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Evidence of meeting #33 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 complaint.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jay Pyke  Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

4 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you.

How much time do I have?

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

You actually have another minute and a half.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much.

Can you comment? I know in the bill there's a provision that the designation would be reviewed every six months. I'm wondering how you feel about that. Is that too soon? What are your thoughts on that timing?

4 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I'm actually quite fine with the six-month timeframe. I think it's another check and balance for us as well. It allows us to see whether what we have tried to put in place with these individuals has had any kind of impact, and whether it has worked. It allows us to keep track so they don't become lost, so it's another check and balance that way.

It's a limited recourse block, if you will, or prevention from moving on in the system. I think it helps keep us, quite frankly, honest and paying attention in relation to what we've done under the legislation.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Part of the bill talks about a plan for a vexatious complainant. We've heard from the woman who introduced the bill that there is some concern with that terminology. We heard it from the commissioner as well.

Would you have some concern with that as it relates to the correctional plan? Would it be misinterpreted as a larger document than was intended?

4 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Yes, I think we'd definitely have to operationalize at the institutional level. And I'm sorry I keep saying operationalize, but I mean in no uncertain terms, through a commissioner's directive, we would have to know the plan and the parameters around the plan. We use the plan a lot in our system, whether it be the correctional plan or something like that. I think this might be something that would operate in concert with the correctional plan, but it's altogether separate in terms of what we have framed in here.

Again, this is a concept right now. We haven't had discussions related to what this would look like in real play, so I can't speak specifically to it, but I will say that I think it could work.

4 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you very much, Mr. Pyke and Ms. Hoeppner.

We'll now move to Mr. Scarpaleggia, please, for seven minutes.

4 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Thank you very much.

Thank you for joining us, Mr. Pyke.

Just to set the record straight, we believe that corrections officers are individuals of the highest integrity, that they do subscribe to the values of the public service, and that they are, by and large, decent individuals. The question I asked a couple of meetings ago was not to suggest that an officer would commit an act of physical violence. It was more to explore whether it would be possible, if there weren't sufficient checks and balances, for a situation of personal rancour to develop, which you know can happen in human relationships.

But you actually provided some important information that had not been provided to this point, which is that there are some significant checks and balances. For example, we didn't know that correctional officers were accompanied by other correctional officers and so on and so forth.

Just staying on that point, but looking at it slightly differently, Commissioner Head actually acknowledged this point last week. Under this bill, if somebody were to be designated a vexatious complainant and then actually did have a legitimate urgent complaint, which can happen, what sort of safety valve would there be so that one would know that this legitimate complaint, which could involve life, liberty, and security, would in fact be brought to your attention? Make no mistake, we don't want to see the resources of the warden, the institution, or the department monopolized by complaints that aren't legitimate.

Under the bill as it's presently drafted, do you see a check to make sure that, out of 100 vexatious complaints, if number 101 is actually a serious one affecting life, liberty, security.... Are there safeguards to ensure that it would get your attention and that it would be acted on?

4:05 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Thank you.

Again, I'm speaking in hypotheticals somewhat here, because I don't have in front of me what it would actually look like. I do understand the principle, which is that all complaints that would be brought forward would be heard, related to the plan. I'm sorry that I'm speaking ambiguously about a plan; it's because I'm not sure what the plan would look like.

But I do feel that my understanding of it is that they would still get the opportunity to present a complaint. It's that they would have the absence of being able to move it on to a grievance process unless it was deemed merited by the review. So to speak to how we would review the 101st complaint to determine whether it's.... I can only speak to the process that may be in place with these individuals related to demonstrating where the merit is. I mean, what is the merit? Maybe it's in conjunction with the Officer of the Correctional Investigator, where they've also submitted a third-party concern or complaint and I've received a call from the Office of the Correctional Investigator indicating that they have a concern as well or that there's merit to it.

I can only speak to what I know, what I've seen, and what my understanding is. My understanding is that it would still be seen at the complaint level. To speak to how we would determine in fact, in no uncertain terms, that there's no merit...that would be my question as the institutional head to the investigator. How do we determine there's no merit? If it's against a particular staff member consistently, I'd have to see what the investigation report related to that concern produces to me.

I can't speak specifically to it. My apologies. I just don't know operationally what exactly it would look like.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

How does this bill really save your time? You said you're still dealing with the complaints. It's just that they don't move on to a higher level, which saves somebody's time, I guess. But how does it really save your time if you're still dealing with the complaints?

