House of Commons Hansard #348 of the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was disabilities.

Topics

The EnvironmentOral Questions

Noon

Sean Fraser Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Lib.

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Saanich—Gulf Islands for her work on this file over the past number of decades.

This is a threat we need to take extraordinarily seriously. I have read through the IPCC report and know that we need to take action and take action immediately.

We campaigned on a commitment to protect the environment. That included putting a price on pollution, and a number of other measures. We played a key role in facilitating the agreement in Paris, and our government is committed to making our targets. If we need to do more after that, I would be pleased to continue to work with the hon. member to protect our environment for our kids and grandkids.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Immigration Levels PlanPrivilegeOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

York South—Weston Ontario

Liberal

Ahmed Hussen LiberalMinister of Immigration

Madam Speaker, I would like to address the question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill on October 31, 2018.

This past Wednesday, I tabled the annual report on immigration, 2018. My intention was to table this report during routine proceedings, under the rubric of tabling of documents. However, given events in the House, this was not possible. Following question period that day, there were a number of questions of privilege and points of order on a multitude of issues, which in turn delayed the start of routine proceedings.

The video of the House proceedings for that day shows that I rose on a point of order at 3:41 p.m. to table the report. However, I did not get the floor. At 3:59 p.m., I rose again for a second time and was allowed by the Speaker to duly table the report in the House. All this added to the confusion. Unfortunately, an item contained in the said report was provided to a member of the media before the report was officially tabled in the House of Commons.

Madam Speaker, I assure you and all hon. colleagues that I take this matter very seriously. There was absolutely no ill will and no intention to attack the dignity of this House. I assume full responsibility for this unfortunate incident, and I can assure the House that I have taken steps to ensure that the appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

Out of respect for the House, and to each and every member of Parliament who sits in this chamber, I offer my unreserved apology.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Immigration Levels PlanPrivilegeOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, for the record, I would like my question of privilege to stand for the following reason. As I read into the record when I made the additional information and submission on the question of privilege, the conversation my staff member had with the reporter stated that the information was provided so they could get a story under the wire. What this means, of course, is that I was going to be asked for comment on a 43-page document at the end of a news cycle with no time to be able to respond to it, nor any other members in this place if they wanted to do the same.

While the minister can stand and apologize, it is still incumbent upon the Speaker to ensure that this does not happen. As I have stated, there have seen many instances in this Parliament when the government has been repeatedly found to have done the exact same thing.

My problem is that it is all well and good for the minister to stand up here because he was caught, but the reality is that I was still in a position where I was being asked for comment by a journalist who had been given information prior to the House being able to consider it. That is wrong. It is not right. Frankly, I do not think the amount of time spent on points of order or whatnot in the House should be given any consideration in terms of the fact that I still did not have the ability to comment on that particular piece of business that was put before the House that day.

At some point in time, and with the deepest respect, the office of the Speaker has to rule consistently on the fact that the rights of members need to be put before the rights of any other person in the public in terms of being able to review information or matters before the House. This is in alignment with several of the decisions, previous rulings or comments that have been made by the Speaker in this Parliament and in previous Parliaments.

This should not be happening across any flavour of government at any time. The rights of the members here should be sovereign. Madam Speaker, I ask you to consider that particular principle above the minister's contrition today.

Alleged Premature Disclosure of Immigration Levels Plan—Speaker's RulingPrivilegeOral Questions

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I thank the hon. Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship for his explanation and apology regarding the circumstances of his tabling the document entitled “2018 Annual Report to Parliament on Immigration” two days ago, and I thank the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill for the additional comments she has just made.

The question of privilege raised by the hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill that same day was an important reminder that all members are entitled to receive timely and accurate information. She reinforced this again today. The Chair was concerned about the member's assertion that the report was released to the media before it was tabled in the House. As a result, members of the House found themselves in the position of having to play catch-up with members of the media.

In this case, however, I appreciate the minister’s apology and, as practice and precedent dictate, I am bound to accept his word. Trusting that the minister, and indeed all other members of the government, will be more cautious in how they release information in the future, I consider this matter to be closed. I thank all hon. members for their attention.

I thank all members for their attention and for contributing on this matter.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Scott Duvall NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, on a point of order. Earlier today in question period, I stood and asked a question on a very important issue about bankruptcy laws.

