Interventions in the House of Commons
RSS feed based on search criteria Export search results - CSV (plain text) Export search results - XML
Add search criteria
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2019-02-26 13:26 [p.25791]
Mr. Speaker, it is a fair assessment. It would be most inappropriate to say that only the worst of the worst are in solitary confinement. People are put in solitary confinement for a wide range of reasons, which could be everything from a personal safety type of issue, to some of the worst of the worst, to issues dealing with mental health. The member is quite correct in her comments in many ways.
However, I would like to recognize that this proposed legislation would have a positive impact on our communities in terms of making them safer. I truly believe there will be fewer victims as a direct result of progressive legislation of this nature.
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Dan Vandal Profile
2018-10-23 11:40 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise on behalf of the citizens I represent in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.
I am very pleased to rise in the House to support the government's legislation, Bill C-83, which revolutionizes our correctional services.
As the Minister of Public Safety said, the government is recognizing two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet. Second, it recognizes that the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions.
Safety is indeed at the heart of this legislation. We know that some inmates are simply too dangerous or too destructive to be managed within the mainstream inmate population. Our correctional officials must therefore have a way to separate them from fellow inmates.
The current practice is to place those inmates into segregation or, as our American friends call it, solitary confinement. However, two court rulings have found that practice unconstitutional. Those rulings are being appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but the facts remain that they are scheduled to take effect in the coming months.
As a Parliament, we have a responsibility to ensure that the correctional service has the legal authorities it needs to keep its staff, as well as the people in their custody, safe in a way that adheres to our Constitution. We can do that by adopting this bill, which proposes to eliminate segregation from federal institutions and replace it with a safe but fundamentally different approach.
Under Bill C-83, structured intervention units, SIUs, would be created at institutions across the country. These units would allow offenders to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required, but they would also preserve offenders' access to rehabilitation programming, interventions and mental health care.
Inmates in an SIU would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to address their specific risks, as well as their specific needs. They would be outside their cell for at least four hours a day, which is double the number of hours under the current system. Four hours is an absolute minimum. I need to stress that it is a minimum. It could be more.
The inmates would also get at least two hours of meaningful human interaction with other people each day, including staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains, visitors and other compatible inmates. This is something that hardly exists under the current system. A registered health care professional would visit them at least once a day.
In other words, this bill introduces a new and more effective approach to managing the most challenging cases in our federal correctional system. It would promote not only the safety of correctional institutions, but also the safety of Canadian communities all across our country.
I would remind members that nearly all federal inmates will one day finish serving their sentence and be released. Accordingly, providing them with the opportunity to continue their treatment and rehabilitative work will increase their chances of successfully reintegrating the general prison population and, eventually, society.
Reducing the risk of recidivism will better protect Canadians and all communities, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns.
Other important measures in this bill complement the proposed creation of SIUs. For example, the bill would enshrine in law the correctional services obligations to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions related to indigenous offenders. This flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999. It is something that has been part of correctional policy for many years, but we are now giving this principle the full force of law.
This is part of achieving the mandate commitments the Prime Minister gave the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety to address gaps in service to indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system. The two ministers have likewise been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.
As I noted earlier, inmates with an SIU would receive daily visits from a health care professional. More than that, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would require the correctional service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working in correctional facilities.
The proposed legislation would also allow for patient advocacy services to help people in federal custody understand their health care rights and to ensure they receive the medical care they need. This was recommended by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
There is also an important measure in this bill to better support victims of crime. Currently, victims are entitled to receive audio recordings of parole hearings but only if they do not attend. If they show up, they are not allowed to receive a recording. That does not make sense. Victims advocacy groups have said that attending a hearing is sometimes so emotionally difficult that victims simply cannot always remember what was said, which is entirely understandable. Under Bill C-83, victims would have the right to a recording of a hearing, whether they were present or not. They would then be able to listen to it again, later on in a more comfortable setting whenever it is convenient for them.
