An Act to amend the Young Offenders Act (public safety)

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.


Kevin Sorenson  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Feb. 28, 2001
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

National Remembrance DayPrivate Members' Business

February 20th, 2002 / 6:25 p.m.
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Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great personal pleasure to rise today on behalf of the federal New Democratic Party to support my Liberal colleague's motion and give a little personal insight on why I think this is an extremely important bill that should be taken seriously. It is too bad that it is not votable.

We are one of the few western nations that does not have a statutory holiday for the remembrance of our soldiers, the men and women who died in various conflicts around the world.

In my conversations with many Canadians they believe that Remembrance Day is already a statutory holiday. When I tell them that it is not they get quite confused about it. The reality is, as we speak, November 11, Remembrance Day in honour of those who made the great sacrifice and their families, is not honoured through a statutory holiday. I find that a serious omission and one that I am very proud my colleague across the way has brought forward.

I also have a motion that will be debated within a couple of weeks which says exactly the same, that Remembrance Day should become a statutory holiday.

I will elaborate on a personal note. I was born in Holland. My parents were liberated through the sacrifices of the Canadian military. It is quite an honour for me to stand in the House where the decision was made to send troops overseas so that my family could be freed. Not only my family but millions of other people around the world were freed by the efforts of the allies in their fight against Nazi Germany and Japan in those years.

It is only understandable and the right thing to do. We are debating a motion and the relevance should not even be debated. It should be automatic. We should be able to take a motion or a bill of this nature, rush it to third reading, send it to the Senate and have it done.

If we can give ourselves a pay raise of over 20% in the matter of a few hours, certainly we can do something for our remaining veterans who are still alive and those who have passed on by honouring them with a special day on November 11.

November 11 in many ways is a special day, but by not making it a statutory holiday it basically says that we still have not honoured their sacrifices completely.

Some businesses have come to me and asked how they could afford it. I told them with great respect that if it were not for the sacrifices of those Canadian soldiers they would not have their businesses. We must never forget that.

I have a letter dated May 17, 1993, written by the official opposition member who is now the Prime Minister of Canada. He thanked a woman for her correspondence regarding private members' Bill C-289, a bill introduced by a former Nova Scotian Liberal, Mr. Ron MacDonald, to provide that Remembrance Day be included as a holiday in the public service collective agreement. He had narrowed it down just a bit.

He went to say that the Liberal Party understood her concern. Remembrance Day is a time when we honour the more than 100,000 Canadian men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. Every year on November 11 we are given the opportunity to reflect on the values that Canadians fought and gave their lives to uphold. It is important that these ceremonies continue so that Canadians will always understand the extent and meaning of these sacrifices.

Then he stated that he supported the bill to guarantee Remembrance Day as a holiday for federal public servants. It was not just for public servants. Its intent was to make it a statutory holiday.

Unfortunately treasury board indicated that government members could not support the bill because it had collective bargaining implications and would cost too much. Liberals felt this reasoning was petty. He said they would continue to press the government to pass Bill C-289. As leader of the opposition he indicated that he appreciated the time taken to write and bring those views to his attention.

The Prime Minister took the time to have a letter written on his behalf telling someone that he supports making it a holiday for public servants. There is always speculation that the Prime Minister may decide to leave. In the last few remaining years he may have as a politician, why would he not want to leave a little memento for Canadians by making November 11 a statutory holiday? He has the power to be able to do something like that very quickly.

On November 11 members visit various legions in their ridings to say hello to current military personnel and their families and remaining veterans. It is a very sombre moment.

I personally go to eight legions on that day. I drive over 500 kilometres. I always make a presentation of the Canadian flag and of the national war poster of that year. We have them mounted and we present them to the legions on that specific day.

What an honour and privilege it is to represent not just my party but all members of the House of Commons. That is what we all do. Besides Canada Day, that is the other day when all members of parliament become equals. I have talked to many members of parliament who do the same. They go to the various legions in their ridings. They attend the functions. They shake the hands of the veterans and of the remaining spouses. They shake the hands of the current military and members of the legion. It truly is a wonderful blessed day.

It is time we put the debate aside and realize that now we need to have a proper statutory holiday in remembrance of the brave people who gave the supreme sacrifice. In the end military personnel always paid the ultimate liability. The ultimate responsibilities are up to government and members of parliament.

