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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:56 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I will be proposing an amendment at the end of my speech. Please let me know when I have one minute remaining.
I would like to share with the House a few important quotes.
First, I will go over the topic I just raised in my question to the hon. member for Yellowhead. In Canada, administrative segregation is a scourge. It has been overused for many years and was an issue well before the current government came to power.
During the previous Parliament, two of our colleagues, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who was the critic, and the former member for Alfred-Pellan, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the deputy critic, asked many questions about the inquest into the tragic circumstances surrounding Ashley Smith's death. I invite all parliamentarians who wish to speak about that case to read that file.
It is horrifying to see that this teenager, this child, was killed. The findings of the inquest attest to the negligence and abuse in the prison system. The Correctional Service of Canada has to take responsibility for its role in this tragedy.
It is all the more troubling when we consider that members of her family, namely her mother and her sister, if I remember correctly, came to testify before the Senate committee. Senator Pate, who was doing amazing work on this file long before being appointed to the Senate, had invited them to testify. In their testimony, the family members said they were disappointed and furious with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who were supposed to make improvements to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death never happened again. They invoked her name and her memory to justify their approach, but in the end this approach will not help resolve the situation at all.
Since the Liberals took office, two courts and the Supreme Court have granted extensions and the government has requested a stay because the legislation before us has not yet passed. The courts found what we have known for a long time, namely that excessive use of administrative segregation is unconstitutional.
That pronouncement is deeply disturbing. We know of numerous cases of abuse. Incidentally, those cases of abuse are not exclusive to federal institutions. However, given our jurisdiction and the limited time we have left, we cannot delve into the many troubling cases that worry us, including the one that happened recently in Ontario.
It is important to bear in mind that the remedy the government is proposing is no remedy at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The reason so many stakeholders, and in certain cases, the loved ones of victims of the abusive use of solitary confinement, have deplored this is that all we have is a rebrand. It is solitary confinement under a different name.
As is unfortunately too often the case with the government, we have to propose amendments and make changes to bills, pointing out there are a few things that might be better. Experts agree that the courts will continue to find this practice, even if under a different name like structured intervention units, to be unconstitutional. I will come back to this with some quotes I pulled up earlier, which I want to share with the House.
Bill C-83 was one of the first bills that came before our committee and was opposed by all the witnesses. Rarely had I seen this until quite recently, although there have been a few since then. I am sure Liberal members could pull out a couple of quotes to say that corrections officers think this would be an okay approach. However, the witnesses were opposed to this approach, because a variety of things were not in place that needed to be.
One of the Senate's proposed amendments is to require judicial approval for an inmate to be held in solitary confinement. This is nothing new. Justice Louise Arbour conducted an inquiry into riots at an institution in Saskatchewan. She noted that the overuse of segregation has an impact on inmates.
Judges sometimes impose sentences of imprisonment as part of their duties and authority. However, when segregation is overused, this means that institutions, their managers and, ultimately, the Correctional Service of Canada are altering the judge's decision. They are modifying the sentence handed down by the judge. This was Justice Arbour's argument, which is why she advocated for the use of judicial supervision.
What is particularly troubling to me is that I proposed an amendment, now Senator Pate has proposed an amendment and these amendments are being rejected by the government. My understanding, after hearing the parliamentary secretary's speech earlier tonight, is that it would cause an increased workload on provincial courts. Ultimately, the sad and tragic thing about that argument is that the only reason it would cause an increased workload is because of the abusive use of solitary confinement as so many individuals are being subjected to the practice when they should not necessarily be.
Focusing on women offenders in particular, I presented an amendment at committee to end the practice completely in women's institutions. Why? The figures demonstrate two things. One is that the number of women in solitary confinement is infinitesimal. The practice is not necessary for maintaining security in our institutions, which is obviously the primary reason it is used most of the time. The second is quite simply that pregnant women, women with mental health problems and indigenous women are the women most often negatively affected by the abusive use of solitary confinement. There is certainly an argument to be made about that, but at the very least, it should be with judicial oversight.
In fact, the argument might also be made that Senator Pate's amendment goes too far. I do not think so, which, as I said, leads us to support the amendment, but there are other routes as well. I proposed an amendment that sought a longer period of 15 days before judicial oversight would be required. It is certainly a much longer and wider threshold than what Senator Pate is proposing. That was also rejected.
The fact of the matter is that the issue we are facing here is quite contradictory. I want to go back to another issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary about the burden we would be putting on provinces. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the burden on provincial mental health hospitals and institutions. That is one of reasons I wanted the Senate amendments. Members will forgive me for not recalling the exact amendment, but this was being proposed.
We look at the same Public Safety department, through the work of my provincial colleague in Queen's Park, Jennifer French. It has fought the Ontario government for years over the fact that it has contracts with Public Safety Canada to detain, in some cases with dubious human rights parameters, immigrants who have sometimes not even committed crimes and have uncertain legal status in our country. When that is the purview of the federal government, these individuals are treated very poorly.
I do not have the title with me, but I would be happy to share with them a great report in the Toronto Star two years ago, if I am not mistaken, on some of these individuals. One individual, for example, in the U.S. was apparently accused of stealing a DVD, but was never found guilty in court. He came to Canada, was working through the process for permanent residency and due to a variety of issues, he is now being detained in a provincial prison under poor circumstances, without the proper accountability that a normal detention process would have. Even though that is the responsibility of the federal government, there are issues like overcrowding and such, and that is through subcontracting that the federal government does with the provinces.
Why am I talking about a completely different case? I am simply trying to demonstrate the government's hypocrisy.
The government has no qualms about working with the provinces. In some cases, it even forces them to implement legislation and various mechanisms related to our legal and correctional systems. Now, the government wants to use the provinces as an argument to continue violating inmates' rights.
As promised, I will share some quotes. I want to share two of them with the House.
First of all, I want to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling granting the second extension, in April. Certainly my colleagues who are lawyers will not appreciate me selectively quoting. It is always a dubious and dangerous game, but I will do so for the sake of expediency. The court said this:
Extensive evidence is put forward outlining the legislative process, the steps necessary to implement the Bill [Bill C-83]including cost, staff training, infrastructure, public consultations.... But this court remains where we were when the first extension was argued: we have virtually nothing to indicate that the constitutional breach identified by the application judge is being or will be addressed in the future.
