An Act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act

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

Sponsor

Ralph Goodale  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

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.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 6:15 p.m.
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Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have to address my support for Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act. I have followed the bill with great interest during its passage through the House of Commons, the Senate and now back before us for consideration of one amendment dealing with the overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody.

As the House knows, the youth criminal justice act was passed by the House in May 2001. The Senate then approved the bill in December with one small amendment dealing with a very important requirement: to consider non-custodial sentences for aboriginal youth. This is the amendment now before the House.

It is important to remember that Bill C-7 and its predecessors have been before parliament for over three years. It has been the subject of extensive and prolonged scrutiny by the House of Commons and also by the Senate. Many hours of parliamentary time have been spent in reviewing the proposals. Parliament has heard from dozens of witnesses whose views have been taken into account in the amendments that have been approved by both the House and the Senate.

It is important for us to recall that several months were dedicated to parliamentary hearings on Bill C-3 which was the predecessor to Bill C-7. Many hours were spent examining that bill. In fact the House standing committee heard from close to 100 witnesses. It found the substance of many of these interventions very compelling. Some 160 amendments to the bill were actually put forward.

Unfortunately Bill C-3 died on the order paper. It was reintroduced as Bill C-7 in February 2001. I should add that it was done so with the amendments. The overall direction and all key elements were retained, designed to reduce complexity and provide greater clarity and in fact improve flexibility for the provinces.

I must say that as a member of parliament who practised law for 18 years before seeking public office, and as a mother of three children, two boys and a girl age 20, 12 and 17 respectively, I have been impressed throughout the consideration of the bill by parliament, as well as listening to my constituents and the Canadian public as a whole, with just how much support there is across Canada for the government's efforts to provide solutions to respond to this complex area of youth justice.

People are genuinely concerned that our society finds fair and effective ways of dealing with young people who are alleged or are found to have committed offences. There may be some differences of approach in certain areas but I am very encouraged by the fact that the majority of those who appeared before parliament supported the bill's main objectives.

Members of parliament and Canadians from all walks of life have shown support for a youth justice system that is based upon clearly stated principles that emphasize the key features of the type of system we want for our youth who come into conflict with the law. Bill C-7 provides for this.

It acknowledges the fact that young people lack the maturity of adults. It includes an emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration and holding young people accountable in a manner that is consistent with their reduced level of maturity. It requires that interventions with young persons be fair and proportionate, encourage the repair of harm done, and involve parents and others in a young person's rehabilitation and reintegration. In addition, interventions must respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences, and respond especially to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements.

The bill is aimed at reducing use of the formal justice system and increasing the amount of diversion for the vast majority of youth crime. In fact experience in other countries shows that measures outside the court process can provide effective and timely responses to less serious youth crime as well as the opportunity for the broader community to play an important role in developing community based responses to youth crime.

As an aside, in my riding, community impact statements are something which my community has always called upon. In a sense, Bill C-7 addresses that with respect to young offenders.

Canadians also support a reduction in the overuse of custody in this country. It was amazing for me to learn that Canada has the highest youth incarceration rate in the western world, including the United States.

In contrast to the Young Offenders Act, the new legislation provides that custody is to be reserved primarily for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders. The youth criminal justice act recognizes that non-custodial sentences can often provide more meaningful consequences and be much more effective in rehabilitating young persons.

This bill also contains measures for the rehabilitation and reintegration of those who in fact do go into custody, putting an emphasis on assisting a young person to successfully make the transition back to the community. Young people can be reintegrated if they receive the proper support, assistance and opportunities.

The proposed youth criminal justice act will ensure a fairer and more effective system as well as address our overreliance on incarceration in this country. For those who do go into custody, it will increase their opportunity for reintegration into the community. Those appearing before parliament have reinforced that legislation alone will not change the course of youth justice and will not in itself reduce youth crime. That is why the legislation is part of a broader youth justice renewal initiative which was launched in 1999. The legislation is the centrepiece, the cornerstone of the federal government's youth justice renewal initiative.

There is more to the initiative however. The broader initiative recognizes the legislation will need to be carefully and effectively implemented. Officials and professionals implementing the new legislation will have the training and the tools they need to successfully implement it. In addition, public legal education materials will be available in easily accessible language to reach everyone involved, including youth themselves, parents, victims, schools and others.

