Bill C-423 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse)
This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.
This bill was previously introduced in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session.
Mike Lake Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Committees of the House
June 17th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise in regard to the amendment to the motion.
I submit that the amendment to the motion is in order. The motion that is before the House is a motion to concur in a committee report. It is clearly established that a motion to concur in a committee report is procedurally acceptable.
For example, on May 5, 2005, the Speaker recognized:
--an amendment to refer a report back to a committee with an instruction is in order.
The Speaker also stated that:
--our practice has been to allow the House to give a permissive or mandatory instruction to a committee to amend the text of a report.
This concurrence motion is being considered under Standing Order 97.1. The language used in this Standing Order suggests that amendments too are possible. For example, Standing Order 97.1(2)(c)(ii) states that at the conclusion of the debate:
--the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, every question necessary to dispose of the motion;
By putting every question successively and without further amendment, the Standing Order implies that amendments to the motion are permissible.
It might be argued that proceeding this way would be inconsistent with the spirit behind the Standing Orders for private members' business, which are designed to ensure a conclusion on a private member's item.
However, while there are provisions to give some assurances that a private member's bill would come to a conclusion, private members' business is not totally immune from procedures that would cause a bill to fall outside of those provisions.
For example, at third reading, the House can refer a bill back to a committee for further study. This is what happened to Bill C-423 at third reading on May 16. An amendment at third reading to refer a bill back to committee does not require the consent of the sponsor, even though Standing Order 93 requires the consent of the sponsor for amendments to the second reading motion.
Although there are strict time limits for debate on private members' bills at second reading and at third reading, there are no limits on debate on Senate amendments to private members' bills. Therefore, the Standing Orders do allow for exemptions to the general manner by which private members' business is managed.
I would also argue that it is permissible for a committee to present a report requesting the authority of the House to have further time to consider a bill beyond what is contemplated in Standing Orders. Ultimately, it is up to the House to decide such matters and the House can choose to give a committee authorities that go beyond what is found in the Standing Orders.
For these reasons, I submit the amendment to the motion is in order.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
May 16th, 2008 / 1:40 p.m.
Betty Hinton Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-423 is consistent with the national anti-drug strategy unveiled by the government on October 4, 2007. The strategy responds to serious drug problems faced by Canada and recognizes the importance of focusing efforts on the growing number of our youth becoming involved with drugs.
Many of the communities across Canada have indicated that youth drug use is a priority concern. For several communities, the lure of highly addictive drugs, like crystal meth, presents a real challenge for their youth.
The government has listened to concerns and with our national anti-drug strategy, we are working actively to respond to them.
Budget 2007 signalled the government's investment in the strategy, which establishes a focused approach to address illicit drug issues based on three concrete action plans: first, preventing illicit drug use; second, treating illicit drug dependency; and third combatting illicit drug production and distribution. While the strategy has only been up and running since last October, we have made tremendous progress in rolling out a number of our priorities.
Bill C-423 recognizes the role that police can play in linking youth, drug and addiction problems to those who can help on the treatment front. It provides a valuable and additional tool to help youth overcome their problems and make our communities safer.
The government is mindful that this combined effort of many will bring success to addressing our drug priorities. We are working with all those concerned about Canada's youth, both from the private and public sectors and across different disciplines like health, education and the justice system.
It is for this reason that I read into the record an amendment to the motion. I move:
That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:
Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse), be not now read a third time but be referred back to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for the purpose of considering clause 1 with a view to making sure that the effects of these amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act are in the best interests of the youth who may be affected by these amendments and are considered beneficial to the people of Canada.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
May 16th, 2008 / 1:35 p.m.
Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to speak to Bill C-423 to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I must say that we are strongly in favour of the private member's bill from the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. The Bloc Québécois sees this bill as a spark of light or a ray of sunshine.
It puts forward the idea of rehabilitation. It suggests some ways of reaching out to youth who commit offences, giving them a chance, and also giving them the opportunity to obtain treatment. In this sense, the bill mirrors the philosophy and the ideology of the Bloc Québécois. In our opinion, this way of dealing with young offenders has been seen to be successful.
As we know, Quebec is the province with the lowest crime rate because we make a huge investment in rehabilitation and in eradicating problems at the root. We help people, we work with them and provide support so that they turn their backs on crime. Therefore, I support this bill along with the Bloc Québécois.
