House of Commons Hansard #13 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for my hon. colleague. We talk about addressing the needs of young people, more of whom seem to be getting involved in crime, particularly violent crime. Instead of addressing it through legislation, does he not think that one of the ways in which we could perhaps solve this problem, or at least partially solve the problem, is by addressing the educational, social and recreational needs of many of these people? I believe governments generally have abandoned our young people when it comes to leisure and recreational needs. I would like his comments on that.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. friend and colleague from St. John's West. He raises a terrific point. This is part of the broader debate about what can be done on the preventive side of things.

He would be very quick to agree that youth programs, whether they be music programs or sport and recreation programs that he has referenced, are absolutely the direction we should be headed in when it comes to the administration of youth justice. This is where the emphasis should be. This is where the money should be spent.

The programs, if administered properly, will pay huge dividends in the future. The difficulty is that it is hard to gauge. It is hard to display in a statistical fashion the preventive approach. It is hard to say that if we spend the money now it will save x number of dollars in the future.

It is very clear that when young people have something to do and something to occupy their time they are not hanging out on street corners. They are not engaging in drug use. They are not breaking into the homes of the elderly. Those programs teach important values to young people. They teach them self-respect and respect for their community.

I could not agree more with my hon. friend that this is where we should focus much of the debate and much of our time, energy and resources, in the pursuit of a system for youth justice that works for the country.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Vancouver Quadra.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act. Before I begin, I would like to congratulate my colleagues in the Quebec caucus for the great work they did in suggesting amendments to Bill C-3. It must be pointed out that thanks to their efforts and the valuable input from stakeholders we are able to introduce a bill which offers a balance between the need to protect society and the needs of adolescents, who will be responsible for the society of tomorrow.

I have looked at Bill C-7 using the eye's of a lawyer, one who has had experience in Young Offenders Act cases, and I find that it respects the rights of young people more and leaves more leeway for the frontline workers, including the police and community organizations involved in crime prevention in the regions.

The preamble of the bill sets out society's responsibility to address the developmental challenges and the needs of young persons and to guide them to adulthood. It also provides the need to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes.

I was staggered to hear the Bloc Quebecois critic say that it was preferable to have an adolescent's record handled by the crown prosecutor. He said “Mr. Speaker, currently, when an adolescent commits a minor offence, the matter is referred to the crown prosecutor, who determines whether the young person needs help. If so, the Quebec system rehabilitates him immediately”.

Why would a crown prosecutor be in a better position to decide the future of a young person than a neighbourhood police officer or a community agency long involved in the field? Why the outcry when clause 6 proposes letting the police decide whether “to take no further action, warn the young person, administer a caution,—or, with the consent of the young person, refer the young person to a program or agency in the community that may assist the young person not to commit offences”.

What is the problem with wanting the young person to be treated in his community instead of sending him to detention when he commits a minor offence?

For the sceptics, I add that clause 7 of the bill gives the attorney general or any other minister the authority to establish a program authorizing the police to administer cautions to young persons instead of starting judicial proceedings.

In my riding of Laval East, the Centre Défi-jeunesse in Saint-François is set in a middle income community where the social structure is 91% focused on the family. Young people aged 13 to 18 represent 10% of the population and are especially hard hit since they have to deal with issues like welfare and single parent families or are trying to make it on their own on a low income.

The Centre Défi-jeunesse Saint-François was established in 1992, eight years ago already, to extend a helping hand to young people with emotional, social and relationship problems linked to their family, social or criminal situation or to their substance abuse.

The organization can rely on well-known supporters like the Saint-François police department, the CLSC des Milles-Îles, the Fleur Soleil school and the merchants of the Promenades de Saint-François shopping centre located nearby.

The organization recently launched a project called Défi sans violence, spearheaded by community police officers and nurses from the CLSC. They were able to reach 400 young people. It is because our government believes in prevention that it has provided almost $32 million to crime prevention programs, including more than $4 million in Quebec.

