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.

Sponsor

Mike Lake  Conservative

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Not active, as of April 16, 2007
(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 to require 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.

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 jucidial proceedings against that young person.

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.

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

June 17th, 2008 / 6:20 p.m.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

Conservative

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.
See context

Bloc

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.
See context

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House once again on behalf of the constituents of Crowfoot to speak in support of Bill C-423.

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.
See context

NDP

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.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business

November 14th, 2007 / 6:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-423. It is a very important bill for me, as it is for my colleague from Brampton West, who I would like to thank for sharing her time with me. She said that the bill was a mental health issue.

As legislators, we cannot overlook some of the underlying root causes of drug addiction and substance abuse among our youth and why youth end up in conflict with the law, things that I will address in my presentation.

Thus, the changes brought by these legislative measures to reform the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse) are very timely. Indeed, when we talk about giving law enforcement officials the power to recommend that a young person be assessed and treated for alcoholism or drug addiction, it is a question of his or her mental health.

In my opinion, this is indeed a question of social justice, if we really want to have a positive influence on young people today. Police officers are front-line workers who act to serve and protect. Among other things, this responsibility means protecting young people from themselves, in many cases. This bill, with certain amendments, can help our young people become active, responsible, contributing members of society.

The question is: how do we guide youth into adulthood with patience, understanding and love? This is a crucial part of the responsibilities we have assumed as legislators in developing thoughtful, workable and flexible medium and long term public policy.

I want to remind my colleagues that this bill also complements Health Canada's drug strategy and controlled substances program. This is a program that promotes initiatives to reduce or prevent the harm produced by association with drugs and alcohol. It operates under the mandate of several pieces of related legislation, including the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, which came into force in 1996.

Part of this complete approach to working with our youth was a national drug strategy program renewed by the former Liberal government in 2003 with a $237 million investment over five years. The four pillars of our strategy included prevention, treatment, enforcement and harm reduction. Had it been legislated, it would have been a vital part of any alcohol or drug program.

Research tells us that enforcement measures alone are not effective in combating drug use. Tackling youth crime cannot be done with a big stick, especially if we are dealing with a first-time offender.

One example of a harm reduction strategy that has been proven to work was a supervised injection site like the one in Vancouver, which, by the way, has now been put on life support by the Conservative government.

All this must be part of a larger strategy that includes access to housing, psychiatric treatment services, medical care, detox and treatment facilities, skills training and employment.

The Conservative government's new anti-drug strategy, which was announced on October 4, refers only to prevention, treatment and enforcement. It says absolutely nothing about measures to rehabilitate young people.

The $63.8 million that the Conservatives are spending over two years is an indication that they have nothing to offer to help young people, because all the Conservatives want to do is throw them in jail.

Prevention and awareness programs are good in and of themselves, but no prevention program will help young people who are in difficulty, who are living in poverty, who feel as though they are on the margins of society and who are isolated. You cannot prevent a child from falling simply by placing a barrier in front of a door, because the child will find a way to get around that barrier.

According to statistics compiled by the Canadian Institute for Health Information in its 2002 profile of the health of Canadian adolescents, 16% of grade 8 students admitted that they had gotten drunk at least twice. Among grade 9 and 10 students, the figure rose to 31% and 44% respectively. In 2000-01, 31% of young men and women aged 12 to 17 admitted to having used—

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business

November 14th, 2007 / 6:25 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of the principle of Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse).

As many members of the House are aware, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which the bill aims to amend, already permits police officers or crown counsel to refer a young person to an addiction counselling program instead of rushing him or her off to judicial proceedings.

However, it does not do so explicitly and the bill would amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act in a way which emphasizes this extra judicial alternative. In doing so, it explicitly acknowledges that addiction treatment rather than addiction punishment should be the Government of Canada's first priority.

Essentially, the bill acknowledges that drug addiction is, first and foremost, a mental health issue, not an issue of criminal justice. It is an important message to communicate explicitly to our law enforcement community. For this reason, I support sending this well-intentioned bill to committee for further scrutiny and refinement.