One of those responsibilities is to ensure that we never forget, that we pass the traditions and their sacrifices on to future generations. One of ways to do that is to have a statutory holiday from coast to coast to coast that properly and once and for all recognizes the supreme sacrifices that were made.

My mother is watching the debate as it is taking place. She is almost 80 years old. We came to Canada in 1956. My dad was a POW. He met a Canadian soldier and asked him why Canada sent so many young people to Holland, why it sacrificed so much. The answer was that they had a job to do. That was it. Then he walked away.

In 1956 the economic situation in Holland was not that good so the only answer for my family and thousands of other people was migration. My father remembered the words of that Canadian soldier and said that if Canada has such a military he could not imagine what kind of country it was.

My family came here in 1956 and has been able to prosper because of the efforts of Canadians. It is only fair and right that we as members of parliament put aside our partisanship this one time and recognize the value of men and women who served in the past and the men and women who are currently overseas in defence of freedom and democracy.

We should honour the motion of my hon. member across the way and recognize that this is a serious bill. We should address it and move on it very quickly. I cannot for the life of me see one reason we would not want to support the bill.

I do not want to talk only about Canadian sacrifices. There is a province in our country that was part of the British empire at that time. It also sacrificed tremendously. That is the great province of Newfoundland and Labrador. No one should ever forget the sacrifices it has made.

If members of the House want to see a lobby dedicated to the sacrifices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorans they should go to the house of assembly in St. John's, Newfoundland. I know my colleague from St. John's East will mention it. They will see something that will bring tears to their eyes. These people have done it right. They understand the sacrifices. We in the rest of Canada should do the same.

On behalf of my late father, mother and family I want to thank the hon. member very much for this motion. Hopefully it succeeds in being passed very quickly.

National Remembrance DayPrivate Members' Business

February 20th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
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Roger Gallaway Liberal Sarnia—Lambton, ON


Motion No. 298

That the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs be instructed, in accordance with Standing Order 68(4)(b), to prepare and bring in a bill in order to provide for the establishment of November 11th as a national holiday to be known as Remembrance Day.

Mr. Speaker, as the motion is non-votable, members will have one hour to discuss making November 11 a national holiday knowing full well that we will not have an opportunity to vote on it and pass judgment on it.

One might reasonably ask: Is Remembrance Day not already a national holiday? I should start by saying that in the great Canadian tradition holidays are a shared jurisdiction, and this is always confusing. Statutory holidays may be declared by provinces, as is the case with the province of Quebec which celebrates Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day on June 24.

Another example of a provincial holiday is the civic holiday held on the first weekend of August. This is a hybrid statutory holiday because the provinces and the federal government have declared it to be holiday. If someone is a federal worker they have a holiday. If someone follows the provincial labour law, they also have a holiday.

Two national holidays fall within the purview of the federal government, one being July 1, Canada Day, and the second being May 24, Victoria Day, or Fête de la reine in Quebec. Those are holidays which have been declared by the federal government.

This leads to the question: What is the status of November 11? It is a mishmash, a hybrid. The federal government has proclaimed it to be a federal holiday which means that all employees under federal labour legislation, such as civil servants, bank employees, airline employees, and so on, get the holiday. November 11 has been declared a holiday in certain provinces but not in all. For example, it is not a holiday in the province of Ontario. In other words, federal workers have a holiday but other people do not.

The purpose of my motion was to ensure that November 11 became a national holiday, such as May 24, which is the day we celebrate the birthday of a Queen who has been dead for more than 100 years, and July 1, which is the day when we celebrate Canada Day, 1867.

There are a lot of reasons for making November 11 a national holiday. I must confess that I brought forward the motion because there were some people in Canada who believed this should be a national holiday. A constituent of mine has been battling with this question for 13 years but she has not had great success.

During the Battle of Vimy Ridge in April 1917, which raged on for almost one month, 3,598 Canadians died, 7,000 Canadians were wounded and some 3,000 to 4,000 Canadians were permanently injured as a result of mustard gas. If we juxtapose that against the population of Canada, which was eight million or thereabouts at the time, we have some idea of the significance of the contribution of Canadian soldiers in the evolution of this country and in our place in the world.

