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View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2018-11-02 12:44 [p.23212]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the member's motion regarding Bill C-83, which the House has already voted on and passed at second reading.
The hon. member for Durham just mentioned that sometimes politics gets done in this place, and I would argue that the only thing being done by the Conservative Party right now is playing politics.
I cannot imagine what the family of Tori Stafford has gone through or any family that has lost a child in this manner. My heart goes out to all families who have lost children to crime.
I will start by discussing Bill C-83 and some concerns that have been raised about the working conditions of those working in corrections. It is challenging work. From guards to parole officers, program staff to medical professionals, corrections employees work hard, around the clock and in challenging environments to keep our institutions safe and in support of effective rehabilitation, which ultimately protects Canadian communities. They represent a professional workforce of nearly 18,000 employees, all engaged in the success of the corrections system and the fulfilment of Correctional Service Canada's mandate. That is complemented by some 6,000 volunteers in institutions and communities, not to mention elders, chaplains and the many other unsung heroes working in corrections. I want to assure all of those individuals that as we study Bill C-83 at committee, their voices will be heard and we will be listening to them.
Regarding the transfer referred to in this motion, when it came to the attention of the Minister of Public Safety, he asked the commissioner of corrections to review the transfer decision and the long-standing policies in place, which existed prior to our becoming government, that led to the decision, to ensure that they remain appropriate or to recommend if they need updating. As the Minister of Public Safety indicated in the House, he received the report from the commissioner of corrections late yesterday, a report that came with several policy options for him to consider. The minister is studying the report carefully and has said that if there are any changes that need to be made to these long-standing policies, they will be made in the near future.
In the meantime, the public safety committee is expected to begin its study of Bill C-83 next week. This transformational piece of legislation will eliminate segregation in Canadian corrections facilities, but is unrelated to the issue of this particular transfer. Through Bill C-83, the government is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring that we not only have the tools to make guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, but also create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.
Virtually everyone in federal custody is eventually going to be released. It is in the best interests of public safety to ensure that when offenders are released, they are well prepared to participate meaningfully in society and that they are unlikely to reoffend. That is why we are strengthening the federal corrections system and aligning it with the latest evidence and best practices so that offenders are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities.
Bill C-83 would replace the long-standing practice of using segregation and replace it with the use of structured intervention units, or SIUs. This is a bold new approach to federal corrections. An offender may be placed in an SIU when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they pose a risk to the safety of any person, including themselves, or the security of the institution. It will protect the safety of staff and those in their custody by allowing offenders to be separated as required, while ensuring that those offenders receive effective rehabilitative programming, as well as interventions and mental health support. These things are not in place right now but we would put them in place with Bill C-83.
Currently, placement in segregation basically suspends all interventions and programming for an offender. The offender is essentially kept isolated from everyone. In a structured intervention unit, on the other hand, the offender will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell and a minimum of two hours of meaningful interactions with other people, including staff, volunteers, visitors, elders, chaplains and other compatible inmates. They will have access to structured interventions to address the underlying behaviour that led to their placement in the SIU. These will include programs and mental health care tailored to their needs. It is a system that will allow for the protection of inmates, staff and the institution while ensuring that the time an inmate spends there does not interrupt his or her rehabilitative programming. Make no mistake, rehabilitative programming is essential to ensure that when the person is released from corrections, they will be able to live a life free of crime.
We will ensure that the correctional service has the resources it needs to ensure the safe and secure management of offenders within the SIU while delivering all of the important programming and allowing for visitations.
In addition, the new system will be subject to a robust internal review process. By the fifth working day after movement to an SIU, the warden will determine if the inmate should remain there, taking into account factors such as the inmate's correctional plan and medical condition. If the inmate remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will happen after 30 days by the warden and every 30 days thereafter by the commissioner of corrections.
Reviews can be triggered by a medical professional at any time, and will be strengthened by the fact that Bill C-83 also enshrines in law for the first time the principle that health care professionals within the corrections system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it would create a system of patient advocates who will help ensure that people get the medical treatment they need.
Bill C-83 would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. These amendments are based on the 1999 Gladue case and reflect what the Supreme Court has found to be the constitutional right of an indigenous offender.
The bill would also improve support for victims. Currently, victims may attend a parole hearing of the perpetrator of the crime. Alternatively, victims can request audio recordings of the parole hearing if they are unable to attend. Unfortunately, due to a glitch in the existing act, if a victim attends in person, he or she is not able to receive an audio recording. We have heard from victims that parole hearings can be such an emotional time that afterward the victim often cannot remember the full details of what transpired. Bill C-83 would ensure that even if the victim attends in person, he or she will be able to get a copy of the recording.
The legislation would also allow CSC to use body scanners for the first time. These scanners are a less invasive way of searching inmates and visitors to a penitentiary while ensuring that correctional staff have the tools they need to detect and prevent contraband.
