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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-19 22:18 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, for my hon. friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety,, I recognize that the bill before us would make improvements in the situation of solitary confinement. I am particularly grateful to her colleague, the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington, for working so collaboratively on the committee and helping some of my amendments get through.
However, I am very troubled by the rejection of some of the Senate amendments. I am sure the parliamentary secretary is aware of the letter from Senator Pate to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, which was shared with many members. It spoke to something that is quite compelling, which is unusual when legislation goes through this place. We already have a foreshadowing from the Ontario Court of Appeal that the legislation will not be found to be constitutional.
The citation is from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, where the Ontario Court of Appeal comments in relation to the five-day review. The key sentence reads, “Nothing more has been done to remedy the breach”, and this is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the interim, “and it remains unclear how Bill C-83 will remedy it if enacted.”
The Senate amendments and the ones that the hon. parliamentary secretary referenced must go through. We can get the bill faster by accepting these amendments from the Senate. The administrative objections that I heard from the parliamentary secretary do not measure up to the imperative of ensuring the bill is constitutional.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:20 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her caring about this, for her compassion, and also the hon. member to my right.
This matters. This is not an easy thing to do. We are making significant change to the administrative segregation regime in Canada. We need to do it. The court has told us that we need to do it. There has been a letter explaining why this new way of doing administrative segregation is going to meet the court requirements.
We need to move forward with this to make it happen. Then we will be in a position of having a better chance to help people have a successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
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 Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the question is quite simple. I asked another Liberal member the same question, but I did not really get a response.
Bill C-83 was tabled in response to decisions handed down by superior courts in Ontario and British Columbia that deemed the current administrative segregation model unconstitutional. These decisions included a number of recommendations, but upon reviewing Bill C-83, it would seem that most of them were overlooked.
Why did the government not seize this opportunity to respond to the two court rulings that struck down the current administrative segregation model as unconstitutional?
View Brenda Shanahan Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Brenda Shanahan Profile
2019-02-26 13:40 [p.25792]
Mr. Speaker, I understand that my colleague is very concerned about the problem of administrative segregation.
After reading Bill C-83, I think that structured intervention units are a major step forward in resolving this problem. They will ensure that inmates have access to human contact and appropriate interventions that promote their rehabilitation.
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 16:21 [p.25817]
Madam Speaker, I want to know what my colleague thinks of the fact that many of the inmates who are put in administrative segregation for an indeterminate amount of time, sometimes up to 23 hours a day, suffer from mental health problems.
In my opinion, it would make more sense to give them access to mental health services and programs to address the root causes of these problems instead of exacerbating them by placing the inmates in administrative segregation. In fact, when they are released, they pose a public health threat. It makes no sense to propose such a solution in our prisons.
Should the government not review these measures, which have also been deemed unconstitutional?
View Harold Albrecht Profile
CPC (ON)
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2019-02-26 16:22 [p.25817]
Madam Speaker, again, we are assuming they are mutually exclusive. We can have adequate mental health services along with appropriate segregation that keeps a prisoner from harming himself or others. However, at the same point, we need adequate personnel to provide the human contact the prisoner needs, not only to protect the prisoner but to actually engage in rehabilitation and treatment programs.
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 17:18 [p.25825]
Madam Speaker, I am appalled to hear the Liberals say that Bill C-83 will prevent suicides, when we know that many experts oppose administrative segregation. The bill proposes up to 20 hours a day of segregation for an indefinite period of time.
Two courts, one in Ontario and another in B.C., ruled that indefinite administrative segregation is unconstitutional. Furthermore, there is no independent oversight to assess the restrictions on freedom. Administrative segregation restricts freedom.
It has been proven that more than 48 hours in administrative isolation can cause permanent mental health effects and lead to self-harm, depression, suicide, panic attacks and hypersensitivity to external stimuli. The fact that administrative segregation is still an option is disastrous. The Liberals are just replicating what existed before and claiming to improve the situation.
The Liberals say that this could prevent suicides. However, the new measures aggravate mental health problems related to administrative segregation. In my view, it makes no sense to go down this path.
Today, the government is muzzling MPs. We should be moving amendments to improve the bill. The government rejected virtually all of the NDP and Conservative Party amendments aimed at improving the bill. That is not very professional, and it is very hypocritical. It harms inmates whose mental health problems will be aggravated and who will eventually be released and reintegrated into society.
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 17:43 [p.25828]
Mr. Speaker, many experts have spoken out against this bill.
As the member said, we are talking about structured intervention units, which is just another way of saying “administrative segregation”. The member said this bill reduces the amount of time in administrative segregation from 22 or 23 hours to 20 hours. Wow, what an improvement.
Has the member ever tried locking herself in a room for 20 hours a day, for several days in a row, to see what it does to her body? As I have been saying all afternoon, it has been proven that permanent effects on mental health begin to emerge after 48 hours. These are permanent effects that continue to linger afterwards. These individuals have very little time to access programming, only four hours, in fact.
As the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice have ruled, indefinite administrative segregation is unconstitutional. The provisions set out in the bill allow for an indefinite period of time, which could be 90 days or 150 days. No one knows.
On top of that, there is no independent oversight. The correctional investigator of Canada also criticized the fact that there are no procedural safeguards to prevent misuse. He foresees many possible cases of misuse and predicts that more and more inmates could be segregated in SIUs. The member is so proud of SIUs, but I think they are very cruel.
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Dan Vandal Profile
2018-10-23 11:40 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise on behalf of the citizens I represent in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.
I am very pleased to rise in the House to support the government's legislation, Bill C-83, which revolutionizes our correctional services.
As the Minister of Public Safety said, the government is recognizing two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet. Second, it recognizes that the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions.
Safety is indeed at the heart of this legislation. We know that some inmates are simply too dangerous or too destructive to be managed within the mainstream inmate population. Our correctional officials must therefore have a way to separate them from fellow inmates.
The current practice is to place those inmates into segregation or, as our American friends call it, solitary confinement. However, two court rulings have found that practice unconstitutional. Those rulings are being appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but the facts remain that they are scheduled to take effect in the coming months.
As a Parliament, we have a responsibility to ensure that the correctional service has the legal authorities it needs to keep its staff, as well as the people in their custody, safe in a way that adheres to our Constitution. We can do that by adopting this bill, which proposes to eliminate segregation from federal institutions and replace it with a safe but fundamentally different approach.
Under Bill C-83, structured intervention units, SIUs, would be created at institutions across the country. These units would allow offenders to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required, but they would also preserve offenders' access to rehabilitation programming, interventions and mental health care.
Inmates in an SIU would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to address their specific risks, as well as their specific needs. They would be outside their cell for at least four hours a day, which is double the number of hours under the current system. Four hours is an absolute minimum. I need to stress that it is a minimum. It could be more.
The inmates would also get at least two hours of meaningful human interaction with other people each day, including staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains, visitors and other compatible inmates. This is something that hardly exists under the current system. A registered health care professional would visit them at least once a day.
In other words, this bill introduces a new and more effective approach to managing the most challenging cases in our federal correctional system. It would promote not only the safety of correctional institutions, but also the safety of Canadian communities all across our country.
I would remind members that nearly all federal inmates will one day finish serving their sentence and be released. Accordingly, providing them with the opportunity to continue their treatment and rehabilitative work will increase their chances of successfully reintegrating the general prison population and, eventually, society.
Reducing the risk of recidivism will better protect Canadians and all communities, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns.
Other important measures in this bill complement the proposed creation of SIUs. For example, the bill would enshrine in law the correctional services obligations to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions related to indigenous offenders. This flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999. It is something that has been part of correctional policy for many years, but we are now giving this principle the full force of law.
This is part of achieving the mandate commitments the Prime Minister gave the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety to address gaps in service to indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system. The two ministers have likewise been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.
As I noted earlier, inmates with an SIU would receive daily visits from a health care professional. More than that, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would require the correctional service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working in correctional facilities.
The proposed legislation would also allow for patient advocacy services to help people in federal custody understand their health care rights and to ensure they receive the medical care they need. This was recommended by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
There is also an important measure in this bill to better support victims of crime. Currently, victims are entitled to receive audio recordings of parole hearings but only if they do not attend. If they show up, they are not allowed to receive a recording. That does not make sense. Victims advocacy groups have said that attending a hearing is sometimes so emotionally difficult that victims simply cannot always remember what was said, which is entirely understandable. Under Bill C-83, victims would have the right to a recording of a hearing, whether they were present or not. They would then be able to listen to it again, later on in a more comfortable setting whenever it is convenient for them.
The first priority of any government should be protecting its citizens. When someone breaks the law, there are consequences. In the interest of public safety, we need to have a correctional system capable of addressing the factors that lead to criminal activity, so that offenders become less likely to reoffend and create more victims.
