Drug-Free Prisons Act

An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Sponsor

Steven Blaney  Conservative

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to require the Parole Board of Canada (or a provincial parole board, if applicable) to cancel parole granted to an offender if, before the offender’s release, the offender tests positive in a urinalysis, or fails or refuses to provide a urine sample, and the Board considers that the criteria for granting parole are no longer met. It also amends that Act to clarify that any conditions set by a releasing authority on an offender’s parole, statutory release or unescorted temporary absence may include conditions regarding the offender’s use of drugs or alcohol, including in cases when that use has been identified as a risk factor in the offender’s criminal behaviour.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure, today, to rise to speak in support of Bill C-12, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as it has been labelled, the drug-free prisons act, though I am often confused how the bill would make our prisons drug free. However, at the same time, we are supporting it.

At this time, I would like to take a minute to acknowledge the amazing work being done by the critic in this area; that is, the member of Parliament for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, who has done an absolutely thorough and very detailed analysis of this piece of legislation, and the work done at the committee to try to strengthen the legislation so that it would actually do what it purports it would. As we know, our colleagues across the way are not really up to listening to any experts or advice as to how to improve bills. In any event, the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, on this whole file of public safety, has put in, I would say, a gargantuan amount of work in order to deal with real issues for Canadians and to ensure Canadians' safety in a real way.

It is interesting that we are debating the bill on the day the budget will be presented. We know that the budget has been delayed. I do not know if it has been delayed because the minister just did not know what to put in the budget or whether they were busy developing their communications or free advertising plan on the tax dollars, but the budget has been delayed. In any event, we look forward to seeing it today. I really hope that when we look at the budget today we will see a significant investment in what the current government purports its agenda to be.

My colleagues across the way often like to see themselves as the champions of public safety but often what we have is a lot of rhetoric with very little funding that goes along with the programs they announced, or lack thereof, or has often been accompanied by cuts as well.

This particular piece of legislation, despite its title, “drug-free prisons act”, I would say is a baby step that we do support. Let me tell members that it would not have the kind of impact that my colleagues across the way seem to think it would because this particular bill would not tackle the real issues that our prisons are facing.

Bill C-12 would add a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that would make it clear that the Parole Board may use positive results from urine tests, or refusals to take urine tests for drugs, in making its decisions on parole eligibility.

Let me assure members that my understanding is this is already being done. Therefore, what we would do is take a practice that is already in play into legislation, and that is a good thing. What it would do is give clear authority to an existing practice, a practice that we do support, but this practice by itself and on its own would not address the serious issues we do have to tackle, which are drug addictions, mental illness and the very fundamentals that lead to more and more people ending up in prisons rather than in treatment.

The title of Bill C-12, as I have mentioned a few times, is misleading. We know the current government has a penchant for coming up with some pretty outrageous, all-encompassing titles for bills, but when we actually dig into the bill we find there is very little substance. That is what we are finding with this bill. The title sounds great but when we get into the bill, all we have is the government codifying a current practice of the Parole Board.

The Parole Board right now retains its discretion as to what use it makes of this information, which is actually how it would remain.

It always makes me proud to sit on this side of the House with my colleagues, because we have been steadfast in our support for measures that will make our prisons safe, while the Conservative government has ignored recommendations from corrections staff and the Correctional Investigator that would decrease violence, gang activity, and drug use in our prisons.

We are not the only ones. We know that the current government is allergic to data and experts. However, most of us know that when we are dealing with the complexities of drug addiction, we have to pay attention to what we know and to the knowledge acquired by the experts in this area. The stakeholders agree with the NDP that this bill would have a minimal impact on drugs in prisons.

This bill is about granting parole and what the Parole Board would take into consideration. It has very little to do with what is actually going to be happening inside the prisons. Once again, the Conservative government is using legislation to create an opportunity to pander to its base and to pretend that it is doing something with no real solutions to the issue of drugs and gangs in our prisons. I would go so far as to say that the government is actually making our prisons less safe by cutting funding to correctional programs, such as for substance abuse, and by increasing the use of double-bunking, which leads to more violence. Our priority as parliamentarians should be ensuring community safety by preparing ex-offenders to reintegrate into society once released, addiction-free and less likely to reoffend.

I looked very carefully at this legislation, because as a mother and now a grandmother and as a life-long teacher and counsellor in a high school and for the school district, I know what a difficult task we have ahead of us as a society as we try to tackle drug addictions. There are no simple solutions.

In my city of Surrey, in beautiful British Columbia, in the last 38 days we have had 23 shootings. On Sunday, what we all feared happened: a fatality, with a 22-year-old losing his life. People in my community of Surrey, like in other communities across Canada, care very deeply about addressing the issues of violence, gangs and drugs. No parents out there want to see their young daughter or sons engaged in the use of drugs or involved in any kind of criminal activity. When these kinds of tragedies happen in our communities, it shakes us to the core and makes us want to hug those around us. Right now, my heart goes out to the family—the parents, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, sisters—but also to the whole community as it deals with this latest round of gun violence.

It is because we want real solutions that we want to tackle the real issues. We want to starting looking at the underlying issues.

We need a real strategy and action on mental health, not just talk, that happens in a multi-faceted way. Many people will say that it has nothing to do with this topic. We know that the majority of people in our prisons are there because they were convicted of crimes related to drugs and many of them because they suffer from mental health issues. Unless we start tackling mental health issues in a serious way, I do not think this baby step is going to help us achieve a safer society or make our prisons any safer.

It is like the current government wants to see how many more people it can put into prisons, even if it has to double-bunk them, and the mandatory sentencing has led to more people being sent to prison. I absolutely believe that we need policies that mete out punishments that fit the crimes, but we also need to make sure that there is rehabilitation.

Before we even talk about crimes and people ending up in prison, we need to look at our communities, school systems, and the kind of programming needed. When I look at the public school system, I would say that it has been under attack for many years. When I look specifically at British Columbia, a lot of the preventive work that used to be done on drug addictions in high schools is very difficult to do today, because a number of counsellors have been removed and a lot of the money that used to be available for prevention is no longer there. I look at Surrey and the kind of support system for youth in our community. I look at how many students per counsellor there are today compared to when I came to B.C., when there were 250 students to a counsellor in my district Nanaimo. Now I am hearing that the number can be as high as 800 to 1,000 per counsellor.

If we look at all the pressures on our children through social media and the Internet, and we know, because we have dealt with many pieces of legislation in the House, at the very same time that is happening, they are cutting a lot of the support systems that used to be available. In my school district in B.C., we used to have some of the most progressive, stellar programs to engage youth in a positive way. One was called action Nanaimo. There was also a steps to maturity program, which actually dealt with kids' self-esteem, communication skills, and the issue of bullying and how to deal with that. None of those programs exist today.

This is where we have to have all levels of government and communities working together to provide young people with the kind of supports they need so that they do not end up getting into trouble, whether it is due to mental health or drugs, and do not end up joining gangs and engaging in trafficking drugs. We need to make sure that youth have the scaffolding they need to steer through the many challenges they face in our society today.

I would say that the same is true of those people who are in our prisons today. It is very easy to sentence people to prison, but if once they are in prison we do not provide them with rehabilitation, we are not doing a service to society.

Let me throw out a figure that will be absolutely shocking to most people. The cost to send a person to prison and keep him or her in confinement has risen to about $80,000 to $90,000 a year. We are prepared to spend that as a society. On the other hand, we are not prepared to put even 10% or 20% of that money into education and prevention programs so that our young people do not end up in prison.

If mandatory sentences and putting more people into prisons would get rid of drugs and crime, then the U.S. would have no crime and no drug problem. What we are good at, under the government across the way, is following examples that we know are not good. Instead of looking at evidence, we would rather just blindly copy the U.S. and keep putting people in prison, while the U.S. is sending experts up here to learn about rehabilitation from us.

