Mr. Speaker, how exciting.
At the outset, I would like to mention that I will be sharing my time with my friend and colleague, the wonderful member for Laval—Les Îles.
Mr. Speaker, I like the phrase “bumper sticker justice” that my colleague from Gatineau came up with. That is exactly what we have here. I will support the bill because it does clarify an existing practice of the Parole Board, but it is such a narrow bill that it is hard to wrap one's head around it.
I have two concerns with it, and first is the title. We have been talking about the “bumper sticker” title. The bill is not going to make our prisons drug free. I think there has to be some kind of procedural way to prevent having bills named in a way that is clearly not in line with what the bill actually does. I would look to you, Mr. Speaker, for an answer on that.
It is an extremely misleading name for the bill. As my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca pointed out earlier, the title is there for political reasons rather than for sound policy.
The second problem I have with the bill is that it has profoundly little impact in the scheme of things. While it does formalize existing practices, it is not actually going to do anything about drugs or addictions in the prison system. It is not exactly a revolutionary idea that we are dealing with here; it is standard practice. Do I think that prisons will be drug free once the bill is passed? No. Do I think we are going to see a reduction in drug use? No. Do I think we are going to see safer prisons or reduced crime? No.
I am not alone in thinking this. First of all, when we look at zero-tolerance drug policy, we have heard my colleagues say this is an aspirational policy rather than an effective policy response to improved prison safety. If we look at the annual report of the Correctional Investigator for 2011-2012, the report said, “Harm reduction measures within a public health and treatment orientation offer a far more promising, cost-effective and sustainable approach to reducing subsequent crime and victimization”.
The bill does nothing to deal with drugs in prisons in real terms and it also does not deal with the myriad of other problems we have in the prison system, such as overcrowding or the fact that we are not engaging in real, substantive rehabilitation anymore.
The Conservative tough-on-crime agenda is not working. It is not tough on crime; it is pretty stupid on crime. If we are going to seriously tackle crime in our communities and safety in prisons, we need to leave behind this outdated tough-on-crime mantra and mentality. We need to look at smart justice and abandoning that old way of thinking, which is about applying simplistic solutions to really complex issues. It has not brought us very far.
We have heard in the House that since 2008 the Conservative government has spent $122 million on tools to try to stop drugs from entering the Canadian prison system. Members have heard it before, but it is worth pointing out again: this is vastly more money than exists for addiction and treatment services, and I would look to my colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I think it is at around half. It is incredible that we are spending that much more money than we are spending on addiction and treatment services.
That $122 million is a lot of money, and it also sounds impressive, so we have to ask ourselves whether it is working. Is it actually doing anything? I do not think so. I think this continues the failed approach to justice.
We are seeing our prison population grow by about 5% a year. By March 2014, the Correctional Investigator estimates that with new legislation there will be over 18,600 inmates in our prisons. This is the highest number in Canadian history. It is unbelievable that we keep adding to the number of people we are putting in prison, when at the same time, looking at Statistics Canada numbers, in 2012 we reported the lowest crime rate in our country since 1972.
The former minister of public safety said that unreported crime was increasing. How do we know that? It is unreported. That is ridiculous. The crime rate and the severity of crime have been falling since 1991, but the number of people incarcerated—I am not talking about people charged or going through diversion programs, but incarcerated—and the length of incarceration are increasing with mandatory minimum sentencing and other government initiatives.
More people in our prisons obviously leads to increased double-bunking, which frankly leads to increased violence and increased gang activity. I know I would be angry if I were double-bunked. In addition, the majority of these people who are incarcerated suffer from mental illness and addiction. To add to that, we have lists of at least several thousand people who are waiting in line for addiction treatment rather than receiving it. We have had cuts to funding for support and treatment programs. It is backward logic.
We need to start looking at a smart justice approach on how we deal with these issues. Putting more people in prison while overcrowding them and cutting funding for harm reduction programs does not make any sense. These measures are damaging for rehabilitating people who have been incarcerated.
An article in The Kingston Whig-Standard in 2012, entitled “Sentenced to suffering”, said, “Addiction to drugs or alcohol, a history of physical or sexual abuse and previous attempts to harm themselves often follow inmates through the doors of a penitentiary”.
Why would we not act on those issues? Why would we not have a bill that does something to deal with these issues versus bumper sticker justice, saying that we are keeping drugs out of prisons when in fact we are not? The reality of the situation is that we can lock people up, but we cannot close the doors on these social issues that will inevitably affect individuals during the time they are incarcerated and afterward if they do not get the treatment and support they need.
The focus is on punishment and not on rehabilitation, which is overall more costly. When we do not focus on rehabilitation, it is also more dangerous for our communities. The key has to be rehabilitation. However, punishment is a much more splashy title than rehabilitation. It helps the Conservatives with their fundraising, and that is really what this is all about, is it not? Why else would they take a practice that is already happening, turn it into a bill that has nothing else in it, and wrap it up in a fuzzy title called “drug-free prisons act” when it will not actually lead to drug-free prisons?
Not one person on the other side could stand up in the House with a straight face and say that the bill would lead to drug-free prisons. That could be why we have seen such total and utter silence from the other side of the House. They are not standing up to defend the bill, to speak to it, to talk about whether it is good or bad. They are silent because they cannot stand up and say that this will lead to drug-free prisons, or even stand up and say that this will lead to slightly less drugs in prisons. It is enshrining a practice that already exists.
It is about scaring Canadians because I think fear is a powerful tool for keeping citizens in line. They are trying to scare us into Conservative submission. They are trying to scare us into donating to their fundraising campaigns.
We saw the same thing with Bill C-2, a bill limiting supervised injection sites. It flies in the face of a recent Supreme Court of Canada case. On that same day we saw a website launch saying “keep heroin out of our backyards”, showing an empty street and a needle and scary black and white photography.
It is not a call to action. It is not a call for the community to come together and solve the problem of intravenous drug use. It is to raise money. That is what this Bill C-12 is all about. That is why we have bumper sticker justice these days. It is a fundraising campaign.
Mr. Speaker, today I want to congratulate the Canadian university football champions, Laval University's Rouge et Or, who triumphed on their home field this past Saturday, winning the 49th Vanier Cup 25 to 14 over the Calgary Dinos. This was a record eighth national title for the Rouge et Or in the 18 years of the program's history. What is more, Glen Constantin's team had a perfect season with no losses and, on Saturday, won its 65th consecutive game at Laval University's PEPS Stadium in front of 18,000 spectators.
I would also like to congratulate running back Pascal Lochard, who was named the Ted Morris Memorial Trophy winner as the game's most valuable player for his winning touchdown in the last quarter.
In closing, the Rouge and Or are preparing for their next victory and are proud to represent the first French-language university in North America, Laval University.
The electoral district of Laval (Quebec) has a population of 102,230 with 82,362 registered voters and 217 polling divisions.
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