12/16/2013 05:03 EST | Updated 02/15/2014 05:59 EST

Jailed mothers have right to care for infants, B.C. court says

Imprisoned mothers have the right to care for their newborn babies the B.C. Supreme Court has ruled, according to the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

The decision has yet to be published by the court, but according to the BCCLA, which was an intervener in the case, the court ruled the B.C. government decision to cancel a correctional program for the mothers of newborns was unconstitutional because it would separate moms and babies during a critical bonding period.

The program ran at the Alouette Correctional Centre for Women in Maple Ridge until it was cancelled in 2008. Currently no such program exists for women in B.C. jails. Only women who were sentenced for non-violent crimes were eligible for the program.

Grace Pastine, the litigation director for the BCCLA, called the decision a tremendous victory for Canadian women and their infants.

"The mother-baby program respected the family unit and the bond between mother and infant," said a statement issued by the BCCLA on Monday.

"It led to better health outcomes for the babies. Safety guidelines were strictly followed during the program, which was supported by health-care practitioners, including doctors and psychologists, as well as prison officials.

"The government will no longer have the option of refusing to administer a successful program that had fundamental benefits for both mothers and babies."