The House resumed consideration of Bill , as reported (with amendment) from the committee, and of the motions in Group No. 1.
Mr. Speaker, I will resume where I left off, which has to do with the utility of committees. I noticed that was a theme of question period, that committees are assigned tasks and committees doing their work make significant differences. Therefore, I want to go over a number of the significant differences the committee made with respect to the original Bill and the Bill C-83 that is before us as amended by the committee. We listened to witnesses and suggested changes to the government, and in many instances the government listened to the committee and made those changes.
The bill now includes a strengthened health care review system. If the warden disagrees with a recommendation from a health care provider to move inmates in or out of SIU or to alter their conditions of confinement, the committee or senior CSC personnel, external to the institution, would review the matter. That was a Liberal amendment.
The Conservatives contributed an amendment, which said that a new provision would allow CSC staff to recommend to a health care professional that an inmate be assessed under certain conditions, such as self-harm, emotional distress, adverse drug reaction, etc.
The NDP-Green Party amendment reinserted the principle that CSC and the parole board impose the “least restrictive” measures, consistent with security. The language existed for 20 years until the previous government changed it to “necessary and proportionate”. Least restrictive is back in, thanks to the amendments provided by the NDP and Green Party.
The NDP wanted a meaningful four hours of face time. Therefore, when CSC records the fact that an inmate did not get his or her four hours out, it would now have to include in the report the reasons for refusal.
About 14 or 15 different amendments were provided by all parties. Those amendments strengthen the bill and recommend the bill to the House.
The bill would enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals in CSC must operate independently of correctional authorities. It would also require CSC to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions that would impact indigenous people in federal custody.
None of this is a panacea. Even once the bill passes and the considerable resources to implement it are put in place, there will remain a lot of work to do.
One of the amendments I did not mention was that we insisted on a five-year review. Therefore, this is an open bill. It is not a panacea, but it is to be recommended. The effective rehabilitation and safe integration of people who have broken the law is essential for public safety. That is why I support the legislation and commend it to hon. colleagues.
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation proposes to limit administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize expectations for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
I have the privilege of chairing the public accounts committee, and at committee, we work very closely with the Auditor General's office. We studied the reports the Auditor General released, and much of what I want to speak to today actually quotes from the Auditor General's reports.
One of those reports, in the fall of 2017 reports of the Auditor General of Canada, was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of this audit was to determine whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody, including indigenous women offenders, that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.
As noted by the Auditor General, “Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.”
What the Auditor General found was that, again, CSC had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders, and as a result, “some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels”. Furthermore, CSC had not implemented an appropriate tool for referring women offenders to correctional programs that were in line with their risk of reoffending, nor had they “assessed the effectiveness of its correctional programs in addressing the factors associated with a risk of reoffending”. Last, and most relevant to our debate today, the Auditor General concluded that CSC “had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.”
Paragraph 5.104 of “Report 5” revealed, “We also found that out of 18 women offenders identified with a serious mental illness with significant impairment, 7 were placed in segregation at some point during 2016.”
According to the Auditor General's report, CSC acknowledged that segregation for persons with serious mental health issues “should be limited.” I draw my colleagues' attention to the word “limited”. The AG disagreed with limited use and recommended that CSC ensure that women offenders “with serious mental illness with significant impairment are not placed in segregation” and that there be improved oversight and enhanced observation of these offenders.
Correctional Service Canada agreed with the Auditor General's recommendations, and therefore, the public accounts committee had asked in our report that by May 31, 2019, CSC provide us with a report regarding the relocation of observation cells out of segregation ranges. Obviously, this request was thwarted by the introduction of Bill on October 16, 2018, less than five months after the public accounts committee tabled our report, which would eliminate administrative segregation and establish the SIUs, or structured intervention units.
Proposed section 32 of Bill says:
The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to (a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; (b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate’s specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.
In other words, CSC is simply being compelled to do exactly what it is already mandated to do: deliver correctional programs, interventions and mental health services that respond appropriately to an offender's unique needs.
As pointed out earlier, an audit by the Office of the Auditor General revealed, with respect to women offenders, that CSC has failed in its mandate. In the fall 2018 report of the Auditor General, it was also revealed that CSC has not properly managed offenders under community supervision. As of April 2018, approximately 9,100 federal offenders, or 40% of all federal offenders, were under community supervision. According to “Report 6” of the fall 2018 Auditor General's report:
The number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing. However, Correctional Service Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community.... Despite the growing backlog [for accommodation], and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, Correctional Service Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
CSC “did not properly manage offenders under community supervision”. Parole officers “did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have”, nor did they always “monitor [offenders'] compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.”
We met with CSC last week, and we discussed this very report. These deficiencies were brought out with an action plan to correct them. However, I would humbly suggest that the Liberal government should be focused on ensuring that Correctional Service Canada fully meets its mandate, as the safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release.
To meet its mandate, a good start would be for Correctional Service Canada to start listening to its correctional workers. I am fortunate to have Drumheller penitentiary in my constituency. Over the years, I have met countless times with wardens, correctional officers and other staff in Drumheller. I can tell members that there are concerns about this bill. Concerns have come forward to the public safety and emergency preparedness committee. Again, I am concerned that many of these correctional officers are not being listened to. In fact, Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated that they were not consulted on Bill . We have a leader of one of the unions of correctional officers, and his frustration is that the Liberal government has not consulted.
The Correctional Investigator has said:
What I would agree with is that there has been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service or the government on how this [Bill C-83] is going to be implemented. If you read the proposed bill as it's currently written, there's a lot of stuff that seems to be pushed to regulation, as prescribed by regulations. We don't know what those regulations would look like. I think that's why there's a lot of uneasiness about this particular piece of legislation.
Given the findings of the OAG, I believe that this uneasiness with respect to the safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill . I certainly know, from the number of calls and emails I have received from correctional workers, that considerable uneasiness exists in the Drumheller Institution. The reason for that anxiety ranges from concerns about their safety and their colleagues' safety to pay issues around Phoenix. I currently have 70 files, some inactive, on Phoenix.
We have a bill now that would affect correctional officers, and they are bemoaning the fact that the government is not listening.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak once again on Bill , which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The Liberals seem to have a long history and a running streak of putting forward bills focusing more on criminals' rights than on those of the victims, and in some ways this bill seems to be another one of those. It is mostly a poorly thought-out bill that provides no resources or thoughts to employee safety among those working in correction services.
