Evidence of meeting #10 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was inmates.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:45 p.m.

As an Individual

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

That's really all I have.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

All right, thank you, Mr. Scarpaleggia.

We'll go to Madam Morin.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

I am not too sure who should answer this question. Maybe the person who knows best.

Earlier, we talked about violence and we said that it was often linked to drugs or brews. However, some witnesses have said that violence was not necessarily linked to drugs or brews and could also stem from drug trafficking, criminal gangs inside and outside the prison walls.

Do you agree with that?

12:45 p.m.

As an Individual

Kenneth Putnam

Well, if you're talking about gangs causing violence within the prison, gangs are funded. They live off the drug trade and prostitution.

Again, in our correctional centre we've had the occasional gang member, usually somebody who's come to the territory from the south. But for the most part, they're bullies. In Mr. Van De Mortel's case, where he was seriously assaulted, there were three people involved. One, I think, was an older gang member from years gone by, and the other one was just a bully.

Every bit of violence within the jail isn't always drug related. But if there is a fight between two inmates, and you dig into the reason for that fight, more often than not it stems back to an incident out on the street.

A lot of the people in our facility are related. A good majority of them come from Whitehorse. Most of them have known each other all their lives. So there are old wounds that haven't healed, and that could cause it as well. The violence, I think, pretty much overall in Whitehorse and in this country stems from drugs.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Do you have another one? Yes, go ahead.

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Yes, I have another one.

You said earlier that you needed effective programs to fight addiction for all the inmates who want to participate in them. However, some inmates might not have enough motivation to enter those programs.

Do you have a solution to motivate the inmates who are not keen to enter the drug and rehabilitation programs?

12:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Kenneth Putnam

I think it's pretty tough to motivate somebody and make somebody take a drug treatment program. You'll see people who get sentenced in court, and part of their sentence is to abstain from alcohol. If they're outside and they're an addict, that's usually a recipe for disaster.

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn't go around the community and solicit people to come to their meetings. People have to make a conscious decision to attend those meetings. If they're not there for their own reasons, on their own motivation, then it's likely to fail.

Having said that, I know there are a lot of people within institutions who want the help. They don't like their lifestyle. There are some who like the lifestyle, the career criminals.

It's very tough to motivate people. People have to motivate themselves.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Mr. Aspin, very quickly. We just have a minute. We want to have at least three minutes for committee business.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

As a new member of the committee, I would like to thank you for your unselfish and frank testimony this morning. It's been very helpful to me.

The one thing we've heard a lot of testimony about over the last month or so, the one thing that I really can't seem to get my head around, and perhaps you, gentlemen, can help me with, is the whole notion of drug debt in prisons.

Mr. Van De Mortel, could you help me with that, explain just how that works?

12:50 p.m.

As an Individual

Tony Van De Mortel

How drug debt works? Either they owe money from the outside or they do pay someone to bring the drugs in and we do catch it. So they're out that money. Somebody owes somebody money for drugs they never received.

The same thing happens when they pass it around the dorms. People owe for drugs. If it gets brought in and distributed, somebody has to pay for it somehow. If they don't pay, they get their payment in another way, or they get motivated to pay.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jay Aspin Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

November 1st, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Again, the long trip was worth it. Thank you for coming from the Yukon and for giving us some personal experience stories that I think helped all members of all parties here. We want to thank you for that. We wish you both all the best as you both recover as well from the instances you've each explained in your stories and the consequences of them. We wish all the best to your families.

We're going to suspend just for a moment or two. That doesn't mean we're all going to get up and leave. Perhaps if Mr. Putnam and Mr. Van De Mortel want to wait in the back, or even if they want to wait out there, I know that some of our members would like to shake your hand and thank you for coming.

We do want to have about five minutes for committee business, just to set up for Thursday, if there are some questions as to what Thursday is going to look like, and there seem to be some questions.

We will suspend and reconvene in about 30 seconds.

I'll call us back to order. We don't have to go in camera on this.

Basically, my understanding is that I think I would like to see a steering committee fairly soon. It appears we may be getting some legislation. If that is the case, what I'm going to need is a list of witnesses, and I'm going to need it so that our clerks and analysts can prepare and get hold of some of these people so that when we come back from break week, we're going to have them here.

It's always been that we like to start out with the minister or the department and then go into our witnesses. So all parties, government and opposition parties, should be starting to put together a witness list.

Ms. Hoeppner.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

I think you're correct. I think we'll have a government bill before us by Thursday, and that does take precedence over any study we're doing. I would highly recommend we prepare now. Any time a bill is introduced, usually the very first witnesses are the officials and the minister. I think if they are willing to appear, it would be better to be prepared for that than have Thursday with nothing to do.

I think we should probably have a steering committee to plan out the bulk of the study, but we should ask if the minister can appear on Thursday. My understanding is that he is willing to do that.