Senator Plett is increasingly concerned about the “hundreds” of inmates that have been released from federal prisons
April 27, 2020 (Ottawa, ON) – The Honourable Don Plett, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, issued the following statement:
Last month, the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Bill Blair, stated that he, “asked both the Commissioner of the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC) and the Chair of the Parole Board of Canada to determine whether there are measures that could be taken to facilitate the early release for certain offenders”. Last week the Minister went further by claiming, “[Corrections officials] have been working hard to make sure those individuals are considered for early release and literally hundreds of people have, in fact, been placed back into the community”.
However, based on information provided to Members of Parliament and Senators on a technical briefing call on Saturday, April 25, this has been exposed as completely untrue. On that briefing call officials from CSC stated that, on average, 600 offenders are released from custody every month, including on parole, statutory release or because of the end of their sentence. Yet in the current month (up to April 17) only 295 offenders have actually been released: specifically 200 on statutory release or because of the end of their sentence and just 95 on parole. In other words, contrary to the Minister’s claim, the number is actually somewhat below the normal monthly average.
“It is completely inexplicable why the Minister would choose not be truthful with Canadians during the current crisis. Lack of transparency undermines public confidence in the Government at a critical time. Canadians have been forced to deal with the many consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, and they expect the Trudeau government to be forthcoming on matters such as the release of inmates. The Prime Minister talks about a Team Canada approach, but for such an approach to work, the Trudeau government needs to set the example for transparency from the top down.
It is also completely inexcusable to keep Canadians, Parliamentarians and prison watchdogs in the dark on the release and management of federal prison inmates. Minister Blair needs to come clean and demonstrate transparency by providing the facts, processes and the decision implementation strategies his Ministry are following. No parliamentarian or government is exempt from the scrutiny of parliamentary accountability” said Senator Plett.
During the technical briefing, CSC officials also noted that all authority related to the release of offenders on parole is entrusted to the Parole Board of Canada and arises from legislation. Under terms of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, Section 100.1 states, “The protection of society is the paramount consideration for the Board … in the determination of all cases”. The Minister has no authority to direct the Board, nor should he be in the business of pressuring the Board in any manner on individual cases.
“Offenders are incarcerated in Canadian penitentiaries because courts of law have found them guilty of serious offences and judged that they constitute a threat to Canadian communities. It is vital that during the current national crisis the Minister and the Government take their obligations under the law seriously and not look to take unwarranted, ill-considered or unlawful short cuts in pursuit of cosmetically attractive solutions that could expose Canadians to additional and needless risks,” said Senator Plett.