Youth Criminal Justice Act

An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts

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

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  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.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-4, which would make certain changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh spoke about this bill last week. He noted that as a society we have been struggling since about 1960 with this idea of what to do with young people when they are engaged with the criminal justice system. Do we treat them as youth, which is different than adult criminals? Yes, we should, but at the same time we have to recognize that they are not adults even though they commit similar offences as adults. We have been struggling with this for a few decades.

In 2002 the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, which replaced the old YOA, the Young Offenders Act. The Youth Criminal Justice Act built on the strengths of the YOA. It introduced significant reforms to address the weaknesses. The key concept of the YCJA is that it provides a legislative framework for a more fairer and effective youth justice system.

When I was a law student at Dalhousie, I did a clinical law semester where I was expected to work with lawyers on youth criminal cases. One of the very first things that we did in our training was we reviewed the preamble and the declaration of principle to the YCJA. Our instructors thought that reviewing the preamble was the most important thing that we could do. We would always have it in the back of our minds when we were dealing with youth, when we were giving them advice, when we were negotiating with the Crown, and when we were representing them in court.

The preamble contains significant statements from Parliament about the values on which the legislation is based. It is noteworthy that the YCJA came about after extensive research and consultation. Three key reports were released leading up to the YCJA coming into effect.

These statements in the preamble can be used to help interpret the legislation. I think it is useful for us to review them. They include the following:

Society has a responsibility to address the developmental challenges and needs of young persons.

Communities and families should work in partnership with others to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes, responding to the needs of young persons and providing guidance and support.

Accurate information about youth crime, the youth justice system and effective measures should be publicly available.

Young persons have rights and freedoms, including those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The youth justice system should take account of the interests of victims and ensure accountability through meaningful consequences and rehabilitation and reintegration.

The youth justice system should reserve its most serious interventions for the most serious crimes and reduce the over-reliance on incarceration.

These points are important to remember when dealing with youth who are engaged in the criminal justice system. They are also really important for us to consider any time we try to make changes to the YCJA. We have changes before us in Bill C-4, changes that really come from a push for amendments, a push for reform after the Nunn commission of inquiry which took place in Nova Scotia.

Pretty much every Nova Scotian could tell us the story of Theresa McEvoy and how it resulted in a provincial inquiry led by Justice Merlin Nunn. It was widely reported and it really struck to the heart of Nova Scotians.

After an extensive inquiry upon the death of Theresa McEvoy, Justice Nunn handed down a report in 2006 called “Spiralling Out of Control: Lessons Learned from a Boy in Trouble”. It was about constructive ways to improve the Youth Criminal Justice Act but also to improve the youth criminal justice system. I believe there were six specific recommendations about changing the YCJA.

Justice Nunn, both in the report and in any media interview he did, would always say that the act is a good piece of legislation. It is strong and it is workable. The term he used constantly was that it needed to be tweaked. My colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe used the word “tinker”. Justice Nunn always said that if we were going to make changes it just needs to be tweaked.

Bill C-4 is an attempt at that tweaking. The NDP will be supporting this bill because there are some good tweaks. There are some good attempts at trying to fix this legislation, which I will describe in a moment.

We very much want the bill to get to committee because Bill C-4 does have its weaknesses. It is important that we make attempts to improve the bill at committee.

Justice Nunn pointed out in his report:

--that for youths adolescence is a time of testing limits and taking risks, of making mistakes and errors in judgment, of a lack of foresight and planning, and of feelings of invulnerability. These factors do not mean that a youth who commits a criminal offence should be excused or should not suffer consequences. Rather, they are factors to be taken into account when dealing with a youth.

I think that the spirit of these words were taken into account when it comes to one provision in Bill C-4, in that it makes certain and absolutely clear that no youth, no matter what crime they are accused of or convicted of and sentenced for will spend time in an adult institution.

Some provinces have already been following this principle but it is not universal across Canada. Sometimes it is because a province has a particular ideological approach to punishment of youth but more often it is simply because it does not have the resources or the facilities to incarcerate youth in a contained setting, especially when we consider rural areas of Canada.

The government has not done anything to assist provinces in actually meeting this goal. So it is my hope that the witnesses at committee will be able to shed a bit of light on what it is that the federal government must do to ensure that the provinces can meet this requirement.

However, there is no specific date concerning this provision. Therefore, there is nothing there to instruct us on when it is going to come into effect. Hopefully, we can fix this so that we do not have a bill that will actually not take effect.

A change to the YCJA, about which I am very concerned, is the provision to allow courts to lift the ban on any publication of the accused's name. There are good reasons why we have that publication ban. Admittedly, I think this could be a very dangerous change to the YCJA, but I am looking forward to hearing from witnesses to see what experts who study youth justice have to say about this provision and if they think this change is a wise idea.

My colleague and the NDP critic for justice, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has already pointed out some problem areas where it looks like the government is trying to get in stronger language for general deterrence and denunciation, which we know does not work. However, when one looks at the amendments to the act overall, there are a few places where it seems like it is trying to get this language in through the backdoor, trying to get general deterrence in through the back door. There are six recommendations in the Nunn report that deal directly with changes to the YCJA. Deterrence and denunciation are not among them.

I am quite concerned about these sections and once again, I look forward to the bill coming to committee so we can talk to youth criminal justice experts to see if this is actually effective and perhaps flesh out exactly what the Conservatives are doing with this sort of backdoor language.

In all, we are cautiously supporting Bill C-4 at second reading, so we can get the bill to committee to hear from witnesses about these proposed changes to the YCJA and to make constructive suggestions for improvement.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

April 23rd, 2010 / 10 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to continue my presentation on this very important bill.

