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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-06-21 14:21 [p.29473]
I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills: C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast; C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act; C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages; C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families; C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures; C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act; C-102, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-06-21 14:54 [p.29473]
I have the honour to inform the House that when this House did attend Her Excellency this day in the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms—Chapter 9.
C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada—Chapter 10.
S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins)—Chapter 11.
C-82, An Act to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting—Chapter 12.
C-59, An Act respecting national security matters—Chapter 13.
C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence—Chapter 14.
C-77, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 15.
C-78, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act—Chapter 16.
C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)—Chapter 17.
C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 18.
C-88, An Act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 19.
C-93, An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis—Chapter 20.
C-102, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020—Chapter 21.
C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act—Chapter 22.
C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages—Chapter 23.
C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families—Chapter 24.
C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 25.
C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast—Chapter 26.
C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act—Chapter 27.
C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 28.
C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures—Chapter 29.
It being 2:55 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 16, 2019, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2:55 p.m.)
The 42nd Parliament was dissolved by Royal Proclamation on September 11, 2019.
Aboriginal languagesAboriginal peoplesAccess for disabled peopleAccess to informationAdjournmentAgriculture, environment and natural res ...British ColumbiaBudget 2019 (March 19, 2019)C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tarif ...C-102, An Act for granting to Her Majest ...C-48, An Act respecting the regulation o ...
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View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-06-20 12:31 [p.29470]
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House:
(a) the amendment to the motion respecting the senate amendments to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, be deemed negatived on division and the main motion be deemed carried on division; and
(b) the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-100, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, be deemed negatived on division and that the Bill be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Geoff Regan Profile
2019-06-20 12:32 [p.29470]
Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Speaker: The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
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 Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:13 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. This bill is being offered as a product of all of Parliament, while we reject any of the substantive amendments that the Senate is bringing forward.
Certainly, I do not want to be an apologist for the Senate, with some of the legislation it is holding up. In particular, Senator Pate, who worked on this, is someone who comes from the community of civil society, of folks who have worked on these issues for a long time. The reason I say that is because the bill was panned by every witness who came to committee. In fact, the Ontario Superior Court, when it offered the extension to the government, which has allowed this unconstitutional practice to fester for four years now, said that there was nothing in its mind that seemed to indicate there would be any remedial effort brought forward.
What I find really frustrating and baffling about the bill is that ultimately it is just a rebrand, and I am not the only one saying that. Many others have said it as well, including Senator Pate.
I want to ask the member a question. Judicial review has been offered. It was offered years ago, even decades ago, by Justice Arbour when she was looking at some of these issues. The reason why was because we were essentially changing someone's sentence, we were extending someone's sentence by adding additional punishment through the system.
Does the member not recognize that? If the government truly believes there will be an undue burden on provincial courts, is that not because the practice has been used in such an abusive way that it would require that additional judicial oversight?
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 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 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 Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-19 22:18 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, for my hon. friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety,, I recognize that the bill before us would make improvements in the situation of solitary confinement. I am particularly grateful to her colleague, the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington, for working so collaboratively on the committee and helping some of my amendments get through.
However, I am very troubled by the rejection of some of the Senate amendments. I am sure the parliamentary secretary is aware of the letter from Senator Pate to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, which was shared with many members. It spoke to something that is quite compelling, which is unusual when legislation goes through this place. We already have a foreshadowing from the Ontario Court of Appeal that the legislation will not be found to be constitutional.
The citation is from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, where the Ontario Court of Appeal comments in relation to the five-day review. The key sentence reads, “Nothing more has been done to remedy the breach”, and this is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the interim, “and it remains unclear how Bill C-83 will remedy it if enacted.”
The Senate amendments and the ones that the hon. parliamentary secretary referenced must go through. We can get the bill faster by accepting these amendments from the Senate. The administrative objections that I heard from the parliamentary secretary do not measure up to the imperative of ensuring the bill is constitutional.
View 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 Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-06-19 22:21 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, because we are near the end of the session, I want to thank my staff, Brad, Erica, Susan, Ellen, Alisha and formerly Denis Sabourin for their great work.
Also, anyone in the House who has questioned the existence of the Senate, which we call the other place here, this is a great example of where it has provided a number of suggested amendments and the government is accepting a number of them. This has happened since Confederation, where laws in Canada have been approved like this.
With the structured intervention, there would be significantly more time away from the cell and more time for programming, etc. Does the bill direct Correctional Service Canada to record these times to ensure they are followed. If it does not, are there penalties in the bill for CSC?
