Evidence of meeting #3 for Public Safety and National Security in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was that's.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Stephen Rigby  President, President's Office, Canada Border Services Agency
  • William Elliott  Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Don Head  Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada
  • Myles Kirvan  Associate Deputy Minister, Deputy Minister's Office, Department of Public Safety

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

The security and prosperity partnership five priorities relate to a number of areas. There is only one in particular, I believe, that relates specifically to the public safety aspect of it, and it is essentially working towards ensuring adequate border security while facilitating further trade. The focus is on further initiatives for accelerated processing at the borders.

As to the specific line item in the estimates, perhaps Mr. Rigby might be able to help me out with that in terms of automation. I don't know if it's for FAST, or NEXUS, or what the elements of it are.

4:25 p.m.

Commissioner William Elliott Commissioner, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

I think that relates to the RCMP. I believe that line relates to security for the leaders meeting.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

That's related to the current leaders meeting that's coming up?

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

The question, as I understood it, concerned the five priorities that are the focus of efforts for the security and prosperity partnership. That would not be one of them, obviously, though having a secure summit is clearly a priority.

4:25 p.m.

Commr William Elliott

That's where the money is going.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

That particular line is simply the backfill funding, after-the-fact funding for the security at the Montebello summit.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

The way these arrangements work—and we're going to have one for the visit of President Obama later this month—there's a standard practice arrangement with the local police forces, and so on, whose resources we call on. After the fact, you tally up all the hours and figure out how much was spent, and then you reimburse them for the security costs, the extraordinary security costs that are a result of the event. In the case of the President's visit, we will have that same sort of situation, certainly with the Ottawa Police, and I expect with the OPP as well.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

On the corrections side, there's a long outstanding need recognized in my province, Newfoundland and Labrador, for increased facilities, particularly a federal corrections facility in our province, which doesn't exist, although there's cooperation on many levels with the federal government. Your predecessor visited the province not too long ago, and the conditions that the Newfoundland and Labrador justice minister referred to as appalling and backward, in a facility that is over a hundred years old, were quite deplorable. Your predecessor left the impression and practically said, well, the conditions may be terrible, but that is an additional deterrent to people committing crimes, so that they don't have to go to facilities like that.

I hope that's not the attitude and approach that you will be taking to the need for correctional facilities across the country.

Will your ministry, under your watch, look more closely at this issue with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador? Its plans have been on the go for a long time. The Minister of Justice in Newfoundland has spoken out recently of it being a top priority for them. Could you comment on that?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

A short answer, please. We are short of time.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

I think I answered earlier about the physical aspects of the transformation exercise. We are not at the point of decisions being made. That may be coming in the future, but that's not imminent.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you. Your time has expired.

We'll now go over to the government side.

Mr. Richards, you're first, and I believe you might be sharing your time with Mr. McColeman.

February 11th, 2009 / 4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

I will be sharing my time with Mr. McColeman.

Thank you to the minister for making the time to be here to address the committee today. I'm just going to assure you that, unlike Mr. Holland, I will show respect and common courtesy and allow you to actually answer the question once I've asked it.

I'm going to ask you today about drugs and prisons.

There are a couple of prisons just outside the boundaries of my riding and a prison that's actually located just a couple of miles from the farm where I grew up. I've spent some time recently, since I was elected, touring some of the prisons in Alberta and certainly have seen the impact drugs have in our prisons. Really, in my view, gangs are the primary forces behind both violence and drug use, not only on our streets, but also within our country's prisons. The drugs there are prevalent, and they're a source of power, a source of influence, and a source of revenue for the gangs.

I spoke in the House about a program that was announced by your predecessor to eliminate drugs in prisons. This is certainly a laudable goal, and I think one that is long overdue.

Minister, can you tell me how the money is being spent and what changes Correctional Service of Canada is implementing as part of this anti-drug strategy in our prisons?

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Sure.

One of the first observations I want to make, and I guess it's a little bit off the side but it's related to your question, is this. About 80% of the folks we have in prison actually have substance abuse problems. There's another big chunk that have mental health problems. A lot of them are interrelated. A lot of these people would not be in prisons if we had adequate health responses in the community, whether they be mental health or otherwise, but I guess that's not the case right now, and we have to deal with them at that level. Also, I think it gives the lie to those who say drugs are not a problem in the community, because obviously if you have 80% of your people with substance abuse problems in prison, there's clearly a link between substance abuse and criminal activity that's far higher than.... You don't have 80% of the general population with substance abuse problems, so there's clearly a link there. That's something we should be concerned with. We have problems with illicit drugs in prisons. That has been something that was identified in the transformation study by Mr. Sampson.

Correctional Service has been moving, with the support of our national drug strategy, to implement new instruments to help them control that. We have X-ray machines, ion scanners, itemizers, and increased use of drug dogs, and a tip line was established. All these things are helping. I know from my correspondence that people actually are complaining about the ion scanners detecting drugs on their clothes. They say they didn't have drugs with them, but the way these things work is that, if you've been in contact with drugs in the past couple of days, the ion scanners will pick them up. So clearly they're working.

It's like fighting crime. Will we ever solve the problem entirely? That's something to be hoped for. But any improvement will certainly help make the prisons safer for the staff who work there, which is important, and also I think improves the prospects for rehabilitation and recovery, because if you get the drugs out of prisons, you change a bit of that cycle of substance abuse and you also take away some of that underground activity that takes place within a prison, which perpetuates criminal associations, gang activity, and the like. So for that reason it is an important priority, and we hope to see results over time. This is still just beginning to be rolled out. Technology is still being introduced in prisons, and we hope it will make a big difference.

There's another side to it as well, which we're also addressing through the transformation exercise. Again, it is that issue of treatment and improving the treatment we're giving to those who are in the prisons. Where there is a big gap, I think, is actually where they're released into the community. That's where we really need to provide a lot more support.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Wild Rose, AB

Thanks, Mr. Minister.

Certainly I know, from talking to the guards in our prisons, they're very appreciative of the changes that have been made. I know they feel it's making a big difference. So thank you for that; thank you for the actions you've taken.

I'll defer my time now to Mr. McColeman.