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

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Summary

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

This enactment amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to, among other things,

(a) 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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my turn to rise in the House to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

Before I begin my remarks on Bill C-83, I would just like to comment on what I have been hearing since this debate began.

We live in a world where we appear to want to rely on the goodwill of others. We think that everything will be fine, that nothing bad will happen and that everything will go smoothly just because we amend a bill. We think inmates and guards will magically change their behaviour.

Unfortunately, that is not how it works in real life. There is a group of people we have not talked about enough since this report stage debate began. I am referring to correctional officers. They are the ones responsible for security in prisons, for the safety of inmates and colleagues, and for the inmates' well-being. We do not talk about them enough.

For some time now, I have had the pleasure of being the official opposition critic for agriculture and agri-food. This reminds me of some people's perception of farmers. Farmers take excellent care of their livestock, but many people think they do not care about the animals' health at all. People think farmers do not care about making sure their livestock are treated properly. The truth is that farmers care deeply about the well-being and safety of their livestock.

I think that is also what correctional officers want. They have a role to play with regard to inmates. They are there to guard individuals who are in prison and keep them away from the community. Many people think guards are only there to rap inmates' knuckles and maintain law and order. Since I know a few correctional officers, I know that they care about taking care of the inmates and ensuring their well-being. They also care about their rehabilitation. I think that is important to mention, before getting into the substance of Bill C-83.

Why am I talking about correctional officers? Because, from everything I have seen and everything I have read about Bill C-83, correctional officers have unfortunately not been consulted about the impact the bill will have on their daily reality.

No correctional officer would wilfully and maliciously deprive a prisoner of his or her rights. There are rules to follow. Some situations require correctional officers to take action. Unfortunately, the government missed a good opportunity to listen to them, to consult them and to ensure that the bill would enabled them to act and do their job to the best of their ability.

Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional institutions and replace it with structured intervention units. It also proposes the use of body scanners for inmates. It proposes to establish parameters for access to health care. It also proposes to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women and offenders with diagnosed mental health disorders.

The legislation also applies to transfers and allows the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or to any area in a penitentiary. We will have an opportunity to come back to that.

Unfortunately, Bill C-83 does not address the safety of inmates and correctional officers as a priority. As I mentioned, all those who participated in the study of the bill criticized the lack of consultation. The only people who were consulted were the people around the minister and the minister himself. Members of civil society working for inmates' rights and the inmates themselves have found that the bill does not at all meet its objectives.

It is obvious that the Liberals did not do their homework for Bill C-83. Before beginning report stage discussions, several motions were moved, including Motion No. 17.

The motion contains seven pages of amendments to the bill. The reality is that the Liberals realized that they had not done a good job. One does not move a seven-page motion if the work is done properly. They moved this motion because they realized that they had not consulted and listened to other people. They made mistakes because they improvised. That is what happened. Once again, the government improvised because two rulings were handed down.

Instead of doing things properly, the government chose to improvise, move quickly, not consult anyone, bulldoze ahead and then clean up the mess. The main problem with this bill is that it will not in any way solve the problems we sought to address. It is not a coincidence that most people disagree with the bill and that everyone opposes it.

I will quote some of the comments heard in committee. The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Workers, Mr. Godin, said that this bill is probably dangerous for others because “[s]ometimes the safety and security take precedence over mental health treatment because of the safety and security of other inmates.”

That means that we wanted to give priority to something without considering the reality of the prison environment.

Mr. Godin also said:

...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...

Sometimes using segregation is an entirely legitimate way to protect staff and the other inmates. That is what Mr. Godin said. Unfortunately, this bill does not take that into account.

The correctional investigator of Canada, Ivan Zinger, said that:

Eliminating solitary confinement is one thing, but 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.

As you can see, people on both sides disagree.

Today, at the last minute, the government tried to somehow save the day. Why did it not do what had to be done, namely start all over, consult and come back with a good bill that would be acceptable to stakeholders?

The government must amend the bill in order to meet expectations. In other words, it must improve security, ensure respect for the rights of inmates and support the rehabilitation of inmates when possible. If the bill's provisions support these objectives, the Canadian prison system will be cited as an example instead of being challenged in the courts again.

This government's main problem is its failure to consult. The Liberals consult one another and talk at cabinet meetings behind closed doors. Afterwards they cannot justify why they made these decisions because they cannot talk about what was discussed in cabinet. This means that we cannot get the actual rationale for the changes even though Canadians have the right to be given all the answers on this issue.

In closing, I would like to thank my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles for his excellent work on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 5:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard several of my colleagues talk about funding. Unfortunately, the announcements that were made said nothing about funding for Bill C-83.

What is unfortunate is that I did not even have time to talk about the allocation of resources in my speech. I did not even talk about the budget. I only talked about the lack of consultation and the Liberal government's failure to listen. That is what is missing. It is clear that my colleague did not bother to listen to me, because I did not talk about that at all.

When people have something to say, we should listen to them and ask them questions about the content of their speech, not about other subjects that were addressed by others.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles mentioned, I think that solitary confinement is sometimes necessary. However, we also have to ensure security and safety as well as the mental and physical health of inmates and correctional officers.

The outcome would likely have been different, had the government properly consulted legal experts, correctional officers and all of the other stakeholders it should have consulted before drafting this bill.

I think I agree with my colleague. I am convinced that this bill will end up before the courts because, at first glance, it clearly does not respond to the British Columbia and Ontario court decisions. I am convinced that the House will have to re-examine this bill in a future Parliament because the courts will not be satisfied with the recommendations and changes made in Bill C-83.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank all my colleagues for being here this Thursday evening to discuss this very serious bill and the implications it will have on employees in the penitentiary system across Canada.

When the bill came about I reached out to the correctional workers in my riding and had a chance to actually tour the facility with them. I had a chance to see first-hand what they deal with. These are some of the most courageous people I know. With their mental ruggedness and physical stamina, their work is something I definitely could not do. I really appreciate the work they do, and how they are there to protect Canadians and deal with some of the worst of the worst in our society.

One of the things they brought to my attention right off the bat was the lack of consultation. They were not involved in the process, in the creation of what the requirements were to improve the facilities. We have to understand that these facilities are very old. They have been around for generations, built in the 1960s and 1970s. They have processes in place based on experience and knowing what they are dealing with.

I will give a good example of that. When I first started the tour in the facility they took me into one of the rooms and gave me an overview briefing. They talked about the different types of gangs and groups of criminals they have within their facility. They talked about how they worked with the RCMP and special crimes units to identify these people so that when these people are in the facility they know exactly where they are and who they are mingling with at all times. They know one group cannot mix with the other group. They also know that group three cannot mix with group four, but maybe with group two on certain days. They are aware of not only what is happening within the penitentiary among these different groups, but of what is going on outside the penitentiary with these different groups, which has implications for how they treat them within the facility.

One of the things that came to light in Bill C-83 was the change to get rid of voluntary solitary confinement. One of the safety issues they brought up right away was that there were some prisoners in their facility who have fallen out with their gang who really want this and need this. However, not having the ability to get it now will put them in a predicament. What they are concerned about, and I think it is a very real concern, is that they are still going to get it. They will just assault an officer or a guard to get it, because they know they need to do it for their own safety.

By taking this away, it sounds good on paper, but in practice it will create a situation that is even more unsafe for our officers and guards. There has to be some consultation when doing this so that we can see things like this brought to light. Then we can think of a different way to treat it and handle it.

However, the Liberal government does not like to consult. No matter what the Liberals said when they were elected, they do not do it, especially when the consultation does not give them the answer they want. They want to take the suggestions and solutions from Ottawa and shove them down on people who actually have to work with them. It is those people who will pay for these guys' mistakes. They will pay through financial costs, physical harm and their safety. That is not right.

That is why I am so disappointed in the government for not actually recognizing and understanding that, taking a step back and asking what it has to do to make sure it does it right. The Liberals want to ram it through because they know best: “We are are Liberals. We know best.” With 30 years' experience what does one know? They have been elected for two years. “We know best” is the Liberal mindset, and it is wrong and they need to change it.

One of the other things that cropped up on the tour was that they are going to put body scanners in the facilities, which were built in the 1960s and 1970s. That sounds great. They are happy to have that. However, the first problem is where to put them. These are cement structures. They have solid walls. They cannot just take a sledgehammer and knock out a wall and away we go. This is a major construction problem.

The second problem is that they do not have the power requirements. These are older facilities. They do not have the wiring or infrastructure to handle something as simple as a body scanner. We look at that and say that obviously the government is going to put money aside to do that. However, there is nothing in the budget for that, so how are they going to do that? We do not know. There has been no game plan.

We heard the members across the aisle saying, “Just trust us”. We have heard that once too often from the government. Usually that means it does not know, it is not sure, it will do it anyway and Canadian taxpayers will pick up the bill no matter what it costs. If the Liberals would have just taken a step back and asked, “What do you guys think would be the best way to implement this?”, they probably would have gotten a reasonable, logical solution that would have had the same results, saved the taxpayers a lot of money and made it safer for our guards.

Here is one example of what the Liberals have not done. They talk about solitary confinement and the four hours these prisoners are going to be allowed outside the facilities mingling with each other. These facilities were not made that way. They were not made to handle that situation. If I go back to my original comments about how careful planning is done as to who is out in the yard mingling with who, for the safety of the guards and the prisoners, that is all structured and very carefully managed.

However, the Liberals are now regulating the fact that they have to break those groups up. All of a sudden, they could have the members of two gangs out in the yard together, who look at each other and just beat the crap out of each other. What would also happen is that two or three guards would intercept that, try to break it up and get hurt in the process. It is crazy. The lack of practicality from the current government is scary, yet it is going to ram the bill through because they are Liberals and they know best.

It is really disheartening when one goes to these facilities. I would never want to be in one. We joked about a cell for the current Prime Minister of Canada, because that is where he is going to end up after the SNC-Lavalin stuff. Nobody ever wants to be there, that is for sure, and the people who are there are bad people.

The other thing I have to mention is the fact that these guards go to work every day and a lot of them have not been paid or have not received their bonuses or increases in pay when changing shifts. They do not even get the shift differential when they go from one part of the penitentiary to the other. Instead of the Liberals looking for solutions and trying to find a way to fix that for these guards, they put their heads in the sand and just say, “Take it.” It is amazing. The disrespect they have for our public employees is phenomenal. It shows up in this piece of legislation, in the Phoenix pay system and in so many other ways the government has treated our employees and Canadian citizens. It has to change.

The good news is that on October 20 it will change. Then the guards will understand that there will be a Conservative government in power that will have their backs.

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 21st, 2019 / 5:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, in reality, Bill C-83 is going to generate more costs than the $448 million will even touch. The Liberals know that but are going to do it anyway. They do not care. They know best. They are from Ottawa. They can tell everybody else in Canada what to do. We see it in their attitude and the arrogance in their faces.

The reality is that the Liberals have to make some structural changes to buildings that were built in the 1960s and 1970s. Those buildings will not allow them to safely do what they want to do under Bill C-83. What will happen? The safety of the guards will come into play because they will be put into a facility that was not created to do what the Liberals want it to do. Who will pay? The guards will pay, not these members, and that is not right.

Bill C-83--Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
See context

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the minister wants us to send the bill to committee quickly. Naturally, we on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security will study it and propose the necessary amendments, but the majority will probably vote down our amendments.

That is why debates in the House are so crucial. Many opposition members have important speeches to give, because they also have concerns about the correctional system. Yes, there are some important judgments, and certain things need to be taken into consideration in that regard. However, the correctional officers' unions have been largely ignored, although it is vital that they be heard.

My colleague said that he met with union representatives from three correctional institutions in his riding. However, I myself met with people from Donnacona Institution two weeks ago, and they made it clear that the government was not listening to them.

This week, even union president Jason Godin said there would be a blood bath in the penitentiaries if Bill C-83 were passed. Those are his words. This government does not want to listen to what we have to say and just wants to rush things through. Many concerns remained unaddressed and the answers we have been given so far are incomprehensible.

I would like the minister to tell us why he does not want to listen to what we have to say.

Bill C-83--Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 10:20 a.m.
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NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the government that I am deeply disappointed that it is imposing a time allocation motion on Bill C-83 because this bill was introduced in response to court rulings.

This bill does not call into question administrative segregation by proposing other solutions. All it does is call administrative segregation by a different name and make slight changes to a few measures. I am very concerned because this bill does not seem to respond to the courts' decisions. I would like the House to come up with a solution that truly addresses the courts' decisions so that we do not end up back at square one in a few months when the bill is once again challenged because it did not respond to the court rulings.

Why rush the study of this bill when we know why it was introduced?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 11:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to continue discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. When I last spoke on Friday, I referred to the fact that the government's justification for rushing the bill forward is that the courts made them do it, that the courts made them ban both segregation for administrative and disciplinary purposes in all circumstances. The problem with that justification is that it is simply not so.

Neither the British Columbia Supreme Court decision nor the Ontario Superior Court decision provide for that. Indeed, in the case of the Ontario Superior Court decision, the primary basis of that decision related to the independence of the review upon the determination made by the institutional head to put an inmate into segregation. The Ontario court determined that the lack of an independent review mechanism contravened fundamental justice under section 7 of the charter. That was the basis of the Ontario decision.

I need not remind the government that aside from these two court decisions, neither the Mandela rules nor the Arbour commission of 1996 called for the elimination of segregation in all circumstances. It is simply the government doing so with this rushed legislation without real, meaningful consultation with the men and women who work in correctional institutions, the most dangerous, difficult and stressful workplace environments. It is really quite unfortunate, but what is worse is that the changes the government is proposing to make will require a lot more resources to handle inmates.

Each time an inmate is removed from their cell to have some time out of it and away from segregation, that requires two guards to accompany them. What the government is proposing is to extend that to four hours. For this to work, it is going to require more resources, and so where are the resources for this from the government? They are nowhere to be found.

Instead of providing our correctional officers with the tools they need to keep our correctional facilities safe, what is the government proposing? It is proposing an 8.8% reduction in Correctional Services Canada's budget. That is what the Liberals are doing. While they are putting a greater burden on correctional officers, taking away vital tools that correctional officers need to keep institutions safe, the government is cutting back at the same time. It speaks to the misplaced priorities of the government and the fact that once again it just cannot get it right.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely we on this side are against Bill C-83 and we are going to do everything that we can to defeat it, a bill that the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said is problematic. It raises the question of whose side the Liberals are on. Are they on the side of criminals or are they on the side of the men and women who work in correctional institutions?

I know which side Conservatives are on. We are on the side of the men and women who work in our correctional institutions. Their union has spoken out against problematic aspects of this bill. We are absolutely against taking a tool away from them to protect other inmates, to protect the integrity of criminal investigations and to protect inmates from themselves.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would reiterate that both the British Columbia and Ontario decisions made no such determination of banning segregation in all circumstances, as Bill C-83 provides for. In the Ontario court decision, the heart of the decision related to the independent review process. As opposed to fixing the independent review process, the government instead has decided to eliminate a tool that is necessary to keep our institutions safe.

On the issue of whether segregation violated section 12 of the charter or targeted inmates with mental illness disproportionately, so on and so forth, the court ruled against all of those arguments against segregation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
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Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to rise on behalf of the citizens I represent in Saint Boniface—Saint Vital.

I am very pleased to rise in the House to support the government's legislation, Bill C-83, which revolutionizes our correctional services.

As the Minister of Public Safety said, the government is recognizing two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet. Second, it recognizes that the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions.

Safety is indeed at the heart of this legislation. We know that some inmates are simply too dangerous or too destructive to be managed within the mainstream inmate population. Our correctional officials must therefore have a way to separate them from fellow inmates.

The current practice is to place those inmates into segregation or, as our American friends call it, solitary confinement. However, two court rulings have found that practice unconstitutional. Those rulings are being appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but the facts remain that they are scheduled to take effect in the coming months.

As a Parliament, we have a responsibility to ensure that the correctional service has the legal authorities it needs to keep its staff, as well as the people in their custody, safe in a way that adheres to our Constitution. We can do that by adopting this bill, which proposes to eliminate segregation from federal institutions and replace it with a safe but fundamentally different approach.

Under Bill C-83, structured intervention units, SIUs, would be created at institutions across the country. These units would allow offenders to be separated from the mainstream inmate population when and if required, but they would also preserve offenders' access to rehabilitation programming, interventions and mental health care.

Inmates in an SIU would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to address their specific risks, as well as their specific needs. They would be outside their cell for at least four hours a day, which is double the number of hours under the current system. Four hours is an absolute minimum. I need to stress that it is a minimum. It could be more.

The inmates would also get at least two hours of meaningful human interaction with other people each day, including staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains, visitors and other compatible inmates. This is something that hardly exists under the current system. A registered health care professional would visit them at least once a day.

In other words, this bill introduces a new and more effective approach to managing the most challenging cases in our federal correctional system. It would promote not only the safety of correctional institutions, but also the safety of Canadian communities all across our country.

I would remind members that nearly all federal inmates will one day finish serving their sentence and be released. Accordingly, providing them with the opportunity to continue their treatment and rehabilitative work will increase their chances of successfully reintegrating the general prison population and, eventually, society.

Reducing the risk of recidivism will better protect Canadians and all communities, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns.

Other important measures in this bill complement the proposed creation of SIUs. For example, the bill would enshrine in law the correctional services obligations to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions related to indigenous offenders. This flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999. It is something that has been part of correctional policy for many years, but we are now giving this principle the full force of law.

This is part of achieving the mandate commitments the Prime Minister gave the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety to address gaps in service to indigenous people throughout the criminal justice system. The two ministers have likewise been mandated to address gaps in services to people with mental illness in the criminal justice system.

As I noted earlier, inmates with an SIU would receive daily visits from a health care professional. More than that, the proposed reforms in Bill C-83 would require the correctional service to support the autonomy and clinical independence of health care professionals working in correctional facilities.

The proposed legislation would also allow for patient advocacy services to help people in federal custody understand their health care rights and to ensure they receive the medical care they need. This was recommended by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith.

There is also an important measure in this bill to better support victims of crime. Currently, victims are entitled to receive audio recordings of parole hearings but only if they do not attend. If they show up, they are not allowed to receive a recording. That does not make sense. Victims advocacy groups have said that attending a hearing is sometimes so emotionally difficult that victims simply cannot always remember what was said, which is entirely understandable. Under Bill C-83, victims would have the right to a recording of a hearing, whether they were present or not. They would then be able to listen to it again, later on in a more comfortable setting whenever it is convenient for them.

The first priority of any government should be protecting its citizens. When someone breaks the law, there are consequences. In the interest of public safety, we need to have a correctional system capable of addressing the factors that lead to criminal activity, so that offenders become less likely to reoffend and create more victims.

A proper, effective correctional system holds offenders to account for the wrongs they have done, but it also fosters an environment that promotes rehabilitation. Canada's correctional system already does an excellent job of providing rehabilitation and reintegration support for inmates under very challenging circumstances. However, Bill C-83 would strengthen that system, and public safety would be improved with safer institutions for staff and inmates, fewer repeat offenders, and fewer victims in the long run.

For all of these reasons, I fully support this important and transformative piece of proposed legislation, and I invite all honourable members to do the same.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, while Bill C-83 proposes to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in half a dozen ways, the centerpiece of the legislation is really ending the use of segregation in our penitentiaries and the launching of what would be called “structured intervention units”, or SIUs.

I will get into the details of what SIUs are in a bit, but first I recognize that many stakeholder groups have spent years advocating for a limit to the length of time in administrative segregation.

The correctional investigator has recommended a 30-day cap. The UN Mandela rules call for one at 15 days. We asked ourselves, though, if that did not just leave people without meaningful contact for 15 or 30 days. Did that not just keep people from their needed interventions and training for 15 or 30 days and from the mental health treatment that they might need?

Therefore, what if we were able to create a system where, when people need to be placed in a separate secure facility within the penitentiary, they could continue to have access to all those things? What if we could ensure the safety of inmates, correctional staff and the security of facilities without having to segregate inmates from all those important points of contact and their treatment regimes? What if there were zero days without meaningful human contact in our penitentiaries?

That is what is at the heart of Bill C-83. It is legislation that balances the need for security in our penitentiaries with the need to ensure that we end segregation and create a system that is better able to rehabilitate inmates.

Inside an SIU, inmates will have double the time outside of their cells compared to the current administrative segregation regime. However, it is not unsupervised, as was suggested previously by the member for Lethbridge.

Correctional Service will be provided with funding to staff up on guards to help ensure the safe and secure movement of the inmates inside the SIUs, whether that is to a classroom-type setting, or to attend part of their programming or to interact with another compatible inmate. In short, this is a complete revamping of Correctional Service in a way that will be better for staff, better for inmates and ultimately better for society.

The reason this is so important is that the vast majority of federal inmates will eventually be released into our communities. It is safer for our communities when those offenders with mental health issues have been treated and diagnosed properly. It is safer for our communities when they have successfully undergone Correctional Service rehabilitation programming and had the training they need to help find employment when they finish their sentence, so they can support themselves and are less likely to reoffend.

I have seen some commentary that while this legislation looks promising, there is some skepticism about its implementation. I can assure the House that we intend to ensure the implementation fulfills the promise of the legislation, with all the resources required to make this work. I even asked the minister earlier in the debate about that fact.

Let us be clear that the status quo may not be an option any longer. Courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have struck down large portions of the Correctional and Conditional Release Act that legally allow for an inmate to be placed in administrative segregation. While both of those cases are being appealed, one by the appellant and one by the government, come December and January, administrative segregation may not exist as an option in those provinces. Without a system to replace it, that will be a dangerous situation for Correctional Service staff and it will also be dangerous for offenders. As well, effective rehabilitation cannot happen in a dangerous environment, so it will be dangerous for all of us.

Now let me turn to some of the other parts of Bill C-83. We have heard from victims that parole board hearings are often such a highly emotional blur that once they are finished, they are often unable to remember many of the important details of what went on. The proposed legislation will allow victims who have attended a parole board hearing to receive an audio copy of the hearing. Currently, registered victims who are unable to attend can request and receive such a copy. However, if the individual was there in person, the legislation does not allow for that. That simply is not right, which is why Bill C-83 would amend the law to ensure that all registered victims, whether they attend a parole hearing or not, would be able to receive that audio copy.

The proposed bill will also allow for Correctional Service to acquire and use body scanners on those entering the prisons. From drugs to cellphones, the phenomenon of contraband inside prison systems is a problem worldwide. New technologies now allow for better and easier searches of those entering correctional facilities, which are less invasive than traditional methods such as strip searches.

I am sure we all remember the tragic death of Ashley Smith who took her own life while under suicide watch in 2007. Her death, and the subsequent coroner's inquest, was a wake-up call that tremendous improvements were needed in our women's correctional facilities. Bill C-83 would deliver on one of the most important recommendations from that inquest.

The legislation would require Correctional Service to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities. It would also create a statutory obligation for Correctional Service to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence, a founding principle of the medical profession.

The bill would also enshrine in law the principles of the landmark 1999 Gladue Supreme Court decision that would ensure, from intake, that indigenous offenders' programming and treatment incorporates the systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders.

Ultimately, all of this will advance the cause of public safety in all of our communities.

When our corrections system works effectively to rehabilitate offenders within a secure custodial environment, we all benefit.

I am proud of Bill C-83, and I encourage all members to vote in support of it.

Since I have a few more moments left, I will talk a bit about Newfoundland and Labrador.

Newfoundland and Labrador's primary penitentiary is not a federal facility, so it will not be governed under the rules of the proposed legislation. However, we can see from media reports and in the damning history of Her Majesty's Royal Penitentiary in St. John's what can happen in penitentiaries where the right supports and services are not put in place to protect both inmates and the people who work in the prisons.

PTSD is a huge problem for people who work in the correctional system, as well as for people incarcerated in these facilities. We need to find a better way to manage inmates through their periods of trouble while they are incarcerated so they can continue to receive the supports they need.

Once the federal government's new higher standard can be met federally, that will put additional pressure on provinces, where people are serving two years or less, to have similar supports and standards in place, so the system is better able to manage not only the distress being caused to other inmates in the facility by the person who is going into the SIU, but also to provide additional funding and support for additional Correctional Service staff to maintain and manage the supervision of those inmates. That is key.

We have seen throughout our first three years in office that many of the proposed changes that were brought in by the previous government, whether it be Phoenix, or in IT transportation or in Correctional Service, that unless we fund the transition, unless we fund the additional requirements of legislation, we are doomed to fail.

The minister mentioned that $80 million would be available for additional mental health supports within prisons over the next two budgets. That is extremely important. Funding will be available for additional corrections staff and for the very body scanner technology that will help reduce, if not eliminate, the problem of contraband in our prisons, which is so pervasive.

We have heard a lot in the debate by opposition members today about their concern that we are not giving sufficient time to debate this topic. However, it seems to me that many of the points that have been circulating in the room today are starting to retread similar ground. We have not heard a lot of new arguments even in the short amount of debate that we have had.

It will be great to see the legislation go to committee, where any of the legitimate concerns that were raised by the opposition regarding sufficient feedback from stakeholder groups can be addressed and their comments can be incorporated. If there are constructive ways in which the legislation can be amended, committee is the best place to do it.

In light of the fact that December and January present real significant deadlines for ensuring there is a replacement in place to administrative segregation in our prisons, it is important that we get the legislation finalized and passed through the House and the Senate in order to avoid a type of Doomsday scenario that could arise without the ability to properly manage and maintain security in prisons in British Columbia and Ontario in the next year.

For all of these reasons, I encourage all members of the House to vote in favour of sending the legislation to committee.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / noon
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member just made reference to the importance of the bill getting to committee for the purpose of consultation. Where was the government up until now? Should there not have been consultation in drafting the bill in the first place instead of drafting a ramshackle bill that will be criticized at committee and will require amendment at committee?

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers on one key aspect of the bill, which is to eliminate segregation in all circumstances, stated, “the new Bill C-83 must not sacrifice disciplinary segregation as a tool to deter violent behaviour.”

Why would the government not have consulted the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers before it introduced Bill C-83? Why is the government waiting for it to get to committee to hear from the union?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, we rise in the House today to debate Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

This is a very serious matter that requires appropriate analysis and study. Above all, we must not move too quickly on this bill. Unfortunately, just a few moments ago, the government forced a vote that will minimize the time spent debating this bill. Canadians run the risk of being on the losing end.

The bill deals with what happens inside our penitentiaries. To put it bluntly, we want to know what happens in these segregation units that the inmates call “the hole”, where people are isolated from other inmates.

Let us co-operate and try to see the the positive elements of the bill. We are delighted to see that one measure included in the bill is the body scanning of inmates, which is a very good thing.

Unfortunately, even though, in theory, nothing should enter Canadian detention centres or prisons without authorization, this is not always the case. The Canadians working in our detention centres or correctional institutions must have the necessary tools to keep themselves safe and to make life better within these institutions.

We think that body scanners are a good idea, but that is the only positive in this bill.

With Bill C-83, the government wants to change administrative segregation into structured intervention units.

I remind members that inmates in prison or, for example, at the Donnacona institution in the riding of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, are sadly not society's finest. These are the most hardened criminals. They are murderers. I could list off all of the people in this prison, the crimes they committed and the reasons they were arrested and found guilty, but that would be infinitely sad. These people are serving their sentence in prison.

Everyone knows those inmates are not exactly nice guys. Severe disciplinary measures are sometimes called for. People with experience in corrections say that the administrative segregation unit serves not only to isolate criminals who may be a danger to other inmates, but also to protect individuals from other inmates. I will come back to that later.

The impression we get is that the government is in a hurry to take action. As the public safety critic, the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, said, there is a disconnect in the government's approach.

A little while ago, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued a very clear ruling with respect to administrative segregation. The court questioned the legality of indefinite administrative segregation as a severe detention measure.

The Liberal government decided to appeal the ruling. How interesting, as the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles astutely pointed out, that the government would appeal the ruling then turn around and introduce a bill having to do with none other than the matter raised by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

Beyond these philosophical considerations, we are also concerned with the fact that the government has no plan to pay for these measures. We have no idea where the measures proposed in the bill are heading.

Stating the goal and backing it up with dollars to make those changes happen is pretty basic, but the government has done neither.

The proposed changes would allow people in administrative segregation to leave their cells for four hours a day to spend time with their fellow inmates.

I do not want to scare anyone, but the staff and unions of our detention centres are sounding the alarm about this proposal, which they do not think this is a good idea. Sadly, the government has not listened to them. One of them even said that this Liberal approach to administrative segregation could lead to bloodshed.

I will remind members of a certain cruel and persistent statistic: 100 assaults have occurred in our detention centres over the past 12 months. That is 100 too many, of course, because even one assault is one too many. As I was saying earlier, these are some of the most hardened criminals in the Canadian correctional system, and letting them out to spend four hours with their fellow inmates can create highly undesirable situations.

I want to mention that body scanning, which is one element of this bill that we agree with, is not a bad idea. However, we think it might be worth considering the possibility of extending it to include people visiting inmates at a detention centre.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is my honour and privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-83. This bill would do a number of things. At its core, what it seeks to do is abolish the use of administrative segregation in Canada and replace it with structured intervention units. However, it would do more than that.

The bill would also make a serious change in the way we deal with the right of victims to obtain audio recordings of parole hearings. It would take certain steps to consider, in particular, the unique circumstances that pertain to indigenous inmates. It would include serious changes to the way we deal with patient care in the inmate population. As well, it would introduce certain changes to the use of body scanners in institutions run by the Correctional Service Canada.

This bill is ultimately about enhancing our justice system to make sure that our system holds guilty parties to account and that it respects the ability of victims to obtain information about offenders who may be released into society.

Importantly, it would also deal with certain measures that would help make our communities safer by ensuring that during a period of incarceration, individuals would have access to services that would actually help them reintegrate more effectively into society on the back end. This is not about being soft on crime. This is about being smart on crime to ensure that in the long term, Canadian communities are safer on the whole.

What have perhaps been the most controversial pieces in this legislation are the changes to administrative segregation in Canada contained within Bill C-83.

Administrative segregation, in common parlance, can be roughly equated to solitary confinement. Today, for a lot of good reasons, the good public servants who work on behalf of Correctional Service Canada want to maintain institutional safety. When they are dealing with particularly difficult inmates who might pose a threat of violence to either the staff who work at CSC or the inmate population, the practice has been to segregate them entirely from the prison population. They essentially confine them as individuals, separate from meaningful human contact and separate from different services.

While this may address the short-term problem of preventing harm to the prison population and to the staff who work at Correctional Service Canada, there is a greater social problem it also contributes to. The inmates who have been subjected to solitary confinement or administrative segregation are subjected to treatment that leaves them worse off and puts them in a position where they are more likely to reoffend upon their release into the community, which is not something we want. We aim to reduce recidivism to ensure that our communities are safer when inmates are inevitably released back into society.

