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View Patricia Lattanzio Profile
Lib. (QC)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to add my voice to the debate of Bill C-3 at second reading. This important piece of legislation would amend the Canada Border Services Agency Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act to establish a new public complaints and review commission for both organizations. This would give the CBSA its own independent review body for the first time.
Transparency and accountability are extremely important in any context. That certainly includes the public safety and national security sphere. Canadians need to have trust and confidence in the people and agencies that work so hard to protect them. Right now, among the family of organizations that make up the public safety portfolio, only the CBSA lacks a full-fledged independent review body dedicated to it.
The RCMP has had such a body since 1988, the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP. The CRCC reviews complaints from the public about conduct of RCMP members and conducts reviews when complainants are not satisfied with the RCMP's handling of their complaints. This process ensures public complaints are examined fairly and impartially.
Canada also has an office of the correctional investigator, which provides independent oversight of Correctional Service Canada. The correctional investigator essentially serves as an ombudsman for federal offenders. The main responsibility of the office is to investigate and try to resolve offender complaints. The office is also responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on CSC policies and procedures related to those complaints, the goal being to ensure areas of concern are identified and appropriately addressed.
The CBSA really stands out in this context.
Before I go any further, it is important to point out that a fair number of CBSA's activities are already subject to independent oversight through existing bodies. Customs-related matters, for example, are handled by the Canadian International Trade Tribunal. With the passage of Bill C-59, the CBSA's national security-related activities are now being overseen by Canada's new National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. This agency is an independent, external body that can report on any national security or intelligence-related activity carried out by federal departments and agencies. It has the legal mandate and expertise to review national security activities and serves an important accountability function in our democracy.
However, a major piece is missing in the architecture of public safety and national security oversight and accountability. There is currently no mechanism for public complaints about the CBSA to be heard and considered. That is a significant oversight, given the scope of the agency's mandate and the sheer volume of its interactions with the public.
CBSA employees deal with thousands of people each day and tens of millions each year. They do so at approximately 1,200 service points across Canada and at 39 international airports and locations. In the last fiscal year alone, border officers interacted with 96 million travellers, both Canadians and foreign nationals, and that is just one aspect of its business. It is a massive, complex and impressive operation. We can all be proud of having such a professional, world-class border services agency.
In the vast majority of cases, the CBSA's interactions with the public happen without incident. Our employees work with the utmost professionalism in delivering border services to those entering the country. However, on rare occasions, and for whatever reason, things go less than smoothly. That is not unusual. People are human and we cannot expect everything they do will be perfect all the time. However, that does not mean there should not be a fair and appropriate way for people to air their grievances. If people are unhappy with the way they were treated at the border, or the level of service they received, they need to know that someone will hear their complaint in an independent manner. Needless to say, that is currently not the case.
The way things currently work is that if a member of the public makes a complaint about the CBSA, it is handled internally. In other words, the CBSA investigates itself. In recent years, a number of parliamentarians, commentators and observers have raised concerns about this problematic accountability gap. To rectify the situation, they have called for an independent review body specific to the CBSA. Bill C-3 would answer that call.
Under Bill C-3, the existing Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP would be given new powers and remain the public complaints and review commission, or PCRC. The newly established PCRC would consider complaints related to conduct or service issues involving either CBSA or RCMP employees. Those who believe they have had a negative interaction with a CBSA employee would have the option of turning to the PCRC for remedy and would have one year to do so.
The same would continue to be the case with respect to the RCMP. This would apply to Canadian citizens, permanent residents and foreign nationals. That includes people detained in CBSA's immigration holding centres, who would be able to submit complaints related to their conditions of detention or treatment while in detention.
The complaints function is just one part of the proposed new PCRC. The commission would also have an important review function. It would conduct reviews related to non-national security activities involving CBSA and the RCMP, since national security, as I noted earlier, is now in the purview of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency. The findings and recommendations of the PCRC would be non-binding. However, the CBSA would be required to provide a response to those findings and recommendations for all the complaints. I believe that combining these functions into one agency is the best way forward.
The existing CRCC already performs these functions for the RCMP, and the proposals in the bill would build on the success and expertise it has developed. Combining efforts may also generate efficiencies of scale and allow for resources to be allocated to priority areas. On that note, I certainly recognize that additional resources would be required for the PCRC, given its proposed new responsibilities and what that would mean in terms of workload.
