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View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I thank the chamber for doing that.
This undoubtedly will be the last time I ever speak in this place. As I rise on this night, I want to thank the throng of people that have come out to hear this speech.
I rise this evening to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
This legislation seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
Just as we fundamentally opposed the bill in its original form, we oppose the government's motion respecting the Senate amendments.
We on this side of the House believe that this legislation has the potential of making prisons more dangerous both for offenders and for correctional officers. I will get into that in a bit.
Drumheller Institution, a medium security facility, is located within my riding of Battle River—Crowfoot. Over the many years I have represented this riding, I have developed a very good rapport with many of the good people who work there.
Correctional officers contact my constituency office on a regular basis, asking for assistance in resolving cases and issues they have within and with their institution. I would never support a bill that could potentially endanger their lives any more than they already are, given that they are employed in an inherently hazardous occupation. Currently, my office has 20 active files and 50 inactive files, but also unresolved files from Drumheller correctional workers with respect to pay issues due to the Phoenix pay system, as well as other issues. They are not alone. Nearly two-thirds of public servants have unresolved pay issues more than three years after the Phoenix system was launched.
Now the national union president representing correctional officers is raising serious concerns about the very real possibility of some new measures taking place within the institution. One of them is the first supervised drug injection site for prisoners. The Correctional Service of Canada has neither confirmed nor denied this is about to happen by the end of the month.
As National President Jeff Wilkins told the National Post in an article that appeared on June 9, “The correctional officers are dead set against the prison needle-exchange and the current way it's being rolled out.” It is a program that he says is unsafe for guards, as they are responsible for distributing needles to prisoners in their cells, a scheme that has done nothing to stop needle sharing and defies reason in that people in prison should not have access to those drugs.
One of my constituents wrote me, “As a Correctional Officer, I am opposed to the proposed Needle Exchange program, which is definitely defeating the purpose of the whole anti-drug thing that we were shooting for in jail. Is there any way that I and other co-workers can express our concerns with our MP?”
l told him that I was definitely open to hearing and discussing these concerns with him and his colleagues. I could not assure him, however, that the Liberal government would listen. I did in fact tell him that I would bring his concerns to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness but was not at all confident that he would be receptive to those concerns.
After 19 years in this place and a number of years as our party's public safety critic for the official opposition in 2001 until about 2005, I have learned that when it comes to justice, under Liberal governments inmates and their rights take precedence over victims and correctional officers' rights.
For the 19 years that I have been in this place, I have repeatedly stood in the House fighting for victims' rights, fighting for changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to end such things as statutory release and promoting the idea of protection of society as a guiding principle in our justice system.
I oppose conditional sentences as originally prescribed by the Liberals, which saw rapists and other violent offenders serve their sentences at home. My constituents back me up on that.
I am equally opposed to needle exchange programs in our correctional institutions, and I am opposed to injection sites. I wholeheartedly agree with the union president that rather than providing needle exchanges and designated sites within prisons for inmates to shoot up, we should perhaps have medical facilities closer to these prisons to deal with the drug overdoses that may result.
So much more should and can be done to stop the drug trade within the correctional facilities, which is leading to overdose, to death and to the continued gang wars that take place within our prisons. Canadians would agree that it defies reason that drugs make their way into the prisons, not to mention the huge amount of drugs and number of needles that circulate.
This is certainly not a new phenomenon. This has been going on for years. The Liberals' only solution is to give the inmates what they want. I disagree.
I fully understand that many inmates are drug addicts and that many of them are in prison as a result of criminal behaviour related to their addiction. They need help. They do not need more drugs, especially drugs that are bought or bartered for within prison. The fact that drugs cannot be stopped from entering our prisons certainly is a blight on the reputation of the Correctional Service of Canada.
As I pointed out this year when I last spoke to this bill, the Correctional Service of Canada certainly has been the subject of much criticism over the last number of years. In that speech, I mentioned one of the fall reports of the Auditor General of Canada, in 2017. It was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of the Auditor General's report was this:
[to determine] whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions, and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody—including Indigenous women offenders—that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.
We heard our parliamentary secretary talk about correctional programs tonight, and this bill also deals with indigenous women offenders.
As noted by the Auditor General:
Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.
The report states:
Overall, we found that Correctional Service Canada had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders.... As a result, some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels....
Furthermore, and most relevant to our debate here this evening, the Auditor General concluded:
We found that Correctional Service Canada had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.
I also spoke about report 6 of the fall 2018 Auditor General report on community supervision of offenders, in which the Auditor General found that while the number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing, the Correctional Service of Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community. Despite the growing backlog and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, the Correctional Service of Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.
The Auditor General also found that the Correctional Service of Canada did not properly manage offenders under community supervision. Parole officers did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have, nor did parole officers always monitor offenders' compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.
I continue today to implore the Liberal government to focus on ensuring that the Correctional Service of Canada fully meets its mandate. The safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release. Given the findings of the Office of the Auditor General, I believe that uneasiness with respect to safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83.
I implore the current government to start thinking about those who find themselves in danger's way daily by implementing measures and policies to protect them. If it only took the time to consult them, I am confident their ideas, based on years of experience, would ensure Correctional Services Canada would be able to fulfill its mandate.
I am thankful for the opportunity to speak tonight. I look forward to any questions.
View Rachael Harder Profile
View Rachael Harder Profile
2019-06-19 22:39 [p.29451]
Mr. Speaker, talking about consultation, interestingly, two weeks ago there were several hundred correctional officers who gathered on the lawn here on Parliament Hill to protest the current government and its decision to introduce a needle exchange program within the federal prisons. Officers would say they were not consulted on this decision and that they very much feel they have been put in harm's way by the installation of this program.
I am wondering if the hon. member could comment on this further and highlight the importance of consulting with those who are on the front lines, day in and day out.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I served in government. I know consultations. For me, it was budget consultations across the country, meeting with as many as we could, meeting with people in every community and every chamber. There were consultations online, as well as in person.
The hon. member is correct. When I spoke to my correctional officers, they said they were not consulted. When we speak to the union, it said there was inadequate consultation.
In the case the member is referring to, which is a little different than what the scope of the bill is, on the needle exchanges the officers are very concerned about their safety. We know that the needle that was maybe used to shoot up a drug could also be used as a weapon in the hands of that offender against other offenders and against correctional officers. It is one thing to say they are employed in an inherently dangerous surrounding, and another for governments to say they had better consult and make sure that what they are doing is the right thing. Unfortunately, the current government fails on consultation every time.
View Martin Shields Profile
View Martin Shields Profile
2019-02-26 13:41 [p.25792]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
I understand that Bill C-83 is designed to make a number of significant changes to our correctional system. It seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities, replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs, and introduce body scanners for inmates, among other changes.
There have been a lot of problems with the correctional system and Bill C-75 could make it worse. The policies under Bill C-75 include serious offenders receiving sentences of a maximum two years less a day. People who have committed serious crimes to persons and property will be in provincial jails, downloaded. We now will have a system where there will be less chance to deal with serious offenders in provincial institutions. It has become a revolving door, where some know they will be in and out very quickly and will not be provided the help they may need in a prison system.
I know the legislation has prompted some strong responses from stakeholders. I am happy to convey some of those serious concerns.
The CSC ombudsman, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation. Unions and employees have not been consulted. Nor have indigenous groups.
The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, whose members will be directly impacted by the legislation, even said, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody.” It does not sound right that it was a surprise to those who would be affected the most. It is something like the Parks Canada budget that had a $60 million pathway in it and Parks Canada knew nothing about it.
The correctional investigator of Canada told the public safety committee:
All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.
For a government that supposedly loves to consult, it sure seems to have left a lot of people dissatisfied with this process.
Of particular note are concerns we have heard from correctional officers. These are the people who wear the uniforms. These are the people who protect us and inmates. The introduction of SIUs may pose a risk to both prison guards and inmates. The legislation goes further than what was raised in either Superior Court decisions. It completely bans administrative segregation and introduces the structured intervention unit model.
We need to take a lot of care in how we deal with youth offenders or those with mental illnesses or mental disease for which segregation may not be an option. We need to be very careful in how we use segregated models with those people.
This has the potential to make prisons much more dangerous for guards and inmates. Guards will lose an important disciplinary tool. In fact, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told the public safety committee, “by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations.” That is a very troubling statement. In other words, was the consultation there to find another solution? I do not think so.
Guards will be placed in greater danger as they attempt to control extremely dangerous offenders without the ability to fully separate them from other inmates. Who is going to want to be a guard if things continue this way? It is already an intensely stressful, challenging occupation. We cannot keep placing these people under greater strain. Dangerous inmates will be forced together in units with each other. Is that the right way to go?
I understand that this change is well intentioned. Canada has a fundamentally sound and humane correctional system, especially compared to many other jurisdictions around the world. We do not want a draconian system, but we do need to balance the mental health of prisoners with the safety and protection of guards, workers and fellow inmates.
The bill would fail to do some of those things. It ignores the reality on the ground in many prisons. As the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles noted, some inmates request to be in administrative segregation for their own safety. They do not want to rub shoulders with other dangerous offenders.
Legislation intended to improve our correctional system should not compromise safety and security. The government needs to go back and fix the bill. It should not force the bill through over the objections of virtually all interested stakeholders and put lives at risk in doing so, especially the lives of those who wear the uniform.
I am also surprised to find that the legislation does nothing to ensure that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities.
It was just last year that Canadians from coast to coast expressed outrage over Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer to a healing lodge. Only after massive public pressure did the government finally move to address the injustice and send her back behind bars. The Prime Minister personally attacked his critics and accused Canadians of politicizing this issue. Thankfully, Canadians were able to pressure him enough to act so that decision was changed.
However, a prime minister should never have to be shamed into doing the right thing. There was an opportunity in this legislation to take real action to prevent similar situations in the future, but no action was taken on this topic.
One clear positive aspect that would result from the legislation is the introduction of body scanners. If this system is applied properly, it should be helpful in intercepting drugs before they make their way into prisons. It is important that the scans apply to all individuals entering the prison. Drugs simply should not be flowing into correctional facilities and creating even more dangerous conditions there.
However, I am unclear why the Liberals' haphazard plan to supply inmates with syringes would still being implemented if we have scanners. Our objective should be to prevent drug abuse in prisons, not facilitate it. Furthermore, legitimate concerns have been raised over the weaponization of the syringes. It should be obvious that the worst offenders will try to use syringes as weapons. This presents yet another threat to guards who are already operating in a dangerous environment. The body scanners should receive the highest priority, and the needle exchange program should be scrapped.
In summary, this flawed legislation is not right. It does not prioritize the safety of correctional service officers. It compromises the safety of inmates. Almost all of the witnesses the public safety committee heard were critical of the bill. The consultation process was obviously not complete.
Instead of scrapping the legislation in light of witness testimony, the Liberals are pressing forward with it. I join my colleagues in opposing the bill.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
View Kelly McCauley Profile
2019-02-26 15:37 [p.25811]
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak once again on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The Liberals seem to have a long history and a running streak of putting forward bills focusing more on criminals' rights than on those of the victims, and in some ways this bill seems to be another one of those. It is mostly a poorly thought-out bill that provides no resources or thoughts to employee safety among those working in correction services.
The government should have spent time consulting with CSC workers, figuring out how it could reconfigure the prisons and how it would also pay for all of these changes. Bill C-83 is another example of the government making a big announcement and thinking that everything ends at the announcement, that everything is done, without putting any planning behind it.
We have seen this with the government and its infrastructure program. It announces $180 billion in infrastructure spending, but kind of overlooks the fact that $90 billion of it was commitments from the previous government.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not able to locate within the budget or the estimates a significant amount of the spending. The Senate committee did a study on the infrastructure spending, and it said that the only metric for success in infrastructure was how much money was spent, not how many roads were built or how many highways were upgraded; it was just how much money was spent.
We see the same thing from the Liberals with their housing plan. They make grandiose announcements, standing in this House again and again to say it is $40 billion. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, reported that it is actually about $1.5 billion. The Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary responsible for housing stood up in this House and said that a million families have been helped under this plan, believing that if they just make an announcement, then everything happens. It turns out that if we look at the departmental results plan, it was 7,500 families helped, not a million.
We see this again and again. Bill C-83 is no different. I will get to that later.
There are some things in Bill C-83 that I can support. The Liberal government is much like a broken watch, which is correct twice a day, and sometimes the government can be correct in its bills. The bill calls for body scanners to prevent contraband and drugs from getting into the prison. I fully support that. I wish the Liberals would modify it so that everyone coming in gets a body scan.
However, I do have to agree with the people I have talked to at corrections services. Why are we trying to stop drugs, but at the same time bringing in and handing out needles to the prisoners? These are needles that we have heard are being used as weapons against CSC workers.
I also like the fact that Bill C-83 gives more consideration to indigenous offenders. It is no secret that the indigenous population is overrepresented in prisons, and that has to be addressed, so I do agree with that measure. However, there are too many parts of the bill that would negatively impact the safety of corrections officers.
We all know of the Ashley Smith situation, which was a tragedy, and the government should do everything in its power to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. However, a poorly thought-out plan and an underfunded bill that just bans segregation is not the answer.
We have to keep in mind that it is not just inmates who are committing crimes who are going into segregation. Often it is a victim. They are put in there to assure their safety by moving them away from their abuser. They obviously do not want to name their abuser because of prison rules, so to speak, so the assaults continue unless the victim is moved into segregation. Unfortunately, that person eventually has to desegregate back into the prison system or change prisons. Nothing in Bill C-83 addresses that issue.
A CBC report says segregation is not the deterrent it once was. Prisoners now receive all of their possessions, their television and all of their belongings, within 24 hours of being put in segregation. Another CBC report quoted a couple of corrections officers. One of them stated that whereas the more violent inmates used to be in separate containers, now they are all in one bag, so they are just waiting for one to go off. That sets the rest of them off, and they end up with murder, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.
Another one is saying that the inmates can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections. Another says that all removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for corrections officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety.
In September 2017, with respect to a provincial study that I imagine would also cover federal, the CBC reported a massive upswing, a 50% increase, in inmate assaults over the five years that segregation had been removed or reduced.
Under this proposal, whenever inmates move from segregation to have their additional hours in the open, two officers will be needed to escort them. I have to ask where those resources will come from. If I look at the manpower figures in the departmental plan for the Correctional Service of Canada, which shows what its budget would be several years out, I see that the figures are identical in 2021 to what they are now. We are planning all this extra work for the officers, but there is no plan to provide extra officers. In fact, if we look at the plan, which has been signed off by the Minister of Public Safety himself, we see that the Liberals have cut the number of officers on staff from what it was when the Harper government was in charge. Again, where are the resources coming from?
As well, where are the added dollars coming from to renovate these new cells? I have heard the Minister of Public Safety stand and say that there is $80 million from the last budget and $400 million in the estimates. That is fine, but when we look at the departmental plans, again we see that from last year in 2017 to this year, the Liberals have cut $152.5 million from corrections services, and in the next couple of years, they are cutting an additional $225 million.
If they are spending $400 million on renovations and resources and the end result is $225 million less, where is the missing $600 million? I am sure the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be unable to find where this money is, as was the case with the missing infrastructure money.
Getting back to the departmental plans, these plans lay out the priorities for the government for this department. Again, the plans are reviewed and signed by the Minister of Public Safety. In this plan, there are 20 priorities, yet not a single one mentions or addresses officer safety or the safety of anyone working for corrections services.
The government, when discussing Bill C-83, brags about how it is the first time ever it has given the head of Correctional Services of Canada a mandate letter. I looked at the mandate letter. There are 1,400 words in the mandate letter for the head of the CSC. Let us keep in mind the government is so proud of this letter. Of the 1,400 words, 24 are about victims of crime, and just 52 are about the safety or well-being of corrections officers. The 52 words include this gem: “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”
Can members imagine an inmate coming at them with a knife or a needle? What would their response be? If we looked it up in the manual, we would find “self-reflection”. Self-reflection sounds like something that would be more appropriate after being confronted after having groped someone at a concert, not when dealing with inmates in a criminal institution.
The president of the union of correctional officers, Rob Finucan, described how a guard in the Millhaven Institution was slashed across the face with a shard or knife. Why? It was because of the new rule that inmates can only be handcuffed in front and not behind. The inmate was cuffed and being moved to segregation. He had a shard of glass or a knife with him and cut across the face of the officer. Luckily, the officer's eye was not lost, but that happened because of rules we are putting into effect without any consideration for the officers.
In the minute I have left, I will end with the money set aside for mental health for inmates in the last budget. No one can argue with that, as it is obviously a very important issue.
Money has also been put aside for mental health for RCMP officers. There is 40% more money put aside per capita for inmates than for RCMP officers. That sums up the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and less for our valued officers in prisons.
I think it is time for the government to show some self-reflection on this issue.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2019-02-26 16:08 [p.25815]
Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This piece of legislation proposes to do the following: eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set the parameters of access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.
On any given day in Canada there are roughly 40,000 prisoners in custody. From coast to coast, there are eight maximum security facilities, 19 medium security facilities, 15 minimum and 10 multidisciplinary facilities. Canada has 18,000 Canadian government employees looking after these prisoners, of which 10,000 are on the front line. These are either correctional officers, parole officers or health care workers.
While I do not sit on the committee that reviewed this piece of legislation, I have been made aware of some very striking testimony by the Correctional Service Canada ombudsman, as well as many stakeholders, including these front-line workers who faithfully serve every day.
It is clear that the Liberal government, which campaigned on engaging and consulting with Canadians, has thrown all intentions of such actions out the window, as there was clearly very little of it done in this case, if any. Prominent witnesses, such as the CSC ombudsman, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and civil liberties and indigenous groups, all commented on the lack of consultation and their concern that too much of the legislation is being left to regulation.
I just want to touch on that for a few seconds because, as co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee, I can testify to the importance of the fact that any law that is passed in the House has to have an adequate legislative framework so that the regulations are actually authorized by the legislation that is passed. All too often, we have examples from various departments across the Government of Canada where regulatory mechanisms are put in place and actually enacted, in some cases, for many years without the adequate legislative authority for them to do that. It is very important that adequate legislative authority is given here, yet we have had many of our witnesses testify to the fact that this is the case in this situation and there is not adequate legislative authority.
Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada had this to say:
All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.
The Elizabeth Fry Societies said this was a bad bill. It said that structural intervention units are not needed, that it failed to focus on the programs and that there was a lack of oversight. It is concerned about proposed section 81, due to the workings of indigenous governing bodies.
The John Howard Society calls it a bad bill. It wanted to know what the difference was between solitary confinement and structural intervention. It said there was no difference. The bill changed the words but did not change anything. That sounds pretty familiar with the government over the last three and a half years. There are great sounding words but very little action and very little follow-through.
This is not the first time that the Liberal Government has ignored consultations with the corrections community while unilaterally implementing its own ideological beliefs. Another time occurred at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, which is close to my riding. This correctional facility was one of two in Canada that was mandated to implement a prisoner needle exchange program, putting both correctional officers, as well as other inmates at risk. On Monday, June 25, a needle exchange program was introduced to the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.
It is very concerning that the Liberal government commanded Correctional Service Canada to approve this program, which sends the wrong message to prisoners, to victims of crime and to all Canadians. This program will give prisoners who are convicted of violent crimes access to needles in order to inject themselves with substances that are illegal among the general public, as well as in prison.
I agree with the Ontario regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Rob Finucan, who raised the concern that this program puts correctional officers in harm's way and is forcing officers to turn a blind eye to illegal activity in the prison system.
I realize that illegal drugs make their way into our prison system and that there are nearly 1,500 drug seizures in prisons each year. However, the solution to this is not to turn a blind eye but rather to effectively enforce Correctional Service Canada's zero tolerance policy.
The previous Conservative government took action and cracked down on this problem by increasing random drug testing, investing significantly in drug interdiction and creating tough mandatory prison sentences for selling drugs in prisons. My constituents and all Canadians would like to see more of this action, not the normalization of the use of illegal drugs in prisons.
We also need to be investing far more in treatment and in prevention programs. I have on my desk a petition from constituents all across Canada who are calling on the government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. I have not had time to table this petition yet, partly because of moving to orders of the day and then closure motions. These petitioners are calling on the Liberal government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers was not consulted on this plan, which puts its members and the Canadian public at risk.
The previous Conservative government passed the Drug-Free Prisons Act, which revokes parole for those who are caught using drugs behind bars. Under the new regulations, an inmate who is approved for the prisoner needle exchange program is not even required to disclose to the Parole Board that he or she is in the program.
The petitioners are calling on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety to end the prisoner needle exchange program and implement measures that would increase the safety of correctional officers and the surrounding community.
