House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Ways And Means
Oral Question Period

April 15th, 1999 / 3:05 p.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1), I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act.

I am also tabling legislative proposals, explanatory notes, draft regulations and a backgrounder on the new framework for the taxation of wines, spirits and tobacco products.

I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of this motion.

The Late Edmund Tobin Asselin
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pride and sadness in this august Chamber to pay tribute to a man who was a great Canadian, a fellow Quebecer, and a former member of parliament for the riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in the city of Montreal.

Edmund Tobin Asselin, known as Eddy Asselin to many, represented Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in the House of Commons in the early to mid-sixties. He died of a stroke at the age of 78 on Wednesday, March 24, 1999.

The dashing MP, businessman and lawyer had politics in his blood. His father, Joseph Omer Asselin, was the chairman of Montreal's executive committee. His mother, Beatrice, started the Canadian Prisoners of War Relatives' Association after her 20 year old son, Edmund, was captured during World War II.

Upon his returning home after being liberated by the allies from a German prisoner of war camp, the young flight lieutenant humbly called his mother the only hero in their family for creating a way for families to keep in touch with war prisoners.

Also, his younger brother Patrick represented an eastern townships seat which had formerly been held for 30 years by their maternal grandfather, E. W. Tobin.

Mr. Asselin's daughter, Nicole Asselin, said:

He was more than a politician. He was a man with a very big heart. He was charismatic and charming, and had a joie de vivre, a love of life and of food and of people. He loved to take care of people. He wasn't a receiver. He liked to give.

Eddy Asselin cut his political teeth at Montreal's city council in the 1950s. In 1962, after 12 years as a Montreal city councillor, Asselin handily won his NDG seat and headed to Ottawa to become part of the Pearson government, along with another first time Montreal MP named John Turner. He was easily re-elected in the election of 1963.

However, Eddy Asselin's career as an MP was destined not to last as long as many of his colleagues. He spent his few years on Parliament Hill tackling the problems facing growing urban areas, such as his own riding, but chose not to seek re-election in 1966.

After leaving political life Eddy Asselin finished his law degree at the age of 40 and set up his own law practice. He was eventually appointed to the bench as a municipal court judge.

In his younger years he was a star football player at Loyola College. He continued to promote and support amateur athletic associations throughout his lifetime.

Eddy Asselin is survived by three daughters, three sons and his fourth wife, Carmelle. The funeral service, manifesting the celebration of his life, took place on Saturday, March 27, 1999, at the Armstrong Funeral Home in Dollard des Ormeaux.

I am really honoured to speak on behalf of all the residents of my riding, especially those in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, to say how much we will miss Eddy Asselin and how proud we are of the way he represented our riding. We also want to say, as his daughter put it, that he was a great Canadian and a great Quebecer.

The Late Edmund Tobin Asselin
Oral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Reform

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Reform Party of Canada and Her Majesty's Official Opposition, I rise to pay tribute to Mr. Edmund Tobin Asselin who represented the Montreal riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in the House during the early 1960s.

He was elected in 1962. He was part of the Pearson government. He did not seek re-election in 1966. He was a Montreal municipal councillor for 12 years before successfully entering federal politics.

Edmund's brother Patrick was also elected as an MP in 1962 to represent the eastern townships seat held by their grandfather for 30 years.

Edmund's mother was also active in civic life and started the Canadian Prisoners of War Relatives' Association. Edmund was a prisoner of war during World War II.

It is said that he had politics in his blood. He came from a family that did not shy away from civic duties.

His survivors can take pride in his accomplishments and those of other family members who have played civic roles.

The Late Edmund Tobin Asselin
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on behalf of my Bloc Quebecois colleagues to pay tribute to a former member of the House, Mr. Edmund Tobin Asselin, who died at the age of 78 on March 24.

Born in Bromptonville in 1920, Mr. Asselin studied at Loyola College and the University of Montreal. In 1924, during the second world war, he became an aviator and was taken prisoner of war. On his return he became a businessman.

