Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and good morning, members of the committee.
Thank you for the invitation and the opportunity to come to introduce the RCMP to you.
I don't have any prepared remarks. What I do have is a presentation that is in for translation. It is available in one language and will be distributed subsequently, along with the French version. I might just go off this presentation if that's all right with the committee. Thank you.
The idea is that I'll give you a high-level overview of the organization, the RCMP: what it does, where its authority comes from, and some of the challenges we're facing in our present operating environment.
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act outlines the mandate for the RCMP, and it is essentially threefold: it provides for the apprehension of offenders, criminals; it provides for prevention; and it provides for the protection of specific individuals, so there's a threefold mandate in the RCMP Act.
We operate as one force, but we have very many contexts, very many business lines. For example, federal policing is our core mandate; however, contract policing, in which we provide front-line police services to provinces, municipalities, and territories, is the largest part of our business. We also are engaged in specialized police services that support police activities across the country.
I've included in the presentation that you'll get the list of my senior executive committee and their functions.
The RCMP is about a $4.5 billion operation. Often when the estimates are provided, they refer to the federal appropriations and don't take into account the revenue that we receive from the contracting jurisdictions, which make it a $4.5 billion operation.
In February of this year we had over 30,000 employees; it was 30,101 as of February 1. They occupy a variety of positions, including police officers, or what we refer to as regular members; civilian members, who are civilians hired to discharge our responsibilities under the act; public servants; and, in many cases, municipal employees.
We have three operational business lines. I mentioned federal policing, and that includes organized crime; terrorism; counterterrorism; investigations in partnership with my colleague, the director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; and enforcement of many other statutes in the federal context.
The specialized police services provide critical front-line police services such as laboratory services, DNA services, and information management services along the lines of CPIC. You may have heard of the Canadian Police Information Centre, which manages the existence of warrants, criminal records, fingerprints, and so on. Also, child sexual offenders and cybercrime are in our specialized police services.
Contract and aboriginal policing services are what we refer to as our contract policing function. In all of the provinces except for Ontario and Quebec, we are the provincial police force. We are the territorial police force in the three territories. We police more than 600 aboriginal communities and 150 municipalities, and it is a big source of day-to-day complexity in terms of delivering police services to Canadians.
In the last several years, we have undertaken efforts at our transformation. You will have heard much discussion around the cultural transformation of the RCMP. Efforts have been ongoing for years and certainly have increased in the last four years, while I have been commissioner. We have worked toward restoring the traditional ethos of the RCMP. We have worked along the lines of developing a gender and respect action plan, which came on the heels of a gender-based assessment of our policies and practices stemming from the very public presentation of internal harassment issues and sexual harassment allegations within the organization.
We've also succeeded in securing a new RCMP act called the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, which has been very instrumental in bringing to bear a more repairing approach to discipline and human resource management.
We have developed a mental health strategy and deployed a mental health action plan, which is in place. We've changed the mission profile of the organization to one that is called “results and respect” while at the same time trying to develop and maintain and promote a respectful workplace. Also, keep in mind that we are in the business of providing policing services to Canadians.
Challenges remain, of course, some of which have become public just recently. There continue to be efforts to transform the culture of the organization into one that is more tolerant and inclusive of all dimensions of our communities. We also have challenges in the area of labour relations as we move into a new world where RCMP members will have the opportunity to seek certification as a bargaining agent once the government completes its work on the new enabling legislation.
We have struggled with some RCMP funding shortfalls and challenges with respect to balancing our various responsibilities. We are engaging now in a complete program review, which will seek to put data around the demands that are being made on the organization. There is a continuing need for the ongoing maintenance of legal and investigative support tools as society evolves and threats evolve and present themselves.
Our strategic priorities continue to be along the lines of serious organized crime, national security, youth, aboriginal communities, and economic integrity. In the last few years we focused on some additional priorities, which include national security investigations, cybercrime, child sexual exploitation, and the workplace health of the RCMP.
The organization is very broad; it has 16 divisions. All the commanding officers of those divisions report to me, along with the senior executive. The divisions are, for the most part, aligned with the provinces and territories. You get to 16 by adding Depot, our national headquarters, and an area called our National Division.
