An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

Second reading (Senate), as of March 19, 2019

Subscribe to a feed (what's a feed?) of speeches and votes in the House related to Bill C-83.

Summary

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

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

(a) eliminate the use of administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation;

(b) authorize the Commissioner to designate a penitentiary or an area in a penitentiary as a structured intervention unit for the confinement of inmates who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons;

(c) provide less invasive alternatives to physical body cavity searches;

(d) affirm that the Correctional Service of Canada has the obligation to support the autonomy and clinical independence of registered health care professionals;

(e) provide that the Correctional Service of Canada has the obligation to provide inmates with access to patient advocacy services;

(f) provide that the Correctional Service of Canada has an obligation to consider systemic and background factors unique to Indigenous offenders in all decision-making; and

(g) improve victims’ access to audio recordings of parole hearings.

This enactment also amends the English version of a provision of the Criminal Records Act.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

March 18, 2019 Passed 3rd reading and adoption of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Feb. 26, 2019 Passed Concurrence at report stage of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Feb. 26, 2019 Passed Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (report stage amendment)
Feb. 26, 2019 Passed Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (report stage amendment)
Feb. 26, 2019 Failed Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (report stage amendment)
Oct. 23, 2018 Passed 2nd reading of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act
Oct. 23, 2018 Failed 2nd reading of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act (reasoned amendment)
Oct. 23, 2018 Passed Time allocation for Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Regina—Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalMinister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that we have reached together the third reading stage of Bill C-83, legislation that would significantly strengthen our federal corrections system in a variety of important ways. It would make institutions safer both for employees and for inmates. It would enhance support for the victims of crime. By improving the ability of the Correctional Service of Canada to successfully rehabilitate and safely reintegrate people who have broken the law, this legislation will better protect Canadians in communities across the country.

The bill's main feature is the replacement of the current practice of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or what is commonly known as SIUs. This is a new system that would allow inmates to be separated from the rest of the institution when that needs to happen for safety reasons, while giving them more time out of their cells, more meaningful contact with other people and greater access to mental health care and other rehabilitative interventions.

I would like to thank the members who participated in the meetings of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, as well as the many individuals who appeared as witnesses or submitted briefs. The bill was reviewed in meticulous detail, and the participants were, by and large, motivated by a sincere desire to strengthen our correctional system.

In response to witness testimony, committee members made a number of important amendments. Strangely, the opposition has been arguing that this is somehow a bad thing. We make no apologies for being receptive to feedback and willing to let legislators legislate. It is a testament to the strength of our parliamentary process that at least one amendment was accepted at committee stage from every party that made a submission during the committee's study of Bill C-83. There were even situations where an amendment was proposed by a member of one party and then subamended by a member of another party and then supported by both of them together. This stands in stark contrast to the way that things worked during the Harper days in Parliament. The Conservative government generally operated as though its bills were immaculately conceived and good-faith amendments were dismissed as heretical.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

The opposition has correctly noted that is not our government's approach, and I am very proud of the fact that we have worked together on amendments.

Most of the amendments made at the committee responded directly to various questions that were raised by witnesses about whether the SIUs would work as intended. For example, there were concerns that the opportunity for time out of the cell might be offered in the middle of the night, which would obviously be unreasonable. Therefore, the bill now prohibits that.

There were concerns that inmates' interactions with other people would only occur through the doors or through the meal slots. The bill now makes clear that this is to be a truly exceptional practice.

Some witnesses thought that the provision relieving the Correctional Service, in exceptional circumstances, of the obligation to provide time out of the cell could be too broadly construed. Therefore, the bill now includes a specific list of the kinds of extraordinary circumstances that provision is meant to respond to, like natural disasters.

While the bill already allowed medical professionals to recommend that an inmate be removed from the SIU, some witnesses wanted greater assurance that such a recommendation would in fact be taken seriously. Therefore, the bill now requires that if the warden disagrees with the recommendation, the matter would be immediately elevated to a senior panel external to that particular institution.

These and other amendments preserve the fundamental objectives of Bill C-83, while providing more clarity and confidence that the new system would function as planned and accomplish the transformation that is intended.

There is one other thing that happened at committee that I would like to highlight.

Along with their amended version of the bill, committee members sent this House a specific recommendation, that as we go about replacing segregation, particular attention should be given to the circumstances at women's institutions. Under the existing system, women tend to be housed in segregation less frequently and for shorter periods of time than men, and there is almost always a serious mental health issue involved. Also, while segregation cells and regular cells are quite similar at men's institutions, the same is not the case for women.

I am, therefore, pleased to report that in line with the committee's recommendation, the Correctional Service is taking a gender-informed approach to the implementation of SIUs. The service has confirmed that it will be engaging stakeholders, such as the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, as it develops plans to implement the new law in a way that is appropriate for women's corrections.

Having completed a brief overview of the work that was done at the committee, I would now like to turn to the report stage debate that has occurred in this House in recent days. One notable outcome of the report stage process was the addition of an external oversight mechanism, thanks to an amendment proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington. As I mention that particular member, let me also congratulate her on becoming the new Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health.

SIU placements now, thanks to that amendment, would be subject to binding review by independent external decision-makers. This process would kick in if, for whatever reason, an inmate in an SIU does not get his or her minimum hours out of a cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five straight days or for 15 days out of 30. At that point, the independent decision-maker would determine if the Correctional Service has taken all reasonable steps to provide those hours out of the cell and may make corrective recommendations. If after a week, the decision-maker is not satisfied, he or she can order the inmate removed from the SIU.

The independent decision-maker would also get involved if the Correctional Service is keeping an inmate in an SIU despite the recommendation of a health care professional. A review would be conducted of each SIU placement after 90 days and every 60 days thereafter. That is in addition to internal reviews that would be done by warden and the commissioner. Importantly, the determinations of the independent external decision-makers would be appealable to the Federal Court by both the inmate and the Correctional Service of Canada in accordance with section 18 of the Federal Courts Act.

Independent oversight is something that has been advocated by a number of stakeholders, including The John Howard Society, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the BC Civil Liberties Association and Aboriginal Legal Services, as well as the correctional investigator. I was, therefore, a bit surprised during the third reading proceedings to see the NDP join with the Conservatives to oppose adding independent oversight to the bill.

At committee, the NDP member for Beloeil—Chambly said that he indeed wanted independent oversight in the legislation, and the NDP member for Salaberry—Suroît made several calls for independent oversight in this place on Tuesday of this week during the debate. However, on Tuesday night, for some reason, the NDP voted against independent oversight and in favour of keeping all the reviews of SIU placements internal to the Correctional Service. That was an absolutely baffling turn of events, and I would be very interested to hear NDP members explain it during the course of the debate today.

There were a couple of other points made during the report stage debate that are worth touching upon. First, Conservative members accused us of not putting any resources toward the implementation of Bill C-83. I suppose none of them have had the opportunity to read the fall economic statement, which allocated in fact $448 million over six years to “support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.”

I suppose that the the Conservative members of the public safety committee did not actually read the written response that was provided to them by my department in November outlining the breakdown of that funding.

As was set out in that document, we are putting nearly $300 million over six years, with $71.7 million ongoing, towards staffing and other resources required to run the SIUs. The other approximately $150 million over six years, with $74.3 million ongoing, will be devoted to enhancing mental health care both within SIUs and throughout the correctional system.

All of that is on top of the nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections that was provided in the last two federal budgets.

In my meetings with the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, a key point of emphasis has been the importance of having the staffing levels and other resources needed to safely implement this legislation. The new investments that I have just outlined will in fact ensure that is the case.

That brings me to the matter of staff safety, which has also come up repeatedly during this debate, as indeed it should. The success of our corrections system relies on the skills and dedication of correctional officers, parole officers, program officers, medical professionals, elders, aboriginal liaison officers, chaplains, support staff and a great many other employees and volunteers.

Ensuring that they have a safe work environment is a prerequisite for everything that the Correctional Service of Canada is mandated to do. That is why Bill C-83 allows inmates who pose a security risk to be separated from the general inmate population. The enhancements to mental health care and rehabilitative interventions are also important for staff safety, because staff will be safer when inmates make correctional progress and when their mental health issues are under control.

It is worth remembering that in 2014, the head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers at that time said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said that because he felt that the Harper government's policies and budget cuts were endangering correctional officers.

Those cuts were deep. During their last term in office, under their deficit reduction action plan, the Conservatives cut $846 million from the Correctional Service of Canada. Those cuts had a considerable impact on institutional and public safety. For example, they resulted in a freeze of transfers to the organizations that run halfway houses, which play a key role in the safe reintegration of former inmates. That freeze is finally ending this year.

Conservative cuts resulted in the near elimination of the CoSA program, an initiative that has been shown to dramatically reduce the recidivism rates of sex offenders. We restored funding for that effective program in 2017.

The Conservative cuts caused the closure of prison farms, which serve important rehabilitative and vocational purposes. The work to reopen the farms is now under way.

When I met recently with parole officers, they explained how cuts to so-called administrative functions can affect public safety. For instance, when the people fired are those who handle billing and travel arrangements, that work has to get done by parole officers, who then have less time to spend with the inmates whose rehabilitative progress they are supposed to be supervising.

There is naturally more work to be done to compensate for the decade of Conservative cuts and policies that treated rehabilitation as the opposite of public safety. In fact, one cannot have one without the other.

I am pleased with the work we have been able to do so far. Bill C-83 is a vital step as part of that.

I will close with this. Court rulings finding the existing segregation regime unconstitutional are due to take effect in coming months. The courts have recognized explicitly that simply ending segregation without having a new system in place to replace it would put correctional workers, employees and inmates at greater risk.

The replacement we are proposing in this legislation is clearly a major improvement, with double the time out of the cell, a focus on mental health care and rehabilitation, independent external oversight and the investments to make it all work. Just to make sure, I will be appointing an advisory committee to monitor the implementation of the new SIU system. This committee will comprise experts with a diversity of relevant experience in areas such as corrections, rehabilitation and mental health care. Its role will be to advise the commissioner on an ongoing basis and to alert me directly if anything is not proceeding as it should.

Bill C-83 is legislation I hope we can all support. I thank the hon. members who engaged in a thoughtful study of the bill and proposed constructive amendments. I want to thank the witnesses who provided the informed and useful feedback that led directly to some of those specific amendments.

I want to thank in advance the correctional employees who will be charged with implementing this new system, and who work hard every day in very, very challenging circumstances, to effect successful rehabilitation, safe reintegration and the protection of Canadians and our communities.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:25 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic that we are debating something related to our criminal justice system in Bill C-83. The Minister of Public Safety is the inheritor of the old solicitor general role. In fact, the minister was part of the government that changed that. The last official solicitor general for Canada was Anne McLellan, his former colleague. Therefore, the public safety minister is, by extension, the solicitor general, the second-highest ranking legal official in the government of Canada.

We are in the middle of a crisis with respect to the demotion of the former attorney general, the top legal official in Canada, after she refused the orders of the Prime Minister's Office and pressure by major officials.

The solicitor general needs to ensure that there is confidence in our system of justice in Canada. As the second-highest ranking legal official in the government of Canada, a barrister solicitor himself, I would like the member to tell us why Canadians should have faith in Bill C-83 in the corrections part of the criminal justice system, when we have just been witness to the spectacle of the top ranking legal official in the Canadian government suggesting that the Prime Minister interfered with the course of justice. Should the minister not withdraw this bill and all other bills that are now sullied by the government's lack of respect for the rule of law in Canada?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Durham brought up a very valuable point. It will frame how my 10 minutes will move forward on the topic of Bill C-83.

I am glad to see that our hon. colleague across the way, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, is not at Rideau Hall right now, being shuffled away. It is nice he is here with us, as the Prime Minister tries to shuffle himself out of a crisis of confidence.

That is where we are. A great emergency debate took place last night, with valuable comments from all sides.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, and I reiterate that the government has used time allocation to once again force closure to limit debate. Why is that? As we have seen time and again, if the government does not like what it is hearing or does not like the message, it is going to force closure on debate. The Liberals do not want to hear anymore.

It was on day 10 of the 2015 election that the member for Papineau told Canadians that he was going to do things differently, let debate reign and not resort to parliamentary tricks such as closure and time allocation. He said that under his government, Canadians would see the most open and transparent government in the history of our country and sunny ways.

What have we seen over the last three years? We have not necessarily seen a lot of sunshine, but have heard a lot of questions. Canadians have a lot of questions, and rightfully so. Today, we are in the middle of a crisis of confidence.

We should always arm our front-line officers, those who we trust to protect us and who serve our country and our community. We should be giving them to tools so they can fulfill their missions, come home safe and sound and remain healthy.

Bill C-83 is another attempt at being soft on crime, making things easier for those who commit the worst crimes in our society. The Liberals want Canadians to believe that these criminals are okay and that somehow solitary confinement or segregation is cruel and unusual punishment. One day these criminals get out of prison and will walk among us.

Let us consider Paul Bernardo, Robert Pickton, Clifford Olson, Eric McArthur, Travis Winsor and Canada's youngest serial killer, Cody Legebokoff. These are the types of offenders who are in solitary confinement and they are there not only for the protection of officers and other inmates, but for their own protection as well.

The minister talked about consultation, saying that the Liberals had consulted with the union of correctional officers and with Canadians from coast to coast to coast. The testimony we heard is considerably different from what they have said.

They purport there is support for the bill. There is support for elements in the bill, such as body scanners. However, the union of correctional officers has some serious concerns with it. In fact, the president remarked that there would be a bloodbath behind bars with the implementation of Bill C-83. He said that prisons did not have the resources now for the two hours inmates in solitary confinement were allowed to be out each day, let alone for four hours per day.

It has been said that solitary confinement is used as an administrative tool for both the safety of the officers as well as other inmates. However, 23% of offenders who are in solitary confinement are serving life sentences; 23% of offenders are serving a sentence between two years and three years less a day; and 681 offenders are serving a sentence with a “dangerous offender” designation. Dangerous offenders very likely never get out of these institutions, because they have committed some of the worst crimes.

The Liberals want people to believe the opposition is sowing the seeds of fear, but the government is soft on crime. We have seen it with Bill C-75. Convictions for serious crimes could now be punishable with just a fine. Bill C-83's intent is to bring the prison population down from 12,000.

Prominent witnesses have had serious issues with Bill C-83. They have said it is flawed. As our hon. colleague for Durham remarked, how can Canadians have confidence in any legislation moving forward?

I will go back to the testimony we heard earlier this week from the former attorney general. It was three hours and 40 minutes of powerful testimony. The Liberals are going to spin it each and every way they can. They are going to say nothing untoward happened. The former attorney general has serious concerns. She spoke truth to power in what happened. She was shuffled. She was demoted, fired. Over the course of the following weeks, the Liberals have done everything to tarnish her character, cast doubt in her testimony. This is what they do, and it is shocking.

I challenge Canadians to take a moment to listen to that testimony, three hours and 40 minutes of it. It will give them a glimpse into our country's highest office and the extent to which it is willing to go to subvert justice. It will shock them. It will strike fear into Canadians. Make no bones about it, the world is listening.

Today is not just about Bill C-83. Today is about the crisis of confidence we have in the Prime Minister, his office and indeed his entire front bench. Those in the gallery and those who are watching should pay attention and listen. If they do one thing today, I urge them to find that testimony and listen to it. Hear in her own words how the pressure was sustained. Despite saying no multiple times, there was sustained pressure for her to subvert justice. After all, the Prime Minister was going to get his way one way or the other. That is shameful.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:40 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I guess the question today is whether the Prime Minister admits he was wrong.

Our hon. colleague is a good soldier. I am saddened that he is not down at Rideau Hall. I wish him better luck next time.

We have read the departmental plan for this department. One of our colleagues made note of it and questioned the minister on it. It shows about a 13% cut from the time we were government, 2015-16, to today. Correctional Service Canada managers have been tasked to look for efficiencies. In other words, to find ways to cut.

Bill C-83 has not been costed. We have made attempts to get the minister to tell us about the model the government is using and whether it has been costed. All we get is deflection. The Liberals are doing again what they usually do, which is to blame those before them.

The Liberals cannot accept the truth, they do not know the truth, we have not yet heard the truth and they cannot handle the truth.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would appreciate if the member would correct the slight he made to my colleague.

The Hon. Kim Pate, senator and former long-standing head of the Elizabeth Fry Society and who received the Order of Canada for her work against segregation in prisons, said two days ago that Bill C-83 could have been made meaningful. Instead of just changing the name, the government could have made significant changes by including provisions that would allow for the transfer of those who had mental problems to mental health facilities. I wonder if the member could speak to that.

Would the legislation really resolve the problem we face where so many have been put in segregation and suffer severe mental problems? There are other solutions? I have worked with many people in the criminal law field. I have been to those facilities of incarceration. The Hon. Kim Pate is a person whose advice should be considered.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the issue today is that if the Liberals do not like the narrative or the message coming from others, they will do everything to tarnish their character. We have seen it with the former attorney general, one who still sits among their very own ranks. That is shameful.

We should be doing everything in our power to ensure that those who face tough times have the tools they need so they can remain healthy. However, we should always ensure that those who we task to protect, to serve our country or our communities have the tools they need to remain healthy, safe and secure at work so they can go home safely and remain healthy at home.

Bill C-83 would do none of that. It is flawed legislation. The Liberals should remove it immediately.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 10:45 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am here today to speak to Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.

While there are a few colleagues across the way that think this is good bill, a number of people and organizations that testified at committee disagree.

One organization said that structured intervention units, or SIUs, are not needed, that the bill fails to focus on the programs and that there are concerns with section 81. That was the Elizabeth Fry Society.

The John Howard Society disagrees, saying that it needs more information on what exactly the difference is between solitary confinement and structured intervention units, believing that there is really no difference other than in the wording.

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association disagrees. It will not support this bill, citing a lack of external oversight, a lack of programming needed to assist prisoners to reform and lack of sufficient resources and staff to meet social and educational needs.

The Native Women's Association of Canada also disagrees. It is one organization in a long list that were not consulted. It expressed reservations that the bill does not address traditions, protocol or cultural practices and does not clarify what is meant by “indigenous communities”.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers also disagrees, expressing very real concerns over the feasibility of SIUs and over prisoners and officers being more vulnerable under this bill.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association also disagrees, citing that Bill C-83 has no meaningful reform and should be repealed and expressing apprehension that there was little to no consultation as well.

Aboriginal Legal Services also disagrees with Bill C-83, citing a lack of consultation and speaking about the expanse between rhetoric and reality.

A Canadian correctional investigator who testified also disagreed with this bill, expressing that eliminating solitary confinement was one thing but that replacing it with a regime that imposes restrictions on retained rights and liberties with little regard for due process and administrative principles was inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, as well as the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, when there is little regard for the rule of law, disregarding the charter is a trivial thing. I just hope that no one is hurt or killed because of this legislation before November, when Conservatives can repeal this piece of legislation.

I am not sure if my colleagues have detected a pattern or not. Clearly, the government sees no problem with ignoring the concerns of those most affected by this bad bill, but this lack of interest in listening to Canadians does not end with Bill C-83.

In the Correctional Services departmental report, 2018-19, on page 26, if the members opposite care to follow along, there is actually a cut in spending to Correctional Services of Canada of about 6.6%. That is comparing 2015 to 2019. It went down 6.6%.

Also in that departmental report is a list of departmental priorities. Believe it or not, there is not one mention of officer safety in that report. How is that even possible? Again, there is a pattern that is consistently repeating itself here.

With respect to the government's carbon tax, much promoted on their side, no less than four provinces are taking the Liberal government to court, and more are waiting.

The Prime Minister's carbon tax does nothing for the environment, but it will increase the cost of gas, home heating and everyday essentials. Worse still, it is going to get more expensive. For Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick, in 2019 the Prime Minister's carbon tax starts at $20 a tonne, going up to $50 in three years. However, internal government documents confirm that the Liberals are already planning for a carbon tax of $300 per tonne. That is 15 times larger than what it will be on April 1 when it kicks in.

The Prime Minister has cut a special carbon tax side deal with Canada's largest emitters, which means they will continue to pollute for free while families and small business owners get hit with the full force of that tax.

For wealthy individuals, an extra $100 a month on a grocery bill or electricity bill might not seem like a big deal, but it matters a lot to a family trying to make its household budget last to the end of the month. Canadians do not want it, but like the stakeholders who testified on Bill C-83, they are being ignored by the government.

The bill is very much about protecting the rights of criminals, particularly those who continue to behave badly in prison. The Supreme Court of Canada recently made a ruling that the law that makes criminals pay surcharges to help victims is unconstitutional, and the Liberals have jumped on this. Instead of looking at ways to protect victims' rights, they have introduced legislation to remove this necessary instrument for ensuring criminals are held accountable. Victims' rights must always be at the heart of our criminal justice system. That is why our previous Conservative government took unprecedented steps to ensure that the rights of victims were protected.

The Liberals' approach to Bill C-83 is similar to what we are seeing in a lot of other pieces of legislation, and I will outline a few more ways the government continues its pattern of failing to listen to Canadians.

The Prime Minister failed to move an ounce of dirt or build one inch of new pipeline. They had to nationalize it, and they still have continued to fail on this file. After killing the northern gateway, he vetoed the energy east pipeline and obstructed Trans Mountain. This lack of pipeline capacity has turned an already difficult economy in western Canada into a full-blown national economic crisis that is threatening tens of thousands of jobs, on top of the 100,000 jobs already lost in the energy sector since 2015.

The Prime Minister also failed to fix the mess he created at our border with the United States. Since his #WelcomeToCanada tweet last year, 40,000 people have crossed illegally into Canada, at a cost of up to $34,000 each. By 2020, this crisis will have cost Canadian taxpayers $1.6 billion.

As well, the Prime Minister failed to balance the budget, despite promising to do so in the 2015 election campaign. This year is supposed to be the year of the Prime Minister's final deficit before returning to surplus in 2019. Instead, this year's deficit is three times larger than projected and the budget will not be balanced until 2045. He is spending Canada's cupboards bare in good economic times and leaving us open to disaster when the downturn next hits.

The Prime Minister has also failed our veterans. After promising in the 2015 election that veterans would never have to go to court to obtain benefits from his government, he has spent nearly $40 million fighting veterans groups in court over benefits claims. When asked why at a town hall meeting in 2018 in Edmonton, he said that veterans were asking more than we are able to give.

The Prime Minister failed to equip our armed forces. He is spending $2.5 billion less than what he promised in his defence policy. The Royal Canadian Navy is in need of new warships, and to meet Canada's international obligations, the Royal Canadian Air Force requires a new fleet of fighter jets, not used CF-18s from Australia.

Canada's peacekeeping is at an all-time low, and the Prime Minister failed to represent Canada with dignity on the world stage, as he failed to maintain relationships with key allies. His trip to India was a PR disaster for Canada and seriously damaged relations with the world's largest democracy. Relations with the United States and other traditional long-standing allies are also strained.

The Prime Minister failed to uphold the standards of transparency, accountability and ethical behaviour he promised. In 2018, he became the first prime minister in Canadian history found guilty of breaking ethics laws after accepting a vacation from the Aga Khan, while his ministers continued to abuse their power for political gain in 2018. Now, with his handling of the SNC-Lavalin affair and his attempts to manipulate a favourable decision for his friends at SNC-Lavalin, he has lost the moral authority to govern. He must resign.

It seems unless someone employs workers in and around the Prime Minister's riding, there is not much the government will do to listen to their concerns.

I have laid out why this side of the House will not support Bill C-83. I welcome questions from my colleagues.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, the mandatory minimums were aimed at keeping the worst of the worst, the violent repeat offenders, off our streets. I do not believe those who refuse to be rehabilitated in any way should be allowed to go free on our streets. Although there are a number of tools in the tool box that court officers, judges and law enforcement professionals have, the more tools the better.

What Bill C-83 fails to address is the fact that the union representing corrections officers has said on many occasions, especially through its testimony, that this is one tool being taken away that could jeopardize the safety of workers and the safety of other inmates.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I were rising today to support Bill C-83. We have a problem in our corrections system with the use of what was originally called solitary confinement, which then became administrative segregation and is now being rebranded as structured integration units. We are trying to deal with a real problem in the corrections system, but instead, the bill is trying to rebrand the problem out of existence.

I do not think there is any way the courts will be fooled by the bill. The B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court have clearly found that the practice of solitary confinement is unconstitutional. The bill would actually make that practice more common than it is now, and it would have fewer protections for inmates than there are now. I will return to this question of rights later.

I want to talk about the bill from two other perspectives, which I think are equally important: the perspective of corrections workers and the perspective of victims.

In the last Parliament, I was privileged to serve as the NDP public safety critic. I was given that task based on my 20 years of teaching criminal justice at Camosun College, which is essentially a police and corrections worker training program.

The majority of the students who came into that program wanted to be police officers, as they still do. Once they are in the program, they find out that there are a lot of other jobs within the corrections, policing and criminal justice world. Many of them end up going into corrections.

I always talk to the students who are about to go into corrections about the challenges of that job. It is not as glamourous as policing. There are not many shows on TV glamourizing corrections officers. However, it is an equally challenging job.

One of the first challenges workers have to learn to deal with is being locked in during the day. For some, that is psychologically too difficult to handle. That goes along with the second challenge of that job: Corrections workers do not get any choice in who they deal with. In fact, they have to deal the most anti-social and most difficult people to deal with in our society.

Our corrections system often makes corrections workers' jobs harder. We have long wait-lists for treatment programs within our system. We also have long waits for rehabilitation programs. While people are serving their time, it is not just that they are not getting the rehabilitation they need for when they come out. It is not just that they are not getting the addiction treatment they need. They are not getting anything. They are just serving time.

Many will say that this is the kind of punishment people need. However, they tend to forget the fact that far more than 90% of the people in our corrections system will come back into society. If we are worried about the perspective of victims, we have to do a good job on rehabilitation and addiction treatment so that we do not create more victims when people come out of our corrections system.

In response to a question I posed earlier, the minister claimed that I was living in a time warp. He said the Liberals have solved all these problems and have earmarked new money for addiction and mental health treatment within prisons. He said that on the one hand, while on the other hand, he is making cuts in the corrections system.

We have a system, which is already strained from years of cuts by the Conservatives, being held in a steady state of inadequacy by the Liberal budget. It is great for the Liberals to say that they have earmarked these new programs, but if they do not have the staff and facilities to deliver those programs and the things they need to make those programs work, it does not do much good to say they are going to do it, when they cannot do it.

One of the other critical problems in our corrections system is the corrections system for women. It is even more challenging than the corrections system for men in that it is by nature, given the number of offenders, a much smaller system. There are fewer resources and fewer alternatives available for offenders within the women's system.

I think the women's corrections system also suffers from what many would call “essentialism”. That is the idea that women are somehow different from men, and therefore, with their caring and nurturing nature, do not belong in prison. There is a prejudice against women offenders that they must somehow be the worst people, even worse than male offenders, because we expect it from men but we do not expect it from women. That kind of essentialism has really stood in the way of providing the kinds of programs we need to help women offenders, who largely deal with mental health and addiction problems.

While women have served traditionally, or experientially I would say, less often in solitary confinement and shorter periods in solitary confinement, it is the same phenomenon for women as for men. It means that all kinds of mental illnesses, rather than being treated, end up being exacerbated, because while an inmate is in segregation he or she does not have access to those mental health programs. The same thing is true of addiction problems. If an inmate is in administrative segregation, he or she does not have access to those programs.

In the women's system of corrections those programs are already very limited, are hard to access, are hard to schedule and if women spend time in and out of administrative segregation, they do not get the treatment and rehabilitation that they deserve before they return to society.

Sometimes politicians make correctional workers' jobs harder and they do this by making offenders harder to manage. One of the things we hear constantly from the Conservatives is a call for consecutive sentences. They say the crimes are so horrible that if there is more than one victim we ought to have consecutive rather than concurrent sentences. We have to make sure that the worst of the worst do not get out. That is the Conservative line.

When we do that, however, we make sure we have people in the system who have no interest in being rehabilitated, they have no interest in being treated for their addictions, and they have no interest in civil behaviour, if I may put it that way, within the prison. If inmates are never going to get out, then they might as well be the baddest people they can be while they are in that situation. Calling for consecutive sentences just makes correctional workers' jobs that much harder and encourages all of the worst behaviours by offenders.

Related to that was the elimination of what we had in the system before, which was called the faint hope clause. This, for the worst offenders, allowed people to apply for early parole after serving 15 years.

The argument often becomes entitlement. Why would these people be entitled to ask for early parole? But it is the same kind of thing I was just talking about earlier. If people have a faint hope, which is why it is called faint hope, that they may eventually be released, then there is still an incentive to behave civilly while within the system. There is an incentive to get addiction treatment and there is an incentive to do rehabilitation work.

If we take away that faint hope, which we did in the last Parliament as an initiative of the Conservatives, an initiative that was supported by the Liberals, then we end up with people in prisons who are extremely difficult to manage and, therefore, very dangerous for correctional workers to deal with.

The people who are trying to use the faint hope clause are not the most attractive people in our society. The issue of eliminating the faint hope clause from the Criminal Code came up in the case of Clifford Olson in 1997. He was the serial killer of 11 young men and women. It is important to point out that when he applied for his early release, it took only 15 minutes to quash the process. Those people who are in fact the worst of the worst will never get out of prison.

There were about 1,000 applications under the existing faint hope clause. Of those 1,000 applications, 1.3% received parole, and of those 1.3%, there were virtually no returns to prison, no recidivism.

The faint hope clause worked very well in preserving discipline inside the corrections system and in making the environment safer for correctional workers but unfortunately only the NDP and the Bloc opposed eliminating the faint hope clause.

A third way in which politicians make things worse, which I mentioned in an earlier question to my Conservative colleague, is the creation of mandatory minimums. Under the Harper government we had a whole raft of mandatory minimum sentences brought in with the idea that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is punished. I would argue that we have to make sure that each and every person who is found guilty is rehabilitated. That is what public safety is all about.

The Liberals promised in their election campaign they would repeal these mandatory minimums, yet when they eventually got around after two and a half years to bringing in Bill C-75, it did not repeal mandatory minimum sentences.

We are still stuck with lots of offenders, be they aboriginal people or quite often women, or quite often those with addiction and mental health problems, who do not belong in the corrections system. They belong in the mental health treatment system. They belong in the addictions treatment system. They need supports to get their lives in order. However, under mandatory minimums, the Conservatives took away the tools that the courts had to get those people into the programs that they needed to keep all the rest of us safe.

When we combine all of these things with the lack of resources in the corrections system, which the Conservatives made a hallmark of their government and which has been continued by the Liberals, then all we are doing here is making the work of corrections officers more difficult and dangerous, and we are making the effort to make sure people are rehabilitated successfully less likely.

I want to talk about two cases, one federal and one provincial, to put a human face on the specific problem of solitary confinement.

The first of those is the sad case of Ashley Smith. Ashley Smith, from the Maritimes, was jailed at the age of 15 for throwing crabapples at a postal worker. She was given a 90-day sentence, but while she was in custody for that 90-day sentence, repeated behavioural problems resulted in her sentence being extended and extended until eventually she served four years, 17 transfers from one institution to another, because she was so difficult to manage, forced medication and long periods in solitary confinement.

What happened with Ashley Smith is a tragedy, because she died by suicide after repeated incidents of self-harm while she was in custody. It is unfortunately a sad example of the outcomes when we place people in, whatever we want to call it, solitary confinement, administrative segregation or structured integration units. It does not matter what the label is. It has enormously negative impacts on those in particular who have a mental illness.

The second case is a provincial case in Ontario, the case of Adam Capay, a mentally ill indigenous man who was kept in isolation for more than four years, without access to mental health services, and under conditions that the courts found amounted to inhumane treatment. The effects on Mr. Capay were permanent memory loss and an exacerbation of his pre-existing psychiatric disorders.

While he was in an institution, unfortunately, Mr. Capay did not get the treatment he needed, and he ended up stabbing another offender, resulting in the death of that offender. What this did, of course, was to create new victims, not only the person who lost his life while in custody but the family of that person.

The result here was a ruling by provincial court Judge John Fregeau that Mr. Capay was incapable of standing trial for that murder within the corrections system because of the way he had been treated and the excessive periods of time he had spent in solitary confinement. The prosecutors did not appeal this decision. It resulted in Mr. Capay's release, to the great distress of the family of the murder victim.

What is the real cause here? The real cause, the fundamental cause, and I am not even going to say it is solitary confinement, is the lack of resources to deal with mental health and addictions problems within our corrections system.

Let me come back to the bill very specifically. The Liberals say they are setting up a new system here to deal with the difficult offenders. They have given it that new title. Senator Kim Pate, who spent many years heading up the Elizabeth Fry Society and has received the Order of Canada for her work on women in corrections, said:

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

Strangely, what the Liberals have done in the bill, in attempting to get rid of administrative segregation, is that they have cast a broader net. They are setting up a system that will actually bring more people into the isolation and segregation system within the corrections system. The Liberals have actually removed some of the safeguards that existed on the length of time someone could end up spending in what should be called solitary confinement. There is actually no limit in the bill on how long someone could end up in solitary confinement.

Our correctional investigator, Ivan Zinger, an independent officer of Parliament, has criticized the bill, saying people will end up in much more restrictive routines under the new system than most of them would have under the old system. The bill would make things worse.

Josh Patterson, from the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, pointed out that the bill would allow the same practices that the courts had criticized as inhumane treatment in the new bill as existed under the old administrative segregation. Therefore, we have merely relabelled the existing practices in the bill.

The final piece I want to talk about is the question of oversight. In earlier debate, the minister said I was living in a time warp. Sometimes I wish that were true. However, he was talking about oversight and said that I had missed the amendments he made on oversight. What is really true is the minister missed the point of the witnesses on oversight. Stretching all the way back to the inquiry into events at the prison for women in Kingston, Louise Arbour recommended judicial oversight of the use of solitary confinement. That is truly independent. That is truly an outside review of what happens.

Also, as Josh Patterson pointed out, not only is there no judicial oversight, there is no recourse for those who are subjected to solitary confinement to have legal representation to challenge the conditions under which they are being held.

Therefore, what the government has done in its amendments is to create not independent review but an advisory committee to the minister. That is not independent oversight and that is one of the reasons the NDP continues to oppose the bill.

I want to come back to the B.C. court decision, which pointed to two key reasons why the existing regime was unconstitutional. Those are the lack of access to counsel for what amounts to additional punishment measures being applied when someone is placed into solitary confinement and the possibility of indefinite extra punishment by being in solitary confinement. The bill deals with neither of those two key unconstitutional provisions of solitary confinement.

Therefore, where are we likely to find ourselves down the road? We are going to find ourselves back in court, with the new bill being challenged on the same grounds as the old regime of solitary confinement.

As I said at the beginning, I would like to be standing here to support a bill that would create a system for managing those most difficult offenders, those with mental health and addiction problems, in a way that would respect their constitutional rights and in a way that would guarantee treatment of their addictions and rehabilitation so when they would come out, they could be contributing members of society. Unfortunately, Bill C-83 is not that bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, certainly we all remember with sadness the case of Ashley Smith. We should learn from mistakes in tragic cases in our system.

We hear concerns from correctional workers that they have not been properly consulted in the process. We also hear concerns from organizations, from Senator Pate and others, that Bill C-83 does not have the intended purpose to deal with some of the issues the member raised in his speech.

However, I am raising the wider issue that with the government now in a crisis of confidence with respect to the rule of law, maybe the Liberals have lost their moral authority on criminal justice issues, including corrections.

There is widespread disagreement on both the left and the right on Bill C-83. The fact is that the government is now tarnished. I talked about how the public safety minister is the modern equivalent of the solicitor general, the second-highest-ranking legal official in the government of Canada. In the absence of moral authority, should the government not go back to the drawing board and speak to the organizations that can give Bill C-83 its intended purpose?

I would like the member's comments on the wider issue of how the government and the Prime Minister and his office, in particular, have called into question their ability to bring forward appropriate legislation on both the rule of law and the criminal justice system.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise at third reading of Bill C-83. This important piece of legislation proposes significant reforms to Canada's correctional system. These changes would make our federal correctional institutions safer places for staff and inmates alike, and that in turn would contribute to greater safety for people in our communities.

Under Bill C-83, administrative segregation would be eliminated and a new correctional intervention model would be established through the implementation of structured intervention units, SIUs, which would serve to address the safety and security risks of offenders who are at any given time too dangerous or disruptive to be managed in the mainstream inmate population. When those offenders need to be separated for safety reasons, they would be placed in an SIU. While they are there, they would continue to have access to the interventions and programming they need to make progress on their correctional plan and improve their likelihood of rehabilitation.

The goal is to help offenders reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as quickly as possible. That has been the main goal of Bill C-83 from the very beginning and remains so today in the bill's current form. We have arrived at a very solid, concise and thorough piece of legislation that was very strong to begin with. That is a testament to a robust, democratic and healthy legislative process, including thoughtful discussion in this chamber and careful scrutiny and informative testimony at committee. That process led to a number of amendments that have strengthened this bill.

Many of those amendments focus on additional measures to ensure that the SIUs would operate as intended. For example, amendments were made to specify that daily time outside an SIU cell must be offered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and that opportunities to interact through human contact must not be mediated or interposed by physical barriers.

Other amendments are about enhancing oversight and transparency when it comes to SIU placement decisions. However, today I would like to focus on one amendment in particular, proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington, which would introduce a new independent external decision-making function.

Under Bill C-83, independent external decision-makers would review an inmate's placement in an SIU if it falls under any one of three specific circumstances.

The first circumstance is if an inmate has not received or taken advantage of the opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside of their cell or two hours of interaction with others or five consecutive days or 15 cumulative days over a 30-day period. The second is if an inmate has been confined to an SIU for 90 consecutive days. The third is if a health care committee of senior officials from the Correctional Service of Canada has made the determination to maintain an inmate in an SIU contrary to the recommendations of a registered health professional.

This process would ensure that decisions to maintain an inmate in an SIU would be subject to scrutiny and ongoing assessment at specific time periods through a mechanism that would operate at arm's length from the Correctional Service of Canada.

Reviews conducted by independent external decision-makers would create additional external monitoring of inmates who are placed in SIUs. This would include vulnerable inmates, such as those who are not participating in programming or interventions or receiving meaningful human contact. It would also support transparency around decisions to maintain vulnerable inmates in an SIU. In all cases, the external decision-maker would be authorized to order the inmate to be released from the SIU entirely.

In addition, when it has been recommended by a registered health care professional, the external decision-maker could order the modification of the inmate's conditions of confinement in the SIU. The proposed addition of the independent external decision-maker's response was one of the main points raised at the committee stage by various witnesses. More specifically, concerns were raised that inmates in an SIU could still be subjected to indeterminate and prolonged confinement. The introduction of an additional external review mechanism addresses these concerns and would help keep our correctional system safe, lawful and accountable.

Another issue that was raised by witnesses at committee, including those representing front-line staff in federal correctional institutions, involved whether additional resources would be made available to support the implementation of the bill.

To ensure that our federal correctional system has the resources it needs to successfully implement the changes proposed in Bill C-83, the government announced a total of $448 million in funding for corrections in last year's fall economic statement. That includes approximately $297 million over six years to implement the proposed SIUs, funding that, in the words of the Minister of Public Safety would ensure that Correctional Service Canada “has people with the right skill sets in the right places at the right times”.

Canada's federal correctional system is already in a class of its own. Operating in a challenging environment, it does a remarkable job of fulfilling its objectives of holding guilty parties to account, while fostering their rehabilitation. An important part of that rehabilitation process is making sure that offenders, including those who must be separated, are able to take part in reintegration programming in order to make progress against the objectives set out in their correctional plan.

That programming is essential to a successful transition to the mainstream inmate population, and after that, to the community at the end of a sentence. The bill would improve the way that works. In doing so, it would help bring about safer institutions for staff and inmates, in the short term. In the long run, it would mean fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities for all.

Getting the bill to where it is today has been a truly collaborative effort. I have been impressed and heartened by the careful attention and constructive input given to the bill from all parties and all corners. I would like to thank hon. members for the roles they have played throughout that entire process so far. The result is improved legislation that, if passed, I am confident will lead to a better, safer and more effective correctional system.

For all these reasons, I will be voting in favour of Bill C-83 at third reading and I encourage all my hon. colleagues to join me in doing the same.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

March 1st, 2019 / 1 p.m.
See context

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, it is nice to see that this legislation is at third reading stage. I had the opportunity to express a number of thoughts on the legislation at second reading in particular, and I suspect that if we were to check, I likely would have implied, because I know the minister's approach to legislation quite well, that the government is always open to looking at ways to change legislation. My colleague and friend from Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, who spoke just before me, referenced some amendments. That is a nice way to start my comments.

We have this wonderful process that allows us to go through second reading and into committee stage, and often amendments are brought forward at committee stage. What is interesting about this legislation is that it exemplifies how open this government really is to opposition amendments. My understanding is that amendments from the opposition provided additional strength to the legislation before us. That tells me, in good part, that committees can be constructive and effective in improving legislation, in dealing with reports and even in discussion. It is a question of having confidence in our standing committees and allowing them to do the fantastic work they can do. Today, Bill C-83 is a good example of legislation being enhanced, and as a direct result, all Canadians will benefit.

Bill C-83, to me, is a good example of how this government has approached the whole crime and safety issue, recognizing just how important it is that no matter where one lives in Canada, there is an expectation that government is going to do what it can to make our communities safer places to be.

This is legislation that would do that, and I do not say that lightly. The majority of people incarcerated in our jail facilities, we have to realize, will leave at some point in time. When they leave, we want to ensure as far as possible that they have the opportunities to succeed and never return to a prison setting. If we are successful in doing that, it means that in Winnipeg North and all over Canada there will be fewer crimes. With fewer crimes, there are fewer victims.

There should be no doubt that when people are guilty of something, yes, there needs to be a consequence for inappropriate behaviour. That is why we have jails, probation and an array of consequences for individuals who commit offences. We also need to recognize that one way we can improve safety in our communities is by ensuring, wherever we can, that there is a sense of responsibility by providing programming and services to minimize the number of repeat offenders. That is what I like about Bill C-83 more than anything else.

There are other aspects to the legislation that would also make a difference. One example is body scanners. I had the opportunity to tour provincial facilities and even some federal facilities in my days as an MLA. Some provincial facilities use scanning technology, from what I understand, and with this legislation, we would better enable body scans to take place in our federal institutions.

I think that is a good thing, because we often hear of drugs, among other things, being smuggled into facilities. This is one of the ways we will be able to reduce that kind of smuggling. It will be a safer environment.

We not only hear about this from individuals in the Ottawa bubble, if I can put it that way, but, more important, we hear it from our constituents and correctional officers. These types of things can really make a difference.

At times, the Conservatives can be somewhat misleading. I am trying to put it as kindly as I can. When they say we are not providing the funds necessary, it is important to recognize that the government is committing almost a half-billion dollars over the next six years to ensure correctional officers and inmates have the supports they need and our system will have a safer environment.

I find it a little odd that the Conservative Party and New Democratic Party do not necessarily support legislation that a sound majority of our constituents would want us to support. There is some really good stuff in here, like the one about audio recordings. I have used the example of someone who is a victim of a sexual assault and whose perpetrator will now go to a hearing. Under the current law, the victim is unable to receive the audio of that hearing. I am sure members of all sides can appreciate the emotions a victim of a sexual assault would feel when put in the same room as the perpetrator. Why would we not allow for that individual to have a copy of the audio recording at a later date? This legislation would allow that.

On the one hand, some very obvious things within the legislation would have a very positive impact. Then some wonderful little things would make a real difference for victims. Whether it is this legislation or the legislation on military justice, when we talked about the Victims Bill of Rights, there are really encouraging things in the legislation.

We are moving forward on a number of different fronts as we modernize. Whether it is the military justice or civil justice, at the end of the day, we want our communities to feel safe. We want to work toward minimizing the number of victims by preventing crimes from taking place whenever we can. We want to ensure there is a consequence to criminal activities. That is why we have different tools to ensure that takes place. I am encouraged by the attitude of the government, in particular, in trying to ensure we are moving forward on this front.

When it comes to the issue of segregation, it is interesting to hear the contrast between the Conservatives and the NDP. The NDP says there is no change in the segregation and the Conservatives say we are going too far on this issue. The reality is that this is a response to the Supreme Court's decision, and we are complying with that decision with the new system we will be putting in place.

Those structured intervention units are in fact a progressive way forward that will ensure that we meet the Supreme Court's requirements, while at the same time allowing more services to be made available. Again, we will hopefully minimize the repeat offenders. We do not want people who are leaving our institutions to be committing more crimes.

We want safer communities, and that is really what all of this is about, trying to get communities across Canada to be safer, more harmonious places to live. It is with great pleasure that I support Bill C-83.

Bill C-83—Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 10:55 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the bill is going through all of the normal parliamentary stages, including extensive work at committee, further debate at report stage with additional amendments being considered, and a third reading debate. Then, according to our parliamentary process, it will go on to the Senate for the appropriate consideration there. Therefore, all of the parliamentary steps are being properly complied with.

I would note that back in 2014, the head of the correctional officers union in this country at that particular time was quoted as saying, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He accused the Harper government of endangering correctional officers with prison overcrowding and cuts to rehabilitative programming. Some of that will be corrected by C-83.

I would also point out that the courts have said that to simply allow the present system of administrative segregation to expire in compliance with the court rulings, with nothing in place to replace it, would in fact make the system more dangerous. Therefore, all the measures in Bill C-83 are intended to address those very real issues that perpetuating the debate will not solve. Taking a decision will help us to come to a solution.

On the issue of consultation, I would point out that I have met with the correctional officers union on multiple occasions, both before and after Bill C-83 was introduced. This particular issue was discussed on every occasion.

Bill C-83—Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 11 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, here we are again. I do not know exactly, but the number of times the current government has invoked closure is probably well in the sixties now. Again, I will bring us all back to day 10 of the 2015 campaign, which we have to do time and again, where the member for Papineau at that time said he would not resort to parliamentary tricks such as limiting debate. He would let debate reign.

The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said that while Bill C-83 may have been well intended, these changes fall short as they are not feasible under the current staffing and infrastructure models. Many of the inmates currently managed within segregation units are highly vulnerable and are segregated for their own protection. The same president also expressed serious concern for the safety of the correctional officers and the work they are doing, and felt that Bill C-83 was falling short in ensuring that.

We should always ensure we are doing everything in our power to put the necessary tools in the hands of those who are protecting not only the mental well-being but also the physical well-being of the public and Canadians. Bill C-83 falls short in that regard. Witnesses who gave testimony all commented on that, with some very powerful messages from the president of the union of correctional officers. I would like to ask our hon. colleague, the minister, how that concern has been addressed by limiting debate on this important piece of legislation.

Bill C-83—Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Liberal Regina—Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the question is a complete non sequitur. Moreover, its fundamental premise is absolutely flawed. There is no relationship between the issues that he raises in his question and what is in Bill C-83.

Bill C-83 and the amendments that are now before the House are intended to make our correctional system safer and more successful in keeping society safe and secure. The amendments that we are now considering at report stage have to do in large measure with review and oversight to ensure our correctional service has the power and authority to run the system in a way that keeps the system safe and that respects the needs of those in the institutions. This is to ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, rehabilitation can be achieved.

If we reject the objective of rehabilitation, we are saying that when sentences expire, we should release inmates willy-nilly, with no concern for future public safety. That is surely a formula for disaster, which the official opposition seems to embrace.

Bill C-83—Time Allocation MotionCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. minister about one of the witnesses who testified, Senator Pate. She testified before the committee and indicated that the legislation, Bill C-83, as presented and as amended was bad legislation.

Senator Pate did a very good job of dismantling the claims of the minister and the bill on what segregation would do at the end of the day. Her experience in Nova Scotia was that one of the prisons she visited had renamed a segregation unit to the intensive intervention unit. However, at the end of the day, it did not change anything.

It appears as if whatever overhaul was intended with this legislation, changing the name of a segregation unit to the function of it is not necessarily what is going to happen in the bill. The costing has never been done for the legislation either.

Would the minister enlighten us on exactly how, other than potentially changing the paint and the name of something, it will actually make a difference in what we are trying to achieve with rehabilitation, still keeping in mind the protection of our guards and other inmates, and the rehabilitation of the prisoners who are there?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / noon
See context

Peter Schiefke Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth) and to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Lib.

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise to speak to Bill C-83.

It is a transformative piece of legislation for our correctional system. Its ultimate goal is to promote safety, both inside and outside our federal institutions, and it prioritizes rehabilitation as an indispensable part of achieving that goal.

The core innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposed introduction of structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would address a reality in any prison across our country, which is that some inmates are, at certain times, simply too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream inmate population. The current practice is to place those offenders in administrative segregation.

Segregated inmates in federal institutions can be in their cells for as many as 22 hours a day. Interactions with other people are highly limited. Bill C-83 would offer a more effective way forward for all involved.

Safety will always be priority number one for our government, and should be for any government in power, but prisons are safer places in which to live and work when inmates receive the programming, mental health care and other interventions they need. Inmates who receive these interventions are more likely to reintegrate safely into the community when their sentences are over.

The solution the government is proposing in Bill C-83 is to eliminate segregation and to replace it with SIUs. These units would be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative would be met. However, they would be designed to ensure that inmates who were placed there would receive the interventions, programming and treatment they required.

Inmates in SIUs would be given the opportunity to leave their cells for at least four hours a day, as opposed to two hours under the current system. It is worth noting that currently, those two hours are set out in policy and not in legislation. Bill C-83 would give the four-hour minimum the full force of law.

Inmates in SIUs would also have the opportunity for at least two hours of meaningful human contact. During that time, they could interact with people such as correctional staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains or elders. The goal of these reforms is for inmates in an SIU to be in a position to reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

Bill C-83 has undergone rigorous analysis at every stage of the parliamentary process to date. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went over it with a fine-tooth comb. Based on testimony from a wide range of stakeholders, a number of useful amendments were adopted at the end of the committee's study period.

Bill C-83 was a solid and worthwhile bill from day one. It is now even better and stronger for having gone through vigorous debate and a robust review process. It is worth noting that the bill that has been reported back to us reflects amendments from all parties that proposed them. I wholeheartedly reject the idea we have heard during this debate that somehow the fact that the bill has been amended in response to public and parliamentary feedback is a bad thing. I am proud to support a government that welcomes informed, constructive feedback and that respects the role of members of Parliament from all parties in the legislative process. I would like to thank all members in this House who contributed to amending and making this bill better than it was.

Most of the amendments made to Bill C-83 are about ensuring that the new SIUs would function as intended. For instance, some witnesses were worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided in the middle of the night, when inmates were unlikely to take advantage of it. Therefore, the member for Montarville added the requirement that it happen between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Other witnesses wondered whether the mandatory interactions with others might happen through a door or a meal slot, a reasonable concern. To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision requiring that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that interactions are face to face, with a record kept of any and all exceptions.

To address concerns that CSC might make excessive use of the clause allowing for time out of the cell not to be provided in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to clarify how this clause should be interpreted.

Amendments from the member for Toronto—Danforth at committee and from the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will enhance the review process so that each SIU placement is subject to robust oversight, both internally and externally.

All of this will help ensure that the new structured intervention units operate as intended.

However, that is not all. Amendments have also been accepted from the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I would like to thank them once again for their contributions as well.

We all want safer institutions and safer communities. We all want Canadians to feel safe and to be safe. Successful rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people in federal custody are key to achieving our shared objective of enhanced public safety. By allowing inmates who must be separated from the general prison population to receive more time out of their cell and more mental health care and rehabilitative interventions, Bill C-83 represents a major step in the right direction.

Again, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their contributions in the House and at committee throughout the entire parliamentary process so far, and I urge them to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill. It will ensure the safety of the inmates and those who work in the correctional institutions, and Canadians as well.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth) and to the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, Lib.

Peter Schiefke

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we need proper oversight in this process. We were grateful to have the testimony of many people working in correctional facilities who pushed for these kinds of oversight. As well, many in organizations that were looking for more oversight throughout this process came and testified at committee and met with members of Parliament from all sides of the House. That is a core component of the legislation that we have put forward.

I would also like to add that it is important to develop trust among players involved in this system. We have been able to do that by making them a part of the process so far of developing the proposed law, Bill C-83, and also by listening to them and ensuring that they have the resources in place through new investments and investments that have been already put in place to ensure their safety as we put in place this new methodology to deal with those particular inmates.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this new chamber to speak to Bill C-83.

When this bill was introduced, it was an important piece of legislation. However, what is even more important is that the parliamentary process has helped enhance this very important bill.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members who have participated in the debate, who provided information and who shared their views.

The witnesses were also helpful. Some came to us, while others provided additional information in writing that helped us improve this bill as much as possible. All of these contributions will help build a safer and more effective correctional system, which is essential.

I also want to point out that more than 100 amendments were proposed. This means that there were a lot of discussions on this bill. I should also note that every party was able to contribute to these amendments in one way or another.

One of the amendments was about broadening the scope of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to ensure that correctional policies, programs and practices respect religion, sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, and the special needs of visible minorities. Those are very important aspects.

Another amendment was about making every reasonable effort to provide inmates in structured intervention units with human contact, which is very important to their mental health. Some felt it was important to give individuals in structured intervention units a reasonable amount of time outside their cell. That does not mean waking inmates up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m.; time outside the cell must be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In terms of health care, the bill provides further assurances to inmates by requiring an additional review when the institutional head disagrees with the recommendations of a health professional with respect to altering the conditions of an inmate's confinement or removing the inmate from the unit.

I am very pleased to say that the bill will be reviewed every five years. This is another approach our government has been taking since 2015. We are bringing in legislation that provides for reviews and allows for improvements to be made. This will give us an opportunity to examine the bill's implementation and make the necessary changes.

The Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness also mentioned that the government would be open to an important addition, specifically, external oversight. The member for Oakville North—Burlington moved that amendment at report stage, and the government has signalled its intention to support it. This addition will address one of the main concerns raised during testimony in committee. It is also very important to ensure that the necessary resources are put in place to move this crucial bill forward. I will explain in my speech where we have made those investments.

The national president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, Stanley Stapleton, shared this sentiment. I am delighted to say that the government also took his calls into account.

The Minister of Finance of Canada announced a $448-million investment in corrections in the latest fall economic update. A large part of this money will be put towards the provisions of this bill.

As the Minister of Public Safety pointed out, this funding will ensure that the Correctional Service of Canada will have properly trained staff at the right time and in the right place. This investment also includes $150 million for extensive improvements to mental health care in prisons. This money is in addition to the considerable investment of almost $80 million that was announced in our government's last two budgets.

In other words, the government has followed through on its commitment to ensure that the corrections system holds offenders accountable for their actions but also supports their rehabilitation in a safe and secure environment. The goal is to have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately, a safer country.

Bill C-83 will strengthen the federal correctional system by implementing a new intervention model, improve health care governance and victim support services, and better take into account the specific needs of indigenous offenders. That is very important. What is more, it will eliminate administrative segregation and make way for patient advocates, as recommended in the coroner's report on the death of Ashley Smith. It will also enact less intrusive alternatives to strip searches and body cavity searches.

The bill will help better support the role of victims in the criminal justice system by guaranteeing them access to audio recordings of parole hearings. This is a marked improvement over the former system, under which only victims who did not attend the hearing could obtain an audio recording. Now victims who attend will also get the recordings.

The bill also enshrines into law the principle by which health care providers at correctional institutions will have to make decisions based on their medical judgment, independently of correctional authorities. The bill also enshrines in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders.

In summary, we drafted a comprehensive bill that will strengthen the security of our institutional staff, inmates and our communities. It will make it possible for Correctional Service Canada to separate certain offenders while ensuring that they receive the interventions required. It will also improve the quality of their rehabilitation.

Once again, I want to thank all members who contributed to this important bill. Its passage through the House so far demonstrates what can be done when members from all parties work together to pass legislation that will help the community. I am proud to support Bill C-83 today, and I encourage members of the House to do so as well.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague knows very well that Bill C-83 had to be brought in because of superior court decisions in Ontario and British Columbia that found the current segregation policy to be unconstitutional.

In the two rulings handed down in Quebec and Ontario, recommendations were made and put in writing to explain their decision and to guide future government policy or legislation.

Bill C-83, however, fails to implement most of these recommendations, and I would like to ask my colleague why that is.

Why did the government refuse to consider the recommendations of the judges, who ruled that the situation was unconstitutional?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:25 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-83. As we know, it is a bill that symbolizes the current government's approach to leadership in this country. It is an approach of ignoring the concerns of many, providing little in the way of moral leadership and transparency, and putting the safety of Canadians at risk for the benefit of political gain.

I have said many times in this place that it is and should be the top priority of the House to put the safety of Canadians first, ahead of any other issues or politics. With the bill, the House would fail to meet that expectation.

To paraphrase my NDP colleague from Beloeil—Chambly, I can think of no time when a bill has come before Parliament where there are no witnesses who support the legislation. That is exactly what happened with Bill C-83. The minister claimed the bill would end administrative segregation. The witnesses who refuted the bill included prisoner advocacy groups, civil liberties groups, former wardens, professors, correctional unions, the correctional investigator and a senator. The overriding sentiment was that the legislation lacked the detail and information needed to back up such a claim by the minister.

The minister claimed the bill responded to issues raised by the courts that segregation caused the death of two inmates. However, the facts are clear in these two unfortunate deaths that they were the result of operational and management failures in both circumstances.

The minister claimed safety and security of staff were the top priorities. However, correctional workers and former inmates testified that segregation is essential to managing violent and volatile inmates, and that the bill would create more risk to staff.

Civil liberties groups called the bill unconstitutional and said it would make things worse rather than better. They noted the bill lacked external oversight, a check against the authorities of Correctional Service Canada. The minister actually acknowledged this lack of oversight existed.

Senator Pate testified before the committee and indicated that Bill C-83 was a bad piece of legislation. The senator dismantled the minister's claims as to how the bill would end segregation. In a visit to a Nova Scotia Prison, Senator Pate noted that it had renamed the segregation unit, the “intensive intervention unit”. The minister will claim otherwise, of course. However, I will take the testimony of a senator and her eyewitness account over the minister's promise, especially given the minister's repeated track record of misleading Parliament and Canadians.

Perhaps the only accomplishment by the minister with respect to the bill is that he brought together the NDP, the Green Party and the Conservatives, who all oppose the legislation.

I would like to note the unexpected and very valuable contribution of written testimony from Mr. Glen Brown, someone who knows the system well. Mr. Brown is a highly experienced former warden and deputy warden, who now teaches criminal justice and criminology at Simon Fraser University and Langara College.

As someone once responsible for segregation units, he notes that the Ashley Smith and Edward Snowshoe cases were more about mismanagement of behavioural issues and neglect. These issues are not legislative problems. They are management, training and accountability issues. When in segregation, inmates should receive bolstered communication on current risks and mental health issues. They should have increased contact with officers and staff, and they should have an increased potential for services. All this should bring greater attention to an offender's rehabilitation plan.

Mr. Brown wrote:

The strength of a functioning administrative segregation process is that it should bolster all of those things: oversight is strengthened; case management should be more active; information sharing should be more robust; referral for clinical service should be prioritized and case management intervention to develop plans should be urgent.

After noting that science and research has shown that properly managed segregation units do not cause short- or long-term harm, Mr. Brown noted, “To respond to current circumstances with sweeping legislative reform is only to react ideologically, and to ignore science and evidence.”

On the minister's grand solution to segregation, which is to rename segregation units to “structured intervention units”, Mr. Brown noted that Bill C-83 described SIUs in such broad and vague language that the consequences of implementation were very uncertain, that the details were unknown and the details were the key. The current layout of many segregation units did not facilitate socialization and programming. The emphasis on programming suggested longer-term stays in SIUs, weeks or maybe months. SIUs would not be suitable for short-term management of volatile inmates, such as those under the influence. There was the inability to have specialized staff for particular subpopulations in a prison. Finally, he noted that given the current layout of many prisons, a wing may need to be deemed a structured intervention unit, meaning up to 96 inmates may be subject to 20 hours a day of confinement where before it would be only 16.

To be clear, someone who is an expert and has worked for years in prisons with segregation says that he cannot discern the minister's plan. Moreover, he says that prisons often lack the infrastructure, are inappropriate to what is needed and could have the opposite effect to what the minister claims.

Perhaps the only potential value in the legislation could come from an external review mechanism of segregation, because it could provide Canadians with greater confidence in offender management. The minister, however, told the committee that we did not have the authority to do this, an order the Liberal MPs on the committee followed, while the opposition members put forward mechanisms to provide such oversight, which were soundly rejected.

When we pushed the Liberals at committee to amend the worst parts of the legislation and pointed to the glaring issues raised by the many expert witnesses, we were told that Liberal MPs were voting with “faith in the minister”.

The role of committees is not to provide support and faith to a minister. It is to conduct detailed examinations on challenging issues, to hear from experts and impacted Canadians, to examine programs, spending and legislation to determine if it will meet the needs of Canadians or, at the very least, what the minister claims it will meet. On this, our committee has failed.

At the conclusion of committee debate on Bill C-83, my Conservative colleagues and I put our views on the record. We indicated that the committee failed in its role to review the legislation and ensure that it could make informed decisions. We also said that we believed the minister withheld information from committee that was clearly available to him at the time, namely the cost and how it would be used and implemented in the bill, which most witnesses said was essential to knowing if the bill would be useful. For the minister, it seemed more important that he withhold his plan from the committee. Half a billion dollars connected to a bill, where and how the money will be used is essential to know if the bill will work. We still do not have a plan necessarily for that money.

What was the response to the overwhelming criticism and skepticism of the bill? Government MPs stated that they were “making a leap of faith” and putting their trust in the minister. What was accomplished by the committee in reviewing this legislation? In my opinion, next to nothing. The Liberal members rejected amendments on how the money would be used. They rejected a requirement to publish the standards of the new SIUs. They rejected limits to reclassifying prisons. They rejected having the minister provide us with how he would implement this new plan.

On this legislation, the Liberals have turned their backs on Canadians. We are to trust the minister who has an extensive track record of misleading Canadians on things like the disastrous India trip, Bill C-59 and Bill C-71, failure to provide funding for police to tackle gangs, and I could go on.

We as a House can do better. We must do better. We can all rise to a higher level. Personally, I feel this committee failed its constituents, its communities and its country. Bill C-83 is yet another example of the many failures of the Liberal government.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Glen Motz Conservative Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, AB

Mr. Speaker, absolutely I will.

The nice thing about a democracy is that we can and we are allowed to disagree. I sit on the committee, just as my hon. friend across the way does, and quite frankly I was disappointed. The main issue we were trying to address was the rehabilitation of prisoners. That is the purpose of corrections. We want to place them safely back into the community.

Bill C-83 fails in that respect. Witnesses had many other amendments, all of which were ignored by the Liberal majority on the committee. Were amendments made? Yes, but they did not strengthen the bill.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Julie Dabrusin Liberal Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am rising to speak in favour of Bill C-83.

The purpose of the bill is to move away from the system of administrative segregation in place at the moment toward a new structured intervention units. We have heard before in the debate in the House that this responds to two recent decisions by courts in Ontario and British Columbia. I read those decisions again last night. I have read them a few times now. They are difficult decisions. They set out clear problems with our existing system.

The member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques raised a question earlier, saying that the bill did not respond to what was set out in the decisions. I do not believe that is correct. There are two reasons, some of which I will go into later as we discuss the matter. However, in addition, it is because the system that was being reviewed and some of the rules that were being put in place when the judges were making their decisions were based on the system we have now. The system we would be putting into place with Bill C-83 would have a very different set of rules. We need to take that into account, and I will work through some of it. I believe this change in legislation, the change to the system we would putt in place, would increase charter compliance and would respond to the issues that were raised.

I will admit that I approached the bill with some concerns. When the bill first came before us, I had a lot of questions. I listened to the testimony. We heard from inmates, corrections officers and lawyers. A lot of people brought forward their concerns on the bill. It made me think long and hard about what was the right way for us to address these issues.

What was really clear to me, the most important part when I looked at what was needed to improve the bill, was oversight. In fact, oversight and decision making was one of the key issues raised by both court decisions as a matter of procedural fairness. It was not only in the transfer to a unit but also in the decision to keep a person in what was at the time an administrative segregation unit.

I want to highlight the fact that oversight is the glue that keeps it together. Ultimately we need to have a system that is safe and secure, conducive to inmate rehabilitation, to staff safety and to protection of the public. We are all working toward that. There is much more work to be done, but there is also much work under way.

Regardless of Bill C-83, some improvements are already in place. There has been more than a 50% decline in administrative segregation placements over the last four years. That is already a change in the way things are happening on the ground. The other part is the fact that the correctional service commissioner's mandate letter highlights the need to work in a collaborative relationship with the Office of the Correctional Investigator in order to address and resolve matters of mutual concern.

I have the highest respect for the Office of the Correctional Investigator. When we read those annual reports, we get an insight into what happens in our correctional system. To have that need to work together collaboratively in the mandate letter to resolve issues that have been raised is a very important statement about how we move forward with Correctional Service Canada. I would also add that the budget for the Office of the Correctional Investigator has been increased. I welcome that as part of the essential oversight we need for the system.

When talking about the bill specifically, at committee I worked closely with my colleague, the member for Oakville North—Burlington, on how we could improve oversight in the bill. How could we, when looking at structured intervention units, improve oversight. I want to thank the member for Oakville North—Burlington for introducing an amendment, to which the government has given royal recommendation, to allow for properly funded external oversight. That piece is essential. It responds to many of the concerns that were raised, not only by the courts but by witnesses as well. It builds on amendments that were made at committee.

At committee, for example, there were additional oversight pieces. One part I worked on would ensure that when people were transferred into a structured intervention unit, they would get written reasons for it in very short order. That is important, because one cannot appeal a decision if one does not have the reasons for it. It sounds legalistic, but it is important to have written reasons so people can appeal a decision if they wish.

Another piece I worked on was this. If a health expert recommended that an inmate be moved out of a structured intervention unit, and the warden disagreed, an additional review would be built in at a more senior level within Correctional Service Canada so that the decision could be reviewed. It is the layers of oversight that are essential and is why I believe that the work at committee was very important in moving that forward.

I have talked about oversight. Another issue we needed to address when we looked at the court decisions was the essential piece on what is now administrative segregation, which was highly criticized, and what we are proposing as far as moving toward structured intervention units. This turns on two parts: time in the cell and time in the cell without meaningful contact with people. Currently, inmates have 22 hours in a cell, plus shower time. The court was clear that shower time is over and above the two hours and does not mean that inmates are in their cells for over 22 hours. It completely rejected that as a notion. Inmates have two hours out of their cells.

There is an international set of rules, the Mandela Rules. Rule 44 sets out that solitary confinement is 22 hours without meaningful contact with people. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association case, which is one of the cases that gave rise to this, spoke specifically to this issue. It said,

Canada can take itself outside of the literature dealing with solitary confinement...in administrative segregation both in terms of the time that an inmate spends in his or her cell and the nature of the human contact that they have while segregated.

When the court was reviewing it, it said that we needed to make changes to the system in those two ways. That is, in fact, what this bill would address. Clause 36 of the bill would require that inmates spend a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. In addition, though, an amendment was introduced at committee that said that it had to be at a reasonable time. Those four hours could not be in the middle of the night, when people want to be sleeping. Therefore, those four hours would have to be between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., a reasonable time when inmates may want to be outside their cells. Of those four hours, inmates would have to have an opportunity to interact for a minimum of two hours through activities, including, but not limited to, programs, interventions and services that would encourage inmates to make progress toward the objectives of their correctional plans or that would support their reintegration into the mainstream inmate population and leisure time. These are meaningful ways people could have contact and interact.

When I was looking at the B.C. case in particular, one of the things that really hit home was the fact that a lot of the contact inmates are having is through a meal slot. When they are interacting with staff and individuals, a lot of it is happening just through their meal slots, and that is just unacceptable. Without eye contact, that is not meaningful contact. It is important to make sure that there is contact, not just people walking by without interacting.

These are important changes. The bill gives us a chance to think about an entirely new system, which it really would be. We would be moving from administrative segregation, which is 22 hours in a cell without meaningful contact, to 20 hours and a requirement for meaningful contact. We would be changing things in a way that would be meaningful and important and that would respond to these court decisions. I understand that people have raised some issues, but I believe that this is an important step forward, and I am pleased to speak in favour of it.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. Let me state from the outset that I am opposed to this bill, not for what the bill purports to accomplish but for what I am afraid the bill would unintentionally accomplish.

This legislation proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in corrections facilities by replacing these facilities with new structured intervention units and to also allow the commissioner to reassign the security classification of each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.

It is a tenet of our free and democratic society that the worst punishment one can consign to people is to deprive them of their liberty. Indeed, our Charter of Rights and Freedoms is clear on that matter. Section 7 states,

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

It is that clause that allows a democratic society that holds the fundamental principles of life, liberty and security of the person in such high esteem to deprive another of them. If someone commits a crime in Canada, particularly a heinous crime, that person will be locked away to protect society from that person's acts.

There are Canadians, particularly those who have endured unimaginable pain at the hands of criminals, who believe that they should have no rights in jail. On a deeply personal basis, I understand that cry for vengeance, the need to make another suffer for the way that person made a loved one suffer. As a parliamentarian, I must, like my colleagues in this House, temper my personal feelings with the duty Canadians have sought fit to invest in me to ensure that all people are treated equitably under the laws of this great nation.

As such, inmates in Canada are afforded a number of protections through human rights legislation, various statutes and the supreme law in Canada, our Constitution. They too are protected from the most dangerous criminals inside our institutions.

Segregation, or isolation, whatever we want to call it, affords protection for inmates, and let us not forget, the correctional staff who work in these facilities. The law requires that a balance must be struck between the protection of inmates and staff and the protection of inmates in segregation.

Inmates who are determined to be at risk to themselves or others would now be placed in new structured intervention units, or SIUs. Inmates would be given at least four hours a day outside their cells and guaranteed at least two hours to interact with others.

The introduction of SIUs would pose a risk to prison guards and inmates and to the inmates for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety. Bill C-83 would strip the ability to use segregation for discipline. This change would make prisons more dangerous for the guards, as they would have to deal with the most violent of inmates, those who continue to prey on others inside the institution.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has said that it has not been properly consulted on Bill C-83. On October 21, the Vancouver Sun reported that the head of the national prison guards' union predicted a “bloodbath” behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. The national president, Jason Godin, explained:

...by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations. We are concerned about policy revisions that appear to be reducing the ability to isolate an inmate, either for their safety or for that of staff....

I share this concern that no thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure that nobody gets hurt.

Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator of Canada, stated:

ln effect, Bill C-83 proposes a softer version of segregation without any of the constitutional protections. The bill is uniformly short on specifics and places too much discretion and trust in correctional authorities to replace segregation with an unproven and not well-conceived correctional model.

Bill C-83 goes further than what was raised in either of the Superior Court decisions. With respect to SIUs, the bill would allow the commissioner to reassign the security classification of each penitentiary or any area within a penitentiary. These sub-designations have raised concerns about whether this would allow an entire penitentiary to become an SIU and what that would mean for security and staffing.

Furthermore, these sub-designations could lead to more cases of higher-security prisoners being in a lower-security space, based on technicalities.

