I call the meeting to order. I think we're close enough to 9:45 to get started.
An hon. member: Are we changing the clock?
The Chair: Well, I haven't changed my clock yet; I'm from Saskatchewan. Don't you know that Scarborough is part of Saskatchewan?
Before we ask our witnesses to speak, I want to acknowledge that YOUth in Office are in our committee room. I see some of them at the back there. Maybe they could just stand and wave at us.
Some hon. members: Hear, hear!
The Chair: These are students from the Boys and Girls Clubs and Big Brothers Big Sisters. They're accompanying MPs for the day. We got our picture taken in front of Instagram's #KindComments; I think maybe that should apply to members and that we should try to make kind comments over the course of our day.
Welcome to all.
Before I call Mr. Zinger as our main witness, I want to acknowledge that I have received on your behalf a letter from the directly relevant to one of the recommendations Mr. Zinger makes in his report, in which he is asking us to commence a study. I want to acknowledge receipt of that.
I also want to say, Mr. Zinger, that for my sins I was reading your annual report on the airplane. I want to compliment you on its being so accessible. You made really good points. It was clear, accessible, and highly readable. I thank you for making those efforts for us.
Without further ado, we have Mr. Zinger.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for the invitation to appear. It is a pleasure to be here.
I'm joined today by Hazel Miron, senior investigator with my office. Hazel's caseload includes healing lodges. Of note, her great-great-grandfather was one of the signatories of Treaty No. 8. Hazel is a band member from the Sucker Creek First Nation of northern Alberta. As correctional investigator, I often seek her advice on matters involving indigenous people and federal corrections. I invite members of this committee to benefit from her experience and knowledge as an indigenous woman working in correctional oversight. You may certainly direct your questions to her.
I commend the committee for taking on what probably is the most challenging issue in Canadian corrections today. Indeed, overrepresentation of indigenous people in Canadian jails and prisons has to rank among this country's most pressing social and human rights issues.
As my office has often noted, a history of disadvantage follows indigenous people of Canada into prison and often defines their outcome and experience there. As ombudsman for federally sentenced offenders, my remarks are limited to how people of aboriginal ancestry fare in federal custody and what could be done to bring about better results.
Let me take a moment to remind members of my office's role and mandate. Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, my office is mandated to conduct investigations into the problems of federal offenders related to decisions, recommendations, acts or omissions of the Correctional Service of Canada.
The Office is an oversight, not an advocacy, body. Staff members don't take sides when resolving complaints against the CSC. The office independently investigates legitimate complaints and ensures that federal offenders are treated fairly and in compliance with the legal and policy frameworks. We view corrections through a human rights lens, and we make recommendations to ensure safe, lawful and humane correctional practice.
With respect to the concerns of this committee, I would begin by noting that the failings of the criminal justice system with respect to indigenous people have been extensively studied and documented. Corrections did not create the problems of indigenous overrepresentation in Canada’s criminal justice system, nor will it solve it on its own. As the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples concluded more than 20 years ago, high rates of aboriginal over-incarceration speak to the peoples' loss of culture, identity, and spirit. That conclusion still holds true today.
That said, for the period of time that a person is under federal sentence, it's fair to say that the Correctional Service of Canada has a role to play in addressing the factors that brought that individual into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place. On that score, the office has concluded that federal corrections is failing indigenous people.
In January 2016, the office reported that federal corrections had reached yet another sad milestone. At that time, indigenous overrepresentation in federal corrections had just surpassed 25% of the total inmate population. Less than two years later, today, indigenous people represent 27% of the total federal inmate population. Overrepresentation is even more entrenched for federally sentenced women of indigenous ancestry, who now represent 38% of the total female population in federal corrections.
The pace and intensity of this problem is quickening and deepening as the non-aboriginal inmate population declines. In fact, any net growth in the federal inmate population since 2012 is almost exclusively attributed to new or returning admissions of indigenous offenders.