Lots of work is going on in lots of dimensions. It is a tremendous organization comprising devoted and committed men and women who love the work they do. I'm very pleased to come here and help you understand the organization.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning. I do have opening remarks.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am pleased to be here today to provide an overview of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS, and to speak briefly to the key features and trends affecting Canada's national security and what they mean to the service and to Canada.
My goal today is to leave you with a good sense of what we do, how we do it, and our current priorities.
Everything we do at CSIS is grounded in the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, which clearly articulates our mandate and authorities. There have been changes to the act, but many of the fundamentals have not changed.
There are three main pillars to our mandate. First and foremost, we collect and analyze intelligence in response to activities suspected of constituting a threat to the security of Canada. Our act clearly defines the threats that we are authorized to investigate and in this regard has remained unchanged since 1984. We investigate espionage, sabotage, foreign interference, and, of course, terrorism and extremism.
Of note, the CSIS Act explicitly excludes the investigation of advocacy, protest, and dissent unless it is carried out in conjunction with the previously mentioned threat-related activities. It is important to note that the power to arrest, detain, and enforce the law remains the purview of our law enforcement partners. CSIS is not a police service.
We provide advice to government in a number of ways, including through the production of intelligence assessments and reports that are disseminated to clients across the Government of Canada.
CSIS may also take measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada. These authorities are similar to those exercised by many of our foreign partners.
To fulfill the second pillar of our mandate, security screening, we provide advice and assessments to government partners. We share advice with our immigration partners to help them make decisions about an applicant's admissibility to Canada. We also provide security assessments to government partners to support the screening of employees and contractors who require access to sensitive government assets, sites, or information.
Lastly, section 16 of the act authorizes the service to collect foreign intelligence in relation to the defence of Canada or the conduct of international affairs, but we may only do so at the written request of the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs. It is also important to note that this collection of foreign intelligence may only be undertaken within Canada and may not target Canadian citizens or permanent residents. There have been no changes to this mandate.
In order to fulfill our mandate, CSIS maintains strong co-operative relationships with many federal partners and with provincial and territorial authorities. These partnerships facilitate both lawful sharing of information and provision of advice as well as operational deconfliction. These relationships are essential to active CSIS investigations.
The relationship between CSIS and the RCMP is critical to addressing the terrorist threat. Both agencies have a clear understanding of their roles and work together effectively to support public safety. The number of successful terrorist prosecutions since 2002 is a testament to our level of engagement and the priority placed on countering this threat.
Mr. Chair, having outlined our mandate, I would like to add that review and accountability were key considerations when the service was created in 1984 and they continue to play a significant role in how the service operates today.
Accountability is exercised in a number of ways, beginning with the minister, who may issue written direction on any matter relating to CSIS, including its investigative and analytical priorities, the conduct of operations, and when and how the service informs the minister of its activities. CSIS also seeks ministerial approval for our arrangements to cooperate with foreign and domestic partners and for warrant applications to the Federal Court.
The CSIS Act establishes clear reporting requirements, another key element of accountability. Each year, the service produces a classified report on its operational activities for the minister. A copy of this report is also provided to our review body, the Security Intelligence Review Committee or SIRC, for certification, allowing the review body to verify that CSIS is operating effectively and appropriately within the rule of law.
CSIS also produces a public report tabled in Parliament by the minister that provides a high-level overview of the service's operational priorities and highlights. This is an important effort intended to raise public awareness and to inform public debate.
Of course, independent review is a significant element of the service's accountability regime. SIRC investigates and reviews CSIS activities and complaints. It has access to all CSIS documents, excluding cabinet confidences, and it produces an annual report that summarizes its review and complaint findings.
While the report is tabled annually, the dialogue between CSIS and SIRC is ongoing throughout the year as reviews and investigations into complaints evolve. SIRC's recommendations are given serious consideration and routinely inform service policies and practices. This fosters within CSIS a culture of continued learning and improvement.
Further, in terms of accountability, we appear regularly before Senate and parliamentary committees such as SECD and SECU, and we are subject to review by the privacy and information commissioners as well as the Auditor General. These frequent interactions between the service and external review bodies help CSIS to become a more effective and professional organization, and this accountability is essential for the public confidence and support required for the service to be effective.
