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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, to go back to the last answer, I would like to quote for the parliamentary secretary Dr. Adelina Iftene who is a law professor at Dalhousie University. Following these amendments and the response to the work that Senate Pate was doing, she said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards...The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement.
Do the Liberals not believe that living up to the UN standard is the very least they could do, but they have not?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, the UN standard is very important, but there is also a requirement to actually be able to fulfill that. When we talk about meaningful human contact, we are also talking about the kind of programming the offenders would need. That was the problem with the old system.
If inmates were in administrative segregation, they lost so much access to the kind of programs that would help them succeed, that were would help them move past the position where they were. That kind of mental health programming, that kind of literacy programming, that kind of addiction counselling program will now be available to inmates.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:56 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I will be proposing an amendment at the end of my speech. Please let me know when I have one minute remaining.
I would like to share with the House a few important quotes.
First, I will go over the topic I just raised in my question to the hon. member for Yellowhead. In Canada, administrative segregation is a scourge. It has been overused for many years and was an issue well before the current government came to power.
During the previous Parliament, two of our colleagues, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who was the critic, and the former member for Alfred-Pellan, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the deputy critic, asked many questions about the inquest into the tragic circumstances surrounding Ashley Smith's death. I invite all parliamentarians who wish to speak about that case to read that file.
It is horrifying to see that this teenager, this child, was killed. The findings of the inquest attest to the negligence and abuse in the prison system. The Correctional Service of Canada has to take responsibility for its role in this tragedy.
It is all the more troubling when we consider that members of her family, namely her mother and her sister, if I remember correctly, came to testify before the Senate committee. Senator Pate, who was doing amazing work on this file long before being appointed to the Senate, had invited them to testify. In their testimony, the family members said they were disappointed and furious with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who were supposed to make improvements to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death never happened again. They invoked her name and her memory to justify their approach, but in the end this approach will not help resolve the situation at all.
Since the Liberals took office, two courts and the Supreme Court have granted extensions and the government has requested a stay because the legislation before us has not yet passed. The courts found what we have known for a long time, namely that excessive use of administrative segregation is unconstitutional.
That pronouncement is deeply disturbing. We know of numerous cases of abuse. Incidentally, those cases of abuse are not exclusive to federal institutions. However, given our jurisdiction and the limited time we have left, we cannot delve into the many troubling cases that worry us, including the one that happened recently in Ontario.
It is important to bear in mind that the remedy the government is proposing is no remedy at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The reason so many stakeholders, and in certain cases, the loved ones of victims of the abusive use of solitary confinement, have deplored this is that all we have is a rebrand. It is solitary confinement under a different name.
As is unfortunately too often the case with the government, we have to propose amendments and make changes to bills, pointing out there are a few things that might be better. Experts agree that the courts will continue to find this practice, even if under a different name like structured intervention units, to be unconstitutional. I will come back to this with some quotes I pulled up earlier, which I want to share with the House.
Bill C-83 was one of the first bills that came before our committee and was opposed by all the witnesses. Rarely had I seen this until quite recently, although there have been a few since then. I am sure Liberal members could pull out a couple of quotes to say that corrections officers think this would be an okay approach. However, the witnesses were opposed to this approach, because a variety of things were not in place that needed to be.
One of the Senate's proposed amendments is to require judicial approval for an inmate to be held in solitary confinement. This is nothing new. Justice Louise Arbour conducted an inquiry into riots at an institution in Saskatchewan. She noted that the overuse of segregation has an impact on inmates.
Judges sometimes impose sentences of imprisonment as part of their duties and authority. However, when segregation is overused, this means that institutions, their managers and, ultimately, the Correctional Service of Canada are altering the judge's decision. They are modifying the sentence handed down by the judge. This was Justice Arbour's argument, which is why she advocated for the use of judicial supervision.
What is particularly troubling to me is that I proposed an amendment, now Senator Pate has proposed an amendment and these amendments are being rejected by the government. My understanding, after hearing the parliamentary secretary's speech earlier tonight, is that it would cause an increased workload on provincial courts. Ultimately, the sad and tragic thing about that argument is that the only reason it would cause an increased workload is because of the abusive use of solitary confinement as so many individuals are being subjected to the practice when they should not necessarily be.
Focusing on women offenders in particular, I presented an amendment at committee to end the practice completely in women's institutions. Why? The figures demonstrate two things. One is that the number of women in solitary confinement is infinitesimal. The practice is not necessary for maintaining security in our institutions, which is obviously the primary reason it is used most of the time. The second is quite simply that pregnant women, women with mental health problems and indigenous women are the women most often negatively affected by the abusive use of solitary confinement. There is certainly an argument to be made about that, but at the very least, it should be with judicial oversight.
In fact, the argument might also be made that Senator Pate's amendment goes too far. I do not think so, which, as I said, leads us to support the amendment, but there are other routes as well. I proposed an amendment that sought a longer period of 15 days before judicial oversight would be required. It is certainly a much longer and wider threshold than what Senator Pate is proposing. That was also rejected.
The fact of the matter is that the issue we are facing here is quite contradictory. I want to go back to another issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary about the burden we would be putting on provinces. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the burden on provincial mental health hospitals and institutions. That is one of reasons I wanted the Senate amendments. Members will forgive me for not recalling the exact amendment, but this was being proposed.
We look at the same Public Safety department, through the work of my provincial colleague in Queen's Park, Jennifer French. It has fought the Ontario government for years over the fact that it has contracts with Public Safety Canada to detain, in some cases with dubious human rights parameters, immigrants who have sometimes not even committed crimes and have uncertain legal status in our country. When that is the purview of the federal government, these individuals are treated very poorly.
I do not have the title with me, but I would be happy to share with them a great report in the Toronto Star two years ago, if I am not mistaken, on some of these individuals. One individual, for example, in the U.S. was apparently accused of stealing a DVD, but was never found guilty in court. He came to Canada, was working through the process for permanent residency and due to a variety of issues, he is now being detained in a provincial prison under poor circumstances, without the proper accountability that a normal detention process would have. Even though that is the responsibility of the federal government, there are issues like overcrowding and such, and that is through subcontracting that the federal government does with the provinces.
Why am I talking about a completely different case? I am simply trying to demonstrate the government's hypocrisy.
The government has no qualms about working with the provinces. In some cases, it even forces them to implement legislation and various mechanisms related to our legal and correctional systems. Now, the government wants to use the provinces as an argument to continue violating inmates' rights.
As promised, I will share some quotes. I want to share two of them with the House.
First of all, I want to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling granting the second extension, in April. Certainly my colleagues who are lawyers will not appreciate me selectively quoting. It is always a dubious and dangerous game, but I will do so for the sake of expediency. The court said this:
Extensive evidence is put forward outlining the legislative process, the steps necessary to implement the Bill [Bill C-83]including cost, staff training, infrastructure, public consultations.... But this court remains where we were when the first extension was argued: we have virtually nothing to indicate that the constitutional breach identified by the application judge is being or will be addressed in the future.
It is pretty clear from that quote and that extension, and not even the initial judgment ruling that the practice was unconstitutional, that this is an issue the bill will not resolve.
I sort of opened the door to this at the beginning, and I did not quite finish that thought, but I did want to come back to it, because I just mentioned the second extension.
Bill C-56 was tabled in 2017, the first attempt by the government to deal with this, because it was, after all, part of not one minister's but two ministers' mandate letters, the minister of justice and the Minister of Public Safety. As I said, it was a debate that began in the previous Parliament and even before through a variety of public inquiries and the like.
Finally, we get to Bill C-83, which was tabled late last year. Here we are now, at the eleventh hour, having it rammed through, because the government, quite frankly, did not do its proper homework. It is problematic, because here we have the Liberals asking for extensions and having to go now, in the last few weeks, to the Supreme Court, of all places, to get an additional extension. The thing is that the witnesses at committee were not consulted. No one was consulted except the officials in the minister's office, and they all came to committee to tell us that.
I would like someone to explain to me how this could be an issue when the Prime Minister included it in his 2015 mandate letters for the ministers responsible. A bill was introduced in 2017, and two decisions by two different courts, the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, were handed down in late 2017 and early 2018. Then Bill C-83 was introduced in late 2018. Then not one, not two, but three applications were filed for an extension to implement what the courts had requested.
That is interesting. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. Earlier, when she asked the member for Yellowhead a question, she stated that it might be more beneficial for correctional officers if we were to pass the bill so as not to have to impose the will of the courts upon them.
Personally, to defend human rights and prevent people from dying in our prisons due to excessive use of administrative segregation, I would like the courts' restrictions and terms to be imposed. Of course, that is what we wanted to see in the legislation.
On a similar note, I would like to come back to the UN rules concerning segregation, which are known as the Nelson Mandela rules.
They cover a number of factors: the number of consecutive days in administrative segregation, the number of consecutive hours in administrative segregation and the number of hours spent outside the cell. Viewers might see that last point as problematic, but when inmates are outside their cells, they are not frolicking in wildflower meadows. I hope my colleagues will forgive my humorous tone when talking about such a serious issue. All that means is outside the cell used for administrative segregation. The rules also mention the importance of meaningful human contact.
