An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is, or will soon become, 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, among other things,

(a) eliminate the use of administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation;

(b) authorize the Commissioner to designate a penitentiary or an area in a penitentiary as a structured intervention unit for the confinement of inmates who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons;

(c) provide less invasive alternatives to physical body cavity searches;

(d) affirm that the Correctional Service of Canada has the obligation to support the autonomy and clinical independence of registered health care professionals;

(e) provide that the Correctional Service of Canada has the obligation to provide inmates with access to patient advocacy services;

(f) provide that the Correctional Service of Canada has an obligation to consider systemic and background factors unique to Indigenous offenders in all decision-making; and

(g) improve victims’ access to audio recordings of parole hearings.

This enactment also amends the English version of a provision of the Criminal Records Act.

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.

Votes

June 17, 2019 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
March 18, 2019 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Feb. 26, 2019 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Feb. 26, 2019 Passed Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (report stage amendment)
Feb. 26, 2019 Passed Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (report stage amendment)
Feb. 26, 2019 Failed Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (report stage amendment)
Oct. 23, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Oct. 23, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (reasoned amendment)
Oct. 23, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act

Business of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

June 20th, 2019 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and if you seek it, I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any Standing or Special Order or usual practice of the House:

(a) the amendment to the motion respecting the senate amendments to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, be deemed negatived on division and the main motion be deemed carried on division; and

(b) the amendment to the motion for second reading of Bill C-100, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, be deemed negatived on division and that the Bill be deemed read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Parole SystemPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2019 / 5:35 p.m.
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Kanata—Carleton Ontario

Liberal

Karen McCrimmon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate, and I would like to thank the hon. member for Milton for moving this motion.

The motion comes just short weeks after Victims and Survivors of Crime Week. Members may know the objectives of that week.

The first objective is to raise awareness across Canada about the issues facing victims and survivors. They and their families must be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect at all stages of the criminal justice process. Victims, survivors and their families also have an important role in helping to ensure that justice is done, that during the parole process, for example, reliable and relevant facts about parole can be made.

The second goal of this special week is to let victims and their families know about the services, programs and laws in place to help and support them.

The motion before us states that:

...the government should amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act prior to the next election, so as to provide victims with an explanation of how dates are determined for offenders’ eligibility for temporary absences, releases and parole.

I will point out that information about offender eligibility dates is provided to victims already, but it is always worth examining whether there is room for improvement.

That said, the government already provides victims with useful and timely information in a number of ways.

In fact, last week, the government announced an important new step, a new victim outreach strategy to ensure that more victims would be aware of the information available to them and the role they could play in the corrections and conditional release process.

There was a great deal of collaboration in creating this strategy. Correctional Services Canada worked with federal partners, including the Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada's National Office for Victims and the Department of Justice Canada, in consultation with victims and survivors. The result is a suite of communication tools to inform the public and victims of the resources and services available to them. The tools include infographics, videos and a social media campaign.

Another way that victims can receive information is through the victims portal. The portal is a secure online service, available to registered victims to receive information about the offender who harmed them. They can submit information electronically, including their victims' statements. These communication tools help victims stay informed, engaged and empowered to make informed decisions.

The Public Safety Canada portfolio is also working to ensure that victims of federal offenders have a voice in the federal criminal justice system.

For example, there are now 8,000 victims registered with Correctional Services Canada and the Parole Board of Canada. They are entitled to receive over 50 types of notifications. Last year, they received 160,000 pieces of information.

Along with more avenues to obtain information and give their input, victims have access to resources such as dedicated victim service officers, who provide victims with information about correctional services and the offender who harmed them.

Victim service officers explain to victims how correctional planning works and how decisions are made. They provide victims with information on the offender's progress toward meeting their correctional plan. They advise when parole hearings are scheduled.

It is fair to say that the rest of the motion aims to ensure that victims are treated even more fairly and respectfully by our criminal justice system. For decades, Canada's criminal justice system has been getting better at attending to the needs of victims and survivors, whether it is a matter of providing information, delivering support, or simply showing empathy and respect.

When Correctional Service of Canada prepares an offender's case for a parole hearing, for example, it takes into account the concerns that victims have raised in their victim's statements. Last year, victims presented over 300 statements at parole hearings. We are also taking steps to make the parole hearing process less traumatic for victims and survivors.

Members may recall that as part of the implementation plan for the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, the National Office for Victims hosted consultations on the victims right to information, participation and protection in the corrections and conditional release system.

One of the early issues discussed at the round tables was the parole hearing process as legislated in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Under its terms, victims unable to attend the parole hearing can have access to an audio recording of the hearing. At round tables held by the National Office for Victims, we heard that attending a parole hearing could be traumatic, such that afterwards many victims did not have a clear sense of what exactly was discussed.

