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 19th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, when I asked the parliamentary secretary about how she reconciles the fact that there are going to be all of these added costs for the changes to Bill C-83, but at the same time their departmental plan shows, with inflation adjusted, an 8.8% cut to funding for correctional services, as well as a cut in staffing, her comment was that it is because it is the money the government invested in the first two years. The library of Canada produced a report for me that actually shows that in the first two of the Liberal government, it has actually cut funding to CSC from the Harper era and then going forward for the next five years, is going to cut a further 8.8%.

Perhaps my colleague could answer, where the parliamentary secretary refused to or did not know the information for, what the added costs are with Bill C-83, how the government is going to achieve these things when it is cutting a further 8.8% from current funding on top of the funding it cut from the Conservative era to Correctional Service Canada.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, specific details relating to budgetary costs of Bill C-83 and the changes that it will bring about I believe will be announced soon, as my colleague knows.

I take great interest, however, in his focus on the Conservative era in office, the most recent reign of conservatism in Canada at the federal level. I have a lot of respect for my colleagues across the way, but I cannot help but notice them, time and again, draping themselves in the flag not only of Canada but of law and order, when actually, if we review the record of the Harper government, we see cuts to the RCMP, we see cuts to the CBSA, key legal agencies enforcing law and order in Canada.

We have listened to the folks in corrections. I would ask the hon. member to go back and take a look at what some key folks in corrections have said about this particular bill and the changes it would bring about. It focuses on rehabilitation, reintegration and strengthening the system and making it more effective. That is what Bill C-83 would do.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member quite rightly raises the issue of indigenous incarceration. I had the honour of serving on the public safety and national security committee last year, which studied that very issue. I am sure she is aware of this, but I would ask the hon. member to again review the sections in the proposed bill, Bill C-83, that focus on bringing to life what was called for in the landmark decision of the Supreme Court, the Gladue decision of 1999, almost 20 years ago.

This is an incredible step forward, a very positive step forward for all those Canadians concerned about indigenous incarceration, about which we have to do more. This is not the end of the line; this is a beginning. It is a new opening. In that light, the bill offers an entirely new and different approach, a more effective approach, to the issue of segregation. I think we will see more positive results as a result of the bill going through.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to Bill C-83 because I am concerned that the changes it would make may put in jeopardy the safety of our institutional staff and that of the inmates who are under our care and control.

I was confused when the government introduced the bill.

In February of this year, the government appealed a ruling by the B.C. Supreme Court that struck down Canada's law on indefinite solitary confinement, arguing that it needed clarity on the decision. Therefore, why is the government introducing legislation before receiving that clarity? Why are the Liberals fighting the court decision to strike down solitary confinement, while at the same time introducing legislation to do just that? Are they just changing the words and calling it a structural intervention unit?

I have a federal prison in my riding of Yellowhead, the Grande Cache Institution. It is a medium-security institution with approximately 300 employees and 240 offenders. I have a lot of respect for my constituents who work there. Working for Correctional Service Canada often means working with violent offenders. Proposed section 36 of the new act will deal with the obligations of service and the rights of prisoners in structural intervention areas. It states:

...The Service shall provide an inmate in a structured intervention unit

(a) an opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside the inmate’s cell; and

(b) an opportunity to interact, for a minimum of two hours a day, with others, through activities including, but not limited to,

(i) programs, interventions and services...

(ii) leisure time.

Proposed section 37 of the new act states that proposed section 36 does not apply if the inmate refuses or the inmate “does not comply with...instructions to ensure their safety or that of any other person or the security of the penitentiary.”

As part of their job, employees are responsible for providing a safe, secure and positive environment for offenders, which is an essential element in helping offenders reintegrate into society. However, is the government fostering a safe and secure environment for our prison guards to work within these institutions?

Solitary confinement is a common safety measure many western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners. I wonder if any of our front-line workers have been consulted on taking this tool away from them. Are we properly training our guards who deal with the most dangerous of offenders, offenders with possible mental conditions and psychological problems? Are these guards being given the necessary tools and knowledge to recognize, work with, protect and, for their own safety, help reintegrate these prisoners?

I am concerned that the bill does not mention new training programs to assist prison guards in these changes or in the current programs. It is paramount that the guards dealing with the most dangerous of our offenders have the knowledge and expertise to deal with them. This is for everyone's protection and safety.

I have heard concerns from prison staff members that more training should be given to them when they are dealing with high-risk offenders, such as murderers, compared to someone serving six months for theft. We need to ensure they feel prepared and comfortable, instead of taking away the tools they use to manage inmates.

Instead of solitary confinement, the government would create structural intervention units, SIUs. Let us be fair: This is just white-washing with some finely tuned words.

Under the new SIU model, inmates who misbehave and cannot be safely managed in the mainstream population will get personal programs tailored to their own needs. Are we forgetting the protection and safety of other inmates and prison staff in order to meet the new guidelines as outlined under the SIU? The segregation of certain prisoners in some cases has been done to protect those persons from internal conflicts with other inmates because of their character or mental disposition. In other cases, it is done for legal reasons that could cause interference with an investigation that could lead to criminal charges or a charge relating to serious disciplinary offences within the institution.

Under the new act, prisoners segregated for their own safety may spend up to four hours outside their cells each day. This is where I am concerned. This will require more resources and will create longer periods for the chance of an incident to occur. The replacement of solitary confinement strips the ability of guards to use segregation for disciplinary purposes. This change will make prisons more dangerous for the guards as they deal with the worst and most volatile prisoners.

Because the guards are dealing with the most violent criminals and those who do not care to follow the prison rules, when an incident does occur, it is going to be a lot more serious and require more force. Why are we putting our front line workers at risk?

I am also concerned that these prisoners who are segregated for their own safety may demand equal opportunities under the new act. This may open up an opportunity for their safety to be jeopardized and also put the safety of our guards in question.

This is just another example of the Liberals going soft on criminals and showing indifference to everyone else. Once again, the Liberals are prioritizing the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals.

Let me remind everyone of Bill C-75, which proposes sweeping changes to the Criminal Code and reduces the penalties of crimes to fines. Through Bill C-75, the Liberals are reducing penalties for terrorism, gang members, prison breaches, human trafficking, and the list goes on and on. It is not a surprise to me that the Liberal government is now prioritizing the rights of convicted and violent criminals inside our prison system.

Another aspect of the bill that I find deeply concerning is the new provision that would allow the commissioner to sub-designate parts of institutions to be a different level of security. It reads:

The Commissioner may assign the security classification of “minimum security”, “medium security”, “maximum security” or “multi-level security”, or any other prescribed security classification, to each penitentiary or to any area in a penitentiary.

Theoretically, could the commissioner authorize that a room, say in a healing lodge, to be designated as maximum or medium security by adding an extra lock on the door? There needs to be clarification on whether this is to be used as a temporary measure or if this is a declaration that can be made indefinitely of an area. If so, what is the security protocol that would be put in place to change an “area” to a higher designation than the rest of the facility? Under what circumstances would it be used?

This provision will lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are allowed into lower security spaces, all based on technicalities. Why are we allowing prisoners who should be in maximum or medium-security facilities into lower designated facilities?

I agree with one part of the bill, and that is body scanners. Already in use in the provinces of British Columbia and Ontario, body scanners should be used to scan prisoners in federal institutions. The more effective we can be in our searches, the better. That means fewer drugs, weapons and other contraband entering our prison systems.

