House of Commons Hansard #337 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was segregation.


Corrections and Conditional Release ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address this important piece of legislation. I think it is one of the pieces of legislation that really illustrates the differences between political entities inside this chamber. I want to provide some thoughts on the legislation and why I believe we are quite different in terms of political philosophy and the way we want to approach crime and ensure that we have safe streets in our communities.

I am going to approach this from the perspective of some personal experience. I was the chair of the youth justice committee in the north end of Winnipeg for many years. I was also the justice critic for the Province of Manitoba for a number of years, and I have had an opportunity to gain a certain amount of insight by talking to victims, offenders and the many stakeholders around our justice system. I suspect one could anticipate that I am somewhat opinionated on this issue.

Crime is one of the issues that our constituents are very much concerned about. It is an issue that I often talk about with constituents at the door. We can talk about health care to some and there is a high level of interest in education. However, the one issue that seems to be universal in terms of having a discussion, is the issue of safety in our communities. I take it very seriously.

We often hear from the Conservative benches about being “soft on crime”. Let me be very clear. For me, it is about the victims and preventing victims from being victims in the first place. That is something that is very important to recognize.

Holding individuals accountable for breaking the law is of the utmost importance. There needs to be a consequence when someone violates the law. However, we should be looking at it from the perspective of how we ensure that there are fewer repeat offenders. If one were to follow the tough talk of the Conservatives, one would think it would be by incarcerating them in a facility and allowing them to remain in that facility and maybe, to a certain degree, being better educated in different types of crime.

The whole concept of rehabilitation seems to be lost on Conservative Party members, especially when they are in opposition or when they write press releases. We know that at times, a Conservative government can do some good things related to rehabilitation, such as when they set up healing lodges in the past, for example. That was something they established when it came to having someone move from a high-security prison to a medium-security prison. I am glad that the Conservatives applaud and recognize that.

At times they will do good things, but they will never really talk about them. What they want is to have the Conservative hard-nosed attitude that if someone breaks the law, throw them in jail and throw away the key.

Having the opportunity to tour facilities, whether it is the Headingley facility just outside Winnipeg, or Stony Mountain just outside Winnipeg near Stonewall, one gains a fairly good perspective in terms of what incarceration is all about and why it is important that there be a strong rehabilitation component in prisons.

We need to realize that the majority of people who are going to prison today will leave prison at some point. Contrary to the impression the Conservatives might like to give Canadians, it is not just murderers and rapists and pedophiles who go to prison. There are many other individuals who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, for numerous reasons, and ultimately end up in prison.

My colleague and friend made reference to fetal alcohol syndrome. It is a very serious disorder in different regions of the country, in some regions of the country more than others. There is a correlation factor that should be taken into consideration.

One of the surprises I had was the number of individuals who have addiction issues. One of the addiction issues I would make reference to is a gambling addiction. As a result of a gambling addiction, individuals often find themselves on the wrong side of the law, and if it is severe enough, they end up being in custody or in jail. We need to recognize that if we have sound programs provided, then after they leave incarceration, there is a better chance of their being productive and law-abiding citizens. If we take away those programs the Conservatives would like to see disappear, or at least have the imagery of them disappearing, I would suggest, and I believe that studies will show, that we would have more victims as a direct result. Therefore, rehabilitation is an important component of our justice system and our corrections facilities.

That is not to take away from consequences. As I indicated, I sat on a justice committee. Justice committees are quasi-judicial, such as youth justice committees, where members of a community come before the community and say that they would be prepared to be honorary probation officers and deal with young offenders. For years I chaired one and I always found it interesting, when we would get new members coming in, to see the type of thinking they had about some of the young offenders we would get. A typical case might be someone who was shoplifting, for example. We would see shoplifters coming in with their guardians and they would sit before two or three honorary probation officers for an interview. They would talk to the young person to get a sense of whether there was remorse and what sort of disposition would be in the best interests of the community for the crime that had been committed and in the best interests of the individual so that the individual young person would not recommit.

In the 1990s, we had a fairly proactive group of youth justice committees in the north end of Winnipeg. I suspect that for many of those young people who went before those youth justice committees, where members of the community were engaged, there was a stronger likelihood of success and those youth were not committing offences.

If we leave it to the professionals, the individuals in the facilities who have studied human behaviour, and even to victims organizations, and listen to what they are telling us, we will find that there is a great deal of room for us to look at ways we can improve our correctional facilities. That is really what this bill is about.

It is an interesting fact that around 2011, the average number of inmates in segregation was in excess of 700 on any given day. Contrast that to today. Today it is roughly 340 or just under 350 a day. That is a substantial decrease in a relatively small number of years. From 700 to around 340 or 350 is a significant decrease. I would suggest that this is in good part from the sense of professionalism our correctional officers have. They do a phenomenal job. I want to recognize the efforts of our correctional facility officers and applaud them for the day-in and day-out services they provide making our communities safe and our correctional facilities safe. They do a phenomenal job, second to no other, I would argue.

Those numbers are very encouraging. We are seeing fewer people put into segregation units.

What the bill would do is eliminate administrative segregation units and put in structured intervention units. There is a difference. The Conservatives say that we are doing too much and are being too nice. The New Democrats say that we are not doing anything and that we need to do more.

I am glad to say that the government and the minister have done a fantastic job working with stakeholders to bring forward structured intervention units, which would actually be effective. In fact, they would make a difference and meet the needs of some pending court decisions on challenges brought forward in regard to segregation. The bill has also taken into consideration what other jurisdictions around the world are doing.