Why not make the audio recordings available to those who have attended the parole hearing as well as those who could not attend? Why not enable them to listen again at a time and a place of their choosing?

That is one of the proposed amendments we have included in Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, to strengthen victims roles in the criminal justice system.

This is just one way we can increase the number of avenues through which victims can obtain information and participate in the processes of the criminal justice system. There is always more that can be done, but we continue to take steps in the right direction.

One of the most important things we can do is prevent people from becoming victims in the first place.

The national crime prevention strategy provides leadership on ways to prevent and reduce crime among at-risk populations and vulnerable communities. The strategy's goal is to mitigate the underlying factors that might put individuals at risk of offending in the first place.

The Government of Canada is making up to $94 million available over five years to develop inclusive, diverse and culturally adapted crime prevention projects right across Canada.

The national crime prevention strategy is another example of this government's efforts to reduce crime and by the same token, reduce the number of victims.

The government will continue to work with all our partners to support victims in every way possible.

Once again, I would like to thank the hon. member for introducing this motion and I look forward to continued debate on this very important topic.

Parole SystemPrivate Members' Business

June 19th, 2019 / 6:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise today and add my voice to the debate on Motion No. 229.

Before I do that, this may be my last opportunity to give a speech during this Parliament, so I want to thank my wife, Charlene, and my son and daughter, Ethan and Hannah. Hannah will be turning one next week, and Ethan will be turning three next month. They came after my election and do not know any different, but they make a great deal of sacrifices, like so many other kids of parents who work here on a daily basis. It is important to say thanks to remember them and those whom we leave back in our ridings to do this important work.

I also want to thank my constituents for this incredible honour of representing the people of St. Catharines here in this place almost four years.

Let me begin by first thanking the hon. member for Milton for bringing this motion forward. If there is one thing in this House that all of us can agree on, it is the importance of supporting victims and survivors of crime.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the dedication and tireless efforts of all those who work so hard to provide that support. We are all fortunate in this country to have a system in place that is there for people in their greatest time of need. That system spans different orders of government across different sectors. It offers programs and services that support victims of crime so that they can play an important role in the criminal justice system. It works to meet their needs and ensure that they do not suffer in silence. It encompasses professionals and volunteers who work with victims and survivors, helping them to get their lives back on track and making sure they are not re-victimized along the way.

I would like to take a moment to recognize the important work of Victim Services Niagara for the incredible work the people there in my home region do on a daily basis, and to recognize also the Kristen French Child Advocacy Centre. So many organizations across the country are working so hard and so passionately for victims of crime.

As part of that system, the federal government has an important role that includes support for victims of federal offenders, meaning those serving a sentence of two years or more. The Correctional Service of Canada, or CSC, strives to ensure that victims of federal offenders have an effective voice in the federal correctional and justice systems. Part of that involves providing them with information. Last year, in fact, victims received 160,000 pieces of information from CSC and the Parole Board of Canada.

That information is not automatically provided. Victims must register with CSC and the Parole Board in order to obtain that information about the offender who harmed them. However, the government has launched a victims portal to make that process easier. The portal provides a simple and secure way for victims to register and access information. It also allows them to submit information electronically for consideration in case management decisions. That includes victim statements, which can be submitted at any time during the offender's sentence.

In addition to the portal, victims are able to reach victim services officers by email or by phone. These officers can provide victims with information about CSC and the offender who harmed them. That includes information about correctional planning, decision-making processes and the progress the offender is making toward meeting the objectives of his or her correctional plan.

Victims are entitled to receive more than 50 types of notification. For example, victims can be notified of the start date and length of the sentence that the offender is serving. With respect to the motion before us, I would also point out that victims are already notified of the offender's eligibility and review dates for temporary absences or parole. That said, there could be room for improvement. Debates like this one certainly help us to shed some light on the issue of ways to support victims.

This debate is also taking place not long after the government took important steps forward in terms of how it communicates and engages with victims of federal offenders. On May 27, in conjunction with the 14th annual Victims and Survivors of Crime Week, the government announced a new victims outreach strategy.

The strategy has two main goals: The first is to improve public awareness about the information and notifications that the CSC provides to registered victims, and the second is to bring greater clarity to certain aspects of the corrections and conditional release system, including victims' understanding of sentence management and the offender reintegration process.

Specifically, the strategy will see the Correctional Service of Canada promoting the benefits of registration. CSC would also promote the information available to victims through the victims portal and the benefit of submitting a victim statement outlining the impact of the offence on them. CSC is working with federal partners in consultation with victims and survivors to develop new tools to let people know about the resources that are available. These tools include infographics videos and a social media campaign. That is just one recent step that the government has taken to support victims.

It has also proposed a new measure under Bill C-83, which is being considered by Parliament, to increase the participation of victims in the criminal justice system. If that bill passes and receives royal assent, victims who attend a Parole Board of Canada hearing will be allowed to listen to an audio recording of the parole hearing.

