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Elizabeth White
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Elizabeth White
2011-03-09 15:32
Thank you very much, Chair, for the invitation to appear before the committee.
I am speaking on behalf of the St. Leonard's Society of Canada, and as it has been some years since we have presented before you, I would simply note that we have 45 years of experience in criminal justice and social justice, supporting member agencies that provide direct service across this country. While in the past we have been best known for our focus on long-term and life-sentenced individuals and for our residential services, it is our belief and knowledge that youth are key to providing safer communities, and for that reason we are pleased to present on this issue.
I was fortunate enough to participate in the round table in Toronto on youth justice in 2008, and now that the report from that has become available, I am struck by how similar its findings are to the matters we raised in the brief we submitted to you some months ago.
At St. Leonard's Canada, we believe it is important to note that since the enactment of the YCJA in 2003, there has been a significant decrease in youth incarceration without a significant increase in youth crime. Something clearly is working very well.
Turning to Bill C-4, we are in support of the inclusion in clause 3 of “diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability” as a principle, and we also wish to express support for clause 21 on the prohibition against the imprisonment of young persons in adult correctional facilities. On the other hand, St. Leonard's has serious concerns about clauses 4, 7, 8, 11, 18, 20, and 24. I would like to take a few moments on those. We are also concerned about the broadening of the definition of violent offence through the inclusion of sweeping wording, which we believe is cause for grave concern.
We would also like to note that the act did give this country the opportunity to overcome its dubious distinction of having the highest western incarceration rate for youth. That is a big achievement.
We believe these amendments respond to isolated and somewhat sensationalized cases, not the best basis on which to reform legislation. We believe that a more thorough examination and a longer-term opportunity for this act to continue to prove itself should occur before changes are made. We find many of the issues raised by Bill C-4 to be already appropriately addressed.
Deterrence as a sentencing principle would not be useful. There is no substantive support of its effectiveness in crime prevention. We submit that the YCJA deliberately omits deterrence as a sentencing principle with good reason and that it currently addresses the needs of the court in providing appropriate sentencing for youth that offers the best chance for rehabilitation and reintegration. Based on the lack of substantive evidence to show that deterrence is effective, we are concerned about amending the rules for pre-sentence detention. The current guidance from the act regarding pre-trial detention does not lack the necessary focus. The authority to detain a young person is already included if such an action can be justified in the youth court. We believe the proposed amendment places the onus on courts to focus on detention for so much broader a spectrum of offences that very few will remain unconsidered.
Extrajudicial sanctions support the key values of the YCJA in its aim to avoid custodial sentences unless those are required, and they support more viable alternatives that increase the likelihood of positive impact on the youth. The current approach allows the youth's admission of guilt to be a basis on which to move forward rather than a means of embroiling the youth further in the system. The youth will take responsibility. Expanding the criteria to allow them as admissible evidence for custodial sentencing will reduce the attractiveness of admissions of guilt for extrajudicial sanctions for the youth, but will also deter police, we believe, from using them.
On publication bans, the act currently allows a ban to be lifted when it is justified to do so in the interest of the youth or public safety. We know that publication leads to stigma. We know that stigma leads to reduced opportunity and often to recidivism. That's simply not consistent with the principles of the act. As Professor Doob noted in his appearance last week, if publication is to be broadened, it ought not to occur until all appeal processes are complete.
I would like to turn briefly to the relationship between mental health and youth crime. It is suggested that about 10% of youths involved in the criminal justice system have mental health disorders. I note this because in our view the attention in youth criminality should be addressing the needs--and yes, therefore the risks--of the many youth who have mental disorders. Ensuring that supports are in place to help them avoid conflict with the law is essential. Given that more than 70% of adults with mental health diagnoses who are in the criminal justice system had pre-age-18 onsets, it is clear that addressing youth mental wellness is key to minimizing long-term health costs and human distress.
Further to this, we are concerned with recent reports of a 70% co-morbidity rate among incarcerated youth who have mental health and substance abuse problems. Additionally, it has been found that more than 30% of youth with major medical issues also have mental health issues. So it's evident that there need to be more good mental health results, which will ensure good justice results. We're not sure that these proposed amendments get at this very serious issue, and we are very sure that punitive measures will not do a great deal to address it.
There is strong evidence supporting the need to reduce the criminalization of youth with mental health disorders in order to increase rehabilitation, reintegration, public safety, and greater cost-effectiveness overall.
I want to reference an example from London, Ontario, where the St. Leonard's community services in that region have an attendance centre program. They supervise around 150 youths over a six-month period, with a high rate of success through diversion programs. In six years of operation it is estimated that the savings between custody and the attendance centre are in the neighbourhood of $7 million to $10 million. That kind of money can go a long way to assisting youth.