The government should have spent time consulting with CSC workers, figuring out how it could reconfigure the prisons and how it would also pay for all of these changes. Bill is another example of the government making a big announcement and thinking that everything ends at the announcement, that everything is done, without putting any planning behind it.
We have seen this with the government and its infrastructure program. It announces $180 billion in infrastructure spending, but kind of overlooks the fact that $90 billion of it was commitments from the previous government.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not able to locate within the budget or the estimates a significant amount of the spending. The Senate committee did a study on the infrastructure spending, and it said that the only metric for success in infrastructure was how much money was spent, not how many roads were built or how many highways were upgraded; it was just how much money was spent.
We see the same thing from the Liberals with their housing plan. They make grandiose announcements, standing in this House again and again to say it is $40 billion. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, reported that it is actually about $1.5 billion. The and the parliamentary secretary responsible for housing stood up in this House and said that a million families have been helped under this plan, believing that if they just make an announcement, then everything happens. It turns out that if we look at the departmental results plan, it was 7,500 families helped, not a million.
We see this again and again. Bill is no different. I will get to that later.
There are some things in Bill that I can support. The Liberal government is much like a broken watch, which is correct twice a day, and sometimes the government can be correct in its bills. The bill calls for body scanners to prevent contraband and drugs from getting into the prison. I fully support that. I wish the Liberals would modify it so that everyone coming in gets a body scan.
However, I do have to agree with the people I have talked to at corrections services. Why are we trying to stop drugs, but at the same time bringing in and handing out needles to the prisoners? These are needles that we have heard are being used as weapons against CSC workers.
I also like the fact that Bill gives more consideration to indigenous offenders. It is no secret that the indigenous population is overrepresented in prisons, and that has to be addressed, so I do agree with that measure. However, there are too many parts of the bill that would negatively impact the safety of corrections officers.
We all know of the Ashley Smith situation, which was a tragedy, and the government should do everything in its power to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. However, a poorly thought-out plan and an underfunded bill that just bans segregation is not the answer.
We have to keep in mind that it is not just inmates who are committing crimes who are going into segregation. Often it is a victim. They are put in there to assure their safety by moving them away from their abuser. They obviously do not want to name their abuser because of prison rules, so to speak, so the assaults continue unless the victim is moved into segregation. Unfortunately, that person eventually has to desegregate back into the prison system or change prisons. Nothing in Bill addresses that issue.
A CBC report says segregation is not the deterrent it once was. Prisoners now receive all of their possessions, their television and all of their belongings, within 24 hours of being put in segregation. Another CBC report quoted a couple of corrections officers. One of them stated that whereas the more violent inmates used to be in separate containers, now they are all in one bag, so they are just waiting for one to go off. That sets the rest of them off, and they end up with murder, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.
Another one is saying that the inmates can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections. Another says that all removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for corrections officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety.
In September 2017, with respect to a provincial study that I imagine would also cover federal, the CBC reported a massive upswing, a 50% increase, in inmate assaults over the five years that segregation had been removed or reduced.
Under this proposal, whenever inmates move from segregation to have their additional hours in the open, two officers will be needed to escort them. I have to ask where those resources will come from. If I look at the manpower figures in the departmental plan for the Correctional Service of Canada, which shows what its budget would be several years out, I see that the figures are identical in 2021 to what they are now. We are planning all this extra work for the officers, but there is no plan to provide extra officers. In fact, if we look at the plan, which has been signed off by the himself, we see that the Liberals have cut the number of officers on staff from what it was when the Harper government was in charge. Again, where are the resources coming from?
As well, where are the added dollars coming from to renovate these new cells? I have heard the stand and say that there is $80 million from the last budget and $400 million in the estimates. That is fine, but when we look at the departmental plans, again we see that from last year in 2017 to this year, the Liberals have cut $152.5 million from corrections services, and in the next couple of years, they are cutting an additional $225 million.
If they are spending $400 million on renovations and resources and the end result is $225 million less, where is the missing $600 million? I am sure the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be unable to find where this money is, as was the case with the missing infrastructure money.
Getting back to the departmental plans, these plans lay out the priorities for the government for this department. Again, the plans are reviewed and signed by the . In this plan, there are 20 priorities, yet not a single one mentions or addresses officer safety or the safety of anyone working for corrections services.
The government, when discussing Bill , brags about how it is the first time ever it has given the head of Correctional Services of Canada a mandate letter. I looked at the mandate letter. There are 1,400 words in the mandate letter for the head of the CSC. Let us keep in mind the government is so proud of this letter. Of the 1,400 words, 24 are about victims of crime, and just 52 are about the safety or well-being of corrections officers. The 52 words include this gem: “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”
Can members imagine an inmate coming at them with a knife or a needle? What would their response be? If we looked it up in the manual, we would find “self-reflection”. Self-reflection sounds like something that would be more appropriate after being confronted after having groped someone at a concert, not when dealing with inmates in a criminal institution.
The president of the union of correctional officers, Rob Finucan, described how a guard in the Millhaven Institution was slashed across the face with a shard or knife. Why? It was because of the new rule that inmates can only be handcuffed in front and not behind. The inmate was cuffed and being moved to segregation. He had a shard of glass or a knife with him and cut across the face of the officer. Luckily, the officer's eye was not lost, but that happened because of rules we are putting into effect without any consideration for the officers.
In the minute I have left, I will end with the money set aside for mental health for inmates in the last budget. No one can argue with that, as it is obviously a very important issue.
Money has also been put aside for mental health for RCMP officers. There is 40% more money put aside per capita for inmates than for RCMP officers. That sums up the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and less for our valued officers in prisons.
I think it is time for the government to show some self-reflection on this issue.
Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for this informative debate. It is too bad our friends across the way, and I say “friends” loosely, have once again limited this debate. As I said earlier today in this debate, it has to be 60 times that the government has forced closure on debate on legislation.
I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This legislation has been proposed to eliminate the administrative segregation in correctional facilities and to replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, which I will refer to as SIUs during my speech.
The bill also introduces body scanners for inmates, sets parameters for access to health care, and formalizes exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues, among a few other things. It also expands on transfers and allows for the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.
I have risen to speak to this legislation a number of times and expressed the Conservatives' concerns. Our number one concern is consultation. No matter how many times our friends across the way say they have consulted thoroughly from coast to coast to coast on this, we know through witness testimony that witness after witness expressed serious concerns with this piece of legislation. Some of the comments were that it is flawed to the core.
