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Results: 1 - 60 of 121
View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:13 [p.29448]
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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?
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-06-19 22:18 [p.29448]
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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.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:23 [p.29449]
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Mr. Speaker, to go back to the last answer, I would like to quote for the parliamentary secretary Dr. Adelina Iftene who is a law professor at Dalhousie University. Following these amendments and the response to the work that Senate Pate was doing, she said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards...The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement.
Do the Liberals not believe that living up to the UN standard is the very least they could do, but they have not?
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:54 [p.29453]
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Mr. Speaker, like my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington, I do want to thank the member for his service and say what a pleasure it was to work together on the public safety committee. He is certainly a straight shooter, and it led to probably some of the best witness testimony we could get. At the risk of mixing metaphors, it was also a bit disarming. I think we tend to like to be verbose at committee, but getting to the point is something we could do more of. My thanks to him for that.
I do want to ask the member this question. We have talked a lot about consultations. He mentioned it in the context of correctional officers. We both know from being at the committee that most of the major stakeholders on this file, if not all of them, told us at committee that they were not consulted.
There was a first go that the government had at this, Bill C-56, which never got to be debated at second reading when it was tabled in 2017. This bill was tabled late last year, and we are now finalizing debate. I just wonder what my colleague thinks about this. While there is a tight timeline and he is talking about rushing it, the reality is that with the Ashley Smith inquest and some other things, this has been on the agenda even before the government took power.
I am wondering what the member thinks of the fact that there was the opportunity to consult and there was the opportunity to get it right, but now there have been some court decisions, a rushed timeline and a bit of legislative dropping the ball, if I am allowed that turn of phrase. What does the member think about that situation?
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 22:56 [p.29453]
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Mr. Speaker, I will be proposing an amendment at the end of my speech. Please let me know when I have one minute remaining.
I would like to share with the House a few important quotes.
First, I will go over the topic I just raised in my question to the hon. member for Yellowhead. In Canada, administrative segregation is a scourge. It has been overused for many years and was an issue well before the current government came to power.
During the previous Parliament, two of our colleagues, the member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, who was the critic, and the former member for Alfred-Pellan, Rosane Doré Lefebvre, who was the deputy critic, asked many questions about the inquest into the tragic circumstances surrounding Ashley Smith's death. I invite all parliamentarians who wish to speak about that case to read that file.
It is horrifying to see that this teenager, this child, was killed. The findings of the inquest attest to the negligence and abuse in the prison system. The Correctional Service of Canada has to take responsibility for its role in this tragedy.
It is all the more troubling when we consider that members of her family, namely her mother and her sister, if I remember correctly, came to testify before the Senate committee. Senator Pate, who was doing amazing work on this file long before being appointed to the Senate, had invited them to testify. In their testimony, the family members said they were disappointed and furious with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety, who were supposed to make improvements to ensure that the circumstances surrounding Ashley's death never happened again. They invoked her name and her memory to justify their approach, but in the end this approach will not help resolve the situation at all.
Since the Liberals took office, two courts and the Supreme Court have granted extensions and the government has requested a stay because the legislation before us has not yet passed. The courts found what we have known for a long time, namely that excessive use of administrative segregation is unconstitutional.
That pronouncement is deeply disturbing. We know of numerous cases of abuse. Incidentally, those cases of abuse are not exclusive to federal institutions. However, given our jurisdiction and the limited time we have left, we cannot delve into the many troubling cases that worry us, including the one that happened recently in Ontario.
It is important to bear in mind that the remedy the government is proposing is no remedy at all. In fact, it is quite the contrary. The reason so many stakeholders, and in certain cases, the loved ones of victims of the abusive use of solitary confinement, have deplored this is that all we have is a rebrand. It is solitary confinement under a different name.
As is unfortunately too often the case with the government, we have to propose amendments and make changes to bills, pointing out there are a few things that might be better. Experts agree that the courts will continue to find this practice, even if under a different name like structured intervention units, to be unconstitutional. I will come back to this with some quotes I pulled up earlier, which I want to share with the House.
Bill C-83 was one of the first bills that came before our committee and was opposed by all the witnesses. Rarely had I seen this until quite recently, although there have been a few since then. I am sure Liberal members could pull out a couple of quotes to say that corrections officers think this would be an okay approach. However, the witnesses were opposed to this approach, because a variety of things were not in place that needed to be.
One of the Senate's proposed amendments is to require judicial approval for an inmate to be held in solitary confinement. This is nothing new. Justice Louise Arbour conducted an inquiry into riots at an institution in Saskatchewan. She noted that the overuse of segregation has an impact on inmates.
Judges sometimes impose sentences of imprisonment as part of their duties and authority. However, when segregation is overused, this means that institutions, their managers and, ultimately, the Correctional Service of Canada are altering the judge's decision. They are modifying the sentence handed down by the judge. This was Justice Arbour's argument, which is why she advocated for the use of judicial supervision.
What is particularly troubling to me is that I proposed an amendment, now Senator Pate has proposed an amendment and these amendments are being rejected by the government. My understanding, after hearing the parliamentary secretary's speech earlier tonight, is that it would cause an increased workload on provincial courts. Ultimately, the sad and tragic thing about that argument is that the only reason it would cause an increased workload is because of the abusive use of solitary confinement as so many individuals are being subjected to the practice when they should not necessarily be.
Focusing on women offenders in particular, I presented an amendment at committee to end the practice completely in women's institutions. Why? The figures demonstrate two things. One is that the number of women in solitary confinement is infinitesimal. The practice is not necessary for maintaining security in our institutions, which is obviously the primary reason it is used most of the time. The second is quite simply that pregnant women, women with mental health problems and indigenous women are the women most often negatively affected by the abusive use of solitary confinement. There is certainly an argument to be made about that, but at the very least, it should be with judicial oversight.
In fact, the argument might also be made that Senator Pate's amendment goes too far. I do not think so, which, as I said, leads us to support the amendment, but there are other routes as well. I proposed an amendment that sought a longer period of 15 days before judicial oversight would be required. It is certainly a much longer and wider threshold than what Senator Pate is proposing. That was also rejected.
The fact of the matter is that the issue we are facing here is quite contradictory. I want to go back to another issue that was raised by the parliamentary secretary about the burden we would be putting on provinces. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the burden on provincial mental health hospitals and institutions. That is one of reasons I wanted the Senate amendments. Members will forgive me for not recalling the exact amendment, but this was being proposed.
We look at the same Public Safety department, through the work of my provincial colleague in Queen's Park, Jennifer French. It has fought the Ontario government for years over the fact that it has contracts with Public Safety Canada to detain, in some cases with dubious human rights parameters, immigrants who have sometimes not even committed crimes and have uncertain legal status in our country. When that is the purview of the federal government, these individuals are treated very poorly.