I also want to reference the IRCS sentence. This excellent measure is still not being used to its full potential. Indeed, this week we heard that there are many judges in this country who are not aware that it is possible to use it. So despite allocations of funding that would allow 50 sentences of this type a year, since 2003 there have been less than 80. We need to give an opportunity for this very effective intervention to become known and used to further decrease ongoing criminalization.
We believe that the extended costs of further custodial measures are not necessary or appropriate for the Canadian public. We must give this act time to work, in the view of the St. Leonard's Society. There is overwhelming consensus from the report on the round tables that the flaws are not with the legislation; they're in the system. Implementation needs more and better work.
We submit there is indeed a need for action on youth justice: not legislation or incarceration, but vastly enhanced access to interventions and support through collaborative federal-provincial-territorial initiatives that overcome the silos of governance and address what is needed.
Thank you.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
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Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
2011-03-07 16:27
On the proposal to have better coordination in the system for young people with mental illness and behavioural and developmental disabilities, we see some aspects of it in some provinces and territories, often in a single centre, such as a town. We don't see it at the national level. There is a lack of clarity.
For example, I'm reviewing a case at the moment of an adolescent with autism who had a very significant psychotic episode. In the context of that, his father was killed. He was found to be not criminally responsible for that act because of a very significant mental disorder. He had gone to a hospital, but he wasn't certified under the provincial legislation and retained. The parents were very afraid to leave him in an adult psychiatric facility, which was mostly for street-involved adults. He was a very vulnerable person; they brought him home, and his father was unfortunately murdered. He has been completely stabilized and is back in the community and living with the terrible consequences of what happened.
Could it have been prevented? I don't know, but the issue is this: what about the supports for an adolescent who has a developmental disability and a mental health challenge? In crime prevention, do we have a consistent approach and adequate mental health supports for kids with dual diagnoses and kids with special needs? As well, we refer in our brief to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, so we are not seeing effective national standards and strategies. We see a patchwork--
Don Head
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Don Head
2010-10-19 9:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for allowing me to appear at a later date than you originally requested. My schedule was quite full, but I'm glad to be here today.
Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to discuss how the freeze on departmental budget envelopes and government operations will affect the daily operations of the Correctional Service of Canada.
I'd also like to address the impact on CSC operations that can be expected from the legislation connected with the government's criminal justice initiatives, in particular the Truth in Sentencing Act and the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
The freeze on the Correctional Service of Canada's departmental budget envelope and operations applies to operating budgets only, as you know. Operating budgets will be frozen at the current levels, and the freeze will also apply to 2011-12 fiscal year and 2012-13 fiscal year reference levels.
There is no freeze on wages. CSC employees will receive the salary increase for this year resulting from collective agreements and set at 1.5% by the Expenditure Restraint Act. As with other departments, the Correctional Service of Canada will absorb this increase as well as any increases to salaries and wages in 2011-12 and 2012-13 that result from future collective agreements.
Work is well under way at CSC to improve efficiencies within our operations to pay for these increases. For instance, we have introduced new staff deployment standards at our penitentiaries for our correctional officers. We are also now using computerized rostering systems to ensure that we are efficiently staffing our facilities on a 24/7 basis. This is improving our effectiveness by ensuring that our people know when and where they will be working their shift rotations well in advance. It will also help to reduce our overtime expenditures by more efficiently replacing correctional officers who are absent on training or leave.
We've also improved our integrated human resources and business planning methods to more accurately forecast our staffing and recruitment needs going forward. Because our penitentiaries must be properly staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, we make every effort to maintain our staff complement at appropriate levels. This is an important part of minimizing the overtime that would otherwise be incurred to fill vacant posts in our facilities.
Personnel costs represent our largest expenditure. For fiscal year 2010-11, Correctional Service of Canada's main estimates are approximately $2.5 billion, and personnel expenditures, including salaries and benefits, represent approximately 61% of the budget, or $1.5 billion. The rest is dedicated to operating costs, which represent approximately 25%, $625 million, and capital investments at approximately 14%, $329 million.
It's important to note that 90% of CSC's budget is non-discretionary and quasi-statutory. CSC has fixed costs that it must fund on a continuous basis. These include the provision of food to offenders, the utility costs related to the maintenance of our accommodations, clothing for offenders, and uniforms for our staff. The remaining 10% provides us with some opportunity and flexibility to seek out ways for us to meet the freeze on operating costs. I am confident that we will continue to find improvements in our program delivery that will help us to absorb these costs.
The government's criminal justice initiatives will present some opportunities for CSC as well as some challenges. The primary impact of the legislation will be a significant and sustained increase to the federal offender population over time. This will be particularly evident in the short to mid term.
As the members will know, the Truth in Sentencing Act replaces the two for one credit for time in custody before sentencing to a maximum of one day of credit for each day served in provincial detention. Only under exceptional circumstances may a judge provide a 1.5-day credit. Consequently, many offenders who would have previously received a provincial sentence will now serve a federal sentence of two years or more, and those who would have received a federal sentence will now receive a longer federal sentence.
