House of Commons Hansard #22 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to say a few words about the justice system.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I am familiar with a number of bills introduced by this government and I have noticed that it is resubmitting the same bills, given the Prime Minister's decision to prorogue the previous session of this Parliament. It occurred to me that we are examining many of the same bills a second time. There are also some new bills and we always have the same comments.

This government is introducing bills that are drawing a great deal of media attention. However, as these bills are examined in committee, in this House and, eventually, in the Senate, it becomes clear that little work has been put into them.

As the father of three young girls enrolled in a French immersion program in New Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in the country, and as a resident of Moncton, the first officially bilingual city, I know how much homework my children do every evening. The fact remains, however, that these three beautiful little girls are children and I expect certain things from them.

We expect more in the way of homework from the government than from school girls in Moncton. Yet it appears that the government has done its homework much less diligently and with much less attention to detail than my three little girls do in Moncton.

All of the bills that we in the permanent justice committee have had occasion to look at seem to be lacking in homework and in scope.

When we talk about the criminal justice system, it is an organic system or an organic process. It is a sculpting of new facts and new facets of our evolving society to the Criminal Code and its ancillary acts, in this case, the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

I want to start from the point that all of the acts are lacking in an overall or universal vision about criminal justice, from prevention to detention, so to speak, the whole scope, and this bill is no exception.

However, we must tell the Canadian public and members of the House that there is a Youth Criminal Justice Act. Before that there was the Young Offenders Act and prior to that the Juvenile Delinquents Act. For some time now, I believe 50 years, the Parliament of Canada and the courts interpreting Parliament's intention have recognized that there ought to be a different system for youth offenders.

It troubles me when I hear speaker after speaker, headline after headline, news release after news release and the two minute sound bites of Mike Duffy Live talk about youth criminal justice with the same language and in the same terms as adult justice.

That is not to suggest that we are sitting here as a party and as parliamentarians not concerned with public safety, not concerned with turning our youth into productive members of society. It is to say that as a statement of first principle, and I wish I had heard it from the Minister of Justice yesterday or any of the speakers who I listened to from the government side, I wish I had heard that there was a separate regime for the youth of this country for the different considerations because that is the fact.

I am concerned when I hear what members like the member for Kitchener—Conestoga said. I will get back to my student metaphor. I never taught anything but I have written a number of tests. One cannot simply write the first page of a test, the first paragraph or the first 10 questions and do well. One has to go to the finish line and get the B or B+ that all parliamentarians probably got in school or as good as one can get.

It seems, however, that the government and its members strive for the peaks of mediocrity and try to get a C or C-. However, they do start off good sometimes. The member for Kitchener—Conestoga started off talking about a head start program and prevention. If I had ever been a teacher, I would have thought that this was starting off well and that it would be a good result for that parliamentarian.

However, we then delved into crime, payback and teaching those punks something. As we know, there were two parts to the speech, the two did not go together and the member succeeded in getting a C-.

The bill does the same. Bill C-25 starts out very well. It starts out doing one thing that is very important. We give a lot of credence to the Nunn Commission report, which was commissioned as a result of a very tragic incident involving Theresa McEvoy, which happened not that far from where I live. It was not a Maritime thing. It was a national thing. The recommendations from the Nunn Commission and eminent jurist, Merlin Nunn, should be the starting point for our thoughts about what we are going to do with this separate regime for youth criminals in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

However, we need to start with the recognition, which should be the first principle, that there is a different regime and importing holus-bolus the whole adult regime to the youth regime means that we may as well get rid of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I will get to that when I talk about the second part of the bill.

I commend the Minister of Justice and the speakers who spoke in favour of the first part of Bill C-25, clauses 2 and 3 in particular. I will not belabour it, but perhaps we should have a happy moment and say that most parties are in agreement with this bill. We have a happy moment where one of the many recommendations of the Nunn report was followed by the government.