Bill C-4 is an amendment. The enactment amends the sentencing and general principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as well as provisions relating to judicial interim release, adult-youth sentences, publication bans, and the placement in youth custody facilities. It defines the term “violent offence” and “serious offence”, amends the definition of “serious violent offence”, and repeals the definition of “presumptive offence”. It also requires police forces to keep records of extra-judicial measures issued to deal with young persons.

As I indicated yesterday, we will be supporting the bill to get it to committee and we are hoping that there will be one or two amendments to the bill. We actually like some of the provisions of the bill; however, we have some concerns about some of the other parts of it, but overall and on balance, there is some merit to the bill.

On February 4, 2002, the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act. That new law replaced the Young Offenders Act and was proclaimed on April 1, 2003. The Youth Criminal Justice Act builds on the strength of the old act and introduces significant reforms to address its weaknesses.

We can see that over time legislation does get updated in the House because of changes in society and changes in government or just because in some cases we find things that are not working well with it and we find that, by general consensus, we should improve the legislation.

The introduction of the bill followed an extensive period of review and consultation, much of which is reflected in the following reports. There was a review of the Young Offenders Act and the youth justice system in Canada, and a report on the federal-provincial-territorial task force on youth. There was also a report renewing youth justice, a report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human rights, and there was a strategy for the renewal of youth and justice, which was a 1998 report.

In March 1999, Bill C-68, the first version of the Youth Criminal Justice Act was introduced and Parliament prorogued in June. The bill was reintroduced as C-3 in October 1999. The bill proceeded through second reading, the Standing Committee on Justice, and prior to third reading, the federal election was called for November 27, 2000 and the bill was delayed.

We see the same process following us through what we had to deal with in previous times where, because of elections or the prorogation of the House, we end up starting over. So it is little wonder the public gets frustrated with us when they see that it takes forever. I think they expect immediate responses and the government is at fault here too because it promises immediate responses because it governs itself by press release, media events and polling.

When something happens in the country, the Conservatives push the button and put the public relations factory into overdrive, fire up the issue, get some bill thrown out here, and then of course nothing happens with it. Then they blame the opposition, but the reality is, as we know, they only have to blame themselves.

There have been many concerns in Canada regarding the Young Offenders Act and the youth justice system. As we had indicated before, and a Bloc member as well indicated yesterday, many of the concerns are based upon misconceptions about youth crime, misconceptions about the legislation and how the system operates. Some concerns have been based on the misunderstanding regarding the limits of the legislation and the unreasonable expectations about what the legislation could actually accomplish, and once again, people have the impression that somehow we will pass a law and the problem will be solved.

When we were dealing yesterday with the bill, there was talk about one of the very good parts of the bill that we like, which is the fact that the youth offenders will be kept separate. They will not be put in with adult offenders.

We recognize that while that is a good idea, and we are going to pass this bill in the House, the fact of the matter is that enforcement of the bill would actually be done by the provinces. We will be putting a financial burden on them to make certain they have the facilities to keep young offenders separate. Some of the provinces do not have the proper facilities.

While the public may think they are going to see some immediate changes following the passage of this bill, they will have to wait until the facilities are improved or built within their own jurisdictions. It could be another decade before the bill actually has its full effect.

There are a number of problems in the youth justice system. The system lacks a clear and coherent youth justice philosophy. Incarceration is overused. Canada has the highest youth incarceration rate in the western world, including the United States, which is a bit of a surprise to me. I did not think that would be the case. In spite of its huge expansion of prisons during the Ronald Reagan era, the crime rate in the United States has actually gone up. I would not have expected that to be the case.

The courts are overused for minor cases that could be dealt with better outside the courts. Sentencing decisions by the courts have resulted in disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing.

The Young Offenders Act does not ensure effective reintegration of a young person into society after being released from custody. This is a very important point. We are trying to rehabilitate people. Society does not benefit from people reoffending. Putting people in jail and making better criminals out of them, so that when they get back out in the street they continue their career of crime, is not what the public wants.

We want these people in jail once and only once. Programs need to be provided to them when they are incarcerated so that when they come out, they come out with a new view on life. They have to be integrated into society. They need to have access to employment.

I would like to provide the House with an example, which I find almost impossible to believe. Six prison farms in this country are being shut down by the Conservative government. If we do anything, we should be building more prison farms in the country because it seems to me that over the years we have lost a connection with rural living, a connection with animals, and taking care of animals. A farm environment provides a perfect case of that.

I toured the Rockwood prison farm just outside of Winnipeg in Stoney Mountain during the break a couple of weeks ago. I saw the dairy herd. It is really sad that it will not be there in a few months. This farm has shown good results for over 20 years. The prisoners get up early in the morning and take care of the animals on the farm. They take ownership. They have a much better attitude than what they would have if they were just simply locked up in a prison.

The government argues that there is not a big market for farm work. It is going to train people in trades such as welding. It is a good idea to get them jobs out in society when they are released. The reality is that learning a welding trade and so on is not the same as working with animals. In some cases it would be a good idea if they could be around humane societies where they could walk dogs and stuff like that, and make some sort of connection with animals.

We are about to lose these prison farms. I realize that is another issue for another day and that day is coming soon. A motion will be coming from committee dealing with the closure of prison farms.

It seems to me that there is a lot of room for improvements in all legislation. We certainly do not want to stand in the way of making sensible improvements to laws. As I have said many times, we are looking for what actually works, where we can show results.

The former solicitor general for the province of Quebec spoke eloquently yesterday on this very bill, about how the Quebec system does work and how the crime rate in Quebec has actually decreased. It is beyond me why we would not have every province in the country and other jurisdictions, which I am sure some are, studying the Quebec model to implement aspects of that system that would work in their own jurisdictions.

To me, that is what a sensible government would do. A government that simply approaches the whole issue on the basis of ideology and says, “Because it worked in Margaret Thatcher's England or Ronald Reagan's United Sates, that is the model we have to follow because we are Conservatives. We cannot accept any Liberal, NDP or Bloc ideas because they does not fit with our overall philosophy”. That is just way out of line.

