Mr. Speaker, today I am going to be sharing my time with the hon. member, a very capable member, I might add, for Medicine Hat.
I rise today as a former police officer and as a person with five institutions in my proximity: Millhaven, the former Kingston Penitentiary, Joyceville, Warkworth, and Pittsburgh. Today I rise with some personal knowledge about the very challenging issue of drugs in federal prisons.
Our government has worked diligently to establish Canada as a country where those who break the law are held accountable for their actions and where the rights of victims are respected. This ensures that we have a strong correctional system that actually rehabilitates prisoners. To this end, we have taken strong action to tackle the problem of drugs in prison, which is, obviously, a significant roadblock to correcting the behaviour of prisoners and to the safety, of course, of correctional officers.
The reality is that prisoners should not have access to illegal drugs or substances while serving their sentences. While the NDP seems to disagree, unfortunately, and would have us provide needles to prisoners, Canadians agree that drugs have absolutely no place behind bars.
The Correctional Service of Canada has a wide range of interdiction measures in place to search out, seize, and detect drugs in institutions, and it has had some successes. However, we can certainly always improve, and that is why our government is drawing a firm line with this bill.
Almost 1,500 drug seizures take place in prisons each year, and more than 1,700 institutional sanctions have been imposed on prisoners for positive drug tests or a refusal to take drug tests. These numbers underscore the drug problem in prisons. It cannot be underestimated. Not only does the sale and use of drugs in prisons adversely affect our chance of correcting criminal behaviour, it certainly poses a threat to the safety of the staff. That is why our government, in its 2011 election platform, made a strong commitment to do even more about this problem.
We set the bar very high when we made three key promises. Number one was that every federal inmate would undergo drug testing once yearly. Is that too much to ask? Number two was that prisoners in possession of illegal substances would face additional and appropriate charges. Is that too much to ask? Number three was that parole applicants who failed these drug tests would be denied parole. They should not be rewarded for illicit, illegal actions.
We have moved forward with these measures to help us achieve these ambitious goals. We have made much progress, particularly with respect to addressing the first two promises.
We have invested heavily in broader interdiction measures. In 2008, we provided $122 million over five years for interdiction efforts, efforts that included drug detector dogs, security intelligence capacity, and perimeter security. Obviously, institutions are less safe and secure when there are drugs and other contraband, so this has turned out to be a very smart investment.
More recently, we complemented this investment with important changes under the Safe Streets and Communities Act that enshrined in law the role of the prisoners' correctional plans. The Safe Streets and Communities Act also introduced two-year mandatory minimum penalties for trafficking drugs in prisons or on prison grounds.
The CSC has recently brought in a number of vital institutional measures that are under way at present. It has increased random monthly urinalysis testing of prisoners. That is amazing. That is one of our most effective detection measures, by the way, and it has increased from 5% to 10%.
CSC is improving data collection on drug use in prisons. It is preparing regulatory amendments to increase fines for inmates possessing or using illicit drugs, with further increases for repeat prisoners. It has also introduced mandatory reporting of all serious incidents of drug possession to the appropriate law enforcement agencies in those jurisdictions.
In an effort to augment CSC's interdiction efforts, Bill C-12, the drug-free prisons act, proposes an important legislative change, another step in our improvement, one that will allow us to fulfill the third of our 2011 platform commitments, which is to deny parole to those prisoners who fail drug tests.We want to provide members of the Parole Board of Canada with additional legislative tools to deny prisoners parole in cases involving failed or refused urinalysis tests. Two changes are required to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in this regard.
The first is an amendment to add specific authority to cancel parole based on failed or refused urinalysis tests. This means that between the time a prisoner has been granted parole and is released, the CSC would be required to get information on urinalysis to the Parole Board. The Parole Board would then have an opportunity to change or modify its decision and to change or cancel the parole should the new information alter its assessment of the prisoner's risk to the community.
The second is an amendment to include specific authority for the board to impose a special condition requiring the prisoner to abstain from drugs and alcohol. This would apply to prisoners for whom substance abuse had been long identified as the leading factor in that prisoner's criminal behaviour. This would focus the board's attention on this factor, and when the condition was applied, it would create an opportunity for parole to be revoked if the condition was violated.
By striving toward a drug-free environment, we hope to create a number of beneficial outcomes that contribute to successful rehabilitation, that ensure the safety and security of Canadian institutions and communities, and that further support our commitment to hold prisoners accountable for their actions.
We are taking the necessary steps to equip the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada with the tools they need to tackle drug use in our prisons. We are proud of the substantial progress we have made in respect of our 2011 commitments. We are confident that the drug-free prisons act would take us another step even further down the road in addressing this significant societal problem.
While members of the other parties have pushed for relaxed laws on drugs, on needles in prisons, and promoting drugs in schools to our youth, we will continue with these common-sense measures. Canadians expect absolutely nothing less.
I am thankful for the opportunity today to express what is not only a platform and a party policy but a personal passion. I live and work in the areas where these kinds of illegal activities certainly contribute to the decline of what it means to be a respected Canadian who respects our laws, our challenges, our traditions, and the health and safety of our citizens.