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View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 23:27 [p.29457]
Mr. Speaker, Parliament has been studying Bill C-83 for the last nine months. Its essence and objective are the same now as they were when the bill was introduced: to provide a way to separate inmates from the general population in an institution when doing so is necessary for safety reasons, without cutting off those inmates from rehabilitative interventions, programs, mental health care and meaningful human contact.
The main feature of the bill is the replacement of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs. In SIUs, inmates would get a minimum of four hours out of the cell every day, twice as much as they currently get in administrative segregation, and for the first time, there would be a legal entitlement to meaningful human contact of at least two hours every day.
In addition to these legislative changes, the government is investing $450 million so that the Correctional Service will be able to hire the staff necessary to provide programs, interventions and mental health care in SIUs and to do it all safely. This investment is critical to the success of the SIUs.
During my conversations with both the Union of Safety and Justice Employees and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, as well as during visits I made to corrections facilities in Edmonton and Saskatoon last year, something I heard loud and clear was that there was a need for meaningful investments in corrections to atone for 10 years of cuts by the previous Conservative government so that we can ensure the best rehabilitative outcomes for inmates, and just as importantly, ensure the safety of those who work in corrections.
My friend Stan Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, wrote an article in May 2019, and I would like to read from it now:
Correctional Service Canada's use of solitary confinement must change. The long-standng practice of managing difficult offenders by [the use of]...solitary confinement is totally unworkable. As Canada's courts have said, it is also profoundly inhumane. Men and women serving federal time are broken and desperate human beings in need of meaningful contact, not further isolation.
At the same time, federal prisons are fraught with danger. The pressure cooker environment and threats of violence lead some prisoners to seek time away from the general population for their own sanity and safety.
Other offenders with a strong propensity for violence and few coping skills simply cannot manage long periods with others without posing a real threat. In a system with few safety valves, administrative segregation (or solitary confinement) has tragically become one of the few.
The new legislation proposes significant changes to solitary. Bill C-83 definitely won't solve everything, but it's a worthy next step. It will mandate that Correctional Service Canada dedicate the appropriate human resources for sustained rehabilitative efforts. Until now, the opportunity for parole officers, program officers, and teachers to spend quality time with the highest needs offenders has been minimal, if existent.
It will render offenders separated from the general population a priority, instead of an after-thought, within Corrections. It will enforce better reporting and accountability mechanisms.
I believe the proposed segregation units will benefit from independent oversight outside of Corrections, as is proposed by the Bill. This is crucial. But to ensure that the Bill does what is intended, the Correctional Service needs to glean the ongoing wisdom of those on the front lines of rehabilitating offenders every day....
A commitment to keep all Canadians safe means serious investments in rehabilitating all offenders in federal prisons, 90 percent of whom will be released back into the community, ready or not. I am hopeful that Bill C-83 passes so that the real work can begin.
That is the end of the article.
I want to thank Stan for his years of service to corrections, for his assistance with my understanding of our corrections system and for providing all of us with the critical perspective of those working in corrections.
Let me return to Bill C-83. The amendments made at the public safety committee last fall addressed practical concerns raised by certain witnesses to help ensure that the new system would function as intended.
The committee heard from indigenous groups, including Dr. Allen Benson and the Native Women's Association of Canada, who called for changes to the definition of indigenous organizations to ensure that it properly captured the diverse range of indigenous groups and organizations working on these issues across Canada.
Following the discussion, the committee was able to unanimously approve an amendment that called for indigenous organizations to predominantly have indigenous leadership. We also heard about the need for CSC to seek advice, particularly in matters of mental health and behaviours, from indigenous spiritual leaders or elders. I was pleased that my amendment to that effect was adopted at committee.
The bill has changed in significant ways since it was first introduced. I am proud to work for a government that is amenable to feedback and was receptive to amendments, informed by witness testimony that we heard at the public safety committee, that make the bill even stronger.
At report stage, we made a major additional amendment, one that I am incredibly proud to have introduced, that creates a mechanism to provide binding, independent, external oversight of SIUs.
The Senate has sent the bill back to us with some additional proposals. I appreciate the intent of all of the Senate's proposals and I am glad the government is accepting several of them, in whole or in part.
Those that we are accepting include the following: mandatory mental health assessments for all inmates within 30 days of admission and within 24 hours of transfer to an SIU; adding precision to the section of the bill that requires the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors in decisions affecting indigenous inmates; establishing the consideration of alternatives to incarceration, where appropriate, as a guiding principle of the Correctional Service; and minimizing the use of strip searches.
Other proposals from the Senate are interesting ideas, but they really should be studied as stand-alone items rather than included as amendments to this bill. For example, the idea of expanding the use of measures developed for indigenous corrections to non-indigenous inmates might be valid. When I visited the Pê Sâkâstêw and Buffalo Sage healing lodges in Edmonton last year, I saw first-hand the incredible impact that the programming in these institutions was having on outcomes for inmates who are serving their sentences there.
At Buffalo Sage, I was honoured to take part in a circle with Elder Vicky and hearing from strong female offenders, women who have survived what life has thrown at them and are now on a healing journey, immersed in their culture and on the road to rehabilitation and reintegration. These were women who had escaped violent abusers and themselves ended up in prison, women whose lack of housing and poverty led them to the criminal justice system, and women who lost their children to the foster system. One individual at Buffalo Sage shared with me that for the first time since entering the correction system, at Buffalo Sage she felt that she was able to heal.
I also had the privilege of visiting Pê Sâkâstêw, a men's healing lodge, where I had a memorable meeting with a 39-year-old indigenous man who first came into the justice system at 12 as a young offender. After a life in and out of jail, a life that included abuse and addictions, he was serving a sentence for robbery and now was on a successful healing journey. He lives as a man in prison and a woman outside, and prefers the “he” pronoun. He had reconnected with his community for the first time in 20 years.
I have a lot more that I could say in support of healing lodges and their impact on correctional outcomes for indigenous offenders, but a lot of work would have to go into determining how the Senate's vision would be executed, including what aspects could be borrowed from indigenous programming, what elements would have to be redesigned, what kind of community support exists and where the funding would come from without diminishing from the services provided to the indigenous prison population, which we know is the fastest-growing prison population in Canada.
Another example from the Senate is a proposal designed to deter misconduct by correctional employees and to support inmates affected by it.
It is important to point out that the vast majority of correctional staff are trained professionals doing a very hard job with skill and dedication. They are individuals for whom I have the utmost respect, who work in a job that gets little in the way of accolades from Canadians. Whenever there is an issue with someone working in corrections, we must absolutely address those situations. However, in my opinion, the Senate's proposal of shortening inmates' sentences because of the conduct of correctional personnel is not the right approach.
The Senate has also proposed an amendment that would require the authorization of a provincial superior court for any SIU placement longer than 48 hours.
Once more, I understand and share the objective of ensuring that SIUs are properly used. Robust oversight will help see to it that SIUs will be a last resort, that placements in SIUs will be as short as possible, and that inmates in SIUs are receiving all the time out of cell and meaningful human contact to which the bill entitles them.
It is important to note that in the context of administrative segregation, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has found that placements must be examined by the fifth working day by a reviewer who is “completely outside the circle of influence of the person whose decision is being reviewed” and ”able to substitute its decision for that of the person whose decision is being reviewed.” The court was explicit that the reviewer need not be external to the Correctional Service Canada and, in fact, recommending “an administrative review provided by the Correctional Service of Canada.” While this finding was specifically in relation to administrative segregation and not SIUs, Bill C-83 would create a review process for SIUs consistent with what the court required for administrative segregation.
Under Bill C-83, SIU placements will be reviewed by the fifth working day by the institutional head who does not report to the initial decision-maker and who has the authority to overturn the initial decision. Importantly, whether in the context of administrative segregation or SIUs, no court has required judicial oversight and no court has set 48 hours as a timeline for review of any kind.
I would remind the House that robust oversight was discussed at length at the public safety committee, and has already been added to the bill in my report stage amendment.
Independent external decision-makers would be appointed by the minister to review any case where an inmate in an SIU does not get 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 situations where Correctional Service Canada does not accept the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. In addition, they will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for inmates still there at that point.
The determinations of independent external decision-makers will be binding and reviewable by the Federal Court. All of that external oversight is on top of regular reviews within the Correctional Service, beginning on the fifth day of placement in an SIU.
There are several advantages to using independent adjudicators rather than judges to provide oversight in this context. For one thing, our courts already have a heavy case load. Giving them additional responsibilities would mean giving them additional resources, namely increasing the number of Superior Court judges, which involves changes to legislation and making budgetary allocations both at federal and provincial levels.
That raises another problem. There are provincial Superior Courts. We should not be adding to their workload to this extent without engaging in thorough consultations with the provinces.
Also, the flexibility of a system of independent adjudicators is a big advantage in this context. A few of them could be stationed in different parts of the country and could be reactive to needs in different provinces. With judges, they are appointed permanently to a specific court and only deal with cases in their jurisdiction. Even for the current system of administrative segregation, the courts have not said that a judicial review is required. The Ontario Superior Court actually expressed a preference for non-judicial review, so decisions could be made faster.
Ultimately, while I appreciate the intent of the Senate's proposal about judicial review, an independent adjudication system already in Bill C-83 can meet the need for oversight without the drawbacks of using the courts.
I appreciate all the Senate's contributions and hard work. This bill has gotten a lot of attention from parliamentarians over the last nine months, and rightly so.
We entrust Correctional Services with the task of carrying out sentences that are supposed to be a deterrent to and punishment for criminal activity and we entrust it with the physical separation of potentially dangerous people from the rest of Canadian society. At the same time, we charge the Correctional Service with the rehabilitation through measures including behaviour counselling, anger management programs, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, education and vocational training.
In a country like Canada, we demand that these tasks all be carried out humanely and with respect, even for the rights of people who have done terrible things, and in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-83 would help ensure that all these goals can be achieved.
When I spoke to this bill at report stage, I said that I felt strongly that the legislation, combined with the additional investments from our government, would transform our correctional system. That is why I support the legislation and the motion before us today. I urge my colleagues to do the same.
This is the last time I will be speaking in the House before we rise. I would like to acknowledge my staff who are present today: Hilary Lawson and Conor Lewis. This legislation benefited from the input of Hilary, and it would not be the legislation that it is right now without her hard work. Conor has worked with me on the status of women committee. I can quite confidently say that I have the best staff on the Hill. I thank them both for all of their efforts.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the members of the public safety committee who are here tonight. I am sorry I do not know their ridings, but they have both spoken tonight. They have both been incredible members to work with. It is rare that we see members work across the aisle as well as we did on the public safety committee on issues that were by nature very controversial. We always found a way to work together, and even when we did not agree we always did it in a very agreeable way. I would like to commend them for their work, as well as my Liberal colleagues on the committee. We got a lot of good work done, and this bill is one that I am very proud of. I will be going back to my riding knowing that we have passed legislation that will truly be transformative for our corrections system.
View Todd Doherty Profile
View Todd Doherty Profile
2019-03-01 10:32 [p.26007]
Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Durham brought up a very valuable point. It will frame how my 10 minutes will move forward on the topic of Bill C-83.
I am glad to see that our hon. colleague across the way, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is not at Rideau Hall right now, being shuffled away. It is nice he is here with us, as the Prime Minister tries to shuffle himself out of a crisis of confidence.
That is where we are. A great emergency debate took place last night, with valuable comments from all sides.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, and I reiterate that the government has used time allocation to once again force closure to limit debate. Why is that? As we have seen time and again, if the government does not like what it is hearing or does not like the message, it is going to force closure on debate. The Liberals do not want to hear anymore.
It was on day 10 of the 2015 election that the member for Papineau told Canadians that he was going to do things differently, let debate reign and not resort to parliamentary tricks such as closure and time allocation. He said that under his government, Canadians would see the most open and transparent government in the history of our country and sunny ways.
What have we seen over the last three years? We have not necessarily seen a lot of sunshine, but have heard a lot of questions. Canadians have a lot of questions, and rightfully so. Today, we are in the middle of a crisis of confidence.
We should always arm our front-line officers, those who we trust to protect us and who serve our country and our community. We should be giving them to tools so they can fulfill their missions, come home safe and sound and remain healthy.
Bill C-83 is another attempt at being soft on crime, making things easier for those who commit the worst crimes in our society. The Liberals want Canadians to believe that these criminals are okay and that somehow solitary confinement or segregation is cruel and unusual punishment. One day these criminals get out of prison and will walk among us.
Let us consider Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, Clifford Olson, Eric McArthur, Travis Winsor and Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff. These are the types of offenders who are in solitary confinement and they are there not only for the protection of officers and other inmates, but for their own protection as well.
The minister talked about consultation, saying that the Liberals had consulted with the union of correctional officers and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The testimony we heard is considerably different from what they have said.
They purport there is support for the bill. There is support for elements in the bill, such as body scanners. However, the union of correctional officers has some serious concerns with it. In fact, the president remarked that there would be a bloodbath behind bars with the implementation of Bill C-83. He said that prisons did not have the resources now for the two hours inmates in solitary confinement were allowed to be out each day, let alone for four hours per day.
It has been said that solitary confinement is used as an administrative tool for both the safety of the officers as well as other inmates. However, 23% of offenders who are in solitary confinement are serving life sentences; 23% of offenders are serving a sentence between two years and three years less a day; and 681 offenders are serving a sentence with a “dangerous offender” designation. Dangerous offenders very likely never get out of these institutions, because they have committed some of the worst crimes.
The Liberals want people to believe the opposition is sowing the seeds of fear, but the government is soft on crime. We have seen it with Bill C-75. Convictions for serious crimes could now be punishable with just a fine. Bill C-83's intent is to bring the prison population down from 12,000.
Prominent witnesses have had serious issues with Bill C-83. They have said it is flawed. As our hon. colleague for Durham remarked, how can Canadians have confidence in any legislation moving forward?
I will go back to the testimony we heard earlier this week from the former attorney general. It was three hours and 40 minutes of powerful testimony. The Liberals are going to spin it each and every way they can. They are going to say nothing untoward happened. The former attorney general has serious concerns. She spoke truth to power in what happened. She was shuffled. She was demoted, fired. Over the course of the following weeks, the Liberals have done everything to tarnish her character, cast doubt in her testimony. This is what they do, and it is shocking.
I challenge Canadians to take a moment to listen to that testimony, three hours and 40 minutes of it. It will give them a glimpse into our country's highest office and the extent to which it is willing to go to subvert justice. It will shock them. It will strike fear into Canadians. Make no bones about it, the world is listening.
Today is not just about Bill C-83. Today is about the crisis of confidence we have in the Prime Minister, his office and indeed his entire front bench. Those in the gallery and those who are watching should pay attention and listen. If they do one thing today, I urge them to find that testimony and listen to it. Hear in her own words how the pressure was sustained. Despite saying no multiple times, there was sustained pressure for her to subvert justice. After all, the Prime Minister was going to get his way one way or the other. That is shameful.
View Randall Garrison Profile
Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.
I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.
I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.
In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.
The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.
I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.
One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.
Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.
Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.
In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.
We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.
One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.
I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.
While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.
In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.
Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.
When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.
Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.
The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.
If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.
The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.
There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.
The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.
A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.
The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.
We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.
When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.
I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.
The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.
What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.
The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.
While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.
The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.
What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.
Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a re-branding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.
Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.
Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.
The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.
Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.
Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.
I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.
Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.
As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation proposes to limit 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 expectations for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
I have the privilege of chairing the public accounts committee, and at committee, we work very closely with the Auditor General's office. We studied the reports the Auditor General released, and much of what I want to speak to today actually quotes from the Auditor General's reports.
One of those reports, in the fall of 2017 reports of the Auditor General of Canada, was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of this audit was 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.
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.”
What the Auditor General found was that, again, CSC had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders, and as a result, “some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels”. Furthermore, CSC had not implemented an appropriate tool for referring women offenders to correctional programs that were in line with their risk of reoffending, nor had they “assessed the effectiveness of its correctional programs in addressing the factors associated with a risk of reoffending”. Last, and most relevant to our debate today, the Auditor General concluded that CSC “had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.”
Paragraph 5.104 of “Report 5” revealed, “We also found that out of 18 women offenders identified with a serious mental illness with significant impairment, 7 were placed in segregation at some point during 2016.”
According to the Auditor General's report, CSC acknowledged that segregation for persons with serious mental health issues “should be limited.” I draw my colleagues' attention to the word “limited”. The AG disagreed with limited use and recommended that CSC ensure that women offenders “with serious mental illness with significant impairment are not placed in segregation” and that there be improved oversight and enhanced observation of these offenders.
Correctional Service Canada agreed with the Auditor General's recommendations, and therefore, the public accounts committee had asked in our report that by May 31, 2019, CSC provide us with a report regarding the relocation of observation cells out of segregation ranges. Obviously, this request was thwarted by the introduction of Bill C-83 on October 16, 2018, less than five months after the public accounts committee tabled our report, which would eliminate administrative segregation and establish the SIUs, or structured intervention units.
Proposed section 32 of Bill C-83 says:
The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to (a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; (b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate’s specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.
In other words, CSC is simply being compelled to do exactly what it is already mandated to do: deliver correctional programs, interventions and mental health services that respond appropriately to an offender's unique needs.
As pointed out earlier, an audit by the Office of the Auditor General revealed, with respect to women offenders, that CSC has failed in its mandate. In the fall 2018 report of the Auditor General, it was also revealed that CSC has not properly managed offenders under community supervision. As of April 2018, approximately 9,100 federal offenders, or 40% of all federal offenders, were under community supervision. According to “Report 6” of the fall 2018 Auditor General's report:
The number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing. However, Correctional Service Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community.... Despite the growing backlog [for accommodation], and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, Correctional Service Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
CSC “did not properly manage offenders under community supervision”. Parole officers “did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have”, nor did they always “monitor [offenders'] compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.”
We met with CSC last week, and we discussed this very report. These deficiencies were brought out with an action plan to correct them. However, I would humbly suggest that the Liberal government should be focused on ensuring that Correctional Service Canada fully meets its mandate, as the safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release.
