Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)

An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

In committee (House), as of May 3, 2010
(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 sentencing and general principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as well as its provisions relating to judicial interim release, adult and youth sentences, publication bans, and placement in youth custody facilities. It defines the terms “violent offence” and “serious offence”, amends the definition “serious violent offence” and repeals the definition “presumptive offence”. It also requires police forces to keep records of extrajudicial measures used to deal with young persons.

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.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / noon
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is good to have this chance to continue the discussion on C-4, the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Concerns have also been raised about ending the publication ban on the names of young people charged with a crime in the apparent hope that denunciation will be a deterrent. The bill would require the courts to consider lifting the publication ban on the names of young offenders convicted of violent offences when youth sentences would be given.

The publication ban has been important in the past. It helps ensure a situation where young people can truly be rehabilitated and put a serious mistake behind them by avoiding the publicity associated with their crime. It also prevents the shaming that is part of any criminal conviction. The publication ban was also seen as significant in that it interrupted and even subverted the ability of criminal organizations and gangs to recruit young people who were in trouble with the law. These are all crucial considerations for our youth criminal justice system.

It is also very unclear just what the bill proposes with regard to the publication ban. It seems that judges will still have discretion in this area, so the bill may not change the current situation. The government may only be pretending to do something on that issue.

The Conservatives are still chipping away at an important concept in our youth criminal justice system in the way they regularly criticize this aspect of the system. The Conservatives continue to whip up hysteria about crime. They continue to refuse to analyze youth crime statistics. Prior to 2005, violent youth crime was declining in Canada. Yes, there was a spike in 2005-06, but in 2007 it started to decline again.

Understanding these trends, rather than merely offering a knee-jerk reaction to them, would be a more responsible approach. Looking at what actually works to reduce youth crime would also be helpful.

Quebec provides a great example. Quebec is perhaps the most successful jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to reducing youth crime. It has the lowest youth crime rate. How has Quebec done that? It has stressed rehabilitation and treatment, first and foremost. It also has the lowest number of youth raised to adult court. Ensuring particular programs and process that recognize the needs and realities of youth has worked to lower youth crime. The federal government could learn much from this example.

We know that prevention works. Making education affordable, keeping youth unemployment low, ensuring excellent health care for children and youth, ending child poverty, providing high-quality child care and early childhood education, affordable recreation, putting in place accessible drug education and treatment programs, programs for those living with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder and programs to prevent it, all of these have shown, time and time again, to be more cost effective and a more effective way of dealing with alienation and criminal activity of children and youth.

When one looks at the research, if one bothers, there is no doubt about how effective this approach is. In particular, the situation of aboriginal youth demands more attention from the government. The correctional investigator of Canada pointed out in her recent report:

Aboriginal youth are also overrepresented among criminalized young people. Research shows that Aboriginal young people are criminalized and jailed at earlier ages and for longer periods of time than non-Aboriginal young people....the gap between traditional correctional approaches, and Aboriginal methods of justice and reconciliation [must be addressed]. The ongoing support and involvement of elders, Aboriginal liaison officers, community representatives and Aboriginal organizations is viewed as key to closing the outcome gaps for First Nations, Métis and Inuit offenders. Advocates for Aboriginal inmates have long stressed that Aboriginal people and Aboriginal organizations must be directly involved in developing and providing appropriate programs, and actively involved in the evaluation of current assessment tools used by CSC.

Finally, the correctional investigator points out that the government must “implement a security classification process that ends the overclassification of Aboriginal offenders”.

Restorative justice is another approach that must be taken. Restorative justice has been defined as a turn away from the adversarial, punishment-oriented philosophy of criminal justice toward the focus on bringing victims, offenders and the community together to repair harm, build understanding and restore relationships.

Building a justice system that seeks to restore broken relationships, rather than merely punishing those who commit offences, has shown huge promise and often startling and positive results.

In the United States, teen courts, which deal with actual criminal cases and issues, have been shown to sharply reduce recidivism. Youth who commit crimes and are judged by their peers are far less likely to reoffend. What is more, the teen court model is much more cost effective than the regular criminal justice system.