That is why I am pleased that budget 2019 included nearly $25 million over five years, starting this fiscal year, and an additional $6.83 million per year ongoing to expand the mandate of the CRCC. That funding commitment has also been positively received by stakeholders. With Bill C-3, the government is taking a major step toward enhancing CBSA independent review and accountability in a big way.
I was encouraged to see an apparent consensus of support for this bill in our debate so far. As we know, just eight months ago, the previous form of this bill, Bill C-98, received all-party support during third reading in the House during the last Parliament. In reintroducing this bill, we have taken into consideration points that were previously raised by the opposition parties, and we hope to rely on their continued support.
The changes proposed in Bill C-3 are appropriate and long overdue. They would give Canadians greater confidence in the border agencies that serve them and they would bring Canada in line with international norms in democratic countries. That includes the systems already in place with some of our closest allies, such the U.K., Australia and New Zealand.
I am proud to be supporting this important piece of legislation. I will be voting in favour of this bill at second reading and I urge all of my hon. colleagues to do the same when the time comes.
View Pierre Paul-Hus Profile
Mr. Speaker, thank you for laying down the law.
This bill changes the name of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP to the public complaints and review commission. Under this new name, the commission will also be responsible for reviewing public complaints against the Canada Border Services Agency.
The bill follows on a promise made by the Liberals to ensure that all law enforcement agencies in Canada are monitored by an oversight group. We agree that all Canadian law enforcement agencies must have an oversight group. Canadians must be respected and protected from potential abuse of power. We must all make sure that the agency does its job to the letter and in compliance with Canadian legislation.
Our party’s vision of Canadian security has always prioritized maintaining the integrity of our borders and making sure that the CBSA has appropriate resources in terms of staff and equipment. A public complaints review commission will undoubtedly improve general oversight and help the CBSA exercise its duties and powers more effectively.
I have spoken at length with border services officers and listened to the union president. It is obvious that the problem at the border is not due to a lack of training or will on the part of the officers. On the contrary, the problem stems from a blatant lack of resources to support officers in their work.
When Bill C-98 was first tabled, the government had not even consulted the union. We raised this point in the debate on Bill C-98, but we got nowhere, since the government was in a rush to move forward. There was not enough time for the bill to be passed by the Senate. Today, the government is coming back to us with Bill C-3.
Even if we support the bill, we need to take the time to consult the union representing the CBSA and the RCMP, which we will probably do in committee. It is a good idea to create an agency to monitor the officers' work and give Canadians some power. We are completely in agreement with that, but the officers also have something to say. That is why I think it is important to listen to the union. There needs to be a balance between the two.
Since 2015, our Liberal friends have constantly said that they consult Canadians on various issues. However, in the case of Bill C-3, there have been no consultations.
I would like to talk about the challenges faced by the Canada Border Services Agency. A lot has been said in recent years. Members will recall the Prime Minister’s famous tweet from January 2017. At a time when the United States was in turmoil, the Prime Minister tweeted to the world that Canada would welcome everyone with open arms. That created a situation at the border that is still ongoing. Close to 50,000 people who read the Prime Minister’s tweet came to cross the border at Roxham Road in Quebec. Some came through Manitoba, but most came through Roxham Road. These people crossed our border believing that they would be welcomed with open arms.
The RCMP had to mobilize enormous resources. In 2017, officers from across Canada were sent to Roxham Road. The CBSA also had to mobilize resources to receive the people who thought they would simply be welcomed to Canada.
The problem is still going on. The government is trying to make us believe that nothing is going on, but that is not true. Every day, 40 to 50 people cross the border at Roxham Road. The financial and human resources costs are massive. In a report last year, the Office of the Auditor General examined all of the federal agencies involved, including public safety, immigration and other federal services. In three years, we have spent more than $1 billion on federal services alone. That figure does not include costs to the provinces.
Quebec calculated its costs for the first year. Just for costs associated with receiving the asylum seekers, Quebec applied for a reimbursement of $300 million. Ontario followed suit. Quebec was reimbursed before the election campaign because our Liberal friends knew that this was a very sensitive subject for Quebeckers.