The minister has done a fantastic job in ensuring that we have solid, sound legislation, but both the NDP and the Conservatives are both voting against it, for totally different reasons, rather than recognizing that we are, in fact, on the right path. They do not need to criticize only because they happen to be in opposition. If the government brings in good legislation, there is nothing wrong with recognizing it for what it is, good legislation, and supporting it. That is what we have been debating and why I have been somewhat discouraged by the remarks coming from both opposition parties.

What we would be doing with the elimination of segregation is allowing those individuals who are in segregation today the opportunity to be provided with programs. We would be recognizing the importance of mental health. It is ludicrous to believe that mental health is not one of the primary reasons we have individuals entering our correctional institutions in the first place. If we want to make our communities safer into the future, we need to deal with mental health issues.

For the first time, we have taken a very bold approach by saying that if individuals are in segregation, let us get rid of the concept of segregation in favour of structured intervention units and ensure that there are programs and services that include the issue of mental health.

If we are able to deal with issues of mental health and provide essential programming services when these individuals go back into the general population, that then means that when it comes time for their release, they will be in a better position to conform to our laws. They will be better citizens in the community. They will be more positive and they will contribute as such.

Is that not what we are supposed to be doing in this House? The Liberal members of this House recognize that. We recognize it, we believe it and that is why we are supporting this legislation. Not only do we talk about it, but we want our communities to be safer. We want fewer victims.

There are other amendments in the legislation that are very positive that I have not heard members talk about. For example, when offenders go before the Parole Board, the victims can attend to hear what is said. If they do not attend the Parole Board, then they can apply for an audio recording of it, so they can hear what took place.

With this legislation, they will be able to request audio recordings whether they attend or not. Let us imagine being the victim of a crime and having to listen to the offender. For some, that might be okay; for others, it might not. Those who attend have all sorts of things going through their minds. Should they not be allowed to ask for the audio recordings that exist, so they can take them home and listen in their own homes, or in an atmosphere that is more comfortable for them?

There are some things in this legislation that I believe everyone in this House would easily support. We hear about body scanners. That is no surprise. Members of Parliament tend to fly a lot and are very familiar with the body scanners at airports. With this legislation, correctional facilities will be afforded the opportunity to acquire body scanners so that cavity searches will not be required to the degree they currently are. I see that as a positive thing. It is less intrusive. We are not only talking about prisoners; these scanners are also used for individuals who visit prisoners.

I represent a north end Winnipeg riding and understand the importance of victims' rights. Legislation has been introduced by this government to protect victims' rights. We should not buy the Conservative spin that gives an impression that the Conservatives are the only ones concerned about victims, because that is just not true. Legislation is before us that all members should support because it will prevent victims in the future. I genuinely believe that. That is one of the reasons I would ask members to consider—

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3:55 p.m.


Robert Sopuck Conservative Dauphin—Swan River—Neepawa, MB

Give us some proof.

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3:55 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, a member asked if we have data to back it up. We know that programming in our correctional facilities makes a positive difference. It prevents and minimizes repeat offences. If we can do that and prevent crimes from happening in the first place by having better and more sound laws, we will have fewer victims.

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3:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I want to remind members that when someone has the floor and other members have the urge to ask questions or make comments during a speech, they should wait until it is time for questions and comments.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Durham.

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3:55 p.m.


Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am a bit surprised that my colleague expressed at great length and volume that he never hears the Conservatives willing to talk about our justice system. That is ironic, because we actually asked about the rights of the accused several times today in question period, and our Attorney General would not talk about ensuring that the rights of the accused are respected.

The Criminal Code, section 718, has the principles of sentencing for our justice system. They are six: denunciation; deterrence; separation of offenders, that is protection of the public; rehabilitation; reparation; and promotion of responsibility. We agree that all of those are important: rehabilitation, particularly for non-violent offenders, and deterrence, denunciation, promotion of responsibility and protection of the public.

There should be separation of the offenders in grave cases of murder, rape and those sorts of cases. That is the distinction between us.

The member talked a lot about victims in his speech. When we look at those principles of sentencing, how can the member in good conscience say that an offender like Terri-Lynne McClintic, who should be denounced by the public, from whom the public should be protected, and who should be deterred, could be transferred to a healing lodge? How can the member defend that in accordance with the Criminal Code section 718?

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4 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, it is interesting that the member would make that his example. We need to recognize that it was the Progressive Conservative Party that created healing lodges. I applaud it for that. It was not the current Conservative reform party; it was the Progressive Conservative Party of the Brian Mulroney days that created the healing lodge. They then told the correctional facilities that if inmates were in a medium-security facility, they could use the healing lodges.

What happened was under Stephen Harper, the very individual the member is talking about was transferred to a medium-security facility, which then allowed that individual to go to a healing lodge. When the Conservatives were in government, the policy was to hush up, say nothing and allow the transfer. If that transfer had been prevented, the individual in question would never have been able to go to a healing lodge.

However, true to form, the Government of Canada, under the Liberal Party, supports Canada's professional civil service and those individuals we have entrusted to administer justice. That is unlike the Conservative Party, which demonstrated yesterday and again today that it does not respect the independence of our court system. We do, and that is the difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals.

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4 p.m.


Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, there are a good number of concerns with the bill. The first is, whatever happened to Bill C-56? It was tabled. Now the Liberals have introduced another bill. Their original bill, tabled more than a year ago, would actually limit administrative segregation to 21 days, and then within 18 months would further limit it to 15 days. This bill imposes nothing definitive. It says an inmate's confinement in an SIU is to end “as soon as possible”.

Eighteen hundred Canadian inmates are being segregated, and almost 50% of them are suffering from mental health issues. I refer the hon. member to the case of Eddie Snowshoe, an indigenous man from Northwest Territories who committed suicide after being in segregation for 162 days in a 2.5-metre by 3.6-metre cell. Eddie Snowshoe was in a desperate situation. People had even forgotten he was in there.

