House of Commons Hansard #171 of the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was beer.


1 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

It being Wednesday, we will now have the singing of the national anthem led by the hon. member for Peace River—Westlock.

[Members sang the national anthem]

1 p.m.


The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

Pursuant to order made on Friday, March 10, the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's Order Paper.

The House resumed from October 25, 2022, consideration of the motion that Bill C-283, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (addiction treatment in penitentiaries), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1 p.m.

Winnipeg North Manitoba


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

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to express some thoughts on Bill C-283 the last time it was up for debate, and I thought that maybe for the last couple of minutes I would talk about the impact of addictions on our communities.

I recall sitting in opposition when we talked about safe injection sites, particularly given what was taking place in Vancouver, and the positive impact they were having. This government has been working with other governments to deal with drug-related issues in communities across the country. I want to emphasize that there is so much more that can be done through co-operation with the different stakeholders out there. What we have seen over the last number of years from this government is a high sense of co-operation when working with stakeholders and different levels of government to deal with the very difficult issue of drug addiction and the impact it is having on our communities.

I would suggest that one of the best ways we can deal with crime is prevention. This is where things become very relevant. The more we turn to groups such as the Bear Clan Patrol in the north end of Winnipeg, the many professional agencies and services out there and community-minded individuals, the more likely we will have a positive outcome. I believe that by having a positive outcome, we prevent crimes from taking place in the first place.

With those few words, I will conclude my remarks.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Before we continue, since today is the final allotted day for the supply period ending March 26, the House will go through the usual procedures to consider and dispose of the supply bills. In view of recent practices, do hon. members agree that the bills be distributed now?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1 p.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:05 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:05 p.m.


Kristina Michaud Bloc Avignon—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C‑283. I have been my party's public safety critic for the past few years, and I have learned a great deal about the situation in federal penitentiaries. I have learned more about Correctional Service Canada and the work of the correctional investigator, who publishes highly relevant reports each year on the various issues in Canada's penitentiaries. I send him my regards, by the way.

In fact, last summer, I joined the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety for a tour of the Port-Cartier penitentiary, a maximum-security facility located in the North Shore region, in a constituency adjacent to mine. We were able to see how things are done on the ground. We observed that addiction is a massive scourge in penitentiaries, both in Quebec and Canada.

I am very pleased that the member for Kelowna—Lake Country contacted me a few months ago to tell me about the bill she is introducing to propose a solution. The bill would allow inmates to be sent to drug treatment facilities. It would also allow penitentiaries to be designated as drug treatment facilities. I will discuss this in more detail later.

When the member for Kelowna—Lake Country introduced her bill, she said its purpose was to end the revolving door of the criminal justice system. Those are the words she used. People entering prison get released almost immediately without getting adequate treatment for mental health issues, substance abuse or other problems. Federal penitentiaries, unlike provincial prisons, are reserved for people serving sentences of two years or more, although inmates may serve a much shorter sentence. That said, the meaning of my colleague's words are clear.

In a system that values rehabilitation, it is unacceptable for someone to be released from a penitentiary with the same problems they had when they entered. For there to be rehabilitation, a minimum effort must be made to try to improve or resolve offenders' problems.

As I said, substance abuse is a very real problem. Let us use the current situation in Quebec penitentiaries as an example. In 2014, 58% of inmates in federal penitentiaries had a substance abuse problem. This data comes from the Correctional Service of Canada, the CSC. According to the CSC, drug addiction is a major problem in the prison system.

According to experts, drug addiction is what drives most of the people who end up in prison to commit a crime in the first place, and that is what brings them back to prison, where drugs are very easy to get, despite what people might think. In 2021, Frédérick Lebeau, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers for the Quebec region, said, “There's a major issue, a problem of delivery [of drugs and other prohibited items] inside the penitentiaries. It's too easy. It's got to get harder”.

With the advent of drones, it is easier than ever to deliver drugs into prisons. By 2020, officers at Donnacona's 451-inmate maximum security penitentiary had detected 60 drones, but they estimated that was just the tip of the iceberg. To address this emerging issue, penitentiaries are working to implement new drone detection technology, but we must not kid ourselves. We know that drugs are still getting into prisons and will continue to do so, despite the efforts that are being made. This really is one of the biggest problems in the prison system in Quebec and Canada right now.

That is why people are right in saying that incarceration does not solve drug abuse problems, quite the opposite. If we want my colleague's solution to work, then we need to ensure that it is more difficult, if not impossible, for the program participants and all inmates to access drugs in prison.

Recidivism rates among drug addicts is very high. When they get out of prison, many immediately try to obtain drugs and often turn to crime to pay for their purchases.

There are many programs for addicts, such as the federal drug treatment court funding program. Drug treatment courts, known as DTCs, offer eligible offenders with a substance use disorder the opportunity to complete a court monitored drug treatment program as an alternative to incarceration. Provinces and territories are eligible for federal funding for the development and delivery of these drug treatment courts.

It is important to note that offenders serving sentences in provincial prisons have usually committed less serious crimes—they are therefore sentenced to a maximum of two years less a day—and that alternative sentences may be more appropriate for these offenders than for inmates in federal penitentiaries.

The DTC program has a few conditions, including that the inmate remain in the program for as long as it takes, usually 12 to 18 months, and that the inmate have no further criminal convictions.