The seniors minister responded to me that I was giving misinformation or false information. I take offence to that. I strongly encourage the minister to retract that statement and apologize for making that statement about my integrity and character.

Oral QuestionsPoints of OrderOral Questions

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I appreciate the information and the concerns the member has brought forward. I will certainly do a review of that, because I did not quite hear it at that time. Therefore, I will get back to the member regarding this, if necessary.

Premature Disclosure of Government DocumentsPoints of OrderOral Questions

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, on a point of order, I would like to note that there have been several instances in this Parliament when the Chair has ruled in instances when the government has very clearly provided information to the media ahead of members of Parliament.

I guess my question for the Chair is this. At what point will the Chair consider a member's privilege to be breached when there is a clear instance? There have been many times when the Chair has essentially given the government a slap on the wrist for the same instance. When the Chair says he or she is deeply concerned, but the behaviour keeps repeating itself, one actually wonders if any change will occur or if a precedent has been set by the Chair, now that there have been so many rulings when the Chair has been deeply concerned, that it is okay for the member's privilege to be violated.

I am just wondering, for clarification, given the number of times in this particular Parliament that this particular Speaker has said she is concerned about the government's actions in this regard but has not referred it to PROC or perhaps any other study for review, if the Chair has now ruled that this is now an acceptable precedent.

That is something for all members in this place to understand. Where does the Chair draw the line? I strongly believe that my privilege was violated, and I strongly believe that the Chair has already said that we should be concerned that the government is doing this. However, at what point is there censure? At what point does the behaviour change?

I would argue that this is the role of the Chair. The role of the Chair is to maintain order and to uphold the privilege of members in this place. There seems to be a pattern where the behaviour is occurring but there is no censure. I am wondering now if a precedent has formally been set that it is okay for the government to provide information to the media prior to this House having a chance to review it.

Premature Disclosure of Government DocumentsPoints of OrderOral Questions

12:10 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Once again, I appreciate the additional information and the concerns being raised. I cannot presume what could happen in the future. We are working on what has happened at this point. The ruling has been made. There have been previous rulings on this as well.

I would take the government at its word that it will ensure that in the future, the information will be provided to parliamentarians prior to it being released to the media.

The hon. member for Calgary Nose Hill, and then that will be it. We have had the conversation on this.

Premature Disclosure of Government DocumentsPoints of OrderOral Questions

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Conservative Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Madam Speaker, just to clarify the question I asked, the question was whether the Chair has now set a precedent. Given that there have been several instances in this Parliament when the Chair has, in fact, said that there was a clear instance of the government providing information to the media and that she was deeply concerned, but she decided not to provide censure, I am wondering not about future actions but about what precedent has been set.

Is it now okay? Is the Chair now saying, given her, once again, looking over the actions of the government, that she has formally set a precedent and that it is okay for the government to give information to the media prior to members in this House being able to review it? That is deeply concerning.

Premature Disclosure of Government DocumentsPoints of OrderOral Questions

12:15 p.m.

NDP

The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

I again thank the member for raising her concerns and they are duly noted. I will not comment on the ruling itself.

Government Response to PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 31 petitions.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the 22nd report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concerning Bill C-75, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Youth Criminal Justice Act and other acts and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House, with amendments.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

moved:

That it be an instruction to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security that, during its consideration of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, the Committee be granted the power to expand the scope of the Bill in order to forbid those convicted of the murder of a child from serving any portion of their sentence in a healing lodge.

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Durham.

This morning, we moved a motion that we consider to be very important. I would like to give a brief overview of Bill C-83, which seeks to change inmates' conditions, since the motion is very closely related to the bill. Bill C-83 seeks to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities and replace it with structured intervention units, to use prescribed body scanners, to establish parameters for access to health care, and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders.

This bill obviously contains some reasonable measures that are worth considering. We should all consider how we can change and improve the overall prison program. However, we have a problem in that regard.

Everyone agrees that a criminal has to serve their lawful sentence, but we cannot allow penitentiaries to become five-star Hilton hotels. Otherwise, there will be no incentive for individuals to give up their life of crime.

After our initial reading of the bill, we are not only disappointed, but also discouraged to see that this government is still working to help criminals instead of thinking of the victims.