What is this bill going to do to stop more tragic Eddie Snowshoe cases?

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4 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, the way the legislation is worded, we can see that Eddie Snowshoe would have received mental health services, along with other programming. This is the reality of the NDP's position. There is absolutely no doubt, philosophically, that this advances us forward. It might not go as far forward as the NDP would like to see it, but it brings us forward.

One would think the NDP would support that. I do not understand the positioning of the NDP on this. It makes no sense whatsoever. If we look at the example the member just gave, Eddie would actually have benefited by this.

In addition, the legislation would add the guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for CSC to consider systemic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making.

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4:05 p.m.


Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Madam Speaker, is the member aware of any evidence or data that shows that the safety of the public is improved by administrative segregation in prisons?

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4:05 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, if we take a look at segregation as a whole, we have seen from other jurisdictions that we can improve the whole concept of rehabilitation in many different ways. Segregation would now be converted into something new, where there would be an allowance for rehabilitation programs and mental health services.

As I pointed out, most individuals who are incarcerated today are going to be living in our communities, hopefully as productive members of the public. The better programming we can provide, the greater the likelihood of the public being safer once they are released into communities, whether it is of a physical or a property nature.

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4:05 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, the bill before us is the result of two decisions rendered by the B.C. Supreme Court and an Ontario court, which ruled that the existing measures are unconstitutional for two reasons.

First, there is no independent oversight agency to determine whether administrative segregation is justified. Second, there is no fixed maximum duration for administrative segregation. However, the bill that the government has presented us with today does not provide for independent oversight, nor for a fixed maximum duration for administrative segregation, so this bill does not change anything.

The only difference seems to semantic. Under the Conservatives, an inmate's confinement in administrative segregation was supposed to come to an end “at the earliest appropriate time”, whereas under the Liberals, it should end “as soon as possible”. Perhaps my colleague can clarify the difference for me.

What is the difference between “at the earliest appropriate time” and “as soon as possible”?

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4:05 p.m.


Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, if the member across the way does not understand the difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals on this issue, I would advise that he read my comments. I have been speaking on it for the last 20 minutes.

When we take a look at what this legislation would actually be doing, I do not understand how the NDP could possibly not support the legislation. I can understand why the Conservatives do not support it, but I do not understand why the NDP does not. Between now and the time it comes to vote, NDP members might want to caucus the issue. Hopefully they will realize it would be a mistake to be on the wrong side of it. They can bring forward their ideas and suggestions at the committee stage, and let us see if we can have some positive dialogue.

This government has consistently proven in the past that it is open to good ideas and ways to improve legislation. We have accepted amendments by opposition members in the past. We are always open to good ideas that have really been thought through and brought forward. I would encourage my colleague to reflect on his positioning on this legislation and ultimately get behind it.

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4:05 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my excellent colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith, who will speak very eloquently on Bill C-83.

This is not how I meant to begin my speech, but since the parliamentary secretary has opened the door by saying he is open to suggestions, I have a very liberal idea to suggest. It is from a Liberal bill, Bill C-56, introduced by his own government, which would solve a lot more problems than Bill C-83 that is before us today.

This did not come from a small group of far-left extremists, but from his own government. Bill C-56 is full of good ideas, much better ideas than we see in Bill C-83, unfortunately. I suggest that he read his own bill, which is still in limbo somewhere in the House of Commons.

I, too, frequently met with correctional officers' unions back when I was still the NDP's labour critic. I share some of their concerns regarding their workload, as well as their health and safety at work. As I recall, they were particularly critical of the positions taken by the Conservative Party at the time, especially with regard to overcrowded prisons and the security problems associated with shared cells. I want them to know that we continue to support their demands for good working conditions.

I have also had the opportunity to visit a number of penitentiaries over the past two years at the invitation of a prisoners' rights advocacy group. Two years ago, I visited the Federal Training Centre in Laval, a medium-security penitentiary. More recently, I visited the Leclerc penitentiary, which is also in Laval, not far away. I also had the opportunity to meet inmates who moved from the Federal Training Centre in Laval to the Leclerc prison in the space of a year. They had made progress and were nearly eligible for parole.

Since we are talking about the prison system, it is important to demystify a few things and explain how it really works.

First, a medium-security prison is not an easy place to visit. Deprivation of liberty is an extremely serious thing. Ordinary citizens can hardly imagine being imprisoned in a cell. A lot of people think being in prison is easy, but the simple fact of spending months or years inside takes a toll. It truly is a punishment. In a moment, I will talk about the use of solitary confinement as a way to manage certain situations with prisoners. This kind of punishment can, in some cases, be considered cruel and abusive.

I have visited penitentiaries over the past two years and spoken with prisoners. They are extremely interested in politics, and I noticed that the environment is their top concern. They would ask me questions about the St. Lawrence, climate change, the future of beluga whales, and things like that. These people were going through a rehabilitation process and serving their time, and it was fascinating to see that they were keeping in touch with the rest of society. They asked all kinds of very relevant questions.

Recently, I also met with men from halfway houses run by the Association des services de réhabilitation sociale du Québec. These former inmates support men who have gone through the parole process and are participating in a program with services and therapies so they can rejoin civil society and our communities. These people do extraordinary work and do not accept just anyone. To be honest, 20% of the people in these halfway houses went back to prison because they were unable to stick to their program. They do not accept just anybody. Participants must be disciplined and follow the rules. They must explain their absences and always report their whereabouts.

Parolees who are in halfway house programs and return to the community have a 1% rate of recidivism. That is fascinating. That means that 99% of them will never end up in court or prison again, because the process worked.

