Debates of Feb. 20th, 1995
House of Commons Hansard #156 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cuba.
- Young Offenders Act
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- Questions On The Order Paper
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Private Members' Business
Svend Robinson Burnaby—Kingsway, BC
That, in the opinion of this House, the government should condemn in the strongest possible terms the inhumane embargo of Cuba by the United States; that the condemnation be made at the United Nations, the Organization of American States and directly to the U.S. administration; and, that Canada restore full bilateral aid and trade with Cuba.
Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity today to raise in the House an issue of fundamental importance to the relationship between the people of Canada, the people of Cuba and, in particular as my motion points out, to the impact on the people of Cuba of the blockade by the United States.
The motion before the House this morning has three components basically. First, it calls on the Government of Canada to condemn in the strongest possible terms the inhumane embargo of Cuba by the United States. It calls for that condemnation to be made at all possible opportunities, both bilateral and multilateral; at the United Nations, the Organization of American States and directly to the United States administration. Finally, the motion calls on Canada to restore full bilateral aid and trade. There is trade now but we should promote, strengthen and support that trade with Cuba.
This is a significant time in the relationship between Canada and Cuba. In fact, 1995 is the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and Cuba. Those diplomatic relations have remained unbroken since 1945, a fact of which I as a Canadian am very proud. Canada was one of only two countries, the other being Mexico, that did not break diplomatic relations with Cuba following the triumph of the revolution in 1959. We celebrate that this year. In fact, there will be a number of celebrations, both in Canada and in Cuba next month.
As well, 1995 is the centenary of the death of the great Cuban revolutionary hero, José Marti, who died on May 19, 1885.
This is also an important week for this motion to be debated in the House. Today the Secretary General of the OAS, the Organization of American States, Mr. Gavaria, is in Canada. Later this week the President of the United States, President Bill Clinton, will be visiting as well. I trust that the government will take the opportunity, in particular the Prime Minister, to raise directly with President Clinton the destructive impact of the United States blockade on Cuba. I hope that he will take that opportunity this week.
I also regret that the Bloc Quebecois will apparently not support this motion. Frankly, I find it surprising that the Bloc Quebecois, although several Bloc members are taking an active role in the Canadian parliamentary group on Cuba, will speak against a motion to lift the embargo against Cuba, to promote free trade and bilateral aid for Cuba. I can only presume that once again the Bloc Quebecois took this surprising position because of the priority it gives to relations with the United States.
The Bloc supported cruise missile testing; the Bloc supported the free trade agreement; the Bloc now supports the United States' immoral and illegal embargo. This is unbelievable and unacceptable, especially because many groups in Quebec, for example Carrefour culturel de l'amitié Québec-Cuba and Oxfam Québec, are demanding, like other Canadians, that the inhumane and cruel embargo against Cuba be lifted and that the Liberal government put this issue high on the list of items on the agenda for the upcoming meeting with the American president.
Once again, the Bloc Quebecois does not speak for Quebecers on this fundamental humanitarian issue of rights for Cubans. It is a pity that we have had to do this in their stead.
I would note as well that at a major international solidarity meeting last November in Havana, 1995 was declared the international year of José Marti and the struggle against the blockade. This is a motion which is of particular significance in this important year.
Last month I had the honour of participating in the first ever Canadian parliamentary delegation which was hosted by the National Assembly of Cuba. I see a number of my colleagues from all sides of the House who participated in that delegation.
Unfortunately the hon. member for Laval East was not able to take part, but she supported us. She supported the requests, as did many other Bloc Quebecois members. The member for Bourassa, for one, would be surprised to see the position taken by the Bloc today.
We met with many groups. We met with Cuban organizations, with individuals and with ministers. We had the opportunity to meet with Fidel Castro. We visited schools, hospitals and research centres. Our group was hosted on this historic visit by the president of the corresponding group in Cuba, the Minister of Education, Luis Gomes. During that same time frame, a large number of NGOs were visiting Cuba under the auspices of the Cuba-Canada Inter-Agency Project made up of some 36 Canadian NGOs and churches and 25 community based organizations.
These NGOs have played an extraordinary role in helping to promote greater understanding, awareness, and solidarity with the people of Cuba. They include groups such as Oxfam Canada, the Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation, CUSO, the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada, as well as many groups based in Quebec.
I want to take this opportunity in speaking of NGOs to also pay tribute to the many Canadian NGOs, churches, groups and individuals who have demonstrated their solidarity with the people of Cuba at this very difficult time for that country. Last August a group from across Canada, the brigadistas, travelled to Cuba to demonstrate their solidarity by working directly with the people of Cuba. The friendship groups assist in helping to provide desperately needed aid, particularly humanitarian aid, to the people of Cuba.
Many different elements of the labour movement have demonstrated concrete solidarity. I salute here the recent leadership of the Canadian Labour Congress on this issue, the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association in British Columbia, in my own area, and many others. All of these groups, without exception, have called on the United States government to lift the illegal and immoral blockade which has been in force since 1963.
At the most recent vote of the United Nations, 101 countries voted in favour of the lifting of the blockade and only two, the United States and Israel, opposed the resolution. Instead of responding to this appeal from around the world, what is the response of the leaders of the United States congress? The new chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, Jesse Helms, says he wants to strengthen the blockade. That is absolutely unbelievable. He wants to effectively put an iron noose around Cuba. The test will come with the response of the United States president.
It is time for President Clinton to stop listening to the right wing reactionary forces based in Miami, the Cuban American National Foundation, the Mas Canosas, and start listening to the progressive voices of the American people, including a number of Cuban Americans. It is time he started listening to the voices of his closest neighbours, the Canadian government and the Mexican government, that have called for a lifting of this blockade.
It is time he started listening to some of his own legislators, democratic senators, members of the House of Representatives, like Claiborne Pell, Charles Rangel, José Seranno and others. Even the Wall Street Journal is calling on the United States administration to lift the embargo.
The impact of the blockade has been devastating. Together with the collapse of trade with Russia and eastern Europe, and some admitted inefficiencies in the Cuban economy, the impact has been devastating. Dr. Benjamin Spock, when he visited Cuba in 1993, wrote on his return: "When I visited Cuba I discovered pediatricians at otherwise splendid hospitals who spent every morning counting medication for the children. The director of a day care centre dreaded that the milk supply would dry up for her preschoolers, as it has for all Cuban children older than seven. How should we feel about an embargo that is keeping food and medicines from Cuban children?" I feel ashamed.
There are widespread hardships as a result of the embargo. One of the ironies is that these hardships even affect the American people. My colleagues and I visited a research facility in Havana which makes drugs that assist in traumatic heart attacks. These drugs, called recombinant streptokinase, would save American lives. Are Americans allowed access to them under the blockade? No. It is the same with a vaccine against meningitis B developed in Cuba. It cannot be distributed so it is hurting the United States as well.
In the midst of all the hardship as a result of the blockade, the Cuban government and the Cuban people have maintained a commitment to fundamental human and socialist values. For example, infant mortality rates in Cuba are the lowest in Latin America. They are lower than in many American cities. According to the most recent UNICEF figures it is about 9.9 per cent, one of the best records in the world. It is sort of ironic that the United States lectures Cuba on human rights.
Yes, we acknowledge there are concerns around human rights particularly in the areas of freedom of speech and freedom of association. There are concerns with respect to the treatment of gays and lesbians in Cuba. The situation is better but the history in that country is certainly not a happy one.
For the United States to lecture Cuba on human rights when it has a record of child poverty, of homelessness, of 37 million Americans with no health insurance whatsoever and of people with AIDS begging for funds to survive in the streets with unprecedented levels of crime, reeks of hypocrisy. It is not good enough. When they raise concerns around human rights in Cuba and are silent with respect to massive human rights violations in Guatemala, East Timor and elsewhere, it is not good enough.
In the midst of some of the most difficult economic times in the history of Cuba, Cuba is able to maintain its international solidarity. Over 13,000 children victims of the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl were assisted by the Government of Cuba. I personally saw a number of these children at a rehabilitation facility at Tarara just outside Havanah. This speaks probably more eloquently than anything else to the sense of international solidarity of the people of Cuba. Even at a time of difficult economic circumstances they are prepared to extend a hand to the poorest, to the most vulnerable in our communities.
Canada has an opportunity to play an important bridging role at this time to promote direct dialogue at last between the Government of Cuba and the Government of the United States. If the Government of the United States can maintain most favoured nation status with China, if it can end its embargo against Vietnam, if it can begin negotiations with North Korea, why this absurd and destructive obsession with Cuba?
What can we do? In the couple of minutes remaining I want to set out some alternatives. Canada can play an important role by extending and strengthening trade. I commend the Canadian ambassador to Cuba, Mark Entwistle, for the leadership and energy he has shown on this front.
We can strengthen EDC financing. We can ensure that we meet the kinds of standards other countries have set. We can promote support for environmental projects. Cuba has the opportunity to be an international environmental leader. Dr. Patricia Lane in particular from Dalhousie University has shown leadership in this regard. For example, they are trying to clean up some of the pollution in the Almendares River and others. This is the kind of role that Canada can play and play effectively.
We can promote strengthening bilateral aid and moving it beyond partnership and establishing a central co-ordination point within the foreign affairs ministry for responding to Cuba.
Perhaps one of the key components or priority in the trade area is negotiating now a foreign investment protection agreement. Other countries are far ahead of Canada in this regard. Spain, Mexico, Italy, Russia and the United Kingdom have already negotiated agreements. We have heard one message loud and clear from Canadian businesses. It is to get that in place. We have heard the same message from our diplomats. I hope the government will move soon on that.
Finally, we should ensure that Cuba is fully reintegrated into all multilateral organizations: the OAS, the World Bank and the IMF. It was shameful that Cuba was excluded from the Miami summit. I was pleased the Prime Minister spoke out against that.
In closing, I hope we as Canadians take advantage of this key year, the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Cuba, to send a strong message to our friends in the American administration that it is time to end the illegal and immoral blockade.
We will be hosting the foreign minister in the near future, Roberto Robaino. We will be hosting the president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, and hopefully Minister of Education Gomes as well. I hope our Minister for International Trade will be travelling soon to Cuba.
Canada has a historic opportunity here. I urge the House to join in sending a message today to the American administration and to our government that the time has come to lift the blockade, to respect the strong, proud and dignified people of Cuba and to reintegrate them fully into the community of nations.
Private Members' Business
Jesse Flis Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Foreign Affairs
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion introduced by the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway regarding the United States embargo on Cuba and Canadian policy.
His motion reads at the end:
-and, that Canada restore full bilateral aid and trade with Cuba.
I do not know where the hon. member has been over the last 10 or 20 years. We have full bilateral trade with Cuba that I witnessed personally and will mention later.