It is a complaint of prosecutors across this country. It is a complaint from parents. It is a complaint from victims. We stand on all fours in accepting that the revolving door that is in effect for young offenders who offend while on an order to return to the court for trial or sentencing is unacceptable. It is one of the major flaws in the Youth Criminal Justice Act as promulgated, and this is progress.

As we can see, there is in the act a presumption that detention is not necessary for a young offender accused of an offence and he shall remain free. Essentially, that was the presumption. Judges across this country applied that presumption, unless they could find other reasons, such as protection of the public, the overarching principle to keep the young offender as accused in detention. This bill recognizes that if a young person is charged with a violent offence that endangered the public by creating a substantial likelihood of a recurrence, that presumption is rebutted, yet the judge still takes into account the normal principles of detention pending trial.

The second principle, and this is really the most egregious part of the Youth Criminal Justice Act without the gap, is that while a young person who is out waiting to come back to court is found guilty of failing to comply with non-custodial sentences, or this is in fact after the imposition of a plea, that person should be considered as having given up that presumption against detention. It makes perfect sense.

The other provision in the bill is that if a young person is charged with an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and the young person has a history that indicates a pattern of findings of guilt, then that person should lose that presumption.

That is a long way from going to adult principles for sentencing, which the second part of the act imports. The second part of the bill imports straight Criminal Code principles of sentencing with respect to denunciations and deterrence. The Minister of Justice and many speakers say that these needed to be imported because they are not there, but I beg to differ, if we look at the Youth Criminal Justice Act as it is.

Certainly in an effort to bind all parliamentarians together with a common view, there can be no one in this House who can seriously stand up and say that each parliamentarian is not in favour of more public safety, of having safe communities and of ridding our communities of crime. This has to be a common goal of every parliamentarian. What is happening is that we have a different point of view on how to get there.

All of us want the acts before Parliament, in this case the Criminal Code of Canada and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, to be effective. The question really is whether these amendments will be effective. I have already said that the first one will. It will keep the communities of Canada safer. I am going on to argue that the second part of this bill will not necessarily keep communities safer.

I will also elicit many of the other recommendations from the Nunn commission report which were not seized upon by the government when they were there for the taking. Somebody has already done the work. Somebody has already reacted to an outlandish shocking of the public example of how small changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act could be efficacious to make society safer. That was the Nunn commission. He made many recommendations, yet only one of those recommendations was seized upon by the government.

It is not that there was not enough ink and paper. This is a very short bill. It is designed, I submit, to have newscasts and media stories say that we are tough on crime and that we are importing concepts of unlawful conduct and deterrence and we will get tough.

Really, the first part of the bill will do so much more to make communities safer than the second part. There are so many other recommendations in the Nunn commission report that would have made our communities immediately safer and would not have had any opposition from this side, yet the government chose not to seize upon them.

It is remarkable. It is either a hurried attempt to get another headline, or it is a deliberate attempt to draw out in a piecemeal fashion the Conservatives' law and order agenda with multiple bills, each bill a new headline, each bill one little step forward in their view toward making our communities safer. I might suggest that is almost wilful conduct preventing the distribution of the tools that the justice enforcement people need, prosecutors in particular, or it might just be sheer negligence in not knowing what they were doing.

I have to comment on some of the remarks that were made by a person whom I consider to be a dean on the issue of public safety. I virtually never agree with this dean with respect to how to get there, but I have no doubt that this dean, the member for Wild Rose, wants to get there and has made a parliamentary career out of wanting to get there. He talks incessantly against lawyers. We all have thick skins and we can take that, as the small legal community in the House of Commons knows every day it is not popular to be a lawyer. But I want to tell everyone in this House it is not always popular to be a politician too, so there we go. Being both makes me sort of a victim in a way.

Seriously, the member for Wild Rose talks about lawyers, that they talk legalese. Unfortunately, we are making laws here. If we were making pizzas, I would talk about dough, but we are making laws, so I have to talk legalese. That is the way it goes with all due respect to the member for Wild Rose.

