June 27, 1946


Penitentiaries branch- 106. Branch administration, $133,499.


SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I should like to say a word or two about production in the penitentiaries. I believe it is fitting that the men who are taking care of this work should be remembered for the kind of work they are

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doing. I was surprised to find how much war effort our penitentiaries made. I find in the report of the superintendent of penitentiaries, at page 21, these remarks, relating to St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary:

He has administered in a very satisfactory manner, keeping the machinery in good working condition, having in mind the production end and the training of convicts. The total production for the year amounts to $117,113.76, which is an increase of over $21,000 when compared with the previous year. There is a large increase, ($11,000), in the canvas working department, and over $9,000 in the tailor shop. Customers' work amounts to $84,654.65, and institution, $32,207.76. The blacksmiths', carpenters', shoe shop, shop M (camouflage nets) have been kept very busy with war contracts.

As I was saying before we discontinued our discussion at the dinner recess, the minister ought to have credit given him for the good things which are being done under his administration. I like to give a person credit where credit is due. It is one thing to criticize all the time and find fault. I am not so sure that that method always obtains the best results. I should like to commend the minister for this work which was done in the penitentiaries.

I notice in connection with Dorchester penitentiary, as recorded on page 22, that the following articles were manufactured for the armed services-which matter completely surprised me: twenty map cases, 2,000 paint kettles, 4,858 white cotton sheets, 8,000 soap bags, 46 filing cabinets, 2,000 pairs felt mitts. There were repaired: 813 ammunition boxes, 200 army jackets, 175 pairs army pants, 1,451 pieces R.C.A.F. furniture, 234 bed springs repaired, 4,169 pairs army shoes. Then, articles manufactured, repaired, et cetera, for other government departments, including penitentiaries branch: St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary, 2,691 pairs army pants dyed, 1.0*00 army blouses dyed. Department of Mines and Resources, 75 army blouses dyed, 75 pairs army pants dyed, 51 army greatcoats dyed, 2,331 pairs army shoes repaired. Post Office Department: 15,260 mail bags made, 41,294 mail bags repaired.

I would suggest to hon. members who may be interested in the matter and may wish to pursue this study somewhat further that they might read about the production in the Manitoba penitentiary, on page 27; in the British Columbia penitentiary, on page 29; in the Saskatchewan penitentiary, on page 30; in the Collins Bay penitentiary, on page 33. Then, if the committee will allow me, I will read on page 40 a statement which I think it is well to have on the record, after the war:

The 1,106 convicts employed in manufacturing produced articles valued at $429,650.26. an unprecedented figure. The production of the 1,041

convicts employed in building trades and productive service divisions, including farms, steam plants and bakeries, amounted to approximately $559,865.94.

What I am wondering about is the matter I raised just before the dinner recess. I wonder how the minister will manage to dispose of such production as this, now that there is no longer a war. The minister is engaged in conversation with the hon. member for Muskoka-Ontario. I am sure the latter gentleman is an engaging conversationalist, but-

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Frank Exton Lennard

Progressive Conservative

Mr. LENNARD:

Can the hon. member speak louder? We cannot hear him.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I could have spoken louder, but, judging from the noise that hon. members were making, it would ultimately have been to blow the roof off this house.

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An hon. MEMBER:

We cannot hear you now.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Now, but not a moment ago.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I can easily make you hear. There is no difficulty about that, but sometimes I am accused of speaking too loudly. The question was this. Here is a remarkable production for the penitentiaries of the country. I do not wish to read again the passage that I quoted, but since hon. members did not hear me it might be a good thing for me to read it once more.

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An hon. MEMBER:

Dispense.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I know that some hon. members are weary after listening to the discussion, but this is a matter which in my judgment should have some attention, and I should like to remind some of those who glibly talk about dispensing that I have not used more of the time of the house than I am entitled to. The matter is worthy of attention. The men in charge of these prisons, who have brought about such production, ought to be given credit in this house, for one thing; and besides that, the question of what we shall do to dispose of such production, now that the war is over, is something that is of interest to all hon. members, or ought to be. I will read the passage again:

The 1,106 convicts employed in manufacturing produced articles valued at $429,650.26. an unprecedented figure. The production of the 1,041 convicts employed in building trades and productive service divisions, including the farms, steel plants and bakeries, amounted to approximately $559,865.94.