I do not have the title with me, but I would be happy to share with them a great report in the Toronto Star two years ago, if I am not mistaken, on some of these individuals. One individual, for example, in the U.S. was apparently accused of stealing a DVD, but was never found guilty in court. He came to Canada, was working through the process for permanent residency and due to a variety of issues, he is now being detained in a provincial prison under poor circumstances, without the proper accountability that a normal detention process would have. Even though that is the responsibility of the federal government, there are issues like overcrowding and such, and that is through subcontracting that the federal government does with the provinces.
Why am I talking about a completely different case? I am simply trying to demonstrate the government's hypocrisy.
The government has no qualms about working with the provinces. In some cases, it even forces them to implement legislation and various mechanisms related to our legal and correctional systems. Now, the government wants to use the provinces as an argument to continue violating inmates' rights.
As promised, I will share some quotes. I want to share two of them with the House.
First of all, I want to go to the Ontario Court of Appeal ruling granting the second extension, in April. Certainly my colleagues who are lawyers will not appreciate me selectively quoting. It is always a dubious and dangerous game, but I will do so for the sake of expediency. The court said this:
Extensive evidence is put forward outlining the legislative process, the steps necessary to implement the Bill [Bill C-83]including cost, staff training, infrastructure, public consultations.... But this court remains where we were when the first extension was argued: we have virtually nothing to indicate that the constitutional breach identified by the application judge is being or will be addressed in the future.
It is pretty clear from that quote and that extension, and not even the initial judgment ruling that the practice was unconstitutional, that this is an issue the bill will not resolve.
I sort of opened the door to this at the beginning, and I did not quite finish that thought, but I did want to come back to it, because I just mentioned the second extension.
Bill C-56 was tabled in 2017, the first attempt by the government to deal with this, because it was, after all, part of not one minister's but two ministers' mandate letters, the minister of justice and the Minister of Public Safety. As I said, it was a debate that began in the previous Parliament and even before through a variety of public inquiries and the like.
Finally, we get to Bill C-83, which was tabled late last year. Here we are now, at the eleventh hour, having it rammed through, because the government, quite frankly, did not do its proper homework. It is problematic, because here we have the Liberals asking for extensions and having to go now, in the last few weeks, to the Supreme Court, of all places, to get an additional extension. The thing is that the witnesses at committee were not consulted. No one was consulted except the officials in the minister's office, and they all came to committee to tell us that.
I would like someone to explain to me how this could be an issue when the Prime Minister included it in his 2015 mandate letters for the ministers responsible. A bill was introduced in 2017, and two decisions by two different courts, the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, were handed down in late 2017 and early 2018. Then Bill C-83 was introduced in late 2018. Then not one, not two, but three applications were filed for an extension to implement what the courts had requested.
That is interesting. I have a great deal of respect for my colleague from Oakville North—Burlington. Earlier, when she asked the member for Yellowhead a question, she stated that it might be more beneficial for correctional officers if we were to pass the bill so as not to have to impose the will of the courts upon them.
Personally, to defend human rights and prevent people from dying in our prisons due to excessive use of administrative segregation, I would like the courts' restrictions and terms to be imposed. Of course, that is what we wanted to see in the legislation.
On a similar note, I would like to come back to the UN rules concerning segregation, which are known as the Nelson Mandela rules.
They cover a number of factors: the number of consecutive days in administrative segregation, the number of consecutive hours in administrative segregation and the number of hours spent outside the cell. Viewers might see that last point as problematic, but when inmates are outside their cells, they are not frolicking in wildflower meadows. I hope my colleagues will forgive my humorous tone when talking about such a serious issue. All that means is outside the cell used for administrative segregation. The rules also mention the importance of meaningful human contact.
Now I would like to read the quote I read a small part of when I asked the parliamentary secretary a question.
Dr. Adelina Iftene is a law professor at Dalhousie University. I will read the full quote and I ask for colleagues' indulgence. She said:
The government claims that these units don’t fall under the definition of solitary confinement because the amount of time prisoners would be alone in their cells is 20 hours versus 22 hours. While that falls within UN standards, the amount of time prisoners would have meaningful contact with other human beings–-two hours per day--does not. The UN standards state that meaningful contact of two hours or less per day is also considered solitary confinement. The government simply cannot argue that its proposed regime is not segregation. Passing a bill that does not include a cap on segregation time and judicial oversight will lead to another unconstitutional challenge.... Refusal to pass the bill with amendments would be a sign of bad faith, disregard for taxpayers’ money and for the rule of law. It is disheartening to see such resistance to upholding human rights at home by a country that champions human rights abroad.
That drives home the point that the window dressing may have changed, but the store still carries the same goods. Please forgive my use of such a light-hearted expression. The system is the same, and it still has harsh and sometimes fatal consequences for people.
Some people argue that there are public safety reasons for this and that some of these inmates have committed horrible crimes and deserve to be punished. However, by far most of the people subjected to excessive use of administrative segregation struggle with mental health problems. That is a problem because these people are not getting the care they need for either their own rehabilitation or to ensure public safety objectives are achieved and they stop posing a threat to communities and society. Excessive use is at odds with our mental health and rehabilitation goals, and that is bad for public safety. I would encourage anyone who says this measure will improve public safety to think again because there is a situation here we really need to address.
I have a lot more that I would like to say, but my time is running out. As members can see, this problem has been around for years. Many stakeholders gave inspiring testimony, despite the sombre issue and our discouragement with regard to the government's proposals and inaction. What is more, what the Senate has been doing when it comes to some of the bills that were democratically passed by the House is deplorable. I am thinking of the bill introduced by my colleague from James Bay and the one introduced by our former colleague from Edmonton, Rona Ambrose, on sexual assault. That being said, Senator Pate has done extraordinary work. She has experience in the field. She used to work at the Elizabeth Fry Society. She knows what she is talking about, much more than anyone in the House. I tip my hat to her for the amendments that she managed to get adopted in the Senate. I support them.
Accordingly, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Jonquière:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act, be now read a second time and concurred in.”
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View Karine Trudel Profile
NDP (QC)
View Karine Trudel Profile
2019-06-19 23:21 [p.29456]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Beloeil—Chambly for his excellent work.
I have had the opportunity to work with him over the past four years. I find he has a way with words and that his speeches help us better understand what is really going on.
In his speech, my colleague said that he had a lot more to say but that he was running out of time. I would therefore like him to take this opportunity to elaborate further.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 23:22 [p.29456]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her kind words, which are very much appreciated.