We Quebeckers are a hospitable people. We like people, but we also like order. Now we are in a situation where there is no order. No one, myself included, can understand why people are being allowed to enter our country, and specifically Quebec, illegally.
That being said, the Conservatives have often been called racists in debate and in question period. It is very upsetting to be called a racist. The people who come to the border are of different ethnic origins, but that does not make us racist. We are simply asking for effective border control. That starts with a duly completed immigration application. Of course Canada welcomes refugees, as it always has. Even when the Conservatives were in power, we always supported taking in refugees from UN camps around the world.
Let us get back to our officers. We are going to pass a law that will allow the public to file complaints against RCMP and CBSA officers. We should try to see things from our officers' perspective. They are being asked to do things that they may find distasteful. I remember going to Roxham Road three or four times to watch our officers at work. I saw police officers there, RCMP officers, whose job is to enforce law and order.
People arrived with suitcases, knowing full well that they were entering Canada illegally, but they were taking advantage of a loophole in the Canada-U.S. safe third country agreement. The warm-hearted RCMP officers carried the people’s suitcases across the border to help them enter Canada illegally. This created a conflict in the officers’ minds. On the one hand, since they have big hearts, they have no choice but to help children, as is only right. On the other hand, their job is to enforce the law.
I would remind members that the Prime Minister created this situation on Roxham Road, which has been going on for exactly three years now. People do not realize that the government has even built a building there that is equipped with systems and all the necessary technology. When people get out of a taxi at Roxham Road, they can walk down a small road that leads directly to this reception centre, which is the equivalent of a regular border crossing.
That makes no sense, and we are in this mess because the Liberals cannot negotiate with the Americans to change a rule that prevents us from putting an end to the situation. Let's not forget the financial repercussions for Canada, which are huge.
In addition, our officers have to deal with another serious problem, namely drugs and weapons being smuggled across the border. The RCMP and CBSA officers find their work very hard and complex. In addition to their working conditions, which are obviously less than ideal, the rules in effect and the way the boundaries are delineated sometimes prevent the officers from doing their job properly, despite their best efforts.
We share a border with certain indigenous reserves and with the United States, and international rules make our officers’ work far more complicated. This means that a lot of illegal drugs and weapons are entering Canada and contributing to crime.
It is important to understand that criminals, especially Toronto gangs, get their weapons illegally. Huge numbers of weapons cross the U.S. border or arrive by ship in Montreal or Vancouver. We are therefore asking the government to invest major human and financial resources to fight this type of crime.
The influx of drugs like fentanyl is a serious threat to officers' health. At Canada Post, CBSA officers randomly inspect packages entering Canada, and those packages may contain extremely dangerous substances. A tiny dose of fentanyl or any opioid can be fatal. We need to keep in mind that this kind of work can be hugely stressful for individuals, just as it is for members of the military.
This bill will make it possible for members of the public to complain about deliberate or accidental conduct on the part of RCMP or CBSA officers.
Still, we need to understand the position we are putting these officers in and be judicious. That is why we have to listen to what the officers' union has to say.
The examples I gave earlier illustrate situations in which officers have to make decisions. They have to face dangerous situations. Sometimes, if they react reflexively or have to make snap decisions, they may say or do things they should not.
For this reason, I hope that the commission that reviews the complaints will have a balanced approach. I find that the blame too often falls on officials, police officers and the military. When I was in the army, we were often aware of this during operational deployments. I remember very well that, during the war in Bosnia, we often had to follow UN rules and send soldiers into a conflict zone and tell them that, if they made a mistake or did something wrong, we would not be there to defend them. They would be responsible for their actions.
We were representing our country, going to a war zone in a foreign country, but, at the same time, we were being warned to be careful not to get into trouble, otherwise we would be on our own.
This type of situation often causes psychological stress for RCMP officers and border service officials. At some point, these people wonder whether or not they should take action. If, for fear of reprisal, they decide not to take action, this may create a situation that will cause problems elsewhere. In the case of drug control, for example, if the official is afraid to take action, the drugs will end up somewhere else. I do not have any concrete examples to give, but I believe that everyone listening to us can understand what I am trying to say.
I would also like to briefly address our correctional services. I know that correctional services are not covered by Bill C-3. However, I would like to remind the House that, when we discussed Bill C-83 during the last Parliament, there was talk about the various resources available to Canada’s penitentiaries.
