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View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:47 [p.29444]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-83 has two main objectives.
First of all, it would allow federal inmates to be separated from the general prison population when necessary for security reasons. Second, it will ensure that inmates have access to the interventions, programs and mental health care they need to safely return to the general prison population and make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.
The bill would achieve these objectives by replacing the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units. In SIUs, inmates would be entitled to twice as much time out of their cells, four hours daily instead of two, and two hours of meaningful human contact every day.
We have allocated $448 million over six years to ensure that the Correctional Service has the resources to provide programs and interventions to inmates in SIUs and to implement this new system safely and effectively. That funding includes $150 million for mental health care, both in SIUs and throughout the federal correction system.
Bill C-83 was introduced last October. It was studied by the public safety committee in November and reported back to the House in December with a number of amendments. There were further amendments at report stage, in February, including one from the member for Oakville North—Burlington that added a system for binding external review.
In recent months, hon. senators have been studying the bill, and they have now sent it back to us with proposed amendments of their own. The high level of interest in Bill C-83 is indicative of the importance of the federal corrections system and of the laws and policies that govern it. Effective and humane corrections are essential to public safety, and they are a statement of who we are as a country. In the words of Dostoyevsky, “the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”
I extend my sincere thanks to all the intervenors who provided testimony and written briefs over the course of the last nine months and to parliamentarians in both chambers who examined this legislation and made thoughtful and constructive suggestions.
Since the Senate social affairs committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of the bill a couple of weeks ago, the government has been carefully studying the committee's recommendations, all of which seek to achieve laudable objectives. We are proposing to accept several of the Senate's amendments as is or with small technical modifications.
First, with respect to minor adjustments, we agree with amendments that would require a mental health assessment of all inmates within 30 days of admission into federal custody and within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU. This fits with the focus on early diagnosis and treatment that will be facilitated by the major investments we are making in mental health care.
We agree with the proposal to rearrange section 29 of the act, which deals with inmate transfers, to emphasize the possibility of transfers to external hospitals. The Correctional Service runs five certified psychiatric hospitals of its own and will now have significant new resources for mental health care. Even so, there may be cases when a transfer to an external facility is appropriate. If the transfer can be done safely, if the hospital has the capacity and if it is in the best interest of the patient, then it should be done. In fact, that is why we allocated funds in budget 2018 for more external mental health beds.
We also agree with an amendment regarding the initial review of SIU transfers. The bill would require a review by the warden in the first five days. This amendment clarifies that the clock on those five days would start ticking as soon as the transfer decision was made, as opposed to the moment the inmate physically arrived in the SIU.
With minor changes, we agree with two amendments to the section of the bill that would require consideration of systemic and background factors in decisions involving indigenous offenders. One of them would provide greater precision by specifying that a person's family and adoption history should be included in the analysis. The other would clarify that these factors may be used to lower the assessment of an inmate's risk level, but not to raise it.
These provisions in themselves would obviously not be enough to solve the problem of indigenous overrepresentation in the corrections system. The upstream socio-economic factors that result in higher rates of indigenous people involved with the criminal justice system must generally be addressed in concert with other departments and agencies, and efforts to that effect are indeed under way. The Correctional Service is charged with ensuring that indigenous people in its custody get a genuine opportunity to turn their lives around, and these amendments should help advance that objective.
There are two other amendments on which we agree with the intent, and we are essentially proposing to meet the Senate halfway.
The first is an amendment that seeks to add certain elements to section 4 of the act, which establishes guiding principles for the Correctional Service. In particular, it puts a focus on alternatives to incarceration, and we agree that those alternatives should be consistently considered and used wherever appropriate.
We are, however, suggesting a few changes to the language drafted in the Senate. For example, the amendment lists sections 29, 81 and 84 of the act as alternatives to incarceration. Section 29 refers to hospital transfers, and section 81 refers to healing lodges, so their inclusion here makes sense. However, section 84 is about community-supported release following incarceration. It is not an alternative; it is the next step, so we are proposing to remove it from this list.
