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View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I chair the public accounts committee. There are some significant changes in this bill.
When we look at the supplementary estimates, $448 million were given to CSC. However, when we have tried to find out what the financial implications are, the cost of all the measures in the bill, we can not get an answer from the government.
The parliamentary secretary is privy to those briefings with the department. I know that typically those answers are given by the department.
If we have scanners, and the parliamentary secretary talked about limited, I wonder, and I think Canadians wonder as well, what the costs of the bill would be.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to seek unanimous consent for this speaking slot to be a regular 20-and-10 speaking slot, rather than unlimited time, and to split the time with the member for Yellowhead. We have unlimited time slots and would ask for unanimous consent to split the time so my friend from Yellowhead can share some of his stories of the Correctional Service.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the chamber for doing that.
This undoubtedly will be the last time I ever speak in this place. As I rise on this night, I want to thank the throng of people that have come out to hear this speech.
I rise this evening to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
Just as we fundamentally opposed the bill in its original form, we oppose the government's motion respecting the Senate amendments.
We on this side of the House believe that this legislation has the potential of making prisons more dangerous both for offenders and for correctional officers. I will get into that in a bit.
Drumheller Institution, a medium security facility, is located within my riding of Battle River—Crowfoot. Over the many years I have represented this riding, I have developed a very good rapport with many of the good people who work there.
Correctional officers contact my constituency office on a regular basis, asking for assistance in resolving cases and issues they have within and with their institution. I would never support a bill that could potentially endanger their lives any more than they already are, given that they are employed in an inherently hazardous occupation. Currently, my office has 20 active files and 50 inactive files, but also unresolved files from Drumheller correctional workers with respect to pay issues due to the Phoenix pay system, as well as other issues. They are not alone. Nearly two-thirds of public servants have unresolved pay issues more than three years after the Phoenix system was launched.
Now the national union president representing correctional officers is raising serious concerns about the very real possibility of some new measures taking place within the institution. One of them is the first supervised drug injection site for prisoners. The Correctional Service of Canada has neither confirmed nor denied this is about to happen by the end of the month.
As National President Jeff Wilkins told the National Post in an article that appeared on June 9, “The correctional officers are dead set against the prison needle-exchange and the current way it's being rolled out.” It is a program that he says is unsafe for guards, as they are responsible for distributing needles to prisoners in their cells, a scheme that has done nothing to stop needle sharing and defies reason in that people in prison should not have access to those drugs.
One of my constituents wrote me, “As a Correctional Officer, I am opposed to the proposed Needle Exchange program, which is definitely defeating the purpose of the whole anti-drug thing that we were shooting for in jail. Is there any way that I and other co-workers can express our concerns with our MP?”
l told him that I was definitely open to hearing and discussing these concerns with him and his colleagues. I could not assure him, however, that the Liberal government would listen. I did in fact tell him that I would bring his concerns to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness but was not at all confident that he would be receptive to those concerns.
After 19 years in this place and a number of years as our party's public safety critic for the official opposition in 2001 until about 2005, I have learned that when it comes to justice, under Liberal governments inmates and their rights take precedence over victims and correctional officers' rights.
For the 19 years that I have been in this place, I have repeatedly stood in the House fighting for victims' rights, fighting for changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to end such things as statutory release and promoting the idea of protection of society as a guiding principle in our justice system.
I oppose conditional sentences as originally prescribed by the Liberals, which saw rapists and other violent offenders serve their sentences at home. My constituents back me up on that.
I am equally opposed to needle exchange programs in our correctional institutions, and I am opposed to injection sites. I wholeheartedly agree with the union president that rather than providing needle exchanges and designated sites within prisons for inmates to shoot up, we should perhaps have medical facilities closer to these prisons to deal with the drug overdoses that may result.
So much more should and can be done to stop the drug trade within the correctional facilities, which is leading to overdose, to death and to the continued gang wars that take place within our prisons. Canadians would agree that it defies reason that drugs make their way into the prisons, not to mention the huge amount of drugs and number of needles that circulate.
This is certainly not a new phenomenon. This has been going on for years. The Liberals' only solution is to give the inmates what they want. I disagree.
I fully understand that many inmates are drug addicts and that many of them are in prison as a result of criminal behaviour related to their addiction. They need help. They do not need more drugs, especially drugs that are bought or bartered for within prison. The fact that drugs cannot be stopped from entering our prisons certainly is a blight on the reputation of the Correctional Service of Canada.