Here is how Ritchie Eppink and Scott Peterson described the U.S. experience of teen courts in an article in LawNow. They say:

American teen court programs continue to demonstrate phenomenal success, all at a miniscule cost. Peer courts not only appear to reduce repeat crime by youth, they are dynamic programs that promote volunteerism and community service, build a range of interpersonal skills in their participants, and interactively teach youth about law and justice in partnership with adults. Though letting youth co-operatively handle their own problems is a simple concept, it has turned out to be an uncommonly effective one--one that is fast becoming an integral part of youth justice in America.

In my community, the Burnaby youth restorative justice program has proven very successful. Its shoplifting program in particular has had great success in helping young people appreciate the seriousness of the crime, but in a way that ensures that the relationships it damages are restored. Here is how the program was described in a recent article in the Burnaby NewsLeader. The reporter says:

The retail theft circle program was created last June in a collaboration between RCMP detachments in Burnaby, North Vancouver and Richmond, and was based on a model used to combat graffiti in Vancouver.

Burnaby has since taken the lead with the unique program and has held four such circles with 38 youth participating, said Stephen Morton, Burnaby RCMP’s restorative justice program coordinator.

Youth caught shoplifting, generally aged 13 to 17 and first-time offenders, are referred to the voluntary program by RCMP officers. Morton said the kids involved come from a broad cross-section of society, he noted. He’s seen kids from middle-class families to single-parent families, students and dropouts.

The program’s name is reminiscent of aboriginal healing circles, and other elements are borrowed from aboriginal traditions. For example, participants sit on chairs in a circle, with no table in between to hide behind, and a “talking piece” is passed around allowing the person holding it to feel empowered to speak.

In addition to the youth, participants include police officers, loss-prevention officers and store managers. The circles are as much about those harmed by shoplifting as it is about those picked up for the crime, Morton said.

Over a two-hour period, they each speak about the impacts of shoplifting. For retailers, the losses add up and lead to increased prices on all goods, and they feel victimized. For police and mall security, such incidents take time away from more pressing emergencies such as people needing medical assistance.

As for the youth, they often speak of how a shoplifting incident has made them feel shame and how it’s affected their relationship with their parent

Some kids say they steal because they want something but don’t want to or can’t pay for it, said Morton.

“Sometimes it’s because of a peer influence. There’s a perception among their peers that it’s a victimless crime.”

What’s important to Morton is that the youth acknowledge what they’ve done and that it’s affected people.

“Sometimes you kind of see the light go off for some kids. They’re able to see how it affects the broader community.”

He’ll sometimes see the same happen with the adults in the room. “The adults can see these youth are humans, not just thieves, but members of the community.”

There are all kinds of good results from this kind of process, better citizenship on the part of the youthful offender, the victim of crime, community members and enforcement personnel all result. It is a success story that cannot be dismissed and an approach that should be expanded. Why does restorative justice remains the very poor cousin of our justice system when its benefits are so very obvious?

Bill C-4 takes our youth criminal justice system in the wrong direction. While it seems apparent that the bill will move to committee for further study and discussion, I hope the process will make its flaws absolutely clear and that it will either be abandoned or significantly changed.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, because I just travelled a fair distance to take part in this extremely important debate, I did not have the chance to listen to my colleague's whole speech, but I found the last part extremely interesting. I want to thank my colleague for talking about this issue, and I would like him to tell us about restorative justice. He had some very interesting things to say, but if he can, I would like him to talk a bit more about restorative justice in connection with this bill.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, restorative justice is a concept that has been around for a long time. In fact, it is fundamental to first nation, Inuit and Métis people in Canada. We and the rest of Canadian society have been learning largely from them. However, it is also a concept that has been proven time and time again to be a very effective way of preventing crime and restoring relationships in communities, which also goes a long way to preventing future crime and recidivism.

We know this. It has been proven over and over again, yet, we still do not put this front and centre in our approach to criminal justice issues. It is always on the corner of somebody's desk. People who work in the area of restorative justice have to fight tooth and nail for any kind of acknowledgment of their work, any kind of funding to build these important programs.

That needs to change. Instead of this being something that gets worried about once in a blue moon, we need to ensure that it is front and centre, that it is part of the everyday conversations we have in government and in the Department of Justice about how we better serve Canadians and how we improve our criminal justice system.

There are many ways to do that. Perhaps we need, as I proposed with a number of members in the House, a bill establishing a department of peace, which would have as its mandate ensuring that restorative justice measures were front and centre at the cabinet table, that there was an advocate at the cabinet table to argue for a restorative justice approach, both domestically and internationally. We need to ensure that this was not just an afterthought, that this was not just something where we said, “let's go and check that out if we have time”. We need to ensure it there from the get-go in any kind of conversation about criminal justice matters in terms of matters of restoring peace in our communities and around the world.

We need to move to this, quit putting it off and get to it right away.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, part of the member's non-support for the bill was premised on his belief that crime statistics were going in a downward trend. I know we hear from chiefs of police from time to time at the justice committee that put that premise somewhat in doubt. Because there is a difference between crime rates and reported crime rates, especially with respect to property, in which often young offenders are involved. Often there is less reporting of property offences.

Does he have any comment regarding whether he actually believes crime statistics are down or only reported crime.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is any doubt about the fact that there is a problem with the reporting of crime statistics. However, the reality is violent crime has gone down as have violent crime statistics. That is an important one to know.

I also think, though, if we changed our approach to dealing with criminal justice issues, there would be better reporting. People would have more confidence in the system. If there were a restorative justice option available to people, they would report more property crimes.

In the past I was a victim of a property crime. One morning I got up to walk the dog and someone had spray-painted all down the side of my house in great giant letters, “You've almost been robbed”. It was all spelled correctly, punctuated correctly, which maybe is a credit to our educational system. However, it did make rather a big mess of the house.

When I walked the dog, a couple of blocks away the police arrested a young man. I noticed there were a series of spray paint cans lined up on the roof of the car. I suggested to the police officers that they might want to come and check out my house. He was an aboriginal young person.

We were approached to participate in a restorative justice program through the Native Friendship Centre in Vancouver, which we engaged. We were incredibly impressed by that process. We lived in a duplex at the time. The folks at the front of the duplex were corporate lawyers, and they also participated, reluctantly at first. However, they, too, were impressed with the rigour of the process, with the demands that it made on all the participants and with the goal of to ensure that both action was taken by the offender to get his life together and to give up the kind of petty crime in which he was involved. It also went to the extent to ensure that we had a positive relationship as neighbours with this young man.

If other people had that kind of positive experience of the criminal justice system, that kind of confidence that a petty property crime could have this kind of positive outlook, I think more Canadians would engage the process and we would all be better citizens and better neighbours because of it.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I understand that the government conducted some consultations with Canadians but never published a report on it. It made me want to look into it a little further.

One issue that came up in the debate last week was mentioned by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca who reminded the House that about 40% to 50% of inmates in prisons across Canada suffer from fetal alcohol spectrum disorder or other alcoholic birth defects. That problem is incurable but 100% preventable.

It would seem to me that when almost half the inmates in our jails suffer from this affliction, which is preventable, that somehow the thinking of our legislation as it relates to young offenders should take into account that the rehabilitation part is not applicable to people who suffer from FASD and that there has to be another course of action to deal with them. I wonder if the member is aware of that and would care to comment.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Mississauga South for his work on FASD. He is one of the experts in the House and should probably answer his own question because I am sure he knows more about that particular subject than I do.

However, it is a glaring example that if we are truly serious about dealing with the rate of crime in our society, dealing with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder has to be a top priority. However, it does not seem to have made it on the list in that sense.

We know that a high percentage of folks incarcerated in Canada are living with FASD, which should give us cause to say that something has gone awry. We do not put enough resources into prevention. The whole prospect of getting alcohol labelling in Canada has apparently been so fraught with difficulty that we have not managed to accomplish that even though the House on a number of occasions has spoken very clearly on that issue. That is just one small piece of the prevention issue.

We could be doing a significantly better job. It would be cost effective for us, make us safer and improve people's lives dramatically. There are all kinds of reasons for doing it and yet we see it as some kind of side issue on the corner of somebody's desk. It is time we put it front and centre and ensured that the kinds of programs that are successful will provide a benefit all across society.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, some weeks ago I was at an event where representatives from the John Howard Society spoke and indicated that crime rates, particularly violent crime rates, were down, except for one group in Ontario, and that was young men aged 25 to 33. Of course, the speaker connected that to the cuts experienced in Ontario through the Mike Harris government, cuts to after-school programs, prevention programs and community supports. I would like him to comment on that, please.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, anyone who has looked at the timing of the cuts that were engaged in Ontario a few years back and what is currently happening in terms of youth crime in Ontario would see that the parallel is exact. It is very clear that those kinds of preventive programs were cut, such as recreation as a preventive program when it comes to criminal justice issues.

