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

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of March 19, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-83.

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

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

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

February 26th, 2019 / 11:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the question is a complete non sequitur. Moreover, its fundamental premise is absolutely flawed. There is no relationship between the issues that he raises in his question and what is in Bill C-83.

Bill C-83 and the amendments that are now before the House are intended to make our correctional system safer and more successful in keeping society safe and secure. The amendments that we are now considering at report stage have to do in large measure with review and oversight to ensure our correctional service has the power and authority to run the system in a way that keeps the system safe and that respects the needs of those in the institutions. This is to ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, rehabilitation can be achieved.

If we reject the objective of rehabilitation, we are saying that when sentences expire, we should release inmates willy-nilly, with no concern for future public safety. That is surely a formula for disaster, which the official opposition seems to embrace.

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

February 26th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. minister about one of the witnesses who testified, Senator Pate. She testified before the committee and indicated that the legislation, Bill C-83, as presented and as amended was bad legislation.

Senator Pate did a very good job of dismantling the claims of the minister and the bill on what segregation would do at the end of the day. Her experience in Nova Scotia was that one of the prisons she visited had renamed a segregation unit to the intensive intervention unit. However, at the end of the day, it did not change anything.

It appears as if whatever overhaul was intended with this legislation, changing the name of a segregation unit to the function of it is not necessarily what is going to happen in the bill. The costing has never been done for the legislation either.

Would the minister enlighten us on exactly how, other than potentially changing the paint and the name of something, it will actually make a difference in what we are trying to achieve with rehabilitation, still keeping in mind the protection of our guards and other inmates, and the rehabilitation of the prisoners who are there?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / noon
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Peter Schiefke Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth) and to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to speak to Bill C-83.

It is a transformative piece of legislation for our correctional system. Its ultimate goal is to promote safety, both inside and outside our federal institutions, and it prioritizes rehabilitation as an indispensable part of achieving that goal.

The core innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposed introduction of structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would address a reality in any prison across our country, which is that some inmates are, at certain times, simply too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream inmate population. The current practice is to place those offenders in administrative segregation.

Segregated inmates in federal institutions can be in their cells for as many as 22 hours a day. Interactions with other people are highly limited. Bill C-83 would offer a more effective way forward for all involved.

Safety will always be priority number one for our government, and should be for any government in power, but prisons are safer places in which to live and work when inmates receive the programming, mental health care and other interventions they need. Inmates who receive these interventions are more likely to reintegrate safely into the community when their sentences are over.

The solution the government is proposing in Bill C-83 is to eliminate segregation and to replace it with SIUs. These units would be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative would be met. However, they would be designed to ensure that inmates who were placed there would receive the interventions, programming and treatment they required.

Inmates in SIUs would be given the opportunity to leave their cells for at least four hours a day, as opposed to two hours under the current system. It is worth noting that currently, those two hours are set out in policy and not in legislation. Bill C-83 would give the four-hour minimum the full force of law.

Inmates in SIUs would also have the opportunity for at least two hours of meaningful human contact. During that time, they could interact with people such as correctional staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains or elders. The goal of these reforms is for inmates in an SIU to be in a position to reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

Bill C-83 has undergone rigorous analysis at every stage of the parliamentary process to date. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went over it with a fine-tooth comb. Based on testimony from a wide range of stakeholders, a number of useful amendments were adopted at the end of the committee's study period.

Bill C-83 was a solid and worthwhile bill from day one. It is now even better and stronger for having gone through vigorous debate and a robust review process. It is worth noting that the bill that has been reported back to us reflects amendments from all parties that proposed them. I wholeheartedly reject the idea we have heard during this debate that somehow the fact that the bill has been amended in response to public and parliamentary feedback is a bad thing. I am proud to support a government that welcomes informed, constructive feedback and that respects the role of members of Parliament from all parties in the legislative process. I would like to thank all members in this House who contributed to amending and making this bill better than it was.

Most of the amendments made to Bill C-83 are about ensuring that the new SIUs would function as intended. For instance, some witnesses were worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided in the middle of the night, when inmates were unlikely to take advantage of it. Therefore, the member for Montarville added the requirement that it happen between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Other witnesses wondered whether the mandatory interactions with others might happen through a door or a meal slot, a reasonable concern. To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision requiring that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that interactions are face to face, with a record kept of any and all exceptions.

To address concerns that CSC might make excessive use of the clause allowing for time out of the cell not to be provided in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to clarify how this clause should be interpreted.

Amendments from the member for Toronto—Danforth at committee and from the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will enhance the review process so that each SIU placement is subject to robust oversight, both internally and externally.

All of this will help ensure that the new structured intervention units operate as intended.

However, that is not all. Amendments have also been accepted from the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I would like to thank them once again for their contributions as well.

We all want safer institutions and safer communities. We all want Canadians to feel safe and to be safe. Successful rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people in federal custody are key to achieving our shared objective of enhanced public safety. By allowing inmates who must be separated from the general prison population to receive more time out of their cell and more mental health care and rehabilitative interventions, Bill C-83 represents a major step in the right direction.

Again, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their contributions in the House and at committee throughout the entire parliamentary process so far, and I urge them to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill. It will ensure the safety of the inmates and those who work in the correctional institutions, and Canadians as well.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth) and to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Lib.

Peter Schiefke

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we need proper oversight in this process. We were grateful to have the testimony of many people working in correctional facilities who pushed for these kinds of oversight. As well, many in organizations that were looking for more oversight throughout this process came and testified at committee and met with members of Parliament from all sides of the House. That is a core component of the legislation that we have put forward.

I would also like to add that it is important to develop trust among players involved in this system. We have been able to do that by making them a part of the process so far of developing the proposed law, Bill C-83, and also by listening to them and ensuring that they have the resources in place through new investments and investments that have been already put in place to ensure their safety as we put in place this new methodology to deal with those particular inmates.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this new chamber to speak to Bill C-83.

When this bill was introduced, it was an important piece of legislation. However, what is even more important is that the parliamentary process has helped enhance this very important bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members who have participated in the debate, who provided information and who shared their views.

The witnesses were also helpful. Some came to us, while others provided additional information in writing that helped us improve this bill as much as possible. All of these contributions will help build a safer and more effective correctional system, which is essential.

I also want to point out that more than 100 amendments were proposed. This means that there were a lot of discussions on this bill. I should also note that every party was able to contribute to these amendments in one way or another.

One of the amendments was about broadening the scope of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that correctional policies, programs and practices respect religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and the special needs of visible minorities. Those are very important aspects.

Another amendment was about making every reasonable effort to provide inmates in structured intervention units with human contact, which is very important to their mental health. Some felt it was important to give individuals in structured intervention units a reasonable amount of time outside their cell. That does not mean waking inmates up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.; time outside the cell must be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In terms of health care, the bill provides further assurances to inmates by requiring an additional review when the institutional head disagrees with the recommendations of a health professional with respect to altering the conditions of an inmate's confinement or removing the inmate from the unit.

I am very pleased to say that the bill will be reviewed every five years. This is another approach our government has been taking since 2015. We are bringing in legislation that provides for reviews and allows for improvements to be made. This will give us an opportunity to examine the bill's implementation and make the necessary changes.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness also mentioned that the government would be open to an important addition, specifically, external oversight. The member for Oakville North—Burlington moved that amendment at report stage, and the government has signalled its intention to support it. This addition will address one of the main concerns raised during testimony in committee. It is also very important to ensure that the necessary resources are put in place to move this crucial bill forward. I will explain in my speech where we have made those investments.

The national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, Stanley Stapleton, shared this sentiment. I am delighted to say that the government also took his calls into account.

The Minister of Finance of Canada announced a $448-million investment in corrections in the latest fall economic update. A large part of this money will be put towards the provisions of this bill.

As the Minister of Public Safety pointed out, this funding will ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada will have properly trained staff at the right time and in the right place. This investment also includes $150 million for extensive improvements to mental health care in prisons. This money is in addition to the considerable investment of almost $80 million that was announced in our government's last two budgets.

In other words, the government has followed through on its commitment to ensure that the corrections system holds offenders accountable for their actions but also supports their rehabilitation in a safe and secure environment. The goal is to have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately, a safer country.

Bill C-83 will strengthen the federal correctional system by implementing a new intervention model, improve health care governance and victim support services, and better take into account the specific needs of indigenous offenders. That is very important. What is more, it will eliminate administrative segregation and make way for patient advocates, as recommended in the coroner's report on the death of Ashley Smith. It will also enact less intrusive alternatives to strip searches and body cavity searches.

The bill will help better support the role of victims in the criminal justice system by guaranteeing them access to audio recordings of parole hearings. This is a marked improvement over the former system, under which only victims who did not attend the hearing could obtain an audio recording. Now victims who attend will also get the recordings.

