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View Wayne Easter Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Wayne Easter Profile
2018-10-23 12:38 [p.22722]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. The key point in this legislation relates to Correctional Service Canada's policies, especially the practice of administrative segregation.
I should point out at the beginning that the bill would do four key things. One, it proposes to eliminate segregation, based on recent court decisions, and it introduces more effective structured intervention units. Two, it would better support victims during Parole Board hearings by, as my previous colleague mentioned, providing audio recordings of those hearings. Three, it would increase staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology. Four, it would update Correctional Service Canada's approach on critical matters like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs. There are fairly extensive policies in this bill on both those latter points: mental health and indigenous offenders' needs.
There has been much criticism of the policy on administrative segregation within the Correctional Service of Canada, and rightly so. I have listened to the debate on the other side, and some have said it is a necessary tool. I do not necessarily agree with that, but something certainly has to be done. In the previous Parliament, I was a critic for public safety and at one time served as solicitor general and was in charge of the Correctional Service of Canada, so I have read a lot of the criticism related to administrative segregation. We have to understand in this place that administrative segregation was there for very legitimate reasons: to protect the inmates themselves from the general population if they were causing trouble; to protect others in the general population from things that those people put in administrative segregation might otherwise have done; and to protect correctional officers from possible harm by moving these inmates to segregation. I understand those key points.
I do not know if many people in this place have seen those segregation units in many of our federal penitentiaries and prisons. I have, and it would not be a great place to spend days on end without mental health services. In fact, as my colleague from Central Nova mentioned earlier, we have to understand that our correctional system in this country is not just about throwing somebody in a cell and throwing away the key. Our system is based on the premise of rehabilitation, and that is the ultimate objective. Yes, there have to be penalties, and severe penalties, for crimes done and, yes, some people stay in the system their whole life after they have committed a crime. However, we must keep in mind that many people, the great majority we hope, will come out and be productive citizens in society. That is what we have to attempt to do.
Therefore, what this particular bill proposes is basically to try to put a new system in place, called a “structured intervention unit”, where people who have to be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for reasons of safety, will be assigned to a secure intervention unit but not in the same style as in the past.
In addition to being assigned to that secure intervention unit, or cell, Correctional Service Canada would be mandated to provide them with rehabilitative programming, mental health care, and other interventions and services that respond to the inmate's specific needs. That especially relates to those with mental health problems, for whatever reason, and especially applies to the indigenous population, which has different customs and patterns. I have heard a lot of talk in this place about healing centres. The fact of the matter is they work, and we need to keep that in mind too.
Beyond meeting those specific needs of an inmate, keep in mind that we want to protect the individual, the rest of the prison population and the corrections officers working in the system. Under this approach, it would be done in a different way from what is currently in place, as we would address the mental health care needs of inmates and could intervene with other services where appropriate.
Beyond all of that, there are a number of reviews that have to take place. I have talked to a lot of corrections officers, and I can understand that when an inmate challenges them within the prison system, it is really hard not lose one's temper and to want to be vindictive. This is supposed to work at preventing that from happening as well. However, for the inmate, there are several reviews that would take place. There would be a review by the warden within five days, and there a couple of other reviews in place as well.
This bill tries to move away from a system that we know has been challenged in the courts. Yes, we have appealed the decision in question, because we want to keep all options open. It is a system that has been strongly criticized by the correctional investigator, and this bill tries to come up with a better system that would work. In part, that is what this bill is about.
In closing, as my colleague mentioned earlier, there is a real attempt to provide better services to victims in this bill. For example, the recordings of the Parole Board hearings would be provided so they could be reviewed in a quieter place at another time to see what was said. This legislation would add a guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for Correctional Service Canada to consider systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all the decision-making done within the system.
