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 young.

Topics

Points Of Order
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. This is the House of Commons, not a seminar in procedure. The Speaker has made—

Points Of Order
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

That is not a point of order.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, be read the third time and passed.

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May 29th, 2001 / 11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret that I rise to take part in the debate on Bill C-7. It has a lengthy history. As the Chair and members of parliament know, it has been before the House in various incarnations since 1993. In effect, Bill C-7 is an aptly named bill because it is seven years old.

It has had numerous changes. It has been put through committee. It has been examined and it has been adjudicated upon, to a degree, in the sense that we have had numerous judges, lawyers and prosecutors and those who work in the justice system look at it intensely.

It saddens me to say we have a bill before us that is in a very flawed and very troubled state. It is a bill that may be arguably the most important piece of legislation we will see in a decade. It is a bill that has long term, broad implications, because it deals with what is, I would certainly say, perhaps our most valuable commodity. I do not mean to diminish our youth by calling them a commodity, but the bill deals directly with young people in Canada. The bill deals with their future. It deals with the way in which they are dealt with by the criminal justice system.

One of the supposed assets of this type of legislation is its flexibility. The legislation was supposed to allow provinces to be flexible in the way in which they approached youth justice. They were supposed to be able to hold conferences. They were supposed to be more inclusive of victims, of social workers and of accused persons in the way in which they interact, in the way in which the justice system was to envelop them and hopefully improve and thus produce a better life.

Yet when one delves into the details, and the devil is in the details in this type of legislation, one finds, sorrowfully, that this legislation will have the complete opposite effect of what it is intended to do.

The philosophy and the emphasis in this legislation is very much on rehabilitation, on reintegration and on early intervention and prevention. To that end I very much agree with those sentiments. I agree with the direction in which the legislation is attempting to take us in terms of our criminal justice system.

Yet again it falls far short. The legislation will not achieve these noble objectives. It will not allow our young people to avail themselves of all of these noble ambitions, because it is a bill in which the Minister of Justice and her department have very much tried to please everyone. They have gone so far afield in trying to bring everything together in this one massive, complex, convoluted bill that none of these objectives will be achieved.

Therefore I stand here with great consternation, because the bill is one which we very much want and need in the country. Yet, as the Progressive Conservative justice critic representing my party in this process, I do not feel that I can in good conscience support the bill. I do not feel that the bill will achieve all those things that need to be achieved in our justice system today.

For example, the bill would give unspecified regions power to customize sentences and trends according to area standards, whatever that means. The bill would allow judges, who complained that the first version of this bill was too complicated and upon seeing it a second time were even more confused as to what the bill actually intended, various sentencing alternatives, which might vary by province, by city and by individual judge or court. For example, paragraph 38(2)(b) states that sentences must be similar to the sentences imposed in other regions “on similar young persons found guilty of the same offence committed in similar circumstances”.

Again, is this effective? Is this the type of language that leads to any real sense of clarity in terms of what is intended? The bill has left judges with much experience, with years and years of work in the justice system, scratching their heads as to how they would implement this type of legislation.

One of the greatest assets of any justice system is the ability to be timely, the ability to have justice done swiftly and to have it be seen to be done swiftly, as the old legal maxim goes. The legislation would make that virtually impossible because of this complexity and the new and convoluted route that cases would have to navigate. In regard to timely hearings, timely trials, a person having access to justice will surely find that it will take months, if not years to reach the end, to reach the conclusion of that process.

I know, Madam Speaker, that you have a history with the justice committee and have taken a great interest in the process as well. We are left feeling very shortchanged by the bill. After having heard from so many with so much expertise, understanding and history as to how the system works, we are left with a virtual nightmare in terms of the legislation.

It does not get to the point. It does not accomplish the goals that we should be striving to achieve. Justice delayed will be justice denied. That phrase will encompass and be stamped indelibly on the bill when it comes to fruition, if the government does not pull back at the last moment, which is unlikely.

