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View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:47 [p.29444]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-83 has two main objectives.
First of all, it would allow federal inmates to be separated from the general prison population when necessary for security reasons. Second, it will ensure that inmates have access to the interventions, programs and mental health care they need to safely return to the general prison population and make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.
The bill would achieve these objectives by replacing the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units. In SIUs, inmates would be entitled to twice as much time out of their cells, four hours daily instead of two, and two hours of meaningful human contact every day.
We have allocated $448 million over six years to ensure that the Correctional Service has the resources to provide programs and interventions to inmates in SIUs and to implement this new system safely and effectively. That funding includes $150 million for mental health care, both in SIUs and throughout the federal correction system.
Bill C-83 was introduced last October. It was studied by the public safety committee in November and reported back to the House in December with a number of amendments. There were further amendments at report stage, in February, including one from the member for Oakville North—Burlington that added a system for binding external review.
In recent months, hon. senators have been studying the bill, and they have now sent it back to us with proposed amendments of their own. The high level of interest in Bill C-83 is indicative of the importance of the federal corrections system and of the laws and policies that govern it. Effective and humane corrections are essential to public safety, and they are a statement of who we are as a country. In the words of Dostoyevsky, “the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”
I extend my sincere thanks to all the intervenors who provided testimony and written briefs over the course of the last nine months and to parliamentarians in both chambers who examined this legislation and made thoughtful and constructive suggestions.
Since the Senate social affairs committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of the bill a couple of weeks ago, the government has been carefully studying the committee's recommendations, all of which seek to achieve laudable objectives. We are proposing to accept several of the Senate's amendments as is or with small technical modifications.
First, with respect to minor adjustments, we agree with amendments that would require a mental health assessment of all inmates within 30 days of admission into federal custody and within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU. This fits with the focus on early diagnosis and treatment that will be facilitated by the major investments we are making in mental health care.
We agree with the proposal to rearrange section 29 of the act, which deals with inmate transfers, to emphasize the possibility of transfers to external hospitals. The Correctional Service runs five certified psychiatric hospitals of its own and will now have significant new resources for mental health care. Even so, there may be cases when a transfer to an external facility is appropriate. If the transfer can be done safely, if the hospital has the capacity and if it is in the best interest of the patient, then it should be done. In fact, that is why we allocated funds in budget 2018 for more external mental health beds.
We also agree with an amendment regarding the initial review of SIU transfers. The bill would require a review by the warden in the first five days. This amendment clarifies that the clock on those five days would start ticking as soon as the transfer decision was made, as opposed to the moment the inmate physically arrived in the SIU.
With minor changes, we agree with two amendments to the section of the bill that would require consideration of systemic and background factors in decisions involving indigenous offenders. One of them would provide greater precision by specifying that a person's family and adoption history should be included in the analysis. The other would clarify that these factors may be used to lower the assessment of an inmate's risk level, but not to raise it.
These provisions in themselves would obviously not be enough to solve the problem of indigenous overrepresentation in the corrections system. The upstream socio-economic factors that result in higher rates of indigenous people involved with the criminal justice system must generally be addressed in concert with other departments and agencies, and efforts to that effect are indeed under way. The Correctional Service is charged with ensuring that indigenous people in its custody get a genuine opportunity to turn their lives around, and these amendments should help advance that objective.
There are two other amendments on which we agree with the intent, and we are essentially proposing to meet the Senate halfway.
The first is an amendment that seeks to add certain elements to section 4 of the act, which establishes guiding principles for the Correctional Service. In particular, it puts a focus on alternatives to incarceration, and we agree that those alternatives should be consistently considered and used wherever appropriate.
We are, however, suggesting a few changes to the language drafted in the Senate. For example, the amendment lists sections 29, 81 and 84 of the act as alternatives to incarceration. Section 29 refers to hospital transfers, and section 81 refers to healing lodges, so their inclusion here makes sense. However, section 84 is about community-supported release following incarceration. It is not an alternative; it is the next step, so we are proposing to remove it from this list.
The amendment would also require that preference be given to alternatives to incarceration. Frankly, that is very problematic. Alternatives to incarceration should be used where appropriate, but there are situations when putting someone in prison is a valid and necessary approach. Alternatives should be considered, but not necessarily preferred.
Also, for clarity sake, we are proposing to remove or replace certain terms that do not have established legal meanings, such as “carceral isolations” or “incarcerated persons” or “a broad interpretation informed by human rights”. Certainly, everything government agencies do should be informed by human rights principles, but to be enforceable and actionable, legal terms need to have clear and precise definitions. If we asked everyone in this House to explain what it means to interpret legislation broadly and in a manner informed by human rights, we would probably get 338 different responses.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:58 [p.29446]
Mr. Speaker, that is why we are proposing to remove these terms. Even so, of course, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will continue to apply to everything the Correctional Service does.
The other amendment that we are proposing to partially retain has to do with strip searches. The Senate is proposing to prohibit any strip searches conducted as a matter of routine and we wholeheartedly endorse that objective. It would not be pleasant for any of us to be strip-searched.
People in prison have often experienced trauma, including sexual abuse. Strip searches can cause them to relive that trauma and can even deter people from participating in programs like work release if they know they will be strip-searched on their way out or on their way back in. The Correctional Service should do everything possible to minimize strip searches.
That is why Bill C-83 would allow for the use of body scanners similar to what exists in airports as recommended by the United Nations. Rather than a blanket prohibition though, the government is proposing that the law require that Correctional Service use a body scanner instead of a strip search whenever one is available. That accounts for the fact that it will take some time for body scanners to be installed in every institution and it recognizes that sometimes machines break down. In those situations, correctional staff still need to be confident that inmates are not smuggling drugs, weapons or other contraband. That is important not only for staff safety but for the safety of other inmates as well. As body scanners become more available in federal institutions, strip searches should become increasingly rare.
I will now turn to the proposals from the Senate with which we respectfully disagree.
To begin with, there are two relatively similar ones that would take existing concepts used for indigenous corrections and expand them to other unspecified groups. This would apply to section 81 of the act, which allows for community-run healing lodges and section 84, which allows for community-supported release. Both of these concepts have proven valuable and successful in an indigenous context and the idea of expanding them is indeed worthy of serious consideration.
Certainly, there are other overrepresented groups in federal custody, particularly Canadians of African descent. Our government is wholly in favour of examining whether strategies that have worked for indigenous corrections can be successfully applied in other contexts and with other communities. We are opposing this amendment not because we disagree with the principle but because the serious consideration and examination I mentioned has not happened yet.
Before moving forward with something like this, there should be extensive consultations to determine which groups would be interested. Where does the capacity exist? And how the experience of the relatively few indigenous communities and organizations that run section 81 facilities is or is not applicable more broadly.
It would be a major policy change and potentially a positive one, but the study and analysis should come before we change the law, not after.
We also respectfully disagree with an amendment that would require the Correctional Service to approve the transfer to a provincial hospital of any inmate with a disabling mental health issue. As I mentioned earlier, in the 2018 budget, our government increased funding for external mental health beds. The use of provincial hospitals may be appropriate in some circumstances. The fact is, though, that it can be very difficult to find provincial hospitals willing and able to house and treat federal inmates. If we want to change the law without the aim of bringing about the transfer of a significant number of people from federal correctional institutions to provincial hospitals, it is imperative that we consult the provinces first.
It is also important for the sake of preserving the clinical independence of the health care providers who work in corrections that the law not pre-empt their professional judgment. The law already allows for these kinds of transfers where possible and appropriate and where recommended by medical professionals. At the same time, we are dramatically bolstering mental health resources within the federal correctional service so that inmates receive high-quality mental health care wherever they serve their sentence. We are also proposing not to accept an amendment that would allow sentences to be shortened on application to a court, due to acts or omissions by correctional personnel deemed to constitute unfairness in the administration of a sentence.
Once again, the goal of deterring improper conduct by correctional staff is commendable. There are a great many people working in federal corrections who are committed professionals doing excellent work. Anything less should be deterred, denounced and the persons potentially disciplined or dismissed. Inmates who are negatively impacted by inappropriate conduct on the part of correctional staff already have recourse, in the form of grievances or lawsuits, for example. The idea of retroactively shortening court-imposed sentences in these circumstances would be a major policy change. Before enacting this kind of provision, there should be consultations with stakeholders, including victims groups as well as provincial partners and other actors in the justice system. Parliamentarians in both chambers should have the opportunity to study it at length. It is not something that should be tacked on at the end of a legislative process that did not contemplate this kind of approach.
We also respectfully disagree with the recommendation to have the new system reviewed by parliamentary committees after two years rather than five. This House added a five-year review to the bill, and that is a reasonable time frame. It gives the new system time to get off the ground and be fully implemented and that will actually make Parliament's review more meaningful and impactful when it happens. In the interim, the minister will soon be appointing an advisory panel to monitor implementation of the SIUs as they roll out. That panel will be able to visit sites, meet with inmates and staff, provide feedback to the commissioner and sound the alarm if something is really not working out as it should. Of course, parliamentary committees do not need legislation to tell them what to study. Even without a legal requirement, if committees of this House or of the other place want to review the SIU system two years from now, they are perfectly free to do so.
Finally, the government respectfully disagrees with the proposal to institute judicial review of all SIU placements after 48 hours. Bill C-83 already has a strong system of binding external oversight.
Independent external decision-makers appointed by the minister will review any case where someone in an SIU has not received the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row, or 15 days out of 30. They will also review cases where the Correctional Service is not following the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. They will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for any inmate still in the SIU at that point. That is in addition to regular and robust internal review at five, 30 and 60 days.
Simply put, judicial review of SIU placements is unnecessary. Colleagues do not have to take my word for it. At the public safety committee, the correctional investigator supported using the independent chairperson model to oversee SIUs. That is a model that uses ministerial appointees, not judges.
Plus, while no court has considered the new SIU system proposed by this bill, courts in Ontario and B.C. have rendered decisions about the kind of oversight they deem necessary for the current system of administrative segregation. In B.C., the court found that oversight of administrative segregation must be external to the Correctional Service but did not say that judicial review was required. In Ontario, the court actually found that internal review was preferable, saying, “The reviewing tribunal can have adequate independence without having all the attributes of a judge.”
Beyond being unnecessary, requiring judicial review of all SIU placements longer than 48 hours would have considerable impacts on provincial superior courts. There would need to be new judges appointed to handle the caseload. Those judges would be paid for out of federal funds and they would require support staff paid for by the provinces. There would also be changes required to the Judges Act, as well as to corresponding provincial legislation. In other words, accepting this amendment would mean imposing legislative and financial requirements on the provinces without so much as a phone call to check and see if they are on board.
If judicial review were the only way to ensure that this new system works properly and to provide the procedural safeguards required, then one could make an argument that all of these complications, making legislative amendments across the country, finding the money in federal and provincial coffers, and fast-tracking the appointment of a bunch of new judges would just have to somehow get done. However, judicial review is far from the only option. There must absolutely be robust oversight of the new system proposed by Bill C-83 and review by independent external decision-makers meets that need.
I thank all hon. senators for their efforts and their contributions. At this point, the bill truly is the product of the Parliament of Canada as a whole.
If the version we are sending back to the Senate receives royal assent, it will be a piece of legislation drafted by the government, amended by Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Party members, and amended by our colleagues in the Senate, as well.
For all of our frequent disagreements, this bill is a good example of the strength of the legislative process in our parliamentary democracy. Most importantly, it will significantly improve Canada's correctional system, enhancing the safety of the people who work and live in federal institutions and improving the system's effectiveness when it comes to rehabilitation and safe, successful reintegration.
I look forward to the passage and the implementation of Bill C-83.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2019-06-19 23:27 [p.29457]
Mr. Speaker, Parliament has been studying Bill C-83 for the last nine months. Its essence and objective are the same now as they were when the bill was introduced: to provide a way to separate inmates from the general population in an institution when doing so is necessary for safety reasons, without cutting off those inmates from rehabilitative interventions, programs, mental health care and meaningful human contact.
The main feature of the bill is the replacement of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs. In SIUs, inmates would get a minimum of four hours out of the cell every day, twice as much as they currently get in administrative segregation, and for the first time, there would be a legal entitlement to meaningful human contact of at least two hours every day.
In addition to these legislative changes, the government is investing $450 million so that the Correctional Service will be able to hire the staff necessary to provide programs, interventions and mental health care in SIUs and to do it all safely. This investment is critical to the success of the SIUs.
During my conversations with both the Union of Safety and Justice Employees and the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, as well as during visits I made to corrections facilities in Edmonton and Saskatoon last year, something I heard loud and clear was that there was a need for meaningful investments in corrections to atone for 10 years of cuts by the previous Conservative government so that we can ensure the best rehabilitative outcomes for inmates, and just as importantly, ensure the safety of those who work in corrections.
My friend Stan Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, wrote an article in May 2019, and I would like to read from it now:
Correctional Service Canada's use of solitary confinement must change. The long-standng practice of managing difficult offenders by [the use of]...solitary confinement is totally unworkable. As Canada's courts have said, it is also profoundly inhumane. Men and women serving federal time are broken and desperate human beings in need of meaningful contact, not further isolation.
At the same time, federal prisons are fraught with danger. The pressure cooker environment and threats of violence lead some prisoners to seek time away from the general population for their own sanity and safety.
Other offenders with a strong propensity for violence and few coping skills simply cannot manage long periods with others without posing a real threat. In a system with few safety valves, administrative segregation (or solitary confinement) has tragically become one of the few.
The new legislation proposes significant changes to solitary. Bill C-83 definitely won't solve everything, but it's a worthy next step. It will mandate that Correctional Service Canada dedicate the appropriate human resources for sustained rehabilitative efforts. Until now, the opportunity for parole officers, program officers, and teachers to spend quality time with the highest needs offenders has been minimal, if existent.
It will render offenders separated from the general population a priority, instead of an after-thought, within Corrections. It will enforce better reporting and accountability mechanisms.
I believe the proposed segregation units will benefit from independent oversight outside of Corrections, as is proposed by the Bill. This is crucial. But to ensure that the Bill does what is intended, the Correctional Service needs to glean the ongoing wisdom of those on the front lines of rehabilitating offenders every day....
A commitment to keep all Canadians safe means serious investments in rehabilitating all offenders in federal prisons, 90 percent of whom will be released back into the community, ready or not. I am hopeful that Bill C-83 passes so that the real work can begin.
That is the end of the article.
I want to thank Stan for his years of service to corrections, for his assistance with my understanding of our corrections system and for providing all of us with the critical perspective of those working in corrections.
Let me return to Bill C-83. The amendments made at the public safety committee last fall addressed practical concerns raised by certain witnesses to help ensure that the new system would function as intended.
The committee heard from indigenous groups, including Dr. Allen Benson and the Native Women's Association of Canada, who called for changes to the definition of indigenous organizations to ensure that it properly captured the diverse range of indigenous groups and organizations working on these issues across Canada.
Following the discussion, the committee was able to unanimously approve an amendment that called for indigenous organizations to predominantly have indigenous leadership. We also heard about the need for CSC to seek advice, particularly in matters of mental health and behaviours, from indigenous spiritual leaders or elders. I was pleased that my amendment to that effect was adopted at committee.
The bill has changed in significant ways since it was first introduced. I am proud to work for a government that is amenable to feedback and was receptive to amendments, informed by witness testimony that we heard at the public safety committee, that make the bill even stronger.
At report stage, we made a major additional amendment, one that I am incredibly proud to have introduced, that creates a mechanism to provide binding, independent, external oversight of SIUs.
The Senate has sent the bill back to us with some additional proposals. I appreciate the intent of all of the Senate's proposals and I am glad the government is accepting several of them, in whole or in part.
Those that we are accepting include the following: mandatory mental health assessments for all inmates within 30 days of admission and within 24 hours of transfer to an SIU; adding precision to the section of the bill that requires the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors in decisions affecting indigenous inmates; establishing the consideration of alternatives to incarceration, where appropriate, as a guiding principle of the Correctional Service; and minimizing the use of strip searches.
Other proposals from the Senate are interesting ideas, but they really should be studied as stand-alone items rather than included as amendments to this bill. For example, the idea of expanding the use of measures developed for indigenous corrections to non-indigenous inmates might be valid. When I visited the Pê Sâkâstêw and Buffalo Sage healing lodges in Edmonton last year, I saw first-hand the incredible impact that the programming in these institutions was having on outcomes for inmates who are serving their sentences there.
At Buffalo Sage, I was honoured to take part in a circle with Elder Vicky and hearing from strong female offenders, women who have survived what life has thrown at them and are now on a healing journey, immersed in their culture and on the road to rehabilitation and reintegration. These were women who had escaped violent abusers and themselves ended up in prison, women whose lack of housing and poverty led them to the criminal justice system, and women who lost their children to the foster system. One individual at Buffalo Sage shared with me that for the first time since entering the correction system, at Buffalo Sage she felt that she was able to heal.
I also had the privilege of visiting Pê Sâkâstêw, a men's healing lodge, where I had a memorable meeting with a 39-year-old indigenous man who first came into the justice system at 12 as a young offender. After a life in and out of jail, a life that included abuse and addictions, he was serving a sentence for robbery and now was on a successful healing journey. He lives as a man in prison and a woman outside, and prefers the “he” pronoun. He had reconnected with his community for the first time in 20 years.
I have a lot more that I could say in support of healing lodges and their impact on correctional outcomes for indigenous offenders, but a lot of work would have to go into determining how the Senate's vision would be executed, including what aspects could be borrowed from indigenous programming, what elements would have to be redesigned, what kind of community support exists and where the funding would come from without diminishing from the services provided to the indigenous prison population, which we know is the fastest-growing prison population in Canada.
Another example from the Senate is a proposal designed to deter misconduct by correctional employees and to support inmates affected by it.