The first priority of any government should be protecting its citizens. When someone breaks the law, there are consequences. In the interest of public safety, we need to have a correctional system capable of addressing the factors that lead to criminal activity, so that offenders become less likely to reoffend and create more victims.
A proper, effective correctional system holds offenders to account for the wrongs they have done, but it also fosters an environment that promotes rehabilitation. Canada's correctional system already does an excellent job of providing rehabilitation and reintegration support for inmates under very challenging circumstances. However, Bill C-83 would strengthen that system, and public safety would be improved with safer institutions for staff and inmates, fewer repeat offenders, and fewer victims in the long run.
For all of these reasons, I fully support this important and transformative piece of proposed legislation, and I invite all honourable members to do the same.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-10-23 12:17 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight a couple of points in the legislation. First, my colleague referenced victims. One aspect of the legislation would allow victims to have audio tapes, whether they attend parole hearings or not. That is a change to support victims.
Second, the member across the way referenced body scans. In this legislation, body scans, which are a good idea, would be applicable to whoever correctional officers warranted had to be scanned. That would include individuals who might be visiting correctional facilities or correctional officers themselves. The Conservatives are providing misinformation on that point.
With regard to segregation, when the vast majority of people going into prisons will someday leave prison, programming is really important. Brian Mulroney even recognized that. Why would the Conservatives oppose any form of programming, whether it is for mental health or whatever it might be, for individuals who might be segregated, as referred to by the member opposite? Why would they oppose that?
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 Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2018-10-18 11:33 [p.22541]
Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his speech, for his work on this bill and for reminding us that, when it comes to this kind of reform, public safety must be our main concern. We also need to talk about mental health. Sometimes there are priorities other than public safety, like the effective administration of prisons, but public safety concerns must be at the top of our list.
What concerns me is this government’s track record with public safety. We have seen it with the cannabis and pardon issues. They changed the language but maintained a system that does not do what it is supposed to. As my colleague said, they are doing the same thing here. They are playing with words, but they are not really changing the system.
How can they make real changes when all they do is play word games?
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
2018-10-18 11:37 [p.22541]
Madam Speaker, if the courts have been very clear about the risks of this practice and have prescribed ways of regulating it to diminish those effects, why is that work not represented in this legislation?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-10-18 15:39 [p.22576]
Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this important piece of legislation. I think it is one of the pieces of legislation that really illustrates the differences between political entities inside this chamber. I want to provide some thoughts on the legislation and why I believe we are quite different in terms of political philosophy and the way we want to approach crime and ensure that we have safe streets in our communities.
I am going to approach this from the perspective of some personal experience. I was the chair of the youth justice committee in the north end of Winnipeg for many years. I was also the justice critic for the Province of Manitoba for a number of years, and I have had an opportunity to gain a certain amount of insight by talking to victims, offenders and the many stakeholders around our justice system. I suspect one could anticipate that I am somewhat opinionated on this issue.
Crime is one of the issues that our constituents are very much concerned about. It is an issue that I often talk about with constituents at the door. We can talk about health care to some and there is a high level of interest in education. However, the one issue that seems to be universal in terms of having a discussion, is the issue of safety in our communities. I take it very seriously.
We often hear from the Conservative benches about being “soft on crime”. Let me be very clear. For me, it is about the victims and preventing victims from being victims in the first place. That is something that is very important to recognize.
Holding individuals accountable for breaking the law is of the utmost importance. There needs to be a consequence when someone violates the law. However, we should be looking at it from the perspective of how we ensure that there are fewer repeat offenders. If one were to follow the tough talk of the Conservatives, one would think it would be by incarcerating them in a facility and allowing them to remain in that facility and maybe, to a certain degree, being better educated in different types of crime.