A proper, effective correctional system holds offenders to account for the wrongs they have done, but it also fosters an environment that promotes rehabilitation. Canada's correctional system already does an excellent job of providing rehabilitation and reintegration support for inmates under very challenging circumstances. However, Bill C-83 would strengthen that system, and public safety would be improved with safer institutions for staff and inmates, fewer repeat offenders, and fewer victims in the long run.
For all of these reasons, I fully support this important and transformative piece of proposed legislation, and I invite all honourable members to do the same.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-10-23 12:22 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-83. This bill would do a number of things. At its core, what it seeks to do is abolish the use of administrative segregation in Canada and replace it with structured intervention units. However, it would do more than that.
The bill would also make a serious change in the way we deal with the right of victims to obtain audio recordings of parole hearings. It would take certain steps to consider, in particular, the unique circumstances that pertain to indigenous inmates. It would include serious changes to the way we deal with patient care in the inmate population. As well, it would introduce certain changes to the use of body scanners in institutions run by the Correctional Service Canada.
This bill is ultimately about enhancing our justice system to make sure that our system holds guilty parties to account and that it respects the ability of victims to obtain information about offenders who may be released into society.
Importantly, it would also deal with certain measures that would help make our communities safer by ensuring that during a period of incarceration, individuals would have access to services that would actually help them reintegrate more effectively into society on the back end. This is not about being soft on crime. This is about being smart on crime to ensure that in the long term, Canadian communities are safer on the whole.
What have perhaps been the most controversial pieces in this legislation are the changes to administrative segregation in Canada contained within Bill C-83.
Administrative segregation, in common parlance, can be roughly equated to solitary confinement. Today, for a lot of good reasons, the good public servants who work on behalf of Correctional Service Canada want to maintain institutional safety. When they are dealing with particularly difficult inmates who might pose a threat of violence to either the staff who work at CSC or the inmate population, the practice has been to segregate them entirely from the prison population. They essentially confine them as individuals, separate from meaningful human contact and separate from different services.
While this may address the short-term problem of preventing harm to the prison population and to the staff who work at Correctional Service Canada, there is a greater social problem it also contributes to. The inmates who have been subjected to solitary confinement or administrative segregation are subjected to treatment that leaves them worse off and puts them in a position where they are more likely to reoffend upon their release into the community, which is not something we want. We aim to reduce recidivism to ensure that our communities are safer when inmates are inevitably released back into society.
We all know that there are certain incredibly heinous crimes that will result in people potentially being in the custody of Correctional Service Canada for their entire lives, but there are many circumstances, in fact the vast majority of circumstances, in which a person who commits a crime is eventually going to be released back into society. We have to make sure that we are not putting our communities in danger by denying services to those people who are incarcerated that would help them become whole and become functioning members of society upon their release.
Most members of this House would be familiar with the details of the Ashley Smith case. To me, it illustrated, tragically, the problems that exist within our current system. We have young people who may be suffering from certain mental illnesses who, to solve a short-term problem, are completely separated from meaningful human contact. They are separated from the population in which they live while incarcerated. The damage this can cause to a person who is living with mental illness can cause them to harm themselves, and potentially, in the long term, to harm others upon their release.
In light of this case and others, the need to take action is apparent. In fact, the need to take action is frankly not a choice. We have now had two cases, at least, that I am aware of, one in Ontario and one in British Columbia, that have indicated that the practice of administrative segregation, at least going beyond a certain period of time, is unconstitutional. It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, it is a responsibility of Parliament to enact a new regime that is in compliance with our charter. If we cannot respect the values that are enshrined in our charter, then we are not worth much in this House.
I would suggest that the measures implemented in Bill C-83 would strike a balance that would allow Correctional Service Canada to maintain order within an institution and maintain the safety of the prison population. Introducing structured intervention units would help ensure that the person who was causing a problem for the prison population and the staff at CSC could maintain some sort of meaningful human contact and be provided with the services that would help communities be safer in the long term. At the same time, these would maintain order within our institutions.
In particular, I want to point to the fact that inmates in the structured intervention units would have a minimum of four hours out of their cells daily, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff. This is not a lot of time, but it could make a difference to a person who had actually pulled away from society and had been denied meaningful human contact, particularly those in incarceration who were living with mental illness. It would allow them to become better off in the long term and would reduce the threat posed to society, which is what this bill is really all about.
Currently, there is a very limited amount of time a person who is subjected to solitary confinement is allowed out of a cell to have any kind of contact with anyone within the greater population. The harm that impacts the individual also has long-term consequences for our communities and needs to be addressed.
In light of the court cases I have mentioned previously, we have to take some kind of meaningful action to allow us to maintain order in our institutions and do better in protecting our communities.