Now I would like to read the quote I read a small part of when I asked the parliamentary secretary a question.
Dr. Adelina Iftene is a law professor at Dalhousie University. I will read the full quote and I ask for colleagues' indulgence. She said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards, the amount of time prisoners would have meaningful contact with other human beings–-two hours per day--does not. The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement. The government simply cannot argue that its proposed regime is not segregation. Passing a bill that does not include a cap on segregation time and judicial oversight will lead to another unconstitutional challenge.... Refusal to pass the bill with amendments would be a sign of bad faith, disregard for taxpayers’ money and for the rule of law. It is disheartening to see such resistance to upholding human rights at home by a country that champions human rights abroad.
That drives home the point that the window dressing may have changed, but the store still carries the same goods. Please forgive my use of such a light-hearted expression. The system is the same, and it still has harsh and sometimes fatal consequences for people.
Some people argue that there are public safety reasons for this and that some of these inmates have committed horrible crimes and deserve to be punished. However, by far most of the people subjected to excessive use of administrative segregation struggle with mental health problems. That is a problem because these people are not getting the care they need for either their own rehabilitation or to ensure public safety objectives are achieved and they stop posing a threat to communities and society. Excessive use is at odds with our mental health and rehabilitation goals, and that is bad for public safety. I would encourage anyone who says this measure will improve public safety to think again because there is a situation here we really need to address.
I have a lot more that I would like to say, but my time is running out. As members can see, this problem has been around for years. Many stakeholders gave inspiring testimony, despite the sombre issue and our discouragement with regard to the government's proposals and inaction. What is more, what the Senate has been doing when it comes to some of the bills that were democratically passed by the House is deplorable. I am thinking of the bill introduced by my colleague from James Bay and the one introduced by our former colleague from Edmonton, Rona Ambrose, on sexual assault. That being said, Senator Pate has done extraordinary work. She has experience in the field. She used to work at the Elizabeth Fry Society. She knows what she is talking about, much more than anyone in the House. I tip my hat to her for the amendments that she managed to get adopted in the Senate. I support them.
Accordingly, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Jonquière:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, be now read a second time and concurred in.”
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 23:27 [p.29457]
Mr. Speaker, Parliament has been studying Bill C-83 for the last nine months. Its essence and objective are the same now as they were when the bill was introduced: to provide a way to separate inmates from the general population in an institution when doing so is necessary for safety reasons, without cutting off those inmates from rehabilitative interventions, programs, mental health care and meaningful human contact.
The main feature of the bill is the replacement of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs. In SIUs, inmates would get a minimum of four hours out of the cell every day, twice as much as they currently get in administrative segregation, and for the first time, there would be a legal entitlement to meaningful human contact of at least two hours every day.
In addition to these legislative changes, the government is investing $450 million so that the Correctional Service will be able to hire the staff necessary to provide programs, interventions and mental health care in SIUs and to do it all safely. This investment is critical to the success of the SIUs.
During my conversations with both the Union of Safety and Justice Employees and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, as well as during visits I made to corrections facilities in Edmonton and Saskatoon last year, something I heard loud and clear was that there was a need for meaningful investments in corrections to atone for 10 years of cuts by the previous Conservative government so that we can ensure the best rehabilitative outcomes for inmates, and just as importantly, ensure the safety of those who work in corrections.
My friend Stan Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, wrote an article in May 2019, and I would like to read from it now:
Correctional Service Canada's use of solitary confinement must change. The long-standng practice of managing difficult offenders by [the use of]...solitary confinement is totally unworkable. As Canada's courts have said, it is also profoundly inhumane. Men and women serving federal time are broken and desperate human beings in need of meaningful contact, not further isolation.
At the same time, federal prisons are fraught with danger. The pressure cooker environment and threats of violence lead some prisoners to seek time away from the general population for their own sanity and safety.
Other offenders with a strong propensity for violence and few coping skills simply cannot manage long periods with others without posing a real threat. In a system with few safety valves, administrative segregation (or solitary confinement) has tragically become one of the few.
The new legislation proposes significant changes to solitary. Bill C-83 definitely won't solve everything, but it's a worthy next step. It will mandate that Correctional Service Canada dedicate the appropriate human resources for sustained rehabilitative efforts. Until now, the opportunity for parole officers, program officers, and teachers to spend quality time with the highest needs offenders has been minimal, if existent.
It will render offenders separated from the general population a priority, instead of an after-thought, within Corrections. It will enforce better reporting and accountability mechanisms.
I believe the proposed segregation units will benefit from independent oversight outside of Corrections, as is proposed by the Bill. This is crucial. But to ensure that the Bill does what is intended, the Correctional Service needs to glean the ongoing wisdom of those on the front lines of rehabilitating offenders every day....
A commitment to keep all Canadians safe means serious investments in rehabilitating all offenders in federal prisons, 90 percent of whom will be released back into the community, ready or not. I am hopeful that Bill C-83 passes so that the real work can begin.
That is the end of the article.
I want to thank Stan for his years of service to corrections, for his assistance with my understanding of our corrections system and for providing all of us with the critical perspective of those working in corrections.
Let me return to Bill C-83. The amendments made at the public safety committee last fall addressed practical concerns raised by certain witnesses to help ensure that the new system would function as intended.
The committee heard from indigenous groups, including Dr. Allen Benson and the Native Women's Association of Canada, who called for changes to the definition of indigenous organizations to ensure that it properly captured the diverse range of indigenous groups and organizations working on these issues across Canada.
Following the discussion, the committee was able to unanimously approve an amendment that called for indigenous organizations to predominantly have indigenous leadership. We also heard about the need for CSC to seek advice, particularly in matters of mental health and behaviours, from indigenous spiritual leaders or elders. I was pleased that my amendment to that effect was adopted at committee.
The bill has changed in significant ways since it was first introduced. I am proud to work for a government that is amenable to feedback and was receptive to amendments, informed by witness testimony that we heard at the public safety committee, that make the bill even stronger.
At report stage, we made a major additional amendment, one that I am incredibly proud to have introduced, that creates a mechanism to provide binding, independent, external oversight of SIUs.
The Senate has sent the bill back to us with some additional proposals. I appreciate the intent of all of the Senate's proposals and I am glad the government is accepting several of them, in whole or in part.
Those that we are accepting include the following: mandatory mental health assessments for all inmates within 30 days of admission and within 24 hours of transfer to an SIU; adding precision to the section of the bill that requires the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors in decisions affecting indigenous inmates; establishing the consideration of alternatives to incarceration, where appropriate, as a guiding principle of the Correctional Service; and minimizing the use of strip searches.
Other proposals from the Senate are interesting ideas, but they really should be studied as stand-alone items rather than included as amendments to this bill. For example, the idea of expanding the use of measures developed for indigenous corrections to non-indigenous inmates might be valid. When I visited the Pê Sâkâstêw and Buffalo Sage healing lodges in Edmonton last year, I saw first-hand the incredible impact that the programming in these institutions was having on outcomes for inmates who are serving their sentences there.
At Buffalo Sage, I was honoured to take part in a circle with Elder Vicky and hearing from strong female offenders, women who have survived what life has thrown at them and are now on a healing journey, immersed in their culture and on the road to rehabilitation and reintegration. These were women who had escaped violent abusers and themselves ended up in prison, women whose lack of housing and poverty led them to the criminal justice system, and women who lost their children to the foster system. One individual at Buffalo Sage shared with me that for the first time since entering the correction system, at Buffalo Sage she felt that she was able to heal.
I also had the privilege of visiting Pê Sâkâstêw, a men's healing lodge, where I had a memorable meeting with a 39-year-old indigenous man who first came into the justice system at 12 as a young offender. After a life in and out of jail, a life that included abuse and addictions, he was serving a sentence for robbery and now was on a successful healing journey. He lives as a man in prison and a woman outside, and prefers the “he” pronoun. He had reconnected with his community for the first time in 20 years.
I have a lot more that I could say in support of healing lodges and their impact on correctional outcomes for indigenous offenders, but a lot of work would have to go into determining how the Senate's vision would be executed, including what aspects could be borrowed from indigenous programming, what elements would have to be redesigned, what kind of community support exists and where the funding would come from without diminishing from the services provided to the indigenous prison population, which we know is the fastest-growing prison population in Canada.
Another example from the Senate is a proposal designed to deter misconduct by correctional employees and to support inmates affected by it.
It is important to point out that the vast majority of correctional staff are trained professionals doing a very hard job with skill and dedication. They are individuals for whom I have the utmost respect, who work in a job that gets little in the way of accolades from Canadians. Whenever there is an issue with someone working in corrections, we must absolutely address those situations. However, in my opinion, the Senate's proposal of shortening inmates' sentences because of the conduct of correctional personnel is not the right approach.
The Senate has also proposed an amendment that would require the authorization of a provincial superior court for any SIU placement longer than 48 hours.
Once more, I understand and share the objective of ensuring that SIUs are properly used. Robust oversight will help see to it that SIUs will be a last resort, that placements in SIUs will be as short as possible, and that inmates in SIUs are receiving all the time out of cell and meaningful human contact to which the bill entitles them.