Normally we would have expected an incarcerated population of about 14,856 by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. This figure is a result of our projections for regular growth, which is set at about 1% for male offenders and about 2.8% for women offenders. However, we are expecting an additional 383 offenders by the end of the 2014 fiscal year as a result of Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act. And with the implementation of Bill C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act, our analysis is forecasting an increase of 3,445 more offenders, including 182 women, by 2013.
Mr. Chair, this is a considerable increase over such a short period of time. The additional 3,828 offenders resulting from Bill C-2 and Bill C-25, together with our normal projections, represents a total growth of 4,478 inmates in the 2014 fiscal year and an anticipated total penitentiary population of 18,684 offenders by March 31, 2014. This growth, Mr. Chair, well exceeds our existing capacity today.
We are moving quickly to identify the measures required to address these population increases, and we are taking a multi-faceted approach. Several measures are now being developed, including temporary accommodation measures such as double-bunking. We are also now in the process of tendering for the construction of new accommodation units, program space, and support services within existing Correctional Service Canada institutions.
Regarding the expanded use of shared accommodation, I should note that it will be aligned with greater offender accountability. We expect offenders to be out of their cells engaging in programs and making positive efforts to become law-abiding citizens who can contribute to safe communities for all Canadians when they are released. These temporary measures will be implemented in a way that will minimize any adverse impact on front-line service delivery at our institutions. I assure you that with the proper support, any steps we take around budget implications and capacity issues will not jeopardize public safety or the safety of staff or inmates.
With respect to the new units, we can expedite the design and construction process by using proven and refined designs. Furthermore, we are strategically planning expansions at institutions located where we expect the greatest increases. Beyond expanding our facilities, CSC will be improving our program delivery capacity to meet the needs of an increasingly complex and diverse offender population. This includes programming for offenders who require treatment for mental health disorders and addictions, or those who are trying to break from their affiliations with gangs, particularly among our aboriginal offender population.
I should note that we are expecting the largest increase in our prairie region, where we will need 726 more accommodation spaces. As this region is where a majority of our aboriginal offenders are housed, we are currently reviewing our aboriginal corrections strategy to improve our delivery of education and employment training. This will assist in the safe reintegration of our aboriginal offenders back to their home communities.
Of course, there is a cost to all of this. Our current estimates are approximately $2 billion over five years in order to provide sufficient resources to address the additional double-bunking that will occur and to get the new units up and running. This also includes funds to ensure that we continue to provide offenders under our supervision with access to programs.
The assessment of this legislation's impact on CSC will be a long and complex process. As we continually monitor this impact, we will continuously fine-tune our approach to accommodate population increases and adjust our service delivery. We will also seek to connect this short- and medium-term impact with future requirements associated with the aging and inadequate infrastructure at some of our older institutions.
A long-term accommodation plan that will provide a forecast to the year 2018 is expected to be presented for consideration by this spring. As we move forward, we will be consulting with our partners and the communities in which we are located across Canada to ensure that we proceed in a transparent and collaborative fashion.
Of course, with the short- and long-term accommodation measures I've mentioned above comes a necessary increase in our staff complement. As indicated in the most recent report on plans and priorities, CSC is planning to staff an additional 4,119 positions across Canada over the next three years. This increase will enhance our capacity to carry out our mandate, help in our work with offenders, and improve our public safety results. I am very sensitive to the possible effects of an offender population increase on the work and safety of my staff in our penitentiaries and parole offices, whether they are existing staff or new hires. But I'm also very aware of, and extremely confident in, the commitment and ability of my employees to deliver high-quality correctional services that produce good public safety results for Canadians. I am speaking about our correctional and parole officers, our vocational and program staff, our health care professionals, and our support staff and management teams across the country. These are dedicated people, and the additional staff who will be added over the coming years will significantly help those who are on the ground today working with offenders.
We have been modernizing the way we select and train our correctional officers and other staff, and we work together with our union partners to make sure we are hiring the best-suited people who are committed to making a difference in the lives of others and the safety of their communities.
While it's clear that the criminal justice legislation and the spending freeze will pose some challenges, I am confident that the Correctional Service of Canada will successfully adapt and continue to provide good public safety results for all Canadians.
Mr. Chair, in closing, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to speak to the committee, and I welcome any questions you may have today.
View Diane Bourgeois Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for being here, Mr. Head and Ms. Dumas-Sluyter. I am very grateful to you for your attendance. Thank you also for your patience at the start of the session.
As I listened to your presentation, I noticed that you were very familiar with the present situation in the penitentiaries. That puts you at a great advantage. Often witnesses we have had here were concerned with the bureaucratic aspects, but did not have the knowledge of the real situation that you do.