I believe Canada and the United States share similar long term goals in Cuba, including the need for peaceful political and economic reform that will allow more liberal economic policies, the development of democratic institutions and full respect for human rights. However Canada has clear reservations about how the United States policy seeks to achieve these goals. I will explain what I mean in a moment.
Let me begin by pointing out that Canada and Cuba have had an official relationship stretching, as the hon. member said, over 50 years. Even at times when we had considerable differences of view with Cuba on Africa, east-west relations, the nature of
political change in Latin America and more recently human rights and good governance, we have maintained our ties and our discourse. I personally have met with the former and present ambassadors of Cuba. We keep very close ties and communications open between our two countries.
There is also a web of unofficial private links that many Canadian organizations, companies and individuals have pursued with their Cuban counterparts over the years. When our review committee was in Saskatchewan I was very pleased to hear Friends of Cuba make a presentation to the foreign affairs review committee.
Some of these unofficial links are concrete and measurable. Cuba is Canada's second largest trading partner after Puerto Rico in the Caribbean-Central American region. Our two-way trade was over $300 million in 1993. It is also a country in which a number of Canadian firms are pursuing investment possibilities.
Cuba is a country that over 120,000 Canadians visit each year. Out of 600,000 tourists 120,000 come from Canada. I was in Cuba recently to open an honorary consular office in Varadero to help Canadians in difficulty. It is a country in which a number of Canadian universities, research institutes and non-governmental organizations have longstanding linkages that benefit both Cubans and Canadians.
We enunciated Canadian objectives in Cuba in June 1994 when the Canadian government announced several policy adjustments. First, we are in Cuba to promote normal Canadian interests including commercial and cultural activities. I underline cultural because when I was in Cuba in the fall well known jazz musician Vic Vogel was teamed with Noche Habanera. It was a performance that Cubans and the Canadians who were there will never forget.
Second, we wish to support positive peaceful change in Cuba, both political and economic. We agree with Cuba on some issues, in particular in the areas of human rights and democratic development. However we will continue to pursue the discussion at appropriate levels.
Third, we wish to encourage Cuba's full, constructive participation in international affairs.
Finally, we wish to support Canadian organizations and individuals who are pursuing development activities in Cuba.
The Canadian government has supported Canadian businesses in their pursuit of opportunities in Cuba. Last fall at Havana International Fair we were pleased to see more Canadian companies than ever. Canadian government involvement was more visible. I witnessed 26 companies from Canada involved in this fair. Fourteen were companies from the province of Quebec. None of them had fleur-de-lis flags; they all had the Canadian flag. They were there as Canadians.
I travelled to Cuba at that time to meet these business representatives. I will never forget the warm reception the Cuban government and the Cuban people gave me. Because of the difficult economic circumstances in Cuba our trade has declined in the past year but Cuba's rank remains as I indicated earlier.
We also wish to encourage and support political developments in Cuba. Cuba has human rights accomplishments notably in the areas of economic and social rights. Cuba's health care and educational systems have been models for other countries. As a former educator I was impressed with the standard of education in that country and the standard of health care.
At the same time we have very real concerns about Cuba's respect for civil and political rights, including freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom from arbitrary detention. We have also expressed our concern about Cuba's unwillingness to co-operate with the United Nations human rights system, in particular the special rapporteur appointed by the UN commission on human rights. We have welcomed the visit to Cuba by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and hope this can lead to greater Cuban co-operation.
Thus Canada will continue to make human rights and democratic development areas of continuing discussion with Cuba in order that Cuban accomplishments in the areas I have mentioned can be mirrored in full respect of political and civil rights.
In the area of development co-operation the government has made available the full range of partnership programs of the Canadian International Development Agency to Canadian NGOs and others in the non-governmental sector for their work in Cuba, including academic institutions and Canadian businesses pursuing developmental objectives.
By the end of the current fiscal year Cuba will have received over $1 million in Canadian development assistance through the various programs we support, again demonstrating no need for such a motion as the one tabled today.
These examples make clear that Canada is pursuing its objectives in Cuba through a policy of engagement and dialogue. I would add that this is very much in the tradition of Canadian policy regarding Cuba. As the government noted last June we are making adjustments in our policy, not turning policy around.
The United States is clearly pursuing its objectives in a different adversarial manner. We have made it clear to the United States and publicly that we do not agree with its approach. For example, during the parliamentary debate on Canada's foreign policy review on March 15, 1994 the Minister
of Foreign Affairs referred to the government's hope to see the end of the American commercial embargo against Cuba.
The Canadian vote last year in support of the United Nations General Assembly resolution critical of the embargo reaffirmed that point. At that time we indicated that in this post-cold war period isolation was not the most effective means of fostering economic and political reform in Cuba.
For Canada the central concern regarding the embargo is its extraterritorial reach. The way in which the United States through its laws and regulations governing the embargo seeks to constrain the freedom of trade of third countries such as Canada is not acceptable. Canada has always taken a vigorous stand against such measures and in 1992 issued a blocking order to ensure that Canadian companies were not subjected to foreign laws on trade with Cuba.
We shall remain watchful of other efforts to bring Canadians under the ambit of U.S. laws and regulations. Accordingly I believe Canada has implemented a policy on Cuba which takes into account Canadian interests and Canadian perspectives and responds to the concerns of the member for Burnaby-Kingsway. I therefore do not believe that the motion is necessary and I do not agree with the tone in which it was cast.
I am very pleased that the Canada-Cuba parliamentary friendship group has been established and a visit has already been made. Hopefully parliamentary exchanges will be speeded up. I know that our Minister of Foreign Affairs intends to meet the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.
When I was there in October I met with five ministers. They welcome Canadians to Cuba. They welcome Canadian investment. You have to be there, Mr. Speaker, to get a feeling for the love and respect of Cubans for Canadians. I appeal to Canadians, if they want a place to invest, to invest in Cuba.
Private Members' Business
Philippe Paré Louis-Hébert, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois on Motion No. 281 presented by the member for Burnaby-Kingsway.
The aim of the motion essentially is to induce the Canadian government to denounce the American embargo on Cuba in the strongest terms possible at the United Nations, at the OAS and to the American administration directly. It also supports the re-establishment of full aid and bilateral trade ties with Cuba.
It is one thing to express solidarity with the people of Cuba; but it is another matter altogether to interfere in United States' foreign affairs and to support a dictatorship. The member for Burnaby-Kingsway, in an analysis that was hardly more than an expression of emotion and without even having heard our arguments, condemned the position of the Bloc Quebecois. I would ask him, therefore, to take note of the basis for our position. Perhaps he knocked down a door that was open much more than he thought.
The Bloc Quebecois will vote against the motion. Now allow me to set out the reasons behind our position. There are two reasons for our disagreement.
First, we do not believe we should force the United States to change their foreign policy to meet the objectives of Canadian foreign policy, especially because we, ourselves, are particularly jealous of our own sovereignty.
Second, we do not believe the state of human rights in Cuba would permit the re-establishment of bilateral aid with it.
With respect to our first objection, we do not see how the Canadian government could dictate rules of conduct to the American government. Canada has always refused to interfere in the internal politics and diplomatic conduct of foreign states. We do not see why Canada would change matters now, and believe, furthermore, that it would not be in Canada's interest to do so.
If Canada undertook the action proposed by our NDP colleague, we would have to be consistent and adopt a similar attitude toward a multitude of other countries whose foreign policy objectives do not coincide with our own.
In any case, the Canadian government already has enough to do to look after its own foreign affairs, without taking on the task of advising its partners.
In this regard, we would like to mention that a number of questions are currently awaiting action by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, such as the case of Tran Trieu Quan, which I have mentioned on several occasions in the House. The minister should do everything possible to have this Canadian prisoner released from Vietnam rather than attempting in vain to influence American foreign policy.
Moreover, while the American embargo against Cuba is certainly harming that country's economy, Castro's regime is clearly also responsible for the present economic crisis in Cuba. Would Canada not be better advised to attempt to convince Cuban authorities to truly liberalize their economy, rather than attempting to convince American authorities to raise their embargo? Cuba's state run economy carries a very high price and the few liberalization measures implemented recently, such as making the peso convertible, will not be enough to stop the Cuban economy from nose diving.
Cuba needs help in initiating the unavoidable transition to a market economy. The best thing for Canada to do in this regard is to support such reforms through dialogue and trade. Such
action on the part of Canada would be welcome in view of its new foreign policy direction.
Economic reforms must nevertheless be implemented concurrently with political reforms. Dictatorship and the culture of fear must be eliminated in Cuba. Since the Bloc Quebecois strongly opposes the philosophy of trade at any price, human rights in Cuba should be taken into account in shaping our relations with this country. I will return to this later.
That said, we would be against Canada participating in the embargo against Cuba. The Bloc Quebecois expressed its approval when the Canadian government announced its decision to resume aid to this Caribbean state last June.
Let us keep in mind that, following Cuba's involvement in the Angolan conflict in 1978, Canada decided to stop providing aid to, while maintaining diplomatic relations with that country. Now that the cold war is over, the new international order calls for a reorientation of Canada's relations with Cuba. The time has come to end that country's diplomatic and trade isolation. At stake is the very survival of its people, who have been hit extremely hard by Cuba's severe economic crisis. Therefore, it would be quite appropriate to resume our humanitarian aid to that country.
However, this new decision by the Department of Foreign Affairs does not include restoring bilateral aid. The Bloc Quebecois agrees with the government on this. The motion put forward by our colleague from Burnaby-Kingsway calls for restoring bilateral aid. That is another reason why we cannot support it.
The Bloc Quebecois feels that Canada should give priority to partnership-based aid programs and that international co-operation through NGOs is by far the safest and most efficient way to deliver aid to needy countries. This principle should be implemented especially when human rights abuses preclude any sustainable human development effort.
In our dissenting report on the review of Canada's foreign policy, we were very clear on this. The majority of witnesses who appeared before the special standing committee agreed with us.
In this report, we recommended that "Canada discontinue all bilateral aid to states that UN agencies or any other agency recognized by the UN have identified as having committed or been responsible for gross and reliably attested human rights violations".
So far, Cuba has shown no sign of being on the road to democracy and establishing a state based on the rule of law. The Cuban government did however make real progress in some areas, particularly social and economic rights.
But as regards civil and political rights, which are systematically violated by the Cuban regime, there is still serious cause for concern, as evidenced by UN resolutions on the matter as well as constant inquiries about Cuba at the Commission of Human Rights in Geneva.
On this subject, I would like to remind the Canadian government that Cuba is not the only latin-american country to violate human rights and that, in fact, matters are considered to be even worse elsewhere in that area. In January, a slew of NGOs expressed concern to the Canadian government about the situation in Guatemala, Mexico, Columbia and Peru.
At that time, the Canadian government was asked to denounce the human rights violations going on in these countries at the 51st session of the UN Commission of Human Rights in Geneva. It matters more to us, the Bloc Quebecois, that the Canadian government take this kind of action in the case of Cuba rather than condemn the conduct of the U.S. foreign policy.
In a nutshell, it might be a better idea for Canada to provide technical assistance and to do so though NGOs, because Cuba, which is currently facing a major food shortage, really needs humanitarian assistance. Any assistance sent directly to the Cuban government is not likely to serve Canadian official assistance objectives as well as if it were granted to humanitarian and non governmental organizations.
This is basically why the Bloc Quebecois opposes Motion No. 281 and why we will be voting against this motion.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
In trying to facilitate debate for and against the motion, I will now recognize the hon. member for Thunder Bay-Atikokan for a maximum of 10 minutes. Of course I will return to a member from the Reform Party, if anyone should choose to speak and I have an indication from the hon. member for Red Deer.
Private Members' Business
Stan Dromisky Thunder Bay—Atikokan, ON
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to address this House regarding M-281, a motion condemning the U.S. embargo on Cuba proposed by the hon. member for Burnaby-Kingsway. It is a pleasure for me to be in a position to second that motion.
The red book states that "Canadians want their national government to play a more active, independent, internationalist role in this world of change. They do not want Canadian foreign policy to be determined solely through special personal relationships between world leaders. Canadians want a national govern-
ment that takes pride in its tolerance, openness and common sense, and that reflects those values in its foreign policy".
As a member of the Canada-Cuba Interparliamentary Friendship Group, I acknowledge openly my pride in the tolerance Canadians reveal in their attempts to understand the differences between and among the nations of the world. There is also our use of common sense in defying the pressures of special interest groups as we encourage, develop, nurture and enhance our relationship with Cuba and other peaceful societies.
It is interesting to note that shortly after the freedom fighter Fidel Castro overthrew the diabolical regime of Batista, the majority of ambassadorial representatives left the island. Recognizing and doing business with the new Government of Cuba were the governments of Mexico and Canada. As a result these countries were permitted to operate from their original embassies and continue to do so to this very day.
Since the revolution, Canada's relationship with Cuba has continued to strengthen even though the Cuban government had to turn to the U.S.S.R. for substantial support. As American influence in other countries intensified and strengthened, so did its network of trade embargoes.
Due to the diminishing supply of goods, it was necessary for the Cubans to introduce rationing early in the 1960s. This practice continues to this very day.
Although the U.S. trade embargo has always deterred economic development in Cuba, it was not until the removal of the annual $5 billion Soviet aid package five years ago that the embargo began to have a dynamic impact on the lives of the Cuban people. There is a shortage of everything and there is no guarantee that the goods will appear in the near future within this tightly controlled economy. There is a serious shortage of instructional materials for the educational system. Certain medical practices must be curtailed or cancelled due to the absence of medical supplies. As people lose hope, despair overcomes and the crime rate rises.
Priorities are established and strictly adhered to in this fight for survival. As wars fan the spirit of nationalism, so grows the spirit of common good against common evil.
Although it may be classified as a third world country, as a member of the Community of Nations, Cuba has never abdicated its responsibility toward others. A good example of that is Chernobyl. Over 35,000 victims of Chernobyl have been brought to Cuba for treatment in one of the most advanced centres for the treatment of radiation. Over 13,000 of that number were children, and with the children came the mothers and fathers during the treatment period.
Three years ago the American dollar economy was introduced in order to glean as many American dollars as possible for foreign trade. This was achieved chiefly through the introduction and enhancement of the tourist business.
The free market economy is beginning to blossom in Cuba. We heard recently that privatization of land is possible. Companies can purchase the land. There are other options available as well. Investment is increasing. Canadians are investing.
The situation was further aggravated two years ago with the introduction of the Cuban Democracy Act, also known as the Torricelli act by the U.S. Congress. The main thrust of the act was that of extending the embargo to American subsidiaries abroad. This of course applied to Canadian based U.S. multinationals.
Lifting the embargo now would allow Cuban exports to the U.S. and permit foreign investment in Cuba, having a substantial effect on the Cuban economy.
With the election of the new Congress in the States, however, it appears that the hard line of Cuba may continue. This is unfortunate because the present embargo leads the U.S. down a very lonely path.
For three years the UN has voted overwhelmingly to end the embargo, most recently in 1994. The result was a lopsided vote of 101 for and 2 against with 48 abstentions.
Furthermore, Canada, Spain, Britain, Sweden, Germany, Italy and others are now expanding their links with Cuba. We were very fortunate in our visit to Cuba to meet quite a few representatives from these countries. They were business people who were in various stages of negotiating deals with the Cuban government.
Obviously absent from the negotiating tables were American representatives. As well, private groups across the U.S. have been sending more and more humanitarian aid intentionally challenging official American policy.
The cold war has been over now for five years. Cuba's situation in the present global context is radically different than during the 1950s and 1960s. Cuba is broke, crippled but not down. It is of no threat whatsoever to anybody and there exists no danger in lifting the trade ban.
However, there are those who still refuse to dispose of their 1950 style cold war mentality. It is time to stop trying to destroy Fidel Castro by destroying the people of Cuba. The main problem of American policy toward Cuba is that it is made in Miami, not Washington. Cuban expatriates are extremely powerful and are deemed crucial to ensuring whether the state of Florida swings in favour of the government during the presidential elections. As a result, they hold considerable clout in shaping American foreign policy vis-à-vis Cuba.
In any nation or society where within a special interest group we find that the truest form of love is self-love, where greed is the major source of energy, where avarice and gluttony are esteemed to be honourable personal goals, we find that others in
their relationship with these groups usually are identified as victims in that relationship.
I find that the embargo restrictions imposed on Cuba and other societies are the results of such special interest forces. This embargo which is a blatant example of central authorities catering to special interest, provincially minded political forces, is being maintained without regard for the suffering borne by the innocent.
Our government's position with regard to Cuban foreign policy is very clear. Our ambassador to the United Nations has indicated that we need to engage with Cuba, not isolate it, in order to achieve our goals.
Also, our Ministry of Foreign Affairs and our Secretary of State for Latin America have clearly indicated the need to end Cuban isolation. I applaud our government in this regard.
However, as concerned Canadians we must increase our efforts to have this embargo curtailed and promote practices based on sound, realistic, humanitarian values and inter-relationships.
The U.S. has lifted its embargo on Vietnam, so why not Cuba? Sure enough the time is right for a change of attitude. Let us work together to encourage Mr. Clinton to repeal the three-decade old embargo on all non-military items.
The proponents of this embargo must be made aware of the fact and never forget that as man's relationship with his fellow man is positively enhanced, so is man's relationship with his spiritual leader or God.
Private Members' Business
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to talk to M-281. I have had a long interest in foreign affairs and certainly in bringing Cuba into the modern world and the OAS.
I visited Cuba, travelled around and realized some of the great potential of that country.
This motion asks us to make a strong statement against the U.S. policy on Cuba. I do have problems making a strong statement which directly relates to the foreign policy of another country.
The U.S. is one of our most important trading partners. Even if it were not, how would we like to have another country, let alone our closest neighbour, threatening us and demanding we change our foreign policy? The preservation of one's sovereignty has been and always will be an important part of any country's foreign policy.
Let us examine Cuba. The hon. member wishes to support and commend the actions of Mr. Castro and the country. If we are going to try and change the U.S. point of view it should be done by negotiation, not by threats or innuendo from Canadian members of Parliament. Threatening the U.S. will certainly guarantee a negative response and slam the door on what else might have occurred.
Let us examine a few of the facts regarding Cuba. Why do the Americans feel so strongly threatened by that country? The history, the Kennedy missile crisis, the fact that it is 90 miles away from their boundary, the fact that the mafia used this as a headquarters for gambling, prostitution and laundering money are examples. However, when it comes to present history we must recognize that Cuba is ruled by a dictator. Cuba was not part of the summit of the Americas in Miami in December because it is the only country in the Americas that has not moved toward democracy.
Human rights abuses abound in that country. My experience in that country was there was totally no freedom of expression except that controlled by the government. The people love to talk; they are friendly, great people, but they had to talk out on the water where they were sure that their secret service would not be listening to the conversation.
I was able to visit a jail. I watched the prisoners working in a cane field and going back to their crowded conditions. It is quite different from the country club atmosphere of Canadian prisons.
I attended a three-hour speech given in Varadero by Mr. Castro. I found it very interesting that for the three hours the people were told when to cheer, when to be quiet and exactly what to do. That is not exactly freedom of expression.
People in Cuba are prepared to sacrifice almost anything to get on a board and cross 90 miles of shark infested waters just to get out. If the country had any kind of human rights or any kind of freedom of expression, I doubt that would be the case.
There are severe shortages because Russia stopped its aid because it collapsed. Sugar cane production has decreased dramatically. In 1991, seven million tonnes; in 1994, down to four million tonnes. As I have mentioned, the infrastructure is in decay. The black market is running rampant throughout the country.
I found it very interesting to visit the Tropicana show and see the people finally expressing themselves in terms of music and their culture. They were wearing 40 and 50 year old costumes. They certainly deserved some credit for at least trying to express themselves. How about a Sunday in Cuba when they take out the 1950 cars for a drive? It is just more for show than for any practical means of transportation. What about the little kids who love to play baseball? They find that one way they might have to get off the island. There are ice cream stands on every corner. People told me that milk from Canadian Holstein cows was used to make the ice cream.
The friendship toward Canada is certainly very obvious throughout that country. Anyone travelling around the country can see just how primitive the country really is. The last speaker said it was still in the 1950s. I would put it there or below.
There are flight irregularities. Nothing seems to work properly. The hotels are acceptable, usually without toilet paper, white and sterile in nature.
The management is also very typical of a true communist country. There is really no incentive, no pride of ownership. There is really no drive left in the country because of the socialist way.
The sanctions are not hurting the Cuban people as much as the dictator who holds them captive by military force. The hon. member should make the motion to condemn dictator Castro and demand his removal if he wants to interfere in another country's foreign affairs.
The U.S. and Canada certainly have interests in Cuba. That country could prosper. In terms of Canadian, American and South American tourist business there would be no better place. If that were instituted the jobs and money would return. There would be an incentive to work. The ideal location of that country I have mentioned before.
This sort of motion sends the wrong message. It is the mosquito approach versus the diplomatic approach to solving the really big problem. We can work and hold our own with the Americans. I do not think we have a problem. We have to help other OAS countries to deal with that American elephant.
This motion makes us sound like spoiled kids with a temper tantrum. It is full of holes and would only be accepted by those who believe socialism would ever work any place in the world. We must work to gain respect and equal status with the Americans. We can show leadership. Certainly in the OAS we have a great opportunity to show leadership.
Most of the South American countries are looking to us to show leadership in dealing with the powerful U.S. In NAFTA we have taken a role and will take an increasing role. The WTO will only increase our trade. Hopefully some day Cuba will be part of that.
It would be nice if Cuba would join the other 34 members of the OAS, joining the 21st century in the whole UN reform and the new global community we are going to create. Cuba will be left in the dark ages if it does not change the infrastructure, the government within.
As we have talked about many times, when it comes to trade there are three world areas: the European community; the Americas and Asia-Pacific. Cuba is part of the Americas and we should make it a part. Cuba is a part of our world and therefore we have a responsibility to help it get out of the dark ages of socialism. We do not have sanctions on Cuba now, never will have, and should never have.
Remember, Castro is a dictator. People are held hostage. Socialists have tunnel vision, only seeing one side of the issue. They will never reach a solution by their antagonistic approach. It is like a horse with blinders. One thing the member can take to heart is that sanctions do not really work anyway. They are probably not as effective as he might think.
Finally, to attack a neighbour, our largest trading partner, and strain our relationship for an aging dictator who persecutes his own people for the sake of the impossible socialist utopia makes no sense. I expect the next thing the hon. member might suggest is a special day for Che Guevara.
Private Members' Business
Mark Assad Gatineau—La Lièvre, QC
Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to support the motion put forward by the member for Burnaby-Kingsway regarding Cuba. It is obvious that the Reform member who spoke before me had blinders on when he went to Cuba. It certainly was a change of scenery, but it obviously did not help him change his mind.
I think that the description he gave is exaggerated and that Cubans are not slaves to a dictator. I saw people who are trying to build a future for themselves, who are standing tall instead of being down on their knees as they once were. Cubans have shown a lot of courage. I would like to say that successive governments here in Canada have had the wisdom to stay in contact with Cuba, and to maintain diplomatic and trade relations with that country.
They have done it because Canada is a humanitarian nation that will always stand up for justice. Of course, anybody who has had the opportunity to visit Cuba and to meet with politicians there is well aware of the situation. Those politicians did not try to make us believe that they live in a paradise. They know that they have problems. They know that Cubans are making sacrifices but that they have the motivation to succeed.
The embargo imposed on Cuba by the United States is inhumane and we hope the United States will soon come to its senses and realize that making a whole country suffer is insane. Cubans are trying to protect what they have. They know that they do not live in a paradise, but they stand tall and want to preserve their values.
Private Members' Business
Herb Dhaliwal Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Fisheries and Oceans
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak on this motion. First of all, let me congratulate the member for Burnaby-Kingsway for giving
us an opportunity to speak on this subject. I am going to get right to the major points because time is very short.
We had a great opportunity to visit Cuba in January, myself along with a number of other parliamentarians. We spent a week in Cuba and met with all the major leadership there, including the president, Fidel Castro.
Back on December 5, I wrote to President Bill Clinton and asked him to remove the embargo. The embargo that is put on Cuba by the Americans really does not make sense in the 1990s. What are the reasons for the embargo?
The original reason was security. The Americans said it was for security reasons, but is that still relevant today? Is the superpower of the world, the United States of America, afraid of Cuba? Does it have something to fear? I do not think so. There is no security threat to the Americans from Cuba. That is not a reason to have the embargo.
Is the embargo there because of human rights? Are the Americans concerned that there are human rights violations? If that were the case, surely there are other countries that have serious human rights violations and the U.S. has traded with them and continues to trade with them. Therefore that is not the reason the Americans should have an embargo.
There is no logical reason that an embargo should continue on by the Americans against Cuba. The rest of the world has said that as well. Looking at the UN, 102 countries voted to have the embargo removed and the U.S. has not listened.
In conclusion, I hope we send a strong message from this House that this embargo is unjust, is not necessary and should be removed as soon as possible to help the people of Cuba.
Private Members' Business
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)
The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired. Pursuant to Standing Order 96, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.
Young Offenders Act
Fernand Robichaud for the Minister of Justice
moved that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code, be read the third time and passed.
Young Offenders Act
Sue Barnes London West, ON
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to stand in this Chamber today to talk about the youth justice system in Canada. It is a system that is going through change. It is a system that needs Canadian understanding.
I often have felt over the past years that the public perception is far removed from the reality of the legislation and of the youth and their lives in Canada as they come before the courts every day across this land. Youth 12 to 17 years of age are captured in this act. That represents roughly 8 per cent of our 28 million population.
In today's society it must be very difficult to grow up in Canada. It is much different from when I was a child. It is much different from when many members of this House were children. There is an increasing culture of violence in Canada and I believe Canadians have an increasing appetite to change that culture of violence.
Most kids in Canada today are good kids. We have to start with that premise. Most youth who are faced with drugs, alcohol, violence and fears for the future still turn out fine. They still manage. Their parents cope.
It is difficult to be a parent in this society as well. I have three young children of my own. The first became a teenager a couple of months ago and I have already noticed a change. He questions a lot more. He does not accept things the same way he did when he was five.
It is going to be a challenge for society, a challenge for the child, a challenge for our schools, a challenge for our court systems to cope with the difficult times these children go through.
We talk about violence in society. It is there in the fantasy life of our children. It is there in the video games they play, on TV, and in the news they see every day. And it is not only fantasy. They see the atrocities of Rwanda. They see the ongoing wars in Europe and no peaceful times. They have more knowledge of violence at an immature stage of their development. We have to work against that backdrop to send different signals to counteract the violence, to counteract the prevalence of those signals.
There is public concern both by adults and by youth. They are fearful of crime. They are fearful of young offenders. That is in part, I think, because crime sells papers. We read and hear a lot about crime in the media. Seventy per cent of the population believes everything they read in newspapers. I do not believe everything I read in newspapers and I am sure members of this House know there are often a few details added.
That is the other backdrop we have to deal with. We have to address the reality of the fear of violence and put the fear of violence from youth into perspective. With this piece of legislation and with phase two which will come after it, we have to find a way to address the concerns of Canadians.
The issue of young offenders is a hot topic. Everywhere I go people tell me that they have a problem with the Young Offend-
ers Act and that there is a problem with our youth today. We have some problems and we can do much better.
We also have to realize that 86 per cent of violent crime committed in Canada in 1993 was committed by adults, not youth. Only 14 per cent was committed by youth. Of that 14 per cent, a full 50 per cent was the schoolyard punch and shove. A lot of that comes because of the new reporting and new zero tolerance programs in schools.
There is a gradual rise, an increase in violent crime in youth. Depending on how the stats are read and the time periods of those stats, it can be seen as a significant rise, but it is rising and we have to address that.
In this act we will delineate the very necessary harsher system for violent crime. There is a group of incorrigibles in our country who need to be given a very clear, strong message. This act in part deals with that message.
It also delineates the other side of the coin. It also acknowledges that there are some less serious offences that bring youth before the courts. In fact, 60 per cent of them deal with property crime, often for the first time.
When we talk about the violent offences reported in the papers, on average over a decade there have been about 40 murders per year involving charged youth. Last year there were 22. Somewhere between 115,000 and 130,000 young people go through the young offender system every year. A lot of those youth are saved by our system. We have to acknowledge that.
We have a national law, the Young Offenders Act. We also have provincial and territorial situations that interpret the act differently.
We heard testimony in the justice committee which sat from September through to the end of November last year. The committee sat up to four times a week. We heard many different witnesses. We heard from school associations. We heard from parents. We heard from judges and lawyers and people who deal with youth in the probation and correctional facilities.
We heard from young offenders themselves. Some of them had come through the system and had been saved by it; some had been hurt by it. Their testimony was very revealing and informative. We heard from victims groups. The victims groups are now going to be more thoroughly addressed by this legislation. There will be an allowance for victim impact statements to be made.
This was a difficult task for the three-party committee. All the members sat around the table looking for appropriate solutions. I believe that very little time should be spent in saying what is bad and a lot of time has to be spent in asking what we should be doing better. We have to give credit where credit is due.
If I were a child in trouble with the law in Canada today, there is no doubt in my mind that I would wish I were in trouble in Quebec over any other province. Quebec has interpreted its young offenders acts much more progressively than a lot of other areas in this country and with much better success. It has employed more diversionary tactics away from the courtroom. We can learn from that experience. It is essential that we learn from that experience.
When I first started my law career in 1979 the Juvenile Delinquents Act was in force. I spent many days in courtrooms as duty counsel. Seven-year-olds were in those courtrooms. It is more appropriate now that there is this age. Phase two will revisit the question of age because Canadians want us to. We have had one debate in this House and the age question was defeated. Many people think we should lower the age for young offenders. I do not believe that. I think the ages are appropriate.
We have to consider the level of maturity and understanding of youth today. We are dealing with a very malleable and impressionable age in this Young Offenders Act. That has good and bad points. One bad point is that kids are impulsive. They do not think the consequences through. They think they know everything. They think the Young Offenders Act is a joke and that nothing will happen to them.
They think our system has no teeth. In fact the teeth are the same for youth as they are for adults. It is very important that youth understand that. It is very important that people understand that some of the breaks we give to adults in sentencing are not available for youth.
Many members opposite like to say that if you do the crime, do the time. In youth court that is exactly what happens. There is no mandatory supervision or early parole. When a youth gets three years, he or she serves three years for the most part. It is important to understand that time is a different concept for a child in the developmental years. A year for an adult seems to fly by, but a week drags on for a child.
Today in Canada when our youth come before the courts, of those found guilty roughly one-third will end up with a custodial sentence. I believe, along with many of my colleagues, that a custodial sentence, just locking somebody up and putting them away, is not a good short term answer and certainly is not the best long term approach.
It is important where we do lock people up and lock children up in a custodial setting that we provide some treatment while they are there; make sure that we are not just not warehousing, make sure the time, the money and the effort spent are directed to a change in the behaviour that in the long term will be much more effective in changing society, in safeguarding society, protecting citizens of Canada, and in changing the life of the individual who came before the court. We have to ensure that we
take the time that we take from these children and put it to good use. To me that means behaviour modification.
There will be difficulties because a lot of people say that is being too soft, that is not tough enough. It is a lot tougher to sit down at a program and work through your problems and address those problems than it is to sit and watch a TV set or lull around the house or just pass the time away counting the days until you can be free again, than it is to work with the members of your community, with the members of your family, with the professionals put there for your assistance into changing behaviours.
My community of London, Ontario, works very well with the young people diverted to it through either court order or alternate sentences. In particular I would like to commend the St. Leonard's Society of London because it puts programs into effect in the community that integrate the youth who have problems back into the community, paying back the community in ways that are meaningful in situations in which they are not pulled apart but integrated into the community, often without the community realizing it. Therefore the community helps in restoring their sense of self-worth, their sense of discipline, their sense of accountability. I will give one example of a project that works well in my community for youth and has met with success.
In the spring, summer and fall a group of youths who have come into contact with the law go to plots of land in London and grow vegetables. They work those gardens. They hoe. They do the physical labour. They do the planning. They do the nurturing. They are there helping other people around them with their vegetables gardens. At the end of that time period they deliver the harvest back to the food bank.
One of the people who worked in this project last summer reported to the counsellor who was working with them that it was a very good feeling for him because he had to come to that food bank, he and his family, to get food.
A lot of our youth in trouble with the law are not all necessarily poor. Just like crime goes across all sections of society for adults, it also goes across all sections of society for youth. It is important to understand that the socialization process has an affect on youth.
I am going to point out one thing that has bothered me. Maybe it is so obvious that we do not see the forest for the trees in this point. If I could predict what is the best predictor of getting into trouble with the law in this country it has to be being male. Our federal penitentiaries, all of our penitentiaries, are predominantly housing males.
Recently in the youth system it used to be roughly 80 per cent male, 20 per cent female. We are seeing right now a significant increase in female participation coming before our courts. It is significant and disturbing.
In the committee in phase two when we go on the road after we have these amendments through for our overall evaluation looking at what we can do better, looking at the 10-year review of the act, we can also take a look at what happens in our social culture differently between males and females because there are different results.
This is a minor point but it is certainly very obvious when you look at the number of people using our systems. The problems of females with justice are on the rise admittedly but it is still substantially less than what happens to boys. I believe we are born equal, therefore something has to happen socially.
It does not happen socially, magically when one hits age 12. Something had to go wrong long before that and we have the expertise in this country to understand what went wrong. We can predict with very young children that they are getting into trouble, that there is aggressive behaviour that needs attention.
We have the expertise with our psychologists, teachers, preschool teachers, neighbours and parents. They can see it. What in my opinion is criminal is that they see it and nothing is done. The answer often is the criminal justice system should get in there and fix it.
There are problems putting really young kids in the criminal justice system. The problems have to do with understanding, with process. We have a very formalized process for serious offenders in the criminal justice system. It is necessary because there are rights of individuals, there are rights of youth. That was one of the big changes between the old Juvenile Delinquents Act and the Young Offenders Act, that we did give children rights.
I go back to the analogy of a parent. If my child offends the rules of my household, I do not want to say: "I am going to see you next week and we will talk about it for the first time. Then we are going to adjourn this conversation for a month. Then you come back and another month later we will look at it again and then we will do whatever". I want immediacy. I want some fast action. I want to be able to cope better and faster and that is what is necessary in our youth courts.
They have a tremendous job and when we look at the funnel of people going into this very formalized process, we have to make sure that we are funnelling in the right people, the right youth, to the more formalized, stricter process and we safeguard their rights.
With lesser offences, lesser violations of the community, we should try now through this act to funnel more of them back to the community for it is the responsibility of all of us in that community to fix the problem.
They are not our children to be shipped out of our jurisdictions and sent away and forgotten, hopefully not to return. We know in our federal system part of the reason that we want to do a rehabilitation program is that on fixed term sentencing 80 per cent of the population is going to come back and reintegrate into society. Kids for the most part are all going to be reintegrating into society unless there is an unusual case where there is a murder by a youth who gets bumped to adult court and has to stay most of his life in the adult system. If that is the case, that youth is going to be subject to stricter sanctions than are there right now for the adult who commits an offence of murder.
We have to understand that kids are open to change and how difficult changing behaviour actually is. It has to be done from a base of knowledge. There have to be values put into that base of knowledge that include words like respect and accountability. There also have to be other words present like compassion and understanding.
Retribution is part; rehabilitation is a better part. If one wants to fix in the long term one's society, then one had better put some attention to the detail of changing that underpinning, interdisciplinary approach of why things went wrong. It is not that this offence merits this amount of time and we will only talk about paying back for that crime.
As a society we really have to address more and more crime prevention which is now in the preamble. We have to address long term rehabilitation which is also in the preamble. We have heard evidence at committee level that those things are counterproductive.
I submit that they are not counterproductive. They are going to be a challenging base on which our justice system for our youth will change over time.
People will say we are not tough enough. There are going to be many people in this debate today who will tell us about the tough measures in this bill. I will deal briefly with them because it is important that people understand that we did address the concerns of the public. We have increased from five to seven years the time for those offences. That is a significant increase, especially given the fact that judges throughout Canada today are not even going to the maximums on the times allocated to them under the old provisions.
We have to talk about who needs to know when the youth gets in trouble. That also was a concern of the public. It wants to be aware of who is offending and why this is happening in its communities.
Again, we have taken a responsible and reasonable approach in this area. The area of providing information about offenders has been widened, has been increased. The professionals, the school officials, the welfare officials, the people who are dealing with the best interests of that offender will have an ability to get that information.
This is far removed from branding a child by a label and giving broad based public information and shaming some child back into the right course which I have heard advocated in this Chamber. That is not what we are doing. We are going to have judicious use of information. If there is a need for protection of the public there will be a vehicle through the act and through the court system to get a wider distribution of information. That is necessary in some circumstances.
I want to take a minute to make sure that I talk about another provision of the bill. We have had the ability since 1908 to take a child and move him up to the next level, to adult court. In this bill we have moved a further step. We have reversed the onus for some 16 and 17 year old offenders. It is called a presumptive transfer. It is saying that when one commits five very serious offences in this country one is going to be taken very seriously by the system: murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault and one other in the list.
Basically in those instances we are going to make the young offender prove to a judge that he should not be transferred, that the youth system is a better system to deal with him. The presumption will be a reversal. I think that is very harsh but these are very big offences. The reality is that people need to understand that the options will be there.
We in committee heard much testimony on presumptive transfers. It is not a concept of reverse onus that I am very comfortable with. I think it should be used sparingly. Over time it has been used sparingly in our systems. It is expensive. It will create delays. It makes process very time consuming.
It is necessary in some cases but what is important is again the delineation between harsh, strong, compassionate and behaviour modification. We have streamlined very effectively in this bill two different paths that are available. Judges will have to say why they do not choose the path of community if it is not one of those very strong offences.
It is not only the offence, though. It always has to be the individual. If I say that theft under $200 is a summary conviction offence, maybe that is not that serious in the magnitude of the Criminal Code. But if it is the 15th time there has been theft under $200, maybe stronger intervention with different tactics relating to behaviour have to be changed.
This act will still give a judge the ability to look beyond the charge, to look at all the circumstances. Consent to treatment will be changed and the ability to put more programming before an individual will also be there.
I can only reiterate it is an ongoing process that will come with phase two. By the spring the Standing Committee of Justice and Legal Affairs will take the time to go into communities and talk to those groups that have knowledge and interest in youth. We will be looking for better partnerships with the people who are involved, who have strengths in these areas.
At the London Family Court Clinic in my riding they have developed a handbook for schools funded through the department of health which was distributed to all superintendents of school boards across Canada. It dealt with integrating anti-violence messages into the curriculum from the low level grades right up to high school. It has been discovered that integrating these messages into the lesson plan on a daily basis can have a dramatic effect on violent attitudes. Studies are being done all the time and if these situations are not taken care of they will show up in our prisons later on.
During these rounds of testimony we are hearing from people who are very concerned and have different ways of looking at their problems. Specifically I think of some of the First Nation witnesses that came before the committee. They talked about sentencing circles and appropriate ways of dealing with corrections for their people. It is quite different.
They do not want to see the overpopulation of their youth in our prison systems. They have an alternate system they can engage. Perhaps in our sentencing it is time for us to look at some of those alternate systems. When we are talking about sentencing circles for native youth, we are talking about responsibility to the elders, responsibility and reparation to the community. The youth are accountable before their peers and the immediate family group.
In phase two we need to figure out a meaningful way to get parents involved in their children's lives again and to restore the harmony that has been lost in a household. We have to know that justice is more than punishment. Justice for youth has to be meaningful and include reinvolvement, rehabilitation, reintegration into a community that cares for these children and wants them back as tax paying, hard working, responsible adults. We want to make sure we have more saves than losses.
Along with my colleagues I look forward to spending time trying to figure out how we can develop better systems for youth. Bill C-37 goes a long way in addressing the concerns of the public. Violent crime needs to be addressed more strongly but we must leave a door open so that our communities can deal more meaningfully with the youth justice system.
Young Offenders Act
Pierrette Venne Saint-Hubert, QC
Mr. Speaker, the subject before the House today is the third reading of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code.
This bill was tabled by the Minister of Justice on June 2 last year. The Bloc Quebecois was frank and forthright in its criticism. During the first debate, I said that I would not vote for a bill that tries to punish crime by creating criminals. I moved that the House decline to give second reading to Bill C-37, the purpose of which is repressive. Unfortunately, my motion was defeated.
Bill C-37 is part of the Liberal government's policy on youth crime. This strategy has two components. Bill C-37 is the phase one of the proposed reform, while phase two is to be a comprehensive review of the system by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.
On June 6, 1994, the Minister of Justice said that he had asked the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to undertake a comprehensive review of the Young Offenders Act and of the youth justice system in Canada in general. He went on to invite Canadians to take part in the discussion on the subject.
The Minister of Justice should have requested the review before tabling this bill. I have already said that the Minister of Justice is a minister of consultation, and in this particular case, he is the minister of indiscriminate consultation. Whether these consultations are held before or after a decision is made is irrelevant, since they will have no effect on his decision.
The minister proposes to change some important aspects of legislation that subsequently will be the subject of a comprehensive review by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. The Minister of Justice has put the cart before the horse. At this rate, the Liberal government's strategy will produce a law lacking any consistency it may have had.
The Minister of Justice was in such a hurry to table a bill in response to increasing pressure from some members of his own caucus and from the Reform Party that he forgot to apply the most elementary principles of logic, according to which changes should not be made until one has a full understanding of the problem. The Minister of Justice panicked. He decided to amend legislation without realizing what was involved.
The Young Offenders Act has been amended before. On May 15, 1992, a major amendment on sentencing came into effect. This amendment increased the maximum sentence in youth court for a young person convicted of murder from three to five years. Today, the Minister of Justice wants to increase sentencing. They would be increased to seven years in the case of second degree murder and to ten years in the case of first degree murder. Furthermore, the minister is going after a very specific group of young offenders-the 16 and 17 year olds.
They will now have to prove, if they are accused of violent crimes, that they should be tried in youth court, otherwise, they will be sent to the court that would normally have jurisdiction-adult court. This reversal of the burden of proof means, in other words, that an adolescent may no longer be considered as such,
depending on the type of crime he has committed. In addition, his criminal liability increases, not as a function of his age, either, but as a function of the crime.