To meet its mandate, a good start would be for Correctional Service Canada to start listening to its correctional workers. I am fortunate to have Drumheller penitentiary in my constituency. Over the years, I have met countless times with wardens, correctional officers and other staff in Drumheller. I can tell members that there are concerns about this bill. Concerns have come forward to the public safety and emergency preparedness committee. Again, I am concerned that many of these correctional officers are not being listened to. In fact, Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated that they were not consulted on Bill C-83. We have a leader of one of the unions of correctional officers, and his frustration is that the Liberal government has not consulted.
The Correctional Investigator has said:
What I would agree with is that there has been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service or the government on how this [Bill C-83] is going to be implemented. If you read the proposed bill as it's currently written, there's a lot of stuff that seems to be pushed to regulation, as prescribed by regulations. We don't know what those regulations would look like. I think that's why there's a lot of uneasiness about this particular piece of legislation.
Given the findings of the OAG, I believe that this uneasiness with respect to the safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83. I certainly know, from the number of calls and emails I have received from correctional workers, that considerable uneasiness exists in the Drumheller Institution. The reason for that anxiety ranges from concerns about their safety and their colleagues' safety to pay issues around Phoenix. I currently have 70 files, some inactive, on Phoenix.
We have a bill now that would affect correctional officers, and they are bemoaning the fact that the government is not listening.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-02-26 15:37 [p.25811]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak once again on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The Liberals seem to have a long history and a running streak of putting forward bills focusing more on criminals' rights than on those of the victims, and in some ways this bill seems to be another one of those. It is mostly a poorly thought-out bill that provides no resources or thoughts to employee safety among those working in correction services.
The government should have spent time consulting with CSC workers, figuring out how it could reconfigure the prisons and how it would also pay for all of these changes. Bill C-83 is another example of the government making a big announcement and thinking that everything ends at the announcement, that everything is done, without putting any planning behind it.
We have seen this with the government and its infrastructure program. It announces $180 billion in infrastructure spending, but kind of overlooks the fact that $90 billion of it was commitments from the previous government.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not able to locate within the budget or the estimates a significant amount of the spending. The Senate committee did a study on the infrastructure spending, and it said that the only metric for success in infrastructure was how much money was spent, not how many roads were built or how many highways were upgraded; it was just how much money was spent.
We see the same thing from the Liberals with their housing plan. They make grandiose announcements, standing in this House again and again to say it is $40 billion. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, reported that it is actually about $1.5 billion. The Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary responsible for housing stood up in this House and said that a million families have been helped under this plan, believing that if they just make an announcement, then everything happens. It turns out that if we look at the departmental results plan, it was 7,500 families helped, not a million.
We see this again and again. Bill C-83 is no different. I will get to that later.
There are some things in Bill C-83 that I can support. The Liberal government is much like a broken watch, which is correct twice a day, and sometimes the government can be correct in its bills. The bill calls for body scanners to prevent contraband and drugs from getting into the prison. I fully support that. I wish the Liberals would modify it so that everyone coming in gets a body scan.
However, I do have to agree with the people I have talked to at corrections services. Why are we trying to stop drugs, but at the same time bringing in and handing out needles to the prisoners? These are needles that we have heard are being used as weapons against CSC workers.
I also like the fact that Bill C-83 gives more consideration to indigenous offenders. It is no secret that the indigenous population is overrepresented in prisons, and that has to be addressed, so I do agree with that measure. However, there are too many parts of the bill that would negatively impact the safety of corrections officers.
We all know of the Ashley Smith situation, which was a tragedy, and the government should do everything in its power to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. However, a poorly thought-out plan and an underfunded bill that just bans segregation is not the answer.
We have to keep in mind that it is not just inmates who are committing crimes who are going into segregation. Often it is a victim. They are put in there to assure their safety by moving them away from their abuser. They obviously do not want to name their abuser because of prison rules, so to speak, so the assaults continue unless the victim is moved into segregation. Unfortunately, that person eventually has to desegregate back into the prison system or change prisons. Nothing in Bill C-83 addresses that issue.
A CBC report says segregation is not the deterrent it once was. Prisoners now receive all of their possessions, their television and all of their belongings, within 24 hours of being put in segregation. Another CBC report quoted a couple of corrections officers. One of them stated that whereas the more violent inmates used to be in separate containers, now they are all in one bag, so they are just waiting for one to go off. That sets the rest of them off, and they end up with murder, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.
Another one is saying that the inmates can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections. Another says that all removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for corrections officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety.
In September 2017, with respect to a provincial study that I imagine would also cover federal, the CBC reported a massive upswing, a 50% increase, in inmate assaults over the five years that segregation had been removed or reduced.
Under this proposal, whenever inmates move from segregation to have their additional hours in the open, two officers will be needed to escort them. I have to ask where those resources will come from. If I look at the manpower figures in the departmental plan for the Correctional Service of Canada, which shows what its budget would be several years out, I see that the figures are identical in 2021 to what they are now. We are planning all this extra work for the officers, but there is no plan to provide extra officers. In fact, if we look at the plan, which has been signed off by the Minister of Public Safety himself, we see that the Liberals have cut the number of officers on staff from what it was when the Harper government was in charge. Again, where are the resources coming from?
As well, where are the added dollars coming from to renovate these new cells? I have heard the Minister of Public Safety stand and say that there is $80 million from the last budget and $400 million in the estimates. That is fine, but when we look at the departmental plans, again we see that from last year in 2017 to this year, the Liberals have cut $152.5 million from corrections services, and in the next couple of years, they are cutting an additional $225 million.
If they are spending $400 million on renovations and resources and the end result is $225 million less, where is the missing $600 million? I am sure the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be unable to find where this money is, as was the case with the missing infrastructure money.
Getting back to the departmental plans, these plans lay out the priorities for the government for this department. Again, the plans are reviewed and signed by the Minister of Public Safety. In this plan, there are 20 priorities, yet not a single one mentions or addresses officer safety or the safety of anyone working for corrections services.
The government, when discussing Bill C-83, brags about how it is the first time ever it has given the head of Correctional Services of Canada a mandate letter. I looked at the mandate letter. There are 1,400 words in the mandate letter for the head of the CSC. Let us keep in mind the government is so proud of this letter. Of the 1,400 words, 24 are about victims of crime, and just 52 are about the safety or well-being of corrections officers. The 52 words include this gem: “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”
Can members imagine an inmate coming at them with a knife or a needle? What would their response be? If we looked it up in the manual, we would find “self-reflection”. Self-reflection sounds like something that would be more appropriate after being confronted after having groped someone at a concert, not when dealing with inmates in a criminal institution.
The president of the union of correctional officers, Rob Finucan, described how a guard in the Millhaven Institution was slashed across the face with a shard or knife. Why? It was because of the new rule that inmates can only be handcuffed in front and not behind. The inmate was cuffed and being moved to segregation. He had a shard of glass or a knife with him and cut across the face of the officer. Luckily, the officer's eye was not lost, but that happened because of rules we are putting into effect without any consideration for the officers.
In the minute I have left, I will end with the money set aside for mental health for inmates in the last budget. No one can argue with that, as it is obviously a very important issue.
Money has also been put aside for mental health for RCMP officers. There is 40% more money put aside per capita for inmates than for RCMP officers. That sums up the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and less for our valued officers in prisons.
I think it is time for the government to show some self-reflection on this issue.
View David Anderson Profile
View David Anderson Profile
2019-02-26 16:39 [p.25820]
Madam Speaker, it is good to be here this afternoon. It is unfortunate that we do not have a stronger bill with a little better content in it, but we will deal with what we have today. As usual, this is the kind of thing we have had to face with the government. It should be no surprise to us that it is in the chaos it is in, because we see a fairly consistent presentation that leads to bills that are this weak. I will talk about those weaknesses later.
The bill is basically a knee-jerk reaction to two Supreme Court decisions. The Liberals decided to play both sides of that game, so they are appealing those decisions at the same time as they are bringing forward whole new legislation. I think the public needs to understand that. Unfortunately, on this bill, they have missed the boat both on content and knowledge. We heard that from witnesses who came forward at committee. Witness after witness said that, first of all, they were not consulted, and second, the bill was not going in the right direction and needed to be reworked or thrown out, set aside or whatever.
One of the things the Liberals have done consistently since they have come to power is bring things forward and then actually look at them and decide whether they are worth bringing forward. Then they start to get people's opinions and they find out that they are on the wrong track. Then they start to backtrack and begin to amend their legislation. Once it comes back in here, they start forcing it through. We are here today on a bill with time allocation. The Liberals not only brought in time allocation at report stage but have already brought it in for third reading as well. We have seen this many times before, and we are seeing it here today. Fortunately, on some of these occasions, the Liberals have actually set bills aside and decided that they were not going to see them through. I guess electoral reform would be one of those that was obvious. Bill C-69 is another one that people across this country are begging the Liberals to set aside, because it would basically destroy the energy industry in Canada if they brought it through. Sometimes they can listen, but usually they find it very difficult to do that.
It is ironic that we have time allocation today, because had we had petitions today, I wanted to bring one forward. It is an electronic petition, E-1886. I found it fascinating that over 10,000 people signed this petition. It is an electronic petition from people across Canada, and it has to do with this issue.
This morning I asked a question of the public safety minister. He has been here for a long time. He was here before I was. One of the things he was part of before I came here was an attack on and actually the jailing of western Canadian farmers. These were farmers who had said that they would like to sell their own grain. One of them had donated one bushel of grain to a 4-H club in Montana. The public safety minister was one of those ministers who led the charge against those farmers. By the time they were done, they had five departments of the government working against individual Canadians. The CRA was involved. Justice was involved. Immigration was involved. The RCMP was firmly involved. Members can read stories of what happened in a couple of books by Don Baron. He writes about raids on people's farms in the middle of the night and their trying to confiscate their equipment, and those kinds of things. The public safety minister was then the agriculture minister. I asked him why it seems that every time we turn around, he is going after regular law-abiding Canadians.
We see this again with the initiative coming from the other side on handguns, which have been very restricted since the 1930s. People in Canada use them for sport. Many people across Canada have gone through the process to be licenced. This government seems bound and determined to try to make some sort of criminals out of handgun owners across this country. Again, my question to him was why he continued to come after law-abiding citizens, especially when on the other side, they are not all that interested, it seems, in actually protecting people from criminals.
That brings me back to my petition. Everyone is familiar with the case of Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. She was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences, where the government confirmed the presence of children. She is not eligible for parole until 2031. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, which happens to be in my riding, lacks the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of local citizens in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and surrounding areas.
Over 10,000 people across Canada called on the Government of Canada to exercise its moral and political authority to ensure that this decision was reversed and could not be allowed to happen again in other situations. We all know that it took the government weeks before it would acknowledge that there was a problem with this transfer, and in the end, it semi-reversed that transfer.
The interesting thing is that some of the same things are in Bill C-83. Right at the beginning, subclause 2(1) says, “the Service uses the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders”. There is no sense of some sort of disciplinary activity taking place in our prisons. The government says it has to find the least restrictive and most friendly way to treat people being held in our prisons right now.
I could go through many of the provisions of this bill. It talks about prisoners receiving the most effective programs, but when the minister was asked if there was a costing for this, he said that the government had not done costing on the bill. We can talk all day long about effective programs and health care, which this bill does, but if it was not costed before it was brought forward, how would the government even know what it would be expected to provide?
The bill talks about the criteria for the selection of the penitentiary. It says that it must be the “least restrictive environment” for the person. Correctional Service Canada has to deliberately run around and try to find the least restrictive place to put people. Many of these people are very dangerous individuals. Some of these people are actually bad people. I heard some heckling from the other side basically implying that they are not and that they can all be reformed if we treat them well, and if we ask for their opinions, they will give us good, solid opinions, we will all get along and we can hold hands and sing songs. The reality is that there are some people in these prisons who are very bad people and do not deserve to be running around as they choose.
One of the strange changes in this bill would allow the commissioner to designate a penitentiary or any section of a penitentiary as any level of security he or she chooses. That is very strange. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a minimum security prison on the edge of the Cypress Hills area. It is a beautiful location right at the edge of the trees. There are no fences around it. There is a series of cottages. The women right now spend time in the cottages. They have programming in the main lodge. Does that mean that the commissioner can designate one of those cottages a maximum security unit without changing the security level of the facilities or anything else and just say it is now a maximum-level unit, and someone can be put there who is supposed to be in a maximum security prison? All of us would put our heads in our hands and say that this is a crazy idea.
Within prisons there are some people who do not want to be in the general population. They are okay with being segregated. There are a number of reasons that might happen. One is that they may get hurt or injured themselves. The second is that they may hurt or injure someone else. They do not want to be put back into the general population of the prison. This bill basically says that the department has to continually work to do everything it can to put them back into general population.
A common theme throughout Bill C-83 and legislation on crime the Liberals keep bringing forward is that they want to try to make life easier for the most difficult prisoners. They should be looking at public safety. They should look at the people who work in the prisons. Why do Liberals not ever seem to focus on them instead of trying to find a way to hug a thug. They seem to really enjoy doing that.
This bill contains a lot of rhetoric and very few specifics. We were told that it was not costed. Once again, it is a demonstration of how soft the Liberals are on crime and how willing they are to close their eyes to reality. This is a series of promises that again will not be kept. This bill should be set aside. It is unfortunate that the government has moved time allocation for the 60th or 70th time to force this bill through.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-02-21 16:16 [p.25646]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech and his work with us at committee.
Could the member tell us his concerns for the safety of correctional officers and other inmates because of the removal of disciplinary segregation and the introduction of a needle exchange program in many institutions?
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 16:17 [p.25646]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I am also pleased to be able to work with him in committee.
That is exactly the problem. Correctional officers have to make do with the resources they are given. They say that they want to abide by higher standards when it comes to the mental health of inmates. If the government allocates more financial resources to help inmates with mental health issues, it would inevitably improve prison security.
As my colleague suggested, correctional officers have to improvise in order to follow the directives they are given because they do not have sufficient resources. When Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, appeared before the committee, he said that they would like to apply the new directives, but that it will be extremely problematic if they are unable to do so.
As my colleague said, there is a difference between short-term segregation for security reasons and long-term segregation because the resources are not available to deal with serious mental health problems. Many organizations working in the field raised that issue. Bill C-83 does nothing to address that issue.
We need to go back to square one because the government's bill is worse than a draft. It is unacceptable.
View Luc Berthold Profile
View Luc Berthold Profile
2019-02-21 17:02 [p.25652]
Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
Before I begin my remarks on Bill C-83, I would just like to comment on what I have been hearing since this debate began.
We live in a world where we appear to want to rely on the goodwill of others. We think that everything will be fine, that nothing bad will happen and that everything will go smoothly just because we amend a bill. We think inmates and guards will magically change their behaviour.
Unfortunately, that is not how it works in real life. There is a group of people we have not talked about enough since this report stage debate began. I am referring to correctional officers. They are the ones responsible for security in prisons, for the safety of inmates and colleagues, and for the inmates' well-being. We do not talk about them enough.
For some time now, I have had the pleasure of being the official opposition critic for agriculture and agri-food. This reminds me of some people's perception of farmers. Farmers take excellent care of their livestock, but many people think they do not care about the animals' health at all. People think farmers do not care about making sure their livestock are treated properly. The truth is that farmers care deeply about the well-being and safety of their livestock.
I think that is also what correctional officers want. They have a role to play with regard to inmates. They are there to guard individuals who are in prison and keep them away from the community. Many people think guards are only there to rap inmates' knuckles and maintain law and order. Since I know a few correctional officers, I know that they care about taking care of the inmates and ensuring their well-being. They also care about their rehabilitation. I think that is important to mention, before getting into the substance of Bill C-83.
Why am I talking about correctional officers? Because, from everything I have seen and everything I have read about Bill C-83, correctional officers have unfortunately not been consulted about the impact the bill will have on their daily reality.
No correctional officer would wilfully and maliciously deprive a prisoner of his or her rights. There are rules to follow. Some situations require correctional officers to take action. Unfortunately, the government missed a good opportunity to listen to them, to consult them and to ensure that the bill would enabled them to act and do their job to the best of their ability.
Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional institutions and replace it with structured intervention units. It also proposes the use of body scanners for inmates. It proposes to establish parameters for access to health care. It also proposes to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women and offenders with diagnosed mental health disorders.
The legislation also applies to transfers and allows the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or to any area in a penitentiary. We will have an opportunity to come back to that.
Unfortunately, Bill C-83 does not address the safety of inmates and correctional officers as a priority. As I mentioned, all those who participated in the study of the bill criticized the lack of consultation. The only people who were consulted were the people around the minister and the minister himself. Members of civil society working for inmates' rights and the inmates themselves have found that the bill does not at all meet its objectives.
It is obvious that the Liberals did not do their homework for Bill C-83. Before beginning report stage discussions, several motions were moved, including Motion No. 17.
The motion contains seven pages of amendments to the bill. The reality is that the Liberals realized that they had not done a good job. One does not move a seven-page motion if the work is done properly. They moved this motion because they realized that they had not consulted and listened to other people. They made mistakes because they improvised. That is what happened. Once again, the government improvised because two rulings were handed down.
Instead of doing things properly, the government chose to improvise, move quickly, not consult anyone, bulldoze ahead and then clean up the mess. The main problem with this bill is that it will not in any way solve the problems we sought to address. It is not a coincidence that most people disagree with the bill and that everyone opposes it.
I will quote some of the comments heard in committee. The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Workers, Mr. Godin, said that this bill is probably dangerous for others because “[s]ometimes the safety and security take precedence over mental health treatment because of the safety and security of other inmates.”
That means that we wanted to give priority to something without considering the reality of the prison environment.
Mr. Godin also said:
...by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations. We are concerned about policy revisions that appear to be reducing the ability to isolate an inmate, either for their safety or for that of staff...
Sometimes using segregation is an entirely legitimate way to protect staff and the other inmates. That is what Mr. Godin said. Unfortunately, this bill does not take that into account.
The correctional investigator of Canada, Ivan Zinger, said that:
Eliminating solitary confinement is one thing, but replacing it with a regime that imposes restrictions on retained rights and liberties with little regard for due process and administrative principles is inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as well as the charter.
As you can see, people on both sides disagree.
