Evidence of meeting #38 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

  • Howard Sapers  Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator
  • Marie-France Kingsley  Director of Investigations, Office of the Correctional Investigator
  • Catherine Kane  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Elissa Lieff  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Randall Garrison

Merci, M. Rousseau.

We'll turn back to the government's side. Ms. Young, you have five minutes.

May 8th, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Sapers, thank you so much for being here today.

I find it kind of shocking, actually, given how short this bill is, that you didn't come prepared with some amendments. Because you're not exactly.... I'd like to clarify your position, because it is not clear to me, anyway, whether you support this bill or not.

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

Well, thanks for the question. I'm sorry to shock you. My role typically is not to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down on legislation. The committee has asked me to provide my opinion, from the perspective of my office, on how this may impact the federally sentenced offender population. I've tried to do that to the best of my ability.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

Thank you. I do appreciate that.

I just find it interesting because we earlier had another bill in front of us about vexatious complaints. We were trying to streamline and reduce that process and thereby reduce the administrative burden on CSC. What I'm hearing from you, based on this bill, which I think is very straightforward, is that this is going to add to their administrative burden and, therefore, you are very concerned about that.

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

That's true. With the previous bill dealing with the grievance process, I think some of my comments were that I was concerned that it would not in fact reduce the administrative burden. In my comments I did in fact suggest that a possible amendment might be the elimination of the second-level grievance. I was concerned that the private member's bill, as presented, would create new administrative challenges for the service, just as I think this bill will create new administrative challenges for the service.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

You've identified in your testimony that there would be very few people in this category, is that correct? How many people receive big payments in this area? You said there were going to be very few, is that correct?

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

I don't think I gave any indication of the numbers. There have been 2,100 plus registered awards so far this year. I can certainly provide the committee with the number of claims against the crown relating to personal property, for example. My suggestion was that there may be very few who have significant awards, but there are certainly many claims against the crown that are brought every year and several hundreds that are successful every year.

Do we have the numbers?

For 2006-2007, the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, there were 722 cases claiming almost $2.6 million against the crown. Of that total, about $280,000 was paid out. That excludes all monetary awards under $1,000, and several of the monetary awards are under $1,000 because of the nature of the claim. By 2010-2011, that number had grown to over 1,200 cases or claims against the crown. They were claiming a total of $4.2 million. In that case, there were seven cases over $1,000, amounting to just over $10,000. The remainder of the cases were monetary awards of an amount less than $1,000.

I'm sorry if I misspoke in suggesting that there were few.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Vancouver South, BC

No, I'm not sure you misspoke. I just wanted some clarification on that. Thank you for providing that; I really appreciate it. Those figures are very interesting, so thank you for supplying them.

I also wanted to ask you, given how straightforward and simple this bill is—and you said it had merit, and it does kind of lay out a victim priority order of repayment—whether you think that CSC is incapable of developing administrative processes to do this.

4:10 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

No, I don't think they're incapable. I think they've had some challenges in some areas of administration that I've commented on in my reports, things such as the grievance process and other administrative areas of their jurisdiction. They're not incapable of doing it. The questions are; what is the burden; what would the cost be; and ultimately, would it divert attention and resources away from other areas of their operation?

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair Randall Garrison

Thank you very much, Ms. Young. You're out of time.

We'll go to Mr. Rafferty for five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you to both of you for being here.

Ms. Kingsley, feel free to jump in at any time if you have any comments.

I have a question that's only indirectly related to this bill, I suppose. It goes back to the $6.90 a day. Nothing's changed in 31 years in terms of that, and two of the things you indicated are most problematical for people being released are death and jobs. Would a change in that $6.90 a day have an impact on the debt of an inmate who may have finished serving a five- or six-year sentence and would have accumulated, if it were more than $6.90 a day, a fair amount of money?

4:10 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

The issue with inmate compensation is a fairly significant one. Without even paying attention to or turning our minds to what would happen upon their release, just in terms of their experience while incarcerated, the costs of their keeping in contact with their family, paying for postage stamps and greeting cards to family members, or even looking after their own personal hygiene needs, are considerable inside an institution. So even day to day there is an impact from the fact the top income earners earn $6.90 a day. Many income earners earn half that inside an institution.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

You're an investigator and as you think about this and lie awake at nights, what would be reasonable 30 years later, after $6.90 a day for 30 years?

4:10 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

I say this with some caution because there's a very long story and I won't go into the details about it now, but the suggestion we've made is that inmate allowances be reviewed from time to time, perhaps every three years, and that they be adjusted to reflect inflation or cost-of-living rates. Without even turning our minds to the baseline amounts, even just ensuring that there's a mechanism in place for these to be reviewed in a timely way and that a review results in a change if warranted has been our suggestion.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

We talked about running shoes and broken radios, and the bill is very narrow in scope in terms of what it deals with, but there are some other things that could be problematic here in terms of a government settlement. I'm thinking that probably one of the largest populations we have in our federal penitentiaries is first nations, Métis, and Inuit people. The residential school settlements would, I suppose, fall under the scope of this bill if a person were incarcerated when that settlement was made.

Do you see a way in this bill to distinguish between awards like that, which I personally don't think should be part of this deal, or somehow separate them from what we dealt with before in considering vexatious complaints? I think that's what the bill is intended to deal with partly. Do you see in this bill a way to adjust that to ensure that we don't include things that really shouldn't be included for moral or ethical reasons?