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House of Commons Emblem

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security



Tuesday, February 25, 2020

[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]



     It's now past 8:45. I see that we have quorum, thanks to the arrival of the government members.
    This is our first public meeting. Our first witness is Ivan Zinger, correctional investigator of Canada. He is no stranger to this committee.
     It's my privilege to welcome you once again, sir. We look forward to your remarks.
    Thank you, members of the committee.


    Good morning.
    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss my latest annual report.
    I want to focus my opening remarks on aspects of the organizational culture of the Correctional Service of Canada that are holding it back from embracing change and implementing reforms that the government issued to the Commissioner of Corrections in September 2018.
    Coincidentally, on the same day that my report was tabled, the Office of the Auditor General released a report entitled “Respect in the Workplace”. This audit looked at whether the Canada Border Services Agency and Correctional Service of Canada promoted and maintained workplaces free of harassment, discrimination and violence. In the case of the Correctional Service, the Auditor General found that the service knew that these problems were present in its workplace but had not developed a comprehensive strategy to address them.
    It is significant that the findings of two independent oversight bodies converge on this point of a problematic organizational or staff culture within the Correctional Service. The minister's 2018 mandate letter to the Commissioner of Corrections directs her to make it an overriding priority to ensure that the Correctional Service
    is a workplace free from bullying, harassment and sexual violence.


    The three case studies included in my annual report suggest that certain ingrained habits, attitudes and behaviours have become barriers to reform. Though I have no mandate to fix the negative elements of staff culture or labour relations, when misconduct or non-compliance with the law creates problems or adverse effects for inmates, I have an obligation to report and act upon them.
    In the first case study, entitled “Dysfunction at Edmonton Institution”, I found that both staff and management at this facility tolerated an established history of assaultive behaviour perpetrated by a group of inmates against a subpopulation of protected status inmates. Evidence showed that the recurring verbal and physical assaults on protective status inmates—which included throwing food, bodily fluids, garbage and other degrading and humiliating acts—were planned and orchestrated events that increased and escalated over a three-month period.
    My findings suggest that the cruel and callous nature of these incidents must be placed in the context of an organizational culture that an independent human resource consultant concluded three years ago ran on fear, suspicion, mistrust, intimidation, harassment, vulgar language and other abuses of power and authority, and this was among staff members. What can only be described as a culture of impunity impacted how staff treated and responded to inmates. An abusive workplace culture perpetuated staff misconduct and contributed to the dehumanizing acts of violence among inmates.
    Both staff and management were aware of the repeated nature of the physical assaults and verbal abuse, yet took no disciplinary or remedial measures against the aggressors or steps to protect the victims of these assaults and abuses. Though these incidents were initially reported and brought forward to senior management at Edmonton Institution by my office, it took over three months and the disclosure of indisputable video evidence to the commissioner before even the basic remedial measures were put in place.
    Two other case studies help further illustrate the resistant qualities of the organizational culture of the Correctional Service. In the first instance, four years of use of force reviews reveal a recurring pattern of deficient accountability, non-compliance with law and policy, and poor performance in managing use of force incidents at Atlantic Institution in New Brunswick.


     I found little evidence that implementation of a new engagement and intervention model introduced in the aftermath of the preventable death of Matthew Hines has made much of a difference in the manner, rate, severity or level of force used at Atlantic Institution. Significantly, the reliance on pepper spray to manage prison tension and conflict behind bars has not diminished at this facility, nor indeed across the rest of the service.
    Finally, my office has been reporting on food issues in federal corrections for over five years. We have made several recommendations, none of which have been actioned, and things have not changed for the better.
    A recent internal audit conducted by the service confirmed several deficiencies previously reported by my office, including an inadequate per diem of less than six dollars per day per inmate to spend on food, inconsistent and substandard meal quality and portion sizes, failure to meet Canada's food guide requirements, inordinate amount of food spoilage and wastage, and failure to consistently follow special diet requirements.
    One of the most significant concerns revealed by this audit is that the Correctional Service rolled out its food service modernization project in the absence of an updated policy framework. To this day, the Correctional Service has not provided any evidence that this project yielded expected cost savings or efficiencies.
    More significantly, the audit failed to drill down on the relationship between food and the order, safety and security of institutions. The audit did not examine lessons from the December 2016 deadly riot at Saskatchewan Penitentiary, which linked food shortages, inadequate portions and poor meal quality at this facility to the rising levels of inmate tension and protests—factors that eventually led to the riot.
    The rise of food as a commodity in the inmate economy is not probed, nor is the fact that the inmate canteen now supplements or even replaces daily meals. These issues are top of mind concerns at most institutions, yet this audit failed to acknowledge and bring them forward to management for correction.


    Finally, let me conclude by acknowledging the encouraging statements issued by both the commissioner and the Minister of Public Safety in response to my report. Both reiterated their commitment to ensuring CSC employees have a respectful and healthy workplace. These statements are important, but must also be seen in the context of the statutory obligation of the service to “take all reasonable steps to ensure that penitentiaries, the penitentiary environment, the living and working conditions of inmates, and the working conditions of staff members are safe, healthful and free of practices that undermine … personal dignity”.
    I believe parliamentarians and Canadians have a right to know how the service intends to comply with the law and fix elements of a workplace culture that perpetuates, condones or otherwise gives licence to violence, abuse of power and mistreatment behind bars.
    Thank you, and I would be happy to take your questions.