Indeed, this is a complex file. As I said earlier today during the debate on another motion, when dealing with public safety and correctional institutions, people often talk about individuals who do not deserve any sympathy, and with good reason. However, we have a duty to make sure they are rehabilitated. That is one of the objectives of the Correctional Service of Canada. It it also an objective that we all should share, for reasons I mentioned, namely public safety. After all, any effort we can make to lower recidivism rates will contribute to public safety.
We also need to uphold human rights. To repeat some of the quotation I read, we champion human rights abroad and denounce how prisoners are treated in other countries. I will not name any, but we can all think of some examples. It is important that we be consistent here at home.
We must acknowledge that human rights abuses can adversely affect the mental health of Canadian citizens, whether criminal or not, and then those individuals continue their journey as inmates in a correctional institution. In some cases, it can even cause the deaths of certain individuals, in all kinds of tragic circumstances. We need to recognize that there is a still a great deal of work to be done.
In closing, I am very disappointed that the government has done nothing even though it clearly said it would fix the problem. Civil society is progressing, but the government is satisfied with what it has done. Unfortunately, regardless of what the parliamentary secretary said earlier, the Liberals agreed to amendments that are, at best, cosmetic and, at worst, watered down and much weaker than what was put forward initially.
I believe this measure comes to us from the minister's office and does not take into account the goals Canadians want us to achieve. It certainly does not reflect what we heard from people who are involved in this issue and have spent decades working to improve our communities, in part through the correctional system.
I thank my colleague for giving me the opportunity to recap.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-06-19 23:25 [p.29457]
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Mr. Speaker, since this may be the last time to speak on this issue, which we have had the chance to work on, I want to thank the member for her advocacy and the opportunity we had to work together.
As I mentioned in a previous response, the public safety file is a challenging one because we are sometimes swimming upstream when it comes to dealing with complicated issues that are not always the issues that garner the most sympathy from the public, but they do have important outcomes for our communities and for many individuals in Canada.
We were able to accomplish many important things, and I thank the member for that and for her continued advocacy. As she mentioned, while we might disagree, I certainly know that, at the very least, she is a persistent voice in the minister's ear on some of these issues.
I am never going to speak against any further investment on issues that I believe are important, and certainly the investments she talked about are important. It does leave me to raise a final concern with the remaining few seconds that I probably have left. There were some specifics I raised at committee, concerns that I had with some of the wording of the bill.
Often, as I mentioned earlier, corrections officers do not have the resources, or even if there are mental health resources in an institution, they might not always be readily available at the time of an incident. Therefore, it sometimes makes it challenging for them to make the decision that leads to the best mental health outcomes.
My concern is that some aspects of the bill are phrased in such a way that there could be a potential loophole. Some of those concerns were alleviated, but others still remain. I am pleased to see them continue to go in that direction, but unfortunately we will have to agree to disagree on the substance of the bill.
I do not believe that this is the right approach. I want to see strong parameters around the use of solitary confinement in the country, in line with the court decisions we have seen, with UN standards and certainly with judicial oversight. That is the direction I believe we need to go in.
Again, I want to say that it has been a pleasure to work with the member and hopefully we can push these issues forward in the years to come, even if it is not in these roles or any other roles that we might play in this place.
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View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
NDP (QC)
View Pierre-Luc Dusseault Profile
2019-06-19 23:44 [p.29460]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech, and for her work on this file.
The obvious question in this debate was raised by my colleague, our critic on this file, who delivered a very eloquent speech. There is no need for me to repeat it. It is very likely that the constitutionality of this legislation will be challenged in court once it is passed and receives royal assent.
I would like to know what my colleague thinks about the constitutionality of this legislation. Does she think it will stand up in court in the event of a challenge?
Later on, when we review previous debates of the House, we will know whether my colleague was on the right side of history or whether she was mistaken on this.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2019-06-17 12:08 [p.29164]
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Mr. Speaker, I am so saddened, as I think most Canadians are, that every day the Liberals continue to repudiate all the commitments they made back in 2015 to work with members of the House of Commons, to stop omnibus legislation and to stop the abuse of the use of closure.
As the House knows, the government has gone far beyond the previous government's abuse of closure by bringing in a new “gag” closure that allows only 20 minutes of discussion after it is moved and only one member of the government gets to speak. Members of the opposition do not get to ask questions, make comments or anything of that nature. It shows how toxic the government has become with respect to trying to move legislation through the House and get it improved so the legislation does what it purports to do.
In the case of Bill C-83, the NDP offered dozens of amendments, because the bill has been largely criticized by the Elizabeth Fry Societies and many other intervenors. We brought forward the witness testimony and said it would improve the bill. The government refused all of that.
Is that not the reason why the government is ramming it through today, because it is a controversial bill that has been much criticized and the government refused to listen to all the witnesses and members of the opposition who tried to make improvements?
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View Alistair MacGregor Profile
NDP (BC)
View Alistair MacGregor Profile
2019-06-17 12:18 [p.29165]
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Mr. Speaker, with respect to the minister, I do understand the difference between a closure motion and time allocation. I realize that the government is allocating time for this.
The major issue, though, is the fact that on Friday Bill C-83 had proceeded with only four minutes of debate when the government House leader rose in the House to give notice that time allocation was going to be moved. I understand that this bill is at a relatively advanced stage, however, it is tradition that this House, the people's House, the representatives of each of these ridings get to have the time to carefully consider what the other place has done.
When I put what the government's actions are with respect to Bill C-83 within the context of what it did on Thursday with all of the other government bills, I think the pretense of any respect for Parliament has completely evaporated. Right now, the government is quite obvious. It has a week left, it has a checklist, and is it going to use its majority to simply ram through every piece of legislation, no matter what members of the opposition might have to say on it, despite the fact that on this side of the House, our parties, collectively, represent roughly 60% of the Canadian populace.
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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-06-17 12:24 [p.29166]
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Mr. Speaker, I too am disturbed about the fact that the government is using this tactic bringing either time allocation or closure to this House on government bills. This would be the 76th time that the government has embarked on this since I have been here.
This is the end of our term but I am still a new member of Parliament. I still recall that in the 2015 election the Liberal members advocated for and promised Canadians that they would not embark on a process like the Harper government of shutting down debate in this House to put in time allocation or closure. Here we are, yet again, doing exactly that. Last week, the government moved a similar motion twice in one day on different bills.
I would say this to the minister. Will the Liberals not follow up on what they promised Canadians in the 2015 election and stand down on this motion?
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Peter Julian Profile
2019-06-17 12:33 [p.29167]
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Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier and will say again, the government has repudiated all the promises it made back in 2015.