Today, at the last minute, the government tried to somehow save the day. Why did it not do what had to be done, namely start all over, consult and come back with a good bill that would be acceptable to stakeholders?
The government must amend the bill in order to meet expectations. In other words, it must improve security, ensure respect for the rights of inmates and support the rehabilitation of inmates when possible. If the bill's provisions support these objectives, the Canadian prison system will be cited as an example instead of being challenged in the courts again.
This government's main problem is its failure to consult. The Liberals consult one another and talk at cabinet meetings behind closed doors. Afterwards they cannot justify why they made these decisions because they cannot talk about what was discussed in cabinet. This means that we cannot get the actual rationale for the changes even though Canadians have the right to be given all the answers on this issue.
In closing, I would like to thank my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for his excellent work on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
View Michael Cooper Profile
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:30 [p.22713]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to continue discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. When I last spoke on Friday, I referred to the fact that the government's justification for rushing the bill forward is that the courts made them do it, that the courts made them ban both segregation for administrative and disciplinary purposes in all circumstances. The problem with that justification is that it is simply not so.
Neither the British Columbia Supreme Court decision nor the Ontario Superior Court decision provide for that. Indeed, in the case of the Ontario Superior Court decision, the primary basis of that decision related to the independence of the review upon the determination made by the institutional head to put an inmate into segregation. The Ontario court determined that the lack of an independent review mechanism contravened fundamental justice under section 7 of the charter. That was the basis of the Ontario decision.
I need not remind the government that aside from these two court decisions, neither the Mandela rules nor the Arbour commission of 1996 called for the elimination of segregation in all circumstances. It is simply the government doing so with this rushed legislation without real, meaningful consultation with the men and women who work in correctional institutions, the most dangerous, difficult and stressful workplace environments. It is really quite unfortunate, but what is worse is that the changes the government is proposing to make will require a lot more resources to handle inmates.
Each time an inmate is removed from their cell to have some time out of it and away from segregation, that requires two guards to accompany them. What the government is proposing is to extend that to four hours. For this to work, it is going to require more resources, and so where are the resources for this from the government? They are nowhere to be found.
Instead of providing our correctional officers with the tools they need to keep our correctional facilities safe, what is the government proposing? It is proposing an 8.8% reduction in Correctional Services Canada's budget. That is what the Liberals are doing. While they are putting a greater burden on correctional officers, taking away vital tools that correctional officers need to keep institutions safe, the government is cutting back at the same time. It speaks to the misplaced priorities of the government and the fact that once again it just cannot get it right.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
Mr. Speaker, the government has insisted that it has to rush this bill because of court imperatives and in response to a court decision. My colleague has clearly articulated how that is not accurate. Could he share with us what the courts actually said Liberals had to do and how this bill does not align with what is supposed to happen as we move forward?
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2018-10-23 13:22 [p.22727]
Mr. Speaker, the last question and comment give me an opportunity to talk about something I was going to talk about anyway. We just had the spectacle of two Liberal members of Parliament bragging about the fact that they were cutting off the debate in the House of Commons. They say that there has just been too much debate and that it has gone on too long.
The bill has not even been printed for a week. It has been before the House for less than three days. After the second day, it was enough. The Liberals had heard enough from members of Parliament and the Canadians we represent. It was just too much and members needed to get it out of the House as quickly as possible. This is from a party and a government which cried every time the previous government allocated the time for debate. It said that it would never do it if it was ever in government.
The hypocrisy of the member for Avalon is a spectacle we can all see today. He campaigned on it, and today he is cheerleading for the fact. He is heckling me during my speech while I try to talk about the concerns of my constituents. Two days in the House before the Liberals cut-off debate. The bill has not even been available to be studied for an entire week and we are under time allocation.
Why should we be surprised that the Liberals do not want to consult with members of Parliament on this? They have not consulted with the representatives of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers who will be directly impacted by the bill. They have not consulted with the guards.
An hon. member: Not true.
Mr. Mark Strahl: Mr. Speaker, I continue to get heckled from the other side. Apparently, the Liberals do not want to hear any debate, let alone cut it off after just three days debate.
The members of UCCO have been very clear that Liberal politicians in Ottawa are not the ones who have to go in and breakup a fight. Inmates of a what the Liberals now call a “structured intervention unit” inevitably have conflicts. These are people who cannot manage themselves in the general population of a prison. They are typically people who are the worst of the worst. In the debate, I mentioned people like Willie Picton. Clifford Olson also spent his life in segregation, where he should have been. That is where Willie Picton should be. Instead of talking about that, the Liberals are saying we should be talking about reintegrating these people into society.
Some people can be reintegrated, and we support that. Some people need to stay in segregation for the rest of their natural lives. Legislation is being proposed which will not allow for that. The Liberals blame it on the courts that this has to come forward, while they the decision is being appealed. They have not even said that this court ruling will stand. They are trying to have it overturned at higher levels, yet here we are with legislation jammed down our throats, legislation about which the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is very concerned. It is its members who will be put at risk. Its members are the ones who have to deal with the most prolific offenders, offenders who have committed additional crimes inside the prison and who are often placed in segregation for their own protection.
The member for St. Albert—Edmonton laid out very clearly the substantial supports that were available for people in segregation. They receive mental health visits, visits from the institutional head, from the guards and health visits as well. This idea that they are locked in a dark cell and are cut-off from human contact is simply not true.
The bill now calls for meaningful human contact for two hours a day. I would like to know what that looks like for Robert Picton. What does that look like for Terri-Lynne McClintic? What is meaningful human contact when she is already receiving mental health services? She is already receiving phone calls to her family and is allowed to have visitors. Now it will be legislated meaningful human contact. This is very interesting.
The Liberals have not consulted with UCCO or victims of crime, which is par for the course. They did not consult with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers when they brought forward their ridiculous prison needle exchange program idea. Prisoners in maximum-security facilities, prisoners who often spend much of their day trying to fashion weapons to use against other inmates or against guards when necessary, would be given needles in their cells as a right of an inmate. The Liberals are now forcing that on our prisons and our prisons guards. Also, they would be given spoons so they could heat up their drugs and inject them intravenously, spoons that no doubt are part of a kit that has to stay in the cell but can be used as a weapon.
All of these things are clear to anyone who has been in a prison, who has had a tour of a prison or who has talked to a single prison guard. They know this is a ridiculous proposition, but the Liberals do not care. They do not consult with the actual front-line workers. Instead, they come up with these pie-in-the-sky ideas in their ivory towers in Ottawa and tell the workers on the ground, the people who deal with sharks in the prison, that they will have deal with this now.
Never mind that it is the mandate of a prison guard to ensure there are no illegal drugs in the prison. We will have a situation where there will be illegal drugs in a cell, guards will have to search the cell, but will have to set aside the government-mandated safe injection kit to look for the illegal drugs, which they then will take away. What a ridiculous proposal. That is what the government is defending. The government does not talk to the people who are actually impacted by these decisions.
Again, we have many concerns with the bill.
The member for Malpeque said that we should not legislate based on the exceptional cases. If the legislation does not capture the exceptional cases, what good is it? If we do not allow for prison guards and prison officials to have the ability to have disciplinary segregation when people are endangering guards, other inmates or themselves, what is the point? We simply put people at additional risk.
We support a few parts of the bill. We support giving the audio to victims. We support body scanners and think that should be expanded to ensure there is no contraband in prison. The minister said in his speech on the bill, “Keeping contraband out of correctional facilities would help make institutions as safe and secure as possible.” Therefore, we will have body scanners to keep those bad drugs out of those prisons, but we will give needles and spoons to the prisoners to ensure they can inject those life-altering drugs as soon as possible and as safely as possible. How about we just keep the drugs out of the prison? How about we double down on that effort?
I am glad the heckling continues from the Liberals who love debate in this place.
The government once again thinks it knows best. It is not going to take any guidance from the people who work in these prisons.
One of the highest populations of corrections officials and prison guards live in my riding and work in the many institutions around it. In the Pacific region, there is the Pacific Institution, Kent Institution, Matsqui Institution, Mountain Institution, Mission Institution, the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village and the Fraser Valley Institute for Women. I have these people in my office all the time talking about this failed approach from the government. However, this is a government that thinks it knows best. It is a government that is ignoring their concerns and is not dealing with the actual concerns of Canadians.
When we saw that there was a bill on notice to deal with corrections, we hoped it would deal with the ridiculous situation where Tori Stafford's murderer could be transferred down to a minimum-security facility. We hoped it would give the tools, which we believe it has already, and clarify, with this proposed legislation, that someone like Terri-Lynne McClintic would not be in a minimum-security prison. Instead, the government modified it in the bill to allow the minister to allow corrections officials to designate a single cell in a minimum-security facility as a maximum-security cell. Therefore, there would be no fences, locks, segregation, nothing, but room 102 would be declared as a maximum-security cell in a minimum-security prison.
The government has failed to consult with victims, failed to consult with corrections officers and for that reason we should reject the legislation.
View Scott Simms Profile
Lib. (NL)
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time. I will bring some perspective to this debate dating back to October 2004, when I first came to the House. At the time, it was the tail end of a minority government.
We did not deal too much with legislation that addressed crime and other matters as such. I remember when the Conservatives came to power in 2006. They came in on a wave of their getting tough on crime and criminals. Over the years, to say it has been a mixed bag of success is to be somewhat generous. I do not mean that in a harsh or partisan way, but in a way that reflects that it is somewhat disappointing that we never had a decent conversation about crime, and certainly not about rehabilitation. Crime had become a superficial way of trying to gain popularity and votes. I say this not against the Conservatives specifically, but the debate has drifted in that direction. I think the tag line was “Do the crime, do the time.”
The problem is that we had seen what happens in jurisdictions around the world, and especially in the United States, where they truly used it, amping it up to the point where it became absolutely deafening, to the point where it was a matter of “Lock them up and throw away the key.” I mean nothing specific by that.
I will say, however, that tag line was used quite a bit. Unfortunately, we now find that so many people in the United States who originally used that as a way of gaining popularity and a way of pushing forward a very good public policy are now winding back some, but not all, of that. I am sure some of it worked out in the end. In many cases, there were a lot of people in the system who deserved to be in the system and should continue to be in the system, and that worked.
However, we realized over the years that a lot of people should not be in the system that long and were not given the tools to go back into society. There are people in society who do not belong in society. I get it. I think we all get that. However, there are people in the system administered by CSC who will go back into society. Who will that person be coming back into society, as opposed to who they were when they left society and went to prison for the first time? It is us who make the decisions to be there for the people who help rehabilitate the criminals.
I understand, on this particular legislation, that there are opinions on both sides of it, people who like what we say, and others who say that we need to look at furthering this debate about rehabilitating a person who has been incarcerated and is now going back into society. It takes several steps to get to that point. There are many examples around the world that we could use to get back to that point.
We also have the court system, which has pointed out that the old system has discrepancies that we need to fix, like solitary confinement. Let us look at the concept of solitary confinement for just a moment, the separation of someone from others for the safety of everyone involved. To a great extent, that has to happen within the system.
I have never worked in the prison system. I have never been in prison myself. However, I certainly know enough about the situation. Over the past 14 years, I have certainly heard enough about those who feel that rehabilitation in the prison service is deficient in many ways, federally and provincially in many cases. In my opinion, Bill C-83 is a way to take a step, so that when people go back into society, they will not be the same people who went into the prison. It is incumbent upon us to have that wide debate.
Now, we want to do several things in this particular bill, which I will point out.
This legislation proposes to eliminate segregation, following recent court decisions, as I pointed out. It introduces more effective structured intervention units. It proposes better support for victims during Parole Board hearings and it proposes increasing staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology. Bill C-83 proposes to update our approach to critical matters like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs, as well as the needs of the general population.
What CSC really needs is the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety.
While someone is segregated in solitary confinement, there is still a way that we can reach that person to effect a major change. Therefore, there is a minimum. Yes, we do segregate that person from the general population for the safety of the institution, but we also need to provide the structure so that we can tackle the problem in a responsible and mature manner. This is what the SIUs this legislation introduces are about. Four hours of human contact could alleviate the problem.
The problem may have started with a particular person. I am not blaming anyone else. However we must look for the reason why that person needs to be segregated. Why is the individual like that? We need to make sure that it does not happen again. In order to do that, as the courts have pointed out, human contact is needed, which would make the situation it that much better for the institution itself and for the prison population in general.
For many years CSC has been criticized for the practice of administrative segregation, better known as solitary confinement. The case of Ashley Smith is a good example. Ashley died in custody in 2007. Her case highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in the Canadian correctional system.
In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, one of which was instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate can spend in segregation. We realized from that case alone in 2007 that there was a problem and that we needed to go further.
We need to protect institutions and instill institutional safety by taking an inmate from the general population. But then what? What is the right answer?
The right answer involves our listening to the experts who have to deal with these people every day. I know they are on different sides in this particular step that we want to take, but it is our responsibility to have this debate and send the bill to committee so that opposition members who have some concerns can make the proper amendments.
We must remember that key here is the fact that a lot of these people will face society once again. We want to make sure that an individual who goes back into society is not the same person who went into prison.
We know these people through families, through friends, through contacts who have been in prison and had a rough time. We hear about them all the time. That is one of the major things that happened in 2007 with the case of Ashley Smith.
The number of inmates in segregation on any given day in 2011 was over 700. It is now about 340. Why is that the case? We need to explore the reason why.
As we look for answers to this particular situation, I realize that these units, these SIUs, are not the perfect answer for everyone involved in the system, including the guards.
My support for Bill C-83 comes from my understanding of the need to take that step of providing human contact to protect society at large. Of course, there are people here on both sides of the issue. We need to have a debate here and the bill sent to committee so that we can look at any amendments that might be brought forward.
I thank everyone involved in this debate. I also thank the superior courts of both British Columbia and Ontario for helping us guide the way.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, a position I used to hold.
To start with, I want to say that I will be vigorously opposing this bill. With respect to the point raised a moment ago by my colleague, I would like to remind her that the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Jason Godin, has already pointed out the detrimental effects that this bill would have on security in our correctional institutions. He says that the number of assaults on prison guards by inmates has increased as a result of the reduced use of segregation under the new legislation that has been tabled.
I am strongly opposed to this bill, because its very basis is wrong. The first reason I oppose this bill is that it makes our correctional facilities less safe. I am sure members on both sides of the House would join me in acknowledging the remarkable work that our correctional officers do. Much like parents raising children, our correctional officers need respect. Our role, as parliamentarians, is to give them tools to ensure that they get respect, which is essential to keeping our correctional facilities safe. Unfortunately, this bill would weaken the tools available to our correctional officers.
I commend these officers, and I want them to know that I oppose this bill, because it will make our facilities less safe and will put our correctional officers at greater risk.
The second reason I oppose the bill is that any legislation meant to improve our correctional services needs to take into account a fundamental principle that is missing from this bill. The conditions of detention must reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed and must also reflect each individual inmate's risk level. This bill is clearly misguided because it removes tools that help our correctional officers keep our facilities safe.
The third reason I oppose this bill is that it does not contain any significant rehabilitation measures. I remind members that our correctional facilities are meant to ensure that when an inmate is released back into society, he or she is able to contribute to this society again.
With less respect, less safety and, unfortunately, more violence in our correctional facilities, it will be harder for inmates to focus on their rehabilitation.
As members have mentioned, Bill C-83 seeks to eliminate the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation. The Liberals are fixated on that. It seems that those who drafted the bill never had an opportunity, as I did when I was minister of public safety and as our public safety critic did, to simply go and visit correctional facilities to talk to correctional officers and inmates. Our public safety critic and I had the opportunity to meet with inmates who told us to leave this measure in place because it is good for their mental health.
Sometimes inmates need to be alone and to get away from others for awhile. There are some inmates who ask to be sent to administrative segregation, as I witnessed first-hand. We therefore see that the Liberals are taking tools away from correctional officers and inmates that help with inmates' rehabilitation.
What the Liberals are proposing instead is another mechanism for incarcerating inmates who cannot remain in the general inmate population for safety reasons.
This bill will require Correctional Service Canada to give inmates access to patient advocacy services and consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making.
That brings me to the Liberal approach. It took the Liberals 10 months to appoint a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, but far less time to appoint an ombudsman for criminals. That is definitely not in the interest of society. The government should make victims a priority too, but for the past three years, the government has been silent on that subject. Navigating the justice system is a painful experience for victims, and the government needs to make sure they get the support and respect they deserve.
I just want to point out that our government was the one that brought in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and thank goodness we did, because the Liberals are not doing anything, on top of which they are taking ages to fill key positions. Clearly, the government does not think victims are all that important.
This bill has other flaws. It seeks not only to get rid of administrative segregation, but also to have body scanners installed. We do not take issue with that idea, but we do have a problem with how this is being handled. We know that a lot of contraband is smuggled into our penal institutions by visitors. It is therefore equally important to include those people in these measures. If the bill gets to committee, I would hope that these measures are given another look.
What is more, instead of giving inmates tools to overcome addiction, the Liberals are doing the opposite and providing them with syringes. We know that having syringes in penitentiaries is dangerous for our correctional officers considering the spread of disease associated with their use and the fact that they might even be used against correctional officers. That is something the bill ignores, but the government is okay with that.
I hope that the government will get back on track and, like our government, have a zero tolerance policy instead of aggravating inmates' health problems. It is important that the government, as legislator, send a clear message about the presence of drugs in our institutions. Everyone remembers the measures our government put in place.
Superior court judges ruled recently on the appropriateness of administrative segregation. I wonder if, much like the members opposite, those judges even bothered to go and speak with officers and corrections officers. Today my colleagues asked the minister, her representatives and other government members if they consulted officers and corrections officers, since this will have a serious impact on their work environment. We have heard nothing but radio silence so far in response.
I have so much more I want to say, but I see that I am running out of time, and I would not want to repeat what I have said in the past, which has been reported by my friends at Infoman.
In closing, I want share Jason Godin's view. He said that introducing this legislation could have a detrimental affect on conditions in our prison facilities, increase violence and make the situation worse. The government is going in the wrong direction and I urge it to change course. For now, I oppose this legislative measure.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
View Karen Vecchio Profile
2018-10-23 16:43 [p.22758]
Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to sit here during last Friday's debate, where I listened to some of the best lawyers and legal minds who are members of Parliament, including the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. When we start listening to the statistics, when we are talking about all these things that are occurring in our correctional system, there are many different things we have to look at. We have extremely diverse opinions here.