Mr. Chair, CSIS is a diverse and dynamic institution. It currently employs approximately 3,400 employees in six regional offices, overseas, and in our national headquarters here in Ottawa. Sixty-eight per cent of our employees are bilingual and around 20% have a good or excellent knowledge of a language other than French or English. Collectively, our employees speak over 100 languages. The diversity of our employees ensures an engaged workforce and innovative thinking, and ultimately helps us achieve our objectives.
CSIS is recognized as an employer of choice, and I am happy to report again this year, for the eighth year in a row, that CSIS has been named one of Canada's Top 100 Employers.
I would now like to provide the committee with a brief update on the threat environment.
As members will be aware, terrorism, including the radicalization of Canadians, remains the most prominent, serious and immediate threat to Canadians and Canadian interests both at home and abroad.
It is my job to give the best assessment of the nature and the scope of the threat environment. I will not overstate the terrorist threat, but I feel strongly that we must resist complacency in the face of this complex and evolving environment and that minimizing this threat would be to gamble with the security of Canadians.
Thank you for that question.
I think it would be helpful to throw a little context around the allegations.
In April 2014, a complainant at the Canadian Police College in the explosives training unit came forward to make allegations relating to conduct of two individuals in 2012-2013. The director general of the Police College ordered what we call a code of conduct investigation, and that went forward as it would have in the old system, ultimately resulting in four and five days' pay docked against the individuals whose behaviour was impugned.
In November 2014, at about the time we switched to the new act, the Enhancing Royal Canadian Mounted Police Accountability Act, another employee came forward and made another allegation against one of those two individuals. Let me just say that those two individuals had been suspended while the investigation took place in the first instance, and they went back to the Police College, but not directly to the work site. Managers there were somewhat challenged, as the accused officers started to complain about entitlement to their old employment.
In any case, a new allegation came forward and was handled pursuant to the new act, ultimately resulting in 15 days of discipline against that individual.
I want to point out that the new act features an ability of the organization to review and appeal instances of discipline when the view is that the discipline was not commensurate with the behaviour, which wasn't a feature in the old system. That process was under way up until the point where I got an email on February 9 from an individual who broadened the allegations once again. That led to the almost immediate transfer of those individuals. At first I wasn't acquainted with any of the facts, but I got acquainted with them and moved those individuals out of the workplace. A couple of days later, a new code of conduct investigation was ordered, and they were suspended.
By way of an update, we have an experienced team of investigators going in to investigate these new broader allegations, which hadn't until then been known. We formed a multidisciplinary team of individuals to do a couple of things while this investigation was under way. These things included making sure that the victims and the complainants were properly attended to and supported. Looking at the decision-making all along that spectrum of time I just described—
I'll briefly add how we're recruiting.
A couple of years ago I set some very ambitious targets, against some advice that it probably was not a good idea. We're targeting for a 30% representation of females in the organization by 2020, I believe. It's very ambitious because of the numbers and the amount of intake. Nevertheless, we have targeted recruiting, bringing women into the organization, and those numbers are improving.
With respect to leadership roles, I agree with you. Right now we have a number of senior women in leadership roles. For example, we have a deputy commissioner in Alberta, we have an assistant commissioner who is the commanding officer in Saskatchewan, and I have a deputy commissioner here at headquarters who looks after contract and aboriginal policing.
While keeping that representation at that level is a challenge because of the difficulty in continuing to have people advance in rank, what we are doing there is employing a mentoring type of philosophy to look into the—forgive the term—feeder group of individuals. Women don't want to get promoted because they're women; they want to get promoted because they're good. We're looking at the women who are good, and we're bringing them along and attaching them to senior leaders, both men and women, in the organization to feed them.
We have succeeded in increasing our numbers in the executive ranks substantially in the last little while. I agree with you, and we're doing it.
Mr. Chair and honourable members of the committee, good day, and thank you for allowing me to be here today. It really is a pleasure.
I am pleased to appear before the committee to provide an overview of the Correctional Service of Canada, or CSC, as we refer to it.
First I'd like to take a brief moment to formally introduce myself to this committee.