The minister was being a bit disingenuous a few minutes ago, when he said that this is not omnibus legislation. A point that opposition members have been making is that the government said it would end the practice of omnibus legislation, but instead it has accelerated it.
In terms of the gag closure, the government said that it would reduce the number of times it would impose closure, but instead it has accelerated it. The gag closure, which is a new measure, never before seen in Canadian history, eliminates the right of opposition members to even speak to a bill once closure is moved. The 20-minute government speech is all that is permitted on the floor of the House of Commons.
We have before us legislation that is deeply flawed, and, for the 76th time, the government is imposing closure. The nitpicking about it being a different category of closure, TA closure as opposed to standard closure or gag closure, does not make the harm that this does to Parliament any less. The Liberal government has used closure 76 times, proportionally more than the Harper government.
The bill itself is deeply flawed. There is no limit on the number of days that somebody can be put in solitary confinement. Is that not the reason why the government is trying to ram the bill through the House?
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-05-31 11:45 [p.28350]
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Mr. Speaker, for four years now, the Minister of Public Safety has been ignoring decisions handed down by various courts ruling that excessive use of solitary confinement is unconstitutional.
Yesterday, the family of Ashley Smith spoke out against the government's broken promises and the fact that it is invoking their daughter's name to justify its failure to act. Bill C-83 will do nothing to fix this appalling situation.
Will the government abandon the bill, comply with the court rulings and, above all, apologize to the family of Ashley Smith?
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2019-03-01 10:23 [p.26005]
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Mr. Speaker, as I often like to say, I love to see the Conservatives and Liberals argue about who provided less for the public services we need. In this case, we know that the key problem with the management of offenders is the lack of resources for treatment programs and rehabilitation programs.
The minister asked why the NDP is opposing this bill. I want to cite two people who are probably the country's best authorities on this issue. One is Senator Kim Pate, who said, “With respect to segregation, Bill C-83 is not only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”.
Ivan Zinger, the correctional investor, said, “Bill C-83 is widening the net of those restrictive environments. There's no procedural safeguard.”
These two people, undoubtedly the people who know the most about this in the entire country, have said that this is just a rebranding. We are going to end up back in front of the courts with the same problem of violation of people's rights, and we are going to end up with more victims of this system of segregation, because the bill expands the net of those who will be drawn into it.
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View Linda Duncan Profile
NDP (AB)
View Linda Duncan Profile
2019-03-01 10:45 [p.26008]
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Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate if the member would correct the slight he made to my colleague.
The Hon. Kim Pate, senator and former long-standing head of the Elizabeth Fry Society and who received the Order of Canada for her work against segregation in prisons, said two days ago that Bill C-83 could have been made meaningful. Instead of just changing the name, the government could have made significant changes by including provisions that would allow for the transfer of those who had mental problems to mental health facilities. I wonder if the member could speak to that.
Would the legislation really resolve the problem we face where so many have been put in segregation and suffer severe mental problems? There are other solutions? I have worked with many people in the criminal law field. I have been to those facilities of incarceration. The Hon. Kim Pate is a person whose advice should be considered.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2019-03-01 12:23 [p.26026]
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Mr. Speaker, anyone who has looked at this question of solitary confinement, administrative segregation or its new title, structured integration units, knows that those with mental illness problems are the ones most likely to end up in this situation. I know the hon. member was not here in the last Parliament, but the Conservatives brought in an extremely large number of mandatory minimum sentences, which resulted in people who should otherwise be treated for mental illness ending up in a corrections situation.
Does he still support the use of mandatory minimums, which result in people with mental illness ending up in administrative segregation?
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2019-03-01 12:26 [p.26026]
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Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.
I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.
I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.
In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.
The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.
I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.
One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.
Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.
Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.
In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.
We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.
One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.
I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.
While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.
In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.
Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.
When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.
Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.
The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.
If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.
The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.
There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.
The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.
A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.
The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.
We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.
When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.
I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.
The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.
What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.
The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.
While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.
The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.
What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.
Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:
With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a re-branding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.
Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.
Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.
Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.
The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.
Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.
Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.
I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.
Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.
As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2019-03-01 12:46 [p.26029]
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Mr. Speaker, I would have to say that the hon. member is wrong. We opposed this bill at all stages.
However, what I said at the beginning still remains. New Democrats would have liked to support a bill that recognized the realities in the corrections system. There needs to be something to deal with some of the people who are the most difficult to deal with in the system. We are not denying that. However, we have to have a regime set up that guarantees the safety of corrections workers and the safety of other offenders, and at the same time we have to make sure that those difficult offenders still get addictions treatment, still get rehabilitation and still have their rights respected within the criminal justice system.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2019-03-01 12:48 [p.26030]
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Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises an important point. The independence and impartiality of our criminal justice system, and the firewall that should be there to protect politicians of any stripe from using that system to advance the interests of their friends, is important.
It is important in the corrections world for another reason, which is to make sure that people are treated fairly, not that the most unpopular people are treated worse than other people who we might think are more deserving.
We have a system that it is never popular to advocate for. We are not going to win any kudos in most places by going out and saying that we need to spend more money on offenders, but in fact, we need to spend more money on offenders. If we want to have public safety, if we want to have rehabilitation and if we want to have our communities secure, we have to have a correctional service that deals with mental health and addictions problems and provides rehabilitation. Ultimately, that is the way to get community safety.
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View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
NDP (QC)
View Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Profile
2019-03-01 12:50 [p.26030]
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Mr. Speaker, no matter how it is called, we are talking about the confinement of an individual. We are talking about a man or a woman who is deprived of all human contact for 22 hours a day. The proposed changes will make that 20 hours a day. It is not a big difference.
As my colleague said, these people often have mental health problems. Even if they are offered certain services, they have mental health problems. In addition, there will no longer be a limit on the number of days they spend in solitary confinement.
I would like to ask my colleague what effect that could have on people who already have mental health issues.
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View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
View Randall Garrison Profile
2019-03-01 12:50 [p.26030]
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Mr. Speaker, the research on the phenomenon of solitary confinement is quite clear that solitary confinement exacerbates mental illness problems. It makes what we call psychiatric disorders much worse. It does that through the conditions under which people are held. Quite often, in situations like that of Mr. Capay, in Ontario, people are held in conditions where the lights are always on so they cannot sleep. Not only are they denied basic human contact, they are held in conditions that are actually labelled by the courts as being inhumane.
The other part of this is that while people are in this kind of segregation, they cannot access mental health supports. Those who need the help the most are most often those who are in segregation and therefore cannot get treatment.