There are those who say that December 12 is actually Canada Day because on December 12, 1931 the statute of Westminster was passed. It is interesting to note that on every December 12 the British Union Jack flies on all federal flag poles in Ottawa, including the flag pole here on Parliament Hill, because December 12 is deemed to be the day Canada obtained powers from the British parliament, one of those powers being the right to declare war. That right was used by this parliament in 1939 when the second great war began.

It is an obvious question then. Why is it not a national holiday as opposed to a mishmash of holidays?

This matter has been considered by the House in the past. In 1992 the then MP for the riding of Dartmouth, Mr. Ron MacDonald, had a bill before the House which was deemed to be votable but never made it to a vote on third reading, so it became academic. At that time the Conservative government opposed it. It said it would cost too much money.

Let me refer to comments from the then minister of the treasury board. In a letter dated May 17, the treasury board indicated that government members could not support the bill because it had collective bargaining implications that would cost too much.

Interestingly, at the same time the then leader of the opposition, the Prime Minister, wrote a letter saying that the Liberals felt this was petty reasoning and that the Liberals would continue to press the government to pass what was then Bill C-289 which would have made Remembrance Day a national holiday.

The only other time the House passed judgment on Remembrance Day was in 1931 when the name of Remembrance Day was changed by a private member's bill, ironically, from Armistice Day to what we now call Remembrance Day.

Last year the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, at its annual general meeting, passed a resolution calling on the government to make Remembrance Day a national holiday. Last year the Young Liberals of Canada, the youth wing of the party, passed a similar resolution. In fact that group has launched a petition drive to achieve that end. Jean Charest, the leader of the Liberals in Quebec, has signed a petition in recent months to the same objective.

This motion was declared non-votable and I have reason to believe that the committee was concerned about a couple of things. It was concerned about the expressed view of the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Veterans Affairs that it was a cost factor and they could not do it. However it is already a holiday for federal employees, so that argument is somewhat specious.

We also know that the provinces, with a couple of exceptions, Ontario being one, already have a holiday. In terms of cost, the cost is in the province of Ontario, which used to have it as a provincial holiday.

The second issue is there is a belief that the Royal Canadian Legion is opposed to it. That is an interesting belief but it is only that because the Royal Canadian Legion has never at its annual general meeting or its convention put a motion forward to determine what its membership thought. Therefore, if anyone believes that certain service or ex-military organizations are opposed to it that is simply conjecture because those organizations have never had a motion, had a debate or taken a vote on it.

It would be interesting if indeed the committee, and this is simply conjecture, or if anyone were to say that this could never be a holiday because service organizations were opposed to it. I would just like to put on the record that that is not the case because there has never been a debate within any Canadian service organization on this point.

The final point is why should it be a national holiday? What is the underlying principle of this?

In the last century 100,000 Canadians died in wars fought in the name of this country and in the name of freedom. In the last century and into the 21st century, 125,000 Canadian soldiers have served not in war but in peacekeeping. Making November 11 a national holiday would give all Canadians an opportunity to reflect on the contributions in the past and more contemporary, the present, to the achievement of peace and freedom.

Today there are about 3,000 Canadian soldiers who are serving in Bosnia and Eritrea. An additional 750 to 800 are serving in Afghanistan. Despite comments made in the country and in the House, our military is still an integral part of our country's identity and its values of foreign policy both past and present.

I noted at the beginning that Victoria Day is a national holiday, a federal holiday declared by this parliament. It is interesting that we continue to celebrate the birthday of a queen who has been dead for about 100 years, yet we have studiously avoided a day to honour and remember those who served this country and those who continue to serve this country.

In conclusion, I submit that this is an issue which has increased in importance in this post-September 11 world. Many members of the House who were present at cenotaphs last November 11 will have noticed significant increases in attendance. The importance of Remembrance Day is not fading in Canada; rather it has become in one sense more important to us.

It is said that the purpose of war is to obtain peace. We are living in an era of limited peace because we have peacekeepers in areas that are wartorn. We have soldiers in areas that are wartorn. Our military is an integral part of our history. It is an institution of our country. It is for that reason I am supporting those who would say Remembrance Day, November 11 ought to be a national holiday.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 6:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, any time I have an opportunity to discuss the Canadian youth justice system, I do not hesitate to bring my experience to the debate. I would like to commend the member for Crowfoot for his continuing diligence in pointing out to the government Canadians' overwhelming concern about the Canadian youth criminal justice system.