DTCs have existed in Quebec since 2012 and have been so successful that they served as a model for a pilot project to address recidivism among drug addicts in France. According to a study by CIRANO published in 2019, Quebec is an example to the world when it comes to rehabilitating its inmates. I have cited this report in the House before because Quebec truly is a role model.

According to the study, Quebec's reintegration programs for inmates in Quebec-run prisons reduce the risk of recidivism and perform significantly better than elsewhere in the world. These reintegration programs, which are not only aimed at drug addicts, reduce the recidivism rate from 50% to 10% among participating inmates. Participation in the program is, of course, voluntary.

In comparison with Quebec programs, it bears mentioning that federal penitentiaries are doing a poor job in facilitating the rehabilitation of inmates. In the Correctional Investigator of Canada's 2020 annual report, and this is something that comes up nearly every year in the correctional investigator's reports, federal inmates do not get training or learn skills that are job relevant and they do not have access to adequate care. In short, they are very ill-equipped to reintegrate civil society.

It should also be noted that indigenous peoples are overrepresented in federal penitentiaries. They account for less than 5% of the Canadian population, but they account for over 32% of the prison population. Substance abuse and the lack of effective treatment programs partially explain this indigenous overrepresentation. That is where Bill C‑283 may make a difference and have a fairly positive impact.

Let us take a closer look at the bill. It has three separate parts and would provide additional tools to help offenders overcome addiction. It adds the possibility for a convicted offender to ask the court to serve their sentence, or a part of it, in custody in a penitentiary designated as an addiction treatment facility if the following conditions are met: The offender was in trouble with the law because of their problematic substance use; the offender consents to participating in the program; the court is satisfied that the request has merit; the offender has not been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 14 years or more; and the offender has not been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more for an offence that resulted in bodily harm, involved drug trafficking or involved the use of a weapon.

The court would then make a recommendation to the Correctional Service of Canada that the inmate be placed in an addiction treatment facility if the inmate meets the criteria mentioned earlier.

The bill would also amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It would provide for the designation of addiction treatment facilities in the act. I was going to talk about that a little more, but I see that I have little time left.

Therefore, I will say right now that the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of the bill at second reading because it is a bill that would actually help rehabilitate inmates. I would remind members that federal penitentiaries have done a very poor job in the area of rehabilitation. I therefore commend my colleague and thank her for proposing this bill, which I hope will be a step in the right direction for offenders in Quebec and Canada.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:15 p.m.


Lisa Marie Barron NDP Nanaimo—Ladysmith, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to first thank the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for putting forward this bill.

In my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith and across Canada, we are losing loved ones at an alarming rate as a result of the toxic substance crisis. Since 2016, more than 30,000 people have died: 30,000 preventable losses. We know the toxic substance crisis does not discriminate or follow political lines. The toxic substance crisis impacts us all in a multitude of ways.

Canadians need all members of this House to unite and move forward with evidence-based solutions to begin addressing this crisis so no more lives are lost.

According to recent reports by Island Health, illicit drug toxicity deaths are in the top two leading causes of death in all age categories, from under 19 up to the age range of 40 to 59. These are people who should have had long lives ahead of them but had them cut short because of toxic substances.

In the last year alone, 80 people died of toxic substances in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, specifically in Nanaimo. These people were somebody's father, brother, daughter, friend or neighbour: 80 people gone and their loved ones left to mourn their tragic loss, all because of toxic substances. This is horrific and inexplicable.

Fortunately, there are good people doing good work. Last month, community members and organizations in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, including the Nanaimo community action team, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Nanaimo Area Network of Drug Users, Nanaimo Brain Injury Society and Naut'sa mawt Community Wellness Network, all came together to continue the work that needs to be done to start saving lives. They brought together community members, including frontline workers, health care professionals, substance users and their families, and even central Vancouver Island's own medical health officer. At one point in this meeting, a speaker stood at the front of the room and asked all those in attendance to say the names of those they lost from the toxic substance crisis. It brought tears to my eyes as the names of loved ones echoed through the room, loved ones taken too soon because help was out of reach.

I, too, shared the names of my loved ones lost, family and friends whose lives were tragically ripped away. This was a stark reminder of what we are talking about today: life-saving and long-overdue supports. It is essential that we take a moment to acknowledge that prevention is key to addressing the crisis.

People are struggling. We have seen significant increases in substance use over the last few years as people struggled with isolation as a result of the pandemic. I saw this first-hand as a former frontline worker in mental health and addictions when COVID-19 first hit our country, with increased barriers in accessing supports and our loved ones separated.

As our communities work to put back the pieces, the cost of living continues to increase. People are struggling to make ends meet. The basic necessities are no longer affordable, such as a place to call home, food on the table and heat to keep warm. Adding to this, health care has hit its breaking point. We see the impacts all around us. The severity and complexity of untreated mental illness being experienced by people in our communities are on the rise. The number of those using substances to get through their day is increasing. Crime in our neighbourhoods, as too many struggle to survive, is happening more and more often. This is all right in front of our eyes in the communities we care about.

People in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith are seeing this all unfold in front of us, and it is heartbreaking. People are reaching out to me, unsure of how they are going to afford their next meal. Others are reaching out fearing for their safety. When I was knocking on doors in downtown Nanaimo last week, resident after resident expressed that they were worried about the increasing number of people struggling around us, living on the streets or on the verge of being without a home.

