Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
While there are some measures in the bill that are positive, on the whole, I cannot support Bill C-83. I cannot support Bill C-83, because important aspects of the bill, significant aspects of the bill, put criminals ahead of public safety. They put criminals ahead of our correctional officers, employees in correctional institutions. These are folks who work in some of the most difficult and dangerous work environments in Canada. Indeed, one could say that Bill C-83 is part of a Liberal scheme to put criminals first.
Perhaps the biggest problem I have with Bill C-83 is the fact that it would eliminate, right across the board, in all circumstances, both administrative and disciplinary segregation.
Under section 31 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, segregation is a last resort. The institutional head may only order that an inmate be segregated when there are reasonable grounds under one of three criteria: first, the inmate poses a security risk to the institution or to an individual in that institution; second, again as a last resort, there is a need to protect the integrity of an investigation; and third, it is necessary to protect the inmate from harm. Not only that, under section 31 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, an inmate must be released from segregation at the earliest opportunity.
If we listened to the speeches from members on the Liberal side and the NDP side, we would think it was something that occurred on a routine basis. In fact, when it comes to segregation, the criteria are high, the standard is high, and very few inmates are subjected to it.
Indeed, if one looks at the statistics, in 2014-15, 638 inmates across Canada were subject to administrative segregation. That number fell to 430 in 2016-17, and as of July 31, 2017, fewer than 300 inmates were subject to administrative segregation. The number of inmates who were subjected to disciplinary segregation is even lower: five in 2010-11 among male inmates, down to three in 2014-15; among female inmates, the number was zero, other than one year, 2012-13, when one female inmate was subjected to disciplinary segregation.
While the standard is high, and while it is only used in the rarest circumstances, make no mistake about it, segregation is an important tool to deal with, in some cases, the most dangerous and violent offenders in our institutions. Members do not have to take my word for it. They can take the word of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who said, in regard to Bill C-83, “the new Bill C-83 must not sacrifice disciplinary segregation as a tool to deter violent behaviour.” This is the union that represents the men and women who work in correctional institutions.
However, instead of listening to them, the government ignored them. The government totally disregarded them and said that it had no choice, because the courts made it do it.
Balderdash, that the courts made the government do it. There are two court decisions. The parliamentary secretary said the Supreme Court of Canada made the government do it. He had to stand up in his place and admit there was no Supreme Court of Canada decision. However, neither of the lower court decisions contemplates the elimination of segregation in all circumstances, nor does the 1996 Arbour commission, nor do the UN Mandela rules.
It seems the only people who want to eliminate it in all circumstances are the Liberals at the expense of the safety and security of correctional officers and at the expense of the safety and security of inmates. The government should be ashamed.