I wonder why the government decided to stop there, though. Why only scan prisoners? In 2014, the CBC broadcast an article on the statistics of contraband entering prisons. The data obtained by CBC showed that corrections seized almost 9,000 unauthorized and contraband items, up almost 2,000 from a few years earlier. That was an increase of 20%. The article noted:

CSC spokesman Jonathan Schofield said the spike is due to enhanced security measures brought in to stem the flow of drugs and other contraband into institutions, including increased searches, random urine tests, and tools such as metal detectors, X-rays, drug-detecting ion scanners and dogs.

Howard Sapers, the former correctional investigator of Canada, said that likely sources of contraband included other people coming in to the prison and sometimes even trusted personnel.

Maybe we should be using body scanners to scan everyone, not just the prisoners, entering our institutions. This will help ensure that everyone inside the institution, prisoners, staff and visitors, all have a safe and secure environment in which to live and work. There are different types of body scanners, some detect drugs, others detect metal. We use them in our airports, and there is no reason we cannot use the most sophisticated equipment in our jail system.

I am not in favour of the recently announced needle exchange program and a good scanning system would eliminate the need for such a program.

We must remember that any legislation brought in that changes how we manage our prisons must take into consideration the safety of our government employees and the safety of other inmates within our institutions. This to me is paramount over catering to the needs of convicted criminals. We must remember they are there because they have committed crimes and are being punished for those crimes. Yes, they have rights to a certain extent, but our institutions are not summer camps or recreational retreats.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to support Bill C-83.

This bill represents a fundamental change in the way we approach corrections in Canada. It would end the practice of administrative segregation in all federal correctional facilities. What is more, it would implement a new correctional intervention model that would ensure that offenders are held to account while creating an environment conducive to their rehabilitation in the interests of everyone's safety.

This is the right thing to do and the safe thing to do. It would keep correctional staff and volunteers safe. It would keep inmates safe, and ultimately it would keep communities safe.

An effective corrections system with appropriate, safe and targeted interventions to deal with difficult, challenging or dangerous situations within a secure environment is in everyone's best interests. That is why Bill C-83 would eliminate segregation and establish structured intervention units or SIUs. These units would provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in these challenging situations. They will be used to manage inmates who cannot be managed safely in the general population.

However, unlike segregation, inmates in these units will receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs to address behaviours that led to their SIU placement. They will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell every day, double the number of hours in the current segregation system. They will have a minimum of two hours of meaningful human interaction every day, including through intervention programs and services. Currently in the segregation system, inmates can spend entire days with virtually no meaningful human interaction.

Inmates in these units will also have daily visits from health care professionals, and because of the strong focus on intervention, inmates in an SIU would be able to continue working on rehabilitation and achieving their correctional plan objectives.

All of this will help facilitate their safe return into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible. The result will be better correctional outcomes, fewer violent incidents and enhanced safety for inmates, staff, volunteers, institutions and, ultimately, the general public.

This bill is a significant step forward for the Canadian correctional system and builds on the good work already under way.

The government has provided almost $80 million over five years through budget 2017 and budget 2018 to better address the mental health needs of inmates. That includes $20.4 million in the last budget specifically for incarcerated women.

There was also about $120 million in budget 2017 to support restorative justice approaches through the indigenous justice program and to help indigenous offenders safely reintegrate and find jobs after serving their sentences.

The goal is to make Canadian communities safer through effective rehabilitation in a secure correctional environment. This is the right policy direction, and it is in line with recent calls for the kind of transformation this bill lays out.

Two constitutional challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found the legislation governing administrative segregation contrary to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are also pending class actions and human rights complaints related to both the use of segregation and what constitutes appropriate mental health care.

In this regard, the bill would also strengthen health care governance. The bill would provide that Correctional Service Canada has the obligation to support health care professionals' autonomy and clinical independence.

It also creates a legal framework for a patient advocacy service to ensure that inmates get the medical care they need.

The bill also enshrines in law CSC's obligation to take into account systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders are considered when making offender management decisions.

The Minister of Justice and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness were given a mandate to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. The government is delivering on that promise.

The bill also includes additional measures to round out all of those elements. It also provides for less invasive alternatives to intrusive body searches. It places greater emphasis on the role of victims in the criminal justice system by allowing them greater access to audio recordings of parole hearings. This is a major improvement over the old system.

Thanks to Bill C-83, going forward, victims will have access to an audio recording of the offender's parole hearing, regardless of whether they attend the hearing.

As I said, this bill is all about safety. It focuses on improving interventions in order to better meet the needs of vulnerable inmates. We need to enhance the safety of our inmates, our correctional staff, our institutions and our communities.

This bill will transform Canada's correctional system in order to achieve those objectives.

Today I am proud to support this bill, and I encourage all members to join me in voting in favour of this historic piece of legislation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
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Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak today in support of the bill in front of the House. It is an important step in the reformation and the improvement of our criminal justice system, in particular, our corrections facilities.

The proposed legislation will eliminate the practice of administrative segregation where inmates are confined to their cells for all but two hours a day, with little or no contact with other people and, most important, with little or no contact with rehabilitative programming, which is fundamental to the restoration of their presence in our society.

Under the new bill, people who need to be separated from the general inmate population for safety reasons will have at least double the amount of time out of their cells and they will have access to programs, interventions, mental health care and meaningful human contact with staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains, visitors and other compatible inmates.

This is good policy and it is also necessary in light of two court decisions declaring administrative segregation unconstitutional, which are scheduled to take effect in the next few months.

In addition, the bill would enshrine in law the clinical autonomy of health care providers in the corrections system. It would create patient advocates, called for through the Ashley Smith inquest, to ensure people in correctional institutions receive the medical care they need. It would also codify the principles stemming from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision, which requires systemic and background factors be considered in decision-making, particularly when it involves indigenous inmates.

This is fundamental to ensure that the majority of inmates who eventually return to society after they have served time are reintegrated in a healthy way, in a productive way, in a human way, in a compassionate way so recidivism is reduced if not eliminated. The absence of these interventions historically and the impact of the absence of them on indigenous peoples have been catastrophic. The rate of recidivism is one of the challenges we have to deal with as a result of the problems we face by not providing this care inside corrections facilities.

The bill would also gives victims the right to an audio recording of their parole hearings, whether or not they attend in person, and it also allows for new search technology to be introduced to the system to once again keep inmates safe and, in this case, corrections officers safe as well.

Bill C-83 would make correctional institutions safer, and it will make all of us safer, because we are all better off and better protected when people who have served their sentences return to our communities prepared to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.

The response of the Conservatives to the legislation is incredibly disappointing. They have almost made a parody of themselves. They put out a press release on Tuesday that called solitary confinement “common and legitimate” despite what the Supreme Court said. For a party that prides itself on law and order, members sure have a tough time listening to the orders of the court system, especially the Supreme Court. It is a pattern.

In other words, the Conservatives go right past arguing that segregation does not meet the international definition of solitary confinement. They are now saying that solitary confinement in and of itself, which the United Nations calls torture if it lasts longer than 15 days, is a good thing. They are not interested in trying to minimize or restrict the use of segregation in Canadian prisons. In fact, they would be fine if it were routine and more widespread. The Conservatives apparently yearn for the good old days of medieval dungeons.

