House of Commons Hansard #122 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was records.

Topics

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters for Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third time? With the consent of the House, now?

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

Doug Peters for the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

moved that Bill C-53, an act to amend the Prisons and Reformatories Act, be now read the third time and passed.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

11:30 a.m.

Vaudreuil
Québec

Liberal

Nick Discepola Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-53 which, as you pointed out, is now at third reading.

This bill proposes amendments to the Prisons and Reformatories Act that will strengthen and modernize the statutory framework governing temporary absence programs for offenders in provincial and territorial custody.

This bill is a global answer to the concerns expressed by the provinces and territories, which feel that the current legislative framework is not flexible enough to meet their specific needs.

The bill is also a very good example of federal-provincial-territorial co-operation on an issue of mutual interest. These provisions were developed in consultation with our provincial and territorial partners, and they were approved by the ministers responsible for justice in all the jurisdictions.

As hon. members will know, the Prisons and Reformatories Act is a federal statute which governs how sentences will be administered by provincial institutions. This stems from the federal responsibility for criminal law. However, it is our provincial and territorial partners who must implement this legislation. It is therefore incumbent upon us to ensure that there is adequate flexibility for them to meet their own unique circumstances. This is precisely what this bill does.

Here is how the bill will modernize and strengthen the statutory framework that governs provincial and territorial temporary absence programs. First, the bill adds a statement of purpose and principles. This is a new element, modelled on the statement of purpose and principles created in 1992 in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which applies to parole and temporary absence programs for offenders under federal jurisdiction.

Federal correctional authorities see it as an extremely useful tool for policy makers. It adds uniformity to temporary absence and conditional release programs. This is very important, given the close scrutiny to which our agencies are constantly subject. I would hasten to add that these are not federal principles imposed on the provinces and territories, but principles that all governments have agreed to implement together.

Second, the amendments would allow the provinces and territories to increase the maximum duration of temporary absences from 15 to 60 days. This change will reflect the current practice of granting consecutive temporary absences. Increasing the duration of temporary absences will make it possible to improve parole planning and to reduce the frequency of renewals of temporary absence certificates. These amendments, however, will require tighter monitoring of renewals, for an authority wishing to renew a temporary absence will first have to reassess the whole case.

Third, the bill will give governments the power to create additional types of temporary absences, beyond those granted for medical, humanitarian or rehabilitative reasons, so long as they are consistent with the statement of purpose and principles for temporary absence programs as stated in the bill.

There are two objectives to this amendment: first, to give administrations the necessary flexibility to adapt the temporary absence program to their own requirements; and second, to establish parameters that must be complied with in order to ensure a certain uniformity across the country.

Fourth, the reforms will give administrations the power to restrict the concurrent eligibility of prisoners for some types of temporary absences and parole. This will enable provincial and territorial corrections authorities to limit the opportunities for prisoners to make simultaneous use of the parole and the temporary absence systems, and to play both ends against the middle.

Finally, the bill will add other important measures for public protection. The importance of the principle of public protection was the subject of lengthy debate during second reading of the bill and during its study by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.

It is important to point out that, when these amendments were being drafted, the administrations agreed there must be no dissociation of the principles of protecting society and of rehabilitating offenders, and that these principles were neither contradictory nor in competition. In fact, all administrations agree that these two principles are totally compatible, since rehabilitation of an offender is the best means of protecting society, in the long term.

May I, however, add that the fundamental importance of protecting society is reflected throughout Bill C-53.

This important concept informs the purpose and principles of the bill, and I am referring to clause 7: "The purpose of a temporary absence program is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society-" and a number of other provisions.

Clause 7.5 provides specific grounds for suspending, cancelling or revoking a temporary absence. Clause 7.6, paragraphs 1 and 2, provides for issuing an arrest warrant and for its electronic transmission and execution in any place in Canada.

Another clause authorizes a peace officer, who believes on reasonable grounds that a warrant has been issued in respect of an offender on temporary absence, to arrest the offender without a

warrant and remand him int custody for up to 48 hours until the warrant is transmitted and executed.

These measures are quite clear about the authority to reincarcerate certain offenders when necessary.

I may point out that Bill C-53 is one of several initiatives introduced by the present government. The safe home and safe streets program described in the red book favours a balanced approach to public safety, an approach that emphasizes the need to take a tough line with violent, high risk offenders who represent an immediate and ongoing threat to the public.

This program, however, recognizes the need to engage in crime prevention and rehabilitation. This means intervening at an early stage to turn minor offenders away from crime.

In the last throne speech it was announced that to support this objective, "the government will focus corrections resources on high-risk offenders while increasing efforts to lower the number of young people who come into contact with the justice system. The government will develop innovative alternatives to incarceration for low-risk offenders".

Bill C-53 is in line with this commitment and will help the provinces and territories to adjust temporary absence programs to the needs of their own prison population.

The government is also pursuing other initiatives in close co-operation with its many partners in the penal justice system. I would, more particularly, like to talk to you about a document presented at the May 1996 meeting of the justice ministers of the federal, provincial and territorial governments.

The document, entitled Corrections Population Growth , was drafted by the federal, provincial and territorial deputy ministers and correctional services officials. It puts forward a number of recommendations, which were accepted by all ministers, as well as a series of principles, which will provide a basis for future policy.

This undertaking deserves mention because it reflects agreement among administrations and points out the importance of having all components of the criminal justice system united in their efforts so as to ensure a fair, peaceful and safe society efficiently and effectively.

