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Study on Matters Relating to Human Rights Generally

Fourth Report of Human Rights Committee and Request for Government Response Adopted

June 23, 2021

Honourable senators, from here on the shores of the Kitchissippi on the unceded, unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin Anishinabek, I rise to speak to the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights report titled Human Rights of Federally-Sentenced Persons. Words cannot express my gratitude and appreciation enough to all who have contributed to making this report a reality.

I want to begin by acknowledging the leadership of our current chair, Senator Ataullahjan, and previous chairs, Senators Bernard and Munson and all committee members who have worked together over the past four and a half years, including during this COVID pandemic. Most especially, I humbly thank the incredible numbers of people inside federal prisons who agreed to meet with senators, who educated senators about their lived experiences, often despite potential risk of retribution or reprisals, and who remained patiently engaged following committee meetings on television, sending hundreds of written accounts and inquiries about the status of the committee’s work through the four and a half years that it took for the committee to publish this report.

I also want to thank those who work with and on behalf of those incarcerated as government and correctional workers, non-governmental organizations, academics and advocates, all who toil daily to draw attention to and educate Canadians about human rights concerns in federal prisons.

I want to also acknowledge the support and impetus of our former colleagues senators Baker, Joyal and Fraser, who urged us to focus the attention of the Human Rights Committee in the Senate on the topic of human rights violations occurring behind prison walls.

Scarcely a month after my appointment, they urged us to travel across the country and visit many prisons and do hard investigation of what happens there.

Crucially, I want to express my admiration for the incredible and tireless work of the committee’s current clerk François Michaud, and past clerks Mark Palmer, Joëlle Nadeau, and Barbara Reynolds; the committee’s current analysts, Jean-Philippe Duguay, Robert Mason, Martin McCallum and Lara Coleman, as well as former analysts Erin Shaw and Alexandra Smith; and the current and past members of the Senate telecommunications team, including in particular the committee’s communications officer, Ben Silverman, as well as Sarah Dea and Siofra McAllister. I also want to thank Emily Grant, Evan Cathcart and all other staff and interns in our office and yours who contributed to our collective efforts.

Those who met and spoke with us indicated that they did so in the hopes of bringing about systemic change, change that would uphold their rights and those of others who are imprisoned. My humble hope is that we do justice to the trust they placed in us and continue to work together relentlessly to uphold their human rights.

Without any further ado, I thank Senator Martin and her colleagues for agreeing to allow us to now call the question and accept this report. Meegwetch, thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker [ - ]

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

An Hon. Senator: On division.

(Motion agreed to, on division, and report adopted.)

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