One thing we talked about was the fact that correctional officers have not been talked to, so I am going to start with something I put forward last week. It is a quote from my friend Jason, who is a correctional officer. He said, “No profession has hit the toilet [like] corrections in the last several years. Violence, contraband, assault on staff are skyrocketing. Why? Total lack of consequence for behaviour. Eliminating segregation has handcuffed us. Now, no question segregation exacerbates mental health, but we have no choice. Violent offenders continue assaulting, and easy victims continue being preyed upon. We continually have people making changes based on concepts, not reality.”
Today we are discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. With the members in this House, I recognize that these views are greatly diverse. I am listening to the questions and answers today. What one member may say goes against my entire moral code on this. We have different ideas on the rights of criminals versus what the rights of victims, the use of segregation versus proposed intervention units, and drugs in prison.
Drugs in prison has become a huge issue. It is not just an issue that has come about in the last 10 years. We can find studies done decades ago that show the same trend. While the Liberals put forward policies for needle exchange programs in the jail, I believe we should focus on getting the drugs out of the jails altogether.
We can talk about safe injection sites. This is a huge debate in Ontario. What do safe injection sites do to communities and what should we be doing to help those who have long-term addictions? One of the things they say is that it is about saving people's lives, getting them back on track, and making sure that people do not die in back alleys.
I am going to remind the government that prisons are not those dark alleys. When we talk about safe injection sites, we are talking about getting people off the streets, putting them into an area where they can have safe injections, and truly hoping that wraparound services are available to them. I question why we are starting at step one and providing safe injection sites in prisons in the first place. Yes, it is a very difficult thing, but this is not a back alley. It is a prison, where there are well-educated, trained and skilled staff who deal with these issues. We should actually be going in a trajectory moving forward, not just compensating for the drugs.
There have been so many concerns about convicted criminals and the use of illegal drugs. We have to keep in mind that we are talking about convicted criminals. We are talking about people who are being put in jail for summary or felony offences and what their lives should be like.
We have talked very much about Tori Stafford and her abuser, the person who murdered her. We have talked about maximum-security and minimum-security. We are talking about a horrific murderer going from a place where there may be institutional walls to a healing lodge. I have heard from hundreds of constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London who are saying that she is living a better life than they are.
When talking to Canadians, a lot of times it is one of the things they are going to say, that people in jail have a better life than they do. They get meals, they get their hydro paid for, all those things that some people living in poverty, and especially in our middle class, have to deal with every day.
I want to continue with the segregation part. Yes, I believe there are extreme situations where we must look at the use of segregation. Sometimes it is used to protect the criminal from the rest of the population, and other times it is used because an offender is a danger to the rest of the population, including the guards.
In a court decision by Justice Marrocco, he found that administrative segregation itself was constitutional. Of course, we are going to have others who believe that this is cruel and unusual punishment. There are parties that will disagree with this whole philosophy and say that we cannot segregate people and that they need to have personal time and the humanity side of it.
I have a problem when talking about this. We are talking about humanity for someone who is alive versus humanity for somebody who may have been murdered or is disabled for the rest of his or her life because of a criminal. I think the mother in me is asking, “Where is the justice here?”
Those are some of my key priorities when we are looking at this.
I have always believed in putting victims first. I think we have lost that side of this debate, because we are always asking what can we do to rehabilitate these criminals. I totally agree that there are some criminals who can be rehabilitated, but there are those people who have done horrific things, and we are sitting here saying that they have to have poetry readings and they have to learn how to cook and their lives will be better. We have to take a really hard look at ourselves and ask if we are really going to manage that. It is a compassionate idea, but it is not reality.
We have to recognize that crimes have a harmful impact on victims and on society. A bill was put forward by the last government on the Victims Bill of Rights. It is something I want to share with the House today.
When I work for the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London, I work for victims' families 100% of the time to make sure that they are taken care of. I am going to read the preamble of the bill to the House:
Whereas victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect, including respect for their dignity;
Whereas it is important that victims' rights be considered throughout the criminal justice system;
Whereas victims of crime have rights that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
Whereas consideration of the rights of victims of crime is in the interest of the proper administration of justice;
Whereas the federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for criminal justice;
Whereas, in 1988, the federal, provincial and territorial governments endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and, in 2003, the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, 2003;
All this being said, I recognize that some circumstances should be reviewed, including sexual violence and abuse. A lot of times when we are talking about vulnerable communities in these institutions, there may be issues that put people in there in the first place.
Not everyone agrees with the use of Gladue reports, but if we have Gladue reports, with appropriate writers, people who understand how to write a Gladue report, they can put all that imperative information forward at sentencing to decide how the person should be treated.
We talk a lot about truth and reconciliation. We recognize that we have had residential schools and that there has been intergenerational trauma. By no means am I saying that the person should not be looked at a bit differently. I am saying that. That may go against what some of my fellow Conservative colleagues may agree with, but I think these are things we have to go forward with. We have to look at all of these things. Gladu reports are something I support.
I will return to my friend's quote and the concern about drugs and contraband in jails. We need to find a solution. Is the solution making sure that we have needle exchange programs? For me, the concept of scanners is a positive option to find out what is actually entering prisons. We know that we have a problem. What is the reason, and how can we find a solution? The concept of these scanners is really positive. I look at them as a solution.
I want to go back to my daughter, who has graduated from the protection, security and investigation program. She has had the opportunity to work in some different facilities. She is currently working in security with a large company, and she works on a hotline dealing with victims of crime. Her bottom line is, and this is a quote from Marissa, "There is something missing, and drugs continue to get into the jails".
In putting in scanners, should we be expanding that to guests as well? As a graduate and employee in the security field, Marissa's concern about drugs in jails has only been elevated since she graduated, because she sees it more and more each and every day.
We have a big social issue in these places. We always have to remind ourselves that we have to be there for the victims of crime, because they have had their rights taken away. Some people see justice differently. I see justice as the fact that I would want to know that if someone murdered my child, he or she would remain in jail for a long time.
View Richard Martel Profile
View Richard Martel Profile
2018-10-23 16:57 [p.22760]
Madam Speaker, I would like to talk about Bill C-83 because it is of personal concern to me and because I was asked to do so by a number of correctional officers who told me that they feel as though they were not sufficiently consulted during the drafting of this bill.
If the government would take the time to listen to our correctional officers, it would find that they think eliminating administrative segregation in correctional facilities is a bogus solution to a bogus problem. Administrative segregation is not used as punishment. It is a risk management tool. The threat of solitary confinement must always be present in order to act as a deterrent, guarantee a certain amount of discipline and enforce compliance in correctional institutions. That discipline is essential to the health and safety of our correctional officers.
Segregation is a tool of last resort. By taking that tool away from correctional officers, the government is saying that it does not care about their reality. It does not care that more assaults on officers have happened since the use of segregation was restricted. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has stressed that violence in prison will go up once administrative segregation is scrapped. Union president Jason Godin foresees a bloodbath. Administrative segregation is not used arbitrarily. It is a tool of last resort that protects inmates from others and, sometimes, from themselves.
When a new criminal arrives, conflicts can escalate rapidly. The prison population varies from institution to institution. Sometimes, a new inmate is not welcome, and his new peers will be waiting for him. Administrative segregation is used to ensure that inmate's health and safety until such time as officers find appropriate solutions to de-escalate conflict.
What should be done with an inmate in medium security who becomes more and more violent and has to be transferred to a maximum-security institution? Should such an inmate be allowed to keep living by his own rules for four hours a day while awaiting transfer? That makes no sense to me.
Some inmates altogether refuse to join the general population and also refuse the protective wing. How are we supposed to accommodate these inmates, who want peace and quiet, without abusing public funds? Is it a prison or a five-star hotel? What do I tell my constituents who tell me they would rather go to prison than live in a seniors residence? Correctional officers legitimately wonder what they will do. What tools will be at their disposal when administrative segregation is eliminated? The officers fear that there will be an escalation of violence. They fear for their health and safety, but also for the health and safety of the criminals.
Again, what tools will they have to defuse potential retaliations or thwart revenge plots that they may have caught wind of? Are they to leave the inmates to take justice and discipline into their own hands? Correctional officers cannot turn a blind eye and ignore the warnings they get. How are they supposed to enforce compliance? These are bogus solutions to a bogus problem.
The commissioner's directives, including CD 843, already cover exceptions for indigenous and female offenders, and offenders with mental health problems.
Mental health is taken very seriously in prisons. Offenders have access to care, and correctional officers are quickly informed when an offender is struggling with mental health issues. They find out fast. Correctional officers have faith in the commissioner's directives, and they refer to them regularly in the performance of their duties.
Correctional officers already take mental health issues seriously because they know what kind of impact these issues can have. In fact, they or their colleagues have been through it themselves.
Thirty-five percent of first responders, including paramedics, EMTs and correctional officers, will develop symptoms associated with work-related PTSD.
This is not an easy work environment. Officers must sometimes use a lot of psychological tactics to de-escalate conflicts. They may face moral and ethical dilemmas that they would not face in the world outside the prison. For example, it is not easy to be a mother or father and to be around a pedophile every day. One of the worst things that could happen would be for an officer to get to work and learn that an inmate had taken his or her own life. Prison guards face many risks. This kind of situation makes them very susceptible to PTSD.
Last week, I met with veterans and first responders who spoke to me about Project Trauma Support, a new Canadian program that treats post traumatic stress and operational stress injury in military personnel, veterans and first responders. I was deeply touched by their story and how the centre, located in Perth, Ontario, helped them turn their lives around.
It is often very difficult for anyone affected by work-related post-traumatic stress syndrome to access the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, disability insurance or compensation. They may have to wait a long time before accessing counselling or treatment, which is very unfortunate. We know that the earlier problems are addressed, the better the results and the chances to return to active service. Their families also suffer.
My colleagues and I hope that Bill C-211 will provide a comprehensive solution to this scourge.
However, I wonder why Bill C-83 does not say more about the health and safety of our correctional workers.
The Liberal government's history shows that it favours criminals rather than victims. I should not be surprised to find it more interested in the comfort of criminals than the safety of correctional officers.
The government also did not consult the union and employees when it announced a needle exchange pilot project.
I wonder how providing access to needles to take drugs or create tattoos, thereby providing a potential weapon to criminals, can be perceived as being a good thing.
Canadians need to know about the needle exchange program. When an inmate manages to illegally bring a drug into prison, he can ask the nurse for a needle and he will get one. The nurse and the government know very well that the needle will be used for illicit purposes.
The correctional officer does not know that he will be at greater risk during the next check of the inmate's cell. What message are they sending?
View Jamie Schmale Profile
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
As we know, Bill C-83 proposes to implement a new correctional intervention model to eliminate segregation, strengthen health care governance, better support victims in the criminal justice system, and consider the specific needs of indigenous offenders.
The purpose of prisons, though, is clear. We have prisons so that we can protect society from those who, as a consequence of various criminally repugnant acts they have committed, have proven to be too great a risk to the broader safety of others. I believe there are cases where criminals can be reformed. We have programs. We provide opportunities for those deemed to pose a reduced security risk to reintegrate into society and become fully functional and productive members of our community.
In general, Canadians believe this and we would not want it any other way. However, there are those in our society who cannot be reformed and have committed acts so heinous that we never want them to be free to walk among our families and friends, in our towns and cities, ever again.
I am not just thinking of murderers and those who commit assault, like Olson, Bernardo, Homolka, Magnotta, and McClintic. I am also thinking of those individuals whose names will not make headlines across the country, the nameless violent criminals who beat, and steal without remorse from, the most vulnerable in our society.
Prisons are their own societal microcosm. We expect that prisoners will follow the rules of the institutions, that they will behave and participate in programs to improve their situation, as I said earlier, in the hope they can reintegrate back into their communities.
This speech is not about the goals of sentencing or to debate the merits of different forms of punishment. It is about protecting society in general, victims in particular, and protecting society from those who are most dangerous.
It is no wonder that there is violence in prisons. It does not take an academic to explain why, when criminals are placed in a community together, there is a high incidence of crime. Some might say, who cares, that they get what they deserve? However, that is not the consensus within our society.
Our correctional facilities are not designed to put prisoners in harm's way. They are designed to protect prisoners from each other, and to protect the men and women in the correctional services.
Bill C-83 proposes to change that by removing an important tool in our correctional services staff tool box to protect prisoners and themselves from violence. Indeed, the argument about prison safety often focuses on the most violent prisoners harming other prisoners, or on protecting the most evil, those who have committed such heinous acts, from retribution.
We often feel and sometimes forget those who are on the front lines in our institutions who deal directly with these acts of violence, who put themselves in danger to protect prisoners from each other. Eliminating the ability of corrections officers to segregate prisoners from each other will not only put prisoners at serious risk, it will also further endanger our correctional officers. That is unacceptable.
Jason Godin, the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has told the Vancouver Sun that attacks on officers and inmates have increased as the use of segregation has decreased. If Bill C-83 passes, he predicts that “The bloodbath will start.” While I do not understand the minutia of administering a prison, Godin does as the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. He is not speaking haphazardly or without merit.
Bill C-83 calls for more meaningful, human contact. Human contact is important, but not when it is at the end of a fist or a broom handle. Across Canada the number of assaults on staff is projected to rise 32% this fiscal year compared with last year, coinciding with the projected 15% decrease in segregation bed use during that same time.
Solitary confinement is a common and legitimate safety measure that many western countries use to protect correctional staff from dangerous and volatile prisoners. Rather than removing this tool, we should be looking at how to prevent the incidents that cause segregation in the first place. We should ensure that mental health screening is completed, that there is a mental health strategy for prisoners, that psychological counselling is available, and that there are adequate staff on duty to ensure the safety of everyone.
We can reduce the use of segregation by other means without removing the tool of segregation for use when necessary. Rather than prioritizing the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals, the Liberals should be prioritizing the safety of the general population within our institutions and the officers who run them. Correctional officers are calling for serious consultation and resources to make it work. They are asking the committee not sacrifice this segregation tool as a necessary tool to deter violent behaviour. Correctional Services Canada has already limited the use of segregation. What correctional officers want now are alternatives to segregation to ensure that prisoners understand there are consequences for their bad behaviour.
In the recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court called into question the legality of indefinite solitary confinement, and the current government has set its sights on appealing that decision. With this I have no issue. However, I wonder why, while appealing this decision, the government is moving forward with Bill C-83. Logically, the introduction of major changes that are at the heart of its appeal make little sense. However, that is not the only thing that does not make much sense.
Under this bill, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium or minimum-security penitentiary. The facility in question, whether minimum, medium or maximum, is built to protect society from prisoners designated as a minimum, medium or maximum-security risks. There are different procedures and expectations in place.
I am getting the signal that there is no more time, which, unfortunately, is a shame because I had a lot more to say.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2018-10-19 10:31 [p.22607]
Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to Bill C-83 because I am concerned that the changes it would make may put in jeopardy the safety of our institutional staff and that of the inmates who are under our care and control.
I was confused when the government introduced the bill.
In February of this year, the government appealed a ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court that struck down Canada's law on indefinite solitary confinement, arguing that it needed clarity on the decision. Therefore, why is the government introducing legislation before receiving that clarity? Why are the Liberals fighting the court decision to strike down solitary confinement, while at the same time introducing legislation to do just that? Are they just changing the words and calling it a structural intervention unit?
I have a federal prison in my riding of Yellowhead, the Grande Cache Institution. It is a medium-security institution with approximately 300 employees and 240 offenders. I have a lot of respect for my constituents who work there. Working for Correctional Service Canada often means working with violent offenders. Proposed section 36 of the new act will deal with the obligations of service and the rights of prisoners in structural intervention areas. It states:
...The Service shall provide an inmate in a structured intervention unit
(a) an opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside the inmate’s cell; and
(b) an opportunity to interact, for a minimum of two hours a day, with others, through activities including, but not limited to,
(i) programs, interventions and services...
(ii) leisure time.
Proposed section 37 of the new act states that proposed section 36 does not apply if the inmate refuses or the inmate “does not comply with...instructions to ensure their safety or that of any other person or the security of the penitentiary.”
As part of their job, employees are responsible for providing a safe, secure and positive environment for offenders, which is an essential element in helping offenders reintegrate into society. However, is the government fostering a safe and secure environment for our prison guards to work within these institutions?
Solitary confinement is a common safety measure many western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners. I wonder if any of our front-line workers have been consulted on taking this tool away from them. Are we properly training our guards who deal with the most dangerous of offenders, offenders with possible mental conditions and psychological problems? Are these guards being given the necessary tools and knowledge to recognize, work with, protect and, for their own safety, help reintegrate these prisoners?
I am concerned that the bill does not mention new training programs to assist prison guards in these changes or in the current programs. It is paramount that the guards dealing with the most dangerous of our offenders have the knowledge and expertise to deal with them. This is for everyone's protection and safety.
I have heard concerns from prison staff members that more training should be given to them when they are dealing with high-risk offenders, such as murderers, compared to someone serving six months for theft. We need to ensure they feel prepared and comfortable, instead of taking away the tools they use to manage inmates.
Instead of solitary confinement, the government would create structural intervention units, SIUs. Let us be fair: This is just white-washing with some finely tuned words.
Under the new SIU model, inmates who misbehave and cannot be safely managed in the mainstream population will get personal programs tailored to their own needs. Are we forgetting the protection and safety of other inmates and prison staff in order to meet the new guidelines as outlined under the SIU? The segregation of certain prisoners in some cases has been done to protect those persons from internal conflicts with other inmates because of their character or mental disposition. In other cases, it is done for legal reasons that could cause interference with an investigation that could lead to criminal charges or a charge relating to serious disciplinary offences within the institution.
Under the new act, prisoners segregated for their own safety may spend up to four hours outside their cells each day. This is where I am concerned. This will require more resources and will create longer periods for the chance of an incident to occur. The replacement of solitary confinement strips the ability of guards to use segregation for disciplinary purposes. This change will make prisons more dangerous for the guards as they deal with the worst and most volatile prisoners.
Because the guards are dealing with the most violent criminals and those who do not care to follow the prison rules, when an incident does occur, it is going to be a lot more serious and require more force. Why are we putting our front line workers at risk?
I am also concerned that these prisoners who are segregated for their own safety may demand equal opportunities under the new act. This may open up an opportunity for their safety to be jeopardized and also put the safety of our guards in question.
This is just another example of the Liberals going soft on criminals and showing indifference to everyone else. Once again, the Liberals are prioritizing the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals.
Let me remind everyone of Bill C-75, which proposes sweeping changes to the Criminal Code and reduces the penalties of crimes to fines. Through Bill C-75, the Liberals are reducing penalties for terrorism, gang members, prison breaches, human trafficking, and the list goes on and on. It is not a surprise to me that the Liberal government is now prioritizing the rights of convicted and violent criminals inside our prison system.
Another aspect of the bill that I find deeply concerning is the new provision that would allow the commissioner to sub-designate parts of institutions to be a different level of security. It reads:
The Commissioner may assign the security classification of “minimum security”, “medium security”, “maximum security” or “multi-level security”, or any other prescribed security classification, to each penitentiary or to any area in a penitentiary.
Theoretically, could the commissioner authorize that a room, say in a healing lodge, to be designated as maximum or medium security by adding an extra lock on the door? There needs to be clarification on whether this is to be used as a temporary measure or if this is a declaration that can be made indefinitely of an area. If so, what is the security protocol that would be put in place to change an “area” to a higher designation than the rest of the facility? Under what circumstances would it be used?
This provision will lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are allowed into lower security spaces, all based on technicalities. Why are we allowing prisoners who should be in maximum or medium-security facilities into lower designated facilities?
I agree with one part of the bill, and that is body scanners. Already in use in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, body scanners should be used to scan prisoners in federal institutions. The more effective we can be in our searches, the better. That means fewer drugs, weapons and other contraband entering our prison systems.
I wonder why the government decided to stop there, though. Why only scan prisoners? In 2014, the CBC broadcast an article on the statistics of contraband entering prisons. The data obtained by CBC showed that corrections seized almost 9,000 unauthorized and contraband items, up almost 2,000 from a few years earlier. That was an increase of 20%. The article noted:
CSC spokesman Jonathan Schofield said the spike is due to enhanced security measures brought in to stem the flow of drugs and other contraband into institutions, including increased searches, random urine tests, and tools such as metal detectors, X-rays, drug-detecting ion scanners and dogs.
Howard Sapers, the former correctional investigator of Canada, said that likely sources of contraband included other people coming in to the prison and sometimes even trusted personnel.
Maybe we should be using body scanners to scan everyone, not just the prisoners, entering our institutions. This will help ensure that everyone inside the institution, prisoners, staff and visitors, all have a safe and secure environment in which to live and work. There are different types of body scanners, some detect drugs, others detect metal. We use them in our airports, and there is no reason we cannot use the most sophisticated equipment in our jail system.
I am not in favour of the recently announced needle exchange program and a good scanning system would eliminate the need for such a program.
We must remember that any legislation brought in that changes how we manage our prisons must take into consideration the safety of our government employees and the safety of other inmates within our institutions. This to me is paramount over catering to the needs of convicted criminals. We must remember they are there because they have committed crimes and are being punished for those crimes. Yes, they have rights to a certain extent, but our institutions are not summer camps or recreational retreats.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2018-10-19 12:26 [p.22627]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate on Bill C-83. I have been intently listening over the last few days to the debate and the argument being made by the Liberal government on the need for this. Several members on the government side have now said that administrative segregation, solitary confinement, is simply unconstitutional. In fact, the parliamentary secretary just said that again and was rightfully corrected by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.
I will read into the record exactly what Justice Leask said in paragraph 534 of his B.C. Supreme Court decision. He said, “The plaintiffs do not argue that administrative segregation as a practice is unconstitutional”, circa section 12, which is the prohibition in our charter against cruel and unusual punishment, only that it is unconstitutional under a certain set of conditions. The judge, in fact, said no, he did not accept the argument based on section 12 and that it was not unconstitutional to be used.
What BillC-83 would do instead is rename administrative segregation, which is just words, as if the punishment is just being told that one is going into solitary confinement.
It would double the hours and makes additional changes that would make it more difficult for corrections officers to look after violent prisoners in their workplace. Let us be honest. Corrections is not the workplace of prisoners; it is the workplace of guards. Their needs should actually come first. Guards in the prison system have agreed to take on violent criminals on our behalf to ensure the safety of the public.
I am not saying that prisoners should be treated poorly. I heard the parliamentary secretary mention before that Conservatives believe in some kind of medieval dungeon system. That is absolutely ridiculous. Hyperbole is something I have come to expect, particularly from the member. Hyperbole does not belong in the House. That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about a reasonable use of administrative segregation, the way these two courts have determined it should be used. That is not what Bill C-83 would do. It would actually modify it completely.
There is an additional issue we should look at, which is the financials. If we look at the Correctional Service Canada departmental plan 2018-19, signed off by the Minister of Public Safety , we see that over the next few years, there will actually be a drop in real financial resources of 8.8%. In real terms, Correctional Service Canada will have less money to deal with a bigger workload, because let us be frank, this will lead to a bigger workload for prison guards. We are asking them to take violent criminals out of solitary confinement, and I will keep calling it solidarity confinement or administrative segregation, for longer periods of time. We have heard other members on this side of the House mention what exactly is involved. Oftentimes, it is a group of guards who escort a particular criminal for their time out of segregation.
An additional point I want to raise is that in the same departmental plan, over the next two or three years, we see a reduction in full-time equivalent employees of 150 individuals. On one hand, in Bill C-83, the government is saying that it wants to do more. It wants more mental health services. That is great. It wants more for our indigenous prison population. That is great. I am very thankful that it is actually looking after it in that lens. However, where are the financial resources? Where are the people resources to match the lofty language we are hearing in this place? Again, the Liberals say one thing and do another. That is the most I have come to expect from the government.
There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “God punishes but man takes revenge.” The prison system should not be about revenge. It should be about reform. I fervently believe that.
Many members know this, but I studied in the United States for my master's degree. Part of it was local and state administration, where we learned about the prison system in the United States. Every single state is different, but I will give members, as a corollary, the debate that was happening in 2017 in the State of Massachusetts, which has been using solitary confinement. The debate was this: Is 10 years too long to keep someone in solitary confinement? I think all of us here would say, absolutely. That is absolutely wrong. It destroys people's lives. It destroys their mental health. There is ample evidence of that.
However, what we are talking about in Canada is 15 days. What the government is proposing to do is burden prison guards with having to care for sometimes violent criminals, doubling the amount of time they will spend outside, on top of the other exemptions they will provide for them, without providing sufficient financial and people resources in a plan the Minister of Public Safety himself has signed off on.
That causes me to wonder why, who is approving this legislation on the government side and who is approving the departmental plan. I would assume the Minister of Public Safety would have been well versed in the departmental plan that he signed off on and now this piece of legislation I know will lead to greater costs down the road, both in personnel and in financial resources. Personnel do not work for free.
I have a great concern more generally with the Government of Canada's behaviour. On the one hand, it talks a good game and puts out flowery language. We heard about the housing strategy. There is no money in it until late into future governments that will actually have to do something about the so-called housing strategy. There are news releases and pretty photo ops. In fact, the Auditor General of Canada, in the last report, accused the government of putting photo ops ahead of doing anything. That is pretty typical now for the Government of Canada.
We have the Auditor General slamming the government for its behaviour on photo ops, public relations, its public image management in a government report, so we know there is something wrong. It is pretty typical. The Liberals have done this constantly. During the election campaign, they said they had costed out the so-called tax on the rich, which would be paid off by the so-called middle-income bracket tax cut that all of us here enjoyed and that those earning less than $45,000 got zero. They got nothing. The working poor got nothing.
However, the Liberals talked a good game. Then the Department of Finance numbers came out and they were wrong again. They failed at it again. They lost money by the scheme of fleecing the rich, so called, in a vain attempt to try to win public support on the backs of others. It is the bait and switch that we have seen in the House of Commons on a consistent set of issues, and Bill C-83 just happens to be the latest one.
Many of my Conservative colleagues were not calling for a return to medieval dungeons or a return to house segregation. We have heard of the cases where people have died in administrative segregation because it was misused, there were no good rules surrounding when, how and to whom it should apply. What Liberals are proposing with this piece of legislation is completely taking it apart. We know, by looking at the departmental plan, that they have not done their homework. Again, that is pretty typical of the government.
They have not done their homework, they have not consulted with the guards and I am wondering why not. Why would one not ask the men and women in the workplace? This is where they go on a consistent basis. We talk so much in this House about how we work and the type of work environment we want here, but we are going to make it more difficult for prison guards to do their work in their work environment? Prisoners are supposed to be there temporarily to ensure the safety of the public and for rehabilitation. The guards will possibly spend their entire lives there because this is where they work and we are going to make it more difficult. There will be less personnel at Correctional Service Canada by 2020-21 and there will be a real cut of 8.8% in financial resources. I am not the one saying that. That is in the Minister of Public Safety's plan. That is what he has put forward.
I will not be supporting this bill because there is nothing to it. It is a bunch of words on paper that Liberals have put together. They have misapplied the two court rulings and provided no financial or people resources to make it happen. It is bad legislation, it is poorly thought out and it is poor administration on the government's side.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. In our opinion, the Liberals' bill reeks of improvisation. Allow me to explain.
This bill seeks to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities and replace it with structured intervention units; to use prescribed body scanners for inmates, which is a good idea; to establish parameters for access to health care; and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health conditions.
Obviously, the bill in question contains some reasonable measures that are worth examining. We should all consider how we can change and improve the overall prison program.
In a recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court called into question the legality of indefinite solitary confinement, but the Liberals are appealing that decision. This is what I mean about improvisation. On one hand, the Liberals are appealing the court's decision, but on the other they are introducing a bill that introduces major changes. It is difficult to follow the Liberals' logic.
As far as administrative segregation is concerned, let me share a concrete example. Last week, I was invited to Donnacona Institution, a maximum-security federal penitentiary in the Quebec City region. Representatives for correctional authorities made presentations and the union shared its concerns. Then, during the tour of the penitentiary, I was brought to the administrative segregation area so that I could see what it is. They even brought out an inmate who was in administrative segregation, a murderer who has been incarcerated for 41 years and has spent only three months out of segregation. He committed other major crimes as well.
He came to see me and said that he wanted to stay in what is referred to as the “hole”, in other words, administrative segregation. That person does not want to be with the other inmates. He has been incarcerated for 41 years and says that administrative segregation suits him best. The correctional officers asked me what they are supposed to do with him since he wants to stay there. If he is forced to return to the general population that will cause problems. It is hard to know what to do or to assess the usefulness of administrative segregation.
Getting back to the bill, this legislation also applies to transfers and allows the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary and all areas within penitentiaries. I do not understand that. In a maximum-security penitentiary, such as Donnacona, nothing gets in or out without the strictest controls. I know from experience because I had to go through several steps when I went to visit. Maximum security means maximum security, period.
As I understand it, under this bill, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium- or minimum-security penitentiary. If that is not the case, someone will correct me. If we are talking about basic safety, that simply does not make sense. A maximum-security classification cannot just be assigned to an individual cell at a minimum-security facility. That would be absolutely ridiculous, since the facility's entire perimeter and security system would not be designed to guarantee maximum security. Someone needs to explain that, because I do not understand.
I firmly believe that Canada has one of the best correctional systems in the world, both for prisoners and for guards. Everyone can agree that criminals need to serve their sentences, as required by law. However, a prison must not become a five-star Holiday Inn, because that will give prisoners no motivation to renounce the criminal lifestyle. When someone goes to jail, they should feel like they are in jail. They should want to leave and never come back once their sentence is up.
If prisoners decide they do not like life on the outside and do bad things so they can go back to jail—which is something that is already happening, because they get free room and board, are cared for and have all their needs met—then there is a problem. This is not the way to help people get back on the straight and narrow.
I was eager to see the bill. After a preliminary reading, I see some good points. It is not all bad. Just because we are in opposition, that does not mean we can only see the negative side. By no means. For example, using body scanners is a great idea. In fact, it is one of the things I wanted to recommend to the minister.
The problem is the spirit of the law. These are the worst criminals in Canada. They are murderers, rapists, you name it, and they are in maximum security prisons. They are the worst people in Canada. The intent of the law is to take these people and create a structured intervention unit for them. They will spend less time in cells, and they will be put together to give each other hugs and to talk. There is a very liberal attitude underlying all of this, which I understand is about believing that everyone is good, everyone is kind.
However, as I was saying, when I was at Donnacona I saw some videos about what happens in the corridors and with inmates. Those people are hardened criminals. They will attack one another on the slightest pretext. I was even shown a video of an inmate who was knifed in the head by another inmate. There is incredible violence. The most dangerous inmates, the ones who do not want to co-operate, are put into isolation cells so they can be controlled.
Then there are the victims. The inmate who was attacked in the video I saw knew that something was going on. He knew that his life was in danger. These people ask to be put in segregation. They do not ask to be put in segregation so they can get touchy-feely with the most dangerous inmates. This is not how it works. This person wants to be isolated, in a quiet cell, which, I should add, is nothing like what you see in the movies. People imagine the hole like a dungeon at Alcatraz, where the guards slam the door and the room is completely black. These cells are the same size as the ones in normal sections. They are exactly the same, just more private. Inmates are segregated either to be put under control or to give them the peace they need to be safe. That is what segregation is about.
I am not suggesting that nobody ever abuses the system. I am not suggesting that, over the years, people such as prison wardens have not abused the system. That may have happened, but again, why lay down a general rule to deal with exceptions? There have been exceptions. If certain individuals have taken inappropriately draconian measures, then they need to be told they did not do their job properly, and they need to be fired. Why change the whole prison system? Why change a way of doing things that works in that setting? The existing laws are fine if they are applied properly. They meet the needs of correctional officers and inmates.
Prisoners have diverse needs, and many of them ask to go to the hole. The man I was talking about, who has been in prison for 41 years, wants something unusual. He wants his own blankets and he wants to stay there. The warden is trying to figure out what to do about him. It is complicated. However, we have serious concerns about the idea of taking people who are in segregation and making them hang out together for four hours. That is not really the right place for it.
This is part of the Liberals' current approach to security. Canadians are very skeptical of our Prime Minister's security plan. Take, for example, our border crossings; or the government's handling of Canadians who decided it was more fun to go play with terrorists, kill people, come back and pick up their lives as though nothing had happened; or even our soldiers. For the past three years, the Liberal government's record has shown us that it has something akin to contempt for the people who work to keep Canada safe and secure. The government's management of our Canadian forces is appalling. I served for 22 years and I have friends who are still in the system. I can say that they are very disheartened by the current government.
Police officers are doing what they can. They are being put in impossible situations, just as they are with the legalization of marijuana. Police officers are saying they will make it work, because they are professionals and they have no choice. In the real world, if you speak to them privately, they will tell you that it is not working and they do not have what they need. We saw how great it was yesterday with everyone lining up to buy their pot. I have to wonder who all these people are who have time to wait in the rain for three hours on a Wednesday to buy drugs. Police officers are saying they will be the ones left to deal with that. The government says the police will sort it out, they are up to the task. That is disrespectful to our security agencies.
The same goes for prisons. The prison environment is a unique environment. It is a closed environment. The officers who work there are at risk every day because they have to deal with the worst thugs and the worst criminals in Canada. The Liberals like to think that everyone is nice and everything is peachy, but that is the worst way to think when dealing with these prisoners.
They are the greatest manipulators. They do anything they can to manipulate others to get what they want. They want to control their environment. This is difficult for our officers, who work 24/7 to keep these prisoners under control and keep the guards and the rest of the prisoners safe.
Next, I want to talk about syringes. We have a problem because the government just decided that it would use taxpayer money to give syringes to all inmates who ask for them, so that they can inject drugs. How is it that people are able to inject drugs in prison? Is the correctional setting not supposed to keep them away from all that? Drugs are smuggled in by visitors. They hide drugs in all kinds of places, but I will leave that up to your imagination. All kinds of things are brought into prison, usually through visitors and corrupt officers. It is no secret that this happens.
I am pleased because, under the bill, all prisoners will be required to undergo body scan searches. However, mandatory scans will also be required for all visitors. This measure was included in the bill in response to a request from the Donnacona Institution, and I am pleased to see that it is going to happen. Ontario and British Columbia are already conducting such searches. Body scan searches will make it possible to control at least 95% of the substances that individuals bring into prisons because they will show whether there is anything hidden in an individual's body. That will allow us to prevent drugs from entering prisons. If body scan searches keep drugs out of prisons, then we can immediately suspend the needle distribution program.
Prisoners will keep the needles. The most serious criminals with best ideas for doing the greatest harm will have needles in their possession. That does not make any sense. We are giving prisoners weapons. These people have a lot of imagination; we have no idea just how much. I saw a chart at the Donnacona Institution of everything that the guards had confiscated. Some inmates spend two months rubbing a nail clippers on part of their bed to create a knife. They are patient. They are there for a long time. They will take the needles from the syringes to make weapons. They will be able to make blades with the spoons provided to cook drugs.
I believe that the government knows all of this. If the government understands, why is it doing this? Why is it not thinking things through and using common sense to say that it will do things the right way by installing scanning equipment and preventing drugs from entering so needles are no longer needed? We should forget about this absolutely ridiculous program which endangers the safety of our correctional officers.
We cannot support Bill C-83 in its present form. Basically, there are some things that work, such as installing scanning equipment. However, we believe that creating structured intervention units is just smoke and mirrors. This shows that the government does not understand the prison system.
Last week, my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and I toured a prison. The unions gave presentations to all elected members of the House. Even our Liberal and NDP colleagues heard from the unions about their concerns and were asked to stop thinking that a federal penitentiary is a fantasy world. I am referring to the prison near Quebec City, but the same applies to every federal penitentiary in Canada.