This bill does not change the world. Keep in mind that we have a system of penalties in this country that, overall, is designed to try to make individuals who have committed a crime, for whatever reason, better citizens when they come out of prison, not better criminals. Our objective is to make them better citizens so they can contribute to their family, their own life's work and to the Canadian economy. This bill does not change the world, but it is a fairly major step forward in how we would handle inmates, how we would work with them within the prison system and how we would try to give victims better services. At the end of the day, this is a bill that members should support.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-10-23 12:53 [p.22723]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this important debate today on Bill C-83, that would deal with the abolition of early parole and the issues on conditional release and corrections. I say at the outset that I will speak in opposition to the bill at second reading. I do so for a number of reasons I will try to describe.
I will first talk about the nature of what the bill has tried to respond to, the difficulties, the dilemmas, the torture, as some people have called it, that is involved in solitary confinement. Perhaps one can call it by other words, but that is what it is. Then I will talk about what a couple of our superior courts have said about this practice and the constitutionality of it, the fact that the government has continued with the appeals of those judgments and yet brought in a bill which by all measure is a very modest response to the very strong language of our courts in addressing the issue of solitary confinement.
I would say that this is a modest improvement. I do not want to be misunderstood. There are some things that are in the right direction in this legislation, but it is a pity that, in light of the long and thoughtful decisions in both the Ontario Superior Court and Mr. Justice Peter Leask's decision in the B.C. Supreme Court, this is the result. It is a very modest, to use a neutral word, response to their very strong language.
Let me talk initially about what they said. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and others brought a constitutional case to the B.C. Supreme Court. In a landmark decision that was handed down in January this year, Mr. Justice Leask in his last judgment before leaving the bench provided what can only be described as a blockbuster decision. Among the things that he talked about, to build on what I asked my friend a moment ago, is the need for an independent review of segregation placements and that is entirely lacking in this decision.
He decided that the practice of solitary confinement, as it was practised at that point in time, breached the security of the person. He said: "I find as a fact that administrative segregation as enacted by [the statute] is a form of solitary confinement that places all Canadian federal inmates subject to it at significant risk of serious psychological harm, including mental pain and suffering, and increased incidence of self-harm and suicide." He wrote a 54,000-word judgment after hearing days and days of testimony, a very carefully reasoned decision and he held that it violated the security of the person that is guaranteed in our charter.
He also said that it discriminated against first nations, disabled and mentally ill individuals. The findings for that again are based on a thorough analysis of the situation at hand. He said thousands of prisoners have been subjected to solitary segregation over the years, isolated for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. Indeed, we know the sad story of Mr. Edward Snowshoe, an indigenous prisoner who died by suicide after languishing in solitary for 162 days without any meaningful attention from staff.
This is akin to a form of torture. This is not unlike the harm we have heard about in other contexts in this place of post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to the serious risks of suicide and self-harm as has happened so many times. Thousands of prisoners have been subjected to that isolation for so long and for so many hours a day and for so many days in a year.
There are about 14,000 inmates in federal institutions, 679 of them women. One in four of the incarcerated men spend some time in segregation. To my surprise, more than 40% of women do. This is a prevalent problem across our institutions and it is not just limited to some prisoners and some institutions, but is endemic across the country.
Those who believe that prisons are there to provide punishment but also for rehabilitation purposes should listen to what the judge concluded after days and days of testimony. He stated, “I have no hesitation in concluding that rather than prepare inmates for their return to the general population, prolonged placements in segregation have the opposite effect of making them more dangerous both within the institutions’ walls and in the community outside.” This is not serving the community and it is certainly not serving the people who have been in institutions for that long. The kinds of concerns he talked about include anxiety, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, hallucinations, aggression, rage, paranoia, hopelessness, self-mutilation and suicide ideation behaviour.
There is no question that we have dealt with a serious problem. It is not only the judge who said this. The correctional investigator of Canada and the United Nations Committee Against Torture have looked at that and concluded that there were serious issues that had to be addressed. Indeed, Justice Leask said there should be time limits of 15 days in solitary, longer periods are considered torture by the United Nations and the government indicated it could implement that standard. That is what led to the legislation before us today.
