Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Issue No. 59 - Evidence - May 8, 2019
OTTAWA, Wednesday, May 8, 2019
The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, to which was referred Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act, met this day at 4:18 p.m. to give consideration to the bill.
Senator Chantal Petitclerc (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good afternoon, everyone.
Welcome to the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology.
My name is Chantal Petitclerc, and I am a senator from Quebec. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be presiding over this meeting. Before I give the floor to our witnesses today, I invite my colleagues to introduce themselves, starting on my right, with the deputy chair of the committee.
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman from Montreal, Quebec.
Senator Poirier: Welcome. Rose-May Poirier from New Brunswick.
Senator Eaton: Welcome. Nicky Eaton, Ontario.
Senator Ravalia: Welcome. Mohamed Ravalia, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Pate: Welcome to all of you, old friends and new. I’m Kim Pate, Ontario.
Senator Manning: Welcome to everybody. Fabian Manning, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Oh: Welcome. Victor Oh, Ontario.
Senator Mégie: Marie-Françoise Mégie from Quebec.
Senator M. Deacon: Good afternoon. Marty Deacon, Ontario.
Senator Kutcher: Stan Kutcher, Nova Scotia.
Senator Dasko: Donna Dasko from Toronto, representing Ontario.
Senator Moodie: Welcome. Rosemary Moodie from Ontario.
Senator Klyne: Good afternoon. Marty Klyne, Saskatchewan.
Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Treaty 6 territory, Alberta.
Senator Munson: Jim Munson, Canada.
Senator Forest-Niesing: Josée Forest-Niesing from northern Ontario. Good afternoon and welcome.
The Chair: As we can see, we have a full house in this committee today as we begin our study of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.
I will introduce today’s witnesses right away. We are hearing from the Honourable Ralph Goodale, Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. Along with the minister, we are welcoming, from Public Safety Canada, Angela Connidis, Director General, Crime Prevention, Corrections and Criminal Justice Directorate.
From Correctional Service Canada, joining us are Anne Kelly, Commissioner, and Jennifer Wheatley, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services, and, from the Department of Justice, Juline Fresco, Counsel.
Welcome to our committee.
We will begin by hearing from the minister for the first hour. We will then suspend for a few minutes and continue with the officials for the second hour.
Minister, you have the floor.
Hon. Ralph Goodale, P.C., M.P., Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness: Madam Chair, thank you very much. You can see from the array of witnesses today that we’ve got the gender balance exactly right.
Madam Chair, thank you for inviting me to appear before your committee concerning Bill C-83. This legislative measure has already garnered a lot of interest in the Senate, and I am happy to have the opportunity to explain how it will be possible to improve the corrections system.
I am pleased to be joined by Commissioner Kelly from Correctional Service Canada, as well as the other officials from my department, Correctional Service Canada and from the Department of Justice Canada.
Our government has been working very hard for the last three and a half years to focus our correctional system on its chief vocation, which is taking people who have broken the law and preparing them to return to their communities as productive, law-abiding citizens. That is a very significant and important accomplishment.
To that end, we have invested heavily in mental health in corrections. We’ve renewed agreements with Indigenous healing lodges and expanded their capacity. We have ended the freeze on transfers to the community organizations that run halfway houses. We have re-established the prison farms. We’ve restored funding for the COSA program, which has been shown to reduce recidivism rates among sex offenders. We have also created the Indigenous Community Corrections Initiative to help previously incarcerated Indigenous people rehabilitate and find good jobs. Now, we are proposing a new approach for inmates who would otherwise be in segregation.
I was glad to hear at second reading that senators generally believe that this bill is rooted in good intentions, and I appreciate this opportunity to try to show how the practical realities of Bill C-83 will match those good intentions.
Bill C-83 proposes to end the practice of segregation and create a new system of structured intervention units, SIUs. The difference is not just semantics. In segregation, inmates are confined to their cells for as many as 22 hours every day, with little or nothing in the way of meaningful human contact or rehabilitative programming. In an SIU, inmates will be entitled to twice as much time out of their cell and at least two hours of meaningful human contact every day. Plus, because of the new investments that we are making to correspond with this legislation, SIUs will provide access to programs, and rehabilitative interventions and mental health care that are simply unavailable right now in segregation. These are essential distinctions when considering the prospective constitutionality of Bill C-83.
There has been quite a lot of litigation concerning segregation in the last number of years and significant rulings by various courts, albeit with appeals pending. It is important to remember, though, that in all of these cases, it was the current system, as it existed in 2015 or earlier, that was at issue before the courts. Courts have told us the kinds of limitations and oversight they deem necessary to achieve Charter compliance when using a system of administrative segregation that confines people for 22 hours a day with little or no meaningful human interaction. The court criticism of administrative segregation was and is so sweeping and severe that we have opted to try our best to get rid of that system altogether.
The court findings with regard to that old system are not equally applicable to the new one that we are proposing in Bill C-83 because it is qualitatively different. A less restrictive, more humane SIU system requires different control, review and recourse measures to meet constitutional imperatives, not the same ones that would apply to the old system that existed prior to 2015 and has been the subject of those court rulings.
I’ve heard the criticism that the physical infrastructure of SIUs will be largely the same as segregation, and in many cases, that’s true, although CSC is making changes to create more space for the interventions and for the programming. But the cells themselves are not the key issue. For one thing, the kinds of cells that are currently used in segregation and that will be used in most instances in the SIUs are virtually indistinguishable from all of the other cells in a maximum security men’s institution. What makes segregation segregation is not the physical cell; it is the lack of human contact. It is the isolation. According to the Ontario Court of Appeal:
. . . the distinguishing feature of solitary confinement is the elimination of meaningful social interaction or stimulus.
That’s exactly the point that Bill C-83 tries to address. In segregation, the amount of meaningful social interaction or stimulus is close to zero. Bill C-83, on the other hand, requires that inmates in SIUs be offered at least two hours every day. That’s not a minor change; it is pretty fundamental.
Yet, even though SIUs will be less restrictive than segregation, the oversight proposed in Bill C-83 is greater. Under the current system, the warden decides to put someone in segregation. Then the warden names people to review his or her decision. Then the result of the hearing conducted by people named by the warden is a recommendation to the warden, which the warden is free to follow or not. Plus, the frequency of these reviews is set out in regulation, not in the law itself. With Bill C-83, we are proposing, for the first time ever, oversight of inmate placement by an independent decision maker external to the correctional system. This oversight will not result just in recommendations but in judgments that must be followed.
The bill sets out several circumstances when this external review mechanism will kick in, including if an inmate doesn’t get their four hours out of the cell or two hours of meaningful human contact for five days in a row or 15 days out of 30. In other words, if an inmate’s conditions in an SIU start becoming too much like old segregation, there will be a binding external oversight system in as little as five days. All decisions of the independent external decision maker will be appealable to the Federal Court.
Now, of course, a structured intervention unit is still a restrictive environment. That’s why Bill C-83 is clear that inmates may not be transferred there and may not remain there unless it is absolutely necessary. But it is sometimes necessary.
During committee study in the house, the Correctional Investigator, Ivan Zinger, said:
. . . you need restrictive confinement to deal with certain individuals.
Catherine Latimer of the John Howard Society said:
The ability to move inmates who are attacking each other or staff quickly away from each other is an important short-term measure to reduce violence. Prisons can be terribly violent, and people can get hurt.
Former inmates Lawrence DaSilva and Lee Chapelle have agreed.
According to the British Columbia Court of Appeal, and I’m quoting again:
Administrative segregation or a more appropriate alternative regime must be in place to protect inmates who would be exposed to risk in the general population and to provide safety for persons who work in penitentiaries.
Now, I know Senator Pate has proposed certain measures that she considers alternatives to segregation and to SIUs. The measures that she has proposed, like increased use of healing lodges, partnerships with provincial health care and anti-gang programming, are all very good things that we need to work on together, but I don’t believe that they are genuine or absolute alternatives to SIUs. For example, if someone in the exercise yard starts violently assaulting staff or other inmates, you can’t solve that problem in that moment by taking them to an anti-gang program. You need another alternative to stop the violence. If an inmate poses too great a safety risk for the general population in a federal prison, sending them to a hospital or a healing lodge may not be a viable option. In fact, you would be hard-pressed to find a hospital or a healing lodge administrator that would be willing to take them.
