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Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was actually.

Last in Parliament October 2019, as Liberal MP for Winnipeg Centre (Manitoba)

Lost his last election, in 2019, with 34% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Petitions October 29th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to present a petition on behalf of the people of Winnipeg Centre regarding Falun Dafa, which is practised in Canada and China.

The petition calls on the Government of Canada to condemn the illegal arrests of Canadian citizens for practising Falun Dafa. It also calls for Canadian citizen Qian Sun to be released from prison.

Filipino Heritage Month October 25th, 2018

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Tagalog and provided the following translation:]

[English]

Hello, I am the member for Winnipeg Centre. I am proud to represent my fellow Winnipeg citizens. They work hard. They make a difference. Filipinos are Winnipeg.

The first Filipinos immigrated to Canada in the 1930s. In the 1950s, 10 Filipinos were recorded in Manitoba. The first generation of Filipino Canadians were working as nurses, teachers and other professions in the health sector. By the 1970s, most Filipinos came to Winnipeg to work in health, clerical, sales and manufacturing fields. By the late 1970s, more Filipinos came to join relatives under the family unification programs the Canadian government had put forward.

During the 1980s, Canada saw another wave of Filipino contract workers, with many employed as live-in caregivers.

The Filipino people have made an important contribution to the life of Manitoba and Canada. There are over 80,000 people of Filipino heritage in Winnipeg. These are our fellow citizens who make a difference each and every day to the people of Winnipeg and Winnipeg Centre. Around one out of 10 Filipino people in Canada call Winnipeg home.

The Filipino community has a centre in Winnipeg called the Philippine Canadian Centre of Manitoba. It provides services to the Filipino community and supports events, like Folkorama. The Filipino community is so important to Winnipeg because, for instance, Folkorama, a major cultural event, would not be able to go forward without the volunteerism and activism of the Filipino people.

In Winnipeg, they are involved in the newspaper business, as journalists, reporting on local news but also international news. We have the Pilipino Express News Magazine, the Filipino Journal, the Ang Peryodiko and Artista. There is also a radio station, CKJS, which offers much Filipino information, broadcasting and servicing Filipino people in their language.

I have had the opportunity, since being the member of Parliament for Winnipeg Centre, to stand next to my brothers and sisters from the Filipino community and to hear about their dreams and wishes. The Winnipeg Filipino population is largely concentrated in the north end of Winnipeg North and also the west end. In Winnipeg Centre, the neighbourhood around Sargent Avenue and Arlington is 45% Filipino. In the neighbourhood around Sargent Avenue and Wall Street, it is 47% Filipino.

I have held a town hall in my riding on Filipino issues. I have also had the opportunity of travelling to the Philippines to meet with senators and congressmen and women from there, learning about what we can do in Canada to work better together to ensure trade and jobs and ensure that more people can have a good and safe life in Canada.

The Filipino community contributes to the economy. They are hard workers. They are involved in our churches. They make a difference. The hardest workers come from the Philippines. It is an honour and I am proud to serve my fellow citizens of Filipino heritage.

Salamat.

Filipino Heritage Month October 25th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would like to share my time with the hon. member for Steveston—Richmond East.

Elections Modernization Act October 25th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, the people of Winnipeg believe that the strength of our democracy depends on the participation of as many Canadians as possible. This bill would undo many of the unfair aspects of the Harper government's unfair elections act, as we would be making it easier and more convenient for Canadians to vote. We would be making the electoral process more accessible to Canadians with disabilities, caregivers and members of the Canadian Armed Forces, and we would be restoring voting rights to more than one million Canadians living abroad. This bill would strengthen our laws, close loopholes, bring in a more robust enforcement regime and would make it more difficult for bad actors to influence our elections.

After the 2015 election, the Chief Electoral Officer made over 130 recommendations on ways to improve how our democracy functions. After careful study and consideration by parliamentary committees both in the House and the Senate, and with the input of experts from across Canada, the Government of Canada introduced the elections modernization act. Could the minister speak about the deadline we face with the next election, as well as the 130 recommendations made by the Chief Electoral Officer and how we have implemented most of them?

Request for Emergency Debate October 22nd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I humbly request the holding of an emergency debate in the House of Commons on the issue of drug addiction, and specifically on methamphetamine, commonly referred to as meth.

We are facing a crisis in cities, rural communities and indigenous communities in the Prairies. We are suffering greatly in places like Edmonton, Calgary, Saskatoon, Regina, Winnipeg, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury and in rural communities and indigenous communities, and we are only in the early stages of a major addiction crisis. As an example, Winnipeg has seen a significant increase in the number of violent crimes. Recently, a professor at Red River College, in Winnipeg, was violently assaulted and is in critical condition. This is not the only case such as this. There are numerous other examples, which I have highlighted in my letter to you, Mr. Speaker. All these cases are related to meth.

Meth is a cheap drug that offers an easy, long high. Because of the inexpensive nature of meth, those who are poor, marginal and vulnerable prefer this drug over others. As a result, drug supply chains have increased access to and supply of this drug. Currently the market is being flooded with meth from Mexico. According to Winnipeg mayor Brian Bowman, meth is being produced in large factories in Mexico and is being sold cheaply to create addicts.

At the federal level, we have an important role to play in coordinating this issue. While emergency debates are extraordinary, I feel that the situation has changed from a long-term issue to an issue that requires the active attention of the House of Commons.

I represent a very poor inner-city riding. This riding has a high percentage of people living in poverty, those with disabilities, newcomers and indigenous peoples. Some feel the impact of their poverty in a negative way and use drugs, alcohol and other solvents to self-medicate.

I have never been unsafe in my riding. Recently, though, I have started to feel unsafe. In my office in the past two weeks, I have had one staff member assaulted, one physically threatened, and one placed in a dangerous, sexually charged situation. I now have staff members who refuse to be alone in the office or to have the doors unlocked.

I am often alone in my office late at night, and in the last three weeks, I have had what I would deem interesting yet uncomfortable encounters with citizens who were high on meth. Daily I can see people walking around high on meth, being arrested in front of my office, running naked through traffic, stealing, and assaulting others, causing a sense of unease. My office is not even in the most affected area of our city.

I have served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 22 years, and I have never been afraid, while in the armed forces, for my physical person. I am uneasy right now.

Meth is unlike other drugs available illegally. The most dangerous aspect of this drug is the psychosis, which causes a major public-security issue for police, emergency medical centres, homeless shelters and ordinary people walking the streets. In Winnipeg, the police are stretched. Gangs are profiting. Emergency rooms are being overwhelmed and fire departments are being asked to step into the cracks. Emergency room doctors and nurses and hospital personnel are being assaulted on a continual basis and are becoming afraid to go to work.

We are now hearing of indigenous mothers who are addicted to meth and are giving birth, and it is causing issues with child and family services.

I humbly request that the House of Commons proceed with a debate, post-haste, to debate this issue that impacts far too many Canadians. We are just at the beginning stages of this, and it will get a lot worse before it gets better. Let us not wait for it to get worse before it does get better through our actions here.

[Member spoke in Cree]

Postal Banking System October 22nd, 2018

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

I rise in support of this motion. This issue has been raised countless times by the people in my riding of Winnipeg Centre. They have raised it because they believe it is important to have equity in our communities, not only in suburban middle-class communities but also in indigenous and rural communities and inner-city communities, where people often do not have as much access to banking services as others.

Postal banking is an excellent idea. I have had hundreds of communications from citizens in Winnipeg Centre about this. We have conducted town halls on this issue, and time and time again people have come out to say they want this for Canadians and for Winnipeg Centre.

Over the last two decades, we have seen a major decline in the number of bank and credit union branches and locations. In 1990 there were 7,964 branches, and by 2002 that number had fallen to 5,908, a decline of 26%.

This is not a good thing for Canadians, particularly rural Canadians. People living in rural areas should be asking their MPs to look into this issue to a greater extent, whether Conservative, Liberal or even NDP.

The decline of branch banking is not only linked to banks' rationalizing of their brick and mortar locations, but also to the rise of ATMs, the Internet and telephone banking. However, we must not forget that even though there is greater access to Internet, many rural communities do not have access to high-speed Internet, which is often required for the use of online banking, or do not even have any Internet at all. This is also true for inner-city communities. I know many people who have a cellphone but do not have access to free Internet service, and it takes them a long time and costs them a lot to access online banking services.

Today there are more than 58,000 ATMs across Canada, and 61% of them are so-called “white” machines owned by non-bank companies. Online banking has grown at a tremendous rate in recent years, with 67% of Canadians now using this form of banking, according to a CBA study. This study also noted that 47% of Canadians now use the Internet as their main means of banking, up from 8% 12 years ago.