First, I would like to talk about syringes. Syringes were not part of Bill C-83. However, penitentiaries were asked to give prisoners syringes. The government provides prisoners with syringes, and they inject drugs illegally obtained in prison. It can be difficult to accept and understand how drugs could be illegally obtained in prison and how syringes could be provided so that prisoners can inject these illegally obtained drugs.
Ideally, we should be preventing prisoners from obtaining drugs in prison. There is an easy way to do so, as set out in Bill C-83, and that is to acquire body scanners. Body scanners like the ones in airports, but more sophisticated, can detect 95% or more of anything hidden on a visitor’s body, whether drugs or other contraband. I will not list all the things that can be carried in a human body, but a body scanner can find them. That way, the government could avoid having to provide prisoners with syringes.
At the moment, I can say that there is a great deal of concern within the correctional service. Officers who work in penitentiaries are concerned for their own safety. Despite the fact that there is supposedly a syringe control system in place, needles can, for all sorts of reasons, end up somewhere else, and prisoners can use them to create weapons and do various things.
We expect the government to make this investment and deploy the 47 scanners that are required across Canada as soon as possible.
There are policies for the Border Services Agency. I can say that I am proud of what was done by the former Conservative government. In debates over the past few years, we were blamed for cutting $300 million from the Border Services Agency budget. That is absolutely false. There have been budget cuts in administration, but line officers have never been affected by the cuts. We have evidence, reports from the Library of Parliament complete with exact figures.
I am also proud of the measures taken by our government at the time. Officers were asked to be alone at guard posts at night. Officers were completely alone, left to their own devices. It was excessively dangerous, so we saw to it that there would now be at least two people on duty. We also armed our border officers. They had no weapons previously. How is it possible to intercept someone or take action in dangerous situations without a weapon? That is why we took steps to ensure that Canada is better protected.
Beyond Bill C-3, which will give the public access to a complaints mechanism, our hope is to continue to work to improve border control and enhance Canada's overall security.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-06-21 14:21 [p.29473]
I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bills: C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast; C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts; C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act; C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages; C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families; C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures; C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act; C-102, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2019-06-21 14:54 [p.29473]
I have the honour to inform the House that when this House did attend Her Excellency this day in the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:
C-71, An Act to amend certain Acts and Regulations in relation to firearms—Chapter 9.
C-81, An Act to ensure a barrier-free Canada—Chapter 10.
S-203, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and other Acts (ending the captivity of whales and dolphins)—Chapter 11.
C-82, An Act to implement a multilateral convention to implement tax treaty related measures to prevent base erosion and profit shifting—Chapter 12.
C-59, An Act respecting national security matters—Chapter 13.
C-68, An Act to amend the Fisheries Act and other Acts in consequence—Chapter 14.
C-77, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 15.
C-78, An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act and the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and to make consequential amendments to another Act—Chapter 16.
C-84, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bestiality and animal fighting)—Chapter 17.
C-58, An Act to amend the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 18.
C-88, An Act to amend the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act and the Canada Petroleum Resources Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 19.
C-93, An Act to provide no-cost, expedited record suspensions for simple possession of cannabis—Chapter 20.
C-102, An Act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the federal public administration for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020—Chapter 21.
C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act—Chapter 22.
C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous languages—Chapter 23.
C-92, An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit and Métis children, youth and families—Chapter 24.
C-75, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 25.
C-48, An Act respecting the regulation of vessels that transport crude oil or persistent oil to or from ports or marine installations located along British Columbia's north coast—Chapter 26.
C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act—Chapter 27.
C-69, An Act to enact the Impact Assessment Act and the Canadian Energy Regulator Act, to amend the Navigation Protection Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts—Chapter 28.
C-97, An Act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on March 19, 2019 and other measures—Chapter 29.
It being 2:55 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 16, 2019, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).
(The House adjourned at 2:55 p.m.)
The 42nd Parliament was dissolved by Royal Proclamation on September 11, 2019.