The amendment would also require that preference be given to alternatives to incarceration. Frankly, that is very problematic. Alternatives to incarceration should be used where appropriate, but there are situations when putting someone in prison is a valid and necessary approach. Alternatives should be considered, but not necessarily preferred.
Also, for clarity sake, we are proposing to remove or replace certain terms that do not have established legal meanings, such as “carceral isolations” or “incarcerated persons” or “a broad interpretation informed by human rights”. Certainly, everything government agencies do should be informed by human rights principles, but to be enforceable and actionable, legal terms need to have clear and precise definitions. If we asked everyone in this House to explain what it means to interpret legislation broadly and in a manner informed by human rights, we would probably get 338 different responses.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:58 [p.29446]
Mr. Speaker, that is why we are proposing to remove these terms. Even so, of course, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will continue to apply to everything the Correctional Service does.
The other amendment that we are proposing to partially retain has to do with strip searches. The Senate is proposing to prohibit any strip searches conducted as a matter of routine and we wholeheartedly endorse that objective. It would not be pleasant for any of us to be strip-searched.
People in prison have often experienced trauma, including sexual abuse. Strip searches can cause them to relive that trauma and can even deter people from participating in programs like work release if they know they will be strip-searched on their way out or on their way back in. The Correctional Service should do everything possible to minimize strip searches.
That is why Bill C-83 would allow for the use of body scanners similar to what exists in airports as recommended by the United Nations. Rather than a blanket prohibition though, the government is proposing that the law require that Correctional Service use a body scanner instead of a strip search whenever one is available. That accounts for the fact that it will take some time for body scanners to be installed in every institution and it recognizes that sometimes machines break down. In those situations, correctional staff still need to be confident that inmates are not smuggling drugs, weapons or other contraband. That is important not only for staff safety but for the safety of other inmates as well. As body scanners become more available in federal institutions, strip searches should become increasingly rare.
I will now turn to the proposals from the Senate with which we respectfully disagree.
To begin with, there are two relatively similar ones that would take existing concepts used for indigenous corrections and expand them to other unspecified groups. This would apply to section 81 of the act, which allows for community-run healing lodges and section 84, which allows for community-supported release. Both of these concepts have proven valuable and successful in an indigenous context and the idea of expanding them is indeed worthy of serious consideration.
Certainly, there are other overrepresented groups in federal custody, particularly Canadians of African descent. Our government is wholly in favour of examining whether strategies that have worked for indigenous corrections can be successfully applied in other contexts and with other communities. We are opposing this amendment not because we disagree with the principle but because the serious consideration and examination I mentioned has not happened yet.
Before moving forward with something like this, there should be extensive consultations to determine which groups would be interested. Where does the capacity exist? And how the experience of the relatively few indigenous communities and organizations that run section 81 facilities is or is not applicable more broadly.
It would be a major policy change and potentially a positive one, but the study and analysis should come before we change the law, not after.
We also respectfully disagree with an amendment that would require the Correctional Service to approve the transfer to a provincial hospital of any inmate with a disabling mental health issue. As I mentioned earlier, in the 2018 budget, our government increased funding for external mental health beds. The use of provincial hospitals may be appropriate in some circumstances. The fact is, though, that it can be very difficult to find provincial hospitals willing and able to house and treat federal inmates. If we want to change the law without the aim of bringing about the transfer of a significant number of people from federal correctional institutions to provincial hospitals, it is imperative that we consult the provinces first.
It is also important for the sake of preserving the clinical independence of the health care providers who work in corrections that the law not pre-empt their professional judgment. The law already allows for these kinds of transfers where possible and appropriate and where recommended by medical professionals. At the same time, we are dramatically bolstering mental health resources within the federal correctional service so that inmates receive high-quality mental health care wherever they serve their sentence. We are also proposing not to accept an amendment that would allow sentences to be shortened on application to a court, due to acts or omissions by correctional personnel deemed to constitute unfairness in the administration of a sentence.
