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 18th, 2018 / 11 a.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, during my work on my private member's bill, Bill C-211, which includes correctional officers, I spoke at length with correctional officers regarding the fact that they were the front line. They see, hear and experience oftentimes the worst of our society.

In a recent statement by the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, he mentioned that over 100 assaults on officers over the last 12 months had taken place at the Regional Psychiatric Centre. Does our hon. colleague feel that the removal of disciplinary tools, such as what Bill C-83 proposes, enhances the security of correctional officers or does it make them more vulnerable to assault?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 11:05 a.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Madam Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-83, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in response to several court rulings and a debate over administrative segregation that has raged in Canada for years.

I want to thank organizations like the John Howard Society, the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, which are leading the charge against the overuse of administrative segregation. They won out in two slightly different court rulings.

Before I start, I want to give some background on those court rulings because they impact today's debate. The minister himself said that Bill C-83 is partly intended as a response to the concerns expressed by the court.

Let us start with the Supreme Court of British Columbia. In its recent decision, the court explicitly said that there are not enough tools for ensuring, for example, that a lawyer is present during administrative segregation hearings. It also mentioned the inhumane conditions imposed by overuse of administrative segregation and the fact that a predetermined time limit on the use of administrative segregation had been ignored.

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 caused serious, irreversible mental health problems. This also ties in with the UN's finding that more than two weeks in administrative segregation can be defined as a form of torture. These findings are so important.

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. We also see that an overrepresentation of certain vulnerable populations in administrative segregation shows that there is not only an abusive use, but an extremely problematic use that can exacerbate problems in some cases and hinder rehabilitation efforts of certain inmates in our correctional system.

For example, there is an overrepresentation of women with mental health problems. There is also an overrepresentation of indigenous peoples, since 42% of inmates in administrative segregation are indigenous peoples. It is mind-boggling to see just how overrepresented indigenous peoples are in administrative segregation. Let us not forget that they are already overrepresented the general prison population.

The decision brought forward by the Supreme Court of British Columbia, following efforts by, among others, the BC Civil Liberties Association, made it clear that the Correctional Service of Canada was acting in a way that was deemed to be unconstitutional under section 7.

What did the government do following a very clear prescription from that court about what could be done in order to remedy the situation? It appealed that decision, and that was shameful. It was interesting that in June 2017, certainly before that decision was made, the government had legislation before the House, which is still on the Order Paper, Bill C-56.

Bill C-56 sought to remedy, in part, the issue before us today, the issue of solitary confinement, by imposing a 21-day limit that would then be followed by a review. Despite any decision that might be made, any findings of abuse or overuse of solitary confinement, there was no independent mechanism to act on any findings of abuse. All that was required to prolong the 21-day period was for the warden, the head of the institution, to provide reasons in writing. To be honest, that is a pretty low threshold for continuing with a practice that has already been deemed, as I have said on several instances, to be problematic.

We are not the only ones saying this. This is something that has been going on for a long time. As I said in my question to the minister, Justice Arbour long ago called for judicial oversight of the use of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, if members prefer less Orwellian language for what this practice actually is. That followed a commission on certain events in the women's prison in Kingston. That recommendation has so far gone unanswered, not to mention the many recommendations that followed from the investigation into the circumstances surrounding the horrible situation with Ashley Smith.

This leads me to another troubling statistic. Between 2011 and 2014, 14 inmates who found themselves in solitary confinement committed suicide. This is a public safety issue. Let us be clear. Using a tool that exacerbates mental health situations in corrections and diminishes the ability of corrections to rehabilitate those offenders will inevitably cause a public safety concern with respect to recidivism and other things.

That is why, when we look at the tools being used, understanding that corrections officers need tools to ensure safety within the institutions they manage, we also have to understand the danger that can be created by exacerbating existing issues and the importance of prioritizing rehabilitation.

I would like to read the testimony of some experts in order to demonstrate to what extent the bill before us is problematic.

I will read the press release issued yesterday by Senator Kim Pate, who was the then CEO of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies.

Senator Pate said:

With respect to segregation, Bill C-83, is not only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice as “Structured Intervention Units”, the new bill...also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use.

Moreover, she adds:

Bill C-83 also maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making. Under the new legislation, all decision making regarding when and how long prisoners are to be segregated will be made by a CSC administrator without the review of any third party.

The last sentence in that paragraph goes to an earlier point I made:

This change represents another step away from Justice Louise Arbour's recommendation for judicial oversight of corrections following the Commission of Inquiry into Certain Events at the Prison for Women in Kingston.

I agree with Senator Pate.

It is quite disturbing that, in media articles and in his comments, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness is trying to give the impression that the government is working to eliminate administrative segregation. That is just a sham.

Let us be clear. What the government is really trying to do is to make a few changes to the administrative segregation process in correctional institutions. In fact, all they are doing is calling it something else. It is disturbing, since the government is appealing a decision of the B.C. Supreme Court that clearly identifies the problems with administrative segregation.

In a media scrum after the bill was introduced earlier this week, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness implied that what they are calling it now is no longer administrative segregation. They appear to believe that by changing what they call it, they can avoid their obligations with respect to administrative segregation imposed by the Supreme Court and listed by the United Nations.

The senator is not the only one to say so, and I would also like to share with the House the opinion of a correctional investigator.

The correctional investigator, Dr. Ivan Zinger, shares the same assessment as Senator Pate, and that I have made, of the proposed legislation. Dr. Zinger told iPolitics:

We may end up with a regime that touches more people and that is very restrictive.... This is a widening of the net of those restrictive environments. There’s no procedural safeguard.

Two things in this passage are extremely important. Not only will administrative segregation continue under another name, but they are going to be casting a wider net. This will drag in more inmates, who may also belong to vulnerable groups that are already overrepresented in administrative segregation.

There is no procedure in place for reviewing or appealing decisions to place inmates in administrative segregation. The lack of third-party review and an appeal mechanism is extremely disturbing.

When I asked the minister the question, he said that it was not important and that there were already mechanisms in place, including multiple reviews by the commissioner and a review by the institution’s warden.

That is simply not enough. It has been clearly found and established in correctional investigators’ reports, court decisions and United Nations resolutions that there has been abusive use of administrative segregation. According to the experts and in my own opinion, it is not enough to simply rely on wardens’ and the commissioner’s decisions. Of course, these individuals have a certain expertise. They are responsible for managing their institutions, and we respect that.

However, once it has been determined that there has been abuse, there must be a recourse mechanism for putting a stop to that abuse.

That is the problem with some of the measures concerning the new powers that would be given to recognized health care professionals. On the surface, and in a somewhat substantive way, this is a positive thing. However, there are two key issues with what health care professionals could do under Bill C-83.

The first is how we define the health issues on which those health care professionals could act. Experts are already saying that there is a concern that some health care issues that may be identified as not essential by a warden or an administrator in a corrections institute would go without the proper treatment and that the arbitrary way in which such a determination could be made is obviously cause for concern.

The other piece is that even if a determination was made by a registered health care professional, or someone that person had delegated, offenders, inmates, who found themselves in solitary confinement, or this new SIU in Bill C-83, and then for a variety of physical and mental health reasons should no longer be in such a situation, would have no recourse. Those findings would be presented to the administrator, and consequently, under certain articles of the bill, would go to the commissioner. However, the reality is that as long as there was no proper oversight, third party or judicial, as has been recommended by folks like Senator Kim Pate, Justice Louise Arbour and Dr. Ivan Zinger, our corrections investigator, the proper protections would not be in place.

