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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising today to speak in support of Bill C-83.

The role of our corrections system is to keep Canadians safe by managing people who have received criminal sentences of two years or more. In most cases, that involves preparing them for safe and successful reintegration into our communities, which obviously is a very difficult task.

Some of the people in federal custody have done terrible, violent things. Most inmates have some combination of mental illness, a history of physical or sexual abuse, drug or alcohol addiction and a lack of economic or educational opportunity. Getting them to where they can return to a society and live safe, productive, law-abiding lives involves interventions to deal with all of those factors. This includes mental health care, education, skills training, substance abuse treatment, rehabilitative programs and the guidance of elders and chaplains.

However, that work can only happen in a safe environment. When inmates pose a security risk, they may have to be temporarily separated from the rest of the institution.

On that point, there is agreement from the correctional investigator, the John Howard Society, correctional employees and even former inmates that this needs to be done. The problem is that our existing system for doing that, administrative segregation, separates inmates not only from the rest of the prison population, but also from the interventions that could address the factors that caused them to be a security risk in the first place. Bill C-83 would address this problem.

The bill maintains the ability for inmates who pose a risk to be separated when necessary, but it sets out conditions of confinement and intervention that are a major improvement over what is currently in use. In the structured intervention units, or SIUs, created by Bill C-83, inmates would receive a daily opportunity of at least four hours to be out of the cell and at least two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, such as program staff, visitors, volunteers and other compatible inmates.

On that last point, some participants in this debate have conjured the spectre of correctional staff just throwing incompatible inmates, such as members of rival gangs, together in the yard and keeping their fingers crossed. Of course, that will not happen, and would not happen, with the professional staff we have at Correctional Service Canada.

We are talking about a situation where out of maybe seven or eight inmates in the SIU, two of them get along and might be allowed to have lunch together. To allow for meals or yard time to happen in small groups or for rehabilitative programs to be provided one-on-one or in small groups, the corrections services will need new resources, including hiring new staff and making adjustments to infrastructure. That is why the fall economic statement included $448 million over six years for the implementation of the bill, $300 million going toward staff and infrastructure.

As set out in the breakdown the government provided to the public safety committee in November, that includes this funding as well as as $150 million toward mental health care. These resources will allow the corrections services to meet the ambitious new standards set by Bill C-83, improving the quality and accessibility of mental health care and rehabilitative interventions.

The whole point is to address the issues that led to a person being separated from the mainstream inmate population in the first place, so he or she can safely reintegrate in the community within the institution and eventually the community outside it. I hope that is an objective we all share. Indeed, most of the witnesses at committee, who made critiques of the bill, did not take issue with this objective. They simply wanted greater assurance that the objective would be met. Since their testimony was heard, amendments have been made in an effort to provide that assurance.

In fact, amendments have been accepted from all parties as we have gone through this legislation, which is one of the main purposes of committees and a purpose that our government respects.

Witnesses worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided at unreasonable hours, like in the middle of the night. Therefore, the bill has been amended to specify that it must occur between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Witnesses also worried that the clause that time out of cell not be provided in exceptional circumstances might be too broad. Therefore, the bill has been amended to provide specific examples of the kinds of exceptional circumstances that we are talking about, like fires and natural disasters.

Although the bill would allow for health care providers to recommend that an inmate be removed from the SIU for medical reasons, witnesses worried that wardens might not take these recommendations seriously. The bill has been amended so that any disagreement between the health care provider and the warden could be elevated to a senior committee external to the institution.

Witnesses also expressed the view that independent, external oversight would be required to ensure that SIUs would be used appropriately and as a last resort. Therefore, the member for Oakville North—Burlington proposed an amendment to create an independent oversight mechanism, and the government announced its support.

Earlier this week, these amendments were read into the record at length and are available for all Canadians to see the great work that was done by the member for Oakville North—Burlington. In other words, this was a strong bill when it was first introduced, and the parliamentary process has been informed by witness testimony and public debate, and that has made it even stronger.

I thank all the members of the House who have made thoughtful, informed, constructive contributions throughout the process thus far. I thank the government for being receptive to feedback and open to amendments. It is worth noting that this is not something that could often be said about the previous government.

The provisions in the bill, together with the resources allocated by the government, will make our correctional system more effective at its core mandate, which is protecting Canadians through the effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people who have broken the law. It deals with people as people. It helps them to progress through difficult situations to get back into society and be productive members.

As the public safety minister wrote last summer in the first-ever public mandate letter for a commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada, the public is best protected by safe, successful rehabilitation. Bill C-83 would help achieve that goal. I encourage all hon. members in the House to give their support.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 5:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House and participate in today's debate on Bill C-83, 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, 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, and their interactions with other inmates are highly limited. Bill C-83 offers a more effective way forward for everyone involved. Safety will always be priority number one, but prisons are safer places 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 will be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative will be met. However, they will be designed to ensure that the inmates who are placed there receive the interventions, programming and treatment that they require.

Inmates in SIUs will 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 will give the four-hour minimum the full force of law. Inmates in SIUs will 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 the bill 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.

Most of the amendments made to Bill C-83 are about ensuring that the new SIUs will function as intended.

For example, 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. The member for Montarville therefore 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. To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth, whom I commend, 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 the Correctional Service of Canada 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 SIUs operate as intended. Amendments have also been accepted from the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I thank them for their contributions.

We all want safer institutions and safer communities, and we all want Canadians to feel 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 throughout the legislative process so far, and I urge them to join me in enthusiastically supporting the bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 5:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her question and comments.

The reality is that the inmates in question, because we are not talking about all inmates here, are too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream prison population. Right now, they can leave their cells for two hours a day. Once the bill is passed, they will be entitled to spend four hours outside their cell, and that will be enshrined in law. What is more, they will have to have human contact, be it with correctional officers, health care professionals or chaplains, to create ties and move forward.

We are also going to ensure that they have better access to mental health care, because that is often necessary. The previous government cut $800 million in funding, which definitely had a negative impact on our correctional facilities. We need to fix that.

Bill C-83 will promote inmate rehabilitation and ensure that all Canadians feel safe. That is a critical objective.

Business of the HouseOral Questions

February 21st, 2019 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there is a difference between getting answers and not liking the answers, but we will let the Conservatives figure that one out.

As for the work this week, this afternoon we will commence report stage debate on Bill C-83, the administrative segregation legislation.

Tomorrow, we will deal with report stage and third reading stage of Bill C-77, the victims bill of rights.

Monday shall be an allotted day. Tuesday, if need be, we will resume debate at report stage of Bill C-83, on administrative segregation.

Finally, pursuant to Standing Order 83(2), I am pleased to request the designation of an order of the day for the Minister of Finance to present Budget 2019 at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, March 19.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

moved:

Motion No. 23

That Bill C-83 be amended by deleting Clause 32.1.

Motion No. 24

That Bill C-83 be amended by deleting Clause 33.

Motion No. 25

That Bill C-83 be amended by deleting Clause 36.

Motion No. 26

That Bill C-83 be amended by deleting Clause 39.

Motion No. 27

That Bill C-83 be amended by deleting Clause 40.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House to speak at report stage of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

Bill C-83 has several elements, and the first is to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional institutions.

During the committee's study, we heard from witnesses from a number of organizations, including the correctional investigator of Canada, who was quite surprised that he was not consulted while Bill C-83 was being drafted. The correctional investigator of Canada told us 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 is inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as well as the charter. That is a pretty strong statement.

In his testimony, the correctional investigator also said that there had been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service of Canada or the government on how this is going to be implemented. Not for the first time, my colleagues were improvising.

Canadian penitentiaries use administrative segregation under two circumstances. The first is when a prisoner behaves in a way that poses a danger to the prison's general population. One example that I think all Canadians will be familiar with is that of Paul Bernardo. He was not sent into the regular system because he was still thought to be too dangerous. Since no rehabilitation was possible in his case, Mr. Bernardo spends most of his time in the segregation area.

There are also prisoners who request segregation. They want to be segregated for their own safety, and also to have some mental downtime. This reminds me of someone I met recently at Donnacona Institution. Mr. Dumas has been in prison for over 40 years, for various reasons. He always wants to be in segregation. He says he is just fine there and wants to stay.

Considering the amendments in Bill C-83, what will happen to Paul Bernardo? Will he be told that he now has four hours of freedom to meet up with his buddies and pontificate over a nice glass of water? I do not believe this can really apply in his case.

As for the inmate I met at Donnacona, when he tells us that he prefers to stay in segregation, we will have to tell him that it is not possible because segregation will be a thing of the past. That will be a serious problem for him.

This new approach will create structured intervention units. That is a nice term, but what does it actually mean?

We never really got any answers, because it is actually a grander name for the same thing. It is an area of the prison, a wing set aside for segregation, but it might have a room where people can sit around a table and talk, and perhaps another small room where they can meet with caseworkers. When we asked questions, the government did not have any answers. They are basically trying to make us believe that segregation cells are like what we see in the movies. We think of them as bare, windowless cells that are pitch black when the door is closed. That is how it was in the days of Alcatraz. That was a long time ago.

Segregation cells are exactly like regular cells. The difference is that they are in a different area of the prison. Prisoners in segregation are even entitled to TVs and many other things. Even the size of the cell is the same. They can see outside. There is no problem.

One of the major differences, I admit, is time. Currently, prisoners in segregation stay in their cells for 22 hours a day. That will change. They will now stay in their cells for 20 hours a day instead of 22. However, the concept of structured intervention units is a very philosophical one. I doubt that any amendments will be made in this regard. After all the discussions and checks that happened in committee, there is really nothing left to change, except the name.

At any rate, change costs money. Normally, when a bill that imposes new standards is introduced, the necessary funding needs to be earmarked. Once again, we have no information about funding. We know that more than $400 million was sent to the Correctional Service of Canada last year, but we do not know how much will be allocated to the implementation of Bill C-83.

We do agree with the scanners. We do not always disagree. We think body scanners are very important. Right now, Ontario and British Columbia have body scanners in their provincial penitentiaries. They are very effective, detecting more than 95% of what people entering the penitentiary may have on or inside their bodies. They are intrusive but necessary. Some people have very inventive ways of smuggling drugs and other things into prisons.

The irony is that prisoners are going to be provided with needles so that they can inject drugs. This is a program that is currently being rolled out in Canada’s penitentiaries. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is totally opposed to this program, and other stakeholders have also said that it makes no sense. The argument is that it is a public health issue, and we understand that, but from a safety standpoint, it does not make sense. The union says that handing out needles to prisoners could be very dangerous for correctional officers and other prisoners.

I know that there is the idea of an exchange and all that, but let us not forget that prisoners have a lot of time to think and make plans. When I visited the Donnacona prison recently, I saw all sort of things going on, things people would not even imagine. People do not realize that prisoners have nothing to do but think. They will find ways to misuse the needles.

If we introduce body scanners, which would detect drugs coming into prisons and therefore greatly reduce drug use, there would be no need to supply inmates with needles. We need to be consistent. The Conservatives think the important thing is to stop drugs from entering prisons by using scanners as much as possible. We also cannot forget the drones that are used to get drugs into prisons. If prisoners no longer have drugs to inject, they will not need taxpayer-funded needles.

There was some talk of other health parameters, and we made some suggestions. I could read out our proposed amendments, which were based on conversations with representatives from the John Howard Society and the Elizabeth Fry Society. For example, we proposed that:

...correctional policies, programs and practices provide, regardless of gender, access to activities and to training for future employment but provide inmates who are soon to be released with priority access to the activities that prepare them for release, including counselling and help with mental health issues.

This amendment was rejected by our friends on the other side. Here is another one:

A staff member may recommend to a registered health care professional employed...by the Service that the professional assess the mental health of an inmate, if the inmate:

(a) refuses to interact with others for a prescribed period;

(b) exhibits a tendency to self-harm;

(c) is showing signs of an adverse drug reaction;

In short, we thought our health-related amendments were quite relevant, but they were rejected.

In closing, we know that the B.C. Supreme Court and the Superior Court have ruled on administrative segregation, but Bill C-83 was introduced in response to those rulings, even though the government appealed the rulings. We are currently at report stage, and the House is being asked to force prisons to do things in a certain way that will have direct repercussions on the safety of prison guards and prisoners themselves. We think that is unacceptable.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I stand here today with a great deal of pride to speak for a second time in support of Bill C-83, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Bill C-83 would strengthen our federal corrections system, making the rehabilitation of offenders safer and more effective. Crucially, the bill would end the practice of administrative segregation and establish structured intervention units, or SIUs.

I am extremely proud to have had the opportunity to work on this legislation at committee stage and I commend the government for introducing this important piece of legislation.

This legislation will be transformative for our federal corrections system. My friend Stan Stapleton, the national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, said when asked by the media about this bill, that

There is evidence that shows that strong rehabilitative programs make communities safer and create a safer environment for both employees and offenders inside institutions. ... And so if we simply lock them up and throw away the key, we're not providing them with the tools that they require in order to safely reintegrate back into society.

I could not agree more.

The new measures introduced in Bill C-83 will create safer institutions and safer communities. By creating SIUs as a new approach to replace administrative segregation, introducing provisions for spending more time outside the cell, empowering health professionals and providing enhanced programming to offenders in these units, we will better equip offenders for safe reintegration, reduce their likelihood for recidivism and ultimately make our communities safer.

I am incredibly proud of our work at the public safety committee on the bill. We listened to feedback from witnesses and experts and worked across party lines to bring back to the House a strengthened Bill C-83. We listened to testimony from a diverse range of stakeholders and took their feedback to heart.

In addition, every party that submitted amendments to the bill saw some of theirs accepted. I would like to highlight some of those changes now.

The most significant amendment is the one I have introduced today at report stage, which would provide independent oversight of the new structured intervention units. I will not ever forget hearing the Speaker read that amendment into the record today.

My amendment would create an independent external decision-maker who will monitor a number of factors for inmates in SIUs, including whether inmates avail themselves of the time out of their cells or if there is a disagreement with a health care provider's recommendation to transfer an inmate out of an SIU.

With this amendment, if an inmate does not receive the required minimum hours outside of the cell or the required minimum hours of human contact for five straight days or 15 days out of 30, the independent external decision-maker can investigate whether the Correctional Service has taken reasonable steps to provide opportunities for those hours, make recommendations to the Correctional Service to remedy the situation, and if the Correctional Service has not acted accordingly after seven days, the decision-maker can direct it to remove the inmate from the SIU and give notice to the Correctional Investigator.

In addition, the independent external decision-maker will also have the power to review cases and provide direction in the event that the senior Correctional Service health care committee disagrees with the recommendation of a health care provider to transfer an inmate out of an SIU or alter conditions of confinement.

Finally, the independent external decision-maker will conduct a review of each offender's case after 90 days spent in an SIU and every 60 days thereafter.

The creation of an external oversight mechanism was supported by the majority of witnesses we heard at committee. I am so pleased that we were able to respond to their input and move forward with this vital independent oversight mechanism.

I applaud the government for listening and agreeing to the amendment, which would provide more confidence in SIUs and how they will function.

In addition to this report stage amendment, the committee made other amendments to the bill. We heard from indigenous groups who called for changes to the definition of “indigenous organization” to ensure that it properly captured the diverse range of those working on these issues across Canada. While the parties had some variations as to how best to do this, with the assistance of departmental officials the committee was able to unanimously approve an amendment that calls for indigenous organizations to have predominantly indigenous leadership. We also heard about the need for the Correctional Service to seek advice from indigenous spiritual leaders or elders, particularly in matters of mental health and behaviour. I was pleased that my amendment to that effect was adopted at committee.

The bill would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve the consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. However, our committee heard testimony that these reports can be misused in corrections to impact risk assessments. My amendment to ensure that these reports would not be misused was also adopted by the committee.

The member for Saanich—Gulf Islands introduced several amendments that would return the threshold of “least restrictive” measures, while maintaining the protection of society, staff and offenders, to the corrections legislation, a provision that had been removed by the Harper Conservatives. I promised the hon. member that I would work with her on amendments to Bill C-83, and I was extremely happy that the committee was able to include her amendments in the legislation.

We supported the amendment of my NDP colleague, the member for Beloeil—Chambly, which specified that corrections must take note of any reasons given as to why inmates did not avail themselves of time out of their cells.

We heard from corrections officers that they did not always have the skills or training to deal with mental health issues, so an amendment by the Conservative Party that would explicitly allow staff to refer a matter to health care professionals was a welcome addition to the legislation.

Indigenous offenders are the fastest-growing prison population. However, the member for Whitby highlighted to me that black offenders are the second-highest prison population, and their unique needs must also be addressed.

In addition, during my visit to a number of corrections facilities in Edmonton, a year ago January, I had the opportunity to meet a trans inmate and learned about their experience navigating the corrections system. I was pleased to introduce an amendment that would expand the guiding principles of CSC to respect sexual orientation, gender identity and expression and ensure that the service would be responsive, in particular, to the special needs of visible minorities.

My colleague from Toronto—Danforth introduced an amendment that would further define meaningful contact so that it would not be limited to physical barriers, an amendment that would enhance record-keeping, and an important amendment that would strengthen the role of health care professionals. Finally, we amended the bill to include a five-year review by Parliament.

There are two areas that were beyond the scope of the legislation but that the committee wanted to highlight for corrections. One is the fact that there are only 10 women in all of Canada currently in segregation, while there are 340 men. Therefore, we have asked Corrections Canada to review a proposal for a pilot program in women's institutes. We also used this opportunity to draw attention to the challenge offenders face when placements or transfers mean that they are located long distances from critical support systems.

We heard from many witnesses that significant investments in corrections would be required if SIUs were to work. The entire concept rests on the premise that there are adequate staff to ensure that offenders receive time outside their cells and the health care services and programming they need. With the $448-million investment in the fall economic statement to support this new approach, we have both the legislative framework and the financial means to transform how corrections functions.

This is a case of the parliamentary process working at its very best. We had government legislation that was transformative in its approach, witnesses who passionately shared their concerns and suggestions, committee members who worked diligently as a team, a minister who listened and responded, and a Prime Minister and government that were not afraid to let committees do the good work they are meant to in this place and amend the bill.

I also feel incredibly privileged, as the member for Oakville North—Burlington, to be able to introduce a major amendment to the bill, here at report stage, that would enshrine independent oversight in Bill C-83.

I know there are those who are skeptical about whether this system will work. However, I believe in my heart that under the leadership of our Minister of Public Safety and the new head of corrections, Anne Kelly, along with the fine men and women working in corrections, we will see transformative change in our correctional system.

I want to finish by thanking all the witnesses who appeared before committee; my fellow committee members; our chair, clerk and analysts; our staff, and in particular, Hilary Lawson, from my office; the Minister of Public Safety and his staff, in particular, Michael Milech; and everyone else involved who worked tirelessly on this legislation.

I urge all members of this House to support Bill C-83.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another example is the possibility of judicial review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member across the way for his intervention and his work on the justice committee.

He mentioned mental health when winding up his comments. Improving mental health in Canada is one of the most important goals we have as a government. Our efforts should not neglect the criminal justice system when it comes to mental health. The Union of Safety and Justice Employees has said it is very supportive of this legislation, provided new investments increase staffing levels. In fact, the fall economic statement included $448 million over six years, of which $300 million would go toward human resource and infrastructure updates. More importantly, $150 million would go toward much-needed improvements in mental health care in the correctional system.

How will Bill C-83 improve the mental wellness and well-being of correctional officers and inmates within our criminal justice system?

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I am also pleased to be able to work with him in committee.

That is exactly the problem. Correctional officers have to make do with the resources they are given. They say that they want to abide by higher standards when it comes to the mental health of inmates. If the government allocates more financial resources to help inmates with mental health issues, it would inevitably improve prison security.

As my colleague suggested, correctional officers have to improvise in order to follow the directives they are given because they do not have sufficient resources. When Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, appeared before the committee, he said that they would like to apply the new directives, but that it will be extremely problematic if they are unable to do so.

As my colleague said, there is a difference between short-term segregation for security reasons and long-term segregation because the resources are not available to deal with serious mental health problems. Many organizations working in the field raised that issue. Bill C-83 does nothing to address that issue.

We need to go back to square one because the government's bill is worse than a draft. It is unacceptable.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:15 p.m.
See context

Karen McCrimmon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate at report stage of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

This legislation strengthens the act in several ways, including by eliminating administrative segregation in favour of a new system designed to achieve two objectives: ensuring the safety of staff and inmates, and offering inmates the rehabilitation programs they need. It goes without saying that our communities are safer when when rehabilitation is more successful.

First off, I would like to thank all of the witnesses who appeared before the public safety committee, as well as the members of the committee who engaged in thoughtful and productive analysis of the bill. In fact, there were amendments accepted from all parties. There were some amendments proposed by a member of one party, with a subamendment by a member of another party, that were ultimately supported by both. This is what it looks like when parliamentarians work across party lines, when ideas are seriously considered on their merits, regardless of what party they came from, and when the government listens to Canadians and welcomes constructive feedback.

The initial version of Bill C-83, introduced in October, was immediately a major step forward for the Canadian correctional system. The committee amendments made the bill even stronger and there are amendments that have now been introduced at report stage, especially the proposal to create an external oversight mechanism that will make it stronger still.

The main feature of the bill is the creation of structured intervention units. These SIUs will allow for the separation of inmates from the general population when that is necessary for security reasons. However, unlike the current system of segregation, SIUs will be designed and resourced to provide interventions including mental health care and inmates will get a minimum of four hours out of their cell daily, with at least two hours of meaningful human contact.

At committee, certain witnesses asked for greater clarity regarding when the hours out would be offered and what the nature of the meaningful contact would be. Thanks to amendments by the members for Montarville and Toronto—Danforth, the bill now specifies that the hours out must be offered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and that the meaningful contact should, as a rule, be face to face.

There were also committee amendments related to oversight. In the original draft of the bill, the decision to place someone in an SIU would be reviewed by the warden after five days and after another 30 days, and by the commissioner every 30 days thereafter, for as long as the person remained in the unit. The warden would also conduct a review if the inmate did not get their minimum hours out for five days in a row or 15 out of 30, and a health care provider could, at any time, recommend changes to the conditions of confinement or removal from the SIU.

That was already a solid internal review system but an amendment from the member for Toronto—Danforth strengthened the health care review process even further so that, in the event the warden disagrees with the health care provider's recommendations, the matter gets elevated to a senior committee within the correctional service.

The amendment that has been proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington would add external oversight in the form of independent external decision-makers. These individuals would examine cases where an inmate has, for one reason or another, not received their minimum hours out of the cell or minimum hours of meaningful contact for five straight days or 15 out of 30. They would also examine situations where the senior health care review committee disagrees with the recommendations of the health care provider and they would examine all SIU placements after 90 days and every 60 days thereafter.

These independent external decision-makers will have real decision-making power, and not just the ability to make a recommendation. Both parties, the Correctional Service and the inmate, could apply to the Federal Court for judicial review.

The strength of this review system, which would include internal and external reviews, as well as the involvement of health care professionals, is unprecedented. I thank the hon. member for Oakville North—Burlington for her proposal. The government will be happy to support it.

One of the other points that was raised at committee was the question of whether the new SIUs would be appropriately resourced.

For instance, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Jason Godin, said that the bill was ambitious, but required significant new resources to implement safely and effectively.

Stan Stapleton, president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees said that the bill was a step in the right direction, but new resources were needed to ensure its success.