While this is a good thing for many Canadians, it does not include all Canadians. We need an inclusive way of banking for all Canadians. For instance, we can look at some of fringe financial institutions. Indeed, many institutions are on the fringe, such as payday loan companies, the Wonga website or Zippy Cash, which can offer loans for 30 days with an interest amount of $40.10 or a rate of over 240% per year, which is an incredible amount of interest in a year.

There are a number of Canadians who do not have access to a bank account. If we take the lowest figure of 3%, which is often put forward, there were an estimated 842,000 people in 2005 without a bank account. Today the number of unbanked Canadians, using the same method of calculation, approaches 910,000 people.

Aboriginal communities remain largely without banks or credit unions across our country. Over the past decade, the aboriginal population has increased dramatically, growing by 21.1% between 2006 and 2011. Some 1.4 million people are now identified as aboriginal, or 4.3% of the Canadian population. However, banks and credit unions have lagged behind in providing them with services. While all the major banks have aboriginal services, there are very few branches on reserve.

There are at least 615 first nation communities in Canada today, and many other Métis and non-status communities. A quick tally of bank and credit union branches on reserve shows there are only 54. That is an abysmal service level by banks, which make an incredible profits year after year in this country. I believe it was $32 billion last year by all of the major banks combined, yet they offer no services to many Canadians who need them. How is one supposed to have economic development if one does not have access to banking services? How is one supposed to cash cheques from the band office if one does not have access to banking service? This is extremely important not only on reserve, but also in inner-city communities.

Many people cannot access or do not have a bank because they sometimes do not have the proper identification. However, if they could find a place to cash a cheque at a low rate of interest instead of having a large charge, then maybe they would be better off in the long term.

Postal banking has deep roots internationally and it is entering a period of expansion. This was shown by a major global study of postal banking carried out in 2012 by researchers of the Universal Postal Union, which Canada is a member of. The UPU report shows that after banks, postal operators and their postal financial subsidiaries are the second biggest worldwide contributor to financial inclusion, far head of microfinance institutions, money transfer organizations, co-operatives, insurance companies, mobile money operators and all other providers of financial services. This is important around the world and it can be important here in Canada.

There are many large and important postal banking operations around the world, from Japan Post Bank, the world's largest deposit holder with 203 trillion yen or $2.15 trillion Canadian in assets, to the Postal Savings Bank of China, the fifth largest commercial bank in China with over 400 million customers, to the Deutsche Postbank, which is now owned by the Deutsche Bank but remains one of the largest in Germany, with its own network of over 100 branches and 4,500 postal outlets.

The study did not examine these banks but looked at five successful models in industrialized countries: the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Switzerland and New Zealand, which have all maintained an important relationship between the financial services offered through postal office outlets at their post offices. These countries have been chosen because of their relevance to Canadian operations.

Postal banking is extremely important. First, there are many Canadians living in large parts of Canada who lack physical access to banks or credit unions. The number of banks and credit union branches has shrunk over the past two decades. In rural Canada, many bank branches have closed in small towns, and while credit unions have purchased some of these branches, this process has slowed markedly in recent years. Because postal outlets are present in both rural communities and inner-city neighbourhoods, new postal banking could offer to citizens and businesses in many communities banking services that do not currently exist. In northern and rural Canada or on aboriginal reserves and in three northern territories, there have always been fewer banks and credit unions than are needed. There are no credit unions in the territories.

Second, it is estimated that some 3% to 8% of Canadians do not have a bank account. This represents potentially more than one million new customers for postal financial services. Many Canadians use fringe financial services at a high personal cost. New postal banking services could be combined with legislation requiring the immediate rollback of FFI interest rates to bring them in line with existing banking rates.

The Kiwibank and La Banque Postale in France are both excellent examples of how a postal bank can offer special services to low-income people for things such as home mortgages, rent to buy, or even social housing loans.

Canada Post has the largest network of retail outlets already in place across Canada. It has a total of almost 6,400 postal outlets in 2012. Of 3,800 Canada Post outlets, 60% are in rural areas where there are fewer banks and credit unions. The post office in these locations could provide key services for individuals and local businesses. Indeed, some communities in Canada have a postal outlet but no other or limited banking services, especially since the closure of 1,700 bank branches and hundreds of credit unions over the last two decades.

Canada Post has a high trust factor among Canadians and an already existing skilled and stable workforce of 68,000 employees, some of whom could easily be trained to handle limited financial services. Thus, it would not mean starting from scratch, but rather building on what already exists.

Also, for a lot of newcomers, postal banking would allow them greater access to services to remit their money back to home countries like the Philippines, India or China, and would ensure that they have access to excellent services as well.

In closing, I would like to highlight some of the comments by the hundreds of people who like the idea of postal banking, such as Candice Feilbert, who says that postal banking is a very smart business plan. Jonathan Klassen says it is an excellent idea. Norris Norden says, yes, banks and all credit unions must do more and allow for greater accounting. Helen Procner Mr. Baltesson say it is a fantastic idea.

[Member spoke in Cree]

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, it is actually written right into the bill. This is not something that is a regulation that can be changed if another government comes to power. Under the Conservatives, in 2015, the government actually cut the budget by $295 million.

In fact, clause 30 of Bill C-83, under proposed section 89.1, states:

The Service shall provide, in respect of inmates in penitentiaries designated by the Commissioner, access to patient advocacy services

(a) to support inmates in relation to their health care matters; and

(b) to enable inmates and their families to understand the rights and responsibilities of inmates related to health care.

We are actually supposed to be providing that. It would actually be written right in the law. This is an extremely important change, because as I have mentioned, it is not normal to be in prison. We have to ensure that people have the appropriate mental health supports so that they can not only get on with the healing for themselves but they do not reoffend in the future.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, that is an important question. Mr. Snowshoe's case is absolutely disgusting. Spirituality is extremely important to me as a sun dancer and someone who believes in and practices spirituality. I had a pipe ceremony in my office yesterday, and the hon. Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations and the member for Etobicoke came to my office. We spent a beautiful 20 minutes praying and thinking.

Excuse me, I am not a lawyer, but the bill does have has a paragraph specifying that indigenous spirituality must be allowed for all indigenous inmates. Under it, Mr. Snowshoe could request those services and have contact. Subclause 83(2), under spiritual leaders and elders, states:

The Service shall take all reasonable steps to make available to Indigenous inmates the services of an Indigenous spiritual leader or elder after consultation with (a) the national Indigenous advisory committee established under section 82; and (b) the appropriate regional and local Indigenous advisory committees.

It is extremely important to allow contact with another human being, to allow a person who is in segregation, or in this case an intervention unit, to have contact with others. From what I read in the bill, the idea is to make sure that if they have to regroup people together who have similar issues, a certain amount of services can be provided. All that programming needs to be provided to that person. They cannot be isolated by themselves, but the programming for all of those things needs to occur day after day to get them on the right path.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, that is a very interesting question. I have been working quite hard with the John Howard Society, which has an office just in front of my office on Ellice Avenue. I am very proud of the work. I often have the chance to go over and speak with them. They have had a halfway house in the past few years where I could go to speak with people who had just been recently released from prison and hear their own stories directly from them.

Solitary confinement is a terrible thing. In the military it was used quite often against prisoners in POW camps. It is a form of torturing people because, over time, it erodes your sense of humanity. It erodes your sense of connection. As human beings are social animals, we do need contact with others.

I think the difference with this bill is that we are trying to define, to a greater extent, what intervention will actually look like, and if we must have rehabilitative programs, what those would entail. In this case, we must have meaningful contact. The bill refers to “an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate’s specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.” I think that is extremely important, because there are other clauses here that refer to a health care professional. Their ruling is important and if the inmate is suffering from mental health duress, then that must have a review, and it goes immediately, I believe, to the commissioner of Correctional Service Canada.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 18th, 2018

Madam Speaker,

[Member spoke in Cree]

[English]

The Government of Canada's number one priority is the safety of Canadians and our communities. It is important to ensure that federal correctional institutions provide a safe and secure environment for staff and inmates, which assists with the rehabilitation of offenders. We must reduce the risk of reoffending and we must keep our communities safe, whether it is in Winnipeg or elsewhere across the country.

The Government of Canada introduced legislation that proposes to strengthen the federal correctional system, changing its direction from one which was under the Conservatives' more of retribution to looking at latest evidence and best practices by implementing a new correctional interventions model and strengthening the health care governance, better supporting victims and addressing the specific situation of indigenous offenders.

Following a recent court decision on administrative segregation, Bill C-83 proposes to eliminate segregation and establish a structured intervention unit, SIU, that will allow offenders to be separated from the main stream inmate populations as required, while maintaining their access to rehabilitative programming, interventions and mental health care. We need to ensure they actually have rehabilitative programming and can receive appropriate interventions and health and mental health care. These are extremely important.

These proposed reforms support the government's continued commitment to implement recommendations from the coroners inquest into the death of Ashley Smith, regarding the use of segregation in the treatment of offenders with mental illness. It also builds on past efforts to address gaps in services to indigenous peoples throughout the criminal justice system.

I would like to quote my good friend, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member from Saskatchewan. He said:

We are committed to a correctional system that keeps Canadians safe and holds guilty parties accountable for breaking the law, while fostering practical rehabilitation so we can have fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims, and ultimately safer communities. This approach to federal corrections will protect the safety of our staff and those in their custody by separating offenders when required, and ensuring they get more effective interventions, rehabilitative programming and serious attention to mental issues.

The bill is extremely important because it introduces a number of new elements into our corrections system.

I had the opportunity of hearing the Commissioner of Corrections Canada, Anne Kelly, who testified last week. This will be an important means forward. She is very committed to having a corrections system that responds to the department's mandate, not just simply having a justice system that responds to mob justice, a corrections system that improves safety not only within society, but also within the corrections institutions for staff and inmates, and also ensures that we rehabilitate people so they can integrate and not reoffend when they leave the corrections system.

Some of the things being put into place are the structured intervention units. These would be established to provide the necessary resources and expertise to address the safety and security risks of inmates who cannot be managed safely within the mainstream inmate population. It does occur that there are certain people who will never be safe within our prisons. No matter what we do in this place, unfortunately some people commit crimes that are so heinous, those against children, those done by pedophiles, that it is very difficult to integrate them into the mainstream population. For their own safety and for the safety within the entire system, sometimes a different approach must be taken.

A structured intervention unit would have structured interventions and programming tailored to the specific situation of that inmate. Inmates would have an opportunity for a minimum of four hours a day outside their cells. They would have an opportunity for two hours a day of meaningful human contacts. They would receive continued programs to help them progress toward their correctional plan objectives.

Also being put in place are factors unique to indigenous offenders. The needs and interests of indigenous peoples would be better supported by the legal requirement for Correctional Service of Canada to ensure that systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders are considered in all correctional decision-making. For an awful long time indigenous peoples have not received the same amount of supports.

For instance, in Manitoba, in 2016 our government put forward $26 million for legal aid to help all peoples. Generally, a lot of indigenous peoples are very poor and need recourse to legal aid. Unfortunately, the provincial Conservative government decided to cut back the exact amount that was given to this. Instead of helping the people who were most vulnerable in the system, they were not helped. They were thrown to the side again.

This is often why we have systematic structural violence in the system, which ensures that indigenous peoples continue to be overly represented because they cannot obtain good legal advice. This is a good way of ensuring that even indigenous offenders within the prison system will obtain the services they require.

For instance, I have met many indigenous peoples who have been in the corrections system, but they did not know how to apply for early release or parole on time because they did not have access to those services. This is part of that.

Supporting victims is another aspect of the bill, which is very important. It would better support victims in the criminal justice system by allowing those who attend Parole Board of Canada hearings to access audio recordings of the hearings.

We are also going to be strengthening the health care governance. The proposed reforms will affirm Correctional Service Canada's obligation to support health care professionals in maintaining their professional autonomy and clinical independence. They do not need the Minister of Public Safety telling them how to do their jobs or what they should be doing. It has been said in the House in the past number of weeks that the opposition would like the Minister of Public Safety to intervene directly in cases. However, we must ensure that health care processionals have the opportunity of doing the assessments independent of the political obligations or politics that happen in this place.

The Correctional Service of Canada would also have the obligation to provide patient advocacy services to inmates to help them better understand their health care rights and responsibilities, as recommended by the coroner's inquest on the death of Ashley Smith. Included in that is further improving mental health supports for inmates to ensure offenders with mental health needs receive proper care.

Budget 2017 invested $57.8 million over five years, starting in 2017-18, and $13.6 million per year thereafter to expand mental health care capacity for all inmates in federal correctional facilities. Budget 2018 builds on these investments, proposing $20.4 million over five years, beginning in 2018-19, and $5.6 million per year going forward for Correctional Service of Canada to further support the mental health needs of federal inmates, particularly women.

We all know, and I am sure all believe, that those who end up in corrections facilities obviously are not within the norm of our society. They have committed crimes for whatever reason and some do require mental health supports.