The whole concept of rehabilitation seems to be lost on Conservative Party members, especially when they are in opposition or when they write press releases. We know that at times, a Conservative government can do some good things related to rehabilitation, such as when they set up healing lodges in the past, for example. That was something they established when it came to having someone move from a high-security prison to a medium-security prison. I am glad that the Conservatives applaud and recognize that.
At times they will do good things, but they will never really talk about them. What they want is to have the Conservative hard-nosed attitude that if someone breaks the law, throw them in jail and throw away the key.
Having the opportunity to tour facilities, whether it is the Headingley facility just outside Winnipeg, or Stony Mountain just outside Winnipeg near Stonewall, one gains a fairly good perspective in terms of what incarceration is all about and why it is important that there be a strong rehabilitation component in prisons.
We need to realize that the majority of people who are going to prison today will leave prison at some point. Contrary to the impression the Conservatives might like to give Canadians, it is not just murderers and rapists and pedophiles who go to prison. There are many other individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, for numerous reasons, and ultimately end up in prison.
My colleague and friend made reference to fetal alcohol syndrome. It is a very serious disorder in different regions of the country, in some regions of the country more than others. There is a correlation factor that should be taken into consideration.
One of the surprises I had was the number of individuals who have addiction issues. One of the addiction issues I would make reference to is a gambling addiction. As a result of a gambling addiction, individuals often find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and if it is severe enough, they end up being in custody or in jail. We need to recognize that if we have sound programs provided, then after they leave incarceration, there is a better chance of their being productive and law-abiding citizens. If we take away those programs the Conservatives would like to see disappear, or at least have the imagery of them disappearing, I would suggest, and I believe that studies will show, that we would have more victims as a direct result. Therefore, rehabilitation is an important component of our justice system and our corrections facilities.
That is not to take away from consequences. As I indicated, I sat on a justice committee. Justice committees are quasi-judicial, such as youth justice committees, where members of a community come before the community and say that they would be prepared to be honorary probation officers and deal with young offenders. For years I chaired one and I always found it interesting, when we would get new members coming in, to see the type of thinking they had about some of the young offenders we would get. A typical case might be someone who was shoplifting, for example. We would see shoplifters coming in with their guardians and they would sit before two or three honorary probation officers for an interview. They would talk to the young person to get a sense of whether there was remorse and what sort of disposition would be in the best interests of the community for the crime that had been committed and in the best interests of the individual so that the individual young person would not recommit.
In the 1990s, we had a fairly proactive group of youth justice committees in the north end of Winnipeg. I suspect that for many of those young people who went before those youth justice committees, where members of the community were engaged, there was a stronger likelihood of success and those youth were not committing offences.
If we leave it to the professionals, the individuals in the facilities who have studied human behaviour, and even to victims organizations, and listen to what they are telling us, we will find that there is a great deal of room for us to look at ways we can improve our correctional facilities. That is really what this bill is about.
It is an interesting fact that around 2011, the average number of inmates in segregation was in excess of 700 on any given day. Contrast that to today. Today it is roughly 340 or just under 350 a day. That is a substantial decrease in a relatively small number of years. From 700 to around 340 or 350 is a significant decrease. I would suggest that this is in good part from the sense of professionalism our correctional officers have. They do a phenomenal job. I want to recognize the efforts of our correctional facility officers and applaud them for the day-in and day-out services they provide making our communities safe and our correctional facilities safe. They do a phenomenal job, second to no other, I would argue.
Those numbers are very encouraging. We are seeing fewer people put into segregation units.
What the bill would do is eliminate administrative segregation units and put in structured intervention units. There is a difference. The Conservatives say that we are doing too much and are being too nice. The New Democrats say that we are not doing anything and that we need to do more.
I am glad to say that the government and the minister have done a fantastic job working with stakeholders to bring forward structured intervention units, which would actually be effective. In fact, they would make a difference and meet the needs of some pending court decisions on challenges brought forward in regard to segregation. The bill has also taken into consideration what other jurisdictions around the world are doing.