    Thank you, Dr. Zinger.
    Mr. Paul-Hus, you have the floor for six minutes.
    Good afternoon, Dr. Zinger and Ms. Kingsley.
    I'd like to talk about the part relating to community supervision. In your report, you state, “According to 2016-17 numbers, the total number of offenders on community supervision, 8,886, is at its highest point in over a decade”.
    Has the Correctional Service of Canada provided you with answers and explanations concerning the lack of funding for community supervision programs?
    The Correctional Service of Canada is more than adequately funded. Based on the ratio of inmates to employees, its funding is probably the highest in the world. The ratio is about one to one. In other words, there is at least one Correctional Service of Canada employee for every inmate. Financially, the expenditures average more than $120,000 a year per inmate.
    I don't think it's the resources that are the problem. It's more a question of priorities and redistribution of funds. The Correctional Service of Canada spends only 6% of its total budget on community supervision activities, which is insufficient. It is simply a matter of redistributing funds to ensure that priorities are met.
    I'm sorry for cutting you off, but our time is limited.
    In recommendation No. 11 of your report, you say that significant resources should be reallocated to the community supervision program. You just told me that the ratio of officers to inmates is the highest in the world, namely, one to one. That's not the current ratio, and that's problematic. In the community, there is a lack of resources to properly monitor offenders compared to what there used to be. Is that currently the case?
    The ratio in the community is six offenders to one employee. There is no question that the ratio will never be one to one in the community; it would be absolutely crazy. In my opinion, it's a matter of priority and balance. Incredible amounts of money are spent on incarceration, at the expense of rehabilitation in the community. There has to be some balance, and 6% of the total budget isn't enough, in my opinion.
    In recent years, conditional release and day parole cases have increased dramatically, but there aren't enough resources on the ground to monitor these people.
    You are talking about a ratio of six to one. What should this ratio be to ensure full supervision of offenders on parole?
    I couldn't say what the right ratio is. Adequate supervision must be a priority. That's a question you should ask the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada.
    In your report, you talk about the Auditor General's report. Recently, in Quebec, there was an issue with the supervision of Eustachio Gallese, the man who killed Marylène Levesque, as everyone knows.
    A study will be conducted in the coming weeks on this, but there is a safety issue. I know the Correctional Service of Canada wants to release more offenders and get them into the community, but if the resources aren't there, are we not creating a public safety problem?
    As I said, I'm not convinced there is a resource problem. It's more of a priority problem.


    What do you mean by priority?
    Canada is a global leader in terms of the resources it allocates to the Correctional Service of Canada at the federal level. It's important to ensure that resources are allocated where they are needed most. In my opinion, a lot of money is being spent on old infrastructures that do not allow for rehabilitation. Once individuals are released, they don't get the support they should be getting.
    So it's an issue. Do you think we should reduce the number of conditional releases and ensure that we have the necessary resources on the ground before releasing more offenders?
    I can't say. In my opinion, the act is being applied. It's an independent administrative board that makes decisions regarding release, and it does so in an exemplary manner in the vast majority of cases. The case you've mentioned is extreme and calls into question a lot of things.
    The act has been applied, and it continues to be. In my opinion, public safety is always well taken into consideration.
    Thank you.


     Thank you.
    Ms. Damoff you have six minutes, please.
    Dr. Zinger and Ms. Kingsley, thank you so much for your report and also the good work that you do. I can't tell you how happy I was to see the two reports that I initiated on indigenous people and indigenous women in the criminal justice system and corrections included in your report. Good work was done in this committee and in the status of women committee. I am hopeful that some of the recommendations will come to fruition.
    One of the things that has been a concern of mine since I visited Edmonton Institution for Women was what women were being trained for when they leave. You mention it in your report that textiles business line is 83.5% of CORCAN's work with women in the workplace.
     Last night I was reading the government's response to our status of women report. It says that:
In 2017-18, the current employment skills training opportunities were reviewed and CORCAN...identified opportunities for additional employment and employability skills training at women offender sites to be implemented in 2018-19.
     Then it says:
...consideration of labour market gaps, industry needs, and the offenders' skills.... In 2017-2018 there was an increase in on-the-job and vocational training at two women offender institutions specifically in the areas of construction and maintenance-related training such as flooring, painting, and chainsaw safety.
    Dr. Zinger, where is the disconnect there?
    Even when I spoke to the warden at Edmonton Institution for Women, she indicated that it's okay to have women learning how to sew. While I challenged her on that, it looks as if that kind of thinking is still permeating our institutions.
    First, thank you for the kind words about my office. I am very proud of the work we do. We have a small team of dedicated investigator, policy and research people and corporate staff. It's always good to get some positive feedback.
     I visited Edmonton Institution for Women and I find that when you walk into the work area and see all these sewing machines.... The last time I went the women were sewing precut pillowcases. You can see the level of technical skills required to sew a pillowcase. They were absolutely bored out of their minds. These are women who are thirsty for additional education or skills that would be life changing for them. I don't think that sewing pillowcases really....
    I know that wardens are trying very hard to bring in different initiatives and some of them have been successful, but the numbers involving higher-level work is minimal. I think the service has to change its approach significantly. The level of skills for sewing pillowcases is something that, yes, if we were reintegrating people in China, would make some sense. This is not the labour force in Canada. We are looking at much more challenging.... The manufacturing sector is healthy in Canada but it requires a heck of a lot higher skills to be part of that market.


    You talk a lot about food prep in the report. In that the cook-chill came about because of the deficit reduction action plan that the Conservative government brought in. I know when I visited the parole office in Winnipeg a few years ago, things like the police liaison officer were cut in the parole offices.
    A lot of negativity happened in corrections because of DRAP, the deficit reduction action plan. I know our government has been trying to catch up. Certainly when it comes to food prep, those would be skills that offenders used to gain while they were in prison, learning how to be a chef, for heaven's sake. Now not only have those skills gone, but also the quality of the food, as you mentioned in your report, is decimated as well. Should we completely revamp that?
    I know I only have a minute, but what was the impact on DRAP in prisons?
     I think this was a bad initiative. It was ill-conceived. Departments were asked during DRAP—and these were austerity measures, which I am assuming were legitimate—to provide some savings. This is one where the status quo would have been much better.
    I am very skeptical that there were any savings, based on what I have seen. It was highly disruptive and had negative impact, including cutting down on the employment opportunities and job opportunities that a regular kitchen would provide. It's very unfortunate, I would say.
    Thank you, Ms. Damoff.


