Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Winnipeg North.
I am pleased to have this opportunity to rise at third reading of Bill C-83. This important piece of legislation proposes significant reforms to Canada's correctional system. These changes would make our federal correctional institutions safer places for staff and inmates alike, and that in turn would contribute to greater safety for people in our communities.
Under Bill C-83, administrative segregation would be eliminated and a new correctional intervention model would be established through the implementation of structured intervention units, SIUs, which would serve to address the safety and security risks of offenders who are at any given time too dangerous or disruptive to be managed in the mainstream inmate population. When those offenders need to be separated for safety reasons, they would be placed in an SIU. While they are there, they would continue to have access to the interventions and programming they need to make progress on their correctional plan and improve their likelihood of rehabilitation.
The goal is to help offenders reintegrate into the mainstream inmate population as quickly as possible. That has been the main goal of Bill C-83 from the very beginning and remains so today in the bill's current form. We have arrived at a very solid, concise and thorough piece of legislation that was very strong to begin with. That is a testament to a robust, democratic and healthy legislative process, including thoughtful discussion in this chamber and careful scrutiny and informative testimony at committee. That process led to a number of amendments that have strengthened this bill.
Many of those amendments focus on additional measures to ensure that the SIUs would operate as intended. For example, amendments were made to specify that daily time outside an SIU cell must be offered between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and that opportunities to interact through human contact must not be mediated or interposed by physical barriers.
Other amendments are about enhancing oversight and transparency when it comes to SIU placement decisions. However, today I would like to focus on one amendment in particular, proposed by the member for Oakville North—Burlington, which would introduce a new independent external decision-making function.
Under Bill C-83, independent external decision-makers would review an inmate's placement in an SIU if it falls under any one of three specific circumstances.
The first circumstance is if an inmate has not received or taken advantage of the opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside of their cell or two hours of interaction with others or five consecutive days or 15 cumulative days over a 30-day period. The second is if an inmate has been confined to an SIU for 90 consecutive days. The third is if a health care committee of senior officials from the Correctional Service of Canada has made the determination to maintain an inmate in an SIU contrary to the recommendations of a registered health professional.
This process would ensure that decisions to maintain an inmate in an SIU would be subject to scrutiny and ongoing assessment at specific time periods through a mechanism that would operate at arm's length from the Correctional Service of Canada.
Reviews conducted by independent external decision-makers would create additional external monitoring of inmates who are placed in SIUs. This would include vulnerable inmates, such as those who are not participating in programming or interventions or receiving meaningful human contact. It would also support transparency around decisions to maintain vulnerable inmates in an SIU. In all cases, the external decision-maker would be authorized to order the inmate to be released from the SIU entirely.
In addition, when it has been recommended by a registered health care professional, the external decision-maker could order the modification of the inmate's conditions of confinement in the SIU. The proposed addition of the independent external decision-maker's response was one of the main points raised at the committee stage by various witnesses. More specifically, concerns were raised that inmates in an SIU could still be subjected to indeterminate and prolonged confinement. The introduction of an additional external review mechanism addresses these concerns and would help keep our correctional system safe, lawful and accountable.
Another issue that was raised by witnesses at committee, including those representing front-line staff in federal correctional institutions, involved whether additional resources would be made available to support the implementation of the bill.
To ensure that our federal correctional system has the resources it needs to successfully implement the changes proposed in Bill C-83, the government announced a total of $448 million in funding for corrections in last year's fall economic statement. That includes approximately $297 million over six years to implement the proposed SIUs, funding that, in the words of the Minister of Public Safety would ensure that Correctional Service Canada “has people with the right skill sets in the right places at the right times”.
Canada's federal correctional system is already in a class of its own. Operating in a challenging environment, it does a remarkable job of fulfilling its objectives of holding guilty parties to account, while fostering their rehabilitation. An important part of that rehabilitation process is making sure that offenders, including those who must be separated, are able to take part in reintegration programming in order to make progress against the objectives set out in their correctional plan.
That programming is essential to a successful transition to the mainstream inmate population, and after that, to the community at the end of a sentence. The bill would improve the way that works. In doing so, it would help bring about safer institutions for staff and inmates, in the short term. In the long run, it would mean fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and safer communities for all.
Getting the bill to where it is today has been a truly collaborative effort. I have been impressed and heartened by the careful attention and constructive input given to the bill from all parties and all corners. I would like to thank hon. members for the roles they have played throughout that entire process so far. The result is improved legislation that, if passed, I am confident will lead to a better, safer and more effective correctional system.
For all these reasons, I will be voting in favour of Bill C-83 at third reading and I encourage all my hon. colleagues to join me in doing the same.