As I said at the outset, there are some tweaks in here that are helpful. The administrative segregation or solitary confinement has been rebranded as structured integration units, sort of an Orwellian term I suppose, but maybe the language will change things to some degree. Importantly, instead of spending up to 22 or 23 hours in segregation, the new scheme proposes up to 20 hours a day, but for an indefinite period of time. The Ontario Superior Court found that harmful effects can manifest in as little as 48 hours, so I ask whether that is likely to change anything in a significant fashion. I think not.
One of the things Justice Leask spent pages on in his decision was the need, as so many have said, to have an independent check on the discretion of the prison head or the Correctional Service of Canada's top official. That is lacking entirely in this bill. Senator Pate put a press release out and referred to this legislation, saying it is “only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice”, now called structured intervention unit. She said that this bill “also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use”, it “maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making”, it does nothing to deal with what Justice Louise Arbour concluded when she studied the prison for women in Kingston and she acknowledges, as the courts have, that the way segregation or solitary confinement is applied is disproportionately affecting “indigenous and racialized prisoners and those with mental health issues”.
This bill needs improvements on the checking of the discretion that is available to officials by way of appeals. The involvement of counsel on disciplinary hearings is a step forward, but there is so much that needs to be done to address the horrific practices that have been castigated by our courts in thoughtful decisions. This bill does not go far enough to address their disturbing conclusions.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
View Christine Moore Profile
2018-10-23 13:07 [p.22725]
Mr. Speaker, in the British Columbia Supreme Court decision my colleague alluded to, I get the sense that the judge was, in essence, calling on the government to re-examine the whole concept of administrative segregation. Unfortunately, I do not see the government doing that.
Does the member agree that the government has not re-examined the use of administrative segregation thoroughly and in detail?
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-10-23 13:07 [p.22725]
Mr. Speaker, my friend from Abitibi—Témiscamingue is absolutely right. The broad review that the judge was calling for is simply not to be found in this legislation. There has been some tinkering, and there have been some modest improvements. The Liberals have referred to them in those terms.
It is unclear whether or not higher courts are going to confirm the unconstitutionality of the past system. It is unclear to me whether Bill C-83 goes the distance in achieving the justice that the courts require for those in solitary confinement.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
2018-10-23 13:08 [p.22725]
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today and speak to Bill C-83 and the impacts of the corrections facilities and our justice system on real people. In particular, my interest is on indigenous people, and how they are treated by the justice system and in our correctional facilities.
We are looking at a bill that will actually do what it promises and what it needs to do, which is eliminate solitary confinement. That was the major goal, and that is what this bill will do. It is also going to hold guilty parties accountable for breaking the law. Each and every Canadian wants to ensure that we have a justice system and a corrections system that are going to hold offenders to task, that they are receiving the proper penalty, and hopefully that they receive rehabilitation services to make them meaningful and active participants in our society.
Ultimately, we want fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities. That is why our government is strengthening the federal corrections system, aligning it to the latest evidence and best practices so that inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to re-enter our society safely.
This bill will eliminate solitary confinement, following recent court decisions and introducing a more effective system that will be called the structured intervention unit system. It will also provide better supports for victims during Parole Board hearings. It will increase staff and inmate safety with the new body scanner technology. It will also update our approach on critical matters like mental health supports and becoming more sensitive to indigenous offenders' needs.
There is no stronger case to reflect on than the Ashley Smith case, where a young girl was throwing crabapples at a mailman. She ended up in a youth facility, and her experience was then compounded with various acts of aggression and hostility because she felt she was not being treated fairly. Young people who are faced with a situation of hopelessness reach out in any way they can. Ultimately, Ashley hanged herself in a correctional facility operated by the Government of Canada.
It is hard to understand how a young woman would feel so hopeless in a facility that is supposed to be providing rehabilitative services. Ashley Smith's story is one that we should all reflect on. We would reflect on the fact that here was a young girl who was placed in a youth facility for a month in 2003, at the age of 14, after throwing crabapples at the mailman.