It is pretty clear from that quote and that extension, and not even the initial judgment ruling that the practice was unconstitutional, that this is an issue the bill will not resolve.
I sort of opened the door to this at the beginning, and I did not quite finish that thought, but I did want to come back to it, because I just mentioned the second extension.
Bill C-56 was tabled in 2017, the first attempt by the government to deal with this, because it was, after all, part of not one minister's but two ministers' mandate letters, the minister of justice and the Minister of Public Safety. As I said, it was a debate that began in the previous Parliament and even before through a variety of public inquiries and the like.
Finally, we get to Bill C-83, which was tabled late last year. Here we are now, at the eleventh hour, having it rammed through, because the government, quite frankly, did not do its proper homework. It is problematic, because here we have the Liberals asking for extensions and having to go now, in the last few weeks, to the Supreme Court, of all places, to get an additional extension. The thing is that the witnesses at committee were not consulted. No one was consulted except the officials in the minister's office, and they all came to committee to tell us that.
I would like someone to explain to me how this could be an issue when the Prime Minister included it in his 2015 mandate letters for the ministers responsible. A bill was introduced in 2017, and two decisions by two different courts, the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, were handed down in late 2017 and early 2018. Then Bill C-83 was introduced in late 2018. Then not one, not two, but three applications were filed for an extension to implement what the courts had requested.
That is interesting. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. Earlier, when she asked the member for Yellowhead a question, she stated that it might be more beneficial for correctional officers if we were to pass the bill so as not to have to impose the will of the courts upon them.
Personally, to defend human rights and prevent people from dying in our prisons due to excessive use of administrative segregation, I would like the courts' restrictions and terms to be imposed. Of course, that is what we wanted to see in the legislation.
On a similar note, I would like to come back to the UN rules concerning segregation, which are known as the Nelson Mandela rules.
They cover a number of factors: the number of consecutive days in administrative segregation, the number of consecutive hours in administrative segregation and the number of hours spent outside the cell. Viewers might see that last point as problematic, but when inmates are outside their cells, they are not frolicking in wildflower meadows. I hope my colleagues will forgive my humorous tone when talking about such a serious issue. All that means is outside the cell used for administrative segregation. The rules also mention the importance of meaningful human contact.
Now I would like to read the quote I read a small part of when I asked the parliamentary secretary a question.
Dr. Adelina Iftene is a law professor at Dalhousie University. I will read the full quote and I ask for colleagues' indulgence. She said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards, the amount of time prisoners would have meaningful contact with other human beings–-two hours per day--does not. The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement. The government simply cannot argue that its proposed regime is not segregation. Passing a bill that does not include a cap on segregation time and judicial oversight will lead to another unconstitutional challenge.... Refusal to pass the bill with amendments would be a sign of bad faith, disregard for taxpayers’ money and for the rule of law. It is disheartening to see such resistance to upholding human rights at home by a country that champions human rights abroad.
That drives home the point that the window dressing may have changed, but the store still carries the same goods. Please forgive my use of such a light-hearted expression. The system is the same, and it still has harsh and sometimes fatal consequences for people.
Some people argue that there are public safety reasons for this and that some of these inmates have committed horrible crimes and deserve to be punished. However, by far most of the people subjected to excessive use of administrative segregation struggle with mental health problems. That is a problem because these people are not getting the care they need for either their own rehabilitation or to ensure public safety objectives are achieved and they stop posing a threat to communities and society. Excessive use is at odds with our mental health and rehabilitation goals, and that is bad for public safety. I would encourage anyone who says this measure will improve public safety to think again because there is a situation here we really need to address.
I have a lot more that I would like to say, but my time is running out. As members can see, this problem has been around for years. Many stakeholders gave inspiring testimony, despite the sombre issue and our discouragement with regard to the government's proposals and inaction. What is more, what the Senate has been doing when it comes to some of the bills that were democratically passed by the House is deplorable. I am thinking of the bill introduced by my colleague from James Bay and the one introduced by our former colleague from Edmonton, Rona Ambrose, on sexual assault. That being said, Senator Pate has done extraordinary work. She has experience in the field. She used to work at the Elizabeth Fry Society. She knows what she is talking about, much more than anyone in the House. I tip my hat to her for the amendments that she managed to get adopted in the Senate. I support them.
Accordingly, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Jonquière:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, be now read a second time and concurred in.”
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 23:27 [p.29457]
Mr. Speaker, Parliament has been studying Bill C-83 for the last nine months. Its essence and objective are the same now as they were when the bill was introduced: to provide a way to separate inmates from the general population in an institution when doing so is necessary for safety reasons, without cutting off those inmates from rehabilitative interventions, programs, mental health care and meaningful human contact.
The main feature of the bill is the replacement of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs. In SIUs, inmates would get a minimum of four hours out of the cell every day, twice as much as they currently get in administrative segregation, and for the first time, there would be a legal entitlement to meaningful human contact of at least two hours every day.
In addition to these legislative changes, the government is investing $450 million so that the Correctional Service will be able to hire the staff necessary to provide programs, interventions and mental health care in SIUs and to do it all safely. This investment is critical to the success of the SIUs.
During my conversations with both the Union of Safety and Justice Employees and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, as well as during visits I made to corrections facilities in Edmonton and Saskatoon last year, something I heard loud and clear was that there was a need for meaningful investments in corrections to atone for 10 years of cuts by the previous Conservative government so that we can ensure the best rehabilitative outcomes for inmates, and just as importantly, ensure the safety of those who work in corrections.
My friend Stan Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, wrote an article in May 2019, and I would like to read from it now:
Correctional Service Canada's use of solitary confinement must change. The long-standng practice of managing difficult offenders by [the use of]...solitary confinement is totally unworkable. As Canada's courts have said, it is also profoundly inhumane. Men and women serving federal time are broken and desperate human beings in need of meaningful contact, not further isolation.
At the same time, federal prisons are fraught with danger. The pressure cooker environment and threats of violence lead some prisoners to seek time away from the general population for their own sanity and safety.
Other offenders with a strong propensity for violence and few coping skills simply cannot manage long periods with others without posing a real threat. In a system with few safety valves, administrative segregation (or solitary confinement) has tragically become one of the few.
The new legislation proposes significant changes to solitary. Bill C-83 definitely won't solve everything, but it's a worthy next step. It will mandate that Correctional Service Canada dedicate the appropriate human resources for sustained rehabilitative efforts. Until now, the opportunity for parole officers, program officers, and teachers to spend quality time with the highest needs offenders has been minimal, if existent.
It will render offenders separated from the general population a priority, instead of an after-thought, within Corrections. It will enforce better reporting and accountability mechanisms.
I believe the proposed segregation units will benefit from independent oversight outside of Corrections, as is proposed by the Bill. This is crucial. But to ensure that the Bill does what is intended, the Correctional Service needs to glean the ongoing wisdom of those on the front lines of rehabilitating offenders every day....
A commitment to keep all Canadians safe means serious investments in rehabilitating all offenders in federal prisons, 90 percent of whom will be released back into the community, ready or not. I am hopeful that Bill C-83 passes so that the real work can begin.
That is the end of the article.
I want to thank Stan for his years of service to corrections, for his assistance with my understanding of our corrections system and for providing all of us with the critical perspective of those working in corrections.
Let me return to Bill C-83. The amendments made at the public safety committee last fall addressed practical concerns raised by certain witnesses to help ensure that the new system would function as intended.
The committee heard from indigenous groups, including Dr. Allen Benson and the Native Women's Association of Canada, who called for changes to the definition of indigenous organizations to ensure that it properly captured the diverse range of indigenous groups and organizations working on these issues across Canada.
Following the discussion, the committee was able to unanimously approve an amendment that called for indigenous organizations to predominantly have indigenous leadership. We also heard about the need for CSC to seek advice, particularly in matters of mental health and behaviours, from indigenous spiritual leaders or elders. I was pleased that my amendment to that effect was adopted at committee.
The bill has changed in significant ways since it was first introduced. I am proud to work for a government that is amenable to feedback and was receptive to amendments, informed by witness testimony that we heard at the public safety committee, that make the bill even stronger.
At report stage, we made a major additional amendment, one that I am incredibly proud to have introduced, that creates a mechanism to provide binding, independent, external oversight of SIUs.
The Senate has sent the bill back to us with some additional proposals. I appreciate the intent of all of the Senate's proposals and I am glad the government is accepting several of them, in whole or in part.
Those that we are accepting include the following: mandatory mental health assessments for all inmates within 30 days of admission and within 24 hours of transfer to an SIU; adding precision to the section of the bill that requires the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors in decisions affecting indigenous inmates; establishing the consideration of alternatives to incarceration, where appropriate, as a guiding principle of the Correctional Service; and minimizing the use of strip searches.
Other proposals from the Senate are interesting ideas, but they really should be studied as stand-alone items rather than included as amendments to this bill. For example, the idea of expanding the use of measures developed for indigenous corrections to non-indigenous inmates might be valid. When I visited the Pê Sâkâstêw and Buffalo Sage healing lodges in Edmonton last year, I saw first-hand the incredible impact that the programming in these institutions was having on outcomes for inmates who are serving their sentences there.
At Buffalo Sage, I was honoured to take part in a circle with Elder Vicky and hearing from strong female offenders, women who have survived what life has thrown at them and are now on a healing journey, immersed in their culture and on the road to rehabilitation and reintegration. These were women who had escaped violent abusers and themselves ended up in prison, women whose lack of housing and poverty led them to the criminal justice system, and women who lost their children to the foster system. One individual at Buffalo Sage shared with me that for the first time since entering the correction system, at Buffalo Sage she felt that she was able to heal.
I also had the privilege of visiting Pê Sâkâstêw, a men's healing lodge, where I had a memorable meeting with a 39-year-old indigenous man who first came into the justice system at 12 as a young offender. After a life in and out of jail, a life that included abuse and addictions, he was serving a sentence for robbery and now was on a successful healing journey. He lives as a man in prison and a woman outside, and prefers the “he” pronoun. He had reconnected with his community for the first time in 20 years.
I have a lot more that I could say in support of healing lodges and their impact on correctional outcomes for indigenous offenders, but a lot of work would have to go into determining how the Senate's vision would be executed, including what aspects could be borrowed from indigenous programming, what elements would have to be redesigned, what kind of community support exists and where the funding would come from without diminishing from the services provided to the indigenous prison population, which we know is the fastest-growing prison population in Canada.
Another example from the Senate is a proposal designed to deter misconduct by correctional employees and to support inmates affected by it.
It is important to point out that the vast majority of correctional staff are trained professionals doing a very hard job with skill and dedication. They are individuals for whom I have the utmost respect, who work in a job that gets little in the way of accolades from Canadians. Whenever there is an issue with someone working in corrections, we must absolutely address those situations. However, in my opinion, the Senate's proposal of shortening inmates' sentences because of the conduct of correctional personnel is not the right approach.
The Senate has also proposed an amendment that would require the authorization of a provincial superior court for any SIU placement longer than 48 hours.
Once more, I understand and share the objective of ensuring that SIUs are properly used. Robust oversight will help see to it that SIUs will be a last resort, that placements in SIUs will be as short as possible, and that inmates in SIUs are receiving all the time out of cell and meaningful human contact to which the bill entitles them.
It is important to note that in the context of administrative segregation, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has found that placements must be examined by the fifth working day by a reviewer who is “completely outside the circle of influence of the person whose decision is being reviewed” and ”able to substitute its decision for that of the person whose decision is being reviewed.” The court was explicit that the reviewer need not be external to the Correctional Service Canada and, in fact, recommending “an administrative review provided by the Correctional Service of Canada.” While this finding was specifically in relation to administrative segregation and not SIUs, Bill C-83 would create a review process for SIUs consistent with what the court required for administrative segregation.
Under Bill C-83, SIU placements will be reviewed by the fifth working day by the institutional head who does not report to the initial decision-maker and who has the authority to overturn the initial decision. Importantly, whether in the context of administrative segregation or SIUs, no court has required judicial oversight and no court has set 48 hours as a timeline for review of any kind.