The Centre Défi-jeunesse just received $50,000 for its project called Rassembler les deux mondes. It would be able to send a facilitator to Iqualuit, the capital of Nunavut, to give workshops on violence and crime prevention in collaboration with organizations working in the field.

Others projects will be coming soon. I spoke to the director, Mrs. Talbot, who told me that thanks to that experience, young people have learned to work with police officers and now the rapport between the two groups is nothing short of extraordinary.

Under Bill C-7, it would no longer be possible to place in custody a first time young offender who commits a minor offence. Why should we absolutely incarcerate a young person who commits a minor offence? Do people realize what it means to have an open file in a youth court? Do they realize what it means for parents who have to parade before the court when there are other solutions? If this is what is currently going on in Quebec, let us debate the issue.

I know crown attorneys who work at the youth court. I would rather trust the police officer walking the beat in a neighbourhood because, in my opinion, he certainly has a better idea of what is going on than the crown attorney in his ivory tower at the courthouse, if only because the latter is often overburdened following all kinds of budget cuts.

I also think that we can better rehabilitate young offenders by putting them, as provided under clause 6, in the hands of stakeholders or experts in the community who know criminal gangs and street gangs in that area.

In this morning's edition of Le Devoir , the following title is eloquent:

Baril passes harsh judgment on youth services.

The article mentions that:

...the youth protection system is overjudicialized and suffers from continuous breaks in the delivery of services.

The picture is not rosy in the youth assistance network. Rehabilitation centres are constantly clogged up. The administrative component takes precedence over the clinical component and the legal component, takes precedence over social law.

In October, Quebec's Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse condemned the repressive nature of the living conditions imposed on young people in youth centres. Such is the situation of Quebec's network.

I would like our friends opposite to reflect on Quebec minister Gilles Baril's view on an approach that judicializes young people too quickly.

I would like the members opposite to think before they argue in favour of the status quo, giving as their reason that Quebec has a low crime rate. It is too simplistic to claim that because Quebec's crime rate is very low, the system is working well in Quebec. Some caution is in order.

Who is telling us that this reduction in violent crimes by young people in Quebec is not due to the work of our neighbourhood police, our community crime prevention organizations and our stakeholders, such as the Centre de défi-jeunesse de Saint-François, which has been working for eight years in the area of youth crime prevention?

What we must realize, and this is fundamental, is that the most prevalent crime among young people is theft. In the case of violent crimes, simple assault, the less serious kind, tops the list.

Who is telling us that we cannot attribute this drop in violence to the zero tolerance policy enforced by our police officers in Quebec, to the schools and to other stakeholders?

This is what the Bar said in its brief on Bill C-3. It never said that crime was down because of the intervention of crown attorneys and the incarceration of young first time offenders.

What minister Baril revealed to Quebec was not just the reality of the situation, but I would add that the reality is worse still. If members were to take a stroll through the youth courts, they would see that the system is not working at all.

Members should ask young people how many times they have had to appear in court, how many times their case has been rescheduled because of the backlog, how many times they have had to miss school and their parents have had to miss work to appear before the youth court only to be told to come back another day.

In conclusion, I think—

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but I attempted, through the means at my disposal, to indicate that her time was almost up, and the fact is it has run now out. The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I find it most distressing that a Quebec MP should try to cast aspersions on the great success of Quebec's justice system for young people.

I find what she has had to say very dangerous. She has deliberately mixed up the jurisdiction over the administration of justice and the federal jurisdiction. I have never said that the Quebec system worked like a charm but I have said that it worked well.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

An hon. member

Better.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

If there are administrative problems today in the youth centres, why is that? It is because at the present time the government over there owes $850 million for the application of the Young Offenders Act, as the former minister of justice even admitted.

Let the hon. member not try to preach to the government of Quebec. Let her look at what is going on within the Liberal government.