We know just how soft the government is already on the most despicable elements of our society. Recently, Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the 2009 kidnapping and brutal killing of eight-year-old Victoria Stafford, was transferred to a minimum-security facility in Saskatchewan, even though she is serving a life sentence with no chance of parole for 25 years. Now the government wants to institute an official policy to allow this to potentially happen on a regular basis. It will not be on our watch.

Conservatives are opposed to any legislation that opens the door to allowing high-risk offenders to be housed in low-security facilities. Dangerous child killers, pedophiles and murderers—the most heinous of people—deserve to be behind bars. ISIS terrorists deserve to be in prison, not offered poetry classes by the government.

This bill is just another example of Liberals putting the rights of dangerous criminals ahead of the rights of victims and their families, ahead of the safety and well-being of correctional officers who must work in these facilities and of course ahead of common sense. The legislation is too wide-ranging.

Debra Parkes, a professor at the UBC law school, stated:

The first point is that the proposal for structured intervention units actually expands rather than eliminates segregated conditions. These provisions give incredibly broad powers to the commissioner to designate whole prisons or areas of prisons as SIUs. Purposes for placing in SIUs are also very broad, including from proposed paragraph 32(a), to “provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons”, undefined and unclear. It's very broad.

While the supplementary estimates show $448 million for CSC over the next six years, this piece of legislation has not been costed. Our correctional officers are doing an exemplary job at keeping everyone safe, including themselves and the inmates, but situations arise and people do get hurt. Now we are asking our correctional staff to do more with less. As situations continue to arise—and they will—more people will get hurt, and that is not acceptable.

Jason Godin, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated:

As recently as a couple of weeks ago, I was in Edmonton sitting in the segregation unit asking the staff in there if they were meeting the two-hour requirement, with the showers and the phone calls, and they said, “Absolutely not. It's 10 o'clock at night and we can't meet them.”

Currently, segregated inmates are supervised at a two-to-one guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their unit. Bill C-83 purports to expand services to inmates in segregation and to double their time out of segregation without costing the resources needed to keep inmates and staff safe.

This is another reason I oppose the bill. It just does not add up, and the result could mean that people will be getting hurt.

The CSC ombudsman, the union of correctional officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation and they are concerned that too much of this legislation is being left to regulations. I am anxious that not enough consideration was given to the concerns of indigenous groups, to civil liberty organizations and to the correctional services staff who must maintain security in these institutions. The lack of consultation and foresight from the government on Bill C-83 is, to be frank, appalling.

Jason Godin offers this insight into the process, stating:

Unfortunately, due to cabinet confidentiality, as our commissioner often tells us, we weren't really consulted. The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody. I don't see the bill before it comes onto the table, so we weren't officially consulted on Bill C-83.

There was also this shocking revelation by Ivan Zinger:

All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.

It is of concern that the Liberals are moving away from segregation, particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of their tools to manage difficult prisoners. Solitary confinement must take into account the mental health of prisoners balanced with the safety and protection of guards, workers, and fellow inmates.

The safety of inmates and correctional service officers must be the priority for any legislation put forward by this government. It is clear, in our opinion, that the Liberals did not do their homework when it came to Bill C-83, and Canada's Conservatives call on this government to go back to drawing board with Bill C-83 and put forward legislation that prioritizes inmate safety and the safety of correctional service officers.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, absolutely I agree with everything my friend said. The departmental plan is very clear, and even in the case of Bill C-83, which we are discussing today, this plan that the Liberals have has not even been costed.

We are already dealing with correctional officers who feel overworked and stressed as it is, and now they are being asked to do more with less. For those who are working hard, sometimes in dangerous conditions each and every day, and at times dealing with the worst of the worst within our society, asking them to continue while taking away a tool that they use to protect themselves and others is simply irresponsible.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had a number of amendments accepted in this process, and I found the clause-by-clause process of Bill C-83 to be quite collaborative.

I was briefly out of the chamber. Therefore, I have to apologize if this point has come up already.

Earlier today one of my hon. friends referred to people in segregation units or solitary confinement as the worst of the worst. I think of the coroner's report with respect to what happened to Ashley Smith. She was a young woman with mental health issues who was moved 17 times in the period before she was found in her cell. She had committed suicide, but the correctional guards were watching as she died. The coroner's report was very clear.

This bill attempts to deal with some of that. Edward Snowshoe is another example of somebody who died in solitary confinement. These are not the worst of the worst; rather, “There but for fortune may go you or I.” Ashley Smith's mother was desperate to help her. However, the correctional authorities and the system kept a mother away from a girl who was suffering and ultimately killed herself. Therefore, let us not judge the people who get stuck in solitary confinement, but rather recognize it for what it is: a form of torture, which we must not use.

This bill does not go far enough. I will vote for it and hope it gets improved again in the Senate.

I wanted to ask my hon. colleague to talk about the fact that some of the people in solitary confinement are there because of mental health and addiction issues. Could he explain how it compounds the torture when they are kept away from people who can have good, healthy contact with them?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak in the House and to participate in today's debate on Bill C-83.

This piece of legislation will transform our corrections system. Ultimately, we want to promote safety and security, both in and out of our federal institutions. The bill also prioritizes rehabilitation as a key factor in achieving this objective.

The key innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposal to create structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would be found in every prison. Some inmates are sometimes too dangerous or disruptive to be housed safely in the general prison population. Currently, these inmates are placed in administrative segregation. Federal inmates placed in administrative segregation can spend up to 22 hours a day in their cells and have very limited interaction with other inmates.

Bill C-83 offers a more effective solution for everyone involved. Safety will always be the top priority. Prisons are safer for those who live and work there when inmates have access to programs, mental health care, and other interventions they need. Inmates who benefit from these interventions are more likely to reintegrate into society safely when they leave the institution.

The government's proposed solution in Bill C-83 is to eliminate administrative segregation and replace it with structured intervention units. These units will be safe and separate from the general population to ensure compliance with safety requirements. They will also be designed in such a way that inmates who are placed there will receive requisite interventions, programs and treatments. Inmates in structured intervention units will be allowed to leave their cells for at least four hours a day instead of the two hours allowed under the current system. It should be noted that the two-hour period is currently established by policy, not by law. Bill C-83 would enshrine the four-hour minimum in law.

Inmates who are placed in SIUs will have the opportunity to have at least two hours of meaningful interaction with other people, including corrections staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains and seniors. The objective of these reforms is to ensure that inmates in SIUs are able to reintegrate into the general prison population as soon as possible.

Bill C-83 has been thoroughly analyzed at every step of the parliamentary process thus far. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went through it with a fine-tooth comb, and some useful amendments were made at the end of the committee review period based on the testimony of a broad range of stakeholders.

Bill C-83 was already a robust and effective piece of legislation when it was introduced, but after being vigorously debated and carefully examined, it is now even better. It is important to point out that the bill that was sent back to us includes amendments from all of the parties that proposed amendments.

I disagree with the suggestion made in debate that it is somehow a bad thing that the bill was amended in reaction to comments from the public and parliamentarians.

I am proud to support a government that welcomes constructive, thoughtful input and that respects the role members from all parties play in the legislative process.

The purpose of most of the amendments to Bill C-83 is to ensure that structured intervention units, SIUs, work as intended.

For example, some witnesses were concerned that time outside of the cell might be made available in the middle of the night, when inmates are unlikely to benefit from it. The member for Montarville added the requirement that time outside the cell be provided between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Other witnesses wondered whether mandatory interaction with others might be provided through a door or a meal slot.

To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth added a provision stating that every reasonable effort shall be made to ensure that human contact takes place face to face and that a record of exceptions is kept.

In response to concerns about Correctional Service Canada making inappropriate use of the provision stating that time outside the cell can be denied in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, including fires and natural disasters, to clarify the interpretation of that provision.

Amendments put forward by the member for Toronto—Danforth in committee and by the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will strengthen the review process to ensure that placement in SIUs is subject to robust internal and external oversight.

All of these measures will help ensure that the new SIUs are used as intended.

We also accepted various amendments put forward by the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I thank them all for their contributions.

We all want our institutions and communities to be safer, and we want Canadians to feel and be safe. The successful rehabilitation and reintegration of people serving a federal sentence is essential for achieving our shared objective of enhancing public safety.

By enabling inmates who need to be separated from the general inmate population to spend more time outside their cells, have more access to mental health services, and receive more rehabilitation interventions, Bill C-83 is a big step in the right direction.

Again, I want to thank my hon. colleagues for their contributions at each step of the legislative process so far, and I urge them all to join me in enthusiastically supporting this bill.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to bring this back. I feel it is important we do this at every opportunity. Each member from the government side has said there have been significant consultations and witnesses that appeared before the committee, and their concerns were heard. However, we know through comments from the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers that there are still significant concerns. Witness after witness has said the bill is flawed right to the core.

Therefore, I want to go back to what we are dealing with again today. During the 2015 debate, the member for Papineau, now our Prime Minister, said he would let debate reign. He would not force closure on debate. We have seen it well over 60 times. On a piece of legislation, such as Bill C-83, which is so important, all sides would agree to that, the Liberals have forced time allocation once again, limiting debate and essentially limiting the voices of the members of Parliament on this side. We are the voices of the electors who put us in the House to ensure the voices of our regions and ridings come to Ottawa. What the Liberals have done now, as they have done so often, is that they have silenced those voices of opposition.

Why, on such an important piece of legislation, do the Liberals feel the need to force closure and ignore the comments and concerns of the witnesses that came before the committee?

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Brenda Shanahan Liberal Châteauguay—Lacolle, QC

Mr. Speaker, far from parliamentarians, the stakeholders and the Canadian public being silenced, I am actually quite taken with the amount of consultation that went into this legislation, which is long overdue for a problem that was putting in jeopardy not only the people that were incarcerated but also those who work with them.

I have something of a background in community and social work service and I had many colleagues who worked in the prison system. I was very much taken with how they were able to work in such difficult conditions with so few tools. It is one thing to talk and it is another thing to take action. To come forward with a piece of legislation such as Bill C-83, which meets those demands while at the same time coming with $448 million in investments, including in infrastructure and the kinds of tools that would keep people safer within and outside of the prison system, shows that our government is taking action where it counts and that people have been heard.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Martin Shields Conservative Bow River, AB

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

I understand that Bill C-83 is designed to make a number of significant changes to our correctional system. It seeks to eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities, replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs, and introduce body scanners for inmates, among other changes.

There have been a lot of problems with the correctional system and Bill C-75 could make it worse. The policies under Bill C-75 include serious offenders receiving sentences of a maximum two years less a day. People who have committed serious crimes to persons and property will be in provincial jails, downloaded. We now will have a system where there will be less chance to deal with serious offenders in provincial institutions. It has become a revolving door, where some know they will be in and out very quickly and will not be provided the help they may need in a prison system.

I know the legislation has prompted some strong responses from stakeholders. I am happy to convey some of those serious concerns.

The CSC ombudsman, Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, civil liberties and indigenous groups have all commented on the lack of consultation. Unions and employees have not been consulted. Nor have indigenous groups.

The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, whose members will be directly impacted by the legislation, even said, “The bill was as much a surprise to us as it was to anybody.” It does not sound right that it was a surprise to those who would be affected the most. It is something like the Parks Canada budget that had a $60 million pathway in it and Parks Canada knew nothing about it.

The correctional investigator of Canada told the public safety committee:

All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.

For a government that supposedly loves to consult, it sure seems to have left a lot of people dissatisfied with this process.

Of particular note are concerns we have heard from correctional officers. These are the people who wear the uniforms. These are the people who protect us and inmates. The introduction of SIUs may pose a risk to both prison guards and inmates. The legislation goes further than what was raised in either Superior Court decisions. It completely bans administrative segregation and introduces the structured intervention unit model.

We need to take a lot of care in how we deal with youth offenders or those with mental illnesses or mental disease for which segregation may not be an option. We need to be very careful in how we use segregated models with those people.

This has the potential to make prisons much more dangerous for guards and inmates. Guards will lose an important disciplinary tool. In fact, the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers told the public safety committee, “by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations.” That is a very troubling statement. In other words, was the consultation there to find another solution? I do not think so.

Guards will be placed in greater danger as they attempt to control extremely dangerous offenders without the ability to fully separate them from other inmates. Who is going to want to be a guard if things continue this way? It is already an intensely stressful, challenging occupation. We cannot keep placing these people under greater strain. Dangerous inmates will be forced together in units with each other. Is that the right way to go?

I understand that this change is well intentioned. Canada has a fundamentally sound and humane correctional system, especially compared to many other jurisdictions around the world. We do not want a draconian system, but we do need to balance the mental health of prisoners with the safety and protection of guards, workers and fellow inmates.

The bill would fail to do some of those things. It ignores the reality on the ground in many prisons. As the member for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles noted, some inmates request to be in administrative segregation for their own safety. They do not want to rub shoulders with other dangerous offenders.

Legislation intended to improve our correctional system should not compromise safety and security. The government needs to go back and fix the bill. It should not force the bill through over the objections of virtually all interested stakeholders and put lives at risk in doing so, especially the lives of those who wear the uniform.

I am also surprised to find that the legislation does nothing to ensure that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities.

It was just last year that Canadians from coast to coast expressed outrage over Terri-Lynne McClintic's transfer to a healing lodge. Only after massive public pressure did the government finally move to address the injustice and send her back behind bars. The Prime Minister personally attacked his critics and accused Canadians of politicizing this issue. Thankfully, Canadians were able to pressure him enough to act so that decision was changed.

However, a prime minister should never have to be shamed into doing the right thing. There was an opportunity in this legislation to take real action to prevent similar situations in the future, but no action was taken on this topic.

One clear positive aspect that would result from the legislation is the introduction of body scanners. If this system is applied properly, it should be helpful in intercepting drugs before they make their way into prisons. It is important that the scans apply to all individuals entering the prison. Drugs simply should not be flowing into correctional facilities and creating even more dangerous conditions there.

However, I am unclear why the Liberals' haphazard plan to supply inmates with syringes would still being implemented if we have scanners. Our objective should be to prevent drug abuse in prisons, not facilitate it. Furthermore, legitimate concerns have been raised over the weaponization of the syringes. It should be obvious that the worst offenders will try to use syringes as weapons. This presents yet another threat to guards who are already operating in a dangerous environment. The body scanners should receive the highest priority, and the needle exchange program should be scrapped.

In summary, this flawed legislation is not right. It does not prioritize the safety of correctional service officers. It compromises the safety of inmates. Almost all of the witnesses the public safety committee heard were critical of the bill. The consultation process was obviously not complete.

Instead of scrapping the legislation in light of witness testimony, the Liberals are pressing forward with it. I join my colleagues in opposing the bill.

Report StageCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, thank you for that generous five minutes.

I am pleased to join the debate on Bill C-83. I join this debate in two capacities: as an interested member of Parliament and as the chair of the public safety committee, which reviewed the bill, heard the witnesses and put forward quite a number of amendments to the original bill, which in some respects reflects the interest in the bill and how the government was open to amending the bill at committee.

The bill would replace the existing administrative segregation system with structured intervention units. The new SIUs would ensure a separation from the general prison population, which is sometimes necessary for security reasons. Even those witnesses who had actually been segregated prisoners emphasized the need for some mechanism by which a prisoner is separated from the general population. This, however, does not mean separation from rehabilitative programs, mental health care and other interventions.

If members think that this is just an academic exercise, I direct their attention to the front page of The Globe and Mail this morning. It read:

Ontario will not appeal a judge’s decision to abandon a charge of first-degree murder against Adam Capay, the 26-year-old from Lac Seul First Nation who spent more than 1,600 days in solitary confinement before a public furor over his plight forced officials to send him to a secure hospital.

The very issue that we are debating today is on the front page of The Globe and Mail. The article continued:

In deciding against an appeal, the province is consenting to a scathing ruling from Justice John Fregeau that set Mr. Capay free last month and faulted the ministry of corrections for allowing a term of solitary that was "prolonged, egregious and intolerable.”

In particular, he found that the jail’s procedure for reviewing Mr. Capay’s segregation was “pro forma, perfunctory and meaningless”....

Further on, there is some disaggregation of the errors and omissions:

At the time, nothing was controversial about the initial decision to lock him in solitary confinement. Correctional officers have authority to segregate a prisoner if they believe he could harm himself or others. On average, 472 provincial inmates faced segregation every day in 2012.

But in the Capay case, the institution started racking up serious errors and omissions that led directly to his release without trial.

The Supreme Court long ago ruled that people keep some residual rights and liberties after the courts send them to prison. If those residual rights are further reduced by being placed in segregation, the state must hold regular review hearings of the decision.

In Ontario, the law requires segregation review hearings to be held at the institutional level....

The article goes on to discuss Mr. Capay's case, but also the larger issue and that is the larger issue that we are facing today.

As I said earlier, when we heard testimony from various witnesses, those who actually had been subject to segregation and those who were supporting those who had been subject to segregation all argued for the need for segregation. The bill fits with the broader approach to corrections, which is based on the fact that public safety is best served by effective rehabilitation and treatment.

Naturally, there are some inmates who will never be granted any form of conditional release by the Parole Board. They are mostly people serving life sentences who will never progress to the point where the risk they pose to the outside can be managed outside of a correctional institution.

I see that my all too generous five minutes are now up and I will be delighted to resume after question period.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will resume where I left off, which has to do with the utility of committees. I noticed that was a theme of question period, that committees are assigned tasks and committees doing their work make significant differences. Therefore, I want to go over a number of the significant differences the committee made with respect to the original Bill C-83 and the Bill C-83 that is before us as amended by the committee. We listened to witnesses and suggested changes to the government, and in many instances the government listened to the committee and made those changes.

The bill now includes a strengthened health care review system. If the warden disagrees with a recommendation from a health care provider to move inmates in or out of SIU or to alter their conditions of confinement, the committee or senior CSC personnel, external to the institution, would review the matter. That was a Liberal amendment.

The Conservatives contributed an amendment, which said that a new provision would allow CSC staff to recommend to a health care professional that an inmate be assessed under certain conditions, such as self-harm, emotional distress, adverse drug reaction, etc.

The NDP-Green Party amendment reinserted the principle that CSC and the parole board impose the “least restrictive” measures, consistent with security. The language existed for 20 years until the previous government changed it to “necessary and proportionate”. Least restrictive is back in, thanks to the amendments provided by the NDP and Green Party.

The NDP wanted a meaningful four hours of face time. Therefore, when CSC records the fact that an inmate did not get his or her four hours out, it would now have to include in the report the reasons for refusal.

About 14 or 15 different amendments were provided by all parties. Those amendments strengthen the bill and recommend the bill to the House.

The bill would enshrine in law the principle that medical professionals in CSC must operate independently of correctional authorities. It would also require CSC to consider systemic and background factors when making decisions that would impact indigenous people in federal custody.

None of this is a panacea. Even once the bill passes and the considerable resources to implement it are put in place, there will remain a lot of work to do.

One of the amendments I did not mention was that we insisted on a five-year review. Therefore, this is an open bill. It is not a panacea, but it is to be recommended. The effective rehabilitation and safe integration of people who have broken the law is essential for public safety. That is why I support the legislation and commend it to hon. colleagues.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, once again we hear our colleagues across the way mention that they consulted broadly with respect to Bill C-83, yet at committee, witness after witness talked about the failure to consult properly. In fact, the correctional investigator of Canada told the public safety committee that all the consultations seemed to have been done internally. To his knowledge, there were no consultations with external stakeholders. He commented, “I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out”, such as Bill C-83.

It is so odd to hear time and again that the Liberals have consulted broadly. It seems that it is a tick box in their vernacular to say they have consulted broadly. All they have done is rushed this legislation through.

Witness after witnesses expressed concerns with respect to Bill C-83. Why does our hon. colleague feel the need to rush Bill C-83 through after faulty consultation?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure today to rise to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act.

This legislation proposes to limit administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set parameters for access to health care; and formalize expectations for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.

I have the privilege of chairing the public accounts committee, and at committee, we work very closely with the Auditor General's office. We studied the reports the Auditor General released, and much of what I want to speak to today actually quotes from the Auditor General's reports.

One of those reports, in the fall of 2017 reports of the Auditor General of Canada, was entitled “Preparing Women Offenders for Release”. The objective of this audit was to determine whether Correctional Service Canada assigned and delivered correctional programs, interventions and mental health services to women offenders in federal custody, including indigenous women offenders, that responded appropriately to their unique needs and helped them successfully reintegrate into the community.

As noted by the Auditor General, “Under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Correctional Service Canada is required to provide programs and services that respond to the needs of women offenders.”

What the Auditor General found was that, again, CSC had not implemented an initial security classification process designed specifically for women offenders, and as a result, “some women offenders risked being held at inappropriate security levels”. Furthermore, CSC had not implemented an appropriate tool for referring women offenders to correctional programs that were in line with their risk of reoffending, nor had they “assessed the effectiveness of its correctional programs in addressing the factors associated with a risk of reoffending”. Last, and most relevant to our debate today, the Auditor General concluded that CSC “had not confirmed whether its tools correctly identified women offenders with mental health issues or assigned them the appropriate level of care.”

Paragraph 5.104 of “Report 5” revealed, “We also found that out of 18 women offenders identified with a serious mental illness with significant impairment, 7 were placed in segregation at some point during 2016.”

According to the Auditor General's report, CSC acknowledged that segregation for persons with serious mental health issues “should be limited.” I draw my colleagues' attention to the word “limited”. The AG disagreed with limited use and recommended that CSC ensure that women offenders “with serious mental illness with significant impairment are not placed in segregation” and that there be improved oversight and enhanced observation of these offenders.

Correctional Service Canada agreed with the Auditor General's recommendations, and therefore, the public accounts committee had asked in our report that by May 31, 2019, CSC provide us with a report regarding the relocation of observation cells out of segregation ranges. Obviously, this request was thwarted by the introduction of Bill C-83 on October 16, 2018, less than five months after the public accounts committee tabled our report, which would eliminate administrative segregation and establish the SIUs, or structured intervention units.

Proposed section 32 of Bill C-83 says:

The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to (a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; (b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate’s specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.

In other words, CSC is simply being compelled to do exactly what it is already mandated to do: deliver correctional programs, interventions and mental health services that respond appropriately to an offender's unique needs.

As pointed out earlier, an audit by the Office of the Auditor General revealed, with respect to women offenders, that CSC has failed in its mandate. In the fall 2018 report of the Auditor General, it was also revealed that CSC has not properly managed offenders under community supervision. As of April 2018, approximately 9,100 federal offenders, or 40% of all federal offenders, were under community supervision. According to “Report 6” of the fall 2018 Auditor General's report:

The number of offenders released into community supervision had grown and was expected to keep growing. However, Correctional Service Canada had reached the limit of how many offenders it could house in the community.... Despite the growing backlog [for accommodation], and despite research that showed that a gradual supervised release gave offenders a better chance of successful reintegration, Correctional Service Canada did not have a long-term plan to respond to its housing pressures.

CSC “did not properly manage offenders under community supervision”. Parole officers “did not always meet with offenders as often as they should have”, nor did they always “monitor [offenders'] compliance with special conditions imposed by the Parole Board of Canada.”

We met with CSC last week, and we discussed this very report. These deficiencies were brought out with an action plan to correct them. However, I would humbly suggest that the Liberal government should be focused on ensuring that Correctional Service Canada fully meets its mandate, as the safety and security of Canadians depends on the successful rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders into society upon their release.

To meet its mandate, a good start would be for Correctional Service Canada to start listening to its correctional workers. I am fortunate to have Drumheller penitentiary in my constituency. Over the years, I have met countless times with wardens, correctional officers and other staff in Drumheller. I can tell members that there are concerns about this bill. Concerns have come forward to the public safety and emergency preparedness committee. Again, I am concerned that many of these correctional officers are not being listened to. In fact, Jason Godin, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, stated that they were not consulted on Bill C-83. We have a leader of one of the unions of correctional officers, and his frustration is that the Liberal government has not consulted.

The Correctional Investigator has said:

What I would agree with is that there has been very little detail provided by the Correctional Service or the government on how this [Bill C-83] is going to be implemented. If you read the proposed bill as it's currently written, there's a lot of stuff that seems to be pushed to regulation, as prescribed by regulations. We don't know what those regulations would look like. I think that's why there's a lot of uneasiness about this particular piece of legislation.

Given the findings of the OAG, I believe that this uneasiness with respect to the safety and security of Canadians extends well beyond Bill C-83. I certainly know, from the number of calls and emails I have received from correctional workers, that considerable uneasiness exists in the Drumheller Institution. The reason for that anxiety ranges from concerns about their safety and their colleagues' safety to pay issues around Phoenix. I currently have 70 files, some inactive, on Phoenix.

We have a bill now that would affect correctional officers, and they are bemoaning the fact that the government is not listening.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand to speak once again on Bill C-83, which amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The Liberals seem to have a long history and a running streak of putting forward bills focusing more on criminals' rights than on those of the victims, and in some ways this bill seems to be another one of those. It is mostly a poorly thought-out bill that provides no resources or thoughts to employee safety among those working in correction services.

The government should have spent time consulting with CSC workers, figuring out how it could reconfigure the prisons and how it would also pay for all of these changes. Bill C-83 is another example of the government making a big announcement and thinking that everything ends at the announcement, that everything is done, without putting any planning behind it.

We have seen this with the government and its infrastructure program. It announces $180 billion in infrastructure spending, but kind of overlooks the fact that $90 billion of it was commitments from the previous government.

The Parliamentary Budget Officer is not able to locate within the budget or the estimates a significant amount of the spending. The Senate committee did a study on the infrastructure spending, and it said that the only metric for success in infrastructure was how much money was spent, not how many roads were built or how many highways were upgraded; it was just how much money was spent.

We see the same thing from the Liberals with their housing plan. They make grandiose announcements, standing in this House again and again to say it is $40 billion. Kevin Page, the former parliamentary budget officer, reported that it is actually about $1.5 billion. The Prime Minister and the parliamentary secretary responsible for housing stood up in this House and said that a million families have been helped under this plan, believing that if they just make an announcement, then everything happens. It turns out that if we look at the departmental results plan, it was 7,500 families helped, not a million.

We see this again and again. Bill C-83 is no different. I will get to that later.

There are some things in Bill C-83 that I can support. The Liberal government is much like a broken watch, which is correct twice a day, and sometimes the government can be correct in its bills. The bill calls for body scanners to prevent contraband and drugs from getting into the prison. I fully support that. I wish the Liberals would modify it so that everyone coming in gets a body scan.

However, I do have to agree with the people I have talked to at corrections services. Why are we trying to stop drugs, but at the same time bringing in and handing out needles to the prisoners? These are needles that we have heard are being used as weapons against CSC workers.

I also like the fact that Bill C-83 gives more consideration to indigenous offenders. It is no secret that the indigenous population is overrepresented in prisons, and that has to be addressed, so I do agree with that measure. However, there are too many parts of the bill that would negatively impact the safety of corrections officers.

We all know of the Ashley Smith situation, which was a tragedy, and the government should do everything in its power to prevent such an occurrence from happening again. However, a poorly thought-out plan and an underfunded bill that just bans segregation is not the answer.

We have to keep in mind that it is not just inmates who are committing crimes who are going into segregation. Often it is a victim. They are put in there to assure their safety by moving them away from their abuser. They obviously do not want to name their abuser because of prison rules, so to speak, so the assaults continue unless the victim is moved into segregation. Unfortunately, that person eventually has to desegregate back into the prison system or change prisons. Nothing in Bill C-83 addresses that issue.

A CBC report says segregation is not the deterrent it once was. Prisoners now receive all of their possessions, their television and all of their belongings, within 24 hours of being put in segregation. Another CBC report quoted a couple of corrections officers. One of them stated that whereas the more violent inmates used to be in separate containers, now they are all in one bag, so they are just waiting for one to go off. That sets the rest of them off, and they end up with murder, stabbings, slashing, and officer injuries higher than ever.

Another one is saying that the inmates 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. Another says that all removing segregation does, especially disciplinary segregation, is soften reprisals for bad behaviour. Inmates know there is one less tool for corrections officers to use to maintain order and ensure their own safety.

In September 2017, with respect to a provincial study that I imagine would also cover federal, the CBC reported a massive upswing, a 50% increase, in inmate assaults over the five years that segregation had been removed or reduced.

Under this proposal, whenever inmates move from segregation to have their additional hours in the open, two officers will be needed to escort them. I have to ask where those resources will come from. If I look at the manpower figures in the departmental plan for the Correctional Service of Canada, which shows what its budget would be several years out, I see that the figures are identical in 2021 to what they are now. We are planning all this extra work for the officers, but there is no plan to provide extra officers. In fact, if we look at the plan, which has been signed off by the Minister of Public Safety himself, we see that the Liberals have cut the number of officers on staff from what it was when the Harper government was in charge. Again, where are the resources coming from?

As well, where are the added dollars coming from to renovate these new cells? I have heard the Minister of Public Safety stand and say that there is $80 million from the last budget and $400 million in the estimates. That is fine, but when we look at the departmental plans, again we see that from last year in 2017 to this year, the Liberals have cut $152.5 million from corrections services, and in the next couple of years, they are cutting an additional $225 million.

If they are spending $400 million on renovations and resources and the end result is $225 million less, where is the missing $600 million? I am sure the Parliamentary Budget Officer will be unable to find where this money is, as was the case with the missing infrastructure money.

Getting back to the departmental plans, these plans lay out the priorities for the government for this department. Again, the plans are reviewed and signed by the Minister of Public Safety. In this plan, there are 20 priorities, yet not a single one mentions or addresses officer safety or the safety of anyone working for corrections services.

The government, when discussing Bill C-83, brags about how it is the first time ever it has given the head of Correctional Services of Canada a mandate letter. I looked at the mandate letter. There are 1,400 words in the mandate letter for the head of the CSC. Let us keep in mind the government is so proud of this letter. Of the 1,400 words, 24 are about victims of crime, and just 52 are about the safety or well-being of corrections officers. The 52 words include this gem: “I encourage you to instill within CSC a culture of ongoing self-reflection.”

Can members imagine an inmate coming at them with a knife or a needle? What would their response be? If we looked it up in the manual, we would find “self-reflection”. Self-reflection sounds like something that would be more appropriate after being confronted after having groped someone at a concert, not when dealing with inmates in a criminal institution.

The president of the union of correctional officers, Rob Finucan, described how a guard in the Millhaven Institution was slashed across the face with a shard or knife. Why? It was because of the new rule that inmates can only be handcuffed in front and not behind. The inmate was cuffed and being moved to segregation. He had a shard of glass or a knife with him and cut across the face of the officer. Luckily, the officer's eye was not lost, but that happened because of rules we are putting into effect without any consideration for the officers.

In the minute I have left, I will end with the money set aside for mental health for inmates in the last budget. No one can argue with that, as it is obviously a very important issue.

Money has also been put aside for mental health for RCMP officers. There is 40% more money put aside per capita for inmates than for RCMP officers. That sums up the government's priorities in a nutshell: more money for criminals, less for the RCMP and less for our valued officers in prisons.

I think it is time for the government to show some self-reflection on this issue.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 3:50 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleagues for this informative debate. It is too bad our friends across the way, and I say “friends” loosely, have once again limited this debate. As I said earlier today in this debate, it has to be 60 times that the government has forced closure on debate on legislation.

I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This legislation has been proposed to eliminate the administrative segregation in correctional facilities and to replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, which I will refer to as SIUs during my speech.

The bill also introduces body scanners for inmates, sets parameters for access to health care, and formalizes exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues, among a few other things. It also expands on transfers and allows for the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or any area in a penitentiary.

I have risen to speak to this legislation a number of times and expressed the Conservatives' concerns. Our number one concern is consultation. No matter how many times our friends across the way say they have consulted thoroughly from coast to coast to coast on this, we know through witness testimony that witness after witness expressed serious concerns with this piece of legislation. Some of the comments were that it is flawed to the core.

We always have concerns when we talk about the safety and security of those we entrust and empower to protect Canadians. Imagine that a correctional service guard reports to work and does not have all the tools required to do the job. We need to make sure first responders, and indeed correctional officers are first responders, are provided the tools and resources they need to do their job effectively and securely, but also to return home and remain healthy at all times.

The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has repeatedly voiced its concerns with this. As a matter of fact, the head of the national prison guards union predicts a bloodbath behind bars as the federal government moves to end solitary confinement in Canadian prisons. In a newspaper interview, the union president went on to explain that segregated inmates are supervised at a 2:1 guard-to-prisoner ratio when they are not in their units. He said, “No thought has been given to what measures we need to take to make sure no one gets hurt.” When he says “no one gets hurt”, he means the correctional officers who are tasked with making sure that Canadians remain safe and secure and that inmates remain safe and secure among the inmate population. He wants to make sure they have the tools to do their jobs.

The president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers last year wrote a letter to the minister and said that over the last year, over 140 violent attacks on correctional officers had taken place. Let us imagine being a security guard or correctional officer in charge of over 40 inmates. We heard the flowery language from our friends across the way when they said everybody deserves a chance. Paul Bernardo and Clifford Olson are the kinds of people housed in solitary confinement.

With this piece of legislation, Bill C-83, not only does the union have some serious concerns that it is not being listened to, but we also know that this program has not been fully costed out. As a matter of fact, Correctional Service Canada managers have been asked to review spending and find some efficiencies. Regardless of whether the Liberals say there is $448 million going to this program over six years, the managers have been asked to find some efficiencies.

Every day, these officers go to work and their lives are put in jeopardy. They are there to protect Canadians. They are there to make sure that the worst of the worst stay behind bars. Whether it is Bill C-75 or Bill C-83, what we see with the government is that it is getting softer and softer on crime. Bill C-83 also looks at reclassification of certain crimes, to bring the prison population down from 12,000 to even less.

On that point, I want to bring up a case I brought up earlier today to the minister, and that is the case of Cody Legebokoff. He is Canada's youngest serial killer. In Cariboo—Prince George, he is responsible for killing four young women. He killed Loren Leslie, age 15, Natasha Montgomery, Jill Stuchenko and Cynthia Maas. To this day, the Montgomerys are still trying to find out through the court system if Cody Legebokoff knows where the remains of their daughter are.

He has refused to take any responsibility for this crime. He was sentenced at the end of 2014, yet we found out over the last month that he was transferred from maximum to medium security in early 2019, with very little notice. As a matter of fact, two of the four families did not receive any notification.

In sentencing him, Justice Parrett said, “The injuries caused in each case were massive and disfiguring, the object of each attack appearing to be aimed at not simply killing the victims but degrading and destroying them.” Justice Parrett further said, “He lacks any shred of empathy or remorse,” and, “He should never be allowed to walk among us again.”

Now we know that Legebokoff has been transferred to a prison here in Ontario from British Columbia, and even Correctional Service Canada's website, where it talks about transfers or the safety and security reclassification of inmates, says that assigning security classifications is “not an exact science”.

We should be arming our front-line workers with every tool so that they can make the best decisions, and so they can remain safe and secure at all times. That means physically as well as mentally. How is it that we are now giving more rights to our criminals than to victims and their families, or to those we trust and empower to protect us?

It is quite concerning when time after time we see our friends across the way stand up, put their hands on their hearts and say, “Trust us.” They say they have the best intentions to do well and are looking after Canadians, yet we see this type of misstep.

Bill C-83 is yet another failed piece of legislation. The victims' families and the victims of crime deserve better, and so do our first responders and our correctional officers. All they are asking for is to be heard, yet the Liberal members continue to turn a blind eye and cover their ears when those concerns are being voiced.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 4 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague across the way has monopolized a ton of time on the other side, but I want to get back to this flawed piece of legislation, Bill C-83. There are serious concerns. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers has said its members are not being heard.

The needle exchange is one area we did not discuss. We talk about providing tools and resources to ensure that we are keeping our correctional officers safe, yet the government is allowing needles to freely enter our correctional system. There are no restrictions in that respect. Inmates can go back to their cells to do drugs, and there is no onus on them to bring the needles back.

Let us imagine a correctional officer having to go into a cell to do an administrative check or a security check. The officer does not know whether there is a needle with bodily fluids in it, or whether the sharp end of a needle might be used as a weapon.

That is shameful. These are concerns that the correctional service union has brought up time and time again, and the government, including our hon. colleague across the way, refused to listen.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Todd Doherty Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I should have mentioned this. When the Liberals stand in the House, they look straight into the camera and tell the Canadians listening in and those in the gallery to trust them, as they have everyone's interests at heart. They always talk about working collaboratively with all parties, telling us we should let committees do the good work they do. However, witness after witness has expressed serious concerns about this, and the bill does not reflect those concerns.

Our friends in the NDP and in the official opposition have always attacked the Liberals' pieces of legislation faithfully, trusting our friends across the way. Sadly, time after time, that trust, just like in everything else the government has done, has been broken by their not allowing the amendments through.

We are always told that the Liberals know best. While they like to talk a good game, their actions leave us wanting, for sure. It is shameful that Bill C-83 is being rushed through, and that the serious recommendations and requests from the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers are not being heard at all.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. This piece of legislation proposes to do the following: eliminate administrative segregation in correctional facilities; replace these facilities with new structured intervention units, or SIUs; introduce body scanners for inmates; set the parameters of access to health care; and formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, female offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health issues.

On any given day in Canada there are roughly 40,000 prisoners in custody. From coast to coast, there are eight maximum security facilities, 19 medium security facilities, 15 minimum and 10 multidisciplinary facilities. Canada has 18,000 Canadian government employees looking after these prisoners, of which 10,000 are on the front line. These are either correctional officers, parole officers or health care workers.

While I do not sit on the committee that reviewed this piece of legislation, I have been made aware of some very striking testimony by the Correctional Service Canada ombudsman, as well as many stakeholders, including these front-line workers who faithfully serve every day.

It is clear that the Liberal government, which campaigned on engaging and consulting with Canadians, has thrown all intentions of such actions out the window, as there was clearly very little of it done in this case, if any. Prominent witnesses, such as the CSC ombudsman, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, and civil liberties and indigenous groups, all commented on the lack of consultation and their concern that too much of the legislation is being left to regulation.

I just want to touch on that for a few seconds because, as co-chair of the scrutiny of regulations committee, I can testify to the importance of the fact that any law that is passed in the House has to have an adequate legislative framework so that the regulations are actually authorized by the legislation that is passed. All too often, we have examples from various departments across the Government of Canada where regulatory mechanisms are put in place and actually enacted, in some cases, for many years without the adequate legislative authority for them to do that. It is very important that adequate legislative authority is given here, yet we have had many of our witnesses testify to the fact that this is the case in this situation and there is not adequate legislative authority.

Ivan Zinger, the Correctional Investigator of Canada had this to say:

All the consultations seem to have been done internally. To my knowledge, there have been no consultations with external stakeholders. I think that's why you end up with something that is perhaps not fully thought out.

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

The John Howard Society calls it a bad bill. It wanted to know what the difference was between solitary confinement and structural intervention. It said there was no difference. The bill changed the words but did not change anything. That sounds pretty familiar with the government over the last three and a half years. There are great sounding words but very little action and very little follow-through.

This is not the first time that the Liberal Government has ignored consultations with the corrections community while unilaterally implementing its own ideological beliefs. Another time occurred at the Grand Valley Institution for Women, which is close to my riding. This correctional facility was one of two in Canada that was mandated to implement a prisoner needle exchange program, putting both correctional officers, as well as other inmates at risk. On Monday, June 25, a needle exchange program was introduced to the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener.

It is very concerning that the Liberal government commanded Correctional Service Canada to approve this program, which sends the wrong message to prisoners, to victims of crime and to all Canadians. This program will give prisoners who are convicted of violent crimes access to needles in order to inject themselves with substances that are illegal among the general public, as well as in prison.

I agree with the Ontario regional president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Rob Finucan, who raised the concern that this program puts correctional officers in harm's way and is forcing officers to turn a blind eye to illegal activity in the prison system.

I realize that illegal drugs make their way into our prison system and that there are nearly 1,500 drug seizures in prisons each year. However, the solution to this is not to turn a blind eye but rather to effectively enforce Correctional Service Canada's zero tolerance policy.

The previous Conservative government took action and cracked down on this problem by increasing random drug testing, investing significantly in drug interdiction and creating tough mandatory prison sentences for selling drugs in prisons. My constituents and all Canadians would like to see more of this action, not the normalization of the use of illegal drugs in prisons.

We also need to be investing far more in treatment and in prevention programs. I have on my desk a petition from constituents all across Canada who are calling on the government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. I have not had time to table this petition yet, partly because of moving to orders of the day and then closure motions. These petitioners are calling on the Liberal government to end this prisoner needle exchange program. The Union of Canadian Correctional Officers was not consulted on this plan, which puts its members and the Canadian public at risk.

The previous Conservative government passed the Drug-Free Prisons Act, which revokes parole for those who are caught using drugs behind bars. Under the new regulations, an inmate who is approved for the prisoner needle exchange program is not even required to disclose to the Parole Board that he or she is in the program.

The petitioners are calling on the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Safety to end the prisoner needle exchange program and implement measures that would increase the safety of correctional officers and the surrounding community.

The first and most important role of any government is to keep its citizens safe, not focusing on making criminals' lives more comfortable. I will always focus my efforts on giving victims a strong voice in the justice system and ensure that convicted criminals do face the full force of the law.

Unfortunately, we have also seen this heavy-handed decision by the Liberal health minister to force communities that do not want them to have so-called safe injection sites. Canadian families expect safe and healthy communities in which to raise their children. The Respect for Communities Act, which was introduced by the previous Conservative government, gave police, residents and municipal leaders a say when it came to opening an injection site within their communities.

Dangerous and addictive drugs tear families apart. They promote criminal behaviour and they destroy lives. Instead of making it easier for drug addicts to consume drugs, the Liberal government should support treatment and recovery programs to get addicts off drugs and enact heavy mandatory minimum sentences to crack down on drug traffickers.

I do hope that the Liberal government will stop and consider the negative message that this needle exchange program is sending and reverse this policy as quickly as possible for the sake of correctional officers and inmates, as well as citizens of the Region of Waterloo and in fact all Canadians.

It is also important to note that since learning of this program, my office has been in contact with Jason Godin, head of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, who has been expressing his anger that his members were not consulted on a matter that directly affects their safety. They were not consulted, a common complaint with this legislation in spite of all the flowery language earlier in the 2015 campaign that the Liberals would be a government that would consult Canadians widely.

I have also received petitions from inmates at the Grand Valley Institution for Women who are against this program as it increases the risk to them.

One of the more profound statements that I have read recently on this was in a newspaper article by Jason Godin. He was quoted in the Vancouver Sun as saying, “attacks on guards and inmates have been increasing as the use of segregation has decreased ahead of new legislation to change the prison system.”

There are many reasons not to support this bad piece of legislation but let me summarize our position this way.

We on this side of the House are opposed to the inaction in regard to ensuring that high-risk offenders are not transferred to low-security facilities. The legislation would empower the commissioner to sub-designate parts of prisons, which could lead to more cases where higher security prisoners are kept in a lower security space based on technicalities.

It is also concerning that the Liberals are moving away from segregation particularly as a deterrent to bad behaviour, as it strips front-line officers of tools to manage difficult prisoners.

The legislation lacks support from every major stakeholder who appeared before committee, from left to right—

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on Bill C-83, a bill dealing with some of the rules around incarceration in Canada. I want to make a few general points about the principles that should guide our approach before I move to the particulars of the legislation itself.

Our approach to criminal justice should affirm the dignity of the human person, which includes personal responsibility and the capacity to change. Both are key elements. Its primary goal should be rehabilitation and the protection of society, which obviously go together. If people are rehabilitated, then they no longer present a risk to society. If they are not rehabilitated, they can be a risk to those around them, even when they are in prison.

It seems to me that both extremes in the criminal justice debate deny in some way the dignity of the person. Some believe individual criminality is necessarily the result of social factors as opposed to bad moral decision-making. Social factors can obviously contribute to a person's situation, but the extreme leftist analysis, which reduces everything to social factors, denies the dignity and agency of persons who are in vulnerable situations.

No matter people's circumstances, they do have a choice. They have a choice to try to make the best out of their situation or on the other end, a choice to engage in criminal activity. It seems that this recognition of dignity, and therefore responsibility, is the necessary grounds of rehabilitation. People must recognize their own agency in order to turn their lives around.

We also reject the extreme that those who commit crimes cannot turn their lives around. Some would want us to write people off too easily. However, our own life experience should teach us that people can change their patterns of behaviour for the better. Many people who have committed crimes can change, and there is a public interest and moral obligation for us to do all we can to help with the process. This means maximizing incentives and supports to people who are on that journey.

A criminal justice policy that fully affirms human dignity, recognizing personal responsibility for crime and the ability to change, would assign sentences that are both tough and variable. Tough and variable sentences is an approach that ensures people who are rehabilitated can get back into society and contribute. However, people who refuse to take the steps necessary to turn their lives around remain in prison until they do. Providing strong incentives and program supports that maximize the chances of turnaround is indeed in everybody's interest.

Our approach to sentencing should also take scarce resources into account. If people who are no longer a threat to society remain in prison, they are consuming resources that could be better spent on crime prevention programs, policing and rehabilitation. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has shown us that the average cost of incarcerating someone is about $115,000 a year. The average cost of segregation is $463,000 for a year.

Incarcerating people, or putting them in segregation, should never be done lightly in any event. Even for guilty persons, we should only incarcerate them to the degree that the cost of their incarceration would more effectively advance public safety than any other expenditure of the same funds. Clearly because of the costs, the system should have an interest in avoiding incarceration and segregation whenever effective and less costly options exist.

This analysis is not to penny-pinch for its own sake, but it is to recognize that there is an opportunity cost associated with any expenditure. Proactive policing and effective crime prevention is good for victims and public safety, so striking that right balance is indeed of critical importance.

Some will point out that we can never know for sure if people will reoffend, which is true. However, when the likelihood to reoffend is very low, perhaps resources would be better used for other kinds of interventions, like more policing, which are more likely to advance public safety than continued incarceration.

About a year ago, I had the opportunity to visit a prison in my riding and have some good dialogue with employees and inmates. A few points stuck with me from that visit. One is that there are a variety of programs available to people who are in prison and a variety of not-for-profit organizations, including many churches and other faith-based organizations, involved in connecting with and supporting inmates while in prison.

The process of transition from prison to life back outside of prison can be a real challenge. Prison life is structured and regulated in a way that life outside is not. There are far more services inside than outside. The process of transition back to normal life often involves economic challenges and pressures, as well as the temptation to fall back into old social groups and patterns of behaviour.

It seems to me that we need to look more at the area of transition and post-prison supports. How can we help people leverage new skills and experiences to find meaningful employment and develop a new peer group? How can we better partner with faith communities and other not-for-profits, recognizing that post-prison ministry is just as important as prison ministry?

Speaking of skills that help with transition, the prison in my riding offers inmates the potential opportunity to seek trade certification. Inmates who get a trade certificate almost never return to prison, according to the staff I spoke to.

That made me wonder. What if we built into our criminal justice a system a mechanism by which sentence lengths would be automatically adjusted if an inmate acquired a specific employment-related qualification? Inmates acquiring employment-related qualifications in areas of skill shortages in particular would help the economy, It would employers have a greater incentive to hire former inmates in cases where there would be a skill shortage. Therefore, perhaps there is an opportunity there for a win-win.

There should be positive incentives associated with rehabilitation and with making choices to turn one's life around. There also needs to be negative incentives associated with bad and disruptive behaviour that creates problems for the rehabilitation and for creating an environment in a prison setting that is conducive to rehabilitation. That brings us to the question of administrative segregation.

Bill C-83 would replace administrative segregation with something called, “structured intervention units”. We know that one of the Liberals' favourite things to do is to change the names of things, be it the universal child care benefit to the Canada child benefit. The workers' tax deduction had its name changed. Many existing programs had their names changed and the process relabelled under the current government.

Certainly the critics of administrative segregation do not see a meaningful or sufficient difference between the old and the new forms of segregation. However, there are some specific differences. Whether they are sufficient is a question for us to debate.

I will note the differences. The legislation would require that the person in the new Liberal rebranded form segregation to have a minimum of four hours per day out instead of two. It specifically mandates meaningful human contact.

What is frustrating for me is that the government does not seem to have a plan associated with it to actually link these objectives with the resources that are required. So often we see the government's desire to brand itself on something. The Liberals are eliminating administrative segregation. However, they are simply making an adjustment with respect to the name, but there are not sufficient resources associated with the commitments they have made to deal with the reality that having four hours instead of two is significantly more costly from a policing and administrative perspective. If they mandate it without having the resources in place to deliver on that commitment, they risk the inmates and the prison itself. They risk creating an environment of much less safety in the prison because they have a requirement for people to be out of a segregated environment when they may be very dangerous, yet they do not have the resources to ensure that is policed in an effective way.

It is interesting as well to have legislation that mandates meaningful human contact. It is interesting for the state to even be in the business of trying to define what is meaningful human contact and to mandate it. There are probably many people who are not in prison, who for various reasons with respect to life circumstances would like to have that much meaningful human contact and do not. The goal of rehabilitation should be to get people to a place and disposition where they are able to reconnect with and have meaningful connections with people in their lives. Although it is a laudable objective, I question what the legislation could mean and how the government would propose to operationalize this requirement of meaningful human contact.

I will close with this. In the area of criminal justice policy, there might actually have been an opportunity for some cross-party co-operation if the government had listened to the arguments we were making and understood the need for balance; that is a criminal justice policy that affirms human dignity, recognizing personal responsibility as well as the ability for people to change and recognizing the need to properly resource the proposals it is putting forward. Instead, we have an inadequate bill that serves to meet a branding exercise.

The Liberals want to say that they have done away with a particular aspect of prison life when they do not have a plan to resource it, they do not have a plan for public safety and they are not interested in the kind of meaningful, substantive reforms that people across the spectrum are looking for, the kinds of sentencing reforms on which we could potentially co-operate on. Again, we are not seeing those ideas proposed by the government.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 4:35 p.m.
See context

Conservative

David Anderson Conservative Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Madam Speaker, it is good to be here this afternoon. It is unfortunate that we do not have a stronger bill with a little better content in it, but we will deal with what we have today. As usual, this is the kind of thing we have had to face with the government. It should be no surprise to us that it is in the chaos it is in, because we see a fairly consistent presentation that leads to bills that are this weak. I will talk about those weaknesses later.

The bill is basically a knee-jerk reaction to two Supreme Court decisions. The Liberals decided to play both sides of that game, so they are appealing those decisions at the same time as they are bringing forward whole new legislation. I think the public needs to understand that. Unfortunately, on this bill, they have missed the boat both on content and knowledge. We heard that from witnesses who came forward at committee. Witness after witness said that, first of all, they were not consulted, and second, the bill was not going in the right direction and needed to be reworked or thrown out, set aside or whatever.

One of the things the Liberals have done consistently since they have come to power is bring things forward and then actually look at them and decide whether they are worth bringing forward. Then they start to get people's opinions and they find out that they are on the wrong track. Then they start to backtrack and begin to amend their legislation. Once it comes back in here, they start forcing it through. We are here today on a bill with time allocation. The Liberals not only brought in time allocation at report stage but have already brought it in for third reading as well. We have seen this many times before, and we are seeing it here today. Fortunately, on some of these occasions, the Liberals have actually set bills aside and decided that they were not going to see them through. I guess electoral reform would be one of those that was obvious. Bill C-69 is another one that people across this country are begging the Liberals to set aside, because it would basically destroy the energy industry in Canada if they brought it through. Sometimes they can listen, but usually they find it very difficult to do that.

It is ironic that we have time allocation today, because had we had petitions today, I wanted to bring one forward. It is an electronic petition, E-1886. I found it fascinating that over 10,000 people signed this petition. It is an electronic petition from people across Canada, and it has to do with this issue.

This morning I asked a question of the public safety minister. He has been here for a long time. He was here before I was. One of the things he was part of before I came here was an attack on and actually the jailing of western Canadian farmers. These were farmers who had said that they would like to sell their own grain. One of them had donated one bushel of grain to a 4-H club in Montana. The public safety minister was one of those ministers who led the charge against those farmers. By the time they were done, they had five departments of the government working against individual Canadians. The CRA was involved. Justice was involved. Immigration was involved. The RCMP was firmly involved. Members can read stories of what happened in a couple of books by Don Baron. He writes about raids on people's farms in the middle of the night and their trying to confiscate their equipment, and those kinds of things. The public safety minister was then the agriculture minister. I asked him why it seems that every time we turn around, he is going after regular law-abiding Canadians.

We see this again with the initiative coming from the other side on handguns, which have been very restricted since the 1930s. People in Canada use them for sport. Many people across Canada have gone through the process to be licenced. This government seems bound and determined to try to make some sort of criminals out of handgun owners across this country. Again, my question to him was why he continued to come after law-abiding citizens, especially when on the other side, they are not all that interested, it seems, in actually protecting people from criminals.

That brings me back to my petition. Everyone is familiar with the case of Terri-Lynne McClintic, who was convicted of first degree murder in the horrific abduction, rape and murder of eight-year-old Tori Stafford. She was moved from a secure facility to a healing lodge without fences, where the government confirmed the presence of children. She is not eligible for parole until 2031. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge, which happens to be in my riding, lacks the necessary security measures to ensure the safety of local citizens in Maple Creek, Saskatchewan and surrounding areas.

Over 10,000 people across Canada called on the Government of Canada to exercise its moral and political authority to ensure that this decision was reversed and could not be allowed to happen again in other situations. We all know that it took the government weeks before it would acknowledge that there was a problem with this transfer, and in the end, it semi-reversed that transfer.

The interesting thing is that some of the same things are in Bill C-83. Right at the beginning, subclause 2(1) says, “the Service uses the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders”. There is no sense of some sort of disciplinary activity taking place in our prisons. The government says it has to find the least restrictive and most friendly way to treat people being held in our prisons right now.

I could go through many of the provisions of this bill. It talks about prisoners receiving the most effective programs, but when the minister was asked if there was a costing for this, he said that the government had not done costing on the bill. We can talk all day long about effective programs and health care, which this bill does, but if it was not costed before it was brought forward, how would the government even know what it would be expected to provide?

The bill talks about the criteria for the selection of the penitentiary. It says that it must be the “least restrictive environment” for the person. Correctional Service Canada has to deliberately run around and try to find the least restrictive place to put people. Many of these people are very dangerous individuals. Some of these people are actually bad people. I heard some heckling from the other side basically implying that they are not and that they can all be reformed if we treat them well, and if we ask for their opinions, they will give us good, solid opinions, we will all get along and we can hold hands and sing songs. The reality is that there are some people in these prisons who are very bad people and do not deserve to be running around as they choose.

One of the strange changes in this bill would allow the commissioner to designate a penitentiary or any section of a penitentiary as any level of security he or she chooses. That is very strange. The Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge is a minimum security prison on the edge of the Cypress Hills area. It is a beautiful location right at the edge of the trees. There are no fences around it. There is a series of cottages. The women right now spend time in the cottages. They have programming in the main lodge. Does that mean that the commissioner can designate one of those cottages a maximum security unit without changing the security level of the facilities or anything else and just say it is now a maximum-level unit, and someone can be put there who is supposed to be in a maximum security prison? All of us would put our heads in our hands and say that this is a crazy idea.

Within prisons there are some people who do not want to be in the general population. They are okay with being segregated. There are a number of reasons that might happen. One is that they may get hurt or injured themselves. The second is that they may hurt or injure someone else. They do not want to be put back into the general population of the prison. This bill basically says that the department has to continually work to do everything it can to put them back into general population.

A common theme throughout Bill C-83 and legislation on crime the Liberals keep bringing forward is that they want to try to make life easier for the most difficult prisoners. They should be looking at public safety. They should look at the people who work in the prisons. Why do Liberals not ever seem to focus on them instead of trying to find a way to hug a thug. They seem to really enjoy doing that.

This bill contains a lot of rhetoric and very few specifics. We were told that it was not costed. Once again, it is a demonstration of how soft the Liberals are on crime and how willing they are to close their eyes to reality. This is a series of promises that again will not be kept. This bill should be set aside. It is unfortunate that the government has moved time allocation for the 60th or 70th time to force this bill through.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 4:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal Humber River—Black Creek, ON

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to stand and add my voice in support of Bill C-83, a piece of legislation that would make a number of changes to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I am pleased to lend my support, as my colleagues have also done.

Bill C-83 proposes a number of important things. It creates the concept of patient advocates, as recommended by the inquest into the tragic death of Ashley Smith. Many of us in the House are very aware of the inquest and what happened to Ms. Smith, and the difficulties. We are very hopeful that Bill C-83 is going to help remedy some of those problems and prevent that from happening to some other young person.

The bill is meant to support inmates who need medical care, and ensure that they and their families can understand and exercise their rights. It would enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals working in the corrections system are autonomous and make decisions based on their medical judgment, without undue influence from correctional authorities.

It would enshrine in law the requirement that systemic and background factors be considered in all decisions involving indigenous people in custody, and it would expand the section of the law requiring the correctional service to be guided by respect for the diversity of the inmate population.

It would allow victims who attend parole hearings to access audio recordings of the proceedings.

It would create the legislative authority necessary for the Correctional Service of Canada to use body scanners to interdict drugs and other contraband, something that has been a problem for many years. There are people who have had to endure strip searches and so on. Having the body scanners would make it better for both the correctional service folks as well as for inmates. This technology is both less invasive than methods such as strip searches and less prone to false positives than the ion scanners CSC currently relies on.

It would also replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, or SIUs, as they are referred to. This new system would ensure that when inmates need to be separated from the rest of the prison population for safety reasons, they would retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions, something that was not happening before.

The bill deals with serious and challenging issues, and it is to be expected that Canadians and members of Parliament will have differences of opinion about them. So far, however, the Conservative contributions to this debate have been incredibly disappointing. At times, the Conservatives have blatantly contradicted themselves. For instance, in his speech, the member for Yellowhead complained that the changes made by the bill to administrative segregation are insignificant and superficial. However, in the very same speech, the very same member said that those very same changes would endanger inmates and staff. Which is it? Do the Conservatives think the bill is insignificant, or do they think it is catastrophic? It cannot be both.

At other times, the Conservatives have simply chosen to ignore the facts. They have been complaining over and over again that the government has not allocated resources to implement the bill, when they know that is not the case. On page 103 of the fall economic statement, issued by the finance minister last November, there is $448 million allocated to support amendments to transform federal corrections, including the introduction of a new correctional interventions model to eliminate segregation.

Also in November, the government sent the public safety committee a written response that went into more detail about the funding.

That response says that if Bill C-83 is adopted, the government will invest $297 million over six years and $71 million ongoing to implement the structured intervention units. The funding will be dedicated to providing focused interventions, programs and social supports and will include access to resources such as program officers, aboriginal liaison officers, elders, chaplains and others. That is in a document that all members of the public safety committee have had for over three months.

The document goes on to say that the remaining amount from the fall economic statement, $150.3 million over six years and $74.3 million ongoing, is for mental health care. That includes assessment and early diagnosis of inmates at intake and throughout incarceration, enhancements to primary and acute mental health care, and support for patient advocacy and 24/7 health care at designated institutions.

Again, this is all from a document that the Conservatives also have had since the fall, so when they complain about a lack of resources, they are either being disingenuous or they just have not had time to read the report.

The Conservatives' contributions to this debate have also been characterized by an unfortunate amount of self-righteousness. They position themselves as champions of victims, but it was legislation passed by the Harper government in 2015 that prohibited victims who attend a parole hearing from accessing an audio recording of that same hearing. Their bill said that victims who want recordings have to stay away from the hearing itself.

Parole hearings are often difficult experiences for many victims of crime, full of emotion, and the law should not expect them to retain every word of the proceedings at a time when they are immensely frightened and nervous and in an unfamiliar environment. The legislation before us today would finally let all victims access those recordings, whether they attend in person or not.

The Conservatives also position themselves as champions of correctional employees. Let me remind the House what the national president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said in 2014. Kevin Grabowsky was head of the union at that time, and he said, “We have to actively work to rid the Conservatives from power.” He said the Harper government was endangering correctional officers with changes to the labour code, cuts to rehabilitative programming and policies that resulted in overcrowding in federal prisons.

The main question raised at committee by both correctional officers and the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, which represents other CSC staff such as parole officers, was whether Bill C-83 would be accompanied by sufficient resources to implement it safely and effectively. As I have already made clear, the answer to that is a resounding yes.

Finally, the Conservatives' interventions in this debate have been reminiscent of the very worst of the Harper approach to the legislative process. They have been actually attacking the government for listening to stakeholder feedback and accepting some of those amendments. Under the Harper government, that kind of openness was unheard of, but I am proud to support a government that lets legislators legislate.

I thank all members who have engaged in a serious study of the bill and proposed thoughtful amendments, which is exactly what Canadians sent all of us here to do.

We have before us legislation that would make correctional institutions more effective and humane, accompanied by the resources needed to implement it safely. It is important that we move forward and pass the bill at this time.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Francesco Sorbara Liberal Vaughan—Woodbridge, ON

Madam Speaker, it is great to rise this afternoon to speak on Bill C-83, an act that amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, transforming administrative segregation.

The legislation would do a number of important things, such as creating patient advocates to help ensure inmates get the medical care they need, giving victims of crime enhanced access to recordings of parole hearings and enshrining in law the requirement that Correctional Service Canada considers systemic and background factors when making decisions affecting indigenous people in custody.

Of course, the main thing it would do is replace the current system of administrative segregation with structured intervention units, SIUs, for inmates who need to be separated from the rest of the institution for safety reasons, where they would have access to rehabilitative programs, mental health care and other interventions that are generally not available in segregation, which is an improvement. Importantly, inmates in SIUs would be entitled to a minimum of four hours a day out of their cells and at least two hours a day of meaningful human interaction with staff, visitors, volunteers, elders, chaplains or other inmates with whom they are compatible and can interact safely.

One of the main questions that was asked in the early days of committee study was whether the bill would be backed up with the funding needed to implement it safely and effectively. The answer is yes. The fall economic statement included a $448-million fund to implement the legislation. It includes about $300 million for staffing and other resources for the SIUs as well as $150 million for mental health care both in the SIUs and throughout the corrections system. These investments build on nearly $80 million for mental health care in corrections in the last two budgets. In short, the Correctional Service would have the resources it needs to turn the intention of the legislation into a practical reality.

However, to make sure that these resources are put to good use and that the new structured intervention units really do work as planned, the public safety committee made several amendments to Bill C-83. Yes, the committee system does work and our government committed to that when we were first elected. None of these amendments change the nature of the bill, but they add clarity to the way the new system will work.

For instance, Bill C-83 specifies that an inmate's time out of the cell will have to be offered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Interactions would generally be expected to happen face to face rather than through a door or meal slot. The clause that would allow hours out of cell not to be offered in exceptional circumstances now includes a list of examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to be clear that the circumstances must be truly exceptional. Also, if a warden disagrees with a medical recommendation to remove an inmate from an SIU, the matter will be elevated to a senior panel external to the institution.

However, those are the important additions that would strengthen the new system, and now at report stage, the member for Oakville North—Burlington has proposed an additional amendment that would add independent external review of SIU placements, which is something that was called for by several witnesses. The public safety minister told the committee last fall that he was open to the idea. The government has now confirmed that it will support the proposal.

Again, the role of committees is near and dear to our democracy, and it is again in Bill C-83 that we see committees doing the good work that Canadians expect them to do and that their members do with pride.

External decision-makers would get involved in three scenarios: if an inmate in an SIU has, for whatever reason, not received the minimum hours out of his or her cell or minimum hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row or 15 out of 30; if the senior panel reviewing a medical recommendation decides to keep the inmate in the SIU; and on the 90th day of placement in SIU, and every 60 days thereafter, for as long as the inmate is there.

In the first scenario, when an inmate has not been getting his or her time out of cell, the external independent decision-maker will consider whether the Correctional Service has taken all reasonable steps to provide the inmate with opportunities for hours out and encourage inmates to avail themselves of those opportunities. If they determine that not to be the case, they can make recommendations to the service, and if, after a week, the independent decision-maker is still not satisfied, they can order the inmate removed from the SIU. The decision-maker's ruling will be appealable to the Federal Court, both by the inmate and the Correctional Service.

In the other scenarios, a disagreement about a medical recommendation and regular reviews beginning on the 90th day, the independent decision-maker will consider whether having the inmate in the general population poses a security threat or would interfere with an ongoing investigation. It will take into account the inmate's correctional plan, the appropriateness of the inmate's security classification and confinement in the penitentiary, and any other factor it deems relevant.

Bill C-83 provides extensive flexibilities to the authorities to do their jobs. In other words, inmates who currently need to be separated from the rest of the institution for security reasons spend 22 hours a day in their cells, with very little in the way of rehabilitative interventions and no external oversight. Under Bill C-83, those inmates will have twice as much time out of their cells, with a full suite of rehabilitative interventions, including mental health care, and there will be binding external oversight that could kick in after as few as five days or even sooner in the event of a health care professional's recommendation.

This is a major step forward and that cannot be over-emphasized. Bill C-83 updates issues with regard to our penitentiaries and commits the appropriate funds to do so. I am proud of the legislation. I do not sit on the committee reviewing and bringing the bill forward, but it is great to see the committee doing its work and also incorporating amendments.

Bill C-83 will also enhance rehabilitation while continuing to meet the security imperatives that must always be top of mind when we are dealing with corrections. In fact, we cannot really separate rehabilitation from security. Better, more effective rehabilitation results in better security, both while the inmates are incarcerated and, as importantly, once they have been released.

That is why I support Bill C-83, and I hope that the bill will be adopted and enacted as soon as possible by this Parliament.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

February 26th, 2019 / 5:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach NDP Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Madam Speaker, I am appalled to hear the Liberals say that Bill C-83 will prevent suicides, when we know that many experts oppose administrative segregation. The bill proposes up to 20 hours a day of segregation for an indefinite period of time.

Two courts, one in Ontario and another in B.C., ruled that indefinite administrative segregation is unconstitutional. Furthermore, there is no independent oversight to assess the restrictions on freedom. Administrative segregation restricts freedom.

It has been proven that more than 48 hours in administrative isolation can cause permanent mental health effects and lead to self-harm, depression, suicide, panic attacks and hypersensitivity to external stimuli. The fact that administrative segregation is still an option is disastrous. The Liberals are just replicating what existed before and claiming to improve the situation.

The Liberals say that this could prevent suicides. However, the new measures aggravate mental health problems related to administrative segregation. In my view, it makes no sense to go down this path.

Today, the government is muzzling MPs. We should be moving amendments to improve the bill. The government rejected virtually all of the NDP and Conservative Party amendments aimed at improving the bill. That is not very professional, and it is very hypocritical. It harms inmates whose mental health problems will be aggravated and who will eventually be released and reintegrated into society.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House and participate in today's debate on Bill C-83, a transformative piece of legislation for our correctional system. Its ultimate goal is to promote safety, both inside and outside our federal institutions, and it prioritizes rehabilitation as an indispensable part of achieving that goal.

The core innovation in Bill C-83 is the proposed introduction of structured intervention units, or SIUs. These SIUs would address a reality in any prison, which is that some inmates are, at certain times, simply too dangerous or disruptive to be safely housed in the mainstream inmate population. The current practice is to place those offenders in administrative segregation.

Segregated inmates in federal institutions can be in their cells for as many as 22 hours a day, and their interactions with other inmates are highly limited. Bill C-83 offers a more effective way forward for everyone involved. Safety will always be priority number one, but prisons are safer places to live and work when inmates receive the programming, mental health care and other interventions they need. Inmates who receive these interventions are more likely to reintegrate safely into the community when their sentences are over.

The solution the government is proposing in Bill C-83 is to eliminate segregation and to replace it with SIUs. These units will be secure and separate from the mainstream inmate population so that the safety imperative will be met. However, they will be designed to ensure that the inmates who are placed there receive the interventions, programming and treatment that they require.

Inmates in SIUs will be given the opportunity to leave their cells for at least four hours a day, as opposed to two hours under the current system. It is worth noting that currently, those two hours are set out in policy and not in legislation. Bill C-83 will give the four-hour minimum the full force of law. Inmates in SIUs will also have the opportunity for at least two hours of meaningful human contact. During that time, they could interact with people such as correctional staff, other compatible inmates, visitors, chaplains or elders.

The goal of these reforms is for inmates in an SIU to be in a position to reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

Bill C-83 has undergone rigorous analysis at every stage of the parliamentary process to date. Members of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security went over the bill with a fine-tooth comb.

Based on testimony from a wide range of stakeholders, a number of useful amendments were adopted at the end of the committee's study period. Bill C-83 was a solid and worthwhile bill from day one. It is now even better and stronger for having gone through vigorous debate and a robust review process.

It is worth noting that the bill that has been reported back to us reflects amendments from all parties that proposed them. I wholeheartedly reject the idea we have heard during this debate that somehow the fact that the bill has been amended in response to public and parliamentary feedback is a bad thing. I am proud to support a government that welcomes informed, constructive feedback and that respects the role of members of Parliament from all parties in the legislative process.

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

For example, some witnesses were worried that the opportunity for time out of the cell would be provided in the middle of the night, when inmates were unlikely to take advantage of it. The member for Montarville therefore added the requirement that it happen between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Other witnesses wondered whether the mandatory interactions with others might happen through a door or a meal slot. To address that concern, the member for Toronto—Danforth, whom I commend, added a provision requiring that every reasonable effort be made to ensure that interactions are face to face, with a record kept of any and all exceptions.

To address concerns that the Correctional Service of Canada might make excessive use of the clause allowing for time out of the cell not to be provided in exceptional circumstances, the member for Mississauga—Lakeshore added a list of specific examples, such as fires or natural disasters, to clarify how this clause should be interpreted.

Amendments from the member for Toronto—Danforth at committee and from the member for Oakville North—Burlington at report stage will enhance the review process so that each SIU placement is subject to robust oversight, both internally and externally.

All of this will help ensure that the new SIUs operate as intended. Amendments have also been accepted from the members for Brampton North, Medicine Hat—Cardston—Warner, Beloeil—Chambly and Saanich—Gulf Islands. I thank them for their contributions.

We all want safer institutions and safer communities, and we all want Canadians to feel safe.

Successful rehabilitation and safe reintegration of people in federal custody are key to achieving our shared objective of enhanced public safety. By allowing inmates who must be separated from the general prison population to receive more time out of their cell and more mental health care and rehabilitative interventions, Bill C-83 represents a major step in the right direction.

Again, I would like to thank all of my hon. colleagues for their contributions throughout the legislative process so far, and I urge them to join me in enthusiastically supporting the bill.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Questions

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

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

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

moved:

Motion No. 23

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

Motion No. 24

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

Motion No. 25

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

Motion No. 26

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

Motion No. 27

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

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

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

During the committee's study, we heard from witnesses from a number of organizations, including the correctional investigator of Canada, who was quite surprised that he was not consulted while Bill C-83 was being drafted. The correctional investigator of Canada told us that eliminating solitary confinement was one thing but that replacing it with a regime that imposes restrictions on retained rights and liberties with little regard for due process and administrative principles is inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as well as the charter. That is a pretty strong statement.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(b) exhibits a tendency to self-harm;

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

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

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

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

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

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

I could not agree more.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another example is the possibility of judicial review.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Matthew Dubé NDP Beloeil—Chambly, QC

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Those are their words, not mine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Majid Jowhari Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Jenny Kwan NDP Vancouver East, BC

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Godin also said:

...by eliminating segregation and replacing it with structured intervention units, CSC will further struggle to achieve its mandate of exercising safe, secure and humane control over its inmate populations. We are concerned about policy revisions that appear to be reducing the ability to isolate an inmate, either for their safety or for that of staff...

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

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

Eliminating solitary confinement is one thing, but replacing it with a regime that imposes restrictions on retained rights and liberties with little regard for due process and administrative principles is inconsistent with the Corrections and Conditional Release Act as well as the charter.

As you can see, people on both sides disagree.

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Motions in amendmentCorrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

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

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

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

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

Conservative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

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

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

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

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

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

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

Dan Vandal Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indigenous Services, Lib.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

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

Liberal

Nick Whalen Liberal St. John's East, NL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / noon
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

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

Conservative

Gérard Deltell Conservative Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Sean Fraser

Mr. Speaker, I think most people across Canada understand that indigenous Canadians are incarcerated at a disproportionally high rate compared with the general population. There are a number of reasons this might be the case, but we know from the court's Gladue decision in 1999 that there are certain factors we have to consider to determine whether there are alternatives to incarceration that would leave an indigenous offender better off not only for themselves but also in terms of how they would pose a reduced danger to the community. This decision enshrined into law a principle that has been used subsequently that requires CSC to consider the historical and cultural factors that may be involved with an offender's life circumstances that led them to commit an offence, although there has to be individual responsibility as well, recognizing that their treatment inside the prison system may actually be detrimental to society on the back-end if they are released.

Bill C-83 requires us to consider similar principles that were outlined in the Gladue decision to ensure that we are giving a person the tools they need to be successfully reintegrated into the community on the back-end of their sentence.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. The key point in this legislation relates to Correctional Service Canada's policies, especially the practice of administrative segregation.

I should point out at the beginning that the bill would do four key things. One, it proposes to eliminate segregation, based on recent court decisions, and it introduces more effective structured intervention units. Two, it would better support victims during parole board hearings by, as my previous colleague mentioned, providing audio recordings of those hearings. Three, it would increase staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology. Four, it would update Correctional Service Canada's approach on critical matters like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs. There are fairly extensive policies in this bill on both those latter points: mental health and indigenous offenders' needs.

There has been much criticism of the policy on administrative segregation within the Correctional Service of Canada, and rightly so. I have listened to the debate on the other side, and some have said it is a necessary tool. I do not necessarily agree with that, but something certainly has to be done. In the previous Parliament, I was a critic for public safety and at one time served as solicitor general and was in charge of the Correctional Service of Canada, so I have read a lot of the criticism related to administrative segregation. We have to understand in this place that administrative segregation was there for very legitimate reasons: to protect the inmates themselves from the general population if they were causing trouble; to protect others in the general population from things that those people put in administrative segregation might otherwise have done; and to protect correctional officers from possible harm by moving these inmates to segregation. I understand those key points.

I do not know if many people in this place have seen those segregation units in many of our federal penitentiaries and prisons. I have, and it would not be a great place to spend days on end without mental health services. In fact, as my colleague from Central Nova mentioned earlier, we have to understand that our correctional system in this country is not just about throwing somebody in a cell and throwing away the key. Our system is based on the premise of rehabilitation, and that is the ultimate objective. Yes, there have to be penalties, and severe penalties, for crimes done and, yes, some people stay in the system their whole life after they have committed a crime. However, we must keep in mind that many people, the great majority we hope, will come out and be productive citizens in society. That is what we have to attempt to do.

Therefore, what this particular bill proposes is basically to try to put a new system in place, called a “structured intervention unit”, where people who have to be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for reasons of safety, will be assigned to a secure intervention unit but not in the same style as in the past.

In addition to being assigned to that secure intervention unit, or cell, Correctional Service Canada would be mandated to provide them with rehabilitative programming, mental health care, and other interventions and services that respond to the inmate's specific needs. That especially relates to those with mental health problems, for whatever reason, and especially applies to the indigenous population, which has different customs and patterns. I have heard a lot of talk in this place about healing centres. The fact of the matter is they work, and we need to keep that in mind too.

Beyond meeting those specific needs of an inmate, keep in mind that we want to protect the individual, the rest of the prison population and the corrections officers working in the system. Under this approach, it would be done in a different way from what is currently in place, as we would address the mental health care needs of inmates and could intervene with other services where appropriate.

Beyond all of that, there are a number of reviews that have to take place. I have talked to a lot of corrections officers, and I can understand that when an inmate challenges them within the prison system, it is really hard not lose one's temper and to want to be vindictive. This is supposed to work at preventing that from happening as well. However, for the inmate, there are several reviews that would take place. There would be a review by the warden within five days, and there a couple of other reviews in place as well.

This bill tries to move away from a system that we know has been challenged in the courts. Yes, we have appealed the decision in question, because we want to keep all options open. It is a system that has been strongly criticized by the correctional investigator, and this bill tries to come up with a better system that would work. In part, that is what this bill is about.

In closing, as my colleague mentioned earlier, there is a real attempt to provide better services to victims in this bill. For example, the recordings of the Parole Board hearings would be provided so they could be reviewed in a quieter place at another time to see what was said. This legislation would add a guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for Correctional Service Canada to consider systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all the decision-making done within the system.

This bill does not change the world. Keep in mind that we have a system of penalties in this country that, overall, is designed to try to make individuals who have committed a crime, for whatever reason, better citizens when they come out of prison, not better criminals. Our objective is to make them better citizens so they can contribute to their family, their own life's work and to the Canadian economy. This bill does not change the world, but it is a fairly major step forward in how we would handle inmates, how we would work with them within the prison system and how we would try to give victims better services. At the end of the day, this is a bill that members should support.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this important debate today on Bill C-83, that would deal with the abolition of early parole and the issues on conditional release and corrections. I say at the outset that I will speak in opposition to the bill at second reading. I do so for a number of reasons I will try to describe.

I will first talk about the nature of what the bill has tried to respond to, the difficulties, the dilemmas, the torture, as some people have called it, that is involved in solitary confinement. Perhaps one can call it by other words, but that is what it is. Then I will talk about what a couple of our superior courts have said about this practice and the constitutionality of it, the fact that the government has continued with the appeals of those judgments and yet brought in a bill which by all measure is a very modest response to the very strong language of our courts in addressing the issue of solitary confinement.

I would say that this is a modest improvement. I do not want to be misunderstood. There are some things that are in the right direction in this legislation, but it is a pity that, in light of the long and thoughtful decisions in both the Ontario Superior Court and Mr. Justice Peter Leask's decision in the B.C. Supreme Court, this is the result. It is a very modest, to use a neutral word, response to their very strong language.

Let me talk initially about what they said. The B.C. Civil Liberties Association and others brought a constitutional case to the B.C. Supreme Court. In a landmark decision that was handed down in January this year, Mr. Justice Leask in his last judgment before leaving the bench provided what can only be described as a blockbuster decision. Among the things that he talked about, to build on what I asked my friend a moment ago, is the need for an independent review of segregation placements and that is entirely lacking in this decision.

He decided that the practice of solitary confinement, as it was practised at that point in time, breached the security of the person. He said: "I find as a fact that administrative segregation as enacted by [the statute] is a form of solitary confinement that places all Canadian federal inmates subject to it at significant risk of serious psychological harm, including mental pain and suffering, and increased incidence of self-harm and suicide." He wrote a 54,000-word judgment after hearing days and days of testimony, a very carefully reasoned decision and he held that it violated the security of the person that is guaranteed in our charter.

He also said that it discriminated against first nations, disabled and mentally ill individuals. The findings for that again are based on a thorough analysis of the situation at hand. He said thousands of prisoners have been subjected to solitary segregation over the years, isolated for up to 23 hours a day, sometimes for months and sometimes for years. Indeed, we know the sad story of Mr. Edward Snowshoe, an indigenous prisoner who died by suicide after languishing in solitary for 162 days without any meaningful attention from staff.

This is akin to a form of torture. This is not unlike the harm we have heard about in other contexts in this place of post-traumatic stress disorder that leads to the serious risks of suicide and self-harm as has happened so many times. Thousands of prisoners have been subjected to that isolation for so long and for so many hours a day and for so many days in a year.

There are about 14,000 inmates in federal institutions, 679 of them women. One in four of the incarcerated men spend some time in segregation. To my surprise, more than 40% of women do. This is a prevalent problem across our institutions and it is not just limited to some prisoners and some institutions, but is endemic across the country.

Those who believe that prisons are there to provide punishment but also for rehabilitation purposes should listen to what the judge concluded after days and days of testimony. He stated, “I have no hesitation in concluding that rather than prepare inmates for their return to the general population, prolonged placements in segregation have the opposite effect of making them more dangerous both within the institutions’ walls and in the community outside.” This is not serving the community and it is certainly not serving the people who have been in institutions for that long. The kinds of concerns he talked about include anxiety, withdrawal, hypersensitivity, hallucinations, aggression, rage, paranoia, hopelessness, self-mutilation and suicide ideation behaviour.

There is no question that we have dealt with a serious problem. It is not only the judge who said this. The correctional investigator of Canada and the United Nations Committee Against Torture have looked at that and concluded that there were serious issues that had to be addressed. Indeed, Justice Leask said there should be time limits of 15 days in solitary, longer periods are considered torture by the United Nations and the government indicated it could implement that standard. That is what led to the legislation before us today.

As I said at the outset, there are some tweaks in here that are helpful. The administrative segregation or solitary confinement has been rebranded as structured integration units, sort of an Orwellian term I suppose, but maybe the language will change things to some degree. Importantly, instead of spending up to 22 or 23 hours in segregation, the new scheme proposes up to 20 hours a day, but for an indefinite period of time. The Ontario Superior Court found that harmful effects can manifest in as little as 48 hours, so I ask whether that is likely to change anything in a significant fashion. I think not.

One of the things Justice Leask spent pages on in his decision was the need, as so many have said, to have an independent check on the discretion of the prison head or the Correctional Service of Canada's top official. That is lacking entirely in this bill. Senator Pate put a press release out and referred to this legislation, saying it is “only merely a rebranding of the same damaging practice”, now called structured intervention unit. She said that this bill “also virtually eliminates existing, already inadequate limitations on its use”, it “maintains the status quo regarding a lack of effective external oversight of correctional decision making”, it does nothing to deal with what Justice Louise Arbour concluded when she studied the prison for women in Kingston and she acknowledges, as the courts have, that the way segregation or solitary confinement is applied is disproportionately affecting “indigenous and racialized prisoners and those with mental health issues”.

This bill needs improvements on the checking of the discretion that is available to officials by way of appeals. The involvement of counsel on disciplinary hearings is a step forward, but there is so much that needs to be done to address the horrific practices that have been castigated by our courts in thoughtful decisions. This bill does not go far enough to address their disturbing conclusions.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

Mr. Speaker, while I do not agree with all that the member for Victoria said, he certainly put forward a compelling case for some of the arguments he put forward.

The member for Victoria alluded to the British Columbia Supreme Court decision. We also have, as he alluded to, the Ontario Superior Court decision. He noted that in the British Columbia Supreme Court decision, there was a fair bit of elaboration on the part of the judge about the lack of an independent review. Going through the Ontario decision, what seems to be one of the key elements of that decision was the lack of an independent review.

Meanwhile, we have a government that says it is introducing this legislation to respond to these court decisions, but if that is true, it seems that one of the key elements of both of those decisions is lacking in Bill C-83. Would the hon. member agree?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, my friend from St. Albert—Edmonton is absolutely right, and I would go further.

Both judgments talked about the lack of external review. There is no independent third party to review the discretion of the CSC administrator, and that is shocking. That was one of the key elements of both decisions, as the member correctly pointed out.

What is also shocking is that despite losing both of these decisions so dramatically, the government sees fit to bring in a halfway measure in Bill C-83, and to continue the appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court. These appeals cost lots of money, and for what purpose? Why can the government not accept what the courts have said so dramatically, improve the bill, and save people having to go all the way to the Supreme Court for the government to be told external oversight is required?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat surprised at the position the NDP has taken on this piece of legislation.

Looking at this legislation, as I know my colleague has, there is absolutely no doubt it improves the current system. It deals with the issue of segregation. It deals with audios for victims. It includes body scans. I would ultimately argue that Bill C-83 is a progressive piece of legislation.

Why would the NDP not support this legislation? Maybe that party could attempt to get some amendments made at committee, or something of that nature. Would those members not at least acknowledge that the bill would improve what we currently have in place, even by NDP standards?

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

MaryAnn Mihychuk Liberal Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today and speak to Bill C-83 and the impacts of the corrections facilities and our justice system on real people. In particular, my interest is on indigenous people, and how they are treated by the justice system and in our correctional facilities.

We are looking at a bill that will actually do what it promises and what it needs to do, which is eliminate solitary confinement. That was the major goal, and that is what this bill will do. It is also going to hold guilty parties accountable for breaking the law. Each and every Canadian wants to ensure that we have a justice system and a corrections system that are going to hold offenders to task, that they are receiving the proper penalty, and hopefully that they receive rehabilitation services to make them meaningful and active participants in our society.

Ultimately, we want fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities. That is why our government is strengthening the federal corrections system, aligning it to the latest evidence and best practices so that inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to re-enter our society safely.

This bill will eliminate solitary confinement, following recent court decisions and introducing a more effective system that will be called the structured intervention unit system. It will also provide better supports for victims during parole board hearings. It will increase staff and inmate safety with the new body scanner technology. It will also update our approach on critical matters like mental health supports and becoming more sensitive to indigenous offenders' needs.

There is no stronger case to reflect on than the Ashley Smith case, where a young girl was throwing crabapples at a mailman. She ended up in a youth facility, and her experience was then compounded with various acts of aggression and hostility because she felt she was not being treated fairly. Young people who are faced with a situation of hopelessness reach out in any way they can. Ultimately, Ashley hanged herself in a correctional facility operated by the Government of Canada.

It is hard to understand how a young woman would feel so hopeless in a facility that is supposed to be providing rehabilitative services. Ashley Smith's story is one that we should all reflect on. We would reflect on the fact that here was a young girl who was placed in a youth facility for a month in 2003, at the age of 14, after throwing crabapples at the mailman.

I am sorry, but this hardly seems like a reason to end up in confinement, whether it is in a youth facility or not. I have three children. I do not believe any one of them has ever actually thrown a crabapple at a mailman, but I am sure they have done things that might even be worse. The point is that this young girl was thrown into jail, a youth facility, and that experience was compounded. Instead of getting out and rejoining society, she might have had another small infraction, and then it was extended and extended to the point where her life held no hope that she could see, and where she would rather commit suicide than go on living in her condition in solitary confinement. It was a tragic situation and one that this bill is addressing.

We know more can be done, and more needs to be done. We know from the statistics that many of the people in our correctional facilities come from an indigenous heritage. Indigenous people far outnumber those from other communities. We must address the root causes, and that is a much more complicated and longer journey. However, I am proud to say that this is a government that is finally taking steps forward. We have a Prime Minister who has made a commitment to the indigenous people of this country, and to all of us, that this is an issue that we are finally going to address. Progress is being made.

When we go back to look at the bill itself, there is a need to make changes. This is a government that has taken steps forward, and there is no doubt that there are those in our community who will be concerned that some prisoners may be dangerous to the guards, to other inmates and to themselves, and that solitary confinement plays an important role in our correctional facilities. However, they need to understand that this was not the best way to help people. In fact, people in solitary confinement do not receive the supports they need to become stronger and healthier: the mental supports, the health supports and the supports they need to function in a very stressful circumstance.

Therefore, I am very pleased to see that we are eliminating solitary confinement and looking for new alternatives that would keep those offenders from the general population while allowing them to retain access to rehabilitation programs, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe reintegration are always the best way to protect Canadian communities.

This is an issue that we are looking at federally, but it has also been addressed provincially. I note that in May 2018, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act. On May 7, 2018, the province implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation.

The number of inmates who are in segregation has been dropping, and we are glad to see it. In 2011, there were 700 inmates in solitary confinement, and now that has dropped to 340. I am pleased to say I am a member of a government that is finding a way to eliminate solitary confinement.

While the correctional investigator has looked at the situation and acknowledged that the reduction in the use of solitary confinement is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. There is more to do, as we know, and we must continue to move with society to make appropriate amendments.

The structured intervention units would replace solitary confinement. Individuals would be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, and they would be assigned to a secure intervention unit. This would separate inmates when necessary, while continuing to provide them with rehabilitative programming, mental health care, and other interventions and services that respond to their specific needs.

This bill does several other things, including providing supports to victims. The bill would allow audio recordings of parole hearings. At this point, these are only available to victims who do not attend. The recordings would now be available to any victims, even if they attend, and would be an important record for them to review for the future.

The proposed bill also puts in law the guiding principles to affirm the need for CSC to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders. This is an important and positive step for all Canadians, in particular our indigenous members of our society.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet NDP Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, when we listen to the news on the radio, for example, we hear about how the Liberals want to scrap administrative segregation. I heard that three times during the member for Kildonan—St. Paul's speech too. That says to me that nobody will ever again be isolated in a cell for several hours a day or several days in a row.

However, that is not what Bill C-83 says. All it says is that the term “administrative segregation” will be replaced by “structured intervention units”, that the number of hours will be reduced from 22 or 23 to a maximum of 20 hours, and that the inmates will have contact with other people. They can still be segregated for 20 hours a day for an indefinite period of time. There is no limit on the number of days an inmate can spend in a structured intervention unit.

How can the government tell people it is doing one thing even as it is doing another? How can it mislead people like that?

To me, that is outrageous.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time. I will bring some perspective to this debate dating back to October 2004, when I first came to the House. At the time, it was the tail end of a minority government.

We did not deal too much with legislation that addressed crime and other matters as such. I remember when the Conservatives came to power in 2006. They came in on a wave of their getting tough on crime and criminals. Over the years, to say it has been a mixed bag of success is to be somewhat generous. I do not mean that in a harsh or partisan way, but in a way that reflects that it is somewhat disappointing that we never had a decent conversation about crime, and certainly not about rehabilitation. Crime had become a superficial way of trying to gain popularity and votes. I say this not against the Conservatives specifically, but the debate has drifted in that direction. I think the tag line was “Do the crime, do the time.”

The problem is that we had seen what happens in jurisdictions around the world, and especially in the United States, where they truly used it, amping it up to the point where it became absolutely deafening, to the point where it was a matter of “Lock them up and throw away the key.” I mean nothing specific by that.

I will say, however, that tag line was used quite a bit. Unfortunately, we now find that so many people in the United States who originally used that as a way of gaining popularity and a way of pushing forward a very good public policy are now winding back some, but not all, of that. I am sure some of it worked out in the end. In many cases, there were a lot of people in the system who deserved to be in the system and should continue to be in the system, and that worked.

However, we realized over the years that a lot of people should not be in the system that long and were not given the tools to go back into society. There are people in society who do not belong in society. I get it. I think we all get that. However, there are people in the system administered by CSC who will go back into society. Who will that person be coming back into society, as opposed to who they were when they left society and went to prison for the first time? It is us who make the decisions to be there for the people who help rehabilitate the criminals.

I understand, on this particular legislation, that there are opinions on both sides of it, people who like what we say, and others who say that we need to look at furthering this debate about rehabilitating a person who has been incarcerated and is now going back into society. It takes several steps to get to that point. There are many examples around the world that we could use to get back to that point.

We also have the court system, which has pointed out that the old system has discrepancies that we need to fix, like solitary confinement. Let us look at the concept of solitary confinement for just a moment, the separation of someone from others for the safety of everyone involved. To a great extent, that has to happen within the system.

I have never worked in the prison system. I have never been in prison myself. However, I certainly know enough about the situation. Over the past 14 years, I have certainly heard enough about those who feel that rehabilitation in the prison service is deficient in many ways, federally and provincially in many cases. In my opinion, Bill C-83 is a way to take a step, so that when people go back into society, they will not be the same people who went into the prison. It is incumbent upon us to have that wide debate.

Now, we want to do several things in this particular bill, which I will point out.

This legislation proposes to eliminate segregation, following recent court decisions, as I pointed out. It introduces more effective structured intervention units. It proposes better support for victims during Parole Board hearings and it proposes increasing staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology. Bill C-83 proposes to update our approach to critical matters like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs, as well as the needs of the general population.

What CSC really needs is the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety.

While someone is segregated in solitary confinement, there is still a way that we can reach that person to effect a major change. Therefore, there is a minimum. Yes, we do segregate that person from the general population for the safety of the institution, but we also need to provide the structure so that we can tackle the problem in a responsible and mature manner. This is what the SIUs this legislation introduces are about. Four hours of human contact could alleviate the problem.

The problem may have started with a particular person. I am not blaming anyone else. However we must look for the reason why that person needs to be segregated. Why is the individual like that? We need to make sure that it does not happen again. In order to do that, as the courts have pointed out, human contact is needed, which would make the situation it that much better for the institution itself and for the prison population in general.

For many years CSC has been criticized for the practice of administrative segregation, better known as solitary confinement. The case of Ashley Smith is a good example. Ashley died in custody in 2007. Her case highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in the Canadian correctional system.

In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, one of which was instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate can spend in segregation. We realized from that case alone in 2007 that there was a problem and that we needed to go further.

We need to protect institutions and instill institutional safety by taking an inmate from the general population. But then what? What is the right answer?

The right answer involves our listening to the experts who have to deal with these people every day. I know they are on different sides in this particular step that we want to take, but it is our responsibility to have this debate and send the bill to committee so that opposition members who have some concerns can make the proper amendments.

We must remember that key here is the fact that a lot of these people will face society once again. We want to make sure that an individual who goes back into society is not the same person who went into prison.

We know these people through families, through friends, through contacts who have been in prison and had a rough time. We hear about them all the time. That is one of the major things that happened in 2007 with the case of Ashley Smith.

The number of inmates in segregation on any given day in 2011 was over 700. It is now about 340. Why is that the case? We need to explore the reason why.

As we look for answers to this particular situation, I realize that these units, these SIUs, are not the perfect answer for everyone involved in the system, including the guards.

My support for Bill C-83 comes from my understanding of the need to take that step of providing human contact to protect society at large. Of course, there are people here on both sides of the issue. We need to have a debate here and the bill sent to committee so that we can look at any amendments that might be brought forward.

I thank everyone involved in this debate. I also thank the superior courts of both British Columbia and Ontario for helping us guide the way.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActRoutine Proceedings

October 23rd, 2018 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Christine Moore NDP Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, with respect to Bill C-83, I will focus mainly on administrative segregation because it is one of the key measures that should have been greatly improved. Unfortunately, we are not seeing this improvement.

There are two rulings on the use of administrative segregation that, in essence, have profoundly challenged the use of this technique because of the psychological and psychiatric effects it can have on people. For example, a number of studies show that administrative segregation could trigger or aggravate certain psychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, depression, impulsiveness, hypersensitivity to external stimuli, self-harm, insomnia and problems with thinking, concentration and memory. The use of administrative segregation increases the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide.

In light of all that, the government should have engaged in a profound re-evaluation of the circumstances justifying the use of administrative segregation as well as the guidelines for the duration and supervision of this practice, among other things. Unfortunately, there are no options.

Segregation is also used in the health system. It is one measure used to restrain patients. Clearly, I am not referring to the same clients. Nevertheless, there are many linkages that can be drawn. The health system previously used many restraint measures on a regular basis. For example, a lap belt was used for seniors with dementia and the bed rails were raised so they would not fall out of bed. That was how things were done.

Quebec's health system has seriously questioned the circumstances that justify the use of restraints. There have been questions about how health institutions should determine whether their protocols for the use of restraints are effective.