For example, if young people were to find themselves charged with first degree murder in my home town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and were taken through the process, would they receive the same treatment, the same end result as they would in Vancouver?

That is a test that should be met. The purpose of our federal justice system is to have balance and parity. The very symbols of justice must be balanced. My genuine feeling is that it will not happen. There is a great deal of reason to believe, in looking at the various clauses in the bill, that a parity of justice will not exist. There is nothing to mandate that a young person who commits a deadly crime pays with serious time, regardless of the province in which it is committed.

There is an amendment, for example, to subclause 42(2)(o) that three years or less in a penitentiary would be served. In the mind of the public, a three year sentence coupled with probation, if it is to follow, does not adequately or proportionately respond to the gravity of the offence.

However many attempts were made to amend the legislation and however many sources came forward with innovative and intelligent suggestions on how to improve the bill, most of those attempts were rebuffed. There was little time in this round of parliament to delve into the details of the bill. For all intents and purposes time allocation or closure was invoked in committee just as it was in the House.

Again, because of the importance of the bill, members of the opposition, some members of the government side and perhaps some members of the committee were left feeling very frustrated because they were not allowed to call witnesses to go over some of the very flawed legislation. Some would argue, and I would be one, that there is so much wrong with the legislation that it is impossible to improve. It is like trying to polish a rotten apple; it cannot happen.

Supposedly this process is open to change in order to result in the best possible bill. Yet that did not happen. It was not effective. It was not functional. It broke down, perhaps was because of the personalities involved or perhaps because the government was not listening. That seems to be very much the case with not only the bill but with many pieces of legislation that we see in the House.

There is an attitude of superiority, that members of the opposition do not quite get it, that somehow they are out for purely partisan purposes and have a lesser understanding of the importance of the government's agenda. That is hogwash and simply not true. Many people in opposition approached the bill in a very professional, straightforward and common sense way. They were left feeling as if they got very short shrift. They were treated with very little respect.

Yesterday I attempted to move an amendment to the bill with respect to subclause 125(6). I did so at the request of the Canadian School Boards Association and other associated groups on behalf of teachers. It was meant to try to improve the information sharing regarding dangerous youth offenders who may be in our school system. The amendment would have provided for the sharing of information so that the provincial director, a youth worker, an attorney general, a peace officer or a person engaged in the justice system could share information mandatorily. They would have to do so, for the simple reason that information would be used for a very important purpose. It would protect other students and help in the rehabilitative efforts of the young person who is in the school system.

If the bill provides for that in some instances where it says may, my amendment would have made it mandatory so that it had to happen. There is a breakdown in the information sharing in the current system. It was very much in the interest of everyone to have this information mandatorily shared with our schools.

Others are trusted with the information. There are no privacy concerns when it comes to police officers, community workers or the staff involved in the court system. It is almost insulting to suggest somehow that if we were to give this information to teachers they would abuse it. One is left wondering why the government would vote against such a common sense amendment. Perhaps we will hear some response to that at some point, but I doubt it.

We have tried time and time again to improve upon the legislation. I worked with the old Young Offenders Act and there is no question in my mind that it was not a perfect system either. Although it was a great motivation in my decision to come to parliament, I am left with the inescapable conclusion that the old system will function better or was functioning better than the system we are about to embark on.

It troubles me greatly to think that simply by being here and participating in this system I will have to answer to some future generation as to how parliament could put in place such a convoluted and complex system, such a monster in terms of the delay it would wreak on the system. I will have to ponder as to how I would respond, but at least I will have some solace in knowing that I tried. I tried to make some changes. I tried to put forward some suggestions on how to improve the bill.

There is much talk again about the flexibility of holding these conferences in which the accused, victims and others will be able to participate in the system. Yet it seems to be left in a cloud of doubt and a shroud of complexity.

There is a question with respect to new responsibilities of the police in their actions. They are to engage in a new venture of counselling wherein they will be required to issue cautions. They will be required to delve into the young person's life in detail and to some extent be required to become like social workers. All the information when gathered, which is another very serious flaw in the bill, would not be admissible for the purposes of a bail hearing.