We always have concerns when we talk about the safety and security of those we entrust and empower to protect Canadians. Imagine that a correctional service guard reports to work and does not have all the tools required to do the job. We need to make sure first responders, and indeed correctional officers are first responders, are provided the tools and resources they need to do their job effectively and securely, but also to return home and remain healthy at all times.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has repeatedly voiced its concerns with this. As a matter of fact, the head of the national prison guards union predicts a bloodbath behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. In a newspaper interview, the union president went on to explain that segregated inmates are supervised at a 2:1 guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their units. He said, “No thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure no one gets hurt.” When he says “no one gets hurt”, he means the correctional officers who are tasked with making sure that Canadians remain safe and secure and that inmates remain safe and secure among the inmate population. He wants to make sure they have the tools to do their jobs.
The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers last year wrote a letter to the and said that over the last year, over 140 violent attacks on correctional officers had taken place. Let us imagine being a security guard or correctional officer in charge of over 40 inmates. We heard the flowery language from our friends across the way when they said everybody deserves a chance. Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson are the kinds of people housed in solitary confinement.
With this piece of legislation, Bill , not only does the union have some serious concerns that it is not being listened to, but we also know that this program has not been fully costed out. As a matter of fact, Correctional Service Canada managers have been asked to review spending and find some efficiencies. Regardless of whether the Liberals say there is $448 million going to this program over six years, the managers have been asked to find some efficiencies.
Every day, these officers go to work and their lives are put in jeopardy. They are there to protect Canadians. They are there to make sure that the worst of the worst stay behind bars. Whether it is Bill or Bill , what we see with the government is that it is getting softer and softer on crime. Bill C-83 also looks at reclassification of certain crimes, to bring the prison population down from 12,000 to even less.
On that point, I want to bring up a case I brought up earlier today to the , and that is the case of Cody Legebokoff. He is Canada's youngest serial killer. In , he is responsible for killing four young women. He killed Loren Leslie, age 15, Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. To this day, the Montgomerys are still trying to find out through the court system if Cody Legebokoff knows where the remains of their daughter are.
He has refused to take any responsibility for this crime. He was sentenced at the end of 2014, yet we found out over the last month that he was transferred from maximum to medium security in early 2019, with very little notice. As a matter of fact, two of the four families did not receive any notification.
In sentencing him, Justice Parrett said, “The injuries caused in each case were massive and disfiguring, the object of each attack appearing to be aimed at not simply killing the victims but degrading and destroying them.” Justice Parrett further said, “He lacks any shred of empathy or remorse,” and, “He should never be allowed to walk among us again.”
Now we know that Legebokoff has been transferred to a prison here in Ontario from British Columbia, and even Correctional Service Canada's website, where it talks about transfers or the safety and security reclassification of inmates, says that assigning security classifications is “not an exact science”.
We should be arming our front-line workers with every tool so that they can make the best decisions, and so they can remain safe and secure at all times. That means physically as well as mentally. How is it that we are now giving more rights to our criminals than to victims and their families, or to those we trust and empower to protect us?
It is quite concerning when time after time we see our friends across the way stand up, put their hands on their hearts and say, “Trust us.” They say they have the best intentions to do well and are looking after Canadians, yet we see this type of misstep.
Bill is yet another failed piece of legislation. The victims' families and the victims of crime deserve better, and so do our first responders and our correctional officers. All they are asking for is to be heard, yet the Liberal members continue to turn a blind eye and cover their ears when those concerns are being voiced.
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill , an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This piece of legislation proposes to do the following: eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set the parameters of access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
On any given day in Canada there are roughly 40,000 prisoners in custody. From coast to coast, there are eight maximum security facilities, 19 medium security facilities, 15 minimum and 10 multidisciplinary facilities. Canada has 18,000 Canadian government employees looking after these prisoners, of which 10,000 are on the front line. These are either correctional officers, parole officers or health care workers.
While I do not sit on the committee that reviewed this piece of legislation, I have been made aware of some very striking testimony by the Correctional Service Canada ombudsman, as well as many stakeholders, including these front-line workers who faithfully serve every day.
It is clear that the Liberal government, which campaigned on engaging and consulting with Canadians, has thrown all intentions of such actions out the window, as there was clearly very little of it done in this case, if any. Prominent witnesses, such as the CSC ombudsman, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and civil liberties and indigenous groups, all commented on the lack of consultation and their concern that too much of the legislation is being left to regulation.
I just want to touch on that for a few seconds because, as co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee, I can testify to the importance of the fact that any law that is passed in the House has to have an adequate legislative framework so that the regulations are actually authorized by the legislation that is passed. All too often, we have examples from various departments across the Government of Canada where regulatory mechanisms are put in place and actually enacted, in some cases, for many years without the adequate legislative authority for them to do that. It is very important that adequate legislative authority is given here, yet we have had many of our witnesses testify to the fact that this is the case in this situation and there is not adequate legislative authority.
Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada had this to say:
All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.
The Elizabeth Fry Societies said this was a bad bill. It said that structural intervention units are not needed, that it failed to focus on the programs and that there was a lack of oversight. It is concerned about proposed section 81, due to the workings of indigenous governing bodies.
The John Howard Society calls it a bad bill. It wanted to know what the difference was between solitary confinement and structural intervention. It said there was no difference. The bill changed the words but did not change anything. That sounds pretty familiar with the government over the last three and a half years. There are great sounding words but very little action and very little follow-through.
This is not the first time that the Liberal Government has ignored consultations with the corrections community while unilaterally implementing its own ideological beliefs. Another time occurred at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, which is close to my riding. This correctional facility was one of two in Canada that was mandated to implement a prisoner needle exchange program, putting both correctional officers, as well as other inmates at risk. On Monday, June 25, a needle exchange program was introduced to the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
It is very concerning that the Liberal government commanded Correctional Service Canada to approve this program, which sends the wrong message to prisoners, to victims of crime and to all Canadians. This program will give prisoners who are convicted of violent crimes access to needles in order to inject themselves with substances that are illegal among the general public, as well as in prison.
I agree with the Ontario regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Rob Finucan, who raised the concern that this program puts correctional officers in harm's way and is forcing officers to turn a blind eye to illegal activity in the prison system.
I realize that illegal drugs make their way into our prison system and that there are nearly 1,500 drug seizures in prisons each year. However, the solution to this is not to turn a blind eye but rather to effectively enforce Correctional Service Canada's zero tolerance policy.
