An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

Not active, as of Feb. 5, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Youth Criminal Justice Act by adding deterrence and denunciation to the principles that a court must consider when determining a youth sentence. It also clarifies that the presumption against the pre-trial detention of a young person is rebuttable and specifies the circumstances in which the presumption does not apply.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Feb. 5, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.
  • Feb. 5, 2008 Passed That this question be now put.

June 8th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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Sylvie Godin Vice-President, Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse

Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen members of Parliament, good morning.

I am Sylvie Godin, Vice-President of the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse of Quebec, and I am accompanied by Ms. Claire Bernard, legal adviser at the Research Branch.

Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Quebec and the Youth Protection Act, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse of Quebec is entrusted with ensuring the protection of the interests of the child, and of ensuring through all appropriate means the promotion and respect of the rights that are granted to children under the Youth Protection Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

It is thus the commission's mission to ensure that the amendments to the legislation governing the criminal justice system as it applies to adolescents are in compliance with the rights that are recognized to them. The commission discharges its mission by ensuring that the international commitments that Canada has made in the area of child rights are respected, pursuant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other applicable treaties.

The commission's analysis of Bill C-4 is informed by the convention, as well as the recommendations which the Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed to Canada in 2003, pursuant to the examination of Canada's second report on the implementation of the convention and the general observation the committee made public in 2007 concerning the administration of the justice system applicable to minors.

The Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Canada fully integrate into its legislation, policies and practices the provisions and principles of the convention, in particular the articles concerning the child's superior interest, the measures relating to deprivation of liberty, the rights of a child who is suspected, charged or convicted of a criminal offence, and rehabilitation and reinsertion, as well as the other international standards applicable in this area.

More specifically, the committee urged Canada to ensure that no person of less than 18 years of age be judged like an adult, whatever the circumstances or seriousness of the offence committed; to guarantee that the opinions of children be duly taken into consideration and respected in all legal proceedings concerning them; to see to it that the right to privacy of all children in conflict with the law be fully respected; to take the necessary measures, for instance alternate measures to the deprivation of liberty or parole, in order to considerably reduce the number of children being detained, and see to it that detention is only imposed as a last resort and for as brief a period as possible, and that in any case, children always be detained separately from adults.

Moreover, in its general observation in 2007, the Committee on the Rights of the Child addressed guidelines and recommendations to all of the states parties to the convention, so that their system of administration of justice applicable to minors be in compliance with the convention.

Our comments will thus discuss the amendments proposed in clauses 3, 4, 7, 25, 8, 20 and 21 of Bill C-4.

The bill proposes an amendment to section 3 of the act so as to make the protection of the public the priority objective of the act. The Committee on the Rights of the Child recognized that “the preservation of public safety is a legitimate aim of the justice system”. However, it “is of the opinion that this aim is best served by a full respect for and implementation of the leading and overarching principles of juvenile justice as enshrined in CRC”. Moreover, Canada itself recently pointed out in the context of its contribution to a report produced by the Human Rights Council on the Administration of Justice, that the Canadian criminal law applicable to minors guarantees that detention is a measure of last resort and that rehabilitation and reintegration must be taken into account in any decision. The principles of rehabilitation and reintegration must constitute the priority objectives of the law and not only be means, as the bill proposes.

Clause 4 of the bill proposes broadening the possibilities of resorting to pre-trial detention. The commission reminds us that according to the rights guaranteed to children in international law, detention must be a measure of last resort and it must be as brief as possible.

In this regard, the Committee on the Rights of the Child firmly pointed out that “the juvenile justice system should provide for ample opportunities to deal with children in conflict with the law by using social and/or educational measures, and to strictly limit the use of deprivation of liberty, and in particular pre-trial detention, as a measure of last resort.”

Clause 7 of the bill suggests the addition of two new principles to the principles of sentence determination, information and deterrence. Although this is no longer a matter of introducing a general deterrence principle applicable to all juveniles, as was the case in Bill C-25, the fact remains that the specific objectives of information and deterrence contradict the objectives of rehabilitation and reitegration which must remain at the heart of the criminal juvenile justice system. According to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the protection of the best interests of the child means that: “the traditional objectives of criminal justice such as repression and retribution must give way to rehabilitation and restorative justice objectives in dealing with child offenders. This can be done in concert with attention to effective public safety.” Indeed several studies conclude that measures aimed at deterrence are ineffective.

Clause 25 of the bill proposes obliging police forces to keep a file regarding extrajudicial measures taken with regard to any adolescent. From the perspective of respecting the rules of international law, this change is not problematic as such, on condition however that the provisions governing access to that register and the use of the information it would contain not be modified.

A change suggested in another clause of the bill however, clause 8, concerns precisely the use of the information involving one category of extrajudicial measures, i.e. extrajudicial penalties. The court could in future impose on a juvenile a sentence of committal to custody in light of prior extrajudicial penalties, whereas currently it can only take into account prior convictions.

June 3rd, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Irwin Elman Provincial Advocate, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (Ontario)

Thank you.

I want to say that I feel very privileged to be here, particularly in light of the last discussion, about witnesses and time. I feel very privileged because I know many Canadians have a real interest in the work of this committee and this bill, including young people themselves.

