To answer the hon. member's question, the hon. member for Burnaby (Mr. Robinson) asked about and agreed with the terms of reference at the meeting last Thursday. Certainly until the private members' hour is changed, it does a disservice to the more important matters that could come before the House. 1 was pleased, however, to hear him mention the good work and results achieved by the committee.
1 concur with him in that regard. I had the opportunity to have a discussion with two former members, Mrs. Holt and John Reynolds, in Vancouver on Saturday night. They were not only more than pleased to have sat on that committee but pointed out the great work that had been done by the chairman of the committee. That is as far as 1 will go in support of the motion of the hon. member for Burnaby.
1 think it is worthwhile before looking at the report or the motion to look at the situation that caused these recommendations. The relative peace before 1970 ended in that year and between 1970 and 1976 the number of cases of hostage taking, violence and murders in the Canadian penitentiary system increased alarmingly. In the 42 years between 1932 and 1974 there were 65 major incidents in federal penitentiaries. Yet in the two years 1974-1976, before the subcommittee was struck, there were 69 incidents which included 33 hostage takings, 92 victims and one who was killed. The whole process of violence in federal institutions was not just increasing but rapidly accelerating. This situation was judged by the House of Commons to be unacceptable. The matter was referred to the justice and legal affairs committee which set up the subcommittee on the penitentiary system in Canada.
The situation had deteriorated so far that it just was not an intellectual argument of prisoners' rights or a simple matter of a few troublemakers. It was a question of credibility, credibility not only of the institution and the inmates but also of the institution and the general public. There was deep concern, and let us not forget this point, as to who was really running the institution in the minds of many average Canadians. The public could not be sure if the violence was the result of too much suppression and oppression from the security guards or because there was too little supervision and control being exerted.
With Canadians in that sort of quandary, action had to be taken to bring back some sense of order to the penitentiaries in
the minds of the citizens. The problem of credibility between the institution and the inmates was a totally different matter. Here it was not just a matter of perception or of public relations, but a question of intense frustration and anger at the lack of change in the institution. Mistrust had been allowed to developed which brought the inmates and staff to a state of anarchy. This whole attitude and situation reflected the state of the whole penitentiary system, not just one or two of the institutions.
The committee's work was intensive. It interviewed more than 2,000 inmates and staff, toured 24 institutes-seven of them outside Canada-and also held 72 formal meetings, lasting over 200 hours. The job done by the committee was just magnificent. The important thing about the 65 recommendations which came from this all-party subcommittee was that they were unanimously endorsed.
The recommendations covered a wide range of topics, from different types of rehabilitation to requirements for staff, to prisoner grievance procedures, to types of permissible treatment of prisoners, to reorganization of the system, and to new structure for the bureaucracy running institutions. The breadth of the recommendations, I think, represents the seriousness and the responsibility with which the sub-committee undertook in its task.
While one may have disagreements with any or all of the recommendations, it is an obvious fact that the 1970-1976 violence has definitely subsided. That is the important thing. Since that time only 17 hostage takings have occurred, which represents an over 60 per cent decrease just since the process started, therefore before any of the recommendations were implemented. The credibility of the system both in terms of the public and inmates has improved. Most Canadians today not only know who is running the correctional system but also feel that the rehabilitation process is much more effective than it was before 1976. Certainly with less violence one has to believe that the inmates have less outright hostility than they did prior to that time.
It is only natural in a penitentiary system that violence will occur from time to time. The important thing is that the violence which does occur is isolated and is associated with individual problems, not over-all grievances regarding the total correctional system. With the success of the sub-committee recommendations one would feel that on the whole they are moving the correctional service in the right direction.
However, to ask now as this motion does today for a permanent reference on the implementation of the recommendations is like shutting the barn door after the horses have bolted. The process of implementing the proposals is not starting but finishing, and not only is it finishing but it is doing it with a guarantee of co-operation from our new Solicitor General (Mr. Lawrence). He is not ducking the issue, as the hon. member suggests or shirking his responsibility. On the contrary, the Solicitor General is being very open and, indeed,
November 5, 1979
very supportive of the wishes of the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.
This motion by the hon. member for Burnaby, while in principle acceptable, is really not needed. The hon. member knows that it is not needed, at least not at this point in time. The Solicitor General and, indeed, the two previous solicitors general have over the past two years regularly reported on the progress of the implementation of the report to the House. They have informed, as they should, the members of this House, the legislator of the land, of their department's action.
I listened to the Solicitor General last Thursday in the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs detailing the remaining recommendations which have not as yet been acted upon. Of the remaining 14 recommendations, nine have been accepted in principle, and only five at this point in time will not be implemented. The reasons for the delay or the rejection of the recommendations were explained at that time. I cannot understand why the hon. member for Burnaby insisted on going through with this motion today. It is not a motion which threatens to implement any of the rejected recommendations but only asks this House for what is already taking place.
The frankness and the openness of the Solicitor General should be welcomed, not ignored, by this House. This motion rejects implicitly the reasons for not implementing the other five recommendations. The reasons range from jurisdictional problems to a belief by the minister that other, more appropriate changes have taken place and will suffice, and to where the Solicitor General feels he should remain responsible for his department and therefore, directly to Parliament, rather than shifting that responsibility to a committee which would report to him on the activities of the correctional services. Like many other programs in Canada's federalism, the recommendations will have to be negotiated by province.
To conclude and to reiterate, private members' hour is an important and valuable time period if used in the proper manner. This particular motion, in my opinion, is a useless occupation of hon. members' time in a parliamentary session which has much more to offer in terms of sensible legislation.
Sub-subtopic: IMPLEMENTATION OF SUBCOMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS