House of Commons photo

Crucial Fact

  • His favourite word was particular.

Last in Parliament September 2021, as Liberal MP for Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame (Newfoundland & Labrador)

Lost his last election, in 2021, with 46% of the vote.

Statements in the House

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 23rd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for bringing this up, especially with regard to the indigenous dimension of this. I did not bring it up in my speech and I apologize. However, certainly there is a higher proportion of the population who find themselves in that situation.

I hear what she is saying about the amendments she is bringing forward. I know her situation within the context of a committee and her position itself. I am assuming she will be there. I have no doubt it will be debated thoroughly whether I am there or not, not that I have any domain over it but members get the idea.

Nevertheless, the unit that the hon member brought up to me right now, and the flexibility within it, provides that human contact. The certain situations that other people have spoken about, I cannot speak to as I did not see their comments. However, I will say this. The human contact aspect of this to me is very essential. It is a central part of a system that is backed up, of course, by court decisions.

In this particular case where are we looking at an institution that does not provide any human contact whatsoever, which is really incumbent upon solitary confinement, really, we should put ourselves into the 21st century when it comes to dealing with rehabilitation and human contact to benefit society as a whole.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 23rd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, yes.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 23rd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time. I will bring some perspective to this debate dating back to October 2004, when I first came to the House. At the time, it was the tail end of a minority government.

We did not deal too much with legislation that addressed crime and other matters as such. I remember when the Conservatives came to power in 2006. They came in on a wave of their getting tough on crime and criminals. Over the years, to say it has been a mixed bag of success is to be somewhat generous. I do not mean that in a harsh or partisan way, but in a way that reflects that it is somewhat disappointing that we never had a decent conversation about crime, and certainly not about rehabilitation. Crime had become a superficial way of trying to gain popularity and votes. I say this not against the Conservatives specifically, but the debate has drifted in that direction. I think the tag line was “Do the crime, do the time.”

The problem is that we had seen what happens in jurisdictions around the world, and especially in the United States, where they truly used it, amping it up to the point where it became absolutely deafening, to the point where it was a matter of “Lock them up and throw away the key.” I mean nothing specific by that.

I will say, however, that tag line was used quite a bit. Unfortunately, we now find that so many people in the United States who originally used that as a way of gaining popularity and a way of pushing forward a very good public policy are now winding back some, but not all, of that. I am sure some of it worked out in the end. In many cases, there were a lot of people in the system who deserved to be in the system and should continue to be in the system, and that worked.

However, we realized over the years that a lot of people should not be in the system that long and were not given the tools to go back into society. There are people in society who do not belong in society. I get it. I think we all get that. However, there are people in the system administered by CSC who will go back into society. Who will that person be coming back into society, as opposed to who they were when they left society and went to prison for the first time? It is us who make the decisions to be there for the people who help rehabilitate the criminals.

I understand, on this particular legislation, that there are opinions on both sides of it, people who like what we say, and others who say that we need to look at furthering this debate about rehabilitating a person who has been incarcerated and is now going back into society. It takes several steps to get to that point. There are many examples around the world that we could use to get back to that point.

We also have the court system, which has pointed out that the old system has discrepancies that we need to fix, like solitary confinement. Let us look at the concept of solitary confinement for just a moment, the separation of someone from others for the safety of everyone involved. To a great extent, that has to happen within the system.

I have never worked in the prison system. I have never been in prison myself. However, I certainly know enough about the situation. Over the past 14 years, I have certainly heard enough about those who feel that rehabilitation in the prison service is deficient in many ways, federally and provincially in many cases. In my opinion, Bill C-83 is a way to take a step, so that when people go back into society, they will not be the same people who went into the prison. It is incumbent upon us to have that wide debate.

Now, we want to do several things in this particular bill, which I will point out.

This legislation proposes to eliminate segregation, following recent court decisions, as I pointed out. It introduces more effective structured intervention units. It proposes better support for victims during Parole Board hearings and it proposes increasing staff and inmate safety with new body scanner technology. Bill C-83 proposes to update our approach to critical matters like mental health supports and indigenous offenders' needs, as well as the needs of the general population.

What CSC really needs is the authority to separate offenders from the general population for the sake of institutional safety.

While someone is segregated in solitary confinement, there is still a way that we can reach that person to effect a major change. Therefore, there is a minimum. Yes, we do segregate that person from the general population for the safety of the institution, but we also need to provide the structure so that we can tackle the problem in a responsible and mature manner. This is what the SIUs this legislation introduces are about. Four hours of human contact could alleviate the problem.

The problem may have started with a particular person. I am not blaming anyone else. However we must look for the reason why that person needs to be segregated. Why is the individual like that? We need to make sure that it does not happen again. In order to do that, as the courts have pointed out, human contact is needed, which would make the situation it that much better for the institution itself and for the prison population in general.

For many years CSC has been criticized for the practice of administrative segregation, better known as solitary confinement. The case of Ashley Smith is a good example. Ashley died in custody in 2007. Her case highlighted issues related to segregation and mental health care in the Canadian correctional system.

In 2013, a coroner's inquest into the death of Ashley Smith resulted in recommendations, one of which was instituting a cap on the amount of time an inmate can spend in segregation. We realized from that case alone in 2007 that there was a problem and that we needed to go further.

We need to protect institutions and instill institutional safety by taking an inmate from the general population. But then what? What is the right answer?