Mr. Head, I think we have to look at the present situation in the penitentiaries in order to be able to project and predict what will happen, given the two acts that you have to deal with and the increase in the numbers of offenders that will suddenly arrive at your door in the next few months.
At the moment, the situation is deplorable. I have in my hand some letters from CX employees, saying that their training has been greatly cut back. The training budget, which was more than $1 million, is to be reduced, in fact. So CX employees do not feel safe. They have to be trained to learn how to use their weapons, but that is not happening. That is the first thing.
Second, some institutions are overcrowded, which leads to a tense climate. Because of the overcrowding, inmates cannot get the hours of recreation to which they are entitled, in order to go into the yard, to take courses or work at their trades, or even to just do what they have to do—after all, there is some rehabilitation in prison. It all leads to climate of some tension.
Third, there is also a petition about CX employees that you received in 2010, I think.
So, this is the situation as we see it. We know that the two new acts are going to mean an increase in the number of inmates. We are aware that the correctional investigator has mentioned that the biggest population of people with psychiatric conditions are in federal prisons, precisely where the fewest psychiatric services are provided. You are telling us that you are aware of the problems and that the Correctional Service of Canada will be able to adapt. But, at the same time, the correctional investigator is saying that the Correctional Service of Canada is adapting, but it takes a long time to make any progress.
Mr. Head, what are we going to do to ensure the safety of the inmates in the Correctional Service of Canada's institutions, as well as the safety of the staff of those institutions and of those who reside in the vicinity, given the two new acts, the freeze in the budget envelopes and the fact that money is being used to build or expand inside? That is my question.
Don Head
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Don Head
2010-10-19 9:25
Thank you for that multi-level question.
I have a couple of comments. One of the things that we are ensuring as we move forward, as I mentioned in my opening comments, is that whatever we do, whether it's related to the changes in legislation, to departmental budget freezes, or to anything around our overall transformation agenda, is that the environment within which our staff work, our inmates live, and our visitors come to is safe and secure. That is paramount in all our decisions. We need to have a safe, secure environment for everybody who comes to those facilities.
We are, as you pointed out, very conscious of the impacts of an increased offender population coming into the facilities and what that could mean for the operating environment, the tension within the environment. We have had experience in facilities across the country where we have had double-bunking for periods of time in the past, so we do have some experience in managing that. But we are going to continue to monitor this very closely.
In terms of some of the other points you raised, I just want to mention that, as a result of budget increases in the last several years, we have been able to provide additional advanced or enhanced training to our staff, including our correctional officers. For example, we recently acquired new sidearms for our correctional officers and have just about completed the training of all staff on the new firearm.
Overall, our training budget has increased by about $24 million, so that's allowing us to provide training not only to our correctional officers but also to our health care staff, our parole officers, and our psychologists--the whole range of staff.
In terms of the mental health issues you raised and commented on, they are of concern to us, the number of offenders who are coming in with mental health disorders and how we respond to them. We have received some increases in our budget over the last few years, but there's still a lot of work to do. As I mentioned at previous committee meetings, unfortunately, we have become the default mental health system in the country. That's not the place I want to be. I believe those with mental health problems need to be treated in other places. However, we have to respond to the decisions of the court, and we're trying to respond the best way we can, both for those who are in the institution and those who are under our supervision in the community.
Bernard Richard
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Bernard Richard
2010-06-10 11:10
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'm of course pleased to be taking part in this meeting and in your proceedings on Bill C-4.
I previously sent you a written submission, a brief, and I don't intend to read it or even provide an overview of it. I'm simply going to summarize my concerns about the bill, in order to allow my colleagues as much time as possible and to speak with committee members.
I just want to give you some background, if I could, on the work we do so that you know where we're coming from.
I'm a child and youth advocate, as well as the ombudsman in New Brunswick, and for the time being the Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner as well. Hopefully, there will be a separate Access to Information and Privacy Commissioner soon.
Since about November 2006, I've been dealing with individual cases of youth and children, including youth who have been dealing with the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the justice system. So we have a very hands-on experience day in and day out. I have a number of people who work with me—some lawyers, some social workers, and others as well, with different areas of expertise. We intervene in different cases. We participate in case conferences and meet with families and the youth themselves. So it's very much an on-the-ground experience.
As well, we've published two reports fairly recently. Two years ago we published one report called Connecting the Dots, which really focused on youth with mental health issues and severe behavioural disorders and the experiences they and their families had with the service providers in New Brunswick. We made a series of recommendations. We followed seven youth and their families. The youth suffered from various ailments, including bipolar disorder, autism or autism spectrum disorders, and schizophrenia. Sadly, one committed suicide. But we followed the others over two years. We met with their families and we published a report with recommendations.