I think that it is important for people to understand that when done properly and thoroughly, the process works. Often the most dangerous thing is when people serve their sentence in full. They have spent 25 years in prison. They have not taken part in any programs, been granted parole or received therapy. When they are released, it is true that they can represent a danger to society.

Those who are not dangerous are not the ones who have served their full sentence. It is the ones who are released early because they made an effort and are ready to resume their place in the workforce, among their family and friends.

I think the bill before us is Orwellian. In essence, two superior court rulings, from Ontario and British Columbia, ruled that the current legislation, which provides for administrative segregation in certain situations, was unconstitutional. There are two problems. First, there is no third-party independent observer to determine whether the use of administrative segregation was justified and whether prolonging it was also justified. That is the first problem.

Second, the average duration of administrative segregation is 24 days. That is a long time, and it takes a toll on inmates and their mental health.

Unfortunately, the bill we are debating today does nothing to address the concerns raised by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice or the Supreme Court of British Columbia. I think it is worth pointing out that one of those two courts stated clearly that prolonged segregation can be considered cruel punishment if it is used abusively. The Ontario Superior Court of Justice declared that administrative segregation lasting longer than two days can have negative and sometimes permanent effects on mental health.

People can suffer permanent mental health effects if they are in administrative segregation for more than two days. The current average is 24 days. According to the United Nations, administrative segregation lasting longer than 15 days may be considered torture. The average is 24 days. Does the Liberal government's bill cap the number of days? No. There is no limit.

The first clause of the bill is absolutely fascinating. It proudly states that administrative segregation will be eliminated. The government is going to listen to the Ontario court and the B.C. court and put an end to this practice.

In the second clause, we see that it is now called a structured intervention unit. That is exactly the same thing. They changed the term “administrative segregation” to “structured intervention unit”, which is still segregation, which still has the same effect on the inmate, which is still a form of punishment that can be abusive and cruel and can exacerbate mental health problems, and which, beyond 15 days, can be seen by the United Nations as a form of torture. Structured intervention units can be any area designated as such by the Correctional Service of Canada.

The structured intervention unit can be the entire penitentiary, an area in the penitentiary, or certain cells designated as such. I suspect that the administrative segregation cells will now be called structured intervention units. They are exactly the same areas. The Liberal government is absolutely not satisfying the courts' demands. There is also no independent body to verify whether any of this is being done in compliance with the standards and rules. There is no difference in the planned or possible duration of this segregation for these inmates.

The only difference is that we are going from a maximum of 22 or 23 hours a day to a maximum of 20 hours. That is all. That does not change the inmate's reality very much. Again, it should be noted that a consequence of this is that the release time could be 3 a.m., and the inmate might be asked to go outside when it is -25 degrees Celsius out. In fact, this often does not even exist.

I hope that the Liberal government will listen to reason this time.

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October 18th, 2018 / 4:15 p.m.


Frank Baylis Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Madam Speaker, I was pleased to hear that my colleague was asked questions about the environment when he visited the prisons. The inmates are interested in what is happening in society, and that is good news.

My colleague pointed out parts of the bill that he feels are inadequate. For example, he said that the bill should establish the number of days of administrative segregation. The bill is now at second reading. My colleague knows very well that if we vote for the bill, it will be referred to a committee, and he will have the opportunity to propose these changes.

Will my colleague vote in favour of the bill as it stands, knowing that he will have the opportunity to propose changes in committee? If not, why?

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4:20 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have informed my colleague about the concerns of certain inmates, in particular about environmental causes.

At this stage, it is extremely difficult for the NDP to vote for this bill because it does not remotely respond to the demands of the Ontario or B.C. courts, nor does it reflect what the Liberals had proposed in Bill C-56.

I hope my colleague will be open to significant amendments that will fix the bill when it is studied in committee, because a majority government could refer it to a committee. In our opinion, the bill does not fix any problems at all. It is the same old, same old.

Today, 50% of those placed in administrative segregation have mental health issues. That is very worrisome. In Canada, between 2011 and 2014, 14 inmates committed suicide after being placed in administrative segregation. I believe it is time that we changed our practices with respect to this measure.

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4:20 p.m.


Luc Berthold Conservative Mégantic—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech. I understand that he does not completely agree with the bill. The Conservatives feel the same way but for different reasons.

My colleague keeps repeating that the structured intervention units proposed by the Liberals are just administrative segregation cells by another name. However, in their testimony, prison guards said that the Liberals' proposal could endanger the lives of guards and other inmates. My colleague keeps saying that neither solution is sufficient and that something else needs to be done.

What does he propose?

One one hand, we have the government, which is improvising solutions. On the other, we have a party that is saying that the government's solutions are no good but that is not proposing anything else.

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4:20 p.m.


Alexandre Boulerice NDP Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I think that our current prison system is generally safe. Yes, correctional officers have legitimate demands, but it is also important to remember that a great deal of their dissatisfaction is due to the previous Conservative government's actions.

The repeated, abusive and prolonged use of administrative segregation is not a solution for dealing with recalcitrant inmates. If 50% of them have mental health problems, it is more of a health issue than a judicial issue. I think that there are other ways to address this issue. Prolonged administrative segregation can trigger or aggravate certain psychiatric symptoms, such as hallucinations, panic attacks, paranoia, depression, impulsiveness, hypersensitivity to external stimuli, self-harm, insomnia, and problems with thinking, concentration and memory. Putting these inmates into such a situation increases the safety risks for correctional officers.

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4:20 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, tomorrow is the 11th anniversary of the death of Ashley Smith. This is a tragic story that was broadcast across the entire country. Having been moved from one stage of the criminal justice system and Canada's jail system, Ashley died alone in solitary confinement without the protections that Canada offered her. This happened 11 years ago and here we are still.

