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Evidence of meeting #38 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 restitution.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Howard Sapers  Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator
Marie-France Kingsley  Director of Investigations, Office of the Correctional Investigator
Catherine Kane  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
Elissa Lieff  Director General and Senior General Counsel, Family, Children and Youth Section, Department of Justice

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

It still begs the question because it would be a monetary award given to them, right?

Sorry, which section was that?

3:55 p.m.

Marie-France Kingsley Director of Investigations, Office of the Correctional Investigator

It's under section 234 of the commissioner's directives. Those contain the guidelines of the principles for claims.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

So your assessment would be that it would constitute a legal action or proceeding under this definition of this proposed bill.

3:55 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

I'm assuming that the obligation of the CSC, when we're looking at it, would fall under that same proposed section, where it carries on and talks about “pursuant to a legal action or proceeding against Her Majesty in right of Canada, or an agent or employee”, meaning against Her Majesty, an agent, or an employee, which would be the CSC, I guess.

I'm trying to find in here where that burden would shift over to CSC in actually administering the program or the payment structure, because the final subsection 78.1(4) reads:Any amount of the monetary award referred to in subsection (1) that remains after all payments have been made in accordance with subsections (1) to (3) shall be paid to the offender.

What it says to me is that there's an award, a settlement made to the inmate. Then they determine if there's any money owed, either through paragraph 78.1(1)(a), child or spousal support, or (b) as owed pursuant to a restitution order, (c) or a victim surcharge, or (d). Then if there's anything left, it gets paid to the offender.

I'm having a hard time seeing where.... It's not CSC that's cutting the cheque. I brought this up with the last witnesses. The CSC wouldn't be cutting the cheque. I'm not sure CSC would actually be getting the money. It would seem to me that if the inmate is granted a settlement in a court or a proceeding, whether that's a publicly disclosed thing or an out-of-court settlement, whoever actually comes up with the agreement or the settlement would then hold those funds and would also be the ones with the obligation to settle out paragraphs 78.1(1)(a), (b), (c), and (d)—and not CSC.

Maybe I'm interpreting that a little differently from you, but I don't see the money going to CSC first, and then CSC handing it out under (a), (b), (c), and (d). Am I missing something there?

3:55 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

You know, I'm not sure.

In this case, the cheque would be cut by the crown to the offender. The offender doesn't have access to the bank the way you and I would, or frankly, even the way an offender might if he were on conditional release in the community. An in-custody offender would have a different circumstance from an offender serving a similar sentence for a similar crime, but only he had now been released on day parole or full parole.

In any case, if the offender is in custody, they have very different access to their account, and CSC controls that. If it weren't CSC being administratively involved, it begs the question, who would be? The court can't reach into that offender's account. The creditor obviously can't, or they would already have done so if there were a mechanism for them to do that. The cheque gets deposited on the offender's behalf, but administratively, CSC is looking after that offender's bank account.

It's not like you and me just going to a chartered bank or to an ATM.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Be very brief, Mr. Leef.

4 p.m.

Conservative

Ryan Leef Conservative Yukon, YT

That makes sense. The way you're describing it makes sense, but the section reads that the balance is paid out. The balance, after all debt is paid, is then paid out. I didn't see the full amount going to the inmate and then the inmate paying it back. It seems like the debt's paid and then the balance goes into the inmate's CSC account. That's the way it reads to me.

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

That's why I said I'm not sure who's missing something. I'm not sure it's you. In the drafting of the bill, I'm concerned that there may be a bit of a gap in logic. I'm not aware of any other mechanism, other than if it's a claim against the crown that's successful, the money is paid to the offender. Otherwise some other authority would have to have access to a registry of all of that information and then be able to parcel out the funds according to this schedule or some other schedule.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Thank you very much, Mr. Sapers.

Since we don't have a Liberal member present in the room, that concludes the first round. We'll move to the second round, beginning with Monsieur Rousseau for five minutes.

May 8th, 2012 / 4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Thank you.

Thank you for being with us, Mr. Sapers.

I would like you to comment on something you said: “I question whether we want or expect the federal correctional authority to be mandated to become part of a debt collection scheme.”

Why should the federal correctional authority not take part in this initiative?

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

Well, the specific reference was to the creation and maintenance and policing of that kind of a registry process, responsible for both documenting the monetary awards and also the payments out. Please read that in the larger context, which was also to assist an offender to satisfy all of their obligations, which is very much the purpose of the Correctional Service of Canada. But it may not be practical for the Correctional Service of Canada to then become directly involved in transferring funds or making payments on behalf of an offender to creditors.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Does it have to do with a lack of financial and human resources, which can jeopardize the rehabilitation of certain inmates?

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

My primary concern is really the administrative burden that would be placed on the Correctional Service of Canada and whether that is an appropriate undertaking for them to be involved in, given the resource implications.

4 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

I want to know whether you believe this could create an additional burden and jeopardize the rehabilitation of some individuals. You said that your focus was really rehabilitation. Could imposing additional obligations on inmates jeopardize their rehabilitation?

4 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

An offender facing release is facing many barriers and many challenges in the community and one of those challenges is often accumulated debt. I think any good reintegration plan has to take that into account and any good correctional scheme should also be cautious in adding to that debt or burden.

I don't think I could make an across-the-board statement and say this would be hurtful in all cases or that this would be helpful in all cases, but it's quite common for offenders coming out of prison to be facing both employment barriers and debt issues. We would have to take that reality into account if we were going to change the way that offenders who win a monetary award—in other words those who have been deserving of a claim—have that award disbursed to them.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Do I still have time?

Oh, all right.

If we could amend this bill to make it acceptable, what would you propose?

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

I'm sorry, I really didn't contemplate amendments. The bill itself is very short. As I said, it seems to me that we may find more success in looking at administrative and regulatory changes through commissioner's directives in terms of debt counselling, family support, and satisfaction of things such as victim fine surcharges.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

If I understand correctly, it's the mechanics that you find problematic as far as implementing this bill goes.

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

Well, I find the bill addresses an important issue that has merit but presents a solution that could end up being very problematic, because it could become very cumbersome and expensive. It could also present some fairness issues in determining who is the most deserving recipient of funds.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Merci, M. Rousseau.

We'll turn back to the government's side. Ms. Young, you have five minutes.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Mr. Sapers, thank you so much for being here today.

I find it kind of shocking, actually, given how short this bill is, that you didn't come prepared with some amendments. Because you're not exactly.... I'd like to clarify your position, because it is not clear to me, anyway, whether you support this bill or not.

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

Well, thanks for the question. I'm sorry to shock you. My role typically is not to give a thumbs-up or a thumbs-down on legislation. The committee has asked me to provide my opinion, from the perspective of my office, on how this may impact the federally sentenced offender population. I've tried to do that to the best of my ability.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

Thank you. I do appreciate that.

I just find it interesting because we earlier had another bill in front of us about vexatious complaints. We were trying to streamline and reduce that process and thereby reduce the administrative burden on CSC. What I'm hearing from you, based on this bill, which I think is very straightforward, is that this is going to add to their administrative burden and, therefore, you are very concerned about that.

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

That's true. With the previous bill dealing with the grievance process, I think some of my comments were that I was concerned that it would not in fact reduce the administrative burden. In my comments I did in fact suggest that a possible amendment might be the elimination of the second-level grievance. I was concerned that the private member's bill, as presented, would create new administrative challenges for the service, just as I think this bill will create new administrative challenges for the service.