The minister has done a fantastic job in ensuring that we have solid, sound legislation, but both the NDP and the Conservatives are both voting against it, for totally different reasons, rather than recognizing that we are, in fact, on the right path. They do not need to criticize only because they happen to be in opposition. If the government brings in good legislation, there is nothing wrong with recognizing it for what it is, good legislation, and supporting it. That is what we have been debating and why I have been somewhat discouraged by the remarks coming from both opposition parties.
What we would be doing with the elimination of segregation is allowing those individuals who are in segregation today the opportunity to be provided with programs. We would be recognizing the importance of mental health. It is ludicrous to believe that mental health is not one of the primary reasons we have individuals entering our correctional institutions in the first place. If we want to make our communities safer into the future, we need to deal with mental health issues.
For the first time, we have taken a very bold approach by saying that if individuals are in segregation, let us get rid of the concept of segregation in favour of structured intervention units and ensure that there are programs and services that include the issue of mental health.
If we are able to deal with issues of mental health and provide essential programming services when these individuals go back into the general population, that then means that when it comes time for their release, they will be in a better position to conform to our laws. They will be better citizens in the community. They will be more positive and they will contribute as such.
Is that not what we are supposed to be doing in this House? The Liberal members of this House recognize that. We recognize it, we believe it and that is why we are supporting this legislation. Not only do we talk about it, but we want our communities to be safer. We want fewer victims.
There are other amendments in the legislation that are very positive that I have not heard members talk about. For example, when offenders go before the Parole Board, the victims can attend to hear what is said. If they do not attend the Parole Board, then they can apply for an audio recording of it, so they can hear what took place.
With this legislation, they will be able to request audio recordings whether they attend or not. Let us imagine being the victim of a crime and having to listen to the offender. For some, that might be okay; for others, it might not. Those who attend have all sorts of things going through their minds. Should they not be allowed to ask for the audio recordings that exist, so they can take them home and listen in their own homes, or in an atmosphere that is more comfortable for them?
There are some things in this legislation that I believe everyone in this House would easily support. We hear about body scanners. That is no surprise. Members of Parliament tend to fly a lot and are very familiar with the body scanners at airports. With this legislation, correctional facilities will be afforded the opportunity to acquire body scanners so that cavity searches will not be required to the degree they currently are. I see that as a positive thing. It is less intrusive. We are not only talking about prisoners; these scanners are also used for individuals who visit prisoners.
I represent a north end Winnipeg riding and understand the importance of victims' rights. Legislation has been introduced by this government to protect victims' rights. We should not buy the Conservative spin that gives an impression that the Conservatives are the only ones concerned about victims, because that is just not true. Legislation is before us that all members should support because it will prevent victims in the future. I genuinely believe that. That is one of the reasons I would ask members to consider—
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-10-18 16:04 [p.22579]
Madam Speaker, the way the legislation is worded, we can see that Eddie Snowshoe would have received mental health services, along with other programming. This is the reality of the NDP's position. There is absolutely no doubt, philosophically, that this advances us forward. It might not go as far forward as the NDP would like to see it, but it brings us forward.
One would think the NDP would support that. I do not understand the positioning of the NDP on this. It makes no sense whatsoever. If we look at the example the member just gave, Eddie would actually have benefited by this.
In addition, the legislation would add the guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for CSC to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making.
View Doug Eyolfson Profile
Lib. (MB)
Madam Speaker, is the member aware of any evidence or data that shows that the safety of the public is improved by administrative segregation in prisons?
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-10-18 16:05 [p.22579]
Madam Speaker, if we take a look at segregation as a whole, we have seen from other jurisdictions that we can improve the whole concept of rehabilitation in many different ways. Segregation would now be converted into something new, where there would be an allowance for rehabilitation programs and mental health services.