In my 38-year career, I've had the privilege to work with tens of thousands of dedicated and committed correctional service employees. I began my federal public service career as a correctional officer in 1978. I've held various operational, managerial, and executive positions while working in four federal penitentiaries, two regional headquarters, and national headquarters. Between 1995 and 2002, I accepted various positions within the territorial and provincial correctional systems in both Yukon and Saskatchewan. In 2002, I rejoined the Correctional Service of Canada as senior deputy commissioner and was appointed commissioner in 2008.
As the commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, I've appeared many times before this and other parliamentary and Senate committees over the past eight years. It's been such a privilege to be given the opportunity to provide members of this House and the Senate with information on a broad range of matters concerning CSC as pieces of legislation make their way through Parliament or as committees undertake specific studies.
Most importantly, as the head of one of the Canada's public safety agencies, I believe that appearing in this type of public forum provides an opportunity for me to highlight the achievements and great work that my staff does every single day in the institutions and in the community.
CSC is a federal agency within the Government of Canada's public safety portfolio. Its responsibilities are derived from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as well as the Corrections and Conditional Release Regulations. In addition to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, approximately 70 other acts and regulations impact CSC.
The Corrections and Conditional Release Act—the CCRA—and the regulations direct CSC to contribute to public safety by administering court-imposed sentences of two years or more. This work involves managing institutions of various security levels, preparing inmates for safe and timely release, and supervising offenders under conditional release and long-term supervision orders in the community.
The CCRA also requires CSC to develop, implement, and monitor correctional policies, programs, and practices that respect gender, ethnic, cultural, and linguistic differences and are responsive to the specific needs of women, men, and indigenous offenders. As well, the guiding legislation requires that CSC provide essential health care services and reasonable access to non-essential mental health care that will contribute to offenders' rehabilitation and successful reintegration into the community. The act also mandates CSC to provide services to victims of crime, such as information sharing and awareness building, to support victims.
As commissioner, I'm supported by an executive committee composed of national and regional officials. I oversee the operation of 43 federal penitentiaries, 91 parole offices and parole sub-offices, and 15 community correctional centres. The CSC also manages four healing lodges and works in partnership with indigenous communities to support the reintegration of indigenous offenders back into the community. On a typical day, CSC is responsible for approximately 23,000 offenders, of which roughly 15,000 are incarcerated.
Since assuming the role of commissioner in 2008, I've witnessed significant changes in the offender population that have put pressures on CSC and its operations.
For instance, the number of women in federal custody has increased substantially over the last 10 years. As well, offenders now have more extensive histories of violence and are more likely to have mental health needs. Offenders continue to exhibit a high prevalence of substance abuse problems and infectious diseases. Furthermore, as offender populations age, the prevalence of physical health problems increases. Also, the admission of indigenous offenders to the deferral correctional system continues to impact their level of overrepresentation in the system.
These changes have required CSC to change how it operates to better respond to the offenders by enhancing intelligence and information systems, implementing population management and mental health strategies, and regularly reviewing and modernizing the delivery of penitentiary operations and rehabilitation programs.
Mr. Chair, as indicated in the 2015-16 supplementary estimates tabled in the House of Commons last December, CSC's budgetary authorities are approximately $2.4 billion. As with other government departments, CSC has faced significant funding reduction and pressures over the past several years. Budget 2012's economic action plan resulted in the reduction of $295 million. Further, the operating budget freeze announced as part of budget 2014 has generated an estimated $27 million financial pressure for 2015-16 that is expected to grow to $31 million for the next fiscal year and ongoing.
This is in addition to the budget 2010 operating budget freeze, which resulted in $55 million of ongoing financial pressure. Overall, since 2008-09 the total ongoing impact of funding reductions and pressures amounted to $400 million. To meet these budgetary reduction levels, CSC implemented a series of initiatives intended to achieve efficiencies and streamline operations. At this time, when you consider the cumulative impacts of government-wide and legislative initiatives that have had an impact on CSC, we're no longer in a position to absorb any other incremental costs without potential impacts on public safety.
The Correctional Service of Canada employs approximately 18,000 staff, 85% of whom work in institutions or in the parole offices in the community and 15% at our national or regional headquarters. CSC's workforce reflects the wide variety of skills needed to operate institutions and community offices. Our workforce includes correctional officers, parole officers, program delivery officers, health professionals, plumbers, electricians, food service staff, and the list goes on. These are staff who provide essential services both in the community and in the institutions. As well, staff provide corporate administrative functions at local, regional, and national levels.