Three weeks ago, we asked the Prime Minister and his team why they transferred a child murderer to a healing lodge instead of keeping her behind bars at a maximum security penitentiary. The Prime Minister was either incapable of answering the question or unwilling to do so. On this lovely, rainy Friday on Parliament Hill, hundreds of people are outside asking the same question. They do not understand why this child murderer is at a healing lodge in Saskatchewan.

I gave notice of this motion at the beginning of the week, and it just so happens that, on Wednesday, October 31, Global News published an article by Abigail Bimman about the brother of murderer Terri-Lynne McClintic. Her own brother is disgusted by what is going on. He says his sister is not indigenous, that she manipulated the system, and that she should be sent back to a maximum security penitentiary to serve her sentence. Her brother says his sister “is no more indigenous than I am green from the planet Mars”.

This case has been the subject of much debate here in the House of Commons. The government accused us of raising a sensitive issue and said we should not take advantage of the death of a police officer, but I believe Canadians understand that the Liberal government's position was untenable. It is unacceptable for a child killer who claims to be indigenous to be sent to an indigenous healing lodge. To be clear, healing lodges are minimum security facilities. There is no security, so people can come and go and do as they please, even if they do not have that right. A child killer should not be in a place like that.

I believe that what our motion is calling for is very reasonable because Canadians believe that child killers should not be held in healing centres or minimum security prisons. They should serve their sentence in maximum security penitentiaries.

Furthermore, we just learned that the Minister of Public Safety received a report from Correctional Service Canada regarding its investigation of the circumstances surrounding the transfer of Ms. McClintic from a maximum security prison to a healing centre. I am therefore asking the minister to table this report at the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security so we can consult it, read the recommendations concerning Bill C-83 and ensure they are implemented.

At some point, there must be some common sense in this country. Unacceptable things are happening. I know it is not that easy to govern a country. We will be in that position next year, but in the meantime it is the Liberals' job.

All we are doing is proposing a few things to help keep the country running smoothly and ensure that Canadians continue to trust our justice system and believe that criminals will have to face consequences. Giving criminals a chance to live a good life while leaving victims to cope with sadness and sorrow is simply unacceptable.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, it is really encouraging that we have the report now from the commissioner. I understand that individuals will be going over the report. In time, we will get some sort of an official response. However, I wanted to raise the issue. This is the reason why it was important that we actually had the study.

To go back to the days when Stephen Harper was the prime minister, for example, we saw literally dozens of murderers who had gone through the system and went to healing lodges. Sadly, over a dozen victims of those murderers were children.

To me this should not be a political issue. It is indeed a process, and the Minister of Public Safety has now asked the commissioner to provide a report. That report is coming and we need to have that report.

Would the member not agree that with the sorts of tragedies we have seen, not just one but many, it is time to finally review it and wait to hear what we have coming in the future from the minister on this very important issue?

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, if this situation happened under a Conservative government, it is equally deplorable. At the time, we were not able to correct the situation, but now there is new legislation and we do have the opportunity to amend it in order to ensure that this never happens again and that child murderers cannot be transferred to healing centres. The Liberals need to stop looking back at the previous government. We must look forward. We are in a position to fix the situation today, and we need to do so immediately.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, the term “healing lodge” is being used by the hon. member opposite when, really, we are looking at a medium-security prison facility. We are transferring from one medium-security facility to another medium-security facility.

The question is whether the medium-security facility currently being used for cases like this is sufficient. That is what we will be hearing back from the minister when he reports to the House.

Would the member acknowledge that this is a medium-security facility and not a lodge or a place where people would go for vacations?

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Madam Speaker, that is not true at all. Ms. McClintic is currently housed at Okimaw Ohci Healing Lodge in Saskatchewan. It is not a medium or minimum security facility. It is a healing lodge. There is a minimum security prison in my riding. It has guards, and the inmates cannot get out. A healing lodge like the one where Ms. McClintic is staying is totally different. It does not even have security at the doors.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to join my friend, the hon. MP for Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, in this important debate with respect to Bill C-83 and sentencing in Canada.

It concerns me that the government, like on many things, has a communications plan rather than a plan to actually lead, and this is an example. In fact, the deputy House leader for the Liberals is referring to a report from the Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada that was provided to the government just mere minutes before a protest on Parliament Hill, which was organized by people from the community of Tori Stafford, the young woman who was killed by Terri-Lynne McClintic and her partner.

