Interventions in the House of Commons
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View David Anderson Profile
View David Anderson Profile
2019-02-26 16:39 [p.25820]
Madam Speaker, it is good to be here this afternoon. It is unfortunate that we do not have a stronger bill with a little better content in it, but we will deal with what we have today. As usual, this is the kind of thing we have had to face with the government. It should be no surprise to us that it is in the chaos it is in, because we see a fairly consistent presentation that leads to bills that are this weak. I will talk about those weaknesses later.
The bill is basically a knee-jerk reaction to two Supreme Court decisions. The Liberals decided to play both sides of that game, so they are appealing those decisions at the same time as they are bringing forward whole new legislation. I think the public needs to understand that. Unfortunately, on this bill, they have missed the boat both on content and knowledge. We heard that from witnesses who came forward at committee. Witness after witness said that, first of all, they were not consulted, and second, the bill was not going in the right direction and needed to be reworked or thrown out, set aside or whatever.
One of the things the Liberals have done consistently since they have come to power is bring things forward and then actually look at them and decide whether they are worth bringing forward. Then they start to get people's opinions and they find out that they are on the wrong track. Then they start to backtrack and begin to amend their legislation. Once it comes back in here, they start forcing it through. We are here today on a bill with time allocation. The Liberals not only brought in time allocation at report stage but have already brought it in for third reading as well. We have seen this many times before, and we are seeing it here today. Fortunately, on some of these occasions, the Liberals have actually set bills aside and decided that they were not going to see them through. I guess electoral reform would be one of those that was obvious. Bill C-69 is another one that people across this country are begging the Liberals to set aside, because it would basically destroy the energy industry in Canada if they brought it through. Sometimes they can listen, but usually they find it very difficult to do that.
It is ironic that we have time allocation today, because had we had petitions today, I wanted to bring one forward. It is an electronic petition, E-1886. I found it fascinating that over 10,000 people signed this petition. It is an electronic petition from people across Canada, and it has to do with this issue.
This morning I asked a question of the public safety minister. He has been here for a long time. He was here before I was. One of the things he was part of before I came here was an attack on and actually the jailing of western Canadian farmers. These were farmers who had said that they would like to sell their own grain. One of them had donated one bushel of grain to a 4-H club in Montana. The public safety minister was one of those ministers who led the charge against those farmers. By the time they were done, they had five departments of the government working against individual Canadians. The CRA was involved. Justice was involved. Immigration was involved. The RCMP was firmly involved. Members can read stories of what happened in a couple of books by Don Baron. He writes about raids on people's farms in the middle of the night and their trying to confiscate their equipment, and those kinds of things. The public safety minister was then the agriculture minister. I asked him why it seems that every time we turn around, he is going after regular law-abiding Canadians.
We see this again with the initiative coming from the other side on handguns, which have been very restricted since the 1930s. People in Canada use them for sport. Many people across Canada have gone through the process to be licenced. This government seems bound and determined to try to make some sort of criminals out of handgun owners across this country. Again, my question to him was why he continued to come after law-abiding citizens, especially when on the other side, they are not all that interested, it seems, in actually protecting people from criminals.
That brings me back to my petition. Everyone is familiar with the case of Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. She was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences, where the government confirmed the presence of children. She is not eligible for parole until 2031. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, which happens to be in my riding, lacks the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of local citizens in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and surrounding areas.
Over 10,000 people across Canada called on the Government of Canada to exercise its moral and political authority to ensure that this decision was reversed and could not be allowed to happen again in other situations. We all know that it took the government weeks before it would acknowledge that there was a problem with this transfer, and in the end, it semi-reversed that transfer.
The interesting thing is that some of the same things are in Bill C-83. Right at the beginning, subclause 2(1) says, “the Service uses the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders”. There is no sense of some sort of disciplinary activity taking place in our prisons. The government says it has to find the least restrictive and most friendly way to treat people being held in our prisons right now.
I could go through many of the provisions of this bill. It talks about prisoners receiving the most effective programs, but when the minister was asked if there was a costing for this, he said that the government had not done costing on the bill. We can talk all day long about effective programs and health care, which this bill does, but if it was not costed before it was brought forward, how would the government even know what it would be expected to provide?
The bill talks about the criteria for the selection of the penitentiary. It says that it must be the “least restrictive environment” for the person. Correctional Service Canada has to deliberately run around and try to find the least restrictive place to put people. Many of these people are very dangerous individuals. Some of these people are actually bad people. I heard some heckling from the other side basically implying that they are not and that they can all be reformed if we treat them well, and if we ask for their opinions, they will give us good, solid opinions, we will all get along and we can hold hands and sing songs. The reality is that there are some people in these prisons who are very bad people and do not deserve to be running around as they choose.