When she says she has practiced youth law, I would have some doubts about how effective she was judging by what she said here. She has just said that the Commission des services juridiques du Québec lied when it said it was opposed to the minister's bill.

What do the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, the teaching federations, the school of criminology of the University of Montreal, legal community centres, defence lawyers, prosecutors, the Institut Pinel, the Association of Chiefs of Police, the Association des chefs de pompiers du Québec and many others I could name have to say? They say that the minister and the hon. member are mistaken in saying that the Young Offenders Act is a good law. They say Bill C-7 should never see the light of day. That is what Quebec says.

Quebec wants something very simple, and if the member really wants to defend Quebec, if she really wants to defend groups like Défi sans violence, if she really wants the bill passed quickly, she should put pressure on the minister to include the right for Quebec to opt out, no ifs, ands or buts, and the bill will be passed and in her hands in five minutes.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm realize that the bill would generate significant additional moneys for Quebec since the amounts given to that province for the administration of justice would finally be adjusted, rising from 17% to 23%?

Quebec would get $200 million out of the $951 million allocated to the youth justice system.

It is not me but Quebec minister Baril who said that changes are necessary to put the youth justice network back on track.

I do not understand why the opposition boasts about judicializing youth cases on the first offence and claims to be proud to do so. It is time someone stood up for young people.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether she is doing it on purpose but the member is getting her facts mixed up.

Quebec has the highest rate of decriminalization for young offenders in all of Canada. Quebec has the lowest rate of incarceration in all of Canada. Quebec has the lowest crime rate in all of Canada. Quebec has the lowest recidivism rate in all of Canada.

My question is quite simple. Next time, before the member gives a speech, will she at least take the time not only to read the minister's bill and the ministerial briefing notes, but also briefs presented to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights? She would realize that what she is saying is pure nonsense.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can see my colleague is somewhat disturbed by my position. I think it is about time that it be known that when a crown prosecutor makes a decision regarding a young offender, he necessarily opens a file in youth court. What follows after that? It follows that the young offender must appear before the court, plead one way or another and so on.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

No, this is not true.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

No, this is not true.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order, please. I am sorry, but the time allotted for questions and comments has expired.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to first address the constituents of Vancouver—Quadra who have entrusted with me the duty of coming to work with government on the important public policy issues to Canadians, as well as to work across party lines. That will be the spirit of my remarks today.

Vancouver—Quadra has unparalleled physical beauty, cultural diversity, prosperity, the greatest research university linking us to the new economy in Canada, as well as three major hospitals dealing with women's health, children's health and a teaching hospital. Of course it never rains in Vancouver either.

The issues of youth justice, protection of the public and the best interests of children and youth are immensely important to Canadians. Today, I would like to briefly address the principles behind Bill C-7, as well as the common cause that I see developing over the last 20 years toward dealing with this issue in a holistic and realistic way. These issues did not start with this debate or this bill. These issues have been going on for at least 25 years, since I have been practising law.

The Berger royal commission on children in the 1970s in British Columbia identified unified family courts, the important configuration of the youth justice system with the child welfare system and the use of community accountability panels. We have been working across the country at different levels of success to try to apply these principles over time, but not with requisite success. In my respectful submission, we are reaching toward that situation with this bill, the capacity actually to move forward on the key principles that I think people throughout the House agree on.

The principle of prevention is absolutely critical. I would like to mention one aspect of prevention which is the root cause of youth crime. If we look at the root cause of poverty, the despair that it causes, the levels of despair in impoverished and many native communities, we understand that that despair underlies the overrepresentation of native people in the criminal justice system. The throne speech has directed its intention toward resolving that. The most serious indicator of despair in an impoverished community is the youth suicide rate. The bill together with youth social services must come together to deal with youth suicide.

Accountability is absolutely critical. However, it is critical that we target accountability so that we know where victim reconciliation or mediation, community accountability or community service can be most effective. As the member said earlier, it can be a much rougher time for people to face their own community, or the victim, or their own family or do community service immediately and directly related to what they were involved with.