As of June 2017, 399 federal inmates were in administrative segregation, including 94 who have been in isolation for more than 90 consecutive days. Between April 2011 and March 2014, 14 inmates died by suicide in solitary confinement.

The 2014-15 report of the Office of the Correctional Investigator reported the overuse of solitary confinement as a tool for managing the inmate population. Twenty-seven per cent of the inmate population experienced at least one stay in solitary confinement.

This overly affects some incarcerated groups more than others, including women with mental health issues, aboriginal inmates and black inmates.

Aboriginal inmates continue to have the longest average stay in segregation compared to any other group and represent approximately 46% of inmates in segregation.

The average segregation period is 24 days according to Correctional Services Canada.

Why does this matter? How does it harm?

In the spring, the status of women committee of which I am vice-chair studied the over-incarceration rates of indigenous women in prison, their experience in the justice system and their experience in jail.

Here are a few quotes and stats from that report.

The 2006 report of Correctional Services Canada, which is called “Ten-Year Status Report on Women’s Corrections” said:

Segregation tends to have a significant impact on women offenders. Generally speaking, women are linked to each other through relationships and the isolation of segregation, combined with the crisis or stress the woman is experiencing, can take its toll.

We heard testimony on February 1 from Ms. Virginia Lomax, legal counsel for the Native Women's Association of Canada, who said:

Segregation is a particularly cruel practice for women with histories of trauma and abuse, another area in which indigenous women are overrepresented. Their specific lived experiences of colonial patriarchy, intergenerational trauma, and state violence makes them particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation.

...Prohibiting the use of segregation for prisoners who are actively self-harming is an acknowledgement that the practice should not be used to manage mental health crises, but does nothing to address the fact that segregation itself is often the cause of escalating self-harm behaviours.

For these reasons and many others, the Native Women's Association of Canada calls for a complete end to the practice of solitary confinement by any name and for any duration.

Dr. Ivan Zinger of the Office of the Correctional Investigator said in testimony at committee on February 2 of this year:

The impact of segregation is also something that we've identified. The great majority of the women incarcerated in secure units have experienced segregation. There's also a gender-based classification system, which requires that some inmates who are seen as higher risk are handcuffed and sometimes shackled to go off the unit, which creates all sorts of problems for those women.

In response to a question I asked him about how Correctional Services Canada treats women prisoners in need of emergency health care in the Pacific region, he said:

The practice of taking a woman with acute mental illness and putting her into an all-male institution, completely isolated, all alone in a unit, is shameful and a violation of human rights. I think there is no room for this in Canada.

It has to be said that these women were tried and are in jail for a reason that the justice system identified. We certainly heard a lot of testimony. They said that they were themselves usually victims of crime before they entered the criminal justice system.

We absolutely do need to protect victims and we need to see justice be done in cases of violent crime.

Many times we heard from witnesses that they want these people to end up on the other side of the criminal justice system better than they started and some of the practices described tell us otherwise.

This is an important debate about solitary confinement.

This is what the NDP recommended. In our final report to the government, tabled here in June, we quoted Ivan Zinger, the correctional investigator of Canada. He said:

I sincerely believe that in a women's facility, you could de facto abolish the practice altogether, if you used those secure units with the same sort of rigour in making it a last resort and using those secure units to separate, and not isolate, the few cases that you need to deal with for a short period of time.

The United Nations special rapporteur on violence against women, who monitors Canada to see whether it is upholding its commitments to the United Nations, said:

... I would like to call for an absolute ban on solitary confinement, segregation, intensive psychiatric care, medical observation and all other related forms of isolation of incarcerated young women and women with mental health issues.

The NDP said, in its final report to the government:

It is shocking that instead of moving forward with reform, the Liberal government appealed the BC Supreme Court ruling against solitary confinement, choosing to spend taxpayers' money fighting the BC Civil Liberties Association in court instead of implementing reforms to help indigenous women in prison.

What did we get? The government tabled on Monday, Bill C-83. It tweaks administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, and rebrands it with different wording. It retains much of the same language and the framework that is used for administrative segregation. It ignores the rulings from the B.C. Supreme Court and the Ontario Superior Court that ruled that administrative segregation was unconstitutional. It failed to give an option for independent oversight for decisions to further restrict liberties of inmates by transferring them into the renamed segregation units. Instead of spending 22 to 23 hours a day in segregation in the current system, the new scheme proposes up to 20 hours a day for an indefinite period of time. The Ontario Superior Court had already found that the harmful effects of sensory deprivation can manifest in as little as 48 hours.

Finally, in a critique, the Supreme Court ruled that the indefinite nature of isolation is again unconstitutional, although the federal government, as I said earlier, is currently trying to appeal that decision.

This morning, at the Women's Legal Education and Action Fund breakfast in honour of Persons Day, we heard a presentation from Senator Kim Pate, who flagged that, in addition, sections 21, 81 and 84 are all interfered with in Bill C-83. These were all mechanisms, enshrined in law, that allowed prisoners to be moved to different levels of care to carry out parts of their sentence, whether that was in the community or it was a healing lodge. There were three different tools. All of them had been underutilized, hardly used at all. Senator Pate, in her previous role with Elizabeth Fry and now as a senator, had been drawing attention to them. Both the public security committee of this Parliament and also the status of women committee had studied those three provisions and made recommendations on them and, strangely, they are now gutted in this bill. It is a funny coincidence.

The representative of the Elizabeth Fry Society said, “While we have advocated for decades for the abolition of administrative segregation, Bill C-83 leaves much to be desired.”