The first and most important role of any government is to keep its citizens safe, not focusing on making criminals' lives more comfortable. I will always focus my efforts on giving victims a strong voice in the justice system and ensure that convicted criminals do face the full force of the law.
Unfortunately, we have also seen this heavy-handed decision by the Liberal health minister to force communities that do not want them to have so-called safe injection sites. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. The Respect for Communities Act, which was introduced by the previous Conservative government, gave police, residents and municipal leaders a say when it came to opening an injection site within their communities.
Dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart. They promote criminal behaviour and they destroy lives. Instead of making it easier for drug addicts to consume drugs, the Liberal government should support treatment and recovery programs to get addicts off drugs and enact heavy mandatory minimum sentences to crack down on drug traffickers.
I do hope that the Liberal government will stop and consider the negative message that this needle exchange program is sending and reverse this policy as quickly as possible for the sake of correctional officers and inmates, as well as citizens of the Region of Waterloo and in fact all Canadians.
It is also important to note that since learning of this program, my office has been in contact with Jason Godin, head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who has been expressing his anger that his members were not consulted on a matter that directly affects their safety. They were not consulted, a common complaint with this legislation in spite of all the flowery language earlier in the 2015 campaign that the Liberals would be a government that would consult Canadians widely.
I have also received petitions from inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women who are against this program as it increases the risk to them.
One of the more profound statements that I have read recently on this was in a newspaper article by Jason Godin. He was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying, “attacks on guards and inmates have been increasing as the use of segregation has decreased ahead of new legislation to change the prison system.”
There are many reasons not to support this bad piece of legislation but let me summarize our position this way.
We on this side of the House are opposed to the inaction in regard to ensuring that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities. The legislation would empower the commissioner to sub-designate parts of prisons, which could lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are kept in a lower security space based on technicalities.
It is also concerning that the Liberals are moving away from segregation particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of tools to manage difficult prisoners.
The legislation lacks support from every major stakeholder who appeared before committee, from left to right—
View Harold Albrecht Profile
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2019-02-26 17:03 [p.25823]
Madam Speaker, one of the things my colleague talked about in her speech was the introduction of full body scanners. While it might seem hard to believe, there are some elements of this legislation that we do support, and that is one of them.
The irony of it is that if full body scanners are used on all visitors who enter our prison system, why in the world would the Liberals continue to implement their prisoner needle exchange program? If everyone is body scanned, there is no need to have this prisoner needle exchange program.
I am wondering if my colleague, even with the introduction of full body scanners, would continue to support the use of the prisoner needle exchange program, on which our front-line officers, whom she quoted from five years ago, are today saying there has been no consultation. All of us know that there is such a thing as buyer's remorse, and this gentleman is one of them. Many others have approached me about the promises that the Liberal government made and has now backtracked on.
Does my colleague still support the introduction of the prisoner needle exchange program?
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, we are trying to solve the many problems that our jails are trying to cope with. We know of HIV and a number of other diseases and infections that continue to be spread. We need to try to offer ways and means for inmates to be treated for drug addiction. There is no sense keeping our head in the sand and not recognizing that it is a serious problem. Many of the people currently in jail and carrying out some of the horrendous crimes we all know about are very serious drug addicts. The safe needle exchange, yes, is an issue, but at the same time, it would provide opportunity for rehabilitation, improve safety overall and reduce the amount of disease as a result of not having safe needles.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak at report stage of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.
Bill C-83 has several elements, and the first is to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional institutions.
During the committee's study, we heard from witnesses from a number of organizations, including the correctional investigator of Canada, who was quite surprised that he was not consulted while Bill C-83 was being drafted. The correctional investigator of Canada told us that eliminating solitary confinement was one thing but that replacing it with a regime that imposes restrictions on retained rights and liberties with little regard for due process and administrative principles is inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as well as the charter. That is a pretty strong statement.
In his testimony, the correctional investigator also said that there had been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service of Canada or the government on how this is going to be implemented. Not for the first time, my colleagues were improvising.
Canadian penitentiaries use administrative segregation under two circumstances. The first is when a prisoner behaves in a way that poses a danger to the prison's general population. One example that I think all Canadians will be familiar with is that of Paul Bernardo. He was not sent into the regular system because he was still thought to be too dangerous. Since no rehabilitation was possible in his case, Mr. Bernardo spends most of his time in the segregation area.
There are also prisoners who request segregation. They want to be segregated for their own safety, and also to have some mental downtime. This reminds me of someone I met recently at Donnacona Institution. Mr. Dumas has been in prison for over 40 years, for various reasons. He always wants to be in segregation. He says he is just fine there and wants to stay.
Considering the amendments in Bill C-83, what will happen to Paul Bernardo? Will he be told that he now has four hours of freedom to meet up with his buddies and pontificate over a nice glass of water? I do not believe this can really apply in his case.
As for the inmate I met at Donnacona, when he tells us that he prefers to stay in segregation, we will have to tell him that it is not possible because segregation will be a thing of the past. That will be a serious problem for him.
This new approach will create structured intervention units. That is a nice term, but what does it actually mean?
We never really got any answers, because it is actually a grander name for the same thing. It is an area of the prison, a wing set aside for segregation, but it might have a room where people can sit around a table and talk, and perhaps another small room where they can meet with caseworkers. When we asked questions, the government did not have any answers. They are basically trying to make us believe that segregation cells are like what we see in the movies. We think of them as bare, windowless cells that are pitch black when the door is closed. That is how it was in the days of Alcatraz. That was a long time ago.
Segregation cells are exactly like regular cells. The difference is that they are in a different area of the prison. Prisoners in segregation are even entitled to TVs and many other things. Even the size of the cell is the same. They can see outside. There is no problem.
One of the major differences, I admit, is time. Currently, prisoners in segregation stay in their cells for 22 hours a day. That will change. They will now stay in their cells for 20 hours a day instead of 22. However, the concept of structured intervention units is a very philosophical one. I doubt that any amendments will be made in this regard. After all the discussions and checks that happened in committee, there is really nothing left to change, except the name.
At any rate, change costs money. Normally, when a bill that imposes new standards is introduced, the necessary funding needs to be earmarked. Once again, we have no information about funding. We know that more than $400 million was sent to the Correctional Service of Canada last year, but we do not know how much will be allocated to the implementation of Bill C-83.
We do agree with the scanners. We do not always disagree. We think body scanners are very important. Right now, Ontario and British Columbia have body scanners in their provincial penitentiaries. They are very effective, detecting more than 95% of what people entering the penitentiary may have on or inside their bodies. They are intrusive but necessary. Some people have very inventive ways of smuggling drugs and other things into prisons.
The irony is that prisoners are going to be provided with needles so that they can inject drugs. This is a program that is currently being rolled out in Canada’s penitentiaries. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is totally opposed to this program, and other stakeholders have also said that it makes no sense. The argument is that it is a public health issue, and we understand that, but from a safety standpoint, it does not make sense. The union says that handing out needles to prisoners could be very dangerous for correctional officers and other prisoners.
I know that there is the idea of an exchange and all that, but let us not forget that prisoners have a lot of time to think and make plans. When I visited the Donnacona prison recently, I saw all sort of things going on, things people would not even imagine. People do not realize that prisoners have nothing to do but think. They will find ways to misuse the needles.
If we introduce body scanners, which would detect drugs coming into prisons and therefore greatly reduce drug use, there would be no need to supply inmates with needles. We need to be consistent. The Conservatives think the important thing is to stop drugs from entering prisons by using scanners as much as possible. We also cannot forget the drones that are used to get drugs into prisons. If prisoners no longer have drugs to inject, they will not need taxpayer-funded needles.
There was some talk of other health parameters, and we made some suggestions. I could read out our proposed amendments, which were based on conversations with representatives from the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society. For example, we proposed that:
...correctional policies, programs and practices provide, regardless of gender, access to activities and to training for future employment but provide inmates who are soon to be released with priority access to the activities that prepare them for release, including counselling and help with mental health issues.
This amendment was rejected by our friends on the other side. Here is another one:
A staff member may recommend to a registered health care professional employed...by the Service that the professional assess the mental health of an inmate, if the inmate:
(a) refuses to interact with others for a prescribed period;
(b) exhibits a tendency to self-harm;
(c) is showing signs of an adverse drug reaction;
In short, we thought our health-related amendments were quite relevant, but they were rejected.
In closing, we know that the B.C. Supreme Court and the Superior Court have ruled on administrative segregation, but Bill C-83 was introduced in response to those rulings, even though the government appealed the rulings. We are currently at report stage, and the House is being asked to force prisons to do things in a certain way that will have direct repercussions on the safety of prison guards and prisoners themselves. We think that is unacceptable.
View Jim Eglinski Profile
View Jim Eglinski Profile
2019-02-21 16:16 [p.25646]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for his speech and his work with us at committee.
Could the member tell us his concerns for the safety of correctional officers and other inmates because of the removal of disciplinary segregation and the introduction of a needle exchange program in many institutions?
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 16:17 [p.25646]
Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I am also pleased to be able to work with him in committee.
That is exactly the problem. Correctional officers have to make do with the resources they are given. They say that they want to abide by higher standards when it comes to the mental health of inmates. If the government allocates more financial resources to help inmates with mental health issues, it would inevitably improve prison security.
As my colleague suggested, correctional officers have to improvise in order to follow the directives they are given because they do not have sufficient resources. When Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, appeared before the committee, he said that they would like to apply the new directives, but that it will be extremely problematic if they are unable to do so.
As my colleague said, there is a difference between short-term segregation for security reasons and long-term segregation because the resources are not available to deal with serious mental health problems. Many organizations working in the field raised that issue. Bill C-83 does nothing to address that issue.
We need to go back to square one because the government's bill is worse than a draft. It is unacceptable.
View Harold Albrecht Profile
View Harold Albrecht Profile
2019-02-19 10:10 [p.25474]
Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by hundreds of Canadians who are calling on the government to end the needle exchange program. They are calling on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety to end the prison needle exchange program and implement measures that would increase the safety of correctional officers in the surrounding community.
View Mark Strahl Profile
View Mark Strahl Profile
2018-10-23 13:22 [p.22727]
Mr. Speaker, the last question and comment give me an opportunity to talk about something I was going to talk about anyway. We just had the spectacle of two Liberal members of Parliament bragging about the fact that they were cutting off the debate in the House of Commons. They say that there has just been too much debate and that it has gone on too long.