His political career began in 1950 when he became a city councilor in Montreal where he remained until 1962. That same year he was elected member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, a riding he represented until 1965. On his return to private life he practised law and served as a judge on the municipal court of Montreal.

On behalf of my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois and myself, I offer my condolences to his family and friends.

The Late Edmund Tobin Asselin
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the New Democratic Party I rise today to pay tribute to Edmund Asselin. I am sure that all those who knew him were saddened when they heard the news on Wednesday of his passing.

Mr. Asselin was no ordinary individual. Those who knew him, and I had occasion to meet him a couple of times in the city of Montreal, knew him to be a very dynamic and dashing individual. I think those are good words to describe him.

I never heard anybody call him Mr. Asselin. He was always known as Eddy. He went about his business in a way which demonstrated a true love for life and a very generous heart for his friends and acquaintances, and certainly his family.

He was a dynamic city councillor in the city of Montreal for 12 years and then he came to Ottawa in 1962. He left a few years later, obtained a law degree and eventually set up his own practice. He was also called later to be a judge.

He will be missed by all who knew him. He leaves a great blank in the city of Montreal and in Canada. He will be truly missed by his friends and his family.

Today our hearts, our prayers and our condolences go out to his sons, his daughters and his wife Carmelle.

The Late Edmund Tobin Asselin
Oral Question Period

3:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party I extend condolences to the family of Mr. Asselin, former Liberal member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce in Montreal.

It goes without saying that all members of our party and the entire Progressive Conservative family are in full agreement with everything said about Mr. Asselin by those who spoke before me.

Before it was my turn to pay tribute to the man everyone called Mr. Eddy, I listened to the comments about his big heart. I think this was an important part of his personality. He was a bon vivant who fitted in well everywhere he went. I am told he was forever receiving invitations to one event or another.

As a young man, he fought in World War II. That must have taken exceptional courage. I was struck by a number of things about him, one of them being that he was elected three times to city council.

A few minutes ago someone said that he was close to the people and greatly enjoyed working with those he represented.

There is no way—and I am sure members will agree with me on this point—that one is elected three times to city council without being very close to the grassroots. Mr. Asselin was three times elected to Montreal city council and it was to his very great credit.

Another thing that set Edmund Asselin apart was that after his federal political career he did not call it quits. He set about studying law, opened a law firm, and was later made a judge. This says a lot about his personality and his readiness to tackle things with his fellow citizens.

On behalf of all my colleagues I extend my deepest condolences to his family and particularly to all his friends who got to know him very well and very likely got to work with him on issues of importance to his community.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-68, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to stand and address the House on an act that has responded to the concerns of Canadians, the youth criminal justice act.

Canadians are aware that the justice system as it applies to young offenders is not working as well as it should in a number of important areas, and that it needs reworking.

We know that it will take a sustained effort, involving all levels of government and many other partners, to tackle the complex problems of youth crime and to build the fair and effective youth justice system we deserve. That process is underway.

Last June the solicitor general and the Minister of Justice launched the government's national crime prevention program. Since then millions of dollars have been invested in community based crime prevention initiatives across the country dealing at the front end with the root causes of crime, with a special focus on youth at risk.

On March 11 the youth criminal justice act was introduced and I am pleased to participate in this second reading debate. Repealing and replacing the Young Offenders Act with the youth criminal justice act is the next key step in the process of youth justice renewal.

The new legislation will signal to Canadians that a new youth justice regime is in place. The new legislation reflects the messages Canadians want from their youth justice system: that it first and foremost protects society; that it fosters values such as respect for others and their property; that it insists on accountability; that it provides both violent and non-violent young offenders with consequences that are meaningful and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence; that it be a youth justice system that is inclusive, that engages Canadians in a response to youth crime, and that it does a better job of responding to the needs of victims; and that it be a system that offers hope to youth, that gives youths who get into trouble with the law a chance to turn their lives around for their sake, and the sake of their families, their communities and all Canadians.