Right now, that opportunity is only available to victims who do not attend the parole hearing. It makes perfect sense to extend audio recordings to all registered victims because it would allow victims who did attend a hearing and found the experience difficult and traumatic to have a clear sense of how things transpired.

All of these measures are complemented by the government's National Office for Victims. The office provides a central national resource for information and support to victims of federal offenders. It can answer questions about the criminal justice, corrections and conditional release systems, giving victims a more effective voice. Last year, the office distributed more than 6,000 publications to victims of crime, victim service providers and the general public. The office also helped to point victims in the right direction by receiving calls, responding to email queries and referring Canadians for direct services.

Finally, I would like to note the support the government is providing to victims and survivors of the despicable crime of human trafficking.

Budget 2018 included federal funding of $14.5 million over five years and $2. 9 million per year after that to establish a national human trafficking hotline. Being from Niagara, I find this initiative to be incredibly important, because ours is a border community where so much of that crime occurs. Because so much trafficking occurs through that border crossing, it is important for my community to have those types of resources to combat this horrible crime.

I am pleased to report that the hotline was launched on May 29. It offers help and hope to victims and survivors 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, and it is confidential.

Victims and survivors will be able to use it both to seek information and to receive the help they need to find safety and protection. This includes connecting them to local law enforcement, emergency shelters, trauma counsellors, transportation and other services and supports. The hotline will also forward information to law enforcement agencies so they can take action against the perpetrators.

This is only a sampling of the federal measures that are in place or on track to support victims of crime. There is always more we can do to make things work even better for them.

I am proud to stand behind a government that takes this issue seriously, that has already taken steps to improve the support system for victims and is committed to working with partners on further improvements to better serve the needs of victims and survivors of crime.

Again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those involved in victim services. It is an incredibly difficult job to help people through the trauma they experience. We talk a lot about first responders and the important work that they do, but victim support workers provide a significant component of that, the next step that is too often forgotten about. The work is important to help get people on the right track, to help them move forward, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them.

Again, I would like to thank the member for Milton for introducing the motion and spearheading this important debate.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

June 14th, 2019 / 1:25 p.m.
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Kanata—Carleton Ontario

Liberal

Karen McCrimmon LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-83 has two main objectives.

First, it will allow federal inmates to be separated from the general prison population when necessary for security reasons. Second, it will ensure that these inmates have access to the interventions, programs and mental health care they need to safely return to the general prison population and make progress toward successful rehabilitation and reintegration.

The bill would achieve these objectives by replacing the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units. In SIUs, inmates will be entitled to twice as much time out of their cells, four hours daily instead of two, and two hours of meaningful human contact every day. We have allocated $448 million over six years to ensure that the correctional service has the resources to provide programs and interventions to inmates in SIUs and to implement this new safety system effectively. That funding includes $150 million for mental health care, both in SIUs and throughout the federal corrections system.

Bill C-83 was introduced last October. It was studied by the public safety committee in November and reported back to the House in December with a number of amendments. There were further amendments at report stage in February, including one from the member for Oakville North—Burlington, that added a system of binding external review. In recent months, hon. senators have been studying the bill and have now sent it back to us with proposed amendments of their own.

A high level of interest in Bill C-83 is indicative of the importance of the federal corrections system and of the laws and policies that govern it. Effective and humane corrections are essential to public safety. They are a statement of who we are as a country. In the words of Dostoyevsky, the degree of civilization in a society is revealed by entering its prisons.

I extend my sincere thanks to all the intervenors who have provided testimony and written briefs over the course of the last nine months and to the parliamentarians in both chambers who have examined this legislation and made thoughtful and constructive suggestions.

Since the Senate social affairs committee completed clause-by-clause consideration of this bill a couple of weeks ago, the government has been carefully studying the committee's recommendations, all of which seek to achieve laudable objectives. We are proposing to accept several of the Senate's amendments as is or with small technical modifications.

First off, with minor adjustments, we agree with amendments that would require a mental health assessment of all inmates within 30 days of admission into federal custody and within 24 hours of being transferred to an SIU. This fits with the focus on early diagnosis and treatment that would be facilitated by the major investments we are making in mental health care. We agree with the proposal to rearrange section 29 of the act, which deals with inmate transfers, to emphasize the possibility of transfers to external hospitals.

I thank the hon. senators for their efforts and contributions.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that we have reached together the third reading stage of Bill C-83, legislation that would significantly strengthen our federal corrections system in a variety of important ways. It would make institutions safer both for employees and for inmates. It would enhance support for the victims of crime. By improving the ability of the Correctional Service of Canada to successfully rehabilitate and safely reintegrate people who have broken the law, this legislation will better protect Canadians in communities across the country.