Aboriginal languagesAboriginal peoplesAccess for disabled peopleAccess to informationAdjournmentAgriculture, environment and natural res ...British ColumbiaBudget 2019 (March 19, 2019)C-101, An Act to amend the Customs Tarif ...C-102, An Act for granting to Her Majest ...C-48, An Act respecting the regulation o ... ...Show all topics
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bardish Chagger Profile
2019-06-20 12:31 [p.29470]
Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House:
(a) the amendment to the motion respecting the senate amendments to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, be deemed negatived on division and the main motion be deemed carried on division; and
(b) the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-100, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, be deemed negatived on division and that the Bill be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:47 [p.29444]
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-83 has two main objectives.
First of all, it would allow federal inmates to be separated from the general prison population when necessary for security reasons. Second, it will ensure that inmates have access to the interventions, programs and mental health care they need to safely return to the general prison population and make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.
The bill would achieve these objectives by replacing the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units. In SIUs, inmates would be entitled to twice as much time out of their cells, four hours daily instead of two, and two hours of meaningful human contact every day.
We have allocated $448 million over six years to ensure that the Correctional Service has the resources to provide programs and interventions to inmates in SIUs and to implement this new system safely and effectively. That funding includes $150 million for mental health care, both in SIUs and throughout the federal correction system.
Bill C-83 was introduced last October. It was studied by the public safety committee in November and reported back to the House in December with a number of amendments. There were further amendments at report stage, in February, including one from the member for Oakville North—Burlington that added a system for binding external review.
In recent months, hon. senators have been studying the bill, and they have now sent it back to us with proposed amendments of their own. The high level of interest in Bill C-83 is indicative of the importance of the federal corrections system and of the laws and policies that govern it. Effective and humane corrections are essential to public safety, and they are a statement of who we are as a country. In the words of Dostoyevsky, “the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.”
I extend my sincere thanks to all the intervenors who provided testimony and written briefs over the course of the last nine months and to parliamentarians in both chambers who examined this legislation and made thoughtful and constructive suggestions.
Since the Senate social affairs committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of the bill a couple of weeks ago, the government has been carefully studying the committee's recommendations, all of which seek to achieve laudable objectives. We are proposing to accept several of the Senate's amendments as is or with small technical modifications.
First, with respect to minor adjustments, we agree with amendments that would require a mental health assessment of all inmates within 30 days of admission into federal custody and within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU. This fits with the focus on early diagnosis and treatment that will be facilitated by the major investments we are making in mental health care.
We agree with the proposal to rearrange section 29 of the act, which deals with inmate transfers, to emphasize the possibility of transfers to external hospitals. The Correctional Service runs five certified psychiatric hospitals of its own and will now have significant new resources for mental health care. Even so, there may be cases when a transfer to an external facility is appropriate. If the transfer can be done safely, if the hospital has the capacity and if it is in the best interest of the patient, then it should be done. In fact, that is why we allocated funds in budget 2018 for more external mental health beds.
We also agree with an amendment regarding the initial review of SIU transfers. The bill would require a review by the warden in the first five days. This amendment clarifies that the clock on those five days would start ticking as soon as the transfer decision was made, as opposed to the moment the inmate physically arrived in the SIU.
With minor changes, we agree with two amendments to the section of the bill that would require consideration of systemic and background factors in decisions involving indigenous offenders. One of them would provide greater precision by specifying that a person's family and adoption history should be included in the analysis. The other would clarify that these factors may be used to lower the assessment of an inmate's risk level, but not to raise it.
These provisions in themselves would obviously not be enough to solve the problem of indigenous overrepresentation in the corrections system. The upstream socio-economic factors that result in higher rates of indigenous people involved with the criminal justice system must generally be addressed in concert with other departments and agencies, and efforts to that effect are indeed under way. The Correctional Service is charged with ensuring that indigenous people in its custody get a genuine opportunity to turn their lives around, and these amendments should help advance that objective.
There are two other amendments on which we agree with the intent, and we are essentially proposing to meet the Senate halfway.
The first is an amendment that seeks to add certain elements to section 4 of the act, which establishes guiding principles for the Correctional Service. In particular, it puts a focus on alternatives to incarceration, and we agree that those alternatives should be consistently considered and used wherever appropriate.
We are, however, suggesting a few changes to the language drafted in the Senate. For example, the amendment lists sections 29, 81 and 84 of the act as alternatives to incarceration. Section 29 refers to hospital transfers, and section 81 refers to healing lodges, so their inclusion here makes sense. However, section 84 is about community-supported release following incarceration. It is not an alternative; it is the next step, so we are proposing to remove it from this list.