The youth criminal justice act includes provisions for more meaningful consequences for the most serious violent young offenders. It expands the list of offences and lowers the age at which youth would presumptively receive adult sentences.

When the legislation is passed, youth 14 years and older, who are convicted of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, or aggravated sexual assault, will receive an adult sentence unless a judge can be persuaded otherwise. The judge would need to be persuaded by the youth that a youth sentence would be adequate to hold the young person accountable given the seriousness and circumstances of the offence and the degree of responsibility, age, maturity, et cetera, of the young person.

In addition, a fifth presumptive category for repeat violent offenders would be created. Young offenders age 14 and older who demonstrate a pattern of violent behaviour would receive an adult sentence unless a judge can similarly be persuaded otherwise.

The act contains an important change to what may be the most controversial aspect of our youth justice legislation, the publication of names. The debate on this issue essentially involves two legitimate and competing values: the need to encourage rehabilitation by avoiding the negative effect of publicity on the youth versus the need for greater openness and transparency in the justice system.

The proposed legislation now before the House strikes an appropriate balance between the competing views. It would permit the publication of the names upon conviction of all young offenders who qualify for an adult sentence. The names of 14 to 17 year olds given a youth sentence for murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or repeat violent offences could also be published.

The proposed legislation would also, however, permit the crown to give notice at the beginning of a trial that it will not seek an adult sentence. This would mean that at the provincial or territorial crown's discretion the young person would receive a youth sentence and the young person's name would not be published.

The youth criminal justice act would also replace the current procedure for transfer to adult court by empowering all trial courts to grant adult sentences so that youth retains age-appropriate procedure protections and that justice can be provided quickly, placing less of a burden on victims and families. This will also ensure that the offender, the victim or victim's family and the community see a clear and timely connection between the offence and its consequences. Certainly in my consultations this was a very important factor for consideration.

The act contains other important reforms to the youth justice system. In response to concerns by the law enforcement community, judges will be given more discretion to admit voluntary statements by youths as evidence at their trials.

In response to the concern of victims, victim impact statements would be introduced in youth court and victims access to information regarding proceedings would be improved. Again, this is a very important aspect of the legislation.

The bill provides for an increased sentence for adults who undertake to the court to respect bail conditions involving the supervision of a young person who would otherwise remain in custody and who willfully failed to comply with these conditions.

The bill provides that provinces may recover the costs of court appointed counsel from parents and young people who are fully capable of paying.

The record keeping system for youth records will be simplified and allow for greater access by authorized people in the interests of the administration of justice and research.

The majority of young people who get into trouble with the law are non-violent and only commit one offence. Unfortunately there are too many examples in our current youth justice system of young people serving time in jail for minor offences.

We incarcerate youths at a rate four times that of adults, twice that of many U.S. states and ten times that of many European states. We incarcerate youths despite the fact that we knowingly run the risk they will come out more hardened criminals. Prison is a school for crime. We incarcerate them knowing that alternatives to custody can do a better job of ensuring that youths learn from their mistakes.

Bill C-68 includes criteria on the use of custody so that it is used appropriately.

As well, the bill includes provisions for handling less serious offences outside the legal system.

The police would be asked to consider all the options, including informal alternatives to the judicial process, before laying charges.

Police officers, the key partners in this strategy, would have confirmation of their authority to use verbal warnings to direct the young offender toward an informal police program such as a family advisory group or a more formal program requiring community service or compensation for the harm done to the victim.

While every effort will be made to reduce the overreliance on incarceration, some youths will be sentenced to custody. We acknowledge that. The youth criminal justice act includes provisions that respect an obligation to ensure that all young people, particularly the most serious offenders, receive effective treatment and rehabilitation. Successfully rehabilitated youths means fewer victims, restored families, safer schools, stronger communities and safer streets.