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 Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, to go back to the last answer, I would like to quote for the parliamentary secretary Dr. Adelina Iftene who is a law professor at Dalhousie University. Following these amendments and the response to the work that Senate Pate was doing, she said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards...The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement.
Do the Liberals not believe that living up to the UN standard is the very least they could do, but they have not?
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 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 Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-06-19 22:25 [p.29449]
Does the hon. member for Battle River—Crowfoot have the unanimous consent of the House to regard this time slot as a 20 and 10 for the purpose of splitting his time?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
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 Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 22:36 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, while we are debating Bill C-83 tonight, the hon. member spent a great deal of time talking about corrections officers and the needle exchange program, which has absolutely nothing to do with this bill.
He mentioned that there has been no consultation with corrections officers. I would like to correct the record on that. I have met with them numerous time and the minister just recently spoke at their meeting in Calgary. Quite frankly, if we had not had the draconian cuts to corrections that were made over the last 10 years, our corrections officers would be much better prepared in their daily efforts at work. I have the utmost respect for corrections officers.
My question to the hon. member has to do with the Senate amendments, which is what the debate is about tonight. Will his party be supporting them?
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 Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
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
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 Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
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
CPC (AB)
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 Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 22:51 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start by thanking the hon. member for his service to this country and everything that he has done in this place. From the bottom of my heart, I want to give him my thanks. It was truly an honour and a pleasure to work with him on the public safety committee. I have so much respect for his opinions.
I am asking this question from a very sincere place. As the member knows, we are under a timeline from the Supreme Court of Canada. We have passed this bill. It has gone to the Senate. The Senate has come back with some fairly significant amendments, some of them requiring judicial oversight, which we do not agree with. Some of them we have agreed with, such as the one for mental health assessment when a prisoner first arrives in the institution.
I am just wondering if the member feels it is important to get this legislation done, because the alternative would be that the courts would impose a solution. I just recently spoke with the past president of UCCO and I have spoken to corrections officers, and they were concerned that if we do not get this legislation done, the courts could put something else through. They are concerned that they would have zero input into that.
I am wondering what the member's thoughts are on that, and I give my thanks again for his service.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
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 Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:54 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington, I do want to thank the member for his service and say what a pleasure it was to work together on the public safety committee. He is certainly a straight shooter, and it led to probably some of the best witness testimony we could get. At the risk of mixing metaphors, it was also a bit disarming. I think we tend to like to be verbose at committee, but getting to the point is something we could do more of. My thanks to him for that.
I do want to ask the member this question. We have talked a lot about consultations. He mentioned it in the context of correctional officers. We both know from being at the committee that most of the major stakeholders on this file, if not all of them, told us at committee that they were not consulted.
There was a first go that the government had at this, Bill C-56, which never got to be debated at second reading when it was tabled in 2017. This bill was tabled late last year, and we are now finalizing debate. I just wonder what my colleague thinks about this. While there is a tight timeline and he is talking about rushing it, the reality is that with the Ashley Smith inquest and some other things, this has been on the agenda even before the government took power.
I am wondering what the member thinks of the fact that there was the opportunity to consult and there was the opportunity to get it right, but now there have been some court decisions, a rushed timeline and a bit of legislative dropping the ball, if I am allowed that turn of phrase. What does the member think about that situation?
View Jim Eglinski Profile
CPC (AB)
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 Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:56 [p.29453]
Mr. Speaker, I will be proposing an amendment at the end of my speech. Please let me know when I have one minute remaining.
I would like to share with the House a few important quotes.
First, I will go over the topic I just raised in my question to the hon. member for Yellowhead. In Canada, administrative segregation is a scourge. It has been overused for many years and was an issue well before the current government came to power.
During the previous Parliament, two of our colleagues, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who was the critic, and the former member for Alfred-Pellan, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the deputy critic, asked many questions about the inquest into the tragic circumstances surrounding Ashley Smith's death. I invite all parliamentarians who wish to speak about that case to read that file.
It is horrifying to see that this teenager, this child, was killed. The findings of the inquest attest to the negligence and abuse in the prison system. The Correctional Service of Canada has to take responsibility for its role in this tragedy.
It is all the more troubling when we consider that members of her family, namely her mother and her sister, if I remember correctly, came to testify before the Senate committee. Senator Pate, who was doing amazing work on this file long before being appointed to the Senate, had invited them to testify. In their testimony, the family members said they were disappointed and furious with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who were supposed to make improvements to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death never happened again. They invoked her name and her memory to justify their approach, but in the end this approach will not help resolve the situation at all.
Since the Liberals took office, two courts and the Supreme Court have granted extensions and the government has requested a stay because the legislation before us has not yet passed. The courts found what we have known for a long time, namely that excessive use of administrative segregation is unconstitutional.