This initiative includes significant resources to stimulate new youth justice programs consistent with the federal policy objectives and new partnerships with child welfare, schools, crime prevention workers and others for more enduring solutions to youth crime. The federal government has fostered consultations and funded projects as part of the strategy, inviting collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to the developmental challenges facing children and our youth. Youth crime is a complex problem that cannot be effectively answered by discipline working in isolation.

The federal government has also made offers of financial support for youth justice programs under its spending power authority and consistent with the social union framework agreement. These offers are for five year financial agreements totalling more than $950 million to the provinces and territories in support of the policy objectives of the youth justice renewal initiative. This amount does not include the significant additional federal resources to support the intensive support and rehabilitative custody and supervision orders intended to provide therapy and support for the most violent and troubled youth.

Moreover, about $27 million of resources, that is, $12.7 million this fiscal year, $7.5 million in the last fiscal year and $7 million the year before that, have been made available to the provinces and territories to assist in preparing for the new legislation through training, encouraging partnerships, improving information systems, addressing implementation contingencies and preparing for reintegration planning and support.

The federal government is also firmly committed to preventing crime. The federal Department of Justice began the government's community crime prevention initiative in 1999, which includes children and youth as priorities for the $32 million available annually for community based crime prevention initiatives.

On July 5 last year, the Government of Canada announced that it will invest a further $145 million in the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention to strengthen its efforts to support community based responses to crime. This is in addition to the national children's agenda which focuses on supporting children's development, particularly for the critical ages of zero to six years.

I ask that all members of the House support Bill C-7, a bill that has been debated and looked at by both houses. We are here now to finally approve the final amendment. Let us start working together to stop youth crime.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to a bill that I consider very important. Since my election I have been sitting on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and have had the opportunity to thoroughly examine what is proposed in Bill C-7.

Today I wonder if I live on another planet. I hear my colleague from the Bloc and my colleague from the New Democratic Party, who do not seem to understand at all the fundamental aspects of this bill.

I congratulate my colleague, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, for his recent speeches on this issue and also the former minister of justice for the work she has done. What she proposed is a modern bill that is in keeping with international conventions signed by Canada throughout the world, particularly concerning the protection of the rights of children.

The bill goes back some years. In 1985 the present Young Offenders Act, which applies to young people who commit crimes in Canada, was passed.

In 1997 there was a proposal that the youth justice system be changed and a bill was introduced, Bill C-68, which was subsequently amended by Bill C-3.

In September 2000, more than 160 amendments were moved with respect to the bill, and after my election, when I became a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I had before me Bill C-7, a modernized piece of legislation that satisfied all the criticisms.

We must not delude ourselves; within our Liberal delegation there are some members who are concerned about the future of Canada's young people. They have proposed amendments, There have been numerous discussions to improve the system proposed for our young offenders.

Today, therefore, I am very pleased and proud to see that this government is proposing a rehabilitation based system for young offenders. Those who claim otherwise have, unfortunately, not read the bill.

I have had the opportunity to meet with the directors of the youth centre in my riding of Laval East, the Centre Jeunesse de Laval, and I can tell hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois opposition is greatly exaggerating when it states that all Quebec stakeholders are opposed to the bill.

As a government, we cannot of course please all the pressure groups. We have to make decisions. Had the bill been based on the proposals of the Quebec bar association, we would be accused of playing along with the lawyers and faulted for that. In this bill, the government chose from among the proposals that came from all sides.

I can only regret the opportunism of some members in the opposition, in the Bloc Quebecois, who have been very skilled at voicing criticisms connected with the existence of a so-called Quebec coalition.

As far as that so-called coalition is concerned, I have had the opportunity to look into just how serious a list this is. I can state in this House—

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the debate has begun.

Let us have some fun. They want to talk about the time spent on reviewing the bill, which is not up for debate today.

The process began in 1995. Hearings were held across the country, including in Quebec, by a House committee, which tabled its report in 1997. We had Bill C-68, followed by Bill C-3 and then Bill C-7.

The House of Commons committee heard 93 witnesses, while the Senate committee heard 72 witnesses. The bill was under consideration for a total of 75 hours in the House committee and 40 hours in the Senate committee, and over 160 amendments were put forward.

What we have before us, namely Bill C-7, is good legislation. People now want us to move forward so we can work together as partners to implement this legislation and the measures needed to promote the rehabilitation of young offenders.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, what we are dealing with today is called overstatement. It should be pointed out that those members have a tendency, when they speak about Quebec, to claim that they do so in the name of all Quebecers.

I would simply tell them that I have also been elected by Quebecers, like many other members of the Liberal Party caucus. There are people on the government side who come from Quebec, who are proud to be Quebecers and who are doing a very good job of protecting the interests of the whole population of Quebec.

With regard to meetings, one only has to look at the work that was done on Bill C-7, for instance, by the Standing Committee on Justice. Ninety-three witnesses appeared before the committee on Bill C-7 and Bill C-3.

In the Senate, 72 witnesses were heard. I believe the time has come to move on and to find a way to work together to implement a bill that will serve the whole population of Canada.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, again I will be precise. The bill does not come back to the House. It is the amendment that comes back to the House.

Regarding the question of the government listening to people and being open minded about the bill, I remind the House that the process started in 1995 with some amendments to the legislation. We then proceeded with Bill C-68 in March 1999 and Bill C-3 in October 1999. Before those bills were introduced we proceeded with a full hearing across Canada by a standing committee of the House which tabled a report in 1997. After that the bill came before the House. We are talking of course about first reading, report stage and third reading. Altogether we have been discussing the bill in the House for almost 19 hours.

When we compared Bill C-7 to Bill C-3 we went through over 160 amendments. If opposition members have been unable to make their point with all this discussion they will never be able to.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 4:55 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois has a different agenda with respect to the criminal justice system pertaining to young offenders. I remember debating Bill C-3 and Bill C-7 in the House. There were a series of problems with those bills. The Bloc had a filibuster in committee at one time, so it has a different agenda.

The bottom line is we will not accept the amendments to Bill C-7 which will enshrine racism within the criminal justice system.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is always a great pleasure to rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central. Today I stand on their behalf to register my opposition regarding the Senate amendment to Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts.

Before I begin let me say that today is an historic day in parliament. One of the very prominent, renowned and hardworking members of parliament has resigned and today is his last day. The member of parliament for Calgary Southwest made a wonderful speech. His contribution to the House is unwavering and unparalleled. He is a visionary thinker, reformer and analyst who is full of determination, perseverance and substance yet is still down to earth. I pay tribute today to the hon. member for Calgary Southwest. He certainly made Canada a better country. All of us have enjoyed working with him. He has had a significant effect on my life, which I would like to acknowledge here before I begin my remarks on the amendment to Bill C-7.

The Senate amendment I speak of seeks to create a race based sentencing system for young offenders, whereby consideration of the circumstances of native offenders would be elevated above those of young offenders from other groups in the population.

This is another example of the failure of the government's aboriginal and justice policies, especially with respect to native young offenders. We know that the criminal justice system in this country, particularly the Young Offenders Act, simply provides criminals with a slap on the wrist. There is no justice for the victims. This system is not a deterrent but rather a motivation to commit crime.

The justice minister took a long time before she acted on this file. There have been consultations time and time again. There have been promises and studies but little action from this government. That is simply not acceptable to Canada and Canadians. The former justice minister promised the House that she would act on this file. She always used the infamous phrase that she would act on the file in a “timely” fashion. It took over six years for this minister to act on the file. Finally today we are surrounded with this controversial amendment to Bill C-7, which will put race into the justice system.

Given the past Liberal mismanagement of aboriginal issues, this is certainly not a step forward for Canada's aboriginal people. A full generation of policies seeking to improve the condition of Canada's native population has failed to achieve any meaningful improvements in the quality of life indicators of native people.

It has been over 30 years since the Prime Minister was the Indian affairs minister. He failed native Canadians then and his government is failing them now. After three decades of failure, I would think that some political parties would reassess their approach toward our aboriginal communities, our first nations people of this country. However, Bill C-7 shows that 30 years of native suffering has not moved the government to act in a meaningful fashion. Instead, it has come back with this weak bill and the amendment from the Senate, which clearly shows that it is stuck in the same mindset that it was back in the 1960s and 1970s.

The world has moved on but the Liberals have failed to keep pace. They are still victims of the mistaken logic that says one can promote equality through policies that force unequal treatment on different groups of people based on their ethnicity, based on their race. All this does is single out ethnic groups, in this case natives, our first nations people, for reprisals from those who resent the special status afforded to these groups. It is an even worse idea to do this on the basis of ethnicity or race because of visible differences that make them easy targets for reprisals by misguided and violent minorities. The Senate amendments to this defective bill unwittingly promote legislative racism by singling out one group of people above others.

