That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that, during its consideration of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, the Committee be granted the power to expand the scope of the Bill in order to forbid those convicted of the murder of a child from serving any portion of their sentence in a healing lodge.
He said: Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for .
This morning, we moved a motion that we consider to be very important. I would like to give a brief overview of Bill C-83, which seeks to change inmates' conditions, since the motion is very closely related to the bill. Bill C-83 seeks to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities and replace it with structured intervention units, to use prescribed body scanners, to establish parameters for access to health care, and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders.
This bill obviously contains some reasonable measures that are worth considering. We should all consider how we can change and improve the overall prison program. However, we have a problem in that regard.
Everyone agrees that a criminal has to serve their lawful sentence, but we cannot allow penitentiaries to become five-star Hilton hotels. Otherwise, there will be no incentive for individuals to give up their life of crime.
After our initial reading of the bill, we are not only disappointed, but also discouraged to see that this government is still working to help criminals instead of thinking of the victims.
Three weeks ago, we asked the and his team why they transferred a child murderer to a healing lodge instead of keeping her behind bars at a maximum-security penitentiary. The Prime Minister was either incapable of answering the question or unwilling to do so. On this lovely, rainy Friday on Parliament Hill, hundreds of people are outside asking the same question. They do not understand why this child murderer is at a healing lodge in Saskatchewan.
I gave notice of this motion at the beginning of the week, and it just so happens that, on Wednesday, October 31, Global News published an article by Abigail Bimman about the brother of murderer Terri-Lynne McClintic. Her own brother is disgusted by what is going on. He says his sister is not indigenous, that she manipulated the system, and that she should be sent back to a maximum-security penitentiary to serve her sentence. Her brother says his sister “is no more indigenous than I am green from the planet Mars”.
This case has been the subject of much debate here in the House of Commons. The government accused us of raising a sensitive issue and said we should not take advantage of the death of a police officer, but I believe Canadians understand that the Liberal government's position was untenable. It is unacceptable for a child killer who claims to be indigenous to be sent to an indigenous healing lodge. To be clear, healing lodges are minimum-security facilities. There is no security, so people can come and go and do as they please, even if they do not have that right. A child killer should not be in a place like that.
I believe that what our motion is calling for is very reasonable because Canadians believe that child killers should not be held in healing centres or minimum-security prisons. They should serve their sentence in maximum-security penitentiaries.
Furthermore, we just learned that the received a report from Correctional Service Canada regarding its investigation of the circumstances surrounding the transfer of Ms. McClintic from a maximum-security prison to a healing centre. I am therefore asking the minister to table this report at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security so we can consult it, read the recommendations concerning Bill and ensure they are implemented.
At some point, there must be some common sense in this country. Unacceptable things are happening. I know it is not that easy to govern a country. We will be in that position next year, but in the meantime it is the Liberals' job.
All we are doing is proposing a few things to help keep the country running smoothly and ensure that Canadians continue to trust our justice system and believe that criminals will have to face consequences. Giving criminals a chance to live a good life while leaving victims to cope with sadness and sorrow is simply unacceptable.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join my friend, the hon. MP for , in this important debate with respect to Bill and sentencing in Canada.
It concerns me that the government, like on many things, has a communications plan rather than a plan to actually lead, and this is an example. In fact, the deputy House leader for the Liberals is referring to a report from the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada that was provided to the government just mere minutes before a protest on Parliament Hill, which was organized by people from the community of Tori Stafford, the young woman who was killed by Terri-Lynne McClintic and her partner.
We have seen the comments from Rodney Stafford, her father, and the outrage with the transfer of Ms. McClintic to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan. However, just in time for this protest, the Liberals have the report. Members will recall that they defended this decision and in fact their recently appointed commissioner defended the decision herself. Her decision was wrong, and it is up to ministers of the government to recognize that. I am hoping the commissioner is listening to my remarks, because I will inform her why I think the decision was wrong.
I have not read her report today. I am working off her comments after defending the decision to sort of support the government's inaction. I will use the government's own material to prove my point.
I learned a lot about restorative justice principles in law school at Dalhousie and restorative justice can be used in certain circumstances. However, the case of Ms. McClintic is not one of those. In fact, her own family has questioned whether she is of indigenous background.
However, leaving that aside, on the website of the Department of Justice, it says that the first principle of restorative justice recognizes “Crime is Fundamentally a Violation of People and Interpersonal Relationships...Victims and the community have been harmed and are in need of restoration.”