Nevertheless, however well-intentioned the bill may be, I am concerned that the present minority Conservative government does not truly understand or support the principle motivating the bill. To substantiate this worry, one need look no further than the government's recently announced anti-drug strategy that unnecessarily ratchets up the rhetoric of righteous wrath and retreats from the harm reduction measures favoured by Canadians.

Any strategy that focuses so much attention on the goal of punishment and so little attention on addiction treatment and harm reduction will not make our streets safer, our communities healthier or reduce our overpopulated prisons.

Canadians believe in a balanced approach to drug addiction. The heavy-handed approach recently advocated by the minority Conservative government is not in accord with the values of most Canadians or the fine principle at the heart of the bill. This is a worry worth expressing because, however well-intentioned the bill may be, if the Conservative government does not truly believe in the principles at the heart of the bill, little will be done for the well-being of young persons who get caught up in criminal activities because of a drug addiction.

There is little reason to pass a bill that recommends addiction counselling if the Government of Canada is unwilling to provide the resources necessary to fund such counselling. There is little reason to pass a bill that signals to our law enforcement community that the treatment of addiction is our top priority if the Government of Canada trumpets a heavy-handed, punishment focused approach to drug addiction.

As everyone in the House well knows, the present government is prepared to say anything to confuse Canadians on issues of principle and value and I am worried that any support expressed by the Conservative government for the bill will be one more instance of it trying to mislead Canadians about its true intentions.

Let us vote to send the bill to committee but let us be very clear on why we are doing so. The bill sends a strong signal that addiction should be treated as a mental health issue and not as an issue of criminal justice. We should all work to ensure that the present minority Conservative government always acts in accord with this principle.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business

November 14th, 2007 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

moved 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to have the opportunity to discuss with my colleagues from all parties Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse).

One of the quirks of the prorogation process is that private members' business reverts to the start of whichever stage it was at before prorogation. This offers me a unique opportunity to speak to my bill a second time at this reading and this time with the benefit of having heard each of the opposition parties speak to it as well.

Most of what I have to say today will be similar to my original comments in the House on June 5 of this year, but I will try to also take some time to respond to some of my opposition colleague's comments from that first hour of debate.

I was very encouraged to hear each of the opposition speakers express general support for the principle of the bill the first time around.

In drafting the bill, I made a specific effort to identify some common ground, a somewhat difficult endeavour given the increasingly partisan nature of this minority Parliament. Before I go any further, I will summarize the bill for the benefit of those who may not have had the time to review it yet.

As the summary of the bill outlines, Bill C-423 would amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to require 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.

The second aspect of the proposed legislation is 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.

When I last spoke in the House about the bill, I began by trying to illustrate the scope of the problem. The cumulative societal cost of Canada's addictions problem is not only incredibly high, it is extremely complicated to determine. We are dealing with not only economic costs, but all types of subjective and incalculable personal and emotional costs that affect individuals, families and communities from coast to coast to coast.

During the previous debate, the justice critic from the Bloc, the member for Hochelaga, remembered examining in committee the cost of addictions to Canadian society. He said that economic studies showed that it could translate into $16 billion in lost productivity for Canada's GNP because of the investments needed in police forces and the negative repercussions on society.

The costs are hard to calculate. There are more than simple economic costs. There are many other consequences, for example, early death, drug induced mental illness, domestic violence, family breakdown, poverty, increased crime rates and I could go on. It is a very complicated issue. One of the things that further complicates it is that most of the issues and costs are interrelated.

It is an issue which affects our quality of life as a nation. The total cost represents a major withdrawal every single day from Canada's greatness in human terms.

There is a compound effect. The Canadian addictions industry is a sophisticated machine. Most kids start using drugs before the age of 18 and entry level products ease their fears. There is a variety of drugs that kids can get into that do not seem that scary to them, so they experiment.

I will comment, as an aside, that when the NDP member for Vancouver East spoke last time, she talked about schools “where kids are told...If you smoke marijuana you're going to become a cocaine addict”. She went on to say, “That is like saying that everybody who drives a car is going to kill somebody”.

First, I have never heard anybody explain the problem that way or express it that way, the fact that if one smokes marijuana, one automatically will become a cocaine addict. I think most reasonable people would look at it and say that once one starts with something, one is more likely to move on to something stronger down the road.