As someone whose parents are Australian, the relationship we have to the corrections system as a culture in the country where my family comes from is a little different. The lack of compassion for the conditions in the prison system traditionally led precisely to recidivism in Australia. The Australian prison system was one of the harshest on the continent at the time it was in operation during the period of transport and the punishment destroyed people's lives.

The corrections facility is not about destroying the lives of people; it is about protecting the public. It is about rehabilitating those who have offended and focusing on reintegration, because not every sentence is a life sentence. When convicted individuals return to our communities, we have a responsibility to try to make them safer, both to themselves and to society at large.

The Conservatives are back in the period of transport as far as one can tell. I do not know where the member who made those statements received his criminology degree, if he has one, but I would bet he is referring to a phenomenon that is being reported by people who are homeless. There is a belief somehow that people try to get into jail because it is so nice. It just is not true.

The reality is that the poverty people are subjected to, the lack of a housing strategy, the lack of supports for people, particularly indigenous people in urban settings, is one of the reasons people have no alternative to prison systems at times. However, no one wants to be in jail. People want an opportunity to have good health and to lead productive lives. The corrections system has to respond to this. We cannot, we must not and we should not make it worse for people, because the impact on the larger population will be present one day.

If the Conservatives, who now suddenly seem preoccupied by poverty and the lack of housing, as they sometimes speak to it in the chamber, are really focused on these issues, I invite them to support the national housing strategy, the poverty reduction strategy. I invite them to support the initiatives and the advancements we have made in indigenous housing, health care and education. We create a safer country by ensuring we do not have crime to begin with. However, when people fall afoul of the law and end up in corrections facilities, we have a responsibility as a society and as a country to make things right and to ensure that when people are released from corrections facilities, they do not present an even greater danger to the public.

When we listen to the Conservatives focus on razor wire and bars and not on the rehabilitation of people who have made terrible mistakes in some cases, we are left speechless as to how they are making society safer through a rehabilitation program. It is not just about punishment; it is also about corrections. That is why the system is called a corrections facility.

One of the things we are investing in through this program is ensuring that the prisons and the correction facilities themselves are safer places for guards to work. When segregation is overused and is used as a tool of punishment, the prisons become more dangerous. It is not fair to corrections workers to jack up the system in such a way that their lives are put at risk as they go about doing their critically important work.

The Conservative public safety critic has caricatured these new units by saying that the inmates will be invited to cuddle together in the exercise yard. The way in which the Conservatives talk about the corrections system is beyond the experience of anyone I have ever talked to who has been through it. Nonetheless they perpetuate these myths and they do at the expense of not only the correction facilities, but also the officers who work there and ultimately society at large.

The truth is that the proposed legislation will create units that are highly structured and secure and within these secure settings, inmates will interact with staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains and visitors. They will get the health care they need to become more productive citizens upon release. They will only interact with other inmates if compatible and that interaction can happen safely and is part of a restorative justice process. It is about making people safer and making our country safer.

The Conservative critic also said in his speech that the current system responded to the needs of prisoners. It does not. More important, it does not respond to society's needs.

We need safer communities and that means reintegration has to be a focus of correction to ensure that when people are released, they do not do more harm to communities.

Most people incarcerated in our federal prison system have some combination of mental illness, addiction, a history of physical or sexual abuse and an upbringing in poverty. None of these excuse the behaviour that put them in jail. If people break the law, they face the consequences. Sentences are real.

However, while they are in custody, we can either leave them to languish in conditions that might aggravate their problems and make them more dangerous upon release or we can take measures within a secure correctional environment to reduce the risk they pose and increase the safety of our communities.

Bill C-83 is all about that. It is why it has my strong support. It is why we are focused on ensuring that the criminal justice system is not just tough on crime, but is also smart on crime. We are using the best practices from around the world to ensure we have the best results after incarceration.

Absolutely people should be jailed for serious crimes. Nobody disagrees with that. Anybody who pretends there is a party in the House that does not think that is fooling folks. The reality is this. When individuals are released from prison, when they are exited from corrections and they are reintegrate into society, we have a moral and a legal obligation to ensure they do not reoffend. That requires us addressing mental health issues, addiction issues and underlying issues which might have been part of the factor as to what put them in prison to begin with.

This is a good bill. It deserves the support of all parties in the House.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 12:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be joining the debate on Bill C-83. I have been intently listening over the last few days to the debate and the argument being made by the Liberal government on the need for this. Several members on the government side have now said that administrative segregation, solitary confinement, is simply unconstitutional. In fact, the parliamentary secretary just said that again and was rightfully corrected by the member for St. Albert—Edmonton.

I will read into the record exactly what Justice Leask said in paragraph 534 of his B.C. Supreme Court decision. He said, “The plaintiffs do not argue that administrative segregation as a practice is unconstitutional”, circa section 12, which is the prohibition in our charter against cruel and unusual punishment, only that it is unconstitutional under a certain set of conditions. The judge, in fact, said no, he did not accept the argument based on section 12 and that it was not unconstitutional to be used.

What BillC-83 would do instead is rename administrative segregation, which is just words, as if the punishment is just being told that one is going into solitary confinement.

It would double the hours and makes additional changes that would make it more difficult for corrections officers to look after violent prisoners in their workplace. Let us be honest. Corrections is not the workplace of prisoners; it is the workplace of guards. Their needs should actually come first. Guards in the prison system have agreed to take on violent criminals on our behalf to ensure the safety of the public.

I am not saying that prisoners should be treated poorly. I heard the parliamentary secretary mention before that Conservatives believe in some kind of medieval dungeon system. That is absolutely ridiculous. Hyperbole is something I have come to expect, particularly from the member. Hyperbole does not belong in the House. That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about a reasonable use of administrative segregation, the way these two courts have determined it should be used. That is not what Bill C-83 would do. It would actually modify it completely.

There is an additional issue we should look at, which is the financials. If we look at the Correctional Service Canada departmental plan 2018-19, signed off by the Minister of Public Safety , we see that over the next few years, there will actually be a drop in real financial resources of 8.8%. In real terms, Correctional Service Canada will have less money to deal with a bigger workload, because let us be frank, this will lead to a bigger workload for prison guards. We are asking them to take violent criminals out of solitary confinement, and I will keep calling it solidarity confinement or administrative segregation, for longer periods of time. We have heard other members on this side of the House mention what exactly is involved. Oftentimes, it is a group of guards who escort a particular criminal for their time out of segregation.

An additional point I want to raise is that in the same departmental plan, over the next two or three years, we see a reduction in full-time equivalent employees of 150 individuals. On one hand, in Bill C-83, the government is saying that it wants to do more. It wants more mental health services. That is great. It wants more for our indigenous prison population. That is great. I am very thankful that it is actually looking after it in that lens. However, where are the financial resources? Where are the people resources to match the lofty language we are hearing in this place? Again, the Liberals say one thing and do another. That is the most I have come to expect from the government.

There is a Yiddish proverb that says, “God punishes but man takes revenge.” The prison system should not be about revenge. It should be about reform. I fervently believe that.

Many members know this, but I studied in the United States for my master's degree. Part of it was local and state administration, where we learned about the prison system in the United States. Every single state is different, but I will give members, as a corollary, the debate that was happening in 2017 in the State of Massachusetts, which has been using solitary confinement. The debate was this: Is 10 years too long to keep someone in solitary confinement? I think all of us here would say, absolutely. That is absolutely wrong. It destroys people's lives. It destroys their mental health. There is ample evidence of that.