Winnipeg, right now, is facing a deep and profound meth crisis, which has been ignored by the provincial government. Thankfully, the mayor is a bit more progressive and is attempting to tackle this problem head on. However, the provincial government for a long time has refused to even meet with city counterparts or even with the federal government on this issue. This has caused issues. People should not walk around any Canadian city fearing they might be attacked. Often, many of these issues are related to mental health and people self-medicating themselves with drugs, alcohol, gasoline and other types of drugs, which numb them to the pain of the life in which they exist in great poverty.

Our corrections system really needs to hold guilty parties to account for breaking the law. However, we also need to create an environment that fosters rehabilitation so there are fewer repeat offenders, fewer victims and, ultimately, safer communities. That is why it is important for this bill to pass. We need to strengthen the federal correctional system and align it with the evidence and best practices so inmates are rehabilitated and better prepared to eventually re-enter our communities safely.

One day, almost all prisoners will leave the prison system and live among Canadians. We need to ensure that they do not reoffend, that we are all safe and that they have received the appropriate care so when they are released, they do not reoffend and do not hurt others.

Therefore, the bill would eliminate segregation following recent court decisions and introduce more effective structured intervention units; increase better support for victims during parole hearings; increase staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology; and update our approach to critical matters, like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs.

Correctional Service of Canada needs the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety. By replacing administrative segregation with structured intervention units, the proposed legislation ensures that offenders who are separated from the general population will retain access to rehabilitative programming, mental health care and other interventions. Ultimately, effective rehabilitation and safe integration is the best way to protect Canadian communities.

The practice of administrative segregation and its history is an interesting one and has been criticized for many years. The case of Ashley Smith, who died in 2007, a case that has been mentioned in most of the speeches today, comes to mind. It highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in a Canadian correctional system.

In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, including instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate could spend in segregation.

In 2016, the government introduced Bill C-56, which would have created a presumptive cap of 15 days in administrative segregation and a system of independent external oversight, which I believe is very important. Since that bill was introduced, legal challenges in Ontario and British Columbia found administrative segregation to be contrary to the charter. We cannot keep inmates locked up by themselves, with only two hours of contact with other people, for the rest of their lives. Both these rulings have been appealed, one by the government and one by the other party. However, as things stand, they take effect in December 2018 and January 2019. This means that Corrections Service of Canada may no longer be allowed to use the current system of administrative segregation.

There are also pending class action lawsuits related to administrative segregation and the failure to provide adequate mental health care, as well as complaints before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

In May 7, Ontario passed Bill 6, the Correctional Services Transformation Act, which implemented a hard cap on days spent in segregation and prohibited certain classes of inmates, like pregnant women or those with mental illnesses, from being segregated at all.

The number of inmates in segregation on any given day was over 700 in 2011. It is now 340.

While the correctional investigator has acknowledged that the reduction in the use of administrative segregation is an improvement, he has also raised concerns that this decline may be related to increased violence among inmates. However, SIUs are designed to ensure that inmates can be kept in a secure environment, while not being segregated from vital programming and meaningful human contact.

Bill C-83 would eliminate administrative segregation. Instead, people who have to be separated from the mainstream inmate population, generally for safety reasons, will be assigned to a secure intervention unit. In an SIU, people will get a minimum of four hours daily out of the cell, including at least two hours of meaningful human contact with staff, volunteers, visitors and other compatible inmates. There will also be a daily visit by a medical professional. By contrast, people currently in administrative segregation are only entitled to two hours daily out of the cell, with minimal human contact and access to programming.

Within five working days of movement to an SIU, the warden will review the case and decide if the inmate should remain there. Subsequent reviews will be conducted by the warden after another 30 days and by the Commissioner of Corrections Service Canada every 30 days thereafter for as long as the inmate is in the SIU. Therefore, it will be the top corrections officer in Canada, our commissioner, who will be reviewing all of these cases. Reviews can also be triggered on the recommendation of a medical professional, who, as I have mentioned, will be independent and have full independence to conduct what he or she terms is in the best interest of the patient, or if an inmate refuses to leave his or her cell for a given number of days.

Currently victims are only entitled to audio recordings of parole hearings if they did not attend. However, there have been concerns that, due to the emotional nature of the hearings, it can be hard for victims to retain all the details of the proceedings. Even victims who are present could benefit from access to a recording that they could review afterward, on their own time and in a more comfortable setting.