The second point that he brings up is that there is no mention of victims. I hear that a lot from the other side. We hear it at committee. Frankly, victims are what we as parliamentarians are all about. This year is the 25th anniversary of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We respect individual rights and liberties. We respect the legal rights against false detention and the right to have counsel and all those legal rights for people accused. Those are foundation elements, but people should realize that the overall arching concern of the Charter of Rights in section 1 is to protect the public.

The funny thing is, if we look at every act of Parliament, we find that the public safety aspect is primordial, and the Youth Criminal Justice Act is no exception. It says:

WHEREAS communities, families, parents and others concerned with the development of young persons should through multi-disciplinary approaches take reasonable steps to prevent youth crime by addressing underlying causes to respond to the needs of young persons and to provide guidance, this act should be enacted.

It also says:

AND WHEREAS Canadian society should have a youth criminal justice system that commands respect, takes into account the interests of victims, fosters responsibility and ensures accountability [in our youth]--

These sentiments are already in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Judges read this act and they take from the preamble and the declaration of principles in section 3 what the act means.

In fact, it states in section 3(c), “within the limits of fair and proportionate accountability, the measures taken”--that is, the sentences or the detention aspects or the immediate ultimate measures meted out by a court--“against young persons who commit offences should (i) reinforce respect for societal values, (ii) encourage the repair of harm done to victims and the community”.

Later on in section 3(d) it says, “victims should be treated with courtesy, compassion and respect for their dignity and privacy”, and “victims should be provided with information about the proceedings and given an opportunity to participate and be heard”.

It strikes me that without putting the exact words of denunciation and deterrence in this act, we have as guiding principles for justices the protection of the public and at least a code for victims' rights when it comes to aspects of youth criminal justice.

The Nunn commission report puts out a few very easy recommendations that the government could have adopted without opposition from this side. Principally it is very important because we hear about public safety and the protection of the public and consideration for victims.

Justice Nunn, in his considerations, felt it was a bit shortsighted for the act to talk about the long term protection of the public as set out in these principles in section 3. By inference a judge would say that that does not involve the short term protection of the public.

Some of these rebuttable presumptions on detention, which will be tempered by the first part of this act, speak to that. More specifically and to be clear, so that there is no misread between the principles in section 3 and the first part of the act as amended, we will be curious to see if it would be within the scope of the bill on amendment at committee to add a new phrase in section 3, the principles. It would add to section 3 a clause indicating that protection of the public is one of the primary goals of the act, which is from the Nunn report on the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

It certainly should just say protection of the public. Perhaps for greater certainty it should say long term and short term, but if we say protection of the public, I presume that means all the time. Protection of the public is one of the principles of the act.

I believe, as the member for Windsor—Tecumseh said yesterday, and he is a person who has been around these issues a lot longer than I have, the evidence he has gathered, which no doubt we will go through at committee, would lead to the conclusion that in fact the changes in the first part of Bill C-25 have in fact been put into place by judges across the country.

Therefore, all we are doing is putting into law what is actually happening in practice, or codifying the practice. That may be a good thing, but it does make me wonder whether the government read all of the Nunn commission report. Maybe in a cooperative effort when we take this matter to committee, if the scope of this bill is to make society safer, the government will be open to amendments, including that recommendation and many others from the Nunn commission to make this a better law.

I want to close by saying that although we agree with the first part of the bill, the second part of the bill might make it seem that we are importing holus-bolus the Criminal Code of Canada. If that is the case, the Minister of Justice should know that the Criminal Code already provides, in certain circumstances, for youths to be tried as adults.

If those provisions are known of, if that transition is known of, and they are importing holus-bolus these concepts, why have a Youth Criminal Justice Act at all? Let us all live under the Criminal Code. Is that where the government is going?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague's statements, and I would like to remind the members of the two primary goals of this bill.

First, we do not want a young person who has committed a violent crime to be allowed back into the community while awaiting trial. This kind of thing has happened before. I am thinking of the case in Nova Scotia that someone mentioned where young people who had committed violent acts were allowed back into the community, where they committed more violent crimes. Innocent bystanders were killed or seriously injured by these youths, who were not detained while awaiting trial. That is what we are addressing. We want to make sure that judges have the power to order pretrial detention.