During Stephen Harper's time in office there were many inmates in healing lodges who had committed very serious crimes. In fact, dozens were convicted of murder and at least 14 were convicted in cases in which the victims were children. They were sent to healing lodges under the Harper government because, apparently, the Harper government understood that healing lodges were in the interest of rehabilitation and public safety. I would like to read a quote from the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, who said, “Healing lodges developed in collaboration with aboriginal communities provide supportive healing and reintegration environments.”
In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, to uphold public safety and to rehabilitate those in their care. We do not have a vigilante system in Canada. We do not allow public opinion or political rhetoric to determine the penalties dealt to individual offenders. Yet the opposition has been playing political games with this case and our entire justice system during the past weeks.
Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison. There is no doubt that she remains in prison. The facts of the case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Services Canada since sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison and continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.
Neither the Minister of Public Safety nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision on where that individual offender should be serving her sentence. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible for the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections systems rely on political rhetoric and public opinion in their decision-making processes.
Recently, we had the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times, just as the Minister of Public Safety has done here as well, that she was asked to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the long-standing policies regarding transfers in general. As I mentioned earlier, the Minister of Public Safety received the commissioner's report late yesterday and is in the process of reviewing it.
Both of committees that I sit on, the status of women and public safety committees, tabled reports in June on the corrections system and, in particular, on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety committee's report was unanimous in calling for additional funding for healing lodges. Members from all parties heard from witnesses and agreed that healing lodges were doing excellent work and should be expanded and supported. The Conservative members of the committee agreed with us that they play an integral role in our corrections system. The status of women committee also recommended additional funding for healing lodges and heard extensive testimony on their benefits.
I wonder how many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium-security institute or healing lodge. I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look more like what they see on television and in movies. They might be surprised to see what a medium-security institute like Grand Valley actually looks like.
Let me be clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it were called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be debating this issue, nor having the motion before us today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens. Prisoners must follow the rules if they want to stay there.
A healing lodge is different from what Canadians might expect a prison to look like, but these institutions are also very different in their outcomes for prisoners, and in turn, better for Canadians and public safety in the long run. In fact, I would argue that is why the Harper Conservatives sent individuals who had been convicted of murder to healing lodges, because they recognized the benefits for offenders when they spend time in these institutions.
Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years of experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study, and stated:
It's not a get-out-of-jail-free [card].... We have the same kind of supervision and restrictions they have in a prison. Only we're doing it in a healing way.... they have to accept responsibility for their offences, for their victims, and they have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.
Our government knows that a corrections system focused on accountability rather than simple retribution is better for corrections outcomes and, therefore, better for the public safety of all Canadians. We know that taking a rehabilitative approach is the best way to protect the public safety of Canadians. I think Canadians would agree that when people leave prison, we do not want them to commit a violent crime. It is not in the interests of public safety.
As we know, regardless of the length of their sentence, the vast majority of those incarcerated in our system will be released from prison at some point. They may very well move into our neighbourhoods. What kind of person do we want released from prison at the end of his or her sentence living next door to us? I feel strongly that, regardless of our feelings, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.
I mentioned the fact that the previous government sent individuals who had committed murder and individuals who had committed crimes against children to healing lodges.
I would argue that is the problem with the Conservative Party today. It has no moral centre. It has no principles around which to build policies. Conservatives simply swing from one issue to the next, with no sense of cohesion or principles to guide them. Almost every issue or policy that the Conservatives supported in government is one that they have a knee-jerk reaction to while in opposition.
It is the reason the member for Beauce has left the Conservative Party and founded a new Conservative movement. He says that today's Conservative Party of Canada has become “morally corrupt”, and that Canadians need a new coherent Conservative—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:30 [p.22713]
Mr. Speaker, I rise to continue discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. When I last spoke on Friday, I referred to the fact that the government's justification for rushing the bill forward is that the courts made them do it, that the courts made them ban both segregation for administrative and disciplinary purposes in all circumstances. The problem with that justification is that it is simply not so.
Neither the British Columbia Supreme Court decision nor the Ontario Superior Court decision provide for that. Indeed, in the case of the Ontario Superior Court decision, the primary basis of that decision related to the independence of the review upon the determination made by the institutional head to put an inmate into segregation. The Ontario court determined that the lack of an independent review mechanism contravened fundamental justice under section 7 of the charter. That was the basis of the Ontario decision.
I need not remind the government that aside from these two court decisions, neither the Mandela rules nor the Arbour commission of 1996 called for the elimination of segregation in all circumstances. It is simply the government doing so with this rushed legislation without real, meaningful consultation with the men and women who work in correctional institutions, the most dangerous, difficult and stressful workplace environments. It is really quite unfortunate, but what is worse is that the changes the government is proposing to make will require a lot more resources to handle inmates.