I am very concerned.

I would like to return to my Conservative colleague’s speech. Some Canadians listening today are probably asking a very simple question: why should we want to make life easier for certain inmates? How does that help ensure public safety?

Certain points are extremely important, and I mentioned some of them in my speech. To ensure public safety, we need disciplinary measures guaranteeing that correctional officers can properly manage their institutions.

We also need to make sure that the people with problems and, in some cases, serious mental health issues, will not get worse and that, on the contrary, they will receive adequate and appropriate treatment.

We want to prevent recidivism in the case of certain inmates who will be granted parole. We also want to ensure the protection of correctional officers inside the institutions. Providing proper treatment for individuals with serious mental health problems is extremely important.

The concerns in this area expressed by the union representing correctional officers are extremely important. The hon. member who spoke just before me alluded to this in her speech.

I would like to take the time to address some of their concerns. Resources are the main issue. In its statement on Bill C-83 today or yesterday, the union clearly identified this problem, which remains one of its top concerns.

That is a recurring theme with regard to what is required for corrections officers to be able to do their jobs. When we look at the approach taken by the previous government, in 2011-12 alone the legislation adopted by the Conservative government represented an increase in cost of around $250 million for Correctional Service Canada, which was followed by the need to cut nearly $300 million in operating costs from 2012 to 2015, followed by the closure of two penitentiaries, Leclerc Institution and the Kingston Penitentiary. That is a circle that cannot possibly be squared when it comes to ensuring public safety and ensuring that corrections officers have the ability to adequately do their jobs: ensuring safety and security within those institutions and ensuring that the correctional program that has been assigned to a specific offender can be followed through on.

Of course, the problem is extremely worrying to the entire population, but let us be clear. What we want above all from the correctional system is, on the one hand, the assurance of public safety; on the other hand, by applying the disciplinary and punitive measures that exist in the justice system and are essential to rehabilitation, we want to achieve the objectives of treating mental health issues, as well as ensuring public safety, when it comes to inmates who could reintegrate into society and their respective communities.

I would like to get back to Bill C-83. It is all a sham, as I said before, to oversell what is actually a minor change.

Right now, we are told that 22 hours is the threshold for placing someone in administrative segregation. The government is talking about a major change in the number of hours prisoners can spend outside their cells. In fact, relative to current legislation, this change amounts to two hours.

As the executive director of the John Howard Society said in an interview this week, most of the time, these hours are granted at 5:00 a.m. when it is 40 degrees below zero outside. Understandably, the inmate will refuse to come out. Under this bill, such refusal will have consequences.

To conclude, the smokescreen the government has put up to say that it is addressing the concerns of the court, of the United Nations and of the correctional investigator just is not enough. The reality is that we are proceeding with the current regime under a different name. That is not enough to ensure public safety and that corrections officers are attaining the objectives imposed on them by the law but also by constitutional obligations.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 11:35 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Brampton Centre.

This initiative goes back quite a long way for me. I want to recognize the former member for Kitchener Centre, the hon. Karen Redman, who raised the issue of Ashley Smith's death and how it affected so many of us, in caucus and outside of caucus, particularly for people like me who are not from Kitchener.

I want to begin by reading the dry coroner's report, which states:

Coroner's Inquest Touching the Death of Ashley Smith.

Aged: 19

Name of Deceased: Ashley Smith

Date and Time of Death: October 19, 2007, 8:10 a.m.

Place of Death: St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener

Cause of Death: Ligature strangulation and positional asphyxia

By What Means: homicide

That is the coroner's way of introducing what is in fact a substantive report that forms, in part, the basis for the initiative in Bill C-83.

The newspaper report is a little more graphic. It states:

Smith, 19, originally from Moncton, N.B., was imprisoned at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., when she died in 2007.

She had tied a piece of cloth around her neck while guards stood outside her cell door and watched. They had been ordered by senior staff not to enter her cell as long as she was breathing.

...

In the last year of Smith's life, [she] was shuffled 17 times between nine institutions in five provinces.

She was clearly a troubled young lady, but there was still a massive failure on the part of the institutions that were responsible for housing her, and ultimately for her death.

The minister of the day, the hon. member for Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, said after receipt of the coroner's report: “My thoughts and prayers go out to Ms. Smith's family. I've asked my officials to review carefully the jury's recommendations”. That was on December 19, 2013. At that time, he was the federal minister of public safety and emergency preparedness.

Here we are, more than 10 years after Ms. Smith's death, looking at a bill that incorporates of many of the recommendations contained in the coroner's report. Clearly, nothing was done from 2007 to 2015, when the previous government ceased to be the government. Three years later, we are now preparing this, in some respects driven by the forces of civil society, but also by the reality of two lawsuits, which at its core means the current system is not sustainable.

Among the recommendations of the coroner's report is that CSC ensure that nursing services are available on site for all inmates; that CSC expand the scope and terms of psychiatric contracts to enable them to perform duties in a meaningful way; that decisions about clinical management of inmates be made by doctors, not CSC staff; that inmates must have access to an independent patient advocate system; that indefinite solitary confinement for prisoners be abolished; and that meetings between prisoners and support staff should not happen through food slots. That was something that happened frequently with Ms. Smith.

We have a long way to go, and I do not pretend to assume that Bill C-83 responds to each and every recommendation. My colleague, the NDP critic for public safety, highlighted some of the real questions that would be properly posed to the minister before a committee. Hopefully, the responses of both the minister and the head of Correctional Service Canada will be helpful in assuaging him about the concerns that are legitimately raised, both in the coroner's report and in the lawsuits that have come up.

The Prime Minister was so concerned about the inadequacies of, for want of a better term, solitary confinement that he actually incorporated it into the mandates of the justice minister and the public safety minister.

The justice minister's mandate says, “recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness.”

The mandate letter of the public safety minister, states, “address gaps in services to Indigenous Peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system”.

In 2013, we had a coroner's inquiry and recommendations coming out of the death of Ashley Smith in 2007. In 2013, the Conservative Party said that its thoughts and prayers went out to the family. The Liberal Party became the Liberal government in 2015. Incorporated into the mandate letters of two senior ministers were the requirement that they deal with these issues. Now we have Bill C-83 on those issues.

In addition, the corrections commissioner has further been mandated to help create a “safe, secure and humane” corrections environment and to address the physical and mental health of inmates, among other priorities. In fact, two weeks ago, the new head of CSC, Anne Kelly, spoke to her mandate. Indeed, members had every opportunity to question her about her mandate and also to see how this part of her mandate might well be fulfilled.

Most significant is that Bill C-83 would put an end to segregation. In Ontario and British Columbia, two constitutional challenges have found that the legislation governing the administrative segregation is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. My friends in the Conservative Party might wish that to go away. They probably wish the charter would go away. Nevertheless, two of the most significant provinces in the country have said that the way things are being done is not sustainable and is contrary to the Constitution.

It is quite clear that what is motivating in part, beyond the mandates etc., is the reality of the NGO community and these class action lawsuits. The time to act clearly is now.

It is clear that large parts of the administrative segregation provisions of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act will no longer be in existence in two of Canada's most populous provinces. The Conservative Party's position seems to be to just let people sit in the current system anyway. That is neither a very morally nor legally sustainable position.