This bill would not just deal with the issue of administrative segregation. In particular, we would make a change in the way victims were able to access information about parole hearings when they were threatened with the circumstance that an individual who had committed a crime against them was up for parole. Currently, if victims do not attend a parole hearing in person, they are not entitled to the recordings that are part and parcel of those hearings. Members can imagine the trauma victims might go through if they had to see in person the hearing for an individual who had committed a crime against them or a family member. To force them to go through that experience, when they may not be mentally prepared, seems like a step too far, in my opinion. I think the sensible thing to do, which is embedded in Bill C-83, is to allow recordings to be given to the victims of crime, whether or not their personal circumstances allow them to attend in person. I think this would be an important change.
Bill C-83 would also embed the principles from the Gladue decision in the legislation, which require the Crown to take into account the unique circumstances of an indigenous person's background when making decisions of this nature.
When it comes to health care, there is an important change built into Bill C-83 that would ensure that there were new patient advocates. They would have the opportunity to work with CSC to ensure that order could be maintained in institutions while they also, for inmates who had certain health care concerns, ensured that those concerns were met.
Again, this is not about doing favours for people who have committed crimes against other individuals or communities. This is about protecting Canadians in the long term by ensuring that our communities are made more secure. If we deny basic mental health care to people who are separated from society not only because they are in prison but because they are completely segregated and left on their own, the damage they may cause to our communities in the long term, upon release, when their sentences come to an end, is something incredibly important that we need to address.
The final element I would like to turn our attention to today is the use of body scanners. This is similar to the technology we pass through when we go to an airport to come to Ottawa every week to advocate on behalf of our constituents.
The introduction of contraband drugs, weapons and the like into prison communities can be a very serious problem. The use of body scanners, which I understand certain members on different sides of the aisles may actually support, would be an important step, because it would not be invasive but would still protect prison populations.
The suite of changes included in Bill C-83 are important ones. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the essential point that changes to the administrative segregation regime that exists in Canada today are coming with or without Parliament's action, because a court has deemed them unconstitutional. We need to take steps that not only protect the rights of the individuals who are incarcerated but respect the rights of victims, keep our communities safe, and in the long term, ensure that people who are released from prisons into our society do not cause greater harm to our communities than they already have.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-10-23 12:53 [p.22723]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this important debate today on Bill C-83, that would deal with the abolition of early parole and the issues on conditional release and corrections. I say at the outset that I will speak in opposition to the bill at second reading. I do so for a number of reasons I will try to describe.
I will first talk about the nature of what the bill has tried to respond to, the difficulties, the dilemmas, the torture, as some people have called it, that is involved in solitary confinement. Perhaps one can call it by other words, but that is what it is. Then I will talk about what a couple of our superior courts have said about this practice and the constitutionality of it, the fact that the government has continued with the appeals of those judgments and yet brought in a bill which by all measure is a very modest response to the very strong language of our courts in addressing the issue of solitary confinement.
I would say that this is a modest improvement. I do not want to be misunderstood. There are some things that are in the right direction in this legislation, but it is a pity that, in light of the long and thoughtful decisions in both the Ontario Superior Court and Mr. Justice Peter Leask's decision in the B.C. Supreme Court, this is the result. It is a very modest, to use a neutral word, response to their very strong language.
Let me talk initially about what they said. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and others brought a constitutional case to the B.C. Supreme Court. In a landmark decision that was handed down in January this year, Mr. Justice Leask in his last judgment before leaving the bench provided what can only be described as a blockbuster decision. Among the things that he talked about, to build on what I asked my friend a moment ago, is the need for an independent review of segregation placements and that is entirely lacking in this decision.
He decided that the practice of solitary confinement, as it was practised at that point in time, breached the security of the person. He said: "I find as a fact that administrative segregation as enacted by [the statute] is a form of solitary confinement that places all Canadian federal inmates subject to it at significant risk of serious psychological harm, including mental pain and suffering, and increased incidence of self-harm and suicide." He wrote a 54,000-word judgment after hearing days and days of testimony, a very carefully reasoned decision and he held that it violated the security of the person that is guaranteed in our charter.
He also said that it discriminated against first nations, disabled and mentally ill individuals. The findings for that again are based on a thorough analysis of the situation at hand. He said thousands of prisoners have been subjected to solitary segregation over the years, isolated for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. Indeed, we know the sad story of Mr. Edward Snowshoe, an indigenous prisoner who died by suicide after languishing in solitary for 162 days without any meaningful attention from staff.