This is not rocket science. It has been proven time and time again here in our own country. Quebec understands it very clearly. Other jurisdictions around the world get it and yet somehow we have turned our backs on that and the negative results are showing up. It is time we reversed that and did so definitively and decisively.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague who just spoke on behalf of the NDP. I am pleased to speak to Bill C-4. I left very early this morning so that I could take part in this extremely important debate that, for the Bloc Québécois, means many things with regard to youth justice. At a minimum, we feel that this bill sets the youth justice system back several decades.

We are not going to vote against this bill at this stage. We want to study it in committee, because it seems clear to us that the committee will have to work very hard so that this bill reflects the will of Canadians and especially Quebeckers who believe, as we do, that young offenders law should focus on rehabilitation.

I cannot support the bill for several reasons. For example, it would make the protection of society the guiding principle behind the law. That would take us back 30 years. Moreover, the bill would add to the situations in which the judge may order pre-trial custody; add deterrence and denunciation as sentencing criteria; allow for custodial sentences for youth with a pattern of extrajudicial sanctions; require prosecutors to justify their decision not to call for an adult sentence for serious violent offences like murder and aggravated sexual assault; allow judges to publish the names of young offenders convicted of violent offences and sentenced as youth; require police to keep records to track extrajudicial measures; and prevent minors from being held in adult detention facilities.

This last provision—preventing minors from being held in adult facilities—is the best one and the only one we feel is acceptable.

However, the bill is ill-conceived and meant to be tough on crime. The Conservatives think we need to be tough on crime, but we think that we should also be smart on crime. In other words, we have to be smart enough—though I have my doubts about some of the members opposite—to see that rehabilitation is extremely important. Rehabilitation is a fundamental factor and should be the priority when dealing with young offenders and juvenile delinquents.

There is a basic difference between young offenders and adults. We think that people under the age of 18 are not fully equipped to understand what is going on, to know how to react and what to do and, most importantly, to make well-informed decisions.

A 13-, 14-, 15- or 16-year-old who commits a series of break and enters or, worse yet, violent crimes, such as assault and sexual assault, may not be mature enough to understand that what he or she did is very serious. It is highly likely that such offenders need help.

Because I have a lot of experience working with young people, I know that 13-, 14- and 15-year-olds are not as mature as 18-, 19- and 20-year-old adults. Even though some 18-year-olds are not much more mature than 16- or 17-year-olds, I find it surprising that if the government goes ahead with this bill, it will lead to major structural changes. Protecting society will become the basic principle that informs all legislation. Protecting society is extremely important, and we think this is one of the fundamental principles to consider when it comes to sentencing.

Quebec has always made rehabilitation the priority. Our Conservative friends may not be too keen on the idea, but statistics show that when we focus on rehabilitating juvenile delinquents and young offenders, crime rates drop. The committee responsible for studying this bill can delve into that fact. That is exactly what has been happening in Quebec for the past 30 years. Significantly fewer crimes are being committed by young offenders, by juvenile delinquents.

We think that this bill is not only useless, but a step backward. There is no way we can support putting up posters with a picture of a 13-year-old “Most wanted kid in Abbotsford” on lampposts. That is ridiculous. We have to give rehabilitation a chance.

There are cases in which rehabilitation does not always work. However, in the vast majority of cases, rehabilitation does work. Why does it work? Because in Quebec, we support our youth. We asked ourselves how a young person could commit so many offences. We asked ourselves how a 13-year-old could be on his 10th, 12th or even 15th break and enter. There is likely a problem. So we provided supports for our youth. We took a look at their families, their schools, their circles of friends to see what was going on. Often, the answer was not incarceration, but instead, with close supervision, the situation turned around. In nearly 80% of the cases in Quebec, there are very few, or no cases of recidivism among young offenders.

Yes, we do see repeat offences. Some young people will not understand, but must we introduce a bill as backward-looking as Bill C-4 to punish 1% or 2% of our youth? That makes no sense.

They are saying that this will require the police to keep records of extrajudicial measures. I will give an example. A few minutes ago, my colleague said that he had been the victim of tagging. I will explain. Graffiti is illegal. Obviously, graffiti is destructive and is a crime. It can be harmful to the environment. There is no doubt that young people who do this are committing a crime.

Do they really believe that every time the police stop a youth who is tagging or scribbling graffiti that they will make a record, take the young person to the station and take notes? That is not how it works in real life. Quite often, a warning is enough. Quite often, the youth who are caught do not reoffend. It is rare that these youth reoffend. Generally speaking, these youth have parents who take care of them and who will be a substitute for the police. Obviously, some youth will not stop and will commit more serious crimes.

That said, I would like to give an example of the outright—and I have to be careful how I say this, but I will still say it—stupidity of this bill.

I will just give one example. Imagine that a young person is convicted of murder, the most serious crime. A young person who commits murder and takes someone's life has obviously committed the most serious of crimes. This law would require that youth to serve an adult sentence, generally about 15 years for manslaughter.

What happens to a 14-year-old who commits murder and is sentenced to 15 years in prison? He will spend the first four or five years in a reception centre and then he will be transferred to a penitentiary. Would anyone be able to work with this youth, knowing that he would be in a prison at the age of 18? It makes no sense.

We will probably be given explanations, and experts and constitutionalists will be consulted. We think this sentence might well be overturned by the Supreme Court, but that remains to be seen. That is not what the debate is about.

Even more dangerous, we believe, is when a young person stays in a reception centre for four or five years with nothing to do, knowing he is headed for prison, and causes as many problems as possible and thinks only of trying to escape. And of course he will escape. What can workers in reception centres possibly do with this young person? Nothing. He will spend four or five years in a reception centre at the expense of taxpayers and the provinces. Yes, the provinces pay for reception centres. The federal government seems to like bringing forward such stupid legislation, but it is Quebec that pays for it.

What happens while the young man is waiting to be sent to prison when he turns 18? It is not complicated: he will commit crimes, play the tough guy, impose his own rules in reception centres, escape and reoffend. This part of the legislation is completely unacceptable. This bill is unacceptable.

I would like to give another example. In my career, I had to represent a young man who was 15 years old when he killed his father. Under this bill, that young man would be in prison. Instead, this is what happened. We started asking questions. It was not normal. No one here condones anyone killing another person, but it is even more serious when a 15-year-old boy kills his father. It is even more unacceptable. Clearly there was a problem. So we created what I would call a process around this young man to find out what happened. He was subjected to medical, psychiatric and psychological examinations. We had to find out what happened. Why did this young man commit such a crime? Why did he kill his father when he was just 15? I am sure everyone agrees that these are not the questions asked when the offender is an adult.

However, since he was only 15, we asked some serious questions. For this young man's community, in my own backyard, this was unacceptable and incomprehensible. This young man was given structure and support. Obviously, he was sent to a reception centre. He had a problem that absolutely needed to be worked through. It took a year and a half for this young man to realize the seriousness of the crime he committed. It was as though the floodgates had opened. It took six months, but after that it was easier to work with this young man. Today, he is one of the top orthopedic surgeons in Quebec. If he had not realized the seriousness of his crime, he would be in a penitentiary today.

What is a young person going to do in a penitentiary? This bill would send them to penitentiary for 10, 15, 17 or 18 years. It makes no sense. That is not what our young people need. I admit that some young people have serious behavioural problems. That is clear. At some point we have to put a stop to street gangs. Obviously we have a problem if a young person is going to school with a knife in their pocket. When a 16-year-old is walking around with a loaded 9 mm revolver in their knapsack then there is definitely a problem. There is no doubt about it. This is someone who has the makings of a criminal, as my late father would say. Nonetheless, if a sapling is properly supported it will straighten. A young person should not be sent to a place like a penitentiary or a reception centre without any opportunity for rehabilitation.

What the Conservatives are telling us is not true, because there will be no rehabilitation programs for youth at reception centres. They will not waste their time on this young person when there are 15 more after him. Perhaps something can be done for them, but in his case, in about four or five years he will probably be sent to a penitentiary to serve the rest of his time. It is stupid to believe that this is the way to solve the problem of crime.

