Government Orders: Corrections and Conditional Release Act

Speaking on the Corrections and Conditional Release Act

October 23, 2018

“Madam Speaker, last week, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness introduced Bill C-83, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another act. I rise in the House today to address some serious concerns that the Conservatives have with regard to Bill C-83. This bill seeks to eliminate the use of administrative segregation in correctional facilities and replace it with structured intervention units; to use prescribed body scanners for inmates; to establish parameters for access to health care; and to formalize exceptions for indigenous offenders, women offenders and offenders with diagnosed mental health conditions. While this bill contains some reasonable measures that are worth considering in order to change and improve the overall prison program, we need to examine it closely to ensure we are making the best decisions and changes possible to the prison program. In recent Supreme Court decisions, the legality of indefinite stays in solitary confinement has been challenged. However, the government is appealing both of those decisions. This legislation applies to transfers, and would allow the commissioner to assign a security classification to each penitentiary or to any area within a penitentiary. In a maximum-security penitentiary, nothing gets in or out without the strictest controls. Maximum security means maximum security. As I understand it, with this new legislation, a maximum-security classification could be assigned to any area of a medium- or minimum-security penitentiary. If that is not the case, we need some clarification. A maximum-security facility has an entire perimeter and security system that is designed to guarantee maximum security. If they were to change a section of a minimum- or medium-security penitentiary, would the security measures also be put into place? This bill has one very good idea, and that is to use body scanners. However, it should be expanded to include anyone who enters the facility who is not an inmate or an employee. Body-scan searches would make it possible to control at least 95% of the substances that individuals bring into prisons because they show whether there is anything hidden on a person’s body. It is no secret that all kinds of things are brought into prisons. This legislation also proposes to eliminate administrative segregation in corrections facilities and replace it with a newly created structured intervention unit. Solitary confinement is a common and legitimate safety measure that many western countries take to protect guards from dangerous and volatile prisoners. The introduction of structured intervention units may pose a risk to prison guards, other inmates and the inmates in question for whom solitary confinement is used for their own safety. Another problem with this bill is reflected in the spirit of the law. These are the worst criminals in Canada. They are murderers, rapists, etc., and they are in maximum-security prisons. The intent of these proposed changes is to create a structured intervention unit for these people. They would spend less time in cells and would be put together to interact. The prison environment is a unique environment. It is a closed environment. The officers who work there are at risk every day because they have to deal with the worst thugs and criminals in Canada. Prisoners want to control their environment as much as possible, like anyone else. This is difficult for our officers who work 24-7 to keep prisoners under control and keep the guards and the rest of the prisoners safe. Taking away disciplinary segregation would make prisons less safe and more dangerous for the guards as they would have to deal with the most volatile prisoners being out and about from their cells for four hours a day. We cannot support Bill C-83 in its present form. There are some things that would work, such as installing scanning equipment; however, we believe that creating structured intervention units would not. Additionally, it is concerning that the government has not been able to tell Canadians how much the implementation of these measures would cost. Correctional Service Canada has confirmed that it is not able to estimate how much the measures in this bill would cost Canadians. The government seems to believe it is acceptable to table uncosted legislation that would increase the comfort of the most violent prisoners at the expense of the taxpayer. Let us look back at the McClintic case again. This murderer’s transfer from a maximum-security prison to an indigenous healing lodge has had a lot of people concerned, upset and talking. This is someone who should be serving her sentence in a maximum-security prison. In a maximum-security prison, such an offender has her own cell. Those offenders eat, sleep and take classes if they so choose, and they can go back to their cells. They are protected because they are living in a maximum-security environment. However, for reasons still not understood, it was decided to send that person to a place with virtually no security. From what I understand, Bill C-83 would allow McClintic’s room in the healing lodge to be designated a maximum-security room. Again, it appears as though it is the Liberal government’s priority to put the rights and comforts of violent murderers and rapists ahead of the rights of victims. If what I understand is true, then Bill C-83 would be dangerous to Canadians’ safety. It does not care about what a maximum-security prison sentence means or what keeping Canadians safe means. Instead, it prioritizes the rights of Canada’s most violent and dangerous criminals. Instead of changing the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to make sure that killers like Terri-Lynne McClintic are kept behind bars, the bill defines and softens the law to make prison time easier for criminals. I think Canadians know that the government is not serious about being tough on crime and it puts Canadians’ safety at risk. If this keeps up, things are bound to get worse. The government should be taking rational measures that are consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Prisoners have rights, of course, but it is all in the way things are done. The approach outlined in Bill C-83 is not in line with what the Conservatives consider to be an effective way to manage penitentiaries.”