May 26, 1947

LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

British Columbia did have one, did they not?

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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

Yes, the provincial government of British Columbia. In any event, whether or not I am completely accurate, the thought I have in mind is that once more we are up against this question of jurisdiction, and it does seem to me that not a great deal has been accomplished even during the present year, according to the report, in getting over that obstacle, which is a complete block, one might say, with respect to any over-all picture of reform for young people in our jails.

The question of reform is a very big one, I know; and I am coming back to the province of the hon. member for Fraser Valley (Mr. Cruickshank), where they have an excellent penitentiary at Westminster. I was going to say I had occasion to be there, and by that I mean I had occasion to visit it once. I learned a great deal from a man whom I now know very well, who spent sixteen years in that institution as a convict and is now out on ticket of leave. I think he has a broader knowledge of the workings of the convict mind than anyone I at least have ever met. His position on the human side of the story is this. We will say we go into an institution and grant a reform. One that he told me about, for example, was the right to talk in the cells after meals. If you know how these tiers of cells are arranged in our penitentiaries,

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they have solid walls between the individual cells and conversation is almost unheard of because immediately it becomes a babel of shouting from one place to another. As he told me, men who are anxious to work and who had drafting boards in their cells were trj'ing to learn something by way of enginee

ing-because they have a very good library i" that institution. But they were just stopped on account of the bedlam. This privilege wa'-granted by General Ormond, who was superintendent and a kindly disposed man; and the thing just came to nothing.

The answer to that was, he told me, that the young chaps were immediately convinced that the move was not made through the decency or kindness of the authorities, but that they were immediately persuaded by the old lags that this had been forced on them; and they assumed all the credit for the change which was made, as they assume credit for every change which is made. Therefore they become the heroes to these younger chaps who are in the institutions and are necessarily in association with these older men.

I am not going to advocate anything, but I am going to ask whether or not the government has given consideration to a law such as one finds in the state of New York, for example, where, after four convictions for a definite type of crime, a man is removed from circulation. It is the equivalent of life imprisonment, after four convictions. It seems to me there may be some good in that idea-perhaps not as strict as they have it; but I am suggesting that the government should consider it.

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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

The hon. member will find

consideration was given to that recently.

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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

I am glad

to hear it. I want to say this, with all the definiteness that I can, that while in the report of General Gibson we have suggestions as to what is to take place at Stony Mountain, and what is to take place in one of the eastern institutions, there is no use whatsoever in talking reform unless the incor-rigibles are separated from the rest of them. That is just a basic thing that must be done. Get the old ones out of circulation, and then you have a chance with the younger men. The chap of whom I have spoken was so insistent upon that that he said, "You might as well stay home and stop trying, as things are. The chances are ten to one that the young fellow who goes in there under present circumstances will come out much worse, and also much smarter, because he learns the

tricks of the trade from those who are more experienced, and who also have served a much longer time in gaol."

General Gibson has been there for a year, or a trifle more than that. I have seen him on trains, and I know he is getting about and doing his best to see as many people as he can. But I must say this, that I had hoped we would have advanced farther at this time. The problem of segregation is not one which presents many difficulties; it is a comparatively simple thing to do.

Maj* I say with respect to the three-man commission which my hon. friend has spoken about, and which he finds so objectionable, that I am unable to follow him there. We still have the same three men, although we have put different labels on them. Naturally one man is in charge, and then we have the Minister of Justice (Mr. Ilsley), a man in whom we have great confidence, who is in charge of the commissioner. However, that, it seems to me, is just a matter of shuffling the cards. I do not think any great principle is being violated by following that course.

I am going to be brief, and to stop right now, by expressing a hope. I have read debates on prison reform for years. But in the last twenty-five or thirty years practically nothing has been accomplished. So tonight I am now going to stop talking, in the hope that the government may do something quickly with respect to the reformation of our prisons.

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LIB

David Arnold Croll

Liberal

Mr. DAVID CROLL (Spadina):

Mr. Speaker, I shall not be long, because I spoke about this subject last year. However, in view of General Gibson's report, I wanted to make some further observations.