We have seen the comments from Rodney Stafford, her father, and the outrage with the transfer of Ms. McClintic to a healing lodge in Saskatchewan. However, just in time for this protest, the Liberals have the report. Members will recall that they defended this decision and in fact their recently appointed commissioner defended the decision herself. Her decision was wrong, and it is up to ministers of the government to recognize that. I am hoping the commissioner is listening to my remarks, because I will inform her why I think the decision was wrong.

I have not read her report today. I am working off her comments after defending the decision to sort of support the government's inaction. I will use the government's own material to prove my point.

I learned a lot about restorative justice principles in law school at Dalhousie and restorative justice can be used in certain circumstances. However, the case of Ms. McClintic is not one of those. In fact, her own family has questioned whether she is of indigenous background.

However, leaving that aside, on the website of the Department of Justice, it says that the first principle of restorative justice recognizes “Crime is Fundamentally a Violation of People and Interpersonal Relationships...Victims and the community have been harmed and are in need of restoration.”

It starts with a reflection on the victim. In this case, the victim, Tori Stafford, a child, was lured away by Ms. McClintic and horribly killed. I do not want to get into the details. They have been recounted several times. However, restorative justice starts with an examination of the victim and the crime. This is the worst crime. The victim and her family have suffered the most horrendous circumstances imaginable under our Criminal Code. This is not a crime of poverty or circumstance. This was a premeditated act. The vision of Ms. McClintic luring young Tori Stafford away was caught on videotape. It is seared in the minds of people from that part of Ontario. The ministers involved here should review that tape and the file. The Commissioner of Correctional Service Canada should review it as well.

As a primer, they can look at the Department of Justice's own materials on restorative justice. They should also look to section 718 of the Criminal Code, which outlines sentencing and the sentencing principles and purpose. I invite all Canadians to read it. This is the underpinning of our justice system, particularly when it comes to a crime committed against one Canadian by another, and in this case, a child.

The purpose of sentencing is found in section 718 of the Criminal Code. Some of my Liberal friends in the House are lawyers. They may think back to criminal law at law school. I refer them back there. I refer the commissioner there as well.

What are the purposes of sentencing? First is denunciation of conduct. The killing of a child deserves the highest denunciation possible. Second is deterrence, deterrence for the worst of crimes, violence against other people in our civilized society. Separation of offenders is the third purpose, which is for the protection of the public, when someone involved with the worst of crimes should be a high priority. The fourth is rehabilitation. That is where we want to not give up on anyone. The fifth is reparation, which is to make amends to the victims and the people impacted. The final purpose of sentencing is promotion of responsibility.

Ms. McClintic is responsible for her role in the death of Tori Stafford. She should be making reparations, both on a restorative level and on a Criminal Code level, for that crime. She must be separated from the public for her involvement in the worst of crimes.

We must have deterrence and we must have denunciation. In the worst of crimes, those take precedence over rehabilitation. Those take precedence over transferring someone to a healing lodge. A healing lodge is really designed for restorative justice principles for people who have committed crimes because of their circumstance in life, because of poverty, or because of higher instances of incarceration of indigenous peoples. I support healing lodges, but not for child murderers.

Let us continue from section 718 of the Criminal Code to sections 718.1 and 718.2. It begins with the principle that a sentence must be proportionate to the nature of the offence. I remind everyone, and the commissioner of corrections, that this is the worst crime our society faces. There is no need for a balancing test.

In my view, the proportionate nature of the offence means that Ms. McClintic should serve her entire sentence in a maximum security prison. Certainly the restorative healing lodge approach, generally saved for indigenous offenders, should not be available for first and second degree murder cases. This should be a policy that is brought to the chamber immediately. That is what Canadians expect.

There is no way under the Criminal Code, under Justice Canada's principles of restorative justice that could defend the transfer of Ms. McClintic to a healing lodge. There is no way to defend it. What is more troubling than the decision itself, and the Liberals' shell game of having a report from the commissioner show up on the day that people are protesting on Parliament Hill, is that this is another example of a government that is actually impotent to act. There is an organization chart. The minister is at the top of that department. The Prime Minister is responsible for each minister. We see countless cases where there is an inability to take action and acknowledge errors made by departments.