I will talk about the background of the bill. It is part of the government's long ignored promise, since 1993, to change the Young Offenders Act. Usually I would say better late than never, but even after a long delay the bill leaves much to be desired. Extensive cross-country hearings on the Young Offenders Act were held in 1996-97 and resulted in a report entitled “Renewing Youth Justice”. Despite the fact that the Liberals had expressed the need for an overhaul of the Young Offenders Act since 1993, the government took until 1999, a full six years, for the justice minister to introduce any legislation on the issue.

Between 1997 and 1999 the then Reform Party pleaded non-stop with the government to introduce legislation for the sake of Canadian youth, who are most often the victims of youth crime. As we know, the Liberal response came at the beginning of the second session of the 36th parliament when the justice minister introduced Bill C-3, but that bill was so gravely defective that over 250 amendments, over half of them proposed by the Liberal members, if we can imagine, because they knew the bill was defective, were proposed during the nearly 12 months the bill was before committee. Many of the amendments sought to correct drafting errors in the bill, which shows that the government rushed to table it in the first place. However, the government had previously indicated that it was not open to changing Bill C-3 in any way, shape or form so it ignored all 250 amendments that were proposed as well as extensive witness testimony, tabling the bill in the House unchanged. That was shameful.

Liberal politics ended up winning out over youth justice and the well-being of Canada's native people. Bill C-3 was allowed to die on the order paper when the election was called prematurely for November 2000.

Now the government has indicated it is willing to impose closure on debate rather than let parliament have its say. First it postponed the bill for political reasons and now it wants to limit debate on the issue. I am wholly opposed to this way of doing business, but this is somewhat typical of the government. It is not new. This is not about partisan terms like hard or soft justice systems. It is about making sure that this bill is an effective tool for justice, making it as fair a tool as possible, fair for the victims and fair and effective for the criminals in order to hold them accountable for the crimes they commit.

This is an important point since the justice minister responsible for this bill is now the Minister of Health. Canadians have already rejected a two-tier health system. Why are they being asked to accept a two-tier or multi-tier justice system? If she tolerates it in justice, what does this mean for health care? I do not like what this holds for the future of health care in Canada.

This approach should not surprise anyone since the government has already been willing to support ethnically based fisheries in this country, an ethnically based tax system, with the result that they do not pay tax, and there is discrimination in GST payments based on race. There is discrimination by this government based on race with regard to mining rights, multiculturalism and the ministry for aboriginals. Many other ministries and departments in the government work based on race. There is therefore more generous access by one group of people over others. That is not acceptable.

If we want equality in this country then we cannot treat people based on their ethnicity, nationality, background, race, language or other things. That is completely unacceptable. Equality means that the justice system, our law and order, in the country should be blindfolded. It should not be based on race or ethnicity or anything like that. As I have already said, this legislation perpetuates the dismal record of this and other governments in their treatment of Canada's aboriginal people.

The policies of this and previous governments in addressing the needs of native people, our first nations people, have failed miserably and utterly to improve the lot of aboriginal people. The government is now attempting to fix this by creating special sentencing provisions for a certain class of criminals, based exclusively on race. This does nothing to address the circumstances that contribute to crime or the basis of discrimination they suffer in the first place.

The solutions offered in the Senate amendments to Bill C-7 are the worst of all possible solutions. The provision for reduced sentencing guidelines not only hurts the justice system as a whole, it diminishes both the suffering of the victims of crime and the recognition they deserve. Why should an aboriginal victim see less punishment for his or her perpetrator than a non-native? Are they less deserving of justice? Of course not. No member in this House will accept that and Canadians certainly do not accept that. The proposed changes would provide race based criteria for judges to apply in sentencing aboriginal offenders. There is already enough discretion available through existing sentencing guidelines without specifying race in the justice system.

Canadian Alliance members vigorously oppose the creation of a special kind of criminal based solely on ethnicity or race. We stand for equality. We will accept nothing less than the equality of all Canadians before the law.

Race has no place in sentencing considerations for youth justice in our national institutions. As I have said, justice should be blind to a person's ethnic background. Justice should be and ought to be colour blind. To create different systems based solely on personal characteristics or background violates the fundamental Canadian belief in equality. In regard to health care, the Canada Health Act states that all Canadians have dignity regardless of income level or ethnicity or their standard of living. In education, a debate rages about the future of our public education system if private schools gain increased access to funding.