In my opinion, taking prisoners out of administrative segregation and putting them into a situation is a greater benefit to public safety.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 11:50 a.m.
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Liberal

Ramesh Sangha Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, since 2015, the government has been very clear about its commitments to Canadians. Broad criminal justice system reform is central to those commitments.

The government followed through, first by introducing major legislation that would protect the vulnerable, meet the needs of victims and keep our communities safe. It also promised to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples and those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system.

Further, the government vowed to implement recommendations from the inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, regarding the restriction of the use of solitary confinement and the treatment of those with mental illness. Today, the government is following through with it once again.

Bill C-83 represents a groundbreaking shift in Canada's approach to federal corrections. At its core is a focus on ensuring that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment, one that is conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and protection of the public.

With this bill, the government proposes to eliminate segregation. We will eliminate it in a manner that continues to ensure institutions are secure. It will help reduce the rate of violence in federal institutions and provide inmates in need with support. This is an effective, practical and proactive approach to managing inmate safety.

For the first time in history, there will be a requirement in law for consideration of broad systemic and background factors unique to indigenous inmates in corrections decision-making.

All of that said, at the heart of this legislation is the elimination of segregation and the introduction of structured intervention units to manage inmates at higher risk. It would create structured intervention units, or SIUs, as a practical new tool for institutions. They would be established at numerous institutions. These SIUs would provide a safer environment for inmates. Inmates in SIUs would have the opportunity to be out of cell for at least four hours per day, offering more opportunity for human interaction.

If we are all being honest here, we know that there are times in prison that some inmates cannot be in the general population. These new SIU proposals would address the safety risks of those inmates who could not be managed in the mainstream inmate population.

Those members on the right are going to say that we should throw them in the hole. In fact, the Conservatives put out a release that pretty much said that. Those members on the left are going to say that we should not separate them at all, that we should leave them in the general population. However, when problems such as gang hostilities are brewing, this is not an option either.

We need a solution that would ensure that offenders can be separated from the general population when needed but also to ensure that those who cannot be in the general population for their safety or the safety of others can still have meaningful contact and programming.

Under this legislation, all interventions would be tailored to the specific needs of offenders to address the behaviours that led to their movement to the SIU.

They would have daily visits from health care professionals.

After five days in the SIU, a decision would be made about whether or not to keep the inmate there. That decision would take into account the inmate's mental health care needs and if appropriate unique indigenous factors, including systematic and background factors.

Inmates assigned to an SIU would have their correctional plan updated to ensure they receive the most effective programs at the appropriate time during their assignment in the unit and to prepare them for reintegration into the mainstream inmate population.

They would have meaningful human contact with other compatible inmates and in some circumstances even visitors.

This is a major step forward but not the only one we have taken.

The new bill builds on important investments the government has made to date.

Budget 2018 invested $20.33 million over five years and $5.54 million per year after that to further support the mental health needs of federal inmates. Funds will be largely targeted towards providing enhanced mental health supports for women in federal correctional facilities across Canada. That is on top of budget 2017 funding of $57.8 million over five years, and $13.6 million per year after that to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities.

All of that said, our work is not done. We can all agree that we need to do better in our correctional system.

We are transforming the way we manage inmates whose behaviour poses a security and safety risk that cannot be managed within the mainstream inmate population. More broadly, we need to acknowledge and address the cycles that contribute to crime and the unique needs and risks of vulnerable groups, including indigenous peoples.

We need to make sure we are not only holding guilty parties to account for what they have done, but that we are creating an environment that fosters rehabilitation for the safety of all.

This is the right choice at the right time. I call on all members to join me in supporting Bill C-83, so that our correctional institutions can better fulfill their important goals of safety and rehabilitation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Alupa Clarke Conservative Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier.

As always, I will begin by saying hello to my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou, many of whom are watching today, as I am told every time I go door to door.

I also want to tell them that the issue we are discussing today is a very delicate subject. We are talking about the prison environment and about people's lives, namely, the lives of victims of crime and the lives of criminals in prison. This subject can be unsettling, and people often have very strong views on one side or the other. Some people want a really tough-on-crime approach, while others want a softer approach, for reasons that are equally legitimate on both sides.

I would like to ease into the debate and explain the Conservative caucus's take on Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

My colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, our public safety critic, was the commanding officer of the Régiment de la Chaudière. I have a lot of faith in him. Today he moved a motion calling on the House to simply end the debate on Bill C-83. My colleague believes that the bill is so botched that we need to shut down debate. In other words, we want to stop this bill and keep it from moving forward or being voted on in this place.

What I find interesting is that the NDP members have said that the bill does not go far enough in terms of protecting people who are incarcerated, while we are saying that it goes too far because it compromises the safety of prison guards and Canadians in general. Given that the motion moved by my colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles will not be voted on right away, I will address some of the main aspects of this bill.

I want to address my constituents in Beauport—Limoilou. The bill would eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities. Everyone is entitled to an opinion on administrative segregation. These opinions are often based on Hollywood movies. Administrative segregation is used when an inmate is imprisoned for life, or for 10 or 2 years. Inmates serving a life sentence already know that they are not getting out of prison and that they will probably die there, even though there is a provision allowing them to request a discharge after 25 years and leave prison, even in very serious cases of premeditated murder.

Nevertheless, life in prison is a very long period of time for someone who is incarcerated. How can the correctional facility and the guards compel or force this prisoner to comply with disciplinary guidelines? The prison guards are ordinary men and women, with normal lives, who go home at night, who have children, and all that. How are they meant to impose order every day in prison when there are inmates who will be there for the rest of their lives? These lifers could go so far as to kill another inmate since they will be in prison either way.

What I am saying is that correctional facilities need access to measures that are psychologically difficult for prisoners, like segregation, otherwise known as the hole. I do not think that is a good word, since they are no longer holes. They are real and proper cells, just used as a means of segregation.

The inmates eat well enough, and they have access to sanitation facilities. Prisons are not like Alcatraz in the 19th century. We are talking about orderly, coordinated disciplinary segregation that gives correctional officers some measure of control over hardened criminals who do not follow the rules unless they are afraid of ending up in segregation.

This bill would eliminate that. Considering the argument I just laid out, we think that is totally ridiculous. The bill would also replace those facilities with structured intervention units, but it does not tell us exactly what those units are or how they will work.

The bill also talks about using a body scanner, and that is one part of the bill we support, as do corrections professionals and unions. Visitors often find ways that I will not describe in detail to bring drugs and other objects, such as cell phones, to prisoners. That is not allowed. Using a body scanner could make life easier for corrections officers, visitors and prisoners because there would be no need to conduct uncomfortable searches.

The bill specifies that exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders diagnosed with mental health issues need to be formalized. It is about time.

Speaking for myself, there is something I find intriguing. The bill comes in response to recent superior court decisions that found that indefinite segregation was unacceptable under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I want to respond to something my colleague from Scarborough—Guildwood said in answer to a question I asked 15 or 20 minutes ago. He told me that we make law, but the courts and judges interpret the law.

Nowhere in the Canadian Constitution does it say that lawmakers do not have the right to interpret the law. It is ironic to hear a lawmaker say something so absurd, because we interpret laws every day in the House of Commons. We interpret them in debate and in committee. We review laws, we rewrite laws, we pass laws and we repeal laws. The role of interpreting law belongs as much to the legislative branch as to the executive branch. The executive branch is even required to apply the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and to evaluate every bill through the lens of the charter.

Distinguished Professor Christopher Manfredi of McGill University, who is recognized by his peers around the world, said that the interpretation of each of the three branches is important because they each have their own interpretation of Canadian law and that we achieve better results for Canadians when there is vigorous competition between the powers.