Ultimately, there needs to be a humane and properly managed way for the correctional service to separate inmates from the general population for reasons of safety. But separation from most other inmates for the purposes of safety should not mean separation from the programs, the interventions, the mental health care and the meaningful social interaction that those very inmates need in order to correct their problems. That is why we have proposed Bill C-83. It represents a very significant step forward for our correctional system.
We have allocated $450 million to hire the personnel and to provide the services to implement the new system. Many people have said the ideas in Bill C-83 are great, but will they actually happen, to change the system fundamentally? The funding is there from the Minister of Finance to make the investments that will be necessary, and I will be appointing an independent external monitoring committee to examine the implementation of Bill C-83 as it happens to ensure that it proceeds as we hope and expect.
There are a lot of other details, Madam Chair, and I appreciate the full attention of the Senate committee this afternoon. Thank you for inviting me to be here, and I’ll try my very best to answer your questions.
The Chair: Thank you, minister. We have many questions, I can assure you. I have a list already. This is a bill about which senators having strong and passionate views. I think we all know the difference between a statement and a question. I would encourage you to focus on questions today, as we have the opportunity to have the minister and officials. We will begin with the deputy chair, Senator Seidman, who will be followed by Senator Klyne, the sponsor of the bill in the Senate.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much, minister, for your presentation.
The legislation is going to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to state:
the Service uses the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders;
You’ve argued that this provision is simply a humanitarian provision and it has no broader impact, but ultimately using the least restrictive measures seems to imply that the objective will be to manage offenders at the lowest security level possible, including, of course, in the community.
I’d like to know if you have seen any internal assessments on the potential impact this provision will have in moving inmates toward early parole, for example. Will it become more difficult to keep an offender convicted of a particularly grievous offence at a higher security level?
Mr. Goodale: Senator, I think your phrase was the lowest security level possible. I would express that more in terms of the lowest security level necessary.
Senator Seidman: Okay.
Mr. Goodale: The phrase that you referred to is really quite important:
. . . the least restrictive measures consistent with the protection of society, staff members and offenders;
In other words, the safety principle is built right into the legal expression, and that is the language that has been used as far back as 1992. It was first put in the law, I believe, by Mr. Mulroney’s government. The experience, I believe, in using that operational principle has by and large been a positive one.
We all recognize that we’re dealing with some of the most dangerous elements in our society, and we need to ensure that public safety and community safety is always provided and protected. That is guiding principle number one. In doing so, I think we need to recognize that, for the vast majority of inmates, there will come a day when they are released. It is better for our society that they be released in a way that is safe and secure, in a way where they are properly prepared to live law-abiding and productive lives, rather than emerging from the correctional system worse than when they went in. The objective here is to make our communities safer.
Senator Seidman: I’d just like to know if you have any evidence, statistics or something on the potential impact of the “least restrictive measures” concept, which was removed from the bill and you’re now putting it back in.
Mr. Goodale: That’s correct, which we believe is the right public policy move and was recommended to us by a vast array of experts. I will try to provide you, senator, with a written note that would give you the experiential background for this.
Senator Seidman: Okay. Maybe you can send that to the clerk.
Mr. Goodale: Yes, I will do that.
Senator Seidman: That would be wonderful. Thank you.
Senator Klyne: Thank you, Minister Goodale. I look forward to engaging with your colleagues afterwards.
You mentioned in your remarks that an independent body would be established regarding the implementation went off as intended. I’m wondering what external independent oversight is provided after implementation,
Mr. Goodale: Well, the advisory group will stay in place as long as necessary to make sure that the implementation is accomplished successfully and the new SIUs are functioning as they are intended to function.
We have canvassed broadly for suggestions and recommendations for appropriate people to serve in this monitoring capacity with the right kind of experience and expertise. Frankly, if there are recommendations that members of the Senate would like to offer for people to be considered for this role, I would be happy to have those recommendations. We will need to move forward with this in lockstep with the legislation so those folks are ready to go when the legislation is ready to go.
But the goal here is to make sure that the actual reality of implementation matches the expectation going in. I wanted a system in place to keep an eye on it and make sure we are achieving the goals that are set out for Bill C-83. It will stay there as long as we need it.
Senator Klyne: Thank you.
There has been much discussion around the need to ensure that those offenders separated in an SIU and presenting mental health conditions receive the appropriate treatment. Presumably, that assessment and diagnosis of mental illness would happen within the first 24 hours of placement in an SIU. When that diagnosis is accompanied by a recommendation for relocation of that offender, what resources will be available to uphold that recommendation and how would they respond to upholding the recommendation?
Mr. Goodale: To start with, a significant portion of the $450 million that’s being provided for the implementation of Bill C-83 will be dedicated to bolstering the mental health care capacity of the system. In the previous two budgets, we have already allocated $80 million to enhance the mental health care capacity of the correctional system. Now, we are adding a portion of this 450 on top of that to ensure that we have the professionals in place to do the work they need to do.
You are correct that when a person arrives at a federal institution, an assessment would be made of their mental health situation. Hopefully, that will allow us, from a diagnostic point of view, to understand right from the very outset what their issues are while they are still manageable, rather than waiting for them to fester and blow up into a minor or major incident at some point later on. So you do the diagnosis early.
Health care professionals will direct the treatment that is made available to these people when they are in the SIUs. Of course, if that treatment is not provided as it’s supposed to be, then the independent review mechanism would have the jurisdiction to order that, if necessary.
Senator Klyne: Thank you.
Senator Munson: Minister, I’m sure there will be many questions from legal experts on the constitutionality of this bill, but I would like to address my question to the human spirit in the sense of much having been made of mental health in prisons. I was chair of the Senate Human Rights Committee for two years, and I have been in a lot of those prisons and seen solitary confinement. I have a major worry about what is not being addressed as an issue in the shadows, namely those with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as autism. There are thousands of prisoners who are inside the system who develop mental health issues.
Maybe you can’t answer the question, but you have officials with you. Yes, you can have the assessment when you go in. You can have that done, but are there enough professionals inside the system each and every day to understand how that person is operating with an intellectual disability. For example, these lights could drive somebody from his cell to a solitary confinement or a structured intervention unit, and that would take that person to another awful place. I worry about that.
I’m not sure that this bill addresses this issue substantially inside the system. We have a hard enough time outside the system to care for these people with intellectual disabilities. I want to have that issue addressed, because it’s a very serious issue inside the prison system.
Mr. Goodale: Senator Munson, you are very right to raise that question. There are all sorts of mental health and psychological issues that affect people in our correctional system. If I remember the statistics correctly, if you include everything from mild difficulties to very severe difficulties, you will find that nearly 70 per cent of men in the system will suffer from some kind of a mental health concern or issue. That is probably very close to 100 per cent with respect to women. It’s a very significant issue.
Jennifer Wheatley might be able to zero in more particularly on your distinction between a mental health issue and a functional disability.
Jennifer Wheatley, Assistant Commissioner, Health Services, Correctional Service Canada: I appreciate the distinction you are drawing between treatment and needing to accommodate individuals within the system, distinct from the treatment that might happen in the health care centre.
As part of what the minister was speaking about earlier, that early assessment, the case formulation and the treatment plan will also include that outreach to operational and intervention colleagues about what is required to accommodate this individual in our environment, whether it be Tourette syndrome, Asperger syndrome or FASD. For that specific individual and their specific health needs, how does the system need to accommodate them and what would be appropriate? That sort of consulting advice around how to simplify instructions, how to manage the physical environment and how to set alarms — things like that which would help the person be as successful as possible — would be part of the health professional’s role, based on that assessment and the case formulation and intake.
Senator Munson: Does the professional have the adequate training to do that with this bill or the money that is being spent to do that? It’s difficult outside the system to have enough money to have people trained to do an adequate job each and every day. We are talking about specific conditions for different people. What happens with these people when they have this intellectual disability — yes, the majority will develop a mental health problem inside, but it’s the issue of dealing with the initial problem that I’m addressing. I’m afraid they are still going to be lost in the shadows of what we are trying to do here.