It starts with a reflection on the victim. In this case, the victim, Tori Stafford, a child, was lured away by Ms. McClintic and horribly killed. I do not want to get into the details. They have been recounted several times. However, restorative justice starts with an examination of the victim and the crime. This is the worst crime. The victim and her family have suffered the most horrendous circumstances imaginable under our Criminal Code. This is not a crime of poverty or circumstance. This was a premeditated act. The vision of Ms. McClintic luring young Tori Stafford away was caught on videotape. It is seared in the minds of people from that part of Ontario. The ministers involved here should review that tape and the file. The Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada should review it as well.
As a primer, they can look at the Department of Justice's own materials on restorative justice. They should also look to section 718 of the Criminal Code, which outlines sentencing and the sentencing principles and purpose. I invite all Canadians to read it. This is the underpinning of our justice system, particularly when it comes to a crime committed against one Canadian by another, and in this case, a child.
The purpose of sentencing is found in section 718 of the Criminal Code. Some of my Liberal friends in the House are lawyers. They may think back to criminal law at law school. I refer them back there. I refer the commissioner there as well.
What are the purposes of sentencing? First is denunciation of conduct. The killing of a child deserves the highest denunciation possible. Second is deterrence, deterrence for the worst of crimes, violence against other people in our civilized society. Separation of offenders is the third purpose, which is for the protection of the public, when someone involved with the worst of crimes should be a high priority. The fourth is rehabilitation. That is where we want to not give up on anyone. The fifth is reparation, which is to make amends to the victims and the people impacted. The final purpose of sentencing is promotion of responsibility.
Ms. McClintic is responsible for her role in the death of Tori Stafford. She should be making reparations, both on a restorative level and on a Criminal Code level, for that crime. She must be separated from the public for her involvement in the worst of crimes.
We must have deterrence and we must have denunciation. In the worst of crimes, those take precedence over rehabilitation. Those take precedence over transferring someone to a healing lodge. A healing lodge is really designed for restorative justice principles for people who have committed crimes because of their circumstance in life, because of poverty, or because of higher instances of incarceration of indigenous peoples. I support healing lodges, but not for child murderers.
Let us continue from section 718 of the Criminal Code to sections 718.1 and 718.2. It begins with the principle that a sentence must be proportionate to the nature of the offence. I remind everyone, and the commissioner of corrections, that this is the worst crime our society faces. There is no need for a balancing test.
In my view, the proportionate nature of the offence means that Ms. McClintic should serve her entire sentence in a maximum-security prison. Certainly the restorative healing lodge approach, generally saved for indigenous offenders, should not be available for first and second degree murder cases. This should be a policy that is brought to the chamber immediately. That is what Canadians expect.
There is no way under the Criminal Code, under Justice Canada's principles of restorative justice that could defend the transfer of Ms. McClintic to a healing lodge. There is no way to defend it. What is more troubling than the decision itself, and the Liberals' shell game of having a report from the commissioner show up on the day that people are protesting on Parliament Hill, is that this is another example of a government that is actually impotent to act. There is an organization chart. The minister is at the top of that department. The is responsible for each minister. We see countless cases where there is an inability to take action and acknowledge errors made by departments.
The Statistics Canada stats grab that is going on right now, which Canadians find obscene, is when the minister responsible should say “Statistics Canada, hands off.” When Veterans Affairs finds out that a convicted murderer who developed PTSD from killing a police officer in Nova Scotia, a murderer who never served, is receiving funding that is for our veterans, that is a mistake and it should be rectified. Ms. McClintic is probably the best example of a mistake that should be rectified. There is no excuse for it.
I would like the commissioner of corrections to go through the same analysis I just did, Section 718 of the Criminal Code and the principles of restorative justice, and give me one reason why Ms. McClintic should be transferred to a healing lodge. It is time for the Liberals to step up and show some leadership. Our job in the House as the loyal opposition is to bring the concerns of Canadians to this Parliament. In fact, I applaud the Canadians who were braving the rain and cold today to bring their outrage in the transfer of Ms. McClintic to the steps of Parliament Hill.
The trouble is that we have Liberal government ministers who are impotent to act. They act like they are powerless. It is because the job, the image and the car mean more to them than the actual responsibility they have. In this case, it is undermining confidence in our judicial system, in our corrections system. I have yet to see one iota of a response to why this should happen. The Liberals should take ownership, remove Ms. McClintic and ban any further transfers of anyone who took a life to a healing lodge like this.
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the member's motion regarding Bill , which the House has already voted on and passed at second reading.
The hon. member for just mentioned that sometimes politics gets done in this place, and I would argue that the only thing being done by the Conservative Party right now is playing politics.