I feel that the general ought to be complimented on his report, because it indicates broad understanding and a progressive mind. I thought he rather caught the spirit of the Archambault report.

As I recall the report, it laid down three principles, namely segregation, classification and after-care. In his report, General Gibson covered the first two rather thoroughly. If I can make any suggestions it would be on minor points-perhaps minor is not the proper word to use. Perhaps I should say that I would address myself to a few matters which lack emphasis in the report.

With respect to the Borstal system, General Gibson says that the system offers the best known opportunity for the reformation and rehabilitation of those who have not yet become hardened criminals. With that we all agree. While the Borstal system is directed to the needs of wayward youths, we must bear

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in mind that almost everyone in penitentiaries at the present time was once of an age and character that the Borstal system might have been useful to him. This fact is obvious when one looks at the annual report of the superintendent of penitentiaries which, in table 5 on page 7 indicates that in seven penitentiaries in Canada 1,238 of a total inmate population of 3,362 are under the age of twenty-five years. Table 4 indicates that one-third of the offenders are serving terms of three years or less.

I thought for a few moments we might consider the need of employing Borstal tactics in our penal therapy. British statistics show that approxmately sixty per cent of discharged Borstal inmates do not appear before the courts for further convictions. We see that twenty per cent are reconvicted once, and the remainder once or more.

What is our record? Page 8 of the same report shows that in the fiscal year ended March 31. 1946, there were 708, or less than twenty per cent of offenders who had no previous convictions. Over one-half-to be exact, 1,802 of the total of 3,362 had from two to eight convictions. It is to be remembered that these figures do not take into account the large number of people found in the many reformatories, industrial schools and jails across the country. I think it is obvious that something must be done to correct such an alarming situation. There seems to be no reason why Canada should have a greater proportion of recurring criminal tendencies among those who are released from her institutions of correction. We do not have the crowded cities there are in England, a circumstance which is often a contributing factor. There are other reasons, but in the main it is that our penal therapy is out of date and inadequate and in some degree ineffective.

One of the chief contributing factors is the lack of education which is a great cause of delinquency. On page 75 of the report I came across these startling figures: Out of a total of 1,635 persons, fifty-eight could neither read nor write, eleven could only read and 1,293 had common school education.

General Gibson has not lost sight of that, and in section 18(b) on page 13 of his report he points out that a thorough survey of the methods in each penitentiary by an experienced educationalist is necessary. It is true the Archambault report made a similar recommendation. Like the speakers who have preceded me, my complaint is that the recommendations are not being implemented fast enough; that these are all fine intentions, but we are not moving along quickly enough.

There is another matter which is important and which I think should be brought to the attention of the house, the matter of prison discipline. This is a most important phase in reformatory treatment and it has been forcibly brought to our attention by a riot in Stony Mountain penitentiary. I should like to refer to an article in the Montreal Gazette setting out an interview with an ex-convict who had served some time there. There is no reason why he should not tell the truth and here is what he had to say:

The outbreak had been no massed riot and had been the result of petty punishments. A man smoking out of hours would be awarded seven days solitary confinement and a man snoring would get three or four days "for creating a disturbance."

And again:

It was the narrow petty penalizing which had been responsible for the outbreak. All the prisoners wanted was better conditions. They all realized they had to do their time, but they didn't see why their existence should be made intolerable.

General Gibson has not lost sight of that recommendation. There again we have the same difficulty. These matters are small, but they accumulate and cause mischief in the institution. I come now to something which I think has been overlooked in General Gibson's report, the matter of after-care. I consider this to be of paramount importance if we are to cure criminal tendencies in our young offenders. On page 67 of the report it is stated that of those discharged during the year, fifty-six were under the age of twenty-nine. Table 15 on page 13 shows that a total of 838 prisoners were interviewed by welfare organizations during the year, despite the fact that 1,061 were discharged during the same year. We may well ask ourselves: Where are those discharged people to go and what are they to do? Are they being ostracized by society? What means have we provided for the reestablishment of ex-prisoners as useful, contributive citizens in our society?

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PC

Arthur Leroy Smith

Progressive Conservative

Mr. SMITH (Calgary West):

Do you not think that is the best feature of the Borstal system?