The right answer involves our listening to the experts who have to deal with these people every day. I know they are on different sides in this particular step that we want to take, but it is our responsibility to have this debate and send the bill to committee so that opposition members who have some concerns can make the proper amendments.

We must remember that key here is the fact that a lot of these people will face society once again. We want to make sure that an individual who goes back into society is not the same person who went into prison.

We know these people through families, through friends, through contacts who have been in prison and had a rough time. We hear about them all the time. That is one of the major things that happened in 2007 with the case of Ashley Smith.

The number of inmates in segregation on any given day in 2011 was over 700. It is now about 340. Why is that the case? We need to explore the reason why.

As we look for answers to this particular situation, I realize that these units, these SIUs, are not the perfect answer for everyone involved in the system, including the guards.

My support for Bill C-83 comes from my understanding of the need to take that step of providing human contact to protect society at large. Of course, there are people here on both sides of the issue. We need to have a debate here and the bill sent to committee so that we can look at any amendments that might be brought forward.

I thank everyone involved in this debate. I also thank the superior courts of both British Columbia and Ontario for helping us guide the way.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act October 23rd, 2018

Mr. Speaker, my fellow colleague from Newfoundland and Labrador is, himself, a lawyer. I know over the past five to 10 years, a lot of jurisdictions in the United States have been gung-ho on a lot of tough-on-crime penalties. They were harsh penalties in many jurisdictions, and in many cases deserving. Public servants and politicians on either side of the ideological scale in the United States, whether Democrat or Republican, would say that the rehabilitative services provided were insufficient in many jurisdictions. Even Republicans would say that.

I was wondering if the member would comment on the fact that, in places where they are tried and true, rehabilitative services work for society as a whole.

Wesley Oake September 25th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in memory of a truly great man, Reverend Wesley Oake, who passed away on September 16 at the age of 96. Growing up in Notre Dame Bay, Reverend Oake was one of the last World War II Veterans from Newfoundland and Labrador, having served in the 166th (Newfoundland) Field Regiment. He fought mainly in Italy, but was also active in England and Africa. He spoke openly about the time he spent serving and provided us with honest stories about and the hard truths of what wartime was like.

After serving in the war he was ordained as a minister in the United Church, for 22 years serving God and his congregation. One thing that Reverend Oake will always be remembered for is a fundraiser he held for Gander's Heritage Memorial Park. He raised $35 000 at the age of 92. At 92 he also went skydiving at 10,000 feet.

He leaves behind his wife Myrtle, whom he would have celebrated his 72nd wedding anniversary with today. We will always miss him. We give our thanks to Reverend Oake for making this country better and safe

Firearms Act September 20th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to get clarification on the routine we have here during questions and comments. A question came from that side twice, I believe, and then it came back here. However, I think there were three in total. In that way—

National Security Act, 2017 June 18th, 2018

Madam Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a question regarding previously proposed Conservative legislation and some of the major misgivings we had with it when we were in opposition. It was with respect to the Charter of Rights. I remember that there was a deep discussion about what seemed like an unlimited amount of authority by CSIS at the time to bring about a power that made a lot of people feel uncomfortable. Certainly, it almost felt like the blance check was not there, a check by which the rights of Canadians would be protected.

The member said that there are measures in this particular bill that diminish the role of the authorities in particular cases when doing their job. However, if one weighs that against the individual rights we hold dear to us through the charter, certainly the measures we have taken here should answer a lot of those fears. I would like to get his comment on that.

Impact Assessment Act June 18th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I have a great amount of respect for my hon. colleague. However, there are a couple of minor things, minor to some and major to others, that I would like to bring up.

First, this is not particularly germane to the debate, but he talked about the surf clam issue. I was equally disappointed about the issue, to be quite honest. There was consultation beforehand. There was some interest in my riding, and people brought their issues forward. They were consulted with, and had contact.

I would like to touch on a second point, which is the fact that there were promises made and promises kept from a prior administration. The Conservatives promised custodial management of the nose and tail of the Grand Banks. The changes they made allowed foreigners to not only manage the outside, where they are now, but manage inside the 200-mile limit as well, an egregious mistake that some day we will pay for and try to make up for.

The member mentioned that in the past, under the Conservative regime, fishery stakeholders did meet with the minister. I would ask him to name one.

Interparliamentary Delegations June 18th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1), I have the honour to present to the House, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian parliamentary delegation respecting its participation at the mission to the Republic of Austria, the country that will next hold the rotating presidency of the Council of European Union, and its participation at the second part of the 2018 session of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. Both delegations went to Vienna, Austria, and Strasbourg, France, from April 16 to 27, 2018.

Main Estimates, 2018-19 June 14th, 2018

Mr. Speaker, God forbid I delve into hyperbole, because I have only done that for 14 years. I will leave that aside for now.

I am on the procedure and House affairs committee, and we have talked about this quite a bit, about the commitment toward this type of debating and the commission for that. The reflection of the spending is obviously hard to peg when one does not know exactly how this will be set up down the road. A lot of the heavy lifting is going to be done, whether by the private sector or whomever, based on what the commission recommends.

However, I will go back to the ruling from earlier. What the member is talking about may relate to Standing Order 83(4) and Speaker Jerome's ruling. What we are talking about here is the notion of assuming that they are identical in their current form. That is what I think the Speaker was getting at earlier, and I would agree with his ruling on what Speaker Jerome said previously.