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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

Although I do believe he has good intentions, I am still a little confused, so I am hoping he can clarify a few things for me.

The B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the indefinite nature of isolation is unconstitutional. While it has introduced Bill C-83 as a solution to the problem, the government is also appealing the ruling at the same time.

If solutions to this problem, which has been deemed unconstitutional, can be found in Bill C-83, why is the government appealing the ruling?

Are we supposed to believe that the introduction of structured intervention units is really going to address the concerns raised in the court ruling, when really all this does is reduce the number of hours spent in isolation from 22 or 23 to “just” 20 hours a day?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. I will start by saying that it should come as no surprise that this side of the House feels quite differently than the government side with respect to the legislation.

One of the more profound statements I have recently read on this was in a newspaper article by Jason Godin, national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. He was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying, “attacks on guards and inmates have been increasing as the use of segregation has decreased ahead of new legislation to change the prison system.” His words are profound, likely prophetic, when he says, “When this goes through, the bloodbath will start.” That was his prediction with respect to this legislation. We should all heed the advice of somebody like Mr. Godin as we look at enacting legislation that has some serious flaws with respect to the protection of prison guards and what the implications of that could mean for them and their families.

Bill C-83 proposes to make changes to how inmates are treated when incarcerated. It also makes changes to that which will affect the safety of corrections staff, guards, health care providers and others. We must remember as well that it is not just guards in the prison system. There are health care providers and resource people who work there as well. It should be the ultimate goal of any legislation to ensure we protect them.

The bill proposes that new safety procedures be put in place. The government believes it will keep inmates safe and prevent any unwanted items from getting into correctional facilities. The government is also planning to introduce body scanners to federal penitentiaries. As well, it is very keen to discuss the SIUs, the new model for the structured intervention units, a replacement for solitary confinement, formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with mental health issues. All of these exceptions are important to having correctional services that can obviously help offenders while they are in jail.

Let me take a few minutes to speak specifically about solitary confinement. I have no knowledge or any sort of familiarity with it, but the use of solitary confinement is a serious one. It is used for serious criminals who are convicted of some of the worst crimes that anyone can imagine. The need for the use of solitary confinement must also be balanced with the care that the inmate receives and, more important, the safety of the guards and other staff within the prison system.

Sadly, in some cases, the use of solitary confinement has been abused. In Ontario, for example, two official offices have investigated the use of solitary confinement. First, the provincial advocate for youth published a report in 2017 called, “Missed Opportunities: The Experience of Young Adults Incarcerated in Federal Penitentiaries”. The report called for sweeping changes to how youth were treated in federal institutions.

Among some of the key recommendations in the report were that Correctional Service Canada, CSC, add a flag in the offender management system that would allow the CSC to track individuals with a youth sentence transferred to an adult federal penitentiary; that CSC develop a gang disaffiliation strategy that would be responsive to the needs of young indigenous offenders, women offenders as well; and ensure that non-gang affiliated young offenders were not placed where there would be gang members who might attempt to recruit, indoctrinate or intimidate them.

The Ontario chief human rights commissioner also wrote about the use of solitary confinement and added that there was, in that case, a need for a culture shift in how indigenous prisoners, women prisoners and prisoners with mental health issues were treated. Of course, many in the House and those who have followed this closely will recall the tragic incident involving solitary confinement in the case of Adam Capay.

Adam Capay spent four years in solitary confinement while waiting for a trial, and he had not even been convicted while he was in solitary. It is a very sad story. Adam was held in solitary for 23 hours a day with the lights on, and was in solitary for more than four years when we combine his time in the Thunder Bay facility with time in the Kenora jail. We can all agree that what happened to Mr. Capay and what he went through should never happen again.

The Ontario government looked into this following reports by the chief human rights commissioner on the treatment of Adam Capay in Thunder Bay. Solitary confinement is a common and legitimate safety measure that protects guards from dangerous prisoners. Solitary confinement is also a tool for keeping other inmates safe from dangerous offenders, but again, we should all agree that it should never be abused.

What about the guards? What about the health care providers? What about the staff and those who work within the prison system, including mental health professionals, for example?

It has been stated by others on this side of the House that Bill C-83 does not take into consideration the safety of corrections staff. The men and women who work in those institutions deserve to be able to go home every day to their husbands, their wives, and their children. The spouses, parents and children of corrections workers deserve to have their spouses, daughters, sons and parents in a safe workplace.

Bill C-83 would give more flexibility to the lives of inmates while almost maintaining the status quo for staff. The bill would take away solitary confinement as a tool. As I just mentioned, it is also used to protect other staff and other inmates from very dangerous inmates and extremely critical and dangerous situations. Bill C-83 would do nothing to deter the bad behaviour of inmates.

When we look at some of the financial implications of how this bill is being rolled out, I wonder if what is being proposed in Bill C-83 strikes the balance of what we need when it comes to the use of solitary confinement.

There has been no cost assigned or studied in Bill C-83. I wonder if what the government wants to achieve with this bill can be fully met, considering the reduction in funding to federal correctional services. There will be a very large impact, with up to 150 full-time employees lost through reductions in budgets.

On Thursday of last week, my colleague from Calgary Shepard raised important issues about the cost of Bill C-83. He also raised some serious concerns that the government is reducing budgets for Correctional Service Canada.

Let me read what the member for Calgary Shepard said when he asked the member for Nanaimo—Ladysmith a question, because he expressed it far better than I can:

[I]n reading the British Columbia decision rendered by Justice Leask he looked at the cruel and unusual punishment provision and said, in paragraph 534, that it is actually not cruel and unusual. He declines to rule against it as a section 12 violation. He finds that it is not unconstitutional to have solitary confinement, only when it is indefinite and prolonged.

