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 funding.

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

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

You have 30 seconds.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Is this report on the agenda between Prime Minister Harper and President Obama for his visit, and will it be?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

We will find that agenda when it comes. We haven't seen the report. It hasn't even been prepared yet, so whether or not it will be on the agenda will likely depend on what appears in the report. But certainly the issue of security--

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Will you ask that it be put on the agenda?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

--the issue of borders, the issue of trade, will be on the agenda.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Since it comes two days beforehand, will you ask for it to go on the agenda?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

We'll see what it is. Certainly the subject matters--borders, security, our relationship with the United States, trade--will all be on the agenda.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Andrew Kania Brampton West, ON

Will you ask for this--

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

We'll have to move over to the Bloc Québécois now.

Ms. Mourani, go ahead.

4:45 p.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Ahuntsic, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good afternoon, Minister, and thank you for being here.

Thanks to all of you, gentlemen, for being here.

I would like to talk to you about Canada's Correctional Service. There was a report, of which I'm sure you are aware, published in October 2007, that provided a bit of a snapshot of the Correctional Service. The Correctional Service acknowledged, in a way, that there was an increase in the number of street gang members being held in federal penitentiaries, which is logical in view of the large numbers of arrests and sentences.

I also have information to the effect that there is only one super maximum security penitentiary in Canada and that, of course, it is in Quebec, and that there are no maximum security institutions in certain provinces. So when an inmate who is a member of a street gang commits violent acts at a penitentiary, you know his security rating increases. If that person has a medium security classification, for example, and he attacks another inmate or staff member, his security classification can therefore be increased to “maximum” or “super maximum”, depending whether or not there has been a homicide. So these street gang members can be transferred to other penitentiaries whose security classification becomes their own. However, there are no “maximum” or “super maximum” institutions in certain provinces. Members of street gangs are therefore transferred between provinces or between penitentiaries.

I don't think that's a very effective measure in the fight against street gangs because all it does is enable dangerous men to contact other members in other provinces and, thus, to expand their network across Canada.

The interprovincial transfer of inmates involving solely—and I mean solely—the members of street gangs or organized crime members is becoming a way for these individuals to create networks and links with other provinces and other members of gangs or organized crime belonging to other provinces in other penitentiaries.

First, have you taken an interest in this phenomenon? Second, since you are somewhat reworking the penitentiary system, will that be one of the considerations in managing members of street gangs at Canadian penitentiaries?

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

The problem of gangs is a very real one. It's not just in prisons. Obviously, in the community crime is increasingly coming from street gangs. By the estimates of the Correctional Service of Canada, close to 10% of the prisoners in our prisons have gang affiliations, almost all of which they had before they entered prison.

So with regard to the issue of transfers and the impact of transfers on our national anti-gang strategy, I'm going to ask Mr. Head if he has any comment.

February 11th, 2009 / 4:45 p.m.

Don Head Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada

Thank you, Minister.

I'll address the issue you raised about the special handling unit, which is our most secure facility. We use that facility to hold the most dangerous individuals within the system, and we currently have a capacity for about 90 of those types of individuals. On any given day we have between 65 and 75 individuals held at the special handling unit.

We have been looking at whether there is a need to create a second special handling unit in the country, probably out towards western Canada—this one is located in the Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines complex—to see whether that will give us the ability to manage some of the most dangerous individuals who are involved in organized crime or severe violence within the institutions. Normally, though, what happens is that we try to manage the gang members in the same province. We're well aware of the issues of transporting the issues or concerns associated with one gang that is moving into the territory of another or trying to establish a territory that didn't exist before.

Sometimes we're not able to do this—you're absolutely right—and we have to move them between institutions or between regions. We have five regions. That's how the country is divided up in our organization. We have the ability in each medium- and maximum-security institution to hold problematic inmates in what's called segregation units, so we're able to take them out of circulation if they are causing problems. But if we get a large influx or a large number of individuals who are causing problems, then we have to look at moving them across the country.

On the flip side, in the case of one of the challenges we have right now, we're starting to see some gains from the activities we're undertaking to get offenders to disaffiliate from gangs and then safely place them somewhere so that they are not continually influenced by existing gang members.

As for the latter part of the question, as we go forward we are assessing what our needs and capacities are for placement and for programs and interventions and, just as important, what to do as these individuals move back out into the community. Even though we can contain them for a period of time, we're concerned about what happens once they go back out under community supervision or reach their warranted expiry. We're taking all of that into account as part of the revised anti-gang strategy we're pursuing within the organization.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Garry Breitkreuz

Thank you very much.

We'll go over to Mr. MacKenzie now, please.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Oxford, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Minister, my colleague across the table indicated that we had made a number of announcements, and he was concerned about the effect of those announcements.

In one of the announcements, I recall that what the Prime Minister committed was an additional 1,000 members to the RCMP. But another announcement we made was of a stipend for recruits at the RCMP college, which had been eliminated some time previously. My understanding is that when recruits went to the RCMP academy, they weren't paid. I believe sometime last year an arrangement was made to see that they received moneys while they were there in training. I think this has been standard. I certainly saw it, as I think many others did, as an opportunity to aid recruitment.

Do you know or can you tell me how we've made out with respect to adding these 1,000 people? How many additional people have joined the RCMP since that time?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

I'll ask the commissioner whether he has anything to add at the end of this.

The recruitment campaign by the RCMP has been very vigorous and active. They have been out in the community with their “We're hiring” campaign, with all kinds of different approaches to raise profile and attract people. It has been meeting with success. From 2005-06 to fiscal year 2007-08 there was a net increase of more than 1,500 RCMP officers, and that continues to grow. Recruitment is going very well. There are strong classes of cadets going through. Obviously, the more than 1,500 well exceeds the 1,000 recruits that was our commitment. We still have more to do, of course, to meet all our targets and keep the force strong and continually deal with the ongoing attrition and retirement, but I think progress is going very well.

In total, approximately 1,900 recruits are going to be enrolled in the training academy for 2009-10. That's a pretty good result, which is in part related to that marketing campaign, in part related to the benefit of the cadet pay that is in place.

Do you want to add anything, Commissioner?