To this end, the bill includes an intensive custodial sentence for the most high risk young offenders who are repeat violent offenders or who have committed murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault. These sentences are intended for offenders with serious psychological, mental or emotional illnesses or disturbances. The sentence will require a plan for intensive treatment and supervision of these offenders and will require a court to make all decisions to release them under controlled reintegration programs.

The proposed legislation makes an important reform to youth justice sentencing to foster the safe and effective reintegration of youth back into their communities.

Under the new law, judges will be required to impose a period of supervision in the community following custody. This would allow authorities to closely monitor and control the young offender and ensure he or she receives the necessary treatment and programs to return successfully to the community.

The period of supervision administered by the provinces will include stringent mandatory and optional conditions tailored to the individual.

The bill proposes a comprehensive, balanced and flexible legislative framework for youth justice. It was developed after consultation with the provinces, the police, the bar, youth justice workers, youth themselves, victims and many citizens through numerous town hall meetings across the country.

The youth criminal justice act is based on an accountability framework that promotes consequences for crime that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. More serious offenders could receive adult sentences or sentences of custody. Less serious offenders will be dealt with through measures outside the court process or be subject to constructive community based sentences or alternatives. The act emphasizes that in all cases youth should face consequences that promote responsibility and accountability to the victim and the community and teach good values by helping the young person understand the effect of his or her actions.

The new youth criminal justice act offers provinces and territories flexibility in choosing options in some areas. This will allow them to address the unique needs, problems and differences of their systems. Provisions in the act also recognize the important role of victims and communities in dealing with youth crime.

The next important phase of the renewal of youth justice is directed at the implementation of a new youth justice legislation. Youth justice professionals, community members and others will need information about the new system and often training. The best answers to the complex problems of youth crime lie in integrated approaches. Effective youth justice involves educators, child welfare and mental health systems, voluntary organizations, victims, families, youth employers and neighbourhood groups; just about anyone who works with or cares about our children, our communities and our country.

Additional federal resources in the amount of $400 million over the next six years have been made available to support the important challenge of renewing our system of youth justice.

The government youth justice strategy opens the door to greater involvement by the general public and professionals in youth crime, and I encourage all Canadians to get involved.

I ask members of the House to support the new youth criminal justice act so we can put in place the kind of youth justice system that Canadians are seeking, one that protects society and instils the values of accountability, responsibility and respect. We owe it to Canadians and most especially to Canadian youth.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in the last six years I have come to the conclusion that the Liberal government is a list nut. It has to have a list that applies to everything. For example, it indicate by a list who the hate law applies to. Under the sentencing bill, a judge must take into consideration certain things. If a person is up for murder the last thing a judge has to consider on this list is whether the person is aboriginal or not. I would like to know what that has to do with anybody who takes a human life.

Now we come out with Bill C-68. I am afraid to use that name. I guess the Liberals have attached that number to it to try to confuse the public. I hope the public does not get confused because this Bill C-68 is no better than the other Bill C-68. Neither one of them is very good.

The government came out with another list of offences for which adult sentences may be imposed. It is severely restrictive. The list includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault.

Should sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a whole host of other violent crimes not be included? Why is there just this restrictive little list? Would he support adding more violent crimes to this all important Liberal list?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, the current Bill C-68 and the one in the former parliament are excellent pieces of legislation. There is no question that we want to zero in on very serious offences, and we have done so.

My friend is criticizing us for having a list. He has his own little list. All offences are serious. At what point do we allow discretion? Where do we draw the line? They are serious offences. Every offence is serious, even if it is the petty crime of shoplifting.

We have to appreciate that our youth today do not necessarily have the maturity that our good friend from Wild Rose has as a former principal. They are young and impetuous. He should realize that; he taught them for years and years. We cannot treat all youth like adults for all crimes.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to what my colleague from Erie-Lincoln had to say. I must admit that I find him particularly enthusiastic and really highly optimistic about the consequences of Bill C-68, which we are discussing today.