The bill's main feature is the replacement of the current practice of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or what is commonly known as SIUs. This is a new system that would allow inmates to be separated from the rest of the institution when that needs to happen for safety reasons, while giving them more time out of their cells, more meaningful contact with other people and greater access to mental health care and other rehabilitative interventions.

I would like to thank the members who participated in the meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as well as the many individuals who appeared as witnesses or submitted briefs. The bill was reviewed in meticulous detail, and the participants were, by and large, motivated by a sincere desire to strengthen our correctional system.

In response to witness testimony, committee members made a number of important amendments. Strangely, the opposition has been arguing that this is somehow a bad thing. We make no apologies for being receptive to feedback and willing to let legislators legislate. It is a testament to the strength of our parliamentary process that at least one amendment was accepted at committee stage from every party that made a submission during the committee's study of Bill C-83. There were even situations where an amendment was proposed by a member of one party and then subamended by a member of another party and then supported by both of them together. This stands in stark contrast to the way that things worked during the Harper days in Parliament. The Conservative government generally operated as though its bills were immaculately conceived and good-faith amendments were dismissed as heretical.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

The opposition has correctly noted that is not our government's approach, and I am very proud of the fact that we have worked together on amendments.

Most of the amendments made at the committee responded directly to various questions that were raised by witnesses about whether the SIUs would work as intended. For example, there were concerns that the opportunity for time out of the cell might be offered in the middle of the night, which would obviously be unreasonable. Therefore, the bill now prohibits that.

There were concerns that inmates' interactions with other people would only occur through the doors or through the meal slots. The bill now makes clear that this is to be a truly exceptional practice.

Some witnesses thought that the provision relieving the Correctional Service, in exceptional circumstances, of the obligation to provide time out of the cell could be too broadly construed. Therefore, the bill now includes a specific list of the kinds of extraordinary circumstances that provision is meant to respond to, like natural disasters.

While the bill already allowed medical professionals to recommend that an inmate be removed from the SIU, some witnesses wanted greater assurance that such a recommendation would in fact be taken seriously. Therefore, the bill now requires that if the warden disagrees with the recommendation, the matter would be immediately elevated to a senior panel external to that particular institution.

These and other amendments preserve the fundamental objectives of Bill C-83, while providing more clarity and confidence that the new system would function as planned and accomplish the transformation that is intended.

There is one other thing that happened at committee that I would like to highlight.

Along with their amended version of the bill, committee members sent this House a specific recommendation, that as we go about replacing segregation, particular attention should be given to the circumstances at women's institutions. Under the existing system, women tend to be housed in segregation less frequently and for shorter periods of time than men, and there is almost always a serious mental health issue involved. Also, while segregation cells and regular cells are quite similar at men's institutions, the same is not the case for women.

I am, therefore, pleased to report that in line with the committee's recommendation, the Correctional Service is taking a gender-informed approach to the implementation of SIUs. The service has confirmed that it will be engaging stakeholders, such as the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, as it develops plans to implement the new law in a way that is appropriate for women's corrections.

Having completed a brief overview of the work that was done at the committee, I would now like to turn to the report stage debate that has occurred in this House in recent days. One notable outcome of the report stage process was the addition of an external oversight mechanism, thanks to an amendment proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington. As I mention that particular member, let me also congratulate her on becoming the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

SIU placements now, thanks to that amendment, would be subject to binding review by independent external decision-makers. This process would kick in if, for whatever reason, an inmate in an SIU does not get his or her minimum hours out of a cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five straight days or for 15 days out of 30. At that point, the independent decision-maker would determine if the Correctional Service has taken all reasonable steps to provide those hours out of the cell and may make corrective recommendations. If after a week, the decision-maker is not satisfied, he or she can order the inmate removed from the SIU.

The independent decision-maker would also get involved if the Correctional Service is keeping an inmate in an SIU despite the recommendation of a health care professional. A review would be conducted of each SIU placement after 90 days and every 60 days thereafter. That is in addition to internal reviews that would be done by warden and the commissioner. Importantly, the determinations of the independent external decision-makers would be appealable to the Federal Court by both the inmate and the Correctional Service of Canada in accordance with section 18 of the Federal Courts Act.

Independent oversight is something that has been advocated by a number of stakeholders, including The John Howard Society, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association and Aboriginal Legal Services, as well as the correctional investigator. I was, therefore, a bit surprised during the third reading proceedings to see the NDP join with the Conservatives to oppose adding independent oversight to the bill.

At committee, the NDP member for Beloeil—Chambly said that he indeed wanted independent oversight in the legislation, and the NDP member for Salaberry—Suroît made several calls for independent oversight in this place on Tuesday of this week during the debate. However, on Tuesday night, for some reason, the NDP voted against independent oversight and in favour of keeping all the reviews of SIU placements internal to the Correctional Service. That was an absolutely baffling turn of events, and I would be very interested to hear NDP members explain it during the course of the debate today.

