House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was young.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

4:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for South Surrey--White Rock--Langley, National Security.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by sincerely congratulating the critic for the Bloc Quebecois for the fight that he has made on the bill. Formerly it was Bill C-68 and then I believe it was Bill C-3 and Bill C-7.

As members know, I do not serve on the justice committee, but from a distance I know some of the work the member has put into the legislation to try to point out to the justice committee and to other members the shortcomings of the bill before us. At the same time he has tried to point out what seems to have worked well in Quebec and the puzzlement as to why the Young Offenders Act, which was passed some time ago, has not worked as well in the rest of Canada.

We have to acknowledge what has happened. It is unfortunate that even at this eleventh hour we are not making terribly significant changes and have only one amendment before us.

The amendment simply suggests that when all other available sanctions than custody are being considered for young offenders, “particular attention should be paid to the circumstances of aboriginal young people”.

Generally the amendment fits well with the position that we have taken on the legislation in all its incarnations.

When the legislation was first in this current parliament, as well as previous ones, the NDP caucus took the position that one thing the youth criminal justice system regime should be was more responsive to the situation that young offenders actually found themselves in. We hope that the amendment before us today will provide for greater latitude in sentencing aboriginal young offenders by allowing them to receive alternative sentences that may have more to do with restorative justice and other aboriginal principles involving their communities.

We have contacted the Assembly of First Nations and it is generally supportive of the amendment. However, it feels that little is likely to come of an amendment with wording that consists of a should rather than a more forceful direction. I would draw that wording to the attention of the justice critic for the Alliance who spoke about his concerns with that legislation. Obviously the Assembly of First Nations would feel that a shall would be more appropriate and that a should gives an undue degree of discretion.

The Assembly of First Nations also has concerns with the legislation in general in terms of its flexibility and discretion around sentencing. The assembly finds that when sentences are discretionary for aboriginal youth that those aboriginal youth tend to be more harshly penalized for their actions than non-aboriginal youth.

The AFN position fits in well with what we have said about the legislation in the past, that the problems of youth justice have much more to do with economic and social deficiencies than inequalities. We feel that one problem with the legislation is it makes the regime more complex and institutionalizes this flexibility and discretion. We feel these issues would be better resolved with more community policing and a closer relationship between young offenders and police officers, as well as other justice providers in their communities.

Various provincial governments, including NDP governments in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, have been concerned that while this legislation is more complex and changes the system for young offenders, there are not enough resources being provided to the provinces that would have to implement the legislation to make these changes truly effective. To that extent I concur and listen closely to the justice critic for the Canadian Alliance Party who obviously has firsthand knowledge in this area as a former minister of justice in the province of Manitoba.

The NDP does support the amendment without reservation. However we believe it is too flawed to support without addressing the concerns I mentioned about community policing, the new complexities of the legislation, and especially the fact that under the legislation young offenders would have to prove they should not be sent to adult court rather than the crown having to prove they should. It is a reverse onus with which we do not agree.

I do not intend to speak to the bill very long. As I said, I am not the justice critic for our caucus. However before I take my seat I want to report to the House that during our break over Christmas and the new year I held some meetings in small towns in my riding of Palliser. I was frankly surprised by the number of people who came out to talk about their concerns about justice and young offenders. These are towns in rural parts of Saskatchewan that tend to be populated by older Canadians.

As I indicated, these people are apprehensive about what is happening in their communities. They tend to believe, rightly or wrongly, that the people perpetrating the burglaries, crimes, car thefts, et cetera are not from their own small communities but from larger centres. They believe most kids either in their communities or elsewhere are law-abiding but that there are a few who are not. They say the police seem unable to apprehend them and when they do the justice system seems to break down.

By the same token there are encouraging signs that we are intervening earlier. Earlier this month I had the opportunity to visit an inner-city school in Regina, the Kitchener Community School, where there is a new head start program and early intervention. These are some of the things that will help in the years to come.

Based on the meetings I held while touring my constituency I have no doubt the Canadian public will be watching the changes brought forward in the youth justice bill very closely and with great interest.

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would just like a clarification, which the Table can perhaps provide me with.

We understand that this is a motion relating to an amendment originating in the Senate. When we look at the Senate's amendment, we note a difference between the French and the English versions.

I would like a clarification, because in the French text in clause 38, page 38, the replacement for line 27 reads as follows:

Toutes les sanctions applicables, à l'exception du placement sous garde qui sont justifiées dans les circonstances, doivent faire l'objet d'un examen, —

This is a kind of order, an obligation. Reference to the English text finds the expression should be, a suggestion. The form is conditional. This makes a very big difference in application. This being criminal law, there must really be great precision. I would like clarification on this, because it will affect the vote later on.

Is it the shall of the French or the should be of the English, a kind of suggestion in conditional form, that should prevail?

Points of Order
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I believe the hon. member is correct. We will, however, check with the Senate people to see whether this is a transcription or a translation error.

We will get back to the House on this a little later.

The House resumed consideration of the motion in relation to the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-7, an Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, and of the amendment.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment and a question. In the province of Manitoba and the city of Winnipeg statistics have come out that say 26 motor vehicles per day are stolen. I suspect Regina has somewhat similar stats. Could the hon. member relate what he sees in Regina?

When the perpetrators are caught, either in the vehicle or through other investigative measures, it is found that the majority of them are young offenders. Many of the stolen vehicles end up wrecked or damaged, either by themselves or by running into other vehicles or people's property while in the possession of the young offenders who stole them.

Could the hon. member relate to us the situation in Saskatchewan to give us a feeling for the bigger part of the country? Does he believe the government's bill would do anything concrete to help the provinces solve the problem of juvenile theft of motor vehicles?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Selkirk--Interlake for his question.

The question regarding car theft, particularly in the city of Regina. Members who are not from Saskatchewan may know the rate is high and has remained high for some time. Not being a psychologist I do not know what would make a person, young or old, want to steal a car and drive it around for a while then deliberately drive it into a tree, a creek or something of that sort and total the vehicle. However it is happening.

I touched on community policing. This is one of the things I picked up on in my meetings. There are large areas on the prairies that are not populated where one goes some distance between communities. The feeling is that there are not enough police in those communities to apprehend people either before they commit crimes or after the fact.

The provincial governments in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan are aware of the situation. The justice critic for the hon. member's party was lamenting the fact that there are insufficient resources. A lot of this is being downloaded to the provinces to pay for the additional policing that seems to be required.

In terms of whether the legislation would work or make a difference, that remains to be seen. Based on my first hand observations Canadians will be watching extremely closely as to whether it is more effective than the legislation it is replacing.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I take issue with the member for Palliser's comment that a lack of police is the issue in our part of the world which is southern Saskatchewan.

A report in a newspaper in Regina a month or so ago mentioned that most of the cars are being stolen by a small group of individuals and that some of them had stolen over 100 vehicles. It said there was one young fellow whose goal was to reach 250 vehicles before he turned 16. It sounded like he was well on his way to doing that.

Could the hon. member tell me what he would suggest we do with these people who continually flout the law, have no interest in abiding by it and do not seem to be punished by it at all?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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4:45 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I do not know. I am not in the justice system. I do not know of the report the hon. member for Cypress Hills--Grasslands refers to.

When the Young Offenders Act seemed to be heated up significantly a year and a half ago I spent a day in youth court in Regina. The most impressive thing I came away with from that experience was the fact that there were so few legal aid lawyers there to deal with the cases. Cases were being continually set over and remanded for another date. Nothing seemed to get accomplished during the day I observed the youth criminal justice system.

We need to look at the system. We need to look at intervention such as that raised by the justice critic for the Bloc Quebecois. We need to look at the way we go about finding out what is happening to people whose goal is to steal 250 cars if that in fact is the case. Is anyone sitting down with them? Is anyone putting them face to face with victims to explain the hurt and damage that has gone on? Is anyone trying to involve them in community development and community work to repay society for the damage they have caused?

We will have to see whether the new bill works or not. I am skeptical but we will wait and see.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am always pleased to rise in the Chamber on behalf of the constituents of Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, my colleagues in the Conservative coalition and to simply be able to address the House, particularly on such an important bill as this.

The debate today centres around an amendment to the new youth criminal justice act that will replace the Young Offenders Act. Arguably one of the most important tasks that we could undertake in this place is to put in place a more effective and more accountable system of criminal justice for youth.

