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Human Rights of Incarcerated Persons

April 10, 2019

Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. This month marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the denial of Charter and human rights, including unlawful stripping and shackling of women by men and the subsequent imprisonment in segregation for an extended period of time at the Prison for Women in Kingston. Louise Arbour, a former Supreme Court of Canada justice, was commissioned to conduct an inquiry into those events. In addition to finding an absence of the rule of law in corrections, she recommended judicial oversight of the Correctional Service of Canada’s decision-making with respect to the segregation. She found that this measure was necessary in order to uphold the rule of law by corrections and ensure the protection of prisoners’ human rights. She also recommended that where correctional treatment of prisoners breaches human rights — for example, as a result of segregation, overclassification, lack of access to programs or where other conditions of confinement amount to correctional interference in the administration of the lawful sanction or sentence imposed by a judge — then prisoners should be able to have their sentence reviewed by a judge and possibly shortened, ended or otherwise remedied.

Leaving aside Bill C-83 which, as we know, does not provide for judicial oversight of CSC decision-making, what concrete steps is Public Safety Canada and this government taking to implement these long overdue measures?

Hon. Peter Harder (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

I thank the honourable senator for her question. It’s difficult for me to answer without reference to Bill C-83 because it is such a significant step forward — at least in the government’s views, and we’ll have the opportunity to debate it in this chamber — to provide a more humane intervention capacity in our prison system. It is an issue on which I know a number of senators will have views and will want to engage in those issues and hear from the ministers directly.

With regard to the specific question that is being asked, I would be happy to make inquiries and report back.

Thank you for that, government representative.

I would also ask that you investigate as to what it would take to implement judicial oversight and ensure that discretionary decisions made behind prison walls do not make a sentence harsher than that to which a judge sentenced someone and that a judge be determined to be fit and fair.

Senator Harder [ - ]

I would be happy to do so.

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