As for the car analogy, a more appropriate car analogy would be that not everyone who drives drunk is going to kill someone, but we still have laws against driving while drunk. I think most people would think that those laws are reasonable.

Talking about the compound effect, once these kids enter into the world of drug use, once they start using drugs, they eventually move on to increased frequency or stronger substances. They share these substances with their friends and talk about their experiences with their friends. At this point, early in the process, there is still no apparent downside. Some kids are drawn deeper into the drug world. Their involvement gets more formalized. They join gangs. The benefits for them are they get money, they have esteem and power among other benefits.

Then there are other kids who may not be gang material, but they become customers for life. They are addicted to the highs, but they need more and more of the substances to achieve those same highs. They fall into a world of petty crime and the habit of committing small crimes to feed their addictions. It becomes a spiral, escalating drug use and crime.

I recently had the opportunity to visit an addictions recovery centre in Edmonton. It is called the Our House. It is an award winning program that helps men deal with significant addictions issues. They stay for one year and the results are phenomenal. They have 32 people in this home. They stay for a year, and they do some wonderful work there.

I spoke with Patricia Bencz, the executive director of this group. She told me that only one out of 122 men who had gone through the program did not have a criminal record. This highlights that spiral and the relationship between drug use and crime that we need to address.

There is a wide variety of estimates in terms of the correlation between criminal activity and drug use, perhaps 40% and 80% depending on the person being asked. It is a significant issue.

As for the solution, to understand this, we need to break the problem into logical components. No model is perfect, but it might be helpful to use a model when we talk about this. Our national drug strategy talks about three components: enforcement, treatment and prevention.

Thinking about those components, I will talk about the people who correspond to those groups. They involve the organization, and we can think of it as an industry, the illegal drug industry, the customers for that industry and the prospects. A fourth group is the rest of us who have a significant interest in seeing this problem tackled. When we speak of a business, this is not a business that we want to support. We want to kill it.

When we talk about the organizations, they refer to the gang leaders, the producers, the dealer network and everyone who supports that network. Enforcement must deal severely with this group to cutoff the supply. Through our national drug strategy, we have allocated $21.6 million over two years to tackle the problem on the enforcement side.

Then there are the customers, the individuals who use the drugs. We know that many of those are kids. Some will be promoted within the organization, the gangs, and move on to a life within that gang. Some, as I mentioned earlier, will simply become lifetime addicts. They will be customers for life so to speak.

Others will be involved in criminal activity separate from the organizations. They will steal to support their habit. They will become violent under the influence of some of the drugs that they are using. I will come back to this group in a few minutes because the private member's bill deals with a component of this group.

The third group is the prospects about which I talked. They are almost entirely composed of kids under 18 years old. The addictions industry, like any other business, targets for growth and it targets our kids. It is important, when we talk about any of these things in our approach to drugs, to talk about the idea of prevention.

To give an example of some of the things they do to target our kids, in my first speech I talked about Maralyn Benay from a group called Parents Empowering Parents. She is one of my constituents. She told me about a product called Strawberry quick, which is the street name for it. It refers to a pink version of crystal meth designed specifically to target young girls. This is what we are up against. This is what the parents of our children and young teenagers are up against, this type of marketing program toward our kids.

Obviously the main goal for this group of prospects, the people who have never used drugs before, is prevention. The national drug strategy sets out $10 million for prevention over two years.

I must point out that enforcement also impacts prevention. If people live in a small town, and I grew up in a town of about 5,000 people, they would know if there is a major producer or dealer in that town and they can be shut down, I guarantee that it is a positive step in the area of prevention through enforcement.

Then there is the rest of us. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking some Canadians are not affected by drugs. No Canadian is not affected by drugs. I talked about our kids being targeted, so some of us are parents and we are concerned about our kids growing up. Some people are victimized through crime. Obviously there is an impact on the health care system and the costs that we pay there and lost national productivity.

Where do we fit? We are the ones who need to drive the solution. There is an urgency to this and we need to grasp that urgency. I talked about Maralyn Benay and Patricia Bencz. They have grasped that urgency and are doing something about it.