The justice system should always be an open system where we could adopt the best of a jurisdiction anywhere in the world, whatever gets results. Whatever works properly is what we really want to see in here, instead of a government basically operate this whole system on the basis of political expediency, what is good for it in the short-term, and how it can get some headlines.

I introduced some headlines yesterday that we see across the country, and I maintained that if the press in this country were responsible and started writing headlines like “Soft on crime” and “This legislation does not work”, the government would be retreating, but because it gets these cheap headlines out of these boutique bills and amendments that it introduces, it is encouraged to continue.

We would like to see the bill go to committee. I have one further point on the issue of victims. The government continues to talk about how it supports victims of crime. We in the NDP are solidly on the side of the victims as well. Three years ago, the government appointed Mr. Sullivan to be the victims' advocate and has not reappointed him. He, the government's appointee, is saying that the government has spent too much time on punishment issues, that it has spent not enough time and ignored victims. So much for the government's position of being on side with victims, of supporting and looking out for victims' rights, when its own appointee is saying that this is not true, that the government is not as solidly behind victims as it would like the public to think it is.

Briefings or NegotiationsPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2002 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc Quebecois colleague has indeed been very brief. He has summarized a thought many of us share, in some very fine phrases couched in impeccable French, and I must congratulate him.

I will soon have sat in this House for five years, but I have still learned something from Motion M-360. The hon. member for Provencher, the mover of the motion, has said that in the debate in the justice committee on Bill C-7, the committee chair indicated that a rule or convention excluded elected representatives of the provinces and territories. Not being an expert like you, Mr. Speaker, on rules, procedures, conventions and traditions, I have learned something new.

I am going to ask our parliamentary leader and our rules and procedures adviser to explain to me in greater detail what this is all about. They refused to allow the provincial ministers of justice, the attorneys general, to speak, based on rules and conventions, claiming that committees cannot accept them as witnesses, if I have understood the hon. member for Provencher correctly.

This led me to wonder. I though the committee was sovereign. I know that royal commissions hear provincial and territorial elected officials and wondered why the same did not hold true for committees. I wondered if there were any examples. There have been a number of examples where provincial and territorial elected representatives have appeared before a committee examining a bill.

SInce there is not much time left, I am going to speak about the famous Bill C-20—now a law—I might even call it the infamous bill on referendum clarity. If I remember correctly, Joseph Facal, Quebec's Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, came before the committee, as did Benoît Pelletier, the Liberal MNA for Chapleau, not far from here.

If, for a bill such as Bill C-20, there was acceptance of provincial ministers and elected representatives, and this issue did not come up, I do not understand why a committee would decide to exclude them because of rules of procedure.

I need more clarification. If it was because of rules, conventions or traditions, the government, which refused to hear from the people of Quebec, among others, during consideration of Bill C-7, citing parliamentary procedure, ignored that procedure during consideration of Bill C-20; this is a double standard. If rules need to be changed, it should change them, but I do not think that that is the case. We have a number of examples of elected provincial government officials appearing before the committee.

I am not sure what the specific purpose of the motion is but, if I understand correctly, the idea is to not exclude elected officials from the provinces and territories when bills which have an impact on the provinces are being considered. We would not disagree. I am learning things. We need some answers.

I listened to my former colleague who crossed the floor, the turncoat who is now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. He explained how federal-provincial relations are supposed to work. This government is in no position to tell us how to operate. I think that the previous government had much more credibility when it came to respect for the provinces. The short-lived government that the leader of my party had the opportunity to lead could point to examples of real co-operation.

Members will recall that when the right hon. leader of the Progressive Conservative Party was about to make appointments, he telephoned the then Premier of Quebec, Mr. Lévesque, and told him, “I have some names, but I would like your opinion”.

My leader reminded me that Mr. Lévesque was quite surprised that the Prime Minister had called to consult him about appointments.

This is a fine example of the skilful handling of relations. However, our friends on the other side are arrogant, because they base their decisions on certain rules in order to exclude some people and go their own way, do as they please.

I find it unfortunate that, for Bill C-7, they refused to meet with elected provincial representatives on the basis of some criteria and regulations, some tradition and conventions, whereas, in the case of Bill C-20, which divided the country much more than it united it, the presence of ministers and members of legislatures was accepted.

They resort to double standards whenever it suits them. This is another case of bad handling of relations here in the House by this government. It is another example of this government using the rules for the benefit of its own leader and excluding the provincial elected representatives, who are our partners only when this government finds it convenient.

Finally, we must be careful. We must not forget that there are two distinct philosophies about the vision for our country. On the one hand, some say that Canada is Ottawa. It is a central governmen, which in its great generosity grants some powers and responsibilities to what we call provinces. This is Canada according to some people.

Perhaps it would help to look back further in history. Canada is made up of regions and provinces which decided to act together and to give shared services to Ottawa. It was a bottom up approach, not a top down one. A country such as Canada cannot remain united if decisions are always made at the top. Decisions that shape this country must be made in the regions and in the provinces.

This is why we hope for a fairly quick change of government in order to change the way things are done and if possible, an even quicker change in Prime Ministers and Ministers of Intergovernmental Affairs. This could not come soon enough. In any case, squabbling has already started within the ranks of the Liberal Party.

Having said that, these are two different visions of the country, two different approaches. I hope that the vision of the country that recognizes that it was the regions and the provinces that created this country and that decided to come together for all kinds of reasons, more or less good, will gain more widespread acceptance.

I also sincerely hope that there will be a level playing field when it comes to the witnesses that will be called to appear before committees. We need to acknowledge that on numerous occasions, when it suits the government, provincial and territorial members and ministers have appeared before committees. I hope that decisions will not be made based on rules once, only to flout them the rest of the time.

Briefings or NegotiationsPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2002 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should never exclude elected provincial government officials from any briefings or negotiations with provincial civil servants concerning legislation, regulations, treaties or agreements of any kind.

Mr. Speaker,I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion. The motion arises as a result of my personal experience as a provincial justice minister dealing with negotiations with the federal government on the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

While I was a provincial minister I was told by my staff that I could not attend negotiations or discussions with federal officials, nor could I be briefed by my own staff with respect to these meetings with federal officials despite the very real financial, political and administrative interests the provincial government had in administering not only the Young Offenders Act but the new act that has been put in its place.

I initiated the motion after the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights barred the appearances of provincial attorneys general during hearings on the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Bill C-7. The newer members of the committee, such as myself, were told that it was a rule or a convention of the committee to not hear from elected provincial officials. The government members voted down a motion supported by all four opposition parties to waive this rule. As a result, the committee was only able to hear from non-elected provincial officials.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act, which replaces the Young Offenders Act, is enforced on a day to day basis by provincial officials and authorities. While the justice committee regularly hears testimony from the federal attorney general, unbelievably we were prevented from hearing from the officials who are actually responsible for implementing the legislation, paying for it and for making it work: the provincial attorneys general.

Despite the numerous concerns expressed about the lack of consultation with provincial authorities in the ongoing debate over this bill, astonishingly the government members on the justice committee said that they did not believe it was appropriate to invite elected representatives from provincial governments to make representations here in Ottawa. While they discussed matters with staff, they would not hear from the elected representatives who are politically accountable to the people of the various provinces.

Given that the provinces are often shouldered with the burden of the costs in implementing new laws, it is a tremendously important issue for provincial attorneys general or any other provincial minister administering a federal law who have to justify to the taxpayers the moneys they will have to spend. As elected officials responsible for the expenditure of funds and working in partnership with the federal government, there can be no relevant objection to them explaining their views and concerns to parliament.

On the issue of funding, I recognize that the federal government has indicated that it is willing to spend more money to implement the Youth Criminal Justice Act but we know that it will never reach a 50:50 partnership as the act had originally intended. Essentially the provinces will continue to bear about 75% of the cost of this act, and possibly even more in the years to come.

The provincial attorneys general and the taxpayers they represent who are shouldering the bulk of the financial burden of this act could simply say that they will not enforce this legislation or any other legislation the federal government imposes on them in the future. This was done with Bill C-68 where provincial attorneys general said that they would not co-operate in that federal act because it did not meet the needs of the people of their provinces.

The attorneys general of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba are not required to enforce the new youth justice legislation. They could simply say “Forget it. Let the federal government do it”. They could refuse to accept the delegation to prosecute under that act or to indeed spend any moneys under that act.

Even if that might be an unlikely possibility, and even though in Bill C-68, for example, they did refuse that delegation, common sense, good government and co-operative federalism demand that the provincial attorneys general be allowed to come to Ottawa to explain the difficulties they may foresee in making the legislation work.

It is critical that the federal government continues to work co-operatively and in good faith with the political figures who are responsible to the taxpayers of their respective provinces.

The motion also indirectly addresses the fundamental concerns of parliamentarians who often see committee work as ineffective or irrelevant. During the justice committee hearing in which we discussed whether or not to hear the elected provincial officials, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice at the time, the hon. member for Erie--Lincoln, said:

With respect to the ministers, they have more than ample opportunity to speak to the Minister of Justice at various federal-provincial-territorial meetings that go on frequently, and went on with this specific legislation. They've had more than ample opportunity to present their views to the minister.

Even if that is in fact correct, which it is not, having had that experience as a provincial justice minister where we were not consulted nor did we have an opportunity to discuss the act with the federal minister, as the member for Winnipeg--Transcona so aptly pointed out at the committee, it appeared that it did not even occur to the parliamentary secretary that perhaps the justice committee might form a different opinion or might even be a different entity in some respects from the federal justice minister.

The parliamentary secretary sat in his chair and said that ministers of justice in the provinces can talk to the federal minister of justice and that was good enough. This lack of democratic consultation is exactly what many Canadians, including parliamentarians, find so disconcerting about the entire legislative process.

There are only two significant ways for individual members to contribute to the political process under the process that we presently have today in parliament. One is through the introduction of private members' bills and the other is through parliamentary committees. However it is now apparent that even these avenues are being shut off. This was demonstrated recently when the Prime Minister rejected the extensive work of a committee reviewing the contentious species at risk legislation, Bill C-5. All Liberal members in the House were instructed to vote against the committee amendments, including amendments that would have guaranteed compensation to landowners for land expropriated under the legislation.

Similarly, last week the new Minister of Justice rejected the recommendations of the parliamentary committee that proposed important changes to protect the interests of children caught up in bitter custody battles after divorce.

Those are but a couple of examples of why so many Canadians, including parliamentarians themselves, have become disillusioned with our political system. What is the point of an all party justice committee when the Liberal majority on the committee is simply an appendage of the justice minister?

Although the motion will not necessarily address issues of democratic reform in parliament, it would go far to remedy one particular consequence of the dysfunctional nature of parliamentary committees. The motion as worded would give parliamentarians the opportunity to confer on a number of fronts with both elected and non-elected provincial officials regarding any matter crossing areas of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

By working more positively and proactively with the elected political figures who are responsible and accountable to the people of their respective provinces, the House could demonstrate an unprecedented measure of good faith that would go a long way to improving co-operative federalism in the country.

Although the motion is not votable, I would hope that it would be a starting point for future discussions on this matter.

I have the minutes from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as of April 4, 2001. I want to read a few of the comments that were made by members in voting down hearing from provincial officials. When I stated:

I understand there is a standing rule that prohibits elected officials from coming here, and I think that's unfortunate.

The member for Winnipeg--Transcona then expressed his concern and the chair indicated the following:

The rule, the tradition, the convention predates the chair's being a member of the committee, but my understanding is that there are technical aspects of this the provinces would have to be responsible for administering, and we wanted to bring in the technical people who would be doing that. Therefore, what we wanted to do was bring in deputy attorneys general and representatives of the government, rather than elected officials. That was what I understood.

The member for Winnipeg--Transcona then raises other points, saying that on this kind of bill there are political matters in the very best sense and there are federal-provincial issues with respect to the allocation of resources.

The parliamentary secretary then said the following, and it was astounding. He said:

Mr. Chair, I stand to be corrected, but the suggestion that we have not heard from the provinces before this committee would be inaccurate. We have heard from officials. To my recollection, certainly in the case of the Province of Manitoba, the Province of British Columbia, the Province of Ontario I believe...invitations were extended to the provinces as well. We're certainly very happy to hear from the individuals who work with this legislation day to day.

With respect to the ministers, they have more than ample opportunity to speak to the Minister of Justice at various...meetings...They've had more than ample opportunity to present their views to the minister.

The point is however that they were not allowed to present their views to committee.

Perhaps the height of Liberal majority arrogance on the justice committee was seen when one Liberal member stated the following with respect to the motion in favour of having elected representatives there. He said:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just want to say that I would not be supporting the motion on the basis that I've spent two years as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and I can see that changing our convention would be simply opening it up to a series of fed-bashers. They would come here, the way they do, with the media in tow, and get into that. That's why I think the rule or the convention makes sense, to have officials who aren't going to be here to play the political game. As much as we are discussing political issues, I don't want to be captive to a round of fed-bashing, which I think this would inevitably lead to.

We are talking about the elected representatives of the people of the various provinces. They are responsible for administering and enforcing the legislation.The point of view of the parliamentary secretary is that this is simply fed-bashing. That is the problem with this government. Liberal members think that unless they can absolutely control any discussions to arrive at a predetermined result, it is simply fed-bashing.

This is a federal system. The federal attorney general has the right to speak to the provincial attorneys general. However we, as justice committee members or any other committee members, should be entitled to hear from these elected officials. They are responsible for the payment of this in large part. They are responsible for prosecution. They are responsible for administration. This is a shameful example of how the government refuses to co-operate with the provinces.

The provincial attorneys general could simply say that they will no longer prosecute under the criminal code and that they will leave it to the federal attorney general. They can say they will no longer prosecute under the youth justice legislation. However they are attempting to work co-operatively with the federal government, but unfortunately the Liberal majority on that committee refuses to hear from those who have significant input on this matter.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, like all my other colleagues, to make a few comments about Bill C-55.

As parliamentarians, all party politics set aside, our role is not to exaggerate the impact of a law, but rather to try to fully understand the scope of a bill like Bill C-55, which, of course, is the result of very intensive consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and with many other Canadians.

We have to realize that we are not dealing with an easily identifiable opponent, but rather terrorists operating in many countries and using great cunning to perpetrate their dastardly deeds. They had proven this long before the attacks of September 11.

My colleagues from the Bloc made comments that, at times, I found rather exaggerated. Luckily, exaggeration does not make one sick, otherwise some of them would suffer from an incurable disease. I remember their speeches on Bill C-7, concerning young offenders. The end of the world was near.

As a matter of fact, the governments of the provinces and of Quebec will benefit from a massive injections of tens of millions of dollars for the administration of Bill C-7. I am convinced that the children of Quebec will not all be in prison tomorrow morning. Luckily, our justice minister assumed his responsibilities. He steered this act through the House of Commons.

If we look back at how the act has been administered over the last few months, we see that, despite all the dire consequences the Bloc members were talking about at the time--it was worse than Chernobyl--everything is going fine.

Our country has to deal with a very serious situation. The government's responsibility is, rightly so, to deal with it. We have to do everything we can to fight this very insidious and imperceptible evil, which caused the death of thousands of people in a few seconds in the United States, our main trading partner. The Americans are people with whom we share economic, cultural, and recreational values, among others. The role of responsible governments in the world is to assume their responsibilities and to make laws.

Bill C-55 will allow us to amend 20 acts affecting several departments. This is not an ad hoc process. The provisions of this bill allow us to take measures that also respect the democracy in which we live. Our role is to take our responsibilities to obtain the tools that will allow us to respond to emergencies. This will not be done only at the behest of one person, someone responsible for a department, whether defence, ustice or transport.

Let us take the example of September 11. If the Minister of Transport had not had the authority to react to the closure of U.S. airspace, what could have happened? The number of dead in New York could have skyrocketed. The government's role is to acquire the tools that are essential to assume its responsibilities.

In the hours that follow, it is time to justify measures taken. After that, it is time to get the government and our institutions back to normal.

Bill C-55 affects several departments, health, environment, justice, solicitor general and transport, which I have the pleasure to work with, in partnership with the minister directly assigned to this department. All the ministers are doing their job with the greatest respect for all democratic institutions.

It is not true to say that all of Canada will be considered as a controlled access zone. There are limits to exaggerating things.

Our fellow citizens are beginning to realize that exaggeration should be checked. If exaggeration made people sick, some would have an incurable disease and would have trouble finding a treatment. This situation has to be dealt with in a balanced way, and this is what the government is doing with this bill.

This bill has been introduced in this House, but it will also be referred to a committee, which will analyze all aspects of the bill. Some improvements may have to be made. We will have the opportunity to consider them thoroughly. We did that to such an extent with Bill C-42 that it was finally withdrawn. The bill was reworked and replaced with Bill C-55. This bill is not perfect, and will be referred to a committee to be improved.

I wish to emphasize that a $7.7 billion budget has been allocated to various departments in order to improve our control structure and increase security for Canadians. We also travel throughout the world. Quebec is not the exclusive property of the PQ and the Bloc.