As I pointed out this year when I last spoke to this bill, the Correctional Service of Canada certainly has been the subject of much criticism over the last number of years. In that speech, I mentioned one of the fall reports of the Auditor General of Canada, in 2017. It was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of the Auditor General's report was this:
[to determine] whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions, and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody—including Indigenous women offenders—that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.
We heard our parliamentary secretary talk about correctional programs tonight, and this bill also deals with indigenous women offenders.
As noted by the Auditor General:
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.
The report states:
Overall, we found that Correctional Service Canada had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders.... As a result, some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels....
Furthermore, and most relevant to our debate here this evening, the Auditor General concluded:
We found that Correctional Service Canada had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.
I also spoke about report 6 of the fall 2018 Auditor General report on community supervision of offenders, in which the Auditor General found that while the number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing, the Correctional Service of Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community. Despite the growing backlog and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, the Correctional Service of Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
The Auditor General also found that the Correctional Service of Canada did not properly manage offenders under community supervision. Parole officers did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have, nor did parole officers always monitor offenders' compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.
I continue today to implore the Liberal government to focus on ensuring that the Correctional Service of Canada fully meets its mandate. The safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release. Given the findings of the Office of the Auditor General, I believe that uneasiness with respect to safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83.
I implore the current government to start thinking about those who find themselves in danger's way daily by implementing measures and policies to protect them. If it only took the time to consult them, I am confident their ideas, based on years of experience, would ensure Correctional Services Canada would be able to fulfill its mandate.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak tonight. I look forward to any questions.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the consultations, let me quote what Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, said. This is partly involving the costing of the bill. He stated, “Unfortunately, due to cabinet confidentiality, as our commissioner often tells us, we weren't really consulted.” That is what the union said.
When I speak to my officers, they are not consulted about a whole host of issues.
A member of the committee said she spoke to a number of people. However, it should not just be a chat with someone on the sideline of a committee meeting, but deep consultations with not just the union but correctional officers.
Godin continues, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. I don't see the bill before it comes onto the table, so we weren't officially consulted on Bill C-83.”
Here is our problem. I asked the parliamentary secretary tonight about the costing of the bill. She gave us a line item, but she did not specify what the costs would be for the scanners or the change to the integration system and no longer having the administrative segregation. We do not have those answers.
This is another one of these bills where we moved into tonight's last few hours of debate after the government invoked closure and time allocation.
I will go into some of what Senator Pate said. She stated, “If there have been no meaningful consultations to this point on this process, then I would not have faith that those mechanisms would be put in place within the prison setting”. Although the Senate has brought forth amendments, the senator is saying she recognizes there is a lack of consultation.
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 22:39 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, talking about consultation, interestingly, two weeks ago there were several hundred correctional officers who gathered on the lawn here on Parliament Hill to protest the current government and its decision to introduce a needle exchange program within the federal prisons. Officers would say they were not consulted on this decision and that they very much feel they have been put in harm's way by the installation of this program.
I am wondering if the hon. member could comment on this further and highlight the importance of consulting with those who are on the front lines, day in and day out.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I served in government. I know consultations. For me, it was budget consultations across the country, meeting with as many as we could, meeting with people in every community and every chamber. There were consultations online, as well as in person.
The hon. member is correct. When I spoke to my correctional officers, they said they were not consulted. When we speak to the union, it said there was inadequate consultation.
In the case the member is referring to, which is a little different than what the scope of the bill is, on the needle exchanges the officers are very concerned about their safety. We know that the needle that was maybe used to shoot up a drug could also be used as a weapon in the hands of that offender against other offenders and against correctional officers. It is one thing to say they are employed in an inherently dangerous surrounding, and another for governments to say they had better consult and make sure that what they are doing is the right thing. Unfortunately, the current government fails on consultation every time.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 22:41 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join my partner from Battle River—Crowfoot in speaking to Bill C-83. I have stood in the House a number of times to speak to it, and I was on the committee that studied Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This has been a bad bill right from the beginning. The Liberals did not listen to very many people. They wrote the bill, brought it before committee and forced it upon it, as they are doing today, forcing us in the second-to-last day Parliament is sitting to speak to the amendments that have been brought in by the Senate. The Liberals do not like the amendments, but they want to push this through.