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LIB

David Arnold Croll

Liberal

Mr. CROLL:

I was just finishing up if I may. I have here a quotation from "Prisons and Borstals," as follows:

Every young person on release is placed under the care of an association which is responsible to the prison commissioners. The association endeavours to find them employment, help them with regard to lodgings and outfits, and arrange generally through their local agents for supervision, assistance and advice.

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I came across this article in the Toronto Telegram of May 10. A man appeared before Magistrate Cameron in Orillia, and the article goes on:

"I am aware that the facilities offered to persons released from penal institutions are not adequate," stated Magistrate Kenneth Cameron

in sentencing to five years in

Kingston Penitentiary.

And again.

Magistrate Cameron pointed out that

was apparently addicted to such crimes, and as there was little in the way of adequate facilities to take care of such people on securing^ their freedom, the chance of him conducting himself properly on release was remote. The public had a right to expect protection from such acts.

So he sent him to the penitentiary for five years. The man probably may have deserved it and I am not arguing the matter at all, but the point here is that he realized that there was a great inadequacy and the only place he could possibly send him to was the penitentiary. We have not the after-care which the Borstal system provides. Of the 838 persons who were visited last year in our penitentiaries, 635 were interviewed by an organization that had no responsibility at all to the penal authorities, who were doing this work solely as a contribution to the welfare of mankind; I refer to the Salvation Army. General Gibson recommends a policy which is, in fact, comparable with the Borstal system, and on page 16 he makes a recommendation with which I heartily agree. However, we have to do a little more than just recommend. He points out:

The Canadian penal association, under its new president, Major J. A. Edmison, K.C., has undertaken the task of coordinating the efforts of the prisoners' aid societies in the various provinces and of arousing greater public interest and cooperation in assisting discharged prisoners to obtain employment.

Then he goes on to say:

Your commissioner is of opinion that the activities of these societies should be encouraged and recognized and recommends that when a society demonstrates that it has been organized to carry out its duties with a reasonable degree of efficiency, provision should be made for it to receive financial assistance from the dominion government, based on the numbers released from federal institutions who have been assisted by its activities, to supplement the funds received from other sources.

The Canadian penal association are willing; these people are interested in this work. Because of their interest, because of their understanding and because of the work they have already done, I think they are entitled to recognition and to some monetary assistance. I think what has come out of these

debates is an awareness and recognition that the penal system of this country is inadequate and that there is urgent need for penal reform.

General Gibson holds that view and I am sure the Minister of Justice (Mr. Ilsley) holds that view. It is manifest from the report submitted by General Gibson that he is well aware of the need for penal reform. I think our purpose here today is to keep urging upon the minister to hurry along to get some of this work done because there is a great urgency. So my only contribution to the debate is to say to the minister, if we cannot have the Archambault report at this particular time, we are willing to settle for the Gibson report; but do not keep that from us either, because the conditions are not improving and the country is, I think, quite prepared at the present time to accept the Gibson report although it may appear to be inadequate. We must clearly understand, however, that General Gibson has grasped the principles involved and has attempted to meet the problem as he sees it. It appears to me that he is seized with the need for reform, and immediate reform, and I am asking the minister to see that these recommendations are implemented as quickly as possible.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. M. MACDONNELL (Muskoka-Ontario):

I should like to add a very few words to this debate, and I think I can sum up what I want to say by putting in a plea for more urgency. Let me say at once that I do not wish to underestimate the difficulties that exist, I know we cannot do everything overnight. Second, I believe that the Minister of Justice (Mr. Ilsley) is just as humane a man as there is in this house and just as anxious to see this job done as anybody. Nevertheless I feel, as I look back over the last eight or nine years, and particularly over the last year, and particularly as I read this report of General Gibson, that there is no sense of urgency felt. There seems to me to be a fatal deliberation about the whole business, and the reason I deprecate that is the very reason given by my seatmate, the hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Smith), that, while we are deliberating, day by day young men who perhaps were accidental criminals to begin with are being taken into the penitentiaries and becoming expert and perhaps permanent criminals by the very treatment we are giving them. That seems to be an undisputed fact. Therefore I suggest .hat there is an urgency, and if there is an urgency, frankly I do not find any sign of it in this report.

