B.C. mental-health worker permitted to challenge decision to bar her from entering Port Coquitlam jail

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      An assistant deputy warden's decision to bar a mental-health coordinator from entering North Fraser Pretrial Centre can be evaluated by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.

      In an August 22 ruling, Justice Grace Choi ruled that Cailey Strauss can't be barred from the correctional facility without having the right to have this reviewed by the courts.

      That's because the judge concluded that Strauss's security clearance was a "licence"—and revoking this licence is subject to the Judicial Review Procedure Act.

      This gives Strauss the right to seek a ruling on whether the assistant deputy warden's decision was in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice and wasn't patently unreasonable. 

      The jail is in Port Coquitlam, which is represented in the legislature by Solicitor General and Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth.

      In a statement of agreed facts, Strauss and the Ministry of Public Safety and the Solicitor General both acknowledged that Strauss was a member of the B.C. Nurses' Union working for Chiron, which was contracted to provide mental-health services.

      She required a security clearance to enter the North Fraser Pretrial Centre.

      Chiron advised Strauss on June 18, 2015, that it had "several concerns with her conduct", according to Choi's decision.

      On the same day, the assistant deputy warden revoked her security clearance. This decision was subsequently upheld by the warden.

      As a result, Strauss lost her job and hasn't been able to work in any correctional facilities since this occurred.

      In advancing her case, Strauss cited a B.C. Court of Appeal decision involving famed B.C. prisoners'-rights advocate Claire Culhane, who died in 1996.

      Correctional officials tried to bar her from visiting the now-closed Oakalla prison.

      In that instance, B.C.'s highest court ruled that her permission to enter the institution "constituted a licence"—and that revoking this "licence" was subject to judicial review.

      The regulation was subsequently amended to divide visitors into two categories: personal and official.

      This enabled wardens to prohibit certain "personal visitors", such as Culhane, from entering a facility.

      In this week's decision, Choi noted that the regulation "makes no specific reference to contracted staff, such as health care workers, vocational trainers, or educators".

      So the judge ruled that the change to the regulation preventing Culhane from visiting a person in jail did not apply to Strauss.

      "Ms. Culhane was a volunteer who had no contractual relationship to either the prison or to any contractor serving the prison," Choi wrote. "Her status is not identical to that of Ms. Strauss."