Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for this informative debate. It is too bad our friends across the way, and I say “friends” loosely, have once again limited this debate. As I said earlier today in this debate, it has to be 60 times that the government has forced closure on debate on legislation.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This legislation has been proposed to eliminate the administrative segregation in correctional facilities and to replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, which I will refer to as SIUs during my speech.
The bill also introduces body scanners for inmates, sets parameters for access to health care, and formalizes exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues, among a few other things. It also expands on transfers and allows for the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.
I have risen to speak to this legislation a number of times and expressed the Conservatives' concerns. Our number one concern is consultation. No matter how many times our friends across the way say they have consulted thoroughly from coast to coast to coast on this, we know through witness testimony that witness after witness expressed serious concerns with this piece of legislation. Some of the comments were that it is flawed to the core.
We always have concerns when we talk about the safety and security of those we entrust and empower to protect Canadians. Imagine that a correctional service guard reports to work and does not have all the tools required to do the job. We need to make sure first responders, and indeed correctional officers are first responders, are provided the tools and resources they need to do their job effectively and securely, but also to return home and remain healthy at all times.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has repeatedly voiced its concerns with this. As a matter of fact, the head of the national prison guards union predicts a bloodbath behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. In a newspaper interview, the union president went on to explain that segregated inmates are supervised at a 2:1 guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their units. He said, “No thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure no one gets hurt.” When he says “no one gets hurt”, he means the correctional officers who are tasked with making sure that Canadians remain safe and secure and that inmates remain safe and secure among the inmate population. He wants to make sure they have the tools to do their jobs.
The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers last year wrote a letter to the minister and said that over the last year, over 140 violent attacks on correctional officers had taken place. Let us imagine being a security guard or correctional officer in charge of over 40 inmates. We heard the flowery language from our friends across the way when they said everybody deserves a chance. Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson are the kinds of people housed in solitary confinement.
With this piece of legislation, Bill C-83, not only does the union have some serious concerns that it is not being listened to, but we also know that this program has not been fully costed out. As a matter of fact, Correctional Service Canada managers have been asked to review spending and find some efficiencies. Regardless of whether the Liberals say there is $448 million going to this program over six years, the managers have been asked to find some efficiencies.
Every day, these officers go to work and their lives are put in jeopardy. They are there to protect Canadians. They are there to make sure that the worst of the worst stay behind bars. Whether it is Bill C-75 or Bill C-83, what we see with the government is that it is getting softer and softer on crime. Bill C-83 also looks at reclassification of certain crimes, to bring the prison population down from 12,000 to even less.
On that point, I want to bring up a case I brought up earlier today to the minister, and that is the case of Cody Legebokoff. He is Canada's youngest serial killer. In Cariboo—Prince George, he is responsible for killing four young women. He killed Loren Leslie, age 15, Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. To this day, the Montgomerys are still trying to find out through the court system if Cody Legebokoff knows where the remains of their daughter are.
He has refused to take any responsibility for this crime. He was sentenced at the end of 2014, yet we found out over the last month that he was transferred from maximum to medium security in early 2019, with very little notice. As a matter of fact, two of the four families did not receive any notification.
In sentencing him, Justice Parrett said, “The injuries caused in each case were massive and disfiguring, the object of each attack appearing to be aimed at not simply killing the victims but degrading and destroying them.” Justice Parrett further said, “He lacks any shred of empathy or remorse,” and, “He should never be allowed to walk among us again.”
Now we know that Legebokoff has been transferred to a prison here in Ontario from British Columbia, and even Correctional Service Canada's website, where it talks about transfers or the safety and security reclassification of inmates, says that assigning security classifications is “not an exact science”.
We should be arming our front-line workers with every tool so that they can make the best decisions, and so they can remain safe and secure at all times. That means physically as well as mentally. How is it that we are now giving more rights to our criminals than to victims and their families, or to those we trust and empower to protect us?
It is quite concerning when time after time we see our friends across the way stand up, put their hands on their hearts and say, “Trust us.” They say they have the best intentions to do well and are looking after Canadians, yet we see this type of misstep.
Bill C-83 is yet another failed piece of legislation. The victims' families and the victims of crime deserve better, and so do our first responders and our correctional officers. All they are asking for is to be heard, yet the Liberal members continue to turn a blind eye and cover their ears when those concerns are being voiced.