There were a couple of other points made during the report stage debate that are worth touching upon. First, Conservative members accused us of not putting any resources toward the implementation of Bill C-83. I suppose none of them have had the opportunity to read the fall economic statement, which allocated in fact $448 million over six years to “support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.”

I suppose that the the Conservative members of the public safety committee did not actually read the written response that was provided to them by my department in November outlining the breakdown of that funding.

As was set out in that document, we are putting nearly $300 million over six years, with $71.7 million ongoing, towards staffing and other resources required to run the SIUs. The other approximately $150 million over six years, with $74.3 million ongoing, will be devoted to enhancing mental health care both within SIUs and throughout the correctional system.

All of that is on top of the nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections that was provided in the last two federal budgets.

In my meetings with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, a key point of emphasis has been the importance of having the staffing levels and other resources needed to safely implement this legislation. The new investments that I have just outlined will in fact ensure that is the case.

That brings me to the matter of staff safety, which has also come up repeatedly during this debate, as indeed it should. The success of our corrections system relies on the skills and dedication of correctional officers, parole officers, program officers, medical professionals, elders, aboriginal liaison officers, chaplains, support staff and a great many other employees and volunteers.

Ensuring that they have a safe work environment is a prerequisite for everything that the Correctional Service of Canada is mandated to do. That is why Bill C-83 allows inmates who pose a security risk to be separated from the general inmate population. The enhancements to mental health care and rehabilitative interventions are also important for staff safety, because staff will be safer when inmates make correctional progress and when their mental health issues are under control.

It is worth remembering that in 2014, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers at that time said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said that because he felt that the Harper government's policies and budget cuts were endangering correctional officers.

Those cuts were deep. During their last term in office, under their deficit reduction action plan, the Conservatives cut $846 million from the Correctional Service of Canada. Those cuts had a considerable impact on institutional and public safety. For example, they resulted in a freeze of transfers to the organizations that run halfway houses, which play a key role in the safe reintegration of former inmates. That freeze is finally ending this year.

Conservative cuts resulted in the near elimination of the CoSA program, an initiative that has been shown to dramatically reduce the recidivism rates of sex offenders. We restored funding for that effective program in 2017.

The Conservative cuts caused the closure of prison farms, which serve important rehabilitative and vocational purposes. The work to reopen the farms is now under way.

When I met recently with parole officers, they explained how cuts to so-called administrative functions can affect public safety. For instance, when the people fired are those who handle billing and travel arrangements, that work has to get done by parole officers, who then have less time to spend with the inmates whose rehabilitative progress they are supposed to be supervising.

There is naturally more work to be done to compensate for the decade of Conservative cuts and policies that treated rehabilitation as the opposite of public safety. In fact, one cannot have one without the other.

I am pleased with the work we have been able to do so far. Bill C-83 is a vital step as part of that.

I will close with this. Court rulings finding the existing segregation regime unconstitutional are due to take effect in coming months. The courts have recognized explicitly that simply ending segregation without having a new system in place to replace it would put correctional workers, employees and inmates at greater risk.

The replacement we are proposing in this legislation is clearly a major improvement, with double the time out of the cell, a focus on mental health care and rehabilitation, independent external oversight and the investments to make it all work. Just to make sure, I will be appointing an advisory committee to monitor the implementation of the new SIU system. This committee will comprise experts with a diversity of relevant experience in areas such as corrections, rehabilitation and mental health care. Its role will be to advise the commissioner on an ongoing basis and to alert me directly if anything is not proceeding as it should.

Bill C-83 is legislation I hope we can all support. I thank the hon. members who engaged in a thoughtful study of the bill and proposed constructive amendments. I want to thank the witnesses who provided the informed and useful feedback that led directly to some of those specific amendments.

I want to thank in advance the correctional employees who will be charged with implementing this new system, and who work hard every day in very, very challenging circumstances, to effect successful rehabilitation, safe reintegration and the protection of Canadians and our communities.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic that we are debating something related to our criminal justice system in Bill C-83. The Minister of Public Safety is the inheritor of the old solicitor general role. In fact, the minister was part of the government that changed that. The last official solicitor general for Canada was Anne McLellan, his former colleague. Therefore, the public safety minister is, by extension, the solicitor general, the second-highest ranking legal official in the government of Canada.

We are in the middle of a crisis with respect to the demotion of the former attorney general, the top legal official in Canada, after she refused the orders of the Prime Minister's Office and pressure by major officials.

The solicitor general needs to ensure that there is confidence in our system of justice in Canada. As the second-highest ranking legal official in the government of Canada, a barrister solicitor himself, I would like the member to tell us why Canadians should have faith in Bill C-83 in the corrections part of the criminal justice system, when we have just been witness to the spectacle of the top ranking legal official in the Canadian government suggesting that the Prime Minister interfered with the course of justice. Should the minister not withdraw this bill and all other bills that are now sullied by the government's lack of respect for the rule of law in Canada?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Durham brought up a very valuable point. It will frame how my 10 minutes will move forward on the topic of Bill C-83.