It is important to point out that the vast majority of correctional staff are trained professionals doing a very hard job with skill and dedication. They are individuals for whom I have the utmost respect, who work in a job that gets little in the way of accolades from Canadians. Whenever there is an issue with someone working in corrections, we must absolutely address those situations. However, in my opinion, the Senate's proposal of shortening inmates' sentences because of the conduct of correctional personnel is not the right approach.
The Senate has also proposed an amendment that would require the authorization of a provincial superior court for any SIU placement longer than 48 hours.
Once more, I understand and share the objective of ensuring that SIUs are properly used. Robust oversight will help see to it that SIUs will be a last resort, that placements in SIUs will be as short as possible, and that inmates in SIUs are receiving all the time out of cell and meaningful human contact to which the bill entitles them.
It is important to note that in the context of administrative segregation, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice has found that placements must be examined by the fifth working day by a reviewer who is “completely outside the circle of influence of the person whose decision is being reviewed” and ”able to substitute its decision for that of the person whose decision is being reviewed.” The court was explicit that the reviewer need not be external to the Correctional Service Canada and, in fact, recommending “an administrative review provided by the Correctional Service of Canada.” While this finding was specifically in relation to administrative segregation and not SIUs, Bill C-83 would create a review process for SIUs consistent with what the court required for administrative segregation.
Under Bill C-83, SIU placements will be reviewed by the fifth working day by the institutional head who does not report to the initial decision-maker and who has the authority to overturn the initial decision. Importantly, whether in the context of administrative segregation or SIUs, no court has required judicial oversight and no court has set 48 hours as a timeline for review of any kind.
I would remind the House that robust oversight was discussed at length at the public safety committee, and has already been added to the bill in my report stage amendment.
Independent external decision-makers would be appointed by the minister to review any case where an inmate in an SIU does not get the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row or 15 days out of 30. They will also review situations where Correctional Service Canada does not accept the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. In addition, they will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for inmates still there at that point.
The determinations of independent external decision-makers will be binding and reviewable by the Federal Court. All of that external oversight is on top of regular reviews within the Correctional Service, beginning on the fifth day of placement in an SIU.
There are several advantages to using independent adjudicators rather than judges to provide oversight in this context. For one thing, our courts already have a heavy case load. Giving them additional responsibilities would mean giving them additional resources, namely increasing the number of Superior Court judges, which involves changes to legislation and making budgetary allocations both at federal and provincial levels.
That raises another problem. There are provincial Superior Courts. We should not be adding to their workload to this extent without engaging in thorough consultations with the provinces.
Also, the flexibility of a system of independent adjudicators is a big advantage in this context. A few of them could be stationed in different parts of the country and could be reactive to needs in different provinces. With judges, they are appointed permanently to a specific court and only deal with cases in their jurisdiction. Even for the current system of administrative segregation, the courts have not said that a judicial review is required. The Ontario Superior Court actually expressed a preference for non-judicial review, so decisions could be made faster.
Ultimately, while I appreciate the intent of the Senate's proposal about judicial review, an independent adjudication system already in Bill C-83 can meet the need for oversight without the drawbacks of using the courts.
I appreciate all the Senate's contributions and hard work. This bill has gotten a lot of attention from parliamentarians over the last nine months, and rightly so.
We entrust Correctional Services with the task of carrying out sentences that are supposed to be a deterrent to and punishment for criminal activity and we entrust it with the physical separation of potentially dangerous people from the rest of Canadian society. At the same time, we charge the Correctional Service with the rehabilitation through measures including behaviour counselling, anger management programs, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, education and vocational training.
In a country like Canada, we demand that these tasks all be carried out humanely and with respect, even for the rights of people who have done terrible things, and in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Bill C-83 would help ensure that all these goals can be achieved.
When I spoke to this bill at report stage, I said that I felt strongly that the legislation, combined with the additional investments from our government, would transform our correctional system. That is why I support the legislation and the motion before us today. I urge my colleagues to do the same.
This is the last time I will be speaking in the House before we rise. I would like to acknowledge my staff who are present today: Hilary Lawson and Conor Lewis. This legislation benefited from the input of Hilary, and it would not be the legislation that it is right now without her hard work. Conor has worked with me on the status of women committee. I can quite confidently say that I have the best staff on the Hill. I thank them both for all of their efforts.
I would also like to extend my thanks to the members of the public safety committee who are here tonight. I am sorry I do not know their ridings, but they have both spoken tonight. They have both been incredible members to work with. It is rare that we see members work across the aisle as well as we did on the public safety committee on issues that were by nature very controversial. We always found a way to work together, and even when we did not agree we always did it in a very agreeable way. I would like to commend them for their work, as well as my Liberal colleagues on the committee. We got a lot of good work done, and this bill is one that I am very proud of. I will be going back to my riding knowing that we have passed legislation that will truly be transformative for our corrections system.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
View John McKay Profile
2019-02-26 15:12 [p.25808]
Mr. Speaker, I will resume where I left off, which has to do with the utility of committees. I noticed that was a theme of question period, that committees are assigned tasks and committees doing their work make significant differences. Therefore, I want to go over a number of the significant differences the committee made with respect to the original Bill C-83 and the Bill C-83 that is before us as amended by the committee. We listened to witnesses and suggested changes to the government, and in many instances the government listened to the committee and made those changes.
The bill now includes a strengthened health care review system. If the warden disagrees with a recommendation from a health care provider to move inmates in or out of SIU or to alter their conditions of confinement, the committee or senior CSC personnel, external to the institution, would review the matter. That was a Liberal amendment.
The Conservatives contributed an amendment, which said that a new provision would allow CSC staff to recommend to a health care professional that an inmate be assessed under certain conditions, such as self-harm, emotional distress, adverse drug reaction, etc.
The NDP-Green Party amendment reinserted the principle that CSC and the parole board impose the “least restrictive” measures, consistent with security. The language existed for 20 years until the previous government changed it to “necessary and proportionate”. Least restrictive is back in, thanks to the amendments provided by the NDP and Green Party.
The NDP wanted a meaningful four hours of face time. Therefore, when CSC records the fact that an inmate did not get his or her four hours out, it would now have to include in the report the reasons for refusal.
About 14 or 15 different amendments were provided by all parties. Those amendments strengthen the bill and recommend the bill to the House.
The bill would enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals in CSC must operate independently of correctional authorities. It would also require CSC to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions that would impact indigenous people in federal custody.
None of this is a panacea. Even once the bill passes and the considerable resources to implement it are put in place, there will remain a lot of work to do.
One of the amendments I did not mention was that we insisted on a five-year review. Therefore, this is an open bill. It is not a panacea, but it is to be recommended. The effective rehabilitation and safe integration of people who have broken the law is essential for public safety. That is why I support the legislation and commend it to hon. colleagues.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and add my voice in support of Bill C-83, a piece of legislation that would make a number of changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I am pleased to lend my support, as my colleagues have also done.
Bill C-83 proposes a number of important things. It creates the concept of patient advocates, as recommended by the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith. Many of us in the House are very aware of the inquest and what happened to Ms. Smith, and the difficulties. We are very hopeful that Bill C-83 is going to help remedy some of those problems and prevent that from happening to some other young person.
The bill is meant to support inmates who need medical care, and ensure that they and their families can understand and exercise their rights. It would enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals working in the corrections system are autonomous and make decisions based on their medical judgment, without undue influence from correctional authorities.
It would enshrine in law the requirement that systemic and background factors be considered in all decisions involving indigenous people in custody, and it would expand the section of the law requiring the correctional service to be guided by respect for the diversity of the inmate population.
It would allow victims who attend parole hearings to access audio recordings of the proceedings.
It would create the legislative authority necessary for the Correctional Service of Canada to use body scanners to interdict drugs and other contraband, something that has been a problem for many years. There are people who have had to endure strip searches and so on. Having the body scanners would make it better for both the correctional service folks as well as for inmates. This technology is both less invasive than methods such as strip searches and less prone to false positives than the ion scanners CSC currently relies on.
It would also replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs, as they are referred to. This new system would ensure that when inmates need to be separated from the rest of the prison population for safety reasons, they would retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions, something that was not happening before.
The bill deals with serious and challenging issues, and it is to be expected that Canadians and members of Parliament will have differences of opinion about them. So far, however, the Conservative contributions to this debate have been incredibly disappointing. At times, the Conservatives have blatantly contradicted themselves. For instance, in his speech, the member for Yellowhead complained that the changes made by the bill to administrative segregation are insignificant and superficial. However, in the very same speech, the very same member said that those very same changes would endanger inmates and staff. Which is it? Do the Conservatives think the bill is insignificant, or do they think it is catastrophic? It cannot be both.
At other times, the Conservatives have simply chosen to ignore the facts. They have been complaining over and over again that the government has not allocated resources to implement the bill, when they know that is not the case. On page 103 of the fall economic statement, issued by the finance minister last November, there is $448 million allocated to support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.
Also in November, the government sent the public safety committee a written response that went into more detail about the funding.
That response says that if Bill C-83 is adopted, the government will invest $297 million over six years and $71 million ongoing to implement the structured intervention units. The funding will be dedicated to providing focused interventions, programs and social supports and will include access to resources such as program officers, aboriginal liaison officers, elders, chaplains and others. That is in a document that all members of the public safety committee have had for over three months.
The document goes on to say that the remaining amount from the fall economic statement, $150.3 million over six years and $74.3 million ongoing, is for mental health care. That includes assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhancements to primary and acute mental health care, and support for patient advocacy and 24/7 health care at designated institutions.
Again, this is all from a document that the Conservatives also have had since the fall, so when they complain about a lack of resources, they are either being disingenuous or they just have not had time to read the report.
The Conservatives' contributions to this debate have also been characterized by an unfortunate amount of self-righteousness. They position themselves as champions of victims, but it was legislation passed by the Harper government in 2015 that prohibited victims who attend a parole hearing from accessing an audio recording of that same hearing. Their bill said that victims who want recordings have to stay away from the hearing itself.
Parole hearings are often difficult experiences for many victims of crime, full of emotion, and the law should not expect them to retain every word of the proceedings at a time when they are immensely frightened and nervous and in an unfamiliar environment. The legislation before us today would finally let all victims access those recordings, whether they attend in person or not.
The Conservatives also position themselves as champions of correctional employees. Let me remind the House what the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said in 2014. Kevin Grabowsky was head of the union at that time, and he said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said the Harper government was endangering correctional officers with changes to the labour code, cuts to rehabilitative programming and policies that resulted in overcrowding in federal prisons.
The main question raised at committee by both correctional officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, which represents other CSC staff such as parole officers, was whether Bill C-83 would be accompanied by sufficient resources to implement it safely and effectively. As I have already made clear, the answer to that is a resounding yes.
Finally, the Conservatives' interventions in this debate have been reminiscent of the very worst of the Harper approach to the legislative process. They have been actually attacking the government for listening to stakeholder feedback and accepting some of those amendments. Under the Harper government, that kind of openness was unheard of, but I am proud to support a government that lets legislators legislate.
I thank all members who have engaged in a serious study of the bill and proposed thoughtful amendments, which is exactly what Canadians sent all of us here to do.
We have before us legislation that would make correctional institutions more effective and humane, accompanied by the resources needed to implement it safely. It is important that we move forward and pass the bill at this time.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2018-11-02 12:44 [p.23212]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the member's motion regarding Bill C-83, which the House has already voted on and passed at second reading.
The hon. member for Durham just mentioned that sometimes politics gets done in this place, and I would argue that the only thing being done by the Conservative Party right now is playing politics.
I cannot imagine what the family of Tori Stafford has gone through or any family that has lost a child in this manner. My heart goes out to all families who have lost children to crime.
I will start by discussing Bill C-83 and some concerns that have been raised about the working conditions of those working in corrections. It is challenging work. From guards to parole officers, program staff to medical professionals, corrections employees work hard, around the clock and in challenging environments to keep our institutions safe and in support of effective rehabilitation, which ultimately protects Canadian communities. They represent a professional workforce of nearly 18,000 employees, all engaged in the success of the corrections system and the fulfilment of Correctional Service Canada's mandate. That is complemented by some 6,000 volunteers in institutions and communities, not to mention elders, chaplains and the many other unsung heroes working in corrections. I want to assure all of those individuals that as we study Bill C-83 at committee, their voices will be heard and we will be listening to them.
Regarding the transfer referred to in this motion, when it came to the attention of the Minister of Public Safety, he asked the commissioner of corrections to review the transfer decision and the long-standing policies in place, which existed prior to our becoming government, that led to the decision, to ensure that they remain appropriate or to recommend if they need updating. As the Minister of Public Safety indicated in the House, he received the report from the commissioner of corrections late yesterday, a report that came with several policy options for him to consider. The minister is studying the report carefully and has said that if there are any changes that need to be made to these long-standing policies, they will be made in the near future.
In the meantime, the public safety committee is expected to begin its study of Bill C-83 next week. This transformational piece of legislation will eliminate segregation in Canadian corrections facilities, but is unrelated to the issue of this particular transfer. Through Bill C-83, the government is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring that we not only have the tools to make guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, but also create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.
Virtually everyone in federal custody is eventually going to be released. It is in the best interests of public safety to ensure that when offenders are released, they are well prepared to participate meaningfully in society and that they are unlikely to reoffend. That is why we are strengthening the federal corrections system and aligning it with the latest evidence and best practices so that offenders are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities.
Bill C-83 would replace the long-standing practice of using segregation and replace it with the use of structured intervention units, or SIUs. This is a bold new approach to federal corrections. An offender may be placed in an SIU when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they pose a risk to the safety of any person, including themselves, or the security of the institution. It will protect the safety of staff and those in their custody by allowing offenders to be separated as required, while ensuring that those offenders receive effective rehabilitative programming, as well as interventions and mental health support. These things are not in place right now but we would put them in place with Bill C-83.
Currently, placement in segregation basically suspends all interventions and programming for an offender. The offender is essentially kept isolated from everyone. In a structured intervention unit, on the other hand, the offender will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell and a minimum of two hours of meaningful interactions with other people, including staff, volunteers, visitors, elders, chaplains and other compatible inmates. They will have access to structured interventions to address the underlying behaviour that led to their placement in the SIU. These will include programs and mental health care tailored to their needs. It is a system that will allow for the protection of inmates, staff and the institution while ensuring that the time an inmate spends there does not interrupt his or her rehabilitative programming. Make no mistake, rehabilitative programming is essential to ensure that when the person is released from corrections, they will be able to live a life free of crime.
We will ensure that the correctional service has the resources it needs to ensure the safe and secure management of offenders within the SIU while delivering all of the important programming and allowing for visitations.
In addition, the new system will be subject to a robust internal review process. By the fifth working day after movement to an SIU, the warden will determine if the inmate should remain there, taking into account factors such as the inmate's correctional plan and medical condition. If the inmate remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will happen after 30 days by the warden and every 30 days thereafter by the commissioner of corrections.
Reviews can be triggered by a medical professional at any time, and will be strengthened by the fact that Bill C-83 also enshrines in law for the first time the principle that health care professionals within the corrections system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it would create a system of patient advocates who will help ensure that people get the medical treatment they need.
Bill C-83 would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. These amendments are based on the 1999 Gladue case and reflect what the Supreme Court has found to be the constitutional right of an indigenous offender.
The bill would also improve support for victims. Currently, victims may attend a parole hearing of the perpetrator of the crime. Alternatively, victims can request audio recordings of the parole hearing if they are unable to attend. Unfortunately, due to a glitch in the existing act, if a victim attends in person, he or she is not able to receive an audio recording. We have heard from victims that parole hearings can be such an emotional time that afterward the victim often cannot remember the full details of what transpired. Bill C-83 would ensure that even if the victim attends in person, he or she will be able to get a copy of the recording.
The legislation would also allow CSC to use body scanners for the first time. These scanners are a less invasive way of searching inmates and visitors to a penitentiary while ensuring that correctional staff have the tools they need to detect and prevent contraband.
During Stephen Harper's time in office there were many inmates in healing lodges who had committed very serious crimes. In fact, dozens were convicted of murder and at least 14 were convicted in cases in which the victims were children. They were sent to healing lodges under the Harper government because, apparently, the Harper government understood that healing lodges were in the interest of rehabilitation and public safety. I would like to read a quote from the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, who said, “Healing lodges developed in collaboration with aboriginal communities provide supportive healing and reintegration environments.”
In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, to uphold public safety and to rehabilitate those in their care. We do not have a vigilante system in Canada. We do not allow public opinion or political rhetoric to determine the penalties dealt to individual offenders. Yet the opposition has been playing political games with this case and our entire justice system during the past weeks.
Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison. There is no doubt that she remains in prison. The facts of the case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Services Canada since sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison and continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.
Neither the Minister of Public Safety nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision on where that individual offender should be serving her sentence. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible for the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections systems rely on political rhetoric and public opinion in their decision-making processes.
Recently, we had the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times, just as the Minister of Public Safety has done here as well, that she was asked to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the long-standing policies regarding transfers in general. As I mentioned earlier, the Minister of Public Safety received the commissioner's report late yesterday and is in the process of reviewing it.
Both of committees that I sit on, the status of women and public safety committees, tabled reports in June on the corrections system and, in particular, on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety committee's report was unanimous in calling for additional funding for healing lodges. Members from all parties heard from witnesses and agreed that healing lodges were doing excellent work and should be expanded and supported. The Conservative members of the committee agreed with us that they play an integral role in our corrections system. The status of women committee also recommended additional funding for healing lodges and heard extensive testimony on their benefits.
I wonder how many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium-security institute or healing lodge. I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look more like what they see on television and in movies. They might be surprised to see what a medium-security institute like Grand Valley actually looks like.
Let me be clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it were called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be debating this issue, nor having the motion before us today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens. Prisoners must follow the rules if they want to stay there.