I would point out at this stage in my brief remarks that it has been stated in this house and never denied that we who rightfully regard

ourselves are so advanced, and are in many ways advanced, are nevertheless regarded as a backward nation in this respect. That statement has been responsibly made-and I repeat it and it has never, so far as I know, been denied in this house. If that is true I think that is the background which should cause us to feel a great sense of urgency, the evidence of which I have never been able to find.

The first reason why I feel this sense of urgency is lacking is put in my mind by reading paragraph 4 of the report, and if my inference is wrong I hope the minister will correct me. Mark you, here is a commissioner specially appointed, as I understand it, to get on with this special job and try to put into effect a report which came out nine years ago. I am not forgetting the war. Nevertheless the Archambault report is nine years old and there are reports behind that going back for thirty years. So that we are really in arrears thirty years. Paragraph 4 of General Gibson's report reads as follows:

During the past six months, as a result of the untimely death of Mr. P. M. Anderson, K.C., of the Department of Justice, your commissioner has been assigned to supervise directly the administration of the penitentiaries branch on behalf of the department and has thus been afforded an opportunity of observing and participating in the day to day management of the penitentiaries.

The commissioner puts that forward, that substantial work has been put upon him-if I am wrong in my inference I hope I shall be corrected-which I assume has slowed him up in the discharge of this special duty, which I am suggesting is so very important and urgent-

Then I come to paragraph 7 of this report, and here again I have a feeling that things are moving, yes, but there is no urgency; nobody is shoving the thing along as if it was an emergency to be dealt with, as I think it is. Paragraph 7 begins by saying this:

The reorganization of the penitentiary administration recommended by the royal commission has not yet .been undertaken.

I realize that you cannot suddenly undertake a reorganization. You have to give it thought. You cannot plunge into it in an ill-considered manner. But that sentence does not indicate that there has been any real sense of urgency, which is what I am asking for. The hon. member for Calgary West (Mr. Smith), who speaks on this matter with more knowledge than I have, stated that segregation is urgent; it is so important and vital; he said that the difficulties in the way were not insuperable, and yet very little progress in that direction has been made.

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I go on to paragraphs 8 and 9, which indicate that a good many things have been done, but for the most part they are not very far-reaching ones. I will read a few. The first one reads:

deprivation of the privilege of seeing visitors and receiving letters has been abolished as a punishment.

I should think that is good. And the next one:

deprivation of library privileges as a punishment is only awarded where such privilege has been abused.

That is good. I read further down on the same page:

shaving and bathing have been made more frequent. In several penitentiaries, showers have been installed.

I pass on to paragraph 9, which indicates that today more farm work is being done in connection with the penitentiaries. That is very good indeed; I approve that heartily. Then I go on to paragraph 11, which speaks of certain structural changes to various penitentiaries, and I think that is all to the good.

Then I come to paragraph 12, dealing with personnel, which is so all-important of course in this matter. It begins by saying:

Following the royal commission's report a survey of personnel was undertaken and in ,1939 a selected group of officers was sent to the British training school at Wakefield. Unfortunately the advent of war prevented the continuation of this project.

That we cannot complain about. It goes on:

I n-servire training has been carried out in the institutions to some extent, in one or twp. penitentiaries with a considerable measure of success. There is, however, a definite need fora well planned training programme throughout the service. The establishment of a training school for penitentiary officers, as hereinafter proposed, will permit the development of a, uniform standard of training-

And so on. Then I should like to refer to' paragraph 13 which says:

While conscientious efforts have been made by the wardens and their staffs to carry out the provisions of the regulations with respect to the classification boards in the penitentiaries, and these boards have met regularly and performed very useful service m deciding the type of work to which the convicts should be assigned it has not been possible to develop their full usefulness m planning individualized programmes of treatment because of the lack of facilities for the segregation of the different classes of the prison population.

Finally I come to paragraph. 26 the last paragraph and this again makes me feel, as I said before, that there is no feeling of really getting on with the job, as if it were something we were concerned about.