Today, the Supreme Court ruled on the Youth Criminal Justice Act and stated that the onus would no longer be on young offenders between the ages of 14 and 18 to prove that they should not be sentenced as adults.
I must say that we are very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision and once again, I congratulate the hon., member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont on his bill.
The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse), as reported without amendment from the committee.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
December 10th, 2007 / 11:45 a.m.
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my privilege to stand today to speak to Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse).
Members hear in their ridings over and over again the increased concern about young people who get involved with drugs. The government is so concerned about this that it has committed to respond to these concerns with a national anti-drug strategy and a reassessment of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Private member's Bill C-423 now before the House is a constructive and timely response to the problem of drug use among Canadian youth. Bill C-423 will support this effort to address the problem of substance abuse by youth through its proposal to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to allow police to refer youth charged with less serious offences to addiction specialists to determine if treatment is needed.
This measure will respond to concerns about youth who are tempted to use drugs, develop addiction problems and then engage in minor offences to pay for the drugs. How many of us in our ridings get calls from people who have been victims of young offenders who cause damage, steal, commit break and enter offences simply to get money to buy the drugs they have become addicted to? This is a common problem and one which all of us face.
The police, through section 6, have the authority to send youth, with their consent, to a program to reduce the chances of their repeating. Bill C-423 seeks to broaden this measure by giving police the power to send youth, with their consent, to a drug specialist who will recommend the necessary treatment.
The youth justice system has long had to deal with the challenge presented by troubled youth. Often young people charged with criminal offences face significant problems and find themselves marginalized in society. Their special needs do not absolve them from responsibility for criminal conduct, but it is important to ensure those needs, however severe or pressing, should not result in a greater sentence or criminal sanction than is justified by the offence committed.
As we have heard from other speakers on this bill, the whole issue of treatment is the emphasis. So often we do not emphasize it and instead talk about the penalties.
An important feature of the youth justice system itself is to address the needs through rehabilitative measures within the sentences and interventions that are proportional to the seriousness of the crime. Safeguards are in place to ensure the penalties imposed on a young offender do not result in a greater penalty because he or she has needs. It is therefore important to examine the measures set out in Bill C-423.
For example, there is a requirement in this bill that police take into account whether the youth has complied with the treatment program when considering whether to charge the youth for the original offence, to ensure they are fully consistent with the purpose and principles governing the use by police of the extrajudicial measures set out in the Young Criminal Justice Act. We need to ensure that this useful tool for police, which is aimed at helping youth who have substance abuse needs, is not subsequently subject to challenge.
Police will tell us how difficult it is for them to make arrests and take the offenders to court. They discover the court system is not able to deal with the offenders and the offenders are back out on the street the next day. We support providing police with the option of referring youth for help with the substance abuse services. This offers a more effective and meaningful response for youth with addictions and drug problems than facing criminal charges for petty crimes.
This government takes the concerns of Canadians about youth crime very seriously and is committed to strengthening the Young Offenders Act to ensure that our youth justice system is fair and effective in addressing the problems associated with youth offending. This government welcomes the efforts of the hon. member in tabling private member's Bill C-423 as one step toward strengthening the whole process.
Further, as the House knows, the federal Minister of Justice recently tabled Bill C-25, which will strengthen sentencing and pretrial detention provisions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This government believes that solutions to the problems of youth crime will come through comprehensive approaches to the issue. All we have to do is attend some of the trials for young offenders to see that this whole review is so necessary.
We need a sound legislative base for our youth justice system. We will continue to work collaboratively with all of our partners to address the conditions that underlie youth offending. It is important to encourage equal standards among families, parents and those who are involved in the development of our youth.
Furthermore, this government will be launching a comprehensive review of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the youth justice system in 2008 to ensure that our youth justice system fairly and effectively holds young offenders accountable for criminal conduct.
Bill C-423 should assist the police to link youth with the substance abuse services they need. I am proud to support this bill and congratulate the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for taking concrete steps to help our youth who have become involved with drugs and are committing petty crimes.
We have many parents calling out to us for help. This bill is just one measure to try to help them with those young offenders.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
December 10th, 2007 / 11:15 a.m.
Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise today to discuss the merits of the bill moved by my esteemed colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. Bill C-423 is a bill that deserves the support of all parties in the House and, indeed, of every member.
