Mr. Speaker, we are debating at third reading Bill C-12, which adds a provision to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act enabling the Correctional Service of Canada to eliminate drugs from prisons. I must say that this is quite ambitious given that we know that there is not one correctional service in the world that has been able to do this.
This title, which again is reminiscent of a newspaper headline, does not reflect the content of this bill, which actually makes an amendment that is very narrow in scope to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.
This amendment makes it clear in law that the Parole Board of Canada may use the positive results from drug tests or refusals to take drug tests in making its decision on parole eligibility. Note that the board already does this.
The amendment also makes clear that the Parole Board can impose conditions on the use of drugs or alcohol, once again a practice that is already in place.
In the case of a positive drug test when an individual is on parole, the discretion remains where it should be, with the Parole Board of Canada.
That is why we support the bill. The Parole Board of Canada is independent and is in the best position to judge individual cases and determine the consequences when someone fails a drug test or violates the conditions of parole.
Let us talk a little about the Conservative government's approach and its zero-tolerance approach to drugs. The Conservative government has dedicated a lot of time and resources to eliminating drugs in prison, with little success.
Correctional Service Canada has admitted that the $122 million spent on tools and technologies to eradicate drugs in prisons has not led to any reduction in drug use in our prisons.
According to a 2012 Public Safety study, we know that drug-free prisons are unlikely to be achieved in the real world, yet the Conservative government continues to pander to their base, as always, by investing money with the aim of achieving this unrealistic goal.
The Conservative government's faulty approach to public safety has resulted in more prisoners with addictions and mental illness in our prison system.
The NDP has been steadfast in our support for measures that will make our prisons safe, while the Conservative government has ignored—yes, you heard me correctly, ignored—recommendations from corrections staff, corrections unions and the Correctional Investigator that would decrease violence, gang activity and drug use in our prisons. The government has not only ignored these recommendations but it has also made budget cuts.
In 2012, the government announced that it planned to cut the budget of Correctional Service Canada by $295 million by 2015, and that is what it did. The budget for Correctional Service Canada was cut by over 10%, while during that same period, the prison population grew from 14,000 to 15,000 inmates.
The consequences of these cuts include more double-bunking and the closure of treatment centres for inmates with serious mental problems. This has resulted in increased violence. The Conservative government has also failed to address the growing problem of inmates with addictions and mental illness.
In 2011, 45% of male offenders and 69% of female offenders received a mental health care intervention. Despite this staggering data, the Conservative government still has not asked for a report from Correctional Service Canada, or CSC, on the implementation of recommendations to improve handling of prisoners with mental illness.
Rather than focusing its efforts on a narrow bill, the government needs to invest in rehabilitation programs to limit violence and the use of drugs in our prisons. Our priority should be a corrections system that can deliver effective rehabilitation programs, such as continuing education, addiction treatment and support programs to assist in reintegration. That is the only way to reduce recidivism rates and effectively tackle the issue of repeat offenders.
To truly address the issue of drug use in prison, CSC must have a proper intake assessment of an inmate’s addiction and then provide the proper correctional programming for that offender. Our priority must be to keep communities safe by preparing ex-inmates for reintegration into society once freed from their addiction and thus less likely to reoffend. Without addiction treatment and proper reintegration upon release, a prisoner will likely return to a criminal lifestyle and possible create more victims.
Before I conclude, I would like to say that committee work is not just for kicks. Our mandate is to examine, analyze and legislate to improve our society. I think that the Conservative government is being disingenuous by introducing a bill that does not take into account witnesses' recommendations even though they are the people on the ground. Several witnesses have said that Bill C-12 will not do what the short title says, so the Conservative government should show some common sense and stop its electoral propaganda.
The NDP is the party that listens to constituents, experts and the people on the ground. This bill, like so many of the Conservative government's bills, ignores the real needs on the ground.