Does he really think it is an exceptional approach promoting rehabilitation to put our 14-year old offenders in front of adult courts, with adult sentences served in adult prisons?

Can he tell me whether, for example, revealing the name of young people who are having problems and have committed crimes—but who are having the problems—in the papers is a help to the young person? We know adolescents often feel it is a big deal to have their name in the paper

I am sure my colleague from Erie—Lincoln can answer these serious questions.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member asks several questions. First I will deal with the publication of names. The debate surrounding this subject centres on two conflicting principles of legitimate and competing values. There is no question that we have the need to encourage rehabilitation by avoiding negative publicity. Opposite to that we have the need for greater openness and transparency. Canadians have been demanding this and it contributes to public confidence in the system.

We are concerned about individuals who have committed grievous offences and violent crimes and are not in custody. We are also concerned about the safety of the public. There is no question that 14 year olds will not go to adult prison. They will go to a youth facility.

If we speak to some of the police officers, some youths at 14 and 15 years of age are tough little characters. Sometimes for the safety of the public they have to be dealt with accordingly. We have to look at the seriousness of the offences they have committed and make an assessment.

The crown in its discretion can make a judgment call in that respect as well and say that a child should be tried in a youth facility. There is an option. I would say this would happen in a minority of cases.

It is interesting to note the profiles of young people in youth court. Only 15% were 14 year olds and two-thirds of them pleaded guilty. Crime by 14 year olds is certainly not in the same category as crime by 16 year olds and 17 year olds as far as numbers go. I do not think we will see many youths at 14 years of age being tried as adults, but there needs to be that option where it is deemed necessary.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the commitment of the hon. member to this issue. As chair of the justice committee I commend him for his ongoing efforts in this regard.

I have some problems with the bill with respect to the effort that has been put into it on behalf of the government to give the perception that it will be the cure-all and the end-all to some of the problems that existed in the previous Young Offenders Act.

I would like the hon. member to comment on the fact that the bill from my perspective involves many substantive changes, leaving it open for new interpretation by judges, prosecutors and lawyers across the land. This legislation will lead to a great deal of new judge made law and the type of law that will potentially open loopholes.

I am sure the hon. member will agree that within the bill there is greater discretion in areas when it comes to transfers. There is greater discretion on the part of the police who will be asked at the front end to decide whether they should lay charges. There will be a long period of time before the full implications of the bill are felt. It is a very complicated act.

Would the hon. member tell us why the government did not try to draft a more streamline piece of legislation?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, any new act is subject to judicial interpretation as lawyers look for loopholes. This act was drafted with a view to assisting our youth at risk, our youth in trouble.

There are some very good aspects of discretion such as police warnings, a greater emphasis on prevention and a greater emphasis on youth justice committees. These are all positive steps.

The theory of the law in black and white, as the member having been a crown counsel would know, and the practice in our youth courts are often a bit different. Sometimes a warning of taking the child home to his family is much more effective than dragging him from the schoolyard into court where there is strict liability in those situations.

There are many more positive aspects to the legislation which will be of benefit. Yes, there will be interpretations like anything else, but on balance it is a good act. The aims and aspects of it are very worthwhile. It will go a long way to changing the image of youth criminal justice. There is good emphasis on the protection of the public as well.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today at second reading of Bill C-68, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts. In more simple terms, this bill will replace the current legislation on young offenders.

We will recall that the bill was tabled for first reading on March 11. It is a product of the strategy to renew the justice system for young people introduced last May, nearly a year ago.

This strategy and the bill have already received a lot of comment in Canada, with the greatest opposition coming from those involved in Quebec in youth crime.

I will return a little later to the position of both the Government of Quebec and the organizations involved in managing the Young Offenders Act.

It is blatantly clear that, in making the Young Offenders Act more repressive as juvenile crime declines, the Minister of Justice has caved in to the Reform Party lobby.

Since the principles underlying this reform go back to the strategy of renewing the youth justice system, it might be interesting to know what the Minister of Justice thinks of the present Young Offenders Act.