We all know that there are certain incredibly heinous crimes that will result in people potentially being in the custody of Correctional Service Canada for their entire lives, but there are many circumstances, in fact the vast majority of circumstances, in which a person who commits a crime is eventually going to be released back into society. We have to make sure that we are not putting our communities in danger by denying services to those people who are incarcerated that would help them become whole and become functioning members of society upon their release.

Most members of this House would be familiar with the details of the Ashley Smith case. To me, it illustrated, tragically, the problems that exist within our current system. We have young people who may be suffering from certain mental illnesses who, to solve a short-term problem, are completely separated from meaningful human contact. They are separated from the population in which they live while incarcerated. The damage this can cause to a person who is living with mental illness can cause them to harm themselves, and potentially, in the long term, to harm others upon their release.

In light of this case and others, the need to take action is apparent. In fact, the need to take action is frankly not a choice. We have now had two cases, at least, that I am aware of, one in Ontario and one in British Columbia, that have indicated that the practice of administrative segregation, at least going beyond a certain period of time, is unconstitutional. It violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. As such, it is a responsibility of Parliament to enact a new regime that is in compliance with our charter. If we cannot respect the values that are enshrined in our charter, then we are not worth much in this House.

I would suggest that the measures implemented in Bill C-83 would strike a balance that would allow Correctional Service Canada to maintain order within an institution and maintain the safety of the prison population. Introducing structured intervention units would help ensure that the person who was causing a problem for the prison population and the staff at CSC could maintain some sort of meaningful human contact and be provided with the services that would help communities be safer in the long term. At the same time, these would maintain order within our institutions.

In particular, I want to point to the fact that inmates in the structured intervention units would have a minimum of four hours out of their cells daily, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff. This is not a lot of time, but it could make a difference to a person who had actually pulled away from society and had been denied meaningful human contact, particularly those in incarceration who were living with mental illness. It would allow them to become better off in the long term and would reduce the threat posed to society, which is what this bill is really all about.

Currently, there is a very limited amount of time a person who is subjected to solitary confinement is allowed out of a cell to have any kind of contact with anyone within the greater population. The harm that impacts the individual also has long-term consequences for our communities and needs to be addressed.

In light of the court cases I have mentioned previously, we have to take some kind of meaningful action to allow us to maintain order in our institutions and do better in protecting our communities.

This bill would not just deal with the issue of administrative segregation. In particular, we would make a change in the way victims were able to access information about parole hearings when they were threatened with the circumstance that an individual who had committed a crime against them was up for parole. Currently, if victims do not attend a parole hearing in person, they are not entitled to the recordings that are part and parcel of those hearings. Members can imagine the trauma victims might go through if they had to see in person the hearing for an individual who had committed a crime against them or a family member. To force them to go through that experience, when they may not be mentally prepared, seems like a step too far, in my opinion. I think the sensible thing to do, which is embedded in Bill C-83, is to allow recordings to be given to the victims of crime, whether or not their personal circumstances allow them to attend in person. I think this would be an important change.

Bill C-83 would also embed the principles from the Gladue decision in the legislation, which require the Crown to take into account the unique circumstances of an indigenous person's background when making decisions of this nature.

When it comes to health care, there is an important change built into Bill C-83 that would ensure that there were new patient advocates. They would have the opportunity to work with CSC to ensure that order could be maintained in institutions while they also, for inmates who had certain health care concerns, ensured that those concerns were met.

Again, this is not about doing favours for people who have committed crimes against other individuals or communities. This is about protecting Canadians in the long term by ensuring that our communities are made more secure. If we deny basic mental health care to people who are separated from society not only because they are in prison but because they are completely segregated and left on their own, the damage they may cause to our communities in the long term, upon release, when their sentences come to an end, is something incredibly important that we need to address.

The final element I would like to turn our attention to today is the use of body scanners. This is similar to the technology we pass through when we go to an airport to come to Ottawa every week to advocate on behalf of our constituents.

The introduction of contraband drugs, weapons and the like into prison communities can be a very serious problem. The use of body scanners, which I understand certain members on different sides of the aisles may actually support, would be an important step, because it would not be invasive but would still protect prison populations.

The suite of changes included in Bill C-83 are important ones. In conclusion, I would like to reiterate the essential point that changes to the administrative segregation regime that exists in Canada today are coming with or without Parliament's action, because a court has deemed them unconstitutional. We need to take steps that not only protect the rights of the individuals who are incarcerated but respect the rights of victims, keep our communities safe, and in the long term, ensure that people who are released from prisons into our society do not cause greater harm to our communities than they already have.