Many groups in my community are doing just that. For example, the Mill Woods Community Patrol is an organization of volunteers from the community. They drive around on Friday and Saturday nights to specific trouble spots. They keep an eye on the community. They are coordinated with the police. If they see something suspicious, they can let the police know. That is an example of citizens making a difference in this area.

Other groups include the RCMP officers in Beaumont, a small town in my riding, who coordinate a DARE program. They go out and talk to kids and educate them on the dangers of drug abuse. Volunteers and youth organizations and drop-in centres, where kids can go and do things other than get involved in drugs and hang out on the street and places where they find trouble, even if they are not necessarily looking for it.

Then there are the people who I talked about earlier, Patricia and Maralyn, and the organizations that they are part of and organizations like that across the country which do similar work.

I want to thank these people and groups like theirs for the contribution they make because it affects the quality of life of all Canadians, including me and my family.

Now back to the customer group for the addictions industry.

Simple math tells me that the more customers there are for these drugs, the more the industry grows. The more the industry grows, the more it becomes another cycle and we wind up with more of these people using drugs. The more people we help with addictions, the more people we get off these drugs. The more customers we cut off for the industry, the more we starve the criminal organizations, both of the money they need and their eventual salespeople. Our national drug strategy rightly provides the most money, $32.2 million, to the treatment action plan to deal with this group of people.

Bill C-423 deals with one subset of this customer group, young offenders. It is a simple bill. It is only one page long, and apart from some editorial cleanup, basically adds two new phrases to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

I want to be very clear that the bill in no way is an endorsement of the Youth Criminal Justice Act as it stands right now. I agree wholeheartedly with our campaign pledge to strengthen the act, something that cannot properly be done comprehensively through a private member's bill.

What I can do is strive for improvement in the legislation. Bill C-423 works with the existing provisions of the act to take a step forward. It is also consistent with our statement during the campaign that we need to give young people better opportunities for rehabilitation.

The first thing the bill does is add “referral to substance abuse treatment” to the list of extrajudicial measures available to police officers when dealing with young persons, particularly first time offenders accused of committing non-violent offences.

To give some context to this, the first 10 sections of the Youth Criminal Justice Act after the title and definitions, sections 3 through 12, are under a heading called “Extrajudicial Measures”. The changes that I am proposing both occur in section 6, but to fully understand the bill, one needs to review the principles and objectives laid out in sections 4 and 5.

One particularly important principle set out in section 4(c) is that:

—extrajudicial measures are presumed to be adequate to hold a young person accountable for his or her offending behaviour if the young person has committed a non-violent offence and has not previously been found guilty of an offence...

Section 6(1), the section impacted by the first change proposed by the bill, currently states the following:

A police officer shall, 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, having regard to the principles set out in section 4, to take no further action, warn the young person, administer a caution, if a program has been established under section 7, or, with the consent of the young person, refer the young person to a program or agency in the community that may assist the young person not to commit offences.

Bill C-423 adds the following at the end:

—or, if appropriate, an addiction specialist to assess whether the young person is engaged in substance abuse and, if so, to recommend a treatment program.

The rationale for this is, given the cycle of crime and the relationship between crime and drug use, it seems like an oversight to not have drug abuse treatment mentioned as one of the extrajudicial measures within the act.

The second part of my bill adds a new subsection (3) at the end of section 6. It reads:

If a young person has been referred to an addiction specialist under subsection (1), and, as a result of that referral, has entered into a treatment program, the failure of that young person to complete the requirements of that program shall be taken into consideration by a police officer in deciding whether to start judicial proceedings against that young person.

This is an absolutely crucial piece of the bill. The young person affected has been shown some grace by the police officer. For the sake of the illustration, I will use the word “he”. He has been given an opportunity, and he probably will not recognize that opportunity until he has had the chance to clean up, and he has to get away from drugs to do that.

The NDP member for Vancouver East expressed some concern about this. She compared it to the drug courts, which she does not support. She said:

Why would we make the intervention so late? Why would we wait until they have been charged and at the point of maybe being convicted to provide that as an alternative. It becomes almost a coercive kind of thing.

