Hansard
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 1 - 10 of 10
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
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
CPC (AB)
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
CPC (AB)
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
CPC (AB)
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 Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
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 Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
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 Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation proposes to limit 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 expectations for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
I have the privilege of chairing the public accounts committee, and at committee, we work very closely with the Auditor General's office. We studied the reports the Auditor General released, and much of what I want to speak to today actually quotes from the Auditor General's reports.
One of those reports, in the fall of 2017 reports of the Auditor General of Canada, was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of this audit was 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.
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.”
What the Auditor General found was that, again, CSC had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders, and as a result, “some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels”. Furthermore, CSC had not implemented an appropriate tool for referring women offenders to correctional programs that were in line with their risk of reoffending, nor had they “assessed the effectiveness of its correctional programs in addressing the factors associated with a risk of reoffending”. Last, and most relevant to our debate today, the Auditor General concluded that CSC “had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.”
Paragraph 5.104 of “Report 5” revealed, “We also found that out of 18 women offenders identified with a serious mental illness with significant impairment, 7 were placed in segregation at some point during 2016.”
According to the Auditor General's report, CSC acknowledged that segregation for persons with serious mental health issues “should be limited.” I draw my colleagues' attention to the word “limited”. The AG disagreed with limited use and recommended that CSC ensure that women offenders “with serious mental illness with significant impairment are not placed in segregation” and that there be improved oversight and enhanced observation of these offenders.
Correctional Service Canada agreed with the Auditor General's recommendations, and therefore, the public accounts committee had asked in our report that by May 31, 2019, CSC provide us with a report regarding the relocation of observation cells out of segregation ranges. Obviously, this request was thwarted by the introduction of Bill C-83 on October 16, 2018, less than five months after the public accounts committee tabled our report, which would eliminate administrative segregation and establish the SIUs, or structured intervention units.
Proposed section 32 of Bill C-83 says:
The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to (a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; (b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate’s specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.
In other words, CSC is simply being compelled to do exactly what it is already mandated to do: deliver correctional programs, interventions and mental health services that respond appropriately to an offender's unique needs.
As pointed out earlier, an audit by the Office of the Auditor General revealed, with respect to women offenders, that CSC has failed in its mandate. In the fall 2018 report of the Auditor General, it was also revealed that CSC has not properly managed offenders under community supervision. As of April 2018, approximately 9,100 federal offenders, or 40% of all federal offenders, were under community supervision. According to “Report 6” of the fall 2018 Auditor General's report:
The number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing. However, Correctional Service Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community.... Despite the growing backlog [for accommodation], and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, Correctional Service Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
CSC “did not properly manage offenders under community supervision”. Parole officers “did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have”, nor did they always “monitor [offenders'] compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.”
We met with CSC last week, and we discussed this very report. These deficiencies were brought out with an action plan to correct them. However, I would humbly suggest that the Liberal government should be focused on ensuring that Correctional Service Canada fully meets its mandate, as the safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release.
To meet its mandate, a good start would be for Correctional Service Canada to start listening to its correctional workers. I am fortunate to have Drumheller penitentiary in my constituency. Over the years, I have met countless times with wardens, correctional officers and other staff in Drumheller. I can tell members that there are concerns about this bill. Concerns have come forward to the public safety and emergency preparedness committee. Again, I am concerned that many of these correctional officers are not being listened to. In fact, Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated that they were not consulted on Bill C-83. We have a leader of one of the unions of correctional officers, and his frustration is that the Liberal government has not consulted.
The Correctional Investigator has said:
What I would agree with is that there has been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service or the government on how this [Bill C-83] is going to be implemented. If you read the proposed bill as it's currently written, there's a lot of stuff that seems to be pushed to regulation, as prescribed by regulations. We don't know what those regulations would look like. I think that's why there's a lot of uneasiness about this particular piece of legislation.
Given the findings of the OAG, I believe that this uneasiness with respect to the safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83. I certainly know, from the number of calls and emails I have received from correctional workers, that considerable uneasiness exists in the Drumheller Institution. The reason for that anxiety ranges from concerns about their safety and their colleagues' safety to pay issues around Phoenix. I currently have 70 files, some inactive, on Phoenix.
We have a bill now that would affect correctional officers, and they are bemoaning the fact that the government is not listening.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I am not going to get into the long issues with the current government. The Liberals came in promising low deficits, a cap on deficits, and the Liberals have thrown every plan out the window and just thrown money at every problem.
The problem is that when it comes to corrections, my colleague tells me that over the next three years, the government is saying that it is going to cut over $200 million. The Liberals are going to cut from public safety and from the Correctional Service Canada file.
I know one thing. Sometimes when governments look, they try to find ways to streamline programs. When a program is in they come in with new programs. There is always a shuffling around of funding. I think every Canadian understands now that when the Conservative Party was in power, the Conservatives cared about law and order. They were concerned about a justice system. They were concerned about a correctional penal system. They understood that our guiding principle always has been the protection of society and making sure that dangerous offenders are in a penitentiary, not the 9,100 we see out under community supervision somewhere.
There are massive differences of opinion between the current government and our former government, but make no mistake. All Canadians understand that when it came to law and order, policing and the issues that deal with prisons, parole, police and CSIS, the Conservative government got it, and they got public safety.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Madam Speaker, I can recall that when we looked at the prison farm program, one of the interesting components of what we noticed when that program was phased out was that there were very few people, after being integrated and rehabilitated, who ever went out and became employed on a farm. Any of the great lessons they would have learned while they were out working on someone's farm were not necessarily lessons that enhanced opportunities for them to get jobs after. There were different programs, such as carpentry and welding. More resources were put into those programs, because that is where the jobs were when these individuals left the penitentiary system.
I am personally not in favour of cutting a chaplaincy program. The faith component is one that does help with rehabilitation. However, that was the answer on the farm program.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 47th report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts entitled “Report 5, Preparing Women Offenders for Release—Correctional Service Canada, of the 2017 Fall Reports of the Auditor General of Canada”.
Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to this report.
Results: 1 - 10 of 10

Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data