I am glad to see that our hon. colleague across the way, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is not at Rideau Hall right now, being shuffled away. It is nice he is here with us, as the Prime Minister tries to shuffle himself out of a crisis of confidence.

That is where we are. A great emergency debate took place last night, with valuable comments from all sides.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, and I reiterate that the government has used time allocation to once again force closure to limit debate. Why is that? As we have seen time and again, if the government does not like what it is hearing or does not like the message, it is going to force closure on debate. The Liberals do not want to hear anymore.

It was on day 10 of the 2015 election that the member for Papineau told Canadians that he was going to do things differently, let debate reign and not resort to parliamentary tricks such as closure and time allocation. He said that under his government, Canadians would see the most open and transparent government in the history of our country and sunny ways.

What have we seen over the last three years? We have not necessarily seen a lot of sunshine, but have heard a lot of questions. Canadians have a lot of questions, and rightfully so. Today, we are in the middle of a crisis of confidence.

We should always arm our front-line officers, those who we trust to protect us and who serve our country and our community. We should be giving them to tools so they can fulfill their missions, come home safe and sound and remain healthy.

Bill C-83 is another attempt at being soft on crime, making things easier for those who commit the worst crimes in our society. The Liberals want Canadians to believe that these criminals are okay and that somehow solitary confinement or segregation is cruel and unusual punishment. One day these criminals get out of prison and will walk among us.

Let us consider Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, Clifford Olson, Eric McArthur, Travis Winsor and Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff. These are the types of offenders who are in solitary confinement and they are there not only for the protection of officers and other inmates, but for their own protection as well.

The minister talked about consultation, saying that the Liberals had consulted with the union of correctional officers and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The testimony we heard is considerably different from what they have said.

They purport there is support for the bill. There is support for elements in the bill, such as body scanners. However, the union of correctional officers has some serious concerns with it. In fact, the president remarked that there would be a bloodbath behind bars with the implementation of Bill C-83. He said that prisons did not have the resources now for the two hours inmates in solitary confinement were allowed to be out each day, let alone for four hours per day.

It has been said that solitary confinement is used as an administrative tool for both the safety of the officers as well as other inmates. However, 23% of offenders who are in solitary confinement are serving life sentences; 23% of offenders are serving a sentence between two years and three years less a day; and 681 offenders are serving a sentence with a “dangerous offender” designation. Dangerous offenders very likely never get out of these institutions, because they have committed some of the worst crimes.

The Liberals want people to believe the opposition is sowing the seeds of fear, but the government is soft on crime. We have seen it with Bill C-75. Convictions for serious crimes could now be punishable with just a fine. Bill C-83's intent is to bring the prison population down from 12,000.

Prominent witnesses have had serious issues with Bill C-83. They have said it is flawed. As our hon. colleague for Durham remarked, how can Canadians have confidence in any legislation moving forward?

I will go back to the testimony we heard earlier this week from the former attorney general. It was three hours and 40 minutes of powerful testimony. The Liberals are going to spin it each and every way they can. They are going to say nothing untoward happened. The former attorney general has serious concerns. She spoke truth to power in what happened. She was shuffled. She was demoted, fired. Over the course of the following weeks, the Liberals have done everything to tarnish her character, cast doubt in her testimony. This is what they do, and it is shocking.

I challenge Canadians to take a moment to listen to that testimony, three hours and 40 minutes of it. It will give them a glimpse into our country's highest office and the extent to which it is willing to go to subvert justice. It will shock them. It will strike fear into Canadians. Make no bones about it, the world is listening.

Today is not just about Bill C-83. Today is about the crisis of confidence we have in the Prime Minister, his office and indeed his entire front bench. Those in the gallery and those who are watching should pay attention and listen. If they do one thing today, I urge them to find that testimony and listen to it. Hear in her own words how the pressure was sustained. Despite saying no multiple times, there was sustained pressure for her to subvert justice. After all, the Prime Minister was going to get his way one way or the other. That is shameful.

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March 1st, 2019 / 10:40 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess the question today is whether the Prime Minister admits he was wrong.

Our hon. colleague is a good soldier. I am saddened that he is not down at Rideau Hall. I wish him better luck next time.

We have read the departmental plan for this department. One of our colleagues made note of it and questioned the minister on it. It shows about a 13% cut from the time we were government, 2015-16, to today. Correctional Service Canada managers have been tasked to look for efficiencies. In other words, to find ways to cut.

Bill C-83 has not been costed. We have made attempts to get the minister to tell us about the model the government is using and whether it has been costed. All we get is deflection. The Liberals are doing again what they usually do, which is to blame those before them.