Assuming all other things remain equal in indigenous and Canadian society, the year-on-year increase in the number of indigenous admissions to custody can be expected to get worse. Young indigenous people are coming into contact with the criminal justice system at rates that surpass even those of their parents. In 2015-2016, Statistics Canada reports that 35% of all admissions to youth correctional facilities in Canada were indigenous youth between the ages of 12 and 17.
Similar numbers are reported in provincial adult corrections. In 2015-2016, 75% of all admissions to provincial custody in Saskatchewan were indigenous. In the same year, 73% of all correctional admissions in Manitoba were indigenous. The rate was 31% for British Columbia, 70% for Yukon, 86% for the Northwest Territories and 100% for Nunavut.
Federal corrections mirror these broader regional and demographic trends. Today, 50.5% of the federal inmate population in the Prairie region is Indigenous. In fact, some institutions in that region can be considered “indigenous prisons”.
For instance, at the regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, 62% of residents are indigenous; in the Stony Mountain Institution in Manitoba, the figure is 64%; there are also 64% in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary; and finally, 61% of offenders are indigenous in the Edmonton Institution for Women.
In the office's latest systemic investigation, which looked at younger offenders aged 18 to 21 in federal custody, we noted that nearly two in five younger people in federal penitentiaries were of indigenous ancestry. Many of these youth reported previous contact with the youth justice system, some of the lowest levels of educational attainment, and the highest degree of involvement with child welfare authorities, including foster homes.
We titled the report “Missed Opportunities” on the basis that the Correctional Service of Canada was doing very little to turn the lives of these young people around. By the way, the majority of these young persons were serving their first federal sentence, and many indigenous young adults reported being gang-affiliated or pressured to join a gang within the walls of the penitentiaries.
In my 2016-17 annual report tabled in Parliament last week, I reported that indigenous people in federal corrections are released later in their sentence; are disproportionately overrepresented in segregation placement, use of force intervention, maximum security institutions, and self-injury incidents; and are more likely to be returned to prison due to suspension or revocation of parole. In fact, on nearly every indicator of correctional performance, indigenous people fare much worse than their non-indigenous counterparts.
Despite faster entry into correctional programs and higher completion rates overall, indigenous offenders are still being released later in their sentences and having parole revoked far more often than their counterparts. The majority of indigenous offenders are still being released from custody at their statutory release date, having reached two-thirds of their sentence. Most of these releases are still carried out from a maximum security or medium security facility, meaning indigenous offenders are released more often without the benefit of a graduated and structured return to the community.
In the context of overrepresentation, these results seem to defy reality. It bears reminding that the majority of indigenous people entering federal custody are serving a relatively short sentence of three years or less. Even so, the Auditor General reminds us that just over 10% of indigenous offenders had their case prepared for parole hearing at their earliest eligibility dates.
The Correctional Service has still not developed tools to assess how culturally specific interventions for indigenous offenders, such as elder services, healing lodges, Pathways, and partnership with community groups and organizations, contribute to safe and successful reintegration. There's still not adequate guidance or training on how aboriginal social history should be considered in case management decisions. As a consequence, not nearly enough attention or understanding is applied to Gladue factors in the administration of an indigenous person's sentence.
On the reintegration side, the space in the community to support indigenous offenders remains far from adequate. There are no agreements in place in British Columbia, Ontario, Atlantic Canada, and the far north. Three of the four aboriginal-run healing lodge facilities are on reserve land, yet indigenous offenders are being released to urban settings. Inexplicably, there continue to be substantial funding discrepancies between healing lodges operated by aboriginal communities under section 81 and those operated by Correctional Service of Canada. Finally, all section 81 facilities are designated minimum security, yet indigenous prisoners are predominantly classified and released from medium and maximum security institutions.
In my office's latest annual report, I recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada review its community release strategies for indigenous offenders with a view to, one, increasing the numbers of agreements with indigenous communities for the care and custody of medium security inmates; two, addressing discrepancies in funding arrangements between CSC and aboriginal-managed healing lodge facilities; and three, maximizing community interests and engagement in release planning for indigenous offenders at the earliest opportunity.