The member for Calgary Shepard continued:

I want to talk about the budgetary impact of this legislation. In the public safety minister's departmental plan there is a projected reduction of 8.8% in real terms, in actual financial resources, being given to Correctional Services, and a reduction of 150 FTEs over the next few years.

This bill seems rushed; it is thin on concrete actions and needs to be looked at long and hard at committee. I know that when we vote on this later tonight, there is a strong likelihood that it will pass at this reading and end up at committee, but when it gets there, serious work will need to be done, in particular in relation to making sure that correctional facilities staff are better protected.

Members of the opposition and the NDP have all expressed concerns with respect to Bill C-83 that need to be discussed in committee. The Conservatives are very concerned that the government is again giving priority to dangerous offenders; this needs public scrutiny and to be talked about at committee.

As I close, I will quote some words of wisdom from the member for Spadina—Fort York, who said, “No one wants to be in jail.” Well, some people deserve to be in jail.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague across the aisle.

Bill C-83 does actually contain legislation that is quite progressive. At present, victims have the right to access audio recordings of parole hearings only if they do not attend. However, some people fear that given the emotional nature of those hearings, it might be hard for victims to recall all the details of the proceedings. I would like to hear my hon. colleague's thoughts on that.

I wonder if he could also talk about body scanners. In an effort to combat drugs and contraband, the bill authorizes the use of body scanners, like the the ones used at airports, which will be less intrusive for inmates and visitors.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:30 p.m.
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Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Employment

Madam Speaker, it is a joy to be here today in support of Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

I heard some of the debate this afternoon, and I would say we all share the goal of safe communities. We all want to be secure in the knowledge that when offenders return to their communities, our corrections system has done its job, supported their rehabilitation and prepared them to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.

For the corrections system to succeed in that regard, safety and security have to go hand in hand with rehabilitative programming and treatment.

I am proud to stand here today and know that principle is at the core of the bold new measures the government is taking to transform federal corrections. Bill C-83 will strengthen the federal corrections system, making it safer and more effective at rehabilitation. The bill will end the practice of segregation. It will establish structured intervention units, or SIUs, to safely manage inmates when they cannot otherwise be managed in the mainstream inmate population, without denying them access to programs, interventions and treatment.

Bill C-83 will also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. It will also strengthen health care governance, allow for the use of new search technologies, and enhance support for victims at parole hearings.

Key to this landmark legislation is that with SIUs, the practice of segregation will become a thing of the past. Currently, if an offender is considered dangerous to themselves or others, or is at risk of being harmed, they can be placed in segregation if there is no other reasonable alternative. Segregation has remained a common practice over the years.

Recent policy changes by the Correctional Service of Canada led to a significant decline in segregation placements, from over 700 on any given day a few years ago, to just over 300 today. However, we cannot ignore the fact that the practice remains subject to criticism in and out of the courts. Stakeholders, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator and offender advocacy groups, have raised concern about its effects, particularly on inmates suffering from mental health issues.

In the courts, recent decisions in both Ontario and British Columbia called for legislative reform to the practice, and they have called for improvements to the provision of mental health services within corrections institutions. All of this is on top of class actions and human rights complaints.

At the same time, others have argued that segregation is necessary to ensure that correctional institutions remain safe for employees and for people in custody. The safety of correctional staff must always be an overarching consideration. Our correctional institutions are full of dedicated, hard-working staff who work long hours in sometimes very challenging circumstances to make a positive difference by promoting rehabilitation and protecting communities.

Until now, they have had very few alternatives to segregation when isolating an inmate for security or safety reasons. However, we now have an opportunity to address this problem. Bill C-83 will eliminate segregation altogether and establish structured intervention units. These SIUs will provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in difficult circumstances. They will help to manage offenders who could not otherwise be managed safely.

In an SIU, inmates will receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs. Every day, they will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell, and that will include at least two hours of meaningful human interaction.

In the existing segregation system, by contrast, people only get two hours out of their cell and little or no meaningful interaction with other people. With Bill C-83, offenders will have the ability to work towards the objectives in their correctional plans, thanks to a focus on interventions. They will have daily visits from health care professionals. Ultimately, the idea is to facilitate safe reintegration into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

To that end, placements in SIUs will be subject to a robust system of review. An initial review by the institution's warden will happen within five days. If the person remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will be done by the warden after 30 days and by the commissioner every 30 days thereafter. Also, at any time, a health care professional can recommend a change in conditions or a transfer out of the SIU.

Importantly, the bill would also enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals within the correctional system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it would create a system of patient advocates who would help ensure that people got the medical treatment they needed.

For all these reasons, Bill C-83 would represent a substantial change in the right direction. We have an opportunity to act now to improve correctional outcomes, reduce violent incidents and ensure a safe environment for inmates, staff, volunteers and the institutions as a whole. We have the opportunity to contribute to community and public safety by supporting bold new proposals that would assist with the rehabilitation of offenders, reducing the risk of reoffending and keeping our communities safe.

I urge all members to join me in supporting these very important changes.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:35 p.m.
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Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, the minister spoke quite a bit in her speech about the importance of safety. However, an aspect of segregation and solitary confinement is safety, the safety of not only the inmate who is the target of other inmates but the safety of inmates who may be at risk from the inmate who is to be segregated. It is also a safety issue for the guards and personnel who work in those facilities.

I am curious as to what measures the Liberals have taken. We have certainly heard from the employee unions that are involved, which have great concerns about parts of Bill C-83. I would like to ask the minister what steps the government has taken to ensure the safety of those guards. If steps have been taken to ensure their safety, why are they so concerned about the steps being taken in Bill C-83 to eliminate solitary confinement?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to sit here during last Friday's debate, where I listened to some of the best lawyers and legal minds who are members of Parliament, including the member for St. Albert—Edmonton. When we start listening to the statistics, when we are talking about all these things that are occurring in our correctional system, there are many different things we have to look at. We have extremely diverse opinions here.