We also spent quite a bit of energy and resources reviewing the three years that Ashley Smith—whom you would be familiar with—spent in our New Brunswick Youth Centre. She spent three years in and out—mostly in—the New Brunswick Youth Centre. We reviewed 6,000 pages of documents and 40 hours of video. I assigned five investigators to that specific case. Tragically, as you know, she died in the federal system, but a lot of the issues there were very similar to those in the provincial system.
During those three years, Ashley spent two-thirds of her time in segregation--that is, in solitary confinement in an eight-by-ten cell, 23 hours a day more or less, with lights on 24 hours a day. If she didn't suffer from mental illness when she went in, she certainly did when she came out—and I would have, as well, Mr. Chairman, with respect.
She faced 501 institutional charges during those three years and 70 criminal charges during her lifetime, more than half for incidents inside the institution, not outside. She had 168 self-harm incidents, and she was tasered twice as a youth before she reached the age of 19 in an adult prison while waiting for transfer to a federal institution.
In that report, we made 25 recommendations.
I think we have a fairly good idea or view of how the system works on the ground. It's on that basis that I accepted your invitation to appear.
I know there is a broad range of opinions on the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In fact, in one meeting I heard it described that the Youth Criminal Justice Act, depending on your perspective, might stand for “you can justify anything”, YCJA, or “you can't jail anyone”. I think I'm situated somewhere outside of both of those definitions, but certainly, what I hope we know for sure is this. It's a new piece of legislation. It was meant to address a situation under the Young Offenders Act where Canada had the highest rate of youth incarceration in the world, I'm told. It was extremely high, in any event. At least today, it has worked. According to the research of Nicholas Bala and others, the trend is now definitely towards a reduction of youth crime. There is, as well, a reduction of youth incarceration. That translates to savings, savings financially, obviously, but also savings in emotional costs to families. All of these youth are somebody's son or daughter.
This experience, to me, is still early. It's been seven years in the lifetime of a piece of legislation. Recently I've been working with the Indian Act, which is much older than that; but seven years is a very short time, and I'm very concerned that these changes are premature.
There was a significant consultation in 2008. I participated in it and met Minister Nicholson in August 2008 in New Brunswick. I know that my participation was a small part of the participation nationwide. I have yet to receive the results of that consultation. I think it would be critical information for members of the committee to have access to that. It's hard for you to decide on a piece of legislation without knowing what thousands—well, certainly hundreds—of Canadians had to say about it. The session I attended in Moncton included police, psychiatrists, social workers, and prison guard associations. It was a really diverse group of people, and they had a lot to say. I think you would be very well advised to take advantage of that. Personally, I can say that I know there have been written reports, but none have been published. So I'd love to be able to see what was said during all of those consultations. There was a consultant hired to write a report and to facilitate the sessions. His name was Roger Bilodeau.
As well, we haven't done a really good job of making full use of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I think that's because it's still a very young piece of legislation.
In the case of New Brunswick, for example, the part of the act that permits the use of case conferences is really not used very much.
Justice Canada recently asked my office to conduct an analysis of the use of the act in New Brunswick to establish a model that would enable us to make better use of the elements that already exist but that are not very well known as a result of the recent nature of the act.
It seems to me we should further explore the opportunities afforded by the act as it currently stands before proceeding with changes that are quite significant.
I won't into the details because my main argument is that we are going way too fast. Instead we should analyze what has already been done and determine whether that's working or not. What interests committee members and the Canadian public, in my view, are the results at the end of the process.
What interests us are outcomes, very real concrete outcomes. So if you don't have the benefit of a complete analysis of what's happened so far under this piece of legislation, I think you take the risk of taking us back in time to the Young Offenders Act, the high incarceration rates, and here we go all over again. That is the concern I am expressing to the committee.
I have a lot of sympathy for Sébastien and his family and for others who are victims of crime. As ombudsman, I often am called upon to advocate on their behalf as well. My concern when I saw it was that it's a very tragic story. But by calling it “Sébastien's Law”, I guess the question I ask myself is when will we have “Ashley's Law”, a law for those who are victims of the criminal justice system? Ashley cried out for help and she became progressively worse while in contact with the system.
There are thousands of young Canadians out there who suffer from mental illness, from severe behaviour disorders, from addiction, who come in contact with the criminal justice system, and they should be diverted, directed towards treatment, not incarceration. Inevitably, incarceration makes their conditions worse. The justice system, including the prison system, is just not equipped to deal with these kinds of youth.
My fear is that while driving more of these youth towards incarceration, we're actually taking youth who are confused, sometimes suffering from all kinds of conditions, or who just make errors in judgment.... And I would say that outside of this room, likely most youth make errors of judgment sometimes, but not as severe as.... I know I have. Although I said “outside of this room”, I can confess that as a teenager.... And I have four sons who have been teenagers, and I am happy they're adults now, but they have made their own mistakes, yes.
I'll close on that, Mr. Chair.