As I pointed out, most individuals who are incarcerated today are going to be living in our communities, hopefully as productive members of the public. The better programming we can provide, the greater the likelihood of the public being safer once they are released into communities, whether it is of a physical or a property nature.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-10-18 16:07 [p.22579]
Madam Speaker, if the member across the way does not understand the difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals on this issue, I would advise that he read my comments. I have been speaking on it for the last 20 minutes.
When we take a look at what this legislation would actually be doing, I do not understand how the NDP could possibly not support the legislation. I can understand why the Conservatives do not support it, but I do not understand why the NDP does not. Between now and the time it comes to vote, NDP members might want to caucus the issue. Hopefully they will realize it would be a mistake to be on the wrong side of it. They can bring forward their ideas and suggestions at the committee stage, and let us see if we can have some positive dialogue.
This government has consistently proven in the past that it is open to good ideas and ways to improve legislation. We have accepted amendments by opposition members in the past. We are always open to good ideas that have really been thought through and brought forward. I would encourage my colleague to reflect on his positioning on this legislation and ultimately get behind it.
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
2018-10-18 16:38 [p.22583]
Madam Speaker,
[Member spoke in Cree]
The Government of Canada's number one priority is the safety of Canadians and our communities. It is important to ensure that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment for staff and inmates, which assists with the rehabilitation of offenders. We must reduce the risk of reoffending and we must keep our communities safe, whether it is in Winnipeg or elsewhere across the country.
The Government of Canada introduced legislation that proposes to strengthen the federal correctional system, changing its direction from one which was under the Conservatives' more of retribution to looking at latest evidence and best practices by implementing a new correctional interventions model and strengthening the health care governance, better supporting victims and addressing the specific situation of indigenous offenders.
Following a recent court decision on administrative segregation, Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate segregation and establish a structured intervention unit, SIU, that will allow offenders to be separated from the main stream inmate populations as required, while maintaining their access to rehabilitative programming, interventions and mental health care. We need to ensure they actually have rehabilitative programming and can receive appropriate interventions and health and mental health care. These are extremely important.
These proposed reforms support the government's continued commitment to implement recommendations from the coroners inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, regarding the use of segregation in the treatment of offenders with mental illness. It also builds on past efforts to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples throughout the criminal justice system.
I would like to quote my good friend, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member from Saskatchewan. He said:
We are committed to a correctional system that keeps Canadians safe and holds guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, while fostering practical rehabilitation so we can have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately safer communities. This approach to federal corrections will protect the safety of our staff and those in their custody by separating offenders when required, and ensuring they get more effective interventions, rehabilitative programming and serious attention to mental issues.
The bill is extremely important because it introduces a number of new elements into our corrections system.
I had the opportunity of hearing the Commissioner of Corrections Canada, Anne Kelly, who testified last week. This will be an important means forward. She is very committed to having a corrections system that responds to the department's mandate, not just simply having a justice system that responds to mob justice, a corrections system that improves safety not only within society, but also within the corrections institutions for staff and inmates, and also ensures that we rehabilitate people so they can integrate and not reoffend when they leave the corrections system.
Some of the things being put into place are the structured intervention units. These would be established to provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety and security risks of inmates who cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. It does occur that there are certain people who will never be safe within our prisons. No matter what we do in this place, unfortunately some people commit crimes that are so heinous, those against children, those done by pedophiles, that it is very difficult to integrate them into the mainstream population. For their own safety and for the safety within the entire system, sometimes a different approach must be taken.
A structured intervention unit would have structured interventions and programming tailored to the specific situation of that inmate. Inmates would have an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. They would have an opportunity for two hours a day of meaningful human contacts. They would receive continued programs to help them progress toward their correctional plan objectives.
Also being put in place are factors unique to indigenous offenders. The needs and interests of indigenous peoples would be better supported by the legal requirement for Correctional Service of Canada to ensure that systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders are considered in all correctional decision-making. For an awful long time indigenous peoples have not received the same amount of supports.