The previous Conservative government took action and cracked down on this problem by increasing random drug testing, investing significantly in drug interdiction and creating tough mandatory prison sentences for selling drugs in prisons. My constituents and all Canadians would like to see more of this action, not the normalization of the use of illegal drugs in prisons.
We also need to be investing far more in treatment and in prevention programs. I have on my desk a petition from constituents all across Canada who are calling on the government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. I have not had time to table this petition yet, partly because of moving to orders of the day and then closure motions. These petitioners are calling on the Liberal government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers was not consulted on this plan, which puts its members and the Canadian public at risk.
The previous Conservative government passed the Drug-Free Prisons Act, which revokes parole for those who are caught using drugs behind bars. Under the new regulations, an inmate who is approved for the prisoner needle exchange program is not even required to disclose to the Parole Board that he or she is in the program.
The petitioners are calling on the and the to end the prisoner needle exchange program and implement measures that would increase the safety of correctional officers and the surrounding community.
The first and most important role of any government is to keep its citizens safe, not focusing on making criminals' lives more comfortable. I will always focus my efforts on giving victims a strong voice in the justice system and ensure that convicted criminals do face the full force of the law.
Unfortunately, we have also seen this heavy-handed decision by the Liberal to force communities that do not want them to have so-called safe injection sites. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. The Respect for Communities Act, which was introduced by the previous Conservative government, gave police, residents and municipal leaders a say when it came to opening an injection site within their communities.
Dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart. They promote criminal behaviour and they destroy lives. Instead of making it easier for drug addicts to consume drugs, the Liberal government should support treatment and recovery programs to get addicts off drugs and enact heavy mandatory minimum sentences to crack down on drug traffickers.
I do hope that the Liberal government will stop and consider the negative message that this needle exchange program is sending and reverse this policy as quickly as possible for the sake of correctional officers and inmates, as well as citizens of the Region of Waterloo and in fact all Canadians.
It is also important to note that since learning of this program, my office has been in contact with Jason Godin, head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who has been expressing his anger that his members were not consulted on a matter that directly affects their safety. They were not consulted, a common complaint with this legislation in spite of all the flowery language earlier in the 2015 campaign that the Liberals would be a government that would consult Canadians widely.
I have also received petitions from inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women who are against this program as it increases the risk to them.
One of the more profound statements that I have read recently on this was in a newspaper article by Jason Godin. He was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying, “attacks on guards and inmates have been increasing as the use of segregation has decreased ahead of new legislation to change the prison system.”
There are many reasons not to support this bad piece of legislation but let me summarize our position this way.
We on this side of the House are opposed to the inaction in regard to ensuring that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities. The legislation would empower the commissioner to sub-designate parts of prisons, which could lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are kept in a lower security space based on technicalities.
It is also concerning that the Liberals are moving away from segregation particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of tools to manage difficult prisoners.
The legislation lacks support from every major stakeholder who appeared before committee, from left to right—
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on Bill , a bill dealing with some of the rules around incarceration in Canada. I want to make a few general points about the principles that should guide our approach before I move to the particulars of the legislation itself.
Our approach to criminal justice should affirm the dignity of the human person, which includes personal responsibility and the capacity to change. Both are key elements. Its primary goal should be rehabilitation and the protection of society, which obviously go together. If people are rehabilitated, then they no longer present a risk to society. If they are not rehabilitated, they can be a risk to those around them, even when they are in prison.
It seems to me that both extremes in the criminal justice debate deny in some way the dignity of the person. Some believe individual criminality is necessarily the result of social factors as opposed to bad moral decision-making. Social factors can obviously contribute to a person's situation, but the extreme leftist analysis, which reduces everything to social factors, denies the dignity and agency of persons who are in vulnerable situations.
No matter people's circumstances, they do have a choice. They have a choice to try to make the best out of their situation or on the other end, a choice to engage in criminal activity. It seems that this recognition of dignity, and therefore responsibility, is the necessary grounds of rehabilitation. People must recognize their own agency in order to turn their lives around.
We also reject the extreme that those who commit crimes cannot turn their lives around. Some would want us to write people off too easily. However, our own life experience should teach us that people can change their patterns of behaviour for the better. Many people who have committed crimes can change, and there is a public interest and moral obligation for us to do all we can to help with the process. This means maximizing incentives and supports to people who are on that journey.
A criminal justice policy that fully affirms human dignity, recognizing personal responsibility for crime and the ability to change, would assign sentences that are both tough and variable. Tough and variable sentences is an approach that ensures people who are rehabilitated can get back into society and contribute. However, people who refuse to take the steps necessary to turn their lives around remain in prison until they do. Providing strong incentives and program supports that maximize the chances of turnaround is indeed in everybody's interest.
Our approach to sentencing should also take scarce resources into account. If people who are no longer a threat to society remain in prison, they are consuming resources that could be better spent on crime prevention programs, policing and rehabilitation. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has shown us that the average cost of incarcerating someone is about $115,000 a year. The average cost of segregation is $463,000 for a year.
Incarcerating people, or putting them in segregation, should never be done lightly in any event. Even for guilty persons, we should only incarcerate them to the degree that the cost of their incarceration would more effectively advance public safety than any other expenditure of the same funds. Clearly because of the costs, the system should have an interest in avoiding incarceration and segregation whenever effective and less costly options exist.
This analysis is not to penny-pinch for its own sake, but it is to recognize that there is an opportunity cost associated with any expenditure. Proactive policing and effective crime prevention is good for victims and public safety, so striking that right balance is indeed of critical importance.
Some will point out that we can never know for sure if people will reoffend, which is true. However, when the likelihood to reoffend is very low, perhaps resources would be better used for other kinds of interventions, like more policing, which are more likely to advance public safety than continued incarceration.
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit a prison in my riding and have some good dialogue with employees and inmates. A few points stuck with me from that visit. One is that there are a variety of programs available to people who are in prison and a variety of not-for-profit organizations, including many churches and other faith-based organizations, involved in connecting with and supporting inmates while in prison.
The process of transition from prison to life back outside of prison can be a real challenge. Prison life is structured and regulated in a way that life outside is not. There are far more services inside than outside. The process of transition back to normal life often involves economic challenges and pressures, as well as the temptation to fall back into old social groups and patterns of behaviour.