However, what we are talking about in Canada is 15 days. What the government is proposing to do is burden prison guards with having to care for sometimes violent criminals, doubling the amount of time they will spend outside, on top of the other exemptions they will provide for them, without providing sufficient financial and people resources in a plan the Minister of Public Safety himself has signed off on.

That causes me to wonder why, who is approving this legislation on the government side and who is approving the departmental plan. I would assume the Minister of Public Safety would have been well versed in the departmental plan that he signed off on and now this piece of legislation I know will lead to greater costs down the road, both in personnel and in financial resources. Personnel do not work for free.

I have a great concern more generally with the Government of Canada's behaviour. On the one hand, it talks a good game and puts out flowery language. We heard about the housing strategy. There is no money in it until late into future governments that will actually have to do something about the so-called housing strategy. There are news releases and pretty photo ops. In fact, the Auditor General of Canada, in the last report, accused the government of putting photo ops ahead of doing anything. That is pretty typical now for the Government of Canada.

We have the Auditor General slamming the government for its behaviour on photo ops, public relations, its public image management in a government report, so we know there is something wrong. It is pretty typical. The Liberals have done this constantly. During the election campaign, they said they had costed out the so-called tax on the rich, which would be paid off by the so-called middle-income bracket tax cut that all of us here enjoyed and that those earning less than $45,000 got zero. They got nothing. The working poor got nothing.

However, the Liberals talked a good game. Then the Department of Finance numbers came out and they were wrong again. They failed at it again. They lost money by the scheme of fleecing the rich, so called, in a vain attempt to try to win public support on the backs of others. It is the bait and switch that we have seen in the House of Commons on a consistent set of issues, and Bill C-83 just happens to be the latest one.

Many of my Conservative colleagues were not calling for a return to medieval dungeons or a return to house segregation. We have heard of the cases where people have died in administrative segregation because it was misused, there were no good rules surrounding when, how and to whom it should apply. What Liberals are proposing with this piece of legislation is completely taking it apart. We know, by looking at the departmental plan, that they have not done their homework. Again, that is pretty typical of the government.

They have not done their homework, they have not consulted with the guards and I am wondering why not. Why would one not ask the men and women in the workplace? This is where they go on a consistent basis. We talk so much in this House about how we work and the type of work environment we want here, but we are going to make it more difficult for prison guards to do their work in their work environment? Prisoners are supposed to be there temporarily to ensure the safety of the public and for rehabilitation. The guards will possibly spend their entire lives there because this is where they work and we are going to make it more difficult. There will be less personnel at Correctional Service Canada by 2020-21 and there will be a real cut of 8.8% in financial resources. I am not the one saying that. That is in the Minister of Public Safety's plan. That is what he has put forward.

I will not be supporting this bill because there is nothing to it. It is a bunch of words on paper that Liberals have put together. They have misapplied the two court rulings and provided no financial or people resources to make it happen. It is bad legislation, it is poorly thought out and it is poor administration on the government's side.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join the debate on second reading of Bill C-83, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

As the Minister of Public Safety told us, our government's top priority is protecting Canadians from natural disasters, threats to national security, and, of course, crime. We are doing a number of things to protect Canadian communities from criminal activity.

One of the most significant things we can do to enhance public safety is make our correctional system as effective as possible in dealing with people who have committed crimes so when their sentences are over they do not commit new ones. Bill C-83, the legislation before us today, will significantly strengthen the ability of our corrections system to achieve that objective and keep Canadians safe.

Following recent court decisions on administrative segregation, Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate segregation and establish structured intervention units, SIUs, which will allow offenders to be separated from mainstream inmate population as required while maintaining their access to rehabilitative programming, interventions and mental health care. If passed, the bill would allow Canada to take a major step forward to having a modern evidence-based correctional system that understands clearly the nexus between the mental health of offenders and the safety of communities.

As colleagues may not be familiar with the concept of administrative segregation, let me take a moment to provide the chamber with a foundational understanding of what it means.

The Correctional Service of Canada defines “administrative segregation” as “the separation of an inmate to prevent association with other inmates, when specific legal requirements are met, other than pursuant to a disciplinary decision.” Even now, while administrative segregation remains a tool that the Correctional Service of Canada has at its disposal, the objective is always to ensure that it is only used for the shortest period of time necessary when there is no reasonable or safe alternative. Clearly, isolating someone almost all day, every day is an extreme measure that must be used rarely and with caution.

In 1955, the United Nations congress on the prevention of crime and treatment of offenders was convened. There, delegates adopted the first iteration of the standard minimal rules for the treatment of prisoners. These represent the very first universally acknowledged minimal standards for the management of prison facilities and the treatment of prisoners. They inform the development of prison policies and practices the world over. They stood the test of time, serving as a standard-bearer for nearly half a century.

In 2011, it was decided that these ought to be updated, and by 2015 a new set of revised rules had been crafted. In December 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the revised rules, known as the “Nelson Mandela rules”, to honour the legacy of the late president of South Africa, who spent 27 years in prison in the course of his struggle for global human rights, equity, democracy and the promotion of a culture of peace. This is important to understand, because one of the primary updates that were made when the Mandela rules were released in 2015 was in the area of discipline and the use of solitary confinement. For the first time, solitary confinement is clearly defined and strict limitations are recommended for its use.

The Mandela rules define “solitary” as “the confinement of inmates for 22 hours or more a day without meaningful human contact.” They prohibit prolonged solitary confinement of more than 15 consecutive days.

Many have argued that these kinds of conditions have the potential to be damaging to the mental health of inmates, with outcomes such as claustrophobia, anger, depression, hallucinations, insomnia, and obsessive ideation or fixation on dying. I am sure all members in this chamber will agree that these outcomes are not ones that we want to see for inmates, who I will remind members are, by and large, going to be released into Canadian society. It is in no one's interest, least of all the general public's, for offenders to enter a correctional institution and come out worse off than when they went in. Although the Mandela rules are not binding on Canada or any other UN member country, they are an important source of guidance and information.

We know that we can always strive to do better when it comes to our criminal justice system and the safety of our communities. That is the spirit behind this bill. Under this new legislation, SIUs would be established to provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety and security risks of inmates who cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. Inmates in an SIU would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific situation, have an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside of their cell, have an opportunity for at least two hours a day of meaningful human contact and receive continued programming to help them progress toward their correctional plan objectives.

At the end of the day, all members of this place must remember this. Almost all federal offenders will return to the community one day. Safe and humane custody and access to programs and services while incarcerated increase the chance that offenders will come back as law-abiding contributing members of society. This creates greater public safety for all Canadians.

It is for these reasons that I support Bill C-83 and encourage all members to do the same.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has brought up some very good points. There are some parts of Bill C-83 that we support, like the scanners that we would like to see a bit further.

Earlier, we asked two different members of the Liberal government about whether they had done the costs. We note in the Liberals' departmental plans that even before wage increases for our correctional officers it is showing, with inflation, about an 8.8% cut in spending. We asked the parliamentary secretary and she said to ignore that because they have spent so much in the last two years. I introduced a Library of Parliament report that shows they actually cut spending to Correctional Service in their first three years of government. We asked another Liberal member of Parliament, who said that the Conservatives cut money to border services. I would be happy to table this report that shows the Liberals have cut money to CBSA since they came to power.

Has the member across the way done the study on how much this is going to cost in services? Where are they going to find the money to provide the extra officers to escort the prisoners and to renovate the prisons, when they are showing in their own departmental plan that they are cutting resources to Correctional Services? This is not a partisan question. This is a safety issue for our corrections officers. How are we going to provide resources to them when we are showing at the same time that we are burdening them with extra work, but we are cutting their resources in the Liberals' plan?

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October 19th, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to be rising in the House to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. Before I go any further, I want to express my unqualified admiration and appreciation for the incredible and very important work done by the employees of the Correctional Service of Canada and Drummond Institution, especially the mental health professionals.

I have had the opportunity to meet with their union representatives on several occasions to learn more about what they are dealing with. What they go through every day is not easy. I take my hat off to them for doing such a terrific job. They deserve the highest praise.

I should note that these employees have been affected by the infamous Phoenix pay system problems. In 2017, 60% of the employees of Drummond Institution had issues with the Phoenix pay system. Sadly, the people at Drummond Institution have had a rough time, whether because of their poor working conditions or because of the Phoenix pay system fiasco.

Again, I thank the people at Drummond Institution who work hard to keep our communities safe while inmates serve their sentences. They also do all the work involved in rehabilitating the inmates so that they can contribute to our society and our community when they leave prison.

I now want to get into the context around Bill C-83 because that has an impact on today's debate. By the minister's own admission, the bill was only ever meant to address some of the concerns expressed by the courts in their rulings.

First, the Supreme Court of British Columbia explicitly said that there are not enough tools for ensuring that a lawyer is present during administrative segregation hearings. Inmates are put in administrative segregation without independent third-party oversight, which would allow for a second opinion before proceeding.

It also mentioned the inhumane conditions resulting from overuse of administrative segregation and the fact that a predetermined time limit on the use of administrative segregation had been ignored. That is extremely important. There has to be a limited number of days and even hours during which inmates can remain in administrative segregation.

That ties in with part of the ruling from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which states that more than 48 hours in administrative segregation may cause serious and irreversible mental health problems. Earlier we were talking about rehabilitation. That is another very important aspect. When people have served their sentence and reintegrate into society, we do not want their mental health to be aggravated by their stay in prison. We want them to be rehabilitated so that they can contribute to our community in a positive and constructive way.

That is the most troubling part.

The use of administrative segregation has been found to be abusive by the correctional investigator countless times and in countless reports that he has published over the past decade.

In addition, some vulnerable populations, such as women with mental health issues and indigenous peoples, are overrepresented in administrative segregation. More than 42% of inmates in administrative segregation are indigenous. This situation is obviously quite problematic.

What exactly does this bill do? We are concerned that it is nothing more than a repackaged administrative segregation system. The name is different, but inmates can still be kept in segregation for an indeterminate period of time, for up to 20 hours a day. The government claims that this is a big step forward, since the maximum will be 20 hours instead of 22, but that is essentially the same. This is obviously just window dressing.

This can cause permanent damage to inmates' mental health. These inmates will be returning to society. We do not want their mental health to be permanently damaged. On the contrary, we want them to be rehabilitated and to reintegrate into society.

I am a teacher by profession. Some of my colleagues teach in the adult education program at the Drummond Institution to help inmates do everything they can to improve their situation when they return to society. These are good things that are happening in our correctional institutions. It is important to mention them and to point out all the work that is being done, as I mentioned at the beginning of my speech.

The current situation is very difficult. Very painful things have happened. There was the tragic death of Ashley Smith and the subsequent recommendations from the coroner. In June 2017, 399 federal inmates were in administrative segregation and 94 of them had been there for over 90 consecutive days. Over 90 consecutive days in administrative segregation can have an impact on a person's mental health. It is just not right.

Instead, we need to improve the situation in our correctional institutions. How is it that we still have overcrowded prisons? How is it that we still have a lack of mental health care professionals? How is it that there is a lack of programs for inmates so that they can get the training they need to find jobs when they get out of prison?

That is extremely important. We need a different approach to administrative segregation, with limits and external oversight so that there is a different point of view from that of prison workers.

In recent years, the two rulings that I mentioned earlier have shown how important it is to implement legislation that is much more structured than Bill C-83, which will do little to to change the situation.

Many studies have shown that prolonged administrative segregation can trigger or aggravate certain psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, depression, impulsiveness, hypersensitivity to external stimuli, and more. It can increase the number of suicide attempts or make inmates suicidal.

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October 19th, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-83.

One of the things that I find truly remarkable about this bill is that specific measures were taken for the rehabilitation process of inmates with mental health problems.

Before becoming an MP, I promised myself to go see things that I could not see as a regular citizen. The first such thing was to visit a military base and meet the men and women who are committed to serving the country.

The second was to visit a prison. I knew that the reality in penitentiaries was quite different from that of ordinary Canadians. In December 2016, I had the privilege of visiting a penitentiary and that experience had a real impact on me. I saw the conditions that criminals are living in. There certainly are people who deserve to be there, but they will leave prison one day. It is important to provide all the necessary services to give them the best chances to reintegrate into civil society.

I visited two men's prisons. The inmates not only have trouble obeying the law, but also have mental health issues. I am very proud that this bill will give them access to services that can help them learn to deal with their mental illness. I think a holistic, comprehensive solution to all this is key to ensuring that people have a chance to deal with their problems. In many cases, mental illness is what led these people to break the law.

That is why I am very proud to participate in this debate and support this bill. The program will enable inmates to reintegrate thanks to better services that help them deal with their mental illness.

The second reason I am so proud to participate in developing this program is that it will give us an opportunity to take a close look at issues affecting indigenous populations. As we all know, 4% of Canada's population is indigenous. I went to Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, to visit the penitentiary, where the majority of the population is indigenous. In general, penitentiary populations are between 26% and 28% indigenous.

That is six to seven times higher than their demographic weight, which I think indicates a number of things. First, we need to do better with respect to many issues affecting indigenous communities. Second, systemic discrimination exists in our criminal justice system. We need to do everything we can to tackle these issues. I was very proud to hear the speech given by the Minister of Justice last June, I think, when she was introducing Bill C-75. She said that we are going to try to address this, because it is extremely important.

As a black Canadian, I am well aware that people in the black community are also victims. There were a lot of black inmates in the prison I visited in 2016, even though it was in a very remote area of Saskatchewan. This also indicates that there is a problem with systemic discrimination in our justice system. We need to address and resolve these issues. I am proud to say that the provisions of this bill will give us the opportunity to ensure that all services are provided, which is very important and can improve the chances that these individuals will be able to successfully integrate into society. That is the goal.

We are not like some people who believe that humans can be treated like animals, that you can put them in a cage, lock the door and throw away the key. That is not acceptable. That is inhumane. That view is not worthy of a civilized society such as ours. We must ensure that we properly address these issues. When people break the law, there definitely will be consequences. Those people deserve to be in jail, but we must plan for and consider the day that they will get out of jail.

We cannot just punish them. We also have to teach them how to be members of our civilized society and how to be good citizens. In order to do that, we have an obligation to ensure that they receive all services they need to better adapt and better reintegrate into our society. I encourage all my colleagues who have not yet done so to follow my lead and visit a penitentiary or a prison.

That will change their minds. That will encourage members to focus on finding solutions that will help these people to get out of jail, learn their lesson and learn to obey the laws and customs of a civil society. If they do not, there will be consequences. However, we want to ensure that these people are ultimately well reintegrated into our society. That is why I am delighted to learn that we will have services to try to help these people address their mental health issues.