I made a promise that I would share these concerns and fight for better. Unfortunately, we are dealing with the aftermath of consecutive Liberal and Conservative governments' inaction that has left people behind. Housing is a basic human right. Why have the Liberals allowed loopholes that let housing be used as a stock market for the ultrarich?

Access to head-to-toe care, including mental health supports, is a basic human right. Why have the Liberals followed in the Conservative footsteps by underfunding health care transfers to provinces and territories? Why has not a single dollar of the promised mental health transfers been received to date? This funding would make a huge difference in the lives of many, yet the promised funds still sit unused.

We also know that access to an income that provides, at minimum, the basics that people need to get by is a human right. Why is this government not lifting those with disabilities, seniors left with limited fixed incomes, and families out of poverty with a guaranteed livable basic income?

It is important that we look at the root of the problem before we can effectively address the symptoms. The symptoms are that we have people struggling with substance misuse, increasing mental illness, and increasing crime and incarceration rates. When considering this bill, at a time when so many are struggling, we need to focus on people's access to their basic human rights, if we truly want to put an end to the cycle of crime around us. The barriers in accessing treatment for substance misuse need to be removed, including for those in our penitentiaries. I fully agree that the lack of supports is part of the recidivism that we see in our criminal justice system. This is why everyone should have access to the supports they need that are right for them.

When considering the bill in front of us today, we need to look at what is currently in place and working. Again, in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith, Connective Nanaimo, formerly known as John Howard Society, is doing incredible work to provide restorative recovery supports to those in correctional facilities located in Nanaimo. Through the Guthrie program, those in corrections are offered in-house treatment, which is not only offered within the facility by those trained and qualified to do the work but also stretches into the community, ensuring that the supports continue on as they re-enter the community. Those interested are considered based on their willingness and motivation to do the work required, and the result is a lower incidence of recidivism of participants than their counterparts.

My friend Harry, who is now five years sober and currently working toward his Red Seal ticket in trades, spoke to me last night about his experience as someone who has been in and out of corrections since the age of 16. According to Harry, his entire life trajectory changed when he was offered, and made the decision to participate in, the Guthrie program while in jail, at the age of 38. Harry entered this program knowing only a life of substance use, unable to read and write. While participating in the program, he was provided with, among others, peer recovery programming, counselling to begin addressing the deep-rooted symptoms of trauma, and regular tutoring to learn how to read and write.

Harry said to me that if he had not participated in the Guthrie program, he would probably be in prison or dead. Instead, Harry is proudly sober, sharing his story and helping so many others as a result. Instead of continuing to cycle in and out of jail, Harry is contributing to and is a valued part of our community, showing others struggling with substance misuse that there are options available to them to live happy, healthy lives, if made available to them.

Harry's success is the result of his willingness and strength to fully participate in the programming made available and accessible when he needed it. This programming is evidence-based, delivered by qualified professionals in the field and those with lived experience, and is made available based on need and fit.

This bill, although with good intentions, includes components that are problematic. This bill excludes individuals who are convicted of certain offences, such as drug trafficking. With limited time, I will only say that I have yet to see evidence that would suggest that those who have been charged with trafficking substances would not be successful if willing and able to participate in a good-fit treatment program for substance misuse.

This bill unfortunately assumes a one-size-fits-all program. Again, while the program that Harry attended was successful for him and so many others, we cannot disregard the importance of culturally appropriate, accessible programming that meets people where they are at. Harm reduction and trauma-informed supports save lives.

Moving forward with evidence-based solutions to this toxic substance crisis is vital and life-saving. Unfortunately, this bill, although I am sure well-intentioned, misses the mark. My hope, however, is that this important debate helps to apply the pressure needed to finally light the fire under the Liberals to do what is needed with the investment required to save lives.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:25 p.m.


Raquel Dancho Conservative Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, from January 2016 to June 2022, over 32,000 Canadians died of opioid overdoses. We have thousands of people federally incarcerated in Canada, and about 70% of them deal with substance use issues. We have a very serious threat to public safety and to the health of Canadians on our hands.

I know that all parties in this House want to see recidivism rates and addiction rates reduced, want to save lives and want to keep our communities safe. However, we have very different approaches for how we get that accomplished. I think the debate today has been very illuminating, and I appreciate the perspectives of all parties, but I do think the Conservative approach is a solid one and I applaud the members who brought it forward.

As I mentioned, there are over 30,000 people who have died just of opioid overdoses in the last number of years. We have many people in federal penitentiaries who are addicted to drugs. In fact, since the pandemic, we have about 20 people a day who die of opioid overdoses. It is getting far worse. Looking back to 2016, there were about eight people a day. That was already terrible, but now, just a few years later, it is 20 people a day.

I hear from my constituents all the time. I have visited communities across the country and tent cities. There is open, dangerous drug use on the streets, violent crime and petty crime, and deaths of loved ones from drug addiction. It is impacting every single neighbourhood in this country. It is a growing problem. We can see it with our own eyes. We see it when we look at the news every morning. There is headline after headline about theft, petty crime and violent, repeat offenders hurting innocent Canadians. I do believe these are all linked.

If we look at crime rings and gangs, the purpose of these, more often than not, in the gang culture is to sell drugs and protect their drug territory from other gangs. We have this criminal network in Canada that is highly incentivized to push very dangerous drugs on people and get them highly addicted so the gangs can make money. Then they violently protect their drug turf using illegally smuggled firearms and 3D-printed firearms. We see this cycle of violence and addiction impacting the vulnerable people in this country.