One of the principles in this document, which is reflected in the bill, is that the primary objective of the criminal justice system is to contribute to maintaining a fair, peaceful and safe environment. To this end, we must focus our efforts on the front line of the criminal justice system and promote more crime prevention initiatives.

We all know that prevention of criminal behaviour is more effective than its punishment. Habitually, sanctions are applied much too late and are not aimed at the cause of the problem.

One of the greatest challenges facing us is to continue to develop community based sanctions that are safe, effective and credible for Canadians who are most likely to have run-ins with the law. This is why the government created the national crime prevention council and is inviting all departments in a position to do so to participate by developing crime prevention strategies.

Many police departments, including the RCMP, are now developing and implementing community police programs which will help communities come up with their own crime prevention strategies, suited to their particular needs.

As the police are an integral part of community life, they can help in problem resolution and social planning aimed at preventing criminal behaviour, so that the community has less need of them to enforce the law.

Another principle the federal, provincial and territorial justice ministers agreed on is that incarceration should be limited to cases where public safety may be threatened and that alternate solutions should be applied when more effective community based sanctions are available. While we recognize the usefulness of incarceration, we also know that, when applied in the right circumstances, community based sanctions protect society better over the long term than incarceration. So, the government is going to intensify its efforts to implement the recent reforms on sentencing, more specifically, part XXIII of the Criminal Code, which offers the courts other options besides incarceration.

For many years now, we have been advocating measures to divert low-risk offenders out of the court system as much as possible or to subject them to less monitoring, when this does not interfere with the goals of the criminal justice system, mainly public protection. Early intervention, that is to say, acting before crime patterns are set, is considered by many an effective means of preventing criminal behaviour. Residential programs as well as drug rehabilitation, mental health, restitution, occupational training and other similar programs provide offenders with the kind of support and guidance they need in the community.

In order to support alternatives to incarceration and ensure their success, the necessary programs and resources must be made available to the community. The various elements of the criminal justice system must come together to design, develop and implement community corrections programs. While this is no small task, it is encouraging to note that a strong consensus exists among the various levels of government to work together at developing efficient community corrections measures.

Clearly, the necessary reform of the criminal justice system is too great a task for a single government or sector. To bring about meaningful changes, criminal justice, police, sentencing, corrections and parole officials must work closely together. The fact that governments agree on a number of initiatives shows a will to co-operate and contribute in a positive way to better public

protection, as well as to adjust our resources to the level of risk posed by offenders.

These past few years, we have worked hard at making our society safe, fair and peaceful. The initiatives I described this morning, combined with the bill before us today, will further this objective.

Bill C-53 is an excellent example of federal, provincial and territorial collaboration, which, I hope, all members of this House will support.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government member really stressed that Bill C-53 was an example of good co-operation and showed that the federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions work well together, but I think this bill is a prime example of the complexity of Canada: a federal act that is implemented by the provinces. In order to reach agreements, the provincial, federal and territorial authorities must negotiate. They must discuss the issue of costs. The federal government is throwing the ball to the provinces and asking them to implement the legislation.

I did not want to talk about this because we basically agree with Bill C-53. However, the hon. member just provided me with an opportunity to point out that this is a striking example of how cumbersome the administration of this country called Canada really is. This is why Bloc Quebecois members are telling Canadians that the current system just does not make any sense.

Bill C-53, a simple piece of legislation on which everyone in this House agrees, is a striking example. Do not use Bill C-53 as an example of how well things work in Canada. This bill is just the opposite: it is a frightening example of how money is being wasted.

Everyone can agree on temporary absences to facilitate reintegration into the community, to make the system more humane, and so on. Everyone can agree on that. But it took years before an agreement was reached, because the provincial, federal and territorial jurisdictions had to negotiate.

The hon. member also had the nerve to claim that his government deserves the credit for this agreement. In 1993, the Conservatives were in office. It is the Conservatives who started looking at this bill. This government takes credit for a lot of things, but this time it is going too far. In May of 1993, the Liberals were not in office. They were only elected in October of that year.

I did not want to get upset, because this is an ordinary bill. However, I think that it is a good thing if the truth is told, to set the record straight, but it hurts to hear it.

As for Bill C-53, yes, we are in agreement. One thing that we agree with, in light of the remarks I have just made, is that it will be up to the Quebec National Assembly to determine how the legislation will be implemented. If there is anything good about this bill, it is the flexibility Quebec and the other provinces will have in implementing it.

I also have a very brief comment on the bill, because we are in agreement with almost everything. The statement of principles says that the purpose of the program is to contribute to the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society by facilitating the rehabilitation of prisoners and their reintegration into the community. If there is one place where people have been working on such matters for years, it is surely Quebec.

We have looked at various bills, and Quebec's programs are often held up as models of successful rehabilitation and reintegration. You will therefore understand that we are in agreement with a statement of purpose and principles such as that contained in Bill C-53. It is consistent with Quebec's way of thinking.

Since protection is needed, this is mentioned in the bill. Quebec has always said that, while offenders can be given certain rights, they also have obligations. If there is to be good supervision, all this must be carefully monitored, and the bill also covers this.

The bill says that, yes, we want to give flexibility to those who will be applying it, and yes, details can be included, such as why offenders can obtain passes for durations of up to 60 days. Certain criteria are given, but the bill also says that a temporary absence may be suspended, cancelled or revoked for humanitarian, family or other reasons given in the bill.

This protection is found in clause 7.5.

It reads:

7.5 A designated authority may suspend, cancel or revoke a temporary absence, before or after it begins, if

(a) it is considered necessary and justified to prevent a breach of a condition of the absence or where a breach has occurred;

(b) the grounds for authorizing the absence have changed or no longer exist; or

Because some things can change during the 60 day period, and protection of the public could require revocation or cancellation of the offender's right.