Second, we want judges to take two things into account when sentencing young people who have committed violent crimes.

The first is deterrence. We want to ensure that the youth understands what is going on and that other youths who might be considering committing similar acts—crimes of violence against the person—will be discouraged from doing so. We want judges to take this into account when determining a sentence.

The second is denunciation. We want the sentence to show that society disapproves of the acts committed.

We want judges to use both elements of this framework when handing down sentences in order to protect our seniors and society in general.

I am thinking of those news reports about youths committing violent acts on buses against people who were just minding their own business.

That is what we hope to accomplish with our bill.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his comments.

I completely approve the first part of what he said. Clearly, detention pending sentencing poses a problem. We are in favour of detention if a young offender commits a new offence after serving a sentence.

We also agree with the second part of what he said: protecting the public is crucial.

Why do the Minister of Justice and the whole Conservative team not take into account the recommendations made by Judge Nunn and amend section 3 with a view to simply protecting the public?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think most members of the House would agree that appropriate enforcement and punishment is very necessary, but we also know that significant work has been done which shows punishment is not enough.

The MacGuigan subcommittee stated:

Society has spent millions of dollars over the years to create and maintain the proven failure of prisons. Incarceration has failed in its two essential purposes—correcting the offender and providing permanent protection to society. The recidivist rate of up to 80 percent is evidence of both.

Could the member comment on the fact that the Conservative government has not seen fit to invest in youth, in terms of looking at closing the poverty gap, adequate housing, education programs and drug treatment centres?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, clearly we heard today from the member for Kitchener—Conestoga that all is well, that a huge announcement has been made, that he will support the objectives of families and youth, that it will be full of intervention and that there will be a head start on every corner. I guess all our problems are solved.

Lest people did not get my thin wedge of sarcasm, the problem with the government is it does not invest the money it announces. We are still waiting for police officers. A thousand RCMP officers were promised, but we know the RCMP is a thousand people behind in its recruiting.

I agree with the member when she talks about other concepts like restorative justice, which is about ensuring a community is not divided. To reduce crime to make communities safer, a community must be willing to do the work required to solve the problem together.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite has made reference frequently to the Nunn Commission, I will ask him specifically on a matter that he skirted around, when asked by my colleague just moments ago.

As the member opposite knows, in December 2006 the Nova Scotia Nunn Commission of Inquiry expressed concern that pre-trial detention provisions under the Youth Criminal Justice Act were too restrictive, making it very difficult to detain young persons who pose a risk to public safety.

As the member also knows, the changes before us today, the proposed amendments to the YCJA in the area of pre-trial detention, will make it easier to detain before trial a broader range of young persons who pose a risk to public safety. This would include those who have committed an offence that creates a danger of causing serious bodily harm or who have breached previous conditions of release.

Could the member respond to that? Does he not at least agree that this then follows through with respect to the Nunn Commission and that we have now a serious amendment to take into account the suggestion from the commission with respect to detaining young persons who pose a risk to public safety?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

I want to apologize, Mr. Speaker, to the member, to the House and to the viewing public. Perhaps I was not clear when I said, three times, that we agree to the first part of the bill. The recommendations regarding detention and ensuring that the presumption against detention should be removed in three very serious cases, as outlined in the first part of Bill C-25 and as recommended by the Nunn Commission. We feel very good about those amendments and will work to ensure they pass through the committee.

However, it does not explain why the government imported all the concepts of the Criminal Code with respect to the sentencing principles. The minister seemed unsure yesterday about whether proportionality, which is the key pillar of sentencing in section 718.1 of the Criminal Code, is still a key pillar in section 38(2) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

We will see where the government goes on this. I am worried that we are turning youth criminal justice into Criminal Code governance. If that is the case, the government should be clear on it.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thought the speech of the hon. member was excellent.

I want to ask him a very technical question about the section we agree with; that is the first part of the bill about detention. There is a presumption against detention unless it is a violent offence or failing to comply with non-custodial sentences.

The third part of the bill is about findings of guilt. In other words:

—the young person is charged with an indictable offence for which an adult would be liable to imprisonment for a term of more than two years and has a history that indicates a pattern of findings of guilt under this Act or the Young Offenders Act...

Yet Justice Nunn talks about not just a necessary pattern of findings of guilt, but a pattern of offences.

Could the hon. member comment on that? It seems that Justice Nunn is asking for a more rigorous standard. In effect he is saying if an individual has a whole string of offences, not necessarily findings of guilt, that should be taken into consideration.

I am interested in the hon. member's comments on whether there is some significant difference between those two concepts. If so, should that be subject to potential amendment?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, that is the hardest question. We do not often expect the most difficult question to come from our own side, but it was an excellent question nonetheless.

Justice Nunn made it very clear that patterns of findings of guilt might catch young offenders on a rapid crime spree and better wording might be a pattern of offences, or similar wording. However, I think this is something that can be fixed at committee. It is wholly within the scope of the bill.

We will take the member's comments to committee and work on them there.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, to start, I would like to recognize some families from the Edmonton area that banded together on this important area of youth justice: the families of Dylan McGillis, Shane Rolston, Nina Courtepatte and Josh Hunt, all of whom lost their lives as a result of the actions of other youth in the last couple of years.

These families are part of a club of which none of us would ever want to be a part. Yet because of the way they have chosen to respond, it is the most important club of which they could ever be a part.

We cannot listen to the stories of parents without feeling compelled to act. Because of the tireless efforts they have made, and the efforts of other parents across the country, Canadians are paying much more attention to the issue of youth justice.

We cannot also listen to these parents without feeling compelled to ensure we say an extra “I love you” to our own kids before they go to bed at night. To these families, and on behalf of all Canadian parents, I thank them for not hiding their pain. I thank them for stepping out of their comfort zones and for using their grief, not as a weapon but as a motivation to ensure that other parents do not have to go through what they have gone through.

For almost 100 years, Canada has provided separate laws and procedures applicable to youth who commit crimes. The crimes themselves range from ill-conceived pranks to acts of incomprehensible violence. The alleged offender can be the child next door or a nearly adult gun-carrying gang member with a significant criminal record. The law must provide a wide range of responses to adequately hold them all appropriately accountable for the offences they commit. The sentences must be consistent with their degree of responsibility and, more important, in a manner that protects the public.

Since the Youth Criminal Justice Act came into force almost five years ago, there has been a steady decline in the number of young people charged with offences and winding up in custody. Some argue that the de-incarceration of youth has gone too far. Some believe that youth who pose a threat to the public have not ended up behind bars when they should and therefore more must be done to ensure that violent young offenders receive custodial sentences.

The government is committed to protecting communities and tackling crime committed by adolescents. In the October 16 Speech from the Throne, “Strong Leadership. A Better Canada”, our government vowed to strengthen the Youth Criminal Justice Act to ensure that young offenders who committed serious crimes were held accountable.

Bill C-25 begins the promised strengthening of our youth justice laws. The bill focuses on deterrence, denunciation and detention. Those familiar with sentencing principles for adults know that denunciation and deterrence are sentencing principles contained in the Criminal Code. It is important that society's degree of abhorrence for an offence be reflected in the severity of the penalty so the offender's conduct is denounced. Moreover, we want the penalty to send a message of deterrence to the offender and to others.

The quantum of the sentence should signal to the offender that he or she ought not commit further offences. This is known as specific deterrence. The penalty should also signal to others that they ought not to commit such offences. This is known as general deterrence.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act in its present form does not include deterrence or denunciation among its sentencing principles. The Supreme Court of Canada recently confirmed that those principles should not be read into the act, and this was an express choice made by parliamentarians.