The direction of this has only gotten worse under the current government. Unfortunately, over 32,000 people have died of opioid overdoses alone in the last number of years. Of course, violent, repeat offenders are intimately tied to gangs, drug trafficking and taking advantage of vulnerable people with addictions. We have seen an increase in violent crime from those repeat, violent offenders, who are getting out on bail more easily than ever because of the regime brought forward by the Liberal government.

Today, we have the opportunity to do something real about this and end the revolving door of inmates in and out of prison. This is a huge issue. Part of what is happening is that we have highly addicted individuals who commit crimes, go to prison and do not receive the treatment they need to recover.

This bill is called the “ending the revolving door act”, and I think that is something we can all get on board with, if not for the benefit of compassion for those who are in our penitentiaries and addicted to substances, then for the taxpayer, because it costs a lot of money when an inmate is in and out of prison over and over again. It would also make our penitentiaries and the corrections staff who work in them safer. If we have individuals who are dealing with substance abuse, which can often manifest in violent ways, and if we can get them rehabilitated, it is even better for everyone.

This bill has lofty and high goals that I very much support. It goes about it in a very smart way. In particular, the legislation would allow for a part of the federal penitentiary to be turned into a rehabilitation facility. Let us turn part of our existing penitentiary infrastructure into a rehab, given the high number of inmates addicted to substances. I think that is a great idea. Inmates are there anyway. Let us have an intensive option where, if they choose to, they can get some rehab and perhaps recover from their addictions. When they are released from the penitentiary, they have a much better opportunity and much better chance of living a fulsome, law-abiding life if they receive the care, support and compassion they need.

Ultimately, the bill is designed very well, in the sense that it is the judge's discretion, which I think is important in this regard, and it is only for non-violent crimes. We are not talking about folks with life sentences. We are talking about low-level crimes for which people are committed to federal penitentiaries. That is important, especially as a start for this. Let us see how it goes. If it works really well, great, we can talk about different expansions, if that is what is needed. I think this is a great place to start, and it is the safest place to start this very innovative idea.

It is up to the judge and then ultimately it is up to the individual. People are given a choice and then they can choose if they want to go to the rehab part of the facility. They still have to serve the same amount of time, but it is in a part of the facility that is built for that rehab. That is really great if we are of the opinion and the philosophy that we want people who have substance use issues to access recovery and fully recover and live fulsome lives, which is certainly the Conservative Party's perspective. Addiction is a mental health issue, and we can help a lot more people if there is a lot more access to mental health and rehabilitation supports.

To get right to the source, I have visited federal penitentiaries and they are very tough places to be. I recommend that every legislator in this place go to visit a federal penitentiary. The older penitentiaries, especially, are not places that were built for, or are conducive to, rehabilitation. It is a great idea that we could redesign those structures to support those who need extra compassion, mental health care and rehab supports. They are there anyway, so, if the judge decided it was safe, giving them some freedom to access rehabilitation and to get a real shot at recovering would be good for them and good for their loved ones, who want to see them survive. Ultimately, it is good for them when they are released from a federal penitentiary.

I mentioned at the beginning that I think all parties have the ultimate goal of reducing recidivism, which is very high, costly to the taxpayer, and very harmful to the individual who is in and out of jail over and over again. I think everyone agrees that it is not great, so let us fix it.

Everybody in the House talks repeatedly about addictions and how many people have died. What we do not have in common is how we all approach that. However, I think that the way the bill is structured, it offers an innovative solution to this that could be supported by all parties, if they want to give it a shot and say “why not?” This could be a real option to save lives and to support a reduction in recidivism rates.

One thing that the Liberals have done, which would be their solution to the issues that I and others outlined today regarding this bill and the goal it is trying to solve, is something that I cannot get behind: the prison needle exchange program. I visited penitentiaries where corrections officers are being told that this is coming to them from the federal government. There have been test runs in some penitentiaries as well.

The federal government is facilitating needle kits for federal inmates to inject drugs while in jail. They are not allowed to have drugs. The drugs are illegally smuggled into jails through criminal networks and then inmates inject them. The Liberal idea is to provide clean needle kits to reduce the spread of diseases, which is a good goal. However, in many cases, we are talking about providing the most dangerous people in Canada with, for all intents and purposes, tiny knives that they could put their own blood into, or a whole host of liquid substances, and they could use them to hurt themselves, corrections officers and other inmates.

Corrections officers have spoken to me about their fears with respect to this, and inmates themselves are very concerned. In fact, a women's federal penitentiary in Alberta has written a very strong petition to the federal government pleading and demanding that it does not introduce those needles into their prisons. The women inmates themselves are saying they would not feel safe and they do not want them, yet it is coming. I am very concerned about that and about the safety of our corrections officers.

I feel that this bill is designed in a way that is not supposed to be divisive. It is an innovative idea. I think we should all be able to get behind it. It is an approach that is safe and is focused on safety. It would turn part of a federal penitentiary into something very positive: a rehabilitation facility. I very much support that and the ultimate objective of reducing recidivism and improving recovery rates for inmates and the vulnerable populations there.