One of the strange changes in this bill would allow the commissioner to designate a penitentiary or any section of a penitentiary as any level of security he or she chooses. That is very strange. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a minimum security prison on the edge of the Cypress Hills area. It is a beautiful location right at the edge of the trees. There are no fences around it. There is a series of cottages. The women right now spend time in the cottages. They have programming in the main lodge. Does that mean that the commissioner can designate one of those cottages a maximum security unit without changing the security level of the facilities or anything else and just say it is now a maximum-level unit, and someone can be put there who is supposed to be in a maximum security prison? All of us would put our heads in our hands and say that this is a crazy idea.
Within prisons there are some people who do not want to be in the general population. They are okay with being segregated. There are a number of reasons that might happen. One is that they may get hurt or injured themselves. The second is that they may hurt or injure someone else. They do not want to be put back into the general population of the prison. This bill basically says that the department has to continually work to do everything it can to put them back into general population.
A common theme throughout Bill C-83 and legislation on crime the Liberals keep bringing forward is that they want to try to make life easier for the most difficult prisoners. They should be looking at public safety. They should look at the people who work in the prisons. Why do Liberals not ever seem to focus on them instead of trying to find a way to hug a thug. They seem to really enjoy doing that.
This bill contains a lot of rhetoric and very few specifics. We were told that it was not costed. Once again, it is a demonstration of how soft the Liberals are on crime and how willing they are to close their eyes to reality. This is a series of promises that again will not be kept. This bill should be set aside. It is unfortunate that the government has moved time allocation for the 60th or 70th time to force this bill through.
View Sheri Benson Profile
View Sheri Benson Profile
2019-02-26 16:51 [p.25821]
Madam Speaker, I do not believe the member and I would see eye to eye on many things on the issue of public safety and corrections. One thing the member mentioned in his speech on which we could agree is that the changes the government is proposing to solitary confinement are really cosmetic, and they did not get the support of witnesses who came to the committee.
I also want to remind the hon. member that many of the issues we are facing around safety in corrections, for both staff and inmates, have come from years of underfunding and from over-incarcerating people, particularly indigenous people from our province of Saskatchewan.
I have two questions for my hon. colleague. First, does he support the Supreme Court ruling that solitary confinement, or the euphemistic term, “administrative segregation”, is unconstitutional? Does the member agree with that?
Second, does the member agree with the evidence that shows that for those people who have mental health issues, and that group of people in prisons in extremely large, solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, actually exacerbates people's mental health symptoms and causes more harm than good?
View David Anderson Profile
View David Anderson Profile
2019-02-26 16:53 [p.25822]
Madam Speaker, obviously there are a host of issues involved in that question, but I appreciate my colleague's question.
The bill talks about programming. It talks about setting up programs for every single prisoner who is in prison. I think we are probably going to agree that there is a lot of rhetoric in here the Liberals never have any intention of fulfilling. They lay these things out. They make it look like there is going to be some great change, but they are not actually going to see this through.
Again, I think this is virtue signalling. The Liberals are basically replacing the names of things, and we are basically going to end up with the same structures and the same prisons we had before. Those same issues my colleague talks about will probably be left unanswered and will not be dealt with.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-10-18 10:12 [p.22530]
moved that Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, given the nature of the legislation we are about to discuss today pertaining to the correctional system, I want to take this moment to recognize that the family, friends and colleagues of a correctional officer, the late Lesa Zoerb, will be gathering tomorrow for her funeral service in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Lesa lost her life in a vehicle crash while on duty last week. She was born in Regina. She had two children. She had worked as a federal correctional officer for 20 years.
I know everyone in this House will want to join with me in extending our deepest condolences to all those who are mourning the loss of Lesa, especially her loving family.
May she rest in peace.
I will now move on to the legislation at hand. What we are doing today is opening the second reading debate on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The act is all about greater safety, security and effectiveness within Canada's correctional system. It follows two superior court decisions that have imposed certain deadlines on Parliament, which will be coming up toward the end of this year.
Our government's top priority is protecting Canadians from natural disasters, threats to national security, and, of course, crime. We are doing a number of things to protect Canadian communities from criminal activity.
To protect Canadian communities from criminal activity, we are supporting law enforcement and ensuring that the brave women and men who serve our communities have the resources they need to do their jobs. We are funding programs that help keep young Canadians out of gangs and provide them with more positive opportunities and choices. We are addressing some of the social determinants of crime, like poverty, housing and education. We are combatting gun smuggling at the border and the flow of illegal cash into organized crime. We are also advancing new legislation to tackle some of the most serious threats to the safety of our communities, like gun violence and impaired driving.
