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View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:58 [p.29446]
Mr. Speaker, that is why we are proposing to remove these terms. Even so, of course, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will continue to apply to everything the Correctional Service does.
The other amendment that we are proposing to partially retain has to do with strip searches. The Senate is proposing to prohibit any strip searches conducted as a matter of routine and we wholeheartedly endorse that objective. It would not be pleasant for any of us to be strip-searched.
People in prison have often experienced trauma, including sexual abuse. Strip searches can cause them to relive that trauma and can even deter people from participating in programs like work release if they know they will be strip-searched on their way out or on their way back in. The Correctional Service should do everything possible to minimize strip searches.
That is why Bill C-83 would allow for the use of body scanners similar to what exists in airports as recommended by the United Nations. Rather than a blanket prohibition though, the government is proposing that the law require that Correctional Service use a body scanner instead of a strip search whenever one is available. That accounts for the fact that it will take some time for body scanners to be installed in every institution and it recognizes that sometimes machines break down. In those situations, correctional staff still need to be confident that inmates are not smuggling drugs, weapons or other contraband. That is important not only for staff safety but for the safety of other inmates as well. As body scanners become more available in federal institutions, strip searches should become increasingly rare.
I will now turn to the proposals from the Senate with which we respectfully disagree.
To begin with, there are two relatively similar ones that would take existing concepts used for indigenous corrections and expand them to other unspecified groups. This would apply to section 81 of the act, which allows for community-run healing lodges and section 84, which allows for community-supported release. Both of these concepts have proven valuable and successful in an indigenous context and the idea of expanding them is indeed worthy of serious consideration.
Certainly, there are other overrepresented groups in federal custody, particularly Canadians of African descent. Our government is wholly in favour of examining whether strategies that have worked for indigenous corrections can be successfully applied in other contexts and with other communities. We are opposing this amendment not because we disagree with the principle but because the serious consideration and examination I mentioned has not happened yet.
Before moving forward with something like this, there should be extensive consultations to determine which groups would be interested. Where does the capacity exist? And how the experience of the relatively few indigenous communities and organizations that run section 81 facilities is or is not applicable more broadly.
It would be a major policy change and potentially a positive one, but the study and analysis should come before we change the law, not after.
We also respectfully disagree with an amendment that would require the Correctional Service to approve the transfer to a provincial hospital of any inmate with a disabling mental health issue. As I mentioned earlier, in the 2018 budget, our government increased funding for external mental health beds. The use of provincial hospitals may be appropriate in some circumstances. The fact is, though, that it can be very difficult to find provincial hospitals willing and able to house and treat federal inmates. If we want to change the law without the aim of bringing about the transfer of a significant number of people from federal correctional institutions to provincial hospitals, it is imperative that we consult the provinces first.
It is also important for the sake of preserving the clinical independence of the health care providers who work in corrections that the law not pre-empt their professional judgment. The law already allows for these kinds of transfers where possible and appropriate and where recommended by medical professionals. At the same time, we are dramatically bolstering mental health resources within the federal correctional service so that inmates receive high-quality mental health care wherever they serve their sentence. We are also proposing not to accept an amendment that would allow sentences to be shortened on application to a court, due to acts or omissions by correctional personnel deemed to constitute unfairness in the administration of a sentence.
Once again, the goal of deterring improper conduct by correctional staff is commendable. There are a great many people working in federal corrections who are committed professionals doing excellent work. Anything less should be deterred, denounced and the persons potentially disciplined or dismissed. Inmates who are negatively impacted by inappropriate conduct on the part of correctional staff already have recourse, in the form of grievances or lawsuits, for example. The idea of retroactively shortening court-imposed sentences in these circumstances would be a major policy change. Before enacting this kind of provision, there should be consultations with stakeholders, including victims groups as well as provincial partners and other actors in the justice system. Parliamentarians in both chambers should have the opportunity to study it at length. It is not something that should be tacked on at the end of a legislative process that did not contemplate this kind of approach.
We also respectfully disagree with the recommendation to have the new system reviewed by parliamentary committees after two years rather than five. This House added a five-year review to the bill, and that is a reasonable time frame. It gives the new system time to get off the ground and be fully implemented and that will actually make Parliament's review more meaningful and impactful when it happens. In the interim, the minister will soon be appointing an advisory panel to monitor implementation of the SIUs as they roll out. That panel will be able to visit sites, meet with inmates and staff, provide feedback to the commissioner and sound the alarm if something is really not working out as it should. Of course, parliamentary committees do not need legislation to tell them what to study. Even without a legal requirement, if committees of this House or of the other place want to review the SIU system two years from now, they are perfectly free to do so.
Finally, the government respectfully disagrees with the proposal to institute judicial review of all SIU placements after 48 hours. Bill C-83 already has a strong system of binding external oversight.
