Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, or the Drug-Free Prisons Act.
The bill would add to the act a provision confirming that, when deciding whether someone is eligible for parole, the parole board may take into account the fact that the offender tested positive in a urinalysis or refused to provide a urine sample for a drug test. The new provision would give clear legal validity to a practice that we support and is already in place.
Bill C-12's title is misleading. Indeed, apart from giving legal validity to urine tests, it does not offer any real strategy to make prisons drug-free. Rather than providing a concrete solution, for example by investing in inmate rehabilitation, Bill C-12 simply enshrines in law what is already the current practice.
The NDP has always supported measures aimed at making prisons safer. However, it is a shame to see that, in this bill as in so many other government bills, the Conservatives keep ignoring recommendations. In this specific case, they are ignoring recommendations from corrections staff and the correctional investigator that would really help curb violence, gang activity and drug use in the prison system.
The fact is that the Conservatives are making prisons less safe, since they keep reducing investments in key corrections programs like drug addiction treatment, as well as increasing double-bunking, which leads to more prison violence.
Our role as parliamentarians is to worry about the safety of our communities first, by promoting the reintegration of offenders and preparing them to become part of the community again by helping them become free from drugs and taking preventive measures to reduce the risk of recidivism.
None of this is included in Bill C-12, and in my opinion this is a serious shortcoming. To be clear, the stakeholders agree that this bill will have virtually no impact on drug use in prison.
Like so many other government bills, Bill C-12 is just a dog and pony show that plays well to the Conservative base, but offers no actual solution to the problems caused by drugs and gangs in prisons.
However, we must give credit where credit is due. The Conservatives are excellent illusionists. They would make Criss Angel and David Copperfield green with envy. In today's episode, entitled Bill C-12, they are still trying to hide the emptiness of their bills by giving them misleading titles that play well to diehard Conservatives. However, behind this legislation there is a complete vacuum that only worsens the problems they want to address.
In this case, Bill C-12 misses another important problem. Indeed, the Conservatives' misguided approach to public safety, which we also saw with Bill C-2, will significantly increase the collateral harm from addiction, instead of reducing it, as the bill claims to do.
Any government with the least bit of sense, vision and compassion would invest, through Bill C-12, in programs providing support to offenders with drug problems.
This may be hard to believe, but under this government, the budget allocated to the Correctional Service of Canada to be used for basic correctional programs, such as drug treatment, was reduced, while some treatment centres for inmates with mental health disorders were even closed.
The ideological inconsistencies that guide the course of this government are frightening. As an example of such an inconsistency, note that the government passed legislation imposing mandatory minimums, while at the same time it closed numerous prisons.
That leads to the very controversial and dubious policy of double-bunking, which inevitably results in a substantial increase in the number of violent incidents and puts prisoners' lives in danger. It also put the lives of the prison staff in danger.
If the government really wants to address the issue of drug addiction in prison, instead of making a lot of noise and getting terrible results, it must allow Correctional Service Canada to develop an intake assessment process that would allow CSC to correctly determine how many prisoners have addiction issues and offer adequate programs to offenders in need who want to get off drugs. Otherwise, without addiction treatment, education and an appropriate reintegration process on their release, prisoners run a high risk of returning to a life of crime and victimizing other individuals when they get out of prison.
Clearly, the term “prevention” is not part of the Conservatives' vocabulary. That is too bad. The government claims to be tough on crime, but the best way to reduce crime in society is through prevention and awareness, not wishful thinking.
Despite all the bill's flaws or, rather, its lack of content and solutions and its very limited scope, the NDP will support Bill C-12. The NDP is committed to supporting cost-effective measures that are designed to punish criminals and improve prison safety.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of this government, which governs from an ideological standpoint instead of relying on facts and reality. As we can see with this bill and Bill C-2, where the government did not even bother to have someone try to explain their indefensible legislation, we need to move towards a corrections system that offers effective rehabilitation programs such as addiction treatment and support programs so that it is easier to reintegrate prisoners into society upon their release. That is the only way to lower the recidivism rate and really address the issue of repeat offenders.
Even the Correctional Investigator has said—in not one report, but multiple ones—that it could have some unintended consequences on the correctional system if simplistic and narrow solutions are used to address the very complex problem of drug addiction in prison. He suggests taking meaningful action, such as conducting an initial assessment of detainees when they are integrated into correctional programs, in order to curb their drug addiction problem and give them better access to detox programs, which would help reduce drug consumption and gang activity in prison.
Those are the kinds of proactive prevention measures the NDP believes are necessary to truly fix the problem of drug addiction in our prisons.
In conclusion, we will support Bill C-12, since it essentially reinforces the legal significance of a practice that already exists in our prisons. However, we believe that Bill C-12 lacks teeth and substance. We believe that this kind of bill must include solutions to prevent drug addiction and treat drug addicts in our prisons if we truly want to help detainees reintegrate into society and not just find an easy way to please voters.