    Ms. Michaud, you have the floor for six minutes.
    Good morning, everyone.
    I would like to thank the witnesses for being here today.
    There was talk earlier about funding, and you said that's not necessarily where the problem is. Yet, when systems don't work well, it's often due to a lack of funds.
    You're saying there's money, that there should be one employee per inmate and an annual amount of $120,000 per inmate. Now, from what you've observed, the problem is one of priorities.
    Could we come back to those priorities? What are they?
    I believe the service is ripe for a major overhaul. In my view, three groups of incarcerated individuals should be provided with different transfers and accommodation. I believe it is important to consider an alternative approach in the case of indigenous individuals.
    First, sections 81 and 84 of the act allow the Minister of Public Safety to enter into an agreement with indigenous communities or groups for the transfer, custody and supervision of indigenous inmates. I believe that the Correctional Service should significantly realign its budget to fund this transfer of responsibility.
    Last year, I produced a report jointly with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. The report is entitled “Aging and Dying in Prison: An Investigation into the Experiences of Older Individuals in Federal Custody”. It found that too many older people who do not pose a risk are being kept in penitentiaries. Often, these people are at the end of their lives, they are receiving palliative care, and they have reduced mobility. In some cases, they are even bedridden. I see no advantage to that. Keeping them incarcerated is incredibly expensive. I think there are other alternatives.
    The last group is smaller. It is composed of individuals who suffer from acute mental health problems, who are suicidal or who chronically and severely self-harm. This group of individuals should not be in a penitentiary. They should be transferred to the community, to secure hospitals that can meet their medical needs.


    I see.
    Should we focus on rehabilitation for these three groups of individuals, or should there be funding once they are out of the penitentiary?
    For these three groups, there is talk of reallocating funds currently held by the Correctional Service.
    There's also the community component. Penitentiaries in Canada are very old. There are three penitentiaries that are over 100 years old: Stony Mountain Institution, Saskatchewan Penitentiary—the inmates in these two penitentiaries are overwhelmingly aboriginal—and Dorchester Penitentiary. All three of these penitentiaries are over 100 years old and have old infrastructure.
    On average, the vast majority of penitentiaries are between 40 and 50 years old. Once again, they were built at a time when correctional philosophy did not recognize the primacy of rehabilitation.
    For example, there was a lot of talk about Edmonton Institution, which is 42 years old. It's concrete everywhere. There are very few rooms, very few lights, and very few hallways. It's an extraordinary infrastructure.
    I suggest that all members of this committee and other committees go and visit penitentiaries. You have a statutory right enshrined in the act. If you have to legislate in criminal matters, go and visit penitentiaries to find out exactly what the consequences of the laws you put forward are.
    Thank you.
    Ms. Michaud, you have one minute left.
    Let's go back briefly to the situation of indigenous people. You say that we need in-depth reform, but I see that measures have been put in place recently, in 2019, including a memorandum of understanding.
    Have you seen any results from these initiatives, particularly for indigenous youth?
    I didn't quite understand the question.
    In the spring of 2019, there was a memorandum of understanding on the release of indigenous prisoners. For example, they were given identification documents before their release so that they could access health services, among other things. Have you seen any results?
    The Correctional Service responded to the observations contained in a chapter of the previous Auditor General's report and put forward some initiatives to somewhat expedite the management of indigenous offenders entering penitentiaries. Currently, the Correctional Service is accelerating its process with respect to classification and programming.
    Indeed, it has a positive effect, but you have to look at these results a little critically. It's often said that those who are prioritized in this system are the lower-risk offenders.


    Dr. Zinger, could you complete your response, please?


    I'll stop here.
    Thank you.


    For the benefit of all members, it's helpful if you—including the witnesses—occasionally glance at the chair, because I don't wish to cut members off, but as Mr. Harris will know, I can do that.
    Mr. Harris, please.


    Thank you very much, and thank you for the implicit warning.
    I know you well, Mr. Harris.
     Thank you, Dr. Zinger, for joining us. I have to say, as a recently returned member, that I'm not current with all the goings-on in Correctional Service Canada, but I've looked at your report and I admire the dedication, objectivity and compassion that you bring to this job.
    Having read your report, noting the statutory obligation of CSC to take all reasonable steps to ensure that the penitentiary environment, the living and working conditions of inmates and working conditions of staff members are safe, healthful and free of practices that undermine personal dignity, it's a shock to me, returning to this situation. I should say that it must be a shock to Canadians to know how far we are from the standard that your report indicates. It's worrisome to me and it would be more worrisome if Canadians weren't equally concerned about making changes to this.
    Let me ask you a couple of questions. You referred to the population of inmates with mental health problems. It's a major issue across the country. We know that many inmates find themselves in prison as a result of their mental health problems, in large measure in some cases. Do you have a number that could tell us what per cent of the prison population is affected by this, to the extent that, as you suggest, they ought to be treated differently as a result of their mental health condition? Is there a number that you could put on it in terms of a percentage?
    I can tell you that it's always difficult to talk about prevalence because, depending on what you're trying to target, you can come up with different numbers. If you talk about the prevalence of inmates upon admission who have any mental disorder, including substance abuse disorder, you're looking at 75% to 80%. If you are looking at a much more narrow definition, people who have what was previously known as axis I disorders—people who basically are disconnected with reality and may be suffering from schizophrenia, major depression or things of that nature—you're looking at 7% to 8%.
    I think the best prevalence data that I use is this: Upon admission, how many people need psychological or psychiatric services? That number is about 29%, which is way off the charts compared with the general Canadian population.
    Can you indicate to what extent you believe they're actually getting the help they need?
    This government has certainly provided more funding for access to mental health care. I think Correctional Service Canada is still catching up, because the numbers are growing and very significant. I will tell you that my greatest worries are for those small numbers of inmates who are acutely ill or suicidal or chronically self-harming in a serious way. Those are the ones I would like to see moved to external psychiatric secure facilities. Our best estimate would be that there would be about a dozen women who would meet the criteria and about two dozen men who would also meet that definition. They have no place in a correctional facility. They are patients first.
    Thank you.
    You've reported, and we're aware of, the overrepresentation of indigenous prisoners in our prison population. The numbers, I think, are around 30% nationally. My own experience, having gone to law school in Alberta, is that in certain parts of the country that number would be considerably low in terms of the prison population.
    Do you have statistics by province? Could you say whether there are certain parts of the country where that overrepresentation is even more acute?