CSC appears to be responsive to these recommendations, though a clear sense of urgency, leadership, priority, and top-level engagement in these matters still appears to be lacking. I would note that CSC still resists the suggestion that it should create a deputy commissioner for indigenous corrections, a position that would be solely responsible for and dedicated to improving correctional outcomes and accountability for federally sentenced indigenous offenders.
Let me conclude by noting that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called for the elimination of overrepresentation of aboriginal people and youth in custody over the next decade.
Over the years, similar calls to action and government commitments have been issued. For corrections, one thing is clear: we should not expect more of the same to produce better or different results.
Thank you for your attention and interest in the work of my office. We would be happy to take all of your questions.
Mr. Chair, thank you very much.
Dr. Zinger, Madam Miron, it's great to have you in front of the committee.
Madam Miron, I think it's special privilege for members of the committee to have you here and to hear your views this morning on this very important issue.
I'd like to thank you for being so frank and so compelling in your comments. I think this is a problem that the committee is very well aware of and seized with, but that Canadians also are very concerned about. We have to be mindful that we're not inadvertently allowing some of the horrors of the residential school system to creep back in through the Correctional Service. Thank you for your work and your service.
I want to start by drawing your attention to chapter 4 of the “Annual Report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator 2016-2017”. At the end of chapter 4—I'm just going to read them briefly—there are three recommendations:
||i. increase the number of Section 81 agreements to include community accommodation options for the care and custody of medium security inmates;
||ii. address discrepancies in funding arrangements between CSC and Aboriginal-managed Healing Lodge facilities, and;
||iii. maximize community interest and engagement in release planning for Indigenous offenders at the earliest opportunity.
Dr. Zinger, there is no recommendation that is specific to gender issues, even though you, in very compelling terms, had highlighted that 37.9% of the population of female inmates is indigenous.
Is the fact that there is no specific gender recommendation a result of the conclusion that gender applies equally across those three recommendations, or, if you were asked to be a bit more precise, are there specific issues that relate to gender, especially female youth? Girls, as you pointed out, are disproportionately represented, even more so than women, in the corrections system.
Good morning, Mr. Zinger and Ms. Miron.
I'm afraid my question requires a rather long introduction, so I hope you will be patient with me.
The correctional system is not responsible for the increase in percentages. There is something or someone that causes this population to go into the system. This creates greater pressure on the correctional system, which must respond by offering programs that are non-existent or not available because they are so targeted.
In your presentation, you recommend “increasing the number of agreements with indigenous communities for the care and custody of medium security inmates.” Even in ideal circumstances, if the entire indigenous system took charge of the entire indigenous population, all we would do is displace the problem onto the shoulders of another group, which would not prevent the increase in the percentage of indigenous incarcerated persons. We would not be solving the problem at the source.
In a way, is the system not adversely affected by the limit on the application of these recommendations? No matter how many programs you have, if these people continue to join the correctional system in industrial quantities, it will continue to be overwhelmed.
What is your position? What is your reaction to this reality which seems inevitable, and about which we would like to hear your recommendations? In fact, I think that all of the parties agree that we have to improve the system. However, we seem powerless to affect the things that do not occur at your level, but upstream from that.
Aside from improving the system so that people transit through it faster, may we expect the correctional system to make recommendations that will help reduce the number of people that enter it?
Your analysis is quite correct. The problems are upstream, in society. In my opinion, the basic problem has to do with the social, economic, cultural and political rights of indigenous people. I think that when people are equal and when we have reached a level of recognition and an equal partnership, all of these problems could be solved upstream, once again.
As for criminal justice, the Correctional Service of Canada comes in at the end of the process. And so it would be unfair to ask it how to solve these societal problems. However, we have to pay close attention to what happens in the correctional universe. Indeed, we can observe the impacts of broad Canadian policies there. We can observe them and take them into account in our penitentiaries.