This is akin to a form of torture. This is not unlike the harm we have heard about in other contexts in this place of post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to the serious risks of suicide and self-harm as has happened so many times. Thousands of prisoners have been subjected to that isolation for so long and for so many hours a day and for so many days in a year.
There are about 14,000 inmates in federal institutions, 679 of them women. One in four of the incarcerated men spend some time in segregation. To my surprise, more than 40% of women do. This is a prevalent problem across our institutions and it is not just limited to some prisoners and some institutions, but is endemic across the country.
Those who believe that prisons are there to provide punishment but also for rehabilitation purposes should listen to what the judge concluded after days and days of testimony. He stated, “I have no hesitation in concluding that rather than prepare inmates for their return to the general population, prolonged placements in segregation have the opposite effect of making them more dangerous both within the institutions’ walls and in the community outside.” This is not serving the community and it is certainly not serving the people who have been in institutions for that long. The kinds of concerns he talked about include anxiety, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, hallucinations, aggression, rage, paranoia, hopelessness, self-mutilation and suicide ideation behaviour.
There is no question that we have dealt with a serious problem. It is not only the judge who said this. The correctional investigator of Canada and the United Nations Committee Against Torture have looked at that and concluded that there were serious issues that had to be addressed. Indeed, Justice Leask said there should be time limits of 15 days in solitary, longer periods are considered torture by the United Nations and the government indicated it could implement that standard. That is what led to the legislation before us today.
As I said at the outset, there are some tweaks in here that are helpful. The administrative segregation or solitary confinement has been rebranded as structured integration units, sort of an Orwellian term I suppose, but maybe the language will change things to some degree. Importantly, instead of spending up to 22 or 23 hours in segregation, the new scheme proposes up to 20 hours a day, but for an indefinite period of time. The Ontario Superior Court found that harmful effects can manifest in as little as 48 hours, so I ask whether that is likely to change anything in a significant fashion. I think not.
One of the things Justice Leask spent pages on in his decision was the need, as so many have said, to have an independent check on the discretion of the prison head or the Correctional Service of Canada's top official. That is lacking entirely in this bill. Senator Pate put a press release out and referred to this legislation, saying it is “only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice”, now called structured intervention unit. She said that this bill “also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use”, it “maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making”, it does nothing to deal with what Justice Louise Arbour concluded when she studied the prison for women in Kingston and she acknowledges, as the courts have, that the way segregation or solitary confinement is applied is disproportionately affecting “indigenous and racialized prisoners and those with mental health issues”.
This bill needs improvements on the checking of the discretion that is available to officials by way of appeals. The involvement of counsel on disciplinary hearings is a step forward, but there is so much that needs to be done to address the horrific practices that have been castigated by our courts in thoughtful decisions. This bill does not go far enough to address their disturbing conclusions.
View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2018-10-23 15:44 [p.22750]
Madam Speaker, I thank the member for her speech.
I certainly do not claim to be an expert in this area, though I have very definite ideas about rehabilitation. However, two courts have ruled that certain measures are unconstitutional. I have to admit that I do not see which measures in Bill C-83 will keep us from ending up in court again. I am not an expert, so I would like the member to enlighten me.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2018-10-23 15:45 [p.22750]
Madam Speaker, I am not a lawyer and I am not a constitutional expert, but I know the government has reviewed carefully the court decisions. In fact, that is why we have a new bill in front of us right now. It has incorporated what the courts have said, along with our previous legislation that had been introduced around administrative segregation. I am confident that the government has looked at it, bearing in mind the importance of the constitutionality of the legislation, but also ensuring we will be rehabilitating offenders when they are in our prison system.
As it stands right now, individuals in administrative segregation do not have access to programming and they do not have access to the kinds of mental health services they need. Therefore, by bringing in this legislation and tying it with programming and mental health services, we should see a significant difference in the outcomes of the prison population.
View Robert Aubin Profile
NDP (QC)
View Robert Aubin Profile
2018-10-23 16:15 [p.22754]
Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
Although I do believe he has good intentions, I am still a little confused, so I am hoping he can clarify a few things for me.
The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the indefinite nature of isolation is unconstitutional. While it has introduced Bill C-83 as a solution to the problem, the government is also appealing the ruling at the same time.
If solutions to this problem, which has been deemed unconstitutional, can be found in Bill C-83, why is the government appealing the ruling?
Are we supposed to believe that the introduction of structured intervention units is really going to address the concerns raised in the court ruling, when really all this does is reduce the number of hours spent in isolation from 22 or 23 to “just” 20 hours a day?
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