Once again, the goal of deterring improper conduct by correctional staff is commendable. There are a great many people working in federal corrections who are committed professionals doing excellent work. Anything less should be deterred, denounced and the persons potentially disciplined or dismissed. Inmates who are negatively impacted by inappropriate conduct on the part of correctional staff already have recourse, in the form of grievances or lawsuits, for example. The idea of retroactively shortening court-imposed sentences in these circumstances would be a major policy change. Before enacting this kind of provision, there should be consultations with stakeholders, including victims groups as well as provincial partners and other actors in the justice system. Parliamentarians in both chambers should have the opportunity to study it at length. It is not something that should be tacked on at the end of a legislative process that did not contemplate this kind of approach.
We also respectfully disagree with the recommendation to have the new system reviewed by parliamentary committees after two years rather than five. This House added a five-year review to the bill, and that is a reasonable time frame. It gives the new system time to get off the ground and be fully implemented and that will actually make Parliament's review more meaningful and impactful when it happens. In the interim, the minister will soon be appointing an advisory panel to monitor implementation of the SIUs as they roll out. That panel will be able to visit sites, meet with inmates and staff, provide feedback to the commissioner and sound the alarm if something is really not working out as it should. Of course, parliamentary committees do not need legislation to tell them what to study. Even without a legal requirement, if committees of this House or of the other place want to review the SIU system two years from now, they are perfectly free to do so.
Finally, the government respectfully disagrees with the proposal to institute judicial review of all SIU placements after 48 hours. Bill C-83 already has a strong system of binding external oversight.
Independent external decision-makers appointed by the minister will review any case where someone in an SIU has not received the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row, or 15 days out of 30. They will also review cases where the Correctional Service is not following the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. They will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for any inmate still in the SIU at that point. That is in addition to regular and robust internal review at five, 30 and 60 days.
Simply put, judicial review of SIU placements is unnecessary. Colleagues do not have to take my word for it. At the public safety committee, the correctional investigator supported using the independent chairperson model to oversee SIUs. That is a model that uses ministerial appointees, not judges.
Plus, while no court has considered the new SIU system proposed by this bill, courts in Ontario and B.C. have rendered decisions about the kind of oversight they deem necessary for the current system of administrative segregation. In B.C., the court found that oversight of administrative segregation must be external to the Correctional Service but did not say that judicial review was required. In Ontario, the court actually found that internal review was preferable, saying, “The reviewing tribunal can have adequate independence without having all the attributes of a judge.”
Beyond being unnecessary, requiring judicial review of all SIU placements longer than 48 hours would have considerable impacts on provincial superior courts. There would need to be new judges appointed to handle the caseload. Those judges would be paid for out of federal funds and they would require support staff paid for by the provinces. There would also be changes required to the Judges Act, as well as to corresponding provincial legislation. In other words, accepting this amendment would mean imposing legislative and financial requirements on the provinces without so much as a phone call to check and see if they are on board.
If judicial review were the only way to ensure that this new system works properly and to provide the procedural safeguards required, then one could make an argument that all of these complications, making legislative amendments across the country, finding the money in federal and provincial coffers, and fast-tracking the appointment of a bunch of new judges would just have to somehow get done. However, judicial review is far from the only option. There must absolutely be robust oversight of the new system proposed by Bill C-83 and review by independent external decision-makers meets that need.
I thank all hon. senators for their efforts and their contributions. At this point, the bill truly is the product of the Parliament of Canada as a whole.
If the version we are sending back to the Senate receives royal assent, it will be a piece of legislation drafted by the government, amended by Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Party members, and amended by our colleagues in the Senate, as well.
For all of our frequent disagreements, this bill is a good example of the strength of the legislative process in our parliamentary democracy. Most importantly, it will significantly improve Canada's correctional system, enhancing the safety of the people who work and live in federal institutions and improving the system's effectiveness when it comes to rehabilitation and safe, successful reintegration.
I look forward to the passage and the implementation of Bill C-83.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:15 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is always someone who contributes in committee work, and I personally appreciate the contributions he has made to this bill.
As always, on the question of judicial review versus independent oversight, there are limited resources that could actually do the work. The government has to decide where those limited resources will be used and whether anybody else can do this work.
