House of Commons Hansard #67 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Now I know for sure that you cannot read.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Why do you not speak the truth?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I know this debate is a very emotional one. Three times I have stated, and I am sure all colleagues agree, that we must show the same respect for both the colleague who asks the question and the colleague who answers the question.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, it must be fate that I would be following the speaker from Mississauga West. It was not my plan because he usually follows me but today I will get to have the last word. I will also be sharing my time with the member for Kelowna.

I want to take a moment to congratulate the member for Surrey North who has put in unlimited hours regarding the problems we have with youth crime in Canada. Being a victim himself, having lost his son to young offenders many years ago, his work in an organization called Crime, Responsibility & Youth, known as CRY, and his work with other victims' groups over the years indicate to me that there is a real dedication on the part of this man to bring very positive changes to the whole idea of youth crime.

Given all his efforts and the clear message that he has brought to the House from various victims' groups throughout the land to do something about youth crime, today unfortunately we have to report to Canadians that the government has failed dismally to deal with the situation of youth crime, and it ought to be ashamed of itself.

In 1984 the Young Offenders Act came into existence. In 1994 the 10 year review began. The results of that review, which I carry in my briefcase, indicate quite loudly and quite clearly that under the Liberal government's law regarding young offenders, violent youth crime has increased from 300% to nearly 400% over that period of time. Some success. I congratulate the government. This report came out of the government's own 1994 review.

When our party came here in 1993, we were assured by the present health minister, who was then the justice minister, that there would be a big review and a big resolution to the youth crime problem that we were facing and that he would require input from all the parties in the House.

I happened to be the head of the Reform Party justice committee at that time. I met with many of my colleagues and we diligently put together our proposals, which we felt would deal with the situation. They were mainly based on policies that were decided by grassroots people across the country who helped us develop them. We submitted our proposals. I looked at hundreds of submissions from organizations across the country who were calling for some serious and significant changes to the Young Offenders Act in 1994. After nearly a year and a half, the minister at that time brought forward a proposal that was totally insignificant with regard to what the people across the country were asking for.

We have continued to carry on. I believe this is at least the 15th time that I have spoken on the Young Offenders Act since I came here in 1993. This effort, called the youth justice bill, is just as my friend from Surrey North called it this morning, a very feeble and weak attempt to resolve the problems that victims across the land are facing day in and day out because of youth crime.

It is totally in the hands of the government across the way to start listening to Canadians and to start taking their views seriously with the intention of bringing about a safer society for our young people in particular who are the majority of the victims. However, the government refused to do it and it has failed once again.

Government members will proudly vote tonight, accept what has been delivered and it will be unacceptable across the land. I can assure members opposite that one year from now we will be standing here questioning the government on why it is not doing something about the youth crime across the land. That is an assurance that members can almost count on.

I heard comments this afternoon about boot camps and that it was a shame that anybody would even suggest a boot camp. I have news for the Liberals: probably millions of people in Canada have gone through boot camps called the military and it did not hurt them one bit. In fact most of them are quite proud that they went through a very disciplined training program that delivered them to a position where they could serve their country.

I do not know of one Liberal who has the guts to visit the boot camps and work camps across the country. They should come out to Alberta to see how our work camp is doing. The camp is having great success because the young people are learning some responsibility. They are learning how to work. They are getting an education. They are learning physical fitness. They are learning how to treat other people. They are learning about life. They are not in a prison, they are in a work camp. Is that not scary? It must frighten that Mississauga West character right out of his boots that we would do such a thing to youth.

As far as what goes on in the schools, having been in the school system for 30 years and in administration for 15 of those years, I can assure the House that I would have loved to have known the backgrounds of the different students who were being transferred to my school. Not only could we have provided a service to them but we could have provided better protection for some of the youth who suffered at their hands because of our lack of knowledge.

Let us talk about victims. The last thing the Liberals ever talk about are the victims. What is happening in our society? The stories we hear from students when we visit schools are crazy. I believe all my colleagues in the House have visited a school and have heard the students say that the government should get tough with violent young offenders. Many students live in fear. When I visit schools the majority of students tell me that they are fearful of the situation they find themselves in today.

I really question the Bloc members. They say that Quebecers like the law the way it is. All the e-mails, letters and contacts I have had with people from Quebec over my years of work on justice issues have said quite the contrary. The grassroots and down to earth people do not like the Young Offenders Act. I would ask Quebecers to write to me and let me know if they are happy with the act. I would like to know because I do not believe it is true. Whenever I go to meetings or make any kind of speeches at town halls involving tax problems or other issues, at the top of the agenda is the subject of young offenders. They want to know what we are going to do about youth crime.

I would encourage the government to pay attention to grassroots people, but I know that is difficult for it to do. I have received a number of notes and have had a number of conversations with backbenchers on that side of the House who keep encouraging me to fight against the bill and to keep doing what I am doing because they do not like it either. Unfortunately, their hands are tied and they cannot do anything about it. It is a shame that when members sit in the government backbenches, they are not allowed to have a strong voice in what the frontbench brings forward.

That needs to change. The members' idea on the frontbench is to bring the bill forward and then put closure on the debate. They claim to know best and that their little boys and girls behind them will vote the way they are told whether they like it or not. Year after year we hear the same old story. Members do not like what they have but they have no choice because they are ordered to vote a certain way.

These problems will never go away if we take the approach that everything we do must benefit the criminal. If we do not start focusing on the victims and what their safety means to them instead of the rights of the criminal, we will never get anywhere. No one believes in prevention more than I do. Our communities are offering good measures of prevention and I support and congratulate them for doing so. However the government has failed to do so for seven years. The reforms are no different than what we had in 1994.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Dennis Mills Toronto—Danforth, ON

Madam Speaker, I have witnessed the member's passion and his constructive criticism in the House on justice issues for a number of years. I like many of his ideas, especially the idea of having camps or discipline centres. I do not like the word boot camp but I like the notion of having rehabilitation centres where people could be taught skills, where they could be given a sense of discipline, a sense of athleticism and all the things that would make them a whole person.

The member has given 30 years of his life to young people through the educational system. He talked about the notion of working on prevention. The area of prevention is an area that does not get enough discussion time in the House. Could the member tell us from his experience where he has seen the best results of preventative measures young people?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Madam Speaker, I could speak about a number of occasions but I must say to the member that it was very difficult after the Young Offenders Act came into force. I was a principal before it came in. We were notified of their life situations when they arrived at the school. After 1984 we were not allowed to have that knowledge, which made it a great deal more difficult. We were notified of their life situations when they arrived at the school. After 1984 we were not allowed to have that knowledge, which made it a great deal more difficult.

We were able to implement some programs. The one to which I like to refer the most is about little Eddy who was in grade one. We brought in a program in our school for students at risk. The grade one teacher brought Eddy to my office one day and told me there might be a problem. He had pulled a knife on the teacher and had been kicking the teacher in the shins.

I think the member would agree that there was a serious problem. We identified it early and worked with the young person over the years. We did not throw him out of school. Expelling kids was the very last resort although we sometimes had to do so for the safety of others. We worked hard with Eddy. We brought in his family and managed to get volunteers in the community to provide big uncle programs. It was something we had free rein to do. Regulations did not disallow it. We were able to bring in people who had the ability to work with a young person like him. As we went through the year he began to excel a little. He left our community when he was in grade six.

I ran into Eddy in 1995. He was in prison, but he was a guard. He remembered me from grade six as being his principal. He ran up to me to tell me how much he appreciated what we did for him in those earlier years. He said he would have been on the other side of the bars had it not happened.

I remind the member that unfortunately, as time progressed, as the charter of rights came in, as human rights factored in and as the Young Offenders Act came in, we were less and less able to put hands on programs in place to work with these students because somebody had the right to deny it. We were not allowed the freedom we once had to work seriously in preventing these things from happening.

Why did it get away from us? Police and school administrators used to work very closely, hand in hand, because usually my problems during the day were their problems at night. There were very successful school resource programs. We are starting to get back to that a little today. Community involvement is starting. All of that is great.

I could go on for hours about the experiences we have had, some positive and some not so positive. The difference is that we were capable of doing something because our hands were not tied by some right, charter or Young Offenders Act. That really destroyed our efforts rather than help them.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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1:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to participate in this debate. The first Young Offenders Act was brought forward in 1993, but it was my privilege and honour in 1993 to present a petition to the House signed by 6,000 young people. The petition came to me as the result of a visit by two young girls who were attending Mount Boucherie Secondary School. They came to me to ask if there was anything I could do about a problem they had in their school.

They were fearful because they were being harassed and challenged. They were afraid they would be attacked by a group of other girls. The problem was that the legislation did not work. Their teachers and principal could not protect them because the problem was happening in the community outside the school.

They asked what they could do. I told them one of the best things would be to get their friends and other young people to tell me about the problem. Some 6,000 young people could not come to see me, so I suggested they present a petition and that is what they did.

In 1994 the government presented a bill to the House which was completely unacceptable. My hon. colleague opposite on the Liberal benches asked what we could do to prevent it. One thing would be to have effective legislation. However there is more than that. We need to change attitudes. We need to change the attitudes of our parents, our legislators and our kids. We need to develop a set of values that will encourage people to respect one another and not accept violent behaviour.

I have a couple of values I will state. There are some virtues we need to have. The virtue of courage is an example. The virtue of character is another. We must live our lives according to what we know is right and wrong, where our word is our bond, where we keep our promises, and where truth is the watchword.

I take exception when hon. members opposite or even colleagues exaggerate or tell something that is close to not being true. Members sometimes deliberately state something that is false. We have a word to describe that. It is a three letter word and I cannot use it here. The important thing is that it happens and it should not.

If we all told the truth, wherever we were, our relationships would be different. If integrity became the watchword in our relationships with one another it would be a good idea.

I will respond directly to my Liberal colleague opposite. The greatest preventive measure, and it ties directly into what my colleague said a moment ago, is that we engender in our young people and in ourselves the recognition that we not only have rights under the charter of rights and freedoms but also concomitant responsibilities. The actions we undertake must have consequences and those consequences must be meaningful. They must entail more than a simple tap on the wrist for violent offenders or some silly little punishment that means nothing. We need to get serious.

Some people, like the hon. member for Mississauga West, will say I want to throw everyone in prison. That is not what I said at all. That is an example of telling something that is not the truth. The truth is that when there is a serious offence there must be serious consequences.

Do those consequences mean we stick people in jail? Not necessarily. Do they mean we teach people better ways of handling conflict? Yes, of course. Do they mean offenders should face their victims and recognize the pain they have caused those individuals and their families? Do they mean they should recognize that it is not only the victim who is the object of a violent attack but the victim's family and indeed the whole community?

Were the two young high school girls who came to see me concerned only about their own welfare? No, they were there to represent a whole other group of girls whom I met later. Then boys came along and said they were in the same situation. They were all victims of the threat that was out there. Let us recognize that we are responsible for our own actions. The hon. member for Mississauga West is also responsible for what he says in the House.

I will go one step further. What have we done in the act? I will refer to only one clause because it is central to the whole business we are talking about here. Paragraph 146(2)(b) of Bill C-7 states:

the person to whom the statement was made has, before the statement was made, clearly explained to the young person, in language appropriate to her age and understanding, that

(i) the young person is under no obligation to make a statement

What does this refer to? It refers to a police officer or a person trying to preserve the peace who has the responsibility to make a charge if someone has broken the law. The young person being charged does not have to make a statement.

