Evidence of meeting #30 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 actually.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

I don't have specific statistics on hand. I understand there will be witnesses coming in after me—I believe the commissioner's coming in, but I'm not quite sure—on statistical information. I would suggest that you speak to them specifically on those statistics.

But you have to remember, if someone is filing 100 complaints—and I'm talking about that in this bill—then these are the ones who are filing the frivolous, unmerited complaints that are not made in good faith.

Again, these are the same inmates who are not letting it rest after the first decision. They are going to appeal and take it to the next level and so on.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Thank you.

Ms. Hoeppner touched on it a bit with proposed subsection 91.1(6). There is going to be a plan put in place. I'm wondering if you could comment quickly about the bill itself only impacting a small percentage of inmates.

When I read proposed 91.1(6), I see where it's trying to lead them to breaking that cycle. I see this bill as an effort to assist those inmates, as well as assisting legitimate complainants who are impeded by the overuse of the system by the inmates who are abusing it.

Could you touch on how this will actually help both groups of inmates?

5 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

I think someone who is paying their debt to society should be focusing on their rehabilitation plans. They should not be spending their time filing complaints through the complaint process, bogging it down, and causing a real hardship on our hard-working front-line correctional officers.

I think by stopping them from doing so, by labelling them as a vexatious complainant, it's going to address the issue of them using it as a tool or a game, almost like a petulant child would do. I think labelling them, providing them with the plan, the generic document that says why they've been given this designation and what they need to do to prove that when they file legitimate complaints they will be heard.... But in the future they're not going to be able to file complaints that have no merit.

Additionally, of course, this also is going to allow legitimate complaints to be processed more efficiently. The time that would be spent with complaints that are of no merit could be spent on actually dealing with those that need attention.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Thank you.

In terms of the vexatious complainants, do you think this will help case workers and correctional officers deal with particular behavioural traits that the complainants might have, which actually lead them to be vexatious, frivolous, or constant complainants?

5 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

You may be right on that one. I think when we talk about the complaints process itself and its original purpose of allowing legitimate complaints to be filed...this is not the venue to have an outlet. This is not the venue for someone to get their frustrations out. As you said, there are other tools that could be used or should be utilized to assist that inmate in dealing with other issues, but certainly not through the complaints process.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

You have 40 seconds.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Thank you.

This may be something better asked of Corrections Canada itself—and I know the intention of the committee isn't to sit here and listen to my testimony—but what you're talking about really resonates with me as a former deputy superintendent of corrections. I'm fully aware of the situations that have gone on inside the correctional centres with these sorts of things.

Do you have any examples? I could list all day long some of the examples of vexatious, frivolous, and onerous complaints that have come in. Do you have any specific examples that might highlight to the committee some of the nature of the complaints that are actually brought forward?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Complaints could be simply, “My light bulb is too hot”, “My potato is not the right size”, “My milk is too cold”. These are things that you would expect a child to complain about, trying to get attention from a parent or a peer. Those are some of the examples. I actually have a specific example. I probably will not have time to talk about it, but perhaps someone else will ask me about it.

The current process, I just want to note as well, allows someone to file the same complaint over and over again while one is still in the process. Again, you can see that where someone is not happy with getting something resolved as quickly as they think it should be, they're just going to log another one, and then another one, and then another one.

That is a particular example I actually did hear first-hand.

Thank you.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

Mr. Scarpaleggia, please.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you, Chair.

I'm just wondering where the idea for this bill came from. When did you first present it? Was it in this Parliament?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Yes. As I have mentioned, I was newly elected on May 2. I actually ran three consecutive times for the Conservatives in my riding of Scarborough Centre. I recall campaigning on “tough on crime” policies. My father was a police officer with Metro Toronto, so this type of bill is right up my alley. It's where my interest lies. It's where I see we need to make changes.

Being 22 on the list of private members bills...I was very excited when my name was drawn. Obviously I wanted to deal with an issue that I was interested in and one where I could make a change.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It's not an obvious issue for somebody, even for someone who's interested in being tough on crime. Until I saw your bill, it never occurred to me that this might be a problem.

Did you have an experience that alerted you to this problem, or was the idea suggested by the minister's office?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

Actually, as I said, when my number, 22, was called, I was very excited. I started talking to some of my colleagues, some of the other MPs I've known. I was a candidate for three elections, so I obviously know quite a few members of Parliament. Several colleagues to whom I spoke indicated that they had visited jails and that this issue had come up before. That's why I started looking into this particular issue, to see whether there was something I could do.

I'm not trying to make this bill sound as if it is a huge bill. This bill seeks to address a very small loophole. I'm not trying to paint the sky green when it's currently blue.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

No, no.

This is a bill that is very process heavy. Just trying to understand the process is difficult to visualize. I understand there are four levels, but it's hard to visualize its practical application.

Take, for example, one of the vexatious complaints that you mentioned, the inmate saying his milk is too cold, or whatever it is. How does that kind of complaint actually work its way through the system? Does it wind up on the commissioner's desk? Obviously it's frivolous, one would think. I just don't understand how it comes up the system.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Scarborough Centre, ON

To address that particular question, I mentioned that within the institutions themselves there are inmates who are hired to deal with them—an informal way of dealing with complaints. If someone were going to complain about their milk, or they didn't like their dinner, or the light bulb, you would think they would actually address that issue through someone like that, a very informal process. I think anyone in this room would not want to log a formal complaint and have it go through an appeal and all that other business.

What happens in particular in most institutions is that there is a formal process: the complaint process. An inmate will actually log a complaint. It's dropped into a box. The box is picked up. The complaints are logged. It's dealt with at the very lowest possible level. It can actually go up to the warden within that first level, depending upon whether the inmate likes the resolution from the very first person who reviews that particular complaint.

Again, if they don't like the answer from the—