It has been the determination that these independent decision-makers can be in the position to do this work without imposing an additional workload at the provincial and federal court levels.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:17 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, this is really a considerable move forward when it comes to the use of administrative segregation into a structured intervention unit. There will be need for infrastructure changes. There will be need for personnel changes. There will be need for programming changes and mental health care.
That number is that $448 million have been put into the latest budget to ensure we actually have the money to do this well. However, it is going to be shared over a series of requirements, everything we need to implement a structured intervention unit. We are going to do it right. Involving all the stakeholders in these decisions as we move forward will be very important.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:20 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her caring about this, for her compassion, and also the hon. member to my right.
This matters. This is not an easy thing to do. We are making significant change to the administrative segregation regime in Canada. We need to do it. The court has told us that we need to do it. There has been a letter explaining why this new way of doing administrative segregation is going to meet the court requirements.
We need to move forward with this to make it happen. Then we will be in a position of having a better chance to help people have a successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:22 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, the answer to the first question is yes. There is a requirement to record meaningful human contact and time out of the cell, and it needs to be during reasonable day hours. It cannot be during the night. It cannot be at other inopportune times. It must be at normal operating times.
On whether there is a penalty for CSC if it does not provide that, I think there will be recourse. CSC needs to record that time and will be encouraged to meet those standards.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, the UN standard is very important, but there is also a requirement to actually be able to fulfill that. When we talk about meaningful human contact, we are also talking about the kind of programming the offenders would need. That was the problem with the old system.
If inmates were in administrative segregation, they lost so much access to the kind of programs that would help them succeed, that were would help them move past the position where they were. That kind of mental health programming, that kind of literacy programming, that kind of addiction counselling program will now be available to inmates.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-14 13:26 [p.29143]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-83 has two main objectives.
First, it will allow federal inmates to be separated from the general prison population when necessary for security reasons. Second, it will ensure that these inmates have access to the interventions, programs and mental health care they need to safely return to the general prison population and make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.
The bill would achieve these objectives by replacing the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units. In SIUs, inmates will be entitled to twice as much time out of their cells, four hours daily instead of two, and two hours of meaningful human contact every day. We have allocated $448 million over six years to ensure that the correctional service has the resources to provide programs and interventions to inmates in SIUs and to implement this new safety system effectively. That funding includes $150 million for mental health care, both in SIUs and throughout the federal corrections system.
Bill C-83 was introduced last October. It was studied by the public safety committee in November and reported back to the House in December with a number of amendments. There were further amendments at report stage in February, including one from the member for Oakville North—Burlington, that added a system of binding external review. In recent months, hon. senators have been studying the bill and have now sent it back to us with proposed amendments of their own.
A high level of interest in Bill C-83 is indicative of the importance of the federal corrections system and of the laws and policies that govern it. Effective and humane corrections are essential to public safety. They are a statement of who we are as a country. In the words of Dostoyevsky, the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.
I extend my sincere thanks to all the intervenors who have provided testimony and written briefs over the course of the last nine months and to the parliamentarians in both chambers who have examined this legislation and made thoughtful and constructive suggestions.
Since the Senate social affairs committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of this bill a couple of weeks ago, the government has been carefully studying the committee's recommendations, all of which seek to achieve laudable objectives. We are proposing to accept several of the Senate's amendments as is or with small technical modifications.
First off, with minor adjustments, we agree with amendments that would require a mental health assessment of all inmates within 30 days of admission into federal custody and within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU. This fits with the focus on early diagnosis and treatment that would be facilitated by the major investments we are making in mental health care. We agree with the proposal to rearrange section 29 of the act, which deals with inmate transfers, to emphasize the possibility of transfers to external hospitals.
I thank the hon. senators for their efforts and contributions.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-05-31 11:45 [p.28350]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his concern and his hard work at committee.