What do we see in our penitentiaries? We see that there is an overrepresentation of indigenous persons, serious mental health problems, and an overrepresentation of black inmates. The level of addictions is incredibly high. The average educational level attained by our inmates is grade 9. All of these problems have not been solved in society. And yet, it is there upstream that they must be solved.
To get back to the criminal justice system, I think it is the responsibility of police forces, prosecutors, judges and the correctional service to break down these barriers and not perpetuate this unfairness and injustice.
For my part, my role is limited to corrections. My legislative mandate is to investigate inmates' problems.
May I reiterate that solutions must be implemented, because if we continue to do exactly the same thing at the correctional level, we will not improve the performance indicators that are under the control of correctional services.
I just want to add to that.
I think one of the missing pieces here, as I've said before, is that in overseeing all of the healing lodges, there's a drifting away from the MOU. The community is very much waiting to be included in the memorandum of understanding that they signed with CSC. Some of the specifics in those memorandums have not been met. I understand that they're going to be meeting again to discuss some of the specifics that they need in order to go forward.
There's an under-representation of indigenous staff working at the healing lodges, especially in senior-level positions. Elders do not have the decision-making authority that they're supposed to have.
I'm speaking from experience. I worked in a healing lodge for 10 years. You can't run a healing lodge with the colonial style of thinking. You need to run it from aboriginal ways of knowing. Once that is fulfilled, I think you'll get some really good results.
I'm not saying that CSC is.... They've made some gains in that area, but I think they need to return to the table, return to the community members and chief and council, talk to them, and start working on a relationship that is positive and inclusive.
They need to consult. One of the big problems we hear about in the paper all the time is that there's no consultation with the indigenous chiefs or indigenous people. I know from speaking with some of the chiefs and councils when I do my visits at the healing lodge that they are ready. They want to make a difference in terms of reconciliation.
If we don't start having that discussion, that dialogue, then I don't think there'll be any kind of remedy going forward in terms of CSC and helping our indigenous young offenders or the ones who are already incarcerated.
Programs have to be completed and initiated within the frame of reference of indigenous people, from indigenous ways of knowing. They need to have wardens and staff members who are role models for indigenous inmates and young offenders. In my role as senior investigator, I always hear the comment, “Wow, it's so good to see an indigenous senior investigator.” I'm proud of that, because at least I give a voice.
I don't play favourites because I am a person that walks the two worlds. I walk in the white world and I walk in the indigenous world and I take the best of both. I'm speaking from my heart today because, as you know, there is a big crisis for our indigenous inmates. I am a survivor of the effects of residential school. I am a survivor of sexual abuse. There are a lot of things I can speak to.
I started working in 1995, when the model in “Creating Choices” started being used. They drifted away from “Creating Choices”. Edmonton Institution is now basically a maximum security institution. I went back for four months to see it, after “Creating Choices” sort of eroded, and it was just a prison system. There are not enough indigenous staff members to offer assistance or to act as role models for indigenous inmates there. I know that when we started with “Creating Choices,” about 70% to 80% of the women working there were indigenous, and we had success.
Again, these are obviously very complex issues.
For the last 30 years, governments have not been able to stop or, even better, reverse the gross overrepresentation of indigenous people in jail. The incarceration rate is extraordinary. It keeps growing year after year. Various governments over that 30 years have, I think, attempted genuinely to address the issue.
I am encouraged by some of this government's approach in terms of a truly equal partnership. This certainly resonates with me. I'm quite focused on section 81.
Section 81 was introduced by the Brian Mulroney government in 1992. Those provisions under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act were seen at the time as extraordinarily creative, inventive, and so on, and they were looked at around the world as best practices.
However, , after 25 years, there have been only four agreements for a bed capacity of now just over 100 since some additional beds have been provided. In a way, by handing over to indigenous communities the responsibility—and you have to do this with the proper funding and support—of managing the care and custody of indigenous people, it parcels out and takes out all the issues with respect to culture and spirituality, because now you don't have to train your people to be more sensitive. You don't have to deal with issues around prejudice or racism. I would hope that these agreements would become the norm, not the exception.