I am not disputing that there needs to be some kind of regime for the most difficult offenders. Quite often when they are suffering from mental health and addiction issues, they are not behaving rationally. We have to have some kind of system, but it has to respect their right to get treatment, to get rehabilitation and to be treated as human beings.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-26 10:51 [p.25775]
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Mr. Speaker, here we have a bill that is a new iteration of dealing with solitary confinement. Bill C-56 was tabled almost two years ago, and then we had two court decisions that the government has clearly not complied with. Those two court decisions addressed abuses of what is called administrative segregation but is better known as solitary confinement in federal prisons. The courts found that the abuses were unconstitutional in different ways, and extremely troubling and problematic.
The government is not only appealing those decisions but also coming forward with a bill it is claiming would get rid of the practice altogether, when in reality, as every stakeholder has said, this is just the same practice under a different name. Every single witness who came to committee, barring officials from the minister's department, panned this bill. The corrections investigator referred to it as something that was not well thought out.
Therefore, two years after the first piece of legislation and with two appeals before the courts, why do the Liberals now all of a sudden feel the need to time allocate, when clearly both the consultation that was done and all the thought behind this bill were simply not adequate to address the types of human rights abuses we are seeing too often in our prisons?
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows very well that Bill C-83 had to be brought in because of superior court decisions in Ontario and British Columbia that found the current segregation policy to be unconstitutional.
In the two rulings handed down in Quebec and Ontario, recommendations were made and put in writing to explain their decision and to guide future government policy or legislation.
Bill C-83, however, fails to implement most of these recommendations, and I would like to ask my colleague why that is.
Why did the government refuse to consider the recommendations of the judges, who ruled that the situation was unconstitutional?
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View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2019-02-26 12:38 [p.25785]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
I just heard him say that the purpose of this process is to place criminals back into society as safely as possible following their time in prison.
He must be familiar with the two provincial rulings, one in British Columbia and the other in Ontario, I believe, that challenged the value of administrative segregation.
Would the member not agree that administrative segregation is often used in the case of people with mental health issues and that, in many cases, this only makes matters worse?
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View Pierre Nantel Profile
Ind. (QC)
View Pierre Nantel Profile
2019-02-26 12:53 [p.25787]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech.
I understand her reaction to the comments made by my Conservative colleague from Cariboo—Prince George regarding the worst of the worst. I agree with her. These individuals must be treated like human beings. Earlier a Conservative member said that segregation problems are often related to mental health issues, and I understand those concerns.
Considering my colleague's expertise, however, I do not understand how she cannot see that the bill, in its current form, will cause the same problems that led to the rulings handed down by the two provincial courts.
Is that not the case?
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-02-26 13:24 [p.25791]
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Mr. Speaker, I had a number of amendments accepted in this process, and I found the clause-by-clause process of Bill C-83 to be quite collaborative.
I was briefly out of the chamber. Therefore, I have to apologize if this point has come up already.
Earlier today one of my hon. friends referred to people in segregation units or solitary confinement as the worst of the worst. I think of the coroner's report with respect to what happened to Ashley Smith. She was a young woman with mental health issues who was moved 17 times in the period before she was found in her cell. She had committed suicide, but the correctional guards were watching as she died. The coroner's report was very clear.
This bill attempts to deal with some of that. Edward Snowshoe is another example of somebody who died in solitary confinement. These are not the worst of the worst; rather, “There but for fortune may go you or I.” Ashley Smith's mother was desperate to help her. However, the correctional authorities and the system kept a mother away from a girl who was suffering and ultimately killed herself. Therefore, let us not judge the people who get stuck in solitary confinement, but rather recognize it for what it is: a form of torture, which we must not use.
This bill does not go far enough. I will vote for it and hope it gets improved again in the Senate.
I wanted to ask my hon. colleague to talk about the fact that some of the people in solitary confinement are there because of mental health and addiction issues. Could he explain how it compounds the torture when they are kept away from people who can have good, healthy contact with them?
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View Guy Caron Profile
NDP (QC)
Mr. Speaker, the question is quite simple. I asked another Liberal member the same question, but I did not really get a response.
Bill C-83 was tabled in response to decisions handed down by superior courts in Ontario and British Columbia that deemed the current administrative segregation model unconstitutional. These decisions included a number of recommendations, but upon reviewing Bill C-83, it would seem that most of them were overlooked.
Why did the government not seize this opportunity to respond to the two court rulings that struck down the current administrative segregation model as unconstitutional?
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2019-02-26 15:35 [p.25811]
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Madam Speaker, there is a large philosophical gap between those who see our prisons as correctional facilities, with the hope that people will re-enter the population, and the notion of “tough on crime” we heard through the Harper years.
Because my friend from Battle River—Crowfoot is, in fact, a friend, I will ask him this. The cuts that occurred in the Harper years included eliminating the chaplaincy program in our prisons. They also included eliminating the farm program, prison farms, so that people who had been convicted of crimes could get outdoors and do a good day's work, as I know my hon. colleague does, where he lives in the Prairies, on his farm.
Do we not all in this place owe it to people who find themselves incarcerated to try to get them on a path to being able to take up a job in society again? Can we not stop saying that if they are in prison, they must be in the worst possible conditions, and find those conditions that actually lead to their being able to play a useful role in society? Why cancel the chaplaincy program? Why get rid of prison farms?
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View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 15:51 [p.25813]
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Madam Speaker, the bill talks about structured intervention units. However, when we read Bill C-83, we see that it covertly replicates administrative segregation.
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View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
One of the major differences is that inmates who spend 22 to 23 hours a day in segregation will now spend only 20 hours a day in segregation, but still for an indefinite period of time. A number of courts, including the courts in Ontario and British Columbia, found that to be unconstitutional.
It is unconstitutional because inmates can be kept in segregation for an indefinite period of time and because there is no oversight. Without independent oversight, segregation can aggravate mental health problems and produce permanent negative mental health effects. It has been proven that many indicators of mental illness, such as psychosis and suicide attempts, can be seen as early as 48 hours after segregation. People have committed suicide because they were placed in—
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View Karine Trudel Profile
NDP (QC)
View Karine Trudel Profile
2019-02-26 16:06 [p.25815]
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Madam Speaker, amendments were made to the bill at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Out of the 22 amendments proposed by the NDP, only two were adopted. It was the same thing for the Conservatives. Out of the 16 amendments they proposed, only one was adopted. However, all 21 Liberal amendments were adopted.
I want to know if my colleague thinks that the Liberals were reasonable in their review of the Conservative and NDP amendments.
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View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 16:21 [p.25817]
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Madam Speaker, I want to know what my colleague thinks of the fact that many of the inmates who are put in administrative segregation for an indeterminate amount of time, sometimes up to 23 hours a day, suffer from mental health problems.