Like many other federal organizations, CSC must manage the challenges associated with recruiting and retaining staff because of the government-wide aging workforce. That said, CSC is committed to creating and retaining a diverse workforce that is representative of Canadian society. A strong focus on fostering diversity has resulted in significant increases in the representation of women and visible minorities at CSC in the last three years. Given the high proportion of indigenous offenders, CSC has made targeted efforts to recruit and retain indigenous employees and as a result is the largest employer of indigenous peoples in the core public administration. Of note, 47% of CSC's staff are women, 9% are from visible minority groups, 5% are persons with disabilities, and just over 9% are indigenous in 2014-2015.
Mr. Chair, every day across the country CSC employees ensure the safety of our communities in one of the most challenging environments of the federal public service. CSC's contributions to public safety would not be possible without the passion and dedication of our staff.
Thank you once again for the opportunity to appear today. I'd be more than happy to respond to any questions that you have shortly.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and members of the committee for inviting the Parole Board of Canada to appear before you today.
I welcome this opportunity to talk to you about the board's important public safety mandate and the work that we do.
The Parole Board of Canada is an independent administrative tribunal within the Public Safety portfolio. The chairperson of the board is its chief executive officer and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The board carries out its work through its national office located in the national capital and through offices in five regions, which include the Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario, prairie, and Pacific regions.
Conditional release decision-making takes place in the board's regional offices, while appeal decisions and record suspension decision processes and clemency recommendations are made at the national office. The board has a complement of 89 full-time and part-time board members that is set in legislation. They are supported by a public service staff of 437 full-time employees. The board's budget for the current fiscal year is $45.9 million.
As a key component of the criminal justice system, the board makes independent, quality conditional release and record suspension decisions and clemency recommendations. The board contributes to the protection of society by facilitating, as appropriate, the timely reintegration of offenders as law-abiding citizens. The board has three key program areas: conditional release decisions, conditional release openness and accountability, and record suspension decisions and clemency recommendations. These are supported by a fourth program area, internal services.
The board's conditional release program accounts for fully 77% of our budget, while its record suspension program is funded under a cost-recovery model through a $631 applicant user fee. The board's conditional release mandate is prescribed by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or CCRA. The CCRA provides the legal framework for the board's composition, policies, training, and operations. The board's mandate in relation to record suspensions is prescribed under the Criminal Records Act, or CRA. The board's authority in relation to clemency and the royal prerogative of mercy is prescribed under the CCRA as well as the Criminal Code of Canada and the letters patent.
Board members are appointed by the Governor in Council—that is, by the Governor General—on the advice of the federal cabinet. Board members come from all walks of life, and their diverse backgrounds help to ensure that the board represents Canada's broad range of community values and views.
On appointment, all board members are provided with extensive training in risk assessment and interviewing techniques, as well as the legislation that governs the board's activities. Board members also receive ongoing training in their regions as well as annual training at the national level.
As I mentioned, the board's main program area is conditional release. Under the CCRA, the board has exclusive authority to determine whether and under what conditions federal offenders serving a sentence of two years or more may be released on parole. The board also makes decisions on parole for provincial offenders serving sentences of less than two years in all provinces except Ontario and Quebec, which have their own parole boards. Last year the board conducted 17,800 parole reviews.
The CCRA includes two key principles that guide the board in its conditional release decision-making: one, that the protection of society be the paramount consideration in the determination of any case; two, that the conditions we impose be necessary and proportionate to the purpose of the conditional release and consistent with the protection of society. Putting these principles into practice, the board looks at whether the offender will not, by reoffending, present an undue risk to society before the expiration of the sentence, and whether the release of the offender will contribute to the protection of society by facilitating their reintegration as a law-abiding citizen. The paramount consideration, in every board decision, is the protection of society.
In order to maintain the highest-quality decision-making possible, the board has developed a risk assessment framework that grounds all of its decisions in a sound analysis of risk-relevant information. When conducting reviews, board members assess risk by taking into account actuarial measures and by considering and weighing relevant components of the risk assessment framework. These components include the offenders' criminal and parole history, institutional behaviours, the offenders' change, and their release plan, as well as any factors specific to the situation.