I am extremely gratified to have heard the debate on this excellent bill thus far and am encouraged by the positive reception it has received on both sides of the House. This important piece of legislation has the potential to change the lives of thousands of Canadian youth. Each one of those young people represents a family, friends and a community. Early intervention may save those youth, families and communities from the heartache, pain and devastation caused by a life lost to drugs and criminal behaviour.
In a speech given earlier during debate on Bill C-25, I spoke of the many young Canadians I have had the privilege of meeting and speaking to in my time representing the constituents of Kitchener—Conestoga, young people full of promise with bright futures ahead of them. These youth represent the overwhelming majority of young people in Canada today. I have also had the occasion to meet with families of youth caught in a web of violence and crime and with the young people themselves.
What are the determinations that would cause a young person to choose one path over another? While undoubtedly there are many factors high on the list of causes, we would find drug use to be one of the chief contributing factors to subsequent violent criminal behaviour. Canada faces some serious drug problems, not the least of which is the growing number of our youth becoming involved with drugs at younger and younger ages.
In fact, in the Waterloo—Wellington region, according to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health 2007 Ontario student drug use and health survey, 24.5% of students surveyed from grades 9 to 12 reported a drug use problem. All too often, one bad decision can lead a young person into a life of destructive behaviour.
The statistics on a drug such as crystal meth paint a chilling picture of a near instant addiction, with its subsequent devastation. I am quite certain that many of the young people who have ended up in this spiral of devastation had no idea of the future that awaited them.
In my riding, I hosted a forum on youth crime, which was attended by our Minister of the Environment, the hon. member for Ottawa West—Nepean. In that meeting, we heard many stories of youth and families whose lives have been affected by drug abuse. It was clear that these stories would have had different outcomes had the capacity existed for earlier intervention.
The issues are clear. More needs to be done to combat drugs and their devastating effects on Canadian society. This government has listened to Canadians and we are working actively with them to respond to that.
This government believes that the most effective way to deal with complex issues is to first identify the most important priorities and then act decisively on them in order to achieve results. Our drug strategy establishes goals and priorities that are both clear and measurable.
Budget 2007 signalled that the government would be investing in a national anti-drug strategy. The strategy was formally announced on October 4 and provides new funding of $64 million over two years. It establishes a focused approach to address issues of illicit drugs and is based on three concrete action plans: $10 million toward preventing illicit drug use; $32 million to treat illicit drug dependency; and $22 million to combat illicit drug production and distribution.
This funding builds on existing programs and initiatives that are focused to meet the government's priorities. Let me summarize the three parts of our anti-drug strategy.
Number one is prevention. Our efforts in the area of prevention focus on youth and include community based drug use prevention programs and crime prevention initiatives as well as a public awareness campaign.
Number two is enforcement. The national anti-drug strategy will also target the production of drugs in Canada, including marijuana grow ops and clandestine labs. It will target those organized criminals who exploit our youth for profit and also exploit other vulnerable citizens.
Number three is treatment. The national anti-drug strategy places significant importance on developing new treatment options and improving the availability and effectiveness of treatment programs.
Half of the funds under the strategy are earmarked for treatment so that we can offer to those who have become addicted to drugs the help they need to get their lives back on track. It is under this priority that Bill C-423 falls.
As stated, this amendment will require that a police officer, before starting judicial proceedings or taking any other measures under the act against the young person alleged to have committed an offence, must consider whether it would be sufficient to refer the young person to an addiction specialist for assessment and, if warranted, treatment recommendations.
The public often views the police role only as one of enforcement. This government recognizes the excellent work that police do in the area of drug prevention and their broader contribution to dealing with community programs.
With the enactment of Bill C-423, police will also be encouraged to assist youth in conflict by referring those with drug problems to assessment for treatment programming.
Again, I remind the members of the House about a conversation I had with a constituent, to which I referred in an earlier speech. She was a mother who wanted her son to go to jail for a series of incidents, including a theft charge, so he could receive treatment for his drug addictions and be saved from a life of more serious crime.
The current Youth Criminal Justice Act makes no provision for someone in her son's predicament. She was told by the judge that his criminal record was not long enough for jail, so nothing was done. Several months later he found himself again before a judge, restrained in a straitjacket due to a drug-induced psychosis. At that point, finally, his record was long enough to merit addiction treatment.
This is unacceptable. Action is needed now. We have ignored these situations for far too long. Had Bill C-423 been law at that time, police would have had the ability to recommend drug treatment instead of judicial proceedings. He would have received the help he needed. This law will save lives.