The bill has not even been printed for a week. It has been before the House for less than three days. After the second day, it was enough. The Liberals had heard enough from members of Parliament and the Canadians we represent. It was just too much and members needed to get it out of the House as quickly as possible. This is from a party and a government which cried every time the previous government allocated the time for debate. It said that it would never do it if it was ever in government.
The hypocrisy of the member for Avalon is a spectacle we can all see today. He campaigned on it, and today he is cheerleading for the fact. He is heckling me during my speech while I try to talk about the concerns of my constituents. Two days in the House before the Liberals cut-off debate. The bill has not even been available to be studied for an entire week and we are under time allocation.
Why should we be surprised that the Liberals do not want to consult with members of Parliament on this? They have not consulted with the representatives of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers who will be directly impacted by the bill. They have not consulted with the guards.
An hon. member: Not true.
Mr. Mark Strahl: Mr. Speaker, I continue to get heckled from the other side. Apparently, the Liberals do not want to hear any debate, let alone cut it off after just three days debate.
The members of UCCO have been very clear that Liberal politicians in Ottawa are not the ones who have to go in and breakup a fight. Inmates of a what the Liberals now call a “structured intervention unit” inevitably have conflicts. These are people who cannot manage themselves in the general population of a prison. They are typically people who are the worst of the worst. In the debate, I mentioned people like Willie Picton. Clifford Olson also spent his life in segregation, where he should have been. That is where Willie Picton should be. Instead of talking about that, the Liberals are saying we should be talking about reintegrating these people into society.
Some people can be reintegrated, and we support that. Some people need to stay in segregation for the rest of their natural lives. Legislation is being proposed which will not allow for that. The Liberals blame it on the courts that this has to come forward, while they the decision is being appealed. They have not even said that this court ruling will stand. They are trying to have it overturned at higher levels, yet here we are with legislation jammed down our throats, legislation about which the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is very concerned. It is its members who will be put at risk. Its members are the ones who have to deal with the most prolific offenders, offenders who have committed additional crimes inside the prison and who are often placed in segregation for their own protection.
The member for St. Albert—Edmonton laid out very clearly the substantial supports that were available for people in segregation. They receive mental health visits, visits from the institutional head, from the guards and health visits as well. This idea that they are locked in a dark cell and are cut-off from human contact is simply not true.
The bill now calls for meaningful human contact for two hours a day. I would like to know what that looks like for Robert Picton. What does that look like for Terri-Lynne McClintic? What is meaningful human contact when she is already receiving mental health services? She is already receiving phone calls to her family and is allowed to have visitors. Now it will be legislated meaningful human contact. This is very interesting.
The Liberals have not consulted with UCCO or victims of crime, which is par for the course. They did not consult with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers when they brought forward their ridiculous prison needle exchange program idea. Prisoners in maximum-security facilities, prisoners who often spend much of their day trying to fashion weapons to use against other inmates or against guards when necessary, would be given needles in their cells as a right of an inmate. The Liberals are now forcing that on our prisons and our prisons guards. Also, they would be given spoons so they could heat up their drugs and inject them intravenously, spoons that no doubt are part of a kit that has to stay in the cell but can be used as a weapon.
All of these things are clear to anyone who has been in a prison, who has had a tour of a prison or who has talked to a single prison guard. They know this is a ridiculous proposition, but the Liberals do not care. They do not consult with the actual front-line workers. Instead, they come up with these pie-in-the-sky ideas in their ivory towers in Ottawa and tell the workers on the ground, the people who deal with sharks in the prison, that they will have deal with this now.
Never mind that it is the mandate of a prison guard to ensure there are no illegal drugs in the prison. We will have a situation where there will be illegal drugs in a cell, guards will have to search the cell, but will have to set aside the government-mandated safe injection kit to look for the illegal drugs, which they then will take away. What a ridiculous proposal. That is what the government is defending. The government does not talk to the people who are actually impacted by these decisions.
Again, we have many concerns with the bill.
The member for Malpeque said that we should not legislate based on the exceptional cases. If the legislation does not capture the exceptional cases, what good is it? If we do not allow for prison guards and prison officials to have the ability to have disciplinary segregation when people are endangering guards, other inmates or themselves, what is the point? We simply put people at additional risk.
We support a few parts of the bill. We support giving the audio to victims. We support body scanners and think that should be expanded to ensure there is no contraband in prison. The minister said in his speech on the bill, “Keeping contraband out of correctional facilities would help make institutions as safe and secure as possible.” Therefore, we will have body scanners to keep those bad drugs out of those prisons, but we will give needles and spoons to the prisoners to ensure they can inject those life-altering drugs as soon as possible and as safely as possible. How about we just keep the drugs out of the prison? How about we double down on that effort?
I am glad the heckling continues from the Liberals who love debate in this place.
The government once again thinks it knows best. It is not going to take any guidance from the people who work in these prisons.
One of the highest populations of corrections officials and prison guards live in my riding and work in the many institutions around it. In the Pacific region, there is the Pacific Institution, Kent Institution, Matsqui Institution, Mountain Institution, Mission Institution, the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village and the Fraser Valley Institute for Women. I have these people in my office all the time talking about this failed approach from the government. However, this is a government that thinks it knows best. It is a government that is ignoring their concerns and is not dealing with the actual concerns of Canadians.
When we saw that there was a bill on notice to deal with corrections, we hoped it would deal with the ridiculous situation where Tori Stafford's murderer could be transferred down to a minimum-security facility. We hoped it would give the tools, which we believe it has already, and clarify, with this proposed legislation, that someone like Terri-Lynne McClintic would not be in a minimum-security prison. Instead, the government modified it in the bill to allow the minister to allow corrections officials to designate a single cell in a minimum-security facility as a maximum-security cell. Therefore, there would be no fences, locks, segregation, nothing, but room 102 would be declared as a maximum-security cell in a minimum-security prison.
The government has failed to consult with victims, failed to consult with corrections officers and for that reason we should reject the legislation.
View Steven Blaney Profile
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, a position I used to hold.
To start with, I want to say that I will be vigorously opposing this bill. With respect to the point raised a moment ago by my colleague, I would like to remind her that the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Jason Godin, has already pointed out the detrimental effects that this bill would have on security in our correctional institutions. He says that the number of assaults on prison guards by inmates has increased as a result of the reduced use of segregation under the new legislation that has been tabled.
I am strongly opposed to this bill, because its very basis is wrong. The first reason I oppose this bill is that it makes our correctional facilities less safe. I am sure members on both sides of the House would join me in acknowledging the remarkable work that our correctional officers do. Much like parents raising children, our correctional officers need respect. Our role, as parliamentarians, is to give them tools to ensure that they get respect, which is essential to keeping our correctional facilities safe. Unfortunately, this bill would weaken the tools available to our correctional officers.
I commend these officers, and I want them to know that I oppose this bill, because it will make our facilities less safe and will put our correctional officers at greater risk.
The second reason I oppose the bill is that any legislation meant to improve our correctional services needs to take into account a fundamental principle that is missing from this bill. The conditions of detention must reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed and must also reflect each individual inmate's risk level. This bill is clearly misguided because it removes tools that help our correctional officers keep our facilities safe.
The third reason I oppose this bill is that it does not contain any significant rehabilitation measures. I remind members that our correctional facilities are meant to ensure that when an inmate is released back into society, he or she is able to contribute to this society again.
With less respect, less safety and, unfortunately, more violence in our correctional facilities, it will be harder for inmates to focus on their rehabilitation.
As members have mentioned, Bill C-83 seeks to eliminate the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation. The Liberals are fixated on that. It seems that those who drafted the bill never had an opportunity, as I did when I was minister of public safety and as our public safety critic did, to simply go and visit correctional facilities to talk to correctional officers and inmates. Our public safety critic and I had the opportunity to meet with inmates who told us to leave this measure in place because it is good for their mental health.
Sometimes inmates need to be alone and to get away from others for awhile. There are some inmates who ask to be sent to administrative segregation, as I witnessed first-hand. We therefore see that the Liberals are taking tools away from correctional officers and inmates that help with inmates' rehabilitation.
What the Liberals are proposing instead is another mechanism for incarcerating inmates who cannot remain in the general inmate population for safety reasons.
This bill will require Correctional Service Canada to give inmates access to patient advocacy services and consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making.
That brings me to the Liberal approach. It took the Liberals 10 months to appoint a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, but far less time to appoint an ombudsman for criminals. That is definitely not in the interest of society. The government should make victims a priority too, but for the past three years, the government has been silent on that subject. Navigating the justice system is a painful experience for victims, and the government needs to make sure they get the support and respect they deserve.
I just want to point out that our government was the one that brought in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and thank goodness we did, because the Liberals are not doing anything, on top of which they are taking ages to fill key positions. Clearly, the government does not think victims are all that important.
This bill has other flaws. It seeks not only to get rid of administrative segregation, but also to have body scanners installed. We do not take issue with that idea, but we do have a problem with how this is being handled. We know that a lot of contraband is smuggled into our penal institutions by visitors. It is therefore equally important to include those people in these measures. If the bill gets to committee, I would hope that these measures are given another look.
What is more, instead of giving inmates tools to overcome addiction, the Liberals are doing the opposite and providing them with syringes. We know that having syringes in penitentiaries is dangerous for our correctional officers considering the spread of disease associated with their use and the fact that they might even be used against correctional officers. That is something the bill ignores, but the government is okay with that.
I hope that the government will get back on track and, like our government, have a zero tolerance policy instead of aggravating inmates' health problems. It is important that the government, as legislator, send a clear message about the presence of drugs in our institutions. Everyone remembers the measures our government put in place.
Superior court judges ruled recently on the appropriateness of administrative segregation. I wonder if, much like the members opposite, those judges even bothered to go and speak with officers and corrections officers. Today my colleagues asked the minister, her representatives and other government members if they consulted officers and corrections officers, since this will have a serious impact on their work environment. We have heard nothing but radio silence so far in response.
I have so much more I want to say, but I see that I am running out of time, and I would not want to repeat what I have said in the past, which has been reported by my friends at Infoman.
In closing, I want share Jason Godin's view. He said that introducing this legislation could have a detrimental affect on conditions in our prison facilities, increase violence and make the situation worse. The government is going in the wrong direction and I urge it to change course. For now, I oppose this legislative measure.
View Karen Vecchio Profile
View Karen Vecchio Profile
2018-10-23 16:43 [p.22758]
Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to sit here during last Friday's debate, where I listened to some of the best lawyers and legal minds who are members of Parliament, including the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. When we start listening to the statistics, when we are talking about all these things that are occurring in our correctional system, there are many different things we have to look at. We have extremely diverse opinions here.