Take the McClintic case, for example. This murderer's transfer from a maximum-security prison to an indigenous healing lodge got a lot of people talking two weeks ago. This is someone who ought to be serving her sentence in a maximum-security prison. In maximum-security prisons, each offender has their own cell. They eat, they sleep, they take classes if they so choose, and then they go back to their cells. They are protected because they are living in a maximum-security environment. However, for some incomprehensible reason, it was decided to send this person to a place with virtually no security.
From what I gather from Bill C-83, room 83 at the healing lodge, to use a random number, will be considered a maximum-security room. If I read between the lines, that is basically what the Liberals want to do. The end result will be a place surrounded by beautiful pine trees where room 83 is a maximum-security room.
Ms. McClintic will be in room 83, the maximum-security room.
Do they think we are idiots? Either they must be idiots or they think we are, to believe that would work. I hope that I am wrong and that what I am saying is false.
If what I am saying turns out to be the truth, then this government is really dangerous to Canadians' safety. It does not care what a maximum-security prison sentence means or what keeping Canadians safe means.
Then there are the victims. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of victims who are seeing the murderer who killed their father, mother, brother or sister end up in such conditions.
What must they be thinking? They must be wondering what country we live in. What kind of country lets its worst citizens spend their sentence in such conditions by claiming room 83 is a maximum-security room? This is a serious problem.
I could go on about this for two hours, but I think that Canadians know that this government is not serious and that it puts Canadians' safety at risk. If this keeps up, things are bound to get worse. Otherwise, then the government should prove it by taking rational measures that are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prisoners have rights, of course, but it is all in the way things are done. This approach is not in line with what we as Conservatives consider to be effective management of a penitentiary.
On that note, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, since the Bill prioritizes the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals over safety and victims' rights by eliminating the use of solitary confinement, a common measure many Western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners, and since the principle of the Bill fails to end the practice of allowing child killers, like Terri-Lynn McClintic, to be transferred to healing lodges instead of being kept behind bars.”
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-10-18 11:08 [p.22537]
Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-83, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in response to several court rulings and a debate over administrative segregation that has raged in Canada for years.
I want to thank organizations like the John Howard Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which are leading the charge against the overuse of administrative segregation. They won out in two slightly different court rulings.
Before I start, I want to give some background on those court rulings because they impact today's debate. The minister himself said that Bill C-83 is partly intended as a response to the concerns expressed by the court.
Let us start with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In its recent decision, the court explicitly said that there are not enough tools for ensuring, for example, that a lawyer is present during administrative segregation hearings. It also mentioned the inhumane conditions imposed by overuse of administrative segregation and the fact that a predetermined time limit on the use of administrative segregation had been ignored.
That ties in with part of the ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which states that more than 48 hours in administrative segregation caused serious, irreversible mental health problems. This also ties in with the UN's finding that more than two weeks in administrative segregation can be defined as a form of torture. These findings are so important.
The use of administrative segregation has been found to be abusive by the correctional investigator countless times and in countless reports that he has published over the past decade. We also see that an overrepresentation of certain vulnerable populations in administrative segregation shows that there is not only an abusive use, but an extremely problematic use that can exacerbate problems in some cases and hinder rehabilitation efforts of certain inmates in our correctional system.
For example, there is an overrepresentation of women with mental health problems. There is also an overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, since 42% of inmates in administrative segregation are indigenous peoples. It is mind-boggling to see just how overrepresented indigenous peoples are in administrative segregation. Let us not forget that they are already overrepresented the general prison population.
The decision brought forward by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, following efforts by, among others, the BC Civil Liberties Association, made it clear that the Correctional Service of Canada was acting in a way that was deemed to be unconstitutional under section 7.
What did the government do following a very clear prescription from that court about what could be done in order to remedy the situation? It appealed that decision, and that was shameful. It was interesting that in June 2017, certainly before that decision was made, the government had legislation before the House, which is still on the Order Paper, Bill C-56.
Bill C-56 sought to remedy, in part, the issue before us today, the issue of solitary confinement, by imposing a 21-day limit that would then be followed by a review. Despite any decision that might be made, any findings of abuse or overuse of solitary confinement, there was no independent mechanism to act on any findings of abuse. All that was required to prolong the 21-day period was for the warden, the head of the institution, to provide reasons in writing. To be honest, that is a pretty low threshold for continuing with a practice that has already been deemed, as I have said on several instances, to be problematic.
We are not the only ones saying this. This is something that has been going on for a long time. As I said in my question to the minister, Justice Arbour long ago called for judicial oversight of the use of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, if members prefer less Orwellian language for what this practice actually is. That followed a commission on certain events in the women's prison in Kingston. That recommendation has so far gone unanswered, not to mention the many recommendations that followed from the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the horrible situation with Ashley Smith.
This leads me to another troubling statistic. Between 2011 and 2014, 14 inmates who found themselves in solitary confinement committed suicide. This is a public safety issue. Let us be clear. Using a tool that exacerbates mental health situations in corrections and diminishes the ability of corrections to rehabilitate those offenders will inevitably cause a public safety concern with respect to recidivism and other things.
That is why, when we look at the tools being used, understanding that corrections officers need tools to ensure safety within the institutions they manage, we also have to understand the danger that can be created by exacerbating existing issues and the importance of prioritizing rehabilitation.
I would like to read the testimony of some experts in order to demonstrate to what extent the bill before us is problematic.
I will read the press release issued yesterday by Senator Kim Pate, who was the then CEO of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Senator Pate said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Moreover, she adds:
Bill C-83 also maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making. Under the new legislation, all decision making regarding when and how long prisoners are to be segregated will be made by a CSC administrator without the review of any third party.
The last sentence in that paragraph goes to an earlier point I made:
This change represents another step away from Justice Louise Arbour's recommendation for judicial oversight of corrections following the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston.
I agree with Senator Pate.
It is quite disturbing that, in media articles and in his comments, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is trying to give the impression that the government is working to eliminate administrative segregation. That is just a sham.
Let us be clear. What the government is really trying to do is to make a few changes to the administrative segregation process in correctional institutions. In fact, all they are doing is calling it something else. It is disturbing, since the government is appealing a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court that clearly identifies the problems with administrative segregation.
In a media scrum after the bill was introduced earlier this week, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness implied that what they are calling it now is no longer administrative segregation. They appear to believe that by changing what they call it, they can avoid their obligations with respect to administrative segregation imposed by the Supreme Court and listed by the United Nations.
The senator is not the only one to say so, and I would also like to share with the House the opinion of a correctional investigator.
The correctional investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, shares the same assessment as Senator Pate, and that I have made, of the proposed legislation. Dr. Zinger told iPolitics:
We may end up with a regime that touches more people and that is very restrictive.... This is a widening of the net of those restrictive environments. There’s no procedural safeguard.
Two things in this passage are extremely important. Not only will administrative segregation continue under another name, but they are going to be casting a wider net. This will drag in more inmates, who may also belong to vulnerable groups that are already overrepresented in administrative segregation.
There is no procedure in place for reviewing or appealing decisions to place inmates in administrative segregation. The lack of third-party review and an appeal mechanism is extremely disturbing.
When I asked the minister the question, he said that it was not important and that there were already mechanisms in place, including multiple reviews by the commissioner and a review by the institution’s warden.
That is simply not enough. It has been clearly found and established in correctional investigators’ reports, court decisions and United Nations resolutions that there has been abusive use of administrative segregation. According to the experts and in my own opinion, it is not enough to simply rely on wardens’ and the commissioner’s decisions. Of course, these individuals have a certain expertise. They are responsible for managing their institutions, and we respect that.
However, once it has been determined that there has been abuse, there must be a recourse mechanism for putting a stop to that abuse.
That is the problem with some of the measures concerning the new powers that would be given to recognized health care professionals. On the surface, and in a somewhat substantive way, this is a positive thing. However, there are two key issues with what health care professionals could do under Bill C-83.
The first is how we define the health issues on which those health care professionals could act. Experts are already saying that there is a concern that some health care issues that may be identified as not essential by a warden or an administrator in a corrections institute would go without the proper treatment and that the arbitrary way in which such a determination could be made is obviously cause for concern.
The other piece is that even if a determination was made by a registered health care professional, or someone that person had delegated, offenders, inmates, who found themselves in solitary confinement, or this new SIU in Bill C-83, and then for a variety of physical and mental health reasons should no longer be in such a situation, would have no recourse. Those findings would be presented to the administrator, and consequently, under certain articles of the bill, would go to the commissioner. However, the reality is that as long as there was no proper oversight, third party or judicial, as has been recommended by folks like Senator Kim Pate, Justice Louise Arbour and Dr. Ivan Zinger, our corrections investigator, the proper protections would not be in place.
I am very concerned.
I would like to return to my Conservative colleague’s speech. Some Canadians listening today are probably asking a very simple question: why should we want to make life easier for certain inmates? How does that help ensure public safety?
Certain points are extremely important, and I mentioned some of them in my speech. To ensure public safety, we need disciplinary measures guaranteeing that correctional officers can properly manage their institutions.
We also need to make sure that the people with problems and, in some cases, serious mental health issues, will not get worse and that, on the contrary, they will receive adequate and appropriate treatment.
We want to prevent recidivism in the case of certain inmates who will be granted parole. We also want to ensure the protection of correctional officers inside the institutions. Providing proper treatment for individuals with serious mental health problems is extremely important.
The concerns in this area expressed by the union representing correctional officers are extremely important. The hon. member who spoke just before me alluded to this in her speech.
I would like to take the time to address some of their concerns. Resources are the main issue. In its statement on Bill C-83 today or yesterday, the union clearly identified this problem, which remains one of its top concerns.
That is a recurring theme with regard to what is required for corrections officers to be able to do their jobs. When we look at the approach taken by the previous government, in 2011-12 alone the legislation adopted by the Conservative government represented an increase in cost of around $250 million for Correctional Service Canada, which was followed by the need to cut nearly $300 million in operating costs from 2012 to 2015, followed by the closure of two penitentiaries, Leclerc Institution and the Kingston Penitentiary. That is a circle that cannot possibly be squared when it comes to ensuring public safety and ensuring that corrections officers have the ability to adequately do their jobs: ensuring safety and security within those institutions and ensuring that the correctional program that has been assigned to a specific offender can be followed through on.
Of course, the problem is extremely worrying to the entire population, but let us be clear. What we want above all from the correctional system is, on the one hand, the assurance of public safety; on the other hand, by applying the disciplinary and punitive measures that exist in the justice system and are essential to rehabilitation, we want to achieve the objectives of treating mental health issues, as well as ensuring public safety, when it comes to inmates who could reintegrate into society and their respective communities.
I would like to get back to Bill C-83. It is all a sham, as I said before, to oversell what is actually a minor change.
Right now, we are told that 22 hours is the threshold for placing someone in administrative segregation. The government is talking about a major change in the number of hours prisoners can spend outside their cells. In fact, relative to current legislation, this change amounts to two hours.
As the executive director of the John Howard Society said in an interview this week, most of the time, these hours are granted at 5:00 a.m. when it is 40 degrees below zero outside. Understandably, the inmate will refuse to come out. Under this bill, such refusal will have consequences.
To conclude, the smokescreen the government has put up to say that it is addressing the concerns of the court, of the United Nations and of the correctional investigator just is not enough. The reality is that we are proceeding with the current regime under a different name. That is not enough to ensure public safety and that corrections officers are attaining the objectives imposed on them by the law but also by constitutional obligations.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
View Alupa Clarke Profile
2018-10-18 12:08 [p.22544]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.
As always, I will begin by saying hello to my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou, many of whom are watching today, as I am told every time I go door to door.
I also want to tell them that the issue we are discussing today is a very delicate subject. We are talking about the prison environment and about people's lives, namely, the lives of victims of crime and the lives of criminals in prison. This subject can be unsettling, and people often have very strong views on one side or the other. Some people want a really tough-on-crime approach, while others want a softer approach, for reasons that are equally legitimate on both sides.
I would like to ease into the debate and explain the Conservative caucus's take on Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
My colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, our public safety critic, was the commanding officer of the Régiment de la Chaudière. I have a lot of faith in him. Today he moved a motion calling on the House to simply end the debate on Bill C-83. My colleague believes that the bill is so botched that we need to shut down debate. In other words, we want to stop this bill and keep it from moving forward or being voted on in this place.
What I find interesting is that the NDP members have said that the bill does not go far enough in terms of protecting people who are incarcerated, while we are saying that it goes too far because it compromises the safety of prison guards and Canadians in general. Given that the motion moved by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles will not be voted on right away, I will address some of the main aspects of this bill.
I want to address my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou. The bill would eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities. Everyone is entitled to an opinion on administrative segregation. These opinions are often based on Hollywood movies. Administrative segregation is used when an inmate is imprisoned for life, or for 10 or 2 years. Inmates serving a life sentence already know that they are not getting out of prison and that they will probably die there, even though there is a provision allowing them to request a discharge after 25 years and leave prison, even in very serious cases of premeditated murder.
Nevertheless, life in prison is a very long period of time for someone who is incarcerated. How can the correctional facility and the guards compel or force this prisoner to comply with disciplinary guidelines? The prison guards are ordinary men and women, with normal lives, who go home at night, who have children, and all that. How are they meant to impose order every day in prison when there are inmates who will be there for the rest of their lives? These lifers could go so far as to kill another inmate since they will be in prison either way.
What I am saying is that correctional facilities need access to measures that are psychologically difficult for prisoners, like segregation, otherwise known as the hole. I do not think that is a good word, since they are no longer holes. They are real and proper cells, just used as a means of segregation.
The inmates eat well enough, and they have access to sanitation facilities. Prisons are not like Alcatraz in the 19th century. We are talking about orderly, coordinated disciplinary segregation that gives correctional officers some measure of control over hardened criminals who do not follow the rules unless they are afraid of ending up in segregation.
This bill would eliminate that. Considering the argument I just laid out, we think that is totally ridiculous. The bill would also replace those facilities with structured intervention units, but it does not tell us exactly what those units are or how they will work.
The bill also talks about using a body scanner, and that is one part of the bill we support, as do corrections professionals and unions. Visitors often find ways that I will not describe in detail to bring drugs and other objects, such as cell phones, to prisoners. That is not allowed. Using a body scanner could make life easier for corrections officers, visitors and prisoners because there would be no need to conduct uncomfortable searches.
The bill specifies that exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders diagnosed with mental health issues need to be formalized. It is about time.
Speaking for myself, there is something I find intriguing. The bill comes in response to recent superior court decisions that found that indefinite segregation was unacceptable under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
I want to respond to something my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood said in answer to a question I asked 15 or 20 minutes ago. He told me that we make law, but the courts and judges interpret the law.
Nowhere in the Canadian Constitution does it say that lawmakers do not have the right to interpret the law. It is ironic to hear a lawmaker say something so absurd, because we interpret laws every day in the House of Commons. We interpret them in debate and in committee. We review laws, we rewrite laws, we pass laws and we repeal laws. The role of interpreting law belongs as much to the legislative branch as to the executive branch. The executive branch is even required to apply the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to evaluate every bill through the lens of the charter.
Distinguished Professor Christopher Manfredi of McGill University, who is recognized by his peers around the world, said that the interpretation of each of the three branches is important because they each have their own interpretation of Canadian law and that we achieve better results for Canadians when there is vigorous competition between the powers.
In conclusion, I will say that we could have a philosophical debate about the existence of prisons. No one thinks that prisons are wonderful. At a human level, I believe prisons are probably the most horrible thing there is. However, the historical evolution of humanity shows that this is the only known way to ensure that the most dangerous members of our society will not have any further criminal impact on others. The objective is public safety. The Canadian government's main objective is Canadians' safety. That is why I told the member from Scarborough—Guildwood that he should have instead introduced another bill that emphasizes the government's role in protecting Canadians and that tells the court that it is absolutely wrong about administrative segregation in prison. It is unfortunate, but we must have prisons.
As I reiterated in my arguments, administrative segregation is the only real tool that ensures that prisoners serving a life sentence, for example, have a psychological constraint preventing them from harming other inmates in jail. How can we control a lifer without administrative segregation? It is good for the effectiveness of prisons and for the safety of guards.
We hope that the government will reverse course on this bill. I do not understand why the NDP does not want to support the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which believes that ending the practice of administrative segregation will jeopardize the safety of correctional officers.
I thank the citizens of Beauport—Limoilou for listening.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 12:39 [p.22548]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to add my voice in this debate around Bill C-83.
We are committed to ensuring that we not only have the tools to hold the guilty parties accountable for breaking the law but also to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation, so that we will have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. This bill proposes to transform the way our federal correctional system works in this country to meet those critical goals.
A central element of this transformation is eliminating the use of segregation. Segregation would be replaced by the safety and intervention-focused structured intervention units, or SIUs for short. SIUs would operate in a much different way from what is currently the case with segregation. I will get to those crucial differences in just a few moments.
First, let me just say that in any large population there will be people who pose risk to those around them and to themselves. That reality holds true and perhaps is compounded in a population of offenders housed together under one roof. Correctional institutions are home to inmates whose behaviour can be dangerous to others or to themselves, and disruptive or highly difficult for those around them to endure.
It is a very challenging environment, both for inmates and for the professional, brave and hard-working correctional employees. Corrections officials and staff must have a tool they can use in cases where an inmate cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. For many years, segregation has been that tool.
However, the practice has come under fire in recent years. Watchdogs like the correctional investigator and the Auditor General of Canada have urged the government to restrict its use or eliminate it altogether. Two recent constitutional challenges in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have found the legislation governing administrative segregation to be unconstitutional.
As of December and January, administrative segregation will no longer be a tool available in those two provinces. That means that if an incident happens in a yard and inmates need to be separated while witness statements are taken, as correctional workers find out what happened, correctional officials will not be able to use administrative segregation. This means that if several members of a gang are threatening another inmate, there will be no administrative segregation unit to use. All of those involved will simply stay in the general population. This is a recipe for disaster.
Let us be very clear that when the Conservatives say we should just keep using “administrative segregation”, which what they called it in government, or “solitary confinement”, as they call it in opposition, they are telling correctional officials to do something they will not have the legal authority to do anymore. Those sections of the act will not exist in those two provinces.
