Interventions in the House of Commons
 
 
 
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows very well that Bill C-83 had to be brought in because of superior court decisions in Ontario and British Columbia that found the current segregation policy to be unconstitutional.
In the two rulings handed down in Quebec and Ontario, recommendations were made and put in writing to explain their decision and to guide future government policy or legislation.
Bill C-83, however, fails to implement most of these recommendations, and I would like to ask my colleague why that is.
Why did the government refuse to consider the recommendations of the judges, who ruled that the situation was unconstitutional?
View Darrell Samson Profile
Lib. (NS)
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He raises an interesting point about the decisions from Ontario and British Columbia, which certainly raised certain issues.
However, we added two measures to alleviate segregation. First, the hours when the inmates can leave their cells are between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. That is a very important measure, one that I think will ensure a greater degree of success. There is also the whole issue of human contact. These additions to the bill will support the segregation issue.
I also want to mention that the parties brought forward over 100 amendments and that amendments from every party were accepted. That means the entire House has a hand in the bill's success.
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 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 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 Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:30 [p.22713]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to continue discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. When I last spoke on Friday, I referred to the fact that the government's justification for rushing the bill forward is that the courts made them do it, that the courts made them ban both segregation for administrative and disciplinary purposes in all circumstances. The problem with that justification is that it is simply not so.
Neither the British Columbia Supreme Court decision nor the Ontario Superior Court decision provide for that. Indeed, in the case of the Ontario Superior Court decision, the primary basis of that decision related to the independence of the review upon the determination made by the institutional head to put an inmate into segregation. The Ontario court determined that the lack of an independent review mechanism contravened fundamental justice under section 7 of the charter. That was the basis of the Ontario decision.
I need not remind the government that aside from these two court decisions, neither the Mandela rules nor the Arbour commission of 1996 called for the elimination of segregation in all circumstances. It is simply the government doing so with this rushed legislation without real, meaningful consultation with the men and women who work in correctional institutions, the most dangerous, difficult and stressful workplace environments. It is really quite unfortunate, but what is worse is that the changes the government is proposing to make will require a lot more resources to handle inmates.
Each time an inmate is removed from their cell to have some time out of it and away from segregation, that requires two guards to accompany them. What the government is proposing is to extend that to four hours. For this to work, it is going to require more resources, and so where are the resources for this from the government? They are nowhere to be found.
Instead of providing our correctional officers with the tools they need to keep our correctional facilities safe, what is the government proposing? It is proposing an 8.8% reduction in Correctional Services Canada's budget. That is what the Liberals are doing. While they are putting a greater burden on correctional officers, taking away vital tools that correctional officers need to keep institutions safe, the government is cutting back at the same time. It speaks to the misplaced priorities of the government and the fact that once again it just cannot get it right.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, the government has insisted that it has to rush this bill because of court imperatives and in response to a court decision. My colleague has clearly articulated how that is not accurate. Could he share with us what the courts actually said Liberals had to do and how this bill does not align with what is supposed to happen as we move forward?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:39 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, I would reiterate that both the British Columbia and Ontario decisions made no such determination of banning segregation in all circumstances, as Bill C-83 provides for. In the Ontario court decision, the heart of the decision related to the independent review process. As opposed to fixing the independent review process, the government instead has decided to eliminate a tool that is necessary to keep our institutions safe.
On the issue of whether segregation violated section 12 of the charter or targeted inmates with mental illness disproportionately, so on and so forth, the court ruled against all of those arguments against segregation.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2018-10-23 11:54 [p.22715]
Mr. Speaker, while Bill C-83 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in half a dozen ways, the centrepiece of the legislation is really ending the use of segregation in our penitentiaries and the launching of what would be called “structured intervention units”, or SIUs.
I will get into the details of what SIUs are in a bit, but first I recognize that many stakeholder groups have spent years advocating for a limit to the length of time in administrative segregation.
The correctional investigator has recommended a 30-day cap. The UN Mandela rules call for one at 15 days. We asked ourselves, though, if that did not just leave people without meaningful contact for 15 or 30 days. Did that not just keep people from their needed interventions and training for 15 or 30 days and from the mental health treatment that they might need?