Independent external decision-makers appointed by the minister will review any case where someone in an SIU has not received the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row, or 15 days out of 30. They will also review cases where the Correctional Service is not following the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. They will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for any inmate still in the SIU at that point. That is in addition to regular and robust internal review at five, 30 and 60 days.
Simply put, judicial review of SIU placements is unnecessary. Colleagues do not have to take my word for it. At the public safety committee, the correctional investigator supported using the independent chairperson model to oversee SIUs. That is a model that uses ministerial appointees, not judges.
Plus, while no court has considered the new SIU system proposed by this bill, courts in Ontario and B.C. have rendered decisions about the kind of oversight they deem necessary for the current system of administrative segregation. In B.C., the court found that oversight of administrative segregation must be external to the Correctional Service but did not say that judicial review was required. In Ontario, the court actually found that internal review was preferable, saying, “The reviewing tribunal can have adequate independence without having all the attributes of a judge.”
Beyond being unnecessary, requiring judicial review of all SIU placements longer than 48 hours would have considerable impacts on provincial superior courts. There would need to be new judges appointed to handle the caseload. Those judges would be paid for out of federal funds and they would require support staff paid for by the provinces. There would also be changes required to the Judges Act, as well as to corresponding provincial legislation. In other words, accepting this amendment would mean imposing legislative and financial requirements on the provinces without so much as a phone call to check and see if they are on board.
If judicial review were the only way to ensure that this new system works properly and to provide the procedural safeguards required, then one could make an argument that all of these complications, making legislative amendments across the country, finding the money in federal and provincial coffers, and fast-tracking the appointment of a bunch of new judges would just have to somehow get done. However, judicial review is far from the only option. There must absolutely be robust oversight of the new system proposed by Bill C-83 and review by independent external decision-makers meets that need.
I thank all hon. senators for their efforts and their contributions. At this point, the bill truly is the product of the Parliament of Canada as a whole.
If the version we are sending back to the Senate receives royal assent, it will be a piece of legislation drafted by the government, amended by Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Party members, and amended by our colleagues in the Senate, as well.
For all of our frequent disagreements, this bill is a good example of the strength of the legislative process in our parliamentary democracy. Most importantly, it will significantly improve Canada's correctional system, enhancing the safety of the people who work and live in federal institutions and improving the system's effectiveness when it comes to rehabilitation and safe, successful reintegration.
I look forward to the passage and the implementation of Bill C-83.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:13 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. This bill is being offered as a product of all of Parliament, while we reject any of the substantive amendments that the Senate is bringing forward.
Certainly, I do not want to be an apologist for the Senate, with some of the legislation it is holding up. In particular, Senator Pate, who worked on this, is someone who comes from the community of civil society, of folks who have worked on these issues for a long time. The reason I say that is because the bill was panned by every witness who came to committee. In fact, the Ontario Superior Court, when it offered the extension to the government, which has allowed this unconstitutional practice to fester for four years now, said that there was nothing in its mind that seemed to indicate there would be any remedial effort brought forward.
What I find really frustrating and baffling about the bill is that ultimately it is just a rebrand, and I am not the only one saying that. Many others have said it as well, including Senator Pate.
I want to ask the member a question. Judicial review has been offered. It was offered years ago, even decades ago, by Justice Arbour when she was looking at some of these issues. The reason why was because we were essentially changing someone's sentence, we were extending someone's sentence by adding additional punishment through the system.
Does the member not recognize that? If the government truly believes there will be an undue burden on provincial courts, is that not because the practice has been used in such an abusive way that it would require that additional judicial oversight?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:15 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is always someone who contributes in committee work, and I personally appreciate the contributions he has made to this bill.
As always, on the question of judicial review versus independent oversight, there are limited resources that could actually do the work. The government has to decide where those limited resources will be used and whether anybody else can do this work.
It has been the determination that these independent decision-makers can be in the position to do this work without imposing an additional workload at the provincial and federal court levels.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I chair the public accounts committee. There are some significant changes in this bill.
When we look at the supplementary estimates, $448 million were given to CSC. However, when we have tried to find out what the financial implications are, the cost of all the measures in the bill, we can not get an answer from the government.
The parliamentary secretary is privy to those briefings with the department. I know that typically those answers are given by the department.
If we have scanners, and the parliamentary secretary talked about limited, I wonder, and I think Canadians wonder as well, what the costs of the bill would be.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:17 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, this is really a considerable move forward when it comes to the use of administrative segregation into a structured intervention unit. There will be need for infrastructure changes. There will be need for personnel changes. There will be need for programming changes and mental health care.
That number is that $448 million have been put into the latest budget to ensure we actually have the money to do this well. However, it is going to be shared over a series of requirements, everything we need to implement a structured intervention unit. We are going to do it right. Involving all the stakeholders in these decisions as we move forward will be very important.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-19 22:18 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, for my hon. friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety,, I recognize that the bill before us would make improvements in the situation of solitary confinement. I am particularly grateful to her colleague, the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington, for working so collaboratively on the committee and helping some of my amendments get through.
However, I am very troubled by the rejection of some of the Senate amendments. I am sure the parliamentary secretary is aware of the letter from Senator Pate to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, which was shared with many members. It spoke to something that is quite compelling, which is unusual when legislation goes through this place. We already have a foreshadowing from the Ontario Court of Appeal that the legislation will not be found to be constitutional.
The citation is from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, where the Ontario Court of Appeal comments in relation to the five-day review. The key sentence reads, “Nothing more has been done to remedy the breach”, and this is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the interim, “and it remains unclear how Bill C-83 will remedy it if enacted.”
The Senate amendments and the ones that the hon. parliamentary secretary referenced must go through. We can get the bill faster by accepting these amendments from the Senate. The administrative objections that I heard from the parliamentary secretary do not measure up to the imperative of ensuring the bill is constitutional.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:20 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her caring about this, for her compassion, and also the hon. member to my right.
This matters. This is not an easy thing to do. We are making significant change to the administrative segregation regime in Canada. We need to do it. The court has told us that we need to do it. There has been a letter explaining why this new way of doing administrative segregation is going to meet the court requirements.
We need to move forward with this to make it happen. Then we will be in a position of having a better chance to help people have a successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-06-19 22:21 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, because we are near the end of the session, I want to thank my staff, Brad, Erica, Susan, Ellen, Alisha and formerly Denis Sabourin for their great work.
Also, anyone in the House who has questioned the existence of the Senate, which we call the other place here, this is a great example of where it has provided a number of suggested amendments and the government is accepting a number of them. This has happened since Confederation, where laws in Canada have been approved like this.
With the structured intervention, there would be significantly more time away from the cell and more time for programming, etc. Does the bill direct Correctional Service Canada to record these times to ensure they are followed. If it does not, are there penalties in the bill for CSC?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:22 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, the answer to the first question is yes. There is a requirement to record meaningful human contact and time out of the cell, and it needs to be during reasonable day hours. It cannot be during the night. It cannot be at other inopportune times. It must be at normal operating times.
On whether there is a penalty for CSC if it does not provide that, I think there will be recourse. CSC needs to record that time and will be encouraged to meet those standards.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, to go back to the last answer, I would like to quote for the parliamentary secretary Dr. Adelina Iftene who is a law professor at Dalhousie University. Following these amendments and the response to the work that Senate Pate was doing, she said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards...The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement.
Do the Liberals not believe that living up to the UN standard is the very least they could do, but they have not?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, the UN standard is very important, but there is also a requirement to actually be able to fulfill that. When we talk about meaningful human contact, we are also talking about the kind of programming the offenders would need. That was the problem with the old system.
If inmates were in administrative segregation, they lost so much access to the kind of programs that would help them succeed, that were would help them move past the position where they were. That kind of mental health programming, that kind of literacy programming, that kind of addiction counselling program will now be available to inmates.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to seek unanimous consent for this speaking slot to be a regular 20-and-10 speaking slot, rather than unlimited time, and to split the time with the member for Yellowhead. We have unlimited time slots and would ask for unanimous consent to split the time so my friend from Yellowhead can share some of his stories of the Correctional Service.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-06-19 22:25 [p.29449]
Does the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot have the unanimous consent of the House to regard this time slot as a 20 and 10 for the purpose of splitting his time?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I thank the chamber for doing that.
This undoubtedly will be the last time I ever speak in this place. As I rise on this night, I want to thank the throng of people that have come out to hear this speech.
I rise this evening to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
Just as we fundamentally opposed the bill in its original form, we oppose the government's motion respecting the Senate amendments.
We on this side of the House believe that this legislation has the potential of making prisons more dangerous both for offenders and for correctional officers. I will get into that in a bit.
Drumheller Institution, a medium security facility, is located within my riding of Battle River—Crowfoot. Over the many years I have represented this riding, I have developed a very good rapport with many of the good people who work there.
Correctional officers contact my constituency office on a regular basis, asking for assistance in resolving cases and issues they have within and with their institution. I would never support a bill that could potentially endanger their lives any more than they already are, given that they are employed in an inherently hazardous occupation. Currently, my office has 20 active files and 50 inactive files, but also unresolved files from Drumheller correctional workers with respect to pay issues due to the Phoenix pay system, as well as other issues. They are not alone. Nearly two-thirds of public servants have unresolved pay issues more than three years after the Phoenix system was launched.