I would like to thank the members for Kelowna—Lake Country and Kootenay—Columbia for their hard work on this bill. It is a Conservative bill. I am very proud of my colleagues.

With my last 20 seconds, I would like to thank all of the corrections officers and parole officers in this country, who put their lives on the line to keep us safe and to do the hard work to help rehabilitate our inmates.

To conclude, I would like to acknowledge the two Edmonton police officers who were recently killed on the job: Constable Travis Jordan, who was 35 years old; and Constable Brett Ryan, who was 30 years old. We have incredibly hard-working men and women in our justice system, and it is always tragic when we have deaths. I want to acknowledge that we are thinking about their families.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

March 22nd, 2023 / 1:35 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge Park Ontario


Gary Anandasangaree LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, let me begin by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional unceded lands of the Algonquin Anishinabe people.

I am pleased to join in the debate today as we progress to the second reading of Bill C-283, regarding addiction treatment in penitentiaries. I thank the member for Kelowna—Lake Country for her advocacy on this important issue and for her hard work. As the member has noted, this bill aims to expand sentencing options to help address the root causes of criminal offending through treatment.

Our government is committed to protecting the health and safety of all Canadians, including those who are incarcerated and struggling with substance abuse issues. As my colleagues would agree, these issues cannot be addressed in isolation. Substance use is a social and health issue that intersects clearly with systemic racism and inequities. That is what I would like to focus on today.

The Minister of Public Safety's December 2021 mandate letter reaffirmed the requirement to continue to combat systemic racism and discrimination in the criminal justice system. This includes supporting work to address systemic racism and the overrepresentation of Black, indigenous and racialized Canadians within the criminal justice system.

The Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada introduced Bill C-5, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, last December. It received royal assent, and we are hopeful that it will make a significant impact in our criminal justice system in addressing these issues. Bill C-5 aims to restore judicial discretion to impose fit sentences and to address overincarceration rates among indigenous and Black persons, and members of marginalized communities who are overrepresented among those convicted of certain drug- and firearm-related offences. Harms related to substance use would be treated as a health and social use rather a criminal one.

The Minister of Public Safety, in concert with the provincial and territorial colleagues, addressed many of these important matters head-on at recent meetings of ministers responsible for justice and public safety. Work is under way to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act, across the country and within provincial and territorial jurisdictions. Excellent collaboration continues with the FPT working group on the development of the indigenous justice strategy and in addressing systemic discrimination and overrepresentation of indigenous persons within the criminal justice system.

The ministers also affirmed, in light of the James Smith Cree Nation tragedy last year, the need to work with indigenous leaders to ensure their communities are safe and supported. The ministers agreed to collaborate on the development and implement of the Canada's Black justice strategy to address anti-Black racism and discrimination within Canada's policing and criminal justice system.

Another key priority was the ongoing opioid crisis. Again, substance use is a public health issue that must be balanced with public safety. In practice, that means diverting individuals away from the criminal justice system at an early stage, through rehabilitative and treatment programs or increased use of conditional sentences.

Our government is very much seized with the work to both build safer communities and help break the cycle of substance-related harms by addressing the root causes of criminality. On its surface, Bill C-283 appears to have the same goals. It proposes to offer offenders the possibility of serving all or part of their sentences in a designated addiction treatment facility.

Let us examine some of the bill's unfortunate oversights and exceptions. Proposed section 743.11 would stipulate that those whose offences carry a maximum penalty of 14 years' imprisonment or life in prison, and those who have committed offences resulting in bodily harm, involving a weapon, or drug trafficking or production, would not be eligible to serve their sentences in a designated addiction treatment facility. This is a problem.

With respect to overrepresentation, Bill C-283 runs counter to our goals. We know that indigenous and Black persons are overrepresented in federal penitentiaries. According to the data, over 68% of indigenous women in custody are serving a federal sentence of more than 10 years. Black offenders represent the largest proportion, 42%, of offenders convicted of importing or exporting drugs.

Overall, Black and indigenous persons tend to be subject to longer sentences, and I invite members opposite to look at the Auditor General's report on corrections, released late last year, which talked about systemic racism. It is, therefore, clear that Bill C-283 would exclude some of the most vulnerable and overrepresented members of the custody population, those who, in fact, may be most directly in need of treatment and rehabilitation.

In addition, proposed paragraph 743.11(1)(a) of the bill would require the offender to show evidence of repeated good behaviour in order to indicate that substance use has contributed to their actions. Here is yet another barrier to accessing treatment for incarcerated people. Not everyone who needs support and services may have a history or a pattern of behaviour: for example, those who have only recently begun using opioids.

This could also represent a prohibitively expensive burden for offenders who do not have the means to provide submissions established in their history or repeated behaviour. Bill C-283 would therefore not only make those individuals ineligible for treatment, through no fault of their own, but also create significant issues of inequity, with BIPOC and socio-economically disadvantaged offenders being denied services at a disproportionate rate.

This bill flies in the face of the Minister of Public Safety's December 2021 mandate letter, which reaffirmed the need to continue to combat systemic racism and discrimination in the criminal justice system. It is also misaligned with Correctional Service Canada's commitment to addressing the overincarceration of indigenous peoples. Again, that is why our government introduced Bill C-5, to treat harms related to substance use as a health and social issue and not a criminal one. Ultimately, the measures in Bill C-5 will help address overincarceration rates among indigenous and racialized persons convicted of certain drug- and firearms-related offences. In contrast, Bill C-283 would undermine these goals.