Therefore, what if we were able to create a system where, when people need to be placed in a separate secure facility within the penitentiary, they could continue to have access to all those things? What if we could ensure the safety of inmates, correctional staff and the security of facilities without having to segregate inmates from all those important points of contact and their treatment regimes? What if there were zero days without meaningful human contact in our penitentiaries?
That is what is at the heart of Bill C-83. It is legislation that balances the need for security in our penitentiaries with the need to ensure that we end segregation and create a system that is better able to rehabilitate inmates.
Inside an SIU, inmates will have double the time outside of their cells compared to the current administrative segregation regime. However, it is not unsupervised, as was suggested previously by the member for Lethbridge.
Correctional Service will be provided with funding to staff up on guards to help ensure the safe and secure movement of the inmates inside the SIUs, whether that is to a classroom-type setting, or to attend part of their programming or to interact with another compatible inmate. In short, this is a complete revamping of Correctional Service in a way that will be better for staff, better for inmates and ultimately better for society.
The reason this is so important is that the vast majority of federal inmates will eventually be released into our communities. It is safer for our communities when those offenders with mental health issues have been treated and diagnosed properly. It is safer for our communities when they have successfully undergone Correctional Service rehabilitation programming and had the training they need to help find employment when they finish their sentence, so they can support themselves and are less likely to reoffend.
I have seen some commentary that while this legislation looks promising, there is some skepticism about its implementation. I can assure the House that we intend to ensure the implementation fulfills the promise of the legislation, with all the resources required to make this work. I even asked the minister earlier in the debate about that fact.
Let us be clear that the status quo may not be an option any longer. Courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have struck down large portions of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act that legally allow for an inmate to be placed in administrative segregation. While both of those cases are being appealed, one by the appellant and one by the government, come December and January, administrative segregation may not exist as an option in those provinces. Without a system to replace it, that will be a dangerous situation for Correctional Service staff and it will also be dangerous for offenders. As well, effective rehabilitation cannot happen in a dangerous environment, so it will be dangerous for all of us.
Now let me turn to some of the other parts of Bill C-83. We have heard from victims that Parole Board hearings are often such a highly emotional blur that once they are finished, they are often unable to remember many of the important details of what went on. The proposed legislation will allow victims who have attended a Parole Board hearing to receive an audio copy of the hearing. Currently, registered victims who are unable to attend can request and receive such a copy. However, if the individual was there in person, the legislation does not allow for that. That simply is not right, which is why Bill C-83 would amend the law to ensure that all registered victims, whether they attend a parole hearing or not, would be able to receive that audio copy.
The proposed bill will also allow for Correctional Service to acquire and use body scanners on those entering the prisons. From drugs to cellphones, the phenomenon of contraband inside prison systems is a problem worldwide. New technologies now allow for better and easier searches of those entering correctional facilities, which are less invasive than traditional methods such as strip searches.
I am sure we all remember the tragic death of Ashley Smith who took her own life while under suicide watch in 2007. Her death, and the subsequent coroner's inquest, was a wake-up call that tremendous improvements were needed in our women's correctional facilities. Bill C-83 would deliver on one of the most important recommendations from that inquest.
The legislation would require Correctional Service to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities. It would also create a statutory obligation for Correctional Service to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence, a founding principle of the medical profession.
The bill would also enshrine in law the principles of the landmark 1999 Gladue Supreme Court decision that would ensure, from intake, that indigenous offenders' programming and treatment incorporates the systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders.
Ultimately, all of this will advance the cause of public safety in all of our communities.
When our corrections system works effectively to rehabilitate offenders within a secure custodial environment, we all benefit.
I am proud of Bill C-83, and I encourage all members to vote in support of it.
Since I have a few more moments left, I will talk a bit about Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador's primary penitentiary is not a federal facility, so it will not be governed under the rules of the proposed legislation. However, we can see from media reports and in the damning history of Her Majesty's Royal Penitentiary in St. John's what can happen in penitentiaries where the right supports and services are not put in place to protect both inmates and the people who work in the prisons.
PTSD is a huge problem for people who work in the correctional system, as well as for people incarcerated in these facilities. We need to find a better way to manage inmates through their periods of trouble while they are incarcerated so they can continue to receive the supports they need.