Responsibility and accountability are also critically important. We have to distinguish punishment from the need to rehabilitate and reintegrate youth into our society. No matter how serious the crime, and there are very serious youth criminals as all members know, people will get out. We must not allow monsters back into our society. We must stress serious rehabilitation and reintegration. This bill addresses some of those issues.

Let me briefly address the issue of where there is a common cause. I heard it addressed across the spectrum today. We must address youth crime in terms of continuums along a number of dimensions. There is a dimension of age. There is a dimension of severity of crime. There is a dimension of social and mental health needs of that offender. There is a degree of common cause that I believe is developing.

For youths under 12 years old, there are differences being expressed in the House but the objectives are the same. It is to protect society as well as to ensure that the interests of the youth, their families and communities are looked after.

I read the debates of last year on the former bill. A member of the Canadian Alliance was debating the issue of youth under 12. I found some real reasoning in it and it was a good reason. I have not heard that today. It was bring young offenders perhaps into the purview of the courts so they can be protected from being victimized by elder criminals. By doing that, it would keep them away from the criminal element. That is a valid point of view. I do not think it is widely felt that children under 12 years old should be in the criminal justice system, but they must be dealt with through social services and child protection law. I note that the province of Manitoba is developing comprehensive criteria to deal with the issue.

Diversion of non-violent young offenders is absolutely critical. We have had over 20 years of experience in Canada with discretion being properly exercised in many areas, in pilot projects, by police officers involved in community policing and by prosecutors. The hon. member for Provencher mentioned that he was prosecuting under the Juvenile Delinquents Act in the seventies.

I was public defending at that time and I remember thinking that being a public defender was where a person could get in and do some justice. I quickly found out that the police and the prosecution in properly exercising their discretion had the greatest opportunity at an early stage, for non-violent and particularly young offenders, to do justice and make sure that there was accountability, that recidivism was stopped and that young offenders would get away from a history of crime.

If we are going to go to court, this new bill provides judges with a range of tools which are important, including making sure there is an interdisciplinary approach, ensuring that parents are brought to proceedings and take financial responsibility, if necessary.

If someone is to be sentenced, the provisions for adult sentencing for the most serious crimes or repeat offenders is entirely appropriate. It is well targeted at that specific need. If incarceration is necessary, let us have intensive rehabilitation services made available. If someone is to be released then intensive supervision provisions are absolutely essential.

Although over the last 20 years we have heard rhetoric at levels that would suggest a great division among the parties on critical issues that are important to Canadians, I think there is a great deal of common cause. These issues are absolutely critical to move forward with the bill, but the differences are more at the margins at this stage rather than in the fundamentals.

We have heard a particular issue of fundamental difference being expressed by the hon. member speaking for the Bloc and members of the Canadian Alliance with regard to lowering the age for presumptive adult sentencing. That option and flexibility are open to the province of Quebec.

I would submit and respectfully say that we should get on with the bill. There is enough common cause. It is a critical issue and we should not waste more time. The bill builds on the experience of the last 20 years. It brings together a lot of very important and vital issues that have been raised on both sides of the House. Let us get on with it. The differences at the margins can properly be dealt with in implementation and not in delaying the passage of this important bill.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

February 14th, 2001 / 6:10 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Yesterday, shortly after 10 o'clock, I tabled a notice of motion for concurrence in a committee report. I see from the notice paper today that the notice of motion is not shown on the order paper. The reason may relate to the fact that minutes before I tabled the notice I had also sought unanimous consent to have concurrence in the report and the Table may have confused the two.

I believe the Table does have the written notice of motion and I would ask that the order paper be corrected to show that the notice of motion was indeed introduced yesterday morning. That would allow the 48 hour notice period to run as of yesterday in the event that 48 hour period becomes relevant.