Good morning, and thank you for having me here.
I realize it is not often that a front-line staff member has this opportunity, so for that I am extremely grateful.
I am currently employed working in a women's supervision unit as the community parole officer. I have been employed with CSC, Correctional Service of Canada, in this role, with other assignments, for over 15 years. Prior to that I worked as a hearing assistant with the Parole Board of Canada in the elder-assisted hearing panels, and before that at an urban aboriginal organization in Edmonton.
I have worked with both males and females in the community. My duties include supervising offenders on conditional release. They also include, but are not limited to, case preparation for offenders in the community and in federal institutions.
I self-identify as Métis, and my background is similar in many ways to the offenders that I supervise. My grandparents attended residential schools, and without going into detail, my family has felt the intergenerational effects. While it does not make me a subject matter expert, I do believe it helps me to more fully understand the unique circumstances that indigenous offenders face. They are marginalized to a large extent, and by the time they enter the federal system, many of them come with complex needs that have been outlined in detail by previous witnesses.
A flexible approach is required, one that includes not only increasing in-house CSC interventions, which is helpful, but utilizing the services of aboriginal community service providers, such as counsellors and aboriginal substance abuse treatment providers, to fill in service gaps and help the offenders build a bridge back to their community. Although not privy to all the initiatives and actions proposed as a response to the reports of the correctional investigator and Auditor General, I sense that CSC takes this seriously, and there is a culture shift in progress. I hope that meaningful, ongoing consultation takes place, though, with front-line staff, especially with aboriginal staff.
We need to ensure that along with providing increased timely access to interventions while incarcerated, we need to provide the same in the community to increase offenders' chances for success on release and prevent a return to incarceration. An example of that is that access to elders and ceremonies should be facilitated by CSC to all indigenous offenders in the community, not only to those who are in healing lodges.
Perhaps another approach to be considered could be to look at supervision units in the community that are similar to Pathways units in the institutions to increase results for offenders on conditional release.
Relationships with our public safety partners, such as the Parole Board of Canada, are an important part of improving results for aboriginal offenders. More work needs to be done on educating offenders on elder-assisted hearings and building relationships with aboriginal communities by taking the process to them—for example, through community-assisted hearings.
Front-line staff in the institution and community are always up to the challenge put forth by our organization with regard to increasing results for indigenous offenders, but increased caseloads, increasingly complex needs of offenders, and increased expectations without resources attached will make our jobs even more difficult than they already are.
Retention and recruitment of aboriginal staff is also essential, but hiring processes are long and arduous and sometimes take years to finalize. This needs to be streamlined in order for CSC to be seen as an employer of choice with aboriginal people.
Classroom and online training is proposed to inform staff about Gladue principles and aboriginal social history as part of their response, but it also needs to include experiential training, such as with elders and with the communities we serve.
Training on the development of realistic and meaningful section 84 release plans will hopefully be incorporated for all parole officers. In addition, access to subject matter experts outside CSC would also be helpful to develop the skills of front-line staff in dealing with all offenders with complex needs.
Engagement of aboriginal communities earlier in the offender's sentence would also be helpful, as section 84 release plans take time to properly develop.
I want to stress that any changes that are proposed also need to take into account not just institutions: a creative approach and appropriate resources to manage offenders when they are on conditional release will also be required. Adequate preparation of an offender prior to release is also essential, such as ensuring offenders have appropriate identification, employment skills, program completion, and community supports. With these, any offenders, especially aboriginal offenders, are far more likely to succeed on their release.
In closing, I know how fortunate I am to be in the job, a job that I love, where I am witness to profound change, but at the same time believing that I contribute to the safety of the community.
A job in corrections is a difficult one. We work in the shadows, unseen for the most part by the public, dealing with danger and vicarious trauma.
I also believe in the mission of CSC and that keeping offenders accountable is not negated by treating them with compassion. Change is coming, but I believe it will take time.