I would remind the House that robust oversight was discussed at length at the public safety committee, and has already been added to the bill in my report stage amendment.
Independent external decision-makers would be appointed by the minister to review any case where an inmate in an SIU does not get the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row or 15 days out of 30. They will also review situations where Correctional Service Canada does not accept the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. In addition, they will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for inmates still there at that point.
The determinations of independent external decision-makers will be binding and reviewable by the Federal Court. All of that external oversight is on top of regular reviews within the Correctional Service, beginning on the fifth day of placement in an SIU.
There are several advantages to using independent adjudicators rather than judges to provide oversight in this context. For one thing, our courts already have a heavy case load. Giving them additional responsibilities would mean giving them additional resources, namely increasing the number of Superior Court judges, which involves changes to legislation and making budgetary allocations both at federal and provincial levels.
That raises another problem. There are provincial Superior Courts. We should not be adding to their workload to this extent without engaging in thorough consultations with the provinces.
Also, the flexibility of a system of independent adjudicators is a big advantage in this context. A few of them could be stationed in different parts of the country and could be reactive to needs in different provinces. With judges, they are appointed permanently to a specific court and only deal with cases in their jurisdiction. Even for the current system of administrative segregation, the courts have not said that a judicial review is required. The Ontario Superior Court actually expressed a preference for non-judicial review, so decisions could be made faster.
Ultimately, while I appreciate the intent of the Senate's proposal about judicial review, an independent adjudication system already in Bill C-83 can meet the need for oversight without the drawbacks of using the courts.
I appreciate all the Senate's contributions and hard work. This bill has gotten a lot of attention from parliamentarians over the last nine months, and rightly so.
We entrust Correctional Services with the task of carrying out sentences that are supposed to be a deterrent to and punishment for criminal activity and we entrust it with the physical separation of potentially dangerous people from the rest of Canadian society. At the same time, we charge the Correctional Service with the rehabilitation through measures including behaviour counselling, anger management programs, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, education and vocational training.
In a country like Canada, we demand that these tasks all be carried out humanely and with respect, even for the rights of people who have done terrible things, and in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-83 would help ensure that all these goals can be achieved.
When I spoke to this bill at report stage, I said that I felt strongly that the legislation, combined with the additional investments from our government, would transform our correctional system. That is why I support the legislation and the motion before us today. I urge my colleagues to do the same.
This is the last time I will be speaking in the House before we rise. I would like to acknowledge my staff who are present today: Hilary Lawson and Conor Lewis. This legislation benefited from the input of Hilary, and it would not be the legislation that it is right now without her hard work. Conor has worked with me on the status of women committee. I can quite confidently say that I have the best staff on the Hill. I thank them both for all of their efforts.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the members of the public safety committee who are here tonight. I am sorry I do not know their ridings, but they have both spoken tonight. They have both been incredible members to work with. It is rare that we see members work across the aisle as well as we did on the public safety committee on issues that were by nature very controversial. We always found a way to work together, and even when we did not agree we always did it in a very agreeable way. I would like to commend them for their work, as well as my Liberal colleagues on the committee. We got a lot of good work done, and this bill is one that I am very proud of. I will be going back to my riding knowing that we have passed legislation that will truly be transformative for our corrections system.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.
I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.
I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.
In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.
The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.
I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.
One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.
Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.
Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.
In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.
We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.
One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.
I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.
While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.
In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.
Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.
When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.
Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.
The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.
If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.
The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.
There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.
The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.
A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.
The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.
We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.
When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.
I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.
The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.
What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.
The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.
While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.
The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.
What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.
Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a re-branding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.
Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.
Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.
The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.
Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.
Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.
I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.
Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.
As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.
View Peter Schiefke Profile
Lib. (QC)
View Peter Schiefke Profile
2019-02-26 12:00 [p.25780]
Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to speak to Bill C-83.
It is a transformative piece of legislation for our correctional system. Its ultimate goal is to promote safety, both inside and outside our federal institutions, and it prioritizes rehabilitation as an indispensable part of achieving that goal.
The core innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposed introduction of structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would address a reality in any prison across our country, which is that some inmates are, at certain times, simply too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream inmate population. The current practice is to place those offenders in administrative segregation.
Segregated inmates in federal institutions can be in their cells for as many as 22 hours a day. Interactions with other people are highly limited. Bill C-83 would offer a more effective way forward for all involved.
Safety will always be priority number one for our government, and should be for any government in power, but prisons are safer places in which to live and work when inmates receive the programming, mental health care and other interventions they need. Inmates who receive these interventions are more likely to reintegrate safely into the community when their sentences are over.
The solution the government is proposing in Bill C-83 is to eliminate segregation and to replace it with SIUs. These units would be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative would be met. However, they would be designed to ensure that inmates who were placed there would receive the interventions, programming and treatment they required.
Inmates in SIUs would be given the opportunity to leave their cells for at least four hours a day, as opposed to two hours under the current system. It is worth noting that currently, those two hours are set out in policy and not in legislation. Bill C-83 would give the four-hour minimum the full force of law.
Inmates in SIUs would also have the opportunity for at least two hours of meaningful human contact. During that time, they could interact with people such as correctional staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains or elders. The goal of these reforms is for inmates in an SIU to be in a position to reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.
Bill C-83 has undergone rigorous analysis at every stage of the parliamentary process to date. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went over it with a fine-tooth comb. Based on testimony from a wide range of stakeholders, a number of useful amendments were adopted at the end of the committee's study period.
Bill C-83 was a solid and worthwhile bill from day one. It is now even better and stronger for having gone through vigorous debate and a robust review process. It is worth noting that the bill that has been reported back to us reflects amendments from all parties that proposed them. I wholeheartedly reject the idea we have heard during this debate that somehow the fact that the bill has been amended in response to public and parliamentary feedback is a bad thing. I am proud to support a government that welcomes informed, constructive feedback and that respects the role of members of Parliament from all parties in the legislative process. I would like to thank all members in this House who contributed to amending and making this bill better than it was.
