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 system.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier to the hon. member who represented the Bloc, I believe that the Quebec model is one that the rest of the country can certainly embrace and use to a larger degree.

It does demonstrate that there is flexibility under the current Young Offenders Act. Quebec has interpreted in a very open and intellectual way just how unique one can work within that system.

Under the old act, I would suggest that we could benefit by looking at Quebec, but certainly by putting in more resources, living up to our commitment as a federal government to the provinces to fund this important approach. We must give the system the money, the resources and the backup it needs to serve the interests of youth and the public at large.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

Last fall the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act, at third reading stage. The bill has now been returned from the other place with an amendment which must now be considered by the House. The amendment came from the Liberals in the other place and the government is supporting it. I will oppose this amendment for reasons I will go into in a moment.

If memory serves me right, a similar amendment was proposed by the government at the justice committee during deliberations on Bill C-3, which of course died on the order paper at the last election call. Interestingly though, it was not in the bill when it was reintroduced as Bill C-7 but now it shows up from the other place.

This amendment would in part change the purpose and the principles of sentencing, requiring that “all available sanctions other than custody that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all young persons”. I take little issue with this. Of course we should consider all reasonable options before resorting to incarceration for many offences, especially minor first offences.

The second part of the amendment requires youth court judges to pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal youth at the time of sentencing, similar to section 718.2(e) of the criminal code, which we opposed in the 35th parliament for similar reasons.

Personally, I do not believe that race has any place in criminal law sentencing provisions, be it adult or young offender. A sentencing judge is already required to consider “any other aggravating and mitigating circumstances related to the young person”. These would normally include factors such as family and social circumstances, background and special needs, among other things.

Further to that, the bill's declaration of principles says in part:

--measures taken against young persons who commit offences should...be meaningful for the individual young person given his or her needs and level of development and, where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the young person's rehabilitation and reintegration, and...respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements--

These requirements are already sufficient for a sentencing judge to give consideration to any young person. The operative word here is any. There is no reason whatsoever to bring a person's race into play. I believe that the injection of race specific wording in the criminal law is dangerous. Criminal law should be blind to race.

I think we have all heard comments about the aboriginal community being over-represented in our jails. I acknowledge that, but I do not for a moment believe they were incarcerated for being aboriginal. They are there because they have been convicted of committing a criminal offence. If, as it is sometimes argued, it is shown that bias against aboriginal offenders exists in the courts or in the system in general, then that is wrong and by all means it must be rectified.

Also I do suspect that in many cases incarceration is the only option available to the court due to the lack of resources and support mechanisms in the community. I think we all agree that those issues must be addressed and remedied. Equally as, if not more important, the substandard social and living conditions experienced by many aboriginals both on and off reserve must be rectified. That being said, I do not believe that the criminal law is the appropriate place to address those issues.

I have heard the point made that children coming to Canada from parts of the world where war, civil strife and violence are commonplace may be more predisposed to antisocial or criminal behaviour as teenagers or adults than are children born and raised in Canada. However at no time have I ever heard anyone suggest that those people representative of parts of Southeast Asia, the Balkans, or parts of Africa, to mention but a few, be singled out by race in the criminal code for special consideration. The courts consider their mitigating factors in the same way as any other offender, as I described earlier.

If our goal is to achieve the equality of all people, how can we justify race specific sanctions under the criminal law? Can we reasonably expect tolerance and respect when some offenders based solely on their racial origin are singled out for less punitive sanctions than offenders of all other racial origins, all other things, including circumstances of the offence being equal?

Imagine for one moment the well deserved hue and cry if we were to legislate the opposite, that individuals of one race be singled out for more punitive sanctions than all others.

I would like to quote Gail Sparrow, a former chief of the Musqueam Band in British Columbia. She was commenting on a case in which two Musqueam youths, one of whom was already on probation, were given conditional sentences for their involvement in a severe beating in Vancouver that put 17 year old Joel Libin into a coma and left him brain damaged.

Former Chief Sparrow said:

The message for younger kids now is, “Hey, they got off, and I can get off too, because there's a special law for us”. You're going to put the community at risk.

She went on to say that the sentences have left the Musqueam community angry:

The undercurrent here is that people are afraid to speak up because of the repercussions. They're asking, “Why do we have a separate set of laws for us? Now my son will go and beat somebody up and think it's no big thing because it's home arrest”. A lot of people didn't support that action. They're very upset.

Before some of my colleagues begin falling all over themselves to label me as a racist, anti-Indian and anything else that they can think of for opposing this amendment, I would remind them that the words I have just quoted were spoken by a former chief.

I oppose this amendment because it allows the criminal law to treat one specific group of people differently from all others based solely on their racial origin and nothing else. That is wrong.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had the privilege to administer the Juvenile Delinquents Act and the Young Offenders Act in the community.

The point I want to make is the government has particularly failed to deliver on its promise to provide the social resources. When a young offender is being processed through court and being given a sentence, there is not the backup of sharing with the province to provide an appropriate social solution for offenders.

What is my colleague's experience in his community about the consequences of the Liberal government failing to deliver on its promises for funding under the current youth legislation?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it has only affected my community. I certainly know what the problems are in the constituency of Surrey North and the city of Surrey. They are monumental. The costs of implementing and driving the youth justice system have risen. The funding is not there, but that is the case all across Canada. We heard from other members. I know our senior critic, the member for Provencher, has had personal experience of this, being a former attorney general. He has actually seen the problems. We have heard our colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough refer to this.

Funding is the bottom line. It is easy for the Liberal government to offload it on the provinces and tell everybody what they should do, but it is not backing it up with the proper funding and resources.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill S-14, an act respecting Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

January 30th, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

moved that the bill be concurred in at report stage.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Sir John A. Macdonald Day and Sir Wilfrid Laurier Day Act
Private Members' Business

5:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the yeas have it.