For instance, in Manitoba, in 2016 our government put forward $26 million for legal aid to help all peoples. Generally, a lot of indigenous peoples are very poor and need recourse to legal aid. Unfortunately, the provincial Conservative government decided to cut back the exact amount that was given to this. Instead of helping the people who were most vulnerable in the system, they were not helped. They were thrown to the side again.
This is often why we have systematic structural violence in the system, which ensures that indigenous peoples continue to be overly represented because they cannot obtain good legal advice. This is a good way of ensuring that even indigenous offenders within the prison system will obtain the services they require.
For instance, I have met many indigenous peoples who have been in the corrections system, but they did not know how to apply for early release or parole on time because they did not have access to those services. This is part of that.
Supporting victims is another aspect of the bill, which is very important. It would better support victims in the criminal justice system by allowing those who attend Parole Board of Canada hearings to access audio recordings of the hearings.
We are also going to be strengthening the health care governance. The proposed reforms will affirm Correctional Service Canada's obligation to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence. They do not need the Minister of Public Safety telling them how to do their jobs or what they should be doing. It has been said in the House in the past number of weeks that the opposition would like the Minister of Public Safety to intervene directly in cases. However, we must ensure that health care processionals have the opportunity of doing the assessments independent of the political obligations or politics that happen in this place.
The Correctional Service of Canada would also have the obligation to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities, as recommended by the coroner's inquest on the death of Ashley Smith. Included in that is further improving mental health supports for inmates to ensure offenders with mental health needs receive proper care.
Budget 2017 invested $57.8 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and $13.6 million per year thereafter to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. Budget 2018 builds on these investments, proposing $20.4 million over five years, beginning in 2018-19, and $5.6 million per year going forward for Correctional Service of Canada to further support the mental health needs of federal inmates, particularly women.
We all know, and I am sure all believe, that those who end up in corrections facilities obviously are not within the norm of our society. They have committed crimes for whatever reason and some do require mental health supports.
Winnipeg, right now, is facing a deep and profound meth crisis, which has been ignored by the provincial government. Thankfully, the mayor is a bit more progressive and is attempting to tackle this problem head on. However, the provincial government for a long time has refused to even meet with city counterparts or even with the federal government on this issue. This has caused issues. People should not walk around any Canadian city fearing they might be attacked. Often, many of these issues are related to mental health and people self-medicating themselves with drugs, alcohol, gasoline and other types of drugs, which numb them to the pain of the life in which they exist in great poverty.
Our corrections system really needs to hold guilty parties to account for breaking the law. However, we also need to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. That is why it is important for this bill to pass. We need to strengthen the federal correctional system and align it with the evidence and best practices so inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities safely.
One day, almost all prisoners will leave the prison system and live among Canadians. We need to ensure that they do not reoffend, that we are all safe and that they have received the appropriate care so when they are released, they do not reoffend and do not hurt others.
Therefore, the bill would eliminate segregation following recent court decisions and introduce more effective structured intervention units; increase better support for victims during parole hearings; increase staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology; and update our approach to critical matters, like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs.
Correctional Service of Canada needs the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety. By replacing administrative segregation with structured intervention units, the proposed legislation ensures that offenders who are separated from the general population will retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe integration is the best way to protect Canadian communities.
The practice of administrative segregation and its history is an interesting one and has been criticized for many years. The case of Ashley Smith, who died in 2007, a case that has been mentioned in most of the speeches today, comes to mind. It highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in a Canadian correctional system.
In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, including instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate could spend in segregation.
In 2016, the government introduced Bill C-56, which would have created a presumptive cap of 15 days in administrative segregation and a system of independent external oversight, which I believe is very important. Since that bill was introduced, legal challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found administrative segregation to be contrary to the charter. We cannot keep inmates locked up by themselves, with only two hours of contact with other people, for the rest of their lives. Both these rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party. However, as things stand, they take effect in December 2018 and January 2019. This means that Corrections Service of Canada may no longer be allowed to use the current system of administrative segregation.