Why is that significant? I will not use more arguments here. I will use observations made by the former attorney general of British Columbia. His name was Alex MacDonald. Lest anyone on that side of the House thinks he was a Liberal or a Conservative, he was neither of those. He was not a Canadian Alliance member either. He is retired now, but he was a member of the NDP. He later became a member of the legislative assembly and then the attorney general. Here is what he said:

In 1984, Canada's parliamentarians, perhaps inebriated by their exuberance for rights, replaced the Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908 with the Young Offenders Act. It was as if they'd heard the word from on high: “Come to the charter waters! Drink and your souls shall live!”

I am quoting Alex MacDonald. He went on further:

The centrepiece of the Young Offenders Act is its Section 556, as it was renumbered in 1998.

It was renumbered to 145 in 1999, renumbered again in 2001 as 146, and I just read it.

The young person is under no obligation to give a statement to the police officer. Mr. MacDonald asked what kind of signal that gave to teens. It expresses one of the shibboleths of our law, one which the criminal defence bar is apparently prepared to defend to the death. Never mind that it contradicts the wisdom of the ages when it comes to raising youngsters to become responsible adults. Why? Because it allows teens two ways to escape responsibility for their mistakes.

First, as passed by parliament, the bill would allow young offenders to refuse to answer a police officer's questions about wrongdoing in which they may have been involved, even if the police officer saw them do it.

There is a case in Kamloops where a youngster was seen damaging some property. A police officer happened to be right there and asked the kid if he did it. The young kid looked at him and said he did not have to talk to him, so he did not. The law says he does not have to do so. That is the first escape.

Second, the bill would place no onus on young offenders to explain to a court what they have been up to even after a fair, though not conclusive, case has been presented against them.

Many of us as parents know only too well that when our children behave in a manner that is not appropriate they will often behave in a peculiar way. We will know that something is not quite up to snuff and that there is something bothering them. Usually, although not necessarily, they will have done something wrong.

The simplest question is to ask what is the matter. If they do not tell us it often begins to gnaw inside and turn them inside out. If they have done something really bad we could perhaps handle it. However when they keep burying it there is a problem. There comes a time when confession is good not only for the soul but for society. It needs to be done.

I wanted to talk about ways to rehabilitate young offenders but we do not have time. I am sorry about that. I would have liked to draw the attention of members to ways of amending the act so that it would resolve the issue better than is the case now.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I listened to my colleague speaking about the Young Offenders Act and I cannot agree more.

The member probably has run into situations as many times as I have in going around to schools and talking to young people. The young people I have spoken to have pushed me to try to have something addressed in the Young Offenders Act. They have spoken time and again about the fear they have of their own peers in many cases. They absolutely point to the Young Offenders Act as one of the causes of their fear because they know young offenders will have no penalty handed to them by the courts. That is one thing I want to ask the member about.

I want to step out of the Youth Offenders Act for a moment. There are those of us who like to point our fingers at the Young Offenders Act, and I am one. As far as I am concerned the Young Offenders Act is a disgrace to our young people and to the judicial system.

One of the big problems with our young offenders has been the direct result of not only this government but the governments before it. I point this out because today parents are no longer able to stay at home to tend to their children. Parents have been forced out into the workplace over the heavy taxation and heavy costs of living in Canada. Therefore, I would like to point the finger that way too, if I could, and maybe ask the hon. member to comment on that.

Maybe another way for us to look at this is to hold the government accountable for forcing both parents out of the home leaving no parent to look after the children when they come home from school. The children are now learning all kinds of things at the parks, everything that goes on in the Young Offenders Act.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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1:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Kelowna, BC

Madam Speaker, I am glad the hon. member mentioned that because it is certainly a part of this preventive thing. It is also a part of our responsibility as parents. He mentioned, in particular, the phenomenon of the latch-key kids who come home and there is no one there.