The bill also enshrines into law the principle by which health care providers at correctional institutions will have to make decisions based on their medical judgment, independently of correctional authorities. The bill also enshrines in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders.

In summary, we drafted a comprehensive bill that will strengthen the security of our institutional staff, inmates and our communities. It will make it possible for Correctional Service Canada to separate certain offenders while ensuring that they receive the interventions required. It will also improve the quality of their rehabilitation.

Once again, I want to thank all members who contributed to this important bill. Its passage through the House so far demonstrates what can be done when members from all parties work together to pass legislation that will help the community. I am proud to support Bill C-83 today, and I encourage members of the House to do so as well.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows very well that Bill C-83 had to be brought in because of superior court decisions in Ontario and British Columbia that found the current segregation policy to be unconstitutional.

In the two rulings handed down in Quebec and Ontario, recommendations were made and put in writing to explain their decision and to guide future government policy or legislation.

Bill C-83, however, fails to implement most of these recommendations, and I would like to ask my colleague why that is.

Why did the government refuse to consider the recommendations of the judges, who ruled that the situation was unconstitutional?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-83. As we know, it is a bill that symbolizes the current government's approach to leadership in this country. It is an approach of ignoring the concerns of many, providing little in the way of moral leadership and transparency, and putting the safety of Canadians at risk for the benefit of political gain.

I have said many times in this place that it is and should be the top priority of the House to put the safety of Canadians first, ahead of any other issues or politics. With the bill, the House would fail to meet that expectation.

To paraphrase my NDP colleague from Beloeil—Chambly, I can think of no time when a bill has come before Parliament where there are no witnesses who support the legislation. That is exactly what happened with Bill C-83. The minister claimed the bill would end administrative segregation. The witnesses who refuted the bill included prisoner advocacy groups, civil liberties groups, former wardens, professors, correctional unions, the correctional investigator and a senator. The overriding sentiment was that the legislation lacked the detail and information needed to back up such a claim by the minister.

The minister claimed the bill responded to issues raised by the courts that segregation caused the death of two inmates. However, the facts are clear in these two unfortunate deaths that they were the result of operational and management failures in both circumstances.

The minister claimed safety and security of staff were the top priorities. However, correctional workers and former inmates testified that segregation is essential to managing violent and volatile inmates, and that the bill would create more risk to staff.

Civil liberties groups called the bill unconstitutional and said it would make things worse rather than better. They noted the bill lacked external oversight, a check against the authorities of Correctional Service Canada. The minister actually acknowledged this lack of oversight existed.

Senator Pate testified before the committee and indicated that Bill C-83 was a bad piece of legislation. The senator dismantled the minister's claims as to how the bill would end segregation. In a visit to a Nova Scotia Prison, Senator Pate noted that it had renamed the segregation unit, the “intensive intervention unit”. The minister will claim otherwise, of course. However, I will take the testimony of a senator and her eyewitness account over the minister's promise, especially given the minister's repeated track record of misleading Parliament and Canadians.

Perhaps the only accomplishment by the minister with respect to the bill is that he brought together the NDP, the Green Party and the Conservatives, who all oppose the legislation.

I would like to note the unexpected and very valuable contribution of written testimony from Mr. Glen Brown, someone who knows the system well. Mr. Brown is a highly experienced former warden and deputy warden, who now teaches criminal justice and criminology at Simon Fraser University and Langara College.

As someone once responsible for segregation units, he notes that the Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe cases were more about mismanagement of behavioural issues and neglect. These issues are not legislative problems. They are management, training and accountability issues. When in segregation, inmates should receive bolstered communication on current risks and mental health issues. They should have increased contact with officers and staff, and they should have an increased potential for services. All this should bring greater attention to an offender's rehabilitation plan.

Mr. Brown wrote:

The strength of a functioning administrative segregation process is that it should bolster all of those things: oversight is strengthened; case management should be more active; information sharing should be more robust; referral for clinical service should be prioritized and case management intervention to develop plans should be urgent.

After noting that science and research has shown that properly managed segregation units do not cause short- or long-term harm, Mr. Brown noted, “To respond to current circumstances with sweeping legislative reform is only to react ideologically, and to ignore science and evidence.”