However, the preamble to the Young Offenders Act seems clear, and the one to Bill C-37 is even more so. This section provides that young persons should not in all instances be held accountable in the same manner or suffer the same consequences for their behaviour as adults. How do we explain this nonsense? On the one hand, it is agreed that degree of responsibility should be measured in terms of age, on the other, 16 and 17 year olds are being treated like adults.
Does the minister have some hidden statistics to which only he has access? Do they indicate a disturbing increase in violent crime among 16 and 17 year olds? If the answer is yes, let him show them to us, because he needs a lot of justification for proposing such a bill.
The approach of the Minister of Justice is similar to that of the members of the Reform Party. He supports the member for New Westminster-Burnaby, who stated the following in the House and I quote: "The juvenile justice system in its operation should mirror the adult system as much as possible if it is to be understandable by the community and develop general deterrents".
What is the point of having an act for young offenders when a third of those it targets could be treated as adults? We might just as well propose revoking it. At the rate things go, this could well happen in the very near future.
I shiver at the idea of a single system touted by the Reform Party. If we listen to the member for New Westminster-Burnaby, we should label young offenders in kindergarten. On June 6, he made the following statement: "Violent patterns in children are identifiable at the kindergarten level. By identifying young offenders before they graduate into the teen world of crime set before them, we drastically reduce the number of young adults we are forced to deal with six years down the road. This is social engineering at its best". I wonder where he took his courses on social engineering.
The minister did not bother to check the impact of the 1992 amendments. He did not concern himself with statistics on young people and criminality. He did not take the time to examine how all those involved were applying the Young Offenders Act. If he had, he would have understood that many of the problems stem from how the act is being implemented, and not from the act itself. But no, the minister once again caved in to pressure. The winds of hysteria made the Liberal reed bend.
Bill C-37 is premature. It cannot answer questions that have never been asked. The justice committee proposed some amendments following its study. Most of the 28 amendments it adopted were minor, and regarded style, terminology and concordance of the texts in both official languages. Some of them were more substantial, however. I do not intend to dwell on these points, but they are worth mentioning, if only to define what we are debating today.
To start, the first amendment removes aggravated assault from the list of offences leading to automatic transfer to adult court. In this way, we eliminate the danger that prosecutors lay heavier charges than the evidence available at the time would support. Without the amendment, a young person could almost automatically be transferred to adult court but be found guilty of a lesser crime which would not have merited such a transfer. That was only the lesser of the evils, since automatic transfer in principle remains intact.
The second amendment pertaining to transfers allows for parents to be heard before their child is transferred to adult court. This becomes one more element for the judge to consider. The committee also agreed that in regard to proceedings brought before a judge and jury, the Young Offenders Act is applicable to young persons. Measures of the Young Offenders Act will therefore take precedence over provisions of the Criminal Code in regard to protecting privacy. The amendment emphasizes the young person's right to legal representation when absent from proceedings as a result of poor conduct or when his competence to stand trial is being assessed.
These are significant amendments proposed by the committee. Since these amendments do not in any way alter the repressive nature of this bill or change the transfer procedure to adult court, all the while retaining the severity of sentences, I cannot believe that we are now debating an improved version of what was presented to us last June.
The Liberal government has tried to smooth things over by suggesting a few amendments at the report stage. In committee and in this House, we have stressed a great many times the procedural problems created by Bill C-37.
By increasing sentences for murder, the minister has given no thought to the confusion he will create. Section 11(f) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates, and I quote, "Any person charged with an offence has the right to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment".
Thus, the justice minister would increase the sentences for first and second degree murder without considering for a moment that a young person normally subject to the Young Offenders Act, which does not allow for trial before a judge and
jury, in fact has the right to a trial before a judge and jury under the Canadian constitution.
There is no provision for bridging the gap between the Young Offenders Act, which governs the appearance in court and the request for bail, and the Criminal Code, which governs crime proceedings in which the accused can choose to appear before a judge alone or before a judge and jury, while a magistrate under the Criminal Code will oversee the preliminary hearing if there is one.
The minister's feeble response to this nonsense and legal vacuum was to propose a hasty amendment at the report stage. This amendment details the Criminal Code provisions that will apply to preliminary hearings, when young people accused of murder are transferred to youth court.
No one at the Department of Justice had a stroke of genius. Although the amendment was intended to improve a lame bill, it creates more problems than it solves. Once the young person chooses or is deemed to have chosen a judge and jury trial, the preliminary hearing will be held before the youth court. Fine, but when does the defendant make the choice? When he appears before the youth court or after the preliminary hearing, when he can still choose to be tried before a judge alone?
What about the young person who is transferred to adult court? Will the preliminary hearing still be held before the youth court and will he then be summoned to appear before the adult court?
Given the undeniable seriousness of the offences listed in the section on transfer to adult court, the young person will be held in custody while awaiting trial. However, the young person is entitled to a bail hearing, which would allow him to be free on bail until legal proceedings are over.
Before which court and when will the bail hearing be held? If the election occurs when the accused appears in court, as is often the case, will the bail hearing be held before a higher court? As we can guess, the young person may well find himself in several jurisdictions even before being summoned to trial. He could appear before the youth court, have his bail hearing before the adult court, return to the youth court for his preliminary hearing, elect a judge and jury trial, and be summoned to appear before a superior court of criminal jurisdiction.
If you have followed me so far, you will understand why this bill and its amendments are nothing but hogwash to create a situation that only judges will be able to untangle, judges who should not have to take on a responsibility that falls to the legislator in the first place.
But when the legislative power does not do its job, then we have no choice but to defer to the judiciary, with the risks this may involve. Instead of the legislator, you now have jurisprudence deciding procedure and substantive law.
Bill C-37 is typical of the kind of bill moved by a government that is reactionary and repressive. This is the coercive approach this government is taking to respond to pressures from a misinformed public and a right wing group that manipulates it.
Bill C-37 cannot be justified either in terms of substance or in terms of the purposes it is claimed to have. Far from providing the appropriate remedy, it promises on the contrary to be a major source of procedural problems. It increases the costs to the provinces and substantially changes the role of rehabilitation centers in Quebec.
We do recognize, on this side of the House, that the rate of juvenile crime is cause for concern. Crime creates fear and jeopardizes the quality of life in our neighbourhoods and our cities. But it seems to us that the way juvenile crime is perceived is quite far removed from the reality around us.
Reformers and some Liberal members are blind to this reality. To justify their repressive stance, they cite extreme cases that reflect in no way present trends.
The inflammatory remarks made by the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby on June 6 have certainly made many people jump. He said, and I quote: "We will be Her Majesty's loyal, constructive opposition with advocacy for improvements to Bill C-37 based on what the community wants". And he went on to say: "Reformers are the true opposition -Let the people speak and Reformers will bring their voice to this House".
Not only do Reformers not know how many seats they have in this House, but they crow over the idea of being the only sensible representatives of the electorate.
Instead of caving into pressure from his colleagues and their confederates in the Reform Party, the Minister of Justice should take a closer look at the report by criminologist Julian Roberts, which was commissioned by his own department.
Professor Roberts' study was about the public's perception and knowledge of crime and justice. This criminologist concluded, for instance, that crime is a serious problem in Canadian society that gives rise to a great deal of concern and controversy about the kind of preventive policies we should implement. However, before determining whether the public supports those policies, we must establish what the public really knows about crime and criminal justice.
Professor Roberts wondered about the general public's perception of the Young Offenders Act. His remarks are an eye opener: "Canadians have a very negative opinion of the legisla-
tion but are not very familiar with its provisions and impact. They do not understand the underlying principles or the specific provisions of the legislation and probably see it as another example of clemency being shown by the criminal justice system. The public and certain criminal justice professionals are wrong to think that the crime rate can be reduced by harsher sentencing".
One of the avowed objectives of Bill C-37 is to provide better protection for the public, and the means chosen to achieve this is to extend sentences for young offenders. What the Minister of Justice is proposing is the exact opposite of what all studies on the subject recommend. Those studies were done, in fact, by his own department. It is surprising, to say the least, that the minister should go the route of repressive measures to deal with crime, if only to impress the public. No one in Quebec is impressed.
Dealing with crime is not just a matter of sanctions or legal procedures. Bill C-37 is an exercise in futility. There are no statistics to justify a legislative change of this kind. Since the bill deals more specifically with young persons of 16 or 17 who have committed serious crimes, one would expect the statistics to show a disturbing increase in the crime rate among this population.
Nothing could be further from the truth. A review of the records held by youth courts since the Young Offenders Act came into effect reveals that the percentage of cases heard by the court which involve this population has not varied.
Another example of statistics the Minister of Justice appears to be ignoring is to be found in a document on homicide in Canada put out by the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. It reveals that 35 young people between the ages of 12 and 17 were charged with homicide in 1993. This includes first and second degree murder, manslaughter and infanticide. The figure represents a 40 per cent reduction over 1992. Only 6 per cent of the individuals charged with homicide in 1993 were young people as against 9 per cent in 1992.
How can we justify increasing the sentences for first and second degree murder, and in such a draconian fashion, when the trend is decreasing? How can we justify such a repressive approach? Is the aim of the exercise to impress?
Nowhere does the literature indicate any effect of lengthening sentences on deterring or fighting crime. For example, robbery is liable to a sentence of life imprisonment, but statistics indicate that the percentage of robberies remains stable. The minister, however, is increasing the maximum sentence for first degree murder from five to ten years and the maximum sentence for second degree murder from three to seven years. This increase and the new provisions on parole eligibility are creating some rather extraordinary situations.
It should be noted right off that the starting date used to determine the length of detention varies according to whether a young person is tried in adult court or in youth court. Thus the confusion is compounded.
The most ludicrous situation is as follows: a 15-year old found guilty of first degree murder would be eligible for parole after five years in prison if judged in adult court. Yet this same 15-year old, if judged in youth court, would have to serve a six year prison term before being paroled.
In spite of the new measures regarding transfer, a young person in this position would do well to keep quiet, in the hope of being transferred to adult court. Ironically, he could be released sooner that way.
On the subject of transfer, the justice minister has drawn up a list of offences for which the offender may be transferred to adult court. It is odd that the justice minister has not increased sentences for such offences he himself calls serious. This list of offences seems entirely arbitrary to me and entails the real danger that crown prosecutors might be tempted to increase the severity of the charge for the sole purpose of reversing the burden of proof.
As I have already indicated, the Standing Committee on Justice has dropped aggravated assault from this list. The danger remains for other offences, however, such as in cases of aggravated sexual assault.