A healing lodge is different from what Canadians might expect a prison to look like, but these institutions are also very different in their outcomes for prisoners, and in turn, better for Canadians and public safety in the long run. In fact, I would argue that is why the Harper Conservatives sent individuals who had been convicted of murder to healing lodges, because they recognized the benefits for offenders when they spend time in these institutions.
Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years of experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study, and stated:
It's not a get-out-of-jail-free [card].... We have the same kind of supervision and restrictions they have in a prison. Only we're doing it in a healing way.... they have to accept responsibility for their offences, for their victims, and they have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.
Our government knows that a corrections system focused on accountability rather than simple retribution is better for corrections outcomes and, therefore, better for the public safety of all Canadians. We know that taking a rehabilitative approach is the best way to protect the public safety of Canadians. I think Canadians would agree that when people leave prison, we do not want them to commit a violent crime. It is not in the interests of public safety.
As we know, regardless of the length of their sentence, the vast majority of those incarcerated in our system will be released from prison at some point. They may very well move into our neighbourhoods. What kind of person do we want released from prison at the end of his or her sentence living next door to us? I feel strongly that, regardless of our feelings, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.
I mentioned the fact that the previous government sent individuals who had committed murder and individuals who had committed crimes against children to healing lodges.
I would argue that is the problem with the Conservative Party today. It has no moral centre. It has no principles around which to build policies. Conservatives simply swing from one issue to the next, with no sense of cohesion or principles to guide them. Almost every issue or policy that the Conservatives supported in government is one that they have a knee-jerk reaction to while in opposition.
It is the reason the member for Beauce has left the Conservative Party and founded a new Conservative movement. He says that today's Conservative Party of Canada has become “morally corrupt”, and that Canadians need a new coherent Conservative—
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
View Dan Vandal Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Dan Vandal Profile
2018-10-23 11:40 [p.22714]
Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise on behalf of the citizens I represent in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.
I am very pleased to rise in the House to support the government's legislation, Bill C-83, which revolutionizes our correctional services.
As the Minister of Public Safety said, the government is recognizing two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet. Second, it recognizes that the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions.
Safety is indeed at the heart of this legislation. We know that some inmates are simply too dangerous or too destructive to be managed within the mainstream inmate population. Our correctional officials must therefore have a way to separate them from fellow inmates.
The current practice is to place those inmates into segregation or, as our American friends call it, solitary confinement. However, two court rulings have found that practice unconstitutional. Those rulings are being appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but the facts remain that they are scheduled to take effect in the coming months.
As a Parliament, we have a responsibility to ensure that the correctional service has the legal authorities it needs to keep its staff, as well as the people in their custody, safe in a way that adheres to our Constitution. We can do that by adopting this bill, which proposes to eliminate segregation from federal institutions and replace it with a safe but fundamentally different approach.
Under Bill C-83, structured intervention units, SIUs, would be created at institutions across the country. These units would allow offenders to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required, but they would also preserve offenders' access to rehabilitation programming, interventions and mental health care.
Inmates in an SIU would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to address their specific risks, as well as their specific needs. They would be outside their cell for at least four hours a day, which is double the number of hours under the current system. Four hours is an absolute minimum. I need to stress that it is a minimum. It could be more.
The inmates would also get at least two hours of meaningful human interaction with other people each day, including staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains, visitors and other compatible inmates. This is something that hardly exists under the current system. A registered health care professional would visit them at least once a day.
In other words, this bill introduces a new and more effective approach to managing the most challenging cases in our federal correctional system. It would promote not only the safety of correctional institutions, but also the safety of Canadian communities all across our country.
I would remind members that nearly all federal inmates will one day finish serving their sentence and be released. Accordingly, providing them with the opportunity to continue their treatment and rehabilitative work will increase their chances of successfully reintegrating the general prison population and, eventually, society.
Reducing the risk of recidivism will better protect Canadians and all communities, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns.
Other important measures in this bill complement the proposed creation of SIUs. For example, the bill would enshrine in law the correctional services obligations to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions related to indigenous offenders. This flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999. It is something that has been part of correctional policy for many years, but we are now giving this principle the full force of law.
This is part of achieving the mandate commitments the Prime Minister gave the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety to address gaps in service to indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system. The two ministers have likewise been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.
As I noted earlier, inmates with an SIU would receive daily visits from a health care professional. More than that, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would require the correctional service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working in correctional facilities.
The proposed legislation would also allow for patient advocacy services to help people in federal custody understand their health care rights and to ensure they receive the medical care they need. This was recommended by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.
There is also an important measure in this bill to better support victims of crime. Currently, victims are entitled to receive audio recordings of parole hearings but only if they do not attend. If they show up, they are not allowed to receive a recording. That does not make sense. Victims advocacy groups have said that attending a hearing is sometimes so emotionally difficult that victims simply cannot always remember what was said, which is entirely understandable. Under Bill C-83, victims would have the right to a recording of a hearing, whether they were present or not. They would then be able to listen to it again, later on in a more comfortable setting whenever it is convenient for them.
The first priority of any government should be protecting its citizens. When someone breaks the law, there are consequences. In the interest of public safety, we need to have a correctional system capable of addressing the factors that lead to criminal activity, so that offenders become less likely to reoffend and create more victims.
A proper, effective correctional system holds offenders to account for the wrongs they have done, but it also fosters an environment that promotes rehabilitation. Canada's correctional system already does an excellent job of providing rehabilitation and reintegration support for inmates under very challenging circumstances. However, Bill C-83 would strengthen that system, and public safety would be improved with safer institutions for staff and inmates, fewer repeat offenders, and fewer victims in the long run.
For all of these reasons, I fully support this important and transformative piece of proposed legislation, and I invite all honourable members to do the same.
View Nick Whalen Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Nick Whalen Profile
2018-10-23 11:54 [p.22715]
Mr. Speaker, while Bill C-83 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in half a dozen ways, the centrepiece of the legislation is really ending the use of segregation in our penitentiaries and the launching of what would be called “structured intervention units”, or SIUs.
I will get into the details of what SIUs are in a bit, but first I recognize that many stakeholder groups have spent years advocating for a limit to the length of time in administrative segregation.
The correctional investigator has recommended a 30-day cap. The UN Mandela rules call for one at 15 days. We asked ourselves, though, if that did not just leave people without meaningful contact for 15 or 30 days. Did that not just keep people from their needed interventions and training for 15 or 30 days and from the mental health treatment that they might need?
Therefore, what if we were able to create a system where, when people need to be placed in a separate secure facility within the penitentiary, they could continue to have access to all those things? What if we could ensure the safety of inmates, correctional staff and the security of facilities without having to segregate inmates from all those important points of contact and their treatment regimes? What if there were zero days without meaningful human contact in our penitentiaries?
That is what is at the heart of Bill C-83. It is legislation that balances the need for security in our penitentiaries with the need to ensure that we end segregation and create a system that is better able to rehabilitate inmates.
Inside an SIU, inmates will have double the time outside of their cells compared to the current administrative segregation regime. However, it is not unsupervised, as was suggested previously by the member for Lethbridge.
Correctional Service will be provided with funding to staff up on guards to help ensure the safe and secure movement of the inmates inside the SIUs, whether that is to a classroom-type setting, or to attend part of their programming or to interact with another compatible inmate. In short, this is a complete revamping of Correctional Service in a way that will be better for staff, better for inmates and ultimately better for society.
The reason this is so important is that the vast majority of federal inmates will eventually be released into our communities. It is safer for our communities when those offenders with mental health issues have been treated and diagnosed properly. It is safer for our communities when they have successfully undergone Correctional Service rehabilitation programming and had the training they need to help find employment when they finish their sentence, so they can support themselves and are less likely to reoffend.
I have seen some commentary that while this legislation looks promising, there is some skepticism about its implementation. I can assure the House that we intend to ensure the implementation fulfills the promise of the legislation, with all the resources required to make this work. I even asked the minister earlier in the debate about that fact.
Let us be clear that the status quo may not be an option any longer. Courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have struck down large portions of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act that legally allow for an inmate to be placed in administrative segregation. While both of those cases are being appealed, one by the appellant and one by the government, come December and January, administrative segregation may not exist as an option in those provinces. Without a system to replace it, that will be a dangerous situation for Correctional Service staff and it will also be dangerous for offenders. As well, effective rehabilitation cannot happen in a dangerous environment, so it will be dangerous for all of us.
Now let me turn to some of the other parts of Bill C-83. We have heard from victims that Parole Board hearings are often such a highly emotional blur that once they are finished, they are often unable to remember many of the important details of what went on. The proposed legislation will allow victims who have attended a Parole Board hearing to receive an audio copy of the hearing. Currently, registered victims who are unable to attend can request and receive such a copy. However, if the individual was there in person, the legislation does not allow for that. That simply is not right, which is why Bill C-83 would amend the law to ensure that all registered victims, whether they attend a parole hearing or not, would be able to receive that audio copy.
The proposed bill will also allow for Correctional Service to acquire and use body scanners on those entering the prisons. From drugs to cellphones, the phenomenon of contraband inside prison systems is a problem worldwide. New technologies now allow for better and easier searches of those entering correctional facilities, which are less invasive than traditional methods such as strip searches.
I am sure we all remember the tragic death of Ashley Smith who took her own life while under suicide watch in 2007. Her death, and the subsequent coroner's inquest, was a wake-up call that tremendous improvements were needed in our women's correctional facilities. Bill C-83 would deliver on one of the most important recommendations from that inquest.
The legislation would require Correctional Service to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities. It would also create a statutory obligation for Correctional Service to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence, a founding principle of the medical profession.
The bill would also enshrine in law the principles of the landmark 1999 Gladue Supreme Court decision that would ensure, from intake, that indigenous offenders' programming and treatment incorporates the systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders.
Ultimately, all of this will advance the cause of public safety in all of our communities.
When our corrections system works effectively to rehabilitate offenders within a secure custodial environment, we all benefit.
I am proud of Bill C-83, and I encourage all members to vote in support of it.
Since I have a few more moments left, I will talk a bit about Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador's primary penitentiary is not a federal facility, so it will not be governed under the rules of the proposed legislation. However, we can see from media reports and in the damning history of Her Majesty's Royal Penitentiary in St. John's what can happen in penitentiaries where the right supports and services are not put in place to protect both inmates and the people who work in the prisons.
PTSD is a huge problem for people who work in the correctional system, as well as for people incarcerated in these facilities. We need to find a better way to manage inmates through their periods of trouble while they are incarcerated so they can continue to receive the supports they need.
Once the federal government's new higher standard can be met federally, that will put additional pressure on provinces, where people are serving two years or less, to have similar supports and standards in place, so the system is better able to manage not only the distress being caused to other inmates in the facility by the person who is going into the SIU, but also to provide additional funding and support for additional Correctional Service staff to maintain and manage the supervision of those inmates. That is key.
We have seen throughout our first three years in office that many of the proposed changes that were brought in by the previous government, whether it be Phoenix, or in IT transportation or in Correctional Service, that unless we fund the transition, unless we fund the additional requirements of legislation, we are doomed to fail.
The minister mentioned that $80 million would be available for additional mental health supports within prisons over the next two budgets. That is extremely important. Funding will be available for additional corrections staff and for the very body scanner technology that will help reduce, if not eliminate, the problem of contraband in our prisons, which is so pervasive.
We have heard a lot in the debate by opposition members today about their concern that we are not giving sufficient time to debate this topic. However, it seems to me that many of the points that have been circulating in the room today are starting to retread similar ground. We have not heard a lot of new arguments even in the short amount of debate that we have had.
It will be great to see the legislation go to committee, where any of the legitimate concerns that were raised by the opposition regarding sufficient feedback from stakeholder groups can be addressed and their comments can be incorporated. If there are constructive ways in which the legislation can be amended, committee is the best place to do it.
In light of the fact that December and January present real significant deadlines for ensuring there is a replacement in place to administrative segregation in our prisons, it is important that we get the legislation finalized and passed through the House and the Senate in order to avoid a type of Doomsday scenario that could arise without the ability to properly manage and maintain security in prisons in British Columbia and Ontario in the next year.
For all of these reasons, I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of sending the legislation to committee.
View Sean Fraser Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Sean Fraser Profile
2018-10-23 12:22 [p.22719]
Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-83. This bill would do a number of things. At its core, what it seeks to do is abolish the use of administrative segregation in Canada and replace it with structured intervention units. However, it would do more than that.
The bill would also make a serious change in the way we deal with the right of victims to obtain audio recordings of parole hearings. It would take certain steps to consider, in particular, the unique circumstances that pertain to indigenous inmates. It would include serious changes to the way we deal with patient care in the inmate population. As well, it would introduce certain changes to the use of body scanners in institutions run by the Correctional Service Canada.
This bill is ultimately about enhancing our justice system to make sure that our system holds guilty parties to account and that it respects the ability of victims to obtain information about offenders who may be released into society.
Importantly, it would also deal with certain measures that would help make our communities safer by ensuring that during a period of incarceration, individuals would have access to services that would actually help them reintegrate more effectively into society on the back end. This is not about being soft on crime. This is about being smart on crime to ensure that in the long term, Canadian communities are safer on the whole.
What have perhaps been the most controversial pieces in this legislation are the changes to administrative segregation in Canada contained within Bill C-83.
Administrative segregation, in common parlance, can be roughly equated to solitary confinement. Today, for a lot of good reasons, the good public servants who work on behalf of Correctional Service Canada want to maintain institutional safety. When they are dealing with particularly difficult inmates who might pose a threat of violence to either the staff who work at CSC or the inmate population, the practice has been to segregate them entirely from the prison population. They essentially confine them as individuals, separate from meaningful human contact and separate from different services.
While this may address the short-term problem of preventing harm to the prison population and to the staff who work at Correctional Service Canada, there is a greater social problem it also contributes to. The inmates who have been subjected to solitary confinement or administrative segregation are subjected to treatment that leaves them worse off and puts them in a position where they are more likely to reoffend upon their release into the community, which is not something we want. We aim to reduce recidivism to ensure that our communities are safer when inmates are inevitably released back into society.
We all know that there are certain incredibly heinous crimes that will result in people potentially being in the custody of Correctional Service Canada for their entire lives, but there are many circumstances, in fact the vast majority of circumstances, in which a person who commits a crime is eventually going to be released back into society. We have to make sure that we are not putting our communities in danger by denying services to those people who are incarcerated that would help them become whole and become functioning members of society upon their release.
Most members of this House would be familiar with the details of the Ashley Smith case. To me, it illustrated, tragically, the problems that exist within our current system. We have young people who may be suffering from certain mental illnesses who, to solve a short-term problem, are completely separated from meaningful human contact. They are separated from the population in which they live while incarcerated. The damage this can cause to a person who is living with mental illness can cause them to harm themselves, and potentially, in the long term, to harm others upon their release.
In light of this case and others, the need to take action is apparent. In fact, the need to take action is frankly not a choice. We have now had two cases, at least, that I am aware of, one in Ontario and one in British Columbia, that have indicated that the practice of administrative segregation, at least going beyond a certain period of time, is unconstitutional. It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, it is a responsibility of Parliament to enact a new regime that is in compliance with our charter. If we cannot respect the values that are enshrined in our charter, then we are not worth much in this House.
I would suggest that the measures implemented in Bill C-83 would strike a balance that would allow Correctional Service Canada to maintain order within an institution and maintain the safety of the prison population. Introducing structured intervention units would help ensure that the person who was causing a problem for the prison population and the staff at CSC could maintain some sort of meaningful human contact and be provided with the services that would help communities be safer in the long term. At the same time, these would maintain order within our institutions.
In particular, I want to point to the fact that inmates in the structured intervention units would have a minimum of four hours out of their cells daily, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff. This is not a lot of time, but it could make a difference to a person who had actually pulled away from society and had been denied meaningful human contact, particularly those in incarceration who were living with mental illness. It would allow them to become better off in the long term and would reduce the threat posed to society, which is what this bill is really all about.
Currently, there is a very limited amount of time a person who is subjected to solitary confinement is allowed out of a cell to have any kind of contact with anyone within the greater population. The harm that impacts the individual also has long-term consequences for our communities and needs to be addressed.
In light of the court cases I have mentioned previously, we have to take some kind of meaningful action to allow us to maintain order in our institutions and do better in protecting our communities.
This bill would not just deal with the issue of administrative segregation. In particular, we would make a change in the way victims were able to access information about parole hearings when they were threatened with the circumstance that an individual who had committed a crime against them was up for parole. Currently, if victims do not attend a parole hearing in person, they are not entitled to the recordings that are part and parcel of those hearings. Members can imagine the trauma victims might go through if they had to see in person the hearing for an individual who had committed a crime against them or a family member. To force them to go through that experience, when they may not be mentally prepared, seems like a step too far, in my opinion. I think the sensible thing to do, which is embedded in Bill C-83, is to allow recordings to be given to the victims of crime, whether or not their personal circumstances allow them to attend in person. I think this would be an important change.
Bill C-83 would also embed the principles from the Gladue decision in the legislation, which require the Crown to take into account the unique circumstances of an indigenous person's background when making decisions of this nature.
When it comes to health care, there is an important change built into Bill C-83 that would ensure that there were new patient advocates. They would have the opportunity to work with CSC to ensure that order could be maintained in institutions while they also, for inmates who had certain health care concerns, ensured that those concerns were met.
Again, this is not about doing favours for people who have committed crimes against other individuals or communities. This is about protecting Canadians in the long term by ensuring that our communities are made more secure. If we deny basic mental health care to people who are separated from society not only because they are in prison but because they are completely segregated and left on their own, the damage they may cause to our communities in the long term, upon release, when their sentences come to an end, is something incredibly important that we need to address.