The act in its entirety will replace the Young Offenders Act at great cost to the country in terms of delay, in terms of implementation and certainly in terms of cost to young people. The country will quickly come to understand that the bill is virtually unenforceable in its complexity and in its costs associated with setting up these new programs.

Throughout the deliberations at committee, where we heard from numerous witnesses from all aspects of the youth criminal justice system, one of the statements that was most telling, and which has stayed with me to this very day, came from a very senior judge who had spent a great portion of his life on the bench dealing with the enforcement of the Young Offenders Act. He told members of the committee that he had read the bill no less than five times and was not able to comprehend fully what the bill was seeking to achieve.

I can only equate that level of complexity with the Income Tax Act in terms of new provisions, convoluted references and cross sections.

I have many friends in the practice of law, many of them practising criminal law specifically and spending a great deal of time in youth court which preoccupies, unfortunately, a great deal of the time that is set aside for hearings. They have indicated to me that, as lawyers, they are happy about the new legislation because of the new appeals and the new work that will result for the legal community. I say that in seriousness, with no degree of sarcasm. The bill would be a make work program for lawyers.

I want to take a moment to congratulate the new Minister of Justice. I am quick to note that he has inherited the bill as did his predecessor. The new minister, sadly, seems to have adopted the approach that we will fast track the bill, get it through parliament as quickly as possible and then wash our hands of it.

That is very unfortunate because although the amendment, which I will speak to in more detail in a moment, is very much an attempt to improve upon what I would call a bad bill, it does not address the overwhelming need to look at the convoluted, costly, cumbersome nature of the legislation that is being thrust upon the provinces.

My grandfather had an expression that aptly sums up what is happening with the amendment. It is an attempt to improve a bad situation. He used to say that we can sometimes come across a good stick of hardwood in a manure pile. This is an amendment that will improve upon a bill but the bill itself is so flawed in its entirety that it is difficult to even recognize the merit of what will occur.

As legislators we have to be very adamant about recognizing that no bill will satisfy everyone. As a former crown attorney who worked with the current Young Offenders Act and has some working knowledge of the previous Juvenile Delinquents Act, I never thought I would come to the conclusion that the old Young Offenders Act would be better than anything that we could come up with in a serious, studied and informed way.

Upon arriving in Ottawa after being elected in 1997, I was convinced that through the work of the justice committee, through the input of the entire forces of the Department of Justice and all of the minions and lawyers who work in that department, surely we could come up with something better than the Young Offenders Act.

Well, much to my dismay, we have produced, after eight years of study under this Liberal administration, a bill that is terribly wrong and cumbersome.

The bill was intended to simplify and streamline a system so that young people, in particular, their parents and those who are tasked with the enforcement of youth criminal justice would be able to work in a more suitable and responsive fashion, in a way that would be quick to adapt to the changing times and the way in which young people find themselves facing tough decisions which lead to their involvement in the criminal justice system.

I would be quick to embrace the philosophy of the bill. The intent clearly is to somehow codify a system that would allow for early intervention which would allow for the proverbial pre-emptive strike in dealing with young people when they make those decisions that challenge the law. Yet, sadly, what we have done is put layers on top of layers and have created a system that will result in numerous delays and new court challenges.

This new approach that was supposed to achieve so much will have the polar opposite effect. It will result in these delays which follow that old legal maxim that justice delayed is justice denied. This system will not allow young people, and their parents in particular, to grasp what is happening.

Many who work in the system would certainly agree that accountability and responsibility are paramount to any youth justice system. What this does is separate that nexus of accountability.

When a person finds himself or herself charged with a criminal offence, he or she meets first with a lawyer, if possible. My friend from Palliser has identified a very important problem: the lack of resources for legal aid, for crown attorneys to deal with the volume of cases, for police, for social workers and even for judges. The system has ballooned. It has expanded.

This new, complex, convoluted system adds to that voluminous bureaucracy that is building like mould around our justice system and expanding like a snowball going downhill. We need to strip away, like old shingles, some of the buildup that has occurred over the years in the justice system and allow people to understand in a more fundamental way how the system works. Further to that, people need to have access to the system. They do not need to be given more sterile delays in the system.