The bill complements the national anti-drug strategy, which provides funding to the Department of Justice to support extrajudicial measures and treatment programs for youth in conflict with the law who have drug-related problems.
Funding is also directed to the RCMP to implement new tools to refer youth at risk to treatment programming and also to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop new treatment models for crystal meth use.
The government recognizes that the combined efforts of many will bring success in addressing our drug priorities. We are working with all those who are concerned about Canada's youth, both from the private and the public sectors and across different disciplines such as health, education and the justice system.
From a local perspective, in Waterloo region in my riding, organizations such as Ray of Hope, which runs youth treatment programs for youth aged 13 to 17 who are involved in addiction, are working to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable young people. Supporting Ray of Hope is a group of generous people, led by Steve Scherer of Kitchener, who have donated or pledged close to $6 million to build the Ray of Hope Youth Addiction Treatment Centre.
Police have long been a key resource in dealing with the drug problems facing our communities. We will continue to rely upon their key contribution under the national anti-drug strategy.
Bill C-423 recognizes the role that police can play in linking youth with drug and addiction problems to those who can help on the treatment front. It provides a valuable and additional tool to help youth overcome their problems and make our communities safer.
I am proud to be part of a government taking such active, real steps toward effecting positive change in the area of early intervention for youth at risk. I am proud to represent a riding where people are not only asking what can be done but are committed to making sure it gets done.
By working together, we can spare many young people and their families needless pain and trauma. By working together, we can save the lives of young Canadians.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
December 10th, 2007 / 11:10 a.m.
Carole Freeman Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to take part in the debate at second reading on Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse).
Essentially, Bill C-423 adds two new provisions to this act to flesh it out more with respect to young addicts.
Briefly, the bill introduced by the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont provides that a police officer must, before starting judicial proceedings or taking any other measures under this act against a young person alleged to have committed an offence, consider whether it would be sufficient to refer the young person to an addiction specialist for assessment and, if warranted, treatment recommendations.
Bill C-423 would also add a clause at the end of section 6 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act stipulating that if the young person enters into a treatment program as a result of such a referral and fails to complete the program, the outcome may be the start of judicial proceedings against that young person.
In my opinion, Bill C-423 is a welcome change from the justice bills introduced by this government since it came to power. Instead of the usual Conservative “law and order” ideology that, under the pretext of protecting public safety, would send more people to prison without reducing the root causes of crime, Bill C-423 offers valid alternatives to incarcerating minors, which is more important.
To all those who are watching us, I want to say that a strictly punishment-oriented public safety strategy will never make our societies more vibrant or our prisons less overpopulated. In my opinion, when young people become involved in the criminal justice system, it can exacerbate the problem and be very costly. These are negative results that have an impact not only on the individual involved, but on society as a whole. This situation must therefore be avoided whenever possible.
Consequently, the approach taken by Bill C-423 is commendable: the bill presupposes that prosecution is the final step in the fight against crime and is warranted only if all other valid options have been tried. This bill could reduce the number of young people in court and consequently the number of youth in our penitentiaries.
I would also like to remind all of my distinguished colleagues here in this House that prison will always be a crime school, a place where individuals harbour lingering, disgruntled resentment toward society. The decision to incarcerate an individual should be based on the seriousness of the crime committed and on how dangerous the criminal is.
That is why I have always promoted “restorative justice”, an idea supported by the Bloc Québécois that seeks to rehabilitate the offender by creating awareness of the seriousness of the crime and by repairing the damage done to the community or the people affected.
Not only does Bill C-423 attempt to keep young addicts from appearing before a court, it calls on the law enforcement community to use good judgment in order to give an offender a second chance. In a way, it emphasizes the confidence that we have in police officers and their duty to ensure a safer society.
This is an interesting element that would reinforce a positive image of police forces in public opinion. It is also in line with section 6 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which gives police officers the option to keep young offenders out of court by making it possible to choose another remedy, such as a drug treatment program.
However, I do have some concerns about this bill. With respect to the provisions in Bill C-423, we must ensure that the provinces are responsible for providing these drug treatment programs. For example, in Quebec, these programs are administered through health and social services agencies. Sufficient resources must be made available to offer the treatments called for in this bill.
I am also a little confused about how effective this bill can be within the framework of the minority government's vision for justice. I think that the intent behind Bill C-423 would be directly or indirectly affected by the new anti-drug strategy announced on October 4. I think that this approach, which is a repressive one, as usual, does not acknowledge the importance of prevention in the war on drugs.