If a young person has been the beneficiary of several warnings and cautions, if the police are aware that he or she is likely to embark on more serious crimes such as break and enter, violence or drug use, and if the person is taken into custody, the police will not be required to refer to the information they had gathered through this new system for the purposes of holding or detaining the young person at a judicial interim release hearing or a bail hearing.

I brought this information to the attention of the justice minister and her officials, and yet there is no willingness to change. The Liberal government has also ignored numerous community concerns with respect to mandatory increased sentences for gang violence or swarming. There was no attempt to essentially up the ante for that type of violent behaviour. There was no attempt to have recognized in legislation a specific offence for home invasion when young people were aware or should have been aware that the person was at home when they entered the dwelling house.

That would have been the correct message to send if we were to make the legislation firmer and fairer in order to protect the public. Our justice system should be about protecting the public and keeping in mind rehabilitation and reintegration.

At the end of the day there has to be corrective action taken if young people or otherwise are wreaking havoc in a community. Sometimes it involves removing them from the community for lengthy periods of time given the offence that has been committed. The bill is not sending the signal that violent offenders and those who commit serious offences will be treated in a serious and firm but fair way.

I have already mentioned the delay involved in bringing forth the legislation, but another flaw that ties into my earlier comments is the lack of language referring to deterrence and denunciation, deterrence being either general or specific and denunciation for the crime itself. The bill is completely void of that type of language. It makes no mention of it, yet it is used in courtrooms across the country every day. The department and the minister in their wisdom are loath to use that type of language in the bill.

We have heard many complaints from numerous individuals across the country about the way in which the bill has been put together. I cannot stress enough the complexity of the bill. We had the Juvenile Delinquents Act which comprised 30 sections. From there we went to the Young Offenders Act which contained approximately 70 sections. Then we talked about the need to streamline and the need to make the legislation more user friendly so that parents and young people could understand it.

What did the department come up with? It came up with a bill that has 200 clauses. The legislation will be more than doubled. Yet the department and the minister have the audacity to say that it is streamlined legislation. It could not be more the antithesis of streamlined legislation. It is the complete opposite. The minister is being very economical with the truth when she uses that kind of language.

For example, subclause 45(2)is 86 words long in one sentence. That is the type of complexity we are talking about. It reads like Chinese arithmetic. It is something that will be extremely difficult for those working in the justice system to try to administer.

This leads me to another major flaw or chasm for the provinces. Due to the new complexity, new processes and new requirements for the administration of the bill, it will take massive resources to accomplish this task. The provinces are feeling extremely frustrated. Many who came before the justice committee stated in a very straightforward and polite way that they did not have the resources to accomplish the task given to them by the government.

In many ways that is exactly what is happening. The government is asking the provinces to administer the bill. Yet it is trying to micromanage the way in which they would do it. It is telling them they have these new responsibilities and new hearings to administer. The provinces will have all sorts of problems in trying to accomplish this task. Yet the government will not give them the additional resources they require.

Understandably the provinces are very upset but the government would not listen. It essentially says that is too bad and that it will go ahead with it any event. It thanked the provinces for voicing their concerns but informed them that they would have to do it. That is not exactly what I would call co-operative federalism. This is not the type of approach that should be taken, particularly on a bill as important as this one.

The minister has talked numerous times about a decrease in crime and how the statistics are plummeting. She should talk to the police, to case workers and to probation workers. They will tell her otherwise, particularly when it comes to violent crime. We know that violent crime is very much on the rise, particularly among young women. In the last 10 years it has risen over 77% as far as youth are concerned. Since 1988 it has risen 127% among young women. These are shocking statistics.

Public concern about lack of accountability for crimes, particularly those committed by young people, hinges on the fact that there does not appear to be much in the way of deterrents. We have new processes of statutory release, presumptive release, conditional release and conditional sentences. These are some of the same flawed practices that exist in the adult system. Now the government is downloading them on to the youth court system and telling the provinces to do their best. However it will not be there to help them when it comes to light that it will cost considerably more and result in more delay.