However in justice, one of the most basic and important policy areas of all, we are expected to disregard these principles of equality and opt for different systems for native and non-native young offenders. That is shameful. Justice should be doled out based on the severity of the crime and not on the ethnicity of the criminal or the victim. We do not support discrimination in health care. Why should we support it in the justice system or other departments of the government?

The government should bring forward meaningful change that would help enhance native opportunities instead of fostering racism. The weak and arrogant Liberal government must restore justice in the justice system and other government departments.

I hope that I have made it clear why I oppose the Senate amendments to Bill C-7. It is because they give special sentencing consideration to aboriginal young offenders above those given to any other young offenders belonging to any other population group. The use of race-specific wording in criminal law is not only harmful, it is dangerous as well.

The goal is to achieve equality for all people in this country. We cannot justify race-based sanctions under our criminal law. Can we expect tolerance and respect for all when some offenders are singled out for less serious sanctions than offenders of another ethnic group or population base?

The government is legislating tolerance and blocking any movement toward true acceptance of native groups by creating a two-tiered young offenders justice system based on race. If this is not racism, what would hon. members call it?

My amendments are not even needed since Bill C-7 already provides specific guidelines for judges to take account of every young offender's circumstances when handing out sentences.

We are proud of Canada's diversity and multiculturalism. We want to strengthen the multicultural fabric of this country. It is an asset, not a liability. We need an integration of different groups in this country.

We need to promote tolerance, which the Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and her department are doing, but acceptance as well. Tolerance means that I may not agree with some people, I may not like some people, but somehow I will tolerate them. When we talk about all Canadians being equal, tolerance is not enough. We must accept them as part of Canada's multicultural fabric.

I am opposed to the amendments because they allow for criminal law to create racial distinctions among different classes of offenders and that is not acceptable. In my humble opinion, and many Canadians agree with me, the government is going in the wrong direction. We are sending the wrong message to Canadians. I ask the government not to make these amendments to Bill C-7 based on race.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my NDP colleague for accommodating a hectic schedule.

I would like to comment on Bill C-7 and specifically, as the Bloc members have drawn attention to, the amendments that were made in the Senate. I will preface those comments with a comment to the member for Langley--Abbotsford.

I am always surprised when I hear members say categorically that they will not accept anything that comes from the Senate. I make no bones about the fact that I have always believed we should have an elected Senate, one which is elected by the people of Canada. There could be regional representation. The country could be broken into five regions. Everyone could be represented equally and we could have a Senate that was effective and equal.

I have certainly heard the member for Langley--Abbotsford spout the same thing, that he believes in an elected Senate as well. However, one cannot believe in an elected Senate and in empowering it and at the same time say the Senate should have no power. It does not work. It does not fit. It is not logical.

Regardless of whether members sit on the government side or on the opposition side, under our Constitution and the system that we have, we are in no position to say that our amendments to legislation are more important or better than amendments made by the Senate. We have to accept them. If we do not like that, then change the basic flaw in the way parliaments are set up.

Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act, has returned from the Senate with amendments. The bill would repeal the former Young Offenders Act at great cost to the Canadian taxpayer. It would have real and philosophical ramifications as well as financial consequences, not to mention the effect it would have on the next generation of young Canadians across this vast nation.

As legislators, we must first realize that no bill can satisfy all. I think most people would agree.

My colleague, the member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, who is the PC/DR coalition justice critic, will attest to the many faults of the Young Offenders Act. However, abandoning the whole system is akin to throwing the baby out with the bath water. While there may be a number of improvements in the bill, the serious problems that will face police, lawyers, judges and those who will deal with this new legislation daily far outweigh any positives.

As seriously flawed as the bill is, the amendments proposed by the Senate manage to shed light on a serious problem found not only in the bill but also within the Canadian justice system. Noting differences for difference's sake is unacceptable to most Canadians. However, when these inherent differences lead to inequality for whatever reason, the knowledge that they exist can lead to a better understanding of the problem. With this knowledge, we can focus change where change is needed most.

If one positive can come from this debate, it may be that the amendments proposed by the Senate demonstrate at least in some cases the societal differences between aboriginal and non-aboriginal youth. Justice should be absolutely blind to race, ethnicity and gender. In a perfect world perhaps that would be true. In this case, with the evidence that has been collected and compounded and put before us, I do not think we can ignore the obvious.