As a matter of fact, exaggeration goes over so badly that they are only at 20% or 25% in the polls. I know them well. I have fought several election campaigns against them. It is a real pleasure to campaign against them and to talk about their record. I wish to tell them once again that we are pleased to introduce Bill C-55. It is not perfect, but it can be improved.

After extended consultations with provincial governments across the country, we will now refer the bill to the committee. We are not naive and we know that nothing is perfect. We believe that Bill C-55, which allows us to improve several legislative measures involving several departments, must be approached meticulously and with respect for our fellow citizens.

Quebec will not be surrounded by a barricade. This is not how things work in life. We saw at the Quebec summit that the security perimeter was erected after a period of consultation, in order to allow people from all these countries to hold their discussions in peace. Access to important activities must be controlled. Whether we like it or not, this is how things work. We also have to protect ourselves.

When officials from all over the world are gathered together, we make every effort to ensure that the discussions are taking place in a serene environment, to promote a positive outcome.

I am looking forward to Bill C-55 being referred to a committee. I am looking forward to hearing witnesses and my friends from the opposition parties, particularly those from Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois members. I am convinced that we will be receptive to what stakeholders have to say. I am looking forward to it and I am used to hearing their speeches. I try to react with wisdom to all their attacks. As I said before, what I like best is to campaign against Bloc Quebecois members. I really enjoy it, particularly when we win. Balance is important in a democracy. They have a point of view. When things go bad, it is always Canada's fault. When things go well, it is always thanks to Quebec. This is not how things work in real life.

I am convinced that we have an important role to play as a government, and it is not the sometimes negative comments of Bloc Quebecois members that will slow us down.

I look at the situation in Quebec and I see that all Quebecers want a provincial election. But the PQ does not dare call an election. A few months ago, Bloc Quebecois members were all set to run as candidates in a provincial election. Now, not a single one of them is interested in doing it, because they fear that Quebecers may be tired of hearing the same old speeches after 20, 25 or 30 years.

Quebecers want reconciliation. They are increasingly aware that they co-own a large continent. The role of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is to do everything possible so that the Canadian government will help us come out of isolation. It is not PQ members who have looked after the regions the most.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 1st, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, let us remember that, on November 22, 2001, the Government of Canada introduced, in great haste, its second public safety bill, Bill C-42. The Bloc Quebecois reacted immediately to the introduction of that bill, which constituted the worst attack ever seen by Quebecers and Canadians on their rights and freedoms.

Those who are listening to us will have understood that, since November 22, the Bloc Quebecois has vehemently opposed Bill C-42. We saw the results. Last week, the federal Liberal government withdrew Bill C-42 to introduce Bill C-55, which, believe it or not, is five pages longer than Bill C-42, which had 98 pages. Bill C-55 has 103 pages.

The Bloc Quebecois reacted strongly to this attack on human rights and freedoms from within Canada by the federal Liberal government. When dealing with terrorism, there is nothing worse than trying to counter terrorist attacks by sacrificing our rights and freedoms. It is the worst possible reaction, because the objective of the terrorist network throughout the world is actually to attack the fundamental values that made Quebec and Canada such a great democracy.

Today, I am proud to have helped, with my leader and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, make the federal Liberal government understand that it could not take away the fundamental rights enjoyed by all Canadians. However, it was easy for us to fight Bill C-42 because the ministers who were supposed to defend that bill, namely the Minister of Transport, the Minister of National Defence and all the others—I will name them later—were not the strongest defenders of the bill. Why?

Quite simply because Bill C-42, just as Bill C-55 we are examining today, was prepared by and for public servants. How are things done in a society like ours? In any crisis situation, the government tries its best to pass legislation to achieve its old unfulfilled dreams. That is what happened with DND and its land staff, Health Canada, Transport Canada and all the other departments, which took advantage of the terrible crisis situation resulting from the September 11 events to include in Bill C-42 numerous infringements on our freedoms and rights, and yet more state control.

Such a situation brings us closer to a more militarized, centralizing and controlling state. This is what the Liberal government is trying to do, once again today, with Bill C-55. Even if it was upgraded and improved, even if the Bloc's recommendations were taken into account, it has proven impossible to escape the government machinery which, once again, attacks our rights and freedoms in Bill C-55. I will demonstrate it in a minute.

Another similarity with what happened when Bill C-42 was introduced is the fact that the Prime Minister went before the press yesterday, and with his typical candour and naivety, he could not answer one very simple question from a journalist who was asking if our rights and freedoms will be better protected under the new legislation. He answered “Yes, because I am telling you it is better”.

Once again, questions were put to the Prime Minister today and he was unable to answer them. Yesterday, it was the Minister of Defence who could not provide the answers.

In the next few minutes, I will try to summarize the purpose of this bill for the benefit of everyone in Quebec who might be watching this debate, and to show why we constantly have to badger the federal Liberal government which, in an attempt to do some nation building, has let the bureaucracy pursue its objective of centralization. We now have a centralizing state, whcih is detrimental to the rights and freedoms for which people, especially in Quebec, have fought so dearly.

Today, the Prime Minister even added in this House, “Anyway, all of these questions will be answered in committee and we will make all the appropriate revisions and changes”.

My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm knows better. On Bill C-7, he single-handedly moved more amendments and brought more witnesses before the committee than all the Liberal members from Quebec. Despite all his efforts, none of the amendments to Bill C-7 concerning young offenders was passed. Except for some very minor changes, the bill was passed almost exactly as it was introduced in the House.

So today, the Prime Minister said to us, the members from Quebec, “With respect to Bill C-55, you can ask your questions in committee, you will have the chance to call witnesses, and we can make changes when the time comes”.

For all those Quebecers who are listening, for all those groups who appeared before my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm's committee to comment on Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, I regret to inform them that it is not true that significant changes can be made in the House.

