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Results: 1 - 18 of 18
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-19 22:18 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, for my hon. friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety,, I recognize that the bill before us would make improvements in the situation of solitary confinement. I am particularly grateful to her colleague, the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington, for working so collaboratively on the committee and helping some of my amendments get through.
However, I am very troubled by the rejection of some of the Senate amendments. I am sure the parliamentary secretary is aware of the letter from Senator Pate to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, which was shared with many members. It spoke to something that is quite compelling, which is unusual when legislation goes through this place. We already have a foreshadowing from the Ontario Court of Appeal that the legislation will not be found to be constitutional.
The citation is from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, where the Ontario Court of Appeal comments in relation to the five-day review. The key sentence reads, “Nothing more has been done to remedy the breach”, and this is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the interim, “and it remains unclear how Bill C-83 will remedy it if enacted.”
The Senate amendments and the ones that the hon. parliamentary secretary referenced must go through. We can get the bill faster by accepting these amendments from the Senate. The administrative objections that I heard from the parliamentary secretary do not measure up to the imperative of ensuring the bill is constitutional.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-02-26 13:24 [p.25791]
Mr. Speaker, I had a number of amendments accepted in this process, and I found the clause-by-clause process of Bill C-83 to be quite collaborative.
I was briefly out of the chamber. Therefore, I have to apologize if this point has come up already.
Earlier today one of my hon. friends referred to people in segregation units or solitary confinement as the worst of the worst. I think of the coroner's report with respect to what happened to Ashley Smith. She was a young woman with mental health issues who was moved 17 times in the period before she was found in her cell. She had committed suicide, but the correctional guards were watching as she died. The coroner's report was very clear.
This bill attempts to deal with some of that. Edward Snowshoe is another example of somebody who died in solitary confinement. These are not the worst of the worst; rather, “There but for fortune may go you or I.” Ashley Smith's mother was desperate to help her. However, the correctional authorities and the system kept a mother away from a girl who was suffering and ultimately killed herself. Therefore, let us not judge the people who get stuck in solitary confinement, but rather recognize it for what it is: a form of torture, which we must not use.
This bill does not go far enough. I will vote for it and hope it gets improved again in the Senate.
I wanted to ask my hon. colleague to talk about the fact that some of the people in solitary confinement are there because of mental health and addiction issues. Could he explain how it compounds the torture when they are kept away from people who can have good, healthy contact with them?
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-02-26 15:35 [p.25811]
Madam Speaker, there is a large philosophical gap between those who see our prisons as correctional facilities, with the hope that people will re-enter the population, and the notion of “tough on crime” we heard through the Harper years.
Because my friend from Battle River—Crowfoot is, in fact, a friend, I will ask him this. The cuts that occurred in the Harper years included eliminating the chaplaincy program in our prisons. They also included eliminating the farm program, prison farms, so that people who had been convicted of crimes could get outdoors and do a good day's work, as I know my hon. colleague does, where he lives in the Prairies, on his farm.
Do we not all in this place owe it to people who find themselves incarcerated to try to get them on a path to being able to take up a job in society again? Can we not stop saying that if they are in prison, they must be in the worst possible conditions, and find those conditions that actually lead to their being able to play a useful role in society? Why cancel the chaplaincy program? Why get rid of prison farms?
View Monique Pauzé Profile
BQ (QC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-12-07 10:09 [p.24553]
Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, I am very torn. I would say that normally, I would want to accept what the hon. parliamentary secretary said. I have an amendment at report stage. I am prepared to speak to it. However, I do not think the rules of this House would allow us to proceed with an imperfect amendment placed before us at report stage. I do not think we can say that we will proceed and hope it all turns out all right, as much as I would like to. I think it would violate our rules to proceed in such a fashion.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-12-07 10:20 [p.24555]
Madam Speaker, I have looked carefully at this amendment from the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington. As we debate this legitimate procedural point, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is very important that the substance of this matter not be overlooked. This is an important amendment that should be included at report stage.
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
BQ (QC)
View Gabriel Ste-Marie Profile
2018-12-07 10:24 [p.24556]
Madam Speaker, I also believe that if you seek it, you will find unanimous consent of the House.
If we start working before you come back with your ruling, that means we will have to rely on the English version.
To the Bloc Québécois, that would be completely unacceptable. It would mean that the House is relegating French to second place, which would be an intolerable outrage.
You are the guarantor of our rights. Personally, as a Bloc Québécois member and a Quebecker, I will never agree to let the English version take precedence, even temporarily.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-11-02 13:09 [p.23216]
Madam Speaker, to my friend for Oakville North—Burlington, I think it is really important to distinguish between how individuals in this place act and their own moral compass, and the lack of morality that is found in every group of spin doctors to any political party in this country, where the goal is always to try to find divisions and try to score points.
In the 41st Parliament, when we debated mandatory minimums, I was always making the point to government members that there was absolutely no single empirical study that justified mandatory minimums. The response was always that it was a shame that member cares more about criminals than innocent victims. That is a narrative designed for fundraising and it has less to do with a lack of a moral compass than with the reality of too much power in the hands of political parties in this chamber, where we should be about our constituents and not about the next election.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 10:34 [p.22709]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister will know that there are no contradictions in this corner. I opposed the anti-democratic use of time allocation time and time again in the 41st Parliament, and I am deeply distressed to see that it is the go-to place for the current government.
It restricts the ability to fully debate an important piece of proposed legislation before the committee stage. Members of Parliament in the same situation I am in have no access to those committees. Therefore, full debate at second reading before going to committee is really an important aspect of parliamentary democracy.
It grieves me that the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is carrying the can for the Minister of Public Safety, who is not at this point arguing this offensive use of time allocation yet again before we get to fully debate the bill. I would urge my hon. friend, and the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is indeed a friend, to reconsider and let this bill have full debate.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 13:47 [p.22730]
Mr. Speaker, it is very encouraging to hear a straightforward answer, a rare thing in this place, and that the answer is “yes”.
I will be presenting amendments. I certainly want to be listening carefully to the evidence before committee because we have already heard some very strong concerns from people who have given their lives in dedication to this field.
I have mentioned, for instance, Senator Kim Pate, who used to run the Elizabeth Fry Society in Canada before becoming a senator. I will just quote what she said in her statement, “Changing the Name of the Unit Is Not Enough”. She suggests that this new structured intervention unit appears to be “rebranding” of what is currently done, but with fewer limitations on how frequently it can be used.
I would like to hope that that is not the government's intent. Therefore, I will ask my friend again if, in openness to amendments, we can be absolutely certain that this ends the kinds of torturous ordeals that particularly discriminate against racialized, marginalized and indigenous women in prison.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:18 [p.22746]
Mr. Speaker, it is ironic to take the floor after that ruling, but I am pleased that we can pursue that other matter through other channels.
I am here now to address Bill C-83. I appreciate that the Liberal Party gave me a time slot, in recognition of the fact that there has been an allocation of time on debate and I otherwise might not have been able to speak to this at all. I wish to go on record, and I am not feeling any sense of cognitive dissonance in doing this, to thank the government party for allowing me to speak for 10 minutes, and I also wish that the government party had not decided to use time allocation on Bill C-83.
In any case, this bill comes to us in a context I want to address first, which is a political context and a political climate that has been created by recent debates in this place, in which, I regret to say, I felt demeaned. I felt displaced, demeaned and diminished by a tactic of the official opposition to turn the House of Commons into sort of a secondary chamber for the review of punishments meted out through the proper system, the courts of law. We have taken days and had people's names and the horrors of gruesome, cruel murders repeated on the floor of this place.
There is clearly some thought in some quarters here that it is a good campaign tactic to talk about punishment a lot and to regret when our correctional system responds in ways that might appear to some as lenient. However, we are a country built on the rule of law. We recognize that our prison system is not merely for punishment. We have to have this discussion, I think, fairly constantly. What is the point of our correctional system? What is the point of our prison system?
As many MPs have said on the floor of this place today in response to Bill C-83, many of the people in our prison system are going to re-enter society. We would like them to re-enter society with the life skills they will need to be contributing members of society, having paid, in that terminology, their debt to society.
It is in that context, where on one end of the political extreme we are told that we have become too lenient towards prisoners, that we turn our attention to an appalling situation, where rights have been infringed and lives have been lost through the failure of the prison system to handle certain kinds of prisoners, those who find themselves in likely incarceration in solitary confinement.
Of course, this bill comes to us in the context of one of the most egregious of those examples, again, as has been mentioned in this place today, the case of Ashley Smith. I think we forget sometimes how horrific her death was, how hard her life was, how hard her mother tried to help her and how the prison system made her survival impossible.
The coroner's inquest into Ashley Smith's death found that although she died from self-inflicted choking, while the guards watched, the context and the circumstances of her death amounted to a homicide. That coroner provided 104 recommendations.
We also know of the cases of Adam Capay, a young indigenous man who spent 1,600 days in solitary confinement; or Richard Wolfe, who did not actually die in solitary but collapsed in a prison exercise yard, at 40 years old, having spent 640 days in solitary confinement; or another indigenous man whose case comes to mind, Eddie Snowshoe, who spent 162 days in solitary confinement before hanging himself.
We can note from those cases that it is quite often those with mental health issues, those who are marginalized, those who are racialized and particularly those who are indigenous who end up in solitary confinement. Therefore, it is certainly welcome that the Minister of Public Safety has brought to this place a bill that promises to end this ongoing stain on the reputation of Canada as a civilized country. Solitary confinement for those lengths of times has been found internationally to constitute torture, and we are a people who are convinced that we do not practise torture.
Therefore, I am sad to share my disappointment with this bill and my concern that we do not have it right yet.