As you know, I am the provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, and I am joined today by one of my advocates, Lee Tustin, who I can tell you is one of the foremost experts on the Youth Criminal Justice Act in the country and has done some work on it. She's also modest. I hope our presentation can be helpful to you.

I want to begin my comments by saying something about process. As you know, when the YCJA was created there was quite a process of consultation and participation at all levels, including the House of Commons committee. What was created was a youth justice renewal strategy. That became the YCJA in 2003, with several years of studying, consulting, and talking to people before making any changes to our youth justice system. I would guess that even in that process few young people were consulted about what they thought might be helpful in terms of changes. Yet there was a consultation process.

In 2008 Bill C-25, which had changes similar to Bill C-4, was introduced without any prior consultation. I'm told by other provincial advocates, as I wasn't in my position at the time, that round-table discussions were held throughout the country on Bill C-25 after it was introduced. I've heard again today and I think I've seen on websites that the report from those consultations has not been made public. Certainly I haven't seen it, or any of my staff. I think that certainly is curious when you're contemplating Bill C-4, which again I feel has not had any true consultation. This is true particularly because the consultations haven't been open and public, and my understanding is there has not been consultation with young people who might be affected by the bill you're speaking to.

I think it's really important that young people and the people who work with your legislation be consulted. I spent the last 25 years working with young people in child welfare and youth justice systems, and I can tell you that the most important things I learned did not come from a lecture or professor I was listening to or from a book I read. It came from the lived experience and wisdom of young people. I urge you, before you make any decisions, to find out what that lived experience and wisdom can say to you. People are saying this act is to some extent about public safety. I want to remind you that young people are every bit as much members of the public as I am or you are, the same way your children are members of the public, and they have a right to be consulted too.

I also understand there's been some discussion of the Nunn commission report about how protection of society should be a primary goal of the act and that a tool should be given to courts to ensure that the protection of society is taken into account. But the Nunn commission also said the Youth Criminal Justice Act is sound legislation, and the report expressed concern about deviating from the sound underlying principles that are enshrined in the act. This is exactly why I think we need a true consultation process before we change what basically seems to be, as people are saying, a sound piece of legislation.

Even some of the questions I've heard you asking today, and I know you have limited time.... It strikes me that to consider changing a piece of legislation fundamentally without knowing some of the information that you need to know—for instance, statistics with regard to racialized members of our community entering into the youth justice system—is a little bit, and perhaps this is too harsh a word, irresponsible without knowing and understanding. So I urge you to take your time and consult widely.

I've thought a great deal about what I wanted to say. I know that I'm one of a group of characters you're going to meet, and probably because of my position and where I've worked, you could probably guess the kinds of things I'm going to say. I want to get beyond that.

Recently in Ontario, we've had quite a debate about a particular youth justice facility outside Toronto. Because we've been on one end of the debate raising the voices of children and youth, particularly youth who have been involved in that facility, people have said there is--and these are their words, not mine--the “hug-a-thug” group, and somebody referred to it as “bleeding hearts” earlier. And then there's the “law and order camp”. I think the polarization of those two camps is particularly difficult, and I want to find another way of having a discourse about youth justice. I think it comes from the voices of young people themselves. My act, which governs what I'm supposed to do, tells me I'm supposed to elevate the voices of children and youth, in this case in conflict with the law.

I spent, and have spent in the last year or two years, quite a bit of time in youth justice facilities in Ontario speaking to young people, meeting them when the veneer of their lives is stripped away, meeting them in these facilities. When I meet them, I don't know why they're there, but I'm talking to them. They're kids. As somebody said, they're every bit as much children or youths as is the child of anybody sitting around this table. You get to understand that they have hopes and dreams. And you get to understand that they are our future. You ask them what they want to do in the future, and they want to be a plumber, a doctor, a parent. They're somebody's sons or daughters. They are people.

To understand the issue with that in the forefront, with them in the centre of this room, you might make different decisions about the act you're contemplating. I really believe that. It also provides us with common ground, because I believe that people in my so-called “camp”, people who are the characters coming to tell you what's wrong with that, believe as much as you do that we want the best for our children and youth. We want public safety too. Speaking about these young people and understanding them will allow us to act differently, I think. That means also listening to them.

I want to say something else, and I'm thinking about what they might want me to say. In one of the places I was visiting--and it's happened many times--I was with young people in their unit, and suddenly there was a call for a lock-down, what the institution called a “code blue”. So all the young people had to go to their rooms, and they were locked in. This is not atypical from any other province. After they came out, I was able to talk to a young person again, and I said, “What happened?” He said, “Well, we were locked down. We have three CDs we're allowed to listen to on our unit, and one of the CDs was missing, and they needed to lock down all the units in the institution--not just this one--to try to find the CD.” It seemed curious to me. By the way, when they tried to find the CD, there were strip searches. They take everybody's clothes off, one at a time. They go in the rooms and look for the CD.

I'm not criticizing, and I don't work in the justice system, and maybe they're thinking--and I think they were--that the CD could be used as a weapon, and that it was a matter of safety. But I asked the young person how often this happened. “Well, two or three times a week”.

It occurred to me that if at any moment the guards who guard the Parliament Buildings could come in here and tell us to go to our rooms, take our clothes off because they had to look for something that was missing.... If that happened three times, and we didn't know it was going to happen, but we just got used to it happening, we might even think we understood why it was going to happen. When you're in custody in that situation, that's a common situation, and it's just one common element of what it means to be in custody. That's punishment enough in terms of what we need to do to young people if we're going to think we're punishing them. But--and young people will say this--it doesn't do a lot. It's common sense when you think about it.

When you think about your children, it doesn't do a lot in terms of rehabilitation and possibilities for reintegration. So the fewer young people, our children, we can put in that situation.... It's kind of obvious that we shouldn't be doing that.

That's the piece I wanted to say. I also wanted to say a little more about some of the pieces in the act, and I think that with Lee, during questions, we can speak specifically to those.

To me, the declaration principle that people have talked about that shifts the philosophy is really important, because I believe it blatantly ignores parts of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is also mentioned in the act and which the Canadian Parliament and Ontario's legislature have adopted.

I know there's been some discussion here to the effect of what good is that convention anyway, how enforceable is it, and that maybe that's the reason not to worry about it so much in the act. But what a message that is. It's particularly ironic when we're considering youth justice legislation and are honouring what we as a society say we need to commit to as people, and are teaching our young people how important laws are, that in regard to an act and a convention that Parliament and provincial legislatures have agreed to, we say that because it can't be enforced, it doesn't matter. What an irony it is to take that position.

My time is up. There is so much I wanted to say. There is a group of young people here from children in care. Yesterday they were speaking to Senators Pépin and Munson, talking about their struggles to make it through the child welfare system, how difficult it was. They had made it or were making it, but some of them were in group homes too. Under this legislation, they could be charged and end up in custody and have a completely different path, if they threw a glass at someone in a group home because the abuse they had suffered was triggered by something in that home. I want them to be remembered here too.

I know I'm out of time, but that's my message.

Truth in Sentencing Act
Government Orders

June 5th, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicolas Dufour Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, we have been talking about Bill C-25 for some time already, and I just want to point out that the Bloc Québécois was, once again, miles ahead of the government on this issue.

For several years now, we have been urging the government to eliminate the remand custody credit. I was looking for the right term. I also had “one-sixth of the sentence” in mind because the Bloc Québécois introduced a bill a few years ago that would have eliminated the one-sixth practice for offenders. The reason it took me a minute is that the Bloc Québécois introduces a lot of bills about justice in an effort to ensure fairness.

We have two very good colleagues, the member for Hochelaga and the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, both of whom are experts in matters of justice. Our colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin was once Quebec's public safety minister. Now you understand why it took me a minute to remember. The Bloc Québécois has introduced so many excellent bills on justice that it is easy to get them mixed up.

The Conservatives do not give us many reasons to celebrate when it comes to justice, but Bill C-25 is one, at least. The Bloc Québécois has strongly supported the measure in the bill since 2007. The Bloc Québécois has been talking about this for over two years now, which is a long time. On June 15, 2007, the Bloc Québécois proposed a series of recommendations about important changes to the Canadian justice system. These measures called for a more balanced justice system that is adapted to new realities, has a real impact on crime, and most importantly, avoids following the American model based on repression, a model whose negative outcomes are all too visible.

We are seeing this a lot particularly with this dogmatic, Conservative government, which is trying, through every possible means, especially with minimum sentences, to copy the American model, which simply does not work.

Earlier my colleague said that Canadian prisons were full to capacity. I invite him to go the United States to see what it is like there. He will soon realize that, compared to them, we should not feel so bad. American prisons are packed and the crime rate there is extremely high. There are many other reasons, apart from how the justice system itself operates. The gun registry comes to mind, something the Americans do not have. The free flow of firearms is also a serious problem in the United States, which means that a lot more crimes are committed with firearms there.

Earlier I mentioned some of the remarkable qualities of my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. He recently explained to all the members of the Bloc Québécois that Canada has, if I am not mistaken, about 100 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants, while the United States has about 736 prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants. As we can see, copying the American model would be a serious mistake.

I must say, Quebeckers worry when we see the Conservative government acting in this way, whether we are talking about minimum sentences, the gun registry or its overall, general views on crime.

The Conservatives say they are tough on crime and they say so in an aggressive way. They are trying to show that they know what they are talking about. Yet police associations across Canada are criticizing this government. They are saying that, apart from a few photo ops with police officers, there has been no real, concrete action. There is still a serious shortage of police officers. The Conservative government boasts about hiring them and making huge investments, but apart from some nice announcements and empty promises, we have seen absolutely nothing.

Let us look at how Quebec manages public safety and justice.

Our approach is much more comprehensive and focuses more on integration and prevention. Quebec's approach is to ensure that the criminal does not commit crimes rather than arresting criminals once they have committed crimes, as the Conservative government would have it. That is the objective of Quebec and especially our colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Quebec, represented by the Bloc Québécois, has a very good understanding of justice issues and does a good job of defending them. The proof is that in Quebec only about 40 crimes involving firearms are committed each year, which is an extremely small number. We have a very low crime rate. There is little crime in Quebec. I am extremely proud of that and, above all, it is the result of the way we manage public safety and justice.