There was consensus in Quebec and, believe it or not, the new Minister of Justice, the member for Rosemont, from Quebec, succeeded in forcing Bill C-7 on Quebecers, once he was elected. This despite the fact that the day after his nomination, he told the media that he would meet with all of the groups and representatives in Quebec that are affected, and he did not do this.

This is the reality of this centralizing federal Liberal government, which, once again, with Bill C-55, has used its political power to take away rights and freedoms from Quebecers and Canadians.

Allow me to provide some examples, as the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transport and all of the other ministers should have done to explain Bill C-55. Given that there are three sections of this bill, as the Minister of Transport was saying, as far as I am concerned, it should have been divided into as many bills.

Yet again, the government is using a bill that is almost an omnibus bill, with 20 different parts, a bill that amends more than 10 acts, in an attempt to push through a bill that is packed with provisions that violate people's rights and freedoms.

For the benefit of Quebecers and Canadians who are listening, as the Minister of Transport said, there are three main sections to this bill. I will comment on them in the order that he presented them.

The first part concerns the ministerial power to make interim orders. I will give the list of the ministers who are involved. Anyway, the wording is the same for all amended statutes. The provisions are very lengthy, but the principle is always the same. Every time a minister is granted the power to make an order, he is subjected to the same standards and restrictions, but our rights and freedoms are also violated in the same way.

Here is the list of the ministers who are mentioned in the bill, with the title of the statutes being amended. The Department of Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act are administered by the Minister of Health. The Hazardous Products Act, the Safety Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act are under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The Pest Control Products Act and the Quarantine Act are administered by the Minister of Health. The Radiation Emitting Devices Act and the Canada Shipping Act are administered by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Canada ShippingAct, 2001, by the Minister of Transport.

Major amendments are made to all these statutes, and each of the ministers responsible will get new powers I will specify.

Let us take for example the Minister of Health and the Department of Health Act. The same provisions are repeated for all the other statutes and for all the other departments.

Here is clause 33, amending the Department of Health Act, at section 11.1:

The Minister may make an interim order that contains any provision that may be contained in a regulation made under section 11 if the Minister believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health or safety.

This therefore confers on a minister the authority to make interim orders. For all the ministers I have listed so far, and all the laws they administer, they have been authorized to make interim orders, which have regulatory force. This is not done just any old way.

Subsection 4 of clause 11 reads:

An interim order is exempt from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act and published in the Canada Gazette within twenty-three days after it is made.

What has just been given to the ministers, including the Minister of Health, is the power to enact interim orders with regulatory force and without the constraints of the Statutory Instruments Act sections 3, 5 and 11. It is worthwhile quoting the sections in question, which enable a minister such as the Minister of Health—I will give an example shortly—to make interim orders with regulatory force and no obligation. For instance, section 3 reads as follows:

Subject to any regulations made pursuant to paragraph 20(a), where a regulation-making authority proposes to make a regulation, it shall cause to be forwarded to the Clerk of the Privy Council three copies of the proposed regulation in both official languages.

Thus there will no longer be a requirement to forward them promptly to the Clerk of the Privy Council.

On receipt, the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice, shall examine the proposed regulation to ensure that: it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made; it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made; it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.

This is what is termed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms filter.

Now, these interim orders by the ministers of Health, Transport, Fisheries and Oceans and the others, including Environment, in compliance with the laws I have listed, will no longer have to gain approval or be filed in three copies with the Clerk of the Privy Council for the text to be examined in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the framework of the enabling legislation.

Let me give an example. During the September 11 crisis, the Minister of Health bought generic drugs, this in violation of the Patent Act and the patent held by the Bayer company. So, the minister awarded a contract to a company called Apotex. This action was brought up in the House and it was questioned, because it did not comply with the Patent Act. Of course, the Minister of Health argued the decision was not his, that he had simply raised the issue with his officials and they had made the big decision.

Under Bill C-55, the Minister of Health will now have the power to make interim orders whereby public officials would have the mandate to acquire drugs. In the example that I gave, the drugs were bought to counter the effects of anthrax, but it could be any drug to fight any disease. These drugs could be bought without checking who owns the patents for them and, again, without ensuring that all is done in compliance with the charter of rights and freedoms.

With these interim orders, the responsibility of making decisions that may involve public funds and have major consequences on individual rights and freedoms rests solely with one person, namely the minister. He could force the whole population to get a vaccine and take medication. Let us not forget that, in our society, there are communities and individuals who are subject to restrictions with respect to the consumption of drugs, among other things.

All this went unnoticed. However, what I just read is the same text that was in Bill C-42. In the new Bill C-55, the following was added regarding interim orders:

5.1(3) An interim order has effect from the time that it is made but ceases to have effect on the earliest of

(a) 45 days after it is made, unless it is approved by the Governor in Council,

Before, in Bill C-42, it was 90 days. Now, we are told 45 days, and the following is added:

5.1(7) A copy of each interim order must be tabled in each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House is sitting after the interim order is made.

Earlier, the minister told us, “Yes, it gave authority for an interim order to be tabled in both Houses, here and in the other place, and there could be motions and a debate”. Note that he said that there could be a debate, if they wanted one and if it were necessary.

People have obviously understood that when there is a debate here, it is the Liberal majority that decides. We can move a motion but, if the Liberal majority decides that we are not going to deal with it, there will not be any debate.

We are told that the interim order will be tabled on any of the first 15 days on which the House is sitting and that it will now be valid for 45 days instead of 90. But an interim order is urgent and is made within hours or days of an event. Inevitably, the harm, if any, will be done. And this will not change with Bill C-55, any more than it did with Bill C-42. Nothing has changed.

The government can say that the issue is evolving, but when an interim order with the force of a regulation does not need to be tested against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms--the charter filter--the rights of parliamentarians have been violated, and citizens no longer have any way of finding out whether the decisions of one man, a minister, respect their rights and freedoms.