Despite its veneer of concern for the health and safety of offenders who use substances, this bill is not designed to help those who need it the most. I encourage all members to join me in voicing their concerns about this bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Maxime Blanchette-Joncas Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-283. This legislation would allow a federal inmate to be sent to an addiction treatment facility.

Under this legislation, the courts must assess these cases and ensure that certain eligibility requirements are met, including the following: Problematic substance use has contributed to the offender's involvement in the criminal justice system; the offender consents to participating in the treatment program; the court is satisfied that the application has merit; the offender has not been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 14 years or more; the offender has not been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more for an offence that resulted in bodily harm, involved drug trafficking or involved the use of a weapon.

Bill C-283 also amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide for the designation of a penitentiary or any area within a penitentiary as an addiction treatment facility.

The purpose of an addiction treatment facility is to provide inmates with access to treatment programs in relation to their problematic substance use as well as to other related services that respond to their specific needs.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I will be voting in favour of Bill C-283 at second reading because we believe that it could help rehabilitate inmates struggling with addiction.

Rehabilitation is one of the key pillars of our justice system, and it is our duty to do everything we can to enable as many people as possible to reach that goal. Rehabilitation is also a way to give a second chance to citizens who have made mistakes in the past.

Experience has shown that shutting out an entire segment of the population from our society and our community indefinitely is not beneficial to anyone—not to them and not to us. On the contrary, it only replicates and reinforces the conditions that give rise to crime in the first place.

One thing is clear: A healthy, prosperous, and compassionate democracy requires rehabilitation and inclusion. Unfortunately, right now, federal penitentiaries have a dismal record of rehabilitating inmates struggling with addiction.

In Quebec, in 2014, 58% of prisoners in federal institutions were found to have a history of addiction. I will say it again: 58%. We are not talking about a marginal or minority phenomenon, but rather a widespread scourge that contributes to keeping inmates in a state of dependence, precariousness and vulnerability.

Many experts have in fact established that addiction is the catalyst that drives many Canadians to commit a first offence or to be repeatedly incarcerated.

One would think that imprisonment and the isolation that comes with it would help inmates struggling with addiction to go through proper withdrawal during their incarceration, but the reality is something else altogether.

According to correctional workers, it is shocking how easy it is to get drugs in prison. Those seeking psychoactive substances can use an underground network to find whatever they need to feed their drug habits.

Delivery of these substances and other prohibited items has become much more difficult to control since the advent of drones. Because they are small and make virtually no noise, they can deliver small items by air and are almost undetectable.

New drone detection technologies are now being implemented. However, Frédérick Lebeau, president of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers is under no illusions.

Drugs will continue to find their way into prisons one way or another. Knowing that, it would be unrealistic to think that jail time will solve an inmate's substance abuse problems. Quite the opposite. It is the federal government's responsibility to provide resources for supervision and control, but more importantly for coaching and assistance so that detention facilities can help inmates make lasting lifestyle changes.

The federal government is already funding some initiatives in this respect, including the drug treatment court funding program, commonly referred to as DTCs, which offers offenders with addictions issues the opportunity to undergo drug treatment as an alternative to a prison sentence. Quebec, other provinces and the territories may receive funding under this program to implement DTCs.

An important distinction must be made, however. Inmates serving sentences in provincial prisons have typically committed less serious offences, given that they were sentenced to a maximum of two years less a day. It is therefore easier to justify alternative sentences for them than for inmates in federal penitentiaries.

Still, it cannot be denied that DTCs have had a very positive impact since they were implemented in 2012. Quebec's successful rollout got people talking, even across the Atlantic. France based its pilot project for countering recidivism among drug users directly on our DTCs.

More broadly, DTCs are part of Quebec's wider rehabilitation strategy, which is delivering impressive results. By combining all of these rehabilitation programs, Quebec has reduced the recidivism rate from 50% to 10% among inmates who choose to participate. I am sure my colleagues will all agree that that is quite a feat.

Hundreds of Quebeckers decided to accept the Quebec government's help so they could get their lives back on track and live free.

That is why the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C‑238, introduced by my Conservative colleague from Kelowna—Lake Country. We think this bill should be studied in committee to ensure that it is effective and to determine what improvements need to be made so that it has a lasting, positive impact on those it affects.

We believe in rehabilitation, we believe in inclusion, but above all, we believe in human justice.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:50 p.m.


Laila Goodridge Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Madam Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House to speak to the private member's bill of my colleague, the member for Kelowna—Lake Country, the end the revolving door act.

This legislation proposes critical amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code of Canada that would expand access for substance use treatment in federal facilities across the country. I was really disappointed when hearing some of the speeches, particularly from members of the governing Liberal Party, stating that this is simply a veneer. I really think it highlights the fact that they do not truly understand the crippling impacts addiction has on our communities, in our neighbourhoods and across the country. Addiction is such a serious issue that affects individuals from all walks of life, and the harms and costs have only increased as years go by.

One of the flashpoints of our addiction crisis across this country is in Canada's correctional facilities. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction found that over 75% of individuals arriving at Canadian federal institutions have a serious substance use problem. Within that alarming statistic, there is an overrepresentation of indigenous offenders. The Correctional Service of Canada found that 94% of incarcerated indigenous women present a substance use disorder compared to 71% of non-indigenous female offenders, and the figures are 86% of indigenous males compared to 68% of non-indigenous male offenders.