One thing we talked about was the fact that correctional officers have not been talked to, so I am going to start with something I put forward last week. It is a quote from my friend Jason, who is a correctional officer. He said, “No profession has hit the toilet [like] corrections in the last several years. Violence, contraband, assault on staff are skyrocketing. Why? Total lack of consequence for behaviour. Eliminating segregation has handcuffed us. Now, no question segregation exacerbates mental health, but we have no choice. Violent offenders continue assaulting, and easy victims continue being preyed upon. We continually have people making changes based on concepts, not reality.”
Today we are discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. With the members in this House, I recognize that these views are greatly diverse. I am listening to the questions and answers today. What one member may say goes against my entire moral code on this. We have different ideas on the rights of criminals versus what the rights of victims, the use of segregation versus proposed intervention units, and drugs in prison.
Drugs in prison has become a huge issue. It is not just an issue that has come about in the last 10 years. We can find studies done decades ago that show the same trend. While the Liberals put forward policies for needle exchange programs in the jail, I believe we should focus on getting the drugs out of the jails altogether.
We can talk about safe injection sites. This is a huge debate in Ontario. What do safe injection sites do to communities and what should we be doing to help those who have long-term addictions? One of the things they say is that it is about saving people's lives, getting them back on track, and making sure that people do not die in back alleys.
I am going to remind the government that prisons are not those dark alleys. When we talk about safe injection sites, we are talking about getting people off the streets, putting them into an area where they can have safe injections, and truly hoping that wraparound services are available to them. I question why we are starting at step one and providing safe injection sites in prisons in the first place. Yes, it is a very difficult thing, but this is not a back alley. It is a prison, where there are well-educated, trained and skilled staff who deal with these issues. We should actually be going in a trajectory moving forward, not just compensating for the drugs.
There have been so many concerns about convicted criminals and the use of illegal drugs. We have to keep in mind that we are talking about convicted criminals. We are talking about people who are being put in jail for summary or felony offences and what their lives should be like.
We have talked very much about Tori Stafford and her abuser, the person who murdered her. We have talked about maximum-security and minimum-security. We are talking about a horrific murderer going from a place where there may be institutional walls to a healing lodge. I have heard from hundreds of constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London who are saying that she is living a better life than they are.
When talking to Canadians, a lot of times it is one of the things they are going to say, that people in jail have a better life than they do. They get meals, they get their hydro paid for, all those things that some people living in poverty, and especially in our middle class, have to deal with every day.
I want to continue with the segregation part. Yes, I believe there are extreme situations where we must look at the use of segregation. Sometimes it is used to protect the criminal from the rest of the population, and other times it is used because an offender is a danger to the rest of the population, including the guards.
In a court decision by Justice Marrocco, he found that administrative segregation itself was constitutional. Of course, we are going to have others who believe that this is cruel and unusual punishment. There are parties that will disagree with this whole philosophy and say that we cannot segregate people and that they need to have personal time and the humanity side of it.
I have a problem when talking about this. We are talking about humanity for someone who is alive versus humanity for somebody who may have been murdered or is disabled for the rest of his or her life because of a criminal. I think the mother in me is asking, “Where is the justice here?”
Those are some of my key priorities when we are looking at this.
I have always believed in putting victims first. I think we have lost that side of this debate, because we are always asking what can we do to rehabilitate these criminals. I totally agree that there are some criminals who can be rehabilitated, but there are those people who have done horrific things, and we are sitting here saying that they have to have poetry readings and they have to learn how to cook and their lives will be better. We have to take a really hard look at ourselves and ask if we are really going to manage that. It is a compassionate idea, but it is not reality.
We have to recognize that crimes have a harmful impact on victims and on society. A bill was put forward by the last government on the Victims Bill of Rights. It is something I want to share with the House today.
When I work for the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London, I work for victims' families 100% of the time to make sure that they are taken care of. I am going to read the preamble of the bill to the House:
Whereas victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect, including respect for their dignity;
Whereas it is important that victims' rights be considered throughout the criminal justice system;
Whereas victims of crime have rights that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
Whereas consideration of the rights of victims of crime is in the interest of the proper administration of justice;
Whereas the federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for criminal justice;
Whereas, in 1988, the federal, provincial and territorial governments endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and, in 2003, the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, 2003;
All this being said, I recognize that some circumstances should be reviewed, including sexual violence and abuse. A lot of times when we are talking about vulnerable communities in these institutions, there may be issues that put people in there in the first place.
Not everyone agrees with the use of Gladue reports, but if we have Gladue reports, with appropriate writers, people who understand how to write a Gladue report, they can put all that imperative information forward at sentencing to decide how the person should be treated.
We talk a lot about truth and reconciliation. We recognize that we have had residential schools and that there has been intergenerational trauma. By no means am I saying that the person should not be looked at a bit differently. I am saying that. That may go against what some of my fellow Conservative colleagues may agree with, but I think these are things we have to go forward with. We have to look at all of these things. Gladu reports are something I support.
I will return to my friend's quote and the concern about drugs and contraband in jails. We need to find a solution. Is the solution making sure that we have needle exchange programs? For me, the concept of scanners is a positive option to find out what is actually entering prisons. We know that we have a problem. What is the reason, and how can we find a solution? The concept of these scanners is really positive. I look at them as a solution.
I want to go back to my daughter, who has graduated from the protection, security and investigation program. She has had the opportunity to work in some different facilities. She is currently working in security with a large company, and she works on a hotline dealing with victims of crime. Her bottom line is, and this is a quote from Marissa, "There is something missing, and drugs continue to get into the jails".
In putting in scanners, should we be expanding that to guests as well? As a graduate and employee in the security field, Marissa's concern about drugs in jails has only been elevated since she graduated, because she sees it more and more each and every day.
We have a big social issue in these places. We always have to remind ourselves that we have to be there for the victims of crime, because they have had their rights taken away. Some people see justice differently. I see justice as the fact that I would want to know that if someone murdered my child, he or she would remain in jail for a long time.
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
Ind. (ON)
View Celina Caesar-Chavannes Profile
2018-10-23 16:52 [p.22760]
Madam Speaker, I too am a mom. I am hoping to be able to speak to this piece of legislation from possibly a different perspective, but I do want to talk about the needle exchanges within prisons.
The member talked about safety in prison, including for staff. Right now in federal prisons, the incidence of HIV is 10 times higher than among the general population. If a needle is brought in and shared among many in the population, it is very dangerous for the guards and staff.
That said, needle exchanges in communities are based on international evidence that they decrease infectious disease. There is no correlation with increased violence or increased drug use, but needle exchanges do decrease infectious disease and allow people to move toward treatment.
Does she not believe that until we get to a point where we could totally eliminate drugs, the evidence for needle exchanges allows for a safer context?
View Karen Vecchio Profile
View Karen Vecchio Profile
2018-10-23 16:54 [p.22760]
Madam Speaker, as I indicated, the safe injection sites that we see in our communities are a lot different from what we see in our jails. There are different ways of looking at this. I recognize that when people go to jail, a lot of times there are issues with substance abuse. We should not sitting there and saying, okay, here is a wraparound approach. We have to recognize that what got them there in the first place may have been the use of drugs and alcohol.
We also know there are a lot of gangs within these institutions and that drug trafficking happen to be one of the things they are taking part in for their own wealth. That is also how they are in charge of many of these issues. They are in charge of other people because of the cartel that they have within the jails.
I recognize the compassion that we have for this, but I want to go back to Nancy Reagan's approach and say, “Just say no”. There has to be a point in time when we just stop this. That is what I believe when it comes to correctional systems, just say no and stop this.
View Richard Martel Profile
View Richard Martel Profile
2018-10-23 16:57 [p.22760]
Madam Speaker, I would like to talk about Bill C-83 because it is of personal concern to me and because I was asked to do so by a number of correctional officers who told me that they feel as though they were not sufficiently consulted during the drafting of this bill.
If the government would take the time to listen to our correctional officers, it would find that they think eliminating administrative segregation in correctional facilities is a bogus solution to a bogus problem. Administrative segregation is not used as punishment. It is a risk management tool. The threat of solitary confinement must always be present in order to act as a deterrent, guarantee a certain amount of discipline and enforce compliance in correctional institutions. That discipline is essential to the health and safety of our correctional officers.
Segregation is a tool of last resort. By taking that tool away from correctional officers, the government is saying that it does not care about their reality. It does not care that more assaults on officers have happened since the use of segregation was restricted. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has stressed that violence in prison will go up once administrative segregation is scrapped. Union president Jason Godin foresees a bloodbath. Administrative segregation is not used arbitrarily. It is a tool of last resort that protects inmates from others and, sometimes, from themselves.
When a new criminal arrives, conflicts can escalate rapidly. The prison population varies from institution to institution. Sometimes, a new inmate is not welcome, and his new peers will be waiting for him. Administrative segregation is used to ensure that inmate's health and safety until such time as officers find appropriate solutions to de-escalate conflict.
What should be done with an inmate in medium security who becomes more and more violent and has to be transferred to a maximum-security institution? Should such an inmate be allowed to keep living by his own rules for four hours a day while awaiting transfer? That makes no sense to me.
Some inmates altogether refuse to join the general population and also refuse the protective wing. How are we supposed to accommodate these inmates, who want peace and quiet, without abusing public funds? Is it a prison or a five-star hotel? What do I tell my constituents who tell me they would rather go to prison than live in a seniors residence? Correctional officers legitimately wonder what they will do. What tools will be at their disposal when administrative segregation is eliminated? The officers fear that there will be an escalation of violence. They fear for their health and safety, but also for the health and safety of the criminals.
Again, what tools will they have to defuse potential retaliations or thwart revenge plots that they may have caught wind of? Are they to leave the inmates to take justice and discipline into their own hands? Correctional officers cannot turn a blind eye and ignore the warnings they get. How are they supposed to enforce compliance? These are bogus solutions to a bogus problem.
The commissioner's directives, including CD 843, already cover exceptions for indigenous and female offenders, and offenders with mental health problems.
Mental health is taken very seriously in prisons. Offenders have access to care, and correctional officers are quickly informed when an offender is struggling with mental health issues. They find out fast. Correctional officers have faith in the commissioner's directives, and they refer to them regularly in the performance of their duties.
Correctional officers already take mental health issues seriously because they know what kind of impact these issues can have. In fact, they or their colleagues have been through it themselves.
Thirty-five percent of first responders, including paramedics, EMTs and correctional officers, will develop symptoms associated with work-related PTSD.