From the beginning, when we started studying Bill C-83 at committee, a number of witnesses came forward. The John Howard Society said it was bad. The Elizabeth Fry Society said it was bad. We had a 19-year prisoner who admitted to being a pretty bad guy, and he said parts of the bill were bad. He was the type of person who needed to be put into a segregation unit to protect the guards and other prisoners, and even himself. The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association said it was a bad bill. The Native Women's Association said it was a bad bill. There were a number of organizations.
Now we have it brought before us, as I said, on the second-to-last day before the House rises for the summer.
My friend from Battle River—Crowfoot just mentioned the corrections union and that his union was not spoken to. Very much like the institution in his riding at Drumheller, which is medium-security, I have a medium-security facility in the town of Grande Cache, in the great riding of Yellowhead. It is probably one of the most beautiful jail settings in North America. It is on top of a mountain overlooking the Rocky Mountains. There are a large number of aboriginal prisoners there.
I know some of the guards there very well; some of them went to school with my daughter years ago. They are very concerned that they were not consulted properly and that Bill C-83, if enacted the way it is, will make it dangerous for the guards. That is totally unacceptable.
The change would make prisoners more dangerous for the guards, as they will have to deal with the worst of the worst and the most volatile being out and about from their cells for four hours a day.
I totally agree that things need to change and we need to be civil and human in how we treat prisoners. Many years ago, I had the privilege to be on what the RCMP called provost duty. I escorted prisoners throughout British Columbia and western Canada back and forth from remand centres and detachments to prisons, etc. I came to know many of these individuals on a personal basis and many times I travelled 200 or 300 miles with three prisoners by myself.
One could be a real dick and those guys would hate it by the time they got to the destination, or one could be a decent individual, have a conversation with them, treat them decently, with respect and dignity, and have a 200- or 300-mile drive with three prisoners.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 22:46 [p.29452]
Mr. Speaker, it is my last speech, and I do apologize. It was just the terminology that slipped out.
Years ago we learned that we had to give respect to the prisoners. They had to be treated properly. That is no different today. I realize that Bill C-83 is trying to do that in a number of areas. As our colleagues in the Senate have said, there are some things that need to be corrected. I hate to say it, but the Liberals are not listening again.
My primary purpose in getting up today is to say that the women and men who work in our institutions do a great job for our country. They are a fantastic group of people. In many cases, maybe even more than police officers who are out on the street or our military who might be defending some country somewhere, these guys are right on the front lines.
A lot of our prisoners are everyday common people. We do not need to worry too much about them. They are civil. We can have great conversations with them. We can joke around with them. However, we do have some real bad apples there. Some have mental health problems. Some are just downright mean. Some can be rehabilitated. Some, and I am going back to 50 years of experience, cannot be rehabilitated or do not want to be rehabilitated, and that is where the problem comes with segregation.
I know that the Supreme Court has ruled that we need to change our policies. We need to give prisoners more rights, but that will come at a cost to the country. I guess we will have to accept that, because that is what it has ruled.
However, the primary thing is that I want my friends and my constituents who work at Grande Cache Institution to be safe. I want the average prisoner who is there, who maybe was picked up for impaired driving or maybe something minor, who is not really a bad person, to be very safe in our institutions. That is my primary concern.
My colleagues across have been given a number of recommendations from the Senate that I think need to be addressed and cannot be ignored. I did not pick up on all of them, and I am not going to deal with all of them. However there is one I thought I would spend a little time talking about.
The Senate said that the authority should be left with the institutions as to the movement of a prisoner to a provincial institution. That is only rational, good, common sense. I am not knocking professional health people. They do a great job for us, but we have some great con artists in our jails who could sweet talk the Speaker into letting them sit up there while the Speaker took their place. That is how good they are. I know that the Speaker would never be conned. However, that is where my fear comes in. The institution staff know these people. They are dealing with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They know how slick the prisoners can be.
A medical professional coming in, maybe for an hour or two or maybe three hours a week, could be baffled. That is why I think it was a very wise decision that came back from the Senate. It was a common-sense correction, yet it is being ignored.
I appreciate being given the time to stand up here to defend the institutional guards at Grande Cache and others across the country. They are doing a great job for us.