Ms. Wheatley: Through our National Medical Advisory Committee, we have set up a system of professional development to ensure that we are targeting training and ongoing development for our health professionals in areas exactly like those you have targeted, where we need staff to increase their competencies. When we have don’t staff competent in a specific area, if it’s a very specialized assessment, we do have the ability through the funding through Bill C-83 to reach out to bring specialists in from the community to do those assessments.
Senator Munson: Thank you.
Senator Eaton: Minister, thank you for being here with your officials.
We all know the appalling story of Ashley Smith. We all know people stood by and basically watched her kill herself in her cell. You have put money, care and a lot of attention into this bill, but how are we going to change the culture in our prisons where guards can stand by and look at a monitor and watch somebody kill themselves and not do something about it? That’s a culture issue, isn’t it, which probably involves training? Is that part of this bill in any sense?
Mr. Goodale: There are several elements of the bill that would address those tragic circumstances, senator. We have taken a careful look at the recommendations from the inquest. Because of Bill C-83, we will be introducing 24/7 nursing care and patient advocates, which were part of the recommendations about Ashley Smith. Patient advocates would help inmates navigate their health care rights and responsibilities. Bill C-83 will ensure that no inmate will be in segregation for an extended period of time by ending segregation altogether and providing meaningful human interaction on a daily basis, with an emphasis on rehabilitative interventions and mental health care. And we have put in the system a binding review.
Senator Eaton: Once the bill has Royal Assent, do you have deadlines for getting nurse advocates in place and for setting all these things up?
Mr. Goodale: We are now in the process of identifying and recruiting people to perform those new functions. It’s a challenge because we don’t have the legal authority we need to move forward, but we are trying very hard to do our homework informally so that we can get a good, fast start.
Could I ask Commissioner Kelly to comment on the institutional reaction within the CSE to the Ashley Smith situation and the recommendations that came from the inquest? Can you give more information about how the service is moving forward on that situation?
Anne Kelly, Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada: Certainly. It was a terrible tragedy. I can tell you that certainly in terms of Bill C-83, it’s truly a transformation, but that transformation doesn’t start today; it started some time ago. In 2015, we started introducing changes to how we managed segregation, and we went from a high of 800 offenders to today where we are less than 300. That fluctuates, though. With Bill C-83, we have an implementation team in place. We have people. I can say the reaction is very good. People want to work with the offenders. Certainly, as the minister was saying, the vast majority of offenders are going to become our neighbours one day — your neighbours, my neighbours, my loved ones’ neighbours. How do we want them to be when they are released? We want them to be better citizens. One thing in all of my speeches I do, with new recruits, when I go abroad, I always say there is no greater responsibility than having the care and custody of other human beings. That’s very important. I’m in my thirty-sixth year with CSC. I still have a passion for it. I strongly believe in our mandate, which is assisting and encouraging offenders to become law-abiding citizens, while ensuring that our institutions are safe, secure and that it is humane custody. Again, certainly with Bill C-83, I see it, and I met with some groups that are working on the SIUs, and the feeling is they want to be part of this initiative. There is some excitement. It started some years ago, and now we are moving forward with it.
Senator Manning: Thank you to our witnesses. I would like to preface my remarks with the fact that the Newfoundland and Labrador government has announced that they are planning on building a new prison in Newfoundland and Labrador to replace the 150-year-old barracks we have.
Mr. Goodale: They have mentioned that to me on a number of occasions.
Senator Manning: I visited that prison on a couple of occasions, and it needs to be replaced.
Mr. Goodale: In what capacity, senator?
Senator Manning: Not in that capacity, minister.
Mr. Goodale: We used to function down the hall from each other.
Senator Manning: Hopefully we can find a way to assist. I thought I used the opportunity to do that today. I also believe that the bill is rooted in good intentions.
Not only with the prison in Newfoundland and Labrador but in different prisons across the country, we have riots and fights, and, in some cases, we end up with casualties in some prisons. Is there any fear that the elimination of disciplinary segregation would increase the number of offences that happen in the prisons, and what measures do we have in place? We are going to take some people and put them into the general population in some way, shape or form. Are you concerned because things happen?
Mr. Goodale: Let me ask Commissioner Kelly, because she has those years of service in the system, to better answer that question. You are right to make the point that there have been historically two different kinds of segregation — disciplinary and administrative. Perhaps Commissioner Kelly could elaborate on, without the disciplinary tool, what the alternative will be.
Ms. Kelly: We are eliminating both administrative segregation and disciplinary segregation.
In terms of disciplinary segregation, I can say that, on a yearly basis, out of potentially 10,000 serious charges, there might have been 700 where a segregation sanction was imposed, but in the end there were fewer than 2 per cent that actually ended up in segregation. Although the independent chairperson could impose a sanction of up to 30 days, normally the offenders on average stayed 10 days.
We have other mechanisms we can use for sanctions other than segregation. In terms of your question, when an incident happens, we will still have a way to separate the offenders. Instead of going to segregation, they are going into this structured intervention unit, which is going to be heavily focused on interventions.
Although there is definitely going to be security to facilitate the interventions we are going to do with the offenders, there is going to be parole officers, program officers, social program officers, Aboriginal liaison officers, elders and chaplains. In the women’s facilities, it will be behavioural counsellors and occupational therapists who will be there to work with the offenders.
To your question, we are hoping to see a reduction in the number of assaults and how offenders deal with conflict because we are going to be motivating and working with them and offering programs to them. In the end, we believe it’s going to lead to a safer and more secure environment within the institutions. But also as a result of the interventions, the offenders are going to be encouraged to participate in their correctional plans. In the end, it’s going to lead to better public safety outcomes.
Senator Manning: Can you give us some concrete examples of what meaningful human contact would be?
Mr. Goodale: For example, the ability to receive mental health care attention or the ability of an Indigenous offender to meet with an elder or another Indigenous counsellor. It could also include vocational training of various kinds so that people have the opportunity, while they are in an SIU, to make progress on their correctional plan rather than just sitting there and having the resentment build because you are locked away for 22 out of 24 hours and nobody comes by. The whole idea is to continue the normal interventions that are provided, perhaps even enhance them in some circumstances, at the end of the day, so you will be more successful in rehabilitating your behaviour.
Senator Manning: I wish you well.
Mr. Goodale: It’s a tough job.
Senator Pate: Thank you all for being here.
You mentioned that $450 million has already been invested, and you talked about some of the options that are available. Virtually everything that is in the bill right now does not require legal authority for Correctional Service Canada to do. That’s evidenced by the fact it’s being implemented as we speak. All of the international research, however, shows that the better way to reduce the reliance on security and static security, including segregation, is to invest in interventions that are more dynamic in nature. My first question is why you have chosen to invest in new forms of separation as opposed to some of those approaches that will have longer-term benefit.
My second question is with respect to oversight. My read of the bill is it could take up to 90 days before someone could get to the oversight that you’re providing. There’s no requirement to meet with the prisoners. There’s no requirement for a lawyer. There are timelines. Everything is up to the discretion of the body yet to be determined. Yet, recommendation after recommendation has been for judicial oversight. Now that the numbers are less than 300, that could be one of the best ways, as we’ve seen with the policing area. When that kind of oversight was put in place, in fact, that changed the culture. Why have you chosen not to invest in judicial oversight as a way to change the culture fundamentally?
Mr. Goodale: Senator Pate, thank you for your questions.
On the dollars available for enhancing the system, as I mentioned, there was $80 million for the various mental health improvements in the last two budgets, and $450 million is the latest allocation from the Minister of Finance. Of that $450 million, I would estimate approximately $150 million would be specifically on the mental health side of the equation and the other $300 million goes into the other programming enhancements that will be required to make the SIUs work.
On your second question, or I think it’s the second half of your first question, in terms of the long-term transformation versus short-term security, in my judgment, I think we need both. You will face circumstances day by day in correctional institutions that will need the ability to separate people from each other for the security and safety of themselves, the institution or the people working in the institution, while you also work on the longer-form transformation. I think Bill C-83 sets the framework to do both. You have the capacity and the legal authority to keep people separate when separation is necessary for the safety of the institution, but you also have very important long-term programming and approach changes that are no longer administrative segregation or a form of isolation. The whole point here is to be able to maintain the programming that will lead to rehabilitation, which will correct the behaviour of the individual and allow in due course that individual to be released, in a safe way, to be a productive, law-abiding citizen.