In my opinion, it would make more sense to give them access to mental health services and programs to address the root causes of these problems instead of exacerbating them by placing the inmates in administrative segregation. In fact, when they are released, they pose a public health threat. It makes no sense to propose such a solution in our prisons.
Should the government not review these measures, which have also been deemed unconstitutional?
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View Karine Trudel Profile
NDP (QC)
View Karine Trudel Profile
2019-02-26 16:37 [p.25819]
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Madam Speaker, I would like my colleague's opinion on the follow remarks by Senator Pate.
I will read a few excerpts.
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.
She adds:
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 would like to know what my colleague thinks of that.
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View Sheri Benson Profile
NDP (SK)
View Sheri Benson Profile
2019-02-26 16:51 [p.25821]
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Madam Speaker, I do not believe the member and I would see eye to eye on many things on the issue of public safety and corrections. One thing the member mentioned in his speech on which we could agree is that the changes the government is proposing to solitary confinement are really cosmetic, and they did not get the support of witnesses who came to the committee.
I also want to remind the hon. member that many of the issues we are facing around safety in corrections, for both staff and inmates, have come from years of underfunding and from over-incarcerating people, particularly indigenous people from our province of Saskatchewan.
I have two questions for my hon. colleague. First, does he support the Supreme Court ruling that solitary confinement, or the euphemistic term, “administrative segregation”, is unconstitutional? Does the member agree with that?
Second, does the member agree with the evidence that shows that for those people who have mental health issues, and that group of people in prisons in extremely large, solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, actually exacerbates people's mental health symptoms and causes more harm than good?
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View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 17:18 [p.25825]
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Madam Speaker, I am appalled to hear the Liberals say that Bill C-83 will prevent suicides, when we know that many experts oppose administrative segregation. The bill proposes up to 20 hours a day of segregation for an indefinite period of time.
Two courts, one in Ontario and another in B.C., ruled that indefinite administrative segregation is unconstitutional. Furthermore, there is no independent oversight to assess the restrictions on freedom. Administrative segregation restricts freedom.
It has been proven that more than 48 hours in administrative isolation can cause permanent mental health effects and lead to self-harm, depression, suicide, panic attacks and hypersensitivity to external stimuli. The fact that administrative segregation is still an option is disastrous. The Liberals are just replicating what existed before and claiming to improve the situation.
The Liberals say that this could prevent suicides. However, the new measures aggravate mental health problems related to administrative segregation. In my view, it makes no sense to go down this path.
Today, the government is muzzling MPs. We should be moving amendments to improve the bill. The government rejected virtually all of the NDP and Conservative Party amendments aimed at improving the bill. That is not very professional, and it is very hypocritical. It harms inmates whose mental health problems will be aggravated and who will eventually be released and reintegrated into society.
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View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
NDP (QC)
View Anne Minh-Thu Quach Profile
2019-02-26 17:43 [p.25828]
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Mr. Speaker, many experts have spoken out against this bill.
As the member said, we are talking about structured intervention units, which is just another way of saying “administrative segregation”. The member said this bill reduces the amount of time in administrative segregation from 22 or 23 hours to 20 hours. Wow, what an improvement.
Has the member ever tried locking herself in a room for 20 hours a day, for several days in a row, to see what it does to her body? As I have been saying all afternoon, it has been proven that permanent effects on mental health begin to emerge after 48 hours. These are permanent effects that continue to linger afterwards. These individuals have very little time to access programming, only four hours, in fact.
As the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court of Justice have ruled, indefinite administrative segregation is unconstitutional. The provisions set out in the bill allow for an indefinite period of time, which could be 90 days or 150 days. No one knows.
On top of that, there is no independent oversight. The correctional investigator of Canada also criticized the fact that there are no procedural safeguards to prevent misuse. He foresees many possible cases of misuse and predicts that more and more inmates could be segregated in SIUs. The member is so proud of SIUs, but I think they are very cruel.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 15:45 [p.25642]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.
The improvisation he is talking about is real. We have seen many examples of it.
In all my time as an MP, this is the first time I have seen a bill get rejected by every witness except for departmental officials. That speaks volumes about how effective these measures are.
One of the main reasons the witnesses rejected this bill is that it does not go far enough to eliminate the scourge of solitary confinement in penitentiaries. Solitary confinement has an impact on inmates' mental health. Two courts, one in British Columbia and the other in Ontario, found that it violates the charter. There have also been high-profile cases of deaths, suicides, of people whose mental health suffered as a result of being placed in solitary confinement, both in prisons and in penitentiaries.
I have two questions for my colleague.
Does he subscribe to the social consensus that the use of solitary confinement must be reduced?
Does he agree that our prisons need to be given more resources to deal with serious mental health problems, in terms of both rehabilitation and the safety of inmates, our communities, and guards working in prisons?
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 16:00 [p.25644]
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Mr. Speaker, I would say that our committee indeed works well together. I have a lot of respect for the member opposite, and I think we get a lot of good things done.
That being said, unfortunately, I have issues with the legislation before us, not least of which is that members on the other side continue to talk about ending the practice of solitary confinement, or administrative segregation, to use the legal jargon. The concern the NDP has is that we are going to continue creating these Band-Aid solutions to an issue that is obviously important enough that two courts have ruled that the abuses we see in the current system infringe on Canadians' constitutional rights.
Let us look at the amendments that were proposed. As one example, the member referred to some of the definitions used with respect to indigenous communities. That is interesting, because she referred to working with departmental officials. I proposed an amendment regarding a definition crafted in collaboration with the witnesses we heard, not least of which was the Native Women's Association.
I have a hard time understanding why, after talking about the importance of consultation so many times in the House, we have a bill that was panned by the witnesses. Now we have one amendment at report stage that is 2,000 words long. Does this not demonstrate that we have a patchwork solution for a practice that has been so abused that two courts in the country have found it to be unconstitutional?
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 16:03 [p.25645]
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Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at report stage of Bill C-83.
While we were studying this bill in committee, I saw something that I have rarely seen, if ever, since I became an MP.
All of the witnesses spoke out against the bill to varying degrees, with the exception of departmental officials, of course. This is very worrisome. Context is very important with Bill C-83. This bill is a response to two legal rulings, one from the Supreme Court of British Columbia and another from an Ontario court. Both courts noted cases of abuse in the use of segregation, and they declared it unconstitutional. In response, the government appealed the decision and then introduced Bill C-56 three years ago in 2016, if memory serves. Now, it has introduced Bill C-83, which is completely different.
A question needs to be posed before we even get into the substance of the bill and the amendments. Why is the government, on the one hand, appealing a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, and on the other hand, presenting legislation that it claims will be a remedy for the court's findings of practices, and certain abuses of said practices, that are unconstitutional?