This is not an easy work environment. Officers must sometimes use a lot of psychological tactics to de-escalate conflicts. They may face moral and ethical dilemmas that they would not face in the world outside the prison. For example, it is not easy to be a mother or father and to be around a pedophile every day. One of the worst things that could happen would be for an officer to get to work and learn that an inmate had taken his or her own life. Prison guards face many risks. This kind of situation makes them very susceptible to PTSD.
Last week, I met with veterans and first responders who spoke to me about Project Trauma Support, a new Canadian program that treats post traumatic stress and operational stress injury in military personnel, veterans and first responders. I was deeply touched by their story and how the centre, located in Perth, Ontario, helped them turn their lives around.
It is often very difficult for anyone affected by work-related post-traumatic stress syndrome to access the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, disability insurance or compensation. They may have to wait a long time before accessing counselling or treatment, which is very unfortunate. We know that the earlier problems are addressed, the better the results and the chances to return to active service. Their families also suffer.
My colleagues and I hope that Bill C-211 will provide a comprehensive solution to this scourge.
However, I wonder why Bill C-83 does not say more about the health and safety of our correctional workers.
The Liberal government's history shows that it favours criminals rather than victims. I should not be surprised to find it more interested in the comfort of criminals than the safety of correctional officers.
The government also did not consult the union and employees when it announced a needle exchange pilot project.
I wonder how providing access to needles to take drugs or create tattoos, thereby providing a potential weapon to criminals, can be perceived as being a good thing.
Canadians need to know about the needle exchange program. When an inmate manages to illegally bring a drug into prison, he can ask the nurse for a needle and he will get one. The nurse and the government know very well that the needle will be used for illicit purposes.
The correctional officer does not know that he will be at greater risk during the next check of the inmate's cell. What message are they sending?
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
2018-10-19 10:55 [p.22610]
Mr. Speaker, to the hon. member, I have an institution in my riding where nearly half a million dollars of drugs were seized by corrections officials in 2017.
When I think about that situation, I also think about the suggestion that, well, maybe we should be advancing needle exchange programs, spoons, and so on. I think that gives the wrong impression to people about what life and conditions should be in prison.
As Conservatives, we look at advancing and expanding the screening process, and maybe making sure that no one comes in. That would perhaps be a better way to create some safety for those who are in the prisons, primarily those who do not use drugs.
Thinking about the situation, if everyone else is going to have a needle, maybe each person should have one as well just to protect themself. That is how obscene this approach to corrections is.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member mentioned the amount of dollars seized in terms of drug seizures. It is why, as part of that response, we will be putting body scanners in prisons to ensure those drugs do not get into our prison system. I agree with the member, there should be a lot more technology. My question to the member is, will he support Bill C-83?
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. In our opinion, the Liberals' bill reeks of improvisation. Allow me to explain.
This bill seeks to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities and replace it with structured intervention units; to use prescribed body scanners for inmates, which is a good idea; to establish parameters for access to health care; and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health conditions.
Obviously, the bill in question contains some reasonable measures that are worth examining. We should all consider how we can change and improve the overall prison program.
In a recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court called into question the legality of indefinite solitary confinement, but the Liberals are appealing that decision. This is what I mean about improvisation. On one hand, the Liberals are appealing the court's decision, but on the other they are introducing a bill that introduces major changes. It is difficult to follow the Liberals' logic.
As far as administrative segregation is concerned, let me share a concrete example. Last week, I was invited to Donnacona Institution, a maximum-security federal penitentiary in the Quebec City region. Representatives for correctional authorities made presentations and the union shared its concerns. Then, during the tour of the penitentiary, I was brought to the administrative segregation area so that I could see what it is. They even brought out an inmate who was in administrative segregation, a murderer who has been incarcerated for 41 years and has spent only three months out of segregation. He committed other major crimes as well.
He came to see me and said that he wanted to stay in what is referred to as the “hole”, in other words, administrative segregation. That person does not want to be with the other inmates. He has been incarcerated for 41 years and says that administrative segregation suits him best. The correctional officers asked me what they are supposed to do with him since he wants to stay there. If he is forced to return to the general population that will cause problems. It is hard to know what to do or to assess the usefulness of administrative segregation.
Getting back to the bill, this legislation also applies to transfers and allows the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary and all areas within penitentiaries. I do not understand that. In a maximum-security penitentiary, such as Donnacona, nothing gets in or out without the strictest controls. I know from experience because I had to go through several steps when I went to visit. Maximum security means maximum security, period.
As I understand it, under this bill, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium- or minimum-security penitentiary. If that is not the case, someone will correct me. If we are talking about basic safety, that simply does not make sense. A maximum-security classification cannot just be assigned to an individual cell at a minimum-security facility. That would be absolutely ridiculous, since the facility's entire perimeter and security system would not be designed to guarantee maximum security. Someone needs to explain that, because I do not understand.
I firmly believe that Canada has one of the best correctional systems in the world, both for prisoners and for guards. Everyone can agree that criminals need to serve their sentences, as required by law. However, a prison must not become a five-star Holiday Inn, because that will give prisoners no motivation to renounce the criminal lifestyle. When someone goes to jail, they should feel like they are in jail. They should want to leave and never come back once their sentence is up.
If prisoners decide they do not like life on the outside and do bad things so they can go back to jail—which is something that is already happening, because they get free room and board, are cared for and have all their needs met—then there is a problem. This is not the way to help people get back on the straight and narrow.
I was eager to see the bill. After a preliminary reading, I see some good points. It is not all bad. Just because we are in opposition, that does not mean we can only see the negative side. By no means. For example, using body scanners is a great idea. In fact, it is one of the things I wanted to recommend to the minister.
The problem is the spirit of the law. These are the worst criminals in Canada. They are murderers, rapists, you name it, and they are in maximum security prisons. They are the worst people in Canada. The intent of the law is to take these people and create a structured intervention unit for them. They will spend less time in cells, and they will be put together to give each other hugs and to talk. There is a very liberal attitude underlying all of this, which I understand is about believing that everyone is good, everyone is kind.
However, as I was saying, when I was at Donnacona I saw some videos about what happens in the corridors and with inmates. Those people are hardened criminals. They will attack one another on the slightest pretext. I was even shown a video of an inmate who was knifed in the head by another inmate. There is incredible violence. The most dangerous inmates, the ones who do not want to co-operate, are put into isolation cells so they can be controlled.
Then there are the victims. The inmate who was attacked in the video I saw knew that something was going on. He knew that his life was in danger. These people ask to be put in segregation. They do not ask to be put in segregation so they can get touchy-feely with the most dangerous inmates. This is not how it works. This person wants to be isolated, in a quiet cell, which, I should add, is nothing like what you see in the movies. People imagine the hole like a dungeon at Alcatraz, where the guards slam the door and the room is completely black. These cells are the same size as the ones in normal sections. They are exactly the same, just more private. Inmates are segregated either to be put under control or to give them the peace they need to be safe. That is what segregation is about.
I am not suggesting that nobody ever abuses the system. I am not suggesting that, over the years, people such as prison wardens have not abused the system. That may have happened, but again, why lay down a general rule to deal with exceptions? There have been exceptions. If certain individuals have taken inappropriately draconian measures, then they need to be told they did not do their job properly, and they need to be fired. Why change the whole prison system? Why change a way of doing things that works in that setting? The existing laws are fine if they are applied properly. They meet the needs of correctional officers and inmates.
Prisoners have diverse needs, and many of them ask to go to the hole. The man I was talking about, who has been in prison for 41 years, wants something unusual. He wants his own blankets and he wants to stay there. The warden is trying to figure out what to do about him. It is complicated. However, we have serious concerns about the idea of taking people who are in segregation and making them hang out together for four hours. That is not really the right place for it.
This is part of the Liberals' current approach to security. Canadians are very skeptical of our Prime Minister's security plan. Take, for example, our border crossings; or the government's handling of Canadians who decided it was more fun to go play with terrorists, kill people, come back and pick up their lives as though nothing had happened; or even our soldiers. For the past three years, the Liberal government's record has shown us that it has something akin to contempt for the people who work to keep Canada safe and secure. The government's management of our Canadian forces is appalling. I served for 22 years and I have friends who are still in the system. I can say that they are very disheartened by the current government.
Police officers are doing what they can. They are being put in impossible situations, just as they are with the legalization of marijuana. Police officers are saying they will make it work, because they are professionals and they have no choice. In the real world, if you speak to them privately, they will tell you that it is not working and they do not have what they need. We saw how great it was yesterday with everyone lining up to buy their pot. I have to wonder who all these people are who have time to wait in the rain for three hours on a Wednesday to buy drugs. Police officers are saying they will be the ones left to deal with that. The government says the police will sort it out, they are up to the task. That is disrespectful to our security agencies.
The same goes for prisons. The prison environment is a unique environment. It is a closed environment. The officers who work there are at risk every day because they have to deal with the worst thugs and the worst criminals in Canada. The Liberals like to think that everyone is nice and everything is peachy, but that is the worst way to think when dealing with these prisoners.
They are the greatest manipulators. They do anything they can to manipulate others to get what they want. They want to control their environment. This is difficult for our officers, who work 24/7 to keep these prisoners under control and keep the guards and the rest of the prisoners safe.
Next, I want to talk about syringes. We have a problem because the government just decided that it would use taxpayer money to give syringes to all inmates who ask for them, so that they can inject drugs. How is it that people are able to inject drugs in prison? Is the correctional setting not supposed to keep them away from all that? Drugs are smuggled in by visitors. They hide drugs in all kinds of places, but I will leave that up to your imagination. All kinds of things are brought into prison, usually through visitors and corrupt officers. It is no secret that this happens.
I am pleased because, under the bill, all prisoners will be required to undergo body scan searches. However, mandatory scans will also be required for all visitors. This measure was included in the bill in response to a request from the Donnacona Institution, and I am pleased to see that it is going to happen. Ontario and British Columbia are already conducting such searches. Body scan searches will make it possible to control at least 95% of the substances that individuals bring into prisons because they will show whether there is anything hidden in an individual's body. That will allow us to prevent drugs from entering prisons. If body scan searches keep drugs out of prisons, then we can immediately suspend the needle distribution program.
Prisoners will keep the needles. The most serious criminals with best ideas for doing the greatest harm will have needles in their possession. That does not make any sense. We are giving prisoners weapons. These people have a lot of imagination; we have no idea just how much. I saw a chart at the Donnacona Institution of everything that the guards had confiscated. Some inmates spend two months rubbing a nail clippers on part of their bed to create a knife. They are patient. They are there for a long time. They will take the needles from the syringes to make weapons. They will be able to make blades with the spoons provided to cook drugs.