My wife and I have two boys. One day when they were in junior high they were exposed to some things they were not sure about. In fact, it had something to do with drugs. They came running into the house and, the younger fellow especially, wanted to talk to their mom, but she was not there. They both needed to find her because they had an important question to ask. They ran to the back of the house and found her working on her flower beds. She loves gardening. They ran up to her and told her what they had been offered in the school washroom. They then asked her what they should do. She was able to deal with them. I will never forget that because she was there when they needed her.

I know many of my friends' children come home to an empty house. A note is left on the fridge telling them that there are sandwiches and that they should help themselves, or a note is left telling them which button to push on the microwave if they want hot chocolate. It is a different phenomenon. Does that mean it is bad for both parents to work? No. It just means that kids should not be home without some kind of adult influence in their life. Someone should be there to help them.

I agree with the hon. member. Not only do parents have a responsibility for their children but the teachers and the community also have a responsibility for these children. How many of us simply ignore and walk away from the problems our neighbour's kids may have believing it is not our problem? When I was child and I did something bad, I can remember a neighbour putting his hand on my shoulder and saying “Werner, do you know what is happening over here? Is this what your dad would want you to do”, and I would behave myself. It made a difference.

I believe we all have a responsibility. It is part of the prevention and it is part of the cure.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I would be glad to share my time with anyone who wishes to speak to this bill.

There is one thing that strikes me in today's debate. Why is it that members on the other side are not pointing out to Quebecers that this bill serves, in fact, two purposes—

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sorry to interrupt the member, but she must indicate with which member she is sharing her time. With whom will the hon. member be sharing her time?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I wish I could tell you, but I do not know who it would be. So, I guess I will not be sharing my time, if that is possible.

There is something that is puzzling me today. How is it that the Bloc Quebecois on the other side is not telling Quebecers what this bill is really about? This bill serves two purposes. Where minor offences are concerned, the emphasis is put on community services instead of custody. That is easy to understand. Why send to prison first time offenders? In the case of more serious offences, three changes are being made. First, there is a change of courts. Young persons will remain in the youth court system. They will no longer be transferred to adult courts.

It is important to mention that Quebec, where supposedly all is well for youth, presently has the highest rate of transfers to adult courts. This is a sad record. We and Manitoba have the same number of cases referred to adult courts. Why so many transfers? We must make sure that young people are protected and stay within a system adapted to their needs.

This is the reason why I welcome with great enthusiasm the amendment contained in the bill on the youth criminal justice system, which will allow to keep young people before youth courts.

The other proposed change is to lower from 16 to 14 the age at which a young offender could be sentenced as an adult.

At present, we know that if a youth commits a serious offence, the onus is on him to show that he should be allowed to remain before the youth court. With the new bill, this situation changes. The age limit will be lowered to 14 years, although under clause 61, a province which wishes to maintain the age limit at 16 will be allowed to do so. Again, the Quebec system remains unchanged, since the age limit remains at 16 in Quebec. It will be up to the government of Quebec to keep the age limit at 16.

Another major change in the bill has to do with the location where young people would serve their sentence. It will necessarily be a correctional facility for youth. This rule applies in all cases, the only exception being when the judge passes the sentence on the basis of the evidence submitted. He or she could decide, depending on the seriousness of the offence, that putting this young offender in a youth facility could indeed be detrimental to the other offenders held in that facility. It is the only instance, and it will be up to the judge to decide.

This is what this bill is all about, which is why I fail to understand why there is such strong opposition to this bill. A rather surprising misinformation campaign is going on right now in Quebec. Unfortunately, certain statements made by members of the Bloc Quebecois are a great disservice to the people of Quebec. I think the position of our opponents on the other side of the House, of our friends should I say, is simply unacceptable. They believe that putting a young teenager who has committed a first minor offence in a youth detention centre is better than any kind of action by the parents, the community or a crime prevention organization, and it is simply unacceptable.