Now the national union president representing correctional officers is raising serious concerns about the very real possibility of some new measures taking place within the institution. One of them is the first supervised drug injection site for prisoners. The Correctional Service of Canada has neither confirmed nor denied this is about to happen by the end of the month.
As National President Jeff Wilkins told the National Post in an article that appeared on June 9, “The correctional officers are dead set against the prison needle-exchange and the current way it's being rolled out.” It is a program that he says is unsafe for guards, as they are responsible for distributing needles to prisoners in their cells, a scheme that has done nothing to stop needle sharing and defies reason in that people in prison should not have access to those drugs.
One of my constituents wrote me, “As a Correctional Officer, I am opposed to the proposed Needle Exchange program, which is definitely defeating the purpose of the whole anti-drug thing that we were shooting for in jail. Is there any way that I and other co-workers can express our concerns with our MP?”
l told him that I was definitely open to hearing and discussing these concerns with him and his colleagues. I could not assure him, however, that the Liberal government would listen. I did in fact tell him that I would bring his concerns to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness but was not at all confident that he would be receptive to those concerns.
After 19 years in this place and a number of years as our party's public safety critic for the official opposition in 2001 until about 2005, I have learned that when it comes to justice, under Liberal governments inmates and their rights take precedence over victims and correctional officers' rights.
For the 19 years that I have been in this place, I have repeatedly stood in the House fighting for victims' rights, fighting for changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to end such things as statutory release and promoting the idea of protection of society as a guiding principle in our justice system.
I oppose conditional sentences as originally prescribed by the Liberals, which saw rapists and other violent offenders serve their sentences at home. My constituents back me up on that.
I am equally opposed to needle exchange programs in our correctional institutions, and I am opposed to injection sites. I wholeheartedly agree with the union president that rather than providing needle exchanges and designated sites within prisons for inmates to shoot up, we should perhaps have medical facilities closer to these prisons to deal with the drug overdoses that may result.
So much more should and can be done to stop the drug trade within the correctional facilities, which is leading to overdose, to death and to the continued gang wars that take place within our prisons. Canadians would agree that it defies reason that drugs make their way into the prisons, not to mention the huge amount of drugs and number of needles that circulate.
This is certainly not a new phenomenon. This has been going on for years. The Liberals' only solution is to give the inmates what they want. I disagree.
I fully understand that many inmates are drug addicts and that many of them are in prison as a result of criminal behaviour related to their addiction. They need help. They do not need more drugs, especially drugs that are bought or bartered for within prison. The fact that drugs cannot be stopped from entering our prisons certainly is a blight on the reputation of the Correctional Service of Canada.
As I pointed out this year when I last spoke to this bill, the Correctional Service of Canada certainly has been the subject of much criticism over the last number of years. In that speech, I mentioned one of the fall reports of the Auditor General of Canada, in 2017. It was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of the Auditor General's report was this:
[to determine] whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions, and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody—including Indigenous women offenders—that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.
We heard our parliamentary secretary talk about correctional programs tonight, and this bill also deals with indigenous women offenders.
As noted by the Auditor General:
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.
The report states:
Overall, we found that Correctional Service Canada had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders.... As a result, some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels....
Furthermore, and most relevant to our debate here this evening, the Auditor General concluded:
We found that Correctional Service Canada had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.
I also spoke about report 6 of the fall 2018 Auditor General report on community supervision of offenders, in which the Auditor General found that while the number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing, the Correctional Service of Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community. Despite the growing backlog and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, the Correctional Service of Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
The Auditor General also found that the Correctional Service of Canada did not properly manage offenders under community supervision. Parole officers did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have, nor did parole officers always monitor offenders' compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.
I continue today to implore the Liberal government to focus on ensuring that the Correctional Service of Canada fully meets its mandate. The safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release. Given the findings of the Office of the Auditor General, I believe that uneasiness with respect to safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83.
I implore the current government to start thinking about those who find themselves in danger's way daily by implementing measures and policies to protect them. If it only took the time to consult them, I am confident their ideas, based on years of experience, would ensure Correctional Services Canada would be able to fulfill its mandate.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak tonight. I look forward to any questions.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 22:36 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, while we are debating Bill C-83 tonight, the hon. member spent a great deal of time talking about corrections officers and the needle exchange program, which has absolutely nothing to do with this bill.
He mentioned that there has been no consultation with corrections officers. I would like to correct the record on that. I have met with them numerous time and the minister just recently spoke at their meeting in Calgary. Quite frankly, if we had not had the draconian cuts to corrections that were made over the last 10 years, our corrections officers would be much better prepared in their daily efforts at work. I have the utmost respect for corrections officers.
My question to the hon. member has to do with the Senate amendments, which is what the debate is about tonight. Will his party be supporting them?
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