On the minister's grand solution to segregation, which is to rename segregation units to “structured intervention units”, Mr. Brown noted that Bill C-83 described SIUs in such broad and vague language that the consequences of implementation were very uncertain, that the details were unknown and the details were the key. The current layout of many segregation units did not facilitate socialization and programming. The emphasis on programming suggested longer-term stays in SIUs, weeks or maybe months. SIUs would not be suitable for short-term management of volatile inmates, such as those under the influence. There was the inability to have specialized staff for particular subpopulations in a prison. Finally, he noted that given the current layout of many prisons, a wing may need to be deemed a structured intervention unit, meaning up to 96 inmates may be subject to 20 hours a day of confinement where before it would be only 16.

To be clear, someone who is an expert and has worked for years in prisons with segregation says that he cannot discern the minister's plan. Moreover, he says that prisons often lack the infrastructure, are inappropriate to what is needed and could have the opposite effect to what the minister claims.

Perhaps the only potential value in the legislation could come from an external review mechanism of segregation, because it could provide Canadians with greater confidence in offender management. The minister, however, told the committee that we did not have the authority to do this, an order the Liberal MPs on the committee followed, while the opposition members put forward mechanisms to provide such oversight, which were soundly rejected.

When we pushed the Liberals at committee to amend the worst parts of the legislation and pointed to the glaring issues raised by the many expert witnesses, we were told that Liberal MPs were voting with “faith in the minister”.

The role of committees is not to provide support and faith to a minister. It is to conduct detailed examinations on challenging issues, to hear from experts and impacted Canadians, to examine programs, spending and legislation to determine if it will meet the needs of Canadians or, at the very least, what the minister claims it will meet. On this, our committee has failed.

At the conclusion of committee debate on Bill C-83, my Conservative colleagues and I put our views on the record. We indicated that the committee failed in its role to review the legislation and ensure that it could make informed decisions. We also said that we believed the minister withheld information from committee that was clearly available to him at the time, namely the cost and how it would be used and implemented in the bill, which most witnesses said was essential to knowing if the bill would be useful. For the minister, it seemed more important that he withhold his plan from the committee. Half a billion dollars connected to a bill, where and how the money will be used is essential to know if the bill will work. We still do not have a plan necessarily for that money.

What was the response to the overwhelming criticism and skepticism of the bill? Government MPs stated that they were “making a leap of faith” and putting their trust in the minister. What was accomplished by the committee in reviewing this legislation? In my opinion, next to nothing. The Liberal members rejected amendments on how the money would be used. They rejected a requirement to publish the standards of the new SIUs. They rejected limits to reclassifying prisons. They rejected having the minister provide us with how he would implement this new plan.

On this legislation, the Liberals have turned their backs on Canadians. We are to trust the minister who has an extensive track record of misleading Canadians on things like the disastrous India trip, Bill C-59 and Bill C-71, failure to provide funding for police to tackle gangs, and I could go on.

We as a House can do better. We must do better. We can all rise to a higher level. Personally, I feel this committee failed its constituents, its communities and its country. Bill C-83 is yet another example of the many failures of the Liberal government.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely I will.

The nice thing about a democracy is that we can and we are allowed to disagree. I sit on the committee, just as my hon. friend across the way does, and quite frankly I was disappointed. The main issue we were trying to address was the rehabilitation of prisoners. That is the purpose of corrections. We want to place them safely back into the community.

Bill C-83 fails in that respect. Witnesses had many other amendments, all of which were ignored by the Liberal majority on the committee. Were amendments made? Yes, but they did not strengthen the bill.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak in favour of Bill C-83.

The purpose of the bill is to move away from the system of administrative segregation in place at the moment toward a new structured intervention units. We have heard before in the debate in the House that this responds to two recent decisions by courts in Ontario and British Columbia. I read those decisions again last night. I have read them a few times now. They are difficult decisions. They set out clear problems with our existing system.

The member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques raised a question earlier, saying that the bill did not respond to what was set out in the decisions. I do not believe that is correct. There are two reasons, some of which I will go into later as we discuss the matter. However, in addition, it is because the system that was being reviewed and some of the rules that were being put in place when the judges were making their decisions were based on the system we have now. The system we would be putting into place with Bill C-83 would have a very different set of rules. We need to take that into account, and I will work through some of it. I believe this change in legislation, the change to the system we would putt in place, would increase charter compliance and would respond to the issues that were raised.

I will admit that I approached the bill with some concerns. When the bill first came before us, I had a lot of questions. I listened to the testimony. We heard from inmates, corrections officers and lawyers. A lot of people brought forward their concerns on the bill. It made me think long and hard about what was the right way for us to address these issues.

What was really clear to me, the most important part when I looked at what was needed to improve the bill, was oversight. In fact, oversight and decision making was one of the key issues raised by both court decisions as a matter of procedural fairness. It was not only in the transfer to a unit but also in the decision to keep a person in what was at the time an administrative segregation unit.

I want to highlight the fact that oversight is the glue that keeps it together. Ultimately we need to have a system that is safe and secure, conducive to inmate rehabilitation, to staff safety and to protection of the public. We are all working toward that. There is much more work to be done, but there is also much work under way.

Regardless of Bill C-83, some improvements are already in place. There has been more than a 50% decline in administrative segregation placements over the last four years. That is already a change in the way things are happening on the ground. The other part is the fact that the correctional service commissioner's mandate letter highlights the need to work in a collaborative relationship with the Office of the Correctional Investigator in order to address and resolve matters of mutual concern.

I have the highest respect for the Office of the Correctional Investigator. When we read those annual reports, we get an insight into what happens in our correctional system. To have that need to work together collaboratively in the mandate letter to resolve issues that have been raised is a very important statement about how we move forward with Correctional Service Canada. I would also add that the budget for the Office of the Correctional Investigator has been increased. I welcome that as part of the essential oversight we need for the system.

When talking about the bill specifically, at committee I worked closely with my colleague, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, on how we could improve oversight in the bill. How could we, when looking at structured intervention units, improve oversight. I want to thank the member for Oakville North—Burlington for introducing an amendment, to which the government has given royal recommendation, to allow for properly funded external oversight. That piece is essential. It responds to many of the concerns that were raised, not only by the courts but by witnesses as well. It builds on amendments that were made at committee.

At committee, for example, there were additional oversight pieces. One part I worked on would ensure that when people were transferred into a structured intervention unit, they would get written reasons for it in very short order. That is important, because one cannot appeal a decision if one does not have the reasons for it. It sounds legalistic, but it is important to have written reasons so people can appeal a decision if they wish.

Another piece I worked on was this. If a health expert recommended that an inmate be moved out of a structured intervention unit, and the warden disagreed, an additional review would be built in at a more senior level within Correctional Service Canada so that the decision could be reviewed. It is the layers of oversight that are essential and is why I believe that the work at committee was very important in moving that forward.

I have talked about oversight. Another issue we needed to address when we looked at the court decisions was the essential piece on what is now administrative segregation, which was highly criticized, and what we are proposing as far as moving toward structured intervention units. This turns on two parts: time in the cell and time in the cell without meaningful contact with people. Currently, inmates have 22 hours in a cell, plus shower time. The court was clear that shower time is over and above the two hours and does not mean that inmates are in their cells for over 22 hours. It completely rejected that as a notion. Inmates have two hours out of their cells.

There is an international set of rules, the Mandela Rules. Rule 44 sets out that solitary confinement is 22 hours without meaningful contact with people. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, which is one of the cases that gave rise to this, spoke specifically to this issue. It said,

Canada can take itself outside of the literature dealing with solitary confinement...in administrative segregation both in terms of the time that an inmate spends in his or her cell and the nature of the human contact that they have while segregated.

When the court was reviewing it, it said that we needed to make changes to the system in those two ways. That is, in fact, what this bill would address. Clause 36 of the bill would require that inmates spend a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. In addition, though, an amendment was introduced at committee that said that it had to be at a reasonable time. Those four hours could not be in the middle of the night, when people want to be sleeping. Therefore, those four hours would have to be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., a reasonable time when inmates may want to be outside their cells. Of those four hours, inmates would have to have an opportunity to interact for a minimum of two hours through activities, including, but not limited to, programs, interventions and services that would encourage inmates to make progress toward the objectives of their correctional plans or that would support their reintegration into the mainstream inmate population and leisure time. These are meaningful ways people could have contact and interact.

When I was looking at the B.C. case in particular, one of the things that really hit home was the fact that a lot of the contact inmates are having is through a meal slot. When they are interacting with staff and individuals, a lot of it is happening just through their meal slots, and that is just unacceptable. Without eye contact, that is not meaningful contact. It is important to make sure that there is contact, not just people walking by without interacting.