Once the federal government's new higher standard can be met federally, that will put additional pressure on provinces, where people are serving two years or less, to have similar supports and standards in place, so the system is better able to manage not only the distress being caused to other inmates in the facility by the person who is going into the SIU, but also to provide additional funding and support for additional Correctional Service staff to maintain and manage the supervision of those inmates. That is key.
We have seen throughout our first three years in office that many of the proposed changes that were brought in by the previous government, whether it be Phoenix, or in IT transportation or in Correctional Service, that unless we fund the transition, unless we fund the additional requirements of legislation, we are doomed to fail.
The minister mentioned that $80 million would be available for additional mental health supports within prisons over the next two budgets. That is extremely important. Funding will be available for additional corrections staff and for the very body scanner technology that will help reduce, if not eliminate, the problem of contraband in our prisons, which is so pervasive.
We have heard a lot in the debate by opposition members today about their concern that we are not giving sufficient time to debate this topic. However, it seems to me that many of the points that have been circulating in the room today are starting to retread similar ground. We have not heard a lot of new arguments even in the short amount of debate that we have had.
It will be great to see the legislation go to committee, where any of the legitimate concerns that were raised by the opposition regarding sufficient feedback from stakeholder groups can be addressed and their comments can be incorporated. If there are constructive ways in which the legislation can be amended, committee is the best place to do it.
In light of the fact that December and January present real significant deadlines for ensuring there is a replacement in place to administrative segregation in our prisons, it is important that we get the legislation finalized and passed through the House and the Senate in order to avoid a type of Doomsday scenario that could arise without the ability to properly manage and maintain security in prisons in British Columbia and Ontario in the next year.
For all of these reasons, I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of sending the legislation to committee.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-23 12:08 [p.22718]
Mr. Speaker, we rise in the House today to debate Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This is a very serious matter that requires appropriate analysis and study. Above all, we must not move too quickly on this bill. Unfortunately, just a few moments ago, the government forced a vote that will minimize the time spent debating this bill. Canadians run the risk of being on the losing end.
The bill deals with what happens inside our penitentiaries. To put it bluntly, we want to know what happens in these segregation units that the inmates call “the hole”, where people are isolated from other inmates.
Let us co-operate and try to see the positive elements of the bill. We are delighted to see that one measure included in the bill is the body scanning of inmates, which is a very good thing.
Unfortunately, even though, in theory, nothing should enter Canadian detention centres or prisons without authorization, this is not always the case. The Canadians working in our detention centres or correctional institutions must have the necessary tools to keep themselves safe and to make life better within these institutions.
We think that body scanners are a good idea, but that is the only positive in this bill.
With Bill C-83, the government wants to change administrative segregation into structured intervention units.
I remind members that inmates in prison or, for example, at the Donnacona institution in the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, are sadly not society's finest. These are the most hardened criminals. They are murderers. I could list off all of the people in this prison, the crimes they committed and the reasons they were arrested and found guilty, but that would be infinitely sad. These people are serving their sentence in prison.
Everyone knows those inmates are not exactly nice guys. Severe disciplinary measures are sometimes called for. People with experience in corrections say that the administrative segregation unit serves not only to isolate criminals who may be a danger to other inmates, but also to protect individuals from other inmates. I will come back to that later.
The impression we get is that the government is in a hurry to take action. As the public safety critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, said, there is a disconnect in the government's approach.
A little while ago, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a very clear ruling with respect to administrative segregation. The court questioned the legality of indefinite administrative segregation as a severe detention measure.
The Liberal government decided to appeal the ruling. How interesting, as the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles astutely pointed out, that the government would appeal the ruling then turn around and introduce a bill having to do with none other than the matter raised by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Beyond these philosophical considerations, we are also concerned with the fact that the government has no plan to pay for these measures. We have no idea where the measures proposed in the bill are heading.
Stating the goal and backing it up with dollars to make those changes happen is pretty basic, but the government has done neither.
The proposed changes would allow people in administrative segregation to leave their cells for four hours a day to spend time with their fellow inmates.