Each time an inmate is removed from their cell to have some time out of it and away from segregation, that requires two guards to accompany them. What the government is proposing is to extend that to four hours. For this to work, it is going to require more resources, and so where are the resources for this from the government? They are nowhere to be found.
Instead of providing our correctional officers with the tools they need to keep our correctional facilities safe, what is the government proposing? It is proposing an 8.8% reduction in Correctional Services Canada's budget. That is what the Liberals are doing. While they are putting a greater burden on correctional officers, taking away vital tools that correctional officers need to keep institutions safe, the government is cutting back at the same time. It speaks to the misplaced priorities of the government and the fact that once again it just cannot get it right.
View Cathy McLeod Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Speaker, the government has insisted that it has to rush this bill because of court imperatives and in response to a court decision. My colleague has clearly articulated how that is not accurate. Could he share with us what the courts actually said Liberals had to do and how this bill does not align with what is supposed to happen as we move forward?
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 11:39 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, I would reiterate that both the British Columbia and Ontario decisions made no such determination of banning segregation in all circumstances, as Bill C-83 provides for. In the Ontario court decision, the heart of the decision related to the independent review process. As opposed to fixing the independent review process, the government instead has decided to eliminate a tool that is necessary to keep our institutions safe.
On the issue of whether segregation violated section 12 of the charter or targeted inmates with mental illness disproportionately, so on and so forth, the court ruled against all of those arguments against segregation.
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Dan Vandal Profile
2018-10-23 11:40 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise on behalf of the citizens I represent in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.
I am very pleased to rise in the House to support the government's legislation, Bill C-83, which revolutionizes our correctional services.
As the Minister of Public Safety said, the government is recognizing two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet. Second, it recognizes that the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions.
Safety is indeed at the heart of this legislation. We know that some inmates are simply too dangerous or too destructive to be managed within the mainstream inmate population. Our correctional officials must therefore have a way to separate them from fellow inmates.
The current practice is to place those inmates into segregation or, as our American friends call it, solitary confinement. However, two court rulings have found that practice unconstitutional. Those rulings are being appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but the facts remain that they are scheduled to take effect in the coming months.
As a Parliament, we have a responsibility to ensure that the correctional service has the legal authorities it needs to keep its staff, as well as the people in their custody, safe in a way that adheres to our Constitution. We can do that by adopting this bill, which proposes to eliminate segregation from federal institutions and replace it with a safe but fundamentally different approach.
Under Bill C-83, structured intervention units, SIUs, would be created at institutions across the country. These units would allow offenders to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required, but they would also preserve offenders' access to rehabilitation programming, interventions and mental health care.
Inmates in an SIU would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to address their specific risks, as well as their specific needs. They would be outside their cell for at least four hours a day, which is double the number of hours under the current system. Four hours is an absolute minimum. I need to stress that it is a minimum. It could be more.
The inmates would also get at least two hours of meaningful human interaction with other people each day, including staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains, visitors and other compatible inmates. This is something that hardly exists under the current system. A registered health care professional would visit them at least once a day.
In other words, this bill introduces a new and more effective approach to managing the most challenging cases in our federal correctional system. It would promote not only the safety of correctional institutions, but also the safety of Canadian communities all across our country.
I would remind members that nearly all federal inmates will one day finish serving their sentence and be released. Accordingly, providing them with the opportunity to continue their treatment and rehabilitative work will increase their chances of successfully reintegrating the general prison population and, eventually, society.
Reducing the risk of recidivism will better protect Canadians and all communities, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns.
Other important measures in this bill complement the proposed creation of SIUs. For example, the bill would enshrine in law the correctional services obligations to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions related to indigenous offenders. This flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999. It is something that has been part of correctional policy for many years, but we are now giving this principle the full force of law.
This is part of achieving the mandate commitments the Prime Minister gave the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety to address gaps in service to indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system. The two ministers have likewise been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.
As I noted earlier, inmates with an SIU would receive daily visits from a health care professional. More than that, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would require the correctional service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working in correctional facilities.
The proposed legislation would also allow for patient advocacy services to help people in federal custody understand their health care rights and to ensure they receive the medical care they need. This was recommended by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
There is also an important measure in this bill to better support victims of crime. Currently, victims are entitled to receive audio recordings of parole hearings but only if they do not attend. If they show up, they are not allowed to receive a recording. That does not make sense. Victims advocacy groups have said that attending a hearing is sometimes so emotionally difficult that victims simply cannot always remember what was said, which is entirely understandable. Under Bill C-83, victims would have the right to a recording of a hearing, whether they were present or not. They would then be able to listen to it again, later on in a more comfortable setting whenever it is convenient for them.