I am sorry, but this hardly seems like a reason to end up in confinement, whether it is in a youth facility or not. I have three children. I do not believe any one of them has ever actually thrown a crabapple at a mailman, but I am sure they have done things that might even be worse. The point is that this young girl was thrown into jail, a youth facility, and that experience was compounded. Instead of getting out and rejoining society, she might have had another small infraction, and then it was extended and extended to the point where her life held no hope that she could see, and where she would rather commit suicide than go on living in her condition in solitary confinement. It was a tragic situation and one that this bill is addressing.
We know more can be done, and more needs to be done. We know from the statistics that many of the people in our correctional facilities come from an indigenous heritage. Indigenous people far outnumber those from other communities. We must address the root causes, and that is a much more complicated and longer journey. However, I am proud to say that this is a government that is finally taking steps forward. We have a Prime Minister who has made a commitment to the indigenous people of this country, and to all of us, that this is an issue that we are finally going to address. Progress is being made.
When we go back to look at the bill itself, there is a need to make changes. This is a government that has taken steps forward, and there is no doubt that there are those in our community who will be concerned that some prisoners may be dangerous to the guards, to other inmates and to themselves, and that solitary confinement plays an important role in our correctional facilities. However, they need to understand that this was not the best way to help people. In fact, people in solitary confinement do not receive the supports they need to become stronger and healthier: the mental supports, the health supports and the supports they need to function in a very stressful circumstance.
Therefore, I am very pleased to see that we are eliminating solitary confinement and looking for new alternatives that would keep those offenders from the general population while allowing them to retain access to rehabilitation programs, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration are always the best way to protect Canadian communities.
This is an issue that we are looking at federally, but it has also been addressed provincially. I note that in May, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act. On May 7, the province implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation.
The number of inmates who are in segregation has been dropping, and we are glad to see it. In 2011, there were 700 inmates in solitary confinement, and now that has dropped to 340. I am pleased to say I am a member of a government that is finding a way to eliminate solitary confinement.
While the correctional investigator has looked at the situation and acknowledged that the reduction in the use of solitary confinement is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. There is more to do, as we know, and we must continue to move with society to make appropriate amendments.
The structured intervention units would replace solitary confinement. Individuals would be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, and they would be assigned to a secure intervention unit. This would separate inmates when necessary, while continuing to provide them with rehabilitative programming, mental health care, and other interventions and services that respond to their specific needs.
This bill does several other things, including providing supports to victims. The bill would allow audio recordings of parole hearings. At this point, these are only available to victims who do not attend. The recordings would now be available to any victims, even if they attend, and would be an important record for them to review for the future.
The proposed bill also puts in law the guiding principles to affirm the need for CSC to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders. This is an important and positive step for all Canadians, in particular our indigenous members of our society.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
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 Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
View Christine Moore Profile
2018-10-23 13:52 [p.22731]
Mr. Speaker, with respect to Bill C-83, I will focus mainly on administrative segregation because it is one of the key measures that should have been greatly improved. Unfortunately, we are not seeing this improvement.
There are two rulings on the use of administrative segregation that, in essence, have profoundly challenged the use of this technique because of the psychological and psychiatric effects it can have on people. For example, a number of studies show that administrative segregation could trigger or aggravate certain psychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, depression, impulsiveness, hypersensitivity to external stimuli, self-harm, insomnia and problems with thinking, concentration and memory. The use of administrative segregation increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide.
In light of all that, the government should have engaged in a profound re-evaluation of the circumstances justifying the use of administrative segregation as well as the guidelines for the duration and supervision of this practice, among other things. Unfortunately, there are no options.
Segregation is also used in the health system. It is one measure used to restrain patients. Clearly, I am not referring to the same clients. Nevertheless, there are many linkages that can be drawn. The health system previously used many restraint measures on a regular basis. For example, a lap belt was used for seniors with dementia and the bed rails were raised so they would not fall out of bed. That was how things were done.
Quebec's health system has seriously questioned the circumstances that justify the use of restraints. There have been questions about how health institutions should determine whether their protocols for the use of restraints are effective.