It is important to note that in the context of administrative segregation, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has found that placements must be examined by the fifth working day by a reviewer who is “completely outside the circle of influence of the person whose decision is being reviewed” and ”able to substitute its decision for that of the person whose decision is being reviewed.” The court was explicit that the reviewer need not be external to the Correctional Service Canada and, in fact, recommending “an administrative review provided by the Correctional Service of Canada.” While this finding was specifically in relation to administrative segregation and not SIUs, Bill C-83 would create a review process for SIUs consistent with what the court required for administrative segregation.
Under Bill C-83, SIU placements will be reviewed by the fifth working day by the institutional head who does not report to the initial decision-maker and who has the authority to overturn the initial decision. Importantly, whether in the context of administrative segregation or SIUs, no court has required judicial oversight and no court has set 48 hours as a timeline for review of any kind.
I would remind the House that robust oversight was discussed at length at the public safety committee, and has already been added to the bill in my report stage amendment.
Independent external decision-makers would be appointed by the minister to review any case where an inmate in an SIU does not get the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row or 15 days out of 30. They will also review situations where Correctional Service Canada does not accept the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. In addition, they will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for inmates still there at that point.
The determinations of independent external decision-makers will be binding and reviewable by the Federal Court. All of that external oversight is on top of regular reviews within the Correctional Service, beginning on the fifth day of placement in an SIU.
There are several advantages to using independent adjudicators rather than judges to provide oversight in this context. For one thing, our courts already have a heavy case load. Giving them additional responsibilities would mean giving them additional resources, namely increasing the number of Superior Court judges, which involves changes to legislation and making budgetary allocations both at federal and provincial levels.
That raises another problem. There are provincial Superior Courts. We should not be adding to their workload to this extent without engaging in thorough consultations with the provinces.
Also, the flexibility of a system of independent adjudicators is a big advantage in this context. A few of them could be stationed in different parts of the country and could be reactive to needs in different provinces. With judges, they are appointed permanently to a specific court and only deal with cases in their jurisdiction. Even for the current system of administrative segregation, the courts have not said that a judicial review is required. The Ontario Superior Court actually expressed a preference for non-judicial review, so decisions could be made faster.
Ultimately, while I appreciate the intent of the Senate's proposal about judicial review, an independent adjudication system already in Bill C-83 can meet the need for oversight without the drawbacks of using the courts.
I appreciate all the Senate's contributions and hard work. This bill has gotten a lot of attention from parliamentarians over the last nine months, and rightly so.
We entrust Correctional Services with the task of carrying out sentences that are supposed to be a deterrent to and punishment for criminal activity and we entrust it with the physical separation of potentially dangerous people from the rest of Canadian society. At the same time, we charge the Correctional Service with the rehabilitation through measures including behaviour counselling, anger management programs, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, education and vocational training.
In a country like Canada, we demand that these tasks all be carried out humanely and with respect, even for the rights of people who have done terrible things, and in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-83 would help ensure that all these goals can be achieved.
When I spoke to this bill at report stage, I said that I felt strongly that the legislation, combined with the additional investments from our government, would transform our correctional system. That is why I support the legislation and the motion before us today. I urge my colleagues to do the same.
This is the last time I will be speaking in the House before we rise. I would like to acknowledge my staff who are present today: Hilary Lawson and Conor Lewis. This legislation benefited from the input of Hilary, and it would not be the legislation that it is right now without her hard work. Conor has worked with me on the status of women committee. I can quite confidently say that I have the best staff on the Hill. I thank them both for all of their efforts.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the members of the public safety committee who are here tonight. I am sorry I do not know their ridings, but they have both spoken tonight. They have both been incredible members to work with. It is rare that we see members work across the aisle as well as we did on the public safety committee on issues that were by nature very controversial. We always found a way to work together, and even when we did not agree we always did it in a very agreeable way. I would like to commend them for their work, as well as my Liberal colleagues on the committee. We got a lot of good work done, and this bill is one that I am very proud of. I will be going back to my riding knowing that we have passed legislation that will truly be transformative for our corrections system.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.
I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.
I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.
In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.
The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.
I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.
One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.
Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.
Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.
In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.
We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.
One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.
I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.
While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.
In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.
Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.
When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.
Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.
The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.
If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.
The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.
There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.
The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.
A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.
The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.
We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.
When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.
I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.
The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.
What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.
The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.
While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.
The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.
What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.
Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a re-branding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.
Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.
Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.
The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.
Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.
Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.
I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.
Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.
As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.
View Peter Schiefke Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Peter Schiefke Profile
2019-02-26 12:00 [p.25780]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to speak to Bill C-83.
It is a transformative piece of legislation for our correctional system. Its ultimate goal is to promote safety, both inside and outside our federal institutions, and it prioritizes rehabilitation as an indispensable part of achieving that goal.
The core innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposed introduction of structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would address a reality in any prison across our country, which is that some inmates are, at certain times, simply too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream inmate population. The current practice is to place those offenders in administrative segregation.
Segregated inmates in federal institutions can be in their cells for as many as 22 hours a day. Interactions with other people are highly limited. Bill C-83 would offer a more effective way forward for all involved.
Safety will always be priority number one for our government, and should be for any government in power, but prisons are safer places in which to live and work when inmates receive the programming, mental health care and other interventions they need. Inmates who receive these interventions are more likely to reintegrate safely into the community when their sentences are over.
The solution the government is proposing in Bill C-83 is to eliminate segregation and to replace it with SIUs. These units would be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative would be met. However, they would be designed to ensure that inmates who were placed there would receive the interventions, programming and treatment they required.
Inmates in SIUs would be given the opportunity to leave their cells for at least four hours a day, as opposed to two hours under the current system. It is worth noting that currently, those two hours are set out in policy and not in legislation. Bill C-83 would give the four-hour minimum the full force of law.
Inmates in SIUs would also have the opportunity for at least two hours of meaningful human contact. During that time, they could interact with people such as correctional staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains or elders. The goal of these reforms is for inmates in an SIU to be in a position to reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.
Bill C-83 has undergone rigorous analysis at every stage of the parliamentary process to date. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went over it with a fine-tooth comb. Based on testimony from a wide range of stakeholders, a number of useful amendments were adopted at the end of the committee's study period.
Bill C-83 was a solid and worthwhile bill from day one. It is now even better and stronger for having gone through vigorous debate and a robust review process. It is worth noting that the bill that has been reported back to us reflects amendments from all parties that proposed them. I wholeheartedly reject the idea we have heard during this debate that somehow the fact that the bill has been amended in response to public and parliamentary feedback is a bad thing. I am proud to support a government that welcomes informed, constructive feedback and that respects the role of members of Parliament from all parties in the legislative process. I would like to thank all members in this House who contributed to amending and making this bill better than it was.
Most of the amendments made to Bill C-83 are about ensuring that the new SIUs would function as intended. For instance, some witnesses were worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided in the middle of the night, when inmates were unlikely to take advantage of it. Therefore, the member for Montarville added the requirement that it happen between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Other witnesses wondered whether the mandatory interactions with others might happen through a door or a meal slot, a reasonable concern. To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision requiring that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that interactions are face to face, with a record kept of any and all exceptions.
To address concerns that CSC might make excessive use of the clause allowing for time out of the cell not to be provided in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to clarify how this clause should be interpreted.
Amendments from the member for Toronto—Danforth at committee and from the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will enhance the review process so that each SIU placement is subject to robust oversight, both internally and externally.
All of this will help ensure that the new structured intervention units operate as intended.
However, that is not all. Amendments have also been accepted from the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I would like to thank them once again for their contributions as well.
We all want safer institutions and safer communities. We all want Canadians to feel safe and to be safe. Successful rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people in federal custody are key to achieving our shared objective of enhanced public safety. By allowing inmates who must be separated from the general prison population to receive more time out of their cell and more mental health care and rehabilitative interventions, Bill C-83 represents a major step in the right direction.
Again, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their contributions in the House and at committee throughout the entire parliamentary process so far, and I urge them to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill. It will ensure the safety of the inmates and those who work in the correctional institutions, and Canadians as well.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-83. As we know, it is a bill that symbolizes the current government's approach to leadership in this country. It is an approach of ignoring the concerns of many, providing little in the way of moral leadership and transparency, and putting the safety of Canadians at risk for the benefit of political gain.
I have said many times in this place that it is and should be the top priority of the House to put the safety of Canadians first, ahead of any other issues or politics. With the bill, the House would fail to meet that expectation.
To paraphrase my NDP colleague from Beloeil—Chambly, I can think of no time when a bill has come before Parliament where there are no witnesses who support the legislation. That is exactly what happened with Bill C-83. The minister claimed the bill would end administrative segregation. The witnesses who refuted the bill included prisoner advocacy groups, civil liberties groups, former wardens, professors, correctional unions, the correctional investigator and a senator. The overriding sentiment was that the legislation lacked the detail and information needed to back up such a claim by the minister.
The minister claimed the bill responded to issues raised by the courts that segregation caused the death of two inmates. However, the facts are clear in these two unfortunate deaths that they were the result of operational and management failures in both circumstances.