Ashley Smith's death was a tragedy and we continue to extend our condolences to her family. We are working hard to prevent what happened to Ashley Smith from happening to anyone else. The new system we are putting in place will provide programs, mental health care and daily social interaction with inmates who need to be separated from the general population for safety reasons. We have backed that up with a $448-million investment, and unlike the current system, there will be new oversight mechanisms and regular reviews will be enshrined in law.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-02-21 16:18 [p.25647]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate at report stage of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation strengthens the act in several ways, including by eliminating administrative segregation in favour of a new system designed to achieve two objectives: ensuring the safety of staff and inmates, and offering inmates the rehabilitation programs they need. It goes without saying that our communities are safer when rehabilitation is more successful.
First off, I would like to thank all of the witnesses who appeared before the public safety committee, as well as the members of the committee who engaged in thoughtful and productive analysis of the bill. In fact, there were amendments accepted from all parties. There were some amendments proposed by a member of one party, with a subamendment by a member of another party, that were ultimately supported by both. This is what it looks like when parliamentarians work across party lines, when ideas are seriously considered on their merits, regardless of what party they came from, and when the government listens to Canadians and welcomes constructive feedback.
The initial version of Bill C-83, introduced in October, was immediately a major step forward for the Canadian correctional system. The committee amendments made the bill even stronger and there are amendments that have now been introduced at report stage, especially the proposal to create an external oversight mechanism that will make it stronger still.
The main feature of the bill is the creation of structured intervention units. These SIUs will allow for the separation of inmates from the general population when that is necessary for security reasons. However, unlike the current system of segregation, SIUs will be designed and resourced to provide interventions including mental health care and inmates will get a minimum of four hours out of their cell daily, with at least two hours of meaningful human contact.
At committee, certain witnesses asked for greater clarity regarding when the hours out would be offered and what the nature of the meaningful contact would be. Thanks to amendments by the members for Montarville and Toronto—Danforth, the bill now specifies that the hours out must be offered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and that the meaningful contact should, as a rule, be face to face.
There were also committee amendments related to oversight. In the original draft of the bill, the decision to place someone in an SIU would be reviewed by the warden after five days and after another 30 days, and by the commissioner every 30 days thereafter, for as long as the person remained in the unit. The warden would also conduct a review if the inmate did not get their minimum hours out for five days in a row or 15 out of 30, and a health care provider could, at any time, recommend changes to the conditions of confinement or removal from the SIU.
That was already a solid internal review system but an amendment from the member for Toronto—Danforth strengthened the health care review process even further so that, in the event the warden disagrees with the health care provider's recommendations, the matter gets elevated to a senior committee within the correctional service.
The amendment that has been proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington would add external oversight in the form of independent external decision-makers. These individuals would examine cases where an inmate has, for one reason or another, not received their minimum hours out of the cell or minimum hours of meaningful contact for five straight days or 15 out of 30. They would also examine situations where the senior health care review committee disagrees with the recommendations of the health care provider and they would examine all SIU placements after 90 days and every 60 days thereafter.
These independent external decision-makers will have real decision-making power, and not just the ability to make a recommendation. Both parties, the Correctional Service and the inmate, could apply to the Federal Court for judicial review.
The strength of this review system, which would include internal and external reviews, as well as the involvement of health care professionals, is unprecedented. I thank the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington for her proposal. The government will be happy to support it.
One of the other points that was raised at committee was the question of whether the new SIUs would be appropriately resourced.
For instance, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Jason Godin, said that the bill was ambitious, but required significant new resources to implement safely and effectively.
Stan Stapleton, president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees said that the bill was a step in the right direction, but new resources were needed to ensure its success.
We could not agree more. That is why the fall economic statement included $448 million over the next six years to support the implementation of Bill C-83. That includes about $300 million specifically for the SIUs as well as $150 million to strengthen mental health care, both within SIUs and throughout the corrections system. That is on top of almost $80 million in the last two budgets for mental health care in the corrections system.
In other words, we are putting our money where our mouth is. This new approach will have the resources it needs to be successful.
I know I am nearing the end of my time and I cannot go into detail about all the aspects of the bill, from better support to victims at parole hearings to the creation of patient advocates to strengthened health care governance or even the consideration of systemic and background factors in decision-making involving indigenous inmates. I have not even been able to touch on all of the amendments made at committee or on all of the amendments proposed at report stage.