The final element I would like to turn our attention to today is the use of body scanners. This is similar to the technology we pass through when we go to an airport to come to Ottawa every week to advocate on behalf of our constituents.
The introduction of contraband drugs, weapons and the like into prison communities can be a very serious problem. The use of body scanners, which I understand certain members on different sides of the aisles may actually support, would be an important step, because it would not be invasive but would still protect prison populations.
The suite of changes included in Bill C-83 are important ones. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the essential point that changes to the administrative segregation regime that exists in Canada today are coming with or without Parliament's action, because a court has deemed them unconstitutional. We need to take steps that not only protect the rights of the individuals who are incarcerated but respect the rights of victims, keep our communities safe, and in the long term, ensure that people who are released from prisons into our society do not cause greater harm to our communities than they already have.
View Murray Rankin Profile
NDP (BC)
View Murray Rankin Profile
2018-10-23 12:53 [p.22723]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this important debate today on Bill C-83, that would deal with the abolition of early parole and the issues on conditional release and corrections. I say at the outset that I will speak in opposition to the bill at second reading. I do so for a number of reasons I will try to describe.
I will first talk about the nature of what the bill has tried to respond to, the difficulties, the dilemmas, the torture, as some people have called it, that is involved in solitary confinement. Perhaps one can call it by other words, but that is what it is. Then I will talk about what a couple of our superior courts have said about this practice and the constitutionality of it, the fact that the government has continued with the appeals of those judgments and yet brought in a bill which by all measure is a very modest response to the very strong language of our courts in addressing the issue of solitary confinement.
I would say that this is a modest improvement. I do not want to be misunderstood. There are some things that are in the right direction in this legislation, but it is a pity that, in light of the long and thoughtful decisions in both the Ontario Superior Court and Mr. Justice Peter Leask's decision in the B.C. Supreme Court, this is the result. It is a very modest, to use a neutral word, response to their very strong language.
Let me talk initially about what they said. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and others brought a constitutional case to the B.C. Supreme Court. In a landmark decision that was handed down in January this year, Mr. Justice Leask in his last judgment before leaving the bench provided what can only be described as a blockbuster decision. Among the things that he talked about, to build on what I asked my friend a moment ago, is the need for an independent review of segregation placements and that is entirely lacking in this decision.
He decided that the practice of solitary confinement, as it was practised at that point in time, breached the security of the person. He said: "I find as a fact that administrative segregation as enacted by [the statute] is a form of solitary confinement that places all Canadian federal inmates subject to it at significant risk of serious psychological harm, including mental pain and suffering, and increased incidence of self-harm and suicide." He wrote a 54,000-word judgment after hearing days and days of testimony, a very carefully reasoned decision and he held that it violated the security of the person that is guaranteed in our charter.
He also said that it discriminated against first nations, disabled and mentally ill individuals. The findings for that again are based on a thorough analysis of the situation at hand. He said thousands of prisoners have been subjected to solitary segregation over the years, isolated for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. Indeed, we know the sad story of Mr. Edward Snowshoe, an indigenous prisoner who died by suicide after languishing in solitary for 162 days without any meaningful attention from staff.
This is akin to a form of torture. This is not unlike the harm we have heard about in other contexts in this place of post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to the serious risks of suicide and self-harm as has happened so many times. Thousands of prisoners have been subjected to that isolation for so long and for so many hours a day and for so many days in a year.
There are about 14,000 inmates in federal institutions, 679 of them women. One in four of the incarcerated men spend some time in segregation. To my surprise, more than 40% of women do. This is a prevalent problem across our institutions and it is not just limited to some prisoners and some institutions, but is endemic across the country.
Those who believe that prisons are there to provide punishment but also for rehabilitation purposes should listen to what the judge concluded after days and days of testimony. He stated, “I have no hesitation in concluding that rather than prepare inmates for their return to the general population, prolonged placements in segregation have the opposite effect of making them more dangerous both within the institutions’ walls and in the community outside.” This is not serving the community and it is certainly not serving the people who have been in institutions for that long. The kinds of concerns he talked about include anxiety, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, hallucinations, aggression, rage, paranoia, hopelessness, self-mutilation and suicide ideation behaviour.
There is no question that we have dealt with a serious problem. It is not only the judge who said this. The correctional investigator of Canada and the United Nations Committee Against Torture have looked at that and concluded that there were serious issues that had to be addressed. Indeed, Justice Leask said there should be time limits of 15 days in solitary, longer periods are considered torture by the United Nations and the government indicated it could implement that standard. That is what led to the legislation before us today.
As I said at the outset, there are some tweaks in here that are helpful. The administrative segregation or solitary confinement has been rebranded as structured integration units, sort of an Orwellian term I suppose, but maybe the language will change things to some degree. Importantly, instead of spending up to 22 or 23 hours in segregation, the new scheme proposes up to 20 hours a day, but for an indefinite period of time. The Ontario Superior Court found that harmful effects can manifest in as little as 48 hours, so I ask whether that is likely to change anything in a significant fashion. I think not.
One of the things Justice Leask spent pages on in his decision was the need, as so many have said, to have an independent check on the discretion of the prison head or the Correctional Service of Canada's top official. That is lacking entirely in this bill. Senator Pate put a press release out and referred to this legislation, saying it is “only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice”, now called structured intervention unit. She said that this bill “also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use”, it “maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making”, it does nothing to deal with what Justice Louise Arbour concluded when she studied the prison for women in Kingston and she acknowledges, as the courts have, that the way segregation or solitary confinement is applied is disproportionately affecting “indigenous and racialized prisoners and those with mental health issues”.
This bill needs improvements on the checking of the discretion that is available to officials by way of appeals. The involvement of counsel on disciplinary hearings is a step forward, but there is so much that needs to be done to address the horrific practices that have been castigated by our courts in thoughtful decisions. This bill does not go far enough to address their disturbing conclusions.
View MaryAnn Mihychuk Profile
Lib. (MB)
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today and speak to Bill C-83 and the impacts of the corrections facilities and our justice system on real people. In particular, my interest is on indigenous people, and how they are treated by the justice system and in our correctional facilities.
We are looking at a bill that will actually do what it promises and what it needs to do, which is eliminate solitary confinement. That was the major goal, and that is what this bill will do. It is also going to hold guilty parties accountable for breaking the law. Each and every Canadian wants to ensure that we have a justice system and a corrections system that are going to hold offenders to task, that they are receiving the proper penalty, and hopefully that they receive rehabilitation services to make them meaningful and active participants in our society.
Ultimately, we want fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities. That is why our government is strengthening the federal corrections system, aligning it to the latest evidence and best practices so that inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to re-enter our society safely.
This bill will eliminate solitary confinement, following recent court decisions and introducing a more effective system that will be called the structured intervention unit system. It will also provide better supports for victims during Parole Board hearings. It will increase staff and inmate safety with the new body scanner technology. It will also update our approach on critical matters like mental health supports and becoming more sensitive to indigenous offenders' needs.
There is no stronger case to reflect on than the Ashley Smith case, where a young girl was throwing crabapples at a mailman. She ended up in a youth facility, and her experience was then compounded with various acts of aggression and hostility because she felt she was not being treated fairly. Young people who are faced with a situation of hopelessness reach out in any way they can. Ultimately, Ashley hanged herself in a correctional facility operated by the Government of Canada.
It is hard to understand how a young woman would feel so hopeless in a facility that is supposed to be providing rehabilitative services. Ashley Smith's story is one that we should all reflect on. We would reflect on the fact that here was a young girl who was placed in a youth facility for a month in 2003, at the age of 14, after throwing crabapples at the mailman.
I am sorry, but this hardly seems like a reason to end up in confinement, whether it is in a youth facility or not. I have three children. I do not believe any one of them has ever actually thrown a crabapple at a mailman, but I am sure they have done things that might even be worse. The point is that this young girl was thrown into jail, a youth facility, and that experience was compounded. Instead of getting out and rejoining society, she might have had another small infraction, and then it was extended and extended to the point where her life held no hope that she could see, and where she would rather commit suicide than go on living in her condition in solitary confinement. It was a tragic situation and one that this bill is addressing.
We know more can be done, and more needs to be done. We know from the statistics that many of the people in our correctional facilities come from an indigenous heritage. Indigenous people far outnumber those from other communities. We must address the root causes, and that is a much more complicated and longer journey. However, I am proud to say that this is a government that is finally taking steps forward. We have a Prime Minister who has made a commitment to the indigenous people of this country, and to all of us, that this is an issue that we are finally going to address. Progress is being made.
When we go back to look at the bill itself, there is a need to make changes. This is a government that has taken steps forward, and there is no doubt that there are those in our community who will be concerned that some prisoners may be dangerous to the guards, to other inmates and to themselves, and that solitary confinement plays an important role in our correctional facilities. However, they need to understand that this was not the best way to help people. In fact, people in solitary confinement do not receive the supports they need to become stronger and healthier: the mental supports, the health supports and the supports they need to function in a very stressful circumstance.
Therefore, I am very pleased to see that we are eliminating solitary confinement and looking for new alternatives that would keep those offenders from the general population while allowing them to retain access to rehabilitation programs, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration are always the best way to protect Canadian communities.
This is an issue that we are looking at federally, but it has also been addressed provincially. I note that in May, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act. On May 7, the province implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation.
The number of inmates who are in segregation has been dropping, and we are glad to see it. In 2011, there were 700 inmates in solitary confinement, and now that has dropped to 340. I am pleased to say I am a member of a government that is finding a way to eliminate solitary confinement.
While the correctional investigator has looked at the situation and acknowledged that the reduction in the use of solitary confinement is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. There is more to do, as we know, and we must continue to move with society to make appropriate amendments.
The structured intervention units would replace solitary confinement. Individuals would be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, and they would be assigned to a secure intervention unit. This would separate inmates when necessary, while continuing to provide them with rehabilitative programming, mental health care, and other interventions and services that respond to their specific needs.
This bill does several other things, including providing supports to victims. The bill would allow audio recordings of parole hearings. At this point, these are only available to victims who do not attend. The recordings would now be available to any victims, even if they attend, and would be an important record for them to review for the future.
The proposed bill also puts in law the guiding principles to affirm the need for CSC to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders. This is an important and positive step for all Canadians, in particular our indigenous members of our society.
View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-10-23 15:18 [p.22746]
Mr. Speaker, it is ironic to take the floor after that ruling, but I am pleased that we can pursue that other matter through other channels.
I am here now to address Bill C-83. I appreciate that the Liberal Party gave me a time slot, in recognition of the fact that there has been an allocation of time on debate and I otherwise might not have been able to speak to this at all. I wish to go on record, and I am not feeling any sense of cognitive dissonance in doing this, to thank the government party for allowing me to speak for 10 minutes, and I also wish that the government party had not decided to use time allocation on Bill C-83.
In any case, this bill comes to us in a context I want to address first, which is a political context and a political climate that has been created by recent debates in this place, in which, I regret to say, I felt demeaned. I felt displaced, demeaned and diminished by a tactic of the official opposition to turn the House of Commons into sort of a secondary chamber for the review of punishments meted out through the proper system, the courts of law. We have taken days and had people's names and the horrors of gruesome, cruel murders repeated on the floor of this place.
There is clearly some thought in some quarters here that it is a good campaign tactic to talk about punishment a lot and to regret when our correctional system responds in ways that might appear to some as lenient. However, we are a country built on the rule of law. We recognize that our prison system is not merely for punishment. We have to have this discussion, I think, fairly constantly. What is the point of our correctional system? What is the point of our prison system?
As many MPs have said on the floor of this place today in response to Bill C-83, many of the people in our prison system are going to re-enter society. We would like them to re-enter society with the life skills they will need to be contributing members of society, having paid, in that terminology, their debt to society.
It is in that context, where on one end of the political extreme we are told that we have become too lenient towards prisoners, that we turn our attention to an appalling situation, where rights have been infringed and lives have been lost through the failure of the prison system to handle certain kinds of prisoners, those who find themselves in likely incarceration in solitary confinement.
Of course, this bill comes to us in the context of one of the most egregious of those examples, again, as has been mentioned in this place today, the case of Ashley Smith. I think we forget sometimes how horrific her death was, how hard her life was, how hard her mother tried to help her and how the prison system made her survival impossible.
The coroner's inquest into Ashley Smith's death found that although she died from self-inflicted choking, while the guards watched, the context and the circumstances of her death amounted to a homicide. That coroner provided 104 recommendations.
We also know of the cases of Adam Capay, a young indigenous man who spent 1,600 days in solitary confinement; or Richard Wolfe, who did not actually die in solitary but collapsed in a prison exercise yard, at 40 years old, having spent 640 days in solitary confinement; or another indigenous man whose case comes to mind, Eddie Snowshoe, who spent 162 days in solitary confinement before hanging himself.
We can note from those cases that it is quite often those with mental health issues, those who are marginalized, those who are racialized and particularly those who are indigenous who end up in solitary confinement. Therefore, it is certainly welcome that the Minister of Public Safety has brought to this place a bill that promises to end this ongoing stain on the reputation of Canada as a civilized country. Solitary confinement for those lengths of times has been found internationally to constitute torture, and we are a people who are convinced that we do not practise torture.
Therefore, I am sad to share my disappointment with this bill and my concern that we do not have it right yet.
Coralee Cusack-Smith, mother of Ashley Smith, speaking for her family on Bill C-83, said “it's a sham and a travesty that it's done in Ashley's name. It's just a different name for segregation. It's not ending segregation. Not ending segregation for anyone with mental health issues. It's just a new name.”
It seems that the fact it is merely a rebranding is reflected in a statement by the hon. Senator Kim Pate who, having spent time before entering the other place to dedicating her life to the fair treatment of women prisoners, in particular through the Elizabeth Fry Society, described Bill C-83 as disappointing and even as weakening the limitations on how often a segregated prisoner can experience solitary confinement. We have this idea that structured intervention units will be entirely different from solitary confinement. I hope they will be. I have to say that it is one place where I would like to emphasize the positive in this place.
I was a member of Parliament, at the same desk, in the same chair, for an opposition party through the 41st Parliament. I could add up on the fingers of one hand the number of times I saw a single amendment made to a government bill. In a four-year term of a majority government under Stephen Harper, bills were rammed through from start to finish without a single amendment. Therefore, I will credit the current government and the administration of the current Prime Minister with being more open to amendments. However, it is a mixed bag. Some bills I would have been so happy to support if they only had been amended enough to make them acceptable. Bill C-69, the environmental assessment omnibus bill, is in that category. It is a tragedy that the Liberals did not get that one right. It will be a tragedy if we collectively in the House do not get it right on this one.
We have an obligation as a civilized society to re-examine what we mean by “incarceration” and “corrections” in the criminal justice system and what the purpose of incarceration is. In the 41st Parliament, the former government got rid of prison chaplains in that system. It got rid of prison farms where some prisoners could have the first experience in their lives of a day outdoors doing an honest day's labour. I suppose it is ironic that an honest day's labour took place in a prison farm context. However, those programs were killed by the previous government.
The prison system in our country cannot just be seen as a place where some parts of the political spectrum can score political points by talking about life being too easy there for people who have committed heinous crimes, as the language always describes them. I am not sympathizing with criminals. I support the rights of victims. However, it is not an effective prison system if it kills people who have committed minor crimes, who become stuck in a Möbius loop where they cannot get help. We have to break that cycle now. We have to find ways to focus our prison system on fairness, respect, reconciliation and rehabilitation. This is not the stuff of bleeding hearts; this is what makes a society whole. This is what allows people who have been in prison to come back out and function in a civilized society and not pass on the patterns of behaviour they have experienced to their family and children.
I have hope for Bill C-83. I will do everything I can at committee, and everything I can by working with members of the groups who have given their lives to this, whether it be the Elizabeth Fry Society, the John Howard Society, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and those very brave people who have been incarcerated and are willing to come forward to say, “This is what would have helped me. This is how it did not help me.”
Yes, a prison system is to ensure that people pay their debt to society and are punished for things that are morally indefensible and a huge assault on our society. However, there are also a lot of people in prison who have committed relatively minor crimes who, if they were wealthier and had better lawyers, might not be there. There, but for the grace of God, go members and I. Therefore, let us fix Bill C-83.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Pam Damoff Profile
2018-10-23 15:34 [p.22748]
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to lend my voice to the debate today in support of Bill C-83, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. We all want our communities to be safe, and we all want to be secure in the knowledge that when offenders return to the community, our corrections system will have supported their rehabilitation and prepared them to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives. Our government believes that for the corrections system to succeed in that regard, safety and security must go hand in hand with rehabilitative programming and treatment. Today, I am proud to know that principle is at the core of the bold new measures the government is taking to transform federal corrections.
Bill C-83 would strengthen the federal corrections system, making it safer and more effective at rehabilitation. The bill would end the practice of segregation. It would establish structured intervention units, or SIUs, to safely manage inmates when they cannot otherwise be managed in the mainstream inmate population, without denying them access to programs, interventions and treatment.
Bill C-83 would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. This change reflects testimony we heard at both the status of women and public safety committees, and I am very pleased to see this included in the proposed legislation. Bill C-83 would strengthen health care governance, allow for the use of new search technologies and enhance support for victims at parole hearings.
Key to this landmark legislation is that with SIUs, the practice of segregation would become a thing of the past. Currently, if an offender is considered dangerous to themselves or others, or is at risk of being harmed, they can be placed in segregation if there is no other reasonable alternative. Segregation has remained a common practice over the years. Recently, policy changes by the Correctional Service of Canada led to a significant decline in segregation placements, from over 700 on any given day a few years ago to just over 300 today.