Board members also consider information provided by the victim, including formal victim statements. Board members consider mitigating, neutral, and aggravating factors for all components and will take into account the information from the hearing or review in order to render a final decision. This includes factors specific to indigenous offenders—for example, the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on the Gladue principles in relation to attendance at residential schools, societal upbringing, and their own victimization.
The board is acutely aware that indigenous people are overrepresented in the male and female offender population. To address the needs of this group, the board provides alternative models of parole hearings, specifically elder-assisted and community-assisted hearings, which are responsive to the cultural values and traditions of indigenous peoples. In addition to this, the board has policies and specialized training that recognize the unique societal and cultural factors related to indigenous offenders, victims, and communities. The board also has an advisory committee known as the indigenous circle, which provides strategic advice to the board on ways it can improve its efficiency and effectiveness in meeting the needs of this community. The board also uses elders to assist in interviewing candidates for board member positions.
The board also believes that victims have an important role in the conditional release process and works hard to balance the rights of victims with those of offenders. Victims can receive information related to an offender's parole, they can attend and present victim statements at hearings, and they can receive written decisions. There are more than 8,000 victims registered with the board, receiving information on over 4,200 offenders.
Last year there were 231 victim statements presented at 128 hearings, and 27,191 contacts with victims. In terms of the board's parole outcomes, over the past two years we have seen these improve to their highest levels in more than a decade and a half. Last fiscal year, nearly 99% of federal day parole and 96% of federal full parole supervision periods for offenders serving determinate sentences were completed without reoffending, with a grant rate of 71% for day parole and 30% for full parole.
As well, last year all parole periods, both day and full, were successfully completed without a violent offence conviction. This reflects the board's work over the past few years in developing a more robust risk assessment framework.
Given its important public safety mandate, it is critical that the board be seen as open and accountable to the public it serves. The CCRA requires that the board's decisions be made available to the public upon request. Over the last five years, the board has released more than 31,700 decisions through its decision registry. In addition, members of the public may also request to observe a board hearing. Last fiscal year, there were 4,171 observers at board hearings across the country.
As I mentioned at the outset, the board is also responsible for making record suspension decisions under the Criminal Records Act, or CRA. A record suspension removes the stigma of a criminal record for people who, having been convicted of an offence, have satisfied all of their sentences and remained crime free for a specific period of time.
As per the CRA, the board needs to consider specific factors in deciding whether or not to order a record suspension, including whether it will provide a measurable benefit to the applicant, how it will help sustain his or her reintegration into society as a law-abiding citizen, and whether ordering a record suspension would bring the administration of justice into disrepute.
Since 1970, more than 490,000 individuals have received pardons and record suspensions. Of these, 95% remain in force, indicating that the vast majority of pardon and record suspension recipients remain crime free in the community. The board has also taken significant steps to address its backlog of pardon applications under the former Criminal Records Act. The board has reduced its backlog from more than 22,400 applications down to approximately 4,480.
Under the CCRA, the board is also authorized to make recommendations for the exercise of clemency through the royal prerogative of mercy. Clemency is granted in exceptional circumstances in deserving cases involving federal offences when no other remedy exists in law to reduce severe negative effects of criminal sanctions. The board reviews clemency applications, conducts investigations at the direction of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, and makes recommendations to the minister regarding whether to grant the clemency request.
I would like to thank you for the time. I would be more than happy to answer any questions you have.
Chairperson Cenaiko, thanks very much to you and your colleagues, first of all for your service to the nation and second for appearing in front of us to discuss some very important matters.
I'm glad that you both raised the plight of our first nations in your comments. This is an area that I would like to follow through on this afternoon.
Last week, on February 18, Maclean's magazine published an article entitled “Canada’s prisons are the ‘new residential schools' ”. The article is subtitled “A months-long investigation reveals that at every step, Canada’s justice system is set against Indigenous people”.
I want to bring one particular paragraph early on in the article to your attention to give colleagues some awareness of the numbers that we're talking about. The article reads:
||While admissions of white adults to Canadian prisons declined through the last decade
—and this article specifically looks at the last decade—
||indigenous incarceration rates were surging: Up 112 per cent for women. Already, 36 per cent of the women and 25 per cent of men sentenced to provincial and territorial custody in Canada are Indigenous—a group that makes up just four per cent of the national population. Add in federal prisons, and Indigenous inmates account for 22.8 per cent of the total incarcerated population.