I want to make two points on that, the first one on late intervention. We need to intervene where the person is at, at the time. Sometimes we do not identify a problem until quite late in the game. We need to intervene wherever they are at. I do not think anyone would argue about the need for effective prevention and early treatment programs as part of an overall drug treatment strategy.

If we look at the bill in general, in this case the whole point of the bill in dealing with the Youth Criminal Justice Act is that it deals entirely with early intervention.

In terms of the coercion suggestion, I will quote from a couple of the members who spoke to the bill the last time it was debated. The Liberal member for Brant said:

In fact, an individual may well be more motivated to accept the necessary treatment if he is aware that his refusal to accept such treatment may result in a criminal charge or charges being laid against him.

I think that is a quote that supports what I am trying to do with this.

The member for Hochelaga said that this bill strikes a good balance between the possibility of rehabilitation and the vigilance required when people refuse to take advantage of opportunities they are given.

I want to appeal to my colleagues from all parties to continue to support this important legislation. I do want to reiterate the main purpose for this bill. It is not about punishment. It is about getting our young people the help they need at a time in their life when they may not realize they need it.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2007 / 7:05 p.m.
See context

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak to the second reading of Bill C-423, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act (treatment for substance abuse). I would like to thank my colleague, the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, for his excellent work on this bill.

Bill C-423 is consistent with this government's national anti-drug strategy. Canada faces some serious drug problems. Chief among them is the growing number of our youth becoming involved with drugs at younger and younger ages.

Many 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 is a real challenge for their youth. We have heard these concerns and we have been working to respond to them.

Combating drugs is a complicated problem that needs a targeted approach. This government knows that the best way to tackle complex issues is to establish the most important priorities and act decisively on them in order to achieve results. Unlike those of previous governments, our drug strategy, as with all the strategies and programs we implement, will establish clear, measurable goals and priorities.

Budget 2007 signalled that this government will be investing in a national anti-drug strategy. The strategy provides new funding of $64 million for a focused approach to address illicit drug issues based on three concrete 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.

I would like to talk about prevention, because we all know that the best treatment is prevention. Our efforts in the area of prevention will focus on youth and include community based drug use and crime prevention initiatives as well as a public awareness campaign.

Next 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 for profit our youth and other vulnerable citizens.

Of course, there is treatment. I have a background as a health care provider and I can say that all successful programs include treatment. The public often views the police role as one of enforcement only. This government recognizes the broader contribution of police in dealing with community problems. Police do excellent work in the area of drug prevention. With the introduction of Bill C-423, police will also be encouraged to assist youth in conflict by referring those with drug problems to treatment programming.

This bill is consistent with the budget resources under the NADS, which provides funding to the Department of Justice to support extrajudicial diversion and treatment programs for youth offenders with drug related problems at the various stages of the criminal justice system, to the RCMP to implement new tools to refer youth at risk to treatment programming, and to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research to develop new treatment models for crystal methamphetamine use.

It is all about working together. This government recognizes that success in addressing Canada's drug issues will require the combined efforts of many, from both the private and the public sectors, and across different disciplines like health, education and the justice system.

Police have always played an integral role in dealing with the drug problems facing our communities. They will continue to be relied upon under the national anti-drug strategy.

Bill C-423 recognizes the role that police can play on the treatment front and provides one more tool to help youth overcome their problems and make our communities safer.

By working together, we can effect positive change across Canada.

I will end by saying that kids are our most important resource and their future is in our hands. I hope everyone will support this wonderful bill, Bill C-423.

Once again, I would like to thank the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for all his good work on the bill.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Private Members' Business

June 5th, 2007 / 6:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to rise in support of Bill C-423, a very important bill that seeks to address the serious problem of drug addiction among Canadian youth. This is a good bill. The amendments proposed to the Youth Criminal Justice Act in affirm our belief that the best way to fight the use of illegal drugs is the treatment of addiction.

In my riding of Newton—North Delta all one has to do is speak to some of the police officers who do such great work with youth to understand the seriousness of this problem, police officers like Staff Sergeant Barry Hickman, my community's selection for Police Officer of the Year. He works with social services and community groups to get the message out there.