The Bloc Québécois has presented measures that reflect the values of Quebeckers. These measures are primarily based on prevention, rehabilitation, social and economic integration, and a better distribution of wealth.

As I was saying, unfortunately, all too often, people who are going to commit crimes are poor. A study was published—whether or not we agree with it—which stated that during a recession, the crime rate increases because people have a great deal less money. We can readily deduce that there may be a correlation between poverty and the crime rate. The poorer people are, the greater their needs and, unfortunately, the more they will commit crimes, not because of need—because one never needs to commit a crime—but because it may be their only way out.

Therefore, we have to do more than just put people in jail. We have to help them with education, job searches and job creation. We have to try to take these people and put them back into the labour force by giving them a hand up and thus ensuring that we lower the crime rate.

Our proposals included streamlining the parole system, stepping up the fight against organized crime and providing better funding for the national crime prevention strategy.

Simply put, when a person is arrested for committing an offence under the Criminal Code, he must be brought before a judge as quickly as possible. At this stage, the crown attorney must inform the defendant of the charges against him. While the defendant is awaiting trial, the judge has two options: he can release the defendant, with or without conditions, if he feels that the defendant is not at risk of reoffending, or the judge may order that the defendant be detained until sentencing, if the defendant is dangerous.

If the judge chooses to detain the defendant, the period leading up to sentencing is called time served in remand or time in custody. After the trial, the judge must give an appropriate punishment to the guilty party. That is the sentence. The Criminal Code and related jurisprudence set out some criteria to guide the court.

I digress, but earlier I spoke a little about minimum sentences. These minimum sentences dismiss the criteria in the jurisprudence, and remove the judges' ability to think freely and use discretion in giving a fair sentence to any criminal.

As it stands, to determine the punishment for someone found guilty of a crime, the court must take into account all the time the individual spent in custody since the crime was committed. Although it is left to their discretion, judges not only generally take into account time in custody, but also apply the two-for-one rule. This means that time in custody counts two-for-one, and in some cases, judges have even gone as far as counting it as three-for-one.

This calculation method stems from the fact that few if any programs or activities are available to inmates during the trial period. Moreover, their detention conditions are poor and correctional facilities are overcrowded. Since the bill was introduced, we have discussed at length the serious shortcomings in overpopulated penitentiaries.

We do not want to leave this out of this debate, because it is an extremely important issue. However, we are first and foremost legislators, and we have to make the law that makes up the Criminal Code. We must also develop and introduce laws and then pressure the government for the necessary financial and human resources. We must ensure that this bill is fully enforced.

This calculation method stems from the fact that penitentiaries are overcrowded. In addition, time spent in pre-sentencing custody is not taken into account in calculating eligibility for full parole or statutory release. For all these reasons, judges tend to give two-for-one credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody.

On March 27, 2009, the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-25 for first reading in the House of Commons. The bill has to do with sentencing. The principles of sentencing are found mainly in part XXIII of the Criminal Code, in section 718 and the sections that follow.

The bill is intended to eliminate any possibility that a judge will give two-for-one credit for time spent in pre-sentencing custody. Clause 3 of the bill sets out this principle by limiting the credit for that time to a maximum of one day for each day spent in custody. As well, and only if the circumstances justify it, the bill allows a credit of one and one-half days for each day spent in custody, unless the person was kept in custody because of his criminal record or a breach of probation. In that case, no greater credit may be granted, regardless of the conditions in which the offender was held during his trial.

With respect to that measure, the Bloc Québécois recognizes that in some specific and very exceptional situations, it may be appropriate to subtract time served before and during the trial at a rate of a day and a half for each day in custody from the sentence. If that results in a reduction equivalent to 50% of the days spent in remand, in some cases, that would not discredit the justice system. There are cases involving conditions of detention ill suited to the person's health. In all cases, when a judge reduces the sentence in consideration of time served in pre-sentencing custody, the judge must justify that decision, record the reasons for it in the file and detail how the guilty person's sentence was calculated.

For more than two years now, the Bloc Québécois has recommended that this rule be eliminated, so we are pleased with this measure because the reason for this practice no longer reflects the reality of today's prison system. Along with the fact that legal cases are getting longer and more complex, this practice supports the popular notion that sentences are too lenient, discredits the administration of justice and frustrates victims and their families, who sometimes see the offenders turned loose shortly after sentencing.

People often get the sense that we are too soft on some criminals. I understand some of the victims. I also understand how the parents, friends and colleagues of victims who have been brutally murdered feel when the criminal goes free. The murderer may be sentenced to 10 or 15 years in jail, but gets out after serving barely 4 or 5 years.

The loved ones of victims might feel the justice system is faulty, since criminals are released much more quickly. Of course, that is all because of the two-for-one time. Here is an example. Now, if an accused spends six months in pre-sentencing custody and is sentenced to two years in prison, his sentence will likely last only one year. This bill would fix that anomaly.

When it comes to justice, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is always prevention. We have to attack crime at its roots. As I said at the beginning of my speech, justice is not simply about sentencing. It is not enough to be tough on crime, as the Conservatives like to say. That creates problems, because they have blinders on that prevent them from seeing the rest of the problem and the seriousness of the situation.