Also, it is unfortunate that so little money, only approximately $10 million, is being allocated to measures to ensure the rehabilitation of our young people.
With that in mind, it would be nice to see this government take greater inspiration from the ideas proposed by the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont in the context of Bill C-423. His proposals should resonate even more within his caucus, which focuses too much on a repressive ideology centred on an illusion of safety that, unfortunately, did not produce the desired results for our neighbours to the south in terms of effectively reducing crime.
Once again, as I was saying earlier and as I have said during several debates on previous bills, specific realities are breeding grounds of crime and drug use. One such reality is poverty, which appears even more obvious to us now, with the holiday season just around the corner. Like my colleagues, I firmly believe that a greater sharing of riches, working toward better social integration and emphasizing rehabilitation represent essential solutions for the prevention of crime and substance abuse. Unfortunately, this government always has that unproductive tendency to ignore those approaches. It thinks it can achieve security by filling the penitentiaries.
In any case, I would like to conclude by emphasizing the noble intention of the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont. In my opinion, this bill offers an important balance between rehabilitation and the vigilance needed when people refuse to take advantage of opportunities presented to them. It also respects the tenets I listed earlier regarding ways to reduce crime, giving young substance abusers a second chance by taking part in a detox program.
I would remind the House that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of initiatives that propose serious alternatives to incarceration, especially when it comes to minors. This is why we will support Bill C-423, so it may be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for further study.
The House resumed from November 14 consideration of the motion that Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse), be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
November 14th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.
Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB
I commend my Alberta caucus colleague, the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, for his efforts on behalf of young Canadians in our province and indeed all across the country. He has worked very hard on this file and, may I add, for a considerable amount of time, and finally has reached the point of presenting legislation before the House. I urge all members of the House to pay close attention to what he is proposing in the bill, as it will help youth at risk.
It is a pleasure to stand with former colleagues who served on the non-medical drug committee with me. We have heard two or three of them speak here today. They have voiced some of their concerns.
The Bloc Québécois and the New Democratic Party are disappointed that this bill does not give free needles to youth. The Bloc Québécois and the NDP are somewhat disappointed that it does not talk about safe injection sites for our youth. They are disappointed that it does not speak to providing clean drugs for youth because sometimes the drugs on the street are dirty. Those are the kinds of policy initiatives they looked at and considered and for which in some cases they were advocates during the time of that committee.
However, what Bill C-423 does is propose to provide Canada's police with the option of referring a young person to an addiction specialist for assessment and, if warranted, treatment recommendations. This would provide our front line police officers with another tool for dealing with youths alleged to have committed one or more crimes.
Very often it becomes obvious to front line police officers who respond to a crime that the perpetrator, possibly a young offender, is actually a victim of substance abuse. The officer may realize that the substance abuse is the reason for the alleged crime and the young person's possible involvement in the commission of that crime.
Rather than shuffling the youngster off into the judicial system or possibly into the penal system, my colleague from Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, with this private member's bill, is providing us with an alternative measure. He is suggesting that we, as a government and indeed as a society, seize the opportunity to try to rescue the young person from the chains, the bondage and the horrors of substance abuse.
My colleague wants to save as many young Canadians as possible. My constituents and I commend him for this very noble attempt. We support him in that attempt.
I regularly have the opportunity to speak with front line police officers in all corners of the constituency of Crowfoot. They want to help protect the young people they encounter who have a substance abuse problem. Some drugs are so powerful that even trying the drugs once or twice can lead to an addiction. In fact, many of these young Canadians can become addicted with one use of drugs such as crystal meth.
Sometimes the young person has never had real access to an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program. They do not even know that there is real help available for them. When it comes to kicking a habit, they just realize that they have an addiction.
If the young person enters into a treatment program because of a referral under this process and the young person fails to complete the program, then in most cases the youth will have to deal with that very same judicial process. Where I come from, we can support that.
We agree that we should try to save our youth from the ravages of substance abuse. We also agree that there should be consequences for the youth who fails to take advantage of the opportunities the bill would provide him, the opportunities for help.
Bill C-423 is consistent with our government's national drug strategy. Canada faces some very serious drug problems. One of the most troubling is the growing number of our youths who are becoming involved in drugs. What is more disturbing is that this appears to be happening at a younger and younger age.