I do not want to scare anyone, but the staff and unions of our detention centres are sounding the alarm about this proposal, which they do not think this is a good idea. Sadly, the government has not listened to them. One of them even said that this Liberal approach to administrative segregation could lead to bloodshed.
I will remind members of a certain cruel and persistent statistic: 100 assaults have occurred in our detention centres over the past 12 months. That is 100 too many, of course, because even one assault is one too many. As I was saying earlier, these are some of the most hardened criminals in the Canadian correctional system, and letting them out to spend four hours with their fellow inmates can create highly undesirable situations.
I want to mention that body scanning, which is one element of this bill that we agree with, is not a bad idea. However, we think it might be worth considering the possibility of extending it to include people visiting inmates at a detention centre.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
View Christine Moore Profile
2018-10-23 12:20 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague pointed out in his speech, administrative segregation is used for several reasons. Court rulings have found that the current practice violates prisoners' rights.
Does my colleague think the Liberals did a comprehensive analysis of the use of administrative segregation to determine under what circumstances that practice should be replaced?
What I am asking is whether every case and all possibilities were properly studied in order to find a solution tailored to each situation, or whether the Liberals simply modified the term and changed the rules slightly without taking into account the various circumstances in which administrative segregation is used, as this could justify a different approach, depending on the case.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-23 12:21 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her pertinent question.
As the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles pointed out in his speech last week, this bill reeks of improvisation. A court decision found that we need to be a little more moderate with regard to certain measures pertaining to administrative segregation. The government appealed that decision but, at the same time, introduced a bill that we see as ill-conceived and full of serious errors.
On top of that, the Conservatives think this bill is driven by the Prime Minister's Liberal way of thinking, which puts criminals ahead of victims.
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 Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2018-10-19 10:31 [p.22607]
Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to Bill C-83 because I am concerned that the changes it would make may put in jeopardy the safety of our institutional staff and that of the inmates who are under our care and control.
I was confused when the government introduced the bill.
In February of this year, the government appealed a ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court that struck down Canada's law on indefinite solitary confinement, arguing that it needed clarity on the decision. Therefore, why is the government introducing legislation before receiving that clarity? Why are the Liberals fighting the court decision to strike down solitary confinement, while at the same time introducing legislation to do just that? Are they just changing the words and calling it a structural intervention unit?
I have a federal prison in my riding of Yellowhead, the Grande Cache Institution. It is a medium-security institution with approximately 300 employees and 240 offenders. I have a lot of respect for my constituents who work there. Working for Correctional Service Canada often means working with violent offenders. Proposed section 36 of the new act will deal with the obligations of service and the rights of prisoners in structural intervention areas. It states:
...The Service shall provide an inmate in a structured intervention unit
(a) an opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside the inmate’s cell; and
(b) an opportunity to interact, for a minimum of two hours a day, with others, through activities including, but not limited to,
(i) programs, interventions and services...
(ii) leisure time.
Proposed section 37 of the new act states that proposed section 36 does not apply if the inmate refuses or the inmate “does not comply with...instructions to ensure their safety or that of any other person or the security of the penitentiary.”
As part of their job, employees are responsible for providing a safe, secure and positive environment for offenders, which is an essential element in helping offenders reintegrate into society. However, is the government fostering a safe and secure environment for our prison guards to work within these institutions?
Solitary confinement is a common safety measure many western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners. I wonder if any of our front-line workers have been consulted on taking this tool away from them. Are we properly training our guards who deal with the most dangerous of offenders, offenders with possible mental conditions and psychological problems? Are these guards being given the necessary tools and knowledge to recognize, work with, protect and, for their own safety, help reintegrate these prisoners?
I am concerned that the bill does not mention new training programs to assist prison guards in these changes or in the current programs. It is paramount that the guards dealing with the most dangerous of our offenders have the knowledge and expertise to deal with them. This is for everyone's protection and safety.
I have heard concerns from prison staff members that more training should be given to them when they are dealing with high-risk offenders, such as murderers, compared to someone serving six months for theft. We need to ensure they feel prepared and comfortable, instead of taking away the tools they use to manage inmates.
Instead of solitary confinement, the government would create structural intervention units, SIUs. Let us be fair: This is just white-washing with some finely tuned words.
