05/07/2014 10:13 EDT | Updated 07/07/2014 05:59 EDT

Gay inmates lose bid to live together at Saskatchewan prison

Saskatchewan's highest court has ruled a same-sex couple can't stay together while they're serving prison sentences.

In an April 25 decision, the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal said Jean Richer and Leslie Sinobert will not be able to share a housing unit at the minimum security Riverbend Institution at Prince Albert.

The two men had been transferred to Riverbend from Saskatchewan Penitentiary after forming a close relationship and wanted to live together in Sinobert's quarters.

The Correctional Service of Canada said that wasn't possible because Sinobert was in a special unit for inmates with mental health needs.

When they asked if they could have private visits at Sinobert's unit, that was rejected, too.

Prison officials said inmates are free to socialize in the cultural centre, the gym, and recreational areas, but not in their private living quarters.

Allegation of cruel and unusual punishment

The two filed legal action against the Attorney General of Canada, saying it was cruel and unusual punishment to keep them apart.

They also said it was a violation of their Charter right to be free from discrimination on the prohibited ground of sexual orientation.

They sought a writ of habeus corpus, which could establish that their detention was unlawful.

When the two lost their case before the Court of Queen's Bench, they appealed to the Court of Appeal.

No unlawful deprivation of liberty, court says

Now, in a four-page decision written by Justice Stuart Cameron, the Court of Appeal has agreed that their application must fail.

"We are of the opinion there is nothing here to indicate that the denial of the appellants' request to be housed together in Mr. Sinobert's housing unit constituted a deprivation of liberty within the contemplation of the law relating to habeus corpus," Stuart wrote.

The case was heard by a three-judge panel and the decision to dismiss was unanimous, with justices Maurice Herauf and Bob Richards concurring.