With a straight face, the minister says that the legislation is lacking in clarity and contains a number of contradictory principles. In her view, the present legislation has three weaknesses: the first is that prevention programs and alternative measures are inadequate; the second is that violent young offenders are not being properly sentenced and rehabilitated; the third and final weakness is that there is too great an emphasis on custody for non-violent offenders.

Yet, between 1991 and 1997, this same legislation was responsible for a 23% drop in youth crime. Since 1995, the number of young people charged with violent crimes has gone down by 3.2%.

Interestingly, in 1997 the national crime rate for all age groups had dropped 5% according to the police. And that was the fifth year in a row that the crime rate had dropped, and the year with the lowest crime rate since 1980.

These are not imaginary statistics. These figures are from Statistics Canada's Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics. They are not just a product of wishful thinking by the Bloc Quebecois. The facts are there, despite what the minister says, and the legislation she wants to reform has, nevertheless, proven itself.

Getting back to the drop in youth crime, it is noteworthy that this decrease also applies to violent crime, which also decreased in 1997 for the fifth consecutive year.

I could go on for some time giving statistics like these, but what is clear is that youth crime has been on the downturn for several years, thus confirming that the present legislation is fulfilling its objectives of protecting society and rehabilitating young offenders.

The former Minister of Justice and current Minister of Health, whom I have the pleasure of seeing before me right now, spoke out on a number of occasions on the present legislation, which the government wants to reform, describing it as fulfilling its objectives well. On June 2, 1994 for instance, in response to a question in the House, he declared that “the government continues to believe the youth justice system is fundamentally sound, and we support it”. I see he persists with that.

He has also said, in response to another question, that no one can imagine that society can resolve the problem of violent crime by reworking its legislation. In fact, the criminal justice system cannot put an end to violent crime all on its own. It merely addresses the consequences of underlying social problems. The House of Commons must devote at least equal time to preventing crime.

However, the bill introduced by the minister focuses more on the repression aspect than on rehabilitation. For example, the bill extends the list of offences subjecting an adolescent to an adult sentence.

The bill under consideration decrees that, at age 14, a young offender may be sentenced as an adult. That is two years sooner than under the current legislation.

In a number of instances, the bill provides that the identity of an adolescent found guilty of a criminal offence will no longer be kept secret.

This measure, specifically, raises a number of doubts. How could it not be seen that, with the increased media attention given crimes committed by young people, the publication of names might become a positive thing, particularly among the young involved in street gangs.

These are but a few examples of the more repressive measures in the bill. With the drop in crime among young people, this reform is totally unnecessary in our opinion. It is socially dangerous, because its negative effects could well yield the opposite of what we are seeking.

The current Young Offenders Act as applied by Quebec is an example for the rest of Canada, and the minister will surely not contradict me on this, having so acknowledged on a number of occasions. So why did she focus on repression in amending her law instead of taking the approach Quebec takes with the Young Offenders Act, which is to focus on rehabilitation?

We still do not have an answer. The only one I can think of, and I did not find it in my crystal ball, is that it was critical to silence the Reform lobby.

The legislation as it stands is serving its purpose very well in Quebec. The proof is that we have the lowest rate of youth crime in Canada.

Although youth crime is still a troubling phenomenon and is receiving increasing media attention, it is also on the decrease in Canada. In 1997, it dropped by 7%, thus contributing to the drop in the overall crime rate and confirming a trend observed since 1991.

Therefore, rather than rushing into a reform that will favour a repressive approach to youth crime, why was Quebec's model not used? It is no surprise that stakeholders in Quebec have reacted so strongly to Bill C-68.

In a March 11 press release, Quebec's Minister of Justice was critical of the fact that Quebec had not been consulted before the bill was tabled, despite the assurances given at the last meeting of justice ministers.

She said, and I quote:

In my opinion, it is unnecessary to change a system that is working and that already protects society very well, while helping rehabilitate young offenders.