There are factors that push an individual to become a criminal. I do not believe that a person is not born fundamentally bad, but that they become bad, unfortunately, because of misfortunes, problems or bad luck. We must try to prevent crime. We must do a lot of prevention and education. We must find and target the factors that push these people to commit crimes, and try to eliminate as many as possible.

That being said, the Bloc is aware that the existing legal system needs considerable improvement, and that some changes to the Criminal Code are necessary. The government's duty is to intervene and use the tools at its disposal to make sure that Quebeckers and Canadians can live peacefully and safely. On June 15, 2007, in response to the Conservatives' ideological approach, the Bloc Québécois recommended a number of measures.

This constructive approach is already making a difference. In budget 2008, the Conservative government implemented some of the ideas put forward by the Bloc Québécois. It provided additional funding to the national crime prevention strategy and to crown prosecutors.

Since coming to power, the Conservatives have taken a rigid, ideological approach to justice. Although some of the measures introduced have had some positive elements, others have clearly gone too far and have been ineffective, or even counterproductive. That was true of Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which focused more on imprisonment than on Quebec's very pertinent success with reintegration and rehabilitation.

During the 2008 election campaign, the Conservatives said they wanted to throw young people aged 14 to 16 in jail. Personally, after having met with many young people, I find it really sad to see the Conservatives adopting such a rigid, dogmatic approach whereby they want to send our young people to prison.

As I said earlier, we should instead focus our efforts on rehabilitation. We must help these young people understand what led them to crime. We must give them a hand up, instead of foolishly sending them to prison, where they can attend crime school. If these young people come into contact with people serving 20 or 25 year sentences, they will learn the tricks of the trade.

The Bloc Québécois does not understand that. I think all of Quebec had a hard time understanding that during the last election campaign. Quebeckers clearly demonstrated this by sending 49 Bloc Québécois members, rather than Conservatives, to the House of Commons.

Truth in Sentencing Act
Government Orders

April 20th, 2009 / 12:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague across the way. He mentioned something about a committee to further look at something. I want to talk about some time that I spent with the hon. member on the justice committee in the second session of the 39th Parliament. I remember the day was March 11. Last spring the member and his colleagues, along with the Bloc Québécois, tabled a motion at justice committee that basically rendered that committee into a political stalemate where no legislation was discussed for the remainder of the spring.

The legislation that happened to be there was Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act. That legislation was never talked about because of the railroading of that motion. Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act would have allowed for mandatory minimum prison sentences for people who deal drugs or who use guns in the commission of selling drugs. That motion railroaded Bill C-27, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (identity theft and related misconduct). Those are the kinds of bills that were waylaid.

Does the member honestly think that his born-again crime-fighting party, the Liberal Party of Canada, has any credibility left at all when it comes to saying the Liberals are actually going to get tough on crime? Why should Canadians trust the member and his party?

Extension of Sitting Hours
Routine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 3:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Peter Van Loan York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the hon. member raised the question about the justice committee. At the justice committee, the meetings have not been adjourned by the Conservative chair. It is the Liberal vice-chair who has refused to call votes and who has adjourned the meetings. It is not the Conservative chair, so the fault lies there.

The Liberals do not want to conduct the business there either. The only motion they are willing to consider is one that has nothing to do with legislation whatsoever. They wish to have another one of their side show legislative committee inquiry Star Chambers.

However, in the process what bills do those members not want to deal with? What bills are they obstructing? They obstructing Bill C-25, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which is long overdue, something which Canadians want to have dealt with, something that was referred to the committee. They want to study something else instead. There is Bill C-26, drug penalties, which has been there for some time and something with which Canadians want dealt. They would rather study something else instead of that. There is Bill C-27, identity theft, again is other legislation. Three items of legislation are before that committee. We would like to see them out of that committee and into the House so we can pass sit.

Guess what? The opposition parties, in their ongoing campaign to delay and obstruct our justice agenda, our getting tough on crime agenda, continue to find excuses to delay that, including having their Liberal vice-chair adjourn every meeting and not allow it to proceed on to the important business of that legislation. That is the problem. It is that kind of delay and obstruction that resulted in over 1,400 total delays to our justice bills in the first session of Parliament.

It is those kinds of delay and obstruction tactics that make it necessary for us to seek the kind of permission, which the rules contemplate, for additional hours because we have a tremendous amount of work to do, a very full legislative agenda. It just seems that some do not want to show up to do that work.

June 5th, 2008 / 10:10 a.m.
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Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

The committee has not had a formal meeting since March 11 where any legislation has been discussed. We have Bill C-27, Bill C-25, Bill C-26, not to mention the number of private members' bills. Before March 11 the committee had been meeting extra hours just to get through the legislative backlog.

April 8th, 2008 / 4 p.m.
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Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

We have not dealt with Bill C-25--

Judges Act
Government Orders

March 14th, 2008 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand up and share with you the position of my party, the great force of national liberation that is the Bloc Québécois, on Bill C-31. This bill may seem to be rather technical, but it has to do with the workings of the justice system. Bill C-31, which has been called for by people who play a role before or after the court system, is a short bill with only two clauses that will enable the federal government to appoint superior court judges.

At present, the federal government can appoint 30 judges, and there is a definite backlog in the court system. In the administration of justice, it is not uncommon for a year and a half, two years, two and half years, or three years to go by between the time legal proceedings start and the time a judge or a judge and jury hand down a decision. Obviously, we are not talking about the Supreme Court of Canada. We are talking about superior courts, which hear cases involving common offences under the Criminal Code. They do not rule on technical points of law, like appeal courts. And they certainly do not hand down decisions that speak to our values or clarify the constitutionality or validity of legal provisions, as the Supreme Court of Canada does. Superior courts deal with the cases that should be the least contentious possible.

Bill C-31 proposes to add 20 supernumerary judges, bringing to 50 the number of judges who could be appointed to the various superior courts. With your permission, I would like to take a few moments to explain to my colleagues in this House why trial courts should not be confused with superior courts.

Quebec will one day be a country that will enjoy all the elements of sovereignty, you can rest assured. For us as sovereigntists, when we talk about our plans, sovereignty means three things: keeping our own tax dollars, repatriating all powers to Quebec and, of course, deciding on our foreign policy.

As an aside, yesterday, I confirmed something with our research staff. It is estimated that in 2008, Quebeckers will pay $50 billion in taxes to Ottawa. Imagine how things would be different if the National Assembly could keep those tax dollars. Obviously, we would do some things differently. From the information gathered by our research staff—an excellent and very dedicated staff—I read that the National Defence budget will increase from $9 billion to $19 billion in the 2010s. Can you imagine? The military budget will double, primarily because of military procurement.

Do you think that a sovereign Quebec would have made the same decision? As my colleagues will agree, a sovereign Quebec would have placed much greater emphasis on international cooperation and development assistance. We would have been much more present in Africa, especially francophone Africa, and in Haiti, and we would have developed the cooperation practices that seem to be lacking in this government.

Accordingly, a sovereign Quebec would of course enjoy all the attributes of a separate state. However, that is not the case at this time. That is why everyone listening must understand that Quebec, the National Assembly and the Quebec justice minister appoint judges to municipal courts and the Court of Quebec. The Court of Quebec has two divisions: the civil division and the youth division.

By the way, I find it distressing that a bill will soon be before us, but we in the Bloc Québécois will not be supporting it. As I told the steering committee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights the day before last, gone are the days when there was at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights a climate of frank camaraderie whereby members would give each other a friendly slap on the back or ask one another how they were doing, and there was the notion of caring about one another.

We know that the climate has deteriorated at the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. We have a chair who refuses to take his responsibilities and preside over the committee. How did we get to this point of no return?

It is like in a couple when it is obvious that a domestic spat will escalate to a point of no return. Of course, I am not speaking of myself. My home life is totally free from any stormy dispute because I am so blissfully in love.

At any rate, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights has not been meeting because the member for Beauséjour introduced a motion inviting the committee to look into allegations made in the Cadman affair and conduct an investigation under section 119 of the Criminal Code. Naturally, that is within the purview of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Is it not our duty—and this question is for all my colleagues—to ensure that at all times, institutions and those who keep them running, parliamentarians, are above any suspicion when the media and a book raise allegations of corruption? Whether these allegations are founded or not is up to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to decide. Other committees could have addressed this issue, but for reasons I do not want to get into again, the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics was unable to.

The hon. member for Beauséjour, a generally respectable man with great self-control, did his job as a parliamentarian by tabling this motion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which the Bloc obviously supported. When the chair of the committee deemed the motion out of order, we challenged the chair's decision, in accordance with the House of Commons Standing Orders. However, the chair refused to hold a vote to determine whether the motion would be challenged and he left the chair, leaving a terrible void that prevented the committee from functioning.

That said, I do not want to get off topic. Let us come back to Bill C-31.

The National Assembly of Quebec oversees appointments to municipal courts and the Court of Quebec. The Court of Quebec has two divisions: the civil division and the youth division. I dreaded the thought of having to deal with Bill C-25, which is a very bad bill.

Bill C-25 deals with the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Before the five-year review of the bill has even taken place, the government wants to amend two provisions. The Bloc Québécois maintains that—

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Routine Proceedings

March 12th, 2008 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-525, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (protection of the public).

Mr. Speaker, this bill is in response to the tragic death of a Nova Scotia teaching assistant, named Theresa McEvoy, who was killed in a 2004 car crash by a repeat young offender. It encompasses all the Nunn commission recommendations, including those which Bill C-25 failed to address.

I should emphasize the work of Mr. Justice Nunn and also thank Mr. Hugh Wright, the lawyer for the family of Theresa McEvoy, for his assistance with drafting the bill.

Finally, I want to thank my colleague, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, for seconding the bill.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

March 5th, 2008 / 4:25 p.m.
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NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

You had made a comment about whether we can get the satellite when we need it. Is this covered under Bill C-25?

February 12th, 2008 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

The Vice-Chair Réal Ménard

I don't think the Bloc plans to propose any amendments. Does the opposition intend to move some amendments to the cruelty to animal bill? No.

Does the government intend to move any amendments? No.

Tomorrow, the steering committee is meeting to discuss billsC-25 andC-27. We would also ask that those who have not yet done so submit their list of proposed witnesses.