One thing we talked about was the fact that correctional officers have not been talked to, so I am going to start with something I put forward last week. It is a quote from my friend Jason, who is a correctional officer. He said, “No profession has hit the toilet [like] corrections in the last several years. Violence, contraband, assault on staff are skyrocketing. Why? Total lack of consequence for behaviour. Eliminating segregation has handcuffed us. Now, no question segregation exacerbates mental health, but we have no choice. Assaultive offenders continue assaulting, and easy victims continue being preyed upon. We continually have people making changes based on concepts, not reality.”

Today we are discussing Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. With the members in this House, I recognize that these views are greatly diverse. I am listening to the questions and answers today. What one member may say goes against my entire moral code on this. We have different ideas on the rights of criminals versus what the rights of victims, the use of segregation versus proposed intervention units, and drugs in prison.

Drugs in prison has become a huge issue. It is not just an issue that has come about in the last 10 years. We can find studies done decades ago that show the same trend. While the Liberals put forward policies for needle exchange programs in the jail, I believe we should focus on getting the drugs out of the jails altogether.

We can talk about safe injection sites. This is a huge debate in Ontario. What do safe injection sites do to communities and what should we be doing to help those who have long-term addictions? One of the things they say is that it is about saving people's lives, getting them back on track, and making sure that people do not die in back alleys.

I am going to remind the government that prisons are not those dark alleys. When we talk about safe injection sites, we are talking about getting people off the streets, putting them into an area where they can have safe injections, and truly hoping that wraparound services are available to them. I question why we are starting at step one and providing safe injection sites in prisons in the first place. Yes, it is a very difficult thing, but this is not a back alley. It is a prison, where there are well-educated, trained and skilled staff who deal with these issues. We should actually be going in a trajectory moving forward, not just compensating for the drugs.

There have been so many concerns about convicted criminals and the use of illegal drugs. We have to keep in mind that we are talking about convicted criminals. We are talking about people who are being put in jail for summary or felony offences and what their lives should be like.

We have talked very much about Tori Stafford and her abuser, the person who murdered her. We have talked about maximum-security and minimum-security. We are talking about a horrific murderer going from a place where there may be institutional walls to a healing lodge. I have heard from hundreds of constituents of Elgin—Middlesex—London who are saying that she is living a better life than they are.

When talking to Canadians, a lot of times it is one of the things they are going to say, that people in jail have a better life than they do. They get meals, they get their hydro paid for, all those things that some people living in poverty, and especially in our middle class, have to deal with every day.

I want to continue with the segregation part. Yes, I believe there are extreme situations where we must look at the use of segregation. Sometimes it is used to protect the criminal from the rest of the population, and other times it is used because an offender is a danger to the rest of the population, including the guards.

In a court decision by Justice Marrocco, he found that administrative segregation itself was constitutional. Of course, we are going to have others who believe that this is cruel and unusual punishment. There are parties that will disagree with this whole philosophy and say that we cannot segregate people and that they need to have personal time and the humanity side of it.

I have a problem when talking about this. We are talking about humanity for someone who is alive versus humanity for somebody who may have been murdered or is disabled for the rest of his or her life because of a criminal. I think the mother in me is asking, “Where is the justice here?”

Those are some of my key priorities when we are looking at this.

I have always believed in putting victims first. I think we have lost that side of this debate, because we are always asking what can we do to rehabilitate these criminals. I totally agree that there are some criminals who can be rehabilitated, but there are those people who have done horrific things, and we are sitting here saying that they have to have poetry readings and they have to learn how to cook and their lives will be better. We have to take a really hard look at ourselves and ask if we are really going to manage that. It is a compassionate idea, but it is not reality.

We have to recognize that crimes have a harmful impact on victims and on society. A bill was put forward by the last government on the Victims Bill of Rights. It is something I want to share with the House today.

When I work for the people of Elgin—Middlesex—London, I work for victims' families 100% of the time to make sure that they are taken care of. I am going to read the preamble of the bill to the House:

Whereas victims of crime and their families deserve to be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect, including respect for their dignity;

Whereas it is important that victims' rights be considered throughout the criminal justice system;

Whereas victims of crime have rights that are guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

Whereas consideration of the rights of victims of crime is in the interest of the proper administration of justice;

Whereas the federal, provincial and territorial governments share responsibility for criminal justice;

Whereas, in 1988, the federal, provincial and territorial governments endorsed the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and, in 2003, the Canadian Statement of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime, 2003;

All this being said, I recognize that some circumstances should be reviewed, including sexual violence and abuse. A lot of times when we are talking about vulnerable communities in these institutions, there may be issues that put people in there in the first place.

Not everyone agrees with the use of Gladu reports, but if we have Gladu reports, with appropriate writers, people who understand how to write a Gladu report, they can put all that imperative information forward at sentencing to decide how the person should be treated.

We talk a lot about truth and reconciliation. We recognize that we have had residential schools and that there has been intergenerational trauma. By no means am I saying that the person should not be looked at a bit differently. I am saying that. That may go against what some of my fellow Conservative colleagues may agree with, but I think these are things we have to go forward with. We have to look at all of these things. Gladu reports are something I support.

I will return to my friend's quote and the concern about drugs and contraband in jails. We need to find a solution. Is the solution making sure that we have needle exchange programs? For me, the concept of scanners is a positive option to find out what is actually entering prisons. We know that we have a problem. What is the reason, and how can we find a solution? The concept of these scanners is really positive. I look at them as a solution.

I want to go back to my daughter, who has graduated from the protection, security and investigation program. She has had the opportunity to work in some different facilities. She is currently working in security with a large company, and she works on a hotline dealing with victims of crime. Her bottom line is, and this is a quote from Marissa, "There is something missing, and drugs continue to get into the jails".

