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Results: 1 - 15 of 267
Ian Broom
View Ian Broom Profile
Ian Broom
2021-06-03 11:19
Thank you.
I would just like to begin by saying that the Parole Board is definitely committed to openness and transparency in the way we provide information, and we ensure the participation of victims in respect of the conditional release process.
In terms of information that registered victims can receive, we may end up touching on this a little bit more later through the course of the meeting, but there is a victims portal in place where registered victims can access a variety of information. For example, they can receive information regarding the offender's name, the offence and the court of conviction. In addition, there is access to information such as the eligibility dates for release. I would say that when victims are registered and they seek this information, there is a fair amount that can be received, like the date of release, for example, on escorted temporary absence. The board has approved this, the reasons behind this and, in addition, victims can also request a copy of decisions through the decision registry.
View John McKay Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call the meeting to order.
Greetings to all colleagues and to our witnesses.
This is the 23rd meeting of the public safety committee. Pursuant to an order dated October 8, 2020, we are doing a study on the Parole Board of Canada and the circumstances that led to a young woman's death.
I am sure that colleagues know by now the protocol with respect to hybrid meetings, so I won't repeat that.
We have two sets of witnesses today. In the first hour we're dealing with Michel Lafrenière and George Myette. Each has seven minutes to present.
I don't see any particular order here, so we'll just go with Mr. Lafrenière for seven minutes, please.
Michel Lafrenière
View Michel Lafrenière Profile
Michel Lafrenière
2021-04-14 16:06
Good afternoon, everyone.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today.
The point of my appearance is clearly not to blame anyone concerning Mr. Gallese's case, but rather to suggest potential solutions to try to improve the system in order to better protect society—
George Myette
View George Myette Profile
George Myette
2021-04-14 16:08
I'm going to read a prepared statement. Hopefully, I can keep it within the seven minutes.
I appear here today as a proponent of parole and its use as part of the reintegration process for incarcerated persons. I wish to acknowledge that the death of Marylène Levesque was an unfortunate and terrible tragedy. I wish to express my sincere condolences to her family and the community.
I have been a professional and a volunteer in the criminal justice system since 1973. I have personally counselled inmates in their parole preparations many times through my involvement with the 7th Step Society's self-help groups, which are designed to teach accountability and self-awareness as offenders work their way through the system.
Our institutional self-help groups use confrontation and support to assist inmates to develop realistic release plans. Once released, we provide community support groups composed of successful ex-inmates and community volunteers. These are groups to which parolees can return on a regular basis to discuss challenges and successes in their lives.
I am myself a former offender, having been convicted of several offences as a young man. Having successfully completed a parole, I continued my education, graduating in 1975 from Mount Royal College in Calgary with a diploma in criminal justice. I was subsequently involved with the development of community residential centres and contract parole supervision through the auspices of the Alberta 7th Step Society in conjunction with Alberta Correctional Services and the then national parole service. I received a pardon in 1980 after the appropriate eligibility period and considered this a positive milestone in my life.
I chose to leave employment in the criminal justice system in 1982 to pursue a career in the oil and gas business, but I continued as a volunteer board member and self-help group member thereafter. I assumed the role of volunteer executive director of the 7th Step Society of Canada in 2002 and continue in that role today. As well as sitting on the executive committee of the National Associations Active in Criminal Justice, I was fortunate to have a successful career in the oil and gas business and was able to dedicate my time and expertise within the criminal justice system with no need for compensation.
During the past five years, I've been an active volunteer at William Head Institution on Vancouver Island. Our 7th Step institutional self-help group there primarily consisted of inmates serving life sentences for murder. All of our members were actively working on release plans as they neared their parole eligibility dates. They were not always successful in their first or even second attempts. However, with perseverance and co-operation with their case management teams as well as their own personal development and accountability, our members were able to gain their releases to the community and are contributing members of society today. Of our eight original group members, our last active member was released on day parole to a community residential facility in Victoria this past September. We are planning for a new group to start once COVID restrictions allow. This tells me that a system of supervised release is an important and necessary part of the reintegration process.
I fully support the mandate of the Parole Board of Canada, and I do have some knowledge of their selection of board members, having acted as a reference for two people who had applied for part-time parole positions in the past. I understand the selection process to be quite rigorous, with extensive training once a person is selected. I know that the Parole Board members are charged with an onerous responsibility in administering decisions regarding release on passes, day parole and full parole. I do not interact directly with sitting parole board members, but I do have feedback from the inmates who appear before them and know that the hearings are intense, in depth and thorough.
As a citizen and a member of the community, it gives me a sense of comfort to know that in addition to the professionals and volunteers working with offenders in the system, there's an oversight body that makes the final decision on an inmate's suitability for release into the community. Once the decision to release an inmate has been made, the responsibility for supervision in the community then rests with the Parole Board or the Correctional Service of Canada. Although the final responsibility still rests with the Parole Board, the direct supervision is handled at a community level.
I have read the board of investigation's report regarding the release of Eustachio Gallese and his supervision in the community. I believe that the tragic death of Marylène Levesque was an anomaly but cannot judge if it could have been predicted since I'm not a psychiatric expert and know nothing of the offender's personality. If warning signs were overlooked or ignored, this is obviously very concerning and needs to be addressed.
I can only say that in my previous experience as a contract parole supervisor, albeit many years ago, there was very good communication and accountability between our agency and the parole service with regard to each case that we supervised, as they had the ultimate responsibility for the offender in the community.
I do not believe that contracted parole supervision presents an undue risk to the community, if proper protocols are followed and there is clear communication in all directions.
In this specific case and gauging from the board of inquiry report, there is some ambiguity as to how the direct supervision of Mr. Gallese was administered. Hopefully, if there were gaps, they will be closed in the future.
It is not for me to assign blame in this case, since I have only a peripheral understanding of it. I can only state that predicting human behaviour is not an exact science in many respects, but with adequate assessment and preparation, proper supervision, and follow-up with clear communication, the chance of this happening again is unlikely.
My recommendation—
George Myette
View George Myette Profile
George Myette
2021-04-14 16:14
Thank you.
My recommendation is that this one tragedy not become an event that unduly affects a highly effective parole release system but instead serves as an opportunity for improvement and increased security for the community.
Thank you for your time. I welcome any questions.
Michel Lafrenière
View Michel Lafrenière Profile
Michel Lafrenière
2021-04-14 16:14
Thank you very much.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to testify before the committee today.
The point of my appearance is not to blame anyone, but rather to suggest potential solutions to improve the system in order to better protect society.
I am testifying today as an individual. I am a retired lawyer and a former board member of the Parole Board of Canada. I began my career in 1979 as a private practice lawyer, in Drummondville. In 1986, I was appointed as a part-time board member, and I continued to practice law part time. In 1991, I was appointed as a full–time board member—
Michel Lafrenière
View Michel Lafrenière Profile
Michel Lafrenière
2021-04-14 16:16
I am testifying today as an individual, not only as a retired lawyer, but also as a former board member of the Parole Board of Canada. I started my private practice in 1979, in Drummondville. While continuing with my practice, I was a part–time board member starting in 1986. Five years later, in 1991, I was appointed as a full–time board member for a five–year term, which ended in 1996.
During the first part of my career, I spent 10 years with the Parole Board of Canada, from 1986 to 1996. My term was unfortunately not renewed in 1996, despite evaluations indicating superior performance. I then continued my career at Correctional Service Canada, including at the national correctional staff college as the person in charge of legal training for correctional officers, parole officers, correctional supervisors, emergency teams and new employees. I remained there for 11 years, until 2008. I once again applied for the position of board member at the Parole Board of Canada. My term was renewed in 2013 for five years, and it came to an end in 2018.
So I have 20 years of experience at the Parole Board of Canada and 11 years at Correctional Service Canada, in addition to my years in private practice. At the end of my term in 2018, I asked that the term be renewed on a part-time basis. I was then 66 years old and felt that I could, as a board member, share my knowledge with new board members and act as a mentor. I applied and passed a written test, but I have unfortunately never heard back. I then understood that my term would not be renewed. The Parole Board of Canada is a formidable organization, which has very worthwhile results. Yet it is almost the only organization that is incapable of keeping its most experienced members and is constantly being imposed new board members, as if it had a revolving door or positions with ejection seats.
I will now talk to you about what happened a bit more recently. From 2015 to 2017, no board member's term was renewed, which led to a shortage of board members and a significant workload overload, to the point where public safety was sometimes jeopardized. After that, 2017–2018 saw an influx of new board members. The Parole Board of Canada has, of course, a good training plan for new board members: two weeks in Ottawa and three weeks in the regions. However, that is still basic training, with the rest being acquired through ongoing training over the years and through daily experience. I know from experience that it takes from 18 to 24 months for a board member to feel comfortable with the system and become independent. During that period, new board members are usually provided with support, paired with board members with five, 10, 15 and even 20 years of experience.
When the tragic event that brings us here today occurred, there were not enough experienced board members at the Parole Board of Canada, forcing it to have board members with little experience hear complicated cases, like that of Mr. Gallese. I noted that, in the first ruling, the board members had eight months of experience and, in the second ruling, 14 months. That is little experience for such complex cases.