I cannot imagine what the family of Tori Stafford has gone through or any family that has lost a child in this manner. My heart goes out to all families who have lost children to crime.
I will start by discussing Bill and some concerns that have been raised about the working conditions of those working in corrections. It is challenging work. From guards to parole officers, program staff to medical professionals, corrections employees work hard, around the clock and in challenging environments to keep our institutions safe and in support of effective rehabilitation, which ultimately protects Canadian communities. They represent a professional workforce of nearly 18,000 employees, all engaged in the success of the corrections system and the fulfilment of Correctional Service Canada's mandate. That is complemented by some 6,000 volunteers in institutions and communities, not to mention elders, chaplains and the many other unsung heroes working in corrections. I want to assure all of those individuals that as we study Bill at committee, their voices will be heard and we will be listening to them.
Regarding the transfer referred to in this motion, when it came to the attention of the , he asked the commissioner of corrections to review the transfer decision and the long-standing policies in place, which existed prior to our becoming government, that led to the decision, to ensure that they remain appropriate or to recommend if they need updating. As the Minister of Public Safety indicated in the House, he received the report from the commissioner of corrections late yesterday, a report that came with several policy options for him to consider. The minister is studying the report carefully and has said that if there are any changes that need to be made to these long-standing policies, they will be made in the near future.
In the meantime, the public safety committee is expected to begin its study of Bill next week. This transformational piece of legislation will eliminate segregation in Canadian corrections facilities, but is unrelated to the issue of this particular transfer. Through Bill C-83, the government is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring that we not only have the tools to make guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, but also create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.
Virtually everyone in federal custody is eventually going to be released. It is in the best interests of public safety to ensure that when offenders are released, they are well prepared to participate meaningfully in society and that they are unlikely to reoffend. That is why we are strengthening the federal corrections system and aligning it with the latest evidence and best practices so that offenders are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities.
Bill would replace the long-standing practice of using segregation and replace it with the use of structured intervention units, or SIUs. This is a bold new approach to federal corrections. An offender may be placed in an SIU when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they pose a risk to the safety of any person, including themselves, or the security of the institution. It will protect the safety of staff and those in their custody by allowing offenders to be separated as required, while ensuring that those offenders receive effective rehabilitative programming, as well as interventions and mental health support. These things are not in place right now but we would put them in place with Bill .
Currently, placement in segregation basically suspends all interventions and programming for an offender. The offender is essentially kept isolated from everyone. In a structured intervention unit, on the other hand, the offender will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell and a minimum of two hours of meaningful interactions with other people, including staff, volunteers, visitors, elders, chaplains and other compatible inmates. They will have access to structured interventions to address the underlying behaviour that led to their placement in the SIU. These will include programs and mental health care tailored to their needs. It is a system that will allow for the protection of inmates, staff and the institution while ensuring that the time an inmate spends there does not interrupt his or her rehabilitative programming. Make no mistake, rehabilitative programming is essential to ensure that when the person is released from corrections, they will be able to live a life free of crime.
We will ensure that the correctional service has the resources it needs to ensure the safe and secure management of offenders within the SIU while delivering all of the important programming and allowing for visitations.
In addition, the new system will be subject to a robust internal review process. By the fifth working day after movement to an SIU, the warden will determine if the inmate should remain there, taking into account factors such as the inmate's correctional plan and medical condition. If the inmate remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will happen after 30 days by the warden and every 30 days thereafter by the commissioner of corrections.
Reviews can be triggered by a medical professional at any time, and will be strengthened by the fact that Bill also enshrines in law for the first time the principle that health care professionals within the corrections system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it would create a system of patient advocates who will help ensure that people get the medical treatment they need.
Bill would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. These amendments are based on the 1999 Gladue case and reflect what the Supreme Court has found to be the constitutional right of an indigenous offender.
The bill would also improve support for victims. Currently, victims may attend a parole hearing of the perpetrator of the crime. Alternatively, victims can request audio recordings of the parole hearing if they are unable to attend. Unfortunately, due to a glitch in the existing act, if a victim attends in person, he or she is not able to receive an audio recording. We have heard from victims that parole hearings can be such an emotional time that afterward the victim often cannot remember the full details of what transpired. Bill would ensure that even if the victim attends in person, he or she will be able to get a copy of the recording.
The legislation would also allow CSC to use body scanners for the first time. These scanners are a less invasive way of searching inmates and visitors to a penitentiary while ensuring that correctional staff have the tools they need to detect and prevent contraband.