What the Conservatives are really saying, then, is to just keep all of the inmates in the general population, regardless of the risk they pose to guards and health care workers and regardless of the risk from other inmates. It is not a real plan. It is reckless, and it is reckless thinking that we would expect to hear from people who have no real policies and no ability to make tough choices that governing this country requires.
Of course, those two court rulings came subsequent to the tragic case of Ashley Smith, who died in custody in 2007 at the age of 19. The coroner's inquest into Ashley's death focused on administrative segregation and the treatment of inmates with mental illness.
The Government of Canada has committed to implementing recommendations from that inquest. The mandate letters of three ministers also commit them to addressing gaps in service for indigenous peoples and for those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. Both of those groups are not only overrepresented in the overall federal corrections system, but also in the inmate population in segregation.
Some progress has been made by Correctional Service Canada over the past few years. Canada's correctional investigator said in March of last year that CSC “for the last few years has dedicated a lot of time and effort to address the gross overuse of administrative segregation.” For example, CSC implemented policy changes that led to a sharp decline in the use of administrative segregation placements between 2015 and 2017. Those changes have ensured that inmates with serious mental illness who actively engage in self-injury and are at elevated or imminent risk of suicide are not admissible for segregation.
According to the correctional investigator's 2016-17 report, the average stay in segregation has also seen a significant drop, from 34 days in 2015 to 23 days in 2017. The correctional investigator calls these reductions “encouraging”, but he cautions that there is more work to be done.
The time has come to better focus on interventions and on safety, and that is what this important piece of legislation would do.
Under Bill C-83, segregation would be eliminated outright from Canada's federal corrections system. In its place, the government is proposing to create structured intervention units. SIUs would be established in numerous institutions. They would offer a secure and structured environment to address the safety risks of inmates who cannot be managed or integrated into the mainstream inmate population.
The initial decision to move an inmate from the mainstream inmate population to an SIU would be made by a CSC staff member under the institutional head. This decision would be based on an evaluation of the inmate's needs, including health needs, and the safety risks for themselves, others and the institution. The staff member would have to be satisfied that there were no reasonable alternatives to placement in an SIU.
The inmate would receive a notice explaining the reasons for his or her movement, the right to retain and instruct counsel, and the right to make representations regarding movement back to the mainstream inmate population, or other alternatives.
Unlike segregation, SIUs would provide inmates with uninterrupted interventions and programs tailored to address their specific and unique needs and risks. Inmates would also have the opportunity to be outside of their cells for a longer period of time, at least four hours a day rather than the two hours a day currently practised. At least two of those four hours would allow inmates to interact with others.
In addition, inmates would receive daily visits from health care professionals. The plan would include additional staff to ensure that inmates could be moved safely throughout the new SIUs as they continued to receive programming and time with other compatible inmates within the SIU.
This is truly a revolutionary approach that would lead to better rehabilitation, which would mean less recidivism once inmates were released. Fewer inmates reoffending would mean less crime, and it would mean fewer victims in our communities.
Bill C-83 also addresses key recommendations from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith. In addition to ending the practice of placing female inmates in conditions of long-term segregation, the bill would introduce patient advocates at designated penitentiaries to help inmates navigate their health care rights and responsibilities.
All of this would facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible. It would also support their treatment and rehabilitation in preparation for their eventual release into the community. That, in turn, would support safety in our communities, because the vast majority of inmates will eventually complete their sentences and will be freed from custody.
We must do everything we can to ensure that offenders are as well equipped as possible to be productive, law-abiding citizens by addressing the underlying behaviours that got them into trouble to begin with. This is what we need to focus on.
Public safety is not well served by seeing offenders released more hardened, more bitter or more resentful than when they came in. Nor is it ever a good thing for inmates with health or mental health issues to be undiagnosed or to go untreated while in federal custody. That is why the establishment of the SIUs under this legislation would be such a big and positive step forward on the safety front. I am confident that it would mean better correctional outcomes for inmates, more security for the staff, safer institutions and greater public safety in the long run.
Bill C-83 would also correct a long-standing problem that has developed over time for Correctional Service Canada. When the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was written in 1992, CSC had facilities that were entirely dedicated to a single security classification. However, over time, CSC's infrastructure became mixed, with institutions often having, for instance, a maximum- and a medium-security wing. Today virtually all the facilities are mixed facilities. In fact, all the women's institutions are, indeed, mixed. The act, however, was never changed to reflect that fact.
Bill C-83 would ensure that CSC had the clear and proper legal authorities to operate and move inmates from one wing of an institution to another wing in the same facility.
This legislation would also grant CSC the legal authority to use body scanners. As we all know, drugs and other prohibited contraband find their way into prisons, despite efforts to keep them out. Body scanners would provide an important tool for corrections guards that is less invasive than physical searches and more effective in detecting contraband.
The bill would also ensure that audio recordings of parole hearings would be made available to victims who attended a hearing. The existing Corrections and Conditional Release Act permits a registered victim who was not in attendance to receive an audio copy of the hearing, but it does not allow someone who was there in person to have one. During the government's consultations, we heard loud and clear that for many victims, a parole hearing is such an emotional moment that the time seems to fly by. Later, they have difficulty clearly remembering what transpired. Section 34 of Bill C-83 would ensure that victims who attended in person could receive an audio recording of the hearing afterward.
Another important aspect of the bill stems from the Gladue Supreme Court decision of 1999. This was the case that required the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. Over the past 20 years, CSC has developed internal policies to give effect to the Supreme Court ruling, but Bill C-83 would go further by ensuring that the Gladue principles were fully enshrined in the CCRA.
I am proud to stand with a government that continues to take action to reform the criminal justice system, and I am proud to stand here today in support of this important bill.
As I mentioned at the top of my speech, this bill would ensure that CSC would have the tools to hold guilty parties accountable for what they have done while creating an environment that fosters rehabilitation. Effective rehabilitation means that we would have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2018-10-18 13:03 [p.22551]
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my remarkable colleague from Cariboo—Prince George. I use the word “remarkable” because the word “incredible” has been overused for him recently.
I am proud to speak today to Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This is also known as another case of Liberals putting interests of criminals ahead of everyone else, with little thought put into it. It should not be confused with Liberal Bill C-71, or Bill C-75, or Bill C-28, or any other myriad number of bills in which they have put criminal rights ahead of those of regular citizens.
We all know the horrific story of the case of Ashley Smith and her unfortunate death. That never should have happened within our prison system, and the government should make moves to prevent situations like that from recurring. However, it should not impose a poorly thought-out, outright ban on segregation.
There are some good parts to the bill and I congratulate the government on it. I support the idea of body scans to prevent contraband and drugs coming into prisons, but it should be extended to everyone entering the prison, not just certain people. I also like that it gives more consideration to indigenous offenders.
But, and it is a big but, there are a few key points in the bill that would directly impact the safety and security of our corrections officers and those who need segregation for their own safety. This is another example of the government's obsession with making criminals' lives easier while making our front-line officers' jobs more dangerous.
I want to talk about the reality of the most common use of segregation. Inmates who commit crimes in prison do not always get the segregation. Very often, it is the victims who are segregated to protect them from those inmates. It is often used as a means of ensuring the safety of the targeted inmate from further assault, often because the target does not want to name the inmate who assaulted them. This means the assaults continue and the inmate who went into a segregation unit has to eventually reintegrate somewhere else in another unit or institution, or even in another region in the country.
It is relatively uncommon that segregation is ordered as a disciplinary sanction. In fact, most inmates view segregation time as a holiday rather than a consequence, especially since they must receive all their possessions, such as a television and their other belongings on their property card, within 24 hours of admission.
A report from CBC that came out last April quoted the Ontario Public Service Employees Union as saying that segregation isn't the deterrent it once was, because the maximum time inmates can spend in segregation has been halved and increased privileges for those in segregation mean that inmates are no longer as skittish about being sent there. It also confirmed that in fact there are not enough segregation units, at least in Ontario, because most are being used by inmates who have mental health issues.
That is the provincial system, but it correlates to the federal system as well. It leaves violent inmates out in the general population, where they can continue to commit assaults against other inmates and corrections officers themselves.
Another CBC report quotes an officer as saying, “Where [the more violent inmates] used to be in separate containers, now they're all in one bag, and we're just waiting for one to go off. And that sets the rest of them off and you end up with murders, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.”
Another officer is quoted as saying, “The inmates, they can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections.”
As I mentioned, with previous changes to segregation policies the maximum time in segregation has already been cut in half. Also, the increase in privileges available to those in segregation means it is not as strong a deterrent as it used to be. All removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for correctional officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety and that of other inmates.
A CBC report from September 2017 indicated that the stricter limits on segregation have led to a massive upswing in inmate assaults. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of violent repeat offences after leaving segregation increased 50%.
Statistics released recently for corrections in Ontario show close to 800 reported incidents in 2016. By halfway through 2017, the last time we had the numbers available, there were almost as many violent incidents in our prisons. The report quotes Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who pointed out that segregation is a tool for a reason and that restrictive policies only transfer the problem of violence.
The creation and integration of structured intervention units makes violent and non-violent inmates equal, regardless of the quality of their conduct while they serve their time. They get access to four hours per day outside their cells from the structured units, and they also get two hours of “significant human contact”. This is going to require significant increases in resources for the officers, but there is no money set aside for this.
Now, every time someone is moved into segregation, or out of segregation for their two hours out in the open, it requires two officers to accompany them. That is for the safety of the officers, to ensure they always have enough manpower to protect themselves. Where is this money going to come from?
If we look at the government's departmental plan signed by the Minister of Public Safety, allowing for inflation it is actually cutting 8.8% of the funding to Correctional Service Canada over the next four years. Where is this money coming from?
I am sure the minister did not even look at the plan before he signed off on it, and I am sure my colleagues across the way have not read the plan either. It actually calls for a reduction in officers in Correctional Service Canada over the next years, but it is going to increase the workload and the costs of these units with what money? We do not know.
The officers themselves are left with one less tool that allows them to deter assaults and violence from taking place in the cellblocks. Corrections officers already face a host of challenges. Even though it is their choice to work in these jobs, keep in mind that these men and women are still in a prison themselves. They are subjected to the same environment that the inmates are.
Statistics from a 2018 report prepared for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers show that between 60% and 65% of correctional officers report their work has a negative impact on their life away from work. A substantial proportion of correctional officers, about 75%, report that the psychological demands of their job have increased in the last five years. Nearly 55% of long-serving officers report that their physical ability to properly do their work is worse or much worse in the last few years. The report summarizes:
[T]here is a particularly poor fit between interest in work and the psychological and mental disposition of [the] officers...on the one hand, and the environment and working conditions set out and maintained by CSC, on the other. Such a poor fit cannot go on forever, nor be ignored, other than to the detriment of both the correctional officers...as well as public interest as embodied in CSC's mandate and social mission.
I want to look at an another area where the government has failed our corrections officers. They are one of the main victims of the Liberal Phoenix fiasco. Roughly 85% of corrections officers across the country have been affected by Phoenix. This is because many of them are shift workers with irregular schedules that require manual entry into the system, something the government could have prevented had it not botched the entire rollout.
In fact, the Treasury Board was specifically told this was a failure in the Phoenix system when it was doing the pre-testing, yet the government chose to ignore it, just like the President of the Treasury Board ignored the Gartner report when it advised not to proceed with Phoenix.
I find it very amusing that the President of the Treasury Board justifies his meddling in the Davie supply ship contract on behalf of Irving as part of his job, but apparently it was not part of his job to act on the Gartner report on Phoenix, which, by the way, he commissioned himself.
The UCCO president has already called for help for its members because, like many public servants, they are renegotiating their mortgages and taking out loans to ensure they can keep a roof over their heads because of the pay problems. Unfortunately, we do not see an end in sight for those suffering from the Phoenix pay problems.
I want to talk about the government's priorities. I mentioned before that its priorities seems to be on criminals, not on average Canadians. Page 210 of last year's budget proposes $21.4 million for the mental health needs of RCMP officers and the same amount for the mental health needs of federal inmates. There are a lot more RCMP officers than there are inmates. For the average RCMP officer, the people putting their lives on the line every day and fighting for us, we have from the government $1,100 per officer for mental health. For prisoners, it is $1,400. Where is the justice?
Of 1,400 words in the CSC's much-ballyhooed mandate letter, the first time a corrections services lead has had a mandate letter, there were 24 words on victims and 52 on the workers. Those 52 words on the workers included such gems as, “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”
There are the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and for our valued officers in the prisons. Perhaps it is time for self-reflection on the issue.
View Todd Doherty Profile
View Todd Doherty Profile
2018-10-18 13:18 [p.22553]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off this intervention by setting the situation we are faced with today.
Imagine a time when we call murder a “bad practice.” Imagine being at a point in time where we cannot use the word “illegal” for those who cross our borders illegally. It is now “irregular”. Imagine our government of day actually paying convicted terrorists $10.5 million for pain and suffering. Imagine a time when our government reaches out to a terrorist who, at one point, bragged about playing soccer with the heads of those he fought against, an ISIS terrorist, who bragged at one time about playing soccer with the heads of those they captured and decapitated.
I offer this because this is where are at, at this point. We see, time and time again, the government, our colleagues across the way, continuing to go on, “merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. It goes down the way, all rainbows and sunshine. It is hug-a-thug.
Imagine a time when we are moving a convicted murderer, one who had been sentenced for society's most heinous crime of kidnapping and killing an eight-year-old, to a healing lodge part way through their sentence, not behind bars, but having a key to their own condo, if you will, free to come and go as they please within that area. Imagine a time when we always err on the side of the criminal rather than that of the victim.
Imagine a time when a convicted murderer can claim PTSD from the murder that he committed and receive treatment for PTSD before veterans and first responders.
That is where we are with Bill C-83. Before our colleagues across the way say, “The Conservatives are so against these body scans and different elements of this piece of legislation”, we are for providing the tools for our front-line workers every step of the way so that they can be safe. We are for providing victims and their families the rights and the tools so that they can remain whole, so that they are not revictimized at every step of the way.
Bill C-83 is about abolishing segregation. Oftentimes in the movies and in prison slang, segregation is referred to as “the hole”. Maybe that is how we got here. Maybe that is how this came to be. The Liberals, in the ways they dream things up, actually thought it was a hole we were putting people in. That is not true. It is a cell, no different than others.
As a matter of fact, somebody who spent a long period of time in segregation, one of our country's most notorious serial killers, Clifford Robert Olson still managed to take advantage of the situation. A reporter who visited him at one point remarked that he was healthy, that he even had a tan. Here is a guy who raped and murdered children in my province of British Columbia, and maybe even in other areas.
Segregation is not just for the safety of our front-line officers. It is also for the safety of those who are incarcerated. One of our colleagues mentioned that in interviewing somebody who has been incarcerated and spent a majority of their time in segregation that they preferred that, that they knew if they were out in general population that they probably would not last very long.
I actually would like to name some of the folks in our prison system who are housed in segregation and who the government is proposing to allow out of segregation, such as Paul Bernardo who has just been denied parole again. He is known to have lured young women, torturing, raping and murdering them with his then girlfriend, Karla Homolka. He actually murdered her own sister. Other inmates in segregation are Robert Pickton, who is a serial killer in my province of British Columbia, Renee Acoby, John Greene, Andrew Gulliver and Christopher Newhook.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, there is probably one of our most notorious serial killers, Clifford Robert Olson. I had an opportunity to speak with some of the arresting officers in his case and those persons who were charged with guarding him in his cell. He bragged incessantly and wanted to talk about those crimes. He was diabolical. He was sick.
Segregation provides a disciplinary administrative tool that both keeps those who are incarcerated protected, but also protects front-line workers. Is that not what we are here to do, protect society and those who have been charged with protecting society, keeping them safe both physically and mentally?
Through the course of my work in building Bill C-211 and then getting it passed in June of this year, I worked closely with correctional services. Very often, correctional guards and correctional officers are not seen as first responders, yet they perform those duties every day. They are seeing the worst of society at their very worst, while providing medical and life-saving treatment almost on a daily basis. They also have to guard those individuals and their safety is always at risk. Imagine being a guard in charge of a unit and there are 40 of society's worst criminals, yet that guard is alone.
The president of the union of Correctional Services of Canada recently said that in his centre in the course of the last 12 months there had been 100 violent incidents against his officers.
I have also learned that the government is approving a needle exchange program where the guards are to give the inmates needles and spoons to cook drugs and then go back to their cells, unbelievably. There is no onus on the prisoners; when they come up for parole, they are not required to report that they had been using in prison. Therefore, yes, we do agree that we should have full body scanners, not only for prisoners or their guests, but also for guards. I believe that would make everyone safe.
How unbelievable is it that we are now going to give needles and cooking spoons? I do not mean ladles for cooking soup, but cooking spoons for drugs, to use drugs, then allow them to go back to their cells and expect a guard to go into the cell to do some form of administrative management or security search, not knowing whether there is a needle there with some form of bodily fluid.
When the union heard about Bill C-83, it sent letters to the minister outlining its concerns. Union representatives were worried about segregation and emphasized to the minister the importance of this tool for correctional officers. They brought up their concern over the prison needle exchange and suggested rather than doing that, the minister focus on the resources to treat inmates with infectious diseases instead. They came at this in a reasonable way and offered solutions, yet they were not listened to. They were pooh-poohed. As a matter of fact, the minister thanked them for their time and then went forward in crafting this bill.
We are against the bill as a whole. We are not against certain elements of it. I would urge the government and the minister to reconsider Bill C-83.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
2018-10-18 15:25 [p.22574]
Madam Speaker, it was a remarkable speech of my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable, and certainly I hope that I can live up to the expectations he had.
I am honoured to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, because located in the centre of my riding is the Bowden Institution, which is presently a medium security prison built on an open campus model. It was opened in 1974, being built on the site of former RCAF Station Bowden, a World War II British Commonwealth air training plan facility. Although it is a medium-security prison, recently a considerable contingent of violent gang members have been transferred there.
During my 34 year career as a teacher in Innisfail, just a few miles north of the pen and during my wife's 10 year teaching career in Bowden, we both had many interactions with families who had relatives incarcerated at the penitentiary, as well as interactions with community members who worked as guards, psychologists, or teachers in the institution.