It is unfortunate that this private member's bill is not votable because it would once again point out the government's absolute lack of interest in listening to the concerns of the majority of Canadians with respect to the important issue of youth crime. My colleague's bill encompasses years of study and listening on the part of his predecessor from Crowfoot, Mr. Jack Ramsay; listening not only to the Canadian public but to the judiciary that must interpret the laws of the land and to those agencies most affected by the laws, such as provincial detention centres, police forces, and various educational systems to name just a few.

The bill, unlike the youth criminal justice act which the Liberal government passed earlier this year, would make the protection of society its primary focus. The Liberals on the other hand continue to put the interests of the offender ahead of the protection of society. In various ways the youth criminal justice act places the safety and security of Canadians behind the interest in rehabilitating and reintegrating the offender back into society. For example in the declaration of principle of the YCJA it lists the following order of importance: one, address the circumstances underlying the young person's offending behaviour; two, rehabilitate and reintegrate; and three, ensure the young person is subject to meaningful consequences.

The government tries to assure Canadians that the order does not matter. The order is important because it is what guides judges in their determination of how much weight to assign to specific factors. Bill C-289 would make the protection of society the primary and guiding principle of Canada's youth criminal justice laws. That is not to say that rehabilitation and reintegration into the community are not important. Obviously they are, however the security and safety of the community must be considered above all else.

There are numerous examples of how this principle could provide better protection to Canadians. One example that immediately comes to mind is the murder of a six year old British Columbia girl, Dawn Shaw. On October 24, 1992, Dawn was playing with her 16 year old next door neighbour Jason Gamache in Courtenay on Vancouver Island. Unknown to Dawn's parents or anyone else in the housing complex located right next to an elementary school was the fact that Jason was on probation for sexually molesting a young child one year previously. He dragged Dawn off into the bushes, sexually assaulted her and stomped her to death when she tried to cry out for help. He then joined in the search for her and after her battered body was found, he babysat her two siblings while her parents went to the RCMP detachment.

Even the police were unaware of his presence in the community. It is my understanding that it was only after they ran his name during the course of the investigation that he popped up on their information system. Had our youth criminal justice laws given priority to the protection of society, Dawn Shaw would be a flowering young woman today.

Any legislation that is guided by societal protection would allow the community to know when a violent offender has been released into its midst. How can parents protect their children if the law does not permit them to know the dangers that are present? Unfortunately the new youth criminal justice act follows closely in the footsteps of the Young Offenders Act by imposing numerous restrictions on the naming of violent offenders.

There are a limited number of instances in which the young person may be named to protect the community, but once again the list is restrictive and does not include all violent or dangerous offenders. The courts retain the discretion to override the identification of the offender. In the opinion of many, the courts have been excessively protective of the rights and interests of young offenders while public and community safety have become secondary. Bill C-289 would allow for the unrestricted public identification of violent young offenders. It cannot be said often enough that the public has the right to know information that will allow it to protect itself.

There are so many flaws in the current Young Offenders Act and the pending youth criminal justice act that in having only limited time to talk about the changes the member for Crowfoot is suggesting in his private member's bill, I can only touch the tip of the iceberg. Bill C-289 would lower the age of application to 10 years. Contrary to the Liberal government's spin machine, this is not only a proposition of the Canadian Alliance and its predecessor the Reform Party. The same recommendation was made in a report from the justice committee in the 35th parliament, the very report which forms the basis of the youth criminal justice act. This was a Liberal dominated committee but true to form, the government ignored it.

The intent is not to throw 10 and 11 year olds into jail. It is to make sure that those taking the first steps down the road to criminal behaviour receive the treatment and assistance they require. Far too often we see these young people falling through the cracks of the current system. Unfortunately, that will continue to be the case.

The use of alternative measures is also advocated in Bill C-289. I have mentioned many times before in this place that I fully support this approach as witnessed by my own involvement for the past seven years in the community based diversion program at home in British Columbia. It should be pointed out that although the Liberals would have Canadians believe that what they refer to as extrajudicial measures is their brainchild, Bill C-289 has been around substantially longer than the youth criminal justice act in all of its incarnations.

There is one major difference however. Alternative measures as proposed in Bill C-289 would be restricted to those charged with non-violent offences. In addition, the views of the victims would require consideration if alternative measures were being proposed.

