Mr. Speaker, I hope that the hon. member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges will understand and that he will be able to give his excellent speech after mine, whenever he sees fit.
It is truly an honour for me, as the official opposition's deputy public safety critic, to speak to Bill C-12, and there are many reasons for that.
To begin, I would like to mention that members on this side of the House will be supporting Bill C-12 at second reading. I think it will be interesting to see what happens in committee. I am looking forward to inviting various witnesses to come and discuss the different provisions included in Bill C-12.
We can summarize this bill quite easily. It is designed to add a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act confirming that, when deciding whether someone is eligible for parole, the parole board may take into account the fact that the offender tested positive in a urinalysis or refused to provide a urine sample for a drug test. The parole board already uses this practice, which we support.
The board already takes into account the results of drug screening tests when it holds hearings and determines the inmates' eligibility for parole. That is why I think a title like “drug-free prisons act” is a little too much. Indeed, nothing in Bill C-12 will make prisons drug-free because the provisions for that are simply not there.
Correctional Service Canada has serious problems. In my riding, Alfred-Pellan, there were until very recently three federal correctional facilities on the property of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. There was Leclerc Institution—which was closed as a result of what I thought was a very unfair decision by the Conservative government—and we still have Montée Saint-François Institution and the Federal Training Centre.
Since my election, I often visit the correctional facilities in my riding in order to understand the reality of the correctional system, as well as what the staff has to go through every day in that system. I can tell you that their work is not easy.
I invite my colleagues in the House to visit the federal correctional facilities in or near their ridings to see and understand the reality of our correctional workers.
Right now, there is a lot going on. They are very worried about the decisions made by the Conservatives regarding the correctional system. I will mention a few. First, double-bunking in our prisons is a glaring problem. It is difficult for correctional officers to do their job properly. Many do not have the means to their job properly. It is harder for them to ensure activities within our institutions are properly carried, and this is very unfortunate. Their health and safety are compromised because of these decisions. We see more and more double-bunking, and even triple-bunking, which is very unfortunate. Correctional staff also condemns this situation.
They also condemn another measure that goes directly against Bill C-12, namely the cuts to Correctional Service Canada. Over the past two years, the budget has been reduced by 10%. This affects many programs within Correctional Service Canada. That is also being condemned by the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, because the officers see the inmates' reality daily in these facilities. They see the deteriorating quality of life, and they see that these individuals will be reintegrated into society without having the necessary tools to avoid reoffending. This shows the importance of our programs.
Many programs deal with the detoxification of inmates. Let us not forget that two thirds of people who commit a crime are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is estimated that four out of five inmates in our prisons have substance abuse problems. This is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed.
I heard Conservative members ask questions about the $122 million investment in technology to detect drugs inside our prisons.
Unfortunately, this investment did not work. It is very sad. It is also sad to see the other side tell us there should be zero drugs in our prisons. In a perfect world, it would be great if we did not have any drugs in prisons, and if everyone was clean.
However, it is impossible and I am not the only saying that. Correctional officer Howard Sapers, also says it. So does the John Howard Society. Moreover, the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which works really hard, also tells us it is impossible and we must implement measures to tackle this issue.
I reiterate my support to the hard-working personnel in prisons. We on this side can say that we support them every day in their work. Like them, we want to propose real solutions, so that inmates do not return to society without having had access to rehabilitation and anti-drug programs.
In our prisons, addiction is also related to mental health, unfortunately. It is sad to say, but we have to face reality. The government has not only made cuts to addictions programs, but also to programs that address mental health problems. Both are closely linked. We must pay attention to that. In recent months, the case of Ashley Smith has resurfaced and shown that people working in our prisons are not equipped to deal with serious problems such as mental health problems.
I hope we can have a productive discussion in committee about the best solution for dealing with addiction problems full force. My colleague from Sherbrooke mentioned this in his speech when we began talking about this. It is a question of doing intake assessments, as correctional investigator Howard Sapers is calling for, and ensuring that inmates have access to all the necessary programs for overcoming their drug or alcohol problems.
Keeping our communities safe is important to all members in the House, as is reducing recidivism rates as much as possible and giving people the tools they need to reintegrate into society. Let us not bury our heads in the sand and suggest that we can round all these people up somewhere, lock the door and throw away the key. They will eventually be released. If we want them to become good citizens and if we want fewer victims in Canada, we must give people the right tools.
The numbers back me up. When people have the tools they need and reintegration works, recidivism rates drop. We need to ensure that rehabilitation is done properly, and we need to come up with some real solutions. We are sick and tired of hearing that mandatory minimums will miraculously turn everything around. Mandatory minimum sentences have nothing to do with the issue at hand.
In closing, I would like to say that we intend to support the bill. I hope we will have the opportunity to discuss it further and make some real changes to it to tackle the issue of drug use in our prisons. I would be happy to keep discussing the issue if anyone has any questions.