(c) the case has been reassessed, based on information that could not reasonably have been provided when the absence was authorized.

Clause 7.5 contains the elements aimed at protecting the public when this act is implemented. This is all very well and we have no complaiants. Everything is done under the aegis of the provinces and territories. In the present system, this is a matter under federal jurisdiction, but provincial and territorial administration. Therefore, the provinces and territories will apply this act. They will be able to determine the eligibility criteria very precisely.

There were reservations on the extension of temporary absences from 15 to 60 days. After questioning certain witnesses who came before the committee, we realized this was not a problem. It was understood that there were often special requests requiring an additional 15 days, and that this period could be extended. There does not seem to be any problem with absences of 60 days. Our concerns were allayed during examination by the committee.

In short, we agree with Bill C-53. What must not be lost sight of is the important element, with which we are in agreement for as long as we are part of the present system: the respect of areas of jurisdiction.

The provinces and territories were given full responsibility for this area. The bill gives them all the flexibility they need to put in place their own rules for parole.

Since Quebec's approach to parole, re-entry into the community and rehabilitation differs from that of Ontario or western Canada as well as its experience in the matter, it will be able to adjust the rules accordingly.

I only want to warn the government against doing what it did in the case of the Young Offenders Act. When the Young Offenders Act was passed, it allowed the provinces to implement the legislation and establish certain services according to need. Quebec is 25 years ahead of nearly all other provinces on the implementation of this type of legislation. Everybody says so. Once Quebec got its system up and running, put in place all its institutions and established its philosophy of the Young Offenders Act and its implementation, the federal government started to tinker with the legislation.

The Liberal government makes a habit of changing the rules of the game after the game has started. Why? Because it caved in to pressure from the western Canadian right wing. They are distorting the Young Offenders Act.

This morning, we agree on how Bill C-53 should be implemented, and I would urge the government not to make the same mistake. I hope that later on there will be no interference from federalists who want to change the rules of the game in this bill. It is high time the Liberal government showed respect for the bills it introduces, never mind how Quebec implements them, with its flexible approach or how Ontario or the other provinces will do it.

The official opposition agrees with Bill C-53, and that is why we did not propose any amendments. This bill was developed by a task force that was appointed well before the Liberals came to power. This task force managed to establish a consensus, although it was far from easy, among the federal, provincial and territorial governments regarding the administration of a federal act by the provinces. That is why we agree with Bill C-53.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

Noon

Reform

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate what I consider to be a significant bill. It is a matter which should be debated. However, I believe there is a lot missing in the intent of the bill that should be addressed.

This country has a rising cost of crime that the victims as well as others have to share. They have to share in the cost of the release of prisoners, the lack of rehabilitation and the repeat nature of criminals. Most criminals repeat their crimes. That drives up the costs of crime in society. It is now at the point where it is no longer acceptable. Most people do not realize how much or what they are paying for.

The government states that the bill would authorize the provinces to create additional types of temporary absence programs. In other words, offenders at the provincial level will be put out on the street at a much higher rate than they are right now. The rate is already high. The government says it is a cost effective measure to cut down the costs of incarceration and so-called rehabilitation.

The Reform Party does not support this bill. It falls far short of what it should address. It is tinkering with the justice system. It is downloading some of those costs not so much on the provinces, but on the communities where the offenders are going to be dumped. I say "dumped" because there is no indication that there will be solid programs put in place to pick up the influx of offenders who will be returned to the community.

The bill also deals with the extension of temporary absences granted to inmates, up to a maximum period of 60 days.

The government argues that the bill is minor in scope, that it is merely a reflection of what the provinces have requested of the federal government. My question to the federal government is this. Who in the Department of Justice has analysed the true cost of crime in the country? What studies justify the action taken by the provisions in this bill? What studies on repeat offenders have been put forward so opposition members can evaluate them?

Seventy per cent of inmates in institutions have been previously incarcerated. What studies show how these costs are going to be reduced when we consider the impact on communities? The police will have to shore up their already very meagre resources to detect and arrest repeat offenders. The courts will have to hear and re-hear the same offenders coming before them. The victims of property crime will have to pay the deductible on their insurance policies, while their insurance rates will continue to rise. People will have to be hospitalized after being assaulted by repeat offenders.

I have seen nothing from the government or the justice department which addresses those issues. However, studies have been attempted by other institutions in the country. I will name one and reflect on it from time to time as I speak this morning. The Fraser Institute sought information from the government. It was looking for studies that the government could put forward to justify its legislation. Nothing has come out of the justice department.

In fact, it has been always the opposite. The government looks at the bottom line, what it is costing a particular department and it says, that is our cost. We are reducing them. That is the message the government is attempting to sell to the electorate but it is not telling the truth.

The truth of the matter is that as more offenders are released the cost to the community is increasing, because of shattered lives, because of the pain and anguish from an assault, a sexual assault or a robbery. Shattered lives are never factored into anything that the government does when it comes to criminal justice legislation. The government ignores it. It does not want to know about it. It wants them to go away. It does not want to listen to the victims and the taxpayers when they cry out for protection or a change in legislation. The government just does not want to deal with that matter.

The government also argues that the proposed legislation is part of an overall program to make our streets safer by gradually reintegrating offenders back into the community. How many more times can we address this whole issue of parole and temporary absences given the fact that most people desire the opposite?