In conclusion, I will say that we could have a philosophical debate about the existence of prisons. No one thinks that prisons are wonderful. At a human level, I believe prisons are probably the most horrible thing there is. However, the historical evolution of humanity shows that this is the only known way to ensure that the most dangerous members of our society will not have any further criminal impact on others. The objective is public safety. The Canadian government's main objective is Canadians' safety. That is why I told the member from Scarborough—Guildwood that he should have instead introduced another bill that emphasizes the government's role in protecting Canadians and that tells the court that it is absolutely wrong about administrative segregation in prison. It is unfortunate, but we must have prisons.

As I reiterated in my arguments, administrative segregation is the only real tool that ensures that prisoners serving a life sentence, for example, have a psychological constraint preventing them from harming other inmates in jail. How can we control a lifer without administrative segregation? It is good for the effectiveness of prisons and for the safety of guards.

We hope that the government will reverse course on this bill. I do not understand why the NDP does not want to support the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which believes that ending the practice of administrative segregation will jeopardize the safety of correctional officers.

I thank the citizens of Beauport—Limoilou for listening.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I would like to remind the House that laws do not take precedence over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is why Bill C-83 exists.

Members opposite seem to be saying that there will not be any solitary confinement at all and that there will be no way to deal with dangerous inmates. I would like to remind the House that there will be structured intervention units where inmates will have access to mental health care.

What do we do in cases like that of Ms. Smith, the young woman who died as a result of her time in solitary confinement? That is why we introduced this bill. What solution is my colleague proposing?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Beauport—Limoilou for that enlightening speech. He may enable the government to improve the bill it introduced today, Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

The bill would enact a number of measures, as listed in the summary: eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional institutions; replace those facilities with structured intervention units; use body scanners on inmates; establish guidelines for access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders, and offenders with diagnosed mental illness.

In a few days, this Parliament will be three years old. The Liberals have done all kinds of damage in those three years, and we can add this bill to the list. They have not thought this through. The Liberals do not know what they are talking about.

Let us look at each point individually. The first amendment eliminates the use of administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation. On October 19, 2015, I had the privilege of being elected to represent the people of Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, and I am so proud to do so. There is a correctional facility in my riding called Donnacona Institution. My colleague from Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles and I recently had the privilege of visiting that institution, as luck would have it. We do our due diligence, and we know what we are talking about, because we went there for ourselves to meet with the management and the various unions. We even met some inmates. We did not see a hole during our visit. The Liberals seem to want to eliminate something that does not exist and replace it with something else that will do the same thing, but with fewer restrictions.

I am a father. Parents are responsible for disciplining their children. We teach our children that actions have consequences. Of course, they are not the same as those imposed on inmates in maximum security. Rules are put in place. There are rules, and correctional officers have tools. Unfortunately, the Liberal government wants to take away one of those tools. It wants to limit the number of days of intervention and take away this tool in order to make inmates more comfortable, inmates who have done wrong or are looking for security. It is rather appalling.

What is the government's motivation for eliminating solitary confinement and creating structured intervention units or SIUs? I will try to get used to the acronym, but I hope this legislation will not have to be enforced. It is quite an invention. The Liberals improvised. They decided that what the Conservatives did was wrong, that they are too mean, that they segregate people who have done wrong, and that they are too harsh with inmates.

One person's rights end where another person's begin. On this side of the House, we support protecting victims. We want these inmates, who have acted inappropriately in a society like ours, to face consequences. They should not be encouraged. These people must face consequences. These consequences are tools for corrections officers.

The government wants to eliminate administrative segregation, create SIUs and limit the number of days. It wants to take away consequences for inmates by limiting the number of hours a day.

Are they going to give every inmate a cake on their birthday? Are they going to roll out the red carpet when inmates arrive at Donnacona? Let us be serious here.

I must acknowledge that the government did include something worthwhile in the bill. Life is a mystery. After meeting with corrections officers and management from institutions like Donnacona, the government introduced the idea of scanners. These scanners are found in airports and even here in Parliament. People go through various checks. In penitentiaries, inmates can be strip-searched. Officers have a little metal mirror they can use to do an external check.

Yesterday, October 17, was a sad day for Canada because the government legalized marijuana. As its very name states, organized crime is organized. These people unfortunately discovered that they could use body orifices to hide things. Corrections management and officers said one of their priorities was to stop inmates and visitors from bringing drugs, cell phones and tools into penitentiaries. Criminals have a lot more time than we do to think up ingenious solutions, because we have jobs. They may work, but they do not have the same objectives as we do. They look for ways to build tools and get access to the outside world.

One thing that was addressed during our meeting last week at Donnacona was the importance of providing scanners. It seems that the government across the way is going to allow them, but we are a long way from unpacking scanners at Donnacona and other maximum-security institutions in Canada. This should be a priority. It should be considered an essential tool.

Of course, they are going to ask why the Conservatives did not take care of it. At the time, there were other technologies. Today, there are scanners. Institutions should get the tools they need to impose restrictions. There are the infamous drones, there are scanners, and there are other important tools.

The bill I am reading today seems to include some things that are more permissive and inclusive that will make life more comfortable for our inmates, but we need to be protecting the victims. We need to be strict. We need to command respect and ensure that there are consequences for these people so that they get the message. We are not against reintegration programs, but we think they should be applied on a case-by-case basis. Now the programs are being used in a general, inclusive and permissive way. Life in Canada's penitentiaries is a party. We have to be responsible and ensure that the tools are put in place quickly. This government should make it a priority to have scanners installed.

I think this will vastly and quickly improve the situation in the penitentiaries. It is a priority tool. It is important. We cannot accept this bill, even though we see the beginnings of positive solutions in it.

Clearly we cannot support this bill because of this government's improvisation.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
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Karen McCrimmon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to add my voice in this debate around Bill C-83.

We are committed to ensuring that we not only have the tools to hold the guilty parties accountable for breaking the law but also to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation, so that we will have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. This bill proposes to transform the way our federal correctional system works in this country to meet those critical goals.

A central element of this transformation is eliminating the use of segregation. Segregation would be replaced by the safety and intervention-focused structured intervention units, or SIUs for short. SIUs would operate in a much different way from what is currently the case with segregation. I will get to those crucial differences in just a few moments.

First, let me just say that in any large population there will be people who pose risk to those around them and to themselves. That reality holds true and perhaps is compounded in a population of offenders housed together under one roof. Correctional institutions are home to inmates whose behaviour can be dangerous to others or to themselves, and disruptive or highly difficult for those around them to endure.

It is a very challenging environment, both for inmates and for the professional, brave and hard-working correctional employees. Corrections officials and staff must have a tool they can use in cases where an inmate cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. For many years, segregation has been that tool.

However, the practice has come under fire in recent years. Watchdogs like the correctional investigator and the Auditor General of Canada have urged the government to restrict its use or eliminate it altogether. Two recent constitutional challenges in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia have found the legislation governing administrative segregation to be unconstitutional.

As of December and January, administrative segregation will no longer be a tool available in those two provinces. That means that if an incident happens in a yard and inmates need to be separated while witness statements are taken, as correctional workers find out what happened, correctional officials will not be able to use administrative segregation. This means that if several members of a gang are threatening another inmate, there will be no administrative segregation unit to use. All of those involved will simply stay in the general population. This is a recipe for disaster.

