National President David Neufeld and Regional Vice President Jeff Sandelli met with the Hon. Ed Fast on Parliament Hill on Thursday. Fast, who participated in the 2019 pre-election roundtable hosted by USJE in British Columbia, was already familiar with the union and agreed to meet with USJE representatives to discuss issues around public safety and other matters important to our members. As the House of Commons resumed work this week after the summer break, USJE was one of the first organizations to meet with the former minister.
Given the tragic events that unfolded in and around the James Smith Cree Nation, the top priority was to provide a detailed overview of the way USJE members help to keep Canadians safe. This included precise information on the essential role our members play in the Correctional Service of Canada (CSC), the Parole Board of Canada (PBC) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
It was clearly stated that public safety is paramount when supporting the reintegration of an offender into society. Offenders should not return directly into the community without expert supervision and support. It was strongly impressed on the former minister that essential resources at CSC and in communities are stretched to a breaking point and that political action in that regard is urgently needed.
USJE’s demand for a rebalancing of the ratio of offender to Parole Officer at Community Correctional Centers was communicated to Fast. This improved ratio would provide more time for assessment and intervention with high risk/need offenders residing at the facilities.
It was identified that there are many frontline CSC positions that are not funded properly and are not provided the time necessary to work with offenders. Many of these concerns stem back to the cuts made under the Deficit Reduction Action Plan and the fact that new monies have not been invested into the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders over the past decade.
Furthermore, the reestablishment of the Community Correctional Liaison Officer (CCLO) program was strongly recommended in order to support police forces to track and apprehend offenders that go unlawfully at large (UAL). The CCLO was abolished as part of the Deficit Reduction Plan in 2014.
Dialogue continued with respect to supporting our front-line members and the need to uphold the physical and psychological well-being of USJE members. President Neufeld and RVP Sandelli shared about USJE’s National Presumptive Injury campaign and the importance of making changes to the Government Employees Compensation Act (GECA). It was identified that provincial/territorial workers compensation legislation must also be changed to ensure that USJE members can be properly supported and compensated after experiencing an operational stress injury. Fast voiced his support for USJE’S presumptive injury campaign.
Ed Fast is the member for Abbotsford in British-Columbia. He was first elected in 2006 in the first Harper Government. He was Minister of International Trade from 2011 to 2015. His first Private Member’s Bill was a modification of the criminal code regarding the duration of prison sentences from sexual predators. With multiple CSC facilities and offices in his riding, MP Fast was keen to receive additional information from USJE.