    Yes, you're absolutely right. Where there are higher concentrations of indigenous people in the population, there you'll see that percentage is much higher than 30%. I'm happy to provide the committee with some tables with a breakdown by region. I can absolutely provide that to the committee.
     Dr. Zinger, have you had a look at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action? Between numbers 30 and 40, there is a series of recommendations that the government implicitly adopted in 2015, one of which was to reduce the overrepresentation of aboriginal people over the next decade.
    That was 2015. Is there any evidence that any of these recommendations or calls to action is being implemented, and is there much to show for it?
    That's a very important question. Unfortunately, Mr. Harris has left you no time to answer it.
    Once again, I would encourage members to occasionally look at the chair so that we can maintain the clock.
    Mr. Morrison, you have five minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Dr. Zinger, for being here today.
    You briefly mentioned earlier part of the question I have. In your report you highlighted that CSC allocates only 6% of its budget to the community supervision program. When you consider that 40% of the offenders are in the community, how do you explain that?
    With supervision in the community, there are different levels of risks. Some individuals require close supervision and some don't require as much supervision. They have served their time and are law-abiding citizens contributing to society.
    It's a question of how you manage risk in society. This is something that I think the commissioner could probably answer better than I can to justify why just 6% is invested in the community.
    Do you think it's adequate?
    No, I don't think it's adequate. I think that as a society we are spending too much on incarceration with very little return. I'm concerned that we could do a heck of a lot better with the money we are currently spending. I think it's a question of value for money here.
    Okay. I also notice that in your risk assessment findings you supported the need for an independent...or would you support the need for an independent review of the rehabilitation programs, given that there's such a huge impact on reintegration and the safety of the public?
    Can you be a bit clearer as to what you're suggesting?
    What I'm asking is whether you think there should be a separate, independent review of that program?
    My office has been critical of the transition when the programming in corrections moved to their new integrated correctional program model. This was done about six years ago or so. It was done for efficiency reasons.
    There is some academic literature that is critical of the way the program has rolled out. There used to be separate programs for substance abuse, anger management and family violence. What happened with the introduction of this new model, ICPM, was that they basically threw everything into the same basket, and now you have one program that fits all.
    I think it's an approach that may not be yielding the best results, and the academic literature suggests that this may be the case.
    In some past meetings, correctional officers noted that the needle programs in other countries are operated as safe injection sites. Specifically, needles remain in the hands of medical staff and aren't brought back into cells.
    Is this the case in Canada?
    In this past annual report, we wrote our concern that the safe needle exchange program isn't working as it was supposed to because most of the attention has been focused on security rather than on health and harm reduction. There are thus very few takers.
    We're concerned that the present model, as implemented by the service, does not match best practices in other jurisdictions. It's clear to me that a good program reduces the spread of infectious diseases and also lowers the risk to staff. If you don't have a proper prison needle exchange program, you increase the risk of staff being pricked by needles during searches, whether strip searches or cell searches.
    Once you have a prison needle exchange, those things go away.


     Thanks very much.
    Thank you, Mr. Morrison.
    Madam Khera.
    Thank you, Dr. Zinger, first and foremost for being here but most importantly for all the work you have been doing, especially on this particular report.
    The report certainly raises many pressing issues, which include gaps in services and care for the most vulnerable populations in our federal institutions. Correctional Service Canada, I know, has put a path forward. I know Minister Blair is working very closely with the CSC to ensure that real progress is made. I want to talk a little bit, however, about safe and timely reintegration.
    In your report you cite the Senate's “Study on Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons: The most basic human right is to be treated as a human being”. It states that:
An important consequence of discriminatory policies is that federally-sentenced persons, especially those who are women, Indigenous, Black and racialized, have difficulty accessing culturally relevant...programming.
    It goes on:
Without access to these programs, federally-sentenced persons are ill-prepared to reintegrate in their communities, which places them at a higher risk.... Tackling this issue is particularly urgent for federally-sentenced Indigenous and Black persons who are significantly overrepresented in the correctional system.
    Within your study it is stated that the population of indigenous persons has increased from 19% to 28% in 2018-19 and also for black persons has increased from 7% to 10% in 2015-16, though now this increase is slowly reversing. However, 37% of all discrimination complaints are from black persons.
     Can you elaborate a little on the overrepresentation of vulnerable populations, especially of indigenous, black Canadians, as well as racialized communities, in the Correctional Service?
    On January 21, I issued a press release specifically on the gross overrepresentation of indigenous people. Four years ago they were 25% of the federal inmate population. Now they are 30%. This has been going on for the last three decades. It keeps growing year after year after year, independent of what government is at the helm. I would say it's beyond a crisis right now. We have to look at not just tweaks but bold initiatives to address this situation.
    With respect to Canadians of African descent who are incarcerated, the overrepresentation may not be as acute but is certainly worrisome. They represent about 8% now of the inmate population, while in the general population they represent about 3%.
    When we conducted a systemic investigation on younger offenders aged 18 to 21, we looked specifically at that group. There are many young men who are black or indigenous, and there is a lot of gang affiliation. Too little is being done by Correctional Service Canada to either have programming to de-affiliate or to prevent affiliation.