Given the interplay between addiction and criminal behaviour, intergenerational trauma and recidivism, it is urgent that we look at actually allowing these people to heal, to find a space for healing. Having recovery, rehabilitation and reintegration in a correctional facility is a very good step toward dealing with the root cause of this.

Conservatives firmly believe that addiction is a health condition and that recovery is possible. It has been exceptionally clear that the Liberal-NDP approach to addiction has failed. It has flooded our streets with more drugs, leading to more addictions, which lead to more death, more despair and, unfortunately, more crime. The sad reality is that, without meaningful change to the government’s approach, people with severe mental health problems and addictions will continue re-entering our system without receiving the proper treatment.

The solution from the government has been, as one of my colleagues pointed out, the needle exchange program, which has created all kinds of fears from a variety of correctional institutions. It has not solved the problem. People in correctional facilities are not supposed to be using drugs, yet the government is facilitating the use of illegal substances while they are in our correctional facilities, rather than offering them treatment options. This is putting the cart before the horse and losing the plot on what the issue is.

It is so encouraging that we are finally seeing some evidence-based opioid agonist therapy being offered to some offenders in correctional facilities, but it is worth pointing out there are significant barriers within the system that create lengthy wait times, inconsistent procedures and difficulties obtaining entry that vary from facility to facility. We know, through evidence-based procedures, that opioid agonist therapies such as Suboxone, Sublocade and methadone can help someone find recovery, yet there are barriers in place in our correctional facilities to allowing people to access these forms of treatment. It is worth pointing out that they can do more when it comes to these kinds of things.

I wish I had more time to go through some of the statistics, facts and figures we have collected on how serious the addiction issue is in our criminal system, but if there is one thing I could leave every member of the House with, it is that we have an option right now. We have an ability to make a difference in people's lives. We have a captive audience and we can provide an option to people to be able to get the treatment and help they so desperately need and help them get their lives back, rather than keeping them in a revolving door.

I would urge everyone to vote in favour of this wonderful bill.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The hon. member for Kelowna—Lake Country has five minutes for her right of reply.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Tracy Gray Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to my private member's bill, Bill C-283, the “end the revolving door” act, once again.

I want to thank the member for Kootenay—Columbia for his initial work and research on this legislation during the previous Parliament, and my colleagues who have spoken to the bill. I also want to thank those who work in law enforcement and the criminal justice system. I hope we can move forward with this legislation to provide the Standing Committee on Public Safety the opportunity to study how this can improve our justice system and give people hope to recover from addiction.

Kelowna—Lake Country residents, the people of British Columbia, and Canadians from coast to coast to coast have seen first-hand the devastating impact the addiction crisis has had on families, communities and the individuals themselves. Residents in my community want people to be held accountable for their actions, while at the same time to have compassion and get addiction and recovery help to those who need it.

My “end the revolving door” act is an opportunity for parliamentarians of every political stripe to come together to move forward with a common sense approach to improving our justice system and helping those struggling with addiction. No one piece of legislation can serve as the panacea for those who are repeatedly re-entering the criminal justice system who have mental health and/or addiction challenges.

This legislation offers an additional tool to help reduce recidivism, address our mental health and addiction crisis, and improve the public safety of our communities. Expanding the sentencing options available in our justice system and assisting those whose lives have been ravaged by addiction is the right thing to do. No one is served when repeat reoffenders are in a revolving door system where it is reported that more than 70% of those sentenced to federal penitentiaries have addiction issues.

We must ensure that the effort of curative treatment is focused and provided for those who have found themselves incarcerated and who want help to turn their lives around. A dedicated addiction treatment facility operating inside an existing Correctional Service of Canada facility would help support this work. Many who work around the criminal justice system have told me that this would put a stop to the revolving door for many.

I want to thank those who have supported this legislation, from the national level to my backyard, who think we should not waste one moment to move forward. The City of Kelowna mayor and council passed a motion unanimously supporting this legislation.

Lissa Dawn Smith, president of Métis Nation British Columbia, said that Métis Nation BC strongly supports the implementation of more effective addiction and mental health services within the federal penitentiary system through Bill C-283. It knows that Métis people are over-represented in the correctional system and that Justice Canada needs more tools in its tool kit to address the root causes of incarceration.

Tom Smithwick, founder of Freedom's Door, which is a vital organization dedicated to hope and healing for those suffering from addiction, including those recently released from incarceration, expressed how it makes sense to start a recovery process while incarcerated. He said, “The whole system would save money. The human need would be met. There totally is hope”.

It is in that spirit that I hope Parliament moves to advance this common sense legislation to the Standing Committee of Public Safety for further study. I hope that we will not waste this crucial opportunity that we have as elected representatives to help reduce recidivism, give hope and healing to those struggling with addiction, and end the revolving door.

Therefore, I move:

That, notwithstanding any Standing Order, special order or usual practice of the House, if a recorded division is requested today in regard to the second reading of Bill C-283, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (addiction treatment in penitentiaries), it shall be deferred to the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions later today.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

All those opposed to the hon. member moving the motion will please say nay.

The House has heard the terms of the motion. All those opposed to the motion will please say nay.

(Motion agreed to)

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

The question is on the motion.