It seems to me that we need to look more at the area of transition and post-prison supports. How can we help people leverage new skills and experiences to find meaningful employment and develop a new peer group? How can we better partner with faith communities and other not-for-profits, recognizing that post-prison ministry is just as important as prison ministry?
Speaking of skills that help with transition, the prison in my riding offers inmates the potential opportunity to seek trade certification. Inmates who get a trade certificate almost never return to prison, according to the staff I spoke to.
That made me wonder. What if we built into our criminal justice a system a mechanism by which sentence lengths would be automatically adjusted if an inmate acquired a specific employment-related qualification? Inmates acquiring employment-related qualifications in areas of skill shortages in particular would help the economy. It would give employers a greater incentive to hire former inmates in cases where there would be a skill shortage. Therefore, perhaps there is an opportunity there for a win-win.
There should be positive incentives associated with rehabilitation and with making choices to turn one's life around. There also needs to be negative incentives associated with bad and disruptive behaviour that creates problems for the rehabilitation and for creating an environment in a prison setting that is conducive to rehabilitation. That brings us to the question of administrative segregation.
Bill would replace administrative segregation with something called, “structured intervention units”. We know that one of the Liberals' favourite things to do is to change the names of things, be it the universal child care benefit to the Canada child benefit. The workers' tax deduction had its name changed. Many existing programs had their names changed and the process relabelled under the current government.
Certainly the critics of administrative segregation do not see a meaningful or sufficient difference between the old and the new forms of segregation. However, there are some specific differences. Whether they are sufficient is a question for us to debate.
I will note the differences. The legislation would require that the person in the new Liberal rebranded form segregation to have a minimum of four hours per day out instead of two. It specifically mandates meaningful human contact.
What is frustrating for me is that the government does not seem to have a plan associated with it to actually link these objectives with the resources that are required. So often we see the government's desire to brand itself on something. The Liberals are eliminating administrative segregation. However, they are simply making an adjustment with respect to the name, but there are not sufficient resources associated with the commitments they have made to deal with the reality that having four hours instead of two is significantly more costly from a policing and administrative perspective. If they mandate it without having the resources in place to deliver on that commitment, they risk the inmates and the prison itself. They risk creating an environment of much less safety in the prison because they have a requirement for people to be out of a segregated environment when they may be very dangerous, yet they do not have the resources to ensure that is policed in an effective way.
It is interesting as well to have legislation that mandates meaningful human contact. It is interesting for the state to even be in the business of trying to define what is meaningful human contact and to mandate it. There are probably many people who are not in prison, who for various reasons with respect to life circumstances would like to have that much meaningful human contact and do not. The goal of rehabilitation should be to get people to a place and disposition where they are able to reconnect with and have meaningful connections with people in their lives. Although it is a laudable objective, I question what the legislation could mean and how the government would propose to operationalize this requirement of meaningful human contact.
I will close with this. In the area of criminal justice policy, there might actually have been an opportunity for some cross-party co-operation if the government had listened to the arguments we were making and understood the need for balance; that is a criminal justice policy that affirms human dignity, recognizing personal responsibility as well as the ability for people to change and recognizing the need to properly resource the proposals it is putting forward. Instead, we have an inadequate bill that serves to meet a branding exercise.
The Liberals want to say that they have done away with a particular aspect of prison life when they do not have a plan to resource it, they do not have a plan for public safety and they are not interested in the kind of meaningful, substantive reforms that people across the spectrum are looking for, the kinds of sentencing reforms on which we could potentially co-operate on. Again, we are not seeing those ideas proposed by the government.
Madam Speaker, it is good to be here this afternoon. It is unfortunate that we do not have a stronger bill with a little better content in it, but we will deal with what we have today. As usual, this is the kind of thing we have had to face with the government. It should be no surprise to us that it is in the chaos it is in, because we see a fairly consistent presentation that leads to bills that are this weak. I will talk about those weaknesses later.
The bill is basically a knee-jerk reaction to two Supreme Court decisions. The Liberals decided to play both sides of that game, so they are appealing those decisions at the same time as they are bringing forward whole new legislation. I think the public needs to understand that. Unfortunately, on this bill, they have missed the boat both on content and knowledge. We heard that from witnesses who came forward at committee. Witness after witness said that, first of all, they were not consulted, and second, the bill was not going in the right direction and needed to be reworked or thrown out, set aside or whatever.
One of the things the Liberals have done consistently since they have come to power is bring things forward and then actually look at them and decide whether they are worth bringing forward. Then they start to get people's opinions and they find out that they are on the wrong track. Then they start to backtrack and begin to amend their legislation. Once it comes back in here, they start forcing it through. We are here today on a bill with time allocation. The Liberals not only brought in time allocation at report stage but have already brought it in for third reading as well. We have seen this many times before, and we are seeing it here today. Fortunately, on some of these occasions, the Liberals have actually set bills aside and decided that they were not going to see them through. I guess electoral reform would be one of those that was obvious. Bill is another one that people across this country are begging the Liberals to set aside, because it would basically destroy the energy industry in Canada if they brought it through. Sometimes they can listen, but usually they find it very difficult to do that.
It is ironic that we have time allocation today, because had we had petitions today, I wanted to bring one forward. It is an electronic petition, E-1886. I found it fascinating that over 10,000 people signed this petition. It is an electronic petition from people across Canada, and it has to do with this issue.
This morning I asked a question of the . He has been here for a long time. He was here before I was. One of the things he was part of before I came here was an attack on and actually the jailing of western Canadian farmers. These were farmers who had said that they would like to sell their own grain. One of them had donated one bushel of grain to a 4-H club in Montana. The was one of those ministers who led the charge against those farmers. By the time they were done, they had five departments of the government working against individual Canadians. The CRA was involved. Justice was involved. Immigration was involved. The RCMP was firmly involved. Members can read stories of what happened in a couple of books by Don Baron. He writes about raids on people's farms in the middle of the night and their trying to confiscate their equipment, and those kinds of things. The was then the agriculture minister. I asked him why it seems that every time we turn around, he is going after regular law-abiding Canadians.
We see this again with the initiative coming from the other side on handguns, which have been very restricted since the 1930s. People in Canada use them for sport. Many people across Canada have gone through the process to be licenced. This government seems bound and determined to try to make some sort of criminals out of handgun owners across this country. Again, my question to him was why he continued to come after law-abiding citizens, especially when on the other side, they are not all that interested, it seems, in actually protecting people from criminals.
That brings me back to my petition. Everyone is familiar with the case of Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. She was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences, where the government confirmed the presence of children. She is not eligible for parole until 2031. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, which happens to be in my riding, lacks the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of local citizens in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and surrounding areas.
Over 10,000 people across Canada called on the Government of Canada to exercise its moral and political authority to ensure that this decision was reversed and could not be allowed to happen again in other situations. We all know that it took the government weeks before it would acknowledge that there was a problem with this transfer, and in the end, it semi-reversed that transfer.
The interesting thing is that some of the same things are in Bill . Right at the beginning, subclause 2(1) says, “the Service uses the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders”. There is no sense of some sort of disciplinary activity taking place in our prisons. The government says it has to find the least restrictive and most friendly way to treat people being held in our prisons right now.
I could go through many of the provisions of this bill. It talks about prisoners receiving the most effective programs, but when the was asked if there was a costing for this, he said that the government had not done costing on the bill. We can talk all day long about effective programs and health care, which this bill does, but if it was not costed before it was brought forward, how would the government even know what it would be expected to provide?
The bill talks about the criteria for the selection of the penitentiary. It says that it must be the “least restrictive environment” for the person. Correctional Service Canada has to deliberately run around and try to find the least restrictive place to put people. Many of these people are very dangerous individuals. Some of these people are actually bad people. I heard some heckling from the other side basically implying that they are not and that they can all be reformed if we treat them well, and if we ask for their opinions, they will give us good, solid opinions, we will all get along and we can hold hands and sing songs. The reality is that there are some people in these prisons who are very bad people and do not deserve to be running around as they choose.
One of the strange changes in this bill would allow the commissioner to designate a penitentiary or any section of a penitentiary as any level of security he or she chooses. That is very strange. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a minimum security prison on the edge of the Cypress Hills area. It is a beautiful location right at the edge of the trees. There are no fences around it. There is a series of cottages. The women right now spend time in the cottages. They have programming in the main lodge. Does that mean that the commissioner can designate one of those cottages a maximum security unit without changing the security level of the facilities or anything else and just say it is now a maximum-level unit, and someone can be put there who is supposed to be in a maximum security prison? All of us would put our heads in our hands and say that this is a crazy idea.
Within prisons there are some people who do not want to be in the general population. They are okay with being segregated. There are a number of reasons that might happen. One is that they may get hurt or injured themselves. The second is that they may hurt or injure someone else. They do not want to be put back into the general population of the prison. This bill basically says that the department has to continually work to do everything it can to put them back into general population.
A common theme throughout Bill and legislation on crime the Liberals keep bringing forward is that they want to try to make life easier for the most difficult prisoners. They should be looking at public safety. They should look at the people who work in the prisons. Why do Liberals not ever seem to focus on them instead of trying to find a way to hug a thug. They seem to really enjoy doing that.
This bill contains a lot of rhetoric and very few specifics. We were told that it was not costed. Once again, it is a demonstration of how soft the Liberals are on crime and how willing they are to close their eyes to reality. This is a series of promises that again will not be kept. This bill should be set aside. It is unfortunate that the government has moved time allocation for the 60th or 70th time to force this bill through.
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and add my voice in support of Bill , a piece of legislation that would make a number of changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I am pleased to lend my support, as my colleagues have also done.
Bill proposes a number of important things. It creates the concept of patient advocates, as recommended by the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith. Many of us in the House are very aware of the inquest and what happened to Ms. Smith, and the difficulties. We are very hopeful that Bill C-83 is going to help remedy some of those problems and prevent that from happening to some other young person.
The bill is meant to support inmates who need medical care, and ensure that they and their families can understand and exercise their rights. It would enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals working in the corrections system are autonomous and make decisions based on their medical judgment, without undue influence from correctional authorities.
It would enshrine in law the requirement that systemic and background factors be considered in all decisions involving indigenous people in custody, and it would expand the section of the law requiring the correctional service to be guided by respect for the diversity of the inmate population.
It would allow victims who attend parole hearings to access audio recordings of the proceedings.
It would create the legislative authority necessary for the Correctional Service of Canada to use body scanners to interdict drugs and other contraband, something that has been a problem for many years. There are people who have had to endure strip searches and so on. Having the body scanners would make it better for both the correctional service folks as well as for inmates. This technology is both less invasive than methods such as strip searches and less prone to false positives than the ion scanners CSC currently relies on.
It would also replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs, as they are referred to. This new system would ensure that when inmates need to be separated from the rest of the prison population for safety reasons, they would retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions, something that was not happening before.
The bill deals with serious and challenging issues, and it is to be expected that Canadians and members of Parliament will have differences of opinion about them. So far, however, the Conservative contributions to this debate have been incredibly disappointing. At times, the Conservatives have blatantly contradicted themselves. For instance, in his speech, the member for complained that the changes made by the bill to administrative segregation are insignificant and superficial. However, in the very same speech, the very same member said that those very same changes would endanger inmates and staff. Which is it? Do the Conservatives think the bill is insignificant, or do they think it is catastrophic? It cannot be both.
At other times, the Conservatives have simply chosen to ignore the facts. They have been complaining over and over again that the government has not allocated resources to implement the bill, when they know that is not the case. On page 103 of the fall economic statement, issued by the last November, there is $448 million allocated to support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.
Also in November, the government sent the public safety committee a written response that went into more detail about the funding.
That response says that if Bill is adopted, the government will invest $297 million over six years and $71 million ongoing to implement the structured intervention units. The funding will be dedicated to providing focused interventions, programs and social supports and will include access to resources such as program officers, aboriginal liaison officers, elders, chaplains and others. That is in a document that all members of the public safety committee have had for over three months.
The document goes on to say that the remaining amount from the fall economic statement, $150.3 million over six years and $74.3 million ongoing, is for mental health care. That includes assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhancements to primary and acute mental health care, and support for patient advocacy and 24/7 health care at designated institutions.
Again, this is all from a document that the Conservatives also have had since the fall, so when they complain about a lack of resources, they are either being disingenuous or they just have not had time to read the report.
The Conservatives' contributions to this debate have also been characterized by an unfortunate amount of self-righteousness. They position themselves as champions of victims, but it was legislation passed by the Harper government in 2015 that prohibited victims who attend a parole hearing from accessing an audio recording of that same hearing. Their bill said that victims who want recordings have to stay away from the hearing itself.
