Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Mount Royal.
First, nothing we say or do in the House will ever ease the pain of the family of Tori Stafford, the pain it goes through each and every day. As a mother, it is unimaginable to me what that family has been through. For Tori's dad, her family, friends and all who knew her, I want to acknowledge their suffering and extend my sympathies for their loss.
I am going to turn my remarks now to the motion before us today.
In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, uphold public safety and rehabilitate those in their care. We do not have a vigilante system in Canada. We do not allow public opinion or political rhetoric to determine the penalties dealt to individual offenders, yet the opposition has been playing political games with our entire justice system this past week.
Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison and there is no doubt she remains in prison. The facts of this case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility of parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Service Canada since her sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison. She continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.
Let us get the facts straight. Neither the Prime Minister, the Minister of Public Safety nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision that is the subject of the opposition motion. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible of the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections system rely on political rhetoric and public opinion for their decision-making processes.
Last week, I had the opportunity to hear from the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times that the Minister of Public Safety had asked her to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the policies regarding transfers in general. She reiterated that she was moving forward with this review, and I look forward to its swift conclusion.
Over the course of the last week, I have been disappointed by the level of debate in this place. Last Wednesday, as the gruesome details of the crime were read into the record, I looked at the children in the gallery and wondered if they would ever look at this place as someplace they would like to return to someday. I somehow doubt it.
Even though the details were part of a court transcript, I do not believe it is necessary to read them out over and over again. We all agree that we are talking about a heinous crime, but I am doubtful that rehashing the gruesome details before the House will achieve any constructive end.
I want to applaud the member for Beloeil—Chambly, the NDP critic for public safety, who sits on the committee with me, for his thoughtful comments and for raising the level of debate in this place on this motion.
Both committees on which I sit, the status of women and public safety, tabled reports in June on the corrections system, and in particular on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety report was unanimous and called for additional funding for healing lodges. Members from all parties heard from witnesses and agreed that healing lodges were doing excellent work and should be expanded and supported. The Conservative members of the committee agreed with us that they played an integral role in our corrections system. The status of women committee also recommended additional funding for healing lodges and heard extensive testimony on their benefits.
How many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium security institute or a healing lodge? I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look like what they see on television, perhaps the latest episode of Orange is the New Black. They might be surprised to see what a medium security institute, like Grand Valley, actually looks like.
Let me be very clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it was called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be having this debate today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens, as some on the other side of the House have portrayed. Prisoners must follow the rules if they want to stay there.
A healing lodge is different from what Canadians might expect a prison to look like, but these institutions are also very different with respect to outcomes for prisoners and, in turn, better for Canadians and for public safety in the long run.
Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study. This weekend, with regard to this case, she stated:
It's not a get-out-of-jail-free [card]....We have the same kind of supervision and restrictions they have in a prison. Only we're doing it in a healing way....they have to accept responsibility for their offences, for their victims, and they have to accept responsibility for their own behaviour.
Our government knows that a corrections system focused on accountability rather than simple retribution is better for corrections outcomes and therefore better for the public safety of all Canadians.
We know that taking a rehabilitative approach is the best way to protect the public safety of Canadians. I think Canadians would agree that when people leave prison, we do not want them to commit a violent crime. It is not in the interest of public safety.
As we know, regardless of the length of their sentence, the vast majority of those incarcerated in our system will be released from prison at some point. They may very well move into our neighbourhoods. My question is this. What kind of person do we want released from prison at the end of his or her sentence living next door to us? I feel strongly that, regardless of our feelings toward individual cases, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.
I have met and gotten to know many of the men and women who work in the corrections system, from the commissioner and correctional investigator, regional managers, to the wardens, corrections officers, parole officers, aboriginal liaison officers, program officers, nurses and more. These people work incredibly hard, with very little recognition. They develop programs and plans for offenders and work day in and day out, in often challenging circumstances, in an effort to rehabilitate those in our corrections system. They are passionate about their work and often make a real difference in the lives of offenders so they can become productive and healthy members of society upon their release, which in turn protects public safety.
In the case before us, under the watch of the Conservative public safety minister in 2014, the offender's security classification was reduced to medium and she was transferred to a medium security institute. She remains in a medium security institute today. What has changed is the political games being played out before us.
It comes down to what we want our justice system to do. Is it solely for punishment? I suspect the Conservatives will say yes. However, there is more to it. It is essential that our system also does everything within its power to rehabilitate the offender, not because we prioritize the well-being of the offender over the victim, because we do not, but because we know it is in the best interests of all Canadians and ultimately makes Canadians safer.
This case certainly tests our morality. It tests the core of our beliefs as Canadians. However, I have faith in our commissioner and the staff in corrections. I recognize that there will be decisions made that we do not like or ones in fact that we may find troubling. However, I also recognize that we must protect Canadians and ensure the highest standards of public safety are upheld.
The minister's mandate to the commissioner acknowledged that the Correctional Service Canada protects Canadian communities through appropriate custodial measures, effective rehabilitation and the safe reintegration of people serving a federal sentence. Our focus must be on the public safety of Canadians. I know the Minister of Public Safety and this government are seized with this as well. At the end of the day, we all want to protect Canadians and ensure justice is served.