Let us be very clear that when the Conservatives say we should just keep using “administrative segregation”, which what they called it in government, or “solitary confinement”, as they call it in opposition, they are telling correctional officials to do something they will not have the legal authority to do anymore. Those sections of the act will not exist in those two provinces.

What the Conservatives are really saying, then, is to just keep all of the inmates in the general population, regardless of the risk they pose to guards and health care workers and regardless of the risk from other inmates. It is not a real plan. It is reckless, and it is reckless thinking that we would expect to hear from people who have no real policies and no ability to make tough choices that governing this country requires.

Of course, those two court rulings came subsequent to the tragic case of Ashley Smith, who died in custody in 2007 at the age of 19. The coroner's inquest into Ashley's death focused on administrative segregation and the treatment of inmates with mental illness.

The Government of Canada has committed to implementing recommendations from that inquest. The mandate letters of three ministers also commit them to addressing gaps in service for indigenous peoples and for those with mental illness throughout the criminal justice system. Both of those groups are not only overrepresented in the overall federal corrections system, but also in the inmate population in segregation.

Some progress has been made by Correctional Service Canada over the past few years. Canada's correctional investigator said in March of last year that CSC “for the last few years has dedicated a lot of time and effort to address the gross overuse of administrative segregation.” For example, CSC implemented policy changes that led to a sharp decline in the use of administrative segregation placements between 2015 and 2017. Those changes have ensured that inmates with serious mental illness who actively engage in self-injury and are at elevated or imminent risk of suicide are not admissible for segregation.

According to the correctional investigator's 2016-17 report, the average stay in segregation has also seen a significant drop, from 34 days in 2015 to 23 days in 2017. The correctional investigator calls these reductions “encouraging”, but he cautions that there is more work to be done.

The time has come to better focus on interventions and on safety, and that is what this important piece of legislation would do.

Under Bill C-83, segregation would be eliminated outright from Canada's federal corrections system. In its place, the government is proposing to create structured intervention units. SIUs would be established in numerous institutions. They would offer a secure and structured environment to address the safety risks of inmates who cannot be managed or integrated into the mainstream inmate population.

The initial decision to move an inmate from the mainstream inmate population to an SIU would be made by a CSC staff member under the institutional head. This decision would be based on an evaluation of the inmate's needs, including health needs, and the safety risks for themselves, others and the institution. The staff member would have to be satisfied that there were no reasonable alternatives to placement in an SIU.

The inmate would receive a notice explaining the reasons for his or her movement, the right to retain and instruct counsel, and the right to make representations regarding movement back to the mainstream inmate population, or other alternatives.

Unlike segregation, SIUs would provide inmates with uninterrupted interventions and programs tailored to address their specific and unique needs and risks. Inmates would also have the opportunity to be outside of their cells for a longer period of time, at least four hours a day rather than the two hours a day currently practised. At least two of those four hours would allow inmates to interact with others.

In addition, inmates would receive daily visits from health care professionals. The plan would include additional staff to ensure that inmates could be moved safely throughout the new SIUs as they continued to receive programming and time with other compatible inmates within the SIU.

This is truly a revolutionary approach that would lead to better rehabilitation, which would mean less recidivism once inmates were released. Fewer inmates reoffending would mean less crime, and it would mean fewer victims in our communities.

Bill C-83 also addresses key recommendations from the coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith. In addition to ending the practice of placing female inmates in conditions of long-term segregation, the bill would introduce patient advocates at designated penitentiaries to help inmates navigate their health care rights and responsibilities.

All of this would facilitate the reintegration of offenders into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible. It would also support their treatment and rehabilitation in preparation for their eventual release into the community. That, in turn, would support safety in our communities, because the vast majority of inmates will eventually complete their sentences and will be freed from custody.

We must do everything we can to ensure that offenders are as well equipped as possible to be productive, law-abiding citizens by addressing the underlying behaviours that got them into trouble to begin with. This is what we need to focus on.

Public safety is not well served by seeing offenders released more hardened, more bitter or more resentful than when they came in. Nor is it ever a good thing for inmates with health or mental health issues to be undiagnosed or to go untreated while in federal custody. That is why the establishment of the SIUs under this legislation would be such a big and positive step forward on the safety front. I am confident that it would mean better correctional outcomes for inmates, more security for the staff, safer institutions and greater public safety in the long run.

Bill C-83 would also correct a long-standing problem that has developed over time for Correctional Service Canada. When the Corrections and Conditional Release Act was written in 1992, CSC had facilities that were entirely dedicated to a single security classification. However, over time, CSC's infrastructure became mixed, with institutions often having, for instance, a maximum- and a medium-security wing. Today virtually all the facilities are mixed facilities. In fact, all the women's institutions are, indeed, mixed. The act, however, was never changed to reflect that fact.

Bill C-83 would ensure that CSC had the clear and proper legal authorities to operate and move inmates from one wing of an institution to another wing in the same facility.

This legislation would also grant CSC the legal authority to use body scanners. As we all know, drugs and other prohibited contraband find their way into prisons, despite efforts to keep them out. Body scanners would provide an important tool for corrections guards that is less invasive than physical searches and more effective in detecting contraband.

The bill would also ensure that audio recordings of parole hearings would be made available to victims who attended a hearing. The existing Corrections and Conditional Release Act permits a registered victim who was not in attendance to receive an audio copy of the hearing, but it does not allow someone who was there in person to have one. During the government's consultations, we heard loud and clear that for many victims, a parole hearing is such an emotional moment that the time seems to fly by. Later, they have difficulty clearly remembering what transpired. Section 34 of Bill C-83 would ensure that victims who attended in person could receive an audio recording of the hearing afterward.

Another important aspect of the bill stems from the Gladue Supreme Court decision of 1999. This was the case that required the Correctional Service to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. Over the past 20 years, CSC has developed internal policies to give effect to the Supreme Court ruling, but Bill C-83 would go further by ensuring that the Gladue principles were fully enshrined in the CCRA.

I am proud to stand with a government that continues to take action to reform the criminal justice system, and I am proud to stand here today in support of this important bill.

As I mentioned at the top of my speech, this bill would ensure that CSC would have the tools to hold guilty parties accountable for what they have done while creating an environment that fosters rehabilitation. Effective rehabilitation means that we would have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.

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October 18th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the biggest concerns about Bill C-83 has been identified by many. The correctional investigator, the John Howard Society and the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies have all identified one core piece that goes back to a recommendation made by Justice Arbour a number of years ago relating specifically to her recommendation that dealt with judicial oversight. Really, at this point, we are talking about any kind of oversight at all.

In the bill as it stands currently, notwithstanding any ability of the commissioner or the warden to continue to examine a person's presence in what essentially is still solitary confinement under a different name, even with the recommendation of health care professionals, the ultimate decision would still lie with them. There would still be a lack of third-party investigation. There would still be a lack of independent oversight and recourse in the event that the abuses we have seen take place in the past occurred again under this new system.

As I asked the minister, would the government reconsider and go forth in a direction that complies more strongly, or at all, with the B.C. Supreme Court decision and with recommendations that have been made by many experts throughout civil society?

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October 18th, 2018 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, a pilot project was recently announced that indicated there would be a needle exchange program available in certain prisons across Canada. One of those prisons is in my area, in the Waterloo region. It is the Grand Valley Institution for Women.