It is a little confusing and extremely concerning when we hear the government continue to say that it has eliminated what is called, in law, administrative segregation, but what most Canadians understand to be solitary confinement. To that end, I want to quote Senator Kim Pate, who has worked extensively on many issues related to justice and public safety, in particular issues relating to the situation in our penitentiaries. One quote stands out. She wrote, “Ottawa cannot declare that segregation has been eliminated, while failing to address the horrors associated with this practice and gutting what minimal restrictions courts have placed on its use.”
The problem is that the new practice replacing segregation will eliminate a number of legal protections.
I will admit that several members from various parties sought to resolve the issue in committee.
The most striking example is that an amendment is usually about 2,000 words long. There was a lot of havoc in the House back in December. Several members raised a point of order because we did not have access to an acceptable French translation. The amendment was literally written moments before debate was scheduled to start. Not to mention that several witnesses in committee spoke out against the lack of consultation on the bill.
I want to come back to what Dr. Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator, who is essentially the watchdog for the correctional system, said when speaking to the bill. Given that my time is limited, I will stick to the one quote that sums up the issue of improvisation. He said, “I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.”
I apologize to Dr. Zinger for not using the full quote. As I said, my time is limited. When we have an expert such as Dr. Zinger saying that something is not fully thought out, that says a lot, unfortunately, about the lack of consultation and the kind of patchwork we are dealing with here.
These are report stage amendments the Liberal members are proposing, let us be clear, after the minister came to committee with the knowledge there would be the requirement of a royal recommendation and having clearly worked with specific members so that they could propose specific amendments to fix a bill that is so unfixable. We end up with a patchwork that in some cases would leave us looking at a period of up to 90 days, potentially, before a case of abusive use of solitary confinement would actually get properly reviewed.
When we consider the work that was done in committee and the statements made by several Liberal members, including the minister, we need to understand that this was already in the mandate letters of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Justice when the government was sworn in. Regrettably, the objectives of the bill before us today have not been achieved.
I will give a few examples of the direction we would like to take. The hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington was right to mention the situation of women. Very few women are placed in segregation, but those who are placed in segregation are often far more vulnerable. Consider serious mental health issues, for example.
After hearing several witnesses in committee, I proposed an amendment eliminating the use of segregation in women’s prisons. It was rejected.
Another example is the possibility of judicial review.
The opportunity for judicial review is one that is really important. It is something that goes back a number of years to a recommendation that was made by Justice Louise Arbour, after the situation that unfolded in the Kingston Penitentiary. She put it much more eloquently than I could when she explained that the abusive use of solitary confinement in Canada undermines our judicial system, because it comes to a point where administrators within the corrections system are playing a role in sentencing. When we get to a point where certain offenders are being treated in a certain way, and in a way that undermines their pathway to rehabilitation and any objectives the court might have set for them in sentencing, then we have come to a situation where the only remedy could be considering a judicial review.
I know others have proposed other tools, rather than just judicial review. I know in committee we heard that judicial review could undermine public safety. That is not so. To go back to the comment my Conservative colleague made that I did not have a chance to respond to, he talked about preventative segregation. That is fine. We understand that there can be a need for it in situations where riots ensue and where safety is in jeopardy, and that there should be an examination of the good use of preventative isolation.
However, that does not need to take place over a prolonged period of time. We are talking about a situation that could be resolved, arguably, in 24 hours. Those were some of the examples that were given to us by, among others, folks from the John Howard Society.
The last aspect I can think of, as I can see that my time is running out, concerns duration.
We have heard a lot about review and accountability mechanisms for prison administrators. Of course, there are the issues of appropriate mechanisms and accountability in the case of mental illness to avoid hindering rehabilitation and improving the mental health of prisoners in segregation.
That said, we missed a great opportunity given that Bill C-56—which was introduced by the same minister but never debated—was already firmly headed in the same direction. We missed the opportunity to enforce the standards established by the United Nations, the Nelson Mandela rules, which limit the duration of administrative segregation to 15 days. We missed the opportunity to directly address the greatest abuses of the system.
In conclusion, despite the good intentions behind the amendments, they are just attempts at fixing a bill that is so bad that it was unanimously condemned in committee. We cannot support this bill.
I hope that the government will seize this opportunity to go back to square one and to drop its appeals of two court decisions stating what we have known for far too long, which is that these abuses of segregation are unconstitutional.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 16:14 [p.25646]
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Mr. Speaker, ultimately, that is the big issue we have here. We have raised this issue several times.
One of the reasons we see the abusive use of solitary confinement in our federal corrections system is the lack of resources. That is one of the things that came back repeatedly during the study of the bill, because we are looking at completely reformatting how our prison system operates but are bringing administrative segregation back under a different name. After repeated questioning, both the minister and the officials were unable to explain to us how much funding would be available or how all of this would be implemented. That is problematic as there is enough fine print in this legislation that, in the event there is a lack of resources to deal with offenders who have serious mental health issues, the only recourse would be to put them in solitary confinement.
The government is going to respond, through the amendments it has brought at report stage, by saying not to worry and that it is dealing with it because there is a review mechanism. However, the problem with that review mechanism is that we are looking at 30 days after an initial decision has been made; 30 days again, after which it goes to another committee; and another 30 days after that. Therefore, it is nowhere near respecting the United Nations' norms and the Mandela rules. Rather, it is going to deal with all of this bureaucracy that ultimately is undermining mental health outcomes and the rights of these individuals.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2019-02-21 16:17 [p.25646]
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Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I am also pleased to be able to work with him in committee.
That is exactly the problem. Correctional officers have to make do with the resources they are given. They say that they want to abide by higher standards when it comes to the mental health of inmates. If the government allocates more financial resources to help inmates with mental health issues, it would inevitably improve prison security.
As my colleague suggested, correctional officers have to improvise in order to follow the directives they are given because they do not have sufficient resources. When Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, appeared before the committee, he said that they would like to apply the new directives, but that it will be extremely problematic if they are unable to do so.
As my colleague said, there is a difference between short-term segregation for security reasons and long-term segregation because the resources are not available to deal with serious mental health problems. Many organizations working in the field raised that issue. Bill C-83 does nothing to address that issue.
We need to go back to square one because the government's bill is worse than a draft. It is unacceptable.
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View Brigitte Sansoucy Profile
NDP (QC)
View Brigitte Sansoucy Profile
2019-02-21 16:30 [p.25648]
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Mr. Speaker, I hear the parliamentary secretary when she speaks to the importance of caring for those with mental health issues.