The Liberals cannot accept the truth, they do not know the truth, we have not yet heard the truth and they cannot handle the truth.

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March 1st, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate if the member would correct the slight he made to my colleague.

The Hon. Kim Pate, senator and former long-standing head of the Elizabeth Fry Society and who received the Order of Canada for her work against segregation in prisons, said two days ago that Bill C-83 could have been made meaningful. Instead of just changing the name, the government could have made significant changes by including provisions that would allow for the transfer of those who had mental problems to mental health facilities. I wonder if the member could speak to that.

Would the legislation really resolve the problem we face where so many have been put in segregation and suffer severe mental problems? There are other solutions? I have worked with many people in the criminal law field. I have been to those facilities of incarceration. The Hon. Kim Pate is a person whose advice should be considered.

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March 1st, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the issue today is that if the Liberals do not like the narrative or the message coming from others, they will do everything to tarnish their character. We have seen it with the former attorney general, one who still sits among their very own ranks. That is shameful.

We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that those who face tough times have the tools they need so they can remain healthy. However, we should always ensure that those who we task to protect, to serve our country or our communities have the tools they need to remain healthy, safe and secure at work so they can go home safely and remain healthy at home.

Bill C-83 would do none of that. It is flawed legislation. The Liberals should remove it immediately.

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March 1st, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.

While there are a few colleagues across the way that think this is good bill, a number of people and organizations that testified at committee disagree.

One organization said that structured intervention units, or SIUs, are not needed, that the bill fails to focus on the programs and that there are concerns with section 81. That was the Elizabeth Fry Society.

The John Howard Society disagrees, saying that it needs more information on what exactly the difference is between solitary confinement and structured intervention units, believing that there is really no difference other than in the wording.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association disagrees. It will not support this bill, citing a lack of external oversight, a lack of programming needed to assist prisoners to reform and lack of sufficient resources and staff to meet social and educational needs.

The Native Women's Association of Canada also disagrees. It is one organization in a long list that were not consulted. It expressed reservations that the bill does not address traditions, protocol or cultural practices and does not clarify what is meant by “indigenous communities”.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers also disagrees, expressing very real concerns over the feasibility of SIUs and over prisoners and officers being more vulnerable under this bill.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also disagrees, citing that Bill C-83 has no meaningful reform and should be repealed and expressing apprehension that there was little to no consultation as well.

Aboriginal Legal Services also disagrees with Bill C-83, citing a lack of consultation and speaking about the expanse between rhetoric and reality.

A Canadian correctional investigator who testified also disagreed with this bill, expressing that eliminating solitary confinement was one thing but that replacing it with a regime that imposes restrictions on retained rights and liberties with little regard for due process and administrative principles was inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, when there is little regard for the rule of law, disregarding the charter is a trivial thing. I just hope that no one is hurt or killed because of this legislation before November, when Conservatives can repeal this piece of legislation.

I am not sure if my colleagues have detected a pattern or not. Clearly, the government sees no problem with ignoring the concerns of those most affected by this bad bill, but this lack of interest in listening to Canadians does not end with Bill C-83.

In the Correctional Services departmental report, 2018-19, on page 26, if the members opposite care to follow along, there is actually a cut in spending to Correctional Services of Canada of about 6.6%. That is comparing 2015 to 2019. It went down 6.6%.

Also in that departmental report is a list of departmental priorities. Believe it or not, there is not one mention of officer safety in that report. How is that even possible? Again, there is a pattern that is consistently repeating itself here.

With respect to the government's carbon tax, much promoted on their side, no less than four provinces are taking the Liberal government to court, and more are waiting.

The Prime Minister's carbon tax does nothing for the environment, but it will increase the cost of gas, home heating and everyday essentials. Worse still, it is going to get more expensive. For Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, in 2019 the Prime Minister's carbon tax starts at $20 a tonne, going up to $50 in three years. However, internal government documents confirm that the Liberals are already planning for a carbon tax of $300 per tonne. That is 15 times larger than what it will be on April 1 when it kicks in.

The Prime Minister has cut a special carbon tax side deal with Canada's largest emitters, which means they will continue to pollute for free while families and small business owners get hit with the full force of that tax.

For wealthy individuals, an extra $100 a month on a grocery bill or electricity bill might not seem like a big deal, but it matters a lot to a family trying to make its household budget last to the end of the month. Canadians do not want it, but like the stakeholders who testified on Bill C-83, they are being ignored by the government.

The bill is very much about protecting the rights of criminals, particularly those who continue to behave badly in prison. The Supreme Court of Canada recently made a ruling that the law that makes criminals pay surcharges to help victims is unconstitutional, and the Liberals have jumped on this. Instead of looking at ways to protect victims' rights, they have introduced legislation to remove this necessary instrument for ensuring criminals are held accountable. Victims' rights must always be at the heart of our criminal justice system. That is why our previous Conservative government took unprecedented steps to ensure that the rights of victims were protected.