On March 19, a coalition of Quebec agencies interested in the new Young Offenders Act had the following reaction at a press conference:

—the provinces' supposed flexibility in enforcing the legislation is no more than a series of limited powers dependent on the crown attorneys. Nowhere in this bill is it stated that the provinces may implement their own model.

For the benefit of those listening and for the minister's benefit as well, I will list the Quebec stakeholders that took part in this press conference.

I will begin with the Association des chefs de police et de pompiers du Québec. Clearly, the police do not all think alike. There was also the Commission des services juridiques, the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, respected Université de Montréal criminologist Jean Trépanier, Aide communautaire juridique de Montréal, the Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contravenants, Institut Philippe Pinel, the Conférénce de Régies régionales, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, the Bureau des substituts du procureur général du Québec, the Association des CLSCs et des CHSLD du Québec, Marc Leblanc of the École de psycho-éducation de l'Université de Montréal, the Regroupement des organismes de justice alternative du Québec, the Child Welfare League of Canada, and the Canadian Criminal Justice Association.

All professionals concerned with the rehabilitation of young people were present at this press conference, sending a very clear signal.

The consensus in Quebec on the issue of young offenders is clear.

This bill which is even more repressive cannot help but have an impact on the Quebec model. What will happen to our model if sentences have to harmonize coast to coast? Will Quebec judges be required to adjust their sentences to those being handed out by their colleagues in other provinces? If this is the case, one might wonder just how flexible this new act really is.

The Government of Ontario has already stated that it is very much in favour of tougher treatment for young offenders. That will not surprise anyone. That province can therefore be expected to opt for young people to be sent before adult courts more often, and is thus favouring prison sentences.

According to the Quebec Bar, “the real effects of these provisions could well increase both the number and seriousness of recidivism among young people”. This is why the Quebec model does not advocate incarceration.

The minister should also review the entire question of financial compensation to the provinces with respect to the application of the existing legislation. In fact, the latest budget provides $343 million more over three years for crime prevention, including $206 million for reforming the Young Offenders Act to permit the provinces to absorb the costs of applying the proposed legislation.

The Government of Quebec considers that the lengthening of sentences and the increased number of young people on trial in adult court will cost it an additional $23 million annually.

When the Young Offenders Act became law in 1984, the federal government paid 50% of the costs of applying the alternative and the legal measures. As is its custom, the federal government backed off a bit. In 1996-97, its share of the funding represented no more than 36%.

Further ineptitude. In addition to the government's backing off, its funding formula does not take into account the percentage of Quebec's population of young people. Although Quebec has nearly 25% of young people between the ages of 12 and 17, it receives only 18.28% of federal funding in this area. This is not the first time Quebec has not received its fair share.

Since 1989, therefore, Quebec has lost out on $77.4 million. Furthermore, the former Minister of Justice and the present Minister of Health promised to do something about this lack of funding, but this promise went up in smoke—at the same time as the former minister, apparently—because this promise was never kept by the former minister and the present minister seems not to have heard about it or is washing her hands of it.

Quebec is therefore still waiting for a specific proposal from the Minister of Justice concerning repayment of this $77 million shortfall. We do not know, however, how long Quebec's patience, on this issue as on many others, will be tested.

To sum up, the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill because the consensus in Quebec with respect to young offenders is that the bill's measures are unnecessary, ill-advised and even threaten the continued existence of Quebec's rehabilitation-based model.

Ultimately, the federal government should hand over to Quebec full responsibility for administering the youth justice system along with the associated funding. This would be the best way of ensuring that a system that works for Quebec's youth, a system that gives them a chance to become full-fledged members of society, is allowed to continue.

It is distressing that the Minister of Justice has been unable to convince the rest of Canada of the effectiveness of Quebec's approach and that she has taken the path of least resistance.

For all these reasons, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“Bill C-68, An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts, be not now read a second time but that the Order be discharged, the Bill withdrawn and the subject-matter thereof referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.”