However, we cannot ignore the fact that stakeholders, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator, advocacy groups, the Ashley Smith inquest and the courts, have raised concern about its effects, particularly on inmates suffering from mental health issues. I have seen a segregation unit in a maximum security prison. I cannot imagine a human being left there hour upon hour, day after day. Imagine a room with a bed, or more like a cot, a toilet and sink, and maybe a small desk attached to the wall, which might or might not have a seat, and being confined there for 22 hours a day with limited to no human contact.
In the courts, recent decisions in both Ontario and British Columbia called for legislative reform to the practice. They have also called for improvements to the provision of mental health services within corrections. At the same time, others have argued that segregation is necessary to ensure that correctional institutions remain safe for their employees and the people in custody. The safety of correctional staff must always be an overarching consideration. Our correctional institutions are full of dedicated staff who work long hours in challenging circumstances to make a positive difference by promoting rehabilitation and protecting communities.
As a member of the public safety committee, I have had the opportunity to tour a number of corrections facilities across the country and to get to know many of the men and women who work in the corrections system, including the commissioner and correctional investigator, regional managers, wardens, corrections officers, parole officers, aboriginal liaison officers, program officers, nurses and more. They work incredibly hard with very little recognition, working day in and day out to rehabilitate those in our corrections system. They develop correctional plans for offenders to ensure that they are receiving programming throughout their sentences. They are passionate about their work and often make a real difference in the lives of offenders so that they can become more productive and healthy members of society upon their release.
Until now, correctional staff had few alternatives to segregation when having to isolate an inmate for safety reasons. We now have an opportunity to address that problem. Bill C-83 would eliminate segregation altogether and establish structured intervention units. These SIUs would provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in difficult circumstances. They would help manage offenders who could not otherwise be safely managed. In an SIU, an inmate would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs. Every day, they would have a minimum of four hours outside their cell, including at least two hours of meaningful human interaction.
In the existing segregation system, by contrast, people get only two hours out of the cell and little or no meaningful interaction with other people.
I find some of the rhetoric on the bill coming from my Conservative colleagues to be disturbing. I have heard my colleagues on the opposition benches argue that the bill would make life easier for offenders in corrections facilities. I have said it before in the House and I will say it again. I believe it is essential that our system does all within its power to rehabilitate offenders, if only because we know that it leads to lower recidivism rates and ultimately makes all Canadians safer.
As my friend Stan Stapleton, president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, has said with regard to the bill:
There is evidence that shows that strong rehabilitative programs make communities safer and create a safer environment for both employees and offenders inside institutions...The reality is these offenders--almost all of them--will return to the community. And so if we simply lock them up and throw away the key, we're not providing them with the tools that they require in order to safely reintegrate back into society.
I could not agree more and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the bill. With Bill C-83, offenders will have the ability to work toward the objectives in the correctional plan thanks to a focus on intervention so they are better placed to become productive members of society once they are released. I think we can all agree that this is good for the public safety of Canadians.
With these changes, offenders will have daily visits from health care professionals. Ultimately the idea is to facilitate safe reintegration into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.
To that end, placements in SIUs will be subject to a robust system of review. An initial review will happen within five days by the institution's warden. If the person remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will be done by the warden after 30 days and by the commissioner every 30 days thereafter. Also, at any time a health care professional can recommend a change in conditions or a transfer out of the SIU.
Importantly, the bill also proposes to enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals within the corrections system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it creates a system of patient advocates who will help ensure people get the medical treatment they need.
Having spent considerable time studying this issue at the committees on which I serve and having visited several corrections facilities, I can say with confidence that Bill C-83 represents a substantial change in the right direction. We have the opportunity to act now to improve correctional outcomes, reduce violent incidents and ensure a safe environment for inmates, staff, volunteers and the institutions as a whole.
We have the opportunity to contribute to community and public safety by supporting bold new proposals that assist with the rehabilitation of offenders, reducing the risk of reoffending and keeping our communities safe.
I look forward to the opportunity to study the bill further at committee and I urge all members to join me in supporting these important changes.
View Bill Casey Profile
Lib. (NS)
View Bill Casey Profile
2018-10-23 16:02 [p.22752]
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand and speak in support of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
It is amazing to me how things connect here in the House of Commons in our parliamentary duties. Bill C-83 today ended up in a discussion with the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. Bill C-83 also has a direct connection to a town in my riding. It has direct connections to first nations issues as well.
I am going to talk about a few different things. I am going to talk about how this affects my own community and also a little about the health impact of Bill C-83.
In my own community, in my riding of Cumberland—Colchester, I have two correctional facilities. One is the Springhill Institution and the other is the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia.
I will talk about Springhill first. That institution was built in 1967.
Partly in response to a natural disaster that happened at a coal mine on October 23, 1958, 60 years ago today, in Springhill, 174 miners went to work. At 8:06 in the evening, there was an underground earthquake, which is sometimes called a bump. It was the most severe bump in North American history in one of the deepest coal mines in North America. Of the 174 who went to work that day, 75 lost their lives. There were 99 survivors, and many of them were trapped underground for many days. Six days after the bump, 12 survivors were rescued by creating a tunnel to get them. Later, on November 1, a second group was saved. That was 60 years ago today, and I want everybody to know that Springhill is remembering that bump today as we speak. Many people who work at the Springhill correctional facility are relatives and descendants of the miners who were lost 60 years ago today.
They never forget in Springhill about the people who were lost. They built a beautiful memorial with a number of stones with every name of every miner who lost his or her life in the mines. Every year they have a Davis Day to make sure that people do not forget the lives lost in the Springhill mines. Tonight, at 7 p.m., in the St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church there is a hymn sing led by three daughters of one of the miners, Maurice Ruddick, who was one of the miners trapped underground. He is often credited with helping other survivors underground survive that ordeal. Being trapped 4,000 feet underground, he led them in song and prayer. He was cited as citizen of the year for Canada at the time. Just a month ago, Herb Pepperdine, one of the last men in the mine who was trapped for eight days, died at the age of 95.
Therefore, for me, today is a special day, and 60 years ago, I remember the day. I remember the ambulances, the police cars, the turmoil and the TV. Just two years before that, there was another explosion when 39 Springhillers were lost. In just two years, Springhill lost 114 miners.
However, the Springhill Institution was built and opened in 1967. It has been very successful since and has expanded several times. It provides correctional facilities for medium- and minimum-security prisoners.
I mentioned the connections with the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. I talked to them today about suicide prevention and what causes people to attempt suicide. Also, earlier this morning, I was talking to my seatmate for Kildonan—St. Paul and she was telling me about a first nation in her riding in Manitoba, the Berens River First Nation. She gave me a document that reads “Isolation with no road access Kills (feeling of 'entrapment' resulting in high suicides)”, which is exactly what we are talking about today: isolation, confinement, solitary confinement and the impact it has on prisoners.
Not all prisoners should be in prison for their whole life, as some opposition members would lead us to believe. I have visited the prison in my riding several times, and often I am struck that the prisoners are just regular people who made a mistake. They want to get back into society. They want to be rehabilitated. They want a second chance and they are certainly entitled it. It is certainly worth the effort to try to help them.
Bill C-83 will take steps to eliminate solitary confinement, which is harmful to people. One of the members just said that prisons needed solitary confinement, and I do not believe that. Bill C-83 proposes to do away with solitary confinement and replace it with structured intervention units, so at least prisoners will always have some human contact with health care workers, guards or other people, as opposed to solitary confinement where there is no contact at all.
In my area, just a short way from my riding, there is Dorchester Penitentiary, the Westmorland Institution and the Shepody Healing Centre. These are three different institutions, with three different levels and approaches to rehabilitation and incarceration. I am hopeful the rehabilitative nature of these facilities will be enhanced and built on. That is the way we should go. I do not believe there is any point in putting people who have just made a mistake away, throwing away the key as some members have suggested here.
A 2017 report from Correctional Service Canada noted that Atlantic Canada had the highest rate of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, in the country. In addition to that, we seem to segregate them for longer terms than their counterparts in other regions of the country.
Five percent of Atlantic Canada's inmates are in administrative segregation, which is five times higher than in Ontario. The same report also noted that Atlantic Canada accounted for more than one-third of all inmates who were in administrative segregation for more than 100 days. A hundred days in segregation is extremely unhealthy for anybody. It is perhaps cruel and unusual punishment.
I welcome Bill C-83 and the change to a structured intervention unit. This is a giant step forward. It will be better for rehabilitation, better for health and safer for prison guards, the other prisoners and the people who work beside them. I am glad we are moving forward on it.
Our government intends to invest heavily in mental health care within the correctional system, and I am talking exactly about that. I referred to the paper that said that isolation caused a feeling of entrapment, resulting in high suicides. This first nation community I mentioned had a high rate of suicide. After a road was built to it, the feeling of isolation was eliminated and suicides stopped. There were no suicides last year in this community. Prior to that there had been many. The indigenous peoples attributed it to the fact that they no longer have the feeling of isolation or entrapment, which is exactly what solitary confinement does.
Again, in the interest of mental health, we are moving in the right direction. This is a great move to follow through on, but I also support rehabilitative steps so people can re-enter society and play a productive role in it.
The prisoners I meet when I go to the prisons impress me. Most of them have just made a mistake. They are serving their time. They want to get back out. They want to play a role in the community and be productive citizens. The bill is all about that.
We know the administrative segregation rules need updating, and Bill C-83 would do just that. By replacing solitary confinement with structured intervention units, we are going to provide better avenues for our inmates to be productive citizens, finish their terms and come out better trained and be productive citizens.
I thank the House for letting me talk about Springhill. Again, this is the 60th anniversary of that horrible disaster on October 23, 1958. I wish all the people in Springhill, who I know are remembering this right now, well. I wish I were there with them.
View Patty Hajdu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, it is a joy to be here today in support of Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
I heard some of the debate this afternoon, and I would say we all share the goal of safe communities. We all want to be secure in the knowledge that when offenders return to their communities, our corrections system has done its job, supported their rehabilitation and prepared them to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.
For the corrections system to succeed in that regard, safety and security have to go hand in hand with rehabilitative programming and treatment.
I am proud to stand here today and know that principle is at the core of the bold new measures the government is taking to transform federal corrections. Bill C-83 will strengthen the federal corrections system, making it safer and more effective at rehabilitation. The bill will end the practice of segregation. It will establish structured intervention units, or SIUs, to safely manage inmates when they cannot otherwise be managed in the mainstream inmate population, without denying them access to programs, interventions and treatment.
Bill C-83 will also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. It will also strengthen health care governance, allow for the use of new search technologies, and enhance support for victims at parole hearings.
Key to this landmark legislation is that with SIUs, the practice of segregation will become a thing of the past. Currently, if an offender is considered dangerous to themselves or others, or is at risk of being harmed, they can be placed in segregation if there is no other reasonable alternative. Segregation has remained a common practice over the years.
Recent policy changes by the Correctional Service of Canada led to a significant decline in segregation placements, from over 700 on any given day a few years ago, to just over 300 today. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the practice remains subject to criticism in and out of the courts. Stakeholders, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator and offender advocacy groups, have raised concern about its effects, particularly on inmates suffering from mental health issues.
In the courts, recent decisions in both Ontario and British Columbia called for legislative reform to the practice, and they have called for improvements to the provision of mental health services within corrections institutions. All of this is on top of class actions and human rights complaints.
At the same time, others have argued that segregation is necessary to ensure that correctional institutions remain safe for employees and for people in custody. The safety of correctional staff must always be an overarching consideration. Our correctional institutions are full of dedicated, hard-working staff who work long hours in sometimes very challenging circumstances to make a positive difference by promoting rehabilitation and protecting communities.
Until now, they have had very few alternatives to segregation when isolating an inmate for security or safety reasons. However, we now have an opportunity to address this problem. Bill C-83 will eliminate segregation altogether and establish structured intervention units. These SIUs will provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in difficult circumstances. They will help to manage offenders who could not otherwise be managed safely.
In an SIU, inmates will receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs. Every day, they will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell, and that will include at least two hours of meaningful human interaction.
In the existing segregation system, by contrast, people only get two hours out of their cell and little or no meaningful interaction with other people. With Bill C-83, offenders will have the ability to work towards the objectives in their correctional plans, thanks to a focus on interventions. They will have daily visits from health care professionals. Ultimately, the idea is to facilitate safe reintegration into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.
To that end, placements in SIUs will be subject to a robust system of review. An initial review by the institution's warden will happen within five days. If the person remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will be done by the warden after 30 days and by the commissioner every 30 days thereafter. Also, at any time, a health care professional can recommend a change in conditions or a transfer out of the SIU.
Importantly, the bill would also enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals within the correctional system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it would create a system of patient advocates who would help ensure that people got the medical treatment they needed.
For all these reasons, Bill C-83 would represent a substantial change in the right direction. We have an opportunity to act now to improve correctional outcomes, reduce violent incidents and ensure a safe environment for inmates, staff, volunteers and the institutions as a whole. We have the opportunity to contribute to community and public safety by supporting bold new proposals that would assist with the rehabilitation of offenders, reducing the risk of reoffending and keeping our communities safe.
I urge all members to join me in supporting these very important changes.
View Yvonne Jones Profile
Lib. (NL)
View Yvonne Jones Profile
2018-10-19 10:02 [p.22603]
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here to speak to this bill. Over the last couple of days, I have heard a number of speakers in the House who have had varying and interesting opinions with respect to this bill. I think it is safe to say that a lot of work and extensive consultation went into getting to where we are with Bill C-83 at this time.
I want to start by congratulating the people who work in our correctional centres across this country. Many of them I have had the opportunity to meet at many different institutions, and some of them I know personally, so I know that their work in our institutions is often not valued in the way it should be. I really believe that the work they do is exceptional and in the best interests of ensuring safety for all who are in our institutions, including themselves.
A correctional institution is a unique environment. I believe that all Canadians realize that. They also realize that it needs to be controlled and managed effectively. Doing so in the best interests of the people who work there, the inmates and, ultimately, public safety is going to be truly important and a key to success.
When inmates are at risk of causing harm to themselves or others, it really puts our correctional institutions to the test in handling those risks and challenges and mitigating any harm that could come. Correctional staff are tasked every day with making sure that everyone is safe. They need to factor in physical and mental health concerns and consider inmates' correctional plans. High-risk inmates can pose serious management challenges, and in all cases, safety is paramount.
Today we have a new opportunity to move forward with a bold new approach to these challenges. Bill C-83 would eliminate the use of segregation in the Canadian federal corrections system. In its place, the bill would create what are called structured intervention units, or SIUs. SIUs would provide an appropriate living environment for inmates who could not be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons. An inmate could be transferred to an SIU only if the commissioner or delegated authority was satisfied that there was no other reasonable alternative and that the inmate's stay there would end as soon as it possibly could.
The SIUs would provide inmates with the opportunity for meaningful human contact through programs. They would allow for interventions and services tailored to respond to their specific needs and risks. We have already heard from many of my colleagues about some of the specific needs that are currently not being met and that are causing unsafe and harmful practices.
Structured interventions would address the underlying behaviour that led to an inmate's placement in an SIU. Correctional programming would continue. I think it is important that people understand that.
During their time in an SIU, inmates would have an opportunity to spend a maximum of four hours a day outside their cells. That is double the number of hours in the current segregation system.
As the bill stipulates, an inmate's stay would be subject to ongoing monitoring, including monitoring of their health while in a structured unit. A registered health care professional would visit the inmate in an SIU at least once every day.
These are welcome changes that would make correctional institutions safer and enhance the safety of Canadian communities.
I should have said at the outset that I will be splitting my time with the member for London North Centre.
As I said, a registered health care professional would visit the inmate at least once every day. This is necessary because of the health care needs of certain incarcerated individuals. However, it is important to say that this bill would include additional measures that would strengthen our corrections system. It would establish a patient advocacy service to ensure that inmates understand their rights and get the medical care they need. This would not only address the concerns raised at the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, who was in segregation at the time, but would address calls from the Office of the Correctional Investigator.
Providing health care in a correctional institution is a challenging job. It requires a unique skill set that can make a real difference in improving living conditions within a correctional institution and in contributing to better safety. The bill would affirm the obligation of the service to support these health care professionals in maintaining their autonomy and clinical independence.
The service would also have an obligation to ensure that systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders were considered in all correctional decision-making. For the first time, that obligation would be enshrined in law as a guiding principle. That could mean, for example, that if an indigenous offender was placed in an SIU, individual or small group interventions would be tailored to their particular needs. Under this model, resources such as elders, aboriginal liaison personnel and specifically trained parole officers would provide culturally appropriate and responsive interventions for indigenous offenders. This would support calls to action 30 and 36 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it would advance key mandate commitments to address gaps in services for indigenous people and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.
This focus on indigenous inmates would complement steps the government has taken to enhance indigenous communities and to invest in the rehabilitation and safe reintegration of indigenous people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. In budget 2017, we allocated $65.2 million over four years to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in the criminal justice and correctional system. Of that money, $10 million has been allocated to indigenous community corrections initiatives. Under this program, public safety support projects help previously incarcerated indigenous people reintegrate safely and productively into their communities.
As I close, I feel that it is helpful to look at this proposed legislation in a much larger context. Overall, Canada is a very safe country, but we must not take that for granted. Strengthening our correctional system is an ongoing process and one that requires our constant attention. Bill C-83 would take us further down that path.
Our government wants to help ensure that we not only hold guilty parties to account for illegal behaviour but that we also create a custodial environment that fosters rehabilitation. The goal is fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities.
While there is much more work to do, Bill C-83 would bring us closer to where we need to be. I encourage all members to join me in supporting Bill C-83 and in supporting those Canadians who are asking for this reform and modernization of the correctional centre program.
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Peter Fragiskatos Profile
2018-10-19 10:19 [p.22605]
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill C-83. Among other measures, the bill proposes to eliminate segregation from federal correctional institutions, and would do it in a way that protects the security of correctional institutions.