Hi. My name is Zef Ordman. I started in Correctional Service Canada as a correctional officer, and then I became a parole officer. In that role, I also became a crisis negotiator and hostage negotiator inside the institution.
As for my experiences inside the federal institutions in Alberta, for the past three years I've been the regional vice-president for the union that represents about 50% of the staff inside the institutions in Alberta. I'm very familiar with all of the federal institutions in the province.
My colleague said she was a bit nervous. I am. I'm actually more comfortable in a room full of inmates.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Zef Ordman: There's always the potential.
I use the word “inmate” because when you're in prison, you're an inmate. When you're out, you're an offender.
Here is one of the difficulties I see. Someone asks, “What do you do as a parole officer?” Well, at Bowden Institution, which has about 700-plus inmates, give or take, I would say probably 70% are aboriginal or indigenous, and that's by self-declaration. You could be Sven Svenson. If you self-declare that you're indigenous, you're indigenous, but that's neither here nor there. The vast majority of my caseload are indigenous, at times 100% indigenous. The system's not working on many levels.
You have 30-plus broken human beings who've done horrible things, and they're all getting out, with the rare exception. There's a small minority, but generally in one year, two years, five years, 10 years, or 15 years, they're getting out. The question is, how do you mitigate risk?
As a parole officer, you're wearing many hats. I see my inmates all the time. I was right in the unit with 120 inmates. My door was open. I had murderers, rapists, thieves, fraudsters, and others. I'd see them every day like this, talking to them, walking past them when I get coffee.
The difficulty is...it's all great. CSC loves to say our programs work, and maybe they do on a macro level, but when you're the parole officer and you have to write your name to the risk assessment, you're looking at that individual. In many cases, they don't have supports. There are reserves that ban them from coming back. They say they won't take them back. There are inmates who say, “Zef, I grew up in Calgary. I'm going to Calgary.”
The intensity of the workload has changed. The parole officers who are trying to do the risk assessments are swamped. Now CSC has done a reverse onus thing, so for 60 or 90 days the offender comes in. We're dealing six months or a year down the road. You have to write up a report. You might have only seen the offender for 30 minutes, but the report's due in 30 days, and inside an institution 30 days go very quickly.
It's like the legs of a stool. Okay, you have a program. I have some doubts personally that programs do what they say they're going to do, and I think they could be done better, but it's employment, it's housing, it's all these things. The white middle-class kid who's got parents on the outside and is 19 or 20 has employment, has education, has housing. The aboriginal kid doesn't have any of that. When they ask why the parole officer is not recommending this guy for release, it's because there's only one leg of the stool, and that's the programming.
Attending all sessions of a program is considered successful programming. To me, that means he sat in there and didn't tell anyone to eff off. I get, “Oh, he successfully completed the program”, and management comes down on the parole officer, asking why I'm being so risk-averse. Well, there are no legs for the stool.
My final ask would be for real training, real professional training, for parole officers, and we need real, full, extensive, aboriginal-centred programs that address all their needs: health, education, work, and housing. I could go on and on.
My best analogy is when I look at the typical suburban kid, the 19-year-old or 20-year-old young adult, who does something bad, and the supports they have. In some ways, if we're going to have the same results, we need to mirror those supports. You need education, and that exists to a degree, but you need real trade skills.
When I go to EIFW, Edmonton Institution for Women, the women's facility in Edmonton, I see a whole bunch of sewing. If I go to Bowden, they have this horrible food that's boiled in a bag, and you don't need all these offenders to work in the kitchen. What are they doing? You walk in and there are 30 offenders and they're trying to give them something to do, but there's really not a lot to do.
CORCAN was a great idea, but a lot of the times, whether it's based on sales or purchasing.... They have state-of-the-art woodworking shops, state-of-the-art welding shops. At Edmonton Institution, they closed it down, because they were having issues there.