However, it is clear that this legislation, bolstered by a vigorous and constructive legislative process, would help achieve our objective of having a better corrections system, one that would provide employees with a safe work environment, that would provide victims of crime with information and support, that would hold offenders to account and that would offer the programs, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, skills training and other interventions necessary for safe and effective rehabilitation.
Our communities are better protected when people end their sentences prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives and the bill would help make that happen.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-02-21 16:28 [p.25648]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his commitment to making improvements in this area, especially in corrections.
I attended a stakeholder meeting and I heard concerns about whether there would be enough resources to make the changes that were required in so many different prisons. The experts from the correctional services said that they would be implemented incrementally and that they were committed to ensuring that the individual facilities would have the resources they needed to implement this safely.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-02-21 16:29 [p.25648]
Mr. Speaker, we want effective rehabilitation. We want a system in which offenders are held to account for whatever their actions are, but are put into a system that will help them address any issues that may have led to their behaviour. Whether it is abject poverty, substance abuse or mental health issues, we want a system that helps them come out of the correctional system ready to play a role in society.
We believe we can reduce the reoffend rate by ensuring the inmates we are in charge of have the opportunity to create a better life so they do not feel they need to go back to the criminal world in order to survive. We want safer communities, and this is a major part of that.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-02-21 16:31 [p.25648]
Mr. Speaker, in the fall economic update, it was $448 million over the next six years. That includes $300 million specifically for the SIUs, in addition to $150 million to strengthen mental health care within the SIUs and the corrections system. That is almost $80 million in the last two budgets for mental health care in the corrections system.
We know this needs to get done, and we are making the investments necessary.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 11:28 [p.22540]
Madam Speaker, I agree that public safety is the number one objective and that by improving rehabilitative programming within some of our correctional institutions, we will support public safety by having fewer people reoffend and therefore fewer victims. I believe that mental health care services are a key part of that rehabilitative program. What are the member's ideas on how we can make that program for mental health advocacy even stronger?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 12:39 [p.22548]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to add my voice in this debate around Bill C-83.
We are committed to ensuring that we not only have the tools to hold the guilty parties accountable for breaking the law but also to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation, so that we will have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. This bill proposes to transform the way our federal correctional system works in this country to meet those critical goals.
A central element of this transformation is eliminating the use of segregation. Segregation would be replaced by the safety and intervention-focused structured intervention units, or SIUs for short. SIUs would operate in a much different way from what is currently the case with segregation. I will get to those crucial differences in just a few moments.
First, let me just say that in any large population there will be people who pose risk to those around them and to themselves. That reality holds true and perhaps is compounded in a population of offenders housed together under one roof. Correctional institutions are home to inmates whose behaviour can be dangerous to others or to themselves, and disruptive or highly difficult for those around them to endure.
It is a very challenging environment, both for inmates and for the professional, brave and hard-working correctional employees. Corrections officials and staff must have a tool they can use in cases where an inmate cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. For many years, segregation has been that tool.
However, the practice has come under fire in recent years. Watchdogs like the correctional investigator and the Auditor General of Canada have urged the government to restrict its use or eliminate it altogether. Two recent constitutional challenges in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have found the legislation governing administrative segregation to be unconstitutional.
As of December and January, administrative segregation will no longer be a tool available in those two provinces. That means that if an incident happens in a yard and inmates need to be separated while witness statements are taken, as correctional workers find out what happened, correctional officials will not be able to use administrative segregation. This means that if several members of a gang are threatening another inmate, there will be no administrative segregation unit to use. All of those involved will simply stay in the general population. This is a recipe for disaster.
Let us be very clear that when the Conservatives say we should just keep using “administrative segregation”, which what they called it in government, or “solitary confinement”, as they call it in opposition, they are telling correctional officials to do something they will not have the legal authority to do anymore. Those sections of the act will not exist in those two provinces.