The amendment would also require that preference be given to alternatives to incarceration. Frankly, that is very problematic. Alternatives to incarceration should be used where appropriate, but there are situations when putting someone in prison is a valid and necessary approach. Alternatives should be considered, but not necessarily preferred.
Also, for clarity sake, we are proposing to remove or replace certain terms that do not have established legal meanings, such as “carceral isolations” or “incarcerated persons” or “a broad interpretation informed by human rights”. Certainly, everything government agencies do should be informed by human rights principles, but to be enforceable and actionable, legal terms need to have clear and precise definitions. If we asked everyone in this House to explain what it means to interpret legislation broadly and in a manner informed by human rights, we would probably get 338 different responses.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 21:58 [p.29446]
Mr. Speaker, that is why we are proposing to remove these terms. Even so, of course, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will continue to apply to everything the Correctional Service does.
The other amendment that we are proposing to partially retain has to do with strip searches. The Senate is proposing to prohibit any strip searches conducted as a matter of routine and we wholeheartedly endorse that objective. It would not be pleasant for any of us to be strip-searched.
People in prison have often experienced trauma, including sexual abuse. Strip searches can cause them to relive that trauma and can even deter people from participating in programs like work release if they know they will be strip-searched on their way out or on their way back in. The Correctional Service should do everything possible to minimize strip searches.
That is why Bill C-83 would allow for the use of body scanners similar to what exists in airports as recommended by the United Nations. Rather than a blanket prohibition though, the government is proposing that the law require that Correctional Service use a body scanner instead of a strip search whenever one is available. That accounts for the fact that it will take some time for body scanners to be installed in every institution and it recognizes that sometimes machines break down. In those situations, correctional staff still need to be confident that inmates are not smuggling drugs, weapons or other contraband. That is important not only for staff safety but for the safety of other inmates as well. As body scanners become more available in federal institutions, strip searches should become increasingly rare.
I will now turn to the proposals from the Senate with which we respectfully disagree.
To begin with, there are two relatively similar ones that would take existing concepts used for indigenous corrections and expand them to other unspecified groups. This would apply to section 81 of the act, which allows for community-run healing lodges and section 84, which allows for community-supported release. Both of these concepts have proven valuable and successful in an indigenous context and the idea of expanding them is indeed worthy of serious consideration.
Certainly, there are other overrepresented groups in federal custody, particularly Canadians of African descent. Our government is wholly in favour of examining whether strategies that have worked for indigenous corrections can be successfully applied in other contexts and with other communities. We are opposing this amendment not because we disagree with the principle but because the serious consideration and examination I mentioned has not happened yet.
Before moving forward with something like this, there should be extensive consultations to determine which groups would be interested. Where does the capacity exist? And how the experience of the relatively few indigenous communities and organizations that run section 81 facilities is or is not applicable more broadly.
It would be a major policy change and potentially a positive one, but the study and analysis should come before we change the law, not after.
We also respectfully disagree with an amendment that would require the Correctional Service to approve the transfer to a provincial hospital of any inmate with a disabling mental health issue. As I mentioned earlier, in the 2018 budget, our government increased funding for external mental health beds. The use of provincial hospitals may be appropriate in some circumstances. The fact is, though, that it can be very difficult to find provincial hospitals willing and able to house and treat federal inmates. If we want to change the law without the aim of bringing about the transfer of a significant number of people from federal correctional institutions to provincial hospitals, it is imperative that we consult the provinces first.
It is also important for the sake of preserving the clinical independence of the health care providers who work in corrections that the law not pre-empt their professional judgment. The law already allows for these kinds of transfers where possible and appropriate and where recommended by medical professionals. At the same time, we are dramatically bolstering mental health resources within the federal correctional service so that inmates receive high-quality mental health care wherever they serve their sentence. We are also proposing not to accept an amendment that would allow sentences to be shortened on application to a court, due to acts or omissions by correctional personnel deemed to constitute unfairness in the administration of a sentence.