The youth criminal justice act will make extrajudicial measures available to repeat and violent offenders. In my opinion that defeats the whole purpose. Violent behaviour demands a more formal, serious response from society. Alternative measures should be presented as a one time only opportunity for a young person who truly desires to reform.

As I indicated earlier, it is unfortunate that private member's Bill C-289 is not votable. If the current Young Offenders Act were amended according to the proposals contained in the bill, there would be no need for an entirely new piece of legislation as was passed in the form of the youth criminal justice act.

The youth criminal justice act, due to its mind-numbing complexity and failure to comply with the wishes of Canadians will in all likelihood become as much despised as the Young Offenders Act it is intended to replace.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Vancouver Quadra B.C.


Stephen Owen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, after extensive consultation and deliberation the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 on May 29, 2001. Bill C-7 would repeal and replace the Young Offenders Act with the youth criminal justice act. The bill is now before the Senate and would invoke the key principles of fairness, rights and a focused use of the criminal law power in its framework for youth justice.

The reforms are premised on the notion that it is through prevention and meaningful and therefore varied consequences for the full range of youth crime, rehabilitation and reintegration that Canadians are protected over the long term. It recognizes the need to have a separate justice system for youth, special procedural protections, interventions that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, and approaches that help to instruct the young person about the consequences of the behaviour.

It would provide opportunities to repair harm, support for rehabilitation and reintegration of the youth, and opportunities for the constructive involvement of victims, family members and others. The new direction for youth justice is both a fair and effective response to youth crime and it is supported by Canadians.

The proposed changes to the Young Offenders Act set out in Bill C-289 were considered by the justice and human rights committee in its study of Bill C-7 and not adopted. In sum, the proposed amendments allow for less discretion in the system and essentially a punitive approach to youth crime.

Bill C-7 embodies a fair and proportionate response to youth crime. Sentences are intended to be adequate to hold a youth accountable for the offence he or she has committed. Youth court judges can apply adult sentences for serious offences, if necessary, to hold youth fairly accountable. However the rule is fairness and proportionality to the seriousness of the offence.

Those who mistakenly believe that punishment alone serves to protect society will never find penalties to be tough enough. Their approach would result in unfair harsh penalties that are not effective in stopping youth crime or reforming young offenders.

Studies are clear that harsh penalties do not deter other youth. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that non-custodial penalties are as or more effective than custodial ones and avoid the risks of incarceration.

The youth justice system in Canada is already an overly harsh and ineffective system. Young people are sentenced to custody at a rate four times higher than adults. Studies show that Canada's youth incarceration rate is the highest among western countries including the United States. Young persons in Canada often receive harsher custodial sentences than adults receive for the same type of offence. Almost 80% of custodial sentences are for non-violent offences. Many non-violent and first time offenders found guilty of less serious offences such as minor theft are sentenced to custody.

Currently the youth justice system under the Young Offenders Act is not working as well as it should for Canadians. Too many young people are charged and often incarcerated with questionable results. Procedural protections for young people are not adequate and too many youth end up serving custodial sentences with adults.

The overarching principles are unclear and conflicting. There are disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing. Interventions are not appropriately targeted to the seriousness of offences. They are neither adequately meaningful for individual offenders and victims nor adequately supportive of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The proposed youth criminal justice act would address these fundamental flaws by targeting responses of the youth justice system to the seriousness of the offence, clarifying the principles of the youth justice system, ensuring fairness and proportionality in sentencing, respecting and protecting rights, enabling meaningful consequences aimed at rehabilitation, supporting reintegration after custody, and encouraging an inclusive approach to youth crime.

These approaches are now included in Bill C-7 which would repeal the Young Offenders Act and replace it with a legislative framework that would reflect Canadian values and provide for a fairer and more effective youth justice system.

The proposed amendments in Bill C-289 do not reflect what Canadians want in a youth justice system. The proposed provisions include a return to corporal punishment, removing privacy protections, lowering of ages including the age of criminal responsibility to 10, longer youth sentences, and less discretion in the system.

The direction of the amendments is repressive and does not include efforts at rehabilitation, addressing the needs of youth or involving youth in repairing the harm he or she may have caused.

Canadians have seen that tough, disproportionate punitive approaches are not only unfair but ineffective. Bill C-7, already passed by the House of Commons, reflects the values and directions that Canadians want in a renewed youth justice system. They are not the strictly punitive approaches reflected in Bill C-289. Canadians want and deserve the youth justice system envisioned in Bill C-7 that is the product of consultation, advice and thought.