Another significant thing we can do to enhance public safety is to make our correctional system as effective as possible at dealing with people who have committed crimes, so that when their sentences are over they are prepared to go straight and not commit new crimes.
Certainly, there are some offenders who have received life sentences from the courts and who may never be granted any form of conditional release by the Parole Board. However, the vast majority will eventually return to our communities, which is why the main responsibility of our correctional system is to do as much as possible to ensure that when offenders are released, they are ready to leave their criminal past behind them and to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.
We all want fewer offenders, fewer victims and safer communities. Achieving that is obviously no easy task. It involves an expert, accurate assessment of each offender's issues, needs and criminogenic risk, both at intake and on an ongoing basis. It involves meeting those needs and reducing those risks through appropriate interventions, programming, education, skills training and gradual supervised release, as opposed to simply sending an offender cold turkey straight from maximum security back into society.
It also involves any required treatment for addiction or mental health. The Correctional Service of Canada estimates that about 70% of all inmates exhibit symptoms of some form of mental illness. In administrative segregation, more than one-third of men and virtually all women have moderate to high mental health issues.
The legislation before us today would significantly strengthen the ability of our correctional system to achieve the objectives of the system and to keep Canadians safe. Safety is job number one.
To begin with, the bill introduces an innovative new way of dealing with offenders who for one reason or another cannot be housed within the general population of a correctional institution. At the moment, those offenders are placed in administrative segregation. Segregated inmates are allowed two hours out of their cell per day and interactions with other people are tightly limited. While the correctional service tries to avoid interruptions and interventions in programming, practical considerations make that very difficult to do.
Intense debate about administrative segregation has been ongoing for many years. Despite the fact that the practice harkens back to the treatment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and has been branded by some as a form of torture, particularly by comments at the United Nations, there are those who have defended administrative segregation as a valuable security management tool.
On the other side of the debate, the use of segregation has been vigorously criticized by the correctional investigator, by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith a number of years ago, by many NGOs and most recently by a number of Canadian courts.
Within the last year, courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have ruled in different ways and for different reasons that administrative segregation as currently practised is not constitutional. Those rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but at the moment they are scheduled to take effect in just a few months, toward the end of this year and the beginning of next year, and we as a Parliament need to be prepared for that eventuality. That is part of the reason for the timing of Bill C-83 today.
There can be no doubt that within a correctional institution it is essential to have an effective way of separating certain people from others be it for their own safety or for the safety of staff and volunteers or for the safety of other inmates.
The question that we have been examining is how to do that effectively while maintaining as much as possible the offender's access to the programming, the mental health care and the other interventions that are available to the general population, especially given that the people who end up in segregation often have needs and risks that are particularly acute.
The solution that we are proposing in Bill C-83 is to completely eliminate the existing practice of administrative segregation and replace it with a new approach, and that is the creation of structured intervention units, or SIUs.
These units will be separate from the general population so that the safety imperative will be met. But they will be designed and they will be staffed and resourced to ensure that the people who are placed there will receive the interventions, the programming and the treatment that is required.
Inmates in SIUs will be out of their cells for at least four hours daily, with a minimum of two hours of meaningful interaction with staff, volunteers, elders, visitors or other compatible inmates.
Additional mental health professionals will be hired and assigned specifically to the SIUs. The legislation will make it clear that inmates are not to be separated from the general population any longer than necessary.
This new approach will help to ensure the safety of correctional institutions and the public by strengthening the capacity of the Correctional Service of Canada to promote rehabilitation in a secure environment.
Bill C-83 also includes several other related measures to further that same objective. For example, it would implement a key recommendation from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith to establish a system of patient advocates for inmates with mental needs. Patient advocates would work with offenders and correctional staff to help ensure that people in federal custody receive appropriate medical care.
The legislation would also enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals working in the corrections system must be free to exercise their professional judgment autonomously on the basis of their own medical expertise. These measures would, ultimately, enhance public safety because offenders whose medical and mental health issues are under control are more likely to achieve safe and successful rehabilitation and less likely to reoffend after they have served their sentences.
The bill would also formalize the obligation on the part of the Correctional Service of Canada to take into account systemic and background factors affecting indigenous people when making offender management decisions. The consideration of these factors is, in fact, an obligation that was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Gladue decision. For 15 years, Correctional Service Canada has had policy directives in place implementing that obligation, but now it would be enshrined in law.