I believe that the government knows all of this. If the government understands, why is it doing this? Why is it not thinking things through and using common sense to say that it will do things the right way by installing scanning equipment and preventing drugs from entering so needles are no longer needed? We should forget about this absolutely ridiculous program which endangers the safety of our correctional officers.
We cannot support Bill C-83 in its present form. Basically, there are some things that work, such as installing scanning equipment. However, we believe that creating structured intervention units is just smoke and mirrors. This shows that the government does not understand the prison system.
Last week, my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and I toured a prison. The unions gave presentations to all elected members of the House. Even our Liberal and NDP colleagues heard from the unions about their concerns and were asked to stop thinking that a federal penitentiary is a fantasy world. I am referring to the prison near Quebec City, but the same applies to every federal penitentiary in Canada.
Take the McClintic case, for example. This murderer's transfer from a maximum-security prison to an indigenous healing lodge got a lot of people talking two weeks ago. This is someone who ought to be serving her sentence in a maximum-security prison. In maximum-security prisons, each offender has their own cell. They eat, they sleep, they take classes if they so choose, and then they go back to their cells. They are protected because they are living in a maximum-security environment. However, for some incomprehensible reason, it was decided to send this person to a place with virtually no security.
From what I gather from Bill C-83, room 83 at the healing lodge, to use a random number, will be considered a maximum-security room. If I read between the lines, that is basically what the Liberals want to do. The end result will be a place surrounded by beautiful pine trees where room 83 is a maximum-security room.
Ms. McClintic will be in room 83, the maximum-security room.
Do they think we are idiots? Either they must be idiots or they think we are, to believe that would work. I hope that I am wrong and that what I am saying is false.
If what I am saying turns out to be the truth, then this government is really dangerous to Canadians' safety. It does not care what a maximum-security prison sentence means or what keeping Canadians safe means.
Then there are the victims. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of victims who are seeing the murderer who killed their father, mother, brother or sister end up in such conditions.
What must they be thinking? They must be wondering what country we live in. What kind of country lets its worst citizens spend their sentence in such conditions by claiming room 83 is a maximum-security room? This is a serious problem.
I could go on about this for two hours, but I think that Canadians know that this government is not serious and that it puts Canadians' safety at risk. If this keeps up, things are bound to get worse. Otherwise, then the government should prove it by taking rational measures that are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prisoners have rights, of course, but it is all in the way things are done. This approach is not in line with what we as Conservatives consider to be effective management of a penitentiary.
On that note, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, since the Bill prioritizes the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals over safety and victims' rights by eliminating the use of solitary confinement, a common measure many Western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners, and since the principle of the Bill fails to end the practice of allowing child killers, like Terri-Lynn McClintic, to be transferred to healing lodges instead of being kept behind bars.”
View Todd Doherty Profile
View Todd Doherty Profile
2018-10-18 13:18 [p.22553]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off this intervention by setting the situation we are faced with today.
Imagine a time when we call murder a “bad practice.” Imagine being at a point in time where we cannot use the word “illegal” for those who cross our borders illegally. It is now “irregular”. Imagine our government of day actually paying convicted terrorists $10.5 million for pain and suffering. Imagine a time when our government reaches out to a terrorist who, at one point, bragged about playing soccer with the heads of those he fought against, an ISIS terrorist, who bragged at one time about playing soccer with the heads of those they captured and decapitated.
I offer this because this is where are at, at this point. We see, time and time again, the government, our colleagues across the way, continuing to go on, “merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. It goes down the way, all rainbows and sunshine. It is hug-a-thug.
Imagine a time when we are moving a convicted murderer, one who had been sentenced for society's most heinous crime of kidnapping and killing an eight-year-old, to a healing lodge part way through their sentence, not behind bars, but having a key to their own condo, if you will, free to come and go as they please within that area. Imagine a time when we always err on the side of the criminal rather than that of the victim.
Imagine a time when a convicted murderer can claim PTSD from the murder that he committed and receive treatment for PTSD before veterans and first responders.
That is where we are with Bill C-83. Before our colleagues across the way say, “The Conservatives are so against these body scans and different elements of this piece of legislation”, we are for providing the tools for our front-line workers every step of the way so that they can be safe. We are for providing victims and their families the rights and the tools so that they can remain whole, so that they are not revictimized at every step of the way.
Bill C-83 is about abolishing segregation. Oftentimes in the movies and in prison slang, segregation is referred to as “the hole”. Maybe that is how we got here. Maybe that is how this came to be. The Liberals, in the ways they dream things up, actually thought it was a hole we were putting people in. That is not true. It is a cell, no different than others.
As a matter of fact, somebody who spent a long period of time in segregation, one of our country's most notorious serial killers, Clifford Robert Olson still managed to take advantage of the situation. A reporter who visited him at one point remarked that he was healthy, that he even had a tan. Here is a guy who raped and murdered children in my province of British Columbia, and maybe even in other areas.
Segregation is not just for the safety of our front-line officers. It is also for the safety of those who are incarcerated. One of our colleagues mentioned that in interviewing somebody who has been incarcerated and spent a majority of their time in segregation that they preferred that, that they knew if they were out in general population that they probably would not last very long.
I actually would like to name some of the folks in our prison system who are housed in segregation and who the government is proposing to allow out of segregation, such as Paul Bernardo who has just been denied parole again. He is known to have lured young women, torturing, raping and murdering them with his then girlfriend, Karla Homolka. He actually murdered her own sister. Other inmates in segregation are Robert Pickton, who is a serial killer in my province of British Columbia, Renee Acoby, John Greene, Andrew Gulliver and Christopher Newhook.
Again, as I mentioned earlier, there is probably one of our most notorious serial killers, Clifford Robert Olson. I had an opportunity to speak with some of the arresting officers in his case and those persons who were charged with guarding him in his cell. He bragged incessantly and wanted to talk about those crimes. He was diabolical. He was sick.
Segregation provides a disciplinary administrative tool that both keeps those who are incarcerated protected, but also protects front-line workers. Is that not what we are here to do, protect society and those who have been charged with protecting society, keeping them safe both physically and mentally?
Through the course of my work in building Bill C-211 and then getting it passed in June of this year, I worked closely with correctional services. Very often, correctional guards and correctional officers are not seen as first responders, yet they perform those duties every day. They are seeing the worst of society at their very worst, while providing medical and life-saving treatment almost on a daily basis. They also have to guard those individuals and their safety is always at risk. Imagine being a guard in charge of a unit and there are 40 of society's worst criminals, yet that guard is alone.
The president of the union of Correctional Services of Canada recently said that in his centre in the course of the last 12 months there had been 100 violent incidents against his officers.
I have also learned that the government is approving a needle exchange program where the guards are to give the inmates needles and spoons to cook drugs and then go back to their cells, unbelievably. There is no onus on the prisoners; when they come up for parole, they are not required to report that they had been using in prison. Therefore, yes, we do agree that we should have full body scanners, not only for prisoners or their guests, but also for guards. I believe that would make everyone safe.
How unbelievable is it that we are now going to give needles and cooking spoons? I do not mean ladles for cooking soup, but cooking spoons for drugs, to use drugs, then allow them to go back to their cells and expect a guard to go into the cell to do some form of administrative management or security search, not knowing whether there is a needle there with some form of bodily fluid.
When the union heard about Bill C-83, it sent letters to the minister outlining its concerns. Union representatives were worried about segregation and emphasized to the minister the importance of this tool for correctional officers. They brought up their concern over the prison needle exchange and suggested rather than doing that, the minister focus on the resources to treat inmates with infectious diseases instead. They came at this in a reasonable way and offered solutions, yet they were not listened to. They were pooh-poohed. As a matter of fact, the minister thanked them for their time and then went forward in crafting this bill.
We are against the bill as a whole. We are not against certain elements of it. I would urge the government and the minister to reconsider Bill C-83.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
2018-10-18 15:25 [p.22574]
Madam Speaker, it was a remarkable speech of my colleague from Mégantic—L'Érable, and certainly I hope that I can live up to the expectations he had.
I am honoured to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, because located in the centre of my riding is the Bowden Institution, which is presently a medium security prison built on an open campus model. It was opened in 1974, being built on the site of former RCAF Station Bowden, a World War II British Commonwealth air training plan facility. Although it is a medium-security prison, recently a considerable contingent of violent gang members have been transferred there.
During my 34 year career as a teacher in Innisfail, just a few miles north of the pen and during my wife's 10 year teaching career in Bowden, we both had many interactions with families who had relatives incarcerated at the penitentiary, as well as interactions with community members who worked as guards, psychologists, or teachers in the institution.
In my role as the member of Parliament, first for Red Deer from 2008 to 2015 and then for Red Deer—Mountain View, concerns about the activities that take place not just at Bowden but at correctional facilities across Canada often end up on my desk.
The morale of prison staff is so important because for them to function in a way that can be helpful to both the inmates and themselves, they need safe conditions and positive direction. I will start with one of the issues that has weighed so heavily on their minds, and that is the disastrous Phoenix pay system. No worker should be forced to sell their vehicle, move out of their homes, deal with marriage breakdowns from financial stress and declare personal bankruptcy simply because the government cannot get a properly calculated cheque to them. However, those are things that have happened and are continuing to happen.
No worker should have to deal with drug addicts inside a prison, especially when those drugs are fentanyl, which can be lethal if one just breathes it in. In July 2017, a corrections officer was hospitalized after finding fentanyl in a car in the parking lot. Drugs are hidden in flower beds, come over the walls in tennis balls, and are brought in by visitors, many under threat of violence to their loved ones if they do not comply.
In November 2017, half a million dollars of drugs, mainly methamphetamines and THC, was seized by staff. Imagine how people feel when the concept of needle exchanges and heating spoons also finds its way in and how that discussion occurs. It simply illustrates to the public just how dangerous and unmanageable the situation is.
Corrections staff are not only expected to deal with these dangerous issues, but they also have their hands tied even to the extent of being subject to monetary penalties if they take actions against an inmate, even if they are protecting themselves.
As far as Bill C-83 is concerned, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers intends to spend a lot of time reviewing this legislation. Jason Godin, the national president, said:
Bill C-83 will require serious consultation and resources to make it work.... As correctional officers, we want to make sure that we have the proper tools to ensure staff and inmates safety. In that sense, Bill C-83 must include structured intervention units, which would operate as a population management tool that they can ensure staff and inmate safety.