I say, with sadness, New Democrats wanted to see real reform. We have made specific proposals on what that would look like. The government has rebranded this unconstitutional practice instead of doing what the court ordered.

I will leave with a reminder. More than one in three women in federal prisons is indigenous; 91% have histories of abuse; and many also experience debilitating mental illnesses. We have to end the use of segregation and solitary confinement. We will oppose this bill.

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4:30 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


Kevin Lamoureux LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, one of my colleagues asked the member's colleague a question about voting for the bill. He responded by saying something to the effect that the Liberals have a majority government and thereby, having a majority government, we will be able to get the bill going to committee.

If I try to better understand that comment, it is almost saying that as the New Democratic Party, the members are opposing the bill but they hope it goes to committee so they can change it. I would like to get clarification from the NDP on whether the New Democrats support those initiatives that are within the legislation, that stand today. Yes, I understand the New Democrats want amendments, but would they be prepared to support the current initiatives without the amendments, or would they see themselves voting against it even in third reading?

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4:30 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, both myself and other members of my caucus have gone into these committee meetings in good faith and have proposed in some cases hundreds of amendments only to have the Liberals vote them down one after the next without even debating them. I must say that it is a little hard to take my colleague's encouragement to vote in favour of a bill that does not even meet the orders of two supreme courts in this country. The government is probably going to invoke closure on this bill, like it does with everything else, and will probably jam it through just for it to be challenged in court again.

I will restate the recommendation that we gave the current government back in June. It should immediately stop the appeal that it launched against the 2018 ruling to end indefinite solitary confinement in prisons across Canada and recognize the practice is unconstitutional and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment that can lead to the suffering and death of some prisoners, including indigenous women in the federal prison system. This bill does not do that.

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4:35 p.m.


Tom Kmiec Conservative Calgary Shepard, AB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for her contribution to the debate I have been listening to throughout the day. I think she and I will agree that we disagree with the content of the bill for very different reasons. I will mention that in reading the British Columbia decision rendered by Justice Leask he looked at the cruel and unusual punishment provision and said, in paragraph 534, that it is actually not cruel and unusual. He declines to rule against it as a section 12 violation. He finds that it is not unconstitutional to have solitary confinement, only when it is indefinite and prolonged.

I think the contents of this legislation completely take apart the system that we have today. That is why many Conservatives will be voting against it.

I want to talk about the budgetary impact of this legislation. In the public safety minister's departmental plan there is a projected reduction of 8.8% in real terms, in actual financial resources, being given to Correctional Services, and a reduction of 150 FTEs over the next few years.

Does the member have any concern, or does she share my concern, that Correctional Services Canada simply will not have either the financial resources or the manpower to actually implement the contents of this bill?

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4:35 p.m.


Sheila Malcolmson NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, my colleague raises an interesting point. As this bill was only tabled on Monday, that is not an analysis I have done.

It is certainly a good point to say that it is indefinite solitary confinement. There are times that segregation is necessary for the safety of other prisoners. However, we did have very clear direction from both courts, and very good advice from multiple witnesses, the investigation done by the correctional investigator Dr. Ivan Zinger and advocates across our country. The current government was given good advice, which it has failed to take.

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4:35 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Regina—Lewvan, Infrastructure.

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4:35 p.m.


Robert-Falcon Ouellette Liberal Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Cree]


The Government of Canada's number one priority is the safety of Canadians and our communities. It is important to ensure that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment for staff and inmates, which assists with the rehabilitation of offenders. We must reduce the risk of reoffending and we must keep our communities safe, whether it is in Winnipeg or elsewhere across the country.

The Government of Canada introduced legislation that proposes to strengthen the federal correctional system, changing its direction from one which was under the Conservatives' more of retribution to looking at latest evidence and best practices by implementing a new correctional interventions model and strengthening the health care governance, better supporting victims and addressing the specific situation of indigenous offenders.

Following a recent court decision on administrative segregation, Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate segregation and establish a structured intervention unit, SIU, that will allow offenders to be separated from the main stream inmate populations as required, while maintaining their access to rehabilitative programming, interventions and mental health care. We need to ensure they actually have rehabilitative programming and can receive appropriate interventions and health and mental health care. These are extremely important.

These proposed reforms support the government's continued commitment to implement recommendations from the coroners inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, regarding the use of segregation in the treatment of offenders with mental illness. It also builds on past efforts to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples throughout the criminal justice system.

I would like to quote my good friend, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member from Saskatchewan. He said:

We are committed to a correctional system that keeps Canadians safe and holds guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, while fostering practical rehabilitation so we can have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately safer communities. This approach to federal corrections will protect the safety of our staff and those in their custody by separating offenders when required, and ensuring they get more effective interventions, rehabilitative programming and serious attention to mental issues.

The bill is extremely important because it introduces a number of new elements into our corrections system.

I had the opportunity of hearing the Commissioner of Corrections Canada, Anne Kelly, who testified last week. This will be an important means forward. She is very committed to having a corrections system that responds to the department's mandate, not just simply having a justice system that responds to mob justice, a corrections system that improves safety not only within society, but also within the corrections institutions for staff and inmates, and also ensures that we rehabilitate people so they can integrate and not reoffend when they leave the corrections system.

Some of the things being put into place are the structured intervention units. These would be established to provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety and security risks of inmates who cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. It does occur that there are certain people who will never be safe within our prisons. No matter what we do in this place, unfortunately some people commit crimes that are so heinous, those against children, those done by pedophiles, that it is very difficult to integrate them into the mainstream population. For their own safety and for the safety within the entire system, sometimes a different approach must be taken.