The reality of any correctional environment is that certain inmates at certain times will need to be separated from the rest of the inmate population. Some inmates pose safety risks. Bill C-83 introduces a new approach to manage those risks. This new approach would ensure the safety and security of staff, the general offender population and the inmate who needs to be managed separately from the mainstream population. However, it would also help ensure the safety of our communities, because inmates would be able to continue the rehabilitative programming that is so crucial to their eventual successful reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens. This is a transformational change for a correctional system, and one that comes in the midst of a debate over segregation, an ongoing one we have had as a society in Canada.
Correctional Service Canada is responsible for managing the lives of more than 14,000 inmates in its custody. Correctional staff do a tough job in a difficult environment. We have to ensure they can do so safely, and that they have the tools to effectively rehabilitate offenders. Canada is incredibly fortunate to have an independent watchdog and ombudsman, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, to oversee and report on the operations of our system. From time to time, the Auditor General of Canada also investigates and identifies issues of concern within the system. In recent years, the issue of inmate segregation has come under its microscope. The Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Auditor General have raised concerns about the effects of segregation, particularly on inmates with mental health needs.
Under Bill C-83, segregation would be eliminated altogether from the federal correctional system. In its place, the government is proposing to create structured intervention units, or SIUs, to manage inmates whose behaviour poses a safety risk that cannot be managed within the mainstream inmate population. The key, as I noted earlier, is that although they would be separated from the mainstream inmate population, inmates in an SIU would maintain their access to rehabilitative programming and interventions. Upon placement in an SIU, their correctional plan would be updated. This would be done to ensure they receive the most effective programs at the appropriate time while they are in the unit. Also, it is meant to prepare them for reintegration into the mainstream inmate population. They would also spend at least four hours a day outside of their cell and have at least two hours a day of meaningful human contact interaction. Under the current segregation system inmates only get two hours out of the cell and interaction with people is extremely limited.
In addition to all of this, inmates in an SIU would be visited by a registered health care professional at least once a day. That health care professional could recommend changes to the conditions of confinement, or transfer back to the general population. As well, for the first time ever, the health care professional's autonomy and clinical independence within a correctional facility would be enshrined in law.
The correctional service would also have the obligation to provide patient advocacy services to inmates at designated institutions to help them better understand and exercise their rights, and ensure they get the medical care they need. As hon. members may recall, that was one of the recommendations of the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith.
These proposed reforms build on recent investments in mental health care. Budget 2017, for example, invested $57.8 million over five years, and $13.6 million per year thereafter, to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. Budget 2018 invested another $20.3 million over five years, and $5.5 million per year thereafter, to support the mental health needs of federal inmates, particularly women offenders.
However, segregation and mental health are not the only challenges facing our correctional system. Another major and very much related concern is the overrepresentation of indigenous inmates in federal custody. Indigenous individuals currently make up roughly 4% of Canada's population, but they account for more than a quarter of federal inmates. That is unacceptable.
To help address this discrepancy and help those who have been incarcerated to heal, rehabilitate and reintegrate into society, budget 2017 invested $65.2 million over five years and $10.9 million per year thereafter. Bill C-83 would enshrine, again not in regulation but in law, that systemic and background factors unique to indigenous inmates would be considered in all correctional decision-making. This, indeed, flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999, nearly 20 years ago.
The number of inmates in segregation has been trending downward for several years. There were, for example, 780 inmates in segregation as recently as April of 2014. However, by March of 2018, that number had dropped to 340, a decrease of more than 50%. This legislation would put an end to this practice once and for all. It would replace it with a far better and more effective approach.
SIUs would protect staff and inmates from offenders who exhibit particularly disruptive and dangerous behaviour and ensure that inmates separated from the general population can continue with their treatment and rehabilitative programs. Programs like these prepare inmates for reintegration as law-abiding members of a community, the Canadian community, at the end of their sentences. In other words, they are essential to public safety because almost all inmates will eventually be released from custody.
Bill C-83 would help make our correctional system stronger, more humane and more effective. It would mean better correctional outcomes for the most challenging and difficult-to-manage inmates. We have to focus on outcomes. With enhanced rehabilitation and reintegration support, I believe this would lead to a safer environment for those who work or are incarcerated inside of our institutions and fewer victims of repeat offenders outside. That is why I strongly support this important piece of legislation. It is also why I encourage my colleagues to do the same.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-83.
This bill represents a fundamental change in the way we approach corrections in Canada. It would end the practice of administrative segregation in all federal correctional facilities. What is more, it would implement a new correctional intervention model that would ensure that offenders are held to account while creating an environment conducive to their rehabilitation in the interests of everyone's safety.
This is the right thing to do and the safe thing to do. It would keep correctional staff and volunteers safe. It would keep inmates safe, and ultimately it would keep communities safe.
An effective corrections system with appropriate, safe and targeted interventions to deal with difficult, challenging or dangerous situations within a secure environment is in everyone's best interests. That is why Bill C-83 would eliminate segregation and establish structured intervention units or SIUs. These units would provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in these challenging situations. They will be used to manage inmates who cannot be managed safely in the general population.
However, unlike segregation, inmates in these units will receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs to address behaviours that led to their SIU placement. They will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell every day, double the number of hours in the current segregation system. They will have a minimum of two hours of meaningful human interaction every day, including through intervention programs and services. Currently in the segregation system, inmates can spend entire days with virtually no meaningful human interaction.
Inmates in these units will also have daily visits from health care professionals, and because of the strong focus on intervention, inmates in an SIU would be able to continue working on rehabilitation and achieving their correctional plan objectives.
All of this will help facilitate their safe return into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible. The result will be better correctional outcomes, fewer violent incidents and enhanced safety for inmates, staff, volunteers, institutions and, ultimately, the general public.
This bill is a significant step forward for the Canadian correctional system and builds on the good work already under way.
The government has provided almost $80 million over five years through budget 2017 and budget 2018 to better address the mental health needs of inmates. That includes $20.4 million in the last budget specifically for incarcerated women.
There was also about $120 million in budget 2017 to support restorative justice approaches through the indigenous justice program and to help indigenous offenders safely reintegrate and find jobs after serving their sentences.
The goal is to make Canadian communities safer through effective rehabilitation in a secure correctional environment. This is the right policy direction, and it is in line with recent calls for the kind of transformation this bill lays out.
Two constitutional challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found the legislation governing administrative segregation contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are also pending class actions and human rights complaints related to both the use of segregation and what constitutes appropriate mental health care.
In this regard, the bill would also strengthen health care governance. The bill would provide that Correctional Service Canada has the obligation to support health care professionals' autonomy and clinical independence.
It also creates a legal framework for a patient advocacy service to ensure that inmates get the medical care they need.
The bill also enshrines in law CSC's obligation to take into account systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders are considered when making offender management decisions.
The Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness were given a mandate to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. The government is delivering on that promise.
The bill also includes additional measures to round out all of those elements. It also provides for less invasive alternatives to intrusive body searches. It places greater emphasis on the role of victims in the criminal justice system by allowing them greater access to audio recordings of parole hearings. This is a major improvement over the old system.
Thanks to Bill C-83, going forward, victims will have access to an audio recording of the offender's parole hearing, regardless of whether they attend the hearing.
As I said, this bill is all about safety. It focuses on improving interventions in order to better meet the needs of vulnerable inmates. We need to enhance the safety of our inmates, our correctional staff, our institutions and our communities.
This bill will transform Canada's correctional system in order to achieve those objectives.
Today I am proud to support this bill, and I encourage all members to join me in voting in favour of this historic piece of legislation.
View Ralph Goodale Profile
Lib. (SK)
View Ralph Goodale Profile
2018-10-18 10:12 [p.22530]
moved that Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: Mr. Speaker, given the nature of the legislation we are about to discuss today pertaining to the correctional system, I want to take this moment to recognize that the family, friends and colleagues of a correctional officer, the late Lesa Zoerb, will be gathering tomorrow for her funeral service in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Lesa lost her life in a vehicle crash while on duty last week. She was born in Regina. She had two children. She had worked as a federal correctional officer for 20 years.
I know everyone in this House will want to join with me in extending our deepest condolences to all those who are mourning the loss of Lesa, especially her loving family.
May she rest in peace.
I will now move on to the legislation at hand. What we are doing today is opening the second reading debate on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
The act is all about greater safety, security and effectiveness within Canada's correctional system. It follows two superior court decisions that have imposed certain deadlines on Parliament, which will be coming up toward the end of this year.
Our government's top priority is protecting Canadians from natural disasters, threats to national security, and, of course, crime. We are doing a number of things to protect Canadian communities from criminal activity.
To protect Canadian communities from criminal activity, we are supporting law enforcement and ensuring that the brave women and men who serve our communities have the resources they need to do their jobs. We are funding programs that help keep young Canadians out of gangs and provide them with more positive opportunities and choices. We are addressing some of the social determinants of crime, like poverty, housing and education. We are combatting gun smuggling at the border and the flow of illegal cash into organized crime. We are also advancing new legislation to tackle some of the most serious threats to the safety of our communities, like gun violence and impaired driving.
Another significant thing we can do to enhance public safety is to make our correctional system as effective as possible at dealing with people who have committed crimes, so that when their sentences are over they are prepared to go straight and not commit new crimes.
Certainly, there are some offenders who have received life sentences from the courts and who may never be granted any form of conditional release by the Parole Board. However, the vast majority will eventually return to our communities, which is why the main responsibility of our correctional system is to do as much as possible to ensure that when offenders are released, they are ready to leave their criminal past behind them and to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.
We all want fewer offenders, fewer victims and safer communities. Achieving that is obviously no easy task. It involves an expert, accurate assessment of each offender's issues, needs and criminogenic risk, both at intake and on an ongoing basis. It involves meeting those needs and reducing those risks through appropriate interventions, programming, education, skills training and gradual supervised release, as opposed to simply sending an offender cold turkey straight from maximum security back into society.
It also involves any required treatment for addiction or mental health. The Correctional Service of Canada estimates that about 70% of all inmates exhibit symptoms of some form of mental illness. In administrative segregation, more than one-third of men and virtually all women have moderate to high mental health issues.
The legislation before us today would significantly strengthen the ability of our correctional system to achieve the objectives of the system and to keep Canadians safe. Safety is job number one.
To begin with, the bill introduces an innovative new way of dealing with offenders who for one reason or another cannot be housed within the general population of a correctional institution. At the moment, those offenders are placed in administrative segregation. Segregated inmates are allowed two hours out of their cell per day and interactions with other people are tightly limited. While the correctional service tries to avoid interruptions and interventions in programming, practical considerations make that very difficult to do.
Intense debate about administrative segregation has been ongoing for many years. Despite the fact that the practice harkens back to the treatment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and has been branded by some as a form of torture, particularly by comments at the United Nations, there are those who have defended administrative segregation as a valuable security management tool.
On the other side of the debate, the use of segregation has been vigorously criticized by the correctional investigator, by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith a number of years ago, by many NGOs and most recently by a number of Canadian courts.
Within the last year, courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have ruled in different ways and for different reasons that administrative segregation as currently practised is not constitutional. Those rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but at the moment they are scheduled to take effect in just a few months, toward the end of this year and the beginning of next year, and we as a Parliament need to be prepared for that eventuality. That is part of the reason for the timing of Bill C-83 today.
There can be no doubt that within a correctional institution it is essential to have an effective way of separating certain people from others be it for their own safety or for the safety of staff and volunteers or for the safety of other inmates.
The question that we have been examining is how to do that effectively while maintaining as much as possible the offender's access to the programming, the mental health care and the other interventions that are available to the general population, especially given that the people who end up in segregation often have needs and risks that are particularly acute.
The solution that we are proposing in Bill C-83 is to completely eliminate the existing practice of administrative segregation and replace it with a new approach, and that is the creation of structured intervention units, or SIUs.
These units will be separate from the general population so that the safety imperative will be met. But they will be designed and they will be staffed and resourced to ensure that the people who are placed there will receive the interventions, the programming and the treatment that is required.
Inmates in SIUs will be out of their cells for at least four hours daily, with a minimum of two hours of meaningful interaction with staff, volunteers, elders, visitors or other compatible inmates.
Additional mental health professionals will be hired and assigned specifically to the SIUs. The legislation will make it clear that inmates are not to be separated from the general population any longer than necessary.
This new approach will help to ensure the safety of correctional institutions and the public by strengthening the capacity of the Correctional Service of Canada to promote rehabilitation in a secure environment.
Bill C-83 also includes several other related measures to further that same objective. For example, it would implement a key recommendation from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith to establish a system of patient advocates for inmates with mental needs. Patient advocates would work with offenders and correctional staff to help ensure that people in federal custody receive appropriate medical care.
The legislation would also enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals working in the corrections system must be free to exercise their professional judgment autonomously on the basis of their own medical expertise. These measures would, ultimately, enhance public safety because offenders whose medical and mental health issues are under control are more likely to achieve safe and successful rehabilitation and less likely to reoffend after they have served their sentences.
The bill would also formalize the obligation on the part of the Correctional Service of Canada to take into account systemic and background factors affecting indigenous people when making offender management decisions. The consideration of these factors is, in fact, an obligation that was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Gladue decision. For 15 years, Correctional Service Canada has had policy directives in place implementing that obligation, but now it would be enshrined in law.
As we all know, indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in our corrections system, and that is a harsh reality that we all have to work hard to change. While the socio-economic factors that cause this overrepresentation must generally be addressed by other departments and agencies before incarceration occurs, it is the responsibility of the corrections system to provide indigenous offenders with both appropriate consequences for criminal activity, as well as effective and culturally appropriate rehabilitative interventions. The changes made by this bill would help ensure that is the case.
This legislation would also expand the access of victims to information related to parole hearings. Currently, a victim who does not attend a parole hearing is entitled to receive an audio recording of the hearing, but for some reason, if victims do attend, they lose their right to receive a recording, and that just does not make much sense. Attending parole hearings can be a very difficult experience for victims of crime and their families, and we have seen that demonstrated in recent days. They cannot possibly be expected to retain every word of what is said, nor should they have to. If, after the hearing is over, it is all a bit of a blur and they would like to listen to the proceedings again in a more comfortable setting, they should be able to do that, and this bill would give them that right.
This bill would also allow for the use of body scanner technology to help keep contraband substances out of federal correctional institutions. These kinds of devices are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities. They make it easier for officers to detect when someone is trying to smuggle in drugs or other illicit materials and they are less invasive than other methods of security, like strip searches, for example. Keeping contraband out of correctional facilities would help make institutions as safe and secure as possible. The safety of employees, volunteers, visitors and inmates is an absolute prerequisite for all the other work that Correctional Service Canada does.
In other words, the legislation that is before us today in Bill C-83 recognizes two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet.
Second, the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions. The new structured intervention units being created by Bill C-83 will help keep institutions safe by ensuring that inmates can be separated from the general population when that is necessary and they will help keep Canadian communities safe by ensuring the continuity of rehabilitative programming and the accessibility of mental health care for the inmates in these units.
Let us be clear. Providing quality, rehabilitative programming and mental health care is not about being nice to criminals. Rather, by having a correctional system that is as effective as possible at preventing people who have broken the law from breaking it again, we are increasing the safety of our communities. That is our priority and that is why we are introducing this legislation, taking full account of the most recent decisions of Canadian courts. I look forward very much to the constructive input of all colleagues in the House, both during today's debate and throughout the legislative process on Bill C-83.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-10-18 11:08 [p.22537]
Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-83, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in response to several court rulings and a debate over administrative segregation that has raged in Canada for years.
I want to thank organizations like the John Howard Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which are leading the charge against the overuse of administrative segregation. They won out in two slightly different court rulings.
Before I start, I want to give some background on those court rulings because they impact today's debate. The minister himself said that Bill C-83 is partly intended as a response to the concerns expressed by the court.
Let us start with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In its recent decision, the court explicitly said that there are not enough tools for ensuring, for example, that a lawyer is present during administrative segregation hearings. It also mentioned the inhumane conditions imposed by overuse of administrative segregation and the fact that a predetermined time limit on the use of administrative segregation had been ignored.
That ties in with part of the ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which states that more than 48 hours in administrative segregation caused serious, irreversible mental health problems. This also ties in with the UN's finding that more than two weeks in administrative segregation can be defined as a form of torture. These findings are so important.
The use of administrative segregation has been found to be abusive by the correctional investigator countless times and in countless reports that he has published over the past decade. We also see that an overrepresentation of certain vulnerable populations in administrative segregation shows that there is not only an abusive use, but an extremely problematic use that can exacerbate problems in some cases and hinder rehabilitation efforts of certain inmates in our correctional system.
For example, there is an overrepresentation of women with mental health problems. There is also an overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, since 42% of inmates in administrative segregation are indigenous peoples. It is mind-boggling to see just how overrepresented indigenous peoples are in administrative segregation. Let us not forget that they are already overrepresented the general prison population.
The decision brought forward by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, following efforts by, among others, the BC Civil Liberties Association, made it clear that the Correctional Service of Canada was acting in a way that was deemed to be unconstitutional under section 7.
What did the government do following a very clear prescription from that court about what could be done in order to remedy the situation? It appealed that decision, and that was shameful. It was interesting that in June 2017, certainly before that decision was made, the government had legislation before the House, which is still on the Order Paper, Bill C-56.
Bill C-56 sought to remedy, in part, the issue before us today, the issue of solitary confinement, by imposing a 21-day limit that would then be followed by a review. Despite any decision that might be made, any findings of abuse or overuse of solitary confinement, there was no independent mechanism to act on any findings of abuse. All that was required to prolong the 21-day period was for the warden, the head of the institution, to provide reasons in writing. To be honest, that is a pretty low threshold for continuing with a practice that has already been deemed, as I have said on several instances, to be problematic.