We could not agree more. That is why the fall economic statement included $448 million over the next six years to support the implementation of Bill C-83. That includes about $300 million specifically for the SIUs as well as $150 million to strengthen mental health care, both within SIUs and throughout the corrections system. That is on top of almost $80 million in the last two budgets for mental health care in the corrections system.

In other words, we are putting our money where our mouth is. This new approach will have the resources it needs to be successful.

I know I am nearing the end of my time and I cannot go into detail about all the aspects of the bill, from better support to victims at parole hearings to the creation of patient advocates to strengthened health care governance or even the consideration of systemic and background factors in decision-making involving indigenous inmates. I have not even been able to touch on all of the amendments made at committee or on all of the amendments proposed at report stage.

However, it is clear that this legislation, bolstered by a vigorous and constructive legislative process, would help achieve our objective of having a better corrections system, one that would provide employees with a safe work environment, that would provide victims of crime with information and support, that would hold offenders to account and that would offer the programs, mental health care, substance abuse treatment, skills training and other interventions necessary for safe and effective rehabilitation.

Our communities are better protected when people end their sentences prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives and the bill would help make that happen.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the comments I hear from the prison guards in the penitentiary in Prince Albert are about their lack of consultation in the process, their lack of ability to have input in how this is going to happen, how this is going to work.

There are many examples, and I will use one very simple example of the electronic screening of inmates. It sounds really good, but this penitentiary was built in the sixties. It does not have the electrical requirements to do this, yet no budget has been set aside for it to put in the appropriate electrical facilities.

How are they going to implement things like this, based on Bill C-83, when there is no budget, no more resources or anything else to help them do that?

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

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.

A lot of people do not realize that on any given day in Canada we have roughly 40,000 plus prisoners in custody. They are in eight maximum-security facilities, 19 medium-security facilities, 15 minimum and 10 multidisciplinary type facilities. We have 18,000 Canadian government employees looking after these prisoners, of which 10,000 are on the front line. They are either correctional officers, parole officers or health care workers.

I want to personally thank them here today for the service they do in our correctional services from coast to coast to coast. I have a facility in my community, as does the gentleman beside me. We know the problems they go through on a day-to-day basis and the great service they give our country.

This was and is a bad bill. Even worse, this is ill-thought-out legislation. It is a lot worse than the cannabis bill. Simply, Bill C-83 was a knee-jerk reaction to two Supreme Court rulings in February of 2018, regarding the clarity on indefinite solitary confinement. Bill C-83 does not correct this; it just rewords it and disguises it in flowery words.

No longer is it called solitary confinement. It has been renamed “structural intervention unit”. It sounds nice. The heads of the institutions will be allowed to designate any area of a jail to be that. Why do we need that? Structural intervention units are needed for unmanageable prisoners and those who are dangerous to staff, inmates or themselves. Perhaps they are being held for an investigation. Perhaps it is an attempted murder within the facility and he or she has to be segregated. There is a need, and there are reasons why people are held in these types of lock-ups in these facilities.

A 19-year prisoner appeared before the public safety committee. He was pretty intimidating when he first came in there, but the man talked with a lot of sense. He was originally sentenced for 14 years, but he was so bad he got an additional five years, of which a lot was in solitary confinement. He said that they were a must, that we should not get rid of them. Many more witnesses came before the public safety committee, even the Minister of Public Safety.

Again, I am going to say this is a bad bill. Every group of witnesses or individuals who appeared said that it was a bad bill. These are not my words. It was the witnesses who said that, except for the minister and his ministerial staff who said that it was such a great bill. How many amendments were read by the Speaker today?

The Elizabeth Fry Society said it was a bad bill. It said that structural intervention units were not needed, that it failed to focus on the programs and that there was lack of oversight. It is concerned about section 81, due to the workings of indigenous governing bodies.

The John Howard Society calls it a bad bill. It wanted to know what was the difference between solitary confinement and structural intervention. It said there was no difference, that the bill changed the words, but it did little to change anything.

Those are their words, not mine.

Increasing two hours outside the prison cells to four hours does little to help the prisons. There is a lack of infrastructure, physical and human resources. The bill does not address the need.