Once people are in prison, we do not provide them with the resources they need to not reoffend. I find it quite outrageous to sit in this House and listen to the rhetoric of the government across the way when it has failed. It has not only failed to increase funding, it has cut funding to programs that would provide support for those in prison, and in hospitals too. I have a 90-year-old mother who I was recently visiting in hospital. Despite the amazing work being done by the staff at the hospital, I would say that they are facing major challenges as well.

To truly address the issue of drug use in prisons, we need to do a proper intake assessment of an inmate's addiction and then provide the proper correctional programming for that offender. Without treatment, education, and proper integration upon release, a prisoner will likely return to a criminal lifestyle and possibly create more victims. What we have then is what has come to be known as the revolving door.

With mandatory minimums, our prison population is increasing while at the same time both federal and provincial governments are closing institutions. It is quite disconcerting how mental health services are being impacted.

Correctional Service Canada's directive 55, which establishes procedures to normalize double-bunking, is kind of weird to me. When I was young and I went to youth hostels, double-bunking was kind of fun, but I cannot imagine double-bunking in prison.

Let me once again say that we support this. It is a baby step. However, without investments in prevention, education, treatment, and rehabilitation, all we have are words. Our communities deserve far more. I hope that in the budget presented today we will see a real infusion of funds to address prevention, education, mental health issues, rehabilitation, and real support for an effective reintegration policy that will make a real difference and lead to safer communities.

I would say there is no better investment than in the education of our children. I urge governments at the provincial level to please make it a top priority, because our children are our future and they are worth every penny we invest.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will focus my question on the member's priority throughout her speech, which is education.

I agree in many ways how important education is. The leader of the Liberal Party, a teacher by profession, has talked a great deal about the importance of education. For example, he talked about the importance of looking at how we fund first nations education, and that we need to provide a lot more resources.

Earlier today I met with representatives, including Paul Olson, the president of the Manitoba Teachers' Society. We talked about the importance of education. If we do not recognize how important education is to the children of our country, then we will sell short their potential. Many will end up on the wrong side of the law if we are not more proactive in encouraging our provinces, which have the administrative responsibility for education. We also need to recognize the important role that the national government can play. We need to ensure there is a sense of equity across the country in dealing with education as well as issues such as mental health. We need to ensure there is programming that allows for the nutritional well-being of young children even before they enter the education system.

If we had a proactive national government dealing with those types of issues, we could actually prevent more people from going into prisons.

Perhaps the member could comment on those points.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are areas in which the federal government plays a key role in education, such as in the education for our first nations people and aboriginal communities. A very large percentage of the people in prison are from our aboriginal communities.

There is a lot of preventative initiatives that could be happening, such as investing in early childhood education, quality education, nutrition, prevention and education programs, and truly in strong and inclusive community building. It is always easy to say that this is not our mandate, as I have sometimes heard my colleagues across the way say. However, once people are in prison, it is our mandate.

Here is an amazing figure from seven institutions surveyed in February 2012: only 12.5% of the total offenders were enrolled in a core correctional program, and there is a waiting list to access these programs exceeding 35%.

They say we should start at home and fix what we can fix, but we have a government that has made cut after cut to services in rehabilitation and education. What we are seeing now is that only 12.5% access services, and there is a wait list for people in prison who want to get away from drugs and take the rehabilitation and education programs, but the Conservative government has made so many cuts that they are being denied rehabilitation. That is disgraceful.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member has pointed out, the NDP is supporting Bill C-12.

However, there is a misnomer in the title. The short title is “drug-free prisons act”, but in the annual report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator for 2011-12, it was pointed out that a zero tolerance stance to drugs in prison is an aspiration rather than an effective policy. It simply does not accord with the facts on crime and addiction in Canada or elsewhere in the world. As the report states. “Harm reduction measures within a public health and treatment orientation offer a far more promising, cost-effective and sustainable approach to reducing subsequent crime and victimization.”

The member raised the issues around the need for rehabilitation in her speech. I wonder if she could comment on that statement.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I always like to relate some of the big issues to what happens in our families and how we raise our kids. If parents telling their kids that they must do not do drugs would alone get rid of the drug problem in the world, we would not have that issue in Canada today. I know how hard parents work, and zero tolerance is a great aspiration to have, but until we achieve that, we have to have real expert advice from those who deal with these issues, based on the research and what works. We have to have a multifaceted approach.

Just telling people not to do drugs, hitting them on the head with a baseball bat and sending them to prison is not going to get rid of the drug problem. What is going to get rid of the drug problem is investment in education, rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Newton—North Delta for her very sensitive speech that got right to the heart of the problem: how to prevent and address the challenges of incarceration. The important thing is not to create more problems, which is what the government is doing, unfortunately.

During the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security's brief study, the Correctional Investigator was very critical. He condemned the lack of resources to prevent drug use in our prisons. We can try to limit supply, but all of the credible witnesses said that focusing solely on supply is unrealistic. We also need to tackle demand.

That means we have to support inmates coping with addiction. We have to identify them at intake and provide good programs so they can progress and make choices with comprehensive support.

Would my colleague like to comment further on the Correctional Investigator's recommendation?

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, whenever I talk about drugs in our communities or our prisons, I am always amazed how people want simplistic solutions. It is as if all of us are looking for a magic pill that would suddenly get rid of the impact of drugs on our families, our communities and our society as a whole.

The Correctional Investigator has stated and there have been numerous reports that the corrections system risks unintended consequences when simplistic solutions are applied to the complex issue of drugs in prisons. They talk about the need for a proper assessment of prisoners on intake. For instance, when someone has gotten into problems and has been sentenced to prison, let us do an assessment of what got them there. Do they have mental health issues? Are drugs involved? When did the drugs kick in? We have to take into account all of those things.

We have to start looking at some of the causes at that time. Our prison system is not a one-way street. It is supposed to be one where we believe in rehabilitation. That is the kind of penal system we have. There has to be a proper assessment. Then we have to identify the specific problems that can be targeted. Then we need to have rehabilitation programs so that people can be better reintegrated into society. Once they are released from prison we need to have a reintegration process that is scaffolded with a multitude of services so that the likelihood to reoffend is reduced.

Once again, there is no simple pill. This is a complex issue. It is going to take investment and resources. Every dollar we invest will bring us back thousands of dollars in savings.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I wish to inform you that I will be sharing my time with the member for Beauport—Limoilou.

As the House has heard from other members of the official opposition, we will support Bill C-12. We will support it because the measures in this bill are not bad. Nonetheless, will this bill really change anything? Some doubt remains in that regard. We will support it, in any case, but I really do not believe this bill will have the desired effect.

The bill's short title refers to making prisons drug-free. This title is a little misleading, however, because it is rather unrealistic to think that a bill that contains just five clauses, the first of which is the short title, and fits on a single double-sided sheet of paper could successfully eliminate drugs from prisons with four clauses to amend Canada's laws.

Moreover, this bill is rather redundant, and it legally confirms the common practice and what already exists in Canada's laws. When members of the Parole Board of Canada are deciding whether an inmate can be released on parole, they already have the discretion to take into account the results of urine testing or the fact that an inmate refuses to provide a urine sample.

Parole board members already have the power, albeit discretionary, to consider those factors in their decisions. Even if those members do eventually take drug testing into account, that is not how we are going to eliminate drugs from prisons.

It is important to understand that in order to be effective, the government needs to invest money and act on the reports that the Correctional Investigator and the federal ombudsman have published over the years. However, there is nothing in the bill to suggest that the government is listening to the experts. I highly doubt that this afternoon's budget will contain any additional funds to tackle addiction problems in prisons.

In summary, the bill just legally confirms rules that are already in use. The member for Victoria clearly pointed that out in his speech last December when he referred to the National Parole Board document entitled “Decision-Making Policy Manual for Board Members”.

Section 8 of that manual, “Assessing Criminal, Social and Conditional Release History”, reads:

8. Information considered when assessing criminal, social and conditional release history includes:...

e. any documented occurrence of drug use, positive urinalysis results or failures or refusals to provide a sample while on conditional release;

Clearly, these factors are already being considered in the decision-making process. The crisis in our prisons involves substance abuse, rampant gang activity and the recruitment of gang members within the prison population. Some of these problems could be eradicated if we were to apply the measures that were proposed by some of the witnesses when this bill was examined in committee.

In short, resources for rehabilitation are wanting, and the budgets of correctional organizations and the many cuts the Conservatives have made over the years are not at all consistent with the logic they are trying to establish in this bill.

If we want to eliminate drugs in prisons, we need to combat drug addiction there with the help of resources and stakeholders, which we do not have right now.

Even though drug addicts are well aware that they risk delaying their parole by taking drugs in prison, they will continue to do so because addictions are difficult to overcome. We therefore need to take action on the ground and establish real substance abuse treatment programs.

In the civilian world, people can get help and services from professionals. However, in prison, inmates who admit that they have a drug addiction are shooting themselves in the foot. It is better for them to hide their addiction in order to avoid the consequences.

This is a complex issue. We need specialized addictions counsellors who understand the prison system to help on the ground. However, these counsellors need the government to invest in prisons.

The Correctional Service of Canada has admitted that $122 million of Conservative spending on interdiction tools and technology to stop drugs from entering prisons since 2008 has not produced any results. How come nothing has been done in light of that shocking statistic? Why have there been no policy reviews or the like? We know that a very high percentage of Canada's offender population abuses drugs.

The report entitled “Substance abuse—The perspective of a National Parole Board member”, by Michael Crowley, an NPB member from Ontario, begins as follows:

It is clear that alcohol and other drug problems constitute a major problem for both incarcerated offenders and those who are on some form of conditional release. It is estimated that about 70% of offenders have substance abuse problems that are in need of treatment, and that more than 50% of their crimes are linked with substance use and abuse.

We know that the vast majority of offenders, unfortunately, abuse drugs and that criminals often have a history of substance abuse. Inmates who are added to the prison system often already have substance abuse problems.

These figures are rather shocking and indicative of the government's dire lack of investment in rehabilitation programs for inmates that would address this problem. Furthermore, the prison population in Canada has skyrocketed because of the infamous minimum mandatory sentences, even though the crime rate has been steadily declining.

In closing, I would like to say that mental health issues are also part of the problem. This is a growing problem that, together with inmates' addictions, exacerbates the situation. Inmates with mental health problems sometimes tend to self-medicate with drugs available on the prison market. That is a rather explosive combination.

If we really want to eliminate drugs in prison, we have to be realistic. We have to be prepared to make the required investments, put resources in place and understand that the drug problem in prisons will not be fixed by a bill with four clauses.

Yes, we support these clauses, because they confirm an existing informal practice. We realize and openly admit that Bill C-12 does little to make prisons drug-free, and it is going to take a lot more than that to solve this problem.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault NDP Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her speech on Bill C-12. As is the case with many bills, this bill's title is surprising because it is an impressive title about fixing a serious problem. I have a hard time believing that the clauses in this bill will truly do what the title implies they will, which is to make our prisons drug-free.

Could the member tell us what she thinks about the titles this government loves to give its bills? The titles are misleading, because at the end of the day the bills do not achieve what the titles imply they will. Could she give us her opinion on how the Conservative government gives its bills nice titles that do not pan out?

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the Conservatives have a habit of always trying to fool the public. They talk about a bill with a title that implies it will fix everything, when in fact that is not the case, since the bill is missing a lot of clauses or it will create other problems. The government often tries to make Canadians believe that it has managed a problem by introducing a bill—in this case on drug-free prisons—but in fact, the bill is not comprehensive enough to fix the problem. People who may not be able to understand the bill, read through the legal terminology and understand its impact will think that the Conservatives took action, when in reality that is not the case. This government has a bad habit of trying to fool Canadians. It is being intellectually dishonest with the people it is supposed to represent.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, we have a government that is willing to spend $80,000 to $90,000 a year incarcerating prisoners. We see that it spent over $100 million already in trying to stop drugs getting into prisons and has failed. The problem is a lack of vision in terms of how to deal with the serious issue of drugs that are affecting our communities.

In the city of Timmins we have set up a fentanyl task force to deal with the heavy impacts of the abuse of fentanyl, and one of the key things that has come forward is the need to be able to track the fentanyl patches. These are opiate patches. My colleague is a nurse, so she would know very well about fentanyl, but without a bar code or a serial number put on by Health Canada, the police are unable to track the source of the patches.

If we have patches of 100 mcg coming into the city of Timmins, these are very lucrative for gangs, but we need to be able to take the preventive approach to stop this kind of heavy duty opiate being brought into our communities and then affecting people who may not have otherwise gotten into drugs. I know some wonderful young people who had their lives ahead of them who have been affected by fentanyl, and people who have died from it.

What does my colleague think about the need for these coherent, grass roots, preventive approaches, first, to prevent these kinds of drugs coming into our communities and keep people from getting involved in the drug trade, and also to be able to stop it by going after the gangs who are trading in fentanyl patches?

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, illicit drug use certainly exists, but many people abuse prescription drugs. Unfortunately, sometimes people go through grandma's medicine cabinet looking for interesting things. Those are tragic situations. In many cases, community approaches are more successful than criminalization and repression.

Keeping people from engaging in these bad habits by making positive activities available often has an impact on drug use among youth. When they have access to leisure spaces and opportunities to participate in these activities, that has a positive impact in terms of drug use. Drug use drops when there is better support for the community and people have opportunities to do things other than use drugs.

Drug addiction is a complex issue. We have to take a community-based approach and conduct broad consultations with all stakeholders if we want to eliminate this problem or reduce its impact.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 10:55 a.m.
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NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my esteemed colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue for sharing her precious speaking time with me so that I can express my views on Bill C-12 on behalf of the people of Beauport—Limoilou.

The title of the bill is “An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act”. This bill amends a law. The title sends a fairly disturbing message, one that I would call misleading. I would also like to quote the short title, which the Conservatives liked to trot out all the time. It is the “drug-free prisons act”.

Like many people, I have tried to get dandelions out of my lawn. Everyone knows that is one tough slog. I am not saying it is a lost cause, but those dandelions often come back from the other side of the fence when you least expect it.

First of all, I want to emphasize how unrealistic this bill is, which was also pointed out by the very few witnesses we managed to squeeze into the meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security. Those witnesses, who were not from the department, pointed out that the bill unfortunately did not introduce anything new, despite its value and the fact that it should be supported. Like my NDP colleagues, I support the bill in principle. This bill will confirm a practice that is already established, but it does not solve the underlying problem.

I want to touch upon the Conservatives' message. It is quite ironic that they have not said a thing since this debate began. I should add that the debate only began about an hour ago, and yet there they sit, firmly rooted in their chairs, refusing to listen to the strong objections and, more importantly, the concerns we are raising in relation to the problem of drug use in our prisons. That problem will not be resolved, not really, by passing this bill.

This title, the drug-free prisons act, and these five clauses send a clear message to inmates with drug problems. If they ever want to be released, they will have to satisfy certain conditions. As far as their substance abuse problem is concerned, they know that they cannot count on getting any help and that they will have to face their problem alone.

That has been precisely the Conservatives' approach for years. Repression above all else is what they promise their base. People who are plagued by a problem they often cannot control are told that they cannot count on the Conservatives to spend any money on supporting them and helping them break free them from their addiction to drugs.

It is really too bad. In addition to ignoring the offender population that is facing very serious problems that might prevent early parole and completely undermining reintegration, once again the Conservatives are refusing to listen to experts directly affected by this, namely staff and the Correctional Investigator. These stakeholders are making recommendations to deal with the substance abuse problems in our prisons and other very serious problems that lead to substance abuse, such as mental health problems, a scourge that affects a large segment of the population.

I have some very disturbing statistics, which clearly illustrate the extent of the current problem in Canada's prisons and penitentiaries.

In 2011, 69% of female inmates and 45% of male inmates were treated for mental health issues. That already speaks to the extent of the problem. However, a certain number of mental health cases may not even be treated. This gives us an idea of how this problem cannot be addressed by the pure and simple repression that the Conservatives defend so vigorously. I am going to tell it like it is: it is easy for the Conservatives to score political points on the backs of our inmates while ignoring mental health problems of this magnitude.

I learned about the position of senior RCMP officials concerning the fight against terrorism. The Standing Committee on Finance, which I am pleased to be a member of, is currently carrying out a valuable study of the financing of terrorism. However, what is troubling is that the RCMP is robbing Peter to pay Paul. We had already heard this at the Standing Committee on Finance, but it was confirmed at a meeting of a Senate committee on public safety, if I am not mistaken. The RCMP is transferring investigators from the fight against organized crime to the fight against terrorism. In the funding approved by the House, $1.5 billion allocated to the RCMP was not spent, but instead returned to the public treasury. Everyone knew it, starting with the Conservatives. However, once again they chose to ignore this. In the end, the RCMP and our correctional services do not have the means to address the enormous challenge of fighting terrorism and organized crime. Similarly, correctional officers are increasingly ill-prepared to address mental health issues, the violence in our prisons and drug use. These budgets are unfortunately being cut.

Ultimately, the claim made by the department and especially by the government that the drug problem in prisons is being adequately addressed rings hollow. I hope that my colleagues will speak up in the House and participate in an important debate. Despite the fancy titles the Conservatives give their bills and the claims they make when they are boasting to their voter base, this once again shows that—I am going to say it again—the victims of crime are collateral victims of the Conservatives' decision to abandon the fight against drugs at every level. We need to focus on prevention.

When people are struggling with addiction and mental health problems and when nothing is done to help them deal with those issues or to prevent them in the first place, they get more and more out of control and their condition deteriorates. It then becomes very difficult for them to deal with these problems by themselves. A correctional officer told me very clearly that, for most of these people, there is life after prison. If their mental health deteriorates and their drug addiction leads them down a dead-end street, their reintegration into society and their ability to find a place in it obviously becomes an enormous obstacle that could lead them to reoffend.

Once again, the Conservatives are not facing the problem and are abandoning the victims of crime in this regard. I would like to end on that note, and I look forward to questions from my colleagues in the House.

I would like to repeat that I support this bill, but I hope that the means will follow. However, I have been saying that in the House and in committee for the past four years, and I no longer expect results from this dying government.

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Hoang Mai NDP Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou for his speech on a rather important bill that conveys a specific vision of public safety.

My colleague gave us a good analysis of the Conservative way of doing things. I would like to hear him talk about his vision and the NDP's vision of public safety issues. Could he tell us about prevention and about investments in social programs?

What can we do to address this issue? We need to protect public safety in Canada, but how does the NDP propose that we better protect the public?

Drug-Free Prisons ActGovernment Orders

April 21st, 2015 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I sincerely thank my colleague from Brossard—La Prairie for his question.

I do not want to repeat all of the very sensible points made by our highly esteemed colleague from Newton—North Delta, who spoke in favour of education and of the hopes that could be raised when we invest in the future of our young people and the public in general by providing them with opportunities.

I will pick up where she left off and talk about the upcoming budget. As I already mentioned, I am a member of the Standing Committee on Finance. Unfortunately, as with the nine previous budgets, this 10th budget will once again represent negativity and lost opportunities for a large segment of our population. It will cause problems that could escalate and cause people to lose all hope in improving their future or the future of their loved ones.

That is truly disappointing, since the Conservatives have always sought to punish people who stay away from drugs but who do not yet have a good job for their bad behaviour and bad choices. Instead of providing them with opportunities, to be as inclusive as possible and enable people to make real choices, the Conservatives have always limited these choices, and they will continue to do so in this budget.