We know the correctional officers at these facilities are very much opposed to the idea of a needle exchange program, and that they were basically not consulted on having the program implemented. Now that we have the body scan and a zero drug policy in prisons, will the Liberals finally discontinue their misguided needle exchange program?

Also, I would like the member to tell me if the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers was consulted on Bill C-83 as it relates to the safety of our correctional officers, who serve Canada so well in the work they do.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time today with my remarkable colleague from Cariboo—Prince George. I use the word “remarkable” because the word “incredible” has been overused for him recently.

I am proud to speak today to Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This is also known as another case of Liberals putting interests of criminals ahead of everyone else, with little thought put into it. It should not be confused with Liberal Bill C-71, or Bill C-75, or Bill C-28, or any other myriad number of bills in which they have put criminal rights ahead of those of regular citizens.

We all know the horrific story of the case of Ashley Smith and her unfortunate death. That never should have happened within our prison system, and the government should make moves to prevent situations like that from recurring. However, it should not impose a poorly thought-out, outright ban on segregation.

There are some good parts to the bill and I congratulate the government on it. I support the idea of body scans to prevent contraband and drugs coming into prisons, but it should be extended to everyone entering the prison, not just certain people. I also like that it gives more consideration to indigenous offenders.

But, and it is a big but, there are a few key points in the bill that would directly impact the safety and security of our corrections officers and those who need segregation for their own safety. This is another example of the government's obsession with making criminals' lives easier while making our front-line officers' jobs more dangerous.

I want to talk about the reality of the most common use of segregation. Inmates who commit crimes in prison do not always get the segregation. Very often, it is the victims who are segregated to protect them from those inmates. It is often used as a means of ensuring the safety of the targeted inmate from further assault, often because the target does not want to name the inmate who assaulted them. This means the assaults continue and the inmate who went into a segregation unit has to eventually reintegrate somewhere else in another unit or institution, or even in another region in the country.

It is relatively uncommon that segregation is ordered as a disciplinary sanction. In fact, most inmates view segregation time as a holiday rather than a consequence, especially since they must receive all their possessions, such as a television and their other belongings on their property card, within 24 hours of admission.

A report from CBC that came out last April quoted the Ontario Public Service Employees Union as saying that segregation isn't the deterrent it once was, because the maximum time inmates can spend in segregation has been halved and increased privileges for those in segregation mean that inmates are no longer as skittish about being sent there. It also confirmed that in fact there are not enough segregation units, at least in Ontario, because most are being used by inmates who have mental health issues.

That is the provincial system, but it correlates to the federal system as well. It leaves violent inmates out in the general population, where they can continue to commit assaults against other inmates and corrections officers themselves.

Another CBC report quotes an officer as saying, “Where [the more violent inmates] used to be in separate containers, now they're all in one bag, and we're just waiting for one to go off. And that sets the rest of them off and you end up with murders, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.”

Another officer is quoted as saying, “The inmates, they can get away with a lot more than they used to in the past, and that contributes to the growing violence and the crisis in corrections.”

As I mentioned, with previous changes to segregation policies the maximum time in segregation has already been cut in half. Also, the increase in privileges available to those in segregation means it is not as strong a deterrent as it used to be. All removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for correctional officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety and that of other inmates.

A CBC report from September 2017 indicated that the stricter limits on segregation have led to a massive upswing in inmate assaults. Between 2012 and 2017, the number of violent repeat offences after leaving segregation increased 50%.

Statistics released recently for corrections in Ontario show close to 800 reported incidents in 2016. By halfway through 2017, the last time we had the numbers available, there were almost as many violent incidents in our prisons. The report quotes Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who pointed out that segregation is a tool for a reason and that restrictive policies only transfer the problem of violence.

The creation and integration of structured intervention units makes violent and non-violent inmates equal, regardless of the quality of their conduct while they serve their time. They get access to four hours per day outside their cells from the structured units, and they also get two hours of “significant human contact”. This is going to require significant increases in resources for the officers, but there is no money set aside for this.

Now, every time someone is moved into segregation, or out of segregation for their two hours out in the open, it requires two officers to accompany them. That is for the safety of the officers, to ensure they always have enough manpower to protect themselves. Where is this money going to come from?

If we look at the government's departmental plan signed by the Minister of Public Safety, allowing for inflation it is actually cutting 8.8% of the funding to Correctional Service Canada over the next four years. Where is this money coming from?

I am sure the minister did not even look at the plan before he signed off on it, and I am sure my colleagues across the way have not read the plan either. It actually calls for a reduction in officers in Correctional Service Canada over the next years, but it is going to increase the workload and the costs of these units with what money? We do not know.

The officers themselves are left with one less tool that allows them to deter assaults and violence from taking place in the cellblocks. Corrections officers already face a host of challenges. Even though it is their choice to work in these jobs, keep in mind that these men and women are still in a prison themselves. They are subjected to the same environment that the inmates are.

Statistics from a 2018 report prepared for the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers show that between 60% and 65% of correctional officers report their work has a negative impact on their life away from work. A substantial proportion of correctional officers, about 75%, report that the psychological demands of their job have increased in the last five years. Nearly 55% of long-serving officers report that their physical ability to properly do their work is worse or much worse in the last few years. The report summarizes:

[T]here is a particularly poor fit between interest in work and the psychological and mental disposition of [the] officers...on the one hand, and the environment and working conditions set out and maintained by CSC, on the other. Such a poor fit cannot go on forever, nor be ignored, other than to the detriment of both the correctional officers...as well as public interest as embodied in CSC's mandate and social mission.

I want to look at an another area where the government has failed our corrections officers. They are one of the main victims of the Liberal Phoenix fiasco. Roughly 85% of corrections officers across the country have been affected by Phoenix. This is because many of them are shift workers with irregular schedules that require manual entry into the system, something the government could have prevented had it not botched the entire rollout.

In fact, the Treasury Board was specifically told this was a failure in the Phoenix system when it was doing the pre-testing, yet the government chose to ignore it, just like the President of the Treasury Board ignored the Gartner report when it advised not to proceed with Phoenix.

I find it very amusing that the President of the Treasury Board justifies his meddling in the Davie supply ship contract on behalf of Irving as part of his job, but apparently it was not part of his job to act on the Gartner report on Phoenix, which, by the way, he commissioned himself.

The UCCO president has already called for help for its members because, like many public servants, they are renegotiating their mortgages and taking out loans to ensure they can keep a roof over their heads because of the pay problems. Unfortunately, we do not see an end in sight for those suffering from the Phoenix pay problems.

I want to talk about the government's priorities. I mentioned before that its priorities seems to be on criminals, not on average Canadians. Page 210 of last year's budget proposes $21.4 million for the mental health needs of RCMP officers and the same amount for the mental health needs of federal inmates. There are a lot more RCMP officers than there are inmates. For the average RCMP officer, the people putting their lives on the line every day and fighting for us, we have from the government $1,100 per officer for mental health. For prisoners, it is $1,400. Where is the justice?

Of 1,400 words in the CSC's much-ballyhooed mandate letter, the first time a corrections services lead has had a mandate letter, there were 24 words on victims and 52 on the workers. Those 52 words on the workers included such gems as, “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”

There are the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and for our valued officers in the prisons. Perhaps it is time for self-reflection on the issue.

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October 18th, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to start off this intervention by setting the situation we are faced with today.