Because of the lack of lawyers and the systemic delay that results from these new procedures, months, if not years, can go by from the time the charge is made to the time of conviction or acquittal. The system to transfer youth to adult court is more complex than it is to conduct a trial and secure a conviction or an acquittal, as the case may be. We seem to be in reverse when we look at the cause and effect of Bill C-7.

While there may be a number of improvements, when we spoke to police, as I mentioned, lawyers, judges and legislators from the provincial side, the negatives far outweigh the positives. I want to talk for a moment about the new responsibilities that will fall on police, on the law enforcement community.

What police are currently doing in exercising discretion under our current system is making judgment calls in the field. Very often, rather than charge a young person, they may decide to reprimand on the spot, to take them home, to enter into discussions with parents and to essentially do what police are supposed to do: exercise that proper discretion.

What we are doing here is trying to somehow codify this system of discretion, telling police that they can now issue warnings, that they can now issue cautions and that these have to be written up in a certain way. We are superimposing these responsibilities in an artificial way, telling police that they must be counsellors and caseworkers, and that they must document all of this, do the paperwork and spend less time out on the street and more time being administrators and paper shufflers.

This imposition, on top of the current responsibilities of law enforcement and the demands upon the men and women who are currently carrying out that important task, is, I suggest again, a great deal of delay and a great deal of unnecessary, unsubstantiated work that is currently outside the realm of police in terms of where they should be concentrating their efforts.

The police are extremely worried about having the ability now to use this information for a very important judicial exercise which is called a bail hearing. I pointed out to the minister, as well as to members of the justice committee, that under this new system of cautions and sanctions that the police can use, they will no longer be able to use the information they have gathered for the purpose of a bail hearing.

The purpose of a bail hearing, as the Speaker would know and other members are aware, is the ability that the system has to take young people out of society and incarcerate them if there is a judicial finding that they are about to commit a criminal offence or they are a risk of fleeing the jurisdiction. However it is very much integral to the system to be able to intervene quickly.

Under this new system, which is just perverse to me, they are told to gather information and then advised that they cannot use it in a bail hearing. It is absolutely unjustifiable that we would allow that system to remain.

There are a number of serious flaws in the bill but the amendment that has been proposed by the Senate does manage to shed light on a very serious problem that can be found not only in the youth system but the Canadian justice system at large.

Noting differences for differences' sake is unacceptable. What we see here is a recognition of the inherent differences that do exist, sadly, on native reserves in this country. My colleague from the NDP has alluded to the social and economic differences and that the consequences those have on young people are very acute. I have two reserves within my federal constituency at Pictou, Afton and Antigonish county. I think that around this country this is very much to our shame, and one of the inequities throughout our entire country with which we are still wrestling. It stands to reason that we are trying to in some way to recognize a problem. This is not tantamount to the solution, it is simply a reminder to those in the judiciary that this has to be taken note of.

If there is one positive that can come from this debate it may be that the amendment proposed by the Senate demonstrates that the societal differences between aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth are recognized. Justice should be blind to race, ethnicity and gender. In a perfect world we would not need the leviathan, but this is not a perfect world and those societal inequities remain and are evident today.

Clause 38 of the youth criminal justice act deems to lay out the purpose and principles of sentencing under clause 42. It states:

The purpose of sentencing...is to contribute to the protection of society by holding a young person accountable for an offence through the imposition of just sanctions that have meaningful consequences for the young person and promote his or her rehabilitation and reintegration into society....

Yet in the bill sent to the Senate, a fundamental truth about our system was not addressed. It is currently the case in the adult system. Therefore to be consistent--and my friend from the Alliance party might say we are being consistently inconsistent, but I would submit that we have to be consistent between the youth and the adult system--we have to have similar protection under this new youth criminal act.

Statistics and studies have consistently shown that there are a disproportionate number of aboriginal youth incarcerated in our system. In keeping with the purpose and principle, the bill might ask what constitutes just sanctions. Specifically, while the amendment is a good first attempt at recognizing the inequities in the system, I submit that it does not go through sufficient explanation and direction.

As we examine the original Bill C-7, it becomes evident that clarity was not essential in the minds of the government when the bill was passed on to the Senate. Seasoned professionals have examined the legislation and today they are no further ahead than when they started. Several friends and colleagues have spent approximately three years examining the bill and are still at a loss on the overall effect it will have on our justice system.

