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 young.

Topics

Canada Well-Being Measurement Act
Routine Proceedings

February 14th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-268, an act to develop and provide for the publication of measures to inform Canadians about the health and well-being of people, communities and ecosystems in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today on St. Valentine's Day to present to the House a bill entitled the Canada well-being measurement act. The greatest testimony to love is giving the next generation the protection, education and the necessary assets so that it may take its flight into the world.

It is significant, therefore, that the Canada well-being measurement bill is being introduced in the House on Valentine's Day.

The purpose of the bill is to expand the way we measure the well-being of the country, so that it will encompass social, economic and environmental factors. These factors affect the health of Canada's people, communities and ecosystems.

Such factors will increase awareness of challenges and successes facing our country and will thereby enable the people of Canada and the House to steer more carefully toward a secure and satisfying future.

I offer this bill as a Valentine's Day gift to our beloved young people and to all future generations.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Janko Peric Cambridge, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I have the privilege to present to the House a petition from close to 500 concerned citizens in my riding of Cambridge.

They wish to draw to the attention of the House that the chemical RU-486 kills the human fetus in the first two months of pregnancy and is now being tested in Canada. There are a number of dangerous side effects to this drug and it poses a serious threat to the health of the mother.

The petitioners pray and request that the Parliament of Canada not introduce changes to the current legislation or protocol that would allow the RU-486 method of abortion to be licensed in Canada.

I wish a happy Valentine's Day to my wife, my daughter and my granddaughter.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, once again it is my honour to table two petitions in the House calling for a moratorium on the cosmetic use of pesticides, one of which was actually taken by an elector in my riding.

As with my private member's bill, the issue of the non-essential use of pesticides, or what we like to call cosmetic use of pesticides, is a significant danger to the health of Canadians.

We do not have the science or the medical proof to show that it is not dangerous. We are putting our children's lives and pregnant mothers in danger. We are calling for a moratorium on the cosmetic use of pesticides.

It is with great honour that I table these two petitions that support my private member's bill. I call on the House to adopt the legislation and to do it quickly.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36, I am honoured to present a petition on behalf of the citizens of Grand Bend in the London area.

They urge the government to eliminate the gas additive MMT, as it has a negative impact both on the health of people and on our ecosystem at large.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Scarborough—Rouge River
Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions For Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that Bill C-7, 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.

Mr. Speaker, on February 5, 2001, I introduced into the House the government's proposed youth criminal justice act. Those who have been following the issue will be well aware of the extensive groundwork that supports this initiative.

The government's commitment to reforming the youth justice system is longstanding and firm. We reiterated our intention during the last election campaign and again most recently in the Speech from the Throne.

Bill C-7 has benefited from the extensive review accorded its previous incarnations, Bill C-68 and Bill C-3. Consultations before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs were exhaustive. As Minister of Justice, I heard from the provinces and the territories. I have met with and listened to individuals and groups who work in the youth justice system.

Bill C-7 retains the overall direction and all key elements but includes amendments from the consultation process which will reduce complexity, provide greater clarity and improve flexibility for the provinces.

We have examined all of the recommendations in great detail over the past months. We compared certain recommendations relating to the provinces' capacity to administer the youth justice system better.

I will not accept the rhetoric from the benches opposite and elsewhere that this piece of legislation is too tough or that it is not tough enough. Those who seek to reduce the discussion of youth justice to such a simplistic paradigm feed misconception.

Canadians want a system that prevents crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour, that rehabilitates young people who commit offences and safely reintegrates them into the community, and ensures that a young person is subject to meaningful and appropriate consequences for his or her offending behaviour. Canadians across the country know that this is the most effective way to achieve the long term protection of society. Bill C-7 constructs a youth justice system which will do just that.

It is also abundantly clear that Canadians are committed to supporting children and youth. They are firm in their belief that as a society we must do everything we can to help young people avoid crime in the first place and to get their lives back on track if they do run afoul of the law.