I would like to stress at this point the inconsistency of the bill as pertains to multiple offences. Such situations are very common, unfortunately. Consider for example a young person charged with both murder and robbery. On the count of murder, the burden of proof in respect of transfer rests with the young person, and on the other charge, with the crown. How does the justice minister envision the application of this procedure? No solution is to be found anywhere in this bill.
Will there be a joint inquiry exclusively in regard to transfers? If so, who would begin producing evidence? The young person in the preceding example might find himself in two separate jurisdictions in respect of the same events. This situation could lead us to make contradictory decisions. Imagine for example if he were acquitted in one jurisdiction and found guilty in the other.
If the minister had bothered to properly analyze the amendments he is proposing, he would have realized that the mere act of reversing the burden of proof coupled with the increase in sentences would turn the whole system upside down.
Bill C-37 ignores the fundamental differences between Quebec and the rest of Canada. Once again, the federal government is trying to impose legislation Canada-wide, without taking into consideration regional differences and systems already in place. The fact that the Minister of Justice does not acknowledge that our system is distinct is not so bad, but he adds insult to injury
when he proposes a bill whose administration falls under provincial jurisdiction and whose reforms will have to be paid for by the provinces.
If the Minister of Justice had done things right and had undertaken a general study of the penal system for young people before amending the law, he would have noticed that Quebec does things differently. He could have improved his reforms by copying Quebec. The Quebec Bar Association presented a thorough paper to the Standing Committee on Justice, which summed up the situation in Quebec.
In an eloquent passage from the paper, the association said: "Young offenders in Quebec can take advantage of an alternative measure which entails referring the file to the youth protection branch. An agreement can be proposed and alternative measures imposed, such as reimbursement of the victim or community work. In fact, close to 47 per cent of all cases take this route. All other cases in Quebec are heard by the youth court. Once the order of the court is issued, the health and social services network carries out the sentence. Quebec's choice of sending these young offenders to institutions reporting to the Ministry of Health and Social Services illustrates its policy in this area, the ultimate goal being medium and long term rehabilitation rather than a repression oriented panacea which would probably only protect society in the short term".
That is how things are done in Quebec. I can already hear Reform members accuse us of being too soft and encouraging juvenile delinquency. They should know that the juvenile delinquency rate in Quebec is the second lowest in all of Canada. If passed, Bill C-37 would disrupt all Quebec institutions now focused on rehabilitation.
Extending sentences for murder would mobilize rehabilitation resources for longer periods. Quebec institutions will focus more on protecting society by putting young offenders away instead of rehabilitating them. On the other hand, youth court trial applications by 16 and 17-year-olds who have committed violent crimes and appeals of decisions to dismiss such applications will result in additional delays, during which the young person will be held temporarily in a rehabilitation centre. This is compounded by the delays caused by holding a trial before judge and jury.
Did the Minister of Justice try to find out if institutional resources are prepared to accommodate these new clients? I remind him that Quebec has chosen to place these young people in the care of the protection and rehabilitation system. Quebec's Youth Protection Act is a model piece of legislation which reflects a forward looking policy and should be copied by the other provinces. This approach was favoured long before the federal Young Offenders Act was implemented. The rehabilitation centre network took over the facilities used as youth correctional centres a long time ago.
Today, the Minister of Justice is bluntly asking Quebec to change its policy. He is asking Quebec to backtrack and convert these rehabilitation centres into ordinary prisons.
Quebec uses a different approach and methods. Convincing results show that we are on the right track and should be held up as an example. Faced with a complex problem, we opted for a multidisciplinary approach and methods that have proven effective. All in all, the Minister of Justice should have had a better look at the Quebec experience before proposing his reform.
Business Of The House
Kingston and the Islands
Peter Milliken Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I think you will find consent in the House for the following motion:
That, notwithstanding the Order made February 16, 1995, during the proceedings in the Chamber on February 23, 1995, two television cameras, one operated by American networks and one operated by Canadian networks, shall be permitted on the floor of the House in locations below the Bar of the House, as directed by the Sergeant-at-Arms.
(Motion agreed to.)
The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code, be read the third time and passed.
Young Offenders Act
Jack Ramsay Crowfoot, AB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in third reading of Bill C-37.
I begin by saying unequivocally that I am opposed to the bill because it does absolutely nothing to address the causes of rising criminal activity among the youth of our country. It does nothing to protect our sons and our daughters from the vicious attacks launched by their peers in school yards and on our streets. It does not expand the Young Offenders Act to include 10 and 11 year olds. It does not mandate the raising of 16 and 17 year olds to adult court, except through the reverse onus proposition that I will address later. Its disclosure clause is insufficient to provide members of the public with the information they need to protect themselves from violent young offenders, including sex offenders that reside within our society.
The young faces in Canada's courts and jails are like masks. They hide society's ugliest scars: poverty, drug and alcohol
addiction, sexual abuse, physical abuse, neglect, learning disabilities, fetal alcohol syndrome, racial and sexual discrimination.
I am sympathetic to the many social adversities that confront the young people of the country. However it is not the role of the justice system to address what lies beneath these veils. It is not within the boundaries of justice to treat the social problems that are the root cause of crime.
I believe this government and past governments have tried to mould the justice system to deal with the causes of crime. They have tried to make the system address factors it was never designed to deal with and they have tried to fool Canadians into believing this can be achieved.
The justice system cannot prevent dysfunctional families. The justice system cannot reverse the ever increasing high level of taxation. It cannot change the fact that 50 cents out of every dollar earned by a mother or father is taken by various levels of government. It cannot stop the unacceptable level of unemployment. The justice system cannot prevent the negative aspects of society that lead to crime.
The areas where these factors must be addressed are the same areas that are responsible for creating them: poverty, a lack of money to meet the cost of living. This exists when a person is unemployed or underemployed. This falls within the human resources development minister's area. Providing Canadians with better employment prospects will help alleviate poverty. We all know how successful the minister has been in this regard with his social policy reforms.
Taxation, the single most debilitating financial factor in the country, falls squarely on the shoulders of the Minister of National Revenue, while economic conditions such as interest rates, the falling dollar and the ballooning deficit that continue to pressure Canada are responsibilities of the Minister of Finance.
The greatest threat to the economic stability of the family is the unrestrained power of governments to tax away the wealth of the individual. This has been going on at an enormous rate over the last 25 years.
The Minister of Health has on her plate responsibility for dealing with the problems of alcoholism and drug abuse which destroy families and greatly affect our youth. Provisions for social services and programs designed to provide counselling for families and youth remain within provincial jurisdiction.
These ministries are responsible for dealing with the negative aspects of society, the root causes of crime. The objective of the justice system is the protection of society. The justice system was designed for one purpose and one purpose only: to protect society against those individuals who move toward a life of crime.
It was designed to protect Canadians from people who lack self-discipline and respect for others. This objective can only be met through deterrence and the application of just penalties. Deterrence means ensuring penalties or the consequences of criminal behaviour are sufficient to thwart criminal activity. When crime occurs the justice system must provide penalties proportional to the offence which will protect innocent individuals within society.
The attempts by the social engineers over the last 20 years to create a dual animal of some sort within the justice system has created a sieve. It has corrupted the justice system to the point where the rights of the criminal supersede the rights of the victim, where there is absurdly light sentencing, out of touch judges, easy parole, deportation orders that are an utter joke, and an absolutely ludicrous belief that murderers should not have to serve their full life sentence.
This two-tier animal fostered by a bleeding heart mentality has led to the demise of the traditional justice system whereby it is no longer protecting the lives and the property of Canadian citizens.
It is very apparent that Bill C-37 does not move to discard this problem. In fact it reinforces its foundation rooted in the parent act, the Young Offenders Act. The first clause of Bill C-37 reads:
(a) crime prevention is essential to the long-term protection of society and requires addressing the underlying causes of crime by young persons and developing multi-disciplinary approaches to identifying and effectively responding to children and young persons at risk of committing offending behaviour in the future;
Bill C-37, as is the Young Offenders Act, is the product of an attitude that criminals are not bad people, that they are all victims of poverty and a ruthless, competitive society who do not require punishment but the infinite application of some mysterious panacea that has never been found or defined.
The remedies are not defined within Bill C-37 as they are not defined within the confines of other justice bills. Both the causes and the treatment of criminal behaviour are beyond the scope of justice.
A counsellor and youth worker in the youth correctional system of Quebec and Alberta has provided profiles of the young offender who came under his care. He said that the kids came from homes where one or both of their natural parents did not want to have them around. Many came from single parent families, women on welfare or working at low wage jobs who lost control of their children. Many were brought up by grandparents, uncles, aunts or foster parents.
Common to all these histories was the impression that the young inmates were raised in homes that were emotional junk yards with fighting, screaming, drunkenness or drug abuse,
violence and neglect. "Definitely", the author says, "not a warm and fuzzy place".
These kids grew up angry. No matter how tough, no matter how lenient, no matter what their rehabilitative efforts may be, the Young Offenders Act and likewise Bill C-37 cannot change the hostile environment that bred many of our young offenders. That environment can only be changed by powers that fall outside the justice system.
The government can move against the influences in society that attack the moral fibre of our youth, influences such as pornography. We have in Canada peep shows where adults go into a room for a fee and watch naked women dancing and gyrating through a peep hole. We have naked dancing and lap dancing in bars where our daughters are enticed into so-called occupations that contribute to moral decline.
I quote from a letter I received from one of my constituents. "Last night", he states, which was October 15, 1994, "I went to pick up my daughter and turned on CBC radio. Usually the program `Ideas' is on. The show was about female ejaculation. In the five minutes I listened to it before picking up my daughter, a woman was describing self-stimulation in front of mirrors and how exciting it was to ejaculate in front of the mirrors".
The government can do something about this kind of thing and I ask that it do so. I ask the justice minister and the minister of culture to look into this particular radio broadcast. If these facts are accurate, as I have been assured they are, those responsible should be disciplined and this type of broadcasting should be eliminated from the CBC, which is financed by the taxpayers.
These are areas the government can do something about. Yet members across the way refuse to act in these areas that attack the moral fibre of our society, particularly our youth.
Until the negative aspects of society that breed delinquent behaviour are addressed, this pretence that the Minister of Justice is getting tough on crime will continue. I suggest it is only a pretence. Until the minister moves to eliminate those areas within the Criminal Code that facilitate violence, the pretence will remain.
If the minister is serious about getting tough on crime, why does he not amend the legislation that allows a statutory release of violent offenders such as Mr. Auger, who is the prime suspect in the murder of Melanie Carpenter, after serving only two-thirds of their sentence? Why not move to stop that type of release of violent offenders into society? The members of the parole system advised those in charge that Mr. Auger was still dangerous and would likely offend again.
