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Correctional Service Canada--Mental Health Services

February 26, 2024

Senator Gold, Correctional Service Canada received funding in Budget 2018 that it told our Social Affairs Committee was to increase the number of external mental health beds in community hospitals and mental health facilities to which prisoners can be transferred to receive the health care they need. Now, more than five years later, Correctional Service Canada has revealed to at least three Senate committees that, in fact, no new beds were created. Despite promises to provide written answers to the National Finance Committee by December, as well as to the Legal Committee, Correctional Service Canada has failed to clarify how it actually spent some $46 million in allocations, with additional amounts ongoing.

Will you please commit to providing a response regarding how the missing amount was spent?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) [ - ]

Thank you, Senator Pate. It is an important question, and the mental health needs of all Canadians — not limited to those in prison, but including those in prison — is an important and challenging measure of how well we, as a society, are taking care of our citizens.

I’m not in a position to answer the specific question, but I will certainly raise it with the minister.

Thank you very much, Senator Gold. I appreciate that.

Given the repeated calls of the Office of the Correctional Investigator, and the most recent inquest into the death of Terry Baker and that of Ashley Smith, as well as the countless other inquests and inquiries that people with disabling mental health issues be transferred out of prisons to mental health settings, could you please identify what other concrete steps the government is taking to ensure access to sufficient external mental health beds?

Senator Gold [ - ]

Again, that is an important question and a complicated one with regard to — as is too often the case — matters of jurisdiction and provincial responsibility. However, I can say that the government remains committed to supporting all Canadians with their mental health needs and challenges, including substance use challenges, and I will certainly raise this with the minister as well when I have the first opportunity.

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