Get rid of the needles. I am not going any further with that. It is the biggest mistake we ever made.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 22:53 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I hate to rush anything unless it is correct. The Senate has studied this bill, as has the committee, and we have heard from many witnesses. If we just bring it forward because we are threatened by the possibility that the courts might take action, we should have thought of that right off the bat and got at it a little more quickly than we did. We are here on the last day.
Again, the issue goes back to the safety of the people. Yes, I agree with a psychiatric review when a person comes in, but if we bring these measures forward, is that going to make it very difficult to correct them afterward, and is it going to put a guard's safety in jeopardy in the next month or two before we come back to help correct it in the fall?
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-06-19 22:55 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. None of the witnesses really agreed with this bill. We were given this bill as written by the senior management of Canada's institutional system, but with no consultation with the unions or stakeholders. The committee was to get it through as fast as possible and get it passed. The Senate saw the mistakes. We could see the mistakes. The witnesses could see the mistakes.
We are going to make a bigger mistake if we go and vote for it with the errors or with the Senate submissions being omitted.
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her service in this place. I know we have disagreed from time to time on certain issues, but I do know she has the pleasure of representing my in-laws. I do not know that I can say they are Liberal supporters, but I am sure they appreciate her efforts in this place.
I want to pick up on something the member said at the end of her speech. She said that we need to recognize the rights of people, even those who have committed heinous crimes. I agree with that. I fundamentally agree that we need to affirm the rights and dignity of all people, regardless of what they have done in their life, at a fundamental level.
We often talk in this place about rights. We use the word “rights” very often. I do not think we are going to disagree on this. I wonder if the member could talk a bit more about how we explain the origins of those rights at a core level. In other words, how would the member explain this to somebody who disagrees? On what basis should we say definitively that all people have rights regardless of their circumstances?
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 23:51 [p.29461]
Mr. Speaker, currently, correctional officers do not even have enough resources to allow prisoners out of their cells for two hours a day. How is the government going to ensure that the monetary resources are in place to ensure that these inmates can come out of their cells for four hours a day?
Some of these individuals are what we might call the worst of the worst. They have committed some very atrocious crimes. These individuals, then, need to be monitored during their time out of their cells, and correctional officers need to be kept safe during this time. Their security is put at risk in the process of them doing their job. What is the government going to do to ensure their safety and well-being, and where is the monetary investment?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, I suspect that this will be my last speech in the 42nd Parliament. I hope to be able to continue after the next election, but, as Forrest Gump says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get.”
I will take advantage of this opportunity before I launch into my specific remarks on this bill to do a couple of things. One is to thank my colleagues, my constituents, my staff and especially my family for their support and the opportunity to serve.
I did want to make a point of paying particular tribute to my friend, the member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands, who is retiring. He is a champion of justice and human rights and someone who has been a great mentor to me as I have sought to engage on many of the same issues that he has been championing for years. I look forward to seeing the ways in which he will continue with these important issues in whatever role he takes on afterwards.
It has been a pleasure to work with members on all sides. I certainly wish my friends on the Liberal side well as they prepare to transition to the private sector. I do plan to campaign in their ridings and I hope they do not take it personally. Perhaps we will have an opportunity to go for a drink afterwards, and I will even bring the Solo cups.
This is the one other point that I wanted to make to honour a promise I made to a particular community. It is that I want to briefly highlight the Zoroastrian community in Canada.
The ancient Zoroastrian religion is one of the oldest religions in the world. Members of this community have been migrating to Canada for many decades, yet they still remain relatively unknown to Canadians, so I thought it would be important to acknowledge their community and their contributions.
The Zoroastrian religion is based on three key principles: good thoughts, good words and good deeds. These are principles that align with Canadian values and represent traits that all Canadians should aspire to have. These teachings were passed on by their prophet, Lord Zoroaster, and through the Zoroastrian religious text, the Avesta.
Zoroastrians believe there is one creator god. The primary symbol of Zoroastrianism is fire, which is seen as a conduit for wisdom and spiritual knowledge.
Zoroastrianism originated in what is now modern-day Iran, but because of persecution, the community had to emigrate to other parts of the world. Zoroastrians, like so many communities, have often come to Canada to escape persecution.
There are 100,000 Zoroastrians around the world and 7,000 of them reside in Canada. Zoroastrians are a peaceful and well-educated community, and we celebrate their work and their contributions.