The inmates, whether male, female, aboriginal or not, need real job skills. Many of them have never worked. Just getting up and going somewhere for us is pretty insignificant, but for them it's like a milestone. You got up and you actually went somewhere and you did something. Then with school, I can't tell you the number of drug dealers who've come up to me and said, “Zef, I got 99% on my math test.” I said, “Well, it didn't surprise me, because you were pretty good in math to begin with from your other vocation.”
When everybody here says, “Oh, the programs, the programs”, if these programs were so great, CSC could be self-funding. They could have one to make fat people skinny and they'd be self-funding. We get broken people 19 and 20 years old, and we think that in four weeks, eight weeks, 12 weeks, we're going to reverse years and years of....
It's all those legs of employment, education—and then out in the community....
We have backlogs. We have inmates approved at Bowden to go to minimum from medium—backlogged. Where do you go? Where do you put someone?
When you say to your kid who's 18, “I'm kicking you out of the house; go to Edmonton on Monday”, they have no jobs and no money, but they've known these other dysfunctions. Would you think they'd succeed? I think maybe not.
We have people who are at the far other spectrum and we wonder why they return. They come in and they see their relatives. They see their uncles. They see brothers, cousins. Going to prison is a family reunion, and that's horrible to think that's happened.
The impact of the harassment, bullying, and high stress because of the work environment is outrageous, and Edmonton's not alone. It's across Canada. It's happening in B.C. It's happening in Ontario. It's happening in Quebec. It's been happening for decades. My opinion is that it's the tip of the iceberg. For what you see above the water, there's a huge mass below.
It affects the rehabilitation if you're being harassed by co-workers or dealing with dysfunctional inmates. On a regular basis, inmates would threaten to kill me. I'd even have them say, “I know where you live.” At a certain level, you put it to the back of your head, but no one who works in CSC is the same 20 years later. It might be similar with police officers.
When I went to get on a plane to come here, there was a nice sign, something to the effect of “If you're rude, we can refuse service.” I would actually like that in my office, but then I would have no one in my caseload.
Someone once said, "Zef, do you have Tourette's?” I said, “No. I just swear a lot.”
You acclimatize to your environment to some extent. Harassment and bullying, I would say, are rampant and need to be dealt with. CSC has made strides, but it's a very big issue.
Then there's working in the environment itself. People think there are guards, the correctional officers, and inmates. That's not how it works. There are those people, but the parole officer and the single mother who's the clerk are also on the unit with 120 inmates. They say it's a medium security prison, but some medium security prisons have more lifers than the maximums do. They have our biggest riots, for example in the Saskatchewan Penitentiary, where it was somewhat linked to the food issue, maybe. There are a variety of issues. Drumheller penitentiary was burned down. Those were medium security.
I'm used to going in, but they're very high-stress places. The paperwork is almost overbearing on the front-line staff, and doing that extra work interferes with casework. I mean, the POs are being asked to organize weddings, and I ask, “Well, which do you do?” Do you pick housing and get someone at housing to organize another offender's...? There's this piling of good ideas.
Anyway, there are harassment issues and a high-stress environment, and they've had a detrimental effect on the front-line staff and the offenders.
Before I bring the meeting to a close, I want to thank both of you for your courage and your service, and for bringing this huge dose of reality to our study. It's been quite impressive, and I want to thank you for that.
Colleagues, I have a couple of motions that we need to deal with before we suspend. I'm looking for someone to move, first of all, the motion with respect to the informal meeting with our Italian counterparts. Seeing Mr. Picard bounce up, that is moved. Do we have any discussion or objections? All in favour?
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Thank you.
I just noticed that we have , , , , and Holland coming for that meeting tomorrow after question period. More, I'm sure, will be welcome.
Second, we have the request for a project budget. That is for this particular committee. I'd ask that somebody move the motion in favour of that budget. Ms. Damoff so moves. All in favour?
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Do you see how efficient we can be here? It's amazing.
Finally, I would just note that there will be a room change with respect to the meeting with the minister on Thursday morning. It will be in room 415 as opposed to this one.
Go ahead, Ms. Gallant.