Under the new SIU model, inmates who misbehave and cannot be safely managed in the mainstream population will get personal programs tailored to their own needs. Are we forgetting the protection and safety of other inmates and prison staff in order to meet the new guidelines as outlined under the SIU? The segregation of certain prisoners in some cases has been done to protect those persons from internal conflicts with other inmates because of their character or mental disposition. In other cases, it is done for legal reasons that could cause interference with an investigation that could lead to criminal charges or a charge relating to serious disciplinary offences within the institution.
Under the new act, prisoners segregated for their own safety may spend up to four hours outside their cells each day. This is where I am concerned. This will require more resources and will create longer periods for the chance of an incident to occur. The replacement of solitary confinement strips the ability of guards to use segregation for disciplinary purposes. This change will make prisons more dangerous for the guards as they deal with the worst and most volatile prisoners.
Because the guards are dealing with the most violent criminals and those who do not care to follow the prison rules, when an incident does occur, it is going to be a lot more serious and require more force. Why are we putting our front line workers at risk?
I am also concerned that these prisoners who are segregated for their own safety may demand equal opportunities under the new act. This may open up an opportunity for their safety to be jeopardized and also put the safety of our guards in question.
This is just another example of the Liberals going soft on criminals and showing indifference to everyone else. Once again, the Liberals are prioritizing the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals.
Let me remind everyone of Bill C-75, which proposes sweeping changes to the Criminal Code and reduces the penalties of crimes to fines. Through Bill C-75, the Liberals are reducing penalties for terrorism, gang members, prison breaches, human trafficking, and the list goes on and on. It is not a surprise to me that the Liberal government is now prioritizing the rights of convicted and violent criminals inside our prison system.
Another aspect of the bill that I find deeply concerning is the new provision that would allow the commissioner to sub-designate parts of institutions to be a different level of security. It reads:
The Commissioner may assign the security classification of “minimum security”, “medium security”, “maximum security” or “multi-level security”, or any other prescribed security classification, to each penitentiary or to any area in a penitentiary.
Theoretically, could the commissioner authorize that a room, say in a healing lodge, to be designated as maximum or medium security by adding an extra lock on the door? There needs to be clarification on whether this is to be used as a temporary measure or if this is a declaration that can be made indefinitely of an area. If so, what is the security protocol that would be put in place to change an “area” to a higher designation than the rest of the facility? Under what circumstances would it be used?
This provision will lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are allowed into lower security spaces, all based on technicalities. Why are we allowing prisoners who should be in maximum or medium-security facilities into lower designated facilities?
I agree with one part of the bill, and that is body scanners. Already in use in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, body scanners should be used to scan prisoners in federal institutions. The more effective we can be in our searches, the better. That means fewer drugs, weapons and other contraband entering our prison systems.
I wonder why the government decided to stop there, though. Why only scan prisoners? In 2014, the CBC broadcast an article on the statistics of contraband entering prisons. The data obtained by CBC showed that corrections seized almost 9,000 unauthorized and contraband items, up almost 2,000 from a few years earlier. That was an increase of 20%. The article noted:
CSC spokesman Jonathan Schofield said the spike is due to enhanced security measures brought in to stem the flow of drugs and other contraband into institutions, including increased searches, random urine tests, and tools such as metal detectors, X-rays, drug-detecting ion scanners and dogs.
Howard Sapers, the former correctional investigator of Canada, said that likely sources of contraband included other people coming in to the prison and sometimes even trusted personnel.
Maybe we should be using body scanners to scan everyone, not just the prisoners, entering our institutions. This will help ensure that everyone inside the institution, prisoners, staff and visitors, all have a safe and secure environment in which to live and work. There are different types of body scanners, some detect drugs, others detect metal. We use them in our airports, and there is no reason we cannot use the most sophisticated equipment in our jail system.
I am not in favour of the recently announced needle exchange program and a good scanning system would eliminate the need for such a program.
We must remember that any legislation brought in that changes how we manage our prisons must take into consideration the safety of our government employees and the safety of other inmates within our institutions. This to me is paramount over catering to the needs of convicted criminals. We must remember they are there because they have committed crimes and are being punished for those crimes. Yes, they have rights to a certain extent, but our institutions are not summer camps or recreational retreats.
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