The first priority of any government should be protecting its citizens. When someone breaks the law, there are consequences. In the interest of public safety, we need to have a correctional system capable of addressing the factors that lead to criminal activity, so that offenders become less likely to reoffend and create more victims.
A proper, effective correctional system holds offenders to account for the wrongs they have done, but it also fosters an environment that promotes rehabilitation. Canada's correctional system already does an excellent job of providing rehabilitation and reintegration support for inmates under very challenging circumstances. However, Bill C-83 would strengthen that system, and public safety would be improved with safer institutions for staff and inmates, fewer repeat offenders, and fewer victims in the long run.
For all of these reasons, I fully support this important and transformative piece of proposed legislation, and I invite all honourable members to do the same.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2018-10-23 11:54 [p.22715]
Mr. Speaker, while Bill C-83 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in half a dozen ways, the centrepiece of the legislation is really ending the use of segregation in our penitentiaries and the launching of what would be called “structured intervention units”, or SIUs.
I will get into the details of what SIUs are in a bit, but first I recognize that many stakeholder groups have spent years advocating for a limit to the length of time in administrative segregation.
The correctional investigator has recommended a 30-day cap. The UN Mandela rules call for one at 15 days. We asked ourselves, though, if that did not just leave people without meaningful contact for 15 or 30 days. Did that not just keep people from their needed interventions and training for 15 or 30 days and from the mental health treatment that they might need?
Therefore, what if we were able to create a system where, when people need to be placed in a separate secure facility within the penitentiary, they could continue to have access to all those things? What if we could ensure the safety of inmates, correctional staff and the security of facilities without having to segregate inmates from all those important points of contact and their treatment regimes? What if there were zero days without meaningful human contact in our penitentiaries?
That is what is at the heart of Bill C-83. It is legislation that balances the need for security in our penitentiaries with the need to ensure that we end segregation and create a system that is better able to rehabilitate inmates.
Inside an SIU, inmates will have double the time outside of their cells compared to the current administrative segregation regime. However, it is not unsupervised, as was suggested previously by the member for Lethbridge.
Correctional Service will be provided with funding to staff up on guards to help ensure the safe and secure movement of the inmates inside the SIUs, whether that is to a classroom-type setting, or to attend part of their programming or to interact with another compatible inmate. In short, this is a complete revamping of Correctional Service in a way that will be better for staff, better for inmates and ultimately better for society.
The reason this is so important is that the vast majority of federal inmates will eventually be released into our communities. It is safer for our communities when those offenders with mental health issues have been treated and diagnosed properly. It is safer for our communities when they have successfully undergone Correctional Service rehabilitation programming and had the training they need to help find employment when they finish their sentence, so they can support themselves and are less likely to reoffend.
I have seen some commentary that while this legislation looks promising, there is some skepticism about its implementation. I can assure the House that we intend to ensure the implementation fulfills the promise of the legislation, with all the resources required to make this work. I even asked the minister earlier in the debate about that fact.
Let us be clear that the status quo may not be an option any longer. Courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have struck down large portions of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act that legally allow for an inmate to be placed in administrative segregation. While both of those cases are being appealed, one by the appellant and one by the government, come December and January, administrative segregation may not exist as an option in those provinces. Without a system to replace it, that will be a dangerous situation for Correctional Service staff and it will also be dangerous for offenders. As well, effective rehabilitation cannot happen in a dangerous environment, so it will be dangerous for all of us.
Now let me turn to some of the other parts of Bill C-83. We have heard from victims that Parole Board hearings are often such a highly emotional blur that once they are finished, they are often unable to remember many of the important details of what went on. The proposed legislation will allow victims who have attended a Parole Board hearing to receive an audio copy of the hearing. Currently, registered victims who are unable to attend can request and receive such a copy. However, if the individual was there in person, the legislation does not allow for that. That simply is not right, which is why Bill C-83 would amend the law to ensure that all registered victims, whether they attend a parole hearing or not, would be able to receive that audio copy.
The proposed bill will also allow for Correctional Service to acquire and use body scanners on those entering the prisons. From drugs to cellphones, the phenomenon of contraband inside prison systems is a problem worldwide. New technologies now allow for better and easier searches of those entering correctional facilities, which are less invasive than traditional methods such as strip searches.
I am sure we all remember the tragic death of Ashley Smith who took her own life while under suicide watch in 2007. Her death, and the subsequent coroner's inquest, was a wake-up call that tremendous improvements were needed in our women's correctional facilities. Bill C-83 would deliver on one of the most important recommendations from that inquest.
The legislation would require Correctional Service to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities. It would also create a statutory obligation for Correctional Service to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence, a founding principle of the medical profession.