Our government is now asking Parliament to reconsider and to make these important sentencing principles apply to youth as well as adults. The Minister of Justice has confirmed today in the House that attorneys general from across the country support these amendments. I believe these sentencing provisions will encourage the public to have greater confidence in the youth justice system, by allowing judges to apply fair and proportionate sentences that reflect these principles. This has been a part of the government's agenda for some time and we are pleased to support these proposed reforms to the sentencing principles.

Another area of the Youth Criminal Justice Act requiring immediate amendment are provisions relating to pre-trial detention of those youth who pose a danger to the public. The Nunn Commission and others have raised concerns about the adequacy of the existing provisions to deal with potentially dangerous youth who may not have a serious record but are “spinning out of control” and may well cause harm to someone prior to their trials.

The Minister of Justice spoke earlier today about the tragic death of Theresa McEvoy in Nova Scotia, a death that has sparked the Nova Scotia government to do something about out of control and dangerous youth. As the justice minister mentioned, Nova Scotia has been working hard to implement changes in its youth justice system based on the recommendations of the Nunn Commission. Some of those recommendations include lobbying the federal government for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act in relation to pre-trial detention provisions.

Bill C-25 is evidence that the justice minister has listened to the people of Nova Scotia and Manitoba as well. In late September the justice minister met with a delegation from Manitoba, including Manitoba justice minister Dave Chomiak, and various Manitoba police and community representatives.

The delegation brought to the minister's attention five justice issues of critical importance to the people of Manitoba. Topping the list was the issue of auto theft as Manitoba has been experiencing an explosion in joyriding and car theft by troubled and out of control teens.

The list also included toughening penalties for youth involved in serious crimes, especially motor vehicle theft. The justice minister has been listening to concerns expressed all across this country and has responded to them.

The amendments proposed today are only the beginning of a larger process of reform in this area that will hopefully do justice to the thoughtful advice received from important stakeholders in the youth justice system over the summer and fall. The longer term reform process will further strengthen and clarify the youth justice system.

I believe there is a shared imperative in all parts of this country to detain youth who pose a danger prior to their trials. The proposals in Bill C-25 are measured responses, which empower the courts to detain dangerous youth regardless of their alleged offence or criminal history.

Courts can look at all relevant factors when assessing that detention is needed, including outstanding charges that might indicate a youth is spinning out of control and posing a danger. These proposals address the concerns raised through Nova Scotia's Nunn commission and will lead to safer communities.

Canadians know all too well that people at risk can adopt a criminal lifestyle and engage in the violence and drug use that go along with that lifestyle more often than not. They want young people who commit violent crimes and threaten communities to be given sentences that reflect the seriousness of their crimes.

These communities want us to do something to prevent young people from committing these violent crimes.

It is more than evident from this government's crime agenda that we on this side of the House take the safety of Canadians extremely seriously. We fully recognize that it is important to be vigilant in safeguarding the fairness and effectiveness of our justice system, but it is equally important, if not more important, to ensure that the fundamental principle of our justice system is the protection of society.

I applaud the justice minister's announcement that this government will launch a comprehensive review of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2008. I understand that the review is specifically being done to address concerns and criticisms regarding various provisions and principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to ensure that our youth criminal justice system fairly and effectively holds young offenders accountable for criminal conduct.

I urge my fellow parliamentarians to support Bill C-25, which proposes amendments to the pre-trial detention provisions and adds deterrence and denunciation as sentencing principles under the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

In my opinion, these amendments will strengthen our youth justice system, allay public concerns that dangerous youth are not being dealt with appropriately, and result in safer communities.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the hon. member was quoting favourably from the Nunn commission report, but he seems to want to pick and choose. This is a fairly innocuous bill, the first section of which is generally agreed on by pretty well everyone and the second of which will have a little more controversy.

What I want to know from the hon. member is why his government, which prides itself on getting it done, does not actually take the comprehensive approach by Justice Nunn and incorporate the recommendations into a bill.

Recommendation 20 states:

--amend the “Declaration of Principle” in section 3 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act to add a clause indicating that protection of the public is one of the primary goals of the act.