We are not the only ones saying this. This is something that has been going on for a long time. As I said in my question to the minister, Justice Arbour long ago called for judicial oversight of the use of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, if members prefer less Orwellian language for what this practice actually is. That followed a commission on certain events in the women's prison in Kingston. That recommendation has so far gone unanswered, not to mention the many recommendations that followed from the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the horrible situation with Ashley Smith.
This leads me to another troubling statistic. Between 2011 and 2014, 14 inmates who found themselves in solitary confinement committed suicide. This is a public safety issue. Let us be clear. Using a tool that exacerbates mental health situations in corrections and diminishes the ability of corrections to rehabilitate those offenders will inevitably cause a public safety concern with respect to recidivism and other things.
That is why, when we look at the tools being used, understanding that corrections officers need tools to ensure safety within the institutions they manage, we also have to understand the danger that can be created by exacerbating existing issues and the importance of prioritizing rehabilitation.
I would like to read the testimony of some experts in order to demonstrate to what extent the bill before us is problematic.
I will read the press release issued yesterday by Senator Kim Pate, who was the then CEO of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.
Senator Pate said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Moreover, she adds:
Bill C-83 also maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making. Under the new legislation, all decision making regarding when and how long prisoners are to be segregated will be made by a CSC administrator without the review of any third party.
The last sentence in that paragraph goes to an earlier point I made:
This change represents another step away from Justice Louise Arbour's recommendation for judicial oversight of corrections following the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston.
I agree with Senator Pate.
It is quite disturbing that, in media articles and in his comments, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is trying to give the impression that the government is working to eliminate administrative segregation. That is just a sham.
Let us be clear. What the government is really trying to do is to make a few changes to the administrative segregation process in correctional institutions. In fact, all they are doing is calling it something else. It is disturbing, since the government is appealing a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court that clearly identifies the problems with administrative segregation.
In a media scrum after the bill was introduced earlier this week, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness implied that what they are calling it now is no longer administrative segregation. They appear to believe that by changing what they call it, they can avoid their obligations with respect to administrative segregation imposed by the Supreme Court and listed by the United Nations.
The senator is not the only one to say so, and I would also like to share with the House the opinion of a correctional investigator.
The correctional investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, shares the same assessment as Senator Pate, and that I have made, of the proposed legislation. Dr. Zinger told iPolitics:
We may end up with a regime that touches more people and that is very restrictive.... This is a widening of the net of those restrictive environments. There’s no procedural safeguard.
Two things in this passage are extremely important. Not only will administrative segregation continue under another name, but they are going to be casting a wider net. This will drag in more inmates, who may also belong to vulnerable groups that are already overrepresented in administrative segregation.
There is no procedure in place for reviewing or appealing decisions to place inmates in administrative segregation. The lack of third-party review and an appeal mechanism is extremely disturbing.
When I asked the minister the question, he said that it was not important and that there were already mechanisms in place, including multiple reviews by the commissioner and a review by the institution’s warden.
That is simply not enough. It has been clearly found and established in correctional investigators’ reports, court decisions and United Nations resolutions that there has been abusive use of administrative segregation. According to the experts and in my own opinion, it is not enough to simply rely on wardens’ and the commissioner’s decisions. Of course, these individuals have a certain expertise. They are responsible for managing their institutions, and we respect that.
However, once it has been determined that there has been abuse, there must be a recourse mechanism for putting a stop to that abuse.
That is the problem with some of the measures concerning the new powers that would be given to recognized health care professionals. On the surface, and in a somewhat substantive way, this is a positive thing. However, there are two key issues with what health care professionals could do under Bill C-83.
The first is how we define the health issues on which those health care professionals could act. Experts are already saying that there is a concern that some health care issues that may be identified as not essential by a warden or an administrator in a corrections institute would go without the proper treatment and that the arbitrary way in which such a determination could be made is obviously cause for concern.
The other piece is that even if a determination was made by a registered health care professional, or someone that person had delegated, offenders, inmates, who found themselves in solitary confinement, or this new SIU in Bill C-83, and then for a variety of physical and mental health reasons should no longer be in such a situation, would have no recourse. Those findings would be presented to the administrator, and consequently, under certain articles of the bill, would go to the commissioner. However, the reality is that as long as there was no proper oversight, third party or judicial, as has been recommended by folks like Senator Kim Pate, Justice Louise Arbour and Dr. Ivan Zinger, our corrections investigator, the proper protections would not be in place.
I am very concerned.
I would like to return to my Conservative colleague’s speech. Some Canadians listening today are probably asking a very simple question: why should we want to make life easier for certain inmates? How does that help ensure public safety?
Certain points are extremely important, and I mentioned some of them in my speech. To ensure public safety, we need disciplinary measures guaranteeing that correctional officers can properly manage their institutions.
We also need to make sure that the people with problems and, in some cases, serious mental health issues, will not get worse and that, on the contrary, they will receive adequate and appropriate treatment.
We want to prevent recidivism in the case of certain inmates who will be granted parole. We also want to ensure the protection of correctional officers inside the institutions. Providing proper treatment for individuals with serious mental health problems is extremely important.
The concerns in this area expressed by the union representing correctional officers are extremely important. The hon. member who spoke just before me alluded to this in her speech.
I would like to take the time to address some of their concerns. Resources are the main issue. In its statement on Bill C-83 today or yesterday, the union clearly identified this problem, which remains one of its top concerns.
That is a recurring theme with regard to what is required for corrections officers to be able to do their jobs. When we look at the approach taken by the previous government, in 2011-12 alone the legislation adopted by the Conservative government represented an increase in cost of around $250 million for Correctional Service Canada, which was followed by the need to cut nearly $300 million in operating costs from 2012 to 2015, followed by the closure of two penitentiaries, Leclerc Institution and the Kingston Penitentiary. That is a circle that cannot possibly be squared when it comes to ensuring public safety and ensuring that corrections officers have the ability to adequately do their jobs: ensuring safety and security within those institutions and ensuring that the correctional program that has been assigned to a specific offender can be followed through on.
Of course, the problem is extremely worrying to the entire population, but let us be clear. What we want above all from the correctional system is, on the one hand, the assurance of public safety; on the other hand, by applying the disciplinary and punitive measures that exist in the justice system and are essential to rehabilitation, we want to achieve the objectives of treating mental health issues, as well as ensuring public safety, when it comes to inmates who could reintegrate into society and their respective communities.
I would like to get back to Bill C-83. It is all a sham, as I said before, to oversell what is actually a minor change.
Right now, we are told that 22 hours is the threshold for placing someone in administrative segregation. The government is talking about a major change in the number of hours prisoners can spend outside their cells. In fact, relative to current legislation, this change amounts to two hours.
As the executive director of the John Howard Society said in an interview this week, most of the time, these hours are granted at 5:00 a.m. when it is 40 degrees below zero outside. Understandably, the inmate will refuse to come out. Under this bill, such refusal will have consequences.
To conclude, the smokescreen the government has put up to say that it is addressing the concerns of the court, of the United Nations and of the correctional investigator just is not enough. The reality is that we are proceeding with the current regime under a different name. That is not enough to ensure public safety and that corrections officers are attaining the objectives imposed on them by the law but also by constitutional obligations.
View Ramesh Sangha Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Ramesh Sangha Profile
2018-10-18 11:53 [p.22543]
Madam Speaker, since 2015, the government has been very clear about its commitments to Canadians. Broad criminal justice system reform is central to those commitments.
The government followed through, first by introducing major legislation that would protect the vulnerable, meet the needs of victims and keep our communities safe. It also promised to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.
Further, the government vowed to implement recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness. Today, the government is following through with it once again.
Bill C-83 represents a groundbreaking shift in Canada's approach to federal corrections. At its core is a focus on ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment, one that is conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and protection of the public.
With this bill, the government proposes to eliminate segregation. We will eliminate it in a manner that continues to ensure institutions are secure. It will help reduce the rate of violence in federal institutions and provide inmates in need with support. This is an effective, practical and proactive approach to managing inmate safety.
For the first time in history, there will be a requirement in law for consideration of broad systemic and background factors unique to indigenous inmates in corrections decision-making.
All of that said, at the heart of this legislation is the elimination of segregation and the introduction of structured intervention units to manage inmates at higher risk. It would create structured intervention units, or SIUs, as a practical new tool for institutions. They would be established at numerous institutions. These SIUs would provide a safer environment for inmates. Inmates in SIUs would have the opportunity to be out of cell for at least four hours per day, offering more opportunity for human interaction.
If we are all being honest here, we know that there are times in prison that some inmates cannot be in the general population. These new SIU proposals would address the safety risks of those inmates who could not be managed in the mainstream inmate population.
Those members on the right are going to say that we should throw them in the hole. In fact, the Conservatives put out a release that pretty much said that. Those members on the left are going to say that we should not separate them at all, that we should leave them in the general population. However, when problems such as gang hostilities are brewing, this is not an option either.
We need a solution that would ensure that offenders can be separated from the general population when needed but also to ensure that those who cannot be in the general population for their safety or the safety of others can still have meaningful contact and programming.
Under this legislation, all interventions would be tailored to the specific needs of offenders to address the behaviours that led to their movement to the SIU.
They would have daily visits from health care professionals.
After five days in the SIU, a decision would be made about whether or not to keep the inmate there. That decision would take into account the inmate's mental health care needs and if appropriate unique indigenous factors, including systematic and background factors.
Inmates assigned to an SIU would have their correctional plan updated to ensure they receive the most effective programs at the appropriate time during their assignment in the unit and to prepare them for reintegration into the mainstream inmate population.
They would have meaningful human contact with other compatible inmates and in some circumstances even visitors.
This is a major step forward but not the only one we have taken.
The new bill builds on important investments the government has made to date.
Budget 2018 invested $20.33 million over five years and $5.54 million per year after that to further support the mental health needs of federal inmates. Funds will be largely targeted towards providing enhanced mental health supports for women in federal correctional facilities across Canada. That is on top of budget 2017 funding of $57.8 million over five years, and $13.6 million per year after that to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities.
All of that said, our work is not done. We can all agree that we need to do better in our correctional system.
We are transforming the way we manage inmates whose behaviour poses a security and safety risk that cannot be managed within the mainstream inmate population. More broadly, we need to acknowledge and address the cycles that contribute to crime and the unique needs and risks of vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples.
We need to make sure we are not only holding guilty parties to account for what they have done, but that we are creating an environment that fosters rehabilitation for the safety of all.
This is the right choice at the right time. I call on all members to join me in supporting Bill C-83, so that our correctional institutions can better fulfill their important goals of safety and rehabilitation.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2018-10-18 12:39 [p.22548]
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to add my voice in this debate around Bill C-83.
We are committed to ensuring that we not only have the tools to hold the guilty parties accountable for breaking the law but also to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation, so that we will have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. This bill proposes to transform the way our federal correctional system works in this country to meet those critical goals.
A central element of this transformation is eliminating the use of segregation. Segregation would be replaced by the safety and intervention-focused structured intervention units, or SIUs for short. SIUs would operate in a much different way from what is currently the case with segregation. I will get to those crucial differences in just a few moments.
First, let me just say that in any large population there will be people who pose risk to those around them and to themselves. That reality holds true and perhaps is compounded in a population of offenders housed together under one roof. Correctional institutions are home to inmates whose behaviour can be dangerous to others or to themselves, and disruptive or highly difficult for those around them to endure.
It is a very challenging environment, both for inmates and for the professional, brave and hard-working correctional employees. Corrections officials and staff must have a tool they can use in cases where an inmate cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. For many years, segregation has been that tool.
However, the practice has come under fire in recent years. Watchdogs like the correctional investigator and the Auditor General of Canada have urged the government to restrict its use or eliminate it altogether. Two recent constitutional challenges in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have found the legislation governing administrative segregation to be unconstitutional.
As of December and January, administrative segregation will no longer be a tool available in those two provinces. That means that if an incident happens in a yard and inmates need to be separated while witness statements are taken, as correctional workers find out what happened, correctional officials will not be able to use administrative segregation. This means that if several members of a gang are threatening another inmate, there will be no administrative segregation unit to use. All of those involved will simply stay in the general population. This is a recipe for disaster.
Let us be very clear that when the Conservatives say we should just keep using “administrative segregation”, which what they called it in government, or “solitary confinement”, as they call it in opposition, they are telling correctional officials to do something they will not have the legal authority to do anymore. Those sections of the act will not exist in those two provinces.
What the Conservatives are really saying, then, is to just keep all of the inmates in the general population, regardless of the risk they pose to guards and health care workers and regardless of the risk from other inmates. It is not a real plan. It is reckless, and it is reckless thinking that we would expect to hear from people who have no real policies and no ability to make tough choices that governing this country requires.
Of course, those two court rulings came subsequent to the tragic case of Ashley Smith, who died in custody in 2007 at the age of 19. The coroner's inquest into Ashley's death focused on administrative segregation and the treatment of inmates with mental illness.
The Government of Canada has committed to implementing recommendations from that inquest. The mandate letters of three ministers also commit them to addressing gaps in service for indigenous peoples and for those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. Both of those groups are not only overrepresented in the overall federal corrections system, but also in the inmate population in segregation.
Some progress has been made by Correctional Service Canada over the past few years. Canada's correctional investigator said in March of last year that CSC “for the last few years has dedicated a lot of time and effort to address the gross overuse of administrative segregation.” For example, CSC implemented policy changes that led to a sharp decline in the use of administrative segregation placements between 2015 and 2017. Those changes have ensured that inmates with serious mental illness who actively engage in self-injury and are at elevated or imminent risk of suicide are not admissible for segregation.
According to the correctional investigator's 2016-17 report, the average stay in segregation has also seen a significant drop, from 34 days in 2015 to 23 days in 2017. The correctional investigator calls these reductions “encouraging”, but he cautions that there is more work to be done.
The time has come to better focus on interventions and on safety, and that is what this important piece of legislation would do.
Under Bill C-83, segregation would be eliminated outright from Canada's federal corrections system. In its place, the government is proposing to create structured intervention units. SIUs would be established in numerous institutions. They would offer a secure and structured environment to address the safety risks of inmates who cannot be managed or integrated into the mainstream inmate population.
The initial decision to move an inmate from the mainstream inmate population to an SIU would be made by a CSC staff member under the institutional head. This decision would be based on an evaluation of the inmate's needs, including health needs, and the safety risks for themselves, others and the institution. The staff member would have to be satisfied that there were no reasonable alternatives to placement in an SIU.
The inmate would receive a notice explaining the reasons for his or her movement, the right to retain and instruct counsel, and the right to make representations regarding movement back to the mainstream inmate population, or other alternatives.
Unlike segregation, SIUs would provide inmates with uninterrupted interventions and programs tailored to address their specific and unique needs and risks. Inmates would also have the opportunity to be outside of their cells for a longer period of time, at least four hours a day rather than the two hours a day currently practised. At least two of those four hours would allow inmates to interact with others.
In addition, inmates would receive daily visits from health care professionals. The plan would include additional staff to ensure that inmates could be moved safely throughout the new SIUs as they continued to receive programming and time with other compatible inmates within the SIU.
This is truly a revolutionary approach that would lead to better rehabilitation, which would mean less recidivism once inmates were released. Fewer inmates reoffending would mean less crime, and it would mean fewer victims in our communities.
Bill C-83 also addresses key recommendations from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith. In addition to ending the practice of placing female inmates in conditions of long-term segregation, the bill would introduce patient advocates at designated penitentiaries to help inmates navigate their health care rights and responsibilities.
All of this would facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible. It would also support their treatment and rehabilitation in preparation for their eventual release into the community. That, in turn, would support safety in our communities, because the vast majority of inmates will eventually complete their sentences and will be freed from custody.
We must do everything we can to ensure that offenders are as well equipped as possible to be productive, law-abiding citizens by addressing the underlying behaviours that got them into trouble to begin with. This is what we need to focus on.
Public safety is not well served by seeing offenders released more hardened, more bitter or more resentful than when they came in. Nor is it ever a good thing for inmates with health or mental health issues to be undiagnosed or to go untreated while in federal custody. That is why the establishment of the SIUs under this legislation would be such a big and positive step forward on the safety front. I am confident that it would mean better correctional outcomes for inmates, more security for the staff, safer institutions and greater public safety in the long run.
Bill C-83 would also correct a long-standing problem that has developed over time for Correctional Service Canada. When the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was written in 1992, CSC had facilities that were entirely dedicated to a single security classification. However, over time, CSC's infrastructure became mixed, with institutions often having, for instance, a maximum- and a medium-security wing. Today virtually all the facilities are mixed facilities. In fact, all the women's institutions are, indeed, mixed. The act, however, was never changed to reflect that fact.
Bill C-83 would ensure that CSC had the clear and proper legal authorities to operate and move inmates from one wing of an institution to another wing in the same facility.
This legislation would also grant CSC the legal authority to use body scanners. As we all know, drugs and other prohibited contraband find their way into prisons, despite efforts to keep them out. Body scanners would provide an important tool for corrections guards that is less invasive than physical searches and more effective in detecting contraband.
The bill would also ensure that audio recordings of parole hearings would be made available to victims who attended a hearing. The existing Corrections and Conditional Release Act permits a registered victim who was not in attendance to receive an audio copy of the hearing, but it does not allow someone who was there in person to have one. During the government's consultations, we heard loud and clear that for many victims, a parole hearing is such an emotional moment that the time seems to fly by. Later, they have difficulty clearly remembering what transpired. Section 34 of Bill C-83 would ensure that victims who attended in person could receive an audio recording of the hearing afterward.
Another important aspect of the bill stems from the Gladue Supreme Court decision of 1999. This was the case that required the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. Over the past 20 years, CSC has developed internal policies to give effect to the Supreme Court ruling, but Bill C-83 would go further by ensuring that the Gladue principles were fully enshrined in the CCRA.