The bill has, in essence, been more than that. It has been almost eight years in the making and it has gone through several incarnations, Bill C-68, which alludes to a whole other type of bill that we are aware of, Bill C-3 and now Bill C-7.

It is interesting to note that there were 160 amendments, demonstrating the flawed nature of the bill. It is too long, too complicated and too expensive. It is interesting to see it come back with rather minor yet albeit significant changes.

The justice committee could have heard more input on this particular issue, if there was any doubt left in the minds of some members of the House. However, the committee was not given that opportunity. It was brought directly back to parliament, again demonstrating the government's angst and anxiety over the bill and its attempt to get it through quickly.

In my mind, these changes were necessary and yet it speaks to the fundamental problems of a piece of legislation when in our haste to cater to pollsters the government overlooks such an important section as 718.2(e). There are many people in the country, including Joe Wamback from Ontario, who have expressed their desire to revisit the bill. Provincial attorneys general, those who work in the criminal justice system every day, have requested that the government at least revisit the implementation of the bill and give the provinces an opportunity to brace themselves financially, if nothing else, for the costs associated with its implementation. Yet this new minister appears to be charging ahead.

While the amendments of the upper Chamber should alleviate a constitutional challenge on the grounds of discrimination, the bill will most certainly be challenged on other grounds leading to incredible delays and backlogs in a system that is already on the verge of collapse.

The amendment states that all available sanctions other than custody that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considerable for all young persons with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal young persons. What could be more straightforward than that? Deliberate, informed debate on such a subject should and could continue. Broadening the spectrum for judges to enable to take this issue into account is a good in and of itself.

In response to comments made by the Canadian Alliance critic, I would reiterate that we take victims as we find them. I do not believe that there is a race or ethnicity issue associated with the particular clause. It is consistent with current criminal code provisions. It is not about specializing the interests of the accused or the victim. It is simply putting into legislation a recognition that the situation which aboriginal people find themselves in today is worthy of note in coming to a conclusion as to what the appropriate sentence is that is meted out by the sentencing judge.

Some have argued that this is in and of itself discriminatory to have a clause like this in the criminal code at all. Yet in our justice system we have to recognize that the courts have made an important pronouncement and it was alluded to. Queen v Gladue set out quite clearly that we can improve upon the situation of aboriginals in our legal system by this recognition of their circumstances. It is one of simple consultation and it allows judges to recognize what is inherent in the country today.

As Senator Pierre Claude Nolin of the other place pointed out, the framework of analysis outlined in section 718.2(e) must include systemic and background factors which explain why aboriginal offenders often appear before the courts. They include: poverty, level of education, drug or alcohol abuse, leaving the reserve and facing systemic prejudice, unemployment, domestic violence and direct or indirect discrimination.

The framework of analysis set out by the courts includes the type of sentencing procedures and sanctions which may be appropriate in the circumstances for the offender because of his or her particular aboriginal heritage or connection.

The inclusion of this clause in the code was necessary to deal with the overrepresentation of aboriginal people in prison and to encourage sentencing judges to have recourse to a restorative justice approach which is consistent with the theme and the philosophy of the bill.

I reiterate that the importance of the amendment is paramount to the fundamentals laid out within the entire document and I concur with hon. Senator Andreychuk who rose in support of the amendment put forth by a Liberal senator on the other side. She said:

Too often in this place do we have to be prodded to raise issues concerning Aboriginal youth

I and the PC/DR coalition support wholeheartedly the amendment, however we take great issue with the problems found in the entire bill. We oppose the implementation and adaptation of the new youth criminal justice bill and will continue to do so for reasons that have been enunciated at length by others and myself.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, judges in the courts have made various rulings over the course of time that have changed our laws with regard to juveniles and others. We as a parliament and a country are in the position of trying to pass laws that make up for the problems caused by the courts. For example, juvenile offences have increased as the courts have made these changes.

Why do we end up in the eternal legislative process, that the Liberal government has instituted over the years, of having the courts interpret laws that are passed in parliament that are not explicit in their intent?

I was a police officer who enforced the Juvenile Delinquents Act. It actually worked better than the current young offender laws that we have now and probably worked better than what we are trying to pass in the House.

