Interventions in the House of Commons
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View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this new chamber to speak to Bill C-83.
When this bill was introduced, it was an important piece of legislation. However, what is even more important is that the parliamentary process has helped enhance this very important bill.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members who have participated in the debate, who provided information and who shared their views.
The witnesses were also helpful. Some came to us, while others provided additional information in writing that helped us improve this bill as much as possible. All of these contributions will help build a safer and more effective correctional system, which is essential.
I also want to point out that more than 100 amendments were proposed. This means that there were a lot of discussions on this bill. I should also note that every party was able to contribute to these amendments in one way or another.
One of the amendments was about broadening the scope of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that correctional policies, programs and practices respect religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and the special needs of visible minorities. Those are very important aspects.
Another amendment was about making every reasonable effort to provide inmates in structured intervention units with human contact, which is very important to their mental health. Some felt it was important to give individuals in structured intervention units a reasonable amount of time outside their cell. That does not mean waking inmates up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.; time outside the cell must be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
In terms of health care, the bill provides further assurances to inmates by requiring an additional review when the institutional head disagrees with the recommendations of a health professional with respect to altering the conditions of an inmate's confinement or removing the inmate from the unit.
I am very pleased to say that the bill will be reviewed every five years. This is another approach our government has been taking since 2015. We are bringing in legislation that provides for reviews and allows for improvements to be made. This will give us an opportunity to examine the bill's implementation and make the necessary changes.
The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness also mentioned that the government would be open to an important addition, specifically, external oversight. The member for Oakville North—Burlington moved that amendment at report stage, and the government has signalled its intention to support it. This addition will address one of the main concerns raised during testimony in committee. It is also very important to ensure that the necessary resources are put in place to move this crucial bill forward. I will explain in my speech where we have made those investments.
The national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, Stanley Stapleton, shared this sentiment. I am delighted to say that the government also took his calls into account.
The Minister of Finance of Canada announced a $448-million investment in corrections in the latest fall economic update. A large part of this money will be put towards the provisions of this bill.
As the Minister of Public Safety pointed out, this funding will ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada will have properly trained staff at the right time and in the right place. This investment also includes $150 million for extensive improvements to mental health care in prisons. This money is in addition to the considerable investment of almost $80 million that was announced in our government's last two budgets.
In other words, the government has followed through on its commitment to ensure that the corrections system holds offenders accountable for their actions but also supports their rehabilitation in a safe and secure environment. The goal is to have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately, a safer country.
Bill C-83 will strengthen the federal correctional system by implementing a new intervention model, improve health care governance and victim support services, and better take into account the specific needs of indigenous offenders. That is very important. What is more, it will eliminate administrative segregation and make way for patient advocates, as recommended in the coroner's report on the death of Ashley Smith. It will also enact less intrusive alternatives to strip searches and body cavity searches.
The bill will help better support the role of victims in the criminal justice system by guaranteeing them access to audio recordings of parole hearings. This is a marked improvement over the former system, under which only victims who did not attend the hearing could obtain an audio recording. Now victims who attend will also get the recordings.
The bill also enshrines into law the principle by which health care providers at correctional institutions will have to make decisions based on their medical judgment, independently of correctional authorities. The bill also enshrines in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders.
In summary, we drafted a comprehensive bill that will strengthen the security of our institutional staff, inmates and our communities. It will make it possible for Correctional Service Canada to separate certain offenders while ensuring that they receive the interventions required. It will also improve the quality of their rehabilitation.
Once again, I want to thank all members who contributed to this important bill. Its passage through the House so far demonstrates what can be done when members from all parties work together to pass legislation that will help the community. I am proud to support Bill C-83 today, and I encourage members of the House to do so as well.
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