4:05 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

It's because, quite frankly, from the warden's perspective, I'm the first-level grievance. So for my office, it does save considerable time, because I'm not reviewing the first-level grievance procedures from there on out.

The plan would be a key part of it in terms of how we would limit the moving on of this process, or what the inmate may have to demonstrate in terms of there being warrant and merit to what they're bringing forward.

I guess, for me, it would definitely assist in terms of the first-level grievance, which is my level, in that it wouldn't move on. Quite frankly, there are genuine first-level grievances submitted at the site level that become untimely owing to some of the more frivolous complaints submitted that move on to the grievance.

So I do feel that at the grievance level, from the first level—which is mine—on, it would be of benefit. I can't speak to, until we roll it out, if it rolls out, what the plan we're referring to would look like in terms of what the actual realized benefit would be. Again, I don't have enough information.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Right. You don't know yet.

You have the power now to designate someone a multiple complainant. What powers do you have under that designation?

The way I understand it is that if somebody's designated a multiple complainant, you can't ignore the complaint but you can sort of put it aside if you feel you don't have the resources to deal with it in a timely manner. Is that true? Is that how it works?

4:05 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Yes, it's—

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Have you used that process?

4:05 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

I have not used that process. I've been part of a management team that has used that process in terms of multiple-griever status.

For me, it relates to, yes, we can limit them to, I think, two a month. It's a quantitative measure. It's statistical in nature. It actually doesn't speak to the nature of the grievance or the complaint; it just speaks to the number of grievances and complaints that are being put forward.

You know, I don't think we're solving anything with the current policy. What it's doing is...I'm basically saying to the inmate, “You can continue to submit ten grievances a month. I will in essence answer two a month. But I have a responsibility to answer all of the grievances submitted in time; I'm just setting a timeframe whereby you will only get two responses back”—

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

It's the edict of the workload there, yes.

4:05 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Thank you, Mr. Scarpaleggia. Your time is well over here.

Ms. Morin, you have five minutes.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, I would like to thank our witnesses for being here this afternoon.

My first question is about the complainants in the prisons. Could you confirm that some of them have mental health issues?

4:10 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Yes. Again, I can speak to my institution, but I have a population where 50%-plus routinely use mental health services and have some kind of diagnosis related to mental health concerns.

Truly, of my complaints and grievances, there is a group generated by persons who suffer from mental illness.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Could you also confirm that the vexatious complainants may be people who might have a mental health issue, basically, people who would need help? Could that also be the case?

4:10 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

It could if we saw the nature of the complaint and reviewed it. It doesn't apply, I can say, to KP's current three that we're referring to. You know, it certainly could be a heads-up if we were to receive a complaint or a grievance that seemed out of the usual or....

I can tell you, as the warden, that oftentimes I'll get inmate requests that certainly flag for me that there's some concern here with this individual. It will be referred to psychology.

But in my experience at Kingston Pen, which has been about 13 years, I can say that I certainly haven't seen it used as a mechanism. It's not something we would turn a blind eye to, obviously, if there was a concern suggested in the grievance or the complaint, but it's certainly not something we've come across on a routine basis, in my experience.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Kevin Sorenson

Madame Morin.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Marie-Claude Morin NDP Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

In this bill, we are indeed talking about a plan to correct the situation of offenders who are vexatious complainants.

As the warden of an institution, could you potentially design that kind of a program for your penitentiary? Have you thought about that?

4:10 p.m.

Warden, Kingston Penitentiary, Correctional Service of Canada

Jay Pyke

Thank you.

Again, while I am not responsible for developing national policy, I certainly have given it some thought. I know I keep referencing, and I have referenced, the idea of the motivation-based intervention strategies as well as correctional programs in terms of cognitive thinking skills and problem solving. So their actual correctional plan might involve participation or active participation to address the dynamic needs. The hope would be that it would remedy and also be part of the plan, so that if they followed it, then at the six-month review we'd look at that as a positive to say, “Okay, you've held up your end of this plan, so I'm absolutely willing in good faith to re-review.”

Again, I certainly don't speak on behalf of the commissioner or the policy personnel at NHQ, but I have given it some thought. I do think there are certain mechanisms we could absolutely use that would be very positive in that regard.