In putting in scanners, should we be expanding that to guests as well? As a graduate and employee in the security field, Marissa's concern about drugs in jails has only been elevated since she graduated, because she sees it more and more each and every day.

We have a big social issue in these places. We always have to remind ourselves that we have to be there for the victims of crime, because they have had their rights taken away. Some people see justice differently. I see justice as the fact that I would want to know that if someone murdered my child, he or she would remain in jail for a long time.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
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Richard Martel Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, CPC

Madam Speaker, I would like to talk about Bill C-83 because it is of personal concern to me and because I was asked to do so by a number of correctional officers who told me that they feel as though they were not sufficiently consulted during the drafting of this bill.

If the government would take the time to listen to our correctional officers, it would find that they think eliminating administrative segregation in correctional facilities is a bogus solution to a bogus problem. Administrative segregation is not used as punishment. It is a risk management tool. The threat of solitary confinement must always be present in order to act as a deterrent, guarantee a certain amount of discipline and enforce compliance in correctional institutions. That discipline is essential to the health and safety of our correctional officers.

Segregation is a tool of last resort. By taking that tool away from correctional officers, the government is saying that it does not care about their reality. It does not care that more assaults on officers have happened since the use of segregation was restricted. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has stressed that violence in prison will go up once administrative segregation is scrapped. Union president Jason Godin foresees a bloodbath. Administrative segregation is not used arbitrarily. It is a tool of last resort that protects inmates from others and, sometimes, from themselves.

When a new criminal arrives, conflicts can escalate rapidly. The prison population varies from institution to institution. Sometimes, a new inmate is not welcome, and his new peers will be waiting for him. Administrative segregation is used to ensure that inmate's health and safety until such time as officers find appropriate solutions to de-escalate conflict.

What should be done with an inmate in medium security who becomes more and more violent and has to be transferred to a maximum security institution? Should such an inmate be allowed to keep living by his own rules for four hours a day while awaiting transfer? That makes no sense to me.

Some inmates altogether refuse to join the general population and also refuse the protective wing. How are we supposed to accommodate these inmates, who want peace and quiet, without abusing public funds? Is it a prison or a five-star hotel? What do I tell my constituents who tell me they would rather go to prison than live in a seniors residence? Correctional officers legitimately wonder what they will do. What tools will be at their disposal when administrative segregation is eliminated? The officers fear that there will be an escalation of violence. They fear for their health and safety, but also for the health and safety of the criminals.

Again, what tools will they have to defuse potential retaliations or thwart revenge plots that they may have caught wind of? Are they to leave the inmates to take justice and discipline into their own hands? Correctional officers cannot turn a blind eye and ignore the warnings they get. How are they supposed to enforce compliance? These are bogus solutions to a bogus problem.

The commissioner's directives, including CD 843, already cover exceptions for indigenous and female offenders, and offenders with mental health problems.

Mental health is taken very seriously in prisons. Offenders have access to care, and correctional officers are quickly informed when an offender is struggling with mental health issues. They find out fast. Correctional officers have faith in the commissioner's directives, and they refer to them regularly in the performance of their duties.

Correctional officers already take mental health issues seriously because they know what kind of impact these issues can have. In fact, they or their colleagues have been through it themselves.

Thirty-five percent of first responders, including paramedics, EMTs and correctional officers, will develop symptoms associated with work-related PTSD.

This is not an easy work environment. Officers must sometimes use a lot of psychological tactics to de-escalate conflicts. They may face moral and ethical dilemmas that they would not face in the world outside the prison. For example, it is not easy to be a mother or father and to be around a pedophile every day. One of the worst things that could happen would be for an officer to get to work and learn that an inmate had taken his or her own life. Prison guards face many risks. This kind of situation makes them very susceptible to PTSD.

Last week, I met with veterans and first responders who spoke to me about Project Trauma Support, a new Canadian program that treats post traumatic stress and operational stress injury in military personnel, veterans and first responders. I was deeply touched by their story and how the centre, located in Perth, Ontario, helped them turn their lives around.

It is often very difficult for anyone affected by work-related post-traumatic stress syndrome to access the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, disability insurance or compensation. They may have to wait a long time before accessing counselling or treatment, which is very unfortunate. We know that the earlier problems are addressed, the better the results and the chances to return to active service. Their families also suffer.

My colleagues and I hope that Bill C-211 will provide a comprehensive solution to this scourge.

However, I wonder why Bill C-83 does not say more about the health and safety of our correctional workers.

The Liberal government's history shows that it favours criminals rather than victims. I should not be surprised to find it more interested in the comfort of criminals than the safety of correctional officers.

The government also did not consult the union and employees when it announced a needle exchange pilot project.

I wonder how providing access to needles to take drugs or create tattoos, thereby providing a potential weapon to criminals, can be perceived as being a good thing.

Canadians need to know about the needle exchange program. When an inmate manages to illegally bring a drug into prison, he can ask the nurse for a needle and he will get one. The nurse and the government know very well that the needle will be used for illicit purposes.

The correctional officer does not know that he will be at greater risk during the next check of the inmate's cell. What message are they sending?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

As my colleague said, administrative segregation has been widely criticized by stakeholders and has been subject to legal challenges.

This bill will eliminate administrative segregation and replace it with structured intervention units, which provide secure environments for inmates who must be separated from the general prison population to receive targeted interventions and real human interaction.

The bill will also make changes in connection to health care, the management of indigenous offenders, victims' access to audio recordings of parole hearings, and search technology to keep contraband out of prisons. These are the objectives of Bill C-83.

I was here on Friday, like many other colleagues, when we were studying this bill at second reading. We talked about it and we are still talking about it today.

Earlier our colleague from Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame said that the purpose of detention centres is to rehabilitate inmates so they can reintegrate into society. Yes, they are there because they have committed a crime, but we need to help them reintegrate into society so they can eventually contribute to it once they have made it through the detention part of their sentence.