What the Conservatives are really saying, then, is to just keep all of the inmates in the general population, regardless of the risk they pose to guards and health care workers and regardless of the risk from other inmates. It is not a real plan. It is reckless, and it is reckless thinking that we would expect to hear from people who have no real policies and no ability to make tough choices that governing this country requires.
Of course, those two court rulings came subsequent to the tragic case of Ashley Smith, who died in custody in 2007 at the age of 19. The coroner's inquest into Ashley's death focused on administrative segregation and the treatment of inmates with mental illness.
The Government of Canada has committed to implementing recommendations from that inquest. The mandate letters of three ministers also commit them to addressing gaps in service for indigenous peoples and for those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. Both of those groups are not only overrepresented in the overall federal corrections system, but also in the inmate population in segregation.
Some progress has been made by Correctional Service Canada over the past few years. Canada's correctional investigator said in March of last year that CSC “for the last few years has dedicated a lot of time and effort to address the gross overuse of administrative segregation.” For example, CSC implemented policy changes that led to a sharp decline in the use of administrative segregation placements between 2015 and 2017. Those changes have ensured that inmates with serious mental illness who actively engage in self-injury and are at elevated or imminent risk of suicide are not admissible for segregation.
According to the correctional investigator's 2016-17 report, the average stay in segregation has also seen a significant drop, from 34 days in 2015 to 23 days in 2017. The correctional investigator calls these reductions “encouraging”, but he cautions that there is more work to be done.
The time has come to better focus on interventions and on safety, and that is what this important piece of legislation would do.
Under Bill C-83, segregation would be eliminated outright from Canada's federal corrections system. In its place, the government is proposing to create structured intervention units. SIUs would be established in numerous institutions. They would offer a secure and structured environment to address the safety risks of inmates who cannot be managed or integrated into the mainstream inmate population.
The initial decision to move an inmate from the mainstream inmate population to an SIU would be made by a CSC staff member under the institutional head. This decision would be based on an evaluation of the inmate's needs, including health needs, and the safety risks for themselves, others and the institution. The staff member would have to be satisfied that there were no reasonable alternatives to placement in an SIU.
The inmate would receive a notice explaining the reasons for his or her movement, the right to retain and instruct counsel, and the right to make representations regarding movement back to the mainstream inmate population, or other alternatives.
Unlike segregation, SIUs would provide inmates with uninterrupted interventions and programs tailored to address their specific and unique needs and risks. Inmates would also have the opportunity to be outside of their cells for a longer period of time, at least four hours a day rather than the two hours a day currently practised. At least two of those four hours would allow inmates to interact with others.
In addition, inmates would receive daily visits from health care professionals. The plan would include additional staff to ensure that inmates could be moved safely throughout the new SIUs as they continued to receive programming and time with other compatible inmates within the SIU.
This is truly a revolutionary approach that would lead to better rehabilitation, which would mean less recidivism once inmates were released. Fewer inmates reoffending would mean less crime, and it would mean fewer victims in our communities.
Bill C-83 also addresses key recommendations from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith. In addition to ending the practice of placing female inmates in conditions of long-term segregation, the bill would introduce patient advocates at designated penitentiaries to help inmates navigate their health care rights and responsibilities.
All of this would facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible. It would also support their treatment and rehabilitation in preparation for their eventual release into the community. That, in turn, would support safety in our communities, because the vast majority of inmates will eventually complete their sentences and will be freed from custody.
We must do everything we can to ensure that offenders are as well equipped as possible to be productive, law-abiding citizens by addressing the underlying behaviours that got them into trouble to begin with. This is what we need to focus on.
Public safety is not well served by seeing offenders released more hardened, more bitter or more resentful than when they came in. Nor is it ever a good thing for inmates with health or mental health issues to be undiagnosed or to go untreated while in federal custody. That is why the establishment of the SIUs under this legislation would be such a big and positive step forward on the safety front. I am confident that it would mean better correctional outcomes for inmates, more security for the staff, safer institutions and greater public safety in the long run.