Parole hearings are often difficult experiences for many victims of crime, full of emotion, and the law should not expect them to retain every word of the proceedings at a time when they are immensely frightened and nervous and in an unfamiliar environment. The legislation before us today would finally let all victims access those recordings, whether they attend in person or not.
The Conservatives also position themselves as champions of correctional employees. Let me remind the House what the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said in 2014. Kevin Grabowsky was head of the union at that time, and he said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said the Harper government was endangering correctional officers with changes to the labour code, cuts to rehabilitative programming and policies that resulted in overcrowding in federal prisons.
The main question raised at committee by both correctional officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, which represents other CSC staff such as parole officers, was whether Bill would be accompanied by sufficient resources to implement it safely and effectively. As I have already made clear, the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Finally, the Conservatives' interventions in this debate have been reminiscent of the very worst of the Harper approach to the legislative process. They have been actually attacking the government for listening to stakeholder feedback and accepting some of those amendments. Under the Harper government, that kind of openness was unheard of, but I am proud to support a government that lets legislators legislate.
I thank all members who have engaged in a serious study of the bill and proposed thoughtful amendments, which is exactly what Canadians sent all of us here to do.
We have before us legislation that would make correctional institutions more effective and humane, accompanied by the resources needed to implement it safely. It is important that we move forward and pass the bill at this time.
Madam Speaker, it is great to rise this afternoon to speak on Bill , an act that amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, transforming administrative segregation.
The legislation would do a number of important things, such as creating patient advocates to help ensure inmates get the medical care they need, giving victims of crime enhanced access to recordings of parole hearings and enshrining in law the requirement that Correctional Service Canada considers systemic and background factors when making decisions affecting indigenous people in custody.
Of course, the main thing it would do is replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, SIUs, for inmates who need to be separated from the rest of the institution for safety reasons, where they would have access to rehabilitative programs, mental health care and other interventions that are generally not available in segregation, which is an improvement. Importantly, inmates in SIUs would be entitled to a minimum of four hours a day out of their cells and at least two hours a day of meaningful human interaction with staff, visitors, volunteers, elders, chaplains or other inmates with whom they are compatible and can interact safely.
One of the main questions that was asked in the early days of committee study was whether the bill would be backed up with the funding needed to implement it safely and effectively. The answer is yes. The fall economic statement included a $448-million fund to implement the legislation. It includes about $300 million for staffing and other resources for the SIUs as well as $150 million for mental health care both in the SIUs and throughout the corrections system. These investments build on nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections in the last two budgets. In short, the Correctional Service would have the resources it needs to turn the intention of the legislation into a practical reality.
However, to make sure that these resources are put to good use and that the new structured intervention units really do work as planned, the public safety committee made several amendments to Bill . Yes, the committee system does work and our government committed to that when we were first elected. None of these amendments change the nature of the bill, but they add clarity to the way the new system will work.
For instance, Bill specifies that an inmate's time out of the cell will have to be offered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Interactions would generally be expected to happen face to face rather than through a door or meal slot. The clause that would allow hours out of cell not to be offered in exceptional circumstances now includes a list of examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to be clear that the circumstances must be truly exceptional. Also, if a warden disagrees with a medical recommendation to remove an inmate from an SIU, the matter will be elevated to a senior panel external to the institution.
However, those are the important additions that would strengthen the new system, and now at report stage, the member for has proposed an additional amendment that would add independent external review of SIU placements, which is something that was called for by several witnesses. The told the committee last fall that he was open to the idea. The government has now confirmed that it will support the proposal.
Again, the role of committees is near and dear to our democracy, and it is again in Bill that we see committees doing the good work that Canadians expect them to do and that their members do with pride.
External decision-makers would get involved in three scenarios: if an inmate in an SIU has, for whatever reason, not received the minimum hours out of his or her cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row or 15 out of 30; if the senior panel reviewing a medical recommendation decides to keep the inmate in the SIU; and on the 90th day of placement in SIU, and every 60 days thereafter, for as long as the inmate is there.
In the first scenario, when an inmate has not been getting his or her time out of cell, the external independent decision-maker will consider whether the Correctional Service has taken all reasonable steps to provide the inmate with opportunities for hours out and encourage inmates to avail themselves of those opportunities. If they determine that not to be the case, they can make recommendations to the service, and if, after a week, the independent decision-maker is still not satisfied, they can order the inmate removed from the SIU. The decision-maker's ruling will be appealable to the Federal Court, both by the inmate and the Correctional Service.
In the other scenarios, a disagreement about a medical recommendation and regular reviews beginning on the 90th day, the independent decision-maker will consider whether having the inmate in the general population poses a security threat or would interfere with an ongoing investigation. It will take into account the inmate's correctional plan, the appropriateness of the inmate's security classification and confinement in the penitentiary, and any other factor it deems relevant.
Bill provides extensive flexibilities to the authorities to do their jobs. In other words, inmates who currently need to be separated from the rest of the institution for security reasons spend 22 hours a day in their cells, with very little in the way of rehabilitative interventions and no external oversight. Under Bill , those inmates will have twice as much time out of their cells, with a full suite of rehabilitative interventions, including mental health care, and there will be binding external oversight that could kick in after as few as five days or even sooner in the event of a health care professional's recommendation.
This is a major step forward and that cannot be over-emphasized. Bill updates issues with regard to our penitentiaries and commits the appropriate funds to do so. I am proud of the legislation. I do not sit on the committee reviewing and bringing the bill forward, but it is great to see the committee doing its work and also incorporating amendments.
Bill will also enhance rehabilitation while continuing to meet the security imperatives that must always be top of mind when we are dealing with corrections. In fact, we cannot really separate rehabilitation from security. Better, more effective rehabilitation results in better security, both while the inmates are incarcerated and, as importantly, once they have been released.
That is why I support Bill , and I hope that the bill will be adopted and enacted as soon as possible by this Parliament.
Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak in support of Bill .
The role of our corrections system is to keep Canadians safe by managing people who have received criminal sentences of two years or more. In most cases, that involves preparing them for safe and successful reintegration into our communities, which obviously is a very difficult task.
Some of the people in federal custody have done terrible, violent things. Most inmates have some combination of mental illness, a history of physical or sexual abuse, drug or alcohol addiction and a lack of economic or educational opportunity. Getting them to where they can return to a society and live safe, productive, law-abiding lives involves interventions to deal with all of those factors. This includes mental health care, education, skills training, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitative programs and the guidance of elders and chaplains.