The unemployment rate is at its lowest in 40 years. We need all the talent we can get in our society. Once inmates have served their sentence, they need to integrate and participate in our society. This means that, during their incarceration, they must be able to take training and, if they have mental health issues, they need to see the appropriate professionals.

Before I was an MP, I was fortunate to be in business, and I had contracts supplying food to some of the detention centres in my region, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines, including the Federal Training Centre in Laval and Leclerc Institution. There were maximum-security and medium-security detention centres, as well as centres for inmates who were nearing the end of their sentence and were getting ready to reintegrate into society. Yes, some inmates do reintegrate into society.

Some of those contacts were with family living units, where people work as a team to learn to cook. When inmates are released from a detention centre, they need to be independent. In short, I had those kinds of interactions, and the ultimate goal was for inmates to be able to reintegrate and participate in society.

As I said earlier, there are maximum-security penitentiaries for inmates who are not yet ready to be transferred to a medium-security centre or a centre where inmates are getting ready to be released.

Mental health services must also be available for people who need them. That is true, and should be one of the first things noted. We need to prepare inmates to return to a normal life in our society and help them get the training they need.

The bill requires inmates in administrative segregation to spend four hours outside their cell so that they have contact with other people in the prison system and health professionals, but also with outside visitors. They need to be able to continue to see people from outside the prison walls if we want them to be able to reintegrate into society. Of course, they also need to continue to have access to training programs.

One of my colleagues said earlier that this bill needs to go further, that we need to continue the debate and that all members need to have an opportunity to express their views.

I would like to continue to talk about the purpose of this bill. Our priority, as a government, is to ensure the safety of Canadians. It seems to me that the Conservatives would be happy to leave people in solitary confinement for years and then send them directly back into our communities. That is what I have been hearing. There are steps to follow, and inmates need to take training.

The best way to protect Canadians, our fellow citizens, is to ensure that offenders serving their sentence in a controlled prison environment, whether it is a minimum, medium or maximum security facility, get the help and treatment they need to reduce their chances of reoffending.

What is more, what we are proposing is very different from the current system. Structured intervention units will double the number of hours inmates spend outside their cells and guarantee them a minimum of two hours a day of real human interaction, whether it be with staff, volunteers, health care providers, seniors, chaplains, visitors or other compatible offenders. Inmates will have daily visits from a health care professional and access to intervention programs and mental health care. That is very important and we need to always keep that in mind. The whole system will be designed so as to address the factors that make the individual a risk and help that individual reintegrate into the general prison population.

In structured intervention units, the conditions and resources available will be different than those in the current system. This bill will also put in place a robust review system. The assignment to a structured intervention unit will be reviewed by the institutional head in the first five days. If the inmate remains there, the head will again review the case after 30 days. The commissioner will also review the case every 30 days after that.

The bill will also allow a professional to recommend at any time a change in conditions or the transfer of an inmate. The objective will always be the inmate's safe reintegration into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

There is more. The bill will also formalize the possibility of having, for example, maximum security and minimum security institutions in the same location. As I mentioned earlier, many years ago I dealt with maximum security and medium security prisons. Institutions will always have the necessary infrastructure to accommodate their security level.

I asked some questions a little earlier. At present, victims do not have access to audio recordings of parole hearings. The bill will change that.

There are also the body scanners. When visitors, inmates or employees enter the institution, the search will be less invasive, but we will be able to scan people to ensure no contraband enters the prison.

We will be very pleased to support Bill C-83, and I hope that my colleagues will have second thoughts about not supporting it.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 5:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

Madam Speaker, last week, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness introduced Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. I rise in the House today to address some serious concerns that the Conservatives have with regard to Bill C-83.

This bill seeks to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities and replace it with structured intervention units; to use prescribed body scanners for inmates; to establish parameters for access to health care; and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health conditions. While this bill contains some reasonable measures that are worth considering in order to change and improve the overall prison program, we need to examine it closely to ensure we are making the best decisions and changes possible to the prison program.

In recent Supreme Court decisions, the legality of indefinite stays in solitary confinement has been challenged. However, the government is appealing both of those decisions. This legislation applies to transfers, and would allow the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or to any area within a penitentiary. In a maximum-security penitentiary, nothing gets in or out without the strictest controls. Maximum security means maximum security. As I understand it, with this new legislation, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium- or minimum-security penitentiary. If that is not the case, we need some clarification. A maximum-security facility has an entire perimeter and security system that is designed to guarantee maximum security. If they were to change a section of a minimum- or medium-security penitentiary, would the security measures also be put into place?

This bill has one very good idea, and that is to use body scanners. However, it should be expanded to include anyone who enters the facility who is not an inmate or an employee. Body-scan searches would make it possible to control at least 95% of the substances that individuals bring into prisons because they show whether there is anything hidden on a person's body. It is no secret that all kinds of things are brought into prisons.

This legislation also proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in corrections facilities and replace it with a newly created structured intervention unit. Solitary confinement is a common and legitimate safety measure that many western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners. The introduction of structured intervention units may pose a risk to prison guards, other inmates and the inmates in question for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety.

Another problem with this bill is reflected in the spirit of the law. These are the worst criminals in Canada. They are murderers, rapists, etc., and they are in maximum-security prisons. The intent of these proposed changes is to create a structured intervention unit for these people. They would spend less time in cells and would be put together to interact. The prison environment is a unique environment. It is a closed environment. The officers who work there are at risk every day because they have to deal with the worst thugs and criminals in Canada. Prisoners want to control their environment as much as possible, like anyone else. This is difficult for our officers who work 24-7 to keep prisoners under control and keep the guards and the rest of the prisoners safe. Taking away disciplinary segregation would make prisons less safe and more dangerous for the guards as they would have to deal with the most volatile prisoners being out and about from their cells for four hours a day.

We cannot support Bill C-83 in its present form. There are some things that would work, such as installing scanning equipment; however, we believe that creating structured intervention units would not.

Additionally, it is concerning that the government has not been able to tell Canadians how much the implementation of these measures would cost. Correctional Service Canada has confirmed that it is not able to estimate how much the measures in this bill would cost Canadians. The government seems to believe it is acceptable to table uncosted legislation that would increase the comfort of the most violent prisoners at the expense of the taxpayer.

Let us look back at the McClintic case again. This murderer's transfer from a maximum-security prison to an indigenous healing lodge has had a lot of people concerned, upset and talking. This is someone who should be serving her sentence in a maximum-security prison. In a maximum-security prison, such an offender has her own cell. Those offenders eat, sleep and take classes if they so choose, and they can go back to their cells. They are protected because they are living in a maximum-security environment. However, for reasons still not understood, it was decided to send that person to a place with virtually no security. From what I understand, Bill C-83 would allow McClintic's room in the healing lodge to be designated a maximum-security room. Again, it appears as though it is the Liberal government's priority to put the rights and comforts of violent murderers and rapists ahead of the rights of victims.

If what I understand is true, then Bill C-83 would be dangerous to Canadians' safety. It does not care about what a maximum-security prison sentence means or what keeping Canadians safe means. Instead, it prioritizes the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals.

Instead of changing the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to make sure that killers like Terri-Lynne McClintic are kept behind bars, the bill defines and softens the law to make prison time easier for criminals.

I think Canadians know that the government is not serious about being tough on crime and it puts Canadians' safety at risk. If this keeps up, things are bound to get worse. The government should be taking rational measures that are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Prisoners have rights, of course, but it is all in the way things are done. The approach outlined in Bill C-83 is not in line with what the Conservatives consider to be an effective way to manage penitentiaries.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to serve with my colleague from Oxford on the justice committee. He brings a wealth of experience as a police officer and former chief of police.

One of the things that we know about Bill C-83's allowing an additional two hours for prisoners to be out of their cells is that it will cost a lot more resources for that to work. While the government is moving ahead with its legislation, the Liberals at the same time are proposing an 8.8% reduction in funding for the Correctional Service of Canada. Out of the 22 priorities for the Correctional Service of Canada, not one of those priorities includes the safety of correctional officers. In the face of the government's mixed up priorities, is it any wonder that the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has criticized Bill C-83?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 5:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

As we know, Bill C-83 proposes to implement a new correctional intervention model to eliminate segregation, strengthen health care governance, better support victims in the criminal justice system, and consider the specific needs of indigenous offenders.

The purpose of prisons, though, is clear. We have prisons so that we can protect society from those who, as a consequence of various criminally repugnant acts they have committed, have proven to be too great a risk to the broader safety of others. I believe there are cases where criminals can be reformed. We have programs. We provide opportunities for those deemed to pose a reduced security risk to reintegrate into society and become fully functional and productive members of our community.

In general, Canadians believe this and we would not want it any other way. However, there are those in our society who cannot be reformed and have committed acts so heinous that we never want them to be free to walk among our families and friends, in our towns and cities, ever again.

I am not just thinking of murderers and those who commit assault, like Olson, Bernardo, Homolka, Magnotta, and McClintic. I am also thinking of those individuals whose names will not make headlines across the country, the nameless violent criminals who beat, and steal without remorse from, the most vulnerable in our society.

Prisons are their own societal microcosm. We expect that prisoners will follow the rules of the institutions, that they will behave and participate in programs to improve their situation, as I said earlier, in the hope they can reintegrate back into their communities.

This speech is not about the goals of sentencing or to debate the merits of different forms of punishment. It is about protecting society in general, victims in particular, and protecting society from those who are most dangerous.

It is no wonder that there is violence in prisons. It does not take an academic to explain why, when criminals are placed in a community together, there is a high incidence of crime. Some might say, who cares, that they get what they deserve? However, that is not the consensus within our society.

Our correctional facilities are not designed to put prisoners in harm's way. They are designed to protect prisoners from each other, and to protect the men and women in the correctional services.

Bill C-83 proposes to change that by removing an important tool in our correctional services staff tool box to protect prisoners and themselves from violence. Indeed, the argument about prison safety often focuses on the most violent prisoners harming other prisoners, or on protecting the most evil, those who have committed such heinous acts, from retribution.

We often feel and sometimes forget those who are on the front lines in our institutions who deal directly with these acts of violence, who put themselves in danger to protect prisoners from each other. Eliminating the ability of corrections officers to segregate prisoners from each other will not only put prisoners at serious risk, it will also further endanger our correctional officers. That is unacceptable.

Jason Godin, the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has told the Vancouver Sun that attacks on officers and inmates have increased as the use of segregation has decreased. If Bill C-83 passes, he predicts that “The bloodbath will start.” While I do not understand the minutia of administering a prison, Godin does as the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers. He is not speaking haphazardly or without merit.

Bill C-83 calls for more meaningful, human contact. Human contact is important, but not when it is at the end of a fist or a broom handle. Across Canada the number of assaults on staff is projected to rise 32% this fiscal year compared with last year, coinciding with the projected 15% decrease in segregation bed use during that same time.

Solitary confinement is a common and legitimate safety measure that many western countries use to protect correctional staff from dangerous and volatile prisoners. Rather than removing this tool, we should be looking at how to prevent the incidents that cause segregation in the first place. We should ensure that mental health screening is completed, that there is a mental health strategy for prisoners, that psychological counselling is available, and that there are adequate staff on duty to ensure the safety of everyone.