The message is that dangerous drugs like crystal meth, crack and cocaine have devastating effects on our young people and our communities, but it is a problem that requires a real infrastructure for recovery. It is a terrible disease that affects too many Canadians, so it is crucial that our laws reflect our goals of treatment. Simply jailing young people does not make the situation any better. This is why I am glad to see that the bill supports the best practices of youth justice.

We know that the courts and police officers should focus on the recovery of young Canadians. We know that there are real solutions through this approach. The bill makes it clear that police should consider how best to help young Canadians in the criminal justice system.

Recovery and treatment programs have proven to be far more effective than any other form of drug use prevention. Treatment is the real intention behind the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and this bill is drafted in that spirit. It uses clear language and will be a great help to police officers.

The bill also reflects the compassionate and caring values of Canadian society, values that really mean something to my constituents of Newton—North Delta. One way we can measure ourselves is to examine how we treat our weakest members of the society. Young, wonderful people addicted to drugs should have every opportunity to get off the drugs and lead productive, healthy and safe lives.

It is obvious that the most effective way to fight the drug problem is the treatment of drug addiction. I have brought some statistics to add detail to this debate.

According to study by Rydell and Everingham, domestic enforcement costs four times as much as treatment. Treatment is 15 times better in a cost benefit analysis than the next most effective funding option. This is exactly what the Youth Criminal Justice Act was designed to do, to help youthful offenders break out of their habits.

To be clear, the act states in its preamble that:

—communities, families, parents and others concerned with the development of young persons should, through multi-disciplinary approaches, take reasonable steps to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes...

The act describes this approach in further detail in section 3, where it states that the following principles are the intent of the act: the youth criminal justice system is intended to address underlying circumstances of offending behaviour; rehabilitate and ensure meaningful consequences; emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration and timely intervention; and reinforce respect for social values, encourage repair for harm done, respect special needs and family need, and respect the demographic uniqueness of the youth.

Unlike adult criminal law, which places more emphasis on the protection of society and the deterrence of the crime, the act takes special care to attempt to intervene in the destructive behaviour of youth.

Any bill that proposes to clearly outline how the police should seek to aid young offenders to overcome an addiction is in keeping with the spirit of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and should be supported.

I have spoken about treatment as the most cost effective way of fighting addiction, and I have spoken about the purpose of the act being the same as the purpose of the bill currently under discussion.

As well, it is important to note the importance of extrajudicial measures described in the youth criminal justice system. These measures are understood in the content of the act, but Bill C-423 seeks to clarify and emphasize the importance of extrajudicial measures for police officers. These measures can be an important part of recovery and the fight against drugs.

The importance of extrajudicial measures in the act is clear in section 4, which says that “extrajudicial measures are often the most appropriate and effective way to address youth crime” and “these measures allow for effective and timely interventions focused on correcting offender behaviour”.

This points to what is best about the bill. We are really talking about Canadian values. As Canadians we are very careful about the country we leave to our children. Our forward thinking and progressive social policies are our foundation. We are, in fact, a very caring society.

I believe one way we an measure our success is to look at how we treat our society's weakest members. Despite the strong performance of our economy and our strong competitive workforce, we still face the challenges of poverty, drug addiction and crime. Some of the most vulnerable Canadians are young people born into poverty, violence and addiction.

The Canadian approach to youth criminal justice therefore considers the circumstances of those young people who break the law. The goal of criminal law, with respect to these minors, is to consider how to best address their situation. A bill that instructs police to consider treatment is a well-considered change to improve upon the intent of good Canadian law.

We must try to protect and help the most vulnerable Canadians. The bill seeks to do precisely that.

I am convinced this is a good bill and I am happy to support it. As I said, it places the emphasis on treatment, which is the best way to spend our money fighting drugs.

The bill also emphasizes the recovery of offenders, which is the expressed intent of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The proposed amendment therefore is in keeping with the original intent of the act and it improves upon the clarity of the language of the act. Hopefully, it will be instructive for police officers when considering treatment as an extrajudicial measure. Most important, the bill reflects the Canadian value of care for the youth. It is a good proposal that puts the interests of at risk youth in the minds of officers who encounter them.

For all these reasons, I will be voting in favour of Bill C-423. I congratulate the member from Alberta for putting this bill forward.