However, that work can only happen in a safe environment. When inmates pose a security risk, they may have to be temporarily separated from the rest of the institution.
On that point, there is agreement from the correctional investigator, the John Howard Society, correctional employees and even former inmates that this needs to be done. The problem is that our existing system for doing that, administrative segregation, separates inmates not only from the rest of the prison population, but also from the interventions that could address the factors that caused them to be a security risk in the first place. Bill would address this problem.
The bill maintains the ability for inmates who pose a risk to be separated when necessary, but it sets out conditions of confinement and intervention that are a major improvement over what is currently in use. In the structured intervention units, or SIUs, created by Bill , inmates would receive a daily opportunity of at least four hours to be out of the cell and at least two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, such as program staff, visitors, volunteers and other compatible inmates.
On that last point, some participants in this debate have conjured the spectre of correctional staff just throwing incompatible inmates, such as members of rival gangs, together in the yard and keeping their fingers crossed. Of course, that will not happen, and would not happen, with the professional staff we have at Correctional Service Canada.
We are talking about a situation where out of maybe seven or eight inmates in the SIU, two of them get along and might be allowed to have lunch together. To allow for meals or yard time to happen in small groups or for rehabilitative programs to be provided one-on-one or in small groups, the corrections services will need new resources, including hiring new staff and making adjustments to infrastructure. That is why the fall economic statement included $448 million over six years for the implementation of the bill, $300 million going toward staff and infrastructure.
As set out in the breakdown the government provided to the public safety committee in November, that includes this funding as well as $150 million toward mental health care. These resources will allow the corrections services to meet the ambitious new standards set by Bill , improving the quality and accessibility of mental health care and rehabilitative interventions.
The whole point is to address the issues that led to a person being separated from the mainstream inmate population in the first place, so he or she can safely reintegrate in the community within the institution and eventually the community outside it. I hope that is an objective we all share. Indeed, most of the witnesses at committee, who made critiques of the bill, did not take issue with this objective. They simply wanted greater assurance that the objective would be met. Since their testimony was heard, amendments have been made in an effort to provide that assurance.
In fact, amendments have been accepted from all parties as we have gone through this legislation, which is one of the main purposes of committees and a purpose that our government respects.
Witnesses worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided at unreasonable hours, like in the middle of the night. Therefore, the bill has been amended to specify that it must occur between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Witnesses also worried that the clause that time out of cell not be provided in exceptional circumstances might be too broad. Therefore, the bill has been amended to provide specific examples of the kinds of exceptional circumstances that we are talking about, like fires and natural disasters.
Although the bill would allow for health care providers to recommend that an inmate be removed from the SIU for medical reasons, witnesses worried that wardens might not take these recommendations seriously. The bill has been amended so that any disagreement between the health care provider and the warden could be elevated to a senior committee external to the institution.
Witnesses also expressed the view that independent, external oversight would be required to ensure that SIUs would be used appropriately and as a last resort. Therefore, the member for proposed an amendment to create an independent oversight mechanism, and the government announced its support.
Earlier this week, these amendments were read into the record at length and are available for all Canadians to see the great work that was done by the member for . In other words, this was a strong bill when it was first introduced, and the parliamentary process has been informed by witness testimony and public debate, and that has made it even stronger.
I thank all the members of the House who have made thoughtful, informed, constructive contributions throughout the process thus far. I thank the government for being receptive to feedback and open to amendments. It is worth noting that this is not something that could often be said about the previous government.
The provisions in the bill, together with the resources allocated by the government, will make our correctional system more effective at its core mandate, which is protecting Canadians through the effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people who have broken the law. It deals with people as people. It helps them to progress through difficult situations to get back into society and be productive members.
As the wrote last summer in the first-ever public mandate letter for a commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, the public is best protected by safe, successful rehabilitation. Bill would help achieve that goal. I encourage all hon. members in the House to give their support.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House and participate in today's debate on Bill , a transformative piece of legislation for our correctional system. Its ultimate goal is to promote safety, both inside and outside our federal institutions, and it prioritizes rehabilitation as an indispensable part of achieving that goal.
The core innovation in Bill is the proposed introduction of structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would address a reality in any prison, which is that some inmates are, at certain times, simply too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream inmate population. The current practice is to place those offenders in administrative segregation.
Segregated inmates in federal institutions can be in their cells for as many as 22 hours a day, and their interactions with other inmates are highly limited. Bill C-83 offers a more effective way forward for everyone involved. Safety will always be priority number one, but prisons are safer places to live and work when inmates receive the programming, mental health care and other interventions they need. Inmates who receive these interventions are more likely to reintegrate safely into the community when their sentences are over.
The solution the government is proposing in Bill C-83 is to eliminate segregation and to replace it with SIUs. These units will be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative will be met. However, they will be designed to ensure that the inmates who are placed there receive the interventions, programming and treatment that they require.
Inmates in SIUs will be given the opportunity to leave their cells for at least four hours a day, as opposed to two hours under the current system. It is worth noting that currently, those two hours are set out in policy and not in legislation. Bill C-83 will give the four-hour minimum the full force of law. Inmates in SIUs will also have the opportunity for at least two hours of meaningful human contact. During that time, they could interact with people such as correctional staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains or elders.
The goal of these reforms is for inmates in an SIU to be in a position to reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.
Bill C-83 has undergone rigorous analysis at every stage of the parliamentary process to date. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went over the bill with a fine-tooth comb.
Based on testimony from a wide range of stakeholders, a number of useful amendments were adopted at the end of the committee's study period. Bill C-83 was a solid and worthwhile bill from day one. It is now even better and stronger for having gone through vigorous debate and a robust review process.
It is worth noting that the bill that has been reported back to us reflects amendments from all parties that proposed them. I wholeheartedly reject the idea we have heard during this debate that somehow the fact that the bill has been amended in response to public and parliamentary feedback is a bad thing. I am proud to support a government that welcomes informed, constructive feedback and that respects the role of members of Parliament from all parties in the legislative process.
Most of the amendments made to Bill C-83 are about ensuring that the new SIUs will function as intended.
For example, some witnesses were worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided in the middle of the night, when inmates were unlikely to take advantage of it. The member for therefore added the requirement that it happen between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Other witnesses wondered whether the mandatory interactions with others might happen through a door or a meal slot. To address that concern, the member for , whom I commend, added a provision requiring that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that interactions are face to face, with a record kept of any and all exceptions.