We can reduce the use of segregation by other means without removing the tool of segregation for use when necessary. Rather than prioritizing the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals, the Liberals should be prioritizing the safety of the general population within our institutions and the officers who run them. Correctional officers are calling for serious consultation and resources to make it work. They are asking the committee not sacrifice this segregation tool as a necessary tool to deter violent behaviour. Correctional Services Canada has already limited the use of segregation. What correctional officers want now are alternatives to segregation to ensure that prisoners understand there are consequences for their bad behaviour.

In the recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court called into question the legality of indefinite solitary confinement, and the current government has set its sights on appealing that decision. With this I have no issue. However, I wonder why, while appealing this decision, the government is moving forward with Bill C-83. Logically, the introduction of major changes that are at the heart of its appeal make little sense. However, that is not the only thing that does not make much sense.

Under this bill, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium- or minimum-security penitentiary. The facility in question, whether minimum, medium or maximum, is built to protect society from prisoners designated as a minimum-, medium- or maximum-security risks. There are different procedures and expectations in place.

I am getting the signal that there is no more time, which, unfortunately, is a shame because I had a lot more to say.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
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Yvonne Jones Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be here to speak to this bill. Over the last couple of days, I have heard a number of speakers in the House who have had varying and interesting opinions with respect to this bill. I think it is safe to say that a lot of work and extensive consultation went into getting to where we are with Bill C-83 at this time.

I want to start by congratulating the people who work in our correctional centres across this country. Many of them I have had the opportunity to meet at many different institutions, and some of them I know personally, so I know that their work in our institutions is often not valued in the way it should be. I really believe that the work they do is exceptional and in the best interests of ensuring safety for all who are in our institutions, including themselves.

A correctional institution is a unique environment. I believe that all Canadians realize that. They also realize that it needs to be controlled and managed effectively. Doing so in the best interests of the people who work there, the inmates and, ultimately, public safety is going to be truly important and a key to success.

When inmates are at risk of causing harm to themselves or others, it really puts our correctional institutions to the test in handling those risks and challenges and mitigating any harm that could come. Correctional staff are tasked every day with making sure that everyone is safe. They need to factor in physical and mental health concerns and consider inmates' correctional plans. High-risk inmates can pose serious management challenges, and in all cases, safety is paramount.

Today we have a new opportunity to move forward with a bold new approach to these challenges. Bill C-83 would eliminate the use of segregation in the Canadian federal corrections system. In its place, the bill would create what are called structured intervention units, or SIUs. SIUs would provide an appropriate living environment for inmates who could not be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons. An inmate could be transferred to an SIU only if the commissioner or delegated authority was satisfied that there was no other reasonable alternative and that the inmate's stay there would end as soon as it possibly could.

The SIUs would provide inmates with the opportunity for meaningful human contact through programs. They would allow for interventions and services tailored to respond to their specific needs and risks. We have already heard from many of my colleagues about some of the specific needs that are currently not being met and that are causing unsafe and harmful practices.

Structured interventions would address the underlying behaviour that led to an inmate's placement in an SIU. Correctional programming would continue. I think it is important that people understand that.

During their time in an SIU, inmates would have an opportunity to spend a maximum of four hours a day outside their cells. That is double the number of hours in the current segregation system.

As the bill stipulates, an inmate's stay would be subject to ongoing monitoring, including monitoring of their health while in a structured unit. A registered health care professional would visit the inmate in an SIU at least once every day.

These are welcome changes that would make correctional institutions safer and enhance the safety of Canadian communities.

I should have said at the outset that I will be splitting my time with the member for London North Centre.

As I said, a registered health care professional would visit the inmate at least once every day. This is necessary because of the health care needs of certain incarcerated individuals. However, it is important to say that this bill would include additional measures that would strengthen our corrections system. It would establish a patient advocacy service to ensure that inmates understand their rights and get the medical care they need. This would not only address the concerns raised at the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, who was in segregation at the time, but would address calls from the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

Providing health care in a correctional institution is a challenging job. It requires a unique skill set that can make a real difference in improving living conditions within a correctional institution and in contributing to better safety. The bill would affirm the obligation of the service to support these health care professionals in maintaining their autonomy and clinical independence.

The service would also have an obligation to ensure that systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders were considered in all correctional decision-making. For the first time, that obligation would be enshrined in law as a guiding principle. That could mean, for example, that if an indigenous offender was placed in an SIU, individual or small group interventions would be tailored to their particular needs. Under this model, resources such as elders, aboriginal liaison personnel and specifically trained parole officers would provide culturally appropriate and responsive interventions for indigenous offenders. This would support calls to action 30 and 36 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it would advance key mandate commitments to address gaps in services for indigenous people and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.

This focus on indigenous inmates would complement steps the government has taken to enhance indigenous communities and to invest in the rehabilitation and safe reintegration of indigenous people who have come into contact with the criminal justice system. In budget 2017, we allocated $65.2 million over four years to address the overrepresentation of indigenous people in the criminal justice and correctional system. Of that money, $10 million has been allocated to indigenous community corrections initiatives. Under this program, public safety support projects help previously incarcerated indigenous people reintegrate safely and productively into their communities.

As I close, I feel that it is helpful to look at this proposed legislation in a much larger context. Overall, Canada is a very safe country, but we must not take that for granted. Strengthening our correctional system is an ongoing process and one that requires our constant attention. Bill C-83 would take us further down that path.

Our government wants to help ensure that we not only hold guilty parties to account for illegal behaviour but that we also create a custodial environment that fosters rehabilitation. The goal is fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities.

While there is much more work to do, Bill C-83 would bring us closer to where we need to be. I encourage all members to join me in supporting Bill C-83 and in supporting those Canadians who are asking for this reform and modernization of the correctional centre program.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Mr. Speaker, indigenous women make up 2% of Canada's population but 38% of women in prison. Eighteen of the 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission were about justice reform. There has been virtually no progress on most of them, according to witnesses at the status of women committee.