    Thank you.
    Is there an urban divide also between specifically black Canadians and especially our younger offenders?
    Yes, I believe so. There are definitely pockets wherein those communities are more in contact with law enforcement, absolutely, in some urban settings. These would include Toronto and Halifax, for example.
    Thank you.
    You still have 45 seconds.
    Gagan, do you want to...?
    These are questions through me from a constituent who works at a women's facility.
    The first question, are there statistics on the effectiveness of random strip searches, yes or no?
    Are the inmates working in the cook-chill facility there to reduce cost, as they are in the province, yes or no, please?
    Yes, I believe that is a part of the—
    Thank you. I'll circle back around.
    Those were two very efficient questions.
    Mr. Dalton.
     Thank you, Dr. Zinger, for your report.
    I have just a few questions.
    As far as day supervision is concerned, you say the costs are about one-quarter of the costs of being incarcerated and the numbers are increasing for people being released on day supervision, but you make mention of inadequate supervision. Coupled with all this, we have the highest investment in our penitentiaries per inmate. Perhaps you can clarify that.
     Why isn't there a change? Why isn't there an allocation towards more supervision? Obviously, it's increasing and it's a lot less expensive. Maybe you can comment on that.
    I have to simply agree with you, but clearly, the person best placed to answer that question would be the commissioner of corrections as to where she makes the allocation of her resources.
    Okay. Thank you.
     La Presse had an article on situations happening where Quebec inmates, and it's elsewhere too, could declare themselves as Métis and receive some significantly improved benefits without necessarily any proof of attachment to the Métis community. I speak as a Métis person myself. I'm concerned about that. I'm wondering if you can make some comments as far as this being abused by those who are not Métis.
    I've read that article. I think it's misguided. I've actually written to the author and provided some statistics. I think this is a red herring. I don't think it's based on facts.
    The reality is that if you are indigenous in our system, in federal corrections, you're more likely to be released later in your sentence, you're more likely to be subjected to use of force, you're more likely to be self-harming and you're more likely to have your parole suspended or revoked. There is no real benefit in declaring yourself indigenous. The statistics that I provided to that reporter show that there has not been a wild increase. There may be some cases of abuse, but certainly nothing systemic that I could see from the numbers.
    Good. I appreciate those comments.
    You alluded to the numbers with respect to the indigenous population being released later. The number of those who are released on day parole is 18%. How does that percentage of indigenous inmates on day parole compare with the population that is non-indigenous?


    I can certainly have my office provide the committee with a precise answer. When it comes to statutory release, the bulk of inmates are being released at two-thirds of their sentence. For indigenous people it's over 70% and for non-indigenous people it's slightly over 60%.
    I have one last question, and this isn't referred to in the report. I wonder if you can make a comment.
    I have talked to many correctional officers. There is a real concern about solitary confinement not being able to be used as it has in the past and that their tools as far as discipline goes are really being constrained. Do you have any thoughts about this?
    This government brought in new legislation to eliminate solitary confinement as defined by the Nelson Mandela rules or the standard minimum rules for prisoners. The idea was to ensure that inmates are spending at least four hours outside their cells, with the possibility of more human contact. It's a step in the right direction, but I still question whether it's going to be sustainable over time and whether the “due process” protections are sufficient for the loss of liberty and the harsh conditions of confinement that remain, because four hours....
     Thank you, Mr. Dalton.
    Mr. Lightbound, you have five minutes, please.


    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I'll be sharing my time with Mr. Sikand. He has some important questions to ask.
    Mr. Zinger and Ms. Kingsley, thank you very much for coming here and for your report. It's been very helpful and it sheds an interesting light on corrections.
    I'd like to hear a specific recommendation regarding terminally ill prisoners and their potential release. I would like to hear your comments on the benefits you have observed in your studies, and more broadly, on the benefits of parole, rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates.
    We produced a report on the matter of inmates aging and dying in prison. This segment of the prison population has been growing in recent years. It is now over 25% of the prison population. These are people aged 50 and over who have many health problems, both physical and mental.
    We looked into these issues and interviewed more than 250 incarcerated individuals and other released detainees. We were quite struck by the fact that a segment of the prison population is quite aged, and these inmates are experiencing all kinds of health problems. We are talking about people with Alzheimer's or dementia, people who are terminally ill or need palliative care. We find it difficult to understand why the Correctional Service is not developing a national strategy that would facilitate the transfer of these individuals into the community.
    The Correctional Service has consistently told us that one of the problems is the lack of available beds in long-term care facilities or seniors' residences. Our response to Correctional Service is not to try to cope with the number of beds available in the community, but simply to purchase and create spaces. The cost of keeping an aging person is staggering. The cost can be two to four times higher than the norm, which is $120,000 per inmate. You can multiply that by 2 or 4 to find out the cost of keeping someone in an institution. That makes no sense, and I think it's a matter of human dignity. The risk is negligible for these people and, I repeat, it makes no sense.


    Mr. Chair, how much time do I have left?