Therefore, Bill C-83 would give victims access to audio recordings whether they attend or not. It is very important to have to a good record of what actually occurred.

This legislation will add a guiding principle to the law to affirm the need for a CSC to consider systematic and background factors unique to indigenous offenders in all decision-making. This requirement flows from the Supreme Court's Gladue decision in 1999, and has been implemented through CSC's policy directive since 2003. Unfortunately, it has been difficult to follow, as the corrections services have often not followed it. Now it is actually being enshrined in law.

This bill would also implement key recommendations of the Ashley Smith inquest by creating the legal framework to have patient advocates in CSC institutions. Patient advocates will work with offenders and correctional staff to ensure that the offenders receive appropriate medical care. Bill C-83 also enshrines in law the decision-making autonomy of medical professionals operating within the CSC.

The next one is extremely important to ensuring safety within correctional facilities in Canada. Here I refer to body scanners, which will help keep drugs and other contraband out of prisons. The bill authorizes the use of body scanners, comparable to the technology used at airports, to search people entering correctional institutions. These devices are less invasive than strip searches or body cavity searches, and they do not raise the concerns of false positives reported by some people who have been examined using ion scanners.

Body scanners are already in use in many provincial correctional facilities, and now the federal system is catching up. This is going to improve safety. A number of groups are in favour of this, including the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers, which. While cautiously acknowledging Bill C-83's measures on administrative segregation, it welcomes the introduction of body scanners to prevent contraband. Jack Godin states:

Our union has advocated strongly for the implementation of body scanners. We are satisfied with the results. But we still need more resources to manage high-risk, violent and self-harming offenders, such as what was tabled by the Union in 2005 to manage high-risk women offenders which has fallen on deaf ears.

They have some criticisms, but nonetheless are favourable overall towards the idea of body scanners.

To implement these secure intervention units, new investments will be required, mainly to hire new staff. The government has committed to making the necessary investments, with the exact dollar amounts to be announced very soon.

The government has also signalled its intention to invest heavily in mental health care within the corrections system. This will include mental health care in SIUs, as well as early diagnosis and treatment for inmates from the moment of intake, and upgrades in the CSC's regional treatment centres, which provide intensive mental health care for more serious cases. This funding will be on top of some $80 million for mental health care for the CSC in the last two budgets.

I only have about two minutes left, as my time is slowly winding down. I would like to read a few clauses from the bill so that people who are watching on CPAC, or anywhere else, can hear what is in the bill.

On structured intervention units, the bill states:

Purpose

32 The purpose of a structured intervention unit is to

(a) provide an appropriate living environment for an inmate who cannot be maintained in the mainstream inmate population for security or other reasons; and

(b) provide the inmate with an opportunity for meaningful human contact and an opportunity to participate in programs and to have access to services that respond to the inmate's specific needs and the risks posed by the inmate.

In section 33, it states:

An inmate's confinement in a structured intervention unit is to end as soon as possible.

As I have already mentioned, there are other elements are included in that. For instance, we talk about “four hours outside of the cell each day”, but there is also time not included. Section 36 states:

Time not included

(3) If an inmate takes a shower outside their cell, the time spent doing so does not count as time spent outside the inmate's cell under paragraph (1)(a).

Also section 37.2 states:

A registered health care professional employed or engaged by the Service may, for health reasons, recommend to the institutional head that the conditions of confinement of the inmate in a structured intervention unit be altered or that the inmate not remain in the unit.

That means it is up to the health care professional to decide when things have gotten out of hand.

In my last minutes, I would like to quickly address the whole idea of indigenous offenders. It is incredible because, first, the bill defines indigenous people in its very first clause:

Indigenous, in respect of a person, includes a First Nation person, an Inuit or a Métis person; (autochtone)

It also includes putting in place a lot more advisory committees, committees to consult, and the idea of spiritual leaders and elders:

Spiritual leaders and elders

83(1) For greater certainty, Indigenous spirituality and Indigenous spiritual leaders and elders have the same status as other religions and other religious leaders.

Let us give thanks to Gitchi Manitou. Let us give thanks to the Great Creator. I think this is the first time I have ever heard this mentioned, and I proud to see that this measure has taken hold within this bill.

With that, I believe my time has come to an end at 20 minutes. I appreciate the opportunity to speak here and look forward to some of the very interesting questions and comments.