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Evidence of meeting #30 for Public Safety and National Security in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was actually.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Well, if it were actually being dealt with in an informal process, or being resolved at the first level, then it wouldn't actually be a reason to address the changes in this particular bill.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

So these complaints are working their way through the system, and somebody is putting in a lot of time and energy to appeal a verdict at levels one, two, and three that the potato is the right size. Somebody is really going through the paperwork to do this.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

The problem we have right now with the act itself is that it does not require that the complaint is logged in good faith. That's the issue that I seek to address in this particular bill.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Okay, but how do you...?

For example, there have been suggestions—just to address Mr. Chicoine's point, if I understood it correctly—that there doesn't seem to be in your bill a set of criteria for judging if a complaint is vexatious. Maybe you've answered this and I missed it, but I've seen other proposals....

For example, I think there was a proposal out of the Mullan external review of 2010 that a person should be labelled a vexatious complainant if they filed more than 100 complaints and grievances in a year. Is that the kind of thing you're looking at to...?

I mean, it's very hard to say that they made the complaint in good or bad faith.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Yes.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It's a bit of a subjective evaluation—or it can be; I'm not saying it always will be.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Actually, it has nothing to do with the number of complaints. You mentioned that they filed 100 complaints in a year. Every one of those 100 could be legitimate complaints. This bill does not seek to go after any of those complaints.

They would be considered more of a multiple griever. This bill deals with a vexatious complainant who is abusing the system, who is seeking to harass the people who actually deal with the process itself. They're doing it without good faith. It's a meritless complaint.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

But who decides that? Who decides if it's good faith or bad faith?

As another question, what is the difference between a vexatious complainant and, you said, a multiple complainant?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

A multiple complainant—“multiple griever” is actually the terminology—would be someone who files multiple complaints or grievances. It could be 100; it could be 500.

Again, that's not the same as a vexatious complainant. A multiple griever is someone who files multiple complaints. Each and every one of those complaints could be a legitimate complaint and would be heard through the process.

The vexatious complainant is someone who is doing it not in good faith. It's a meritless complaint. It's frivolous in nature, and the intent of it...it's actually the content or the intent of the actual complaint.

I actually read through the definition of vexatious—I hope it was noted down by everyone around the committee—and that's really the terminology of the type of complaint.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

What happens if you have somebody who hasn't been acting in good faith, as you say, and they're labelled a vexatious complainant, and then a couple of days later a guard does something? Knowing that the person has been labelled and their hands are now tied, a guard decides to take advantage of the situation and really give it to the offender. What happens then? Can they—

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

You'll have to give a very quick answer.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

If someone has been labelled as a vexatious complainant and they have a legitimate complaint, that complaint will still be heard. I want to make that perfectly clear. This is not to tape someone's mouth up. This is to actually make sure they're filing legitimate complaints. They're just held to a higher standard of proof. Once they've proven it's a legitimate complaint, then that actual complaint will be heard.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Ms. James.

We'll now move into the second round. This is a five-minute round.

Mr. Garrison.

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to the committee, and welcome to the club of “three times lucky”. Many of us around the table are in that same situation.

I'd like to ask you what you think the contributions of a complaint system are to an effective corrections system. You talked about the purpose of complaints, but what do you think an effective complaint system contributes to the corrections system?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I think it's important that offenders, if they have an actual complaint, a legitimate complaint that needs to be addressed, have a method to be able to express that and get that particular issue resolved. So the complaint process....

As I stated, when I visited and had a tour of the particular institution, and I spoke to the warden, the assistant warden, and the warden from another institution while I was there, they actually spoke of the merits of this complaint process, that it actually assists the inmates.

Additionally, many of the inmates might be incarcerated for various reasons. This actually teaches them that they can go through a particular process and have their issues heard, without dealing...or going to other extremes.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

As someone who has worked a lot in the criminal justice system, I see something missing there. There are a couple of other things most people would recognize as contributing factors. One is an awareness of problems within the institution before they become more severe. An effectively functioning complaints system will allow the administrators and staff in corrections to know of upcoming problems. This can also function as a release of pressure and help reduce levels of conflict and violence by providing an effective complaint procedure. With that context missing from your question, I worry about your focus on the vexatious complainants rather than on improving the system.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I'll give you one out of two. The first point you make is valid. It is one of the purposes of the complaint process in the institution, and it was spoken of when I was on my tour, that it is to serve the purpose that you stated.

The second thing, though, I disagree with. The complaint process should be used for legitimate complaints, not as an outlet or a means of venting. There are other things offenders can be doing besides filing a complaint. I think it's also important to note, and you spoke about it being a release.... If there is a legitimate issue within an institution that is going to affect the safety of a particular inmate and they issue a legitimate complaint or a grievance to have that heard and to have it resolved...if the system is bogged down by frivolous complaints by people who are just abusing it or taking advantage of it, to either harass or as a game, they are actually taking away valuable resources from the offenders who actually have legitimate complaints that need to be dealt with in a timely manner.

Contrary to what you're saying, I believe by improving the system and closing this loophole we're going to help the majority of offenders get their legitimate complaints heard and processed, and actually provide a safer prison system at the same time.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

But if you look at the Mullan report of 2010, it identified a problem other than a vexatious complaint, namely, a lack of resources and staff to deal with mediation and informal resolution of complaints. Vexatious complaints make up a very small number of the complaints overall. Why wouldn't you focus on a bill that would provide a mediator in every prison for informal resolution of grievances? Wouldn't that improve the system?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

Well, I'm not sure what number you were on the private member's list, but that's certainly something you could put forward.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I'm not far behind you.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I wanted to deal with a loophole that's a burden to taxpayers. I wanted to deal with a loophole that is causing our system to be ineffective. I want to deal with this loophole to make sure that offenders are held accountable and that we support our victims, as opposed to the criminals who want to abuse the system we've provided for them.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I'm not far behind you on the list, and I do have a private member's bill coming forward in two weeks.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I look forward to it.

5:15 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

I'll look forward to your support.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Roxanne James Conservative Scarborough Centre, ON

I'm not sure.