The Statistics Canada stats grab that is going on right now, which Canadians find obscene, is when the minister responsible should say “Statistics Canada, hands off.” When Veterans Affairs finds out that a convicted murderer who developed PTSD from killing a police officer in Nova Scotia, a murderer who who never served, is receiving funding that is for our veterans, that is a mistake and it should be rectified. Ms. McClintic is probably the best example of a mistake that should be rectified. There is no excuse for it.

I would like the commissioner of corrections to go through the same analysis I just did, Section 718 of the Criminal Code and the principles of restorative justice, and give me one reason why Ms. McClintic should be transferred to a healing lodge. It is time for the Liberals to step up and show some leadership. Our job in the House as the loyal opposition is to bring the concerns of Canadians to this Parliament. In fact, I applaud the Canadians who were braving the rain and cold today to bring their outrage in the transfer of Ms. McClintic to the steps of Parliament Hill.

The trouble is that we have Liberal government ministers who are impotent to act. They act like they are powerless. It is because the job, the image and the car mean more to them than the actual responsibility they have. In this case, it is undermining confidence in our judicial system, in our corrections system. I have yet to see one iota of a response to why this should happen. The Liberals should take ownership, remove Ms. McClintic and ban any further transfers of anyone who took a life to a healing lodge like this.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am disappointed in my colleague and friend across the way and the stand he is trying to position this in terms of politics. Sadly, this case tears at the hearts of all Canadians.

Even when Stephen Harper was the Prime Minister of Canada, dozens of murderers were transferred over to these healing lodges. They were were child killers also. That is true.

This is the reason why the minister is doing the responsible thing. We understand the heartbreak and the horror of family members and Canadians on this. That was why we asked the commissioner to do the review. The minister has that review today. Would the member not, at the very least, recognize that the government needs to do the review? We are doing the review and now we will wait to see what actions are taken.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I do consider my colleague across the way a friend, and I will believe him in this circumstance if he tables any name or case where someone convicted of first or second degree murder was transferred to a healing lodge. I do not think there are such names. If there are, I will stand corrected. If it happened under the Conservative government, it was wrong then. That is ownership of something.

I do not believe the member's facts are right. There might be a manslaughter case, where the circumstances are of someone in a drinking situation getting into a fight. If that person was from circumstances of impoverished means or was an indigenous offender, that is when restorative justice could be explored. I do not think there was a case, certainly not of someone who killed a child. I will correct myself on the record if the member tables any of those names.

However, as I said, it is beside the point. When Canadians, especially family members of someone impacted, bring this to the attention of the chamber, it is our priority to fix it. It happened when Stephen Harper found out that child killer Clifford Olson was receiving old age security, OAS. The Conservative government took the time to pass a bill to change the law to stop that. When something happened under our watch that was inappropriate and that was undermining public confidence, we stood up, agreed and changed it. That is what I want the Liberals to do.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

November 2nd, 2018 / 12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Maryam Monsef Liberal Peterborough—Kawartha, ON

Madam Speaker, I am rising on a point of order to table the government's responses to Order Paper Questions Nos. 1895 to 1911.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd Longfield Liberal Guelph, ON

Madam Speaker, it seems that the opposition is bent on making this as political as possible when in fact Correctional Service Canada has this under consideration.

My previous question about healing lodges was answered in a way that was not accurate. Of the nine healing lodges that we have in Canada, two of them accept medium-security inmates. What we are discussing today is one of those two. Correctional Service Canada worked within the guidelines it was given. Our minister has asked, first, how the decisions were made; and second, whether the process was correct. The minister now has that report, which he will consider and bring back to the House.

Apart from the grandstanding that going on, I was hoping to discuss the budget today. I have a speech on the budget. The budget is a very important document before our House. Instead of doing that, we are interrupting our discussions on the budget to get into something that is being considered and will be coming back to the House in due time.

We are looking at a transfer between two medium-security facilities. Maybe the hon. member could comment on that.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Erin O'Toole Conservative Durham, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sorry to inform the member for Guelph that some politics happen in this chamber. I get a kick out of the fact that whenever we say something that is uncomfortable for the Liberals, we are being partisan. That is indeed our role. The member wants to speak not on the budget, but on the 850-page budget implementation act that his party screamed about if we ever had budget bills that big. He will get his time.

I will come to Guelph in the week after next and ask people in the coffee shops what they think about the McClintic case. I was very clear in my remarks that the policy should be no first or second degree murderers at a healing lodge.