To me that is a most commendable achievement in the war effort, but it is a challenge when we ask ourselves what will be done with

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that production, now that the war is over. The minister, in answering the question before the dinner recess, said that he believed all the production of the penitentiaries could be used by the various departments of government. Does the minister believe that all this amount can be used by the departments of government?

Right Hon. L. S. ST. LAURENT (Minister of Justice): I am convinced that a production of commodities of even greater value than those listed on pages 40 and 41 of the report can be absorbed by the requirements of other departments of government. There may have to be some change in the quantity and kind of things produced, but I do not think we have yet reached the maximum of production that will be possible and practical in the penitentiaries. There may have to be some features of encouragement introduced, but I do not think we have yet reached1 the point where we are getting interested, active work from all those who would be capable of performing such work, and I believe that for themselves it will be a very good thing to bring about that situation. I believe in the value of the feeling that one is doing something worth while as an element of rehabilitation, and as we develop that we can increase the productivity of the shops we have in these penitentiaries. That is only one of the things to which the commissioner of penitentiaries will give attention. We have been employing those who have been giving training in vocational schools to give training to our foremen of shops in the penitentiaries. We have recourse to -the Department of Agriculture to advise us on the development of agricultural possibilities on the penitentiary farms, and I am not concerned about that so much from the point of view of dollars and cents represented by the production, as I am about what the production means in its value to the men themselves when they become interested in doing something that is worth while.

Mr. BLACKM'ORE: And becoming skilled.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I am interested to see them develop their skill and their confidence in their own ability to produce things that are worth while and thus to be useful members of a productive community. I think that is one feature that has been receiving attention and should receive further attention. I receive a large number of requisitions for machinery and implements to improve these factories. Sometimes I hesitate over the cost and compare it with the amounts provided in the estimates, but I get explanations from the engineer and from the purchasing agent, and every time they have convinced me that they

were going to make it more probable that the particular shop would turn out things well done. In those cases I have felt it was my duty to approve the requisitions. That is only one aspect of the problem we have to deal with.

This problem of handling the seven penitentiaries is a full-time job and no Minister of Justice can do it himself. He cannot devote enough of his time to it to do personally all that has to be done, and when I asked parliament to authorize the selection of one commissioner it was to try to get someone who would go about and investigate and then advise in a practical way regarding the things that would be helpful in creating an atmosphere where men would be interested in developing their skill and proving to themselves as well as to others that they can be useful.

I do not want to take too long in replying to the hon. member's question. I thank all hon. members for the contribution they have made. The commissioner will read with a great deal of interest everything that has been said in this debate on our estimates, and I wish particularly to thank the hon. member for Kootenay East (Mr. Matthews) for the testimonial he offered here to the good work being done in the New Westminster penitentiary. The hon. member for New Westminster (Mr. Reid) had made similar comment, but a testimonial coming from an hon. member on the other side in a confirmatory way does much to assist us. I also extend sincere thanks to the hon. member for Eglin-ton (Mr. Fleming) for what he said about Major General Gibson. I did not know Major General Gibson, but I got from gentlemen in whom I have confidence a description of his qualifications, which the hon. member was kind enough to confirm by what he put on record this afternoon. I was told that Major General Gibson was not only a good administrator but a man with broad human sympathies, one who could select proper assistants; that he was a good judge of human character, and the kind of man who would take a plan and think it right through to the end, visualizing what the doing of certain things would produce in results. I thought that would be the kind of man who would set us on the right path to make such improvements in our penal system as we could make pending the getting of more cooperation or coordination of the efforts being carried on in our institutions and in the provincial institutions. There is no doubt that the principal recommendation of the Archambault commission would be for, if not necessarily a centralized penal system, at least a coordinated penal system for the whole of Canada.

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John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

Can the government

initiate any plan of production in the penitentiaries? I was under the impression that some years ago a fully equipped binder twine factory was installed at Kingston but that as a matter of policy the government had to stop manufacturing binder twine there, and that some other activities of that sort had to be abandoned because labour felt that the competition of prison labour was unfair and undesirable.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I do not know particularly about the incident referred to by the hon. member for Stanstead, but I know that labour objected to the production for sale, in competition with its own labour, of that which might be obtained in the penitentiaries by the use of prison labour that was not paid for; and I can quite appreciate that viewpoint. But I would have no hesitation whatever in producing in the penitentiaries as many of the things used by the other agencies of this government as could be properly produced there.

