Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
As always, I will begin by saying hello to my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou, many of whom are watching today, as I am told every time I go door to door.
I also want to tell them that the issue we are discussing today is a very delicate subject. We are talking about the prison environment and about people's lives, namely, the lives of victims of crime and the lives of criminals in prison. This subject can be unsettling, and people often have very strong views on one side or the other. Some people want a really tough-on-crime approach, while others want a softer approach, for reasons that are equally legitimate on both sides.
I would like to ease into the debate and explain the Conservative caucus's take on Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
My colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, our public safety critic, was the commanding officer of the Régiment de la Chaudière. I have a lot of faith in him. Today he moved a motion calling on the House to simply end the debate on Bill C-83. My colleague believes that the bill is so botched that we need to shut down debate. In other words, we want to stop this bill and keep it from moving forward or being voted on in this place.
What I find interesting is that the NDP members have said that the bill does not go far enough in terms of protecting people who are incarcerated, while we are saying that it goes too far because it compromises the safety of prison guards and Canadians in general. Given that the motion moved by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles will not be voted on right away, I will address some of the main aspects of this bill.
I want to address my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou. The bill would eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities. Everyone is entitled to an opinion on administrative segregation. These opinions are often based on Hollywood movies. Administrative segregation is used when an inmate is imprisoned for life, or for 10 or 2 years. Inmates serving a life sentence already know that they are not getting out of prison and that they will probably die there, even though there is a provision allowing them to request a discharge after 25 years and leave prison, even in very serious cases of premeditated murder.
Nevertheless, life in prison is a very long period of time for someone who is incarcerated. How can the correctional facility and the guards compel or force this prisoner to comply with disciplinary guidelines? The prison guards are ordinary men and women, with normal lives, who go home at night, who have children, and all that. How are they meant to impose order every day in prison when there are inmates who will be there for the rest of their lives? These lifers could go so far as to kill another inmate since they will be in prison either way.
What I am saying is that correctional facilities need access to measures that are psychologically difficult for prisoners, like segregation, otherwise known as the hole. I do not think that is a good word, since they are no longer holes. They are real and proper cells, just used as a means of segregation.
The inmates eat well enough, and they have access to sanitation facilities. Prisons are not like Alcatraz in the 19th century. We are talking about orderly, coordinated disciplinary segregation that gives correctional officers some measure of control over hardened criminals who do not follow the rules unless they are afraid of ending up in segregation.
This bill would eliminate that. Considering the argument I just laid out, we think that is totally ridiculous. The bill would also replace those facilities with structured intervention units, but it does not tell us exactly what those units are or how they will work.
The bill also talks about using a body scanner, and that is one part of the bill we support, as do corrections professionals and unions. Visitors often find ways that I will not describe in detail to bring drugs and other objects, such as cell phones, to prisoners. That is not allowed. Using a body scanner could make life easier for corrections officers, visitors and prisoners because there would be no need to conduct uncomfortable searches.
The bill specifies that exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders diagnosed with mental health issues need to be formalized. It is about time.
Speaking for myself, there is something I find intriguing. The bill comes in response to recent superior court decisions that found that indefinite segregation was unacceptable under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I want to respond to something my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood said in answer to a question I asked 15 or 20 minutes ago. He told me that we make law, but the courts and judges interpret the law.
Nowhere in the Canadian Constitution does it say that lawmakers do not have the right to interpret the law. It is ironic to hear a lawmaker say something so absurd, because we interpret laws every day in the House of Commons. We interpret them in debate and in committee. We review laws, we rewrite laws, we pass laws and we repeal laws. The role of interpreting law belongs as much to the legislative branch as to the executive branch. The executive branch is even required to apply the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to evaluate every bill through the lens of the charter.
Distinguished Professor Christopher Manfredi of McGill University, who is recognized by his peers around the world, said that the interpretation of each of the three branches is important because they each have their own interpretation of Canadian law and that we achieve better results for Canadians when there is vigorous competition between the powers.
In conclusion, I will say that we could have a philosophical debate about the existence of prisons. No one thinks that prisons are wonderful. At a human level, I believe prisons are probably the most horrible thing there is. However, the historical evolution of humanity shows that this is the only known way to ensure that the most dangerous members of our society will not have any further criminal impact on others. The objective is public safety. The Canadian government's main objective is Canadians' safety. That is why I told the member from Scarborough—Guildwood that he should have instead introduced another bill that emphasizes the government's role in protecting Canadians and that tells the court that it is absolutely wrong about administrative segregation in prison. It is unfortunate, but we must have prisons.
As I reiterated in my arguments, administrative segregation is the only real tool that ensures that prisoners serving a life sentence, for example, have a psychological constraint preventing them from harming other inmates in jail. How can we control a lifer without administrative segregation? It is good for the effectiveness of prisons and for the safety of guards.
We hope that the government will reverse course on this bill. I do not understand why the NDP does not want to support the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which believes that ending the practice of administrative segregation will jeopardize the safety of correctional officers.
I thank the citizens of Beauport—Limoilou for listening.