As we all know, indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in our corrections system, and that is a harsh reality that we all have to work hard to change. While the socio-economic factors that cause this overrepresentation must generally be addressed by other departments and agencies before incarceration occurs, it is the responsibility of the corrections system to provide indigenous offenders with both appropriate consequences for criminal activity, as well as effective and culturally appropriate rehabilitative interventions. The changes made by this bill would help ensure that is the case.
This legislation would also expand the access of victims to information related to parole hearings. Currently, a victim who does not attend a parole hearing is entitled to receive an audio recording of the hearing, but for some reason, if victims do attend, they lose their right to receive a recording, and that just does not make much sense. Attending parole hearings can be a very difficult experience for victims of crime and their families, and we have seen that demonstrated in recent days. They cannot possibly be expected to retain every word of what is said, nor should they have to. If, after the hearing is over, it is all a bit of a blur and they would like to listen to the proceedings again in a more comfortable setting, they should be able to do that, and this bill would give them that right.
This bill would also allow for the use of body scanner technology to help keep contraband substances out of federal correctional institutions. These kinds of devices are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities. They make it easier for officers to detect when someone is trying to smuggle in drugs or other illicit materials and they are less invasive than other methods of security, like strip searches, for example. Keeping contraband out of correctional facilities would help make institutions as safe and secure as possible. The safety of employees, volunteers, visitors and inmates is an absolute prerequisite for all the other work that Correctional Service Canada does.
In other words, the legislation that is before us today in Bill C-83 recognizes two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet.
Second, the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions. The new structured intervention units being created by Bill C-83 will help keep institutions safe by ensuring that inmates can be separated from the general population when that is necessary and they will help keep Canadian communities safe by ensuring the continuity of rehabilitative programming and the accessibility of mental health care for the inmates in these units.
Let us be clear. Providing quality, rehabilitative programming and mental health care is not about being nice to criminals. Rather, by having a correctional system that is as effective as possible at preventing people who have broken the law from breaking it again, we are increasing the safety of our communities. That is our priority and that is why we are introducing this legislation, taking full account of the most recent decisions of Canadian courts. I look forward very much to the constructive input of all colleagues in the House, both during today's debate and throughout the legislative process on Bill C-83.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-10-18 10:32 [p.22533]
Madam Speaker, I would make two or three observations in response to that. Point number one is that what we are proposing to put in place is fundamentally different from administrative segregation. It is not the same approach. The courts have said that if there is going to be administration segregation, it is unconstitutional unless there is better oversight provided, unless the conditions of confinement are improved and unless a number of other structural changes are made. We have taken those messages to heart. Rather than trying to repair administrative segregation, we have said that we would eliminate it entirely and replace it with a new approach. The same safeguards that were necessary in relation to administrative segregation would become quite different in nature, because our new system would be fundamentally different.
Second, as the hon. gentleman has observed, oversight and a number of reviews are provided for in the legislation. There would be a review by the warden after five days. There would be another review after 30 days and then a review by the commissioner herself on an ongoing basis. There are review mechanisms built into the legislation.
My third point is that as we go along with this debate in the House or in committee, if there are stronger ideas to be put forward for improving the review process, I would be most happy to hear what those ideas are.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-10-18 10:37 [p.22533]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. gentleman's criticism with respect to administrative segregation is obviously part of the very reason we are eliminating administrative segregation and moving to a different approach, with a different system.
The issues he has raised, those raised by the correctional investigator, those raised by the coroner's inquest with respect to Ashley Smith, and those raised by the courts are clearly valid criticisms. We are addressing those criticisms by changing the system altogether. As I said in response to an earlier question, if there are stronger suggestions to be made in the course of this debate on review and oversight mechanisms, I would be anxious to hear what those are and would take them into consideration.
View Brad Trost Profile
View Brad Trost Profile
2017-12-05 14:04 [p.16017]
Mr. Speaker, over 40% of the correctional officers on duty at the regional psychiatric centre in my riding in Saskatoon are on workers' compensation because they have been attacked by inmates. According to a story by reporter Dan Zakreski, officers at this Correctional Service Canada facility have been assaulted continually by inmates, who are spitting, biting, and stabbing officers with pens. Urine and feces have also been thrown.
The escalation in violence is due to a policy change in August to a practice called “administrative segregation”. As a result, violent inmates with a serious mental illness can no longer be separated from the general population. In the CBC article, union rep James Bloomfield said, “The inmates that are assaulting us are right in front of us the next day. There's no repercussions for them.”
I call upon the Minister of Public Safety to reverse this policy so that all CSC employees can work in an environment that is safe for them and the inmates they care for.
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