If a member of a recognized party present in the House wishes that the motion be carried or carried on division or wishes to request a recorded division, I would invite them to rise and indicate it to the Chair.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


Sherry Romanado Liberal Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne, QC

Madam Speaker, I request a recorded division.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

2 p.m.


The Assistant Deputy Speaker NDP Carol Hughes

Pursuant to the order made earlier today, the recorded division stands deferred until later today at the expiry of the time provided for Oral Questions.

Canada-U.S. RelationsStatements by Members

2 p.m.


Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Madam Speaker, on Friday we will welcome to Parliament U.S. President Joe Biden to strengthen the unbreakable bond between our two countries. Border communities like mine rely on that relationship more than any other. From 80% to 90% of what we manufacture and what we grow is exported to the Midwest and beyond.

There are 1,600 Windsorites who cross the border every day to care for Americans, and they kept crossing every day during the worst of the pandemic. We cross the border to visit family, go shopping and attend concerts, so we welcome President Biden and the First Lady to Canada.

We are celebrating the rise of a new auto industry in North America, a battery belt up and down the Mississippi River that connects new battery and electric vehicle plants in Windsor and St. Thomas to factories in Michigan and Georgia. We say to our American friends that we are in fact stronger when we work together to lift American and Canadian workers and families on both sides of the border.

Alberta's Film and Television IndustryStatements by Members

2 p.m.


John Barlow Conservative Foothills, AB

Madam Speaker, I am imploring my constituents to run and get out while they can. Southern Alberta has been infested. Foothills has been overrun by clickers, bloaters, raiders and runners, and they are spreading like a fungus, decimating communities such as Fort Macleod, High River, Nanton, Waterton and Kananaskis.

The Last of Us is a global phenomenon that has toppled the Super Bowl, the Oscars and the Grammys, and more than 40 million people have watched the first episode. This has been an economic boom for Foothills because people from around the world are tuning in to see what is going to happen with Joel and Ellie in their harrowing adventures across Canada.

This world phenomenon is also successful because of an incredible group of talented people, many of whom call Foothills home. Not only has this HBO series highlighted and showcased our iconic landscapes, but it has also highlighted our incredible talent. I want to take this opportunity to thank the wonderfully creative people in all of our communities for making Alberta's film and television industry such a massive success. I invite all members to tune in to what is going on in the Foothills, if they dare.

World Tuberculosis DayStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this Friday, March 24, marks World Tuberculosis Day.

TB continues to infect people around the world and right here at home. In Canada, people affected by TB are mostly newcomers or indigenous peoples. Inuit communities are especially affected, with rates of tuberculosis over 280 times greater than non-indigenous peoples.

Today I want to let Canadians from coast to coast to coast know that ending tuberculosis is possible, but we must continue the fight against this debilitating disease. We have the ability to end TB in indigenous communities, ensure the health of newcomers to Canada and save millions of lives around the world.

I give a special shout-out to people such as those at Results Canada for doing grassroots work on this. I thank them. Their hard work does not go unnoticed. I would also like to invite all hon. members to a reception tomorrow morning at 8 a.m. to raise awareness on the domestic and global impacts of TB.

Quebec Social Workers' WeekStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Claude DeBellefeuille Bloc Salaberry—Suroît, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week, we celebrate the expertise of nearly 16,000 professionals, my fellow social workers.

Social workers can be found in schools, in hospitals, in local community service centres, in shelters, at police stations, in prisons, at community organizations and right here in Parliament. Wherever they go, these agents of change are making things better. They care about every individual's aspirations.

Whether they are working with children, seniors, people with disabilities, or those with different life trajectories, social workers do what they do best, without passing judgment: They take the time to focus on the human in front of them, help them out of their difficulties and empower them. Social workers everywhere are doing good in our world, improving our communities every day and fighting for greater social justice.

I want to thank all these esteemed “SWs” and wish them a happy social workers' week.

Tragic Events in QuebecStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Rachel Bendayan Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, over the past few weeks, Quebec has been hit by one incomprehensible tragedy after another: the day care tragedy in Laval, the truck attack in Amqui, the carnage in Rosemont, the fire in Old Montreal. Furthermore, just a few days ago, an 18-year-old man was shot and killed while walking down the street in Anjou. So many places and communities in Quebec have witnessed tragic events.

I believe I speak for all of us in the House when I say to the grieving families, friends and loved ones that, while we cannot ease their pain, we share it, and our hearts go out to them.

We do not have all the answers, but together we will get through this and find solutions.

Liberal Party of CanadaStatements by Members

2:05 p.m.


Tony Baldinelli Conservative Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, after eight years of a Liberal government, groceries, gas and home heating are getting more and more expensive. If that were not bad enough, on April 1 taxes on gasoline are going up 14¢ a litre, while the escalator tax on wine, beer and spirits is also set to rise by 6.3%. That is no cruel April Fool's joke. In Niagara and across the country, these taxes will punish wineries, craft breweries, distilleries and anyone who enjoys consuming these wonderful Canadian-made products.

There are serious consequences to the government spending the cupboards bare while leaving Canadians with the expensive bills to pay. What will happen to the much-vaunted federal tourism growth strategy, and what of the wine sector support program? Our tourism operators, grape growers and wineries deserve so much better from the government.

It is time for the tired Liberals to step aside so a Conservative government can lead and create the changes needed such that Canadians can finally get ahead.