In allocating resources, one of the challenges we face is whether we keep admin seg, put a 15-day cap on it and provide an external review mechanism — which is where the previous piece of legislation was going, Bill C-56, if I remember the number correctly — or do we take the resources that would be utilized for that and instead focus on this new concept, where you try to get rid of admin seg altogether and establish a new way of doing it which does not require the elimination of meaningful human contact for most of the day and instead, take the SIU approach, where meaningful human contact would continue to be provided at least two hours a day and time out of the cell would be doubled from two hours to four hours. The judgment call that was made there was that we would actually have a better system if we focused on the total reform of it rather than simply putting a cap and a review process on the old system. Let’s try to get rid of the old system — and this is a point that I think is important from your perspective — and let’s make sure that this transformation is real and not just semantics. We want it to be real.
Senator Oh: Thank you, minister.
Mr. Goodale: Good to see you again, senator.
Senator Oh: The bill authorizes a new type of search by body scan, and the goal is to better control and prevent the introduction of illegal substances into the federal correctional institutions. This type of search is conducted using a prescribed body scanner as defined in the amendment, section 46 of the act, clause 12. My question to you is: How often do they scan the prisoners or inmates? Is there a benefit or drawback to using body scanner technology in the correctional institutes?
Mr. Goodale: Again, Commissioner Kelly and the people from CSC would be in a better position to respond on the practical explanation, Senator Oh.
This was a specific recommendation that was made to us by the union representing correctional officers, saying that this, in their view, would make the system more secure, be more effective in keeping contraband out of the institutions, and be able to accomplish that objective in a more technological way rather than the very intrusive way of body searches. The argument seemed to make eminently good sense. I notice that some of our provincial counterparts are moving in the same direction with the purchase of this kind of technology. We’re both hopeful, federally and provincially, that it will assist the correctional officers in doing their jobs, that there will be less contraband that actually gets into the institutions and that the searching can be done through technology, which is a less intrusive way to do it.
Senator Oh: Is this similar to those we use in the airport?
Mr. Goodale: Commissioner Kelly, can you comment on the technology?
Ms. Kelly: I’m certainly no expert. There are different types of technology. There’s the low-millilitre wave, as they call it, and the low-X-ray technology. We’re looking at the technologies to see what would best suit our needs, but it would be similar.
Senator Oh: When they scan the image, it’s only once, or when they go out and come back, do they have to re-scan?
Ms. Kelly: That would be prescribed as well. There are certain types of searches and there are certain times when offenders are searched, but at least with the body scanners they don’t have to remove their clothes. It’s less intrusive.
Senator Oh: Thank you.
Senator Poirier: Thank you for being here. I have a couple of questions.
On March 20, before the Human Rights Committee, Mr. Jason Godin from the correction officers’ union testified, and he commented on the impact that the new commissioner’s directives on segregation, specifically CD-709 and CD-843, have on the institutional safety. I’d like to quote a very short quote that he said at that day.
Many of the inmates currently managed within segregation units are highly vulnerable and are segregated for their own protection. In order to provide them with the amount of interaction prescribed within the new bill, they will require direct and constant supervision from already limited numbers of correctional officers. Conversely, the inability to adequately manage incompatible inmates will lead to consequences like those seen in Archambault and Millhaven institutions where inmates were murdered in separate incidents in early 2018.
Are you familiar with the situation and have inmates’ lives been lost as a result of the changes that have been made to segregation policies? Have you been briefed on the issue? Are you aware of it? Do you expect that this will become worse once Bill C-83 comes into force?
Mr. Goodale: I have had the opportunity to have direct personal conversations with Mr. Godin as the president of the UCCO union. Indeed, I met with the union earlier this week at their annual general meeting in Calgary. They have made two points very emphatically.
Number one, that for the safety of the institutions, the inmates and the various people, including prison guards who work in the institutions, and all of the other people who come and go, like the service contractors and so forth, there do need to be tools in place to ensure that, when necessary, dangerous people can be separated. It has been done historically and traditionally by virtue of administrative segregation, but Bill C-83 provides a new approach for accomplishing the same objective. But there does need to be a method in place to keep people separate when necessary to keep the institutions safe.
Second, he made the point that to do that successfully, you need to make sure that the new system is properly resourced and that there will be the money in place to engage the correctional officers, the mental health workers, the Indigenous counsellors, the program service advisers, the spiritual advisers and so forth. The funding needs to be there to provide the enhanced work that an SIU is supposed to provide.
Very shortly after Mr. Godin made those comments, we announced that the $450-million investment was going to be made in the system, which I think provided him with a substantial level of comfort that the new system would work because it’s going to be properly resourced.
As well, the representatives of UCCO are anxious to ensure that the monitoring committee, the advisory group that’s going to be supervising the implementation of the new system, will include people who will examine the implementation from the perspective of a correctional officer. There are many perspectives that need to be brought into this group, but the perspective of a correctional officer obviously is one of the very important ones that needs to be represented so they can be assured they’ve got the system and resources to do their jobs in a safe and proper way. We will ensure that that perspective is included in the monitoring group.
Senator Poirier: Thank you. Do I have a little bit of time left?
The Chair: I will put you on the second round.
Mr. Goodale: Could I just add a footnote to that last answer? The number of new staff that we expect to engage all together, in all of the categories — not just correctional officers, but all of the other categories that will be engaged in running the SIUs — will be 900 new staff that will be recruited to the Correctional Service Canada. Thank you.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you, minister and staff, for being here. Your service is really appreciated.
Minister, my question is to you. I appreciate the principles of the legislation. Isolation, especially over extended periods of time, is cruel and unusual, in particular when there is no end in sight — the concept of indeterminacy. Could you comment on the capacity of CSC staff to extend placements in structured intervention units, and if this capacity to extend — and I’d like to understand what the limits on those extensions could be — is a contradiction of the principle of the bill, which is to end confinement as soon as possible?
Mr. Goodale: The fundamental approach to SIUs is that people would be put there only if there is absolutely no other alternative and only for as long as absolutely necessary.
The warden will be overseeing the system. The commissioner also has an oversight function to make sure that that principle is adhered to. I will want my monitoring committee to report to me on the efficacy of how that principle is being applied. There will be, periodically, the opportunity for the external independent decision makers to intervene if they believe the principles are being violated.
As I said in my remarks, if the way the system is being run is becoming too close to the old admin seg system, then that’s where the independent external decision makers will need to have the capacity to blow the whistle and say, “Look, this is not what it was intended to be.” Again, they’re called decision makers. They’re not advisers, counsellors or recommenders. They’re decision makers who will have the ability to render binding judgments, and their decisions are also appealable judicially.
Those are the safeguards we’ve tried to build in.
Senator Omidvar: I have a letter here, and I’m sure you know these people at the University of London and the Schulich School of Law, which talks about monitoring. They state in this letter:
Monitoring, while effective at identifying inmates who have suffered harm, is ineffective at preventing it.
Can you comment?
Mr. Goodale: Again, my goal here is to change the whole orientation going in. If you have a system of admin seg that involves, basically, the discontinuation of meaningful human contact, then almost from moment number one, some measure of harm is going to be done, and that will accumulate over time. Their remarks, critique and analysis applies particularly to the consequences of admin seg. What I’m trying to get to is a system that actually has the opposite orientation so you don’t cut off meaningful human contact.
You’re obviously dealing with a dangerous or a difficult circumstance, so people need to be separated, but while they are separated from other folks with whom they may get into conflict, it doesn’t mean they’re separated from other human beings period. You need to continue human contact with the programming and the other kinds of interventions that will advance their correctional plan while, for some period of time, they are separated for safety reasons.
Senator Omidvar: But those four hours a day outside the cell and the two hours of meaningful human contact — there are exceptions to that. This is when an offender does not comply with reasonable instructions to ensure their safety or that of any other person in the cell or the security of the staff. Can you explain to us what “reasonable instructions” means under this context? Could it be used to perpetually deny a prisoner access to relief from confinement?
Mr. Goodale: Senator, the kind of situation you’re referring to is exactly where an external decision maker would blow the whistle and say, “This is not unfolding as is proper.” They would have the ability to intervene, as would a mental health professional even before that stage. If they see a circumstance where they believe the person’s condition is deteriorating and say, “You’ve got to get him out of there,” and the prison officials would have the authority to say, “No, we think they need to stay there for safety reasons,” then the external decision maker could overrule that.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Omidvar.
Mr. Minister, I believe you do have to leave. You have extended your time with us —
Mr. Goodale: They keep voting in the other place.
The Chair: We truly appreciate the time you have taken and your assistance with our study of Bill C-83. We will continue with the officials remaining with us. We will keep the list, and the names are staying on the list in this order. Once again, thank you very much for being here.
Mr. Goodale: I thank you for the very conscientious attention of the Senate to this important legislation. Thank you.
The Chair: Honourable colleagues, we are continuing the study of Bill C-83, An Act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and another Act.
In addition to the department officials we already have with us, we are adding to the list of our witnesses — and we thank you for being here — Alain Tousignant, Senior Deputy Commissioner at Correctional Service Canada, who is joined by his colleague, Kelley Blanchette, Deputy Commissioner for Women, as well as Dan Moore, Counsel, Human Rights Law Section, Department of Justice.
We will continue with questions and answers.
Senator Dasko: Thank you for being here today. It’s been very informative so far.
One of the critiques that I have become aware of, I think in particular in speaking with Senator Pate about this, is the assertion that Bill C-83 is not au courant with the latest court decisions in this area. It’s based on a couple of earlier decisions in response to the situation in 2015, but it is not up to date with the latest decisions, which I believe came earlier this year. Can you respond to that and say what the veracity of this is?
Juline Fresco, Counsel, Department of Justice Canada: Good evening.
I will start by saying that this bill is not administrative segregation, and it is the government’s position that this is a Charter-compliant bill. Yesterday, a Charter statement was tabled on behalf of the Minister of Justice. As was outlined, the provisions of Bill C-83 and the consistency with the Charter are supported. There are a number of reasons for this, as outlined in the Charter statement: very clearly defined objectives of putting an inmate in SIU, a very enhanced role for mental health support and for mental health professionals and external oversight, as was outlined by the minister — the independent external reviewers, as well as reviews by appropriate CSC officials.
I will turn to my colleague Dan Moore to see if he’d like to add anything further.
Dan Moore, Counsel, Human Rights Law Section, Department of Justice Canada: You have covered a lot of the ground.
The Department of Justice has provided and continues to provide legal advice on Bill C-83. Legal advice was provided prior to the introduction of the bill and also in light of all the recent court decisions we are hearing.
The Charter statement that was tabled yesterday reflects the version of the bill that is currently before the committee, and it has been drafted in light of all of the decisions up until the date of the tabling of the statement.
I think it is worth emphasizing that all the recent court decisions concern the Charter validity of the current scheme of administrative segregation. When we are reviewing the recent court decisions, we are also taking into account all of the different ways in which the scheme proposed by the current bill is qualitatively different from what is at issue in the court decisions we’re seeing.
Senator Dasko: So they’re different from the 2019 decisions?
I was going to ask about the Charter statement, because we hadn’t seen one yet. So you are saying it just came out yesterday.
Ms. Fresco: Right.
Senator Dasko: So what is the issue with respect to the 2019 decisions? You are saying, just for clarity, that you don’t have to take those into account? Could you explain that?
Mr. Moore: We certainly take them into account, but we are also remembering that the decisions are in relation to the statute that is currently in place and the practices that currently exist in relation to administrative segregation. When we look at the principles, we look at the factual findings and the legal holdings in the current decisions, and we translate them to the provisions in the current bill.
Ms. Fresco: I also wanted to add that this bill we are debating here today is not before the courts. It would be improper for the courts to opine on a bill, as it is not yet legislation.
Senator Dasko: Yes. I’m aware that usually doesn’t happen. It sometimes happens but not often. I’ll leave it at that. Thank you.
The Chair: Senator Pate, I know you want to come back on that — and we have your name on the list — but we don’t do supplementary questions in this committee as a regular practice. You can ask for more details in a few minutes.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you, witnesses.
Clause 26 of Bill C-83 changes the definition of “health care” so that health care can now be provided by persons acting under the supervision of a health care professional and not necessarily just a health care professional. Who were you intending to allow to provide this health care? Who are these persons? What level of supervision will they require? Will there be any follow-ups? What is the base training? Are you afraid this may introduce potential risks?
Ms. Wheatley: That clause is also supported with what is in existing legislation that requires us to provide essential health care in accordance with professionally accepted standards. When we look at how scopes of practice and protected practices have evolved over time, there is a role for non-licensed health care individuals within an essential health service. For example, personal support workers who routinely work in retirement homes and other settings would be a type of that individual. These individuals would work under the direction of the chief of health care. Their duties would be assigned by registered health professionals, and they would be supervised by registered health professionals.
Senator Ravalia: Given the fact that a significant number of individuals who would end up under this type of care often have health care needs that are primarily mentally based, are you talking about non-qualified professionals providing mental health supports as well?
Ms. Wheatley: No, absolutely not. The health provisions are not limited to just mental health care; it’s the health for the whole person and system.
We hold ourselves to provincial legislation and what are regulated acts and the scopes of practices as set out by the provinces. Our health professionals are registered with the provincial college and follow the guidelines of the college. We would never ask a non-registered health professional to do what’s a protected act in any province.
Senator Ravalia: Thank you.
Senator Kutcher: Thanks, all. This is for whoever is best for this question.
Some people with particular mental illnesses — psychoses, PTDS, severe personality disorders — when they are put into a solitary segregated situation, they rapidly deteriorate to the point that their response to treatment becomes poor. The disturbances that required them to be separated, often for their own protection, are usually very short-lasting, hours or maybe a day, and then they can be moved to a less restrictive and more therapeutic environment quite quickly. What alternatives to SIUs do you have in place that will permit you to therapeutically triage people with these illnesses so that they don’t have to go to an SIU, which we know is damaging to them?
Second, in those very rare instances — and they are very rare — where somebody needs some additional security, what provisions do you have to give that person additional meaningful human contact more than four hours a day? It is pretty unjust to keep a psychotic person without human contact for an hour at a time. You shouldn’t do that. Are you contemplating putting into place regularly occurring — daily, ongoing — mental health treatments — not just showing up and saying “hello” with a counsellor — and ongoing daily assessments so that as soon as an individual can be removed from that kind of situation, they are appropriately removed?
Ms. Kelly: I’ll start and then turn to Jennifer to complement my response.
First, with the mental health enhancements that are going to be made, we will be able to diagnose offenders when they are admitted, which is going to help. As you heard the minister say, 70 per cent of the offender population suffers from at least one mental disorder. We know that 36 per cent meet the threshold of a mental illness with moderate to significant impairment. Being able to diagnose them and ensure they are placed in the right stream is going to help so they get the treatment they require. In some cases, they will get the appropriate treatment so they don’t deteriorate more and potentially end up in treatment centres.
We offer primary care in all our institutions. It is mostly counselling by psychologists, and there are nurses. We also have intermediate mental health care in many of our institutions, and for maximum security offenders in our maximum security institutions we have therapeutic ranges to help those offenders.
In terms of offenders where there is just no getting around it, they may end up getting transferred to a structured intervention unit. There are going to be daily visits from health care, and they are going to be able to assess the offender. Actually, what is significant in Bill C-83 is that health care, when they assess the offender, if they believe that the conditions of confinement or that the inmate should actually be removed from the SIU and placed elsewhere, they can make that recommendation to the institutional head. So to your point in terms of changing the conditions of confinement, a health care professional could say that this particular offender needs to be seen more often. That could be the case.
I hope I answered part of your question.
Ms. Wheatley: As the commissioner mentioned, a big focus of the new investments in mental health with Bill C-83 is on early diagnosis, the case formulation and the treatment plan so that we can divert people on to appropriate pathways of care. In preparation for this change, we have met with internal and national experts on pathways of care to refine our pathways of care so that we are doing that early diversion. We know, based on our own experience and international research, that early identification and treatment can reduce incidents by 33 per cent. That is a big focus.
