Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
A lot of people do not realize that on any given day in Canada we have roughly 40,000 plus prisoners in custody. They are in eight maximum-security facilities, 19 medium-security facilities, 15 minimum and 10 multidisciplinary type facilities. We have 18,000 Canadian government employees looking after these prisoners, of which 10,000 are on the front line. They are either correctional officers, parole officers or health care workers.
I want to personally thank them here today for the service they do in our correctional services from coast to coast to coast. I have a facility in my community, as does the gentleman beside me. We know the problems they go through on a day-to-day basis and the great service they give our country.
This was and is a bad bill. Even worse, this is ill-thought-out legislation. It is a lot worse than the cannabis bill. Simply, Bill C-83 was a knee-jerk reaction to two Supreme Court rulings in February of 2018, regarding the clarity on indefinite solitary confinement. Bill C-83 does not correct this; it just rewords it and disguises it in flowery words.
No longer is it called solitary confinement. It has been renamed “structural intervention unit”. It sounds nice. The heads of the institutions will be allowed to designate any area of a jail to be that. Why do we need that? Structural intervention units are needed for unmanageable prisoners and those who are dangerous to staff, inmates or themselves. Perhaps they are being held for an investigation. Perhaps it is an attempted murder within the facility and he or she has to be segregated. There is a need, and there are reasons why people are held in these types of lock-ups in these facilities.
A 19-year prisoner appeared before the public safety committee. He was pretty intimidating when he first came in there, but the man talked with a lot of sense. He was originally sentenced for 14 years, but he was so bad he got an additional five years, of which a lot was in solitary confinement. He said that they were a must, that we should not get rid of them. Many more witnesses came before the public safety committee, even the Minister of Public Safety.
Again, I am going to say this is a bad bill. Every group of witnesses or individuals who appeared said that it was a bad bill. These are not my words. It was the witnesses who said that, except for the minister and his ministerial staff who said that it was such a great bill. How many amendments were read by the Speaker today?
The Elizabeth Fry Society said it was a bad bill. It said that structural intervention units were not needed, that it failed to focus on the programs and that there was lack of oversight. It is concerned about section 81, due to the workings of indigenous governing bodies.
The John Howard Society calls it a bad bill. It wanted to know what was the difference between solitary confinement and structural intervention. It said there was no difference, that the bill changed the words, but it did little to change anything.
Those are their words, not mine.
Increasing two hours outside the prison cells to four hours does little to help the prisons. There is a lack of infrastructure, physical and human resources. The bill does not address the need.
I will go back to the 19-year prisoner. He admitted to being a bad boy. He spent a very long time in solitary confinement. He said that he needed to be there, as he was dangerous. He felt these units were needed to protect guards, prisoners and even people like himself. However, he stated that prisoners must be helped with programs, counselling, etc., and that this was not happening within the institution. What he really stressed was that there was no one looking after the prisoners once they were released. They are just dumped out into society. He said that continued help needed to be there to rehabilitate the prisoners.
The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says that it is a bad bill and it cannot support it. It said the bill lacks external oversight, lacks programs that are needed to assist prisoners to reform, and lacks sufficient resources and manpower for social and educational needs, health professionals, etc.
The Native Women's Association of Canada says it is a bad bill. The association was not consulted. It says the bill does not address traditions, protocol, or cultural practices, and does not clarify indigenous communities.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers also says it is a bad bill, that it is not feasible and leaves prisoners and guards vulnerable. That is where my concern is, with prisoners and guards, especially the guards, being vulnerable.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it is a bad bill. It says it is not a meaningful reform and should be repealed. It said there was no consultation, and we have heard that many times here.
Aboriginal Legal Services says it is a bad bill, and that there is a big gap between the rhetoric and reality.
When we were gathering evidence on some of the costs related to prisoners, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, who is also on committee with me, was told by a witness that the cost of keeping a female prisoner in a structured living condition was $533,000 a year. He was shocked. Then he was told that the cost for males in structured living conditions was between $300,000 and $600,000 a year.
When he heard that, he asked me for an aspirin. I did not have one; I just told him he would have to cope.
I am just about done. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said in the 2016-17 report that the cost of an average prisoner is $314 a day or $115,000 a year. If a prisoner is segregated, the average cost is $463,000 plus per year. That is $1,260 a day to keep a person in segregation.
Bill C-83 will cost way more than the Liberals are talking about. When the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness what the cost would be to implement this bill, the minister replied that he had no idea. He said he had no clue, but we should trust the Liberals because they would work it out. He wanted us to just pass the bill as it was.
I have heard from a number of speakers opposite today that $400-some million is being thrown at this program to make structural modifications at our prisons and to improve the health care facilities, but I have not heard anyone from across this great room say there was any money going to hire additional staff, or to improve staff resources or staff training. Nothing. There was nothing that came from the parliamentary secretary; nothing came from anybody.
We heard the Liberals were going to fix the buildings, but I have talked to a number of the prisons around Alberta, and they have not even been asked about what needs to be done. The guards and unions have not been spoken to.
We are supposed to trust the Liberals. I think they said they are putting $448 million into this, but what about increasing staff? We know it is going to cost more to do it. We know it is going to cost more in manpower to operate these new units, especially if we are going to move them around to different spots in the prisons.
There is nothing in the Liberal plan or budget to account for that.