Specifically, while this amendment is a good first step at recognizing the inequalities in the system, it does not go far enough in terms of explanation or direction.

Upon examining original Bill C-7, it became evident that clarity was not essential in the minds of the government. Many seasoned professionals have examined this piece of legislation and today they are no further ahead than when they started. It is convoluted and complicated. More important to many of us, it will also be costly.

The bill in essence has been seven years in the making, from Bill C-68 to Bill C-3 to Bill C-7. Expert after expert has said it is unmanageable, too long, too complicated and too expensive. It is interesting to see the legislation come back to the House with these minor, albeit significant, changes.

It has been said before that the justice committee could have heard the complaints of numerous individuals from every region of the country concerning the bill. Before the committee could even begin to consider the witness list from members of the committee, the parliamentary secretary cut off all further debate and moved to clause by clause consideration.

Surely this is not the so-called Liberal democracy that most Canadians voted for. Surely Canadians did not vote for a government to simply put an issue aside and go directly to clause by clause without hearing all the witnesses and without finishing debate. Surely there is something wrong.

In my mind, the fact that these changes were necessary at all speaks to the fundamental problems in this legislation. In its haste to cater to Liberal pollsters, the government overlooked section 718.2( e ) of the criminal code when addressing sentencing issues, leaving this legislation open to constitutional challenge. It is hard to imagine a bill so poorly crafted. While amendments from the upper chamber should alleviate a constitutional challenge on the grounds of discrimination in this regard, the bill will most certainly be challenged on other grounds. The amendment states:

All available sanctions other than custody that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all young persons, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal young persons.

I think that excludes race and ethnicity without ignoring it. That is an important part of the amendment.

Some have argued that this in and of itself is discriminatory. Yet through the application of section 718.2( e ), using the framework of analysis as set out by the court in Regina v Gladue, we can improve the situation of aboriginals in the legal system. Surely that is something we all wish to do.

As Senator Pierre Claude Nolin pointed out, the framework of the analysis outlined must include systematic and background factors which explain why aboriginal offenders often appear before the courts: poverty, level of education, drug or alcohol abuse, moving off a reserve, unemployment, domestic violence and direct or indirect discrimination. Surely this does not preclude that same type of analysis being given to all young people who will be charged under the act.

The framework of analysis set out by the court includes the types of sentencing procedures and sanctions which may be appropriate in the circumstances for the offender because of his or her particular aboriginal heritage or connection. I find it surprising that this framework of analysis is not applied to all as it could be applied to all.

Setting that aside, the inclusion of this section of the code was necessary and is necessary to deal with the over-representation of aboriginal people in prison and to encourage sentencing judges to have recourse to a restorative approach to sentencing.

I reiterate, the importance of this amendment is paramount to the fundamentals laid out within this document.

I concur with hon. Senator Andreychuk who rose in support of this amendment put forth by the Liberal side of the Senate. Quoting her, “Too often in this place we do have to be prodded to raise issues concerning aboriginal youth”.

The issue has been raised. Aboriginal leaders, the administrators of our judicial system and experts alike have agreed that our adversarial model of justice oftentimes does not fit the needs not only of first nations, but of other groups within our society as well.

I would also argue it is past due that we at least tried to grapple with this issue. I am not saying this issue is over or this somehow will alleviate all of the injustices in the world, but certainly it is a start.

After first reading it is evident those considerations of rehabilitation or reintegration into society are secondary in overall terms of the provisions as laid out in this bill. They are secondary in terms of thought and in terms of financial compensation to the provinces.

There are a number of extrajudicial measures sketched into the bill, but practicality seems absent. For example, the bill says it wishes to encourage families of young persons, including extended families and the community, to become involved in the design and implementation of these measures. This looks good on paper, but are these measures practical?

How do we as legislators or for that matter, the people on the front line such as police officers, social workers, parole officers and teachers convince the community to become involved? I would think that would be an arduous job. It would be very difficult to convince people to become involved without having some type of compensation package provided by the federal government.

We could ask the front line police officers if things are getting easier or if youth crime is down. They would answer quite truthfully that so-called minor youth crimes are not being reported due to overworked police forces which are stretched too thin to deal with such crime. They have more important matters to deal with or in the vernacular, they have bigger fish to fry. If they are stretched too thin now, things for our provincial counterparts will become even more difficult.

Saskatchewan's minister of justice, Chris Axworthy, pointed out that his province will need time and resources. The minister told the Senate that at least a year would be necessary in terms of the implementation of such an act. He said:

We need to develop extensive training plans across various sectors, including police, legal workers, court staff, community based organizations delivering youth services, aboriginal court workers, educators and health providers.

He noted that in all cases new training would be necessary. The justice partners will need to unlearn the processes they have become familiar with under the old Young Offenders Act. They will need to replace this old knowledge with new knowledge of a more complex nature.

In his estimation, Saskatchewan alone will spend around $10 million just to upgrade its information services; I repeat, just to upgrade their information services. We could easily multiply that by 10. Probably in some provinces we could multiply that by a great deal more. If it costs $10 million to implement this in Saskatchewan, in provinces with larger populations it may cost twice as much.

In terms of prevention, various social programs funded by the provincial governments are used to keep young offenders out of the courts. These provincially administered programs are supposed to receive 50% of their funding from the federal government, yet under the Liberal government the provinces have seen the federal share drop to as little as 30%.

Decreased funding equals children not receiving the service they need and oftentimes rehabilitation does not occur. The provinces barely have enough money now to deal with the justice issues. This bill is certain to bankrupt the system.

I urge the new Minister of Justice to reconsider at the very least the immediate implementation of this act. Certainly the government would be much better off to send this flawed piece of legislation back to committee, allow witnesses to appear and work on this important piece of legislation in a co-operative and concentrated way.

A delay for at least one year and the justification for such a delay are compelling. As the Speaker is aware a number of witnesses who appeared before the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs called on the government to provide an adequate amount of time for the various stakeholders to reach a consensus on the administration of this most complex and extensive new legislation.

Among those testimonies certainly it should be noted was the testimony of the Canadian Police Association which outlined precisely the obstacles not only the police but other agencies that work within this system will face in terms of new responsibilities.

It should be noted that the Progressive Conservative Party submitted numerous amendments to the youth criminal justice act in its various forms over the years and the government did not listen. As a result we are left with the piecemeal mishmash of legislation that nobody is certain of how it will affect young offenders.

Perhaps we will not be able to change this piece of legislation in the House. Perhaps the amendment from the Senate will achieve its desired goal. We should just give that a moment to sink in.

We are dealing today with what at the very least is a seriously flawed, bureaucratic and impractical mess. At the very best it may cause irreparable harm to the justice system, albeit the amendment from the Senate may have improve it slightly.

However as legislators and representatives of people from coast to coast to coast in Canada we should take a very serious look at this piece of legislation. I think we will have a great deal of difficulty sending it back in any form, let alone its amended form.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 5:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance 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 ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4:50 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4:35 p.m.
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NDP

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that Bill C-7 is a reincarnation of other bills. Let us take the previous version, Bill C-3.

Indeed, many people provided input on Bill C-3, with the result that more than 160 amendments were made to it. A great number of the requests made by all the different stakeholders have been met by Bill C-7, which is, once again, a flexible piece of legislation.

Bill C-7 no longer allows for referrals to adult court, this is a fact. It is also a fact that it will divert—

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 6:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, there is an old saying: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”. The implication is that if it is broken it needs to be fixed.

I grew up on a farm and have an old pickup. That pickup truck is so old and there are so many things wrong with it that if I tried to fix it I would not know where to begin. It does not run well. It blows oil out the back. The mirrors are broken and the windshield is shot. If I wanted to build the thing into a new truck I would not start by replacing the mirrors. I would not know where to begin.

We have seen over the past period of time that the Young Offenders Act is broken and needs repair. The government has said it is broken. There were things in the Juvenile Delinquents Act that were unacceptable. There were contentious parts of the act that the government and all sides of the House said needed to be repaired.

Bills and proposals have been brought forward such as Bill C-3 and Bill C-7 which the government has tried to tinker with. As we heard from the Liberal member across the way a new bill has been brought forward, but we are looking at it and asking if it will solve the young offender problem we have in the nation.

One of the things we will grow accustomed to in the House through the years is people standing in the Chamber and saying we need to fix the Young Offenders Act. I believe if we were to ask members opposite they would say yes, there are areas of the act that are not what we would like them to be and they should be fixed, changed and repaired. However the act we have in place does not do that.

The Canadian public would say we need to fix the act. They would say we see many repeat offenders and many teachers who go to school not knowing their students are young offenders. Some are violent offenders yet their teachers are not aware a threat exists.