Once again, the goal of deterring improper conduct by correctional staff is commendable. There are a great many people working in federal corrections who are committed professionals doing excellent work. Anything less should be deterred, denounced and the persons potentially disciplined or dismissed. Inmates who are negatively impacted by inappropriate conduct on the part of correctional staff already have recourse, in the form of grievances or lawsuits, for example. The idea of retroactively shortening court-imposed sentences in these circumstances would be a major policy change. Before enacting this kind of provision, there should be consultations with stakeholders, including victims groups as well as provincial partners and other actors in the justice system. Parliamentarians in both chambers should have the opportunity to study it at length. It is not something that should be tacked on at the end of a legislative process that did not contemplate this kind of approach.
We also respectfully disagree with the recommendation to have the new system reviewed by parliamentary committees after two years rather than five. This House added a five-year review to the bill, and that is a reasonable time frame. It gives the new system time to get off the ground and be fully implemented and that will actually make Parliament's review more meaningful and impactful when it happens. In the interim, the minister will soon be appointing an advisory panel to monitor implementation of the SIUs as they roll out. That panel will be able to visit sites, meet with inmates and staff, provide feedback to the commissioner and sound the alarm if something is really not working out as it should. Of course, parliamentary committees do not need legislation to tell them what to study. Even without a legal requirement, if committees of this House or of the other place want to review the SIU system two years from now, they are perfectly free to do so.
Finally, the government respectfully disagrees with the proposal to institute judicial review of all SIU placements after 48 hours. Bill C-83 already has a strong system of binding external oversight.
Independent external decision-makers appointed by the minister will review any case where someone in an SIU has not received the minimum hours out of cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row, or 15 days out of 30. They will also review cases where the Correctional Service is not following the advice of a health care professional to remove an inmate from an SIU or change their conditions. They will review all SIU placements at 90 days and every 60 days thereafter for any inmate still in the SIU at that point. That is in addition to regular and robust internal review at five, 30 and 60 days.
Simply put, judicial review of SIU placements is unnecessary. Colleagues do not have to take my word for it. At the public safety committee, the correctional investigator supported using the independent chairperson model to oversee SIUs. That is a model that uses ministerial appointees, not judges.
Plus, while no court has considered the new SIU system proposed by this bill, courts in Ontario and B.C. have rendered decisions about the kind of oversight they deem necessary for the current system of administrative segregation. In B.C., the court found that oversight of administrative segregation must be external to the Correctional Service but did not say that judicial review was required. In Ontario, the court actually found that internal review was preferable, saying, “The reviewing tribunal can have adequate independence without having all the attributes of a judge.”
Beyond being unnecessary, requiring judicial review of all SIU placements longer than 48 hours would have considerable impacts on provincial superior courts. There would need to be new judges appointed to handle the caseload. Those judges would be paid for out of federal funds and they would require support staff paid for by the provinces. There would also be changes required to the Judges Act, as well as to corresponding provincial legislation. In other words, accepting this amendment would mean imposing legislative and financial requirements on the provinces without so much as a phone call to check and see if they are on board.
If judicial review were the only way to ensure that this new system works properly and to provide the procedural safeguards required, then one could make an argument that all of these complications, making legislative amendments across the country, finding the money in federal and provincial coffers, and fast-tracking the appointment of a bunch of new judges would just have to somehow get done. However, judicial review is far from the only option. There must absolutely be robust oversight of the new system proposed by Bill C-83 and review by independent external decision-makers meets that need.
I thank all hon. senators for their efforts and their contributions. At this point, the bill truly is the product of the Parliament of Canada as a whole.
If the version we are sending back to the Senate receives royal assent, it will be a piece of legislation drafted by the government, amended by Liberal, Conservative, NDP and Green Party members, and amended by our colleagues in the Senate, as well.
For all of our frequent disagreements, this bill is a good example of the strength of the legislative process in our parliamentary democracy. Most importantly, it will significantly improve Canada's correctional system, enhancing the safety of the people who work and live in federal institutions and improving the system's effectiveness when it comes to rehabilitation and safe, successful reintegration.
I look forward to the passage and the implementation of Bill C-83.
View Matthew Dubé Profile
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:13 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, it is interesting. This bill is being offered as a product of all of Parliament, while we reject any of the substantive amendments that the Senate is bringing forward.
Certainly, I do not want to be an apologist for the Senate, with some of the legislation it is holding up. In particular, Senator Pate, who worked on this, is someone who comes from the community of civil society, of folks who have worked on these issues for a long time. The reason I say that is because the bill was panned by every witness who came to committee. In fact, the Ontario Superior Court, when it offered the extension to the government, which has allowed this unconstitutional practice to fester for four years now, said that there was nothing in its mind that seemed to indicate there would be any remedial effort brought forward.