That's almost a quarter, almost one in four people in our system.
I think we all agree that as a society, as Canadians, we are all measured and judged each and every day by how well we take care of our most vulnerable members, and I think this article disturbs and saddens many of us. The question around the table really is, how do we fix this? What's the systemic problem that's plaguing us, and what are the resources that we need to put in place to correct it?
I wanted to get your reactions to this article in particular, and to ask you the extent to which both of you were aware of this problem in your organizational context prior to the article's release.
I think there are a couple of things to note here.
First, this is an area we've been looking at very closely for the last several years in terms of how “administrative segregation”—the term that's used in the legislation—is used. People call it “solitary confinement” or use other terms. We use the term that's defined in the law for separating offenders from the general population.
That said, we've looked at our practices. We've examined the oversight processes in place. We're continuing finding ways to try to ensure that we live up to the spirit of the law and live up to the letter of the law as it relates to anybody who is placed in segregation.
In terms of some of the work we've done just in the last year, we were running on average, for decades, between 700 and 800 individuals in segregation on any given day across the country. That's out of an incarcerated population of about 15,000. We now are running between 410 and 440, and the length of stay for people in segregation is much reduced.
We've put in place a couple of things. We have more engagement with mental health professionals for individuals who are in segregation, and more direct oversight by the wardens of those institutions. The wardens are required now to go down there daily and to see every offender in every cell in segregation.
We also have a more significant national oversight body that looks at finding alternatives. If an individual cannot be released back into the general population in the institution they're currently residing in, can they be moved to a general population in another institution in one of our regions, or can they be moved to another general population across the country?
There is no question.... As I mentioned in my opening comments, at the present level, any further cuts in our organization will have impacts on the public safety results that we're supposed to provide.
On funding for additional mental health capacity, I still would argue that I do not want to be the default mental health system in the country for individuals. That needs to be dealt with in the provinces, in homes, in schools. There are other places to deal with that issue. It should not be in a penitentiary setting. However, until that is resolved, we require funding for mental health and funding for dealing with the disproportionate number of aboriginal offenders that we have in the system right now.
One of the areas where we continue to need funding is in services for women. Although the overall population for federally sentenced women is small, it is the fastest-growing subpopulation that we have. The women offenders who come into our system have greater needs than the men. Getting funding to ensure that we have the right supports is key.
I would also argue, and I just have to squeeze this in, that we need to find a way, as a Canadian society, to put in place the funding in the community to support the offenders when they leave the system. I can do a lot of work with the money that I have, and if you give me more money, I can do more work and provide better results, but the offenders need support when they get released. They need support in terms of family and in terms of jobs; they need support in terms of housing and health care.
Find the funding for that, and you don't have to give me any more money. We'll do the best job we can and feed into a system that will help these people on a path of being law-abiding citizens.
We will revisit this motion on Thursday.
Mr. Mendicino, just before you leave, I want to check something.
Normally a subcommittee on agenda and procedure is meant to speed up the work of the committee. We would normally meet as a subcommittee during a study, for instance, to continue committee work to get things done. My thought is—and I want to check it with the committee, as I could call either one—that we would meet as a whole committee on Thursday to do committee business, because if we have a subcommittee meeting it could actually slow down this work. That is because the subcommittee would have to take time for the clerk to write a report, and then we would have to consider the report. I'm worried that we would actually debate the same issues in the full committee as we do at the subcommittee.
I would like a nodding of agreement or a “no” that we have a full committee meeting on Thursday. Mr. O'Toole's motion will be considered first at that meeting. Because we will be in a meeting of committee business, we don't need the 48 hours' notice, so if members have studies or concerns or things that they think the committee should be doing in the next couple of weeks or months, they should be prepared to offer their motions.
I think we'll design a process whereby we look at several motions and then choose one to begin with, and maybe set out two or three pieces of work to help the analysts begin their work plan for where we'll be going between now and June.
Is it agreed—I'm getting a kind of nodding—that we'll have a business meeting, then, on Thursday?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Okay.
The meeting is adjourned.