Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the House and to participate in today's debate on Bill C-83.
This piece of legislation will transform our corrections system. Ultimately, we want to promote safety and security, both in and out of our federal institutions. The bill also prioritizes rehabilitation as a key factor in achieving this objective.
The key innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposal to create structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would be found in every prison. Some inmates are sometimes too dangerous or disruptive to be housed safely in the general prison population. Currently, these inmates are placed in administrative segregation. Federal inmates placed in administrative segregation can spend up to 22 hours a day in their cells and have very limited interaction with other inmates.
Bill C-83 offers a more effective solution for everyone involved. Safety will always be the top priority. Prisons are safer for those who live and work there when inmates have access to programs, mental health care, and other interventions they need. Inmates who benefit from these interventions are more likely to reintegrate into society safely when they leave the institution.
The government's proposed solution in Bill C-83 is to eliminate administrative segregation and replace it with structured intervention units. These units will be safe and separate from the general population to ensure compliance with safety requirements. They will also be designed in such a way that inmates who are placed there will receive requisite interventions, programs and treatments. Inmates in structured intervention units will be allowed to leave their cells for at least four hours a day instead of the two hours allowed under the current system. It should be noted that the two-hour period is currently established by policy, not by law. Bill C-83 would enshrine the four-hour minimum in law.
Inmates who are placed in SIUs will have the opportunity to have at least two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, including corrections staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains and seniors. The objective of these reforms is to ensure that inmates in SIUs are able to reintegrate into the general prison population as soon as possible.
Bill C-83 has been thoroughly analyzed at every step of the parliamentary process thus far. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went through it with a fine-tooth comb, and some useful amendments were made at the end of the committee review period based on the testimony of a broad range of stakeholders.
Bill C-83 was already a robust and effective piece of legislation when it was introduced, but after being vigorously debated and carefully examined, it is now even better. It is important to point out that the bill that was sent back to us includes amendments from all of the parties that proposed amendments.
I disagree with the suggestion made in debate that it is somehow a bad thing that the bill was amended in reaction to comments from the public and parliamentarians.
I am proud to support a government that welcomes constructive, thoughtful input and that respects the role members from all parties play in the legislative process.
The purpose of most of the amendments to Bill C-83 is to ensure that structured intervention units, SIUs, work as intended.
For example, some witnesses were concerned that time outside of the cell might be made available in the middle of the night, when inmates are unlikely to benefit from it. The member for Montarville added the requirement that time outside the cell be provided between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Other witnesses wondered whether mandatory interaction with others might be provided through a door or a meal slot.
To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision stating that every reasonable effort shall be made to ensure that human contact takes place face to face and that a record of exceptions is kept.
In response to concerns about Correctional Service Canada making inappropriate use of the provision stating that time outside the cell can be denied in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, including fires and natural disasters, to clarify the interpretation of that provision.
Amendments put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth in committee and by the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will strengthen the review process to ensure that placement in SIUs is subject to robust internal and external oversight.
All of these measures will help ensure that the new SIUs are used as intended.
We also accepted various amendments put forward by the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I thank them all for their contributions.
We all want our institutions and communities to be safer, and we want Canadians to feel and be safe. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of people serving a federal sentence is essential for achieving our shared objective of enhancing public safety.
By enabling inmates who need to be separated from the general inmate population to spend more time outside their cells, have more access to mental health services, and receive more rehabilitation interventions, Bill C-83 is a big step in the right direction.
Again, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their contributions at each step of the legislative process so far, and I urge them all to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill.