An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Abolition of Early Parole Act

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

Second reading (House), as of June 19, 2017

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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, among other things,

(a) reintroduce the expression “least restrictive” in certain provisions of the Act;

(b) provide that an inmate must be released from administrative segregation before the end of the 21st day of that confinement, unless the institutional head orders that the inmate is to remain in administrative segregation;

(c) provide that an independent external reviewer, appointed by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, will review the case of an inmate who is ordered to remain in administrative segregation after that 21st day and in other circumstances;

(d) provide that the independent external reviewer shall, after the review, make a recommendation to the institutional head as to whether or not the inmate should be released from administrative segregation;

(e) provide that, 18 months after the amendments referred to in paragraph (b) come into force, the 21-day limit referred to in that paragraph is reduced to a 15-day limit;

(f) provide that the head of the appropriate regional headquarters of the Correctional Service of Canada shall, in the circumstances prescribed by regulation, order that an inmate is to be released from, or to remain in, administrative segregation;

(g) provide for a comprehensive review of the legislative and regulatory reforms to the administrative segregation regime, to be conducted five years after those reforms take effect; and

(h) reintroduce the requirement that the Parole Board of Canada hold hearings following a suspension, termination or revocation of parole or statutory release.

This enactment also amends the Abolition of Early Parole Act to provide that the accelerated parole review process under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act continues to apply to offenders in respect of an offence committed before the day on which the Abolition of Early Parole Act came into force.

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.

Bill C-83—Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, here we have a bill that is a new iteration of dealing with solitary confinement. Bill C-56 was tabled almost two years ago, and then we had two court decisions that the government has clearly not complied with. Those two court decisions addressed abuses of what is called administrative segregation but is better known as solitary confinement in federal prisons. The courts found that the abuses were unconstitutional in different ways, and extremely troubling and problematic.

The government is not only appealing those decisions but also coming forward with a bill it is claiming would get rid of the practice altogether, when in reality, as every stakeholder has said, this is just the same practice under a different name. Every single witness who came to committee, barring officials from the minister's department, panned this bill. The corrections investigator referred to it as something that was not well thought out.

Therefore, two years after the first piece of legislation and with two appeals before the courts, why do the Liberals now all of a sudden feel the need to time allocate, when clearly both the consultation that was done and all the thought behind this bill were simply not adequate to address the types of human rights abuses we are seeing too often in our prisons?

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise at the report stage of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This bill has been extensively debated and scrutinized since its introduction. I have been watching with great interest as it proceeded through the House and the committee.

At the outset, I would like to thank all hon. colleagues, witnesses and members who shared their thoughts and offered constructive suggestions throughout the process, both in the chamber and at committee. As a legislator, the debate gave me and the House as a whole much to think about, and resulted in a stronger and more comprehensive bill.

Bill C-83 proposes the elimination of segregation and the creation of innovative new structured intervention units, or SIUs, for offenders who must be separated from their fellow inmates for safety and security reasons. SIUs would allow offenders who pose particularly difficult challenges to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required. However, they would continue to receive the programming, intervention and health care that are essential to their rehabilitation.

Segregation is an immoral and ineffective practice. It does not deliver the results we are looking for in our correctional system, for our prisoners or for our correctional officers. As a member, I considered incorporating similar principles in my private member's legislation, Bill C-375, which would similarly legislate the nexus between mental health and our judicial system. However, as we saw with measures previously proposed in Bill C-56, the transformation of our penitentiaries is a profound undertaking that would require measures far beyond those made possible through private members' legislation.

Bill C-83 had a series of amendments adopted during its time in committee. In fact, every party that put forward amendments had at least one amendment ultimately adopted. Specifically, I will use my time to home in on amendments that strengthen the capacity of Bill C-83 to improve the mental well-being of prisoners. I will specifically address five areas that piqued my interest.

First, when Bill C-83 passed at second reading, it had, in principle, legislation that would guarantee inmates held within SIUs four hours outside of their cells. One of the proposed amendments to the bill specified that those hours be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Those are normal waking hours for most people. This responds to the concerns raised in committee that time out of cells could be offered, say, in the middle of the night, when inmates would be unlikely to avail themselves of them.

The CMHA has connected lack of daylight to dips in mood and depression. There is also research that shows maintaining a regular sleep cycle, connected to the natural ebb and flow of the day, is important for maintaining mental health. This amendment would ensure that the four hours of time outside SIUs are not outside of the bounds of the natural day. It would prevent officials from providing these hours as an obligatory or dismissive exercise and ensure that they serve their intended purpose.

Second, human beings are built to seek out interaction with others, particularly in times of stress. Isolation can reduce cognition and even compromise the immune system. Extensive time in an unchanging environment can alter the way we process external stimuli. It can literally warp the way we experience the world around us. This is why Bill C-83 includes provisions that would guarantee inmates the opportunity for two hours of meaningful human contact each and every day.

Thanks to amendments put forward in the committee, this principle has been strengthened practically. By looking to ensure that this interaction is not hindered by physical barriers such as bars or security glass, the proposed amendment would ensure that those two hours are not just perfunctory but meaningful human contact.

Third, socializing with peers and participating in rehabilitative programming outside their cells would also go a long way toward improving the mental health and well-being of inmates in an SIU. It would put them on the right track to reintegrating into the mainstream inmate population. Beyond that, it would help their chances of successfully reintegrating into society as law-abiding members of society at the end of their sentences.

Fourth, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would also strengthen health care, including mental health services, in corrections in several ways. It would mandate the Correctional Service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working within a correctional facility. As well, it would allow for the use of patient advocates, as was recommended by the inquiry into the death of Ashley Smith.

Within SIUs, inmates would receive daily visits from health care professionals, who could recommend at any time that an inmate's conditions of confinement be altered or that they be transferred out of the SIU. These recommendations could stem from a professional mental health assessment. In turn, these recommendations could pre-empt mental health crises or imminent self-harm.

Fifth, an amendment adopted at committee would strengthen this aspect of the bill by requiring an additional review at a more senior level external to the institution if the warden does not accept medical recommendations.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of these measures. Mental health is an extremely serious problem in our prisons. Some 70% of male offenders have a mental health issue. At 80%, the percentage is even higher for women offenders. The ministers of public safety and justice have been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The proposed reforms in Bill C-83 support that commitment.

They also build on recent investments in this area. The last two budgets included nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections, and more recently, in the fall economic statement the Minister of Finance announced substantial funding of $448 million for corrections. This funding will help support the transformational changes to the correctional system proposed in this bill, and it will allow for comprehensive improvements to mental health care in corrections within SIUs and across the board.

It also directly addresses calls for increased resources made at committee by Jason Godin, the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and by Stanley Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees.

In other words, should this bill pass into law, the appropriate resources will be in place to ensure it successfully fulfills its objectives. I know this was a concern raised at committee, and it was also raised during this debate. I am reassured there is already an effort on behalf of the government to allocate appropriate resources.

In conclusion, the number one objective of this bill is safety. Correctional staff and other inmates need to be protected from certain offenders who cannot be safely managed in the mainstream population. By ensuring inmates separated from the mainstream population get the interventions they need to increase their chances of successful rehabilitation, the bill would lead to greater safety inside correctional institutions, and greater safety in our communities when those inmates are eventually released.

We started this process with a very good bill. What we have before us today is an even stronger version of the legislation, bolstered by the productive contributions of witnesses at committee and the serious work of committee members.

In closing, I fully support Bill C-83 and I urge all hon. members to do the same thing.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at report stage of Bill C-83.

While we were studying this bill in committee, I saw something that I have rarely seen, if ever, since I became an MP.

All of the witnesses spoke out against the bill to varying degrees, with the exception of departmental officials, of course. This is very worrisome. Context is very important with Bill C-83. This bill is a response to two legal rulings, one from the Supreme Court of British Columbia and another from an Ontario court. Both courts noted cases of abuse in the use of segregation, and they declared it unconstitutional. In response, the government appealed the decision and then introduced Bill C-56 three years ago in 2016, if memory serves. Now, it has introduced Bill C-83, which is completely different.

A question needs to be posed before we even get into the substance of the bill and the amendments. Why is the government, on the one hand, appealing a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court, and on the other hand, presenting legislation that it claims will be a remedy for the court's findings of practices, and certain abuses of said practices, that are unconstitutional?

It is a little confusing and extremely concerning when we hear the government continue to say that it has eliminated what is called, in law, administrative segregation, but what most Canadians understand to be solitary confinement. To that end, I want to quote Senator Kim Pate, who has worked extensively on many issues related to justice and public safety, in particular issues relating to the situation in our penitentiaries. One quote stands out. She wrote, “Ottawa cannot declare that segregation has been eliminated, while failing to address the horrors associated with this practice and gutting what minimal restrictions courts have placed on its use.”

The problem is that the new practice replacing segregation will eliminate a number of legal protections.

I will admit that several members from various parties sought to resolve the issue in committee.

The most striking example is that an amendment is usually about 2,000 words long. There was a lot of havoc in the House back in December. Several members raised a point of order because we did not have access to an acceptable French translation. The amendment was literally written moments before debate was scheduled to start. Not to mention that several witnesses in committee spoke out against the lack of consultation on the bill.

I want to come back to what Dr. Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator, who is essentially the watchdog for the correctional system, said when speaking to the bill. Given that my time is limited, I will stick to the one quote that sums up the issue of improvisation. He said, “I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.”

I apologize to Dr. Zinger for not using the full quote. As I said, my time is limited. When we have an expert such as Dr. Zinger saying that something is not fully thought out, that says a lot, unfortunately, about the lack of consultation and the kind of patchwork we are dealing with here.

These are report stage amendments the Liberal members are proposing, let us be clear, after the minister came to committee with the knowledge there would be the requirement of a royal recommendation and having clearly worked with specific members so that they could propose specific amendments to fix a bill that is so unfixable. We end up with a patchwork that in some cases would leave us looking at a period of up to 90 days, potentially, before a case of abusive use of solitary confinement would actually get properly reviewed.

When we consider the work that was done in committee and the statements made by several Liberal members, including the minister, we need to understand that this was already in the mandate letters of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness and the Minister of Justice when the government was sworn in. Regrettably, the objectives of the bill before us today have not been achieved.

I will give a few examples of the direction we would like to take. The hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington was right to mention the situation of women. Very few women are placed in segregation, but those who are placed in segregation are often far more vulnerable. Consider serious mental health issues, for example.

After hearing several witnesses in committee, I proposed an amendment eliminating the use of segregation in women’s prisons. It was rejected.

Another example is the possibility of judicial review.

The opportunity for judicial review is one that is really important. It is something that goes back a number of years to a recommendation that was made by Justice Louise Arbour, after the situation that unfolded in the Kingston Penitentiary. She put it much more eloquently than I could when she explained that the abusive use of solitary confinement in Canada undermines our judicial system, because it comes to a point where administrators within the corrections system are playing a role in sentencing. When we get to a point where certain offenders are being treated in a certain way, and in a way that undermines their pathway to rehabilitation and any objectives the court might have set for them in sentencing, then we have come to a situation where the only remedy could be considering a judicial review.

I know others have proposed other tools, rather than just judicial review. I know in committee we heard that judicial review could undermine public safety. That is not so. To go back to the comment my Conservative colleague made that I did not have a chance to respond to, he talked about preventative segregation. That is fine. We understand that there can be a need for it in situations where riots ensue and where safety is in jeopardy, and that there should be an examination of the good use of preventative isolation.

However, that does not need to take place over a prolonged period of time. We are talking about a situation that could be resolved, arguably, in 24 hours. Those were some of the examples that were given to us by, among others, folks from the John Howard Society.

The last aspect I can think of, as I can see that my time is running out, concerns duration.

We have heard a lot about review and accountability mechanisms for prison administrators. Of course, there are the issues of appropriate mechanisms and accountability in the case of mental illness to avoid hindering rehabilitation and improving the mental health of prisoners in segregation.

That said, we missed a great opportunity given that Bill C-56—which was introduced by the same minister but never debated—was already firmly headed in the same direction. We missed the opportunity to enforce the standards established by the United Nations, the Nelson Mandela rules, which limit the duration of administrative segregation to 15 days. We missed the opportunity to directly address the greatest abuses of the system.

In conclusion, despite the good intentions behind the amendments, they are just attempts at fixing a bill that is so bad that it was unanimously condemned in committee. We cannot support this bill.

I hope that the government will seize this opportunity to go back to square one and to drop its appeals of two court decisions stating what we have known for far too long, which is that these abuses of segregation are unconstitutional.

November 29th, 2018 / 7:15 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I don't want to belabour it because it appears to have good support, but I would say that the “least restrictive” language was included in Bill C-56. It was previously absent in Bill C-83. You now have put in “least restrictive measures” in a couple places. This does ensure consistency. Also, it is congruent with advice from many of the witnesses. I won't take time at this late hour to remind you of all the witnesses who think this is a good amendment.

Thank you.

November 29th, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I just want to say that Justice Arbour's recommendation dates back to when I was in elementary school. I'm not saying that to be glib. I'm saying that to demonstrate how long-standing this issue has been.

I think it's pretty clear from the minister's comments and his inability to provide me with an adequate response that he has already prejudged what he believes this will look like.

Both Bill C-56 and Bill C-83 have had nothing in terms of proper independent review with any kind of teeth. Moreover, I think the very fact that the government is appealing the B.C. decision has just left a bunch of bread crumbs that do not allow me, unfortunately, and with all due respect, to make the same leap of faith. I believe, from what I've heard from witnesses, what I've read and what I've heard Justice Arbour say many times over the years, that this is the way to go.

At the end of the day, I go back to what Justice Arbour articulated as the reason here: The minute you start going beyond a certain number of days without this type of review, you're actually influencing sentencing. You're changing the punishment that has been brought out by a court of law on an individual.

I understand that circumstances can change within a prison, but unfortunately, history has borne out that this has been abused and has gone against the way our system is supposed to work. I believe this is the only way we can properly correct that abuse. Having heard witness testimony, and through my own discussions with stakeholders, that's what I believe.

Unfortunately, on this file, with the dithering we've seen from the minister, both with his actions in appealing the decision through the Department of Justice and in his own testimony, I just do not have that same faith.

November 29th, 2018 / 3:50 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Thank you.

Again, I think the committee was already guided by this notion that we changed with the first amendment that was carried after it was amended. This reintroduces language of least restrictive measures, also present in Bill C-56. It was formerly in the “principles” section of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The amendment says that if a person is to be confined, the Correctional Service shall take all reasonable steps to ensure that the penitentiary in which they are confined is one that provides them with the least restrictive environment for that person.

That amendment achieves a goal that is quite similar to that of the first one that the committee just accepted.

November 29th, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Hopefully, my voice survives this whole process.

I want to say while I have the floor as I move the amendment that in seven and a half years as a parliamentarian, I have not seen a bill that has been panned by every single witness who has appeared before this committee, notwithstanding the minister and his officials.

That said, the amendments that I'll be presenting today, including this one, represent what the witnesses have suggested to us would be the best possible solution, again, notwithstanding that this is probably a bill that would be best thrown out and taken back to the drawing board. We'll wait to see what happens in the B.C. courts.

Mr. Chair, NDP-1 seeks to reintroduce language that used to be in the act prior to being removed a number of years ago. It was actually in Bill C-56, the original attempt this government made at resolving the awful issues related to solitary confinement, and is constitutional, but, as many witnesses said when it came up, should also be in the legislation.

That language is:

the Service uses the least invasive and restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders;

It is so moved.

November 22nd, 2018 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Paterson, I want to start with you on the question of oversight, which has come up a number of times. As we all know, there was a previous bill that sought to address issues related to solitary confinement, Bill C-56, which was never debated in the House. One of the issues in that bill is that it actually had a mechanism, or at least more of a mechanism than we see in this legislation. The other issue was enforcement, as well, its having teeth, as we like to say.

I wonder if you can go into that, the importance of not just having a report or examining the particular case of an individual, but also having the ability to put remedial measures in place, so again understanding the link potentially with whether it's judicial or quasi-judicial oversight, or whatever form your organization believes that could take.

November 20th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

I just get cut off.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank all three of you for being here.

I have a few questions on some of the language that is in, or not in, the legislation. I'll just throw them out there and ask for a response from both you, Senator, and our friends from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The first is the absence of the term “least restrictive” that was in Bill C-56, which was also flawed legislation, but that's not what we're here to discuss.

The other piece of language that I wanted to hear from all three of you about is in proposed paragraph 32(a), which talks about “for security or other reasons”. That's something that I've asked multiple witnesses about because I have a concern that it continues the status quo of using this type of confinement to compensate for other systemic issues in our corrections system.

Can I hear all three of you—or both of you, however you divvy it up—on both of those two language issues in the legislation?

November 20th, 2018 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Oh, never. Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, Senator, and the Civil Liberties Association group.

Senator, you have previously suggested, and you suggested today, that we need to scrap this legislation and basically start over. Did the minister consult with you on this legislation, or on the previous bill, Bill C-56?

November 20th, 2018 / 4 p.m.
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Correctional Investigator of Canada, Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger

That was sort of the intention of the previous Bill C-56, which clearly stated that it was prohibited to place individuals with mental health problems in segregation. That prohibition no longer exists because it is expected that inmates could spend at least four hours outside their cell. At the same time, I think that remains a very restrictive environment for someone suffering from serious mental health problems.

As it is not exactly known where those new structured intervention units will be located, it is relevant to wonder whether inmates could have a therapeutic environment. So far, we don't know whether the segregation areas will simply be restructured and renamed.

November 20th, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
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Correctional Investigator of Canada, Office of the Correctional Investigator of Canada

Dr. Ivan Zinger

I think the clever part of Bill C-56 was the presumption of release after a certain period of time. Maybe that's when you would kick in some form of independent adjudication. Right now, with the way it's written, it's as soon as possible, and it's all internal. There's nothing there—it's all internal to the service, and we come up with a regime that has less due process than the previous regime did, and it has too much due process on the disciplinary side, arguably.

November 20th, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Sure. I wasn't actually saying that this was the end place; I was just trying to pick that one little piece to begin.

One other question I had is on the issue of a cap on the number of days. We had someone from the John Howard Society who said that maybe a hard cap isn't possible in some circumstances, and that has come up in some articles.

Whether or not Mandela rules are what are at issue here, would it be helpful...? I read in a Toronto Star editorial that having a cap would be helpful just because it would force people to think about the other alternatives, to really go through the alternatives, and I believe that somewhere else it said that for the mental health of an inmate, it might be helpful to know there's at least a presumed cap with perhaps a policy that would enable it to be looked at. That was the type of wording that was in Bill C-56 as well, a presumed cap that could be extended if there were reasons.

Is it helpful to have a presumed cap?

November 8th, 2018 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

My question to both of you is this. There's no oversight in this bill. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on adding some type of oversight to make sure it's being carried out properly.

If you do think there should be some kind of oversight, what do you envision? Bill C-56 had something in terms of oversight. I'd be very interested in your comments on what kind of oversight should be put in place that we could consider to make sure that things are done the way they're intended.

November 6th, 2018 / 5 p.m.
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Director General, Crime Prevention, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate, Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Angela Connidis

It's very true, as the minister said, that we would be ahead of the curve. No country that we've studied—and we did this when we introduced Bill C-56, as well—has taken such a deliberate approach to focusing the safety on the reintegration aspect and dealing with the underlying causes.

In Norway, they make it a priority for those who are excluded from the general population to receive some targeted interventions. No other countries have a legislative requirement that they should be out for four hours.

Remember, in the legislation, this is a minimum of four hours, so this is across the board substantially more beneficial for reintegration than other countries.