This bill applies only to young offenders and that represents perhaps 1% or 2%. I admit that 1% or 2% is significant. I will be criticized for not thinking about the victims. Unfortunately for the Conservatives, rehabilitation in Quebec puts victims first. That goes hand in hand with rehabilitation. I have experienced it. We have worked on it. I can say that making a young person do community work because he has committed 12 break and enters and sending him to all the garages where he committed the theft to wash cars makes an impression on him. There are two possibilities: either he continues a life of crime, with the obvious consequence of increasingly stiff punishment or, like a tree, he straightens up.

I see that I do not have very much time left. That is unfortunate because, if there were unanimous consent, I could talk for another 20 minutes. I know that time is precious; however, I would have liked to have talked longer. The Bloc Québécois believes that rehabilitation must be the priority. Yes, there should also be sanctions. However, we believe and are absolutely convinced that the more opportunities we have for rehabilitation, the more we can work with youth early in their criminal careers, the lower the risk of recidivism. Quebec statistics prove that we are right. We will come back to that when the bill is studied in committee.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank the member for his input. Many people will argue that Bill C-4 does not get it right, but that is just their slogan. Talking about slogans, getting tough on crime seems to be not so much a strategy as it is a slogan. I believe that what the member has been arguing is that we should be smart on crime and we have to understand that all people cannot be dealt with the same way.

We understand there are violent persons in society but young people are not born bad. They are functions of their environment. They are functions of their society.

We have responsibilities and there are certain circumstances which are mitigating in their nature. But the strategy of the government to basically put as many people away in jail for as long as possible without any modicum of relief or rehabilitation to help them to eventually reintegrate into the community means that we are letting these kids down.

I wonder if the member would care to comment on whether or not he believes it is good enough to say that we are tough on crime rather than being smart on crime.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, I could not agree more with my colleague, and I hope all of his Liberal Party colleagues will follow suit. We have always believed that for the 1% or 2% of society who go astray, there are things we can do. We can remove them from society for short or extended periods, but the Bloc Québécois believes that rehabilitation works with young offenders and that it has been proven. If it did not work, we would be the first to be calling for harsher punishments. It is not true that harsher punishments are better. I have not seen any examples to support this, and I would like to see some.

Yes, there are some failures. There will be young people who do not understand or who take more time to understand. Back home, I saw a former client who did not understand. He recently beat someone up at home. He called me up. I told him the good news and the bad news. The good news was that I had become his member of Parliament. The bad news was that he was out of luck, since he had not understood when he was younger.

So yes, there are exceptions, but in the vast majority of cases, rehabilitation works with young offenders, especially in Quebec.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague. I think he would agree with me that among the more distasteful exhibitions that we have seen in the House are the five solid years of a government that has no vision for dealing with the economy, no vision for dealing with the laid off workers, and no vision for standing up on global warming except when it comes to one crime bill after another. We have had a relentless stream of dumbed down attack crime bills to try to turn individuals in society against one another.

The Conservatives wrap themselves continually in supposedly representing victims. I lived for many years with people coming out of prison and I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague speak about the issues of recidivism and rehabilitation. It is of vital importance for society to find ways of balancing the need to protect, the need to put people away but the need to ensure that we have a way to reintegrate people back into society.

Of the five years of dumbed down bills that we have seen from the government, we now see that it wants to put children into prison with hardened criminals. I think it is an astounding suggestion.

Does my hon. colleague think there is any possible social good that can come from exposing children, whether they have committed a crime or not, to prison as the Tories believe?

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will say one thing. It is obvious that as long as they believe that being tough on crime means mandatory minimum sentencing, nothing will be solved. Nothing will be solved as long as they cannot understand that we have to be both tough on crime and smart on crime.

There are crimes and there are youths and children in that environment, and for us, the priority has always been the young people. Yes, the type of crime is important. There is no question about that. When a young person goes on a weekend spree and commits 12 break and enter offences, he obviously has a problem. That is clear. However, is the solution to send him to prison and throw away the key? I would say no and we on this side say no. We will see how the Conservatives react when this bill is studied in committee, but we believe that rehabilitation is the answer.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)
Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the answer to the question by the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay, there was a suggestion that young people would be serving time among hardened adult criminals.

Obviously, the member opposite has read the bill. I would like him to confirm for the member and for the House that nothing in this bill would allow any individual under the age of 18 to serve his or her sentence in an adult facility. They would serve their sentence in a youth detention facility.