The bill would also enshrine in law the principles of the landmark 1999 Gladue Supreme Court decision that would ensure, from intake, that indigenous offenders' programming and treatment incorporates the systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders.
Ultimately, all of this will advance the cause of public safety in all of our communities.
When our corrections system works effectively to rehabilitate offenders within a secure custodial environment, we all benefit.
I am proud of Bill C-83, and I encourage all members to vote in support of it.
Since I have a few more moments left, I will talk a bit about Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador's primary penitentiary is not a federal facility, so it will not be governed under the rules of the proposed legislation. However, we can see from media reports and in the damning history of Her Majesty's Royal Penitentiary in St. John's what can happen in penitentiaries where the right supports and services are not put in place to protect both inmates and the people who work in the prisons.
PTSD is a huge problem for people who work in the correctional system, as well as for people incarcerated in these facilities. We need to find a better way to manage inmates through their periods of trouble while they are incarcerated so they can continue to receive the supports they need.
Once the federal government's new higher standard can be met federally, that will put additional pressure on provinces, where people are serving two years or less, to have similar supports and standards in place, so the system is better able to manage not only the distress being caused to other inmates in the facility by the person who is going into the SIU, but also to provide additional funding and support for additional Correctional Service staff to maintain and manage the supervision of those inmates. That is key.
We have seen throughout our first three years in office that many of the proposed changes that were brought in by the previous government, whether it be Phoenix, or in IT transportation or in Correctional Service, that unless we fund the transition, unless we fund the additional requirements of legislation, we are doomed to fail.
The minister mentioned that $80 million would be available for additional mental health supports within prisons over the next two budgets. That is extremely important. Funding will be available for additional corrections staff and for the very body scanner technology that will help reduce, if not eliminate, the problem of contraband in our prisons, which is so pervasive.
We have heard a lot in the debate by opposition members today about their concern that we are not giving sufficient time to debate this topic. However, it seems to me that many of the points that have been circulating in the room today are starting to retread similar ground. We have not heard a lot of new arguments even in the short amount of debate that we have had.
It will be great to see the legislation go to committee, where any of the legitimate concerns that were raised by the opposition regarding sufficient feedback from stakeholder groups can be addressed and their comments can be incorporated. If there are constructive ways in which the legislation can be amended, committee is the best place to do it.
In light of the fact that December and January present real significant deadlines for ensuring there is a replacement in place to administrative segregation in our prisons, it is important that we get the legislation finalized and passed through the House and the Senate in order to avoid a type of Doomsday scenario that could arise without the ability to properly manage and maintain security in prisons in British Columbia and Ontario in the next year.
For all of these reasons, I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of sending the legislation to committee.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-23 12:08 [p.22718]
Mr. Speaker, we rise in the House today to debate Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This is a very serious matter that requires appropriate analysis and study. Above all, we must not move too quickly on this bill. Unfortunately, just a few moments ago, the government forced a vote that will minimize the time spent debating this bill. Canadians run the risk of being on the losing end.
The bill deals with what happens inside our penitentiaries. To put it bluntly, we want to know what happens in these segregation units that the inmates call “the hole”, where people are isolated from other inmates.
Let us co-operate and try to see the positive elements of the bill. We are delighted to see that one measure included in the bill is the body scanning of inmates, which is a very good thing.
Unfortunately, even though, in theory, nothing should enter Canadian detention centres or prisons without authorization, this is not always the case. The Canadians working in our detention centres or correctional institutions must have the necessary tools to keep themselves safe and to make life better within these institutions.
We think that body scanners are a good idea, but that is the only positive in this bill.
With Bill C-83, the government wants to change administrative segregation into structured intervention units.
I remind members that inmates in prison or, for example, at the Donnacona institution in the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, are sadly not society's finest. These are the most hardened criminals. They are murderers. I could list off all of the people in this prison, the crimes they committed and the reasons they were arrested and found guilty, but that would be infinitely sad. These people are serving their sentence in prison.
Everyone knows those inmates are not exactly nice guys. Severe disciplinary measures are sometimes called for. People with experience in corrections say that the administrative segregation unit serves not only to isolate criminals who may be a danger to other inmates, but also to protect individuals from other inmates. I will come back to that later.
The impression we get is that the government is in a hurry to take action. As the public safety critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, said, there is a disconnect in the government's approach.
A little while ago, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a very clear ruling with respect to administrative segregation. The court questioned the legality of indefinite administrative segregation as a severe detention measure.
The Liberal government decided to appeal the ruling. How interesting, as the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles astutely pointed out, that the government would appeal the ruling then turn around and introduce a bill having to do with none other than the matter raised by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.
Beyond these philosophical considerations, we are also concerned with the fact that the government has no plan to pay for these measures. We have no idea where the measures proposed in the bill are heading.
Stating the goal and backing it up with dollars to make those changes happen is pretty basic, but the government has done neither.
