went up 24% and segregation cells occupied by “prisoners with mental-health issues increased from 32% to 45%” in the past year alone.  Sapers states that 1,300 prisoners spent 60 or more days in solitary in 2016, “including five who had been isolated for more than three years.” It is evident that Sapers has looked into Capay’s situation – in fact this case was the impetus for his appointment and mandated terms of reference. His final (September 2017) report outlines major steps to address the abuse of prisoner segregation, as well as discussion on over-incarceration and other issues specific to Indigenous prisoners.

News reports on October 3rd say that Ontario will introduce a bill to address these issues this fall, but no such bill has yet seen the light of day.

Apparently there are several lawyers involved in this case. According to news reports cited below, apparently Capay’s primary lawyer is Anthony Bryant: 416-927-7441, and another lawyer on this case is Karen Symes: 416-628-3753.


Indigenous people overrepresented in justice system a ‘sad reality’: Jody Wilson-Raybould: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/indigenous-people-overrepresented-justice-s

Lawyers for Adam Capay apply to have murder charge stayed:  http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/thunder-bay/adam-capay-murder-stay-application-1.3996963

Fifty-two months of torture and the four men responsible:

Why Adam Capay has spent 1,560 days in solitary:

Ontario jails’ love of solitary confinement shows what a disaster they are: 

Ontario prisons use solitary confinement too often, and for the wrong reasons: 


What Does Solitary Confinement Do To Your Mind?: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/what-does-solitary-confinement-do-to-your-mind/

Supreme Court sets new deadlines for completing trials:

Solitary confinement: How four people’s stories have changed hearts, minds and laws on the issue: https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/solitary-confinement-canada-required-reading/article35391601/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

Segregation in Ontario: Independent Review of Ontario Corrections, March 2017:

Corrections in Ontario: Directions for Reform Independent Review of Ontario Corrections, September 2017:  https://www.mcscs.jus.gov.on.ca/sites/default/files/content/mcscs/docs/Corrections%20in%20Ontario%2C%20Directions%20for%20Reform.pdf

OMBUDSMAN CALLS FOR CLEAR NEW LAW, STRONG OVERSIGHT OF INMATE SEGREGATION: https://www.ombudsman.on.ca/Newsroom/Press-Release/2017/Ombudsman-calls-for-clear-new-law,-strong-oversigh.aspx

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