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October 19th, 2018 / 1:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

While there are some measures in the bill that are positive, on the whole, I cannot support Bill C-83. I cannot support Bill C-83, because important aspects of the bill, significant aspects of the bill, put criminals ahead of public safety. They put criminals ahead of our correctional officers, employees in correctional institutions. These are folks who work in some of the most difficult and dangerous work environments in Canada. Indeed, one could say that Bill C-83 is part of a Liberal scheme to put criminals first.

Perhaps the biggest problem I have with Bill C-83 is the fact that it would eliminate, right across the board, in all circumstances, both administrative and disciplinary segregation.

Under section 31 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, segregation is a last resort. The institutional head may only order that an inmate be segregated when there are reasonable grounds under one of three criteria: first, the inmate poses a security risk to the institution or to an individual in that institution; second, again as a last resort, there is a need to protect the integrity of an investigation; and third, it is necessary to protect the inmate from harm. Not only that, under section 31 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, an inmate must be released from segregation at the earliest opportunity.

If we listened to the speeches from members on the Liberal side and the NDP side, we would think it was something that occurred on a routine basis. In fact, when it comes to segregation, the criteria are high, the standard is high, and very few inmates are subjected to it.

Indeed, if one looks at the statistics, in 2014-15, 638 inmates across Canada were subject to administrative segregation. That number fell to 430 in 2016-17, and as of July 31, 2017, fewer than 300 inmates were subject to administrative segregation. The number of inmates who were subjected to disciplinary segregation is even lower: five in 2010-11 among male inmates, down to three in 2014-15; among female inmates, the number was zero, other than one year, 2012-13, when one female inmate was subjected to disciplinary segregation.

While the standard is high, and while it is only used in the rarest circumstances, make no mistake about it, segregation is an important tool to deal with, in some cases, the most dangerous and violent offenders in our institutions. Members do not have to take my word for it. They can take the word of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who said, in regard to Bill C-83, “the new Bill C-83 must not sacrifice disciplinary segregation as a tool to deter violent behaviour.” This is the union that represents the men and women who work in correctional institutions.

However, instead of listening to them, the government ignored them. The government totally disregarded them and said that it had no choice, because the courts made it do it.

Balderdash, that the courts made the government do it. There are two court decisions. The parliamentary secretary said the Supreme Court of Canada made the government do it. He had to stand up in his place and admit there was no Supreme Court of Canada decision. However, neither of the lower court decisions contemplates the elimination of segregation in all circumstances, nor does the 1996 Arbour commission, nor do the UN Mandela rules.

It seems the only people who want to eliminate it in all circumstances are the Liberals at the expense of the safety and security of correctional officers and at the expense of the safety and security of inmates. The government should be ashamed.

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October 18th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
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Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, given the nature of the legislation we are about to discuss today pertaining to the correctional system, I want to take this moment to recognize that the family, friends and colleagues of a correctional officer, the late Lesa Zoerb, will be gathering tomorrow for her funeral service in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. Lesa lost her life in a vehicle crash while on duty last week. She was born in Regina. She had two children. She had worked as a federal correctional officer for 20 years.

I know everyone in this House will want to join with me in extending our deepest condolences to all those who are mourning the loss of Lesa, especially her loving family.

May she rest in peace.

I will now move on to the legislation at hand. What we are doing today is opening the second reading debate on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The act is all about greater safety, security and effectiveness within Canada's correctional system. It follows two superior court decisions that have imposed certain deadlines on Parliament, which will be coming up toward the end of this year.

Our government's top priority is protecting Canadians from natural disasters, threats to national security, and, of course, crime. We are doing a number of things to protect Canadian communities from criminal activity.

To protect Canadian communities from criminal activity, we are supporting law enforcement and ensuring that the brave women and men who serve our communities have the resources they need to do their jobs. We are funding programs that help keep young Canadians out of gangs and provide them with more positive opportunities and choices. We are addressing some of the social determinants of crime, like poverty, housing and education. We are combatting gun smuggling at the border and the flow of illegal cash into organized crime. We are also advancing new legislation to tackle some of the most serious threats to the safety of our communities, like gun violence and impaired driving.

Another significant thing we can do to enhance public safety is to make our correctional system as effective as possible at dealing with people who have committed crimes, so that when their sentences are over they are prepared to go straight and not commit new crimes.

Certainly, there are some offenders who have received life sentences from the courts and who may never be granted any form of conditional release by the Parole Board. However, the vast majority will eventually return to our communities, which is why the main responsibility of our correctional system is to do as much as possible to ensure that when offenders are released, they are ready to leave their criminal past behind them and to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives.

We all want fewer offenders, fewer victims and safer communities. Achieving that is obviously no easy task. It involves an expert, accurate assessment of each offender's issues, needs and criminogenic risk, both at intake and on an ongoing basis. It involves meeting those needs and reducing those risks through appropriate interventions, programming, education, skills training and gradual supervised release, as opposed to simply sending an offender cold turkey straight from maximum security back into society.

It also involves any required treatment for addiction or mental health. The Correctional Service of Canada estimates that about 70% of all inmates exhibit symptoms of some form of mental illness. In administrative segregation, more than one-third of men and virtually all women have moderate to high mental health issues.

The legislation before us today would significantly strengthen the ability of our correctional system to achieve the objectives of the system and to keep Canadians safe. Safety is job number one.

To begin with, the bill introduces an innovative new way of dealing with offenders who for one reason or another cannot be housed within the general population of a correctional institution. At the moment, those offenders are placed in administrative segregation. Segregated inmates are allowed two hours out of their cell per day and interactions with other people are tightly limited. While the correctional service tries to avoid interruptions and interventions in programming, practical considerations make that very difficult to do.

Intense debate about administrative segregation has been ongoing for many years. Despite the fact that the practice harkens back to the treatment of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island and has been branded by some as a form of torture, particularly by comments at the United Nations, there are those who have defended administrative segregation as a valuable security management tool.

On the other side of the debate, the use of segregation has been vigorously criticized by the correctional investigator, by the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith a number of years ago, by many NGOs and most recently by a number of Canadian courts.

Within the last year, courts in both Ontario and British Columbia have ruled in different ways and for different reasons that administrative segregation as currently practised is not constitutional. Those rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party, but at the moment they are scheduled to take effect in just a few months, toward the end of this year and the beginning of next year, and we as a Parliament need to be prepared for that eventuality. That is part of the reason for the timing of Bill C-83 today.

There can be no doubt that within a correctional institution it is essential to have an effective way of separating certain people from others be it for their own safety or for the safety of staff and volunteers or for the safety of other inmates.

The question that we have been examining is how to do that effectively while maintaining as much as possible the offender's access to the programming, the mental health care and the other interventions that are available to the general population, especially given that the people who end up in segregation often have needs and risks that are particularly acute.

The solution that we are proposing in Bill C-83 is to completely eliminate the existing practice of administrative segregation and replace it with a new approach, and that is the creation of structured intervention units, or SIUs.

These units will be separate from the general population so that the safety imperative will be met. But they will be designed and they will be staffed and resourced to ensure that the people who are placed there will receive the interventions, the programming and the treatment that is required.

Inmates in SIUs will be out of their cells for at least four hours daily, with a minimum of two hours of meaningful interaction with staff, volunteers, elders, visitors or other compatible inmates.

Additional mental health professionals will be hired and assigned specifically to the SIUs. The legislation will make it clear that inmates are not to be separated from the general population any longer than necessary.