Thank you to our witnesses. Thank you, colleagues. It would be appropriate at this time to move an adjournment motion. So moved by Mr. Petit.

The meeting is adjourned.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

February 5th, 2008 / 5:55 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion carried.

The next recorded division is on Bill C-25 at second reading. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

The hon. chief government whip.

The House resumed from February 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

February 4th, 2008 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address the House on Bill C-25, which attempts to modify the Youth Criminal Justice Act and take into account the number of provisions that deal with the importance of youth in pretrial custody and also how we can sentence young offenders and penalize them more for the crimes they have committed.

I come from a riding in the Northwest Territories in which the crime rate is very high. Social conditions have been bad in the past and continue to provide us with no end of problems in our communities. It is something each community tries to grapple with and understand.

Many of the problems arise from the transient nature of our non-aboriginal society, the cultural impact of changing societies on our aboriginal people, the harsh conditions under which we live and the failure of the education system to give adequate education to many people, not necessarily the fault of the system, but of the whole society. Many things go on in our society that lead young people in the wrong direction.

As a former mayor in a small community that was 50% aboriginal, I understand many of the issues young people are facing in growing up and making choices. It is not easy. Sometimes it comes from the lack of parental guidance available to them. Sometimes it comes from problems that are physiological in nature. Sometimes it comes from a community that does not have an answer for a young person, does not have a direction to give a young person. We all grapple with these issues and we wonder how we can best serve our young people.

Whenever we look at the legislation like this, our primary purpose is to improve the lot of young people as they move toward adulthood, accept their own decisions and comprehend and understand the nature of their acts.

Basically this is common law experience in Canada for 150 years. We accept that young people do not necessarily have all the tools required for the complex decisions they have to make in their everyday life. Sometimes they make mistakes. Sometimes they are led to mistakes. Sometimes they are ill-prepared by their parents to deal with the kinds of choices they have to make. We are all troubled about how we can deal with these things and how we can put them in context.

We think that perhaps stricter sentences will give us an answer, that somehow this will drive the boat to encourage young people to move in the right direction in their future life, that it gives them a very strong message of denunciation that their acts are inappropriate and they should be struck heavily for doing them and carrying that with them for a while, while in incarceration or other forms.

I have trouble with that. I find it does not really work all that well in our society. I find the solutions for young people are more tied to the things we do that are not tied to incarceration,or the criminal justice system. We have seen the kinds of results that can bring.

I was very encouraged. I held a public meeting in a small community by the name of Déline. I mentioned it in the House earlier today with a question to another speaker.

This aboriginal community has had a great success rate in keeping their children in line to avoid many of those pitfalls that are in our society, unlike many other communities. It has a record of five years with no young offender charges in the community. In talking to RCMP officers who supervise and work with the community, they are very pleased with what is happening. They are very pleased the community has taken hold of these young people in many ways.

I like to talk about positive things many times when I talk about young people. We need to have a positive message for young people. That to me is part of the intrinsic nature of young people. They are optimistic and looking forward. Let us give them that chance. This is what the people in Déline have done. They have a very vigorous program of interaction with their young people in their schools. The whole community of 800 people is linked back to the young people. They put the time and effort in with their young people and they get results from it.

They also have opportunities for young people to get the experience of elders. They consider this very important and I think it is very important as well. In our modern society so often we leave our young people with their peers. We are not providing them with the ongoing direction and counselling that they would get in previous generations or in a previous era when they had the opportunity to work with their parents in the fields or in the everyday tasks of a rural and simpler lifestyle.

Now children are alienated from their parents and their workplaces. They are put into a modern society that does not deliver this. In Déline they encourage those directions. They encourage the young people to participate with the people who can give them direction, who have the direction inherent in their nature. It is a very valid point.

As well, I had an opportunity to talk to a sociologist and psychologist about the nature of youth centres. He said to me that in a way, youth centres were validating what modern society was validating, that they got their direction from their peers. They go to a youth centre and interact with young people. They do not have that communication with the whole of society that gives them a better message, that more complete message about what they do with their lives or with the choices they have to make in life.

We have to be very careful with legislation that drives young people into correctional facilities, into environments where they will run into more of the peer situation. They will run into the criminal peer situation, which will increase their likelihood of repeating criminal acts in the future. Therefore, I do not find this is a very useful thing or objective in law. It may work for one or two, but what we have to look in legislation is the best possible solution for the most young people. I find it to be very limiting to think that young people are going to improve by being sent away to correctional facilities, incarcerated in a fashion that denounces their actions, that is a strict deterrence to them for that act.

I had the occasion the other day, in reviewing a parole application, to look at the record of a person in his forties who was incarcerated. I look back at this record and it is almost like a picture perfect image of what I am talking about today. A young person perhaps made a few bad errors in his early life, not serious errors, not things that any of us would be completely immune from or would make a big difference to society, but after a while they accumulated and he was incarcerated.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

February 4th, 2008 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Christian Ouellet Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise today on this bill, even though the Bloc Québécois is very opposed to Bill C-25 and even stunned by its objectives.

First I would like to say that my speech will really just follow up on what the hon. member for East Vancouver had to say. I very much appreciated the specific examples she gave from her own riding and her statement that legislation ought not to be based on electoral dogma or politics but on real facts and on studies that have been done showing its necessity. We should not pass laws simply because our ideology would be better served by different legislation.