I would ask you to carefully consider looking at where we've come from. I'm afraid that if we look at high-profile cases of violent crime by youth in order to change what I think is groundbreaking, very progressive legislation, we're proceeding on the wrong basis and we'll have the wrong results. That's my concern.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Kathy Vandergrift
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Kathy Vandergrift
2010-06-10 11:22
Thank you very much for this opportunity.
I will be highlighting points from the written submission that I believe you have in front of you, and I would certainly invite questions on the other content in the submission as well.
Bill C-4 is named Sébastien’s Law to remember a young person killed by another young person. But we also need to remember other children, like AB and Ashley Smith. AB is the child at the heart of the Nunn commission, which weighs into this bill. He was a boy with learning disabilities who spiralled out of control, to use the words of the commission, and then came to public attention when he killed a woman while he was joyriding in a stolen car. You heard just now more of the details of Ashley Smith, a girl suffering from mental health issues who died in federal custody.
What they had in common was that they were adolescents who got involved in criminal activity after they fell through the cracks of underdeveloped, sporadic, or poorly coordinated services for children in need. That's the primary challenge for Canada at this time. Young people within the system told that to members of Parliament directly in a forum we sponsored in 2007. If you were to see the report of the consultation, we are sure you would see that early intervention is a primary message. Several of our members participated in those sessions across the country, and we hope you will insist on seeing the report from those.
I'm raising this because Bill C-4 does very little to address our primary concern in relation to youth justice in Canada.
One of the ways of being sure we balance the various interests is to look at what the Convention on the Rights of the Child has to say about youth justice. That is going to be our primary contribution to the review of Bill C-4, so I'd like to look at various aspects of that bill in relation to the convention, which Canada ratified in 1991.
First of all are the basic principles. Protection of the public, which was recommended by the Nunn commission, can be accommodated without revising the other basic principles. I submit to you that the revisions proposed in Bill C-4 change the approach to accountability and change the primacy of prevention in ways that are contradictory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and are not in keeping with the whole Nunn commission report. If you read the whole report, you could see adding protection of the public without changing the other principles. That would be the recommendation of the Canadian Coalition on the Rights of Children.
We appreciate one good point in Bill C-4: the recognition of the “principle of diminished moral blameworthiness or culpability”, as the Supreme Court ruled. However, there is another principle that the Supreme Court is now recognizing, which your committee should consider, and that is “the best interests of the child”.
In the Supreme Court ruling on Omar Khadr, the justices found that the “best interests of the child” are a matter of fundamental justice in Canada. We are suggesting that this principle also be added as a primary principle for the youth justice system.
In 2003 Canada was asked by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to integrate the best interests principle in its revision of domestic laws that have an impact on children. Last year Canada made a commitment at the UN Human Rights Council to improve its implementation of its international obligations. This is a good opportunity to do so.
The current YCJA refers to the convention in the preamble and the best interests in one article. We would suggest that the best interests of the child should be made a primary consideration for all decisions relating to children in the youth justice system.
Moving on to pre-trial detention, the convention—and when I say “convention” here, I mean the Convention on the Rights of the Child—has very specific provisions relating to detention. It uses two tests: it should be the last resort and for the shortest time possible. I submit to you that the wording of the criteria in Bill C-4 and the definition of concepts like “serious offence” fall short of meeting those criteria.
In 2007 the government responded to a major study on children's right by saying that every piece of legislation is reviewed for being consistent with the convention. My suggestion to you is that the committee ask to see the analysis that was done of Bill C-4 in relation to the Convention on the Rights of the Child. If a thorough analysis were done, I suspect that you would find recommendations for more precise wording of the criteria that should apply for pre-trial detention.
A second area of concern is the uneven quality of services provided to young people in detention centres across the country. We would suggest that this should also be addressed as you review that portion of Bill C-4.
Turning now to sentencing principles, no evidence has been presented to show that deterrence is an effective strategy for young people. Adding denunciation is not consistent with the recognition of the reduced moral blameworthiness and culpability of young persons. We suggest those be deleted.
The fourth area we want to address is treatment of extrajudicial measures and sanctions. These are elements in the YCJA that are actually working well now and are helping to get early appropriate intervention that helps redirect young people. The provision suggested in Bill C-4 would result in counterproductive delays and added regulations to that. We suggest that you leave well enough alone in terms of extrajudicial measures and sanctions and not incorporate them, on the grounds that these moves would be counterproductive to the objective of early appropriate intervention with young people who get in trouble with the law.
The fifth area is adult sentences for young offenders. Another good piece of Bill C-4 is putting the onus back on crown prosecutors rather than on the defendants of young people, but requiring crown prosecutors to consider adult sentences for all violent offences and report why they are not recommending them is an unnecessary complication to the current act. Leaving that as discretion is a better way to get what is the highest goal, which is early and appropriate treatment rather than adding complications that are likely to result in delays. We would also like to highlight that allowing provinces to set different ages for consideration of adult sentences contravenes the basic provision of equitable treatment for all children under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In 2003 Canada was asked by the UN committee to review how it ensures equitable treatment in a number of areas. It's a request that has not yet been addressed in Canada's third and fourth report to the committee. The federal government bears the obligation of ensuring equitable treatment of children across the country. That needs to be part of Canada's commitment to improve its implementation of international obligations. Parliament should not now pass a law that further enshrines inequitable treatment. In 2003 the UN committee recommended that Canada amend its youth justice law to ensure that no person under 18 is tried as an adult.
We make specific recommendations that are in line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The sixth area we want to address is the place of detention. Again, a good aspect of Bill C-4 requires that youth serve their sentences in youth facilities. We would just add that there should be some requirements as to what constitutes a youth facility. The convention says that it must take account of the needs of persons of his or her age. That's not always true in the facilities across Canada. Right now, there are really no guidelines for that.
The final area is publication of names. We appreciate again that Bill C-4 is complying with the Supreme Court judgment about the onus of proof in the publication of names, but we would ask for review of this provision in light of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, paragraph 40(2)(b), which states that every child has a right to have his privacy fully respected.
Finally, our submission lists for you the recommendations that the UN committee made to Canada in 2003. When you finish with Bill C-4, I hope this committee will take the time to consider what has been suggested to Canada and look at how we can improve our youth justice system to be in line with developing international standards.
Thank you.
Merri-Lee Hanson
View Merri-Lee Hanson Profile
Merri-Lee Hanson
2010-06-10 11:39
Sure.
And when crime does happen, we need to know how we can rehabilitate and reintegrate the young offenders once they have served their sentences. The NBASW recommends that there be a renewed investment in community-based preventive approaches. It is generally accepted that the more you spend at the beginning on prevention efforts, the more the benefits in the long term will surpass the initial investments.
Second, the NBASW recommends that greater investments be made in treating young offenders with mental health and/or substance abuse issues. For example, I strongly urge the committee to examine the Ashley Smith report by respected child and youth advocate Bernard Richard.
The Honourable Rob Nicholson reported that Bill C-4 is a balanced approach that includes elements of prevention, enforcement, and rehabilitation; however, as we discussed previously, the NBASW believes that amendments in some areas, and specifically those on rehabilitation, are insufficient.
As a social worker, I work with vulnerable people in our community. This is the nature of our health profession. In their approach to necessary legislation, social workers strive to provide a balanced approach that considers all factors of an individual's adherence to the laws that guide how we live as Canadians. The Nunn report is often referred to as one of the guiding forces of the amendments being put forward. Mr. Nicholson himself stated, however, that this bill goes considerably beyond what was in the Nunn report. He has stated that this bill is directed towards a certain type of individual and a certain type of crime. Front-line social workers are concerned that those towards whom this bill is not specifically directed will suffer the consequences of a more punitive approach.
It is important to see that this amendment will not address the impulsivity of young persons or their intellectual capacity to see and predict the consequences of their actions. Since the inception of the Juvenile Delinquents Act, the early history of youth justice in Canada has stressed the importance of seeing a young person not as a criminal, but as a misdirected individual. The focus has been on considering the factors that contributed to criminal behaviour rather than on punishing the youth. Although this has moved toward a more balanced and judicial approach over the years, the move towards utilizing denunciation and deterrence turns its back on considering those social factors that so often play a role in youth criminal activity.
We must retain the consideration that because of their lack of maturity, young people require special considerations. We must be able to get young people's attention in order to create an environment for change. It is important to recognize that it is extremely rare that a punitive approach to poor behaviour creates change. There are no skills taught by incarceration.
Owing to individual factors, a small cluster of youth will respond to the recommendations being made; however, that does not take into account the real reasons young people often get involved in the criminal justice system in the first place, which include family conflicts, mental health, and/or developmental difficulties or trauma.
Recommending the use of denunciation and deterrence in the Youth Criminal Justice Act goes against what mental health and child advocates work for day in and day out across this country. Social workers often speak of stigma, the stigma of living in poverty or of having a mental illness; in this case, it is the stigma that comes with involvement in the legal system. By making amendments that may potentially increase the undesirable effects of the youth criminal justice system on young people, we are not creating a system focused on rehabilitation.
In the end, I want to caution against the development of legislative changes that are based on extreme cases. The case of Sébastien, for whom the bill is named, illustrates my point. Using this extreme case to name such a bill promotes emotions rather than a debate of the merits of the amendments. I believe the development of social and economic policies needs to be debated from a perspective that is sound and balanced, but using extreme cases to advance the rationale for changing the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as seems to be happening in this situation, will not result in good legislation.
Again, on behalf of the social workers of New Brunswick, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to our recommendations.