The proposals that are the subject of today's debate were considered in the development of Bill C-7. They were not adopted then nor should they be adopted now.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

moved that Bill C-289, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act (public safety), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to speak to my private member's bill, C-289, which attempts to amend the Young Offenders Act and to achieve a number of objectives.

Before I proceed, I would like to point out to the House that I initiated the drafting of the bill before the justice minister introduced Bill C-3, a carbon copy of Bill C-7 that died on the order paper at the dissolution of parliament with the call of the 2000 federal election. Bill C-3 was an act to enact the criminal justice act.

Bill C-289 reflects the sentiments expressed to me by many of the Crowfoot residents during that 2000 federal election campaign, sentiments which have been reverberating throughout the country since the Liberals took power in 1993.

I made a commitment to the people of Crowfoot to restore some sanity to a justice system that has, for far too long, in their opinion, coddled offenders, particularly violent young offenders. Canadians from coast to coast are concerned about their personal safety and the safety of their children.

The Liberals made a promise to Canadians. In successive elections, they promised to make our homes and our streets much safer. It is evident from the lenient justice legislation introduced and subsequently enacted by this majority government, including the subsequent lax amendments to the Young Offenders Act under Bill C-37, that the Liberals have not lived up to those promises; indeed, the Liberals have broken those promises.

The Liberal government's soft on crime position will not enhance public safety and personal security. The Liberal's soft justice legislation, such as that enacting conditional sentences, threatens the safety of all Canadians.

The Liberal justice minister, despite having overwhelming support from people throughout the country, does not have the fortitude to enact the necessary tough measures to hold murderers and other violent offenders, including violent young offenders, fully accountable for their heinous crimes against innocent citizens.

In 1996, the justice minister mandated the standing committee on justice and legal affairs to review the Young Offenders Act following the 10th anniversary of its enactment in 1984. After months of cross country hearings, submissions and presentations by people with vested interest in youth justice, and at a cost of almost half a million dollars, the committee tabled a report in April 1997. The report contained a number of recommendations for the Young Offenders Act.

Despite the committee's report and despite the justice minister's promise in June 1997, immediately following that federal election, to make amending the Young Offenders Act a priority, it took her more than two years to do so.

Thinking that old habits die hard, immediately following the election I requested the drafting of Bill C-289 anticipating that once again the justice minister would move slowly and drag her feet on bringing in changes to the most despised piece of legislation in Canada, the Young Offenders Act.

The minister proved me wrong and did introduce Bill C-3 relatively soon after the 2000 federal election. She did, however, true to her form, bring in a bill with little or no teeth.

At this time, I commend my colleague from Surrey North for repeatedly pointing out the inadequacies of Bill C-3.

The fundamental purpose of Canada's youth justice system is the protection of society, which entails dealing effectively with an offender after a crime has been committed. It was not designed to repair social flaws. It was not designed to deal with dysfunctional families. It was not designed to deal with economic hardships. It was not put into place to deal with the deficiencies of our education system. These root causes of youth crime must instead be addressed through effective social programs, sound economic policies, support for Canadian families and early detection and intervention programs.

By failing to recognize this simple fact, successive federal governments have diluted and weakened the effectiveness of Canada's criminal justice system. Young offenders are no longer being held accountable for their actions in a proper and effective manner. As a result, Canadians have lost faith in their ability to protect their families and their property.

If this all sounds familiar, it is because it is taken from the Reform Party, our predecessor, minority report in response to the justice committee's report on amending the Young Offenders Act. A significant amount of time has passed, actually four years, since that minority report was product. Nothing was different as far as youth crime goes. Therefore, our position has not changed.

The first and perhaps the most important amendment I seek through the private members' bill is to make the protection of society and the safety of others the first purpose of the law respecting young offenders. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in October 1996, Victor Doerksen, who was a member of the legislature of Alberta, said:

In listening to Albertans, one lesson became very clear. The protection of society should take priority over all other considerations and there must be some accountability on the part of all offenders...Alberta also recommends that the declaration of principles within the act be amended to give the protection of society and offender accountability priority over all other considerations.

Bill C-3 does not, as recommended by this Alberta member of the legislature and many others who appeared before that standing committee, make the protection of society the first and guiding principle of the youth act. According to the declaration of principles, the safety and security of Canadians is secondary to the rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders back into society.

Beside failing to make the protection of society the guiding principle, the new youth criminal justice act effectively enacts the most contentious parts of the old Juvenile Delinquents Act; that is the portion that wrongfully promotes an inequitable application of criminal law, in that it allows or provides far too much discretion to the youth court.

Bill C-289 also serves to support section 43 of the criminal code in that it attempts to reinforce the principle that reasonable force may be used to discipline young persons by those with authority over them. Those in positions of authority over youth, including parents, teachers and police officers, should not be afraid to use reasonable means of discipline or intervention in minor incidents.

Schools are effectively diverting police officers from far more serious matters by calling them unnecessarily to settle disputes that could be handled by teachers or by other students. However, teachers fear that they themselves may be charged if they inadvertently harm a student while trying to stop a fight or dealing with an uncontrollable student. They are reluctant to do anything but standby, stand back and watch until the police arrive. That must be changed.

Bill C-289 attempts to do a number of other things. It attempts to lower the maximum age of the Young Offenders Act from 17 to 15 years of age. Sixteen and seventeen year olds are legally allowed to drive cars. They are allowed to get married. They are allowed to live on their own. They have the knowledge and the capacity to know right from wrong. They also have the physical strength of most adults. In some cases perhaps more physical strength than what most adults would have. For all intents and purposes, in my opinion 16 and 17 year olds are adults and should be treated as such under the criminal law. That opinion is shared by a number of people who appeared before the committee as well. It is shared by the former Attorney General of Ontario, Charles Harnick, who said before the standing committee:

Our first recommendation is that a young offender be defined as a person aged 15 years or under. Until the passing of the Young Offenders Act in 1984, the maximum age for young offenders in Ontario under the Juvenile Delinquents Act was 15-years old. For the purpose of criminal law, 16 and 17-year-olds were considered adults... A 16-year-old can legally drive, work, get married and have a family. If, as a society, we accept a younger person's ability to make serious choices such as that, then we must accept that 16-year-olds have the moral capacity to understand the consequences of doing wrong and should be held accountable for their actions.

My private member's bill also attempts to lower the minimum age limit of the Young Offenders Act from 12 years to 10.

Numerous witnesses appeared before the standing committee, including a city councillor from Scarborough, Ontario. That councillor spoke in support of lowering the age of criminality. Councillor Brad Duguid said:

--I'd like to see the age lowered in terms of the applicability to 10 years or under. And that's not an attempt to try to throw 10 and 11-year-olds in custody or in jail...It's simply an attempt to try to give the police a little more legal ability to intervene, and I think that's the key, is being able to intervene...

Regarding lowering the age limit, Constable Sue Olsen, who is a native resource officer with the Edmonton police service, testified. I loved the quote she gave at the standing committee. She said:

I work in the inner city school. One of the issues that comes up for us as street police officers is that there is a gap with the under 12-year-old children who get involved in criminal activity. We're in a sit and wait process, waiting until they're 12 before we can get them into services and deal with them before they become more of a problem down the road.

The officer was saying that as it now applies we must sit and wait until they are 12 years old so that they can get the help they need.

Some of these young people in inner cities throughout this nation need intervention at an early age. This is not so that people can be incarcerated. This is not so we can take 10 and 11 year olds, hold them in custody and throw them in jail. This is so they can get the rehabilitative programs they need so that they will be successfully integrated into society.

On April 18, 1996, Superintendent Gwen Boniface, a member of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, said in regard to the anonymity of the Young Offenders Act:

--while valuable from the perspective of not labelling first offenders and for all the very valid reasons that we know of, it is often outweighed by the ability of young offenders to deflect responsibility. The flaw with the system is that it countermands the basic principles that all responsible parents attempt to instill in their children--namely, to accept responsibility for one's actions.

In response to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and in response to Albertans, who support a partial lifting of the ban, my private member's bill seeks to allow for the publishing of all the names of all violent offenders. I believe that the public has a right to know if a violent offender has been released or may reside in their community. I believe that knowledge far outweighs any privacy considerations for the offender. Parents have the right to protect their children.

I would submit that they cannot do so if they do not know with whom their children are associating; perhaps with a convicted drug dealer or a violent offender.