That is something I have come to understand through decades of work with troubled youth. That kind of support requires resources, however, and the witnesses that appeared before the committee clearly spoke of a lack of resources. To support these people with mental health problems, saying it is important is not enough. The necessary resources need to be there.
I would like to hear what she thinks about the resources the government is prepared to put in place to achieve the objectives she has set for us.
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View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
View Gord Johns Profile
2019-02-21 16:45 [p.25650]
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Mr. Speaker, many cases of inmates who are placed into segregation are related to mental health. Do Conservatives believe that segregation is the way to treat these individuals instead of mental health programming that may help to address the root cause of their behaviour? Does he believe this despite the overwhelming evidence that segregation will likely cause further damage to the mental health of an inmate?
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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-02-21 17:00 [p.25652]
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Mr. Speaker, the bill itself, Bill C-83, will effectively make some tweaks to existing legislation, one of which is to rebrand solitary confinement as administrative segregation in what are called “structured integration units”. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have ruled that administrative segregation is unconstitutional. This bill in and of itself does not fix that issue. In fact, as the member identified, one area of concern that he has centres around mental health.
The bill still allows for indefinite isolation and segregation of up to 20 hours instead of the current 22 to 23 hours This segregation can cause permanent mental health damage to inmates, who need to be integrated into society. I would like to have the member comment with respect to the mental health aspect of this action being taken, as is allowed under this bill.
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View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
View Jenny Kwan Profile
2019-02-21 17:14 [p.25654]
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Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises a very valid point about the lack of consultation, which we have heard from a number of stakeholders who raised concerns with respect to the bill and why they do not support it.
That was also indicative of the number of amendments that the Speaker read at the beginning of this debate, where he spent at least half an hour talking about them. I do not think, as a new member since 2015, that I have gone through a bill where the Speaker spent half an hour outlining the amendments to the bill we were debating. That is also indicative of the lack of foresight from the government side and the lack of homework with respect to the bill.
Having said that, one of the issues the government did not address, which is also central with respect to the bill, is the constitutionality of solitary confinement. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have ruled that it is unconstitutional to have this kind of administrative segregation take place. Would the member agree with the court decision?
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-12-07 10:05 [p.24553]
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Madam Speaker, I would like to draw your attention to the notices of motion that were tabled for the report stage amendments. They are government amendments, since royal recommendations were made.
More specifically, I would like to draw your attention to Motion No. 17. I want to begin by saying that my intention here is not to point the finger at the Journals staff or the translators. We know that last night, at ten to midnight, they were very quietly given some government amendments to a bill that was criticized by all of the witnesses who appeared in committee.
With regard to Motion No. 17, we see that, contrary to usual practice, the French and English versions of the motion do not match up at all. That makes members' work more complicated, particularly the work of members who are bilingual like me, because we want to ensure that the French and English versions match and that everything is consistent. The fact that the two versions are not the same interferes with the work that needs to be done. Once again, I am saying this with the utmost respect for the translators. It is particularly shameful that the government did not submit these notices until last night at 10 p.m., knowing that the debate was taking place today.
I would therefore like to draw the Chair's attention to the government's amateurism since it prevents me, as a bilingual francophone MP, from properly examining the amendments tabled. I would like the Chair to consider this matter and issue a ruling to prevent this type of thing from happening again. I would also like the Chair to verify the admissibility of what is being presented today, of course.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-12-07 10:07 [p.24553]
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Madam Speaker, I am not suggesting the government acted in bad faith, but we are debating these motions today, so when we are told not to worry and that the government is aware of the situation, that is hardly satisfactory. This is what we are debating today, so the whole situation is utterly deplorable.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-12-07 10:09 [p.24553]
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Madam Speaker, on the same point of order, I am very torn. I would say that normally, I would want to accept what the hon. parliamentary secretary said. I have an amendment at report stage. I am prepared to speak to it. However, I do not think the rules of this House would allow us to proceed with an imperfect amendment placed before us at report stage. I do not think we can say that we will proceed and hope it all turns out all right, as much as I would like to. I think it would violate our rules to proceed in such a fashion.
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View Brian Masse Profile
NDP (ON)
View Brian Masse Profile
2018-12-07 10:11 [p.24554]
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Madam Speaker, we are at a crossroads right now with regard to making the situation better or worse, and by continuing, we will make it worse. I would like to point out that this was predictable in the sense that the government is making these amendments and changes at the last minute. This was entirely brought on by its own course of action. This was not the responsible action of the people behind the scenes that make this place work. This was brought about because the Liberals did so at such a late time that it caught up to them. At this point, are we going to make things worse or better? I would suggest that we make them better by deferring.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-12-07 10:13 [p.24554]
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Madam Speaker, I would also like a review of the comments made by the parliamentary secretary who tried to reassure us by saying that a subamendment is coming and will likely be presented by my colleague in her speech on the amendments.
We have not seen those subamendments. That in itself is also problematic, since the government is announcing this to us without us having seen them, saying that this will fix an issue that has nothing to do with today's debate.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2018-12-07 10:14 [p.24554]
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After hearing all the points of order, I will take a few minutes to look at all this. I will come back quickly on these points of order.
I now have to move on to debate. I will come back with my ruling shortly.
There are 27 motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-83. Motions Nos. 1 to 27 will be regrouped for debate and voted upon according to the voting pattern available at the table.
I will now put Motions Nos. 1 to 27 to the House.
The hon. member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan is rising on a point of order.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-12-07 10:17 [p.24555]
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Madam Speaker, I am seeking clarification about the precedents you just mentioned.
As I understand it, once you have finished reading the amendments at report stage, we will begin debating those amendments. I do not see how we can backtrack if the Chair deems that the points raised by members are valid.
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View Carol Hughes Profile
NDP (ON)
View Carol Hughes Profile
2018-12-07 10:18 [p.24555]
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The motion the member has just proposed is really challenging the Chair. I have made my decision, and we are going to proceed. I will be back shortly with the decision.
The hon. member for Beloeil—Chambly on a point of order for the last time.
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View Matthew Dubé Profile
NDP (QC)
View Matthew Dubé Profile
2018-12-07 10:19 [p.24555]
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Madam Speaker, I would like you to clarify the clarification.
The amendment in question is about 3,000 words long. If we move on to debate at report stage when the amendment is a problem, the government will not be able to move it again.
I would like clarification about the procedure.
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View Elizabeth May Profile
GP (BC)
View Elizabeth May Profile
2018-12-07 10:20 [p.24555]
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Madam Speaker, I have looked carefully at this amendment from the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington. As we debate this legitimate procedural point, we should not lose sight of the fact that it is very important that the substance of this matter not be overlooked. This is an important amendment that should be included at report stage.
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