The Liberals' approach to Bill C-83 is similar to what we are seeing in a lot of other pieces of legislation, and I will outline a few more ways the government continues its pattern of failing to listen to Canadians.

The Prime Minister failed to move an ounce of dirt or build one inch of new pipeline. They had to nationalize it, and they still have continued to fail on this file. After killing the northern gateway, he vetoed the energy east pipeline and obstructed Trans Mountain. This lack of pipeline capacity has turned an already difficult economy in western Canada into a full-blown national economic crisis that is threatening tens of thousands of jobs, on top of the 100,000 jobs already lost in the energy sector since 2015.

The Prime Minister also failed to fix the mess he created at our border with the United States. Since his #WelcomeToCanada tweet last year, 40,000 people have crossed illegally into Canada, at a cost of up to $34,000 each. By 2020, this crisis will have cost Canadian taxpayers $1.6 billion.

As well, the Prime Minister failed to balance the budget, despite promising to do so in the 2015 election campaign. This year is supposed to be the year of the Prime Minister's final deficit before returning to surplus in 2019. Instead, this year's deficit is three times larger than projected and the budget will not be balanced until 2045. He is spending Canada's cupboards bare in good economic times and leaving us open to disaster when the downturn next hits.

The Prime Minister has also failed our veterans. After promising in the 2015 election that veterans would never have to go to court to obtain benefits from his government, he has spent nearly $40 million fighting veterans groups in court over benefits claims. When asked why at a town hall meeting in 2018 in Edmonton, he said that veterans were asking more than we are able to give.

The Prime Minister failed to equip our armed forces. He is spending $2.5 billion less than what he promised in his defence policy. The Royal Canadian Navy is in need of new warships, and to meet Canada's international obligations, the Royal Canadian Air Force requires a new fleet of fighter jets, not used CF-18s from Australia.

Canada's peacekeeping is at an all-time low, and the Prime Minister failed to represent Canada with dignity on the world stage, as he failed to maintain relationships with key allies. His trip to India was a PR disaster for Canada and seriously damaged relations with the world's largest democracy. Relations with the United States and other traditional long-standing allies are also strained.

The Prime Minister failed to uphold the standards of transparency, accountability and ethical behaviour he promised. In 2018, he became the first prime minister in Canadian history found guilty of breaking ethics laws after accepting a vacation from the Aga Khan, while his ministers continued to abuse their power for political gain in 2018. Now, with his handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair and his attempts to manipulate a favourable decision for his friends at SNC-Lavalin, he has lost the moral authority to govern. He must resign.

It seems unless someone employs workers in and around the Prime Minister's riding, there is not much the government will do to listen to their concerns.

I have laid out why this side of the House will not support Bill C-83. I welcome questions from my colleagues.

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March 1st, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, the mandatory minimums were aimed at keeping the worst of the worst, the violent repeat offenders, off our streets. I do not believe those who refuse to be rehabilitated in any way should be allowed to go free on our streets. Although there are a number of tools in the tool box that court officers, judges and law enforcement professionals have, the more tools the better.

What Bill C-83 fails to address is the fact that the union representing corrections officers has said on many occasions, especially through its testimony, that this is one tool being taken away that could jeopardize the safety of workers and the safety of other inmates.

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March 1st, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.

I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.

I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.

In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.

The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.

I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.

One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.

Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.

Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.

In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.

We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.

One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.

I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.

While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.

In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.

Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.

When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.

Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.

The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.

If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.

The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.

There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.

The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.

A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.

The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.

We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.

When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.

I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.

The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.

What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.

The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.

While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.

The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.

What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.

Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:

With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a re-branding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.

Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.

Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.

Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.

The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.

Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.

Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.

I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.

Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.

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March 1st, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly we all remember with sadness the case of Ashley Smith. We should learn from mistakes in tragic cases in our system.

We hear concerns from correctional workers that they have not been properly consulted in the process. We also hear concerns from organizations, from Senator Pate and others, that Bill C-83 does not have the intended purpose to deal with some of the issues the member raised in his speech.

However, I am raising the wider issue that with the government now in a crisis of confidence with respect to the rule of law, maybe the Liberals have lost their moral authority on criminal justice issues, including corrections.

There is widespread disagreement on both the left and the right on Bill C-83. The fact is that the government is now tarnished. I talked about how the public safety minister is the modern equivalent of the solicitor general, the second-highest-ranking legal official in the government of Canada. In the absence of moral authority, should the government not go back to the drawing board and speak to the organizations that can give Bill C-83 its intended purpose?

I would like the member's comments on the wider issue of how the government and the Prime Minister and his office, in particular, have called into question their ability to bring forward appropriate legislation on both the rule of law and the criminal justice system.