Mr. Kevin Sorenson, M.P.
Dear Mr. Sorenson:
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am pleased to provide you with the following response to the recommendations of the Sixth Report of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security: “A Study of Electronic Monitoring in the Correctional and Immigration Settings.”
The Committee Report provides an insightful examination of the current advantages and challenges associated with electronic monitoring programs. The advantages rest with potential cost savings, as well as enhanced monitoring and supervision in the corrections and immigration enforcement contexts. The challenges are primarily with respect to effective implementation and evaluation. In keeping with the Committee Report recommendations, the Government is committed to thorough testing and evaluation of electronic monitoring technologies, as summarized below.
As the Committee heard in testimony, from 2008 to 2011, Correctional Service Canada (CSC) implemented an electronic monitoring pilot project. Throughout this pilot, CSC’s electronic monitoring initiative required that an offender volunteer in order to participate. This presented a challenge to conducting an effective evaluation because many offenders would not volunteer given that they would be subjected to enhanced monitoring of compliance with a condition of release related to a geographical area or access to particular person(s). With the passage of the Safe Streets and Communities Act, CSC now has the legal authority to demand that an offender released on temporary absence, work release, parole, statutory release or long term supervision wear a monitoring device to monitor such conditions. Other challenges prevented the pilot from providing the kind of results necessary to support a full roll-out of the program.
CSC is planning to implement a second, expanded, electronic monitoring pilot project in 2013. A Steering Committee comprised of representatives from CSC, Public Safety Canada, and Defence Research and Development Canada - Centre for Security Science has been established to serve as an advisory body to oversee effective implementation, as well as a rigorous, scientific evaluation. The evaluation will examine the cost-effectiveness of electronic monitoring, as well as any added benefit of electronic monitoring over current practice, in effectively supervising offenders who are conditionally released. Electronic monitoring will not be used as an alternative to detention but to enhance compliance with conditions upon release.
In accordance with past research findings which suggest that the most effective results are obtained when electronic monitoring is accompanied by programming (Bonta, Wallace-Capretta & Rooney, 1999), electronic monitoring will not be used as a stand-alone measure: it will not replace traditional methods of supervising offenders in the community, but rather will complement the many supervision and risk management tools available to parole officers.
The overarching goal of implementing an electronic monitoring program should be to maximize public safety. Supervision tools are used to promote public safety by facilitating the safe reintegration of eligible offenders into the community. Measuring the effectiveness and efficiency of electronic monitoring as a supervision tool during the pilot, as well as determining cost efficiency, will inform any future decisions with regard to the implementation of electronic monitoring.
To protect the safety, health and security of Canadians and the integrity of our border, Canada’s immigration laws permit the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) to detain individuals. In 2011-2012, the CBSA detained 9, 929 people for an average of 19 days. When making detention decisions, CBSA officers are guided by Canada’s immigration laws and regulations as well as by the CBSA’s guidelines for its detention program. It should be noted that each decision is assessed on its own merits; and, officers always consider the impact releasing someone into the community will have on the safety of Canadians. CBSA continues to further examine electronic monitoring within the immigration context when such an individual is released.
Electronic monitoring is presently being used for several individuals who are subject to long-term security certificates. In these cases, the Federal Court imposed electronic monitoring as a condition of release to mitigate risk and ensure respect of other court-imposed terms and conditions. The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) has in the past also ordered electronic monitoring in a few cases as a condition of release.
The CBSA will examine the potential of expanding the use of electronic monitoring and study its use and application in the international context. In particular, lessons will be drawn from the experiences of the United States and United Kingdom, the only two
countries which have implemented broader electronic monitoring immigration programs. Discussions with international and national stakeholders and practitioners in the field (including other government departments), will further guide the CBSA’s review of electronic monitoring for immigration purposes. During the course of this examination, the CBSA will review existing research regarding the feasibility and risks of using electronic monitoring with various detainee groups including pregnant women.
Should the CBSA’s study find that electronic monitoring in the immigration context could benefit public safety and program integrity, the CBSA will consider a pilot project to explore the expanded use of electronic monitoring. The results of such an initiative would help inform any potential program.
As the Committee heard, the CBSA detains individuals in accordance with Canadian law. Individuals are only deported with IRB and judicial oversight. It’s disappointing that the New Democratic Party’s dissenting opinion clearly does not take the abuse of Canada’s immigration laws seriously. Canadians can be assured that our Government remains committed to improving the public safety for all Canadians.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and the members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security for the diligent and important work you do.
Vic Toews, P.C., Q.C., M.P