Why does the minister not act? He could move quickly to plug that loophole. He would certainly have the support of the members within the Reform Party caucus. Why did the Minister of Justice vote against the private member's bill eliminating section 745 of the Criminal Code which gives murderers an opportunity for early parole?
Why is he voting in favour of the criminal and against a safer society? Will the Minister of Justice change his vote on this bill if he is serious about getting tough on crime? I ask all members of the House, what do they believe is a fair and just penalty for the premeditated murder of an innocent person such as Melanie Carpenter?
I can support portions of this bill. The minister has obviously been listening, if only somewhat, to the thousands of Canadians who have demanded toughening of the Young Offenders Act. Although I believe that many Canadians were looking for significant change, as were we in the Reform Party, not what we consider to be a charade.
The amendments contained in Bill C-37 are not significant. They are nothing more than a pretence that the minister is dealing with the problem at hand. I believe that people like Stu Garrioch, the father of a boy who was stabbed in the stomach with a hunting knife by a 15-year-old and the 195,000 people who signed his petition want to see major reform, not mere tinkering and amending.
The same could be said for Donna Cadman, whose 16-year old son was fatally stabbed by another youth on a street corner in Surrey in 1992. She is asking that all violent offenders be tried in adult court. We ask the same.
Yvette Steck, a 27-year old housewife in Fort St. John, B.C., has been pushing her community to call for a registry of sex offenders. She was motivated by the revelation that she had been leaving her seven-year old daughter at a neighbour's home where a convicted child molester was staying. On a petition demanding that molesters lose their right to privacy after victimizing a child, Mrs. Steck collected 6,500 signatures.
An estimated 10,000 people demonstrated on Parliament Hill on September 24, 1994 calling for crime control, not gun control. On September 25, 1994, 3,000 people marched in a rally alongside Bob Niven, whose 31-year old son was beaten to death by two teens, demanding tough reform of the Young Offenders Act.
In November last year 1,500 people converged on the lawns of Parliament Hill. They came out of respect for Anne-Marie Bloskie of Barry's Bay, whose skull was smashed after being sexually assaulted by a 17-year-old. They came out of respect for Melaine Deroches who was beaten to death with a wrench in Kemptville by a 14-year old classmate, for Marwan Harb, the Hull teenager who was stabbed to death during an after school
rumble with three teens, and for Nicholas Battersby who was shot on Elgin Street.
They came to mark the fifth birthday of the late Joshua Baillie, a young accident victim struck dead by a youth out joy riding in a stolen van. They came out to say: "Enough is enough. We want significant change, not just tinkering and mere amendments".
The boy who sexually assaulted and murdered Ann-Marie earned three years in jail. Melaine's killer received a three-year term in youth custody. Young, innocent Joshua's assassin, after pleading guilty to criminal negligence, got one year in custody plus one year probation.
A couple of weeks ago 3,000 people from B.C. mourned the death of Melanie Carpenter and thousands more people are rallying around a campaign organized by the Carpenter family demanding reform of the criminal justice system.
Bill C-37 is a half-hearted attempt to address the concerns of Canadians. This bill, although propelled by the grassroots and not the ivory towers of this nation, does not meet the needs of Canadians. Why has the the minister not been consistent in his adherence to the wishes of Canadians? Where are all the petitions containing thousands of signatures?
Where have all the protests been held calling for the registration of rifles and shotguns? How many people marched on Parliament demanding an outright ban on handguns? I have not seen them.
I have travelled throughout the west and northern Ontario. My colleagues have been in the east. We have witnessed gathering upon gathering of thousands of people. We have in our possession petitions from every part of Canada containing thousands of signatures protesting the minister's decision to compel law-abiding citizens to register their rifles and shotguns. Yet on and forward goes the minister.
The minister is inconsistent in his adherence to the wishes of Canadians. He is also inconsistent in his approach to criminal justice. Although he has moved to increase sentencing in relation to gun offences, he was reluctant to increase sentences for youth criminal offences.
I commend the justice minister for increasing the penalty for murder from five to ten years for young offenders. However, how does he equate 10 years for murder with the same penalty of 10 years for deliberately neglecting to register a rifle or shotgun? Does this make sense? Is this fair and reasonable? What do the inconsistencies in this type of legislation do to further attack the credibility of the present justice system?
During the 1993 election campaign I heard constituents in my riding expressing concerns about the prevalence of crime, particularly about youth crime. Every day I receive letters asking for our help in restoring some sense of sanity to a justice system that seems to have run amok.
I hear about the deficit and the debt and the runaway taxes imposed by previous governments. I hear about the mounting cynicism toward politicians, particularly those at the federal level.
During the campaign people in my riding revealed that they felt betrayed. The imposition of the much hated GST and wasteful spending habits were at the root of their cynicism prior to the 1993 campaign. Today it is the result of a lack of substantive action on the part of the Liberal government.
During the campaign I did not hear one person, nor do I today hear people expressing concern that we do not have enough firearms control. In fact the Maclean's Decima poll indicated only 5 per cent of Canadians felt violent crime was due to a lack of sufficient and adequate gun control measures. However, I did hear and continue to hear that people are concerned about their safety. They are worried about the alarming rate of youth crime, particularly violent crime.
Bill C-37 is not the answer for the rising rate of crime among our youth. The answer is a complete review, an overhaul of the Young Offenders Act with a goal of restoring the traditional role of justice to our system.
Reform wants a number of amendments to the Young Offenders Act which in the absence of a complete review will be the only way to satisfy us that the protection of society will prevail. We have requested that the Young Offenders Act cover youth aged 10 to 15 inclusively rather than 12 to 17 which currently is the case.
I am sure members are aware that the criminal justice system cannot hold accountable youth aged 10 and 11 years for any of the crimes they might commit. That is unacceptable. We believe that there are too many 10 and 11 year olds committing crimes for which the police cannot charge nor prosecute them. As for older offenders we believe that youths age 16 and 17 are old enough to assume full responsibility for their crimes and should in all cases and in particular in the case of violent offences be tried as adults.
Under Bill C-37 the justice minister has proposed that 16 and 17 year old youths who are charged with murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, and aggravated assault be tried in adult court unless an application is granted for the youth's case to be heard in youth court. The onus is now on the young offender to demonstrate why he or she should not be tried in adult court and the court will have the discretion to accept or reject the application.
This amendment creates a hearing within a hearing. It will cause delays and add to the backlog of cases currently before the courts. It will be more costly. We reject the suggestion and the amendment.
The Reform Party had proposed increased sentencing. Therefore I support the provisions contained in Bill C-37 to have sentences for first degree murder increased from five to ten years. We had also recommended that amendments to the Young Offenders Act include permission to publish the names of young offenders who have been convicted of any offence involving the use of violence, who contravene any narcotic control act or food and drug act or who have been convicted previously of any two offences.
Bill C-37 has failed to provide this amendment. It is perhaps the greatest failing of the bill. I firmly believe that the publication of the names of young offenders is essential for the protection of Canada's innocent children.
For example, a school principal may not know that one of his students has been convicted numerous times for drug trafficking. A parent may not know that his child is associating with a offender convicted of a series of rapes. The young man next door who has been entrusted to babysit children could be another Jason Gamache.
Who should we be protecting, the vast majority of Canadians who are law-abiding, hard-working, caring people who will continue to be the building blocks for a productive society or the local high school's drug dealer and unknown rapist in the neighbourhood? I do not think that is a hard question to answer. Undoubtedly it is these offenders who must be made known to society.
We are not talking about the youth who makes a small mistake and comes in contact with the justice system on a single occasion. The best interest of the public may not be served by publishing the details. We propose and firmly believe that in order to make community protection the number one priority, the publishing of violent young offenders' names must not be prevented by law as it is today and continued in Bill C-37.
A successful justice system cannot have as its base the withholding and concealment of the truth. The names of victims and the horrific details of the crimes perpetrated on them are open to public scrutiny but the names of the offenders remain a state secret. The young faces in Canada's courts and jails are the masks that hide society's ugliest scars, scars that will fester if they are not exposed.
The Reform Party on behalf of our many constituents has asked the government to establish a registry of child sex abusers. The government has provided its typical response to a request of this nature. It knows there is a problem. It knows that Canadians want something done about it. It has promised to study the issue and consult the proper authorities. In other words, the government is dragging its feet and in the meantime children will continue to be sexually abused and violently attacked by repeat offenders that the government is guilty of protecting by refusing the public the information it needs to protect our children and our society from these perpetrators.
In an effort to understand the need for a child registry Health Canada, Justice Canada and the Ministry of the Solicitor General commissioned a study. The federal ad hoc interdepartmental working group on information systems on child sex offenders prepared a discussion paper.
What was the conclusion of that study? We need another study and we need further consultation. Also contained in that paper is information which clearly indicates both the need for a child registry and for the publishing of young offenders' names.
The report states: "Statistics compiled on all violent crime committed against children in Canada indicate that young offenders, those aged 12 to 17, account for approximately 23 per cent of all accused offenders. Further information indicates that from 17 to 29 per cent of those accused of child sexual abuse are under the age of 18".
It is important to note that this same age group only represents 7.9 per cent of the Canadian population. The report states that studies have repeatedly indicated that sex offenders have one of the highest rates of recidivism of any criminal group, with an estimated 40 per cent reoffending within five years of release. Furthermore, research examining the effectiveness of offender treatment programs has shown limited results.
Did the Minister of Justice not read the report of the federal ad hoc group? If he had, he would know that sex offenders reoffend. If he could do simple calculations he would know from the stats that between 17 and 29 per cent of sex offences in Canada are committed by young offenders. If 40 per cent of that 17 to 29 per cent reoffend, sadistic acts will continue to be committed against the most innocent and vulnerable members of our society. And the government could have prevented this by releasing their names to society. If they had read their own report and acted immediately on its findings, unspeakable acts on our children could have been thwarted.
Bill C-37 does not undertake to protect our children from the Jason Gaumaches of this world. It does not protect us from the faceless, nameless individuals poised behind the mask of adolescence.
Furthermore, the weight is still balanced in favour of the young offender in this country. The protection of society, the
protection of our children, is still outweighed by the so-called rights of violent and delinquent young Canadians.
All we are asking is that the scales be evened out, that the rights of the victims, the rights of our children be given priority. We ask that the protection of society outweigh the protection of violent young offenders who have no respect for the lives and rights of others.
All we are asking is that the Minister of Justice listen to the people of Canada; listen to the mothers and fathers whose children have been taken from them at such an early age; listen to the grassroots of this country, not those in the ivory tower who are immune to what is really going on at ground level.
I can only support legislation that finds its roots with the people or that can be substantiated by fact, not personal agendas. In closing, I reiterate my opening remarks. I cannot support Bill C-37. I will only support legislation that meets the objective of justice: the protection of society.