Several documents were written about this, and I will be referring to a document put out by the Government of Quebec called Cadre de référence pour l'élaboration des protocoles d'application des mesures de contrôle, which deals with restraint, isolation and chemical substances. Chapter 4 is extremely interesting and so I hope that members will look into it, especially at committee. It talks about the ethical and clinical principles that health institutions should use to establish their protocols for the use of restraint. The first principle is this:
Control measures are only used as safety measures when immediate threats are identified
The protocol should state that control measures must be used in a therapeutic context only and must under no circumstances be used to punish, intimidate or correct a person, to modify a behaviour, or to deal with organizational constraints. If a control measure is used, it must be used with the sole object of preventing the person from imminently causing harm to themselves or others.
These ethical principles make many interesting points, especially where they say that restraint measures, such as segregation, must never be used to deal with organizational constraints. In other words, if segregation can be avoided by doubling staff numbers, that would be the ethical thing to do, rather than placing people in segregation just because it is the easiest option and money is tight.
This is also a very important principle from a legal perspective. Administrative segregation should not be used as a substitute for increasing staff numbers due to a lack of means. If segregation can be avoided by increasing staff, whether that means more security guards or other professionals, then increasing staff is the better option.
Another ethical principle is that control measures should be used only as a last resort. That seems logical.
I will continue after question period.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:18 [p.22746]
Mr. Speaker, it is ironic to take the floor after that ruling, but I am pleased that we can pursue that other matter through other channels.
I am here now to address Bill C-83. I appreciate that the Liberal Party gave me a time slot, in recognition of the fact that there has been an allocation of time on debate and I otherwise might not have been able to speak to this at all. I wish to go on record, and I am not feeling any sense of cognitive dissonance in doing this, to thank the government party for allowing me to speak for 10 minutes, and I also wish that the government party had not decided to use time allocation on Bill C-83.
In any case, this bill comes to us in a context I want to address first, which is a political context and a political climate that has been created by recent debates in this place, in which, I regret to say, I felt demeaned. I felt displaced, demeaned and diminished by a tactic of the official opposition to turn the House of Commons into sort of a secondary chamber for the review of punishments meted out through the proper system, the courts of law. We have taken days and had people's names and the horrors of gruesome, cruel murders repeated on the floor of this place.
There is clearly some thought in some quarters here that it is a good campaign tactic to talk about punishment a lot and to regret when our correctional system responds in ways that might appear to some as lenient. However, we are a country built on the rule of law. We recognize that our prison system is not merely for punishment. We have to have this discussion, I think, fairly constantly. What is the point of our correctional system? What is the point of our prison system?
As many MPs have said on the floor of this place today in response to Bill C-83, many of the people in our prison system are going to re-enter society. We would like them to re-enter society with the life skills they will need to be contributing members of society, having paid, in that terminology, their debt to society.
It is in that context, where on one end of the political extreme we are told that we have become too lenient towards prisoners, that we turn our attention to an appalling situation, where rights have been infringed and lives have been lost through the failure of the prison system to handle certain kinds of prisoners, those who find themselves in likely incarceration in solitary confinement.
Of course, this bill comes to us in the context of one of the most egregious of those examples, again, as has been mentioned in this place today, the case of Ashley Smith. I think we forget sometimes how horrific her death was, how hard her life was, how hard her mother tried to help her and how the prison system made her survival impossible.
The coroner's inquest into Ashley Smith's death found that although she died from self-inflicted choking, while the guards watched, the context and the circumstances of her death amounted to a homicide. That coroner provided 104 recommendations.
We also know of the cases of Adam Capay, a young indigenous man who spent 1,600 days in solitary confinement; or Richard Wolfe, who did not actually die in solitary but collapsed in a prison exercise yard, at 40 years old, having spent 640 days in solitary confinement; or another indigenous man whose case comes to mind, Eddie Snowshoe, who spent 162 days in solitary confinement before hanging himself.