This new approach will help to ensure the safety of correctional institutions and the public by strengthening the capacity of the Correctional Service of Canada to promote rehabilitation in a secure environment.

Bill C-83 also includes several other related measures to further that same objective. For example, it would implement a key recommendation from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith to establish a system of patient advocates for inmates with mental needs. Patient advocates would work with offenders and correctional staff to help ensure that people in federal custody receive appropriate medical care.

The legislation would also enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals working in the corrections system must be free to exercise their professional judgment autonomously on the basis of their own medical expertise. These measures would, ultimately, enhance public safety because offenders whose medical and mental health issues are under control are more likely to achieve safe and successful rehabilitation and less likely to reoffend after they have served their sentences.

The bill would also formalize the obligation on the part of the Correctional Service of Canada to take into account systemic and background factors affecting indigenous people when making offender management decisions. The consideration of these factors is, in fact, an obligation that was established by the Supreme Court of Canada in the 1999 Gladue decision. For 15 years, Correctional Service Canada has had policy directives in place implementing that obligation, but now it would be enshrined in law.

As we all know, indigenous people are dramatically overrepresented in our corrections system, and that is a harsh reality that we all have to work hard to change. While the socio-economic factors that cause this overrepresentation must generally be addressed by other departments and agencies before incarceration occurs, it is the responsibility of the corrections system to provide indigenous offenders with both appropriate consequences for criminal activity, as well as effective and culturally appropriate rehabilitative interventions. The changes made by this bill would help ensure that is the case.

This legislation would also expand the access of victims to information related to parole hearings. Currently, a victim who does not attend a parole hearing is entitled to receive an audio recording of the hearing, but for some reason, if victims do attend, they lose their right to receive a recording, and that just does not make much sense. Attending parole hearings can be a very difficult experience for victims of crime and their families, and we have seen that demonstrated in recent days. They cannot possibly be expected to retain every word of what is said, nor should they have to. If, after the hearing is over, it is all a bit of a blur and they would like to listen to the proceedings again in a more comfortable setting, they should be able to do that, and this bill would give them that right.

This bill would also allow for the use of body scanner technology to help keep contraband substances out of federal correctional institutions. These kinds of devices are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities. They make it easier for officers to detect when someone is trying to smuggle in drugs or other illicit materials and they are less invasive than other methods of security, like strip searches, for example. Keeping contraband out of correctional facilities would help make institutions as safe and secure as possible. The safety of employees, volunteers, visitors and inmates is an absolute prerequisite for all the other work that Correctional Service Canada does.

In other words, the legislation that is before us today in Bill C-83 recognizes two things. The first is that institutional security is an absolute imperative that the Correctional Service of Canada must always meet.

Second, the safety of Canadian communities depends on the rehabilitative work that happens within secure correctional institutions. The new structured intervention units being created by Bill C-83 will help keep institutions safe by ensuring that inmates can be separated from the general population when that is necessary and they will help keep Canadian communities safe by ensuring the continuity of rehabilitative programming and the accessibility of mental health care for the inmates in these units.

Let us be clear. Providing quality, rehabilitative programming and mental health care is not about being nice to criminals. Rather, by having a correctional system that is as effective as possible at preventing people who have broken the law from breaking it again, we are increasing the safety of our communities. That is our priority and that is why we are introducing this legislation, taking full account of the most recent decisions of Canadian courts. I look forward very much to the constructive input of all colleagues in the House, both during today's debate and throughout the legislative process on Bill C-83.

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October 18th, 2018 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. In our opinion, the Liberals' bill reeks of improvisation. Allow me to explain.

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, which is a good idea; to establish parameters for access to health care; and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health conditions.

Obviously, the bill in question contains some reasonable measures that are worth examining. We should all consider how we can change and improve the overall prison program.

In a recent ruling, the Ontario Superior Court called into question the legality of indefinite solitary confinement, but the Liberals are appealing that decision. This is what I mean about improvisation. On one hand, the Liberals are appealing the court's decision, but on the other they are introducing a bill that introduces major changes. It is difficult to follow the Liberals' logic.

As far as administrative segregation is concerned, let me share a concrete example. Last week, I was invited to Donnacona Institution, a maximum-security federal penitentiary in the Quebec City region. Representatives for correctional authorities made presentations and the union shared its concerns. Then, during the tour of the penitentiary, I was brought to the administrative segregation area so that I could see what it is. They even brought out an inmate who was in administrative segregation, a murderer who has been incarcerated for 41 years and has spent only three months out of segregation. He committed other major crimes as well.

He came to see me and said that he wanted to stay in what is referred to as the “hole”, in other words, administrative segregation. That person does not want to be with the other inmates. He has been incarcerated for 41 years and says that administrative segregation suits him best. The correctional officers asked me what they are supposed to do with him since he wants to stay there. If he is forced to return to the general population that will cause problems. It is hard to know what to do or to assess the usefulness of administrative segregation.

Getting back to the bill, this legislation also applies to transfers and allows the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary and all areas within penitentiaries. I do not understand that. In a maximum-security penitentiary, such as Donnacona, nothing gets in or out without the strictest controls. I know from experience because I had to go through several steps when I went to visit. Maximum security means maximum security, period.

As I understand it, under this bill, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium- or minimum-security penitentiary. If that is not the case, someone will correct me. If we are talking about basic safety, that simply does not make sense. A maximum-security classification cannot just be assigned to an individual cell at a minimum-security facility. That would be absolutely ridiculous, since the facility's entire perimeter and security system would not be designed to guarantee maximum security. Someone needs to explain that, because I do not understand.

I firmly believe that Canada has one of the best correctional systems in the world, both for prisoners and for guards. Everyone can agree that criminals need to serve their sentences, as required by law. However, a prison must not become a five-star Holiday Inn, because that will give prisoners no motivation to renounce the criminal lifestyle. When someone goes to jail, they should feel like they are in jail. They should want to leave and never come back once their sentence is up.

If prisoners decide they do not like life on the outside and do bad things so they can go back to jail—which is something that is already happening, because they get free room and board, are cared for and have all their needs met—then there is a problem. This is not the way to help people get back on the straight and narrow.

I was eager to see the bill. After a preliminary reading, I see some good points. It is not all bad. Just because we are in opposition, that does not mean we can only see the negative side. By no means. For example, using body scanners is a great idea. In fact, it is one of the things I wanted to recommend to the minister.

The problem is the spirit of the law. These are the worst criminals in Canada. They are murderers, rapists, you name it, and they are in maximum security prisons. They are the worst people in Canada. The intent of the law is to take these people and create a structured intervention unit for them. They will spend less time in cells, and they will be put together to give each other hugs and to talk. There is a very liberal attitude underlying all of this, which I understand is about believing that everyone is good, everyone is kind.

However, as I was saying, when I was at Donnacona I saw some videos about what happens in the corridors and with inmates. Those people are hardened criminals. They will attack one another on the slightest pretext. I was even shown a video of an inmate who was knifed in the head by another inmate. There is incredible violence. The most dangerous inmates, the ones who do not want to co-operate, are put into isolation cells so they can be controlled.