Bill C-83 would also correct a long-standing problem that has developed over time for Correctional Service Canada. When the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was written in 1992, CSC had facilities that were entirely dedicated to a single security classification. However, over time, CSC's infrastructure became mixed, with institutions often having, for instance, a maximum- and a medium-security wing. Today virtually all the facilities are mixed facilities. In fact, all the women's institutions are, indeed, mixed. The act, however, was never changed to reflect that fact.
Bill C-83 would ensure that CSC had the clear and proper legal authorities to operate and move inmates from one wing of an institution to another wing in the same facility.
This legislation would also grant CSC the legal authority to use body scanners. As we all know, drugs and other prohibited contraband find their way into prisons, despite efforts to keep them out. Body scanners would provide an important tool for corrections guards that is less invasive than physical searches and more effective in detecting contraband.
The bill would also ensure that audio recordings of parole hearings would be made available to victims who attended a hearing. The existing Corrections and Conditional Release Act permits a registered victim who was not in attendance to receive an audio copy of the hearing, but it does not allow someone who was there in person to have one. During the government's consultations, we heard loud and clear that for many victims, a parole hearing is such an emotional moment that the time seems to fly by. Later, they have difficulty clearly remembering what transpired. Section 34 of Bill C-83 would ensure that victims who attended in person could receive an audio recording of the hearing afterward.
Another important aspect of the bill stems from the Gladue Supreme Court decision of 1999. This was the case that required the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. Over the past 20 years, CSC has developed internal policies to give effect to the Supreme Court ruling, but Bill C-83 would go further by ensuring that the Gladue principles were fully enshrined in the CCRA.
I am proud to stand with a government that continues to take action to reform the criminal justice system, and I am proud to stand here today in support of this important bill.
As I mentioned at the top of my speech, this bill would ensure that CSC would have the tools to hold guilty parties accountable for what they have done while creating an environment that fosters rehabilitation. Effective rehabilitation means that we would have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 12:55 [p.22550]
Mr. Speaker, nothing is ever perfect, but having double the time out of the cells is an important step forward. As well, when prisoners have been in segregation, they have not had access to health care, to mental health care, to visitors, and to other programs that might have supported their rehabilitation. This SIU, even though it only doubles the amount of time prisoners could spend out of their cells, would actually mean that they could have intervention activities while they were in the SIU. That is why we think that is going to make a difference.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 12:57 [p.22550]
Mr. Speaker, there is a slight difference of opinion. When some of those rulings were put forward, they were addressing administrative segregation. Administrative segregation does not allow for rehabilitative activities to happen. It does not allow visitors. It does not allow a visit from a health care professional or a mental health care professional or access to other rehabilitative programs. This would really be a transformational change, because when these offenders were in a structured intervention unit, they would have access to this kind of programming that under administrative segregation they do not.
In the past, there was a suggestion to have a cap on the number of days, or whatever was appropriate. We are saying that the decision would be reviewed at least three times by three different people about an extended stay in a structured intervention unit. We feel that the review is there and that the changes from administrative segregation to a structured intervention unit actually would provide significant benefits toward an offender's rehabilitation.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 13:00 [p.22551]
Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member. The work correctional officers do is something that is probably underappreciated by a great number of Canadians. They work very hard, and their days are very demanding.
When we talk about issues like needle exchange we are trying to look at things based on harm reduction, on safety and on the evidence we have seen. This is an issue that will require more discussion in order for people to feel comfortable with the decisions being made.
However, when we are basing the decisions on science, on evidence and on the overall safety of institutions, we think it is the right way forward.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 13:02 [p.22551]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has identified the crux of the matter. This is transformational change away from administrative segregation, where offenders were in their cells for 22 hours a day, with no access to programming, to visitors or to mental health treatment.
We know that 70% of the inmates in our institutions today suffer from some kind of mental illness. We feel that if we do not address these mental health concerns before inmates are released back into society, their chances of successfully rehabilitating back into society will be much diminished.
That is why we made this transformational change toward a structured intervention unit, where people still have access to the rehabilitative training that will give them the best chance for a better future.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 13:03 [p.22551]
Mr. Speaker, all I can say to answer that is I have not been part of that process, but I can get back to the member with an answer to his question.
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