    Mr. Sikand has two minutes, and I'm sure, given his usual efficiency, there will be quite a number of questions.
    Thank you, Chair.
    Thank you, MP Lightbound.
    Thank you, Dr. Zinger.
    My apologies for the previous rapid round. Just to close off the first question, and as I was saying, this is a constituent who lives in the riding but works at a corrections facility situated just outside the riding, and it's a women's facility.
    As to the effectiveness of the strip searches, what trauma-informed methods would be used if the search of the women were to be replaced with body scanners or other technology?
    I think you allude to the part of the report that.... In an institution where they have this count that gets triggered so that one out of every three women have to be strip-searched coming out of where they see visitors, there's no evidence to show that it has mitigated any sort of risk to the institution with respect to contraband or bringing in drugs.
    It is not a process that is done uniformly across the country, and some institutions are ensuring the safety of those women without having to do those searches. We have to be cognizant of the past traumatic events that happened in the lives of those women. Over 80% of these women had been either sexually or physically abused, so strip searches should be done, of course, when there are reasonable grounds to believe that the women have brought in something, but there has to be evidence. It's not proper or ethical to do such random searches.
     Thank you, Mr. Sikand.


    Ms. Michaud, you have the floor for two and a half minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I'm going to continue on this subject specifically to propose that you immediately cancel strip searches, because this practice is not applied uniformly across the country.
    Why is it used in some places and not in others? Is this done only after a visit or before to ensure that there is no contraband? Why is it not consistent? What could we actually replace them with?
    In fact, we always have to talk about best practices, which is one of the problems within the Correctional Service, which is a highly decentralized organization. Depending on local situations, some wardens take initiatives. I think it would be important to standardize best practices within the Correctional Service. In my opinion, that is the main issue.
    It could be a matter of providing training on the trauma caused by this type of search.
    You also mentioned the transgender people who are incarcerated. Should officers be made more sensitive to this situation and receive more in-depth training on this issue?
    Personally, I think training is always important. In my opinion, these kinds of policies that apply as they stand to the entire inmate population are not always the best way to prevent drugs from entering penitentiaries. I think it has to be done on a case-by-case basis and there has to be dynamic security, where correctional officers play a key role in gathering intelligence on the entry of drugs. That's the kind of thing that needs to be promoted, dynamic security as opposed to static security.


    Mr. Harris, you have two and a half minutes, please.
    Thank you. I'll give Dr. Zinger an opportunity to answer my previous question.
    Given the direction of the problem of overrepresentation of indigenous persons, have you seen any indication that the recommendations of the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have actually been implemented or had any effect on the situation of indigenous persons in prison, and are they being taken seriously?


    I can only answer with respect to recommendations that are targeting the criminal justice system, but more specifically corrections.
    I can tell you that, in the calls to action as well as the inquiry into the missing and murdered indigenous women, there were many recommendations that mirrored those of my office. The most important one that I think requires a lot more rethinking and effort is the one I spoke about, which is to shift some of the funding and responsibility for more of those section 81 and section 84 agreements, which would allow the Minister of Public Safety to enter into agreements with indigenous communities and groups for the care, custody or supervision of indigenous people.
    In my view, that would be the greatest contribution of the calls to action for corrections. Their contribution should be a huge shift of resources.
    Thanks for that particular focus.
    I want to talk about the issue of support and resources for those on parole in the community. I'm looking at your recommendations 11 and 12 and your discussion about resources allocated in that direction.
    Obviously, there were benefits for those being supervised, but are there benefits also for the notion of reintegration into the community being a positive thing, and does that have implications for public safety and risk management as well?
    Answer very briefly, please.
    Again, we spend an inordinate amount of funding on incarceration, with returns that are not great. When I talk about indigenous people, when you look at recidivism or reoffending rates of those who come from the prairie region, we're looking at 70% reoffending rates. That certainly has a public safety aspect to it.
     It's the job of corrections to ensure that the reoffending rate is the lowest possible. It's not currently that by serving time at Saskatchewan Penitentiary or Stony Mountain Institution, or Edmonton Institution, you are going to be able to address some of those long-standing issues related to mental health, sexual abuse—
     Dr. Zinger, we'll have to leave that answer there. Thank you.
    Thank you.
    Mr. Shipley, you have five minutes.
    Thank you, Dr. Zinger, for your report and for being here today.
    Your report noted that in 2016-17, there were 8,886 offenders released for community supervision. That is the highest number in the past decade. Why are so many offenders being released?
    We have the Parole Board of Canada that makes those decisions. If the board views that offenders do not pose an undue risk and can be managed in the community, then that's part of the answer. I would suggest that you ask that question to the chair of the Parole Board or the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada as to why those numbers are rising.
    Maybe I should address the case of Marylène Levesque. Would you like me to address this? Is that of interest to the committee?
    My Conservative colleagues are extremely interested.
    Yes, very much.
    First, I would like to take the opportunity to provide sincere condolences to the family and friends of Ms. Marylène Levesque.
    I have two preoccupations with this case. The first one is that this is an extreme case. It's a very rare event when somebody who committed murder is released and commits murder again. To my knowledge, this only happened more than eight years ago. The preoccupation for me is that those extreme cases test the system as a whole. There is always the danger that those extreme cases can result in bad policy and bad law. Bad cases make for bad policy and bad law. We should be conscientious about that extreme case. That doesn't mean it shouldn't be looked at very carefully, because it's a blatant failure of the system.
    My second preoccupation flows from the first one. When such an extreme case happens, what kind of investigation do you need to put in place? For me, it has to be a very credible investigation. That requires independence, certainly, and also the level of investigative tools and powers associated to ensure that you get to the bottom of it. What I find in this case is that we have an investigation that's going to be conducted that was convened by the commissioner and the chair of the Parole Board jointly. It's basically an internal investigation. In terms of the process, I think that is problematic. When you have an allegation of wrongdoing where you possibly will be looking at negligence in carrying out their duties, you shouldn't ask the agency responsible for that to investigate themselves. That is never done in policing. That should never be done.
    I've made similar recommendations when egregious cases happened in corrections. Last year I made the recommendation to the Minister of Public Safety that when there is death in custody following a riot or following a use of force by correctional officers, these things should be investigated independently, with all the right tools. That can only be done, in my view, under the Inquiries Act, not by an internal investigation.