I am speaking today on Bill C-83, which proposes to replace administrative segregation with so-called structured intervention units.
During its tenure in office, the government has put a big emphasis on the naming of things. “Foreign Affairs” became “Global Affairs”. The universal child care benefit became the Canadian child care benefit, and administrative segregation becomes structured intervention units.
When it comes to the name changes, to this bill, and to the record of the government in general, by this point in the mandate, people are asking that all-important question whenever they hear of a name change, “Where's the beef?”
As Shakespeare wrote in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” In other words, would administrative segregation by any other name be of the same nature?
Parenthetically, Confucius speaks in The Analects about the importance of naming things correctly. He said the beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name. He also said:
If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
So much of politics, so much of what we have seen here in the last four years, involves effort by government to change the names of things and to re-engineer language. It becomes increasingly difficult to have dialogue and to know the difference between justice and injustice if things are not called by their proper names.
We often bemoan political polarization and the decline of meaningful dialogue. Perhaps we should consider how this is born out of the breakdown of meaning in language, how leaders and elites so often try to name things based on political objectives exogenous to the substance of the thing, rather than simply calling a thing what it is.
The vast majority of stakeholders oppose this legislation because they see it principally as a renaming exercise as opposed to a substantive one. In practical terms, the legislation requires a person in this new form of administrative segregation to have a minimum of four hours out per day, as well as legislated meaningful human contact. This raises questions about the capacity of the government to respond in terms of providing the resources necessary to operationalize this new framework.
In our judgment, the resources are not there to do this safely and effectively, and the distinctions made are not meaningful. This raises further questions in terms of the strength of the drafting of this legislation and the planning that went into it. We also have residual questions of what constitutes meaningful contact and how that can be defined.
On that basis, and recognizing that my time is running short, I will conclude.
I have greatly appreciated the opportunity to spend so much time with members in the House. I encourage members of the government caucus to get away, enjoy the summer, go on vacation, travel and spend time in the Caribbean islands.
I will of course be working hard in my riding. In particular, I hope to spend a lot of time in the beautiful riding of Spadina—Fort York. Maybe the member and I can start an Alasdair MacIntyre discussion group. The member can share with me from his reading of Ayn Rand and I can share more with him about Alasdair MacIntyre and Aristotle.
It has been a pleasure. I wish all members the best, including yourself, Mr. Speaker. I hope to be able to come back in the next Parliament.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
View Arnold Viersen Profile
2019-06-17 12:11 [p.29164]
Mr. Speaker, this morning proves that the Liberals will do anything and say anything to get elected. In the last election, they promised they were not going to use closure motions as often as we had in the last parliament. They are also saying that they are not going to raise taxes after the next election, even though their spending is way out of control.
There has only been four minutes of debate on this bill prior to this closure motion being moved. Does the minister think that is appropriate?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, unfortunately here we go again. We see time allocation being moved by the current government. The Liberals have been lax throughout this Parliament. They are coming down to the last few days of Parliament and we see this modus operandi of the government to start pushing debates and halting debate to get this legislation through regardless.
Again, it is not simply that the Liberals are invoking this measure; this is the measure they said they would not be invoking. This is the measure on which the current Prime Minister stood and said it is the kind of thing that Canadians lose confidence in a government on, and that the Liberals would not do this kind of thing. It is exactly what we have seen more and more, especially in the last few weeks.
The parliamentary secretary said that this prevents a filibuster by the government, and debate and debate and debate. We have had four minutes at this stage to even talk about this. Canadians expect that when issues like this come through, good healthy debate takes place here and it has not. Neither has consultation. I have a penitentiary in my riding. Not only is it the well-being and safety of offenders that Canadians question, but also of the guards and the correctional officers.
There are two points. We have legislation that needs to be debated and we have another promise broken by the current government as to time allocation.
View Tom Kmiec Profile
View Tom Kmiec Profile
2019-06-17 12:31 [p.29167]
Mr. Speaker, this is terminology that the hon. gentleman likes to use quite often in the House. I count eight substantive amendments that the government is accepting or has modified from the Senate. The minister said that the government has considered this and is satisfied with it, and therefore it is moving time allocation, which provides us with only five hours.
Several members who have penitentiaries in their ridings have risen on our side of the House. They would like to go back to their constituents and get their opinion on this, and I would like to go back to former prison guards who live in my riding. However, today we are being told there are five more hours and that is it.
The member for Peace River—Westlock mentioned this was four minutes at this stage of debate. How many members can speak in four minutes? Very few could provide substantive feedback. The time allocation being moved today by the government is shutting down debate. I have seen this time and again, both at standing committees of the House and on other legislation.
I spoke to Bill C-83 before and mentioned all my concerns and worries that constituents had explained to me over the distinct sections and technicalities of the bill. The issue now is that, with only five hours left, it gives us literally no time to return to our constituents to get their feedback on these eight substantive amendments.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-03-01 10:21 [p.26005]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. minister mentioned that people on this side of the House had not read the supplementary estimates, but I have to ask him if he has read his own departmental plan from Correctional Service Canada that he himself signed. If he had read it, he would have seen a couple of remarkable items.
In the departmental plan, which sets out the government's priorities for the coming years, there is not a single priority listed for the safety of correctional services officers, but he talks about resources. In the departmental plan from 2015, when the Harper government was in power, to 2021, there is a 13% cut in resources to correctional services when a minimal inflation rate is counted in.
Further, there is a cut of 150 full-time equivalents. I have to ask, where is the minister getting his information from? Why is he so wrong? Is it Brison's fault? Is it Harper's fault, or is it perhaps the former attorney general's fault for this error?
View Linda Duncan Profile
View Linda Duncan Profile
2019-03-01 10:45 [p.26008]
Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate if the member would correct the slight he made to my colleague.
The Hon. Kim Pate, senator and former long-standing head of the Elizabeth Fry Society and who received the Order of Canada for her work against segregation in prisons, said two days ago that Bill C-83 could have been made meaningful. Instead of just changing the name, the government could have made significant changes by including provisions that would allow for the transfer of those who had mental problems to mental health facilities. I wonder if the member could speak to that.
Would the legislation really resolve the problem we face where so many have been put in segregation and suffer severe mental problems? There are other solutions? I have worked with many people in the criminal law field. I have been to those facilities of incarceration. The Hon. Kim Pate is a person whose advice should be considered.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-03-01 12:25 [p.26026]
Mr. Speaker, one of the concerns we have raised again and again is the government's lack of seriousness over the safety of our correctional services officers. In its mandate letter to the head of correctional services, a 1,400-word mandate letter, only 52 words discuss officer safety, including this gem, “to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.” The government does not once mention safety of the workers in the departmental plan. It cuts resources, but wants to instill a culture of self-reflection.
Is this a government concerned with the safety of corrections services officers?
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, this is the only bill in my experience where, as my colleagues have already indicated, not one witness who came to committee had anything positive to say about it, except for the minister's own officials. It is really unfortunate but that is the reality. The minister has just claimed that the bill responded to issues raised by the courts, and that segregation caused the unfortunate deaths of two inmates. Actually, if we look at those cases and study the court decisions, it is very clear that those unfortunate deaths were the result of operational and management failures in both of those circumstances.
The correctional officers union was one of the witnesses at committee, and so were former inmates. All of them testified that segregation is essential to managing volatile and violent offenders, and that the bill would create more risk to staff. Although the minister claims that public safety and the risk to members working in these facilities are important, I wonder whether this bill would actually do anything to improve their safety.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-02-26 11:08 [p.25777]
Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Public Safety talks a lot about the safety and concern for the correctional service officers. However, in his departmental plans for Correctional Service of Canada, on which the minister signed off, there is not one single goal or mention regarding the safety or welfare of correctional service officers.
There are obvious criticisms regarding Bill C-83 about making things more dangerous for workers. He stands again and again to talk about safety. Why has he neglected to mention even once in his plan the safety of correctional workers?
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. minister about one of the witnesses who testified, Senator Pate. She testified before the committee and indicated that the legislation, Bill C-83, as presented and as amended was bad legislation.
Senator Pate did a very good job of dismantling the claims of the minister and the bill on what segregation would do at the end of the day. Her experience in Nova Scotia was that one of the prisons she visited had renamed a segregation unit to the intensive intervention unit. However, at the end of the day, it did not change anything.
It appears as if whatever overhaul was intended with this legislation, changing the name of a segregation unit to the function of it is not necessarily what is going to happen in the bill. The costing has never been done for the legislation either.
