12/04/2013 08:05 EST | Updated 02/03/2014 05:59 EST

Same-sex inmate couple loses case to share same housing unit

The case of two minimum-security inmates in Saskatchewan who want to share a housing unit as a same-sex couple won't be handled by the courts.

Jean Richer and Leslie Sinobert must ask Correctional Service Canada to determine if they can be in the same housing unit at the Riverbend Annex in Prince Albert, Justice Mona Dovell of the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon says.

Dovell said in a decision last month that the two men must take their case through the federal government's grievance process. 

Richer and Sinobert were serving life sentences at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary. Earlier this year, they were transferred to the Riverbend Annex. It features residential houses that can accommodate between eight and 10 offenders.

"On May 21, 2013, Richer submitted an Inmate's request requesting that he and Sinobert be allowed to reside together at Riverbend in the same housing unit," Dovell wrote in her judgment.

The 62-year-old Sinobert has suffered strokes in the past decade and lives in a housing unit designed specifically for inmates with mental health issues, the judgment said.

Richer had requested that the pair be allowed to live in the same unit, "so that they can participate in their long-standing, same-sex relationship outside of the public domain."

But the Correctional Service of Canada declined that request.

Richer went to court, claiming that the couple's Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated.The federal Inmate Handbook outlines how offenders are not allowed in housing units other than their own. But they can visit in the gym and recreational areas.

But Dovell didn't see it that way.

The court process "is a guarantee of liberty, not a channel for drawing our Court into the day-to-day management of a prison," she wrote.