I will take this opportunity to outline the approach of the proposed youth criminal justice system and why it will be a marked improvement over the current system. With 16 years of the Young Offenders Act under our belts, experience has demonstrated what measures are most effective and where the system needs to be improved.

Let me now address why we believe new youth justice legislation is necessary. Some of the key weaknesses of the YOA are, first, the YOA does not reflect a coherent youth justice philosophy. Its principles are unclear and conflicting and do not effectively guide decision makers in the youth justice system.

Unlike the YOA, the proposed youth criminal justice act provides guidance on the priority that should be given to key principles. For example, the new legislation makes clear that the nature of the system's response to a youth's offending behaviour should reflect the needs and individual circumstances of the youth. However, the needs or social welfare problems of a young person should not result in longer or more severe penalties than those which are fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence committed.

Other principles of the youth criminal justice act emphasize that the objectives of the youth system are to prevent crime, rehabilitate and reintegrate young persons into society, and ensure meaningful consequences for offences committed by young people. Pursuing and achieving these objectives is the best way to protect society.

The youth justice system must reflect the fact that young persons lack the maturity of adults. This includes an emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration and holding them accountable in a manner consistent with their reduced level of maturity. Interventions with young persons must be fair and proportionate, encourage the repair of harm done, and involve parents and others in the young person's rehabilitation and reintegration.

As we also know, the existing YOA has resulted in the highest youth incarceration rate in the western world, including our neighbours to the south, the United States. Young persons in Canada often receive harsher custodial sentences than adults receive for the same type of offence. Almost 80% of custodial sentences are for non-violent offences. Many non-violent first offenders found guilty of less serious offences such as minor theft are sentenced to custody.

The proposed youth criminal justice act is intended to reduce the unacceptably high level of youth incarceration that has occurred under the Young Offenders Act. The preamble to the new legislation states clearly that the youth justice system should reserve its most serious interventions for the most serious crimes and thereby reduce its over-reliance on incarceration.

In contrast to the YOA, the new legislation provides that custody is to be reserved primarily for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders. The new youth justice legislation recognizes that non-custodial sentences can often provide more meaningful consequences and be more effective in rehabilitating young persons.

We also believe that the Young Offenders Act has resulted in the overuse of the court for minor cases that can be better dealt with outside the court. The effect is often court delay and an inability of the courts to focus on more serious cases.

Experience in Canada and other countries has shown that measures outside the court process can provide effective and timely responses to less serious youth crime. Although the YOA permits the use of alternative measures, over 15 years of experience under the YOA indicates that it does not provide enough legislative direction regarding their use.

The proposed youth criminal justice act is intended to enable the courts to focus on serious youth crimes by increasing the use of effective and timely non-court responses to less serious offences. These extra-judicial measures provide meaningful consequences such as requiring the young person to repair the harm to the victim. They also enable early intervention with young people as well as the opportunity for the broader community to play an important role in developing community based responses to youth crime.

Some of the provisions in the new youth justice legislation that encourage the use of extra-judicial measures in appropriate less serious cases include: a presumption that extra-judicial measures should be used with first time non-violent offenders and specific authority for police and prosecutors to use a range of extra-judicial measures, informal warnings, police cautions, crown cautions and referral to community programs.

In addition, the existing YOA has resulted in disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing. Sentences under the YOA often do not reflect the seriousness of the offence. There is often significant disparity between what similarly situated youth receive for similar offences.

As I mentioned earlier, youth often receive more severe penalties than adults receive for the same type of offence. Some young persons are sentenced on the basis of their needs or social welfare problems and receive longer or more severe penalties than that which would be fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence committed.

To reverse the current unfairness the new law provides that the consequences imposed on a young person must not be greater than those which would be appropriate for an adult in similar circumstances. The new sentencing provisions also emphasize that every sentence must focus on rehabilitating and reintegrating the young person into the community. This requires that the needs of the young person be addressed within the timeframe stipulated by the courts.