In recognition that some youth make minor mistakes that they do not repeat, I believe, as does my party, that their privacy should be maintained.

The recidivism rate for young offenders clearly shows that the sentencing provisions of the Young Offenders Act have been ineffective. Particularly in cases of violent offences such as sexual assault, the current maximum sentence of only three years does not provide an adequate period of time for rehabilitation to occur.

It has taken years for the offender to develop this behaviour and it takes years to reverse it. The maximum sentence of seven years proposed in my private member's bill would provide judges with greater sentencing options for the most severe cases.

When I campaigned in the election the people of Crowfoot said that we needed an act that was not simply there to punish but was also there to rehabilitate. Bill C-289 does that.

Income Tax ActPrivate Members' Business

May 2nd, 2001 / 6:25 p.m.
See context


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity tonight to speak to Bill C-272, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (child adoption expenses).

The purpose of this bill is to allow a taxpayer a deduction for expenses of up to $7,000 related to the adoption of a child when computing his or her income for a taxation year.

I remind the House that my colleague from the Bloc, the member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans, introduced a bill almost identical to this one in 1998.

Another bill, Bill C-289, was introduced in September 2000 by the same Alliance member, but it died on the order paper when the election was called.

It is therefore a bill my party the Bloc Quebecois and I support.

As we know, adoption is a provincial responsibility. However, the lack of participation on the part of the federal government creates a grey area for adoptive parents.

Indeed, why would the federal government, which has no qualms about interfering in many areas under provincial jurisdiction, not intervene efficiently in the area of adoption?

A federal tax deduction would not only be a welcome incentive for adoptive parents, but would also make the tax system fairer.

Biological parents are covered under the health insurance plan for prenatal and postnatal care whereas adoptive parents must pay out of their own pocket the full cost of an adoption.

It is odd that the costs of in vitro fertilization are deductible when the costs of adopting a child are not. This is neither fair nor wise on the part of the federal government.

The Quebec government estimates that an international adoption costs the adoptive parents an average of $20,000. Children of the World, one of the largest Canadian adoption agencies, estimates the cost of adopting a child in China at $17,000 per couple. These figures include expenses in Quebec and in China.

The bill should allow taxpayers to deduct from their income the child adoption expenses, not by an amount not exceeding $7,000, but by double that amount.

The federal government should recognize, as Quebec does, the important social contribution of adoptive parents to our society. It has been observed that half of Canadian adoptions are to Quebec families. This is in part due to the fact that Quebec's family policy is far more progressive than that of the federal government.

Adoptive parents face special expenses, particularly in the case of private and international adoptions. I know whereof I speak. Thirty-two years ago, my wife and I adopted a child.

Many couples who want to adopt a child think about it twice because of all the expenses it entails, which is where this bill comes in.

For almost nine years now, Quebec has undergone a change quite unique in the western world. Every year, between 700 and 800 children from all over the world finally find in Quebec a family to adopt them. It obviously would have made adoption easier if the adoptive parents had been able to deduct from their income, at the federal level, the child adoption expenses.

We cannot talk about adoption without talking about family. In Quebec, we are proud to have an integrated and comprehensive family policy. This policy includes among other things a tax credit for adoption expenses, family allowance benefits and the development of educational services and day care for young children, what is commonly known as the $5 a day day care. Quebec is also developing a parental insurance program based on the needs of families in Quebec.

In short, it is obvious that the federal government is 20 years behind in this area. By quickly passing this bill, it would at least be taking a step in the right direction.

In closing, I deplore the fact that this bill is not votable.

Young Offenders ActRoutine Proceedings

February 28th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-289, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act (public safety).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce my first private member's bill. The bill seeks to make the protection of society the first and guiding principle of the Young Offenders Act.

In the name of public safety, the bill allows for the publishing of all names of young violent offenders. It also seeks to change the minimum age of criminality from 12 to 10 years of age. It provides young people, who at this tender age get mixed up in crime, with the opportunity for guidance and rehabilitation that is necessary for them to get back on track.

In June 1997 the justice minister promised to make amending the Young Offenders Act a top priority. That was almost four years ago and nothing has been done. There have been a number of futile attempts but we are still saddled with what the minister, in her own words, calls “easily the most unpopular federal bill”.

I ask for all members to help with the bill for the sake of our children and grandchildren.