Frontline police officers are saying the same. They are very concerned about the new responsibilities. Victim groups are not satisfied that they will be given enough participation or recognition in the new system.

The new bill, although it is not new and has been recycled several times, is one that is fraught with grave financial implications and grave implications in terms of delay, complexity and breakdown in the system. The only people perhaps who will be happy will be the lawyers, particularly the defence lawyers. This will be the best make work program that the government could possibly have come up with. What will be accomplished?

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12:15 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I know he has a great deal of background on this issue, having been a crown prosecutor and having dealt with the very act that Bill C-7 seeks to amend.

I learned quite a bit from his speech. I would like him to elaborate a little further on one thing he raised. The old Juvenile Delinquents Act had some 30 odd sections. The Young Offenders Act had roughly 70 sections. This bill, which ostensibly seeks to clarify, streamline and make more accessible the Young Offenders Act, has 200 sections. What is even more worrisome is the omissions in the bill, which he pointed out.

How can we have a new act that deals with young offenders but fails to contemplate or mention things like gang activity or home invasions? The single most frightening thing for senior citizens today is the possibility that some thug will kick their doors in and invade their home while they are sitting watching television. This is a very genuine fear for Canadians. They want some specific mention of the seriousness of that crime.

Could the hon. member elaborate, not so much on what is worrisome in the act but on some of the glaring shortcomings or omissions, which he pointed out.

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12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I know he has a real interest in this issue.

It is difficult for me to answer on behalf of the government as to why it failed to address these questions he put forward. Why would the government not take this opportunity to put in place a system that would leave people, in particular seniors, feeling that they would be protected in their home? There is no specific mention of home invasion or the creation of an offence that would react in a very deterrent and straightforward way on that type of offence. Nor do we see a genuine attempt to address the issues of violence or violence using firearms or weapons, which is sadly another type of offence that is on the rise.

Swarming is another offence that has become commonplace, not only in big cities, but in rural Canada as well. Groups of youth maraud, band together, turn upon individuals and beat them into submission. We saw this happen outside Toronto to a young man by the name of Jonathan Wamback who was severely beaten within an inch of his life. His father undertook a very impassioned plea to the country to try to bring about some change in our justice system, particularly in this bill. It was completely ignored by the government.

I am not sure I can give any account as to why the government did not take the opportunity, which was the most obvious chance we had, to change the bill. Instead it came forward with this bill and all the shortcomings, a bill so complex and so convoluted. It has doubled in size the terms and conditions in which the legislation will operate.

The government has failed to attack some of the biggest problems which have existed in the system for the last 10 or 15 years, in the Young Offenders Act. It completely defies logic. It has left many, not only those in the legal community but many in the community who would be most affected, scratching their heads and wondering why they elected the government in the first place, if this is the type of legislation they will get as a result.

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12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I have just a few comments as the end of a long process winds down, not only in the context of time allocation but also in the context of a bill that has received a great deal of attention by this parliament and the previous parliament.

We regret to say that we cannot support Bill C-7 because we all started from the proposition, with perhaps the exception of the Bloc Quebecois because the Young Offender's Act seems to be working in Quebec in a way that it does not seem to be working in the rest of the country, that the Young Offender's Act did not live up to expectations. I say that as someone who was here in 1983-84 when we passed the Young Offender's Act. There was a great sense of progress in that we had finally shed the juvenile delinquent's act and that a new day in youth criminal justice was ahead of us. Some 15 years later we do not have that feeling at all.

We have the feeling that the Young Offender's Act does not work, that it has many unintended consequences and that it does not have enough discretion built into it. Too many young people are being forced into and clogging up the court system. We feel that that kind of discretion should be available to the system, which is not available in the Young Offender's Act. So we have before us the youth criminal justice act.