Several documents were written about this, and I will be referring to a document put out by the Government of Quebec called Cadre de référence pour l'élaboration des protocoles d'application des mesures de contrôle, which deals with restraint, isolation and chemical substances. Chapter 4 is extremely interesting and so I hope that members will look into it, especially at committee. It talks about the ethical and clinical principles that health institutions should use to establish their protocols for the use of restraint. The first principle is this:

Control measures are only used as safety measures when immediate threats are identified

The protocol should state that control measures must be used in a therapeutic context only and must under no circumstances be used to punish, intimidate or correct a person, to modify a behaviour, or to deal with organizational constraints. If a control measure is used, it must be used with the sole object of preventing the person from imminently causing harm to themselves or others.

These ethical principles make many interesting points, especially where they say that restraint measures, such as segregation, must never be used to deal with organizational constraints. In other words, if segregation can be avoided by doubling staff numbers, that would be the ethical thing to do, rather than placing people in segregation just because it is the easiest option and money is tight.

This is also a very important principle from a legal perspective. Administrative segregation should not be used as a substitute for increasing staff numbers due to a lack of means. If segregation can be avoided by increasing staff, whether that means more security guards or other professionals, then increasing staff is the better option.

Another ethical principle is that control measures should be used only as a last resort. That seems logical.

I will continue after question period.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic to take the floor after that ruling, but I am pleased that we can pursue that other matter through other channels.

I am here now to address Bill C-83. I appreciate that the Liberal Party gave me a time slot, in recognition of the fact that there has been an allocation of time on debate and I otherwise might not have been able to speak to this at all. I wish to go on record, and I am not feeling any sense of cognitive dissonance in doing this, to thank the government party for allowing me to speak for 10 minutes, and I also wish that the government party had not decided to use time allocation on Bill C-83.

In any case, this bill comes to us in a context I want to address first, which is a political context and a political climate that has been created by recent debates in this place, in which, I regret to say, I felt demeaned. I felt displaced, demeaned and diminished by a tactic of the official opposition to turn the House of Commons into sort of a secondary chamber for the review of punishments meted out through the proper system, the courts of law. We have taken days and had people's names and the horrors of gruesome, cruel murders repeated on the floor of this place.

There is clearly some thought in some quarters here that it is a good campaign tactic to talk about punishment a lot and to regret when our correctional system responds in ways that might appear to some as lenient. However, we are a country built on the rule of law. We recognize that our prison system is not merely for punishment. We have to have this discussion, I think, fairly constantly. What is the point of our correctional system? What is the point of our prison system?

As many MPs have said on the floor of this place today in response to Bill C-83, many of the people in our prison system are going to re-enter society. We would like them to re-enter society with the life skills they will need to be contributing members of society, having paid, in that terminology, their debt to society.

It is in that context, where on one end of the political extreme we are told that we have become too lenient towards prisoners, that we turn our attention to an appalling situation, where rights have been infringed and lives have been lost through the failure of the prison system to handle certain kinds of prisoners, those who find themselves in likely incarceration in solitary confinement.

Of course, this bill comes to us in the context of one of the most egregious of those examples, again, as has been mentioned in this place today, the case of Ashley Smith. I think we forget sometimes how horrific her death was, how hard her life was, how hard her mother tried to help her and how the prison system made her survival impossible.

The coroner's inquest into Ashley Smith's death found that although she died from self-inflicted choking, while the guards watched, the context and the circumstances of her death amounted to a homicide. That coroner provided 104 recommendations.

We also know of the cases of Adam Capay, a young indigenous man who spent 1,600 days in solitary confinement; or Richard Wolfe, who did not actually die in solitary but collapsed in a prison exercise yard, at 40 years old, having spent 640 days in solitary confinement; or another indigenous man whose case comes to mind, Eddie Snowshoe, who spent 162 days in solitary confinement before hanging himself.

We can note from those cases that it is quite often those with mental health issues, those who are marginalized, those who are racialized and particularly those who are indigenous who end up in solitary confinement. Therefore, it is certainly welcome that the Minister of Public Safety has brought to this place a bill that promises to end this ongoing stain on the reputation of Canada as a civilized country. Solitary confinement for those lengths of times has been found internationally to constitute torture, and we are a people who are convinced that we do not practise torture.

Therefore, I am sad to share my disappointment with this bill and my concern that we do not have it right yet.

Coralee Cusack-Smith, mother of Ashley Smith, speaking for her family on Bill C-83, said “it's a sham and a travesty that it's done in Ashley's name. It's just a different name for segregation. It's not ending segregation. Not ending segregation for anyone with mental health issues. It's just a new name.”

It seems that the fact it is merely a rebranding is reflected in a statement by the hon. Senator Kim Pate who, having spent time before entering the other place to dedicating her life to the fair treatment of women prisoners, in particular through the Elizabeth Fry Society, described Bill C-83 as disappointing and even as weakening the limitations on how often a segregated prisoner can experience solitary confinement. We have this idea that structured intervention units will be entirely different from solitary confinement. I hope they will be. I have to say that it is one place where I would like to emphasize the positive in this place.

I was a member of Parliament, at the same desk, in the same chair, for an opposition party through the 41st Parliament. I could add up on the fingers of one hand the number of times I saw a single amendment made to a government bill. In a four-year term of a majority government under Stephen Harper, bills were rammed through from start to finish without a single amendment. Therefore, I will credit the current government and the administration of the current Prime Minister with being more open to amendments. However, it is a mixed bag. Some bills I would have been so happy to support if they only had been amended enough to make them acceptable. Bill C-69, the environmental assessment omnibus bill, is in that category. It is a tragedy that the Liberals did not get that one right. It will be a tragedy if we collectively in the House do not get it right on this one.

We have an obligation as a civilized society to re-examine what we mean by “incarceration” and “corrections” in the criminal justice system and what the purpose of incarceration is. In the 41st Parliament, the former government got rid of prison chaplains in that system. It got rid of prison farms where some prisoners could have the first experience in their lives of a day outdoors doing an honest day's labour. I suppose it is ironic that an honest day's labour took place in a prison farm context. However, those programs were killed by the previous government.

The prison system in our country cannot just be seen as a place where some parts of the political spectrum can score political points by talking about life being too easy there for people who have committed heinous crimes, as the language always describes them. I am not sympathizing with criminals. I support the rights of victims. However, it is not an effective prison system if it kills people who have committed minor crimes, who become stuck in a Möbius loop where they cannot get help. We have to break that cycle now. We have to find ways to focus our prison system on fairness, respect, reconciliation and rehabilitation. This is not the stuff of bleeding hearts; this is what makes a society whole. This is what allows people who have been in prison to come back out and function in a civilized society and not pass on the patterns of behaviour they have experienced to their family and children.

I have hope for Bill C-83. I will do everything I can at committee, and everything I can by working with members of the groups who have given their lives to this, whether it be the Elizabeth Fry Society, the John Howard Society, the BC Civil Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and those very brave people who have been incarcerated and are willing to come forward to say, “This is what would have helped me. This is how it did not help me.”

Yes, a prison system is to ensure that people pay their debt to society and are punished for things that are morally indefensible and a huge assault on our society. However, there are also a lot of people in prison who have committed relatively minor crimes who, if they were wealthier and had better lawyers, might not be there. There, but for the grace of God, go members and I. Therefore, let us fix Bill C-83.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to lend my voice to the debate today in support of Bill C-83, which would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. We all want our communities to be safe, and we all want to be secure in the knowledge that when offenders return to the community, our corrections system will have supported their rehabilitation and prepared them to lead safe, productive, law-abiding lives. Our government believes that for the corrections system to succeed in that regard, safety and security must go hand in hand with rehabilitative programming and treatment. Today, I am proud to know that principle is at the core of the bold new measures the government is taking to transform federal corrections.

Bill C-83 would strengthen the federal corrections system, making it safer and more effective at rehabilitation. The bill would end the practice of segregation. It would establish structured intervention units, or SIUs, to safely manage inmates when they cannot otherwise be managed in the mainstream inmate population, without denying them access to programs, interventions and treatment.

Bill C-83 would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. This change reflects testimony we heard at both the status of women and public safety committees, and I am very pleased to see this included in the proposed legislation. Bill C-83 would strengthen health care governance, allow for the use of new search technologies and enhance support for victims at parole hearings.

Key to this landmark legislation is that with SIUs, the practice of segregation would become a thing of the past. Currently, if an offender is considered dangerous to themselves or others, or is at risk of being harmed, they can be placed in segregation if there is no other reasonable alternative. Segregation has remained a common practice over the years. Recently, policy changes by the Correctional Service of Canada led to a significant decline in segregation placements, from over 700 on any given day a few years ago to just over 300 today.

However, we cannot ignore the fact that stakeholders, including the Office of the Correctional Investigator, advocacy groups, the Ashley Smith inquest and the courts, have raised concern about its effects, particularly on inmates suffering from mental health issues. I have seen a segregation unit in a maximum security prison. I cannot imagine a human being left there hour upon hour, day after day. Imagine a room with a bed, or more like a cot, a toilet and sink, and maybe a small desk attached to the wall, which might or might not have a seat, and being confined there for 22 hours a day with limited to no human contact.

In the courts, recent decisions in both Ontario and British Columbia called for legislative reform to the practice. They have also called for improvements to the provision of mental health services within corrections. At the same time, others have argued that segregation is necessary to ensure that correctional institutions remain safe for their employees and the people in custody. The safety of correctional staff must always be an overarching consideration. Our correctional institutions are full of dedicated staff who work long hours in challenging circumstances to make a positive difference by promoting rehabilitation and protecting communities.

As a member of the public safety committee, I have had the opportunity to tour a number of corrections facilities across the country and to get to know many of the men and women who work in the corrections system, including the commissioner and correctional investigator, regional managers, wardens, corrections officers, parole officers, aboriginal liaison officers, program officers, nurses and more. They work incredibly hard with very little recognition, working day in and day out to rehabilitate those in our corrections system. They develop correctional plans for offenders to ensure that they are receiving programming throughout their sentences. They are passionate about their work and often make a real difference in the lives of offenders so that they can become more productive and healthy members of society upon their release.

Until now, correctional staff had few alternatives to segregation when having to isolate an inmate for safety reasons. We now have an opportunity to address that problem. Bill C-83 would eliminate segregation altogether and establish structured intervention units. These SIUs would provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety risks of inmates in difficult circumstances. They would help manage offenders who could not otherwise be safely managed. In an SIU, an inmate would receive structured interventions and programming tailored to their specific needs. Every day, they would have a minimum of four hours outside their cell, including at least two hours of meaningful human interaction.

In the existing segregation system, by contrast, people get only two hours out of the cell and little or no meaningful interaction with other people.

I find some of the rhetoric on the bill coming from my Conservative colleagues to be disturbing. I have heard my colleagues on the opposition benches argue that the bill would make life easier for offenders in corrections facilities. I have said it before in the House and I will say it again. I believe it is essential that our system does all within its power to rehabilitate offenders, if only because we know that it leads to lower recidivism rates and ultimately makes all Canadians safer.

As my friend Stan Stapleton, president of the Union of Safety and Justice Employees, has said with regard to the bill:

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

I could not agree more and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting the bill. With Bill C-83, offenders will have the ability to work toward the objectives in the correctional plan thanks to a focus on intervention so they are better placed to become productive members of society once they are released. I think we can all agree that this is good for the public safety of Canadians.

With these changes, offenders will have daily visits from health care professionals. Ultimately the idea is to facilitate safe reintegration into the mainstream inmate population as soon as possible.

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

Importantly, the bill also proposes to enshrine in law the principle that health care professionals within the corrections system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it creates a system of patient advocates who will help ensure people get the medical treatment they need.

Having spent considerable time studying this issue at the committees on which I serve and having visited several corrections facilities, I can say with confidence that Bill C-83 represents a substantial change in the right direction. We have the opportunity to act now to improve correctional outcomes, reduce violent incidents and ensure a safe environment for inmates, staff, volunteers and the institutions as a whole.

We have the opportunity to contribute to community and public safety by supporting bold new proposals that assist with the rehabilitation of offenders, reducing the risk of reoffending and keeping our communities safe.

I look forward to the opportunity to study the bill further at committee and I urge all members to join me in supporting these important changes.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 3:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Steven Blaney Conservative Bellechasse—Les Etchemins—Lévis, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act, which was introduced by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, a position I used to hold.

To start with, I want to say that I will be vigorously opposing this bill. With respect to the point raised a moment ago by my colleague, I would like to remind her that the president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, Jason Godin, has already pointed out the detrimental effects that this bill would have on security in our correctional institutions. He says that the number of assaults on prison guards by inmates has increased as a result of the reduced use of segregation under the new legislation that has been tabled.

I am strongly opposed to this bill, because its very basis is wrong. The first reason I oppose this bill is that it makes our correctional facilities less safe. I am sure members on both sides of the House would join me in acknowledging the remarkable work that our correctional officers do. Much like parents raising children, our correctional officers need respect. Our role, as parliamentarians, is to give them tools to ensure that they get respect, which is essential to keeping our correctional facilities safe. Unfortunately, this bill would weaken the tools available to our correctional officers.

I commend these officers, and I want them to know that I oppose this bill, because it will make our facilities less safe and will put our correctional officers at greater risk.

The second reason I oppose the bill is that any legislation meant to improve our correctional services needs to take into account a fundamental principle that is missing from this bill. The conditions of detention must reflect the seriousness of the crimes committed and must also reflect each individual inmate's risk level. This bill is clearly misguided because it removes tools that help our correctional officers keep our facilities safe.

The third reason I oppose this bill is that it does not contain any significant rehabilitation measures. I remind members that our correctional facilities are meant to ensure that when an inmate is released back into society, he or she is able to contribute to this society again.

With less respect, less safety and, unfortunately, more violence in our correctional facilities, it will be harder for inmates to focus on their rehabilitation.

As members have mentioned, Bill C-83 seeks to eliminate the use of administrative and disciplinary segregation. The Liberals are fixated on that. It seems that those who drafted the bill never had an opportunity, as I did when I was minister of public safety and as our public safety critic did, to simply go and visit correctional facilities to talk to correctional officers and inmates. Our public safety critic and I had the opportunity to meet with inmates who told us to leave this measure in place because it is good for their mental health.

Sometimes inmates need to be alone and to get away from others for awhile. There are some inmates who ask to be sent to administrative segregation, as I witnessed first-hand. We therefore see that the Liberals are taking tools away from correctional officers and inmates that help with inmates' rehabilitation.

What the Liberals are proposing instead is another mechanism for incarcerating inmates who cannot remain in the general inmate population for safety reasons.

This bill will require Correctional Service Canada to give inmates access to patient advocacy services and consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making.

That brings me to the Liberal approach. It took the Liberals 10 months to appoint a federal ombudsman for victims of crime, but far less time to appoint an ombudsman for criminals. That is definitely not in the interest of society. The government should make victims a priority too, but for the past three years, the government has been silent on that subject. Navigating the justice system is a painful experience for victims, and the government needs to make sure they get the support and respect they deserve.

I just want to point out that our government was the one that brought in the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights, and thank goodness we did, because the Liberals are not doing anything, on top of which they are taking ages to fill key positions. Clearly, the government does not think victims are all that important.

This bill has other flaws. It seeks not only to get rid of administrative segregation, but also to have body scanners installed. We do not take issue with that idea, but we do have a problem with how this is being handled. We know that a lot of contraband is smuggled into our penal institutions by visitors. It is therefore equally important to include those people in these measures. If the bill gets to committee, I would hope that these measures are given another look.

What is more, instead of giving inmates tools to overcome addiction, the Liberals are doing the opposite and providing them with syringes. We know that having syringes in penitentiaries is dangerous for our correctional officers considering the spread of disease associated with their use and the fact that they might even be used against correctional officers. That is something the bill ignores, but the government is okay with that.

I hope that the government will get back on track and, like our government, have a zero tolerance policy instead of aggravating inmates' health problems. It is important that the government, as legislator, send a clear message about the presence of drugs in our institutions. Everyone remembers the measures our government put in place.

Superior court judges ruled recently on the appropriateness of administrative segregation. I wonder if, much like the members opposite, those judges even bothered to go and speak with officers and corrections officers. Today my colleagues asked the minister, her representatives and other government members if they consulted officers and corrections officers, since this will have a serious impact on their work environment. We have heard nothing but radio silence so far in response.

I have so much more I want to say, but I see that I am running out of time, and I would not want to repeat what I have said in the past, which has been reported by my friends at Infoman.

In closing, I want share Jason Godin's view. He said that introducing this legislation could have a detrimental affect on conditions in our prison facilities, increase violence and make the situation worse. The government is going in the wrong direction and I urge it to change course. For now, I oppose this legislative measure.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to stand and speak in support of Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

It is amazing to me how things connect here in the House of Commons in our parliamentary duties. Bill C-83 today ended up in a discussion with the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. Bill C-83 also has a direct connection to a town in my riding. It has direct connections to first nations issues as well.

I am going to talk about a few different things. I am going to talk about how this affects my own community and also a little about the health impact of Bill C-83.

In my own community, in my riding of Cumberland—Colchester, I have two correctional facilities. One is the Springhill Institution and the other is the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, Nova Scotia.

I will talk about Springhill first. That institution was built in 1967.

Partly in response to a natural disaster that happened at a coal mine on October 23, 1958, 60 years ago today, in Springhill, 174 miners went to work. At 8:06 in the evening, there was an underground earthquake, which is sometimes called a bump. It was the most severe bump in North American history in one of the deepest coal mines in North America. Of the 174 who went to work that day, 75 lost their lives. There were 99 survivors, and many of them were trapped underground for many days. Six days after the bump, 12 survivors were rescued by creating a tunnel to get them. Later, on November 1, a second group was saved. That was 60 years ago today, and I want everybody to know that Springhill is remembering that bump today as we speak. Many people who work at the Springhill correctional facility are relatives and descendants of the miners who were lost 60 years ago today.

They never forget in Springhill about the people who were lost. They built a beautiful memorial with a number of stones with every name of every miner who lost his or her life in the mines. Every year they have a Davis Day to make sure that people do not forget the lives lost in the Springhill mines. Tonight, at 7 p.m., in the St. Andrew's-Wesley United Church there is a hymn sing led by three daughters of one of the miners, Maurice Ruddick, who was one of the miners trapped underground. He is often credited with helping other survivors underground survive that ordeal. Being trapped 4,000 feet underground, he led them in song and prayer. He was cited as citizen of the year for Canada at the time. Just a month ago, Herb Pepperdine, one of the last men in the mine who was trapped for eight days, died at the age of 95.

Therefore, for me, today is a special day, and 60 years ago, I remember the day. I remember the ambulances, the police cars, the turmoil and the TV. Just two years before that, there was another explosion when 39 Springhillers were lost. In just two years, Springhill lost 114 miners.

However, the Springhill Institution was built and opened in 1967. It has been very successful since and has expanded several times. It provides correctional facilities for medium- and minimum-security prisoners.

I mentioned the connections with the Canadian Association of Suicide Prevention. I talked to them today about suicide prevention and what causes people to attempt suicide. Also, earlier this morning, I was talking to my seatmate for Kildonan—St. Paul and she was telling me about a first nation in her riding in Manitoba, the Berens River First Nation. She gave me a document that reads “Isolation with no road access Kills (feeling of 'entrapment' resulting in high suicides)”, which is exactly what we are talking about today: isolation, confinement, solitary confinement and the impact it has on prisoners.

Not all prisoners should be in prison for their whole life, as some opposition members would lead us to believe. I have visited the prison in my riding several times, and often I am struck that the prisoners are just regular people who made a mistake. They want to get back into society. They want to be rehabilitated. They want a second chance and they are certainly entitled it. It is certainly worth the effort to try to help them.

Bill C-83 will take steps to eliminate solitary confinement, which is harmful to people. One of the members just said that prisons needed solitary confinement, and I do not believe that. Bill C-83 proposes to do away with solitary confinement and replace it with structured intervention units, so at least prisoners will always have some human contact with health care workers, guards or other people, as opposed to solitary confinement where there is no contact at all.

In my area, just a short way from my riding, there is Dorchester Penitentiary, the Westmorland Institution and the Shepody Healing Centre. These are three different institutions, with three different levels and approaches to rehabilitation and incarceration. I am hopeful the rehabilitative nature of these facilities will be enhanced and built on. That is the way we should go. I do not believe there is any point in putting people who have just made a mistake away, throwing away the key as some members have suggested here.

A 2017 report from Correctional Service Canada noted that Atlantic Canada had the highest rate of administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, in the country. In addition to that, we seem to segregate them for longer terms than their counterparts in other regions of the country.

Five percent of Atlantic Canada's inmates are in administrative segregation, which is five times higher than in Ontario. The same report also noted that Atlantic Canada accounted for more than one-third of all inmates who were in administrative segregation for more than 100 days. A hundred days in segregation is extremely unhealthy for anybody. It is perhaps cruel and unusual punishment.

I welcome Bill C-83 and the change to a structured intervention unit. This is a giant step forward. It will be better for rehabilitation, better for health and safer for prison guards, the other prisoners and the people who work beside them. I am glad we are moving forward on it.

Our government intends to invest heavily in mental health care within the correctional system, and I am talking exactly about that. I referred to the paper that said that isolation caused a feeling of entrapment, resulting in high suicides. This first nation community I mentioned had a high rate of suicide. After a road was built to it, the feeling of isolation was eliminated and suicides stopped. There were no suicides last year in this community. Prior to that there had been many. The indigenous peoples attributed it to the fact that they no longer have the feeling of isolation or entrapment, which is exactly what solitary confinement does.

Again, in the interest of mental health, we are moving in the right direction. This is a great move to follow through on, but I also support rehabilitative steps so people can re-enter society and play a productive role in it.

The prisoners I meet when I go to the prisons impress me. Most of them have just made a mistake. They are serving their time. They want to get back out. They want to play a role in the community and be productive citizens. The bill is all about that.

We know the administrative segregation rules need updating, and Bill C-83 would do just that. By replacing solitary confinement with structured intervention units, we are going to provide better avenues for our inmates to be productive citizens, finish their terms and come out better trained and be productive citizens.

I thank the House for letting me talk about Springhill. Again, this is the 60th anniversary of that horrible disaster on October 23, 1958. I wish all the people in Springhill, who I know are remembering this right now, well. I wish I were there with them.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bill Casey Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, again, I come back to my opening statement about how things connect, like Bill C-83 connects with my meeting today with the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention and with my seatmate talking about indigenous efforts and isolation.

Bill C-83 would provide a different approach and eliminate solitary confinement. Solitary confinement is probably worse than anything indigenous women experience. Indigenous peoples in my area are family-oriented, have a strong family culture, work together and are very close. To be in solitary confinement or isolated completely would be extremely difficult for indigenous women. I cannot speak for them, but that is my observation based on my experience.

I have a really interesting indigenous population in my riding. I work very closely with the people. They are extremely good to work with and very helpful. They are interested in bettering themselves. They are perhaps the most industrious people in my riding. Hopefully this will improve the plight of indigenous women in prison.

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

Robert Aubin NDP Trois-Rivières, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The member for Calgary Shepard continued:

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Employment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Karen Vecchio Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 23rd, 2018 / 4:55 p.m.
See context

Richard Martel Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, CPC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Conservative Oxford, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Jamie Schmale Conservative Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10 a.m.
See context

Yvonne Jones Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 10:10 a.m.
See context

NDP

Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental and Northern Affairs and Internal Trade, Lib.

Yvonne Jones

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Peter Fragiskatos Liberal London North Centre, ON

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Jim Eglinski Conservative Yellowhead, AB

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

I was confused when the government introduced the bill.

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

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

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

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

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

(i) programs, interventions and services...

(ii) leisure time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Francis Drouin Liberal Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

October 19th, 2018 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Spadina—Fort York Ontario

Liberal

Adam Vaughan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Chris Bittle Liberal St. Catharines, ON

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is the most troubling part.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Greg Fergus Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

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

Conservative

Michael Cooper Conservative St. Albert—Edmonton, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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