Evidence of meeting #37 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 restitution.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Irvin Waller  President, International Organization for Victim Assistance
  • Kim Pate  Executive Director, Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada
  • Stephen Fineberg  Vice-President, Canadian Prison Law Association

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Yukon, YT

Yes.

4:40 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Prison Law Association

Stephen Fineberg

—I had an opportunity to look at the transcript of Mr. Toller's testimony from yesterday. I think Mr. Toller was trying to make a distinction between the way the Correctional Service operates now and the way the Correctional Service would have to operate if Bill C-350 were enacted. What he was telling you was that currently the Correctional Service is not able to seize the money or divert the money. They can't do anything with the money. They can't act on a civil debt the prisoner has, even if they are aware of the civil debt.

What they do through the correctional plan is to encourage as much as possible. They encourage people to assume responsibility for their behaviour and their debts. That's what he was trying to say. I do not believe he was telling you that these moneys cannot be seized. He was saying that the Correctional Service has no authority to seize the money. He was not telling you that the civil mechanism for acting on orders does not apply to federal prisoners. That's my understanding of his testimony.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you.

We'll now run to Mr. Garrison for seven minutes.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much to both of you for appearing before the committee.

I'm going to split my time with Madam Doré-Lefebvre.

I just want to ask Mr. Fineberg a quick question based specifically on this bill. I guess it has two parts. Do you see that it has any merit? And do you see any way of correcting its legal flaws?

4:45 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Prison Law Association

Stephen Fineberg

The merit would be in the intention, but I do not think it works. I don't think it can work. I don't think it makes sense to try to bend it out of shape and find a way to do at the federal level what the province already does and perhaps could do better.

If there is any problem with the execution of orders that is specific to prisoners receiving awards, then I think the provincial government should be encouraged to fine-tune its scheme, which already exists, which purports to be comprehensive and is already funded.

I don't see the point of this.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I have just a brief follow-up before I hand it over then.

If this were adopted and implemented, how would an inmate or offender effectively challenge this? It would take some considerable legal resources to do that.

4:45 p.m.

Vice-President, Canadian Prison Law Association

Stephen Fineberg

That is a problem. Eventually, I imagine, somebody will come forward who has the resources, either private or through legal aid support. If money is seized from someone and that person thinks that the money was seized without jurisdiction, surely there will be a challenge through the courts. As well, I'm suggesting here the provincial attorneys general may interest themselves in this, as their provincial jurisdictions are being invaded.

While we're talking about the difficulty prisoners have in mounting legal challenges, an interesting point is that this occurs also to spousal and child support orders. Typically, a federal prisoner is not able to find the resources to combat the petitions for orders, and the orders are often made out for spousal and child support without much participation from the other side, sometimes without any participation from the other side.

There are provinces, New Brunswick for instance, where there is no legal aid support available to prisoners who want to challenge that kind of thing. Usually they have to sit back and watch it happen.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Garrison.

Ms. Doré-Lefebvre.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank our guest for appearing before the committee on Bill C-350.

My questions are for Ms. Pate because I think it is important to hear about women offenders who are in jail.

In your opinion, does Bill C-350 address a situation that is common among women?

4:45 p.m.

Executive Director, Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada

Kim Pate

It's unlikely. There are some women getting payments because of the residential school settlement, so that could certainly impact women.

It's already impacted a woman for whom we've been trying to get a conviction review. In order to get a conviction review, we had a lawyer involved who was going to do it through legal aid. Now legal aid won't cover it, so we're having that argument right now. This is a matter where everybody agrees, including the corrections service, that she should not have been convicted of the offence. It was an assisted suicide, still on corrections' books, and she was convicted of murder. We're trying to get a conviction review. She can't at this point get legal aid unless she taps into moneys that have been put in trust for if and when she gets out at some point in the future.

It seems pretty egregious, after ten years of a massive history of sexual abuse and physical abuse in residential schools, to then have that money taken away in order to get her out, and then to have no resources to re-enter the community if we succeed. That's the most current situation.

The flip side of what my colleague Mr. Fineberg has talked about is the number of women who can't get legal aid for family matters when they're required to get social assistance, usually when they get out of prison. They're required to try to get spousal or child support first, or sometimes spousal and child support, before they can go ahead. So that would be an area where it could impact as well.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Okay.

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada

Kim Pate

I'm sorry to interrupt. There aren't a lot who get settlements from the corrections service. Where they do, it has been after the Prison for Women situation, and Ashley Smith. There are some where people have--

May 3rd, 2012 / 4:50 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Yes, the Ashley Smith case was rather important.

Last Tuesday, Ms. O’Sullivan, Federal Ombudsman for Victims of Crime, told us that some balance is needed among victims and that we have to make sure rehabilitation tools are provided. Ms. O’Sullivan stressed that point. It was a very interesting discussion.

In your opinion, does this bill promote women’s rehabilitation?

4:50 p.m.

Executive Director, Elizabeth Fry Society of Canada

Kim Pate

I can't see it being something that will necessarily assist their rehabilitation. As I say, if they're getting settlements from corrections—from the state because of actions of corrections—then they're often, as I've mentioned, using those resources to get support to assist them to get out, or to assist their children.

I do think that, unfortunately, it's the bill. As others have said, including Mr. Fineberg, there are other mechanisms. It's one of those issues where, as we've seen with some other pieces of recent legislation, the cost to taxpayers of implementing this, the cost to corrections of trying to implement this—instead of looking to the provinces to buttress the mechanisms that already exist—is not a useful way to be expending resources.

As I said at the beginning, that is not to say we don't support in principle compensation, restitution, and victim support; absolutely, we do. But I think implementing this sort of bill and putting in place legislation that's not required will probably have a huge cost to administer, versus what the benefit will be to victims.