These are important changes. The bill gives us a chance to think about an entirely new system, which it really would be. We would be moving from administrative segregation, which is 22 hours in a cell without meaningful contact, to 20 hours and a requirement for meaningful contact. We would be changing things in a way that would be meaningful and important and that would respond to these court decisions. I understand that people have raised some issues, but I believe that this is an important step forward, and I am pleased to speak in favour of it.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. Let me state from the outset that I am opposed to this bill, not for what the bill purports to accomplish but for what I am afraid the bill would unintentionally accomplish.

This legislation proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in corrections facilities by replacing these facilities with new structured intervention units and to also allow the commissioner to reassign the security classification of each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.

It is a tenet of our free and democratic society that the worst punishment one can consign to people is to deprive them of their liberty. Indeed, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is clear on that matter. Section 7 states,

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

It is that clause that allows a democratic society that holds the fundamental principles of life, liberty and security of the person in such high esteem to deprive another of them. If someone commits a crime in Canada, particularly a heinous crime, that person will be locked away to protect society from that person's acts.

There are Canadians, particularly those who have endured unimaginable pain at the hands of criminals, who believe that they should have no rights in jail. On a deeply personal basis, I understand that cry for vengeance, the need to make another suffer for the way that person made a loved one suffer. As a parliamentarian, I must, like my colleagues in this House, temper my personal feelings with the duty Canadians have sought fit to invest in me to ensure that all people are treated equitably under the laws of this great nation.

As such, inmates in Canada are afforded a number of protections through human rights legislation, various statutes and the supreme law in Canada, our Constitution. They too are protected from the most dangerous criminals inside our institutions.

Segregation, or isolation, whatever we want to call it, affords protection for inmates, and let us not forget, the correctional staff who work in these facilities. The law requires that a balance must be struck between the protection of inmates and staff and the protection of inmates in segregation.

Inmates who are determined to be at risk to themselves or others would now be placed in new structured intervention units, or SIUs. Inmates would be given at least four hours a day outside their cells and guaranteed at least two hours to interact with others.

The introduction of SIUs would pose a risk to prison guards and inmates and to the inmates for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety. Bill C-83 would strip the ability to use segregation for discipline. This change would make prisons more dangerous for the guards, as they would have to deal with the most violent of inmates, those who continue to prey on others inside the institution.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has said that it has not been properly consulted on Bill C-83. On October 21, the Vancouver Sun reported that the head of the national prison guards' union predicted a “bloodbath” behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. The national president, Jason Godin, explained:

...by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations. We are concerned about policy revisions that appear to be reducing the ability to isolate an inmate, either for their safety or for that of staff....

I share this concern that no thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure that nobody gets hurt.

Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator of Canada, stated:

ln effect, Bill C-83 proposes a softer version of segregation without any of the constitutional protections. The bill is uniformly short on specifics and places too much discretion and trust in correctional authorities to replace segregation with an unproven and not well-conceived correctional model.

Bill C-83 goes further than what was raised in either of the Superior Court decisions. With respect to SIUs, the bill would allow the commissioner to reassign the security classification of each penitentiary or any area within a penitentiary. These sub-designations have raised concerns about whether this would allow an entire penitentiary to become an SIU and what that would mean for security and staffing.

Furthermore, these sub-designations could lead to more cases of higher-security prisoners being in a lower-security space, based on technicalities.

We know just how soft the government is already on the most despicable elements of our society. Recently, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the 2009 kidnapping and brutal killing of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford, was transferred to a minimum-security facility in Saskatchewan, even though she is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Now the government wants to institute an official policy to allow this to potentially happen on a regular basis. It will not be on our watch.

Conservatives are opposed to any legislation that opens the door to allowing high-risk offenders to be housed in low-security facilities. Dangerous child killers, pedophiles and murderers—the most heinous of people—deserve to be behind bars. ISIS terrorists deserve to be in prison, not offered poetry classes by the government.

This bill is just another example of Liberals putting the rights of dangerous criminals ahead of the rights of victims and their families, ahead of the safety and well-being of correctional officers who must work in these facilities and of course ahead of common sense. The legislation is too wide-ranging.

Debra Parkes, a professor at the UBC law school, stated:

The first point is that the proposal for structured intervention units actually expands rather than eliminates segregated conditions. These provisions give incredibly broad powers to the commissioner to designate whole prisons or areas of prisons as SIUs. Purposes for placing in SIUs are also very broad, including from proposed paragraph 32(a), to “provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons”, undefined and unclear. It's very broad.