Most of the amendments made to Bill C-83 are about ensuring that the new SIUs would function as intended. For instance, some witnesses were worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided in the middle of the night, when inmates were unlikely to take advantage of it. Therefore, the member for Montarville added the requirement that it happen between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Other witnesses wondered whether the mandatory interactions with others might happen through a door or a meal slot, a reasonable concern. To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision requiring that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that interactions are face to face, with a record kept of any and all exceptions.
To address concerns that CSC might make excessive use of the clause allowing for time out of the cell not to be provided in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to clarify how this clause should be interpreted.
Amendments from the member for Toronto—Danforth at committee and from the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will enhance the review process so that each SIU placement is subject to robust oversight, both internally and externally.
All of this will help ensure that the new structured intervention units operate as intended.
However, that is not all. Amendments have also been accepted from the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I would like to thank them once again for their contributions as well.
We all want safer institutions and safer communities. We all want Canadians to feel safe and to be safe. Successful rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people in federal custody are key to achieving our shared objective of enhanced public safety. By allowing inmates who must be separated from the general prison population to receive more time out of their cell and more mental health care and rehabilitative interventions, Bill C-83 represents a major step in the right direction.
Again, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their contributions in the House and at committee throughout the entire parliamentary process so far, and I urge them to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill. It will ensure the safety of the inmates and those who work in the correctional institutions, and Canadians as well.
View Glen Motz Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-83. As we know, it is a bill that symbolizes the current government's approach to leadership in this country. It is an approach of ignoring the concerns of many, providing little in the way of moral leadership and transparency, and putting the safety of Canadians at risk for the benefit of political gain.
I have said many times in this place that it is and should be the top priority of the House to put the safety of Canadians first, ahead of any other issues or politics. With the bill, the House would fail to meet that expectation.
To paraphrase my NDP colleague from Beloeil—Chambly, I can think of no time when a bill has come before Parliament where there are no witnesses who support the legislation. That is exactly what happened with Bill C-83. The minister claimed the bill would end administrative segregation. The witnesses who refuted the bill included prisoner advocacy groups, civil liberties groups, former wardens, professors, correctional unions, the correctional investigator and a senator. The overriding sentiment was that the legislation lacked the detail and information needed to back up such a claim by the minister.
The minister claimed the bill responded to issues raised by the courts that segregation caused the death of two inmates. However, the facts are clear in these two unfortunate deaths that they were the result of operational and management failures in both circumstances.
The minister claimed safety and security of staff were the top priorities. However, correctional workers and former inmates testified that segregation is essential to managing violent and volatile inmates, and that the bill would create more risk to staff.
Civil liberties groups called the bill unconstitutional and said it would make things worse rather than better. They noted the bill lacked external oversight, a check against the authorities of Correctional Service Canada. The minister actually acknowledged this lack of oversight existed.
Senator Pate testified before the committee and indicated that Bill C-83 was a bad piece of legislation. The senator dismantled the minister's claims as to how the bill would end segregation. In a visit to a Nova Scotia Prison, Senator Pate noted that it had renamed the segregation unit, the “intensive intervention unit”. The minister will claim otherwise, of course. However, I will take the testimony of a senator and her eyewitness account over the minister's promise, especially given the minister's repeated track record of misleading Parliament and Canadians.
Perhaps the only accomplishment by the minister with respect to the bill is that he brought together the NDP, the Green Party and the Conservatives, who all oppose the legislation.
I would like to note the unexpected and very valuable contribution of written testimony from Mr. Glen Brown, someone who knows the system well. Mr. Brown is a highly experienced former warden and deputy warden, who now teaches criminal justice and criminology at Simon Fraser University and Langara College.
As someone once responsible for segregation units, he notes that the Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe cases were more about mismanagement of behavioural issues and neglect. These issues are not legislative problems. They are management, training and accountability issues. When in segregation, inmates should receive bolstered communication on current risks and mental health issues. They should have increased contact with officers and staff, and they should have an increased potential for services. All this should bring greater attention to an offender's rehabilitation plan.
Mr. Brown wrote:
The strength of a functioning administrative segregation process is that it should bolster all of those things: oversight is strengthened; case management should be more active; information sharing should be more robust; referral for clinical service should be prioritized and case management intervention to develop plans should be urgent.
After noting that science and research has shown that properly managed segregation units do not cause short- or long-term harm, Mr. Brown noted, “To respond to current circumstances with sweeping legislative reform is only to react ideologically, and to ignore science and evidence.”
On the minister's grand solution to segregation, which is to rename segregation units to “structured intervention units”, Mr. Brown noted that Bill C-83 described SIUs in such broad and vague language that the consequences of implementation were very uncertain, that the details were unknown and the details were the key. The current layout of many segregation units did not facilitate socialization and programming. The emphasis on programming suggested longer-term stays in SIUs, weeks or maybe months. SIUs would not be suitable for short-term management of volatile inmates, such as those under the influence. There was the inability to have specialized staff for particular subpopulations in a prison. Finally, he noted that given the current layout of many prisons, a wing may need to be deemed a structured intervention unit, meaning up to 96 inmates may be subject to 20 hours a day of confinement where before it would be only 16.
To be clear, someone who is an expert and has worked for years in prisons with segregation says that he cannot discern the minister's plan. Moreover, he says that prisons often lack the infrastructure, are inappropriate to what is needed and could have the opposite effect to what the minister claims.
Perhaps the only potential value in the legislation could come from an external review mechanism of segregation, because it could provide Canadians with greater confidence in offender management. The minister, however, told the committee that we did not have the authority to do this, an order the Liberal MPs on the committee followed, while the opposition members put forward mechanisms to provide such oversight, which were soundly rejected.
When we pushed the Liberals at committee to amend the worst parts of the legislation and pointed to the glaring issues raised by the many expert witnesses, we were told that Liberal MPs were voting with “faith in the minister”.
The role of committees is not to provide support and faith to a minister. It is to conduct detailed examinations on challenging issues, to hear from experts and impacted Canadians, to examine programs, spending and legislation to determine if it will meet the needs of Canadians or, at the very least, what the minister claims it will meet. On this, our committee has failed.