Then there are the victims. The inmate who was attacked in the video I saw knew that something was going on. He knew that his life was in danger. These people ask to be put in segregation. They do not ask to be put in segregation so they can get touchy-feely with the most dangerous inmates. This is not how it works. This person wants to be isolated, in a quiet cell, which, I should add, is nothing like what you see in the movies. People imagine the hole like a dungeon at Alcatraz, where the guards slam the door and the room is completely black. These cells are the same size as the ones in normal sections. They are exactly the same, just more private. Inmates are segregated either to be put under control or to give them the peace they need to be safe. That is what segregation is about.

I am not suggesting that nobody ever abuses the system. I am not suggesting that, over the years, people such as prison wardens have not abused the system. That may have happened, but again, why lay down a general rule to deal with exceptions? There have been exceptions. If certain individuals have taken inappropriately draconian measures, then they need to be told they did not do their job properly, and they need to be fired. Why change the whole prison system? Why change a way of doing things that works in that setting? The existing laws are fine if they are applied properly. They meet the needs of correctional officers and inmates.

Prisoners have diverse needs, and many of them ask to go to the hole. The man I was talking about, who has been in prison for 41 years, wants something unusual. He wants his own blankets and he wants to stay there. The warden is trying to figure out what to do about him. It is complicated. However, we have serious concerns about the idea of taking people who are in segregation and making them hang out together for four hours. That is not really the right place for it.

This is part of the Liberals' current approach to security. Canadians are very skeptical of our Prime Minister's security plan. Take, for example, our border crossings; or the government's handling of Canadians who decided it was more fun to go play with terrorists, kill people, come back and pick up their lives as though nothing had happened; or even our soldiers. For the past three years, the Liberal government's record has shown us that it has something akin to contempt for the people who work to keep Canada safe and secure. The government's management of our Canadian forces is appalling. I served for 22 years and I have friends who are still in the system. I can say that they are very disheartened by the current government.

Police officers are doing what they can. They are being put in impossible situations, just as they are with the legalization of marijuana. Police officers are saying they will make it work, because they are professionals and they have no choice. In the real world, if you speak to them privately, they will tell you that it is not working and they do not have what they need. We saw how great it was yesterday with everyone lining up to buy their pot. I have to wonder who all these people are who have time to wait in the rain for three hours on a Wednesday to buy drugs. Police officers are saying they will be the ones left to deal with that. The government says the police will sort it out, they are up to the task. That is disrespectful to our security agencies.

The same goes for prisons. 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 the worst criminals in Canada. The Liberals like to think that everyone is nice and everything is peachy, but that is the worst way to think when dealing with these prisoners.

They are the greatest manipulators. They do anything they can to manipulate others to get what they want. They want to control their environment. This is difficult for our officers, who work 24/7 to keep these prisoners under control and keep the guards and the rest of the prisoners safe.

Next, I want to talk about syringes. We have a problem because the government just decided that it would use taxpayer money to give syringes to all inmates who ask for them, so that they can inject drugs. How is it that people are able to inject drugs in prison? Is the correctional setting not supposed to keep them away from all that? Drugs are smuggled in by visitors. They hide drugs in all kinds of places, but I will leave that up to your imagination. All kinds of things are brought into prison, usually through visitors and corrupt officers. It is no secret that this happens.

I am pleased because, under the bill, all prisoners will be required to undergo body scan searches. However, mandatory scans will also be required for all visitors. This measure was included in the bill in response to a request from the Donnacona Institution, and I am pleased to see that it is going to happen. Ontario and British Columbia are already conducting such searches. Body scan searches will make it possible to control at least 95% of the substances that individuals bring into prisons because they will show whether there is anything hidden in an individual's body. That will allow us to prevent drugs from entering prisons. If body scan searches keep drugs out of prisons, then we can immediately suspend the needle distribution program.

Prisoners will keep the needles. The most serious criminals with best ideas for doing the greatest harm will have needles in their possession. That does not make any sense. We are giving prisoners weapons. These people have a lot of imagination; we have no idea just how much. I saw a chart at the Donnacona Institution of everything that the guards had confiscated. Some inmates spend two months rubbing a nail clippers on part of their bed to create a knife. They are patient. They are there for a long time. They will take the needles from the syringes to make weapons. They will be able to make blades with the spoons provided to cook drugs.

I believe that the government knows all of this. If the government understands, why is it doing this? Why is it not thinking things through and using common sense to say that it will do things the right way by installing scanning equipment and preventing drugs from entering so needles are no longer needed? We should forget about this absolutely ridiculous program which endangers the safety of our correctional officers.

We cannot support Bill C-83 in its present form. Basically, there are some things that work, such as installing scanning equipment. However, we believe that creating structured intervention units is just smoke and mirrors. This shows that the government does not understand the prison system.

Last week, my colleague from Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier and I toured a prison. The unions gave presentations to all elected members of the House. Even our Liberal and NDP colleagues heard from the unions about their concerns and were asked to stop thinking that a federal penitentiary is a fantasy world. I am referring to the prison near Quebec City, but the same applies to every federal penitentiary in Canada.

Take the McClintic case, for example. This murderer's transfer from a maximum-security prison to an indigenous healing lodge got a lot of people talking two weeks ago. This is someone who ought to be serving her sentence in a maximum-security prison. In maximum-security prisons, each offender has their own cell. They eat, they sleep, they take classes if they so choose, and then they go back to their cells. They are protected because they are living in a maximum-security environment. However, for some incomprehensible reason, it was decided to send this person to a place with virtually no security.

From what I gather from Bill C-83, room 83 at the healing lodge, to use a random number, will be considered a maximum-security room. If I read between the lines, that is basically what the Liberals want to do. The end result will be a place surrounded by beautiful pine trees where room 83 is a maximum-security room.

Ms. McClintic will be in room 83, the maximum-security room.

Do they think we are idiots? Either they must be idiots or they think we are, to believe that would work. I hope that I am wrong and that what I am saying is false.

If what I am saying turns out to be the truth, then this government is really dangerous to Canadians' safety. It does not care what a maximum-security prison sentence means or what keeping Canadians safe means.

Then there are the victims. Let us put ourselves in the shoes of victims who are seeing the murderer who killed their father, mother, brother or sister end up in such conditions.

What must they be thinking? They must be wondering what country we live in. What kind of country lets its worst citizens spend their sentence in such conditions by claiming room 83 is a maximum-security room? This is a serious problem.

I could go on about this for two hours, but I think that Canadians know that this government is not serious and that it puts Canadians' safety at risk. If this keeps up, things are bound to get worse. Otherwise, then the government should prove it by 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. This approach is not in line with what we as Conservatives consider to be effective management of a penitentiary.

On that note, I move, seconded by the hon. member for Cariboo—Prince George:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, since the Bill prioritizes the rights of Canada's most violent and dangerous criminals over safety and victims' rights by eliminating the use of solitary confinement, a common measure many Western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners, and since the principle of the Bill fails to end the practice of allowing child killers, like Terri-Lynn McClintic, to be transferred to healing lodges instead of being kept behind bars.”

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. If I am not mistaken, when our government was in power, measures were put in place to help inmates with mental health problems. We recognize that mental health is an issue and we do not want to hide that, on the contrary. We have already taken measures and now we are prepared to help people so that they do not fall any deeper into depression than they already are.

The fact is that we believe Bill C-83 goes way too far in how its perspective of the reality on the ground, the reality of prisoner management. It goes to an extreme that does not work. The government could have proposed a more balanced approach, a different perspective, but this bill is way too extreme. It will not work.

I agree with my colleague that it may be problematic to keep people in solitary confinement for long periods of time without cause, but this bill does not resolve that issue.