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PC

John Thomas Hackett

Progressive Conservative

Mr. HACKETT:

Ask the minister to include penal reform in his next national emergency-

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LIB

James Lorimer Ilsley (Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada)

Liberal

Mr. ILSLEY:

We have jurisdiction without that.

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PC

James MacKerras Macdonnell

Progressive Conservative

Mr. MACDONNELL (Muskoka-Ontario):

Recommendation 26 reads as follows:

The proposals contained in this report constitute the first stages in the further development of the royal commission's recommendations.

It seems such a long, long way off that anything really is to be done. I continue with the recommendation:

The reorganization of the headquarters administration. the establishment of adequate procedure for the selection and training of staffs, the development of more scientific methods of classification and the provision of additional accommodation to facilitate the separation of the various classes of prisoners are essential preliminaries in the adoption of a broad policy that will place greater emphasis on the corrective and rehabilitative aspects of institutional treatment. As the carrying out of these proposals proceeds, it will be possible, in consultation with the wardens, to apply in each institution the more detailed recommendations of the royal commission in respect to the treatment and training of prisoners. Your commissioner submits that the implementation of the present proposals will provide a sound basis for the further development of the programme of penal reform.

I do not want to be cheap, sentimental or unreasonable, but, as I say, this is a report full of the future tense. There is no past tense in the whole thing to indicate that anything important has been done. There is practically no use of the present tense; it is all in the future. This will be done as a preliminary to .-something else, and then when that prelimin-,-ary is done we shall get on to something else.

As I take my seat I should like to say, with whatever earnestness I can command, \that if w'e had enough imagination in the house *really to bear in mind what the hon. member for Calgary West said, namely, that under our present system we are manufacturing new criminals day by day. there would be more present tense and not so much of everything left to the future.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. G. A. CRUICKSHANK (Fraser Valley):

Since I am not a lawyer it must seem strange for hon. members to hear me speak on this matter, but I have had more correspondence this session on this matter than on anything else. I am not going to dwell on the subject because it has been covered very well by all the speakers. I want to congratulate the . speakers from all parties who, in my opinion, approached this matter in a non-partisan way. I should particularly like to endorse the attitude taken by the hon. member for Spadina t(Mr. Croll) in his remarks to the minister.

While there may have been reasons for delay during war time, there are no reasons for delay now in putting the Gibson report into effect.

As I said a moment ago, I have had more correspondence on this matter than on anything else which affects my riding.

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?

An hon. MEMBER:

You have more criminals.

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LIB

George Alexander Cruickshank

Liberal

Mr. CRUICKSHANK:

That is unfair. My riding happens to be particularly interested in the youth of the country. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate the house on the attitude that it has taken on this matter in viewing it, not from a party point of view, but from the point of view of the welfare of the youth of the country.

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PC

John George Diefenbaker

Progressive Conservative

Mr. J. G. DIEFENBAKER (Lake Centre):

I regret that I was not in the house earlier this evening to hear the discussion that has taken place. I know I would have benefited had I had the privilege of hearing other hon. members who participated in this debate.

At this late hour I do not intend to speak at any length but, sir, over the years I have had some little experience with the results that flow from the operations of penitentiaries. I do not know what the opinion of previous speakers has been; but, in my opinion, while many changes must take place, while our system today is very antiquated, it has done a surprising work, having regard to the difficulties under which those who operate our penitentiaries are actually working. On occasion I have seen men who have served their terms come from the penitentiaries and return once more to a life of crime. In large measure society is responsible for that; for when they return to a life of crime, in many instances the cause is that, after their discharge from penal institutions, they have no opportunity to secure work and little opportunity to regain their place in society. We are all to blame for that. I think it only fair at the outset of my remarks to make that statement.

I realize the difficulties under which the penitentiaries are operating today. I know-some of the shortcomings in connection with the administration. In saying these things, however, I cannot do other than mention the fact that, while the Archambault report was handed down a good many years ago and while there may have been some explanation for not implementing many portions of that report during the war years, there were few excuses prior to the war and since the termination of hostilities there have been few excuses that the government could rely on.