Unfortunately, we can also say today that, given the unwillingness of the government to consider many of the criticisms that have been levelled at the bill, to consider the need for more resources if this bill is to be implemented properly, a point that has been made over and over again by various provincial governments and to consider the complexity of the bill and the fact that it might actually extend rather than shorten the distance in time between the offence and consequences, one has the ominous feeling that 15 years from now, and some of us may still be here, we will be discussing the failure of the youth criminal justice act.

That might be something in the nature of this kind of legislation or it might be something peculiar to this legislation. It is probably a little bit of both. In the end no amount of youth criminal justice legislation, whether it is the Young Offender's Act or the juvenile delinquent's act or the youth criminal justice act, is going to be enough to solve our problems.

Our problems are fundamentally social, economic and moral. They have a lot to do with the kind of values young people are picking up in the media, on television, from the popular culture and even from our economic system. We have an economic culture that more than ever before holds up self-interest as the guiding light, that everything works well if we all pursue our own self-interest in an extremely competitive way. The language of co-operation that we might find in older notions of how we should relate to each other or that might be found on Sesame Street, soon evaporates for many youths when they see how the world unfortunately sometimes really works. We have a much larger task ahead of us than anything we could accomplish through the youth criminal justice system.

I want to re-emphasize some of the things we said at second reading and which have not really been addressed in committee. We find ourselves in much the same position as we were at second reading. I already mentioned the fact that the complexity in the bill was a problem in of itself. However it could also lengthen the time between the actions and the consequences.

One thing we know, at least it seems so to me, is that there is a great deal of agreement that for justice to be effective, particularly with young people, it should be swift. People should be able to make the connection between what they have done and what the punishment is or what the consequences are and not have it so delayed as to be remote in the connection in the young person's mind.

The question of the changing the reverse onus provisions, changing the existing situation whereby the state now has to argue for youth between the ages of 14 and 17 to be brought before adult court, will change. What is this going to mean? This will mean a bigger role for lawyers in the system. This in itself will delay things. Anything lawyers have something to do with is a source of delay, sometimes legitimate and sometimes not.

This will further complicate the system, given the fact that many young people who find themselves in trouble are not always from families of means. This will mean an increased burden on legal aid. We are very concerned about the chain reaction involved. This is all part of a downloading of costs onto the provinces, legal aid et cetera without the corresponding resources being devolved to people who will have to deal with the complexities of this new system.

The province of Manitoba has a concern with this legislation. We do not want this new act to apply to children under 12. However, at the same time we need a strategy for dealing with children under 12. In the inner city of Winnipeg and many other places we know that children under 12 are being employed by gangs to effect their criminal intentions. We need a strategy to deal with that which is effective and at the same time respects the fact that we do not want children under 12 to be brought, strictly speaking, within the rubric of the youth criminal justice act.

There are a lot of things that need to be done. This bill does not do them in terms of resources. It does not do them in terms of its own stated objectives. For the record, for this reason and many others which I do not intend to go into at the moment, the NDP will be voting against the bill at third reading stage.

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12:25 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform you that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Mississauga West.

We are about to pass an amendment as important as it is needed in the way Canada deals with youth crime. The rate of youth incarceration in Canada has now reached a totally unacceptable level. It is the highest in the western world, even higher than in the United States.

Some members from Quebec like to praise their province's justice system, which they say is based on rehabilitation of young offenders. According to a pamphlet prepared by the Bloc Quebecois, the suggested approach calls for rehabilitation therapy in a youth centre before a young offender commits an even more serious crime.

The member for Berthier—Montcalm declared that Quebec tends to personalize the process based on three fundamental principles: punishing the young person; making him accountable for his actions; and addressing his psychological and social problems, all with a view to rehabilitation and reintegration into society

What the hon. member neglects to tell us, however, is that Quebec tends to make use of committal to custody for young people guilty of offences that are not particularly serious, I repeat, as it is very important: young people who have not done anything particularly serious, more often than any other jurisdiction except one. This tendency is not affected by whether the adolescent has no prior convictions or has only one or two.

Numerous studies and experiments worldwide have shown that what works best is to get the young offender to assume responsibility outside the formal system. This type of intervention makes it possible to react promptly to the adolescent's misbehaviour by imposing a significant measure, that is one from which he or she learns something, thus bringing about rehabilitation and redressing the wrongs caused.

I would like to get back to the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm. He engaged in a tour, to which he referred, during which he described certain scenarios in order to convince people that Bill C-7 is bad for Quebec.

I will pick up on one of the scenarios to demonstrate the incongruity of the arguments presented by the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm. It is the case of Hugues, which hon. members may well have seen in the Bloc Quebecois pamphlets so widely distributed throughout Quebec.

It starts by stating that, under the Young Offenders Act, Hugues' problem, which is connected to gang membership, would be revealed immediately upon his arrest and first court appearance. They go on to say that the crown and the defence attorney will probably agree on a training and social reintegration program where he would be kept away from his gang.

They conclude, that is the Bloc Quebecois and the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, that with a six or eight month social intervention program Hugues seems to have a chance.

Then, in the second scenario, according to the Bloc Quebecois, Hugues would receive totally different treatment under Bill C-7. The person who wrote the pamphlet indicates that Hugues would appear before a court after his offence and temporary detention would be accepted as a defence strategy. After a trial, Hugues would be sentenced to eight months detention. He would not have access to rehabilitation programs because time would be too short; he would be left to himself. The various intervenors, specialists, teachers and scholars would become prison guards.

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12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Madam Speaker, I think you will find that we do not have quorum for such an important debate. I would ask that you please call a quorum count.

And the count having been taken:

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12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

We now have quorum.

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12:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, what is very clear in Hugues' case, as narrated by the member for Berthier—Montcalm, is that the comparison between the two pieces of legislation is based on some unfounded premises which the author is presenting as absolute rules when in fact everything is hypothetical.

For example, it is hard to believe that the reasons why Hugues and his lawyer plead guilty and accept the sentence for an eight-month detention in a youth centre, as is proposed by the crown, according to the scenario involving the Young Offenders Act, would disappear simply because another act applies.

Also, it is hard to understand why Hugues would be confined to temporary detention under Bill C-7 when in fact this new act says that a young offender can be released from detention in the custody of someone and requires that the court check if someone trustworthy can and will take care of the young offender. This option applies perfectly to Hugues' case, especially if the purpose of the intervention is to keep him away from his gang.

Finally, it is unthinkable that a teenager could be left to himself instead of being enrolled in rehabilitation programs. A good social reintegration requires the implementation of programs which begin during the custody period and continue within the community with the support and under the supervision of a youth social worker.

This is exactly what Bill C-7 provides for by stipulating that rehabilitation programs assisting young persons to be reintegrated into the community must kick in as soon as the offenders are sentenced and held in custody.

It is also important to note that the effectiveness of any intervention cannot be measured only by the number of days in custody, but rather by the quality and the relevancy of the programs designed for young persons and the quick and fair treatment of young offenders. These are the principles underlying Bill C-7.

I would now like to deal with the right to opt out.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking the federal government to give Quebec the right to opt out so it can continue to implement the current legislation. The federal government has enacted the current Young Offenders Act and has proposed this bill in respect of criminal justice for young persons under its powers pursuant to section 91 of the Constitution Act of 1867.

These two pieces of legislation are codes of procedure and sentencing for crimes committed by young persons. The fact that criminal law is nationwide in scope does not require, and former Justice Dickson said so in 1990 in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in R. v S. (S.), that it be implemented in a uniform way and in all its details in all the provinces.

The youth criminal justice act provides enough leeway to allow each provincial government to implement it in a way that meets its own challenges and particular needs. This leeway will allow Quebec not only to preserve but also to improve its youth criminal justice system.

I also wish to remind the opposition that Bill C-7 is the result of broad consultation of the provinces, territories and people interested by youth crime. Through this consultation, numerous flaws were identified in the present system.

The bill is to fix the flaws of the Young Offenders Act, while building upon its strengths. The main features of this reform have been approved by the Canadian population as a whole, including the population of Quebec, as shown by a CROP survey conducted in June 2000.

The last point I wish to raise is the implementation cost of this legislation.

I must say that federal support to Quebec, in particular in terms of preservation and improvement of its youth criminal justice system, also takes the shape of an increased financial contribution. As a matter of fact, by 2004-05, basic federal transfers for youth criminal justice will have increased by 39% compared to 1998-99.

I hope that these clarifications will allow members of this House and in particular those of the Bloc to better appreciate the scope of Bill C-7, and that they will support the bill at the third reading vote.

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12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Madam Speaker, on the invitation of the member who just spoke, who is from Quebec and claims that the bill is perfect, I would ask her if she has taken note of all the support coming from the members of the coalition.

I would like to know if she has indeed read all the documents of the coalition, which is against the bill.

I would also like to know if she has read the proposed unanimous resolution of the Quebec national assembly, which opposed this bill last week and which is asking that Quebec be allowed to maintain its rehabilitation program.

I would also like her to try to name organizations, not individuals, that would be in favour of her position, precisely to back up her position. I ask her to name a series of organizations that are in the justice area, the rehabilitation area or in the area of all those who are intervening with young offenders.

Moreover, I would like her to name those who agree with the position she is defending.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, first, I thank the hon. member for his question. I would like to tell him that I was elected in the past to sit on the board of Batshaw, which is responsible for all the youth centres in the English speaking community of the island of Montreal. I know very well the youth criminal justice system in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

Secondly, I have examined the first bill introduced by the minister. I did not support it, because it was too complicated and it penalized the young. I also thought that if it was not possible to make improvements through that bill, it was better to simply correct the shortcomings in the Young Offenders Act, which does have some shortcomings.

However the minister heeded the representations of the justice committee and more particularly the recommendations of the Quebec Bar Association. My colleague opposite will probably agree that the Quebec Bar Association knows what it is talking about.

In its presentation, this association made comprehensive recommendations to improve the bill. The minister listened, and she incorporated all or most of these recommendations. That is the first point.

Second, I have been asked if I had any knowledge of the position of the coalition, for example. Yes I do, and I find it rather unfortunate that that position is in fact a position on an earlier version of the bill. The coalition does not seem to be aware of the major changes the minister made to her bill. I would like to give an example.

Under the Young Offenders Act, 14 year-olds may be given adult sentences for certain criminal offences. However when we listen to some of the people who are opposed to Bill C-7, we hear them say how terrible it is that 14-year-olds may receive adult sentences under Bill C-7. The possibility already exists.

I wonder sometimes if people are trying to mislead Canadians when they do not give the facts, when they do not interpret correctly the present legislation that has been in effect in Canada for 16 years and when they do not give all the information.

Also, under the Young Offenders Act, teens can be transferred to adult court for certain criminal offences. That is terrible. Not one single expert working with young offenders is in favour of that. However, Bill C-7 corrects this flaw in the Young Offenders Act. Now, the youth court will have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases involving young offenders prosecuted under the youth criminal justice bill, including—

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. I will just remind hon. members that the hon. member split her time, so therefore she only had five minutes of questions and comments.

I would ask members on both sides of the House to show the same respect. When someone replies, we all want to hear what he or she has to say. The question is good, but we must be able to hear the reply also.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Mississauga West, ON

Madam Speaker, I know it has been a while. I am delighted to see that I have been missed. I have been busy on committee and dealing with other issues.

I do not know if there is an issue that is more of a watershed, that is more of a defining matter of philosophy versus pragmatism than the changes being made to deal with youth criminals in the youth criminal justice system.

We have heard the debates from friends opposite, and maybe not so friends opposite. They have talked about some of the solutions that are envisioned based on their philosophies and their experiences.

There are some very fundamental differences between the views of members on that side of the House and members here. Some members of the official opposition would simply say that three strikes and the person is out and we should throw away the key. Then we have other members of the official opposition who believe that punishment is the goal, which is what it thinks the bill should be rooted in. These are two of the extremes. We then have the other extreme—