There is no doubt that in the mid-seventies the respect that juveniles had for people in official office such as mayors, reeves, policemen, pastors and others went down.

I would also make the observation that there is no point in dumping more money into legal aid because it is just like any other fund. The legal profession will expand the time and the charges to take up all the money put in and use it all up.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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5:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will respond to the first point the hon. member made with respect to the need to explain a system such as this. There should be an accompanying fund that sets out a manual or some sort of program to educate people because of the complex nature of the new bill.

With respect to his point on hiring more lawyers, what we have in the legal aid system is that much of the work is done on a certificate basis. The cases are farmed out. Sadly, a lot of senior lawyers, and perhaps more able, do not take those cases because the certificates allow for a cap on billing which is necessary. We may have to revisit the system or simply hire more lawyers within the legal aid system because they cannot keep up with the volume.

The hon. member is right to say it is not just a matter of pouring in more money. We must recognize the volume of work being done by lawyers, prosecutors and police. I acknowledge his understanding of the previous Juvenile Delinquents Act. As a police officer he would recall that there did appear to be a greater degree of accountability and responsibility. I would go so far as to say that there was more respect for the law, for police and for all the stakeholders involved in enforcing the law under that particular system. It was that act's simplicity and the way in which it was enforced that made it work in perhaps a more proficient way.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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5:15 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I commend my colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough on his comments in regard to the way the old act worked and the feeling that it worked much better because of the convolution of the new act. He commented on judges and lawyers he knows and their thoughts on the bill and the previous act.

I was a school trustee for a number of years. In attending the Canadian national school board conference we had a couple of judges appear before us to give their comments on the Young Offenders Act. Many felt that the act that was in place previously was actually excellent. The problem was the lack of resources to ensure the type of rehabilitation that was intended.

That is one of the issues that comes before us with this bill. There would be increased costs that the provinces could not bear. It is an indication that the government's attitude toward the provinces is bad. It is also negligent for the federal government to give up its responsibility for the young people and to say that it is a provincial problem and not share the issue of dealing with the Young Offenders Act.

The member mentioned the Quebec system. I know my colleague from Selkirk--Interlake has some concerns that differ from a lot of us. Would the hon. member comment on the Quebec system and indicate why it seems to work a whole lot better?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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5:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the issue with respect to teachers is a very good one. There must be a specific recognition in legislation that teachers need to be informed and included. The bill falls short in that respect.

There was an opportunity to ensure that teachers would be provided with, in particular, conditions of probation orders that were attached to a young person. There are often instances where young people find themselves in court for a criminal offence that occurred in a schoolyard and they are sentenced to go back to school. Sometimes the parameters of their probation orders are not made known to the principals and the teachers who are operating in the schools.

The second issue with respect to funding is critical. There is bridge funding in the amount of $207 million attached to the legislation which is supposed to help with the start up costs but as stated previously each province is estimating that up to $100 million per province would be necessary. So, $207 million spread among all the provinces and territories would come up far short. The critical issue would be the inability of the provinces to bear the costs of enforcement and implementation.

Finally, the 160 amendments to Bill C-7 proposed by the Liberal government did not convince Quebecers of the merits of the reform of our youth justice system. On the contrary.

When the committee of the other place studied the bill, most of the witnesses from Quebec said that the amendments were nothing but cosmetic amendments that did not change the principles and the contradictory provisions of Bill C-7.

Moreover, these amendments did not weaken the large consensus in Quebec that Quebec's approach to youth crime would be threatened should this bill be passed.

That approach, which is unique in Canada, is cited as an example all over the world. It has allowed Quebec to have the lowest youth crime rate and the lowest youth detention rate in the country. Unfortunately, these achievements are being threatened by the intransigence of the new Minister of Justice.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
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5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to congratulate the member on the last part of his remarks where he talked about the consensus that exists in Quebec among all the experts in the field.

Members know that Quebec has developed a very effective model that is unique. The federal government will pass a bill that goes against the Quebec model, even though the minister is himself a Quebecer. I think it is totally irresponsible and unacceptable on his part.

However, I want to congratulate the member on his speech, in which he recognized the fact that Quebec has its own unique model.