Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:30 [p.22713]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to continue discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. When I last spoke on Friday, I referred to the fact that the government's justification for rushing the bill forward is that the courts made them do it, that the courts made them ban both segregation for administrative and disciplinary purposes in all circumstances. The problem with that justification is that it is simply not so.
Neither the British Columbia Supreme Court decision nor the Ontario Superior Court decision provide for that. Indeed, in the case of the Ontario Superior Court decision, the primary basis of that decision related to the independence of the review upon the determination made by the institutional head to put an inmate into segregation. The Ontario court determined that the lack of an independent review mechanism contravened fundamental justice under section 7 of the charter. That was the basis of the Ontario decision.
I need not remind the government that aside from these two court decisions, neither the Mandela rules nor the Arbour commission of 1996 called for the elimination of segregation in all circumstances. It is simply the government doing so with this rushed legislation without real, meaningful consultation with the men and women who work in correctional institutions, the most dangerous, difficult and stressful workplace environments. It is really quite unfortunate, but what is worse is that the changes the government is proposing to make will require a lot more resources to handle inmates.
Each time an inmate is removed from their cell to have some time out of it and away from segregation, that requires two guards to accompany them. What the government is proposing is to extend that to four hours. For this to work, it is going to require more resources, and so where are the resources for this from the government? They are nowhere to be found.
Instead of providing our correctional officers with the tools they need to keep our correctional facilities safe, what is the government proposing? It is proposing an 8.8% reduction in Correctional Services Canada's budget. That is what the Liberals are doing. While they are putting a greater burden on correctional officers, taking away vital tools that correctional officers need to keep institutions safe, the government is cutting back at the same time. It speaks to the misplaced priorities of the government and the fact that once again it just cannot get it right.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:39 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, I would reiterate that both the British Columbia and Ontario decisions made no such determination of banning segregation in all circumstances, as Bill C-83 provides for. In the Ontario court decision, the heart of the decision related to the independent review process. As opposed to fixing the independent review process, the government instead has decided to eliminate a tool that is necessary to keep our institutions safe.
On the issue of whether segregation violated section 12 of the charter or targeted inmates with mental illness disproportionately, so on and so forth, the court ruled against all of those arguments against segregation.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 12:32 [p.22721]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment for his thoughtful speech, but I have to say that I disagree with where he is coming at.
If we listen to his speech and some of the other speeches across the way on the segregation system, we would be led to believe that inmates are left on their own with no access to mental health support and meaningful human contact. However, when I read from directive 709, inmates who are subject to administrative segregation receive a daily visit by a health care professional, a daily visit by the institutional head, a visit by a correctional manager once per shift, visits by legal counsel, access to elected inmate representatives, visits by family, telephone calls to families and friends, and appointments with health care professionals, including mental health care professionals. That hardly sounds like a lack of meaningful human contact.
It seems that the bill is not about that issue but really about taking away a tool that is only used as a last resort, and only when three grounds can be established: first, that an inmate or another person in that facility could be put at risk; second, where it is necessary to protect the integrity of an investigation; or third, when it is necessary to protect the inmate from themself.
Why would the government take away that important tool that can only be used as a last resort?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-19 12:21 [p.22626]
Mr. Speaker, I head the parliamentary secretary misstate the law. On more than one occasion, the parliamentary secretary made reference to a Supreme Court of Canada decision. In fact, there is no Supreme Court of Canada decision. There are two lower court decisions, one a Supreme Court of British Columbia decision and another an Ontario Superior Court of Justice decision, neither of which, by the way, ordered a blanket prohibition on segregation.
Could the hon. parliamentary secretary clarify the record.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-19 12:49 [p.22631]
Mr. Speaker, the member for St. Catharines alluded to two lower court decisions and, typical of the Liberals in trying to justify their legislation, they argue that the courts made them do it. In that vein, I was wondering if the member for St. Catharines could explain why the government is appealing those decisions.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-19 13:23 [p.22634]
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.
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