The proposed changes would allow people in administrative segregation to leave their cells for four hours a day to spend time with their fellow inmates.
I do not want to scare anyone, but the staff and unions of our detention centres are sounding the alarm about this proposal, which they do not think this is a good idea. Sadly, the government has not listened to them. One of them even said that this Liberal approach to administrative segregation could lead to bloodshed.
I will remind members of a certain cruel and persistent statistic: 100 assaults have occurred in our detention centres over the past 12 months. That is 100 too many, of course, because even one assault is one too many. As I was saying earlier, these are some of the most hardened criminals in the Canadian correctional system, and letting them out to spend four hours with their fellow inmates can create highly undesirable situations.
I want to mention that body scanning, which is one element of this bill that we agree with, is not a bad idea. However, we think it might be worth considering the possibility of extending it to include people visiting inmates at a detention centre.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-23 12:14 [p.22718]
Mr. Speaker, as we have said, allowing inmate body scanning and assessment is a decent idea, but it would not be a bad idea to also consider the possibility of putting visitors through the same process. If the visitors have nothing to hide, they should have no problem with it. Sometimes passengers at the airport have to go through a body scanner. They are randomly selected to be taken aside and assessed in order to completely rule out any issues. Everyone knows that it is not the most pleasant experience. It has happened to me several times. However, if the passenger has a clean conscience, it does not bother them. If a visitor is going into a detention centre and has a clean conscience, they should have no problem going through a body scanner.
Speaking of visits, my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles visited the Donnacona Institution with the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, since that is the riding in which the institution is located. I am very proud of the work of my colleagues, who get right into the thick of things and go where things are really happening. As my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles mentioned in his speech last week, he met a person who was in administrative segregation. My colleague's testimony reminded me that some people want to be placed in administrative segregation to avoid contact with other inmates. We do not know why, but it is easy to imagine the worst-case scenario. That is often the reality. Although administrative segregation may not seem like the best approach, when we stop and think about it, we see that it is sometimes required in order to protect inmates from each other. The Liberal approach does not take that into account.
In closing, I cannot help but notice that the spirit of this bill reflects the mindset guiding the Prime Minister, the Liberal mindset that we believe puts far too much focus on criminals and inmates, rather than putting victims first.
Is this not the government that dragged its feet for 10 months before appointing an ombudsman for victims of crime?
Should it come as any surprise that this same Prime Minister refused to use his authority in the sorry case of Terri-Lynne McClintic, who committed the heinous crime of murdering a child and is now in a healing lodge, when we believe she should be behind bars?
Was it not this Prime Minister, who, back in the good old days when he was leader of an opposition party, in 2013, told the CBC's Peter Mansbridge in response to the attack in Boston that we should look at the root causes? That is the Liberal mentality of the Prime Minister: think about the attackers, the criminals, the guilty parties instead of thinking of the victims first and foremost.
That is why we are not happy with this bill in its current form and we strongly condemn the time allocation that has been put on this bill.
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Kevin Lamoureux Profile
2018-10-23 12:17 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to highlight a couple of points in the legislation. First, my colleague referenced victims. One aspect of the legislation would allow victims to have audio tapes, whether they attend parole hearings or not. That is a change to support victims.
Second, the member across the way referenced body scans. In this legislation, body scans, which are a good idea, would be applicable to whoever correctional officers warranted had to be scanned. That would include individuals who might be visiting correctional facilities or correctional officers themselves. The Conservatives are providing misinformation on that point.
With regard to segregation, when the vast majority of people going into prisons will someday leave prison, programming is really important. Brian Mulroney even recognized that. Why would the Conservatives oppose any form of programming, whether it is for mental health or whatever it might be, for individuals who might be segregated, as referred to by the member opposite? Why would they oppose that?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-23 12:19 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, maybe I was not very clear when I spoke, or perhaps the member could not hear me because other members were having some fun.
To be clear, in the case of la fouille corporelle, Conservatives agree with the government. That is one of the few elements we support in the bill. What the government wants to do when people enter a jail is correct. It is not fun to have that kind of stuff, but we need that kind of intervention when people go into jails.
As far as rehabilitation is concerned, there are programs already in place. The hon. member for Winnipeg North mentioned a prime minister from the 1980s, the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney. The rehabilitation programs have been in place for decades to help inmates get back on the right track. We are not against the idea of getting back on track. However, those who committed crimes, who are in prison and who deserve to be in administrative segregation are meant to be there.
View Christine Moore Profile
NDP (QC)
View Christine Moore Profile
2018-10-23 12:20 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, as my colleague pointed out in his speech, administrative segregation is used for several reasons. Court rulings have found that the current practice violates prisoners' rights.
Does my colleague think the Liberals did a comprehensive analysis of the use of administrative segregation to determine under what circumstances that practice should be replaced?