What I find really frustrating and baffling about the bill is that ultimately it is just a rebrand, and I am not the only one saying that. Many others have said it as well, including Senator Pate.
I want to ask the member a question. Judicial review has been offered. It was offered years ago, even decades ago, by Justice Arbour when she was looking at some of these issues. The reason why was because we were essentially changing someone's sentence, we were extending someone's sentence by adding additional punishment through the system.
Does the member not recognize that? If the government truly believes there will be an undue burden on provincial courts, is that not because the practice has been used in such an abusive way that it would require that additional judicial oversight?
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:15 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is always someone who contributes in committee work, and I personally appreciate the contributions he has made to this bill.
As always, on the question of judicial review versus independent oversight, there are limited resources that could actually do the work. The government has to decide where those limited resources will be used and whether anybody else can do this work.
It has been the determination that these independent decision-makers can be in the position to do this work without imposing an additional workload at the provincial and federal court levels.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
Mr. Speaker, I chair the public accounts committee. There are some significant changes in this bill.
When we look at the supplementary estimates, $448 million were given to CSC. However, when we have tried to find out what the financial implications are, the cost of all the measures in the bill, we can not get an answer from the government.
The parliamentary secretary is privy to those briefings with the department. I know that typically those answers are given by the department.
If we have scanners, and the parliamentary secretary talked about limited, I wonder, and I think Canadians wonder as well, what the costs of the bill would be.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:17 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, this is really a considerable move forward when it comes to the use of administrative segregation into a structured intervention unit. There will be need for infrastructure changes. There will be need for personnel changes. There will be need for programming changes and mental health care.
That number is that $448 million have been put into the latest budget to ensure we actually have the money to do this well. However, it is going to be shared over a series of requirements, everything we need to implement a structured intervention unit. We are going to do it right. Involving all the stakeholders in these decisions as we move forward will be very important.
View Elizabeth May Profile
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-19 22:18 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, for my hon. friend, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety,, I recognize that the bill before us would make improvements in the situation of solitary confinement. I am particularly grateful to her colleague, the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington, for working so collaboratively on the committee and helping some of my amendments get through.
However, I am very troubled by the rejection of some of the Senate amendments. I am sure the parliamentary secretary is aware of the letter from Senator Pate to the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, which was shared with many members. It spoke to something that is quite compelling, which is unusual when legislation goes through this place. We already have a foreshadowing from the Ontario Court of Appeal that the legislation will not be found to be constitutional.
The citation is from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, where the Ontario Court of Appeal comments in relation to the five-day review. The key sentence reads, “Nothing more has been done to remedy the breach”, and this is a breach of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in the interim, “and it remains unclear how Bill C-83 will remedy it if enacted.”
The Senate amendments and the ones that the hon. parliamentary secretary referenced must go through. We can get the bill faster by accepting these amendments from the Senate. The administrative objections that I heard from the parliamentary secretary do not measure up to the imperative of ensuring the bill is constitutional.
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Karen McCrimmon Profile
2019-06-19 22:20 [p.29448]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for her caring about this, for her compassion, and also the hon. member to my right.
This matters. This is not an easy thing to do. We are making significant change to the administrative segregation regime in Canada. We need to do it. The court has told us that we need to do it. There has been a letter explaining why this new way of doing administrative segregation is going to meet the court requirements.
We need to move forward with this to make it happen. Then we will be in a position of having a better chance to help people have a successful rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2019-06-19 22:21 [p.29449]
Mr. Speaker, because we are near the end of the session, I want to thank my staff, Brad, Erica, Susan, Ellen, Alisha and formerly Denis Sabourin for their great work.
Also, anyone in the House who has questioned the existence of the Senate, which we call the other place here, this is a great example of where it has provided a number of suggested amendments and the government is accepting a number of them. This has happened since Confederation, where laws in Canada have been approved like this.
With the structured intervention, there would be significantly more time away from the cell and more time for programming, etc. Does the bill direct Correctional Service Canada to record these times to ensure they are followed. If it does not, are there penalties in the bill for CSC?
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