    Thank you, Dr. Zinger. I'm very short on time. Thank you for your answer.
    We agree that there should be an external investigation. Who specifically do you think should be doing that investigation?
    It should be called upon the government under the Inquiries Act, completely independent. Your committee could then review an independent...where there is no perception or risk of being self-serving.
    When I reviewed the investigation conducted by the service on Saskatchewan Penitentiary, I made the call that, following a riot in December 2016, the investigation was self-serving. It didn't get to the bottom of it. Again, it's a question of whether, when there is serious wrongdoing, you ask the agency that may have been responsible for it to investigate itself. The answer should be no.
     We'll have to leave the answer there. Thank you.
    Mr. Iacono, you have five minutes.
    Dr. Zinger, do you recall the name of the similar incident that occurred eight years ago?
    I think it was in New Brunswick. I would have to dig it out.
    Please. If you can provide that to the committee, that would be great.


    Mr. Zinger, your report mentions the need to find alternatives to incarceration, without mentioning any examples whatsoever. What do you mean by that?
    Do you have any solutions in mind? Do you think you could get some inspiration from other countries, such as the Scandinavian countries, which use electronic bracelets, for example?
    There is no denying that there may be alternatives that could flow from changes to the Criminal Code. Conditional sentences could certainly be one of the avenues to consider. However, this is upstream from the correctional system and my responsibility is to the federal correctional system.
    I mentioned three groups of individuals who would benefit from a different way of doing things. I talked about the elderly and aging people in prison who could be released without causing undue risk to society. I talked about indigenous people and the healing centres that could be created in partnership with indigenous communities. I also talked about those who are acutely mentally ill, suicidal or severely self-injurious. These are three groups for whom things could be done differently.


    In your report, you state that prisoners do not have sufficient food on a daily basis, but you also mention the excessive waste of food in prison. This seems contradictory. Can you clarify that?
    After five years, what has happened in terms of food management is quite extraordinary. There are more and more inmates who use their own money to go to the canteen because they want to avoid eating the food offered by the penitentiary. Some wardens have told me that they rarely cook for 100 per cent of the prison population, but for a quarter or a third less. What we are finding is that inmates are using their money—minimal amounts—to buy food to supplement their diet or to replace entire meals.
    I'll give you some examples. The last place I was at was Millhaven. In the past, they used to sell products like chocolate bars and potato chips in the canteen. Now the canteen is the equivalent of a small IGA. You can buy canned salmon, tuna, spaghetti sauce, sardines, mackerel, all kinds of things. As for frozen products, you can buy chicken wings, chicken breasts, and so on.
    I'm going to give my last minute to my colleague Mr. Sikand.


    Thank you.
    Other than the EIM, are there any other strategies that would be effective? Is there any merit to staff-run committees that could be implemented?
    I'm sorry. I didn't—
    Besides the EIM, what other strategies would be effective, and is there any merit to staff-run change?
    EIM is the engagement intervention model. The question is that the implementation of it is problematic. We've made the recommendation. It's actually an Ashley Smith recommendation we made many years ago that was finally put forward and the service finally accepted in the case of Matthew Hines. In response to our report, they changed the actual model. It's supposed to promote de-escalation of tension. It's supposed to result in more reassessment of the situation. It's supposed to also ensure that when you have a medical emergency or a person who has some mental health issues, you respond differently with the assistance of health care. That's all good in theory, but in terms of practice, we haven't seen the results of this yet.
     We're going to have to leave the answer at that. Mr. Sikand, I think, has another round in any event.


    Mr. Paul-Hus, you have the floor for five minutes.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    We were talking about the Prison Needle Exchange Program.
     You mention in your report that there are few requests at the moment, fewer than we would have expected from the prisoners. There is also agreement that syringes are used to inject drugs that are obtained illegally.
    Don't you think that's why prisoners don't ask for it, because they don't automatically want to be recognized as drug importers?
    In line with best practices applied in other countries internationally, this type of program is managed by the health centre. Nurses and doctors are in charge of it.
    The Correctional Service of Canada has implemented another way of doing things that focuses on safety issues.
    Risk assessments must be completed before a candidate can benefit from the program. This is basically why there are very few inmates who take part in it or want to take part in it, because the focus is not on harm reduction or health issues.


    All right.
    The fact remains that what the inmates are injecting is still a drug that was brought in illegally.
    Basically, we wouldn't need needles if drugs were not coming into the penitentiaries.
    To deal with this, we've already talked about having full-body scanners. They would prevent, I am told, the entry of more than 90% of the drugs that are brought in by visitors. They would be scanned automatically.
    Don't you think we should focus on that and speed up the installation of the scanners?
     I'd also like your opinion on the clear opinion expressed by Correctional Service Canada officers. In their view, the Prison Needle Exchange Program is very dangerous and they have been denouncing this project from the beginning. They are also lobbying for scanners to be available as soon as possible.
    What do you have to say to our officers about this?
    I'd say there's a lot of misinformation out there. Countries that have implemented such programs have seen, for example, a large reduction in incidents of accidental needle sticks.
    I think people are misinformed about this. But the reality is that assessments from other countries show a significant reduction in such incidents. This does not put the safety of officers at risk at all.
    We'll let them know.
    I'll turn the floor over to my colleague, Mr. Morrison.