What I am asking is whether every case and all possibilities were properly studied in order to find a solution tailored to each situation, or whether the Liberals simply modified the term and changed the rules slightly without taking into account the various circumstances in which administrative segregation is used, as this could justify a different approach, depending on the case.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
View Gérard Deltell Profile
2018-10-23 12:21 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her pertinent question.
As the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles pointed out in his speech last week, this bill reeks of improvisation. A court decision found that we need to be a little more moderate with regard to certain measures pertaining to administrative segregation. The government appealed that decision but, at the same time, introduced a bill that we see as ill-conceived and full of serious errors.
On top of that, the Conservatives think this bill is driven by the Prime Minister's Liberal way of thinking, which puts criminals ahead of victims.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-10-23 12:22 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-83. This bill would do a number of things. At its core, what it seeks to do is abolish the use of administrative segregation in Canada and replace it with structured intervention units. However, it would do more than that.
The bill would also make a serious change in the way we deal with the right of victims to obtain audio recordings of parole hearings. It would take certain steps to consider, in particular, the unique circumstances that pertain to indigenous inmates. It would include serious changes to the way we deal with patient care in the inmate population. As well, it would introduce certain changes to the use of body scanners in institutions run by the Correctional Service Canada.
This bill is ultimately about enhancing our justice system to make sure that our system holds guilty parties to account and that it respects the ability of victims to obtain information about offenders who may be released into society.
Importantly, it would also deal with certain measures that would help make our communities safer by ensuring that during a period of incarceration, individuals would have access to services that would actually help them reintegrate more effectively into society on the back end. This is not about being soft on crime. This is about being smart on crime to ensure that in the long term, Canadian communities are safer on the whole.
What have perhaps been the most controversial pieces in this legislation are the changes to administrative segregation in Canada contained within Bill C-83.
Administrative segregation, in common parlance, can be roughly equated to solitary confinement. Today, for a lot of good reasons, the good public servants who work on behalf of Correctional Service Canada want to maintain institutional safety. When they are dealing with particularly difficult inmates who might pose a threat of violence to either the staff who work at CSC or the inmate population, the practice has been to segregate them entirely from the prison population. They essentially confine them as individuals, separate from meaningful human contact and separate from different services.
While this may address the short-term problem of preventing harm to the prison population and to the staff who work at Correctional Service Canada, there is a greater social problem it also contributes to. The inmates who have been subjected to solitary confinement or administrative segregation are subjected to treatment that leaves them worse off and puts them in a position where they are more likely to reoffend upon their release into the community, which is not something we want. We aim to reduce recidivism to ensure that our communities are safer when inmates are inevitably released back into society.
We all know that there are certain incredibly heinous crimes that will result in people potentially being in the custody of Correctional Service Canada for their entire lives, but there are many circumstances, in fact the vast majority of circumstances, in which a person who commits a crime is eventually going to be released back into society. We have to make sure that we are not putting our communities in danger by denying services to those people who are incarcerated that would help them become whole and become functioning members of society upon their release.
Most members of this House would be familiar with the details of the Ashley Smith case. To me, it illustrated, tragically, the problems that exist within our current system. We have young people who may be suffering from certain mental illnesses who, to solve a short-term problem, are completely separated from meaningful human contact. They are separated from the population in which they live while incarcerated. The damage this can cause to a person who is living with mental illness can cause them to harm themselves, and potentially, in the long term, to harm others upon their release.
In light of this case and others, the need to take action is apparent. In fact, the need to take action is frankly not a choice. We have now had two cases, at least, that I am aware of, one in Ontario and one in British Columbia, that have indicated that the practice of administrative segregation, at least going beyond a certain period of time, is unconstitutional. It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, it is a responsibility of Parliament to enact a new regime that is in compliance with our charter. If we cannot respect the values that are enshrined in our charter, then we are not worth much in this House.
I would suggest that the measures implemented in Bill C-83 would strike a balance that would allow Correctional Service Canada to maintain order within an institution and maintain the safety of the prison population. Introducing structured intervention units would help ensure that the person who was causing a problem for the prison population and the staff at CSC could maintain some sort of meaningful human contact and be provided with the services that would help communities be safer in the long term. At the same time, these would maintain order within our institutions.
In particular, I want to point to the fact that inmates in the structured intervention units would have a minimum of four hours out of their cells daily, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff. This is not a lot of time, but it could make a difference to a person who had actually pulled away from society and had been denied meaningful human contact, particularly those in incarceration who were living with mental illness. It would allow them to become better off in the long term and would reduce the threat posed to society, which is what this bill is really all about.
Currently, there is a very limited amount of time a person who is subjected to solitary confinement is allowed out of a cell to have any kind of contact with anyone within the greater population. The harm that impacts the individual also has long-term consequences for our communities and needs to be addressed.