The studies and information that the Reform Party has received reflect the opposite. People want to see the offenders locked away. They want to see them punished to some degree. Yet the government does not want to address any of that. It knows better and it says so. It tells the electorate: "You elected us because we know better than you on how to handle this whole affair".

The government talks about reintegrating offenders back into the community. If 70 per cent, give or take 5 or 10 per cent of the prison population, have been imprisoned before, what does that tell us about the so-called rehabilitation programming structure that the federal or provincial government has established? Some of it has been imposed on the provincial governments through legislation.

If this is not working, why are we passing more legislation to deal with the same program and the same failed rate that already exists? Why are we compounding the problem? That is what is proposed in Bill C-53. When the Liberal government puts to people, the electorate and the taxpayer, that it is trying to make our streets safer, that is false information. It will be doing the opposite. Already the temporary absence program and parole have been a dismal failure.

Let us talk about the parole board for a moment. It deals almost with the same form of release. I am speaking about the violent offender more than any others when I talk about the parole board. The violent offender still plays a significant role if the attitudes of people are looked at when discussing criminal justice matters and certainly release matters.

Let us face it. The parole board's decisions really are not all that beneficial to the safety of the community. If those offenders have to serve their full time we would not need a parole board at quite a substantial cost to taxpayers. The matter could easily be handled by those within the correctional system.

The probationary aspect or early release, I do not care if it is provincial or federal, reflects the same thing. I see the parliamentary secretary to the justice minister shaking his head. Imagine, the most recent study to come forward with regard to crime statistics shows that the Canadian rates for property crimes are equal to or higher in some areas than those rates across the border. These property crimes include motor vehicle thefts, break and enters and vandalism.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

An hon. member

The crime rate has gone down in the last four years.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

The American crime rate has also dropped. It has dipped a little. The parliamentary secretary said our crime rate is going down. I say big deal. Property crime rates between 1962 and now have increased by 500 per cent. He ignores that statistic which speaks very clearly for itself.

Violent crime to this day, 1997, has increased by 400 per cent. The parliamentary secretary and the justice minister like to tell people to feel safe because the crime rate is dropping. They say they are doing a good job. The truth is it is a temporary blip. The crime rate makes these little adjustments from time to time but overall it has increased over the years.

The youth violent crime rate is rising which should be a concern for everyone in the House. But the Liberals have made it a partisan issue. They look at rehabilitation as the answer to all the crime problems. There is no talk about punishment, no talk about keeping people safe. Although the Liberals like to reiterate those words often, in effect that is not really what is happening.

That is the early release portion which the government is telling people it is going to grant to the provinces to make them feel safer.

The government also argues that the program for extended temporary absence for certain inmates will actually save money by lowering the prison population. That is the crux of the matter. That

is what this bill is all about. It is not about keeping people safe. It is not about dealing with the crime problem and repeat offenders. It is not about cutting down on the actual cost of crime which is what impacts on each person who may suffer from a break-in or an assault.

The crux of this bill is to empty the prisons. Get them out earlier. Bounce them out so government members will look good. They can tell the taxpayers they are doing something. They are addressing not only the problem of crime but they are cutting down on spending. Wow. That is the problem here. The government is cutting down on the cost of corrections and imposing it on the provinces at the cost of the safety of the taxpayers and the victims. That is what is happening. The government will never admit to that. But I believe if we go through the streets and the rural areas of this country, we will get a clear picture.

The parliamentary secretary likes to support all government legislation. I do not think there is really any debate behind closed doors on that side of the House. It is all an attitude of "let's just follow along here with those at the top. They say this is the best way to go". The best way to go is to develop all this legislation, kick it down into the caucus and tell the caucus what will happen. Then it goes off to committee. Again, this is a top down process. There is no debate in the committee about these bills. It is a joke.

A whole flock of witnesses come forward, some of them with their own agenda, others with a concern about what may be happening in their communities. Nobody listens because the decision has already been made. The decision has already been made on Bills C-53, C-68 and C-55, the so-called high risk offender legislation which is coming up for a vote too.

The decisions have been made, the bills have been formulated, drafted and are going to be discussed in committee. Where are they going to go? They are going to the floor of the House and they are going to be passed because of the greater numbers on the government side of the House.

Here is another example with respect to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General who is looking after corrections and our prisons. This is the message being delivered, and again the same kind of an attitude: "I know best. I know better than the people in this country. I can make you feel safe even though you are not".

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General is chiding me because I took a recent trip to Bowden. I stepped inside that prison to see what was going on and it is interesting. I encourage every member of this House to go inside and really have a close look at what is happening in our prisons. It is a joke.

Most of the prisoners have an attitude and it has been drawn, drafted and supported by this government and one or two previous governments that they can challenge authority at every turn. That is the attitude of the prisoners, that they can challenge authority at every turn. If there is some disciplinary action to be taken on the inside and the prisoner does not like it, what do they do? They appeal to the warden, the commissioner or the deputy commissioner and it goes up the ladder as if it were some sort of a union. They can say "I do not like you doing that to the authority of this country". That is what is happening in our prisons.

When that attitude prevails and is supported by the Liberals and those before them under Conservatives we have a problem on our hands. The prisoner, the violator of the law, does not know his place in society. He does not understand what is wrong. It is not called corrections, it is called support services for those who break the law. That is what we have in this nation. Now they are trying to impose the same type of thing on the provinces by bringing in Bill C-53 which allows them to kick offenders back out on to the street early.