    Thank you.
    Dr. Zinger, I have an issue that I have had a bit of experience with, and I'm wondering if you would support this. It is maybe a separate program focusing on drug rehabilitation. Crystal meth addicts, for example, rather than going directly into the general population in the prison system, could go into another system that focuses specifically on a rehab program.
    I know crime reduction is pretty easy; you just put people in jail. Crime prevention is very difficult, and it's a long-term program. I know the U.K. has a similar program, because I've been over there and have investigated that. I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on that, or what your opinion is, please.
    Corrections has spent an inordinate amount on interdiction measures to try to prevent drugs from going into penitentiaries. We have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on all sorts of initiatives, and those initiatives have not yielded the results that we would expect.
    The evidence shows, for example, that random urinalysis tests that are positive have not changed dramatically or significantly since we spent this inordinate amount. It's usually around 6% or 7% of all random urinalyses that come back positive, despite all the money that has been spent on interdiction measures.
    I agree with you that more has to be done in world-class programming and treatment for addiction in prison, as well as much better harm reduction strategies, including health care driven needle exchanges in prisons.
     We're going have to leave it there.
    Mr. Iacono, I believe you have a question. Then we'll go to Ms. Damoff after that.


    Mr. Zinger, you mention in your report that prisoners do not have health cards or identification in federal prisons. Can you clarify that?
    What happens when an inmate has to go to the hospital? Surely he must have a health card.


    This is one of the issues we have been documenting for several years and it still doesn't seem to be fixed. When we talk about putting the community first in a part of the Correctional Service's budget, it's for things as simple as that.
    When people leave the penitentiary, they should have all the identification cards they need to get medical care and social assistance, or to get a driver's licence to work or anything else. That is where the problem lies. These are such simple things that are done in some cases.
    During their incarceration, do they already have their cards?
    No, because sometimes they can be there for years. It is at the exit that we have to prepare people and make sure that they have, for example, their birth certificate, so that they can apply for a card.
    All right.
    I understand when you talk about their release, but when they're already incarcerated and they have to go to the hospital, how do they present themselves if they don't have a health card?
    Federal services pay for their medical care when they are incarcerated in a federal institution.
    Thank you, Mr. Zinger.


    Dr. Zinger, I don't know if you are aware that correctional services and indigenous services have signed an agreement that indigenous people can get their status cards immediately when they leave prison. That's a start. It's certainly not the solution altogether, but it seems the federal government can at least arrange that with its own departments. Birth certificates and health cards are provincial, which makes it more complicated.
    Everybody seems to agree that we need more section 81 and section 84 agreements done. We need more healing lodges. We need to get more indigenous people into healing lodges. What challenge is the government facing in getting that done? It was a recommendation from our committee. It's been your recommendation as well. What kinds of challenges is the government facing in getting that accomplished?
    Thank you.
    I'm glad to hear that there has been some progress with respect to some of the ID cards. For me, the frustration is that some parts of the service do that very well—there are some best practices—but it is not nationally available. The challenge for the service is to implement best practices, so that the ID card issue is resolved.
    As to section 81 and section 84, part of the push-back from the service has always been that some indigenous communities have no interest in taking on some of those responsibilities, or don't have the capacity. I think we have to challenge that and really engage those communities to see, for example, over a 10-year period, how one could change the face of corrections and really shift that responsibility to indigenous communities. It has to be part of a very large initiative that would see the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars to indigenous communities over a 10-year period.
    These things are big ticket items that bureaucracy is, unfortunately, not always well equipped or adapted to do, which is to hand over money, as opposed to retaining the funding.
    Such an approach would be quite bold and would require a lot of effort, partnership and sustained change. Governments are often ill equipped to deal with these kinds of major initiatives.
    Thank you, Ms. Damoff.
    We have four minutes left, and we have two more questioners, Madam Michaud and Mr. Harris.
    I'll arbitrarily cut you back to two minutes each, please.


    Based on your observations, you made 16 recommendations. All of them are important, but what are the most pressing recommendations for overhauling the system, as you mentioned? Where do we start?
    One of the things I mentioned was corporate culture. I think fundamental changes need to be made to make the culture more open. That would also improve accountability.
    I would like to see an openness to our recommendations as well as those of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, among others.
    The Correctional Service needs to change its approach and perspective in order to be more open to change. It needs to put forward concrete initiatives with very specific timelines to make the priorities communicated in the September 2018 mandate letter a reality.


    Thank you.
    I will let my colleague continue the discussion.


     Mr. Harris.
    Thank you, Mr. Chair.
    I'd like to follow up on the question regarding treatment for addictions in federal prisons. It's a pretty big question. Organizations in my riding are very concerned about the fact that the Correctional Service doesn't often listen to the people who have expertise in the community.
    What would it take to try to attack that problem? Do we need separate units in prisons, for example, to perhaps isolate those addicts from the rest of the population for a time so that they can go through the rehabilitation process, or is there some other recommendation that you have?
    Again, it's a question of priority.
    I think this was raised previously. How do you balance interdiction measures with rehabilitation and harm reduction? My view is that, upon admission, the bulk of the prison population requires some substance abuse treatment. When we spend the amount of money that we are spending on corrections, we should have state-of-the-art treatment right from the beginning and sustained throughout the incarceration. We should spend more money on treatment than we are on the latest gadget that may or may not prevent drugs from coming in.
    Thank you, Mr. Harris and Dr. Zinger.
    On behalf of the committee, I want to acknowledge that you have shone a light on the system, and it's not a very pretty light.
    I take note that the Auditor General has released a report, that there are two House of Commons committee reports and that there is one Senate report, all of which seem to say the same thing. Subsequently, there is agreement by everyone acknowledging that these are the recommendations and that they are very important recommendations, but not much seems to change.
    I appreciate your persistence. I'm rather hoping that the committee will see some means by which it should follow up.
    Again, thank you for that.
    It's my pleasure.
    Thank you.
    We're not quite formally adjourned.
    A motion was passed out at the beginning of the meeting. I would ask somebody to move it.
     I so move.


     Is there any debate? I see none.
    (Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
     Thank you very much. With that, the meeting is adjourned.
    Those of you who are on the subcommittee, please hang around.
    It will be an in camera meeting, so I would ask that the room be cleared more quickly rather than less quickly.
    Thank you.
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