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the member's motion regarding Bill C-83, which the House has already voted on and passed at second reading.

The hon. member for Durham just mentioned that sometimes politics gets done in this place, and I would argue that the only thing being done by the Conservative Party right now is playing politics.

I cannot imagine what the family of Tori Stafford has gone through or any family that has lost a child in this manner. My heart goes out to all families who have lost children to crime.

I will start by discussing Bill C-83 and some concerns that have been raised about the working conditions of those working in corrections. It is challenging work. From guards to parole officers, program staff to medical professionals, corrections employees work hard, around the clock and in challenging environments to keep our institutions safe and in support of effective rehabilitation, which ultimately protects Canadian communities. They represent a professional workforce of nearly 18,000 employees, all engaged in the success of the corrections system and the fulfilment of Correctional Service Canada's mandate. That is complemented by some 6,000 volunteers in institutions and communities, not to mention elders, chaplains and the many other unsung heroes working in corrections. I want to assure all of those individuals that as we study Bill C-83 at committee, their voices will be heard and we will be listening to them.

Regarding the transfer referred to in this motion, when it came to the attention of the Minister of Public Safety, he asked the commissioner of corrections to review the transfer decision and the long-standing policies in place, which existed prior to our becoming government, that led to the decision, to ensure that they remain appropriate or to recommend if they need updating. As the Minister of Public Safety indicated in the House, he received the report from the commissioner of corrections late yesterday, a report that came with several policy options for him to consider. The minister is studying the report carefully and has said that if there are any changes that need to be made to these long-standing policies, they will be made in the near future.

In the meantime, the public safety committee is expected to begin its study of Bill C-83 next week. This transformational piece of legislation will eliminate segregation in Canadian corrections facilities, but is unrelated to the issue of this particular transfer. Through Bill C-83, the government is demonstrating its commitment to ensuring that we not only have the tools to make guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, but also create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities.

Virtually everyone in federal custody is eventually going to be released. It is in the best interests of public safety to ensure that when offenders are released, they are well prepared to participate meaningfully in society and that they are unlikely to reoffend. That is why we are strengthening the federal corrections system and aligning it with the latest evidence and best practices so that offenders are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities.

Bill C-83 would replace the long-standing practice of using segregation and replace it with the use of structured intervention units, or SIUs. This is a bold new approach to federal corrections. An offender may be placed in an SIU when there are reasonable grounds to believe that they pose a risk to the safety of any person, including themselves, or the security of the institution. It will protect the safety of staff and those in their custody by allowing offenders to be separated as required, while ensuring that those offenders receive effective rehabilitative programming, as well as interventions and mental health support. These things are not in place right now but we would put them in place with Bill C-83.

Currently, placement in segregation basically suspends all interventions and programming for an offender. The offender is essentially kept isolated from everyone. In a structured intervention unit, on the other hand, the offender will have a minimum of four hours outside of their cell and a minimum of two hours of meaningful interactions with other people, including staff, volunteers, visitors, elders, chaplains and other compatible inmates. They will have access to structured interventions to address the underlying behaviour that led to their placement in the SIU. These will include programs and mental health care tailored to their needs. It is a system that will allow for the protection of inmates, staff and the institution while ensuring that the time an inmate spends there does not interrupt his or her rehabilitative programming. Make no mistake, rehabilitative programming is essential to ensure that when the person is released from corrections, they will be able to live a life free of crime.

We will ensure that the correctional service has the resources it needs to ensure the safe and secure management of offenders within the SIU while delivering all of the important programming and allowing for visitations.

In addition, the new system will be subject to a robust internal review process. By the fifth working day after movement to an SIU, the warden will determine if the inmate should remain there, taking into account factors such as the inmate's correctional plan and medical condition. If the inmate remains in the SIU, subsequent reviews will happen after 30 days by the warden and every 30 days thereafter by the commissioner of corrections.

Reviews can be triggered by a medical professional at any time, and will be strengthened by the fact that Bill C-83 also enshrines in law for the first time the principle that health care professionals within the corrections system must have the autonomy to exercise their own medical judgment. As recommended by the Ashley Smith inquest, it would create a system of patient advocates who will help ensure that people get the medical treatment they need.