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As I see the situation it is this. The officials of the penitentiaries operate under, as I said a moment ago, an antiquated system in respect of which there has been little change in the last 100 years. So far as the staffs are concerned, within their power they are trying to carry out their responsibilities, but as I hear their story they find themselves in a position of being subjected to too many regulations from headquarters in regard to the administration. There has been a dilatoriness about everything.

Mention has been made this evening-and I mentioned it myself-that the report was handed down some nine or ten years ago and little has been done. I think, sir, that if those who are inmates of the penitentiaries, and particularly those who are discharged from these institutions, were of such numbers as to make their influence felt, many changes would have taken place in the administration of penitentiaries as a result of the representations made by those who have been discharged. Look at it as fairly as we may, all of us realize that there are shortcomings, definite nonfeasance. Representations are made from time to time and reports are handed down, but how few of us are prepared to take the interest necessary to make a great issue of the matter of penitentiary reform in our country. In Britain they were prepared to do that, and great leaders took up the cudgels and led the way. In Canada it has been otherwise. Private institutions, charitable institutions have undertaken the work. The Canadian Prisoners' Association has done a remarkable work. At the convention recently held in the city of Windsor, recommendations were made that might well be brought before the house and possibly later in this debate an opportunity will be given for the purpose.

There are those who speak of the number of recidivists, and certainly the statistics show that there are great numbers. But that has not been my experience with those whom I have known who have served in penitentiaries. The proportion has not been great so far as Saskatchewan penitentiary is concerned. Certainly it has not been as high as in other penitentiaries across the country, and one of the reasons has been that we have not had there a meeting with the older prisoners. New prisoners who come in, many of them desiring to reform, later on come under the influence of older and more experienced men, but there we have not had so many of the old-timers, the dangerous criminals, and the result has been that many who have been discharged from that institution have returned to civil life and are making good citizens.

I think of one man whose case I brought to the notice of the house. I will not mention the name, but the facts regarding him

are in the knowledge of the former, and no doubt of the present, Minister of Justice (Mr. Ilsley). Some seventeen years ago a young man in Saskatchewan was sentenced to life imprisonment in the penitentiary. He served for a period of years. When he entered1 the penitentiary his idea was that he would endeavour to live down the crime he had committed. He was convicted of murder and there was a commutation. He served in the penitentiary for fifteen years. When he entered the penitentiary he was in grade two or three. He continued to take advantage of the opportunities there. He accepted positions of responsibility in the service and by 1941 or 1942 had passed examinations equivalent to entrance into university.

All through the years this man studied; all through the years he dreamed of his freedom when his crime should have been expiated, and in 1944 he was granted ticket of leave and was discharged from the penitentiary, subject to monthly report. He joined His Majesty's forces, became a non-commissioned officer with the rank of sergeant, served for a period of approximately two and a half years, was discharged with a perfect record and is today living in Saskatchewan, restored to the district in which his crime was committed, and there enjoying something of the appreciation of the people at large for what he has done and what he is now trying to do.

Sometimes we look at the dark side, but here is an example of a young man who has proven that if he is prepared to accept the responsibilities that rest upon him, if he is prepared to take advantage of what is offered today, small as it is, there is hope for our penal institutions. But just because of such an example-I have pointed out one and there are others-it does not mean that this is general. Later on as I speak, I intend to refer to other examples and then to place before the house a few suggestions.

One suggestion I make now. That young man today, after having served approximately thiee years in the armed forces, has returned to his own district and is still required to report to the mounted police every month. There is a change that could be effected. Remove that disability, because disability it is. The police know where he is. He wrote to me the other day and pointed out this situation, and he said, "I will do my part if only you are able to secure the support of those in charge of administration to relieve me from being penalized for the rest of my days and required to report".

There is my first suggestion, that when a man is discharged from the penitentiary he

Privilege-Mr. Chevrier

should be given an opportunity to become rehabilitated. Do not hang about his neck a mandatory order that requires him, wherever he is, to report each month his whereabouts and also that he is willing to return to penitentiary when he is called upon.

On motion of Mr. Diefenbaker the debate was adjourned.

Topic:   PENITENTIARY ACT
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At eleven o'clock the house adjourned, without question put pursuant to standing order. Tuesday, May 27, 1947


May 26, 1947