I will go back to the 19-year prisoner. He admitted to being a bad boy. He spent a very long time in solitary confinement. He said that he needed to be there, as he was dangerous. He felt these units were needed to protect guards, prisoners and even people like himself. However, he stated that prisoners must be helped with programs, counselling, etc., and that this was not happening within the institution. What he really stressed was that there was no one looking after the prisoners once they were released. They are just dumped out into society. He said that continued help needed to be there to rehabilitate the prisoners.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association says that it is a bad bill and it cannot support it. It said the bill lacks external oversight, lacks programs that are needed to assist prisoners to reform, and lacks sufficient resources and manpower for social and educational needs, health professionals, etc.

The Native Women's Association of Canada says it is a bad bill. The association was not consulted. It says the bill does not address traditions, protocol, or cultural practices, and does not clarify indigenous communities.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers also says it is a bad bill, that it is not feasible and leaves prisoners and guards vulnerable. That is where my concern is, with prisoners and guards, especially the guards, being vulnerable.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says it is a bad bill. It says it is not a meaningful reform and should be repealed. It said there was no consultation, and we have heard that many times here.

Aboriginal Legal Services says it is a bad bill, and that there is a big gap between the rhetoric and reality.

When we were gathering evidence on some of the costs related to prisoners, the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, who is also on committee with me, was told by a witness that the cost of keeping a female prisoner in a structured living condition was $533,000 a year. He was shocked. Then he was told that the cost for males in structured living conditions was between $300,000 and $600,000 a year.

When he heard that, he asked me for an aspirin. I did not have one; I just told him he would have to cope.

I am just about done. The Parliamentary Budget Officer said in the 2016-17 report that the cost of an average prisoner is $314 a day or $115,000 a year. If a prisoner is segregated, the average cost is $463,000 plus per year. That is $1,260 a day to keep a person in segregation.

Bill C-83 will cost way more than the Liberals are talking about. When the member for Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner asked the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness what the cost would be to implement this bill, the minister replied that he had no idea. He said he had no clue, but we should trust the Liberals because they would work it out. He wanted us to just pass the bill as it was.

I have heard from a number of speakers opposite today that $400-some million is being thrown at this program to make structural modifications at our prisons and to improve the health care facilities, but I have not heard anyone from across this great room say there was any money going to hire additional staff, or to improve staff resources or staff training. Nothing. There was nothing that came from the parliamentary secretary; nothing came from anybody.

We heard the Liberals were going to fix the buildings, but I have talked to a number of the prisons around Alberta, and they have not even been asked about what needs to be done. The guards and unions have not been spoken to.

We are supposed to trust the Liberals. I think they said they are putting $448 million into this, but what about increasing staff? We know it is going to cost more to do it. We know it is going to cost more in manpower to operate these new units, especially if we are going to move them around to different spots in the prisons.

There is nothing in the Liberal plan or budget to account for that.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, my colleague hit on a few topics.

One thing I find very concerning is the safety aspect for the prison guards. The reality is that they were not properly consulted, and they have told me that over and over again.

There are lots of things in Bill C-83 that sound good on paper but would not be practical in practice.

Many examples were given about whether the guards feel they are more at risk now than before because of Bill C-83, and there are no resources to offset that risk.

The committee talked to different people, and I am just curious as to how extensive the consultations were. What was the guards' reaction to Bill C-83 when the member and the committee talked to them?

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 5 p.m.
See context

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the bill itself, Bill C-83, will effectively make some tweaks to existing legislation, one of which is to rebrand solitary confinement as administrative segregation in what are called “structured integration units”. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have ruled that administrative segregation is unconstitutional. This bill in and of itself does not fix that issue. In fact, as the member identified, one area of concern that he has centres around mental health.

The bill still allows for indefinite isolation and segregation of up to 20 hours instead of the current 22 to 23 hours This segregation can cause permanent mental health damage to inmates, who need to be integrated into society. I would like to have the member comment with respect to the mental health aspect of this action being taken, as is allowed under this bill.