The minister claimed safety and security of staff were the top priorities. However, correctional workers and former inmates testified that segregation is essential to managing violent and volatile inmates, and that the bill would create more risk to staff.
Civil liberties groups called the bill unconstitutional and said it would make things worse rather than better. They noted the bill lacked external oversight, a check against the authorities of Correctional Service Canada. The minister actually acknowledged this lack of oversight existed.
Senator Pate testified before the committee and indicated that Bill C-83 was a bad piece of legislation. The senator dismantled the minister's claims as to how the bill would end segregation. In a visit to a Nova Scotia Prison, Senator Pate noted that it had renamed the segregation unit, the “intensive intervention unit”. The minister will claim otherwise, of course. However, I will take the testimony of a senator and her eyewitness account over the minister's promise, especially given the minister's repeated track record of misleading Parliament and Canadians.
Perhaps the only accomplishment by the minister with respect to the bill is that he brought together the NDP, the Green Party and the Conservatives, who all oppose the legislation.
I would like to note the unexpected and very valuable contribution of written testimony from Mr. Glen Brown, someone who knows the system well. Mr. Brown is a highly experienced former warden and deputy warden, who now teaches criminal justice and criminology at Simon Fraser University and Langara College.
As someone once responsible for segregation units, he notes that the Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe cases were more about mismanagement of behavioural issues and neglect. These issues are not legislative problems. They are management, training and accountability issues. When in segregation, inmates should receive bolstered communication on current risks and mental health issues. They should have increased contact with officers and staff, and they should have an increased potential for services. All this should bring greater attention to an offender's rehabilitation plan.
Mr. Brown wrote:
The strength of a functioning administrative segregation process is that it should bolster all of those things: oversight is strengthened; case management should be more active; information sharing should be more robust; referral for clinical service should be prioritized and case management intervention to develop plans should be urgent.
After noting that science and research has shown that properly managed segregation units do not cause short- or long-term harm, Mr. Brown noted, “To respond to current circumstances with sweeping legislative reform is only to react ideologically, and to ignore science and evidence.”
On the minister's grand solution to segregation, which is to rename segregation units to “structured intervention units”, Mr. Brown noted that Bill C-83 described SIUs in such broad and vague language that the consequences of implementation were very uncertain, that the details were unknown and the details were the key. The current layout of many segregation units did not facilitate socialization and programming. The emphasis on programming suggested longer-term stays in SIUs, weeks or maybe months. SIUs would not be suitable for short-term management of volatile inmates, such as those under the influence. There was the inability to have specialized staff for particular subpopulations in a prison. Finally, he noted that given the current layout of many prisons, a wing may need to be deemed a structured intervention unit, meaning up to 96 inmates may be subject to 20 hours a day of confinement where before it would be only 16.
To be clear, someone who is an expert and has worked for years in prisons with segregation says that he cannot discern the minister's plan. Moreover, he says that prisons often lack the infrastructure, are inappropriate to what is needed and could have the opposite effect to what the minister claims.
Perhaps the only potential value in the legislation could come from an external review mechanism of segregation, because it could provide Canadians with greater confidence in offender management. The minister, however, told the committee that we did not have the authority to do this, an order the Liberal MPs on the committee followed, while the opposition members put forward mechanisms to provide such oversight, which were soundly rejected.
When we pushed the Liberals at committee to amend the worst parts of the legislation and pointed to the glaring issues raised by the many expert witnesses, we were told that Liberal MPs were voting with “faith in the minister”.
The role of committees is not to provide support and faith to a minister. It is to conduct detailed examinations on challenging issues, to hear from experts and impacted Canadians, to examine programs, spending and legislation to determine if it will meet the needs of Canadians or, at the very least, what the minister claims it will meet. On this, our committee has failed.
At the conclusion of committee debate on Bill C-83, my Conservative colleagues and I put our views on the record. We indicated that the committee failed in its role to review the legislation and ensure that it could make informed decisions. We also said that we believed the minister withheld information from committee that was clearly available to him at the time, namely the cost and how it would be used and implemented in the bill, which most witnesses said was essential to knowing if the bill would be useful. For the minister, it seemed more important that he withhold his plan from the committee. Half a billion dollars connected to a bill, where and how the money will be used is essential to know if the bill will work. We still do not have a plan necessarily for that money.
What was the response to the overwhelming criticism and skepticism of the bill? Government MPs stated that they were “making a leap of faith” and putting their trust in the minister. What was accomplished by the committee in reviewing this legislation? In my opinion, next to nothing. The Liberal members rejected amendments on how the money would be used. They rejected a requirement to publish the standards of the new SIUs. They rejected limits to reclassifying prisons. They rejected having the minister provide us with how he would implement this new plan.
On this legislation, the Liberals have turned their backs on Canadians. We are to trust the minister who has an extensive track record of misleading Canadians on things like the disastrous India trip, Bill C-59 and Bill C-71, failure to provide funding for police to tackle gangs, and I could go on.
We as a House can do better. We must do better. We can all rise to a higher level. Personally, I feel this committee failed its constituents, its communities and its country. Bill C-83 is yet another example of the many failures of the Liberal government.
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
2019-02-26 12:40 [p.25785]
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak in favour of Bill C-83.
The purpose of the bill is to move away from the system of administrative segregation in place at the moment toward new structured intervention units. We have heard before in the debate in the House that this responds to two recent decisions by courts in Ontario and British Columbia. I read those decisions again last night. I have read them a few times now. They are difficult decisions. They set out clear problems with our existing system.
The member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques raised a question earlier, saying that the bill did not respond to what was set out in the decisions. I do not believe that is correct. There are two reasons, some of which I will go into later as we discuss the matter. However, in addition, it is because the system that was being reviewed and some of the rules that were being put in place when the judges were making their decisions were based on the system we have now. The system we would be putting into place with Bill C-83 would have a very different set of rules. We need to take that into account, and I will work through some of it. I believe this change in legislation, the change to the system we would putt in place, would increase charter compliance and would respond to the issues that were raised.
I will admit that I approached the bill with some concerns. When the bill first came before us, I had a lot of questions. I listened to the testimony. We heard from inmates, corrections officers and lawyers. A lot of people brought forward their concerns on the bill. It made me think long and hard about what was the right way for us to address these issues.
What was really clear to me, the most important part when I looked at what was needed to improve the bill, was oversight. In fact, oversight and decision making was one of the key issues raised by both court decisions as a matter of procedural fairness. It was not only in the transfer to a unit but also in the decision to keep a person in what was at the time an administrative segregation unit.
I want to highlight the fact that oversight is the glue that keeps it together. Ultimately we need to have a system that is safe and secure, conducive to inmate rehabilitation, to staff safety and to protection of the public. We are all working toward that. There is much more work to be done, but there is also much work under way.
Regardless of Bill C-83, some improvements are already in place. There has been more than a 50% decline in administrative segregation placements over the last four years. That is already a change in the way things are happening on the ground. The other part is the fact that the correctional service commissioner's mandate letter highlights the need to work in a collaborative relationship with the Office of the Correctional Investigator in order to address and resolve matters of mutual concern.
I have the highest respect for the Office of the Correctional Investigator. When we read those annual reports, we get an insight into what happens in our correctional system. To have that need to work together collaboratively in the mandate letter to resolve issues that have been raised is a very important statement about how we move forward with Correctional Service Canada. I would also add that the budget for the Office of the Correctional Investigator has been increased. I welcome that as part of the essential oversight we need for the system.
When talking about the bill specifically, at committee I worked closely with my colleague, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, on how we could improve oversight in the bill. How could we, when looking at structured intervention units, improve oversight. I want to thank the member for Oakville North—Burlington for introducing an amendment, to which the government has given royal recommendation, to allow for properly funded external oversight. That piece is essential. It responds to many of the concerns that were raised, not only by the courts but by witnesses as well. It builds on amendments that were made at committee.
At committee, for example, there were additional oversight pieces. One part I worked on would ensure that when people were transferred into a structured intervention unit, they would get written reasons for it in very short order. That is important, because one cannot appeal a decision if one does not have the reasons for it. It sounds legalistic, but it is important to have written reasons so people can appeal a decision if they wish.
Another piece I worked on was this. If a health expert recommended that an inmate be moved out of a structured intervention unit, and the warden disagreed, an additional review would be built in at a more senior level within Correctional Service Canada so that the decision could be reviewed. It is the layers of oversight that are essential and is why I believe that the work at committee was very important in moving that forward.
I have talked about oversight. Another issue we needed to address when we looked at the court decisions was the essential piece on what is now administrative segregation, which was highly criticized, and what we are proposing as far as moving toward structured intervention units. This turns on two parts: time in the cell and time in the cell without meaningful contact with people. Currently, inmates have 22 hours in a cell, plus shower time. The court was clear that shower time is over and above the two hours and does not mean that inmates are in their cells for over 22 hours. It completely rejected that as a notion. Inmates have two hours out of their cells.