When I arrived at the Parole Board of Canada, in 1986, we had five board members handling cases similar to that of Mr. Gallese. Over the years, that number dropped to four, then three, and they are now two. I think the work can be done by two board members, as long as—
Michel Lafrenière
View Michel Lafrenière Profile
Michel Lafrenière
2021-04-14 16:21
The work can be done by two board members, as long as they have the experience.
I am not saying today that the decisions made in Mr. Gallese's case are not good. They are decisions that, overall, comply with the board's legislation and policies. However, I think that somewhat different decisions could have been made and that the members did not really have all the experience needed to see the entire range of decisions available to them, as decision-makers, at that time.
I saw that revocation was considered, but that Mr. Gallese's progress was used as a justification not to proceed in that way. I think this is a decision that—
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
CPC (AB)
View Shannon Stubbs Profile
2021-04-14 16:23
Thanks, Mr. Chair, and thank you to both the witnesses for being here today.
Mr. Lafrenière, I would invite you to continue to expand on the point you were making about the importance of having experienced parole board members making decisions. In this case, do you want to comment about the impacts, which I think you were beginning to expand on, and whether you think the people making those decisions knew all the options available to them at the time?
Michel Lafrenière
View Michel Lafrenière Profile
Michel Lafrenière
2021-04-14 16:24
When they decided not to revoke the inmate's day parole, the board members could have extended it, but not for six months. They could have extended it for one or two months, scheduled a new hearing and requested a new release plan and a new, updated psychological evaluation. The evaluation that the board members had was done in 2017, although our policy dictates that these evaluations are valid for two years. They could have requested a new evaluation for a new hearing and, in the meantime, kept the offender on day parole and taken away certain release privileges or certain types of access in the community, so that he could only be released to go to work.
Moreover, in the first decision, I noted that the board members had imposed a special condition for psychological monitoring on Mr. Gallese. However, six months after the decision, the monitoring had not yet begun. So I feel a new risk assessment was necessary, especially since they had learned at the hearing that Mr. Gallese had been authorized to frequent massage parlours.
I also feel that the board members should have imposed a special condition specifically prohibiting Mr. Gallese from going to massage parlours. I know that this point was raised at the hearing, but on the parole officer's recommendation, the board members preferred to give him only a verbal prohibition. The disadvantage of a verbal prohibition, as opposed to strict imposition of a special condition, is that, should the inmate fail to comply, the parole officer has no other choice but to suspend the inmate and inform the Parole Board. A simple verbal instruction gives a great deal of leeway to the parole officer, who can take various types of action and decide not to suspend the inmate. In such cases, they have no obligation to inform the board.
Another benefit of imposing a special condition is that it appears on the certificate of release that the inmate must carry at all times. In addition, if police officers stop the inmate, they have access to the system, which allows them to know which prohibitions have been imposed. They can therefore proceed with the suspension and notify the Correctional Service of Canada.
Also, if a special condition had been imposed, the Correctional Service would have automatically been informed, and it would have been aware of Mr. Gallese's situation. However, none of that information was included in the written decision, which meant the service was not aware of the actual situation. It also kept the information from any future board members called upon to make decisions, as well as future parole officers, since multiple officers are known to take turns on a single case.
I also noted a significant disparity between the decision expressed verbally to the inmate and the written version. As a result, much was lost. In my opinion, experienced board members would be unlikely to have proceeded in this manner. Instead, they would have imposed a special condition prohibiting Mr. Gallese from frequenting massage parlours. The board members probably could have requested a new psychological evaluation, since the one on file was out of date.
Does that answer your question?
View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First of all, what happened to Marylène Levesque in Sainte-Foy is certainly incredibly sad. I feel it's vitally important that we learn from it. However, it's important to know that cases involving repeat violent offenders are extremely rare in Canada. So the fact remains that the system works most of the time, even if it failed in this particular case.
Mr. Myette, in your experience, what are the best practices for reintegrating a repeat offender? What is most effective?
George Myette
View George Myette Profile
George Myette
2021-04-14 16:30
Thank you, Mr. Lightbound.
I think preparation in the institution is one of the most important parts of reintegration.
I just want to say one thing as well, in case it doesn't get picked up somewhere else. As in this particular case, I think any case in which there is intimate partner violence has to be looked at even more closely than in other forms of murder.