I want to say once again that this bill is based on Conservative ideology that aims to punish offenders. This is really a very reactionary ideology. Allow me to quote what the purpose of this bill is. Ultimately, its purpose is to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act by “adding deterrence and denunciation to the principles that a court must consider when determining a youth sentence”.

The bill also clarifies that the presumption against the pre-trial detention of a young person is rebuttable and specifies the circumstances in which the presumption does not apply.

The purpose of Bill C-25 is therefore to intensify the punishments inflicted on young people and allow them to be detained before trial. That is obviously where the government is headed. This bill is like a father who punishes his children rather than helping them get over difficult situations. This bill is as reactionary as can be and reflects the thinking of the Republican right-wingers among our neighbours to the south. Legislation like this is based on the belief that children are born bad and have to be punished into being good. This legislation also teaches young people denunciation—how to tell on each other—and how to but or bargain their way out of trouble.

Like most of the hon. members in this House, I have had children, although they are now grown up. I never allowed them to tell on each other because I always felt it was amoral and not something I could approve. No democratic society can accept denunciation. It can only be found in dictatorships where there is just one law for everyone. Denunciation is anti-democratic and not a way to create proud and responsible citizens.

It should also be unacceptable that young people use denunciation as a bargaining chip to obtain a pardon. There is no mention of prevention in here. In fact, this government never includes prevention in the bills it introduces. It seems to me that the normal thing to do would be to focus on prevention before punishing the offenders. But there is nothing to that effect in the legislation. We are convinced that prevention, rehabilitation, straightforwardness, honesty and integrity of young people will become essential. They cannot be allowed to be untrue and get off by denouncing others.

Where is our ability to guide our young people? They often lack the tools to cope with life. They are often unable to appreciate the gravity of their actions. That is what teenagers need help with, and this help often cannot be found at home. It is the role of government to prevent and think about those things. This kind of help is the one provided by streetworkers.

This government puts so much faith in repressive legislation that it fails to see that it is turning down very worthwhile pieces of legislation.

Here is a case in point. In a small town in my riding, an initiative was launched with just a few thousand dollars to hire a streetworker whose mandate was to talk to young people and stop them from committing crimes. That was preventative. The idea was to not just tell young people that they would face a stiff penalty if ever they got caught. Young people are convinced that they will never get caught committing a crime, be it petty or serious.

This was a well-structured initiative. The municipalities were all in favour. Potential candidates with experience had been identified for the job. The Government of Quebec had agreed to fund part of the initiative. The rest of the funding would normally have come from the federal government. About six months ago, this government categorically opposed the initiative, in spite of the fact that it was a prevention initiative, one designed to have streetworkers working with young people.

As my colleague from Chambly—Borduas said earlier, streetworkers find things to do for young people instead of being idle and always ready to get in all sorts of trouble without realizing that they could be doing something more worthwhile elsewhere.

There are enough studies, both in Europe and in Quebec, which show that it is essential to help before the kids get into trouble, in order to reduce crime. So, we must try to prevent, instead of reacting by imposing stiffer sentences. Again, I often go and talk to young people, and they are convinced that they will never get caught if they do something wrong.

Will the promise made by the Conservative government to be open toward the Quebec nation include recognizing the need to have street and youth workers? Personally, I think it is essential.

As I said earlier, the principle of denunciation is completely immoral. It is irresponsible to create an opportunity for a young person by telling him that the length of his sentence can be negotiated if he is prepared to denounce the other members of the gang. This is not the way to build an open and honest society. Denunciation is the basic principle of societies that can be said to be less developed than ours. Reintegrating society is not the important thing for young people. How do we reintegrate them? Not by imposing longer sentences, because then they will learn all about crime. No. We must reintegrate them as early as possible in a society where sentences are minimal, and where there are people who can make them realize that they did something that one does not have to do to achieve happiness in this world.

Obviously, that is not how things work in the United States. It is unfortunate that this country is our neighbour and that it is so omnipresent and in our face. The United States believes strongly in repression. With what results? Repression and even the death penalty have not stopped crime. The United States has more murders per capita than any other country, except perhaps for certain parts of Russia, where it is a game.

By transferring the burden of proof to the accused for his pre-trial release, Bill C-25 undermines the presumption of innocence, a longstanding, fundamental principle of British law.

The Bloc Québécois has a good understanding of pre-trial detention. We agree with pre-trial detention and believe that it may be necessary in certain cases and for certain individuals. However, this restrictive measure should not be considered in all circumstances. That is pretty much the thrust of Bill C-25. In the past, Quebeckers favoured individualized justice based on a legal process that was flexible and appropriate for each case.

The French criminal code we inherited allows us to think differently and to achieve positive results. It is true that everyone talks about it. Therefore, we should have a look at the results. In terms of youth justice, we have traditionally focused on rehabilitation and reintegration in order to remove these young people from the vicious circle of crime.

Do we believe that young people think about the punishment before committing a crime? No, but they might thinking about doing something else instead of committing crimes if it gave them a real zest for life.

I will close with a Chinese proverb: the little bird can be just as happy as the big bird. We must teach this to our young people.