Coralee Cusack-Smith, mother of Ashley Smith, speaking for her family on Bill C-83, said “it's a sham and a travesty that it's done in Ashley's name. It's just a different name for segregation. It's not ending segregation. Not ending segregation for anyone with mental health issues. It's just a new name.”
It seems that the fact it is merely a rebranding is reflected in a statement by the hon. Senator Kim Pate who, having spent time before entering the other place to dedicating her life to the fair treatment of women prisoners, in particular through the Elizabeth Fry Society, described Bill C-83 as disappointing and even as weakening the limitations on how often a segregated prisoner can experience solitary confinement. We have this idea that structured intervention units will be entirely different from solitary confinement. I hope they will be. I have to say that it is one place where I would like to emphasize the positive in this place.
I was a member of Parliament, at the same desk, in the same chair, for an opposition party through the 41st Parliament. I could add up on the fingers of one hand the number of times I saw a single amendment made to a government bill. In a four-year term of a majority government under Stephen Harper, bills were rammed through from start to finish without a single amendment. Therefore, I will credit the current government and the administration of the current Prime Minister with being more open to amendments. However, it is a mixed bag. Some bills I would have been so happy to support if they only had been amended enough to make them acceptable. Bill C-69, the environmental assessment omnibus bill, is in that category. It is a tragedy that the Liberals did not get that one right. It will be a tragedy if we collectively in the House do not get it right on this one.
We have an obligation as a civilized society to re-examine what we mean by “incarceration” and “corrections” in the criminal justice system and what the purpose of incarceration is. In the 41st Parliament, the former government got rid of prison chaplains in that system. It got rid of prison farms where some prisoners could have the first experience in their lives of a day outdoors doing an honest day's labour. I suppose it is ironic that an honest day's labour took place in a prison farm context. However, those programs were killed by the previous government.
The prison system in our country cannot just be seen as a place where some parts of the political spectrum can score political points by talking about life being too easy there for people who have committed heinous crimes, as the language always describes them. I am not sympathizing with criminals. I support the rights of victims. However, it is not an effective prison system if it kills people who have committed minor crimes, who become stuck in a Möbius loop where they cannot get help. We have to break that cycle now. We have to find ways to focus our prison system on fairness, respect, reconciliation and rehabilitation. This is not the stuff of bleeding hearts; this is what makes a society whole. This is what allows people who have been in prison to come back out and function in a civilized society and not pass on the patterns of behaviour they have experienced to their family and children.
I have hope for Bill C-83. I will do everything I can at committee, and everything I can by working with members of the groups who have given their lives to this, whether it be the Elizabeth Fry Society, the John Howard Society, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and those very brave people who have been incarcerated and are willing to come forward to say, “This is what would have helped me. This is how it did not help me.”
Yes, a prison system is to ensure that people pay their debt to society and are punished for things that are morally indefensible and a huge assault on our society. However, there are also a lot of people in prison who have committed relatively minor crimes who, if they were wealthier and had better lawyers, might not be there. There, but for the grace of God, go members and I. Therefore, let us fix Bill C-83.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:29 [p.22748]
Madam Speaker, my colleague and I have worked together to amend other pieces of legislation. I can share with her constituents that they have an MP who keeps her word and is as good as her word. I love working with her.
I would love to see some amendments to this. I am conscious of the fact that the correctional officers who have to deal with potentially dangerous prisoners have unions that are also deeply concerned. I know that the government is trying to achieve some kind of balance here.
I think we need amendments to ensure that we do not weaken the limitations on the use of any form of segregation. Yes, I am very pleased that there will be increases in funding for mental health and assistance. I would like to see more done to ensure that in keeping a prisoner separate from a prison population that may pose a threat to that prisoner, they are not placed in a situation where they lose human contact. Much more could be done to increase family access, as one example.
We will work through this at committee.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:31 [p.22748]
Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree.
Of course, members will recall that it was in the hon. member's riding that one of the great campaigns by local citizens to keep a prison farm open was defeated. I really hope we will see the prison farm system come back. It is a great tool for rehabilitation. If we help one individual within a prison context find that place the hon. member mentioned, so that when they are released into the general population, they find a way to function as a productive member of society, that should always be the goal. I hope this legislation will help us get there.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:33 [p.22748]
Madam Speaker, the briefest answer I could give is to say that I think the best thing we can do is to listen to the real experts out there.
With all due respect to all of us here who study the legislation, I think the real experts are the people at the John Howard Society, the Elizabeth Fry Society, and people who have experienced the correctional system. It is going to be a suite of things. For some people, it will be a healing lodge because that will take them back to their indigenous culture. For some people, it will be a pastor who comes in and helps them find Christ. For another person, it will be the experience of working out in the field, or maybe it is studying the Quran.
One way or another, people have to find a way to find self-respect and dignity and a way to function as members of society.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:46 [p.22750]
Madam Speaker, it is more of a comment than a question for my friend from Oakville North—Burlington. Given her speech and the commitment to work on amendments in committee, I am changing my vote and I will vote for Bill C-83 at second reading.
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