I am proud to stand with a government that continues to take action to reform the criminal justice system, and I am proud to stand here today in support of this important bill.
As I mentioned at the top of my speech, this bill would ensure that CSC would have the tools to hold guilty parties accountable for what they have done while creating an environment that fosters rehabilitation. Effective rehabilitation means that we would have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Julie Dabrusin Profile
2018-10-18 13:47 [p.22557]
Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. The bill represents a landmark shift in how we approach corrections in Canada. It would end the practice of segregation in all federal institutions. It would implement a new correctional intervention model that would ensure that offenders are held to account while creating an environment conducive to rehabilitation in the interests of everyone's safety.
This is the right thing to do and the safe thing to do. It would keep correctional staff and volunteers safe. It would keep inmates safe, and ultimately it will keep communities safe. An effective corrections system with appropriate and targeted interventions to deal with difficult, challenging or dangerous situations within a secure environment is in everyone's best interests.
The reality is that almost all offenders will return to the community. If we lock them up and throw away the key, we are not providing them with the tools they require to safely reintegrate back into society. That is why Bill C-83 would eliminate segregation and establish structured intervention units. These units would provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in these challenging situations. They will be used to manage inmates who cannot be managed safely in the general population.
However, unlike segregation, inmates in SIUs will receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs to address behaviours that led to their SIU placement. They will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell every day, double the current number of hours in the segregation system. They will have a minimum of two hours of meaningful human interaction every day, including through programs, interventions and services.
Currently in the segregation system, a full day can go by for an inmate with virtually no meaningful human interaction. Inmates in an SIU would also have daily visits from health care professionals, and because of the strong focus on intervention, inmates in an SIU would be able to continue their rehabilitative progress and work toward their correctional plan objectives. All of this would help to facilitate their safe return into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.
The result would be better correctional outcomes, a reduced rate of violent incidents and more safety and security for inmates, staff, volunteers, institutions and ultimately, the public. The bill is a significant step forward for the Canadian correctional system and builds on the good work already under way. The government has provided almost $80 million over five years through budget 2017 and 2018 to better address the mental health needs of inmates. That includes $20.4 million in the last budget specifically for incarcerated women. There was also about $120 million in budget 2017 to support restorative justice approaches through the indigenous justice program and to help indigenous offenders safely reintegrate and find jobs after they have served their sentences.
All of this is about making Canadian communities safer through effective rehabilitation in a secure correctional environment. This is the right policy direction, in line with recent calls for this kind of transformation.
Two constitutional challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found the legislation governing administrative segregation contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are also pending class actions and human rights complaints related to both the use of segregation and the inadequacy of mental health care. Of particular importance in this regard, the bill would also strengthen health care governance. The bill would provide that corrections has the obligation to support health care professionals in their autonomy and clinical independence. It would also create the legal framework for patient advocacy services to ensure that inmates receive appropriate medical care.
Importantly, the bill would enshrine in law the requirement for Correctional Service Canada to consider systemic and background factors in all decision-making related to indigenous offenders. Addressing gaps in service for indigenous people and people with mental illness in the criminal justice system is a mandate commitment for both the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, and the government is following through.
I am a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which finished a report last spring on indigenous people in the correctional system. During testimony for this report we heard from an individual by the name of Mr. Neal Freeland, who stated:
If you're native...If you're native in this country you know someone in your family is in prison. If you're native, That's a fact. If you're native, That's the reality of growing up in this country.
His testimony was very powerful.
Our committee recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada develop risk assessment tools that are more sensitive to indigenous reality and review its security classification assessment process.
In the government's response to this report, it confirmed that this recommendation was supported by a June 2018 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ewert v. Canada that Correctional Service Canada must ensure that its use of tools with respect to indigenous offenders do not perpetuate discrimination or contribute to a disparity in correctional outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous offenders. The Correctional Service of Canada will continue its work, informed by this decision, to ensure that it applies the assessment tool in a culturally responsible way for indigenous offenders.
The budget contribution, along with the work by the Minister of Public Safety, who is responsible for the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Minister of Justice, is complemented by additional measures in the bill, including enshrining in law the requirement for CSC to consider systemic and background factors in all decision-making related to indigenous offenders.
On another note, at committee, I also worked on a report called the “Use of Ion Mobility Spectrometers by Correctional Service Canada”. The committee agreed to undertake a study of “the alarming rate of false positive results from ion mobility spectrometers with a view to finding more effective ways of preventing drugs from entering prisons, while encouraging the effective rehabilitation of prisoners.” In this regard, Anne Cattral from Mothers Offering Mutual Support told the committee:
There is now a clear disconnect between CSC policy, which recognizes the importance of building and maintaining family ties and community support for prisoners, and the continued reliance on an unreliable tool that fails to keep drugs out of prisons but does a very good job of deterring families from visiting... The effects on children of being denied a visit to a parent are also deeply distressing; this happened to my own grandson.
The bill would authorize the use of body scanners on people entering correctional institutions. A body scanner is similar to what is used by security personnel at airports. Body scanners provide a less invasive alternative to strip or body cavity searches and eliminate the issues with false positives that I heard about.
The bill would also better support the role of victims in the criminal justice system by allowing them enhanced access to audio recordings of parole hearings. That would be a vast improvement over the old system.
As I stated, this is about safety. It is about focused intervention to better serve the needs of vulnerable inmates. We need to improve the safety of our inmates, our corrections staff, our institutions and our communities. This bill would transform Canada's correctional system to meet those goals.
I am proud to stand behind this bill, and I encourage all members to join me in supporting this historic proposed legislation.
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
CPC (AB)
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 Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
Lib. (MB)
View Robert-Falcon Ouellette Profile
2018-10-18 16:38 [p.22583]
Madam Speaker,
[Member spoke in Cree]
[English]
The Government of Canada's number one priority is the safety of Canadians and our communities. It is important to ensure that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment for staff and inmates, which assists with the rehabilitation of offenders. We must reduce the risk of reoffending and we must keep our communities safe, whether it is in Winnipeg or elsewhere across the country.
The Government of Canada introduced legislation that proposes to strengthen the federal correctional system, changing its direction from one which was under the Conservatives' more of retribution to looking at latest evidence and best practices by implementing a new correctional interventions model and strengthening the health care governance, better supporting victims and addressing the specific situation of indigenous offenders.
Following a recent court decision on administrative segregation, Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate segregation and establish a structured intervention unit, SIU, that will allow offenders to be separated from the main stream inmate populations as required, while maintaining their access to rehabilitative programming, interventions and mental health care. We need to ensure they actually have rehabilitative programming and can receive appropriate interventions and health and mental health care. These are extremely important.
These proposed reforms support the government's continued commitment to implement recommendations from the coroners inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, regarding the use of segregation in the treatment of offenders with mental illness. It also builds on past efforts to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples throughout the criminal justice system.
I would like to quote my good friend, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member from Saskatchewan. He said:
We are committed to a correctional system that keeps Canadians safe and holds guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, while fostering practical rehabilitation so we can have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately safer communities. This approach to federal corrections will protect the safety of our staff and those in their custody by separating offenders when required, and ensuring they get more effective interventions, rehabilitative programming and serious attention to mental issues.
The bill is extremely important because it introduces a number of new elements into our corrections system.
I had the opportunity of hearing the Commissioner of Corrections Canada, Anne Kelly, who testified last week. This will be an important means forward. She is very committed to having a corrections system that responds to the department's mandate, not just simply having a justice system that responds to mob justice, a corrections system that improves safety not only within society, but also within the corrections institutions for staff and inmates, and also ensures that we rehabilitate people so they can integrate and not reoffend when they leave the corrections system.
Some of the things being put into place are the structured intervention units. These would be established to provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety and security risks of inmates who cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. It does occur that there are certain people who will never be safe within our prisons. No matter what we do in this place, unfortunately some people commit crimes that are so heinous, those against children, those done by pedophiles, that it is very difficult to integrate them into the mainstream population. For their own safety and for the safety within the entire system, sometimes a different approach must be taken.
A structured intervention unit would have structured interventions and programming tailored to the specific situation of that inmate. Inmates would have an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. They would have an opportunity for two hours a day of meaningful human contacts. They would receive continued programs to help them progress toward their correctional plan objectives.
Also being put in place are factors unique to indigenous offenders. The needs and interests of indigenous peoples would be better supported by the legal requirement for Correctional Service of Canada to ensure that systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders are considered in all correctional decision-making. For an awful long time indigenous peoples have not received the same amount of supports.
For instance, in Manitoba, in 2016 our government put forward $26 million for legal aid to help all peoples. Generally, a lot of indigenous peoples are very poor and need recourse to legal aid. Unfortunately, the provincial Conservative government decided to cut back the exact amount that was given to this. Instead of helping the people who were most vulnerable in the system, they were not helped. They were thrown to the side again.
This is often why we have systematic structural violence in the system, which ensures that indigenous peoples continue to be overly represented because they cannot obtain good legal advice. This is a good way of ensuring that even indigenous offenders within the prison system will obtain the services they require.
For instance, I have met many indigenous peoples who have been in the corrections system, but they did not know how to apply for early release or parole on time because they did not have access to those services. This is part of that.
Supporting victims is another aspect of the bill, which is very important. It would better support victims in the criminal justice system by allowing those who attend Parole Board of Canada hearings to access audio recordings of the hearings.
We are also going to be strengthening the health care governance. The proposed reforms will affirm Correctional Service Canada's obligation to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence. They do not need the Minister of Public Safety telling them how to do their jobs or what they should be doing. It has been said in the House in the past number of weeks that the opposition would like the Minister of Public Safety to intervene directly in cases. However, we must ensure that health care processionals have the opportunity of doing the assessments independent of the political obligations or politics that happen in this place.
The Correctional Service of Canada would also have the obligation to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities, as recommended by the coroner's inquest on the death of Ashley Smith. Included in that is further improving mental health supports for inmates to ensure offenders with mental health needs receive proper care.
Budget 2017 invested $57.8 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and $13.6 million per year thereafter to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. Budget 2018 builds on these investments, proposing $20.4 million over five years, beginning in 2018-19, and $5.6 million per year going forward for Correctional Service of Canada to further support the mental health needs of federal inmates, particularly women.
We all know, and I am sure all believe, that those who end up in corrections facilities obviously are not within the norm of our society. They have committed crimes for whatever reason and some do require mental health supports.
Winnipeg, right now, is facing a deep and profound meth crisis, which has been ignored by the provincial government. Thankfully, the mayor is a bit more progressive and is attempting to tackle this problem head on. However, the provincial government for a long time has refused to even meet with city counterparts or even with the federal government on this issue. This has caused issues. People should not walk around any Canadian city fearing they might be attacked. Often, many of these issues are related to mental health and people self-medicating themselves with drugs, alcohol, gasoline and other types of drugs, which numb them to the pain of the life in which they exist in great poverty.
Our corrections system really needs to hold guilty parties to account for breaking the law. However, we also need to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. That is why it is important for this bill to pass. We need to strengthen the federal correctional system and align it with the evidence and best practices so inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities safely.
One day, almost all prisoners will leave the prison system and live among Canadians. We need to ensure that they do not reoffend, that we are all safe and that they have received the appropriate care so when they are released, they do not reoffend and do not hurt others.
Therefore, the bill would eliminate segregation following recent court decisions and introduce more effective structured intervention units; increase better support for victims during parole hearings; increase staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology; and update our approach to critical matters, like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs.
Correctional Service of Canada needs the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety. By replacing administrative segregation with structured intervention units, the proposed legislation ensures that offenders who are separated from the general population will retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe integration is the best way to protect Canadian communities.
The practice of administrative segregation and its history is an interesting one and has been criticized for many years. The case of Ashley Smith, who died in 2007, a case that has been mentioned in most of the speeches today, comes to mind. It highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in a Canadian correctional system.
In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, including instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate could spend in segregation.
In 2016, the government introduced Bill C-56, which would have created a presumptive cap of 15 days in administrative segregation and a system of independent external oversight, which I believe is very important. Since that bill was introduced, legal challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found administrative segregation to be contrary to the charter. We cannot keep inmates locked up by themselves, with only two hours of contact with other people, for the rest of their lives. Both these rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party. However, as things stand, they take effect in December 2018 and January 2019. This means that Corrections Service of Canada may no longer be allowed to use the current system of administrative segregation.
There are also pending class action lawsuits related to administrative segregation and the failure to provide adequate mental health care, as well as complaints before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.
In May 7, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act, which implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation and prohibited certain classes of inmates, like pregnant women or those with mental illnesses, from being segregated at all.
The number of inmates in segregation on any given day was over 700 in 2011. It is now 340.
While the correctional investigator has acknowledged that the reduction in the use of administrative segregation is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. However, SIUs are designed to ensure that inmates can be kept in a secure environment, while not being segregated from vital programming and meaningful human contact.
Bill C-83 would eliminate administrative segregation. Instead, people who have to be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, will be assigned to a secure intervention unit. In an SIU, people will get a minimum of four hours daily out of the cell, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff, volunteers, visitors and other compatible inmates. There will also be a daily visit by a medical professional. By contrast, people currently in administrative segregation are only entitled to two hours daily out of the cell, with minimal human contact and access to programming.
Within five working days of movement to an SIU, the warden will review the case and decide if the inmate should remain there. Subsequent reviews will be conducted by the warden after another 30 days and by the Commissioner of Corrections Service Canada every 30 days thereafter for as long as the inmate is in the SIU. Therefore, it will be the top corrections officer in Canada, our commissioner, who will be reviewing all of these cases. Reviews can also be triggered on the recommendation of a medical professional, who, as I have mentioned, will be independent and have full independence to conduct what he or she terms is in the best interest of the patient, or if an inmate refuses to leave his or her cell for a given number of days.
Currently victims are only entitled to audio recordings of parole hearings if they did not attend. However, there have been concerns that, due to the emotional nature of the hearings, it can be hard for victims to retain all the details of the proceedings. Even victims who are present could benefit from access to a recording that they could review afterward, on their own time and in a more comfortable setting.
Therefore, Bill C-83 would give victims access to audio recordings whether they attend or not. It is very important to have to a good record of what actually occurred.
This legislation will add a guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for a CSC to consider systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. This requirement flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999, and has been implemented through CSC's policy directive since 2003. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to follow, as the corrections services have often not followed it. Now it is actually being enshrined in law.
This bill would also implement key recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquest by creating the legal framework to have patient advocates in CSC institutions. Patient advocates will work with offenders and correctional staff to ensure that the offenders receive appropriate medical care. Bill C-83 also enshrines in law the decision-making autonomy of medical professionals operating within the CSC.
The next one is extremely important to ensuring safety within correctional facilities in Canada. Here I refer to body scanners, which will help keep drugs and other contraband out of prisons. The bill authorizes the use of body scanners, comparable to the technology used at airports, to search people entering correctional institutions. These devices are less invasive than strip searches or body cavity searches, and they do not raise the concerns of false positives reported by some people who have been examined using ion scanners.
Body scanners are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities, and now the federal system is catching up. This is going to improve safety. A number of groups are in favour of this, including the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which. While cautiously acknowledging Bill C-83's measures on administrative segregation, it welcomes the introduction of body scanners to prevent contraband. Jack Godin states:
Our union has advocated strongly for the implementation of body scanners. We are satisfied with the results. But we still need more resources to manage high-risk, violent and self-harming offenders, such as what was tabled by the Union in 2005 to manage high-risk women offenders which has fallen on deaf ears.
They have some criticisms, but nonetheless are favourable overall towards the idea of body scanners.
To implement these secure intervention units, new investments will be required, mainly to hire new staff. The government has committed to making the necessary investments, with the exact dollar amounts to be announced very soon.
The government has also signalled its intention to invest heavily in mental health care within the corrections system. This will include mental health care in SIUs, as well as early diagnosis and treatment for inmates from the moment of intake, and upgrades in the CSC's regional treatment centres, which provide intensive mental health care for more serious cases. This funding will be on top of some $80 million for mental health care for the CSC in the last two budgets.
I only have about two minutes left, as my time is slowly winding down. I would like to read a few clauses from the bill so that people who are watching on CPAC, or anywhere else, can hear what is in the bill.
On structured intervention units, the bill states:
Purpose
32 The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to
(a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; and
(b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate's specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.
In section 33, it states:
An inmate's confinement in a structured intervention unit is to end as soon as possible.
As I have already mentioned, there are other elements are included in that. For instance, we talk about “four hours outside of the cell each day”, but there is also time not included. Section 36 states:
Time not included
(3) If an inmate takes a shower outside their cell, the time spent doing so does not count as time spent outside the inmate's cell under paragraph (1)(a).
Also section 37.2 states:
A registered health care professional employed or engaged by the Service may, for health reasons, recommend to the institutional head that the conditions of confinement of the inmate in a structured intervention unit be altered or that the inmate not remain in the unit.
That means it is up to the health care professional to decide when things have gotten out of hand.
In my last minutes, I would like to quickly address the whole idea of indigenous offenders. It is incredible because, first, the bill defines indigenous people in its very first clause:
Indigenous, in respect of a person, includes a First Nation person, an Inuit or a Métis person; (autochtone)
It also includes putting in place a lot more advisory committees, committees to consult, and the idea of spiritual leaders and elders:
Spiritual leaders and elders
83(1) For greater certainty, Indigenous spirituality and Indigenous spiritual leaders and elders have the same status as other religions and other religious leaders.
Let us give thanks to Gitchi Manitou. Let us give thanks to the Great Creator. I think this is the first time I have ever heard this mentioned, and I proud to see that this measure has taken hold within this bill.
With that, I believe my time has come to an end at 20 minutes. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here and look forward to some of the very interesting questions and comments.
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