Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am joined today by Alain Tousignant, Senior Deputy Commissioner, and Larry Motiuk, the Assistant Commissioner, Policy.
First, I wish to express my deepest sympathies to the family and friends of Marylène Lévesque for the terrible tragedy that took place in Quebec on January 22. This is not an outcome any of us ever want to see. We are committed to getting answers for everyone affected by this.
As you know, there are two investigations under way. The first is a criminal investigation by the Quebec City police, and the second is a joint Correctional Service of Canada and Parole Board of Canada investigation.
Given the various aspects of this case and involvement by two separate organizations, this joint investigation is key to getting a comprehensive account of what happened. All five board of investigation members are skilled and experienced, bringing various perspectives to this process. Two external community board members, who are also criminologists, are co-chairing the investigation. This brings added openness and transparency to the process. Once the investigation is completed, we are committed to communicating the results with this committee and Canadians.
I want to be very clear: CSC does not condone offenders seeking sexual services and I am deeply concerned by what happened. I am in my 37th year with the service and can firmly attest to the fact that this is not something that we, as an organization, endorse in how we manage offenders.
I want to be very clear with the committee that CSC does not condone offenders seeking sexual services. I am greatly concerned by what happened. I am in my 37th year with the service, and can firmly attest to the fact this is not something that we as an organization endorse in how we manage offenders. I have made this message very clear throughout the organization and ordered a review of all community strategies across the country as an added measure.
Until the investigations are completed, I cannot speak to the specifics of this case, but I can outline the case management and conditional release process.
CSC's approach is governed by a very comprehensive piece of legislation called the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. Public safety is the most important consideration that underlies everything we do. During the incarceration period, public safety is achieved by ensuring the secure custody of the offender and maintaining a safe environment for both staff and offenders. But incarceration is only a temporary solution, as the vast majority of offenders will eventually be released into the community and become our neighbours. Therefore, an equally important job of corrections is to prepare offenders to safely and successfully return to the community as law-abiding citizens.
As soon as the offender receives their sentence, CSC begins the process of assisting them to become law-abiding citizens. Each offender has their own correctional plan, which is based on addressing the specific factors that relate to their criminal behaviour. The correctional plan details all the programs and interventions to be undertaken by the offender to address the problems that led to their incarceration. It acts as a yardstick against which the offender's progress can be measured throughout the sentence.
The offender’s progress in meeting the requirements of their correctional plan is a significant consideration in any decision related to the offender, with public safety being the paramount consideration.
All offenders are eligible at some point to be considered for some form of conditional release. Federal correctional legislation sets out various types of conditional release that provides offenders with gradually increasing degrees of freedom and trust that help make their transition safer.
Conditional release, however, does not mean the sentence is over, not at all. Conditional release means the offender is serving that part of their sentence in the community, under supervision and abiding by strict conditions. Community supervision is integral to our work, as research consistently shows that the gradual, structured and supervised release process represents an effective means of facilitating a safe and successful reintegration.
The assessment of the offender's risk forms the basis of any conditional release decision made by the Parole Board of Canada. CSC provides information to the board on the offender's criminal history, their involvement in programs and interventions, their release plan and release suitability, and then ultimately makes a recommendation to the Parole Board, including a recommendation for the conditions of release. In addition, community agencies, police, victims and others provide input about an offender's ability to reintegrate successfully. This information assists the board in determining whether an offender should be released and under what conditions.
When offenders are released into the community, the community supervision is carried out by community parole officers who monitor the offender's behaviour and compliance with release conditions. As part of this supervision, the parole officer maintains regular contact with the offender, as well as with police, employers, mental health professionals, the offender's family and others who are involved in the offender's life. This ongoing appraisal by the parole officer provides a continuing assessment of the offender's risk to reoffend. If the parole officer has concern about the offender's risk to the community, the offender can be returned to custody.
ln addition to monitoring and supervising offenders, an important part of the parole officer's job is to ensure offenders are linked to community services, volunteers and programs that can help them successfully reintegrate. In general, the more ties offenders have to the community, the more likely they are to make the successful transition.
Building safer communities is a complex process and CSC cannot and does not work in isolation. As just one component of the criminal justice system, CSC not only works closely with traditional criminal justice partners but also relies on the participation and support of the community.
Communities provide services to offenders and their families that are a vital part of an offender’s safe reintegration. Our community partners include individual volunteers and community organizations such as the St. Leonard's Society of Canada and the Salvation Army.
Offenders come from the community and the vast majority return to the community. Assisting offenders to become law-abiding citizens is the most significant contribution CSC can make to keeping communities safe. Having started my career as a parole officer, I have full appreciation for the nature of the work done by our staff on the front line. It is an important job with a critical role in ensuring public safety. This is why in early February, in addition to meeting with the chief of the Quebec police, I also met with the Quebec regional employees, who are deeply distraught by this tragic incident, to stress the importance of continuing their vital work of supervising offenders in our communities.
Although risk assessment is not an exact science, we manage risk through a robust framework of evidence-based decision-making using the best available information with the assistance of the best tools at our disposal. While I do not want to undermine in any way the seriousness of what happened here, it is important to note that it is incredibly rare. This was also highlighted by the correctional investigator on February 25, when he appeared before this committee. He underlined that this was an “extreme case”.
ln fact, we know that in 2018-19, 99.9% of offenders successfully completed their day parole supervision period without recommitting a violent offence. Moreover, our results show that there was an increase in the safe transition of offenders into the community.
For example, more offenders on conditional release successfully reached the end of their sentence without re-admission, in comparison with the results five years ago.
I know that the correctional investigator recently suggested that CSC is resistant to change. I want to take the opportunity to set the record straight.
We have shown much openness and commitment to making positive improvements to federal corrections. We have seen historic and transformative change in recent years. This past November, we eliminated segregation and implemented structured intervention units. Our correctional programs consistently deliver positive results in reducing reoffending and we continue to focus on improving our culture.
It takes sustained commitment, effort and dedication to deliver good corrections. We know that there is more work to do and we remain committed to self-reflection and improvement. Public safety is at the core of what we do. This is an unequivocal responsibility and a prerequisite to successfully transitioning offenders to the community.
When tragic events happen, we have a duty to closely examine our business to see what we can do better to serve and protect Canadians.
ln closing, I would once again like to express my sympathies to the family and friends of Marylène Levesque.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.