For the members from the Bloc and the NDP, I know that we were all united as a committee when we saw that this was becoming almost an elementary school problem in some cases, or a young people's problem. Not only youth but all age groups have addiction problems.
Communities across Canada have identified youth drug use as a priority concern. For some communities, the lure of highly addictive drugs such as crystal meth presents a real challenge for their youth. Our government is listening to those concerns and we are working actively to respond to them.
My colleague from Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont is using the powers that his constituents have elected him to use to combat this complicated drug problem. He has drafted Bill C-423 to help communities in his riding, communities in my riding and communities all across the country and in the ridings of every member of Parliament. The member has recommended a targeted approach with Bill C-423.
Our government's drug strategy establishes goals and priorities that are both clear and measurable. We are investing $64 million in new funding for a national anti-drug strategy. This strategy provides a focused approach to address illicit drug issues.
It is based on three clear action plans: first, preventing illicit drug use, with $10 million over two years; second, treating illicit drug dependency, with $32 million over two years; and third, combating illicit drug production and distribution, with $22 million over two years. Our government strategy is in the areas of prevention, treatment and enforcement.
Our efforts in the area of prevention will focus on youth. As well as a public awareness campaign, this will include community based drug use and crime prevention initiatives. We could spend our entire time speaking about the opportunities that we have in prevention, but the drug strategy does more than that. It also will target the production of drugs in Canada, including marijuana grow ops and clandestine labs. We will target those organized criminals who exploit for profit and attack our youth and other vulnerable citizens through drug dependency.
The plan does more. The public often views the police role as one of enforcement only. Our government recognizes their excellent work in the area of drug prevention, but as well we pay attention to their broader contribution to dealing with community problems. With Bill C-423, we are encouraging our front line police officers to assist the Canadian youth they encounter in the course of their crime-fighting duties. Sometimes our police officers are the first citizens who have to deal with a youth in conflict. They sometimes are keenly aware that what the young person really needs is some form of substance abuse treatment.
The measures in Bill C-423 will give them that treatment, but they will do more than that. These measures can be carried out within the budget resources of our government's national anti-drug strategy. We will be providing funding to the Department of Justice to support extrajudicial measures and treatment programs for young people in Canada who get into a conflict with the law and have a drug related problem.
We are working with all those concerned about Canada's youth, people from both the private and the public sector and across different disciplines, including health, education and the justice system. As the government, we are also interested in working with my colleague to get the job done. Bill C-423 does that. This member is standing up for our drug addicted or drug afflicted youth. Again, I am pleased to stand up with him in an attempt to save the lives of young Canadians who have trouble with substance abuse.
My colleague recognizes that our police officers have already for a long time been a key resource in dealing with the drug problems facing our communities. We will continue to rely upon their contribution. Bill C-423 recognizes the whole role that the police can play in linking youth with drug and addiction problems to those who can help on the treatment front.
There is a particular element to this bill which we need to ensure is consistent with the purpose and principles governing the use by police of the extrajudicial measures set out in section 6 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, namely, the requirement in Bill C-423 that police take into account whether the youth has complied with the treatment program when considering whether to charge the youth for the original offence.
This bill provides a valuable and additional tool to help young people overcome their problems and make our communities safer. I wish my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, every success with the positive change that Bill C-423 provides.
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business
November 14th, 2007 / 6:45 p.m.
Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-423. When the bill first came forward in the last session of Parliament, I spoke to it as well. I would like to thank the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for reintroducing his bill and quoting back to us what we said the first time around. I guess he looked it up in Hansard. I will try not to repeat what I said then.
I want to thank the member for bringing forward the bill. It has been brought forward with good intentions. It has been brought forward on the basis that we need to have diversion programs. When young people become involved in the criminal justice system, it can become very divisive and very costly. The outcome is often more negative and has a greater impact not only on the individual involved, but on society as a whole. The principle of diversion particularly for issues related primarily to health, such as addiction or mental health issues, is a very important and positive thing.
I certainly want to echo the comments of my colleague from the Bloc and the Liberal members who spoke as well. However, we do need to see this bill in the larger context of what is taking place. While I support the measures put forward in the bill as something that could be a step in the right direction, unfortunately, the member is part of the government caucus that is taking a giant step in the wrong direction when it comes to dealing with drug issues.