There is an international set of rules, the Mandela Rules. Rule 44 sets out that solitary confinement is 22 hours without meaningful contact with people. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, which is one of the cases that gave rise to this, spoke specifically to this issue. It said,
Canada can take itself outside of the literature dealing with solitary confinement...in administrative segregation both in terms of the time that an inmate spends in his or her cell and the nature of the human contact that they have while segregated.
When the court was reviewing it, it said that we needed to make changes to the system in those two ways. That is, in fact, what this bill would address. Clause 36 of the bill would require that inmates spend a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. In addition, though, an amendment was introduced at committee that said that it had to be at a reasonable time. Those four hours could not be in the middle of the night, when people want to be sleeping. Therefore, those four hours would have to be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., a reasonable time when inmates may want to be outside their cells. Of those four hours, inmates would have to have an opportunity to interact for a minimum of two hours through activities, including, but not limited to, programs, interventions and services that would encourage inmates to make progress toward the objectives of their correctional plans or that would support their reintegration into the mainstream inmate population and leisure time. These are meaningful ways people could have contact and interact.
When I was looking at the B.C. case in particular, one of the things that really hit home was the fact that a lot of the contact inmates are having is through a meal slot. When they are interacting with staff and individuals, a lot of it is happening just through their meal slots, and that is just unacceptable. Without eye contact, that is not meaningful contact. It is important to make sure that there is contact, not just people walking by without interacting.
These are important changes. The bill gives us a chance to think about an entirely new system, which it really would be. We would be moving from administrative segregation, which is 22 hours in a cell without meaningful contact, to 20 hours and a requirement for meaningful contact. We would be changing things in a way that would be meaningful and important and that would respond to these court decisions. I understand that people have raised some issues, but I believe that this is an important step forward, and I am pleased to speak in favour of it.
View Jamie Schmale Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. Let me state from the outset that I am opposed to this bill, not for what the bill purports to accomplish but for what I am afraid the bill would unintentionally accomplish.
This legislation proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in corrections facilities by replacing these facilities with new structured intervention units and to also allow the commissioner to reassign the security classification of each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.
It is a tenet of our free and democratic society that the worst punishment one can consign to people is to deprive them of their liberty. Indeed, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is clear on that matter. Section 7 states,
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
It is that clause that allows a democratic society that holds the fundamental principles of life, liberty and security of the person in such high esteem to deprive another of them. If someone commits a crime in Canada, particularly a heinous crime, that person will be locked away to protect society from that person's acts.
There are Canadians, particularly those who have endured unimaginable pain at the hands of criminals, who believe that they should have no rights in jail. On a deeply personal basis, I understand that cry for vengeance, the need to make another suffer for the way that person made a loved one suffer. As a parliamentarian, I must, like my colleagues in this House, temper my personal feelings with the duty Canadians have sought fit to invest in me to ensure that all people are treated equitably under the laws of this great nation.
As such, inmates in Canada are afforded a number of protections through human rights legislation, various statutes and the supreme law in Canada, our Constitution. They too are protected from the most dangerous criminals inside our institutions.
Segregation, or isolation, whatever we want to call it, affords protection for inmates, and let us not forget, the correctional staff who work in these facilities. The law requires that a balance must be struck between the protection of inmates and staff and the protection of inmates in segregation.
Inmates who are determined to be at risk to themselves or others would now be placed in new structured intervention units, or SIUs. Inmates would be given at least four hours a day outside their cells and guaranteed at least two hours to interact with others.
The introduction of SIUs would pose a risk to prison guards and inmates and to the inmates for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety. Bill C-83 would strip the ability to use segregation for discipline. This change would make prisons more dangerous for the guards, as they would have to deal with the most violent of inmates, those who continue to prey on others inside the institution.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has said that it has not been properly consulted on Bill C-83. On October 21, the Vancouver Sun reported that the head of the national prison guards' union predicted a “bloodbath” behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. The national president, Jason Godin, explained:
...by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations. We are concerned about policy revisions that appear to be reducing the ability to isolate an inmate, either for their safety or for that of staff....
I share this concern that no thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure that nobody gets hurt.
Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator of Canada, stated:
ln effect, Bill C-83 proposes a softer version of segregation without any of the constitutional protections. The bill is uniformly short on specifics and places too much discretion and trust in correctional authorities to replace segregation with an unproven and not well-conceived correctional model.
Bill C-83 goes further than what was raised in either of the Superior Court decisions. With respect to SIUs, the bill would allow the commissioner to reassign the security classification of each penitentiary or any area within a penitentiary. These sub-designations have raised concerns about whether this would allow an entire penitentiary to become an SIU and what that would mean for security and staffing.
Furthermore, these sub-designations could lead to more cases of higher-security prisoners being in a lower-security space, based on technicalities.
We know just how soft the government is already on the most despicable elements of our society. Recently, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the 2009 kidnapping and brutal killing of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford, was transferred to a minimum-security facility in Saskatchewan, even though she is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Now the government wants to institute an official policy to allow this to potentially happen on a regular basis. It will not be on our watch.
Conservatives are opposed to any legislation that opens the door to allowing high-risk offenders to be housed in low-security facilities. Dangerous child killers, pedophiles and murderers—the most heinous of people—deserve to be behind bars. ISIS terrorists deserve to be in prison, not offered poetry classes by the government.
This bill is just another example of Liberals putting the rights of dangerous criminals ahead of the rights of victims and their families, ahead of the safety and well-being of correctional officers who must work in these facilities and of course ahead of common sense. The legislation is too wide-ranging.
Debra Parkes, a professor at the UBC law school, stated:
The first point is that the proposal for structured intervention units actually expands rather than eliminates segregated conditions. These provisions give incredibly broad powers to the commissioner to designate whole prisons or areas of prisons as SIUs. Purposes for placing in SIUs are also very broad, including from proposed paragraph 32(a), to “provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons”, undefined and unclear. It's very broad.
While the supplementary estimates show $448 million for CSC over the next six years, this piece of legislation has not been costed. Our correctional officers are doing an exemplary job at keeping everyone safe, including themselves and the inmates, but situations arise and people do get hurt. Now we are asking our correctional staff to do more with less. As situations continue to arise—and they will—more people will get hurt, and that is not acceptable.
Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated:
As recently as a couple of weeks ago, I was in Edmonton sitting in the segregation unit asking the staff in there if they were meeting the two-hour requirement, with the showers and the phone calls, and they said, “Absolutely not. It's 10 o'clock at night and we can't meet them.”
Currently, segregated inmates are supervised at a two-to-one guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their unit. Bill C-83 purports to expand services to inmates in segregation and to double their time out of segregation without costing the resources needed to keep inmates and staff safe.
This is another reason I oppose the bill. It just does not add up, and the result could mean that people will be getting hurt.
The CSC ombudsman, the union of correctional officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation and they are concerned that too much of this legislation is being left to regulations. I am anxious that not enough consideration was given to the concerns of indigenous groups, to civil liberty organizations and to the correctional services staff who must maintain security in these institutions. The lack of consultation and foresight from the government on Bill C-83 is, to be frank, appalling.
Jason Godin offers this insight into the process, stating:
Unfortunately, due to cabinet confidentiality, as our commissioner often tells us, we weren't really consulted. The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. I don't see the bill before it comes onto the table, so we weren't officially consulted on Bill C-83.
There was also this shocking revelation by Ivan Zinger:
All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.
It is of concern that the Liberals are moving away from segregation, particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of their tools to manage difficult prisoners. Solitary confinement must take into account the mental health of prisoners balanced with the safety and protection of guards, workers, and fellow inmates.
The safety of inmates and correctional service officers must be the priority for any legislation put forward by this government. It is clear, in our opinion, that the Liberals did not do their homework when it came to Bill C-83, and Canada's Conservatives call on this government to go back to drawing board with Bill C-83 and put forward legislation that prioritizes inmate safety and the safety of correctional service officers.
View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2019-02-26 13:41 [p.25792]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
I understand that Bill C-83 is designed to make a number of significant changes to our correctional system. It seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities, replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs, and introduce body scanners for inmates, among other changes.
There have been a lot of problems with the correctional system and Bill C-75 could make it worse. The policies under Bill C-75 include serious offenders receiving sentences of a maximum two years less a day. People who have committed serious crimes to persons and property will be in provincial jails, downloaded. We now will have a system where there will be less chance to deal with serious offenders in provincial institutions. It has become a revolving door, where some know they will be in and out very quickly and will not be provided the help they may need in a prison system.
I know the legislation has prompted some strong responses from stakeholders. I am happy to convey some of those serious concerns.
The CSC ombudsman, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation. Unions and employees have not been consulted. Nor have indigenous groups.
The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, whose members will be directly impacted by the legislation, even said, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody.” It does not sound right that it was a surprise to those who would be affected the most. It is something like the Parks Canada budget that had a $60 million pathway in it and Parks Canada knew nothing about it.
The correctional investigator of Canada told the public safety committee:
All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.
For a government that supposedly loves to consult, it sure seems to have left a lot of people dissatisfied with this process.
