This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

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

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

You've identified in your testimony that there would be very few people in this category, is that correct? How many people receive big payments in this area? You said there were going to be very few, is that correct?

4:05 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

I don't think I gave any indication of the numbers. There have been 2,100 plus registered awards so far this year. I can certainly provide the committee with the number of claims against the crown relating to personal property, for example. My suggestion was that there may be very few who have significant awards, but there are certainly many claims against the crown that are brought every year and several hundreds that are successful every year.

Do we have the numbers?

For 2006-2007, the fiscal year ending March 31, 2007, there were 722 cases claiming almost $2.6 million against the crown. Of that total, about $280,000 was paid out. That excludes all monetary awards under $1,000, and several of the monetary awards are under $1,000 because of the nature of the claim. By 2010-2011, that number had grown to over 1,200 cases or claims against the crown. They were claiming a total of $4.2 million. In that case, there were seven cases over $1,000, amounting to just over $10,000. The remainder of the cases were monetary awards of an amount less than $1,000.

I'm sorry if I misspoke in suggesting that there were few.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Wai Young Conservative Vancouver South, BC

No, I'm not sure you misspoke. I just wanted some clarification on that. Thank you for providing that; I really appreciate it. Those figures are very interesting, so thank you for supplying them.

I also wanted to ask you, given how straightforward and simple this bill is—and you said it had merit, and it does kind of lay out a victim priority order of repayment—whether you think that CSC is incapable of developing administrative processes to do this.

4:10 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

No, I don't think they're incapable. I think they've had some challenges in some areas of administration that I've commented on in my reports, things such as the grievance process and other administrative areas of their jurisdiction. They're not incapable of doing it. The questions are; what is the burden; what would the cost be; and ultimately, would it divert attention and resources away from other areas of their operation?

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Thank you very much, Ms. Young. You're out of time.

We'll go to Mr. Rafferty for five minutes.

May 8th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Thank you to both of you for being here.

Ms. Kingsley, feel free to jump in at any time if you have any comments.

I have a question that's only indirectly related to this bill, I suppose. It goes back to the $6.90 a day. Nothing's changed in 31 years in terms of that, and two of the things you indicated are most problematical for people being released are death and jobs. Would a change in that $6.90 a day have an impact on the debt of an inmate who may have finished serving a five- or six-year sentence and would have accumulated, if it were more than $6.90 a day, a fair amount of money?

4:10 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

The issue with inmate compensation is a fairly significant one. Without even paying attention to or turning our minds to what would happen upon their release, just in terms of their experience while incarcerated, the costs of their keeping in contact with their family, paying for postage stamps and greeting cards to family members, or even looking after their own personal hygiene needs, are considerable inside an institution. So even day to day there is an impact from the fact the top income earners earn $6.90 a day. Many income earners earn half that inside an institution.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

You're an investigator and as you think about this and lie awake at nights, what would be reasonable 30 years later, after $6.90 a day for 30 years?

4:10 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

I say this with some caution because there's a very long story and I won't go into the details about it now, but the suggestion we've made is that inmate allowances be reviewed from time to time, perhaps every three years, and that they be adjusted to reflect inflation or cost-of-living rates. Without even turning our minds to the baseline amounts, even just ensuring that there's a mechanism in place for these to be reviewed in a timely way and that a review results in a change if warranted has been our suggestion.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

We talked about running shoes and broken radios, and the bill is very narrow in scope in terms of what it deals with, but there are some other things that could be problematic here in terms of a government settlement. I'm thinking that probably one of the largest populations we have in our federal penitentiaries is first nations, Métis, and Inuit people. The residential school settlements would, I suppose, fall under the scope of this bill if a person were incarcerated when that settlement was made.

Do you see a way in this bill to distinguish between awards like that, which I personally don't think should be part of this deal, or somehow separate them from what we dealt with before in considering vexatious complaints? I think that's what the bill is intended to deal with partly. Do you see in this bill a way to adjust that to ensure that we don't include things that really shouldn't be included for moral or ethical reasons?

4:15 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

In fact, it may be possible to contemplate a list of awards that should be excluded from any scheme contemplated under Bill C-350, and you could attach that list as a schedule to the act. You could create a schedule relating to the new subsection 78(1) and then review that schedule from time to time. Certainly, residential school claims or, perhaps, claims arising out of human rights complaints are things you may want to exclude.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Thank you very much.

You also talked about—

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Be brief.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

You also talked about disputes or disagreements and I found it very interesting that there's no mechanism in there for those, but I think we could probably come up with an amendment that would deal with those, to ensure that a mediator would be made available to make sure that the dispute resolution process took place, or something like that. Would you see that as a valuable addition to this bill?

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Be very brief, if you can.

4:15 p.m.

Correctional Investigator, Office of the Correctional Investigator

Howard Sapers

This is where my concern really begins to manifest itself. With the layers of administration you would put on, do you want to create a legislative necessity for that with either a mediation process or another kind of process to arbitrate, negotiate, or settle disputes?

So could I contemplate a series of amendments? Certainly. Do I think that it would be the most appropriate way? That's exactly the question I raise in my opening comments. I question whether that's the most appropriate way to do it.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Thank you very much.

I think with the unanimous consent of the committee, since we're in the second round, I will offer Mr. Scarpaleggia five minutes at this point if he chooses to use it. Is that agreed?

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Chair, to be honest, all the questions have been asked—at least based on what I've heard. But I appreciate the offer. I'll maybe bank it for some other time.

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

4:15 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

No, I don't think there's any banking of time allowed at this committee.

So I think that's going to conclude our questions for you today, Mr. Sapers, and Ms. Kingsley. Thank you very much for appearing before the committee once again, and I'm sure we will see you from time to time.

As our other witnesses are here, we will suspend for just about two minutes while the other witnesses come to the table.

Thank you very much.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Welcome to our witnesses today. We have with us on Bill C-350, from the Department of Justice, Catherine Kane, the director general and senior general counsel of the criminal law policy section, and Ms. Elissa Lieff, the senior general counsel of the family, children, and youth section. Thank you very much for appearing on short notice. We do appreciate that.

I understand that you may wish to make only brief or no opening statements, so I leave that in your hands.

4:20 p.m.

Catherine Kane Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Thank you.

I have not prepared opening statements. Our understanding was that the committee might have some questions for us. I can briefly indicate that I would be prepared to answer questions with respect to the restitution provisions and the victims surcharge provisions, having had extensive experience dealing with those amendments over many years in my responsibility for criminal law policy in the Department of Justice.

My colleague would be well placed to answer questions with respect to family law enforcement, regarding at least the federal government's role in that area.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

The Vice-Chair NDP Randall Garrison

Okay. Thank you very much.

Then we'll begin with questions from the government side.

Ms. Hoeppner, for seven minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much. I might not need seven minutes.

I'm wondering if you would give us your views on, or if you have been able to evaluate, the constitutionality of this bill in its present form.

4:20 p.m.

Director General and Senior General Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice

Catherine Kane

I'm not prepared to speak to the constitutionality of the bill. It would be other colleagues within the Department of Justice who may have been consulted with respect to its constitutionality. My understanding was that you had questions with respect to surcharges and restitution, and I was specifically asked to speak to those issues.