Also, the existing Young Offenders Act fails to ensure effective reintegration of a young person after being released from custody. A weakness of the existing legislation is that a young person can be released from custody with no required supervision and support to assist that young person in making the transition back to his or her community. The new legislation includes provisions to assist the young person's reintegration into the community.

The new youth justice legislation requires that all periods of custody be followed by a period of supervision and support in the community. At the time of sentencing the judge will state in open court the portion of time that is to be served in custody and the portion to be served in the community. Breaching conditions of the community supervision could result in the young person being returned to custody.

Further, the existing Young Offenders Act process for transfer to the adult system has resulted in unfairness, complexity and unacceptable delay. The current process violates basic fairness by providing that a young person be transferred to an adult court before being found guilty of any offence. It has also resulted in wide differences among provinces in the number of transfers of young persons to the adult system.

For example, in 1998-99 Manitoba led the country in transfers, transferring 29 youths to adult court. Quebec was second, transferring 23 young persons to adult court, while Ontario transferred only six people to adult court in the same year.

The new youth justice legislation contains significant changes that address the unfairness of the current transfer process including the elimination of the transfer process. Instead, the youth court has the authority to impose an adult sentence in certain circumstances. The hearing on the appropriateness of an adult sentence will take place only after the youth has actually been found guilty. The assurance is that should a young person receive an adult sentence, it is to be presumed that if the young person is under 18 he or she will serve the adult sentence in a youth facility.

The existing Young Offenders Act also fails to make a clear distinction between serious violent offences and less serious offences. This is a basic theme that underlies many of the other problems with the YOA such as the high rate of youth incarceration and the overuse of the court for less serious offences. When a youth justice system fails to clearly differentiate between serious violent offences and less serious offences, it is not surprising that public confidence in the system is weakened.

The proposed youth justice legislation consistently makes this important distinction at key points throughout the legislation. It is reflected in the fundamental principles in the preamble and declaration of principles, the front end options, the sentencing principles, the rules on adult sentencing and the provisions regarding release from custody.

Unlike the existing Young Offenders Act, a basic policy direction of the new legislation is that serious violent offences are to be treated seriously and less serious offences are to be dealt with through less intrusive yet still meaningful consequences.

Also, the existing Young Offenders Act fails to recognize the concerns and interests of victims in an adequate way. In contrast to the existing legislation, the proposed youth justice legislation recognizes the concerns and interests of victims and clarifies the role of victims in the youth justice process.

The following are key provisions in the legislation. The principles of the act specifically provide that victims are to be treated with courtesy, compassion, and respect for their dignity and privacy. They also should be given information about the proceedings and an opportunity to participate and be heard if they so choose.

Victims have a right of access to youth court records and may be given access to other records. The victim's role in community based approaches such as conferences is encouraged. If a young person is dealt with by an extra-judicial sanction, the victim of the offence has a right to be informed of how the offence has been dealt with.

In developing new youth justice legislation it is important to recognize the limits of legislation and to have reasonable expectations about what legislation can accomplish. That is why the new youth justice legislation is only one part of the government's much broader approach to youth crime and the renewal of Canada's youth justice system.

Increased federal funding, crime prevention efforts, effective programs, innovative approaches and research are all part of the broader strategy for the fair and effective renewal of Canada's youth justice system. This legislation is the first step in the renewal of that system.

Partnerships with other sectors such as education, child welfare and mental health, improvements to aboriginal communities, and appropriate implementation by provinces and territories will be equally important in achieving the goals of the youth justice legislation. The government is committed to ensuring that Canadians are well served by their youth justice system.

In conclusion I encourage all colleagues on both sides of the House to support Bill C-7 as an integral part of our initiative to ensure that all Canadians, especially young Canadians, have a fair, effective and just youth justice system.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is seldom that we have ministers before the House making presentations such as the one we heard today. I think it would be in order for us to seek unanimous consent to be able to ask questions of the minister.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

It is certainly in order to ask. Is there unanimous consent to permit a period of questions to the minister?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.