While the supplementary estimates show $448 million for CSC over the next six years, this piece of legislation has not been costed. Our correctional officers are doing an exemplary job at keeping everyone safe, including themselves and the inmates, but situations arise and people do get hurt. Now we are asking our correctional staff to do more with less. As situations continue to arise—and they will—more people will get hurt, and that is not acceptable.

Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated:

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, I was in Edmonton sitting in the segregation unit asking the staff in there if they were meeting the two-hour requirement, with the showers and the phone calls, and they said, “Absolutely not. It's 10 o'clock at night and we can't meet them.”

Currently, segregated inmates are supervised at a two-to-one guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their unit. Bill C-83 purports to expand services to inmates in segregation and to double their time out of segregation without costing the resources needed to keep inmates and staff safe.

This is another reason I oppose the bill. It just does not add up, and the result could mean that people will be getting hurt.

The CSC ombudsman, the union of correctional officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation and they are concerned that too much of this legislation is being left to regulations. I am anxious that not enough consideration was given to the concerns of indigenous groups, to civil liberty organizations and to the correctional services staff who must maintain security in these institutions. The lack of consultation and foresight from the government on Bill C-83 is, to be frank, appalling.

Jason Godin offers this insight into the process, stating:

Unfortunately, due to cabinet confidentiality, as our commissioner often tells us, we weren't really consulted. The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. I don't see the bill before it comes onto the table, so we weren't officially consulted on Bill C-83.

There was also this shocking revelation by Ivan Zinger:

All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.

It is of concern that the Liberals are moving away from segregation, particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of their tools to manage difficult prisoners. Solitary confinement must take into account the mental health of prisoners balanced with the safety and protection of guards, workers, and fellow inmates.

The safety of inmates and correctional service officers must be the priority for any legislation put forward by this government. It is clear, in our opinion, that the Liberals did not do their homework when it came to Bill C-83, and Canada's Conservatives call on this government to go back to drawing board with Bill C-83 and put forward legislation that prioritizes inmate safety and the safety of correctional service officers.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely I agree with everything my friend said. The departmental plan is very clear, and even in the case of Bill C-83, which we are discussing today, this plan that the Liberals have has not even been costed.

We are already dealing with correctional officers who feel overworked and stressed as it is, and now they are being asked to do more with less. For those who are working hard, sometimes in dangerous conditions each and every day, and at times dealing with the worst of the worst within our society, asking them to continue while taking away a tool that they use to protect themselves and others is simply irresponsible.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:20 p.m.
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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had a number of amendments accepted in this process, and I found the clause-by-clause process of Bill C-83 to be quite collaborative.

I was briefly out of the chamber. Therefore, I have to apologize if this point has come up already.

Earlier today one of my hon. friends referred to people in segregation units or solitary confinement as the worst of the worst. I think of the coroner's report with respect to what happened to Ashley Smith. She was a young woman with mental health issues who was moved 17 times in the period before she was found in her cell. She had committed suicide, but the correctional guards were watching as she died. The coroner's report was very clear.

This bill attempts to deal with some of that. Edward Snowshoe is another example of somebody who died in solitary confinement. These are not the worst of the worst; rather, “There but for fortune may go you or I.” Ashley Smith's mother was desperate to help her. However, the correctional authorities and the system kept a mother away from a girl who was suffering and ultimately killed herself. Therefore, let us not judge the people who get stuck in solitary confinement, but rather recognize it for what it is: a form of torture, which we must not use.

This bill does not go far enough. I will vote for it and hope it gets improved again in the Senate.

I wanted to ask my hon. colleague to talk about the fact that some of the people in solitary confinement are there because of mental health and addiction issues. Could he explain how it compounds the torture when they are kept away from people who can have good, healthy contact with them?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the House and to participate in today's debate on Bill C-83.

This piece of legislation will transform our corrections system. Ultimately, we want to promote safety and security, both in and out of our federal institutions. The bill also prioritizes rehabilitation as a key factor in achieving this objective.

The key innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposal to create structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would be found in every prison. Some inmates are sometimes too dangerous or disruptive to be housed safely in the general prison population. Currently, these inmates are placed in administrative segregation. Federal inmates placed in administrative segregation can spend up to 22 hours a day in their cells and have very limited interaction with other inmates.

Bill C-83 offers a more effective solution for everyone involved. Safety will always be the top priority. Prisons are safer for those who live and work there when inmates have access to programs, mental health care, and other interventions they need. Inmates who benefit from these interventions are more likely to reintegrate into society safely when they leave the institution.

The government's proposed solution in Bill C-83 is to eliminate administrative segregation and replace it with structured intervention units. These units will be safe and separate from the general population to ensure compliance with safety requirements. They will also be designed in such a way that inmates who are placed there will receive requisite interventions, programs and treatments. Inmates in structured intervention units will be allowed to leave their cells for at least four hours a day instead of the two hours allowed under the current system. It should be noted that the two-hour period is currently established by policy, not by law. Bill C-83 would enshrine the four-hour minimum in law.

Inmates who are placed in SIUs will have the opportunity to have at least two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, including corrections staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains and seniors. The objective of these reforms is to ensure that inmates in SIUs are able to reintegrate into the general prison population as soon as possible.

Bill C-83 has been thoroughly analyzed at every step of the parliamentary process thus far. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went through it with a fine-tooth comb, and some useful amendments were made at the end of the committee review period based on the testimony of a broad range of stakeholders.

Bill C-83 was already a robust and effective piece of legislation when it was introduced, but after being vigorously debated and carefully examined, it is now even better. It is important to point out that the bill that was sent back to us includes amendments from all of the parties that proposed amendments.

I disagree with the suggestion made in debate that it is somehow a bad thing that the bill was amended in reaction to comments from the public and parliamentarians.

I am proud to support a government that welcomes constructive, thoughtful input and that respects the role members from all parties play in the legislative process.

The purpose of most of the amendments to Bill C-83 is to ensure that structured intervention units, SIUs, work as intended.

For example, some witnesses were concerned that time outside of the cell might be made available in the middle of the night, when inmates are unlikely to benefit from it. The member for Montarville added the requirement that time outside the cell be provided between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Other witnesses wondered whether mandatory interaction with others might be provided through a door or a meal slot.

To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision stating that every reasonable effort shall be made to ensure that human contact takes place face to face and that a record of exceptions is kept.

In response to concerns about Correctional Service Canada making inappropriate use of the provision stating that time outside the cell can be denied in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, including fires and natural disasters, to clarify the interpretation of that provision.

Amendments put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth in committee and by the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will strengthen the review process to ensure that placement in SIUs is subject to robust internal and external oversight.

All of these measures will help ensure that the new SIUs are used as intended.

We also accepted various amendments put forward by the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I thank them all for their contributions.

We all want our institutions and communities to be safer, and we want Canadians to feel and be safe. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of people serving a federal sentence is essential for achieving our shared objective of enhancing public safety.

By enabling inmates who need to be separated from the general inmate population to spend more time outside their cells, have more access to mental health services, and receive more rehabilitation interventions, Bill C-83 is a big step in the right direction.

Again, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their contributions at each step of the legislative process so far, and I urge them all to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring this back. I feel it is important we do this at every opportunity. Each member from the government side has said there have been significant consultations and witnesses that appeared before the committee, and their concerns were heard. However, we know through comments from the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers that there are still significant concerns. Witness after witness has said the bill is flawed right to the core.

Therefore, I want to go back to what we are dealing with again today. During the 2015 debate, the member for Papineau, now our Prime Minister, said he would let debate reign. He would not force closure on debate. We have seen it well over 60 times. On a piece of legislation, such as Bill C-83, which is so important, all sides would agree to that, the Liberals have forced time allocation once again, limiting debate and essentially limiting the voices of the members of Parliament on this side. We are the voices of the electors who put us in the House to ensure the voices of our regions and ridings come to Ottawa. What the Liberals have done now, as they have done so often, is that they have silenced those voices of opposition.

Why, on such an important piece of legislation, do the Liberals feel the need to force closure and ignore the comments and concerns of the witnesses that came before the committee?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Mr. Speaker, far from parliamentarians, the stakeholders and the Canadian public being silenced, I am actually quite taken with the amount of consultation that went into this legislation, which is long overdue for a problem that was putting in jeopardy not only the people that were incarcerated but also those who work with them.

I have something of a background in community and social work service and I had many colleagues who worked in the prison system. I was very much taken with how they were able to work in such difficult conditions with so few tools. It is one thing to talk and it is another thing to take action. To come forward with a piece of legislation such as Bill C-83, which meets those demands while at the same time coming with $448 million in investments, including in infrastructure and the kinds of tools that would keep people safer within and outside of the prison system, shows that our government is taking action where it counts and that people have been heard.