During Stephen Harper's time in office there were many inmates in healing lodges who had committed very serious crimes. In fact, dozens were convicted of murder and at least 14 were convicted in cases in which the victims were children. They were sent to healing lodges under the Harper government because, apparently, the Harper government understood that healing lodges were in the interest of rehabilitation and public safety. I would like to read a quote from the member for , who said, “Healing lodges developed in collaboration with aboriginal communities provide supportive healing and reintegration environments.”
In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, to uphold public safety and to rehabilitate those in their care. We do not have a vigilante system in Canada. We do not allow public opinion or political rhetoric to determine the penalties dealt to individual offenders. Yet the opposition has been playing political games with this case and our entire justice system during the past weeks.
Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison. There is no doubt that she remains in prison. The facts of the case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Services Canada since sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison and continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.
Neither the nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision on where that individual offender should be serving her sentence. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible for the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections systems rely on political rhetoric and public opinion in their decision-making processes.
Recently, we had the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times, just as the has done here as well, that she was asked to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the long-standing policies regarding transfers in general. As I mentioned earlier, the received the commissioner's report late yesterday and is in the process of reviewing it.
Both of committees that I sit on, the status of women and public safety committees, tabled reports in June on the corrections system and, in particular, on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety committee's report was unanimous in calling for additional funding for healing lodges. Members from all parties heard from witnesses and agreed that healing lodges were doing excellent work and should be expanded and supported. The Conservative members of the committee agreed with us that they play an integral role in our corrections system. The status of women committee also recommended additional funding for healing lodges and heard extensive testimony on their benefits.
I wonder how many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium-security institute or healing lodge. I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look more like what they see on television and in movies. They might be surprised to see what a medium-security institute like Grand Valley actually looks like.
Let me be clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it were called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be debating this issue, nor having the motion before us today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens. Prisoners must follow the rules if they want to stay there.
A healing lodge is different from what Canadians might expect a prison to look like, but these institutions are also very different in their outcomes for prisoners, and in turn, better for Canadians and public safety in the long run. In fact, I would argue that is why the Harper Conservatives sent individuals who had been convicted of murder to healing lodges, because they recognized the benefits for offenders when they spend time in these institutions.
Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years of experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study, and stated:
It's not a get-out-of-jail-free [card].... We have the same kind of supervision and restrictions they have in a prison. Only we're doing it in a healing way.... they have to accept responsibility for their offences, for their victims, and they have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.
Our government knows that a corrections system focused on accountability rather than simple retribution is better for corrections outcomes and, therefore, better for the public safety of all Canadians. We know that taking a rehabilitative approach is the best way to protect the public safety of Canadians. I think Canadians would agree that when people leave prison, we do not want them to commit a violent crime. It is not in the interests of public safety.
As we know, regardless of the length of their sentence, the vast majority of those incarcerated in our system will be released from prison at some point. They may very well move into our neighbourhoods. What kind of person do we want released from prison at the end of his or her sentence living next door to us? I feel strongly that, regardless of our feelings, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.
I mentioned the fact that the previous government sent individuals who had committed murder and individuals who had committed crimes against children to healing lodges.
I would argue that is the problem with the Conservative Party today. It has no moral centre. It has no principles around which to build policies. Conservatives simply swing from one issue to the next, with no sense of cohesion or principles to guide them. Almost every issue or policy that the Conservatives supported in government is one that they have a knee-jerk reaction to while in opposition.
It is the reason the member for has left the Conservative Party and founded a new Conservative movement. He says that today's Conservative Party of Canada has become “morally corrupt”, and that Canadians need a new coherent Conservative—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Madam Speaker, I will pick up on the last question. The member tries to give the impression that the government has not done a good job on this file. I would like to make it very clear to those who might be following the debate just what the government has done. In order to appreciate what the government has done, one needs to have a better sense of what has been happening over the last 10 years.
I would emphasize what I believe is uniformly felt across all regions of our country. No one this country could every imagine how horrific the actions against little Tori were. I think I speak on behalf of anyone who has a heart and understands what a parent or family members have to go through mentally and physically when something horrific takes place against a child. I cannot imagine the pain and agony. In my heart, and I know I am not unique, all of us in the chamber extend our sympathies and empathy to the family. Having said that, sadly, it is not the first time that has happened in Canada.
I had the opportunity to ask a question, trying to provide a little history. A past Conservative administration decided that we should move from correctional facilities to healing centres, which would be part of the medium-security correctional facilities. I believe these healing centres were brought in a Conservative administration.