That pronouncement is deeply disturbing. We know of numerous cases of abuse. Incidentally, those cases of abuse are not exclusive to federal institutions. However, given our jurisdiction and the limited time we have left, we cannot delve into the many troubling cases that worry us, including the one that happened recently in Ontario.
It is important to bear in mind that the remedy the government is proposing is no remedy at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The reason so many stakeholders, and in certain cases, the loved ones of victims of the abusive use of solitary confinement, have deplored this is that all we have is a rebrand. It is solitary confinement under a different name.
As is unfortunately too often the case with the government, we have to propose amendments and make changes to bills, pointing out there are a few things that might be better. Experts agree that the courts will continue to find this practice, even if under a different name like structured intervention units, to be unconstitutional. I will come back to this with some quotes I pulled up earlier, which I want to share with the House.
Bill C-83 was one of the first bills that came before our committee and was opposed by all the witnesses. Rarely had I seen this until quite recently, although there have been a few since then. I am sure Liberal members could pull out a couple of quotes to say that corrections officers think this would be an okay approach. However, the witnesses were opposed to this approach, because a variety of things were not in place that needed to be.
One of the Senate's proposed amendments is to require judicial approval for an inmate to be held in solitary confinement. This is nothing new. Justice Louise Arbour conducted an inquiry into riots at an institution in Saskatchewan. She noted that the overuse of segregation has an impact on inmates.
Judges sometimes impose sentences of imprisonment as part of their duties and authority. However, when segregation is overused, this means that institutions, their managers and, ultimately, the Correctional Service of Canada are altering the judge's decision. They are modifying the sentence handed down by the judge. This was Justice Arbour's argument, which is why she advocated for the use of judicial supervision.
What is particularly troubling to me is that I proposed an amendment, now Senator Pate has proposed an amendment and these amendments are being rejected by the government. My understanding, after hearing the parliamentary secretary's speech earlier tonight, is that it would cause an increased workload on provincial courts. Ultimately, the sad and tragic thing about that argument is that the only reason it would cause an increased workload is because of the abusive use of solitary confinement as so many individuals are being subjected to the practice when they should not necessarily be.
Focusing on women offenders in particular, I presented an amendment at committee to end the practice completely in women's institutions. Why? The figures demonstrate two things. One is that the number of women in solitary confinement is infinitesimal. The practice is not necessary for maintaining security in our institutions, which is obviously the primary reason it is used most of the time. The second is quite simply that pregnant women, women with mental health problems and indigenous women are the women most often negatively affected by the abusive use of solitary confinement. There is certainly an argument to be made about that, but at the very least, it should be with judicial oversight.
In fact, the argument might also be made that Senator Pate's amendment goes too far. I do not think so, which, as I said, leads us to support the amendment, but there are other routes as well. I proposed an amendment that sought a longer period of 15 days before judicial oversight would be required. It is certainly a much longer and wider threshold than what Senator Pate is proposing. That was also rejected.
The fact of the matter is that the issue we are facing here is quite contradictory. I want to go back to another issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary about the burden we would be putting on provinces. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the burden on provincial mental health hospitals and institutions. That is one of reasons I wanted the Senate amendments. Members will forgive me for not recalling the exact amendment, but this was being proposed.
We look at the same Public Safety department, through the work of my provincial colleague in Queen's Park, Jennifer French. It has fought the Ontario government for years over the fact that it has contracts with Public Safety Canada to detain, in some cases with dubious human rights parameters, immigrants who have sometimes not even committed crimes and have uncertain legal status in our country. When that is the purview of the federal government, these individuals are treated very poorly.
I do not have the title with me, but I would be happy to share with them a great report in the Toronto Star two years ago, if I am not mistaken, on some of these individuals. One individual, for example, in the U.S. was apparently accused of stealing a DVD, but was never found guilty in court. He came to Canada, was working through the process for permanent residency and due to a variety of issues, he is now being detained in a provincial prison under poor circumstances, without the proper accountability that a normal detention process would have. Even though that is the responsibility of the federal government, there are issues like overcrowding and such, and that is through subcontracting that the federal government does with the provinces.
Why am I talking about a completely different case? I am simply trying to demonstrate the government's hypocrisy.
The government has no qualms about working with the provinces. In some cases, it even forces them to implement legislation and various mechanisms related to our legal and correctional systems. Now, the government wants to use the provinces as an argument to continue violating inmates' rights.
As promised, I will share some quotes. I want to share two of them with the House.