At the conclusion of committee debate on Bill C-83, my Conservative colleagues and I put our views on the record. We indicated that the committee failed in its role to review the legislation and ensure that it could make informed decisions. We also said that we believed the minister withheld information from committee that was clearly available to him at the time, namely the cost and how it would be used and implemented in the bill, which most witnesses said was essential to knowing if the bill would be useful. For the minister, it seemed more important that he withhold his plan from the committee. Half a billion dollars connected to a bill, where and how the money will be used is essential to know if the bill will work. We still do not have a plan necessarily for that money.
What was the response to the overwhelming criticism and skepticism of the bill? Government MPs stated that they were “making a leap of faith” and putting their trust in the minister. What was accomplished by the committee in reviewing this legislation? In my opinion, next to nothing. The Liberal members rejected amendments on how the money would be used. They rejected a requirement to publish the standards of the new SIUs. They rejected limits to reclassifying prisons. They rejected having the minister provide us with how he would implement this new plan.
On this legislation, the Liberals have turned their backs on Canadians. We are to trust the minister who has an extensive track record of misleading Canadians on things like the disastrous India trip, Bill C-59 and Bill C-71, failure to provide funding for police to tackle gangs, and I could go on.
We as a House can do better. We must do better. We can all rise to a higher level. Personally, I feel this committee failed its constituents, its communities and its country. Bill C-83 is yet another example of the many failures of the Liberal government.
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
2019-02-26 12:40 [p.25785]
Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak in favour of Bill C-83.
The purpose of the bill is to move away from the system of administrative segregation in place at the moment toward new structured intervention units. We have heard before in the debate in the House that this responds to two recent decisions by courts in Ontario and British Columbia. I read those decisions again last night. I have read them a few times now. They are difficult decisions. They set out clear problems with our existing system.
The member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques raised a question earlier, saying that the bill did not respond to what was set out in the decisions. I do not believe that is correct. There are two reasons, some of which I will go into later as we discuss the matter. However, in addition, it is because the system that was being reviewed and some of the rules that were being put in place when the judges were making their decisions were based on the system we have now. The system we would be putting into place with Bill C-83 would have a very different set of rules. We need to take that into account, and I will work through some of it. I believe this change in legislation, the change to the system we would putt in place, would increase charter compliance and would respond to the issues that were raised.
I will admit that I approached the bill with some concerns. When the bill first came before us, I had a lot of questions. I listened to the testimony. We heard from inmates, corrections officers and lawyers. A lot of people brought forward their concerns on the bill. It made me think long and hard about what was the right way for us to address these issues.
What was really clear to me, the most important part when I looked at what was needed to improve the bill, was oversight. In fact, oversight and decision making was one of the key issues raised by both court decisions as a matter of procedural fairness. It was not only in the transfer to a unit but also in the decision to keep a person in what was at the time an administrative segregation unit.
I want to highlight the fact that oversight is the glue that keeps it together. Ultimately we need to have a system that is safe and secure, conducive to inmate rehabilitation, to staff safety and to protection of the public. We are all working toward that. There is much more work to be done, but there is also much work under way.
Regardless of Bill C-83, some improvements are already in place. There has been more than a 50% decline in administrative segregation placements over the last four years. That is already a change in the way things are happening on the ground. The other part is the fact that the correctional service commissioner's mandate letter highlights the need to work in a collaborative relationship with the Office of the Correctional Investigator in order to address and resolve matters of mutual concern.
I have the highest respect for the Office of the Correctional Investigator. When we read those annual reports, we get an insight into what happens in our correctional system. To have that need to work together collaboratively in the mandate letter to resolve issues that have been raised is a very important statement about how we move forward with Correctional Service Canada. I would also add that the budget for the Office of the Correctional Investigator has been increased. I welcome that as part of the essential oversight we need for the system.
When talking about the bill specifically, at committee I worked closely with my colleague, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, on how we could improve oversight in the bill. How could we, when looking at structured intervention units, improve oversight. I want to thank the member for Oakville North—Burlington for introducing an amendment, to which the government has given royal recommendation, to allow for properly funded external oversight. That piece is essential. It responds to many of the concerns that were raised, not only by the courts but by witnesses as well. It builds on amendments that were made at committee.
At committee, for example, there were additional oversight pieces. One part I worked on would ensure that when people were transferred into a structured intervention unit, they would get written reasons for it in very short order. That is important, because one cannot appeal a decision if one does not have the reasons for it. It sounds legalistic, but it is important to have written reasons so people can appeal a decision if they wish.
Another piece I worked on was this. If a health expert recommended that an inmate be moved out of a structured intervention unit, and the warden disagreed, an additional review would be built in at a more senior level within Correctional Service Canada so that the decision could be reviewed. It is the layers of oversight that are essential and is why I believe that the work at committee was very important in moving that forward.
I have talked about oversight. Another issue we needed to address when we looked at the court decisions was the essential piece on what is now administrative segregation, which was highly criticized, and what we are proposing as far as moving toward structured intervention units. This turns on two parts: time in the cell and time in the cell without meaningful contact with people. Currently, inmates have 22 hours in a cell, plus shower time. The court was clear that shower time is over and above the two hours and does not mean that inmates are in their cells for over 22 hours. It completely rejected that as a notion. Inmates have two hours out of their cells.
There is an international set of rules, the Mandela Rules. Rule 44 sets out that solitary confinement is 22 hours without meaningful contact with people. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, which is one of the cases that gave rise to this, spoke specifically to this issue. It said,
Canada can take itself outside of the literature dealing with solitary confinement...in administrative segregation both in terms of the time that an inmate spends in his or her cell and the nature of the human contact that they have while segregated.
When the court was reviewing it, it said that we needed to make changes to the system in those two ways. That is, in fact, what this bill would address. Clause 36 of the bill would require that inmates spend a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. In addition, though, an amendment was introduced at committee that said that it had to be at a reasonable time. Those four hours could not be in the middle of the night, when people want to be sleeping. Therefore, those four hours would have to be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., a reasonable time when inmates may want to be outside their cells. Of those four hours, inmates would have to have an opportunity to interact for a minimum of two hours through activities, including, but not limited to, programs, interventions and services that would encourage inmates to make progress toward the objectives of their correctional plans or that would support their reintegration into the mainstream inmate population and leisure time. These are meaningful ways people could have contact and interact.