A structured intervention unit would have structured interventions and programming tailored to the specific situation of that inmate. Inmates would have an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. They would have an opportunity for two hours a day of meaningful human contacts. They would receive continued programs to help them progress toward their correctional plan objectives.

Also being put in place are factors unique to indigenous offenders. The needs and interests of indigenous peoples would be better supported by the legal requirement for Correctional Service of Canada to ensure that systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders are considered in all correctional decision-making. For an awful long time indigenous peoples have not received the same amount of supports.

For instance, in Manitoba, in 2016 our government put forward $26 million for legal aid to help all peoples. Generally, a lot of indigenous peoples are very poor and need recourse to legal aid. Unfortunately, the provincial Conservative government decided to cut back the exact amount that was given to this. Instead of helping the people who were most vulnerable in the system, they were not helped. They were thrown to the side again.

This is often why we have systematic structural violence in the system, which ensures that indigenous peoples continue to be overly represented because they cannot obtain good legal advice. This is a good way of ensuring that even indigenous offenders within the prison system will obtain the services they require.

For instance, I have met many indigenous peoples who have been in the corrections system, but they did not know how to apply for early release or parole on time because they did not have access to those services. This is part of that.

Supporting victims is another aspect of the bill, which is very important. It would better support victims in the criminal justice system by allowing those who attend Parole Board of Canada hearings to access audio recordings of the hearings.

We are also going to be strengthening the health care governance. The proposed reforms will affirm Correctional Service Canada's obligation to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence. They do not need the Minister of Public Safety telling them how to do their jobs or what they should be doing. It has been said in the House in the past number of weeks that the opposition would like the Minister of Public Safety to intervene directly in cases. However, we must ensure that health care processionals have the opportunity of doing the assessments independent of the political obligations or politics that happen in this place.

The Correctional Service of Canada would also have the obligation to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities, as recommended by the coroner's inquest on the death of Ashley Smith. Included in that is further improving mental health supports for inmates to ensure offenders with mental health needs receive proper care.

Budget 2017 invested $57.8 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and $13.6 million per year thereafter to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. Budget 2018 builds on these investments, proposing $20.4 million over five years, beginning in 2018-19, and $5.6 million per year going forward for Correctional Service of Canada to further support the mental health needs of federal inmates, particularly women.

We all know, and I am sure all believe, that those who end up in corrections facilities obviously are not within the norm of our society. They have committed crimes for whatever reason and some do require mental health supports.

Winnipeg, right now, is facing a deep and profound meth crisis, which has been ignored by the provincial government. Thankfully, the mayor is a bit more progressive and is attempting to tackle this problem head on. However, the provincial government for a long time has refused to even meet with city counterparts or even with the federal government on this issue. This has caused issues. People should not walk around any Canadian city fearing they might be attacked. Often, many of these issues are related to mental health and people self-medicating themselves with drugs, alcohol, gasoline and other types of drugs, which numb them to the pain of the life in which they exist in great poverty.

Our corrections system really needs to hold guilty parties to account for breaking the law. However, we also need to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. That is why it is important for this bill to pass. We need to strengthen the federal correctional system and align it with the evidence and best practices so inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities safely.

One day, almost all prisoners will leave the prison system and live among Canadians. We need to ensure that they do not reoffend, that we are all safe and that they have received the appropriate care so when they are released, they do not reoffend and do not hurt others.

Therefore, the bill would eliminate segregation following recent court decisions and introduce more effective structured intervention units; increase better support for victims during parole hearings; increase staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology; and update our approach to critical matters, like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs.

Correctional Service of Canada needs the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety. By replacing administrative segregation with structured intervention units, the proposed legislation ensures that offenders who are separated from the general population will retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe integration is the best way to protect Canadian communities.

The practice of administrative segregation and its history is an interesting one and has been criticized for many years. The case of Ashley Smith, who died in 2007, a case that has been mentioned in most of the speeches today, comes to mind. It highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in a Canadian correctional system.

In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, including instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate could spend in segregation.

In 2016, the government introduced Bill C-56, which would have created a presumptive cap of 15 days in administrative segregation and a system of independent external oversight, which I believe is very important. Since that bill was introduced, legal challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found administrative segregation to be contrary to the charter. We cannot keep inmates locked up by themselves, with only two hours of contact with other people, for the rest of their lives. Both these rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party. However, as things stand, they take effect in December 2018 and January 2019. This means that Corrections Service of Canada may no longer be allowed to use the current system of administrative segregation.

There are also pending class action lawsuits related to administrative segregation and the failure to provide adequate mental health care, as well as complaints before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

In May 7, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act, which implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation and prohibited certain classes of inmates, like pregnant women or those with mental illnesses, from being segregated at all.

The number of inmates in segregation on any given day was over 700 in 2011. It is now 340.

While the correctional investigator has acknowledged that the reduction in the use of administrative segregation is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. However, SIUs are designed to ensure that inmates can be kept in a secure environment, while not being segregated from vital programming and meaningful human contact.

Bill C-83 would eliminate administrative segregation. Instead, people who have to be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, will be assigned to a secure intervention unit. In an SIU, people will get a minimum of four hours daily out of the cell, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff, volunteers, visitors and other compatible inmates. There will also be a daily visit by a medical professional. By contrast, people currently in administrative segregation are only entitled to two hours daily out of the cell, with minimal human contact and access to programming.

Within five working days of movement to an SIU, the warden will review the case and decide if the inmate should remain there. Subsequent reviews will be conducted by the warden after another 30 days and by the Commissioner of Corrections Service Canada every 30 days thereafter for as long as the inmate is in the SIU. Therefore, it will be the top corrections officer in Canada, our commissioner, who will be reviewing all of these cases. Reviews can also be triggered on the recommendation of a medical professional, who, as I have mentioned, will be independent and have full independence to conduct what he or she terms is in the best interest of the patient, or if an inmate refuses to leave his or her cell for a given number of days.