There are also pending class action lawsuits related to administrative segregation and the failure to provide adequate mental health care, as well as complaints before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
In May 7, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act, which implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation and prohibited certain classes of inmates, like pregnant women or those with mental illnesses, from being segregated at all.
The number of inmates in segregation on any given day was over 700 in 2011. It is now 340.
While the correctional investigator has acknowledged that the reduction in the use of administrative segregation is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. However, SIUs are designed to ensure that inmates can be kept in a secure environment, while not being segregated from vital programming and meaningful human contact.
Bill C-83 would eliminate administrative segregation. Instead, people who have to be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, will be assigned to a secure intervention unit. In an SIU, people will get a minimum of four hours daily out of the cell, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff, volunteers, visitors and other compatible inmates. There will also be a daily visit by a medical professional. By contrast, people currently in administrative segregation are only entitled to two hours daily out of the cell, with minimal human contact and access to programming.
Within five working days of movement to an SIU, the warden will review the case and decide if the inmate should remain there. Subsequent reviews will be conducted by the warden after another 30 days and by the Commissioner of Corrections Service Canada every 30 days thereafter for as long as the inmate is in the SIU. Therefore, it will be the top corrections officer in Canada, our commissioner, who will be reviewing all of these cases. Reviews can also be triggered on the recommendation of a medical professional, who, as I have mentioned, will be independent and have full independence to conduct what he or she terms is in the best interest of the patient, or if an inmate refuses to leave his or her cell for a given number of days.
Currently victims are only entitled to audio recordings of parole hearings if they did not attend. However, there have been concerns that, due to the emotional nature of the hearings, it can be hard for victims to retain all the details of the proceedings. Even victims who are present could benefit from access to a recording that they could review afterward, on their own time and in a more comfortable setting.
Therefore, Bill C-83 would give victims access to audio recordings whether they attend or not. It is very important to have to a good record of what actually occurred.
This legislation will add a guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for a CSC to consider systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. This requirement flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999, and has been implemented through CSC's policy directive since 2003. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to follow, as the corrections services have often not followed it. Now it is actually being enshrined in law.
This bill would also implement key recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquest by creating the legal framework to have patient advocates in CSC institutions. Patient advocates will work with offenders and correctional staff to ensure that the offenders receive appropriate medical care. Bill C-83 also enshrines in law the decision-making autonomy of medical professionals operating within the CSC.
The next one is extremely important to ensuring safety within correctional facilities in Canada. Here I refer to body scanners, which will help keep drugs and other contraband out of prisons. The bill authorizes the use of body scanners, comparable to the technology used at airports, to search people entering correctional institutions. These devices are less invasive than strip searches or body cavity searches, and they do not raise the concerns of false positives reported by some people who have been examined using ion scanners.
Body scanners are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities, and now the federal system is catching up. This is going to improve safety. A number of groups are in favour of this, including the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which. While cautiously acknowledging Bill C-83's measures on administrative segregation, it welcomes the introduction of body scanners to prevent contraband. Jack Godin states:
Our union has advocated strongly for the implementation of body scanners. We are satisfied with the results. But we still need more resources to manage high-risk, violent and self-harming offenders, such as what was tabled by the Union in 2005 to manage high-risk women offenders which has fallen on deaf ears.
They have some criticisms, but nonetheless are favourable overall towards the idea of body scanners.
To implement these secure intervention units, new investments will be required, mainly to hire new staff. The government has committed to making the necessary investments, with the exact dollar amounts to be announced very soon.
The government has also signalled its intention to invest heavily in mental health care within the corrections system. This will include mental health care in SIUs, as well as early diagnosis and treatment for inmates from the moment of intake, and upgrades in the CSC's regional treatment centres, which provide intensive mental health care for more serious cases. This funding will be on top of some $80 million for mental health care for the CSC in the last two budgets.