We can note from those cases that it is quite often those with mental health issues, those who are marginalized, those who are racialized and particularly those who are indigenous who end up in solitary confinement. Therefore, it is certainly welcome that the Minister of Public Safety has brought to this place a bill that promises to end this ongoing stain on the reputation of Canada as a civilized country. Solitary confinement for those lengths of times has been found internationally to constitute torture, and we are a people who are convinced that we do not practise torture.
Therefore, I am sad to share my disappointment with this bill and my concern that we do not have it right yet.
Coralee Cusack-Smith, mother of Ashley Smith, speaking for her family on Bill C-83, said “it's a sham and a travesty that it's done in Ashley's name. It's just a different name for segregation. It's not ending segregation. Not ending segregation for anyone with mental health issues. It's just a new name.”
It seems that the fact it is merely a rebranding is reflected in a statement by the hon. Senator Kim Pate who, having spent time before entering the other place to dedicating her life to the fair treatment of women prisoners, in particular through the Elizabeth Fry Society, described Bill C-83 as disappointing and even as weakening the limitations on how often a segregated prisoner can experience solitary confinement. We have this idea that structured intervention units will be entirely different from solitary confinement. I hope they will be. I have to say that it is one place where I would like to emphasize the positive in this place.
I was a member of Parliament, at the same desk, in the same chair, for an opposition party through the 41st Parliament. I could add up on the fingers of one hand the number of times I saw a single amendment made to a government bill. In a four-year term of a majority government under Stephen Harper, bills were rammed through from start to finish without a single amendment. Therefore, I will credit the current government and the administration of the current Prime Minister with being more open to amendments. However, it is a mixed bag. Some bills I would have been so happy to support if they only had been amended enough to make them acceptable. Bill C-69, the environmental assessment omnibus bill, is in that category. It is a tragedy that the Liberals did not get that one right. It will be a tragedy if we collectively in the House do not get it right on this one.
We have an obligation as a civilized society to re-examine what we mean by “incarceration” and “corrections” in the criminal justice system and what the purpose of incarceration is. In the 41st Parliament, the former government got rid of prison chaplains in that system. It got rid of prison farms where some prisoners could have the first experience in their lives of a day outdoors doing an honest day's labour. I suppose it is ironic that an honest day's labour took place in a prison farm context. However, those programs were killed by the previous government.
The prison system in our country cannot just be seen as a place where some parts of the political spectrum can score political points by talking about life being too easy there for people who have committed heinous crimes, as the language always describes them. I am not sympathizing with criminals. I support the rights of victims. However, it is not an effective prison system if it kills people who have committed minor crimes, who become stuck in a Möbius loop where they cannot get help. We have to break that cycle now. We have to find ways to focus our prison system on fairness, respect, reconciliation and rehabilitation. This is not the stuff of bleeding hearts; this is what makes a society whole. This is what allows people who have been in prison to come back out and function in a civilized society and not pass on the patterns of behaviour they have experienced to their family and children.
I have hope for Bill C-83. I will do everything I can at committee, and everything I can by working with members of the groups who have given their lives to this, whether it be the Elizabeth Fry Society, the John Howard Society, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and those very brave people who have been incarcerated and are willing to come forward to say, “This is what would have helped me. This is how it did not help me.”
Yes, a prison system is to ensure that people pay their debt to society and are punished for things that are morally indefensible and a huge assault on our society. However, there are also a lot of people in prison who have committed relatively minor crimes who, if they were wealthier and had better lawyers, might not be there. There, but for the grace of God, go members and I. Therefore, let us fix Bill C-83.
View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2018-10-23 15:44 [p.22750]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.
I certainly do not claim to be an expert in this area, though I have very definite ideas about rehabilitation. However, two courts have ruled that certain measures are unconstitutional. I have to admit that I do not see which measures in Bill C-83 will keep us from ending up in court again. I am not an expert, so I would like the member to enlighten me.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2018-10-23 15:45 [p.22750]
Madam Speaker, I am not a lawyer and I am not a constitutional expert, but I know the government has reviewed carefully the court decisions. In fact, that is why we have a new bill in front of us right now. It has incorporated what the courts have said, along with our previous legislation that had been introduced around administrative segregation. I am confident that the government has looked at it, bearing in mind the importance of the constitutionality of the legislation, but also ensuring we will be rehabilitating offenders when they are in our prison system.
As it stands right now, individuals in administrative segregation do not have access to programming and they do not have access to the kinds of mental health services they need. Therefore, by bringing in this legislation and tying it with programming and mental health services, we should see a significant difference in the outcomes of the prison population.
View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
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 Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-10-23 16:00 [p.22752]
Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague spoke quite a bit about how removing segregation from the system would create an unsafe work environment. I want Canadians to know that members on all sides of the chamber support the fact that our correctional workers do a tremendous job and should be kept safe.
While this particular piece of legislation proposes removing administrative segregation and the capacity for people to be placed in administrative segregation, people actually would be assigned to secure intervention units. Usually, when they are removed it is for safety reasons.
I am not sure how my colleague would describe this as weakening the system when we would be placing them in a secure unit and giving them the tools necessary to help rehabilitate them while they are in that population. Those interventions could possibly reduce the amount of violence that does happen within the prison system. We would be providing our correctional system with a separate place to house those inmates.
It is not like we are just getting rid of it altogether. We would have secure units. We would also be giving inmates mental health support and rehabilitative support to help them reduce violence and correct themselves, thereby adding to the safety of our correctional officers.
View Steven Blaney Profile
CPC (QC)
Madam Speaker, as I mentioned, I did not see much in the bill regarding rehabilitation.
I am sure the member wants safe communities and safe correctional facilities.
Joseph Godin, the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said, “The national prison guards' union is predicting increased violence behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement...”. He predicted that, “When this goes through, the bloodbath will start.”
I hope that when we eventually review the bill in second reading or at committee, we will be able to work together and reinstate those tools that are needed by our correctional officers to ensure that those facilities are safe. This is the way to make sure that inmates eventually will return to society and not pose a risk to their fellow Canadian citizens.
View Bill Casey Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Bill Casey Profile
2018-10-23 16:02 [p.22752]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand and speak in support of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
It is amazing to me how things connect here in the House of Commons in our parliamentary duties. Bill C-83 today ended up in a discussion with the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. Bill C-83 also has a direct connection to a town in my riding. It has direct connections to first nations issues as well.
I am going to talk about a few different things. I am going to talk about how this affects my own community and also a little about the health impact of Bill C-83.
In my own community, in my riding of Cumberland—Colchester, I have two correctional facilities. One is the Springhill Institution and the other is the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia.
I will talk about Springhill first. That institution was built in 1967.
Partly in response to a natural disaster that happened at a coal mine on October 23, 1958, 60 years ago today, in Springhill, 174 miners went to work. At 8:06 in the evening, there was an underground earthquake, which is sometimes called a bump. It was the most severe bump in North American history in one of the deepest coal mines in North America. Of the 174 who went to work that day, 75 lost their lives. There were 99 survivors, and many of them were trapped underground for many days. Six days after the bump, 12 survivors were rescued by creating a tunnel to get them. Later, on November 1, a second group was saved. That was 60 years ago today, and I want everybody to know that Springhill is remembering that bump today as we speak. Many people who work at the Springhill correctional facility are relatives and descendants of the miners who were lost 60 years ago today.
They never forget in Springhill about the people who were lost. They built a beautiful memorial with a number of stones with every name of every miner who lost his or her life in the mines. Every year they have a Davis Day to make sure that people do not forget the lives lost in the Springhill mines. Tonight, at 7 p.m., in the St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church there is a hymn sing led by three daughters of one of the miners, Maurice Ruddick, who was one of the miners trapped underground. He is often credited with helping other survivors underground survive that ordeal. Being trapped 4,000 feet underground, he led them in song and prayer. He was cited as citizen of the year for Canada at the time. Just a month ago, Herb Pepperdine, one of the last men in the mine who was trapped for eight days, died at the age of 95.