When I was looking at the B.C. case in particular, one of the things that really hit home was the fact that a lot of the contact inmates are having is through a meal slot. When they are interacting with staff and individuals, a lot of it is happening just through their meal slots, and that is just unacceptable. Without eye contact, that is not meaningful contact. It is important to make sure that there is contact, not just people walking by without interacting.
These are important changes. The bill gives us a chance to think about an entirely new system, which it really would be. We would be moving from administrative segregation, which is 22 hours in a cell without meaningful contact, to 20 hours and a requirement for meaningful contact. We would be changing things in a way that would be meaningful and important and that would respond to these court decisions. I understand that people have raised some issues, but I believe that this is an important step forward, and I am pleased to speak in favour of it.
View 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 Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-10-18 10:32 [p.22533]
Madam Speaker, the unfortunate thing here is that it is almost Orwellian to say that the government is getting rid of administrative segregation because essentially it is the same practice under a different name. Of course, there are some bells and whistles that have been added to how it is taking place.
The reality is this. In the decisions of the Ontario Superior Court and the B.C. Supreme Court, despite being somewhat different decisions, there were a few common themes. One of those themes was the lack of oversight, the lack of independent reporting and oversight and any kind of mechanism in the event of abuse taking place and the use of this practice in corrections.
If we go back to Justice Arbour's recommendations in the commission of inquiry on certain events at the women's prison in Kingston where she talked about even having judicial oversight, we have the corrections investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger who said that there is no mechanism in place for recourse and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Society saying the same thing and Senator Kim Pate, who was once at that same association.
I want to ask the minister this. What is this legislation actually going to do to ensure that there is proper oversight and proper recourse in the event of abuse? Right now it is in the hands of the warden or the commissioner, and that is just not good enough.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-10-18 10:32 [p.22533]
Madam Speaker, I would make two or three observations in response to that. Point number one is that what we are proposing to put in place is fundamentally different from administrative segregation. It is not the same approach. The courts have said that if there is going to be administration segregation, it is unconstitutional unless there is better oversight provided, unless the conditions of confinement are improved and unless a number of other structural changes are made. We have taken those messages to heart. Rather than trying to repair administrative segregation, we have said that we would eliminate it entirely and replace it with a new approach. The same safeguards that were necessary in relation to administrative segregation would become quite different in nature, because our new system would be fundamentally different.
Second, as the hon. gentleman has observed, oversight and a number of reviews are provided for in the legislation. There would be a review by the warden after five days. There would be another review after 30 days and then a review by the commissioner herself on an ongoing basis. There are review mechanisms built into the legislation.
My third point is that as we go along with this debate in the House or in committee, if there are stronger ideas to be put forward for improving the review process, I would be most happy to hear what those ideas are.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-10-18 11:08 [p.22537]
Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-83, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in response to several court rulings and a debate over administrative segregation that has raged in Canada for years.
I want to thank organizations like the John Howard Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which are leading the charge against the overuse of administrative segregation. They won out in two slightly different court rulings.
Before I start, I want to give some background on those court rulings because they impact today's debate. The minister himself said that Bill C-83 is partly intended as a response to the concerns expressed by the court.
Let us start with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In its recent decision, the court explicitly said that there are not enough tools for ensuring, for example, that a lawyer is present during administrative segregation hearings. It also mentioned the inhumane conditions imposed by overuse of administrative segregation and the fact that a predetermined time limit on the use of administrative segregation had been ignored.
That ties in with part of the ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which states that more than 48 hours in administrative segregation caused serious, irreversible mental health problems. This also ties in with the UN's finding that more than two weeks in administrative segregation can be defined as a form of torture. These findings are so important.
The use of administrative segregation has been found to be abusive by the correctional investigator countless times and in countless reports that he has published over the past decade. We also see that an overrepresentation of certain vulnerable populations in administrative segregation shows that there is not only an abusive use, but an extremely problematic use that can exacerbate problems in some cases and hinder rehabilitation efforts of certain inmates in our correctional system.
For example, there is an overrepresentation of women with mental health problems. There is also an overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, since 42% of inmates in administrative segregation are indigenous peoples. It is mind-boggling to see just how overrepresented indigenous peoples are in administrative segregation. Let us not forget that they are already overrepresented the general prison population.
The decision brought forward by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, following efforts by, among others, the BC Civil Liberties Association, made it clear that the Correctional Service of Canada was acting in a way that was deemed to be unconstitutional under section 7.
What did the government do following a very clear prescription from that court about what could be done in order to remedy the situation? It appealed that decision, and that was shameful. It was interesting that in June 2017, certainly before that decision was made, the government had legislation before the House, which is still on the Order Paper, Bill C-56.
Bill C-56 sought to remedy, in part, the issue before us today, the issue of solitary confinement, by imposing a 21-day limit that would then be followed by a review. Despite any decision that might be made, any findings of abuse or overuse of solitary confinement, there was no independent mechanism to act on any findings of abuse. All that was required to prolong the 21-day period was for the warden, the head of the institution, to provide reasons in writing. To be honest, that is a pretty low threshold for continuing with a practice that has already been deemed, as I have said on several instances, to be problematic.
We are not the only ones saying this. This is something that has been going on for a long time. As I said in my question to the minister, Justice Arbour long ago called for judicial oversight of the use of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, if members prefer less Orwellian language for what this practice actually is. That followed a commission on certain events in the women's prison in Kingston. That recommendation has so far gone unanswered, not to mention the many recommendations that followed from the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the horrible situation with Ashley Smith.
This leads me to another troubling statistic. Between 2011 and 2014, 14 inmates who found themselves in solitary confinement committed suicide. This is a public safety issue. Let us be clear. Using a tool that exacerbates mental health situations in corrections and diminishes the ability of corrections to rehabilitate those offenders will inevitably cause a public safety concern with respect to recidivism and other things.
That is why, when we look at the tools being used, understanding that corrections officers need tools to ensure safety within the institutions they manage, we also have to understand the danger that can be created by exacerbating existing issues and the importance of prioritizing rehabilitation.
I would like to read the testimony of some experts in order to demonstrate to what extent the bill before us is problematic.
I will read the press release issued yesterday by Senator Kim Pate, who was the then CEO of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Senator Pate said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Moreover, she adds:
Bill C-83 also maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making. Under the new legislation, all decision making regarding when and how long prisoners are to be segregated will be made by a CSC administrator without the review of any third party.
The last sentence in that paragraph goes to an earlier point I made:
This change represents another step away from Justice Louise Arbour's recommendation for judicial oversight of corrections following the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston.
I agree with Senator Pate.
It is quite disturbing that, in media articles and in his comments, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is trying to give the impression that the government is working to eliminate administrative segregation. That is just a sham.
Let us be clear. What the government is really trying to do is to make a few changes to the administrative segregation process in correctional institutions. In fact, all they are doing is calling it something else. It is disturbing, since the government is appealing a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court that clearly identifies the problems with administrative segregation.
In a media scrum after the bill was introduced earlier this week, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness implied that what they are calling it now is no longer administrative segregation. They appear to believe that by changing what they call it, they can avoid their obligations with respect to administrative segregation imposed by the Supreme Court and listed by the United Nations.
The senator is not the only one to say so, and I would also like to share with the House the opinion of a correctional investigator.
The correctional investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, shares the same assessment as Senator Pate, and that I have made, of the proposed legislation. Dr. Zinger told iPolitics:
We may end up with a regime that touches more people and that is very restrictive.... This is a widening of the net of those restrictive environments. There’s no procedural safeguard.
Two things in this passage are extremely important. Not only will administrative segregation continue under another name, but they are going to be casting a wider net. This will drag in more inmates, who may also belong to vulnerable groups that are already overrepresented in administrative segregation.
There is no procedure in place for reviewing or appealing decisions to place inmates in administrative segregation. The lack of third-party review and an appeal mechanism is extremely disturbing.
When I asked the minister the question, he said that it was not important and that there were already mechanisms in place, including multiple reviews by the commissioner and a review by the institution’s warden.
That is simply not enough. It has been clearly found and established in correctional investigators’ reports, court decisions and United Nations resolutions that there has been abusive use of administrative segregation. According to the experts and in my own opinion, it is not enough to simply rely on wardens’ and the commissioner’s decisions. Of course, these individuals have a certain expertise. They are responsible for managing their institutions, and we respect that.
However, once it has been determined that there has been abuse, there must be a recourse mechanism for putting a stop to that abuse.
That is the problem with some of the measures concerning the new powers that would be given to recognized health care professionals. On the surface, and in a somewhat substantive way, this is a positive thing. However, there are two key issues with what health care professionals could do under Bill C-83.
The first is how we define the health issues on which those health care professionals could act. Experts are already saying that there is a concern that some health care issues that may be identified as not essential by a warden or an administrator in a corrections institute would go without the proper treatment and that the arbitrary way in which such a determination could be made is obviously cause for concern.
The other piece is that even if a determination was made by a registered health care professional, or someone that person had delegated, offenders, inmates, who found themselves in solitary confinement, or this new SIU in Bill C-83, and then for a variety of physical and mental health reasons should no longer be in such a situation, would have no recourse. Those findings would be presented to the administrator, and consequently, under certain articles of the bill, would go to the commissioner. However, the reality is that as long as there was no proper oversight, third party or judicial, as has been recommended by folks like Senator Kim Pate, Justice Louise Arbour and Dr. Ivan Zinger, our corrections investigator, the proper protections would not be in place.
I am very concerned.
I would like to return to my Conservative colleague’s speech. Some Canadians listening today are probably asking a very simple question: why should we want to make life easier for certain inmates? How does that help ensure public safety?
Certain points are extremely important, and I mentioned some of them in my speech. To ensure public safety, we need disciplinary measures guaranteeing that correctional officers can properly manage their institutions.
We also need to make sure that the people with problems and, in some cases, serious mental health issues, will not get worse and that, on the contrary, they will receive adequate and appropriate treatment.
We want to prevent recidivism in the case of certain inmates who will be granted parole. We also want to ensure the protection of correctional officers inside the institutions. Providing proper treatment for individuals with serious mental health problems is extremely important.
The concerns in this area expressed by the union representing correctional officers are extremely important. The hon. member who spoke just before me alluded to this in her speech.
I would like to take the time to address some of their concerns. Resources are the main issue. In its statement on Bill C-83 today or yesterday, the union clearly identified this problem, which remains one of its top concerns.
That is a recurring theme with regard to what is required for corrections officers to be able to do their jobs. When we look at the approach taken by the previous government, in 2011-12 alone the legislation adopted by the Conservative government represented an increase in cost of around $250 million for Correctional Service Canada, which was followed by the need to cut nearly $300 million in operating costs from 2012 to 2015, followed by the closure of two penitentiaries, Leclerc Institution and the Kingston Penitentiary. That is a circle that cannot possibly be squared when it comes to ensuring public safety and ensuring that corrections officers have the ability to adequately do their jobs: ensuring safety and security within those institutions and ensuring that the correctional program that has been assigned to a specific offender can be followed through on.
Of course, the problem is extremely worrying to the entire population, but let us be clear. What we want above all from the correctional system is, on the one hand, the assurance of public safety; on the other hand, by applying the disciplinary and punitive measures that exist in the justice system and are essential to rehabilitation, we want to achieve the objectives of treating mental health issues, as well as ensuring public safety, when it comes to inmates who could reintegrate into society and their respective communities.
I would like to get back to Bill C-83. It is all a sham, as I said before, to oversell what is actually a minor change.
Right now, we are told that 22 hours is the threshold for placing someone in administrative segregation. The government is talking about a major change in the number of hours prisoners can spend outside their cells. In fact, relative to current legislation, this change amounts to two hours.
As the executive director of the John Howard Society said in an interview this week, most of the time, these hours are granted at 5:00 a.m. when it is 40 degrees below zero outside. Understandably, the inmate will refuse to come out. Under this bill, such refusal will have consequences.
To conclude, the smokescreen the government has put up to say that it is addressing the concerns of the court, of the United Nations and of the correctional investigator just is not enough. The reality is that we are proceeding with the current regime under a different name. That is not enough to ensure public safety and that corrections officers are attaining the objectives imposed on them by the law but also by constitutional obligations.
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