Imagine a time when we call murder a “bad practice.” Imagine being at a point in time where we cannot use the word “illegal” for those who cross our borders illegally. It is now “irregular”. Imagine our government of day actually paying convicted terrorists $10.5 million for pain and suffering. Imagine a time when our government reaches out to a terrorist who, at one point, bragged about playing soccer with the heads of those he fought against, an ISIS terrorist, who bragged at one time about playing soccer with the heads of those they captured and decapitated.

I offer this because this is where are at, at this point. We see, time and time again, the government, our colleagues across the way, continuing to go on, “merrily, merrily, life is but a dream”. It goes down the way, all rainbows and sunshine. It is hug-a-thug.

Imagine a time when we are moving a convicted murderer, one who had been sentenced for society's most heinous crime of kidnapping and killing an eight-year-old, to a healing lodge part way through their sentence, not behind bars, but having a key to their own condo, if you will, free to come and go as they please within that area. Imagine a time when we always err on the side of the criminal rather than that of the victim.

Imagine a time when a convicted murderer can claim PTSD from the murder that he committed and receive treatment for PTSD before veterans and first responders.

That is where we are with Bill C-83. Before our colleagues across the way say, “The Conservatives are so against these body scans and different elements of this piece of legislation”, we are for providing the tools for our front-line workers every step of the way so that they can be safe. We are for providing victims and their families the rights and the tools so that they can remain whole, so that they are not revictimized at every step of the way.

Bill C-83 is about abolishing segregation. Oftentimes in the movies and in prison slang, segregation is referred to as “the hole”. Maybe that is how we got here. Maybe that is how this came to be. The Liberals, in the ways they dream things up, actually thought it was a hole we were putting people in. That is not true. It is a cell, no different than others.

As a matter of fact, somebody who spent a long period of time in segregation, one of our country's most notorious serial killers, Clifford Robert Olson still managed to take advantage of the situation. A reporter who visited him at one point remarked that he was healthy, that he even had a tan. Here is a guy who raped and murdered children in my province of British Columbia, and maybe even in other areas.

Segregation is not just for the safety of our front-line officers. It is also for the safety of those who are incarcerated. One of our colleagues mentioned that in interviewing somebody who has been incarcerated and spent a majority of their time in segregation that they preferred that, that they knew if they were out in general population that they probably would not last very long.

I actually would like to name some of the folks in our prison system who are housed in segregation and who the government is proposing to allow out of segregation, such as Paul Bernardo who has just been denied parole again. He is known to have lured young women, torturing, raping and murdering them with his then girlfriend, Karla Homolka. He actually murdered her own sister. Other inmates in segregation are Robert Pickton, who is a serial killer in my province of British Columbia, Renee Acoby, John Greene, Andrew Gulliver and Christopher Newhook.

Again, as I mentioned earlier, there is probably one of our most notorious serial killers, Clifford Robert Olson. I had an opportunity to speak with some of the arresting officers in his case and those persons who were charged with guarding him in his cell. He bragged incessantly and wanted to talk about those crimes. He was diabolical. He was sick.

Segregation provides a disciplinary administrative tool that both keeps those who are incarcerated protected, but also protects front-line workers. Is that not what we are here to do, protect society and those who have been charged with protecting society, keeping them safe both physically and mentally?

Through the course of my work in building Bill C-211 and then getting it passed in June of this year, I worked closely with correctional services. Very often, correctional guards and correctional officers are not seen as first responders, yet they perform those duties every day. They are seeing the worst of society at their very worst, while providing medical and life-saving treatment almost on a daily basis. They also have to guard those individuals and their safety is always at risk. Imagine being a guard in charge of a unit and there are 40 of society's worst criminals, yet that guard is alone.

The president of the union of Correctional Services of Canada recently said that in his centre in the course of the last 12 months there had been 100 violent incidents against his officers.

I have also learned that the government is approving a needle exchange program where the guards are to give the inmates needles and spoons to cook drugs and then go back to their cells, unbelievably. There is no onus on the prisoners; when they come up for parole, they are not required to report that they had been using in prison. Therefore, yes, we do agree that we should have full body scanners, not only for prisoners or their guests, but also for guards. I believe that would make everyone safe.

How unbelievable is it that we are now going to give needles and cooking spoons? I do not mean ladles for cooking soup, but cooking spoons for drugs, to use drugs, then allow them to go back to their cells and expect a guard to go into the cell to do some form of administrative management or security search, not knowing whether there is a needle there with some form of bodily fluid.

When the union heard about Bill C-83, it sent letters to the minister outlining its concerns. Union representatives were worried about segregation and emphasized to the minister the importance of this tool for correctional officers. They brought up their concern over the prison needle exchange and suggested rather than doing that, the minister focus on the resources to treat inmates with infectious diseases instead. They came at this in a reasonable way and offered solutions, yet they were not listened to. They were pooh-poohed. As a matter of fact, the minister thanked them for their time and then went forward in crafting this bill.

We are against the bill as a whole. We are not against certain elements of it. I would urge the government and the minister to reconsider Bill C-83.

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October 18th, 2018 / 1:25 p.m.
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Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the Conservatives are surprising anyone when they say they are against the legislation. They have this Stephen Harper mentality, that Conservative spin, as if they are tough on crime and they are the only defenders of victims. Progressive legislation of this nature would prevent future victims.

Some countries around the world recognize that certain things can be done To allow for a better system, and we see that, whether it is indigenous concerns through some of the changes being proposed, or body cavity checks through technology or screening or different courses that will be provided, even for those in segregation.

Most people would acknowledge that Bill C-83 is progressive legislation. We need to move forward on this. The Conservatives want to stay in the past. They believe that by standing on the hilltop yelling “We're for victims”, they will get the votes. They should look at this legislation, as well as how the world is evolving, and recognize this.

When will the Conservatives look at what other jurisdictions are doing to move progressively on this file?

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October 18th, 2018 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise today to speak to this very important legislation.

I come from a part of the country that has six penitentiary facilities in the immediate areas. It used to be seven before the former Conservative government closed one of them.

People in my riding take great pride in the work that our correctional officers do. We regard the work they do in their role of rehabilitating and reintegrating inmates into society to be an extremely serious one. From the guards to the parole officers, from program staff to medical professionals, correctional employees work hard around the clock, in challenging environments, to keep our institutions safe and to support effective rehabilitation, which ultimately protects Canadian communities.

Correctional officers and workers represent a professional workforce of nearly 18,000 employees, all engaged in the success of the corrections system and the fulfillment of the mandate of Correctional Service of Canada. That is complemented by the nearly 6,000 volunteers in the institutions and in the community, not to mention the elders, chaplains and many other unsung heroes. When people who have broken the law return safely to society and to our communities, that is a testament to their work and it is essential to the safety of our communities. Our number one priority is the safety of Canadians.

This summer, I had the opportunity to go on a tour of the closed facility in the Kingston area, the former Kingston Penitentiary. We had an opportunity to hear from various former and retired correctional officers. Through that tour, I learned a great deal about their dedication to our justice system, but also the many dangers they faced in the safety aspects of their jobs. That is why I applaud the efforts of the government and I am supportive of correctional employees and the work they do in ensuring the federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment for staff and inmates.

Within the secure environment, effective rehabilitative interventions reduce the risk of reoffending and help keep our communities safe. The goal is to have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and ultimately safer communities. That is why the mandate letters to the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness include addressing gaps in service, particularly to vulnerable populations, including indigenous peoples and those with mental illness, throughout our criminal justice system.