In reality this is just another bill in a long line of bills brought before the committee. Everybody has debated them. I can think back to some earlier bills, although I was not privy to the debate on some of those, but it would not have made much difference because they are already decided beforehand; a long list of bills that weaken further this system that we call the justice system. Unfortunately there is less and less justice in the system.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General says he has been in the prisons before. He must condone everything that goes on in those prisons. I do not know. It is strange that he would want to support such a system and he will fight tooth and nail to maintain such a system. Even the prisoners complain substantially about it.

I can remember one prison I walked into. There was a fellow by the name of Austin. He was a very vicious murderer. He was a weightlifter, he used steroids, he was a real tough individual to deal with. He murdered one or two people in southern Alberta. This inmate controlled the prison.

Corrections Canada, with the support of the solicitor general and the government members, agree with that. They say let this man exist. They do not come out and say that to the public but by their inaction to do something about the interior problems within these institutions they condone it. If you do not do something to stop it then you condone it. That is the bottom line.

What benefit would a situation like that developing in our prisons be to other offenders?

There may be some who might not agree with the process within, who have a desire to be self-rehabilitated. I have talked to many. I have talked to some who have gone into prison who had no desire

ever to go back again, who are extremely critical of the system inside because it does not deal with self-rehabilitation at all.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Gordon Kirkby Prince Albert—Churchill River, SK

That is what you want.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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12:20 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

I am talking about self-rehabilitation. The parliamentary secretary to the justice minister cannot tell the difference. That is the problem.

This government does not know the difference between rehabilitation programs that are sponsored by the state and the self-rehabilitative desire on the part of the individual to correct his behaviour.

The individual who has a desire to correct his own behaviour is not supported by the system in any way, shape or form. In fact, he is probably hindered.

I have received numerous calls from inmates who have former prisoners who have been in that category. The minute they were arrested, they went through the process, stepped inside the prison at that point in their life and said "no more".

The system does not deal with those who have set their hand against authority as a matter of course. It does not deal with those people. In fact, it manipulates them and allows them to be manipulated by others within the system. That is what is happening in our prisons. No one can tell me that is a positive aspect of corrections Canada. It is not.

In effect, with all the money that is being spent on rehabilitative programs all we are really doing and all the taxpayer is really doing is warehousing. There is nothing substantive. There is no skills training any more, or very little.

They are shutting down a lot of the shops within the prisons which used to teach some skills that would give them a slight advantage, if you will, by stepping out and doing something constructive on the other side. It gives them something to work for and desire. Not any more. Look at the shops being closed.

There is an organization called CORCAN. Mr. Speaker would understand that organization since he has half a dozen prisons in his riding. There are a number of votes there that might mean a lot to you, I do not know.

Here is an organization within called CORCAN. CORCAN loses money every year. Why does it lose money? It is supposed to help the prisoners with their programs. It is supposed to teach them. It is supposed to employ within. Why does it lose money? Have members ever asked themselves that?

I speak directly in a way through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General. Why does CORCAN, the agency that is supposed to employ people within the prison system, lose money? Why, with its existence as long as it has been there, does it only employ a fraction of the inmates in each institution?

I was at one institution in Alberta. Since Calgary is my home town, I have had a chance to visit those prisons more than many others.

CORCAN has a farm on the property owned by corrections Canada, 350 cow-calf operations. Some urban people might not know what that really signifies, but it is 350 cows. They give calves every year, they feed these animals and ship off the beef.

The beef goes all over the place. It goes to other prisons and elsewhere. I have not been able to track down where. How many people would that kind of operation employ? I know farmers and ranchers who own and have operations of that size. They are family run operations. In the setting at Bowden penitentiary, there are 80 prisoners looking after what many could operate as a family operation in this country. Tell me where the justification is to that?

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Nick Discepola Vaudreuil, QC

Do you want to give them experience or not?

Prisons And Reformatories Act
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12:25 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB

The parliamentary secretary asked me if I want to give them experience in this kind of operation. That is all well and good. I say yes, but let us look at the other side of the issue. Does it take 80 people to feed 350 cows? What are the other 75 people doing in the meantime?

I would have to say that if they are trying to teach somebody the value of getting up at six o'clock in the morning and putting in a full day's work then I think they have failed. Five of them might get up but the other seventy-five might or might not get up because they do not have to go to work. That is the attitude in the prison system. If they do not want to go to work, they do not have to. There might be some adjustment in their pay. They may get paid $1 or $2 less per day but that is about it. There is no obligation on the part of the inmates in our prisons today to go to work.

Most of the inmates are undisciplined anyway which is why they are in jail. They have had their hand against authority right from the beginning and are not going to learn any discipline tactics there. They are not going to learn what it means to get up and take a lunch box to work. They are not going to know what it means to earn a decent day's pay. They want it for nothing and if they cannot get it for nothing then they will take it. Unfortunately, that is often their attitude and is supported by the Liberal government on that side of the House. I do not think that is a healthy attitude to develop in anyone.

The former parliamentary secretary to the solicitor general agrees with all of that. He also feels this is all acceptable and rehabilitative, but that is where the breakdown in the programs

comes. It is not acceptable. It is a failure. Unfortunately the Liberal government on that side of the House cannot recognize that at all.

Let us look at another reality of the bill in reference to deterrence. To extend temporary absence programs would actually have the opposite impact on incarceration in the area of deterrence. In other words, how is it going to deter anyone? We are talking about this so-called rehabilitative viewpoint. How is this going to deter anyone from committing a crime and being incarcerated and not wanting to go back? Deterrence is not there to make it clear to the inmate or the potential criminal.

I have dealt with enough criminals in my lifetime and put enough individuals in jail to know what their mentality is like. For the most part they get together and discuss a lot of things when it comes to crime. They discuss a matter before they even do it, especially if they are operating in conjunction with one another. They will look at it and since they are already bent, for the most part, to break the law and defy authority, they will look at the system and ask "what is going to stop me, what are the costs of my going out and committing this act?"

If they say a person is going to be sentenced to two years less a day but they will make sure the person gets out quicker now than before, which is what this bill is actually stating, then by the time it filters down into the communities they will be out quicker than before.

The deterrent aspect of the bill diminishes the present law, the present form of incarceration and the demands placed on provincial governments to keep offenders in and cut down on the cost of crime. That again is something this government will not address.

As I pointed out before, Bill C-53 places prisoner rehabilitation and reintegration as equal to the consideration of the protection of society. The bill says that rehabilitation and reintegration are equal to the protection of society. The truth of the matter is that if the bill says this, then the opposite is true. It is not going to do that because under the present rehabilitation, parole and temporary absences program, the cost of crime continues to soar in our communities.

One study states that the cost of crime is in the billions of dollars. Before getting into the cost of crime as outlined by the Fraser Institute, I am going to criticize the government and the justice department substantially because they have never conducted any studies on the real cost of crime. I pointed that out briefly before. They have never availed themselves of the existing stats or sought input from victims of crime or communities as to the impact of crime on people. They have not done studies to determine what the hospitalization costs are for victims who have been assaulted or raped. The impact of criminal behaviour on our society has not been examined with regard to hospitalization costs.

Let us look at what the report says. I am reading from page 24 on hospitalization costs: "There are hospitalization costs associated with violent crimes which should also be included as part of the direct costs of violent crime. The average number of days of hospitalization, not including simple outpatient treatment, amount to roughly one-quarter of the total number of violent incidents. That is, for the 270,000 assaults known to police in 1993, about 68,000 hospital days costing about $68 million were required to repair the physical harm done to the victims". That is just a portion of it.

The legislation coming from that side of the House does not deal with the true costs, even if we just look at the simple category-and I hate to categorize it as a category-of assault. There were 68,000 hospital days costing the taxpayer or government at one level or another money to repair those victims.

The report says that since data on the number of hospital days required to treat the victims of assault are from victim survey data, using crime incidence counts derived from victimization surveys instead of incidents reported to the police might prove to be more appropriate.

What is being said is that a victimization survey was done to prepare the report. The victimization survey quickly noted that the incidents reported to police and the actual figures of people being victimized are two different numbers. In other words the victimization rate is a lot higher than what is reported to the police. As a result the hospitalization costs skyrocketed to $550 million just to deal with assaults in this country. That is outrageous. Why would any government want to pass legislation that would further harm the people of the country? It defies logic. There has to be some explanation, but the explanation I am hearing from the government side is not logical.

I was on the CBC a short time ago and I tried to reason through some of the legislation that had been passed in reference to the criminal justice system. The victim is almost considered to be the accused. I have to say that the government sides more with the protection of the criminal than it does with the victim. It rushes in there and supports the criminal. It supports the rights of the criminal over the rights of the victim.

The facts are sitting there for all to see. They only have to take the shades off their eyes and look.

There was another study done by Brandon Welsh and Irvin Waller: "Crime and Its Prevention: Costs and Benefits". This study was done by these gentlemen at the Department of Criminology of the University of Ottawa. The study talked about shattered lives. What is it costing in shattered lives?

This bill would put the criminal back onto the street earlier so that he can victimize more people. It would allow the provinces to do the same thing. The attitude is to open the doors. The motto of the government is: open the doors so they can all get back out and do more damage. That is what is happening. That is the attitude of the government. It is unfortunate and it has a significant impact on our communities.

Welsh and Waller estimate the cost of shattered lives to be $12.1 billion each year. The study covered the period from 1991 to 1993. The cost is outrageous.

What is a shattered life? It is a murder. How do the people in the family feel? It could be a rape or an assault. It could be the cost of social services. For the most part the victims pay for their own care but those who commit the crime are supported by the state. The state rushes in to help them at every turn. It is totally unacceptable, but it is the Liberal philosophy of the day. The cost of shattered lives is significant.

The government has never measured the lost productivity of a person who has been assaulted. It has never measured whether that person is as productive as they were before. It has never measured the outrage, the fear associated with property crime or violent attacks. People have to change their lives but the government refuses to address the matter.

The bill should address the concerns of the community to its fullest and not just the bottom line of what might be in the correctional system both provincially and federally. I would support the bill, but Reform will not support this bill in this context.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Reform

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I extend congratulations to my colleague from Calgary Northeast for an eloquent speech. It was full of a lot of good suggestions that I sincerely hope the government will be able to adopt in an effort to try to bring some sense to the increasingly absurd situation which is taking place within our prisons and reformatories.

Bill C-53, an act to amend the prisons and reformatories act, was a great opportunity for the government to put forth some constructive solutions to situations with which those who work within the system and those who are observers from without are increasingly dissatisfied. I particularly feel sorry for those working within the system, the men and women who work in corrections. They are finding it increasingly difficult to work within the system and to find meaning in what they do. The outcome of what they are faced with has been less than satisfactory, not from the good efforts they have made but from the fact that the system within which they operate is making it very difficult for them to put forth good solutions.

The suggestion within this bill, as my colleague from Calgary Northeast mentioned, is really to increase the number of temporary absence programs. The reason the government is proposing this is not for the safety of Canadians, it is not to improve the way in which crime and punishment operate within Canada, but it is purely to try to save money.

In the process of trying to save money, which we all approve of, there is going to be a huge cost. The cost is in releasing individuals who have committed crimes, sometimes very serious crimes, and compromising the innocent men, women and children who live in our great nation. That is the cost people are going to have to pay in the efforts the government is pursuing in this bill in trying to increase the number of temporary absence programs which exist within our country.

Of all the problems that are affecting our prisons and reformatories, the government is messing around with a very minor issue. This country's prisons and reformatories need a radical overhaul. My colleague from Calgary Northeast, my colleague from Surrey-White Rock-South Langley and my colleague from Fraser Valley West have all put forward some very eloquent solutions in which we can revamp our justice system to try to ensure that Canadians are safer and try to ensure that crime and punishment and sensible cost effective rehabilitation will be integral parts of the system.

Instead of pursuing these courses, instead of trying to make these solutions better, the government has chosen once again to nibble around the edges into an area that is relatively meaningless in the grand scheme of reforming our prison system. This not only happens within this bill but in fact happens to the majority of bills in this House. In fact it happens to the majority of work that is done in this House and in the committees of the House of Commons. Why is this so? Because we do not have a democracy here. We have a fiefdom.

Every member in this House, if they are honest and look into their hearts, will recognize very clearly that a small cadre of elected and unelected, invisible, unaccountable individuals are making the major decisions within this country. Because of the whip structure that we labour under in this country, the good men and women who work in this House as members of Parliament across party lines are forced to engage in behaviour and are forced to do the bidding of these unelected and unaccountable individuals.

This is not a democracy. This is a fiefdom. It does a huge disservice not only to the people in this House, but most important it does a huge disservice to the Canadian public, the people we are supposed to serve.

This bill provides the Canadian people with just one more example of why our system simply does not work. What goes on in this House 80 per cent of the time is a sham. It is a complete and utter sham.

It is offensive to me that we are dealing with nibbling around this issue. Unlike what the government believes, the situation is that our streets are becoming less safe all the time. It is true that the stated statistics demonstrate that there has been a decrease in crime in adults. It is true that the stated statistics show that there has been an increase in violent crime, in particular with youth. There has been an increase in crime in general with youth.

However, our stated facts and statistics on crime and punishment do not reflect the fact that the actual rates of crime in this country are much greater than the stated levels are. When we look behind these statistics the reason is the Canadian public is becoming increasingly dissatisfied, more fearful and has less and less faith in the justice system as it exists.

If we speak to RCMP officers and the good men and women who put their lives on the line to keep our streets safe we will find they are becoming increasingly dissatisfied. The system ties their hands behind their backs and prevents them from doing their jobs. They are overworked, understaffed and labour under a series of rules and restrictions that prevents them from doing their jobs.

If you are playing hardball with criminals you have to play hardball back. One need not look any further than the Asian gang crime situation in my province of British Columbia and see the terrible difficulties that our police forces are having in trying to bring these individuals to justice. They feel aggrieved that there has been no leadership at the federal or provincial level on this issue. This is why we in the Reform Party have become increasingly dissatisfied by the inaction, whitewashing and smoke and mirrors that have come forward from the justice minister.

Rather than taking the initiative and using his power to work with members across party lines to develop good, concrete, effective solutions to the problems, he has chosen once again to play games. He is not playing games only in this House for political reasons, he is playing games with the health and welfare and the lives and the safety of men, women and children in this country. That is nothing to be proud of.

Crime is increasing in this country and we have asked the minister to do something about it. Apart from the good solutions that have already been put forward by my colleagues let me offer a few more. First, as has been said before, we have to change the mindset of the way we think about justice. Back in the early 1980s the Liberal solicitor general of the day said from now on the primary goal of the justice system is not going to be the protection of innocent civilians; the primary goal is going to be the rehabilitation of criminals.

While we think that rehabilitation is essential to developing a stronger, safer community in the future, there can be no doubt the primary role of our justice system has to be the protection of innocent civilians. Period. End of story. That is what we aim to do.

It is wise to divide up those who are violent criminals and non-violent criminals. Those who are violent criminals have to pay the price. They have demonstrated that they have shown a wilful neglect to innocent people in the worst possible way. If they are sentenced to a term in prison they must pay that price. People who are contemplating committing offences must know they are going to pay a hefty sentence if they commit them.

Second is to ensure that individuals before they are released are not going to pose a threat to innocent people. When I worked in prisons one of the most appalling things imaginable that I saw were individuals with rap sheets as long as your arm who committed many violent offences and who were going to be released even though everybody who worked with these individuals knew they would commit violent offences when they were out, physical, sexual or otherwise. It was known.

The system prevents us from protecting innocent civilians and that is a terrible situation and everybody pays. It is a crime to society.

The Canadian public should say loudly and clearly that it is not going to put up with it anymore. Canadians demand to be protected and this House must stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Canada to ensure that people will not commit violent crimes again. To the best of our ability we must safeguard the Canadian public from this. If we have to, we should deem those people violent offenders and keep them in for such a time that they will not pose a threat anymore.

Non-violent offenders should be able to work as part of restitution not only to the victims but also to society at large and for their own incarceration.

There are two things which are not spoken of often but which my colleague from Calgary Northeast mentioned very well. The first is skills training. Many of these individuals do not have appropriate skills so when they are released out of the system they have nothing to fall back on other than a life of crime, which is what they do. As part of the system we must ensure skills training is an integral part of the rehabilitation of criminals.

The second is the extraordinarily high incidence of drug and alcohol abuse by incarcerated individuals. Obligatory counselling and treatment for drug and alcohol abuse must be a mandatory and essential part of rehabilitation. Drug and alcohol abuse, as we know in this House, is a very fundamental part of violence and criminal behaviour.

My third point concerns dealings with psychiatric patients. One of the worst things we have done in recent years is to deinstitutionalize psychiatric patients. In my view, many psychiatric patients should not have been deinstitutionalized, although some certainly should have been and the integration of individuals from that

population in society is something that they and those of us who do not have psychiatric problems have benefited from.

However, there is a large population composed of individuals who cannot take care of themselves on the street. They stop medicating themselves and they go into a worsening spiral of their psychoses. They run afoul of the law and wind up in an institution, in a criminal institution, in a correctional facility. These people should not be there. They should be receiving the appropriate psychiatric treatments. They should be medicated properly. That would save the system money. It would save a lot of hidden costs for our society and, most important, these poor individuals who suffer from psychiatric diseases would be treated appropriately in an environment of safety with the assurance and care they need.

I strongly advise the Minister of Justice to urge his counterparts in the provinces to stop the deinstitutionalizing process and look at effective means of determining which patients should or should not be deinstitutionalized.

My next point is also related to rehabilitation. There is an interesting program that has taken place around San Francisco, California which touches on what I said before. They have brought individuals who are near the end of their sentences into the real, non-custodial world to work in the real world with real people. They are introduced to working in the real world with non-incarcerated individuals.

In the process, these individuals learned a great deal about how to function appropriately with others. They learned conflict resolution strategies. They learned appropriate social mores, how to control violent behaviour and how to work effectively in a work situation. They were required to act responsibly in the working world.

Many of these individuals had never had that opportunity before and had led lives of crime. When they became a part of this type of rehabilitation system-I encourage the Minister of Justice to look at this-the outcome was to save millions of taxpayer dollars and to help integrate them back into society as useful, productive, employable members of society. I would encourage the Minister of Justice once again to look at this other solution.

Another thing I would like to address is the issue of prevention. In my experience in dealing with youth in juvenile detention centres, many of the children do not have the pillars of a normal psyche. It is true that many of them have endured atrocious and appalling conditions of violence and sexual abuse. Throughout that period the pillars of a normal psyche were not allowed to develop. As a result many of them have run afoul of the law and go on to develop into dysfunctional adults later on.

There is a way out but it does not involve trying to change the mindset of these individuals when they are 15. We cannot do it at that time and we certainly cannot do it with a three month, six month or one year incarceration with optional counselling in a juvenile detention centre. Nothing changes. These people are let out and they go right back to the criminal behaviour they had before. Many of these kids go back into the same family situations and endure the same appalling family situation. This does not work.

There are solutions. First, we need to identify children at risk very early on and we need to identify families at risk. It is not too early to identify these families right at the prenatal stage. Families at risk do not just materialize. It is something that one can observe clinically. When these families are identified it is worthwhile to have quick response teams go in and deal with these families.

Furthermore, the school system can be a useful tool. They did this down in the United States, I believe at Columbia University. What they did at inner city schools, which had terrible rates of violence, drug abuse, teen pregnancies and dropouts, is they took these kids early on to teach them at four and five years old not only their A, B, C's, but also appropriate conflict resolution, drugs, alcohol, self-respect and respect for others.

When doing this intervention beginning at the age of four, they had an enormous impact on the future psychological development of these kids. Furthermore, they also brought the parents into the system, many of whom were single parents, and taught the parents the same issues.

The outcome of this was a radical decrease in dropout rates, violence and teen pregnancies in these children. The savings to the system were absolutely enormous. The parents who were also involved were able to develop appropriate parenting skills that they never had before. It was a win-win situation for all concerned. It will not cost us more money. In fact, it will save us money.

I presented this to the Minister of Justice last May or June. I asked him to take a leadership role to bring together his counterparts in the provinces, the ministers of health, human resources and development and the solicitors general, to develop some kind of formalized plan that can be employed in the educational system very early on beginning with kindergarten in order to teach the kids and to also bring the parents who are at risk into the system.

The benefits to our society will be massive. I am confident we will see a decrease in the youth crime rate and a decrease in adults.

This is not pie in the sky. It is cost effective economically and it has been proven in the United States to work.

Dr. Fraser Mustard, part of our centres of excellence in Toronto, has done some work touching on these issues. I would again encourage our Minister of Justice to take a look at this, not study it for 10 years but to start acting and using some of these ideas if for no other reason but to use it as a pilot project.

I know members of this party would be very happy to provide the considerable amount of expertise that exists within our party to the minister for effective, cost effective and socially effective solutions that are going to make our streets and society safer and stronger.

In closing, we do not support Bill C-53. It does not address the central issue we have in this country which is the issue of an increasing crime rate and decreasing safety and putting greater emphasis on the protection of innocent civilians rather than on the rehabilitation of the criminal.

I would ask once again for all of us to work together on this issue for all Canadians.

Prisons And Reformatories Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Reform

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the presentation of my hon. colleague from Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca about Bill C-53.

I know from travelling throughout my riding of Peace George-Peace River and across the country that Canadians are concerned about some measures which have been taken by the government to keep criminals out of the prison system. I speak specifically about the measures known as the alternative measures and conditional sentencing.

In meetings that I had during the Christmas break in my riding, a number of people came to me with concerns about the justice system and specifically about the lack of deterrence in the justice system.

One of the arguments made by the Liberal government is that more criminals have to be kept out of the system and alternative measures must be provided because of the overcrowding of the prisons, the correctional facilities. It seems to me that part of the reason why the jails are overcrowded is that we have made them such a comfortable place in which to reside. Perhaps-