When all else fails, as the commissioner mentioned, if there is a placement in the SIU, supported with the notions of clinical independence and patient advocacy in the bill, it is the health care professional’s role to advocate for appropriate care for that individual. The bill supports that with the provisions. The resources that come with Bill C-83 will ensure that we have appropriate numbers of staff to be able to meet those needs to be able to do the assessments, treatment and follow-up that you mentioned.
Senator Moodie: Thank you all for coming today and speaking to us. I’m going to carry this line of questioning just a little bit further down the road around health care. Acute health care response is what I’m particularly interested in.
As I listen to what I have heard so far about this bill, I’m beginning to worry about what is, to me, a perception that I’m building that there may be a timing mismatch between a person who is acutely deteriorating and the types of things that are being put in place in response. It’s sounding to me as if the interventions are more long-term, or intermediate to long-term. I really want to examine more closely what sorts of protocols you are putting in place to make sure that the right health care provider is at that SIU when that patient or inmate is deteriorating and spiralling out of control, and when that health care worker makes a recommendation to the top security officer in that unit, that there is actually a veto somewhere. How do we ensure that the right response occurs and that he or she just does not choose a second or third opinion, which we have been warned could happen in this scenario?
We hear you say, even today, that health care workers can make that recommendation. What we haven’t heard is what is holding that top official to respond in a certain way, and what sorts of supports, oversight and connection there are between that report to that senior officer and the external monitoring committee who is going to actually intervene if there is an issue here. What sorts of safeguards are you putting in place to manage the acute situation to protect that person so a similar Ashley Smith situation does not occur.
Ms. Kelly: If a registered health care professional recommends to the institutional head, to the warden, that either the conditions of confinement be altered or the offender be removed from the structured intervention unit, and the institutional head, for overriding security reasons or other reasons, decides that they are not going to comply with that recommendation, what happens then is — first of all, the institutional head, before making that decision, must visit with the inmate. If the institutional head does not agree with the recommendation, then it’s going to be going to a committee that is composed of the Assistant Commissioner of Health Services — so Ms. Wheatley — the regional deputy commissioner, which is the highest person in the region, with consultation from a senior medical adviser. If the committee, after looking at the case, decides that they agree with the institutional head that the offender should remain in the SIU, that’s when it’s going to go to the independent external decision maker for review.
Senator Moodie: Can I just impose the whole concern about time line and urgency on this dialogue? Because that’s the mismatch I’m talking about. We have an acute situation, and we have a committee meeting planned. I’m not seeing how that jells.
Ms. Wheatley: In addition to what the commissioner said, for somebody who needs to be certified under provincial mental health, nothing in this legislation would stop a psychiatrist or physician from starting that process to certify them and move them to a psychiatric hospital. That already exists under provincial legislation, and this process would not interfere with that immediate health need and the need to form somebody and to move them to a psychiatric hospital.
Senator Moodie: Thank you.
Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Thank you, chair, for allowing a question from an interloper. I appreciate it.
Not long ago, I had a circle with the men at the Stan Daniels Healing Centre. Specifically about this bill, I thought I would go right to the source and ask them about segregation. When I asked them how many of them had been in seg, every single one of them put their hand up. The reality is that our segregation units are overrepresented by Indigenous offenders. Since 1992, there is a canon of evidence that shows that criminogenic behaviour is grounded in trauma, and for an Indigenous offender it’s historic trauma.
What I see happening here is a modernization of the CCRA. What I don’t see in this bill, and maybe you can help me to understand, is how this modernization is going to transform current jails into culturally appropriate, trauma-informed rehabilitation centres. We didn’t have that language in 1992, but the CCRA’s intent was about serious rehabilitation. We know a lot more now, but I don’t see in this bill how we are going to get there. I don’t know who this question is for, or if you don’t want to answer.
Ms. Kelly: First of all, with this bill, it’s going to be now legislated that we have to consider the Aboriginal social history of Indigenous offenders, which is something that we already do. I believe that we are getting better at it. Certainly, in terms of documenting the unique circumstances of the offenders, I think we do that well, actually. In terms of looking for alternatives, we are getting better. Then we have to ensure that that information then translates into decision making and recommendation making. That’s where we are offering training. The training seems to be proving helpful or fruitful.
The other thing is for Indigenous offenders, clearly they are overrepresented right now in our segregation areas. With the SIUs — again, Alain can speak more about it — we are going to be developing programs, and for Indigenous offenders we are going to be ensuring they are culturally appropriate programs.
Again the whole point of the structured intervention units is also to have intervention people working with those offenders. For Indigenous offenders, we are going to ensure they have access to elders and Aboriginal liaison officers.
Our main goal, always, when someone is transferred to the structured intervention unit, is to work with the offender to try and get them out into the mainstream population, and not just release them from the structured intervention unit but ensure that they don’t return to the structured intervention unit. Oftentimes that’s what we see with segregation; it’s the same offenders that return.
Between the intervention people who are going to work with the offender, as well as the investments we are making into mental health care and being able to diagnosis, I think we are going to see better results. For Indigenous offenders particularly, we want to start to work with them in the SIUs and for them to go back into the mainstream and hopefully end up in one of our Aboriginal intervention centres so they can get the programming, we can initiate a section 84 release, and ultimately they can get before the board.
Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Thank you.
Senator Eaton: When I was young, in Montreal, they started closing down the long-term mental health facilities. When I moved to Toronto, they did the same thing. For a lot of people who end up in prison, would they not be better off in a long-term mental health facility? Are we using our prisons as mental health hospitals?
Ms. Kelly: First of all, because of the offenders who are admitted — and we don’t have any control over the admissions — we have had to ensure that we provide the services to meet their needs. Definitely, as a result, we have five treatment centres in CSC that offer services to those who present more acute mental health problems.
In terms of partnering with external psychiatric agencies — again, Jennifer can speak more to that — we have knocked on doors. In Budget 2018, we did get some funding to increase the number of beds for women at l’Institut Philippe-Pinel, and we are looking elsewhere in other regions to see if we can partner with hospitals so they can take some of our offenders who present more acute problems.
Ms. Wheatley: As the commissioner mentioned, we have five treatment centres, which are a combination of hospital beds under provincial mental health legislation and other therapeutic health-focused beds in each region.
Senator Eaton: Sorry, you have how many beds?
Ms. Wheatley: Five treatment centres. There are over 600 beds in total for the country. That’s in addition to the health focus that is in mainstream institutions.
Senator Eaton: Say I suffer from schizophrenia or I have frequent psychotic breaks. Dr. Kutcher could speak more knowledgeably about this, but I would probably need long-term, ongoing care, which obviously with your 600 beds, I get over my psychotic break and I go back to prison?
Ms. Wheatley: The goal of any health system, including ours, is to support, in a recovery-oriented fashion, people to live their best possible life. We try to provide our patients the health care that is matched to their disorder and the degree of their impairment. Because of that, we offer services at the primary care level, what we call the intermediate care level — which is like a community treatment in Ontario in terms of outpatient services for you or me — and at the hospital base level. Matching the patient’s disorder and their impairments is key. As people recover and are more well, they can receive services at primary care. If they need hospital-level care or intermediate-level care, we can match that service need with the individual.
What Bill C-83 will do, with the associated funding, is ensure that we have the right places to further expand that with better diagnosis and more timely interventions.
Senator Eaton: Is 600 beds enough?
Ms. Wheatley: We certainly have enough hospital beds.
Senator Eaton: Thank you.
Senator Pate: It’s tempting to ask a whole bunch of supplementaries, but the question I want to ask has to do with the oversight and the fact that one of the realities is that when we are looking at the oversight provisions, all the recommendations have been to have judicial oversight for corrections to truly change the culture.
Ms. Fresco, did you do the Charter analysis?
Ms. Fresco: The Charter analysis is tabled on behalf of the Minister of Justice. Did I personally write it? No.
Senator Pate: Whoever did, I would love to speak to them because they have missed a bunch of points. We will ask the constitutional experts about that when they come before us.