In my role as the member of Parliament, first for Red Deer from 2008 to 2015 and then for Red Deer—Mountain View, concerns about the activities that take place not just at Bowden but at correctional facilities across Canada often end up on my desk.
The morale of prison staff is so important because for them to function in a way that can be helpful to both the inmates and themselves, they need safe conditions and positive direction. I will start with one of the issues that has weighed so heavily on their minds, and that is the disastrous Phoenix pay system. No worker should be forced to sell their vehicle, move out of their homes, deal with marriage breakdowns from financial stress and declare personal bankruptcy simply because the government cannot get a properly calculated cheque to them. However, those are things that have happened and are continuing to happen.
No worker should have to deal with drug addicts inside a prison, especially when those drugs are fentanyl, which can be lethal if one just breathes it in. In July 2017, a corrections officer was hospitalized after finding fentanyl in a car in the parking lot. Drugs are hidden in flower beds, come over the walls in tennis balls, and are brought in by visitors, many under threat of violence to their loved ones if they do not comply.
In November 2017, half a million dollars of drugs, mainly methamphetamines and THC, was seized by staff. Imagine how people feel when the concept of needle exchanges and heating spoons also finds its way in and how that discussion occurs. It simply illustrates to the public just how dangerous and unmanageable the situation is.
Corrections staff are not only expected to deal with these dangerous issues, but they also have their hands tied even to the extent of being subject to monetary penalties if they take actions against an inmate, even if they are protecting themselves.
As far as Bill C-83 is concerned, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers intends to spend a lot of time reviewing this legislation. Jason Godin, the national president, said:
Bill C-83 will require serious consultation and resources to make it work.... As correctional officers, we want to make sure that we have the proper tools to ensure staff and inmates safety. In that sense, Bill C-83 must include structured intervention units, which would operate as a population management tool that they can ensure staff and inmate safety.
With regard to consultation, resources, and proper tools to make it work, I don't think many people believe that adequate resources management is, or ever has been, a Liberal priority after the way the government rolled out its marijuana program.
The union emphasized say that the new bill must not sacrifice disciplinary segregation as a tool to deter violent behaviour. It said:
We need alternative sanctions to disciplinary segregation, ensuring that inmates displaying dangerous and violent behaviour have some consequences for their actions. Since CSC has limited its use of segregation with new policies, there has been an increased report of assaults on inmates and staff.
For example, Mr. Godin said:
At RPC (Regional Psychiatric Centre) we have had over 100 assaults on staff in 12 months and that they need to get this under control.
It is my assessment that the introduction of SIUs may pose a risk to prison guards, inmates, particularly those for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety. Additionally, the stripping of the ability to use segregation for discipline makes prisons more dangerous for the guards, since they will now face having to deal with the worst of the worst, the most volatile, being out and about from their cells for four hours per day.
Bill C-83 also goes further than what was raised in either of the Supreme Court decisions by banning administrative segregation and changing it to this SIU model. This is just another example of how misplaced Liberal thinking is when it comes to criminals, give them all the breaks and putting the screws to those charged with keeping control.
Conservatives will always stand strong by supporting workers' safety and victims' concerns over increasing the rights and privileges of criminals.
Another aspect of this bill, one that I am in agreement with, is the introduction of body scanners. For those who travel as much as we do as members of Parliament, it is just second nature. What are those scanners designed to do? It is to keep everyone safe, to restrict dangerous items, to prevent the possibility of mayhem. Where could that be more important than in a prison? The union also welcomes the introduction of body scanners to prevent contraband, saying that “Our union has advocated strongly for the implementation of body scanners. We are satisfied with the results.”
I agree that body scanners are a good idea, but we will be proposing amendments to extend scanning to anyone who enters the institution, other than employees. Personally, I would go so far as to say that if everyone had to go through the scanners, and inmates knew this was the way it was going to be, then the resulting recognition that nothing could come in would go a long ways to ensuring safety for all.
One of the things that I have been acutely aware of as a resident of central Alberta is the issue of criminality. We have a penitentiary, but we also have criminals from all over this country. I have heard from other members that there are issues regarding the special circumstances of indigenous inmates and concerns about inmates from ethnic or religious minorities. These are all issues that need to be carefully addressed.
There are also issues with people who have drug addictions, who feed their habit through criminal behaviour, and those special cases where inmates with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are engaging in criminal activity because they are manipulated by con artists, some within the institutions as well. These are circumstances where effective mental health protocols and interventions need to be used.
The formalization of exceptions for offenders with mental health conditions of special circumstances, when done properly, would truly be fair. As a matter of fact, our previous Conservative government championed the improvement of mental health treatment for patients, by ensuring faster mental health screening through the creation of mental health strategies, by extending mental psychological counselling and improving staff training.
This was not hard on criminals; it was compassionate and effective. Granted, much more work still needs to be done. However, just throwing up our hands like the Liberals are doing, hoping they can move criminals out of prisons faster by simply reclassifying them, does not make sense, and it surely does not protect the public.
Policies such as classifying a single prison cell in a minimum-security facility to become a maximum-security cell sounds more like an administrative solution than a strong security decision.
In conclusion, we want to see the risk to prison guards, the institutions' staff, and the general public completely eliminated. Isolating offenders who attack other inmates or are harmful to themselves and others should not always be second guessed. Making prisons drug free with the use of technology and strict enforcement should not be considered an impossible task. Ensuring that the right mental health treatment gets to the right inmates as quickly as possible should be the goal of everyone involved.
Hopefully those witnesses who are clamouring to make the Liberals see the light will get a fair hearing when this goes to committee, and amendments will be accepted to make this legislation effective.
View Alexandre Boulerice Profile
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith, who will speak very eloquently on Bill C-83.
This is not how I meant to begin my speech, but since the parliamentary secretary has opened the door by saying he is open to suggestions, I have a very liberal idea to suggest. It is from a Liberal bill, Bill C-56, introduced by his own government, which would solve a lot more problems than Bill C-83 that is before us today.
This did not come from a small group of far-left extremists, but from his own government. Bill C-56 is full of good ideas, much better ideas than we see in Bill C-83, unfortunately. I suggest that he read his own bill, which is still in limbo somewhere in the House of Commons.
I, too, frequently met with correctional officers' unions back when I was still the NDP's labour critic. I share some of their concerns regarding their workload, as well as their health and safety at work. As I recall, they were particularly critical of the positions taken by the Conservative Party at the time, especially with regard to overcrowded prisons and the security problems associated with shared cells. I want them to know that we continue to support their demands for good working conditions.
I have also had the opportunity to visit a number of penitentiaries over the past two years at the invitation of a prisoners' rights advocacy group. Two years ago, I visited the Federal Training Centre in Laval, a medium-security penitentiary. More recently, I visited the Leclerc penitentiary, which is also in Laval, not far away. I also had the opportunity to meet inmates who moved from the Federal Training Centre in Laval to the Leclerc prison in the space of a year. They had made progress and were nearly eligible for parole.
Since we are talking about the prison system, it is important to demystify a few things and explain how it really works.
First, a medium-security prison is not an easy place to visit. Deprivation of liberty is an extremely serious thing. Ordinary citizens can hardly imagine being imprisoned in a cell. A lot of people think being in prison is easy, but the simple fact of spending months or years inside takes a toll. It truly is a punishment. In a moment, I will talk about the use of solitary confinement as a way to manage certain situations with prisoners. This kind of punishment can, in some cases, be considered cruel and abusive.
I have visited penitentiaries over the past two years and spoken with prisoners. They are extremely interested in politics, and I noticed that the environment is their top concern. They would ask me questions about the St. Lawrence, climate change, the future of beluga whales, and things like that. These people were going through a rehabilitation process and serving their time, and it was fascinating to see that they were keeping in touch with the rest of society. They asked all kinds of very relevant questions.
Recently, I also met with men from halfway houses run by the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec. These former inmates support men who have gone through the parole process and are participating in a program with services and therapies so they can rejoin civil society and our communities. These people do extraordinary work and do not accept just anyone. To be honest, 20% of the people in these halfway houses went back to prison because they were unable to stick to their program. They do not accept just anybody. Participants must be disciplined and follow the rules. They must explain their absences and always report their whereabouts.
Parolees who are in halfway house programs and return to the community have a 1% rate of recidivism. That is fascinating. That means that 99% of them will never end up in court or prison again, because the process worked.
I think that it is important for people to understand that when done properly and thoroughly, the process works. Often the most dangerous thing is when people serve their sentence in full. They have spent 25 years in prison. They have not taken part in any programs, been granted parole or received therapy. When they are released, it is true that they can represent a danger to society.
Those who are not dangerous are not the ones who have served their full sentence. It is the ones who are released early because they made an effort and are ready to resume their place in the workforce, among their family and friends.
I think the bill before us is Orwellian. In essence, two superior court rulings, from Ontario and British Columbia, ruled that the current legislation, which provides for administrative segregation in certain situations, was unconstitutional. There are two problems. First, there is no third-party independent observer to determine whether the use of administrative segregation was justified and whether prolonging it was also justified. That is the first problem.
Second, the average duration of administrative segregation is 24 days. That is a long time, and it takes a toll on inmates and their mental health.
Unfortunately, the bill we are debating today does nothing to address the concerns raised by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice or the Supreme Court of British Columbia. I think it is worth pointing out that one of those two courts stated clearly that prolonged segregation can be considered cruel punishment if it is used abusively. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared that administrative segregation lasting longer than two days can have negative and sometimes permanent effects on mental health.
People can suffer permanent mental health effects if they are in administrative segregation for more than two days. The current average is 24 days. According to the United Nations, administrative segregation lasting longer than 15 days may be considered torture. The average is 24 days. Does the Liberal government's bill cap the number of days? No. There is no limit.
The first clause of the bill is absolutely fascinating. It proudly states that administrative segregation will be eliminated. The government is going to listen to the Ontario court and the B.C. court and put an end to this practice.
In the second clause, we see that it is now called a structured intervention unit. That is exactly the same thing. They changed the term “administrative segregation” to “structured intervention unit”, which is still segregation, which still has the same effect on the inmate, which is still a form of punishment that can be abusive and cruel and can exacerbate mental health problems, and which, beyond 15 days, can be seen by the United Nations as a form of torture. Structured intervention units can be any area designated as such by the Correctional Service of Canada.
The structured intervention unit can be the entire penitentiary, an area in the penitentiary, or certain cells designated as such. I suspect that the administrative segregation cells will now be called structured intervention units. They are exactly the same areas. The Liberal government is absolutely not satisfying the courts' demands. There is also no independent body to verify whether any of this is being done in compliance with the standards and rules. There is no difference in the planned or possible duration of this segregation for these inmates.
The only difference is that we are going from a maximum of 22 or 23 hours a day to a maximum of 20 hours. That is all. That does not change the inmate's reality very much. Again, it should be noted that a consequence of this is that the release time could be 3 a.m., and the inmate might be asked to go outside when it is -25 degrees Celsius out. In fact, this often does not even exist.
I hope that the Liberal government will listen to reason this time.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2018-10-18 17:09 [p.22588]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great opportunity to stand again. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.
I am rising to speak to Bill C-83, the flawed reforms to our correctional system the Liberals are trying to push through. This issue is very important to me because of the hundreds of correctional staff who call my riding home and who rightfully expect me to stand up for their safety and best interests.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told me at meetings that the government did not bother to consult front-line correctional officers on these reforms. These people put their lives in harm's way every day to ensure that the most dangerous and violent offenders do not harm the innocent. These courageous men and women, at the end of the day, should be able to go home safely, and we must consider how these changes will affect their safety in the workplace.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet with the union representatives who interact with these criminals. These people have first-hand knowledge and experience of what is happening in the system. These are the people we should be looking to for solutions. They are very concerned about this legislation and many other policies the Liberal government is bringing forward with regard to correctional reform. These concerns involve the safety of correctional officers. They believe that the government is ignoring them and running over them with legislation that would grant extraordinary new privileges to prisoners at the expense of public safety and rehabilitation.
One of the main problems is the policy of administrative segregation. This policy is used to separate dangerous, violent offenders who are threats to the safety of fellow inmates and staff. Administrative segregation is a means to both protect and punish. It acts as a deterrent to committing violence against staff and inmates. Some cases brought to me by correctional staff have included inmates telling each other that it is not a big deal to assault a corrections officer, because they will only get five days. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to deter.
I wonder why the Liberals are reducing punishments for inmates who assault staff and make the workplace dangerous for those who serve in this risky environment.
Let us be clear. We are not talking about an oppressive system like that outlined by the United Nations. We are not even talking about how prisons operated in decades past. Canadians, when they think of administrative segregation, might conjure up images from movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, where corrupt wardens can place inmates in solitary confinement, in darkness, with no amenities or opportunities for meaningful human contact. That is simply not the case.
Although there have been mistakes in the past, several government members today have noted that the CSC has taken great strides in recent years to improve administrative segregation.
Administrative segregation is restrictive, but we are not talking about Club Med resorts. We are talking about prison. Inmates in administrative segregation have the right to exercise and leave their cells for an hour each day. These cells are lit, not dark. Prisoners have access to services to better themselves. If one listened to some groups, one would believe that these inmates were being thrown into a hole and forgotten about, and that is simply not the case.
It is clear from several high-profile cases that administrative segregation cannot be used as a replacement for effective psychological health services in the prison system. I know that Correctional Service Canada has taken many positive steps in recent years to integrate recommendations to ensure that past poor practices are reformed.
Many of those suffering from mental health challenges have been administratively segregated, and the consequences to their health and the overall outcomes for rehabilitation have not been positive. No one wants to see anyone fall through the cracks, and ensuring that services are available to those who need mental health services is absolutely critical, but this does not mean that we have to get rid of administrative segregation. It means that we need new tools to address these issues. Reforming administrative segregation needs to involve an assessment of risk and needs to seek the improvement of rehabilitation and mental health outcomes.
I am sure we could all agree that people who find themselves in the prison system are troubled individuals, but that does not mean that all criminals suffer from mental health issues. Abolishing administrative segregation as a practice would take an essential tool away from front-line personnel for protecting themselves and the inmates. In that sense, although these new secure intervention units may hold some promise, there is no reason they could not operate alongside an effective and responsibly used system of administrative segregation.
Those who do not suffer from mental health issues and who choose to assault other inmates or staff should not be rewarded with the secure intervention units. In fact, the union representing correctional officers is asking that these tools be maintained. The government is ignoring the wisdom of front-line personnel who put their safety on the line every day.
The Liberals' action to move full steam ahead in abolishing administrative segregation is a concerning move, but they are also introducing other means for threatening staff and other inmates by condoning drug use and needles in prisons.
Most Canadians would be shocked to hear that the Liberals are pushing forward with a policy to provide needles to prisoners so that they can self-administer harmful drugs. Not only is this counter-productive for the rehabilitation of prisoners, it is a threat to the security and safety of prison staff.
Violent incidents are not uncommon in a correctional environment, and handing out needles to prisoners can be akin to handing out weapons. Vulnerable inmates, guards and other staff will now live in a state of new fear that these potent tools could be used against them, possibly even lethally.
Most Canadians would also be shocked to learn that the Liberals even intend to provide cooking spoons. These are not my words. It is what the union of correctional officers is telling me. Prisoners will be able to cook and produce their own drugs so that they can self-inject. This policy is seriously ill-informed, because as I have been told, lighters have been banned from prisons, because they have been used to start fires in the past. How are they even supposed to cook the drugs with these cooking spoons if they are not even allowed to have lighters?
The Liberals are rolling back best practices that have been learned from experience by our front-line personnel and implemented. The government is rolling back these best practices and putting people at risk. This does not make sense.
Many look to Europe for an example for Canada to follow, but the government is selectively choosing which European policies to adopt while ignoring how the overall system works. Yes, needles are used in some European prisons, but there is no European country where needles are provided in all prisons. The eventual agenda of the Liberal government seems to be that all prisons, regardless of security classification, should have access to needles.
In Europe, administrative segregation is used in the case of an assault on a police officer. It changes from country to country. This is not seen as a viable option for the future for the government. Why is it not being maintained here?
I just wonder what policy objective the Liberals intend to achieve through prisoners receiving needles. Do the Liberals want to protect prisoners from infectious diseases? Correctional staff have informed me, and I have seen the statistics on this, that over the past 10 years, the rate of infectious diseases, such as HIV, have been reduced drastically. I think 50% was the model. I do not see how introducing new needles would decrease the likelihood that dirty needles will be used. This permissive approach to this abuse is likely to cause more of the same problem the Liberals are looking to get rid of.
When actions are brought before the courts, it seems that the policy of the Liberal government is always to cave in and run. Some courts have ruled that the widespread use of administrative segregation is a violation of prisoners' charter rights. It is clear that in the cases cited earlier, oversight was the issue and the indefinite period of time was the issue. That does not mean that administrative segregation in and of itself is a flawed concept.
We have charter rights, but when people go to jail, they give up some of those rights. They are not absolute. The right to liberty is an example. We have to draw a line. What about the safety of our correctional staff? Where is their right to safety in the workplace?
Correctional staff have every right to expect that the government will ensure that they have a safe working environment. This legislation, combined with allowing needles in prisons, would endanger the safety of correctional staff.
It is time for the Liberals to take a stand, uphold the will of the people and the will of those who serve on the front lines and stop taking away the tools they need to do their jobs.
View Brad Trost Profile
View Brad Trost Profile
2017-12-05 14:04 [p.16017]
Mr. Speaker, over 40% of the correctional officers on duty at the regional psychiatric centre in my riding in Saskatoon are on workers' compensation because they have been attacked by inmates. According to a story by reporter Dan Zakreski, officers at this Correctional Service Canada facility have been assaulted continually by inmates, who are spitting, biting, and stabbing officers with pens. Urine and feces have also been thrown.
The escalation in violence is due to a policy change in August to a practice called “administrative segregation”. As a result, violent inmates with a serious mental illness can no longer be separated from the general population. In the CBC article, union rep James Bloomfield said, “The inmates that are assaulting us are right in front of us the next day. There's no repercussions for them.”
I call upon the Minister of Public Safety to reverse this policy so that all CSC employees can work in an environment that is safe for them and the inmates they care for.
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