Currently victims are only entitled to audio recordings of parole hearings if they did not attend. However, there have been concerns that, due to the emotional nature of the hearings, it can be hard for victims to retain all the details of the proceedings. Even victims who are present could benefit from access to a recording that they could review afterward, on their own time and in a more comfortable setting.

Therefore, Bill C-83 would give victims access to audio recordings whether they attend or not. It is very important to have to a good record of what actually occurred.

This legislation will add a guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for a CSC to consider systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. This requirement flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999, and has been implemented through CSC's policy directive since 2003. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to follow, as the corrections services have often not followed it. Now it is actually being enshrined in law.

This bill would also implement key recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquest by creating the legal framework to have patient advocates in CSC institutions. Patient advocates will work with offenders and correctional staff to ensure that the offenders receive appropriate medical care. Bill C-83 also enshrines in law the decision-making autonomy of medical professionals operating within the CSC.

The next one is extremely important to ensuring safety within correctional facilities in Canada. Here I refer to body scanners, which will help keep drugs and other contraband out of prisons. The bill authorizes the use of body scanners, comparable to the technology used at airports, to search people entering correctional institutions. These devices are less invasive than strip searches or body cavity searches, and they do not raise the concerns of false positives reported by some people who have been examined using ion scanners.

Body scanners are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities, and now the federal system is catching up. This is going to improve safety. A number of groups are in favour of this, including the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which. While cautiously acknowledging Bill C-83's measures on administrative segregation, it welcomes the introduction of body scanners to prevent contraband. Jack Godin states:

Our union has advocated strongly for the implementation of body scanners. We are satisfied with the results. But we still need more resources to manage high-risk, violent and self-harming offenders, such as what was tabled by the Union in 2005 to manage high-risk women offenders which has fallen on deaf ears.

They have some criticisms, but nonetheless are favourable overall towards the idea of body scanners.

To implement these secure intervention units, new investments will be required, mainly to hire new staff. The government has committed to making the necessary investments, with the exact dollar amounts to be announced very soon.

The government has also signalled its intention to invest heavily in mental health care within the corrections system. This will include mental health care in SIUs, as well as early diagnosis and treatment for inmates from the moment of intake, and upgrades in the CSC's regional treatment centres, which provide intensive mental health care for more serious cases. This funding will be on top of some $80 million for mental health care for the CSC in the last two budgets.

I only have about two minutes left, as my time is slowly winding down. I would like to read a few clauses from the bill so that people who are watching on CPAC, or anywhere else, can hear what is in the bill.

On structured intervention units, the bill states:


32 The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to

(a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; and

(b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate's specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.

In section 33, it states:

An inmate's confinement in a structured intervention unit is to end as soon as possible.

As I have already mentioned, there are other elements are included in that. For instance, we talk about “four hours outside of the cell each day”, but there is also time not included. Section 36 states:

Time not included

(3) If an inmate takes a shower outside their cell, the time spent doing so does not count as time spent outside the inmate's cell under paragraph (1)(a).

Also section 37.2 states:

A registered health care professional employed or engaged by the Service may, for health reasons, recommend to the institutional head that the conditions of confinement of the inmate in a structured intervention unit be altered or that the inmate not remain in the unit.

That means it is up to the health care professional to decide when things have gotten out of hand.

In my last minutes, I would like to quickly address the whole idea of indigenous offenders. It is incredible because, first, the bill defines indigenous people in its very first clause:

Indigenous, in respect of a person, includes a First Nation person, an Inuit or a Métis person; (autochtone)

It also includes putting in place a lot more advisory committees, committees to consult, and the idea of spiritual leaders and elders:

Spiritual leaders and elders

83(1) For greater certainty, Indigenous spirituality and Indigenous spiritual leaders and elders have the same status as other religions and other religious leaders.

Let us give thanks to Gitchi Manitou. Let us give thanks to the Great Creator. I think this is the first time I have ever heard this mentioned, and I proud to see that this measure has taken hold within this bill.

With that, I believe my time has come to an end at 20 minutes. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here and look forward to some of the very interesting questions and comments.

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4:55 p.m.


Nathan Cullen NDP Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Manitoba for his interventions, as he knows better than most of us the overrepresentation of indigenous peoples in our prison system, as well as their overrepresentation in solitary confinement. He also well knows the long-standing evidence of the damage and the harmful effects that can happen to someone in solitary confinement.

Just for the record, the Orwellian language being thrown around in this debate is a bit worrisome. Most Canadians who are at all familiar with the topic know what solitary confinement is. It is solitary. That is what it is. Calling it “structured integration units” pretends it is something else than what it is. I think that is abusive of the debate. I think it disabuses Canadians of the truth of what is happening here.

My question is very specific. The whole reason this bill has been tabled is that the previous practice of solitary confinement in our prisons was shown not by one but two of our higher courts to be unconstitutional. The Supreme Court of British Columbia said that it allowed for prolonged indefinite confinement, but did not allow for independent oversight of decisions to segregate and to prevent inmates from having a lawyer represent them at segregation hearings.

As well, an Ontario court found the same thing, namely, the lack of independent oversight when a decision was made to put a prisoner into solitary confinement, which we know from extensive research can have long-term and damaging effects on them. There are, of course, instances when there have to be separations.

With just an “Orwellian” change of terminology, the Liberals are setting this up to head right back to the courts, because they have not included the independent oversight that both of those superior courts insisted upon in striking down the previous regime, giving the government time to fix it. This bill does not fix it. Why not?