Of particular note are concerns we have heard from correctional officers. These are the people who wear the uniforms. These are the people who protect us and inmates. The introduction of SIUs may pose a risk to both prison guards and inmates. The legislation goes further than what was raised in either Superior Court decisions. It completely bans administrative segregation and introduces the structured intervention unit model.
We need to take a lot of care in how we deal with youth offenders or those with mental illnesses or mental disease for which segregation may not be an option. We need to be very careful in how we use segregated models with those people.
This has the potential to make prisons much more dangerous for guards and inmates. Guards will lose an important disciplinary tool. In fact, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told the public safety committee, “by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations.” That is a very troubling statement. In other words, was the consultation there to find another solution? I do not think so.
Guards will be placed in greater danger as they attempt to control extremely dangerous offenders without the ability to fully separate them from other inmates. Who is going to want to be a guard if things continue this way? It is already an intensely stressful, challenging occupation. We cannot keep placing these people under greater strain. Dangerous inmates will be forced together in units with each other. Is that the right way to go?
I understand that this change is well intentioned. Canada has a fundamentally sound and humane correctional system, especially compared to many other jurisdictions around the world. We do not want a draconian system, but we do need to balance the mental health of prisoners with the safety and protection of guards, workers and fellow inmates.
The bill would fail to do some of those things. It ignores the reality on the ground in many prisons. As the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles noted, some inmates request to be in administrative segregation for their own safety. They do not want to rub shoulders with other dangerous offenders.
Legislation intended to improve our correctional system should not compromise safety and security. The government needs to go back and fix the bill. It should not force the bill through over the objections of virtually all interested stakeholders and put lives at risk in doing so, especially the lives of those who wear the uniform.
I am also surprised to find that the legislation does nothing to ensure that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities.
It was just last year that Canadians from coast to coast expressed outrage over Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer to a healing lodge. Only after massive public pressure did the government finally move to address the injustice and send her back behind bars. The Prime Minister personally attacked his critics and accused Canadians of politicizing this issue. Thankfully, Canadians were able to pressure him enough to act so that decision was changed.
However, a prime minister should never have to be shamed into doing the right thing. There was an opportunity in this legislation to take real action to prevent similar situations in the future, but no action was taken on this topic.
One clear positive aspect that would result from the legislation is the introduction of body scanners. If this system is applied properly, it should be helpful in intercepting drugs before they make their way into prisons. It is important that the scans apply to all individuals entering the prison. Drugs simply should not be flowing into correctional facilities and creating even more dangerous conditions there.
However, I am unclear why the Liberals' haphazard plan to supply inmates with syringes would still being implemented if we have scanners. Our objective should be to prevent drug abuse in prisons, not facilitate it. Furthermore, legitimate concerns have been raised over the weaponization of the syringes. It should be obvious that the worst offenders will try to use syringes as weapons. This presents yet another threat to guards who are already operating in a dangerous environment. The body scanners should receive the highest priority, and the needle exchange program should be scrapped.
In summary, this flawed legislation is not right. It does not prioritize the safety of correctional service officers. It compromises the safety of inmates. Almost all of the witnesses the public safety committee heard were critical of the bill. The consultation process was obviously not complete.
Instead of scrapping the legislation in light of witness testimony, the Liberals are pressing forward with it. I join my colleagues in opposing the bill.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McKay Profile
2019-02-26 13:54 [p.25794]
Mr. Speaker, thank you for that generous five minutes.
I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-83. I join this debate in two capacities: as an interested member of Parliament and as the chair of the public safety committee, which reviewed the bill, heard the witnesses and put forward quite a number of amendments to the original bill, which in some respects reflects the interest in the bill and how the government was open to amending the bill at committee.
The bill would replace the existing administrative segregation system with structured intervention units. The new SIUs would ensure a separation from the general prison population, which is sometimes necessary for security reasons. Even those witnesses who had actually been segregated prisoners emphasized the need for some mechanism by which a prisoner is separated from the general population. This, however, does not mean separation from rehabilitative programs, mental health care and other interventions.
If members think that this is just an academic exercise, I direct their attention to the front page of The Globe and Mail this morning. It read:
Ontario will not appeal a judge’s decision to abandon a charge of first-degree murder against Adam Capay, the 26-year-old from Lac Seul First Nation who spent more than 1,600 days in solitary confinement before a public furor over his plight forced officials to send him to a secure hospital.
The very issue that we are debating today is on the front page of The Globe and Mail. The article continued:
In deciding against an appeal, the province is consenting to a scathing ruling from Justice John Fregeau that set Mr. Capay free last month and faulted the ministry of corrections for allowing a term of solitary that was "prolonged, egregious and intolerable.”
In particular, he found that the jail’s procedure for reviewing Mr. Capay’s segregation was “pro forma, perfunctory and meaningless”....
Further on, there is some disaggregation of the errors and omissions:
At the time, nothing was controversial about the initial decision to lock him in solitary confinement. Correctional officers have authority to segregate a prisoner if they believe he could harm himself or others. On average, 472 provincial inmates faced segregation every day in 2012.
But in the Capay case, the institution started racking up serious errors and omissions that led directly to his release without trial.
The Supreme Court long ago ruled that people keep some residual rights and liberties after the courts send them to prison. If those residual rights are further reduced by being placed in segregation, the state must hold regular review hearings of the decision.
In Ontario, the law requires segregation review hearings to be held at the institutional level....
The article goes on to discuss Mr. Capay's case, but also the larger issue and that is the larger issue that we are facing today.
As I said earlier, when we heard testimony from various witnesses, those who actually had been subject to segregation and those who were supporting those who had been subject to segregation all argued for the need for segregation. The bill fits with the broader approach to corrections, which is based on the fact that public safety is best served by effective rehabilitation and treatment.
Naturally, there are some inmates who will never be granted any form of conditional release by the Parole Board. They are mostly people serving life sentences who will never progress to the point where the risk they pose to the outside can be managed outside of a correctional institution.
I see that my all too generous five minutes are now up and I will be delighted to resume after question period.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation proposes to limit administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize expectations for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
I have the privilege of chairing the public accounts committee, and at committee, we work very closely with the Auditor General's office. We studied the reports the Auditor General released, and much of what I want to speak to today actually quotes from the Auditor General's reports.
One of those reports, in the fall of 2017 reports of the Auditor General of Canada, was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of this audit was to determine whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody, including indigenous women offenders, that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.
As noted by the Auditor General, “Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.”
What the Auditor General found was that, again, CSC had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders, and as a result, “some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels”. Furthermore, CSC had not implemented an appropriate tool for referring women offenders to correctional programs that were in line with their risk of reoffending, nor had they “assessed the effectiveness of its correctional programs in addressing the factors associated with a risk of reoffending”. Last, and most relevant to our debate today, the Auditor General concluded that CSC “had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.”
Paragraph 5.104 of “Report 5” revealed, “We also found that out of 18 women offenders identified with a serious mental illness with significant impairment, 7 were placed in segregation at some point during 2016.”
According to the Auditor General's report, CSC acknowledged that segregation for persons with serious mental health issues “should be limited.” I draw my colleagues' attention to the word “limited”. The AG disagreed with limited use and recommended that CSC ensure that women offenders “with serious mental illness with significant impairment are not placed in segregation” and that there be improved oversight and enhanced observation of these offenders.
Correctional Service Canada agreed with the Auditor General's recommendations, and therefore, the public accounts committee had asked in our report that by May 31, 2019, CSC provide us with a report regarding the relocation of observation cells out of segregation ranges. Obviously, this request was thwarted by the introduction of Bill C-83 on October 16, 2018, less than five months after the public accounts committee tabled our report, which would eliminate administrative segregation and establish the SIUs, or structured intervention units.
Proposed section 32 of Bill C-83 says:
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; (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 other words, CSC is simply being compelled to do exactly what it is already mandated to do: deliver correctional programs, interventions and mental health services that respond appropriately to an offender's unique needs.
As pointed out earlier, an audit by the Office of the Auditor General revealed, with respect to women offenders, that CSC has failed in its mandate. In the fall 2018 report of the Auditor General, it was also revealed that CSC has not properly managed offenders under community supervision. As of April 2018, approximately 9,100 federal offenders, or 40% of all federal offenders, were under community supervision. According to “Report 6” of the fall 2018 Auditor General's report:
The number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing. However, Correctional Service Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community.... Despite the growing backlog [for accommodation], and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, Correctional Service Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
CSC “did not properly manage offenders under community supervision”. Parole officers “did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have”, nor did they always “monitor [offenders'] compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.”
We met with CSC last week, and we discussed this very report. These deficiencies were brought out with an action plan to correct them. However, I would humbly suggest that the Liberal government should be focused on ensuring that Correctional Service Canada fully meets its mandate, as the safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release.
To meet its mandate, a good start would be for Correctional Service Canada to start listening to its correctional workers. I am fortunate to have Drumheller penitentiary in my constituency. Over the years, I have met countless times with wardens, correctional officers and other staff in Drumheller. I can tell members that there are concerns about this bill. Concerns have come forward to the public safety and emergency preparedness committee. Again, I am concerned that many of these correctional officers are not being listened to. In fact, Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated that they were not consulted on Bill C-83. We have a leader of one of the unions of correctional officers, and his frustration is that the Liberal government has not consulted.
The Correctional Investigator has said:
What I would agree with is that there has been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service or the government on how this [Bill C-83] is going to be implemented. If you read the proposed bill as it's currently written, there's a lot of stuff that seems to be pushed to regulation, as prescribed by regulations. We don't know what those regulations would look like. I think that's why there's a lot of uneasiness about this particular piece of legislation.
Given the findings of the OAG, I believe that this uneasiness with respect to the safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83. I certainly know, from the number of calls and emails I have received from correctional workers, that considerable uneasiness exists in the Drumheller Institution. The reason for that anxiety ranges from concerns about their safety and their colleagues' safety to pay issues around Phoenix. I currently have 70 files, some inactive, on Phoenix.
We have a bill now that would affect correctional officers, and they are bemoaning the fact that the government is not listening.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2019-02-26 16:08 [p.25815]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This piece of legislation proposes to do the following: eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set the parameters of access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
On any given day in Canada there are roughly 40,000 prisoners in custody. From coast to coast, there are eight maximum security facilities, 19 medium security facilities, 15 minimum and 10 multidisciplinary facilities. Canada has 18,000 Canadian government employees looking after these prisoners, of which 10,000 are on the front line. These are either correctional officers, parole officers or health care workers.
While I do not sit on the committee that reviewed this piece of legislation, I have been made aware of some very striking testimony by the Correctional Service Canada ombudsman, as well as many stakeholders, including these front-line workers who faithfully serve every day.
It is clear that the Liberal government, which campaigned on engaging and consulting with Canadians, has thrown all intentions of such actions out the window, as there was clearly very little of it done in this case, if any. Prominent witnesses, such as the CSC ombudsman, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and civil liberties and indigenous groups, all commented on the lack of consultation and their concern that too much of the legislation is being left to regulation.
I just want to touch on that for a few seconds because, as co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee, I can testify to the importance of the fact that any law that is passed in the House has to have an adequate legislative framework so that the regulations are actually authorized by the legislation that is passed. All too often, we have examples from various departments across the Government of Canada where regulatory mechanisms are put in place and actually enacted, in some cases, for many years without the adequate legislative authority for them to do that. It is very important that adequate legislative authority is given here, yet we have had many of our witnesses testify to the fact that this is the case in this situation and there is not adequate legislative authority.
Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada had this to say:
All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.
The Elizabeth Fry Societies said this was a bad bill. It said that structural intervention units are not needed, that it failed to focus on the programs and that there was a lack of oversight. It is concerned about proposed section 81, due to the workings of indigenous governing bodies.
The John Howard Society calls it a bad bill. It wanted to know what the difference was between solitary confinement and structural intervention. It said there was no difference. The bill changed the words but did not change anything. That sounds pretty familiar with the government over the last three and a half years. There are great sounding words but very little action and very little follow-through.
This is not the first time that the Liberal Government has ignored consultations with the corrections community while unilaterally implementing its own ideological beliefs. Another time occurred at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, which is close to my riding. This correctional facility was one of two in Canada that was mandated to implement a prisoner needle exchange program, putting both correctional officers, as well as other inmates at risk. On Monday, June 25, a needle exchange program was introduced to the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
It is very concerning that the Liberal government commanded Correctional Service Canada to approve this program, which sends the wrong message to prisoners, to victims of crime and to all Canadians. This program will give prisoners who are convicted of violent crimes access to needles in order to inject themselves with substances that are illegal among the general public, as well as in prison.
I agree with the Ontario regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Rob Finucan, who raised the concern that this program puts correctional officers in harm's way and is forcing officers to turn a blind eye to illegal activity in the prison system.
I realize that illegal drugs make their way into our prison system and that there are nearly 1,500 drug seizures in prisons each year. However, the solution to this is not to turn a blind eye but rather to effectively enforce Correctional Service Canada's zero tolerance policy.
The previous Conservative government took action and cracked down on this problem by increasing random drug testing, investing significantly in drug interdiction and creating tough mandatory prison sentences for selling drugs in prisons. My constituents and all Canadians would like to see more of this action, not the normalization of the use of illegal drugs in prisons.
We also need to be investing far more in treatment and in prevention programs. I have on my desk a petition from constituents all across Canada who are calling on the government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. I have not had time to table this petition yet, partly because of moving to orders of the day and then closure motions. These petitioners are calling on the Liberal government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers was not consulted on this plan, which puts its members and the Canadian public at risk.
The previous Conservative government passed the Drug-Free Prisons Act, which revokes parole for those who are caught using drugs behind bars. Under the new regulations, an inmate who is approved for the prisoner needle exchange program is not even required to disclose to the Parole Board that he or she is in the program.
The petitioners are calling on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety to end the prisoner needle exchange program and implement measures that would increase the safety of correctional officers and the surrounding community.
The first and most important role of any government is to keep its citizens safe, not focusing on making criminals' lives more comfortable. I will always focus my efforts on giving victims a strong voice in the justice system and ensure that convicted criminals do face the full force of the law.
Unfortunately, we have also seen this heavy-handed decision by the Liberal health minister to force communities that do not want them to have so-called safe injection sites. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. The Respect for Communities Act, which was introduced by the previous Conservative government, gave police, residents and municipal leaders a say when it came to opening an injection site within their communities.
Dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart. They promote criminal behaviour and they destroy lives. Instead of making it easier for drug addicts to consume drugs, the Liberal government should support treatment and recovery programs to get addicts off drugs and enact heavy mandatory minimum sentences to crack down on drug traffickers.
I do hope that the Liberal government will stop and consider the negative message that this needle exchange program is sending and reverse this policy as quickly as possible for the sake of correctional officers and inmates, as well as citizens of the Region of Waterloo and in fact all Canadians.
It is also important to note that since learning of this program, my office has been in contact with Jason Godin, head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who has been expressing his anger that his members were not consulted on a matter that directly affects their safety. They were not consulted, a common complaint with this legislation in spite of all the flowery language earlier in the 2015 campaign that the Liberals would be a government that would consult Canadians widely.
I have also received petitions from inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women who are against this program as it increases the risk to them.
One of the more profound statements that I have read recently on this was in a newspaper article by Jason Godin. He was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying, “attacks on guards and inmates have been increasing as the use of segregation has decreased ahead of new legislation to change the prison system.”
There are many reasons not to support this bad piece of legislation but let me summarize our position this way.
We on this side of the House are opposed to the inaction in regard to ensuring that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities. The legislation would empower the commissioner to sub-designate parts of prisons, which could lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are kept in a lower security space based on technicalities.
It is also concerning that the Liberals are moving away from segregation particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of tools to manage difficult prisoners.
The legislation lacks support from every major stakeholder who appeared before committee, from left to right—
View Garnett Genuis Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on Bill C-83, a bill dealing with some of the rules around incarceration in Canada. I want to make a few general points about the principles that should guide our approach before I move to the particulars of the legislation itself.
Our approach to criminal justice should affirm the dignity of the human person, which includes personal responsibility and the capacity to change. Both are key elements. Its primary goal should be rehabilitation and the protection of society, which obviously go together. If people are rehabilitated, then they no longer present a risk to society. If they are not rehabilitated, they can be a risk to those around them, even when they are in prison.
It seems to me that both extremes in the criminal justice debate deny in some way the dignity of the person. Some believe individual criminality is necessarily the result of social factors as opposed to bad moral decision-making. Social factors can obviously contribute to a person's situation, but the extreme leftist analysis, which reduces everything to social factors, denies the dignity and agency of persons who are in vulnerable situations.
No matter people's circumstances, they do have a choice. They have a choice to try to make the best out of their situation or on the other end, a choice to engage in criminal activity. It seems that this recognition of dignity, and therefore responsibility, is the necessary grounds of rehabilitation. People must recognize their own agency in order to turn their lives around.
We also reject the extreme that those who commit crimes cannot turn their lives around. Some would want us to write people off too easily. However, our own life experience should teach us that people can change their patterns of behaviour for the better. Many people who have committed crimes can change, and there is a public interest and moral obligation for us to do all we can to help with the process. This means maximizing incentives and supports to people who are on that journey.
A criminal justice policy that fully affirms human dignity, recognizing personal responsibility for crime and the ability to change, would assign sentences that are both tough and variable. Tough and variable sentences is an approach that ensures people who are rehabilitated can get back into society and contribute. However, people who refuse to take the steps necessary to turn their lives around remain in prison until they do. Providing strong incentives and program supports that maximize the chances of turnaround is indeed in everybody's interest.
Our approach to sentencing should also take scarce resources into account. If people who are no longer a threat to society remain in prison, they are consuming resources that could be better spent on crime prevention programs, policing and rehabilitation. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has shown us that the average cost of incarcerating someone is about $115,000 a year. The average cost of segregation is $463,000 for a year.
Incarcerating people, or putting them in segregation, should never be done lightly in any event. Even for guilty persons, we should only incarcerate them to the degree that the cost of their incarceration would more effectively advance public safety than any other expenditure of the same funds. Clearly because of the costs, the system should have an interest in avoiding incarceration and segregation whenever effective and less costly options exist.