Therefore, for me, today is a special day, and 60 years ago, I remember the day. I remember the ambulances, the police cars, the turmoil and the TV. Just two years before that, there was another explosion when 39 Springhillers were lost. In just two years, Springhill lost 114 miners.
However, the Springhill Institution was built and opened in 1967. It has been very successful since and has expanded several times. It provides correctional facilities for medium- and minimum-security prisoners.
I mentioned the connections with the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. I talked to them today about suicide prevention and what causes people to attempt suicide. Also, earlier this morning, I was talking to my seatmate for Kildonan—St. Paul and she was telling me about a first nation in her riding in Manitoba, the Berens River First Nation. She gave me a document that reads “Isolation with no road access Kills (feeling of 'entrapment' resulting in high suicides)”, which is exactly what we are talking about today: isolation, confinement, solitary confinement and the impact it has on prisoners.
Not all prisoners should be in prison for their whole life, as some opposition members would lead us to believe. I have visited the prison in my riding several times, and often I am struck that the prisoners are just regular people who made a mistake. They want to get back into society. They want to be rehabilitated. They want a second chance and they are certainly entitled it. It is certainly worth the effort to try to help them.
Bill C-83 will take steps to eliminate solitary confinement, which is harmful to people. One of the members just said that prisons needed solitary confinement, and I do not believe that. Bill C-83 proposes to do away with solitary confinement and replace it with structured intervention units, so at least prisoners will always have some human contact with health care workers, guards or other people, as opposed to solitary confinement where there is no contact at all.
In my area, just a short way from my riding, there is Dorchester Penitentiary, the Westmorland Institution and the Shepody Healing Centre. These are three different institutions, with three different levels and approaches to rehabilitation and incarceration. I am hopeful the rehabilitative nature of these facilities will be enhanced and built on. That is the way we should go. I do not believe there is any point in putting people who have just made a mistake away, throwing away the key as some members have suggested here.
A 2017 report from Correctional Service Canada noted that Atlantic Canada had the highest rate of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, in the country. In addition to that, we seem to segregate them for longer terms than their counterparts in other regions of the country.
Five percent of Atlantic Canada's inmates are in administrative segregation, which is five times higher than in Ontario. The same report also noted that Atlantic Canada accounted for more than one-third of all inmates who were in administrative segregation for more than 100 days. A hundred days in segregation is extremely unhealthy for anybody. It is perhaps cruel and unusual punishment.
I welcome Bill C-83 and the change to a structured intervention unit. This is a giant step forward. It will be better for rehabilitation, better for health and safer for prison guards, the other prisoners and the people who work beside them. I am glad we are moving forward on it.
Our government intends to invest heavily in mental health care within the correctional system, and I am talking exactly about that. I referred to the paper that said that isolation caused a feeling of entrapment, resulting in high suicides. This first nation community I mentioned had a high rate of suicide. After a road was built to it, the feeling of isolation was eliminated and suicides stopped. There were no suicides last year in this community. Prior to that there had been many. The indigenous peoples attributed it to the fact that they no longer have the feeling of isolation or entrapment, which is exactly what solitary confinement does.
Again, in the interest of mental health, we are moving in the right direction. This is a great move to follow through on, but I also support rehabilitative steps so people can re-enter society and play a productive role in it.
The prisoners I meet when I go to the prisons impress me. Most of them have just made a mistake. They are serving their time. They want to get back out. They want to play a role in the community and be productive citizens. The bill is all about that.
We know the administrative segregation rules need updating, and Bill C-83 would do just that. By replacing solitary confinement with structured intervention units, we are going to provide better avenues for our inmates to be productive citizens, finish their terms and come out better trained and be productive citizens.
I thank the House for letting me talk about Springhill. Again, this is the 60th anniversary of that horrible disaster on October 23, 1958. I wish all the people in Springhill, who I know are remembering this right now, well. I wish I were there with them.
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