I only have about two minutes left, as my time is slowly winding down. I would like to read a few clauses from the bill so that people who are watching on CPAC, or anywhere else, can hear what is in the bill.
On structured intervention units, the bill states:
32 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; and
(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 section 33, it states:
An inmate's confinement in a structured intervention unit is to end as soon as possible.
As I have already mentioned, there are other elements are included in that. For instance, we talk about “four hours outside of the cell each day”, but there is also time not included. Section 36 states:
Time not included
(3) If an inmate takes a shower outside their cell, the time spent doing so does not count as time spent outside the inmate's cell under paragraph (1)(a).
Also section 37.2 states:
A registered health care professional employed or engaged by the Service may, for health reasons, recommend to the institutional head that the conditions of confinement of the inmate in a structured intervention unit be altered or that the inmate not remain in the unit.
That means it is up to the health care professional to decide when things have gotten out of hand.
In my last minutes, I would like to quickly address the whole idea of indigenous offenders. It is incredible because, first, the bill defines indigenous people in its very first clause:
Indigenous, in respect of a person, includes a First Nation person, an Inuit or a Métis person; (autochtone)
It also includes putting in place a lot more advisory committees, committees to consult, and the idea of spiritual leaders and elders:
Spiritual leaders and elders
83(1) For greater certainty, Indigenous spirituality and Indigenous spiritual leaders and elders have the same status as other religions and other religious leaders.
Let us give thanks to Gitchi Manitou. Let us give thanks to the Great Creator. I think this is the first time I have ever heard this mentioned, and I proud to see that this measure has taken hold within this bill.
With that, I believe my time has come to an end at 20 minutes. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here and look forward to some of the very interesting questions and comments.
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
2018-10-18 17:00 [p.22587]
Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question. I have been working quite hard with the John Howard Society, which has an office just in front of my office on Ellice Avenue. I am very proud of the work. I often have the chance to go over and speak with them. They have had a halfway house in the past few years where I could go to speak with people who had just been recently released from prison and hear their own stories directly from them.
Solitary confinement is a terrible thing. In the military it was used quite often against prisoners in POW camps. It is a form of torturing people because, over time, it erodes your sense of humanity. It erodes your sense of connection. As human beings are social animals, we do need contact with others.
I think the difference with this bill is that we are trying to define, to a greater extent, what intervention will actually look like, and if we must have rehabilitative programs, what those would entail. In this case, we must have meaningful contact. The bill refers to “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.” I think that is extremely important, because there are other clauses here that refer to a health care professional. Their ruling is important and if the inmate is suffering from mental health duress, then that must have a review, and it goes immediately, I believe, to the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada.
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
2018-10-18 17:05 [p.22587]
Mr. Speaker, that is an important question. Mr. Snowshoe's case is absolutely disgusting. Spirituality is extremely important to me as a sun dancer and someone who believes in and practices spirituality. I had a pipe ceremony in my office yesterday, and the hon. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and the member for Etobicoke came to my office. We spent a beautiful 20 minutes praying and thinking.
Excuse me, I am not a lawyer, but the bill does have has a paragraph specifying that indigenous spirituality must be allowed for all indigenous inmates. Under it, Mr. Snowshoe could request those services and have contact. Subclause 83(2), under spiritual leaders and elders, states:
The Service shall take all reasonable steps to make available to Indigenous inmates the services of an Indigenous spiritual leader or elder after consultation with (a) the national Indigenous advisory committee established under section 82; and (b) the appropriate regional and local Indigenous advisory committees.
It is extremely important to allow contact with another human being, to allow a person who is in segregation, or in this case an intervention unit, to have contact with others. From what I read in the bill, the idea is to make sure that if they have to regroup people together who have similar issues, a certain amount of services can be provided. All that programming needs to be provided to that person. They cannot be isolated by themselves, but the programming for all of those things needs to occur day after day to get them on the right path.
Results: 1 - 14 of 14