View Brian Murphy Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to thank all the witnesses. Mr. Richard is with us. Here we have the report on the Ashley Smith case and that of Howard Sapers, which concerns the same case. It's good work. I want to thank Mr. Richard for that.
I'd like to make a few comments to start with.
We at the committee are struggling with what good changes to make to the YCJA. Many of them are in the Nunn commission report, which is being used as a raison d'être for the review. It's important to underline that six of the 34 recommendations dealt with toughening the YCJA, and this act addresses only some of them. That is the point of departure for the discussion here. Many of the other points are debatable and we've heard evidence on them, but I'm going get the overall view from this panel of witnesses, and I'll start with Maître Richard.
What we're not understanding as a committee so far is that there is a difference between adults and youth. It's the raison d'être for a YCJA. As Ms. Vandergrift has said, it's based on the UN convention, so we have to start with that. But evidence-based, for people here who are in the trenches.... Professor Doob has mentioned that changes with respect to specific deterrents, for instance, don't work with youth because, in his words, “they will not foresee in the same manner that an imaginative adult might the consequences of their actions ab initio”.
He also cleverly puts out the idea that individual deterrents introduced in these amendments give the false promise to the public that the judge, through sentencing, can accomplish the individual deterrents with youth, because data suggest that youth are different and don't react to specific deterrents the same way adults do.
Finally, we heard evidence that some youth might use the publication ban as a badge of courage, a badge of honour--something they like. So lifting the publication ban might in fact be inimical to the intention.
So the questions are generally on those aspects of how youth are different. What would the panel say to that?
Particularly there are two things, Maître Richard. You have said to this committee that Maître Bilodeau has done a report for the round tables that took place throughout the country. We don't have the benefit of those reports. We've asked for them, but we don't have them. If you tell me those reports have been written but not yet published or forwarded, I have a serious problem with the two parliamentary secretaries who are here as to why we don't have them. But I'll take that up later.
When you were part of that round table in August 2008 in Moncton—Moncton's the centre of most good things sometimes, I think—
A voice: Or Cap-Pelé.
Mr. Brian Murphy: Or Cap-Pelé, peut-être.
What were the negative points about these amendments?
Second is your work with Ashley Smith on mental health. I would like you to flesh out the good work by Judge Brien in New Brunswick and the Ontario pilot project, which the government should be encouraged to move forward with. That is specifically a youth mental health court pilot project.
Thank you.
Miguel LeBlanc
View Miguel LeBlanc Profile
Miguel LeBlanc
2010-06-10 12:05
Our organization itself did not attend specifically, but I do know that some social workers who are our members did. However, I have to say I'm very concerned to hear that there is actually a report that is supposedly published, and the committee here, which is tasked with defining and developing new changes to amend the legislation on the Youth Criminal Justice Act, doesn't even have a copy of that.
I think it's important to say that in the front lines, among the majority, there seems to be an understanding among health professionals that just putting youth in jail and turning the key and not providing the services in front will actually be unproductive, because in the long run, when they go back into the community after they have served their sentence, if they don't have the proper services at the front end the likelihood is they may reoffend. The mental health courts' success rate, which is 85% in the sense of youth not reoffending, I think is a superb statistic that hopefully the committee will further examine closely.
Thank you.
View Serge Ménard Profile
BQ (QC)
Perhaps your colleagues from the other provinces should be informed on this point. The Institut Philippe-Pinel isn't an institute that focuses on young offenders. It devotes itself to anyone who has committed crimes because they suffer from mental illness. As you say, it's first of all a hospital, and as a hospital that is concerned with this type of behaviour, you also take in young people who very much need medical care.
View Daniel Petit Profile
CPC (QC)
Earlier you raised an extremely important point, and I believe we've been hearing the same argument from the start. You and the witnesses as a whole always use the term "mental illness". You talk about a youth who is suffering from a mental illness.
Does that mean that when the judges in New Brunswick send people to prison rather than to a psychiatric asylum?
Bernard Richard
View Bernard Richard Profile
Bernard Richard
2010-06-10 12:17
That definitely happens. The research findings are clear: increasingly, not only the young population, but also the adult population—
View Daniel Petit Profile
CPC (QC)
But I'm talking about what happens in your province. My time is very limited. Does that mean that, when a psychiatrist tells New Brunswick judges that a youth is suffering from a mental illness, they send that young person to prison rather than to a psychiatric asylum?
Bernard Richard
View Bernard Richard Profile
Bernard Richard
2010-06-10 12:18
I work right across Canada; I have colleagues across Canada. I'm not just a child advocate, but also an ombudsman, or "protecteur du citoyen". My field unfortunately extends from the cradle to the grave. But, since there is a shortage of mental health services—that was clearly established by Mr. Sapers as well in the case of the federal prisons—there are increasing numbers of inmates suffering from mental health problems in our prisons. The findings are clear: we are unable to offer the services they need, as a result of which they reoffend.
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