In terms of this provision, and in light of the discussion that my colleagues were just asking, under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, there is a provision that requires judges and the system to look at every other system besides imprisonment before putting somebody in custody. It was aimed at trying to reducing the number of young people with mental health and addiction issues, with child welfare concerns, concerns that are not criminal in nature. Would you, as officials, support that kind of amendment to apply to adults as well?
Ms. Kelly: How does this relate to the bill? Sorry.
Senator Pate: You mentioned there are a lot of people with mental health issues. You will have to hire. I know, commissioner, that you have advised many community groups as well as the unions that for every time a cell is cracked in a structured intervention unit — i.e., the door being opened — that it will require two correctional officers, so the bulk of the resources will go into more security. If you had this kind of provision, you would have the ability to obviate that and have other options and systems available.
Ms. Kelly: Actually, it won’t be all security. Although we are going to hire security correctional officers, half of the hires are going toward intervention. Our goal is truly to work with those offenders to return them to the mainstream as quickly as possible.
Senator Pate: If you had the option to have them streamed out of the system earlier, would you support that?
Ms. Kelly: For me, at this point, they are in the system, and that’s what we are working with — what we do when they are in our care and custody.
Senator Pate: One of the issues raised is the number of hours out. By my count, I was picking up on some of the other questions, you will now have perhaps 20 to 24 hours in a cell because the discretion still rests with Corrections; yet all of the research shows, as has been identified already, that for individuals with significant mental health issues, even a few minutes in that situation can exacerbate or create mental health issues. How will you address that, given the only guarantee is that there will be two hours out of the cell, and even that is not guaranteed because there are provisions whereby you could not have the person out of the cell? Could you could walk me through that how that person who doesn’t have access to all of what is supposed to be in the legislation gets to that external advisory body? How do they get from their cells to the external advisory body?
Ms. Kelly: First of all, I want to make it clear that it’s a minimum of four hours outside of the cell per day.
Senator Pate: With exceptions.
Ms. Kelly: With exceptions. Again, they should be rare exceptions. The goal is a minimum of four hours, and that four hours includes two hours of meaningful interaction, so where the offender is interacting with a health care professional, parole officers, program officers and others.
In terms of the independent external decision maker, if an offender doesn’t get out of their cell for four hours a day or does not interact for at least two hours a day for five consecutive days, or 15 days over a 30-day period, then the IEDM would step in.
Senator Pate: Okay. So it’s at the discretion of the CSC right now —
Ms. Kelly: No. We have to.
Senator Pate: It’s a discretion, though —
Ms. Kelly: If an offender doesn’t avail himself or herself of the four hours outside of their cells or two hours of meaningful interaction —
Senator Pate: Who records that information? Is it Correctional Service Canada?
I’ll move on to another question, then.
Alain Tousignant, Senior Deputy Commissioner, Correctional Service Canada: We will have a correctional manager specifically dedicated to the SIUs to manage, on a daily basis, the inmate movement to ensure that they do get out for their four hours, plus shower, and their two hours of meaningful contact.
Senator Pate: The challenge is how that is going to be overseen when we know that external oversight is something that’s been raised repeatedly in various inquiries and inquests —
The Chair: Senator, I have one minute for you, so if you can make it quick.
Senator Pate: The issue of gang affiliation has been raised in a number of sectors as a part of the reason we need segregation or separation units, or SIUs — by whatever name — and yet the only program aimed at gang disaffiliation that every correctional person we have talked to has acknowledged is the break-away program, yet it has not been funded. Do you have any plans to fund that program in the future?
Ms. Kelly: In CSC — and Alain can speak to it — we do have a gang disaffiliation strategy that is composed of prevention, deterrence and working with the offender if they’re interested in breaking away from the gang. So we do already have something in place.
I’ve heard about the break-away program. As the minister said, some of the things you’ve proposed are good things and it would be good to look into them.
Senator Mégie: A few of my questions have already been answered, but I have one left. The segregation system has existed for a long time. However, prior to the introduction of Bill C-83, were there any reflections to try to find alternatives to that model? Are the structured intervention units a response to everything you have learned from your reflections, or are they simply a new element?
Ms. Kelly: Reflections have been ongoing for a few years. Preventive segregation has existed for a long time, as that practice was already in place when I began my career, 36 years ago. I remember that, in the 1990s, we looked into the issue to try to determine what we could do and whether we could find other solutions. We were already hard at work on that.
In 2015, for instance, we really started to examine that practice, as there was a lot of criticism. At that point, we created a tool to help case management officers determine whether someone should really be placed in preventive segregation. That helped them in terms of the factors they should take into account. The reflection was useful.
Afterwards, our policy was changed to exclude certain individuals from preventive segregation. So there have been a number of reflections, and we are now at the stage of wanting to completely eliminate preventive segregation and establish structured intervention units.
Senator Mégie: We don’t feel that it has been completely eliminated, as this is another form of segregation, isn’t it?
Ms. Kelly: Not at all. It would enable us to separate inmates when an incident occurs and when we don’t know what is happening on the ground. All we know is that an incident has occurred; we don’t know whether the two offenders can still coexist, so we have to separate them.
The important distinction that should be made in terms of what we are proposing is that people will still engage with the offenders, who will be able to spend hours outside their cell and thereby interact with people.
Mr. Tousignant: What is proposed shows a marked departure from what was previously being done in the case of preventive segregation for all the reasons that have been mentioned. Through this approach, we will be able to see a lot of movement and a lot of interventions, and a number of people will take care of those inmates placed in structured intervention units. We are not talking about preventive segregation. The two concepts should not be mixed up because structured intervention units are not preventive segregation.
Senator Mégie: Thank you.
The Chair: Senator Mégie, you are making me want to keep going. You are talking about experiences and reflections. I think that committee members would like to know whether, to get to this approach, we can rely on consultations, on studies of various international models, on best practices based on data that has been gathered. Was all that done prior to settling on the approach proposed under Bill C-83?
Ms. Kelly: Of course we examined those different models. However, when it comes to international comparisons, I must say that, with the elimination of preventive segregation, we are leading the way. In other countries, limits have perhaps been imposed, but preventive segregation still exists.
Right now, when we talk about it, people want to learn more about it and know what lessons will be learned from this. It will be important for me, as commissioner of Correctional Service Canada, that we do what we said we wanted to do. It will be extremely important, and we will really focus on it.
I would like to say something else to answer another question. I sincerely believe that this measure will reduce attacks and abuse in establishments. I believe it will create a safer, healthier environment, and that offenders will be able to continue to participate in their correctional plan. At the end of the day, I think we could see offenders come before the commission and obtain day paroles. Certain results already show us that we are on the right path. A great deal of effort has been invested.
Senator Munson: I don’t want to be flippant, but I’ve heard the term “meaningful contact” all afternoon. I’d like to know what that means. Was there none before, when people were in solitary confinement and being cared for after? For people watching this hearing, “meaningful contact” can mean many things. In your words, what would “meaningful contact” mean to a person who was just thrown into the structural intervention unit?
Ms. Kelly: Don’t get me wrong: Right now, with the way seg is set up, obviously they have parole officers assigned to them. The parole officer would go down and see them. There are also correctional officers who are assigned to the unit where they are, so there is some interaction.
But with the investments we’re making, first, there are a few infrastructure changes we need to make to ensure we have the interview spaces and program space available. I would see the parole officers, correctional program officers, teachers, elders and chaplains going down to the structured intervention unit and intervening with the offenders. It’s all about the interaction they’re going to have with people. It’s not somebody sending them a letter. When I say “meaningful,” it’s in-person contact.
The other thing we’ve done recently is that we have introduced video visitation, as well. We’re seeing an uptake there. It’s so that offenders, where the families don’t have the means to visit, which often is the case, the offenders can stay in contact with their family and community supports.
Also, there are the health investments that we’re making where a health care professional is going to be down there every day visiting with and speaking to the offender.
Senator Munson: Thank you.
I just have one other question. Regarding Indigenous inmates — and I don’t know if this has been asked before — clauses 23 and 25 of the bill amend a number of definitions for Indigenous inmates. It changes the definition of Indigenous Peoples and replaces “Aboriginal community” with “Indigenous governing body” and adds a definition of Indigenous organization. These are amendments. How would these amendments change the administration of the act for Indigenous inmates? What does it mean?