I do not understand that position and it worries me. For example, does the member for Berthier—Montcalm, the Bloc Quebecois' critic with regard to the youth criminal justice system, want to increase the youth incarceration rate, which is already at an unacceptable level? Right now, Canada's youth incarceration rate is the highest in the western world. It is higher than that of the United States.

For example, in 1997 the United States put 775 young offenders between the ages of 12 and 17 behind bars, compared to 1,046 for Canada. These numbers are based on proportional calculations, of course.

It is disturbing, and all the more so because recently in Quebec four reliable people mandated to investigate issues of access to residential services and administrative and financial problems of youth centres in Montreal found that these centres were poorly managed. When there is bad management, mistakes and negligence are a risk.

What if some young people are forgotten in these rehabilitation centres where they should get rehabilitation programs? This could happen if the management is deficient. It is not right to give the priority to structure.

As a government, our responsibility is to make sure young people in trouble grow to be responsible citizens in our society. I do not think sending them to youth court is the best way, when alternative measures are available.

I am a lawyer. A few years ago, I worked in a youth court. I saw parents who were desperate and had to appear as witnesses in the case of their child. Too many young people have paid dearly for small offences and will have a criminal record for the rest of their life.

I have to admit I am a bit ashamed of being a Quebecer when I hear another Quebecer opposite try to confuse the issues on a bill as important as this one for the future of young people.

I believe that this bill on the criminal justice system, and let us say this once and for all, offers a flexibility that will enable Quebec to continue its good work if it so wishes. It contains precise principles which will guide the youth court judges. Access to extraordinary measures was mentioned in the Young Offenders Act when it was passed in 1986, but now these are specified, and the judge has the opportunity to use new measures. This is important.

There is the possibility of reprimands, orders for support and intensive supervision. There is the possibility of orders to submit to approved programs and of custody and supervision orders. There is the provision of programs, when the youth is in detention, to monitor him once he has returned to the community.

These new sentences will be to the young offender's advantage, since they will provide the courts with alternative measures proportional with each adolescent's offence and situation. The new bill sets out clear restrictions on custody.

It must also be pointed out that the bill limits the use of custody to crimes involving violence, repeat offenders who have not complied with previous sentences, who have already reoffended and who have been sentenced for a serious offence. It also limits custody to exceptional circumstances. It troubles me greatly to learn that this bill has been so misunderstood in Quebec.

In closing, I also find it regrettable that a young actor has been used to promote a misinformation campaign. I believe that confusion is still being spread throughout the public. Unfortunately, I cannot accept such a situation.

I take this opportunity to invite all hon. members who require information on this bill to contact us on this side of the House, and we will be pleased to explain that this bill is not what they are trying to make them believe it is. It proposes some innovative solutions to help our young people become the responsible citizens and adults of tomorrow.

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1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, at the outset, I want to point out that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I want to focus on some aspects of the bill that I find particularly worrisome. First, we see once again that if members of the Bloc Quebecois were not here to stand up for Quebec, we certainly could not rely on federal Liberal members to do so.

Everyone in Quebec agrees on one thing. We do not want Bill C-7. We do not think it reflects the reality in Quebec. Despite what members on the other side might say today, Bill C-7 deals with Canada, with the problems faced by Canada, and we believe that the situation in Quebec is quite different. Unlike the other provinces, we have been successful.

Earlier, when the member for Laval East gave us what she called alarming statistics, she said that over 1,000 young persons were sent to prison in Canada. I would have liked to know how many Quebecers were among these offenders.

I was here, during last parliament, when Bill C-3 was introduced but could not unfortunately be passed. It was both fortunate and unfortunate that this bill could not be passed. When the House of Commons reconvened, we thought we would see some changes to the bill. We detected a certain amount of electoral opportunism with the tabling of Bill C-3. We noted that the efforts of the Minister of Justice were directed at charming the electors. We all know the results.

We would have thought, when she again submitted her bill to the House that she would have provided for a little more realism and openness in the case of Quebec and the rest of Canada. That was not the case.

I was a journalist for 16 years, and worked at the Quebec City court house for two and a half years. In Bill C-7, what I really object to is the talk of releasing the names of young offenders. It permits publication of the name of an adolescent serving an adult sentence. Reference is made as well to an adolescent serving an adolescent sentence for violent crimes.

There is no point saying that the worst punishment a young person could be given is to have his or her name, picture and background published in the papers. Even today, we see in the case of repeat young offenders who have reached adulthood, 18 or 19 years of age, that the effect is incredible. The harshest punishment a criminal can be given is to have his or her background exposed in the media.

Let us imagine a young adolescent, male or female, aged between 14 and 18, who for all sorts of reasons has committed an offence, and we know our society is undergoing profound change, these are turbulent times, and that we publish his or her photo and background in the papers while this young person is in high school or college. The effect is extremely negative and may harm the individual. He or she will carry this image and have a really hard time, despite the best of efforts, in rehabilitation. The media trial will be with him or her a long time.

As politicians, we are always on parade, facing the media and we often make a statement and then retract it the next day. The retraction may appear in a corner somewhere, while the day before we made the headlines.

The same goes for young offenders who find themselves in a similar situation. Indeed, even after a fair trial, a trial that has taken into account all the circumstances, the young offender will be haunted by the media coverage of his trial.

People often only remember the original story. When there is a retraction, or when a sentence or a verdict is handed down later on, people have completely forgotten.

What they remember is the front page news with the original story, a story that is often taken directly out of the police investigation, but whose impact is not fully known.

I cannot believe that Bill C-7 will now allow the media to get hold of this information. If we let the media get hold of such stories, the young offender will be judged by the media and will not be able to make it, regardless of the rehabilitation efforts.

I also want to point out the fact that, once again, we see that the situation in Quebec and the one in Canada are very different. Some are trying to claim that the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm and the members of the Bloc Quebecois have been conducting a misinformation campaign, but it is the other side of the House that is leading such a campaign.

When Liberal federal members talk, we hear the word Canada constantly, and from time to time the word Quebec, but they seem to forget about the consensus that exists and the coalitions that were formed against Bill C-7. They always follow the party line. They always hide behind the objectives of Bill C-7 and forget what really matters, the Quebec reality.

Today, just a few hours away from an important vote that will certainly have an impact on our young people, I am asking, on behalf of my colleagues, on behalf of young offenders and on behalf of Quebec youth, that the present government show some openness and allow the government of Quebec to continue the good work it has been doing with the current infrastructures.

This situation could allow us, Quebecers, to continue to function with a system that has already been proven effective, while respecting the other vision people from western Canada and maybe also people from Ontario have with regard to young offenders.

What we are saying today is that we would like to opt out of Bill C-7 so that Quebec may continue the good work it has been doing for many years.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague say that he had been a journalist, like me. Therefore I salute a former fellow journalist.

Would my hon. colleague agree to say that the current situation is unacceptable in the sense that, as the hon. member is surely aware, the names of young people are currently published even before they are found guilty?

Is he aware that the new legislation proposes to prohibit the publication of names before the end of a trial, which means that a young person will have to be found guilty and sentenced as an adult before his name gets published?

Does he not find that is a benefit provided by the new Bill C-7?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, unless my memory does not serve me well, as far as I know, under the Youth Protection Act, when a youth appears before a court, his name remains confidential. When a 17 year old youth gets arrested, we notice that photographers always hide his face. I have never seen the names of youths under 18 identified.

However, the name of a youth can be identified if the case is transferred to an adult court. However as far as I know, currently the Youth Court Act fully protects young offenders and their names are not published. On the contrary, if their names are published, that can be considered a contempt of court. The legislation is rather severe on that account.