Indeed, let us fast forward to when Stephen Harper was prime minister. If we listen to the Conservatives, we would think this situation were truly unique, as if children have not been murdered in the past and murderers have not been put into healing centres in the past. We know that is not true. Even when Stephen Harper was prime minister, we know there were murderers in medium-security facilities who were transferred to healing centres, dozens of them. Not one, two or three, but literally dozens of murderers have gone into these healing centres. This was when Stephen Harper was prime minister.
We often hear about some of the worst crimes in society, such as terrorist acts, but what ranks very high for me are child murders. These as horrific and I want there to be consequences for that crime. So do my constituents and a vast majority, 90%-plus, of Canadians.
Do members know that child killers were sent to healing lodges while Stephen Harper was prime minister? If we follow the debate on this issue, we would never believe that to be the case, but that is the reality. Child murderers, even under Stephen Harper, went to healing lodges. We did not hear any Conservatives jump up at that time asking why it was happening. No one condemned Stephen Harper and the minister responsible. It was implied earlier that maybe they did not know about it. That excuse does not cut it.
I listen to many members of the opposition yell from their seats how horrific it is and how irresponsible we were by not taking action, as they point fingers at the member for , the , for not taking action. Here is a reality check: Even though Stephen Harper and the Conservatives did not take any action, this minister and this government have taken the most appropriate action of all. We created a dialogue with the commissioner of corrections and asked the commissioner to review the policy and to come back to the government with some recommendations. That is the responsible approach to dealing with this issue.
I understand that yesterday the commissioner brought forward that report. I suspect that the minister, knowing he is one of the hardest working members in the chamber, will go through that report in great detail. I know this government as a whole understands and appreciates the very important role that our civil servants play in providing the services that we receive from Correctional Service Canada. We will factor in what those professionals have to say, because good government does that. Good government respects the fine work that our civil servants do for Canadians as a whole.
Knowing the , his primary concern is the safety of Canadians. I believe that is the priority of this government. We have seen that in the legislation we debated, namely Bill , which I will soon get to. For now, let us realize that unlike the former government under which we know that child murderers went to healing centres, we are looking at ways to improve government policy. This is one of the files that no doubt will be taken into great consideration as we try to ensure that we have the confidence of Canadians as we move forward on this.
Madam Speaker, my friend rose on a point of order. He wants to hear the names of other murderers.
Well, it was not that long ago when member after member of the Conservative caucus stood in the chamber, and in great detail, talked about Tori Stafford and that horrific incident, which revolted many Canadians. One of the reasons many members on this side of the House were so upset with members of the official opposition was because of the way they were dealing with this issue.
For the sake of argument, let us say that the Conservatives had a change of mind on policy. When in government, when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, there were child murderers going to healing lodges, and they did not oppose it then. However, let us say that they had a road to Damascus experience. Now they are in opposition, and now we want to cut them some slack, and they want to see a change in policy. Even with that, I do not believe it justifies the graphic descriptions that were being given day in and day out by the official opposition.
Now those members want more names of these child killers tabled. Is it so they can again look at these cases and reveal the graphic details? Is that what they want?
At the end of the day, this is about good governance and policy that addresses the issues Canadians truly care about. That is why the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada was asked to do the job she did. As I have indicated, that report has now been brought to the attention of the minister responsible. I can assure members of this House that the report will be gone through and we will see something that can provide assurance to Canadians that we do have the victims in our hearts and that we are respectful of our civil servants. We believe that we need to have a policy that delivers on what the public expectations are of the government of the day.
I made reference to Bill , and my colleague made reference to it in her speech. The reason I want to bring this up is that often, the Conservatives try to give the impression that they are about the victims, as if they are the ones who protect the interests of the victims. Well, we have seen legislation brought in by this government that enshrines victims' rights in legislation. We have seen other aspects that are important.
For example, my colleague made reference to audio tapes. There are many crimes that are so horrific that when a perpetrator in jail goes before a parole board, and the victim wants to attend the hearing, we would allow the victim to be provided an audio tape of what takes place, because one can only imagine what a victim goes through when sitting in that Parole Board hearing.
There is a different mentality between the Stephen Harper Conservatives and this government when it comes to justice. I will give the Conservatives that. We truly believe that there are certain actions the government can take that will ensure that we have fewer victims in the future. That is a reality that often escapes my Conservative friends across the way.
Bill is a good example of that. Within the bill are reforms to the legislation that would enable programming, such as mental health care services and others, to be made available to individuals leaving our prison system. That is important. Unlike the image the Conservatives try to give Canadians, that once people go to jail, each and every one of them is so bad that they should stay in jail forever, the reality is that a vast majority will come out and they will be in our communities. We need to ensure—