This analysis is not to penny-pinch for its own sake, but it is to recognize that there is an opportunity cost associated with any expenditure. Proactive policing and effective crime prevention is good for victims and public safety, so striking that right balance is indeed of critical importance.
Some will point out that we can never know for sure if people will reoffend, which is true. However, when the likelihood to reoffend is very low, perhaps resources would be better used for other kinds of interventions, like more policing, which are more likely to advance public safety than continued incarceration.
About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit a prison in my riding and have some good dialogue with employees and inmates. A few points stuck with me from that visit. One is that there are a variety of programs available to people who are in prison and a variety of not-for-profit organizations, including many churches and other faith-based organizations, involved in connecting with and supporting inmates while in prison.
The process of transition from prison to life back outside of prison can be a real challenge. Prison life is structured and regulated in a way that life outside is not. There are far more services inside than outside. The process of transition back to normal life often involves economic challenges and pressures, as well as the temptation to fall back into old social groups and patterns of behaviour.
It seems to me that we need to look more at the area of transition and post-prison supports. How can we help people leverage new skills and experiences to find meaningful employment and develop a new peer group? How can we better partner with faith communities and other not-for-profits, recognizing that post-prison ministry is just as important as prison ministry?
Speaking of skills that help with transition, the prison in my riding offers inmates the potential opportunity to seek trade certification. Inmates who get a trade certificate almost never return to prison, according to the staff I spoke to.
That made me wonder. What if we built into our criminal justice a system a mechanism by which sentence lengths would be automatically adjusted if an inmate acquired a specific employment-related qualification? Inmates acquiring employment-related qualifications in areas of skill shortages in particular would help the economy. It would give employers a greater incentive to hire former inmates in cases where there would be a skill shortage. Therefore, perhaps there is an opportunity there for a win-win.
There should be positive incentives associated with rehabilitation and with making choices to turn one's life around. There also needs to be negative incentives associated with bad and disruptive behaviour that creates problems for the rehabilitation and for creating an environment in a prison setting that is conducive to rehabilitation. That brings us to the question of administrative segregation.
Bill C-83 would replace administrative segregation with something called, “structured intervention units”. We know that one of the Liberals' favourite things to do is to change the names of things, be it the universal child care benefit to the Canada child benefit. The workers' tax deduction had its name changed. Many existing programs had their names changed and the process relabelled under the current government.
Certainly the critics of administrative segregation do not see a meaningful or sufficient difference between the old and the new forms of segregation. However, there are some specific differences. Whether they are sufficient is a question for us to debate.
I will note the differences. The legislation would require that the person in the new Liberal rebranded form segregation to have a minimum of four hours per day out instead of two. It specifically mandates meaningful human contact.
What is frustrating for me is that the government does not seem to have a plan associated with it to actually link these objectives with the resources that are required. So often we see the government's desire to brand itself on something. The Liberals are eliminating administrative segregation. However, they are simply making an adjustment with respect to the name, but there are not sufficient resources associated with the commitments they have made to deal with the reality that having four hours instead of two is significantly more costly from a policing and administrative perspective. If they mandate it without having the resources in place to deliver on that commitment, they risk the inmates and the prison itself. They risk creating an environment of much less safety in the prison because they have a requirement for people to be out of a segregated environment when they may be very dangerous, yet they do not have the resources to ensure that is policed in an effective way.
It is interesting as well to have legislation that mandates meaningful human contact. It is interesting for the state to even be in the business of trying to define what is meaningful human contact and to mandate it. There are probably many people who are not in prison, who for various reasons with respect to life circumstances would like to have that much meaningful human contact and do not. The goal of rehabilitation should be to get people to a place and disposition where they are able to reconnect with and have meaningful connections with people in their lives. Although it is a laudable objective, I question what the legislation could mean and how the government would propose to operationalize this requirement of meaningful human contact.
I will close with this. In the area of criminal justice policy, there might actually have been an opportunity for some cross-party co-operation if the government had listened to the arguments we were making and understood the need for balance; that is a criminal justice policy that affirms human dignity, recognizing personal responsibility as well as the ability for people to change and recognizing the need to properly resource the proposals it is putting forward. Instead, we have an inadequate bill that serves to meet a branding exercise.
The Liberals want to say that they have done away with a particular aspect of prison life when they do not have a plan to resource it, they do not have a plan for public safety and they are not interested in the kind of meaningful, substantive reforms that people across the spectrum are looking for, the kinds of sentencing reforms on which we could potentially co-operate on. Again, we are not seeing those ideas proposed by the government.
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Lloyd Longfield Profile
2019-02-26 17:21 [p.25825]
Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak in support of Bill C-83.
The role of our corrections system is to keep Canadians safe by managing people who have received criminal sentences of two years or more. In most cases, that involves preparing them for safe and successful reintegration into our communities, which obviously is a very difficult task.
Some of the people in federal custody have done terrible, violent things. Most inmates have some combination of mental illness, a history of physical or sexual abuse, drug or alcohol addiction and a lack of economic or educational opportunity. Getting them to where they can return to a society and live safe, productive, law-abiding lives involves interventions to deal with all of those factors. This includes mental health care, education, skills training, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitative programs and the guidance of elders and chaplains.
However, that work can only happen in a safe environment. When inmates pose a security risk, they may have to be temporarily separated from the rest of the institution.
On that point, there is agreement from the correctional investigator, the John Howard Society, correctional employees and even former inmates that this needs to be done. The problem is that our existing system for doing that, administrative segregation, separates inmates not only from the rest of the prison population, but also from the interventions that could address the factors that caused them to be a security risk in the first place. Bill C-83 would address this problem.
The bill maintains the ability for inmates who pose a risk to be separated when necessary, but it sets out conditions of confinement and intervention that are a major improvement over what is currently in use. In the structured intervention units, or SIUs, created by Bill C-83, inmates would receive a daily opportunity of at least four hours to be out of the cell and at least two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, such as program staff, visitors, volunteers and other compatible inmates.
On that last point, some participants in this debate have conjured the spectre of correctional staff just throwing incompatible inmates, such as members of rival gangs, together in the yard and keeping their fingers crossed. Of course, that will not happen, and would not happen, with the professional staff we have at Correctional Service Canada.
We are talking about a situation where out of maybe seven or eight inmates in the SIU, two of them get along and might be allowed to have lunch together. To allow for meals or yard time to happen in small groups or for rehabilitative programs to be provided one-on-one or in small groups, the corrections services will need new resources, including hiring new staff and making adjustments to infrastructure. That is why the fall economic statement included $448 million over six years for the implementation of the bill, $300 million going toward staff and infrastructure.
As set out in the breakdown the government provided to the public safety committee in November, that includes this funding as well as $150 million toward mental health care. These resources will allow the corrections services to meet the ambitious new standards set by Bill C-83, improving the quality and accessibility of mental health care and rehabilitative interventions.
The whole point is to address the issues that led to a person being separated from the mainstream inmate population in the first place, so he or she can safely reintegrate in the community within the institution and eventually the community outside it. I hope that is an objective we all share. Indeed, most of the witnesses at committee, who made critiques of the bill, did not take issue with this objective. They simply wanted greater assurance that the objective would be met. Since their testimony was heard, amendments have been made in an effort to provide that assurance.
In fact, amendments have been accepted from all parties as we have gone through this legislation, which is one of the main purposes of committees and a purpose that our government respects.
Witnesses worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided at unreasonable hours, like in the middle of the night. Therefore, the bill has been amended to specify that it must occur between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Witnesses also worried that the clause that time out of cell not be provided in exceptional circumstances might be too broad. Therefore, the bill has been amended to provide specific examples of the kinds of exceptional circumstances that we are talking about, like fires and natural disasters.
Although the bill would allow for health care providers to recommend that an inmate be removed from the SIU for medical reasons, witnesses worried that wardens might not take these recommendations seriously. The bill has been amended so that any disagreement between the health care provider and the warden could be elevated to a senior committee external to the institution.
Witnesses also expressed the view that independent, external oversight would be required to ensure that SIUs would be used appropriately and as a last resort. Therefore, the member for Oakville North—Burlington proposed an amendment to create an independent oversight mechanism, and the government announced its support.
Earlier this week, these amendments were read into the record at length and are available for all Canadians to see the great work that was done by the member for Oakville North—Burlington. In other words, this was a strong bill when it was first introduced, and the parliamentary process has been informed by witness testimony and public debate, and that has made it even stronger.
I thank all the members of the House who have made thoughtful, informed, constructive contributions throughout the process thus far. I thank the government for being receptive to feedback and open to amendments. It is worth noting that this is not something that could often be said about the previous government.
The provisions in the bill, together with the resources allocated by the government, will make our correctional system more effective at its core mandate, which is protecting Canadians through the effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people who have broken the law. It deals with people as people. It helps them to progress through difficult situations to get back into society and be productive members.
As the public safety minister wrote last summer in the first-ever public mandate letter for a commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, the public is best protected by safe, successful rehabilitation. Bill C-83 would help achieve that goal. I encourage all hon. members in the House to give their support.
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