Ms. Kelly: It’s a change. It went from “Aboriginal community” to “Indigenous governing body or Indigenous organization.” That’s to recognize that agreements and/or contracts have to be linked to the appropriate authority. You normally enter into a contract with the Indigenous organization. Before, “Aboriginal community” was just too broad. That’s the change.
Senator Munson: Okay. Thank you very much.
Senator Poirier: Part of what I was going to ask has been asked, but I want a little clarification. In Bill C-83, clause 36 is where we talk about the four hours inmates can have and the minimum two hours, in that language. However, when I go to clause 37, there’s a part in there that says, “If the inmate refuses to avail themselves to the opportunity referred to in that paragraph.” What tools are at the disposition of the correctional officer if that happens?
Ms. Kelly: It does happen where, despite our best efforts, there are offenders who may say they don’t want to go out for exercise or they don’t want to meaningfully interact with people. For us — and Alain can speak to it — we’re going to develop a program composed of different sessions, but truly it’s to motivate the offenders to interact with people so that we can actually get them out of the structured intervention unit.
The thing is, though, that if the offender, for five consecutive days, doesn’t avail himself or herself of the four hours out or the two hours of meaningful interaction, that’s when the independent decision maker comes in. Obviously, for us, we will ensure that we work with the offender and motivate the offender so that they actually avail themselves of what is going to be available to them. That’s going to be important. Again, our main goal is to return the offenders to the mainstream population and ensure that they don’t come back to the structured intervention unit. The health care investments are going to help there as well.
Senator Poirier: On that, the minister mentioned the 900 employees and that the money was in place. You said a few minutes ago that over half of those employees would not be correctional officers or parole officers, from my understanding. I’m assuming a good portion of those employees within the health system could be treating with mental health or whatever it is.
In many areas in Canada — specifically, I know in New Brunswick — there’s a shortage already on health care professionals for our hospitals, school systems, social workers, whatever. Do you foresee that there could be an issue here of having the quality and quantity that you need of professional health care workers to answer the need that’s going to be required here?
Ms. Wheatley: What is normally a disadvantage for us in this case is an advantage because we’re speaking of 43 institutions over seven provinces. The need to recruit a large number of health professionals just for one or two sites isn’t there. We’re addressing health needs in 43 different institutions, with a variety of health professionals, so nurses, nurse practitioners, psychiatrists, psychologists and other health professionals. We’ve looked at the labour market in the plan, and we’re confident we’re going to be able to staff up to what we planned.
Senator Poirier: Thank you.
Senator Klyne: Again, thank you for your participation this evening. This is largely a question, I would think, for the commissioner, but let it cascade as necessary.
As you know, I visited a number of institutions out there, and again I hope to see one more. To look at this at a high level, it’s a complex undertaking and likely to require a paradigm shift in terms of thinking and perhaps a cultural shift. If I were in your shoes, if you will, I’d probably want to do some advance consultation with stakeholders, including staff, to best find my way in terms of looking at this.
There are two things that probably would keep me up at night in terms of trying to formulate some steps of action here. One would be around structure needs support strategy, that is, in terms of the way you set up your organization to support this strategy. The other thing is my experience has been that culture can either support strategy or, if culture and strategy clash, the culture is probably going to win and undermine the strategy and blindside it.
The bill offers a road map, but certainly not an operations manual, so I’m wondering what steps you will be taking to position this for success and to ensure that those who are going to be accountable and responsible for the implementation and continued execution of this will know what they’re accountable and responsible for it and held to that accountability and responsibility. Making sure you position them for success, what steps will you be taking to see this through?
Ms. Kelly: That’s a good question. It’s a big endeavour. As I said before, though, I believe that, by the sheer fact that the numbers in segregation have been reduced from 800 to less than 300 today, already a shift has been made.
In terms of the SIUs for me — and, it’s funny, because I put some notes to myself — I think it’s going to be very important that the vision be clear. What are the SIUs? I already started meeting with the regional management committees in each of the regions, but it’s also going to be important to get out and speak to the staff because it can’t stop at the top and it can’t stop at the regional level. It really has to get down to the front line.
Again, I have people beside me here that have been part of the SIU team. I think there is some excitement. It’s also going to be extremely important that there are clear roles and responsibilities and that everybody understands their roles and responsibilities in this endeavour and that we provide them with the required training.
Regarding your point on training, it’s not the same as health care, but for correctional officers, for all of 2018, we had around 2,900 applications. For the first three months of 2019, we had 3,300 applications. That’s a good sign that people want to join.
In addition, accountability measures will have to be built into this so that, again, people will be expected to do what it is that they have to do. We have also established measures of success in terms of how many go to the SIUs, how long they stay, how long does it take before they are released and how many interactions they are having. We’ve created a tool that’s going to make it much simpler and will provide us with the information about how much time are spending people with the offenders.
To me, it’s going to be important that it be in the performance agreement of the staff. This is a big endeavour and a big initiative. We want it to work.
The other thing is we’re going to continue our discussion with our union partners about this and with our stakeholders. We’re also ensuring that we have a strong communications strategy. We’re here before the committee, and we’re talking to you about the initiative.
I think it’s a very important initiative. I think it can have huge benefits for the organization in terms of reducing the number of assaults and serious harm, actually treating the underlying reasons as to why offenders go into seg but now structured intervention units. I am and we are going to work very hard to ensure its success.
Senator Omidvar: I’m going to focus on numbers and money. I’ve heard you say the numbers of individuals in segregation have dropped from 800 to 300. That is fantastic. Congratulations. But we’re now going to be spending $448 million more. You’re hiring up. Can you give me an estimate of the prisoner-staff ratio after this legislation has passed?
Ms. Kelly: I know there have been questions around that. First of all, in terms of the people that we’re going to hire, it will be some correctional officers as well as intervention people. At this point, around 25 per cent would be more security correctional officers, even with the new investments, and over half are actually interventions and health care professionals that are going to work with the offenders.
Senator Omidvar: To wrap around supports, in a sense.
Ms. Kelly: Absolutely, yes. Security is there obviously because, again, those offenders need to be separated. They’re also there to facilitate the interventions that we’re going to be doing with those offenders. So the doors need to be opened. They need to be there if there is an incident. Don’t get me wrong. Correctional officers also work with the offenders. There are some fantastic correctional officers that counsel offenders, so they’re part of the team as well.
Senator Omidvar: How many healing lodges are there in Canada?
Ms. Kelly: There are nine.
Senator Omidvar: How much does it cost to set up and operate one healing lodge, and how many prisoners can be accommodated in a healing lodge? I’m just trying to do some comparisons in my head.
Ms. Kelly: It depends. Some are smaller than others. For example, Kwìkwèxwelhp can accommodate up to 50. Waseskun, for example, can accommodate 25 offenders.
In terms of the healing lodge, they’re not in every one of our regions. We have one in Waseskun, so in the Quebec region, one in the Pacific region, and the others are mostly in the Prairie region.
The one thing I will say about section 81 is that we are always open to entertaining expressions of interest from an Indigenous community, absolutely. We will work with the Indigenous community. Oftentimes, it’s a question of willingness and capacity. Are they willing to do it, and do they have the capacity to provide the services? In terms of the funding arrangement, we revised the funding arrangement. We have actually renewed some of our agreements, and the agreement holders have told us that it is a fair and respectful kind of funding arrangement.
Senator Omidvar: Do you have any proposals to expand the number of healing lodges outside simply saying you’re open to proposals? Are you proactive or reactive?
Ms. Kelly: No, I would say that we are proactive. I’ve asked every regional deputy commissioner — so in the Atlantic, we don’t have one — to see if there’s a possibility to engage in discussion. Again, we will work with the Indigenous community.
The Chair: We do have to conclude this meeting, but for the questions on numbers and anything that you have that can be of value to this committee, please send it to our clerk. We always welcome information and data, so we will appreciate it. On that, I would like to say thank you for the time that you took to help us with the study of Bill C-83, a study that we will continue tomorrow morning.
Tomorrow, our witnesses will come from the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, the John Howard Society of Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. We will also welcome professors from Queen’s University and the University of British Columbia.
Honourable senators, this meeting is adjourned.
(The committee adjourned.)