The government has also demonstrated a commitment to rehabilitation through the reopening of prison farms, which I can attest is happening in my riding. Prison farms provide prisoners meaningful work at farms at the end of their sentences. Farms teach inmates skills in various agricultural fields, such as heavy machinery operation, food handling and dairy operation. Even if inmates do not go on to a career in agriculture, practical skills and certifications earned through farms will apply for future jobs. In fact, data demonstrated that prison farms increased the likelihood of employability once inmates were released.

The government has shown a commitment to improving our correctional system by making rehabilitation possible again and by enhancing the safety of prison workers. This is a new, bold approach to federal corrections. It will protect the safety of staff and those in their custody by allowing offenders to be separated as required, while ensuring those offenders receive more effective rehabilitative programming as well as interventions and mental health support.

Under this bill, the practice of administrative segregation will become a thing of the past. The corrections system will have a new tool to manage inmates who pose a safety risk in the form of structured intervention units, or SIUs. Inmates in SIUs will have at least four hours a day outside their cells, instead of the two hours under the current segregation system. They will have a minimum of two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, including staff, volunteers, elders, chaplains and other compatible inmates. They will have access to structured interventions to address the underlying behaviour that led to their placement in the SIU. These will include programs in mental health care tailored to their needs.

Offenders may be placed in an SIU when there are reasonable grounds to believe they pose a risk to the safety of any persons, including themselves, or the security of the institution. An inmate's assignment to the SIU would be subject to a robust internal review process. By the fifth working day after movement to an SIU, the warden would determine if the inmate should remain there, taking into account factors such as the inmate's correctional plan and medical condition.

I forgot to mention at the beginning of my speech, Mr. Speaker, that I will be splitting my time with the member for Toronto—Danforth.

If an inmate remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews would happen after 30 days by the warden and every 30 days thereafter by the commissioner of corrections. Reviews could also be triggered by a medical professional at any time. In fact, strengthening health care is a big part of the legislation. In an SIU, inmates would be visited by a registered health professional at least once a day.

Bill C-83 also affirms that the Correctional Service has the obligation to support health care professionals and their autonomy and clinical independence. The bill provides for patient advocacy services to help ensure offenders receive the health care they need. Clearly, an offender in good physical and mental health is more likely to achieve successful rehabilitation.

The bill represents a giant leap forward for our corrections system. The proposals are proactive and sensible, with public and institutional safety at their core. We should all want to ensure that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment, one that is conducive to inmate rehabilitation, staff safety and the protection of the public.

Eliminating administrative segregation and creating SIUs represents a landmark shift in our approach to corrections. I look forward to continuing to work with the government, with colleagues in the chamber, and the many people who work within the corrections system to continue advancing the objective of enhancing safety and security through effective interventions and treatment.

As I have said, nearly 18,000 corrections workers and 6,000 volunteers across the country do a remarkable job in what are often very difficult circumstances and harsh environments. They deserve to carry out their work in a safe and more secure environment and they deserve to be better supported in their goal of better correctional outcomes.

On all fronts, Bill C-83 would answer those calls. I call on all members of the House to join me in supporting the bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 18th, 2018 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today in support of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. The bill represents a landmark shift in how we approach corrections in Canada. It would end the practice of segregation in all federal institutions. It would implement a new correctional intervention model that would ensure that offenders are held to account while creating an environment conducive to 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 will keep communities safe. An effective corrections system with appropriate and targeted interventions to deal with difficult, challenging or dangerous situations within a secure environment is in everyone's best interests.

The reality is that almost all offenders will return to the community. If we lock them up and throw away the key, we are not providing them with the tools they require to safely reintegrate back into society. That is why Bill C-83 would eliminate segregation and establish structured intervention units. 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 SIUs 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 current number of hours in the segregation system. They will have a minimum of two hours of meaningful human interaction every day, including through programs, interventions and services.

Currently in the segregation system, a full day can go by for an inmate with virtually no meaningful human interaction. Inmates in an SIU would 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 their rehabilitative progress and work toward their correctional plan objectives. All of this would help to facilitate their safe return into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

The result would be better correctional outcomes, a reduced rate of violent incidents and more safety and security for inmates, staff, volunteers, institutions and ultimately, the public. The 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 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 they have served their sentences.

All of this is about making Canadian communities safer through effective rehabilitation in a secure correctional environment. This is the right policy direction, in line with recent calls for this kind of transformation.

Two constitutional challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found the legislation governing administrative segregation contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There are also pending class actions and human rights complaints related to both the use of segregation and the inadequacy of mental health care. Of particular importance in this regard, the bill would also strengthen health care governance. The bill would provide that corrections has the obligation to support health care professionals in their autonomy and clinical independence. It would also create the legal framework for patient advocacy services to ensure that inmates receive appropriate medical care.

Importantly, the bill would enshrine in law the requirement for Correctional Service Canada to consider systemic and background factors in all decision-making related to indigenous offenders. Addressing gaps in service for indigenous people and people with mental illness in the criminal justice system is a mandate commitment for both the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice, and the government is following through.

I am a member of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, which finished a report last spring on indigenous people in the correctional system. During testimony for this report we heard from an individual by the name of Mr. Neal Freeland, who stated:

If you're native...If you're native in this country you know someone in your family is in prison. If you're native, That's a fact. If you're native, That's the reality of growing up in this country.

His testimony was very powerful.

Our committee recommended that the Correctional Service of Canada develop risk assessment tools that are more sensitive to indigenous reality and review its security classification assessment process.

In the government's response to this report, it confirmed that this recommendation was supported by a June 2018 decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ewert v. Canada that Correctional Service Canada must ensure that its use of tools with respect to indigenous offenders do not perpetuate discrimination or contribute to a disparity in correctional outcomes between indigenous and non-indigenous offenders. The Correctional Service of Canada will continue its work, informed by this decision, to ensure that it applies the assessment tool in a culturally responsible way for indigenous offenders.

The budget contribution, along with the work by the Minister of Public Safety, who is responsible for the Correctional Service of Canada, and the Minister of Justice, is complemented by additional measures in the bill, including enshrining in law the requirement for CSC to consider systemic and background factors in all decision-making related to indigenous offenders.

On another note, at committee, I also worked on a report called the “Use of Ion Mobility Spectrometers by Correctional Service Canada”. The committee agreed to undertake a study of “the alarming rate of false positive results from ion mobility spectrometers with a view to finding more effective ways of preventing drugs from entering prisons, while encouraging the effective rehabilitation of prisoners.” In this regard, Anne Cattral from Mothers Offering Mutual Support told the committee:

There is now a clear disconnect between CSC policy, which recognizes the importance of building and maintaining family ties and community support for prisoners, and the continued reliance on an unreliable tool that fails to keep drugs out of prisons but does a very good job of deterring families from visiting... The effects on children of being denied a visit to a parent are also deeply distressing; this happened to my own grandson.

The bill would authorize the use of body scanners on people entering correctional institutions. A body scanner is similar to what is used by security personnel at airports. Body scanners provide a less invasive alternative to strip or body cavity searches and eliminate the issues with false positives that I heard about.

The bill would also better support the role of victims in the criminal justice system by allowing them enhanced access to audio recordings of parole hearings. That would be a vast improvement over the old system.

As I stated, this is about safety. It is about focused intervention to better serve the needs of vulnerable inmates. We need to improve the safety of our inmates, our corrections staff, our institutions and our communities. This bill would transform Canada's correctional system to meet those goals.

I am proud to stand behind this bill, and I encourage all members to join me in supporting this historic proposed legislation.