Bill C-83 would also enshrine in law the principle that offender management decisions must involve consideration of systemic and background factors related to indigenous offenders. These amendments are based on the 1999 Gladue case and reflect what the Supreme Court has found to be the constitutional right of an indigenous offender.

The bill would also improve support for victims. Currently, victims may attend a parole hearing of the perpetrator of the crime. Alternatively, victims can request audio recordings of the parole hearing if they are unable to attend. Unfortunately, due to a glitch in the existing act, if a victim attends in person, he or she is not able to receive an audio recording. We have heard from victims that parole hearings can be such an emotional time that afterward the victim often cannot remember the full details of what transpired. Bill C-83 would ensure that even if the victim attends in person, he or she will be able to get a copy of the recording.

The legislation would also allow CSC to use body scanners for the first time. These scanners are a less invasive way of searching inmates and visitors to a penitentiary while ensuring that correctional staff have the tools they need to detect and prevent contraband.

During Stephen Harper's time in office there were many inmates in healing lodges who had committed very serious crimes. In fact, dozens were convicted of murder and at least 14 were convicted in cases in which the victims were children. They were sent to healing lodges under the Harper government because, apparently, the Harper government understood that healing lodges were in the interest of rehabilitation and public safety. I would like to read a quote from the member for Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, who said, “Healing lodges developed in collaboration with aboriginal communities provide supportive healing and reintegration environments.”

In our country, we rely on our courts to deliver sentences and the corrections system to supervise offenders, to uphold public safety and to 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 this case and our entire justice system during the past weeks.

Let us be clear. There is no doubt that this offender should be in prison. There is no doubt that she remains in prison. The facts of the case are well known and they shake us to the core. She was tried and sentenced to life without eligibility for parole for 25 years. She has been in the custody of Correctional Services Canada since sentencing. Let me reiterate that she is still in prison and continues to be supervised while incarcerated and will remain under supervision for the rest of her life.

Neither the Minister of Public Safety nor the House has the ability to overturn the decision on where that individual offender should be serving her sentence. To make the public believe that we do is irresponsible for the opposition, and I, for one, do not want to live in a country where our justice and corrections systems rely on political rhetoric and public opinion in their decision-making processes.

Recently, we had the new commissioner of corrections at the public safety committee. She stated several times, just as the Minister of Public Safety has done here as well, that she was asked to review the circumstances surrounding this transfer decision, as well as the long-standing policies regarding transfers in general. As I mentioned earlier, the Minister of Public Safety received the commissioner's report late yesterday and is in the process of reviewing it.

Both of committees that I sit on, the status of women and public safety committees, tabled reports in June on the corrections system and, in particular, on indigenous people in corrections. The public safety committee's report was unanimous in calling 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 play 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.

I wonder how many on the opposition benches have actually visited a women's medium-security institute or healing lodge. I have visited both. I suspect most people, including those in the House, expect prison to look more like what they see on television and in movies. They might be surprised to see what a medium-security institute like Grand Valley actually looks like.

Let me be clear. A healing lodge is still a secure corrections facility. Perhaps if it were called a women's indigenous corrections facility, we would not even be debating this issue, nor having the motion before us today. It is not a spa. It is not a summer camp. There are no luxury linens. 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 in their outcomes for prisoners, and in turn, better for Canadians and public safety in the long run. In fact, I would argue that is why the Harper Conservatives sent individuals who had been convicted of murder to healing lodges, because they recognized the benefits for offenders when they spend time in these institutions.

Claire Carefoot, executive director of the Buffalo Sage Wellness House, an Edmonton healing lodge, has 29 years of experience in corrections. She appeared before the public safety committee during our study, and 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 interests 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. 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, public safety is best served when we take steps to prevent violent recidivism.

I mentioned the fact that the previous government sent individuals who had committed murder and individuals who had committed crimes against children to healing lodges.

I would argue that is the problem with the Conservative Party today. It has no moral centre. It has no principles around which to build policies. Conservatives simply swing from one issue to the next, with no sense of cohesion or principles to guide them. Almost every issue or policy that the Conservatives supported in government is one that they have a knee-jerk reaction to while in opposition.

It is the reason the member for Beauce has left the Conservative Party and founded a new Conservative movement. He says that today's Conservative Party of Canada has become “morally corrupt”, and that Canadians need a new coherent Conservative—

Standing Committee on Public Safety and National SecurityRoutine Proceedings

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!