The recidivism rate for young offenders clearly shows that the Young Offenders Act is broken and its provisions are ineffective. They are ineffective in many areas, particularly with respect to violent offences such as sexual assault. The current maximum sentence of only three years does not provide adequate time for rehabilitation to occur. These are, without a shadow of a doubt, young people whom we want to see rehabilitated. We want to see them reintegrated into society as young men or women who can contribute.

It takes years in some cases for an offender to develop a behaviour and it sometimes takes years to reverse it. The maximum sentence of seven years proposed by my private member's bill would provide judges with greater sentencing options for the most severe cases. Currently judges' hands are tied when they feel that a longer disposition is necessary for the benefit of the offender and the protection of society.

The late mayor of Cornwall, Ron Martelle, said:

Sentencing is the key ingredient in stopping victimization. Sentences must reflect public repudiation of criminal acts by swift, substantial punishment.

I do not recommend longer sentences if we do not first ensure that all prison facilities have mandatory rehabilitative programs.

Those who oppose longer sentences point to the high recidivism rate of young offenders who have been incarcerated. They wrongly conclude that increasing sentences would be ineffective. Others say prison facilities do not provide effective rehabilitation and that this contributes to higher rates of reoffending.

They say this is partly due to limited money and resources. Time does not afford me to go on with the list. However, I implore all members of the House and the general public to read my private member's bill and understand that it is a bill of principles. It outlines requests made to me by the people of Crowfoot and the former member for Crowfoot who, as has been noted here, worked diligently in justice issues, especially with respect to young offenders.

The bill would help restore integrity and sanity to our justice system by making the protection of society its guiding principle.

There are many opportunities through social programs to get to the root causes of youth crime. We need to do that. We need to implore our provincial governments to make sure social programs dealing with education, poverty and a vast number of issues are met.

As legislators in the House, it behooves us to bring down laws that first, would protect our society and communities and then would allow young offenders to be reintegrated into society so they may be contributors.

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.

Message From The SenateThe Royal Assent

June 14th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
See context

The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence—Chapter No. 7.

Bill S-24, an act to implement an agreement between the Mohawks of Kanesatake and Her Majesty in right of Canada respecting governance of certain lands by the Mohawks of Kanesatake and to amend an act in consequence—Chapter No. 8.

Bill C-8, an act to establish the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada and to amend certain acts in relation to financial institutions—Chapter No. 9.

Bill S-17, an act to amend the Patent Act—Chapter No. 10.

Bill C-17, an act to amend the Budget Implementation Act, 1997 and the Financial Administration Act—Chapter No. 11.

Bill S-16, an act to amend the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act—Chapter No. 12.

Bill S-3, an act to amend the Motor Vehicle Transport Act, 1987 and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 13.

Bill S-11, an act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and the Canada Cooperatives Act and to amend other acts in consequence—Chapter No. 14.

Bill C-13, an act to amend the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 15.

Bill C-26, an act to amend the Customs Act, the Customs Tariff, the Excise Act, the Excise Tax Act and the Income Tax Act in respect of tobacco—Chapter No. 16.

Bill C-22, an act to amend the Income Tax Act, the Income Tax Application Rules, certain acts related to the Income Tax Act, the Canada Pension Plan, the Customs Act, the Excise Tax Act, the Modernization of Benefits and Obligations Act and another act related to the Excise Tax Act—Chapter No. 17.

Bill C-3, an act to amend the Eldorado Nuclear Limited Reorganization and Divestiture Act and the Petro-Canada Public Participation Act—Chapter No. 18.

Bill C-18, an act to amend the Federal-Provincial Fiscal Arrangements Act—Chapter No. 19.

Bill C-28, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act, the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act and the Salaries Act—Chapter No. 20.

Bill C-9, an act to amend the Canada Elections Act and the Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act—Chapter No. 21.

Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts—Chapter No. 22.

Bill C-4, an act to establish a foundation to fund sustainable development technology—Chapter No. 23.

Bill C-29, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2002—Chapter No. 24.

Bill S-25, an act to amend the Act of Incorporation of the Conference of Mennonites in Canada.

Bill S-27, an act to authorize The Imperial Life Assurance Company of Canada to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.

Bill S-28, an act to authorize Certas Direct Insurance Company to apply to be continued as a company under the laws of the Province of Quebec.

Pursuant to order made on Wednesday, June 13, the House stands adjourned until Monday, September 17, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28 and 24.

(The House adjourned at 5.26 p.m.)