First of all, I want to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling granting the second extension, in April. Certainly my colleagues who are lawyers will not appreciate me selectively quoting. It is always a dubious and dangerous game, but I will do so for the sake of expediency. The court said this:
Extensive evidence is put forward outlining the legislative process, the steps necessary to implement the Bill [Bill C-83]including cost, staff training, infrastructure, public consultations.... But this court remains where we were when the first extension was argued: we have virtually nothing to indicate that the constitutional breach identified by the application judge is being or will be addressed in the future.
It is pretty clear from that quote and that extension, and not even the initial judgment ruling that the practice was unconstitutional, that this is an issue the bill will not resolve.
I sort of opened the door to this at the beginning, and I did not quite finish that thought, but I did want to come back to it, because I just mentioned the second extension.
Bill C-56 was tabled in 2017, the first attempt by the government to deal with this, because it was, after all, part of not one minister's but two ministers' mandate letters, the minister of justice and the Minister of Public Safety. As I said, it was a debate that began in the previous Parliament and even before through a variety of public inquiries and the like.
Finally, we get to Bill C-83, which was tabled late last year. Here we are now, at the eleventh hour, having it rammed through, because the government, quite frankly, did not do its proper homework. It is problematic, because here we have the Liberals asking for extensions and having to go now, in the last few weeks, to the Supreme Court, of all places, to get an additional extension. The thing is that the witnesses at committee were not consulted. No one was consulted except the officials in the minister's office, and they all came to committee to tell us that.
I would like someone to explain to me how this could be an issue when the Prime Minister included it in his 2015 mandate letters for the ministers responsible. A bill was introduced in 2017, and two decisions by two different courts, the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, were handed down in late 2017 and early 2018. Then Bill C-83 was introduced in late 2018. Then not one, not two, but three applications were filed for an extension to implement what the courts had requested.
That is interesting. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. Earlier, when she asked the member for Yellowhead a question, she stated that it might be more beneficial for correctional officers if we were to pass the bill so as not to have to impose the will of the courts upon them.
Personally, to defend human rights and prevent people from dying in our prisons due to excessive use of administrative segregation, I would like the courts' restrictions and terms to be imposed. Of course, that is what we wanted to see in the legislation.
On a similar note, I would like to come back to the UN rules concerning segregation, which are known as the Nelson Mandela rules.
They cover a number of factors: the number of consecutive days in administrative segregation, the number of consecutive hours in administrative segregation and the number of hours spent outside the cell. Viewers might see that last point as problematic, but when inmates are outside their cells, they are not frolicking in wildflower meadows. I hope my colleagues will forgive my humorous tone when talking about such a serious issue. All that means is outside the cell used for administrative segregation. The rules also mention the importance of meaningful human contact.
Now I would like to read the quote I read a small part of when I asked the parliamentary secretary a question.
Dr. Adelina Iftene is a law professor at Dalhousie University. I will read the full quote and I ask for colleagues' indulgence. She said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards, the amount of time prisoners would have meaningful contact with other human beings–-two hours per day--does not. The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement. The government simply cannot argue that its proposed regime is not segregation. Passing a bill that does not include a cap on segregation time and judicial oversight will lead to another unconstitutional challenge.... Refusal to pass the bill with amendments would be a sign of bad faith, disregard for taxpayers’ money and for the rule of law. It is disheartening to see such resistance to upholding human rights at home by a country that champions human rights abroad.
That drives home the point that the window dressing may have changed, but the store still carries the same goods. Please forgive my use of such a light-hearted expression. The system is the same, and it still has harsh and sometimes fatal consequences for people.
Some people argue that there are public safety reasons for this and that some of these inmates have committed horrible crimes and deserve to be punished. However, by far most of the people subjected to excessive use of administrative segregation struggle with mental health problems. That is a problem because these people are not getting the care they need for either their own rehabilitation or to ensure public safety objectives are achieved and they stop posing a threat to communities and society. Excessive use is at odds with our mental health and rehabilitation goals, and that is bad for public safety. I would encourage anyone who says this measure will improve public safety to think again because there is a situation here we really need to address.
I have a lot more that I would like to say, but my time is running out. As members can see, this problem has been around for years. Many stakeholders gave inspiring testimony, despite the sombre issue and our discouragement with regard to the government's proposals and inaction. What is more, what the Senate has been doing when it comes to some of the bills that were democratically passed by the House is deplorable. I am thinking of the bill introduced by my colleague from James Bay and the one introduced by our former colleague from Edmonton, Rona Ambrose, on sexual assault. That being said, Senator Pate has done extraordinary work. She has experience in the field. She used to work at the Elizabeth Fry Society. She knows what she is talking about, much more than anyone in the House. I tip my hat to her for the amendments that she managed to get adopted in the Senate. I support them.
Accordingly, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Jonquière:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, be now read a second time and concurred in.”
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