Why does this bill not have that in it?

Recommendation 21 states:

--amend the definition of “violent offence” in section 39(1)(a) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act to include conduct that endangers or is likely to endanger the life or safety of another person.

Why is that not here? It was suggested that there be a change from “patterns of findings of guilt” to “patterns of offences”. Again, why is that not here for the issue of appropriateness of pre-trial detention?

There were other recommendations with respect to responsible persons and all that sort of stuff.

Why not simply take Justice Nunn's recommendations, incorporate them into the bill, and put them before the House instead of this cheesy exercise of dropping one little section at a time? One has to start to think that there is some sort of public relations exercise going on, which is far more important in the eyes of the government than actually doing the job properly.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows and as I mentioned in my speech, the justice minister has indicated that there will be a further review of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in 2008.

In response to the comments of the previous speaker who talked about the fact that he liked the stuff at the beginning of the bill, but that he did not like the second part of the bill, I would speak to the fact that this bill is referring to young offenders who have committed serious and violent crimes. They are dangerous to society.

I find his comments unacceptable. He talks about cheesy. I would say what is cheesy is the Liberal attempt, since the election of 2006, to consistently delay and obstruct virtually every piece of crime legislation that comes before the House.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

November 22nd, 2007 / 11:20 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Brian Pallister Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate the member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for his speech and for his efforts in the French language as well. He deserves our encouragement.

I must take exception, while I have the chance, to the reference made by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood and using the phrase “doing the job properly”. The previous government had 13 years to do the job properly. It stood quietly by while circumstances got worse in respect of juvenile violent crime.

Do the members of this House assume that this is an urban problem exclusively? I represent chiefly a rural riding. My largest community has about 13,000 people. A couple of weeks ago I concluded a 50 town tour of my riding where we gathered and listened to the concerns of constituents across the length and breadth of the riding.

The reality is that the number one issue that concerned the people of that rural part of the country was crime. It is almost unbelievable the degree to which crime has changed the fabric of rural communities, not only in my riding but from talking with other members representing rural ridings in their ridings as well.

People really felt that the number one attribute of their riding was safety and who rarely locked their doors do now. They are buying security systems and many of them are telling me that they are living in fear.

We had events this past summer, including a couple of murders. One was gang related and was one not. We had the case of a 13-year-old female driver who with a couple of friends stole a vehicle and drove into the centre of Portage la Prairie on a Sunday morning. The driver lost control of the vehicle and crashed into a family going to church. There were four people seriously injured, of course in the non-offending vehicle. These are the kinds of things that are happening. These are serious crimes and they should have serious consequences.

I want the member to address the issue of deterrents. I am curious as to why this was removed from the sentencing provisions years ago under the Liberals. Would the member address that particular issue as to how important he sees the restating of a judge's parameters on sentencing?

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Lake Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont, AB

Mr. Speaker, I concur with the hon. member who spoke about talking with the people in his riding. Crime is the number one issue in my riding when we knock on doors. Crime is the number one issue that people talk about.

In my correspondence the number one issue brought forward is related to justice issues of many different kinds. Youth crime is specifically singled out on a regular basis.

I want to speak about deterrents for a second. One thing I do want to point out is that the vast majority of our youth are fantastic kids who are not committing crimes. We are talking about a small proportion of the youth who are causing problems. I would point out that the majority of the victims of these youths are kids themselves. They are our own kids and our own families.

In terms of deterrents and in terms of consequences, I would say it is vitally important that we start to take the term consequences seriously. The connotation does not necessarily need to be a negative one. Kids quickly learn as they are growing up that without consequences they have no boundaries or boundaries mean nothing. Without the boundaries they do not have order. Quite honestly, it leads to chaos in the lives of some of these kids.

We have talked a little bit about preventative measures and some questions have come up. I think one of the most important preventative measures that we can undertake is to establish a culture of responsibility among our youth, that violent crime of any kind is absolutely unacceptable. Solid criminal justice policy in this area is crucial in fostering that culture.