Would the minister enlighten us on exactly how, other than potentially changing the paint and the name of something, it will actually make a difference in what we are trying to achieve with rehabilitation, still keeping in mind the protection of our guards and other inmates, and the rehabilitation of the prisoners who are there?
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, the minister this morning described that $448 million is allocated to Bill C-83 over the next six years. We know that a considerable amount of infrastructure renovation would be required to meet the requirements laid out in Bill C-83.
Of the portion of money that has been set aside for the infrastructure rebuild, could the parliamentary secretary please advise the House as to how much is actually going to go to the services provided and to the correctional officers' requirements in playing out all of Bill C-83?
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers president, Jason Godin, told the public safety committee that “by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations.” Mr. Godin went on to say, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody.”
Can the hon. member opposite explain how the correctional officers' safety is being considered within the bill when they were not even consulted on it?
View Glen Motz Profile
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 Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, absolutely I will.
The nice thing about a democracy is that we can and we are allowed to disagree. I sit on the committee, just as my hon. friend across the way does, and quite frankly I was disappointed. The main issue we were trying to address was the rehabilitation of prisoners. That is the purpose of corrections. We want to place them safely back into the community.
Bill C-83 fails in that respect. Witnesses had many other amendments, all of which were ignored by the Liberal majority on the committee. Were amendments made? Yes, but they did not strengthen the bill.
View Glen Motz Profile
Mr. Speaker, we need go back even further, before individuals enter the justice system. Many individuals with mental health issues end up in the justice system in the first place because our society fails to properly deal with them on the level that we should. They end up there because of the crimes they commit due to their mental health.
I mentioned the court decisions from B.C. and Ontario. If we study the rulings, we can see that they do not point back to segregation but rather to the mismanagement of correctional facilities themselves and the operational mismanagement regarding how to deal with individuals with mental health issues.
Do we need a more robust system to properly deal with this? Yes. Unfortunately the experts we heard did not believe the bill would address the issues the member has bought up.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-02-26 13:05 [p.25788]
Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague on his well-thought-out speech. He brought up a lot of great points.
My colleague talked about a lack of resources in the government's plans. At the beginning of the estimates process, which seeks the authority to spend, the government is required to submit a departmental plan. The departmental plan has three parts. It includes an overview of the spending, it lists the resources required, and it also lists out the priorities and strategic outcomes. The plan for Correctional Services was tabled by the Minister of Public Safety and signed for by the Minister of Public Safety, and we heard the Liberals stand again and again to and say they have put aside the money and have put aside the resources.
However, the departmental plan shows that over the next four years, the Liberals are cutting $225 million from Correctional Services. This is what they have tabled in Parliament.
Further, for actual resources for manpower, they are not increasing it by one body over the next few years. The Liberals are planning to spend money on added resources for renovations at prisons and this and that, but at the same time they are cutting $225 million. Does it sound a bit odd and contradictory to the member that the government says it is going to provide extra resources, but at the same time its own plan is showing a cut of $225 million?
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-02-26 13:09 [p.25789]
Mr. Speaker, I also would like to inform my colleague from Winnipeg North that if he looks at page 30 of the departmental plan issued and signed off by his own minister, he will see the details of the $225 million cut.
The government again talks about the safety and security of the workers in the Correctional Service of Canada. In this departmental plan, the government lays out 20 priorities for the coming year, yet not a single priority makes any mention of safety and security for the workers. Does this not clearly show that the Liberals are intent on helping criminals and not the victims of crime or the people who have to guard them in our prisons?
View Garnett Genuis Profile
Mr. Speaker, when my friend across the way said that we have no interest in rehabilitation, that was even more ridiculous than the things he usually says.
Our caucus has a very strong interest in effective rehabilitation. We understand that part of the process of rehabilitation is personal responsibility. A perpetrator must come to understand what has been done, what is wrong about it, and how to respond and make restitution with the victim. That is part of the process of rehabilitation. Philosophies on criminal justice that deny personal responsibility and want to blame social factors for everything really do not move us effectively toward rehabilitation.
While we are on the subject of criminal justice, I want to ask my friend a question about these special remediation agreements that individuals might want to enter into. Suppose there is an individual who is the parent of six or seven dependent children, and he or she commits a crime. I wonder if that individual should be able to access a remediation agreement. I am curious to hear the member's views on whether individual criminals should have access to remediation agreements if they have many dependents who might be affected by their situation.
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