The legal counsel for the Native Women's Association, who appeared before the status of women committee, described solitary confinement as “a particularly cruel practice for women with histories of trauma and abuse, another area in which indigenous women are overrepresented.... [They are] particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.”

Bill C-83 does not seem to have a lot of friends who think that the government's actions are the right thing to do. Kim Pate says it would virtually eliminate “already inadequate limitations on its use.” Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator, says “[t]here's no procedural safeguard” in Bill C-83. The Elizabeth Fry Society says that this legislation would not meet its needs.

Could the member let me know which indigenous women say this is going to make their lives better, because it sure does not sound like it to us?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Yvonne Jones

Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate it when members in the House continue to raise the calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Bill C-83 would address two of the specific calls to action, number 30 and number 36, in the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

This is being done right across government. We have responded to nearly three-quarters of the recommendations in that report. Some action has been taken on all those recommendation that could be actioned by government, but many of them are outside the government's purview, as members may know.

Bill C-83 would have a meaningful impact on indigenous people who have been incarcerated, especially those who suffer from mental illness and other health and addiction challenges. The bill is designed to reach out and provide them with the programs and services they need so that they do not continue to be repeat offenders.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak today in support of Bill C-83. Among other measures, the bill proposes to eliminate segregation from federal correctional institutions, and would do it in a way that protects the security of correctional institutions.

The reality of any correctional environment is that certain inmates at certain times will need to be separated from the rest of the inmate population. Some inmates pose safety risks. Bill C-83 introduces a new approach to manage those risks. This new approach would ensure the safety and security of staff, the general offender population and the inmate who needs to be managed separately from the mainstream population. However, it would also help ensure the safety of our communities, because inmates would be able to continue the rehabilitative programming that is so crucial to their eventual successful reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens. This is a transformational change for a correctional system, and one that comes in the midst of a debate over segregation, an ongoing one we have had as a society in Canada.

Correctional Service Canada is responsible for managing the lives of more than 14,000 inmates in its custody. Correctional staff do a tough job in a difficult environment. We have to ensure they can do so safely, and that they have the tools to effectively rehabilitate offenders. Canada is incredibly fortunate to have an independent watchdog and ombudsman, the Office of the Correctional Investigator, to oversee and report on the operations of our system. From time to time, the Auditor General of Canada also investigates and identifies issues of concern within the system. In recent years, the issue of inmate segregation has come under its microscope. The Office of the Correctional Investigator and the Auditor General have raised concerns about the effects of segregation, particularly on inmates with mental health needs.

Under Bill C-83, segregation would be eliminated altogether from the federal correctional system. In its place, the government is proposing to create structured intervention units, or SIUs, to manage inmates whose behaviour poses a safety risk that cannot be managed within the mainstream inmate population. The key, as I noted earlier, is that although they would be separated from the mainstream inmate population, inmates in an SIU would maintain their access to rehabilitative programming and interventions. Upon placement in an SIU, their correctional plan would be updated. This would be done to ensure they receive the most effective programs at the appropriate time while they are in the unit. Also, it is meant to prepare them for reintegration into the mainstream inmate population. They would also spend at least four hours a day outside of their cell and have at least two hours a day of meaningful human contact interaction. Under the current segregation system inmates only get two hours out of the cell and interaction with people is extremely limited.

In addition to all of this, inmates in an SIU would be visited by a registered health care professional at least once a day. That health care professional could recommend changes to the conditions of confinement, or transfer back to the general population. As well, for the first time ever, the health care professional's autonomy and clinical independence within a correctional facility would be enshrined in law.

The correctional service would also have the obligation to provide patient advocacy services to inmates at designated institutions to help them better understand and exercise their rights, and ensure they get the medical care they need. As hon. members may recall, that was one of the recommendations of the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith.

These proposed reforms build on recent investments in mental health care. Budget 2017, for example, invested $57.8 million over five years, and $13.6 million per year thereafter, to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. Budget 2018 invested another $20.3 million over five years, and $5.5 million per year thereafter, to support the mental health needs of federal inmates, particularly women offenders.

However, segregation and mental health are not the only challenges facing our correctional system. Another major and very much related concern is the overrepresentation of indigenous inmates in federal custody. Indigenous individuals currently make up roughly 4% of Canada's population, but they account for more than a quarter of federal inmates. That is unacceptable.

To help address this discrepancy and help those who have been incarcerated to heal, rehabilitate and reintegrate into society, budget 2017 invested $65.2 million over five years and $10.9 million per year thereafter. Bill C-83 would enshrine, again not in regulation but in law, that systemic and background factors unique to indigenous inmates would be considered in all correctional decision-making. This, indeed, flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999, nearly 20 years ago.

The number of inmates in segregation has been trending downward for several years. There were, for example, 780 inmates in segregation as recently as April of 2014. However, by March of 2018, that number had dropped to 340, a decrease of more than 50%. This legislation would put an end to this practice once and for all. It would replace it with a far better and more effective approach.

SIUs would protect staff and inmates from offenders who exhibit particularly disruptive and dangerous behaviour and ensure that inmates separated from the general population can continue with their treatment and rehabilitative programs. Programs like these prepare inmates for reintegration as law-abiding members of a community, the Canadian community, at the end of their sentences. In other words, they are essential to public safety because almost all inmates will eventually be released from custody.

Bill C-83 would help make our correctional system stronger, more humane and more effective. It would mean better correctional outcomes for the most challenging and difficult-to-manage inmates. We have to focus on outcomes. With enhanced rehabilitation and reintegration support, I believe this would lead to a safer environment for those who work or are incarcerated inside of our institutions and fewer victims of repeat offenders outside. That is why I strongly support this important piece of legislation. It is also why I encourage my colleagues to do the same.