With regard to consultation, resources, and proper tools to make it work, I don't think many people believe that adequate resources management is, or ever has been, a Liberal priority after the way the government rolled out its marijuana program.
The union emphasized say that the new bill must not sacrifice disciplinary segregation as a tool to deter violent behaviour. It said:
We need alternative sanctions to disciplinary segregation, ensuring that inmates displaying dangerous and violent behaviour have some consequences for their actions. Since CSC has limited its use of segregation with new policies, there has been an increased report of assaults on inmates and staff.
For example, Mr. Godin said:
At RPC (Regional Psychiatric Centre) we have had over 100 assaults on staff in 12 months and that they need to get this under control.
It is my assessment that the introduction of SIUs may pose a risk to prison guards, inmates, particularly those for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety. Additionally, the stripping of the ability to use segregation for discipline makes prisons more dangerous for the guards, since they will now face having to deal with the worst of the worst, the most volatile, being out and about from their cells for four hours per day.
Bill C-83 also goes further than what was raised in either of the Supreme Court decisions by banning administrative segregation and changing it to this SIU model. This is just another example of how misplaced Liberal thinking is when it comes to criminals, give them all the breaks and putting the screws to those charged with keeping control.
Conservatives will always stand strong by supporting workers' safety and victims' concerns over increasing the rights and privileges of criminals.
Another aspect of this bill, one that I am in agreement with, is the introduction of body scanners. For those who travel as much as we do as members of Parliament, it is just second nature. What are those scanners designed to do? It is to keep everyone safe, to restrict dangerous items, to prevent the possibility of mayhem. Where could that be more important than in a prison? The union also welcomes the introduction of body scanners to prevent contraband, saying that “Our union has advocated strongly for the implementation of body scanners. We are satisfied with the results.”
I agree that body scanners are a good idea, but we will be proposing amendments to extend scanning to anyone who enters the institution, other than employees. Personally, I would go so far as to say that if everyone had to go through the scanners, and inmates knew this was the way it was going to be, then the resulting recognition that nothing could come in would go a long ways to ensuring safety for all.
One of the things that I have been acutely aware of as a resident of central Alberta is the issue of criminality. We have a penitentiary, but we also have criminals from all over this country. I have heard from other members that there are issues regarding the special circumstances of indigenous inmates and concerns about inmates from ethnic or religious minorities. These are all issues that need to be carefully addressed.
There are also issues with people who have drug addictions, who feed their habit through criminal behaviour, and those special cases where inmates with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder are engaging in criminal activity because they are manipulated by con artists, some within the institutions as well. These are circumstances where effective mental health protocols and interventions need to be used.
The formalization of exceptions for offenders with mental health conditions of special circumstances, when done properly, would truly be fair. As a matter of fact, our previous Conservative government championed the improvement of mental health treatment for patients, by ensuring faster mental health screening through the creation of mental health strategies, by extending mental psychological counselling and improving staff training.
This was not hard on criminals; it was compassionate and effective. Granted, much more work still needs to be done. However, just throwing up our hands like the Liberals are doing, hoping they can move criminals out of prisons faster by simply reclassifying them, does not make sense, and it surely does not protect the public.
Policies such as classifying a single prison cell in a minimum-security facility to become a maximum-security cell sounds more like an administrative solution than a strong security decision.
In conclusion, we want to see the risk to prison guards, the institutions' staff, and the general public completely eliminated. Isolating offenders who attack other inmates or are harmful to themselves and others should not always be second guessed. Making prisons drug free with the use of technology and strict enforcement should not be considered an impossible task. Ensuring that the right mental health treatment gets to the right inmates as quickly as possible should be the goal of everyone involved.
Hopefully those witnesses who are clamouring to make the Liberals see the light will get a fair hearing when this goes to committee, and amendments will be accepted to make this legislation effective.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
View Dane Lloyd Profile
2018-10-18 17:09 [p.22588]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great opportunity to stand again. I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Beauport—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île d'Orléans—Charlevoix.
I am rising to speak to Bill C-83, the flawed reforms to our correctional system the Liberals are trying to push through. This issue is very important to me because of the hundreds of correctional staff who call my riding home and who rightfully expect me to stand up for their safety and best interests.
The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told me at meetings that the government did not bother to consult front-line correctional officers on these reforms. These people put their lives in harm's way every day to ensure that the most dangerous and violent offenders do not harm the innocent. These courageous men and women, at the end of the day, should be able to go home safely, and we must consider how these changes will affect their safety in the workplace.
Recently I had the opportunity to meet with the union representatives who interact with these criminals. These people have first-hand knowledge and experience of what is happening in the system. These are the people we should be looking to for solutions. They are very concerned about this legislation and many other policies the Liberal government is bringing forward with regard to correctional reform. These concerns involve the safety of correctional officers. They believe that the government is ignoring them and running over them with legislation that would grant extraordinary new privileges to prisoners at the expense of public safety and rehabilitation.
One of the main problems is the policy of administrative segregation. This policy is used to separate dangerous, violent offenders who are threats to the safety of fellow inmates and staff. Administrative segregation is a means to both protect and punish. It acts as a deterrent to committing violence against staff and inmates. Some cases brought to me by correctional staff have included inmates telling each other that it is not a big deal to assault a corrections officer, because they will only get five days. This is exactly the kind of thing we need to deter.
I wonder why the Liberals are reducing punishments for inmates who assault staff and make the workplace dangerous for those who serve in this risky environment.
Let us be clear. We are not talking about an oppressive system like that outlined by the United Nations. We are not even talking about how prisons operated in decades past. Canadians, when they think of administrative segregation, might conjure up images from movies such as The Shawshank Redemption, where corrupt wardens can place inmates in solitary confinement, in darkness, with no amenities or opportunities for meaningful human contact. That is simply not the case.
Although there have been mistakes in the past, several government members today have noted that the CSC has taken great strides in recent years to improve administrative segregation.
Administrative segregation is restrictive, but we are not talking about Club Med resorts. We are talking about prison. Inmates in administrative segregation have the right to exercise and leave their cells for an hour each day. These cells are lit, not dark. Prisoners have access to services to better themselves. If one listened to some groups, one would believe that these inmates were being thrown into a hole and forgotten about, and that is simply not the case.
It is clear from several high-profile cases that administrative segregation cannot be used as a replacement for effective psychological health services in the prison system. I know that Correctional Service Canada has taken many positive steps in recent years to integrate recommendations to ensure that past poor practices are reformed.
Many of those suffering from mental health challenges have been administratively segregated, and the consequences to their health and the overall outcomes for rehabilitation have not been positive. No one wants to see anyone fall through the cracks, and ensuring that services are available to those who need mental health services is absolutely critical, but this does not mean that we have to get rid of administrative segregation. It means that we need new tools to address these issues. Reforming administrative segregation needs to involve an assessment of risk and needs to seek the improvement of rehabilitation and mental health outcomes.
I am sure we could all agree that people who find themselves in the prison system are troubled individuals, but that does not mean that all criminals suffer from mental health issues. Abolishing administrative segregation as a practice would take an essential tool away from front-line personnel for protecting themselves and the inmates. In that sense, although these new secure intervention units may hold some promise, there is no reason they could not operate alongside an effective and responsibly used system of administrative segregation.
Those who do not suffer from mental health issues and who choose to assault other inmates or staff should not be rewarded with the secure intervention units. In fact, the union representing correctional officers is asking that these tools be maintained. The government is ignoring the wisdom of front-line personnel who put their safety on the line every day.
The Liberals' action to move full steam ahead in abolishing administrative segregation is a concerning move, but they are also introducing other means for threatening staff and other inmates by condoning drug use and needles in prisons.
Most Canadians would be shocked to hear that the Liberals are pushing forward with a policy to provide needles to prisoners so that they can self-administer harmful drugs. Not only is this counter-productive for the rehabilitation of prisoners, it is a threat to the security and safety of prison staff.
Violent incidents are not uncommon in a correctional environment, and handing out needles to prisoners can be akin to handing out weapons. Vulnerable inmates, guards and other staff will now live in a state of new fear that these potent tools could be used against them, possibly even lethally.
Most Canadians would also be shocked to learn that the Liberals even intend to provide cooking spoons. These are not my words. It is what the union of correctional officers is telling me. Prisoners will be able to cook and produce their own drugs so that they can self-inject. This policy is seriously ill-informed, because as I have been told, lighters have been banned from prisons, because they have been used to start fires in the past. How are they even supposed to cook the drugs with these cooking spoons if they are not even allowed to have lighters?
The Liberals are rolling back best practices that have been learned from experience by our front-line personnel and implemented. The government is rolling back these best practices and putting people at risk. This does not make sense.
Many look to Europe for an example for Canada to follow, but the government is selectively choosing which European policies to adopt while ignoring how the overall system works. Yes, needles are used in some European prisons, but there is no European country where needles are provided in all prisons. The eventual agenda of the Liberal government seems to be that all prisons, regardless of security classification, should have access to needles.
In Europe, administrative segregation is used in the case of an assault on a police officer. It changes from country to country. This is not seen as a viable option for the future for the government. Why is it not being maintained here?
I just wonder what policy objective the Liberals intend to achieve through prisoners receiving needles. Do the Liberals want to protect prisoners from infectious diseases? Correctional staff have informed me, and I have seen the statistics on this, that over the past 10 years, the rate of infectious diseases, such as HIV, have been reduced drastically. I think 50% was the model. I do not see how introducing new needles would decrease the likelihood that dirty needles will be used. This permissive approach to this abuse is likely to cause more of the same problem the Liberals are looking to get rid of.
When actions are brought before the courts, it seems that the policy of the Liberal government is always to cave in and run. Some courts have ruled that the widespread use of administrative segregation is a violation of prisoners' charter rights. It is clear that in the cases cited earlier, oversight was the issue and the indefinite period of time was the issue. That does not mean that administrative segregation in and of itself is a flawed concept.
We have charter rights, but when people go to jail, they give up some of those rights. They are not absolute. The right to liberty is an example. We have to draw a line. What about the safety of our correctional staff? Where is their right to safety in the workplace?
Correctional staff have every right to expect that the government will ensure that they have a safe working environment. This legislation, combined with allowing needles in prisons, would endanger the safety of correctional staff.
It is time for the Liberals to take a stand, uphold the will of the people and the will of those who serve on the front lines and stop taking away the tools they need to do their jobs.
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