The Conservative government recently unveiled its so-called anti-drug strategy. There are many, many people across the country who are incredibly disturbed and alarmed at the fact that the Conservative government has dropped the whole notion of harm reduction from its anti-drug strategy. In fact, the government is focusing on more enforcement and supposedly on prevention, education and treatment.
When we look at the strategy which was unveiled a couple of months ago, it is $64 million over two years, which anyone in this Parliament would know is a very small amount of money. I think it is $10 million of the $64 million that is earmarked supposedly for education. That is a very, very small contribution from the federal government in terms of what actually needs to be done to provide important education and prevention programs, particularly for young people across the country.
I am very concerned that while on the one hand we have this small initiative from one member of the government, it is going to be completely overshadowed and obliterated by a huge initiative that is under way from the Conservative government that is focused almost exclusively on addressing substance use issues, specifically issues around drug use from a law enforcement point of view.
As the member from the Bloc pointed out, and we were on the same special committee on the non-medical use of drugs, we learned from the Auditor General that 95% of federal funds related to drug use are actually earmarked toward enforcement. The Auditor General questioned in her audit what was the effectiveness of those funds and what were the outcomes in terms of improving the health and safety both of individuals and of local communities which have been impacted by this issue.
I have to be very frank and say that I saw nothing in the federal strategy that was just unveiled that moves us in a different direction. In fact, it is reinforcing this direction of a law enforcement model. It worries me deeply that the Conservative government is basically copying the U.S. war on drugs, which has been a huge failure financially, politically and socially. Locking people up in jail and chasing more and more dollars through enforcement is not the answer. It is a failed model. People understand that, and yet this is what the government has now embarked upon.
In doing so, it is dropping a very successful principle and a set of programs in Canada that revolve around harm reduction. They revolve around being realistic, having a common-sense approach to dealing with substance use, focusing on the well-being of individuals, and improving the health status of people and getting people to a point where they can make healthy choices.
I believe that the bill before us today may assist us in doing this. That is why I think it is very worthy of support, but I feel that it is going to be completely overshadowed by this other strategy in which the money is going in a completely opposite direction.
In my riding of Vancouver East, substance use and the drug issue concern many people. We have seen the visibility of drug use in our local communities. We have taken very important measures. In fact, we had to fight tooth and nail to get programs up and running, such as the heroin prescription trials, and Insite, the safe injection facility, and other harm reduction programs, but they have very strong support in the local community. They have support from the local police department, the city council and the business associations, because people recognize that to rely on enforcement just simply does not work and does not actually change what is going on in those local communities.
Locking up drug users and throwing away the key is not the answer to dealing with substance use issues, yet Insite, the safe injection facility in the downtown east side, is very much under threat of closure. Why? Because it appears that the Conservative government is hell bent on what is really an ideological program. I see this as our biggest problem.
Unfortunately, the government has committed itself and has boxed itself into this ideological position that law enforcement is the primary answer to substance use and drug use. That is what the government wants to push. That is what the government thinks is going to get it votes and support, but I think it is really an old game that is being played out, because we do know that people are fearful of drug use, particularly when their children and youths are involved in experimenting with drugs.
As for the idea that we turn young people into criminals, the idea that we use enforcement as this heavy-handed tool and it somehow is going to solve the problem, I think it has been shown to be a failure. Yet this is the direction that the government is taking.
In speaking to this bill today, I want to be very clear on the record that we reject this larger strategy that the government has adopted and seems to be moving forward on very rapidly. We should be standing courageously to support the kinds of programs that have worked in this country and that Canada has become known for around the world.
I know many of the front line workers and organizations in Vancouver who work very closely with drug users, with youth and youth at risk on the streets and with youth who are facing addiction issues and mental health issues. I can tell members that they know from years of experience that relying on enforcement tools and not having a balanced, comprehensive approach is not going to work.
I want to call on members of the House to stand up and support the need to have harm reduction continue in this country. In fact, I have called for a network of MPs who might be interested in such a proposition, to show that there is very broad support from MPs, community groups, professionals, academia, health care professionals and certainly from users themselves to make sure that harm reduction programs and the emphasis on public health and on dealing with this as a health issue is at the top of the agenda, not pushed down to the bottom of the agenda.
The bill is worthy of going to committee, but let us be aware of the serious dangers that lie ahead with the Conservative government's anti-drug strategy. Let us be aware that it will penalize people and it will target people. It is a failure and we should stop it from happening.