In light of the court cases I have mentioned previously, we have to take some kind of meaningful action to allow us to maintain order in our institutions and do better in protecting our communities.
This bill would not just deal with the issue of administrative segregation. In particular, we would make a change in the way victims were able to access information about parole hearings when they were threatened with the circumstance that an individual who had committed a crime against them was up for parole. Currently, if victims do not attend a parole hearing in person, they are not entitled to the recordings that are part and parcel of those hearings. Members can imagine the trauma victims might go through if they had to see in person the hearing for an individual who had committed a crime against them or a family member. To force them to go through that experience, when they may not be mentally prepared, seems like a step too far, in my opinion. I think the sensible thing to do, which is embedded in Bill C-83, is to allow recordings to be given to the victims of crime, whether or not their personal circumstances allow them to attend in person. I think this would be an important change.
Bill C-83 would also embed the principles from the Gladue decision in the legislation, which require the Crown to take into account the unique circumstances of an indigenous person's background when making decisions of this nature.
When it comes to health care, there is an important change built into Bill C-83 that would ensure that there were new patient advocates. They would have the opportunity to work with CSC to ensure that order could be maintained in institutions while they also, for inmates who had certain health care concerns, ensured that those concerns were met.
Again, this is not about doing favours for people who have committed crimes against other individuals or communities. This is about protecting Canadians in the long term by ensuring that our communities are made more secure. If we deny basic mental health care to people who are separated from society not only because they are in prison but because they are completely segregated and left on their own, the damage they may cause to our communities in the long term, upon release, when their sentences come to an end, is something incredibly important that we need to address.
The final element I would like to turn our attention to today is the use of body scanners. This is similar to the technology we pass through when we go to an airport to come to Ottawa every week to advocate on behalf of our constituents.
The introduction of contraband drugs, weapons and the like into prison communities can be a very serious problem. The use of body scanners, which I understand certain members on different sides of the aisles may actually support, would be an important step, because it would not be invasive but would still protect prison populations.
The suite of changes included in Bill C-83 are important ones. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the essential point that changes to the administrative segregation regime that exists in Canada today are coming with or without Parliament's action, because a court has deemed them unconstitutional. We need to take steps that not only protect the rights of the individuals who are incarcerated but respect the rights of victims, keep our communities safe, and in the long term, ensure that people who are released from prisons into our society do not cause greater harm to our communities than they already have.
View Michael Cooper Profile
CPC (AB)
View Michael Cooper Profile
2018-10-23 12:32 [p.22721]
Mr. Speaker, I thank the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment for his thoughtful speech, but I have to say that I disagree with where he is coming at.
If we listen to his speech and some of the other speeches across the way on the segregation system, we would be led to believe that inmates are left on their own with no access to mental health support and meaningful human contact. However, when I read from directive 709, inmates who are subject to administrative segregation receive a daily visit by a health care professional, a daily visit by the institutional head, a visit by a correctional manager once per shift, visits by legal counsel, access to elected inmate representatives, visits by family, telephone calls to families and friends, and appointments with health care professionals, including mental health care professionals. That hardly sounds like a lack of meaningful human contact.
It seems that the bill is not about that issue but really about taking away a tool that is only used as a last resort, and only when three grounds can be established: first, that an inmate or another person in that facility could be put at risk; second, where it is necessary to protect the integrity of an investigation; or third, when it is necessary to protect the inmate from themself.
Why would the government take away that important tool that can only be used as a last resort?
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-10-23 12:34 [p.22721]
Mr. Speaker, I think this is an important question. I expect that over the long term we would realize that the outcome we are seeking to achieve on this side is probably in accordance with what a lot of members of different parties might come to expect should be the case. The difference in position is not necessarily a difference in principle.
We need to empower Correctional Service Canada to maintain order within institutions, and this should only be used as a last resort. Although a person subject to administrative segregation might be eligible to access the elements of society the member listed, in many cases those individuals in solitary confinement are not receiving some of the access to people or the world at large that the member suggests might be the case. Under the new regime, they would be entitled to at least four hours outside of their cell daily, with two hours of meaningful human contact. This is based on evidence from medical professionals who suggest that real harm could befall a person there and cause them to be worse off upon their release.
If I could use a personal anecdote, I have been the victim of a violent crime. I was attacked in the street by a person wielding a piece of lumber who took my knee out. I could not walk for months as a result. What troubled me most greatly was that the individual was not incarcerated, was not given the mental health support he needed, despite the fact I knew he had a severe addiction problem. Within a matter of a few months later, he was incarcerated for harming someone else.
When somebody commits a wrong in our society, I would like to see them given the care they need to be well so that upon their re-integration, they do not repeat the offence and harm other individuals.
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