As I mentioned in my statement, I've worked with people who have committed murder and who are doing life sentences. The 7th Step Society tends to work with recidivists, people who have been in and out of the system in the past and haven't responded well to other treatment or forms of reintegration. The most important part—it's our first step, in fact—is trying to get that individual to really face the truth about themselves and the world around and decide that they need to change. Realistically, in any case, preparation during the person's sentence, before the person ever leaves the institution, is probably the foundation, because we're talking about corrections, rehabilitation and reintegration.
Quite frankly, I have to agree with a lot of what Mr. Lafrenière said in his assessment of the situation, although not necessarily all of it.
To answer your question about preparing people, in terms of developing positive and healthy relationships with individuals who come in to the institution, especially the community members who are able to come in to the institution.... Don't forget that people in an institution, especially if they're serving a life sentence, do become institutionalized. Their reference points are within the institution. It doesn't matter what kind of programming they're getting if they have no contact with the outside world. It doesn't mean that their initial problems were fixed just because they spent 10, 15 or even 20 years, in some cases, in an institution. The real preparation comes as the person is cascaded from maximum—which most life sentences start as—down to minimum security. The last period, especially in minimum security, is exposure to the community and to people who come in as volunteers and help that individual to be able to start to develop. That is a primary issue, especially if the person's had issues in the past with interpersonal relationships. Then of course, if you have addiction issues, the person has to deal with that, so the process has to start well before the person is ever released.
In Mr. Gallese's case, I have no idea if he was getting escorted or unescorted passes, or if he had come out of a minimum security institution. I didn't see that, necessarily, in the board of inquiry report. I'm not sure of that part and can't really speak to it in this case.
Certainly once someone—and especially in the case of someone with that sort of a violent incident in their background—is released into the community, they've already spent...I think in his case it was 13 years.
I notice, for example, that he was given liberty from the halfway house within one day to be out in the community unsupervised. To me, there are some safeguards that can be built in there, and a more gradual release.
I speak from my own experience, having been in an institution and thinking that the minute I walked out the door, my problems were solved. That's a pretty common misconception that a lot of offenders have, because their problems aren't solved. Life suddenly hits you squarely in the face, and a lot of the issues that you might have dealt with beforehand are still there.
To try to answer your question—I'm not sure I'll give you the total specific answer you're looking for—I think that preparation before release is really important. It's not just from the CSC programs that are delivered in the institution; I think exposure to community influences is really the key factor.
View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
I believe I won't have time for another question.
Thank you, Mr. Myette. In my opinion, the services you provide make for a solution that must be prioritized.
In the Board of Investigation report, the Parole Board's decision is not faulted, it's the supervision provided by the parole case management team, the officers themselves. That's where the shortcomings were.
Thank you for your very helpful testimony, Mr. Myette.
View Kristina Michaud Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Gentlemen, thank you for being with us and for your testimony. We are extremely grateful.
Mr. Lafrenière, at the beginning of your speech, you stated that you were not here to blame anyone, but rather to help improve the system. That's what we want to do as well.
As Mr. Lightbound said, repeat violent offender cases like this are very rare, but it's still one too many. We need to try to understand how and why this happened. We need to look for solutions so that it doesn't happen again.
You mentioned that overwork and lack of experience on the part of the board members may have prevented them from properly assessing the risks in this case. Could you elaborate on that? Do you feel those factors had a direct impact on the case?
Michel Lafrenière
View Michel Lafrenière Profile
Michel Lafrenière
2021-04-14 16:36
It's hard to determine whether those factors had a direct impact. After all, the person responsible for these events is the offender himself. Still, experienced board members might have made different decisions.
I am not arguing that it was a bad decision. It is consistent with the act, the regulations and the policies. However, experienced board members can make decisions that go beyond simply acting or not acting on Correctional Service recommendations. They can make intermediate decisions.
After reading the decision, and in light of some of the facts that have come to my attention, I would say that a somewhat different decision could have been made in this case. One thing that comes to mind is the fact that Mr. Gallese was allowed to go to massage parlours. That information was not recorded in the written decision.
There's also the fact that Mr. Gallese was still not being psychologically monitored after six months of day parole. Yet, in the original decision, this special condition was imposed because they felt that Mr. Gallese had emotion control issues that were not yet fully resolved. Had I been involved in the hearing as a board member, I would have thought twice about renewing the conditions that existed in the first month for another six months.
Instead, I would have renewed the conditions for a month or two. In addition, I would have required that the psychological monitoring be initiated. I would have required that a new correctional plan be established in light of the permission granted to Mr. Gallese to frequent massage parlours. Finally, I would have required that a new release plan be developed, which I would have reviewed a month or two later to reassess the situation with respect to the violations.
Again, I don't want to say that the decision wasn't right, but it could have been different.
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