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John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

They used to make boots.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: They make boots.

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John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

For policemen.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: They have repaired vast quantities of discarded army boots for use by the penitentiary population. For a long time they have been making mail bags for the Post Office Department. I do not think there can be any valid objection to the production in this way, for the Canadian government, of things that otherwise would have to be paid for out of taxation. I think it is in the interests of the whole public, including the labour group, to have the expense of government kept as low as possible; and if the sums that have to be expended in these penitentiaries could be, to a certain degree if not wholly, compensated by the value of things produced in the penitentiaries for use in other services of government, I think even the labouring class of our population would be benefited thereby.

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John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

Does the minister think there could be acquired in the penitentiaries any skills which would help a man when he had to return to civil life again?

Mr. ST. LAURENT: Yes. The value of the product is important, but that is not the main feature. The main feature, I think, is to get a man convinced that he is capable of doing useful things and of providing for himself. I have seen, in certain places of detention, people who were just breaking up stones with hammers. You cannot get a man interested

in doing that. I have seen them picking oakum. You cannot make a man feel that he is doing something useful when his hours are spent in that kind of work.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

But was that not considered part of the punishment, the breaking of the stone and the picking of the oakum?

Mr. ST. LAURENT: It was a part of the hard labour, because there was no other hard labour available at which to set these men.

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CCF

Angus MacInnis

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. MacINNIS:

I am not approving it, but that is what I understood it was.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I think hard labour can be made interesting labour, and can be made educational labour as well; and I believe the job the commissioner has set himself to do is a start in the right direction. There has been complaint that this report was made a long time ago. That is quite true ; and during the war I made no effort toward additional expenditure to implement the report, though we have had a number of the things recommended done. But immediately the war was over, I asked parliament to authorize the appointment of one instead of three commissioners. This gentleman is taking a keen interest in the work he is doing. He has already visited St. Vincent de Paul penitentiary, and the penitentiary at Kingston. At present he is in Halifax attending a meeting of social services which is to be addressed by Mr. Bennett, head of the Washington bureau of prisons; and he is going to take advantage of his trip to the maritimes to spend a few days at Dorchester. Later he will see the others. I have asked him to see not only the penitentiaries, the lay-out and so on, but to see those who are employed from the wardens right down through the whole line, to be able to make an appraisal of the possibilities of the personnel in these penitentiaries. I think there would be useful work to be performed in the penitentiaries even by university graduates, but all the personnel need not be university graduates. Quite a large proportion of those who are on the staffs at the present time may be proper personnel, and we cannot change over all at once. But I think an appraisal of the personnel is quite as important as an appraisal of the bricks and mortar, the yards, farms and shops; and I believe we are taking the right way to get palpable results.

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SC

John Horne Blackmore

Social Credit

Mr. BLACKMORE:

I wish to ask the minister if he will convey my congratulations to the gentlemen who are in charge of these penitentiaries, because I have some sort of idea what it means to them. I should like

Privilege-Mr. Mackenzie King

to go on with this discussion a little further; but in order that the committee might make some progress, how would it be if we passed the one item, and then continued the discussion on the next item?

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Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

I have a question about one matter which will take only a minute. In the details of this item appearing at page 121 of the estimates I notice provision for a chairman of the penitentiary commission at $9,000 and two commissioners at $7,500. Does that carry with it the implication that the minister is contemplating the appointment of the three man commission this year?

Mr. ST. LAURENT: No. That item has been in the estimates and has been voted every year since 1938. The salary that has been fixed for the commissioner is $12,000, and I do not think it will be possible to make any other appointment of additional commissioners in the course of the present fiscal year.

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John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. IIACKETT:

They may not be necessary.

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I do not think it would be possible to have another commissioner who would be helpful in the course of this fiscal year. These estimates were prepared before the commission was appointed. As the hon. member knows, by order of the treasury board there can be changes. The amount voted cannot be increased, but there can be changes in the allocation of the amount. What is here will be more than sufficient to cover the additional expense which will result from the appointment of the commissioner.

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Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. FLEMING:

Within what time does the minister think the commissioner will have completed this preliminary survey?

Mr. ST. LAURENT: I do not think he will have completed his survey as long as he remains commissioner. I think this is something which is capable of constant improvement. He will have made a preliminary survey within the next three or four months.

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June 27, 1946