The second part of Bill C-55, as set out by the minister, deals with the famous military security zones, which have become controlled access military zones. The Bloc Quebecois waged a very vocal campaign against this military interference in the civilian activities of militants, of groups of protestors who often take part in demonstrations. The government has obviously eliminated large parts of this bill.

But as for the meaning, the scope and everything DND officials and all those who thought they were going to get new military authority wanted, the basic outline is still there.

It is simple. Members have talked about two pages. In two pages, the government imposes a military state, allows a single person, the minister, to send the army into an area. The new wording is as follows:

260.1(1) Subject to subsection (2), the Minister personally, on the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff, may designate a controlled access military zone in Canada in relation to:

The minister is the only one who can make this decision. The wording is simple. The only man who can make this decision is the defence minister. The very man who did not see fit to inform the Privy Council, cabinet, the Prime Minister and the government that Canadian Forces had taken prisoners in Afghanistan. This is the man. And he is the one who will have the authority to designate controlled access military zones. Of course, only regarding the following:

(a) a defence establishment;

(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside a defence establishment;

(c) a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of the Visiting Forces Act.

They seem to be telling us that they want to protect our defence establishments. This makes sense. They must be protected. However, they are already military zones. A military base or any property belonging to the Department of National Defence is already a military zone entirely under its control.

So why add this? Because of the following paragraph which says:

(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside of a defence establishment.

The objective is to say that the minister will be able to designate a zone including a military establishment or military equipment, but not on property belonging to the department, therefore on civilian territory. Of course, there are many appropriate examples of this, which we will point out during the vigorous debate that will be triggered by Bill C-55.

For instance, there is the Citadel in Quebec City and everything around the Armoury, which belongs to the Canadian Forces. As you know, across from the Citadel there is the National Assembly and the Quebec government. This, of course, could be part of what is outside a defence establishment.

Therefore, this means that under this bill, in order to protect his establishment, the minister, the man who did not want and did not bother to inform the Prime Minister, cabinet, the Privy Council and the government that the army had taken prisoners in Afghanistan, will be able to designate, around the Citadel in Quebec City, a controlled access military zone that could include the National Assembly.

This is the reality. Examples abound as the minister is asking the same for “a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada”.

We often talk about G-8 meetings and these sorts of things. Some heads of states and governments arrive with their own military equipment. When there is a meeting of the most influential people on the planet, that is members of the G-8, the defence minister could automatically designate a zone around the site of the meeting where there is military equipment—of course, I hope heads of states will land with their helicopters and their planes close to where these meetings take place—to protect such equipment.

This is quite astounding. And it is not only the equipment. The next paragraph says:

The Minister may designate a controlled access military zone only if it is reasonably necessary for ensuring the safety or security of

(a) any person—

Obviously, it is not only to protect property, but also to protect people. Who are these people? They are all the people who could feel threatened at any location where there is military equipment.

Subparagraph ( b ) refers to property that is provided for the Canadian Forces.

So it is not only property that belongs to the Canadian Forces, but also property that is provided for them. It could be any federal building that the government decides to lend to the Canadian Forces to set up headquarters or for some other reason.

Obviously, the government could do indirectly what Bill C-42 enabled it to do directly. These provisions can be interpreted that way.

Yesterday, the ministers, particularly the defence minister, told us that we should not presume that they are acting in bad faith. Bad faith is never presumed, it is observed. Every day, we see the government's bad faith in this House. How could we trust the defence minister who, as far as I am concerned, has lost all credibility over the last few months?

So one man, the Minister of National Defence, is entrusted with the task of designating controlled access military zones, including in Quebec. Of course, we are being told that this will be done only if it is reasonably necessary. This expression is used four times. The zone cannot be of any size. The controlled access military zone may not be larger than is reasonably necessary.

We hear about the zone, the area—

Young OffendersOral Question Period

April 17th, 2002 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate to see that, once again, the Bloc Quebecois is continuing its misinformation campaign in Quebec.

Bill C-7 on young offenders meets the aspirations of Quebec and reflects the techniques and approach developed in Quebec.

As for the constitution, it includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has been widely used across the country and in a flexible manner. The charter has proven very useful to Quebec regarding many issues, including language and signs.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

February 20th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the hon. member for her excellent question.

Bill C-7 did indeed receive royal assent yesterday. It is normal for a certain period of time to go by before legislation takes effect.

I would simply like to say that the bill was the subject of many discussions, particularly last week at a federal-provincial-territorial meeting. Because of the broad consensus for more time, which has been repeatedly expressed for quite a while now, all the provinces and territories have agreed with me to postpone the coming into force of this legislation until April 2003, so that they can make the necessary preparations and go ahead with an excellent bill.

Foreign AffairsThe Royal Assent

February 19th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

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

Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts—Chapter No. 1.

Young OffendersStatements By Members

February 6th, 2002 / 2 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-7 on Canada's young offenders was passed, following an amendment proposed by the Senate regarding sentencing for aboriginal offenders.

The Liberal Minister of Justice and member for Outremont stated that once it receives royal assent, this bill will provide all of the flexibility required to allow Quebec to maintain its own system, which emphasizes rehabilitation rather than incarceration.

Only 19 Bloc Quebecois members out of 38 voted against the bill. I repeat, only 19 of the 38 Bloc Quebecois members voted against the bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity this morning to view a press conference by a government agency on the issue of child poverty. Members will know that this issue has seized this place long before we all came here. There has been a great deal of attention placed on the issue.

I know parliamentarians share the view that for children who live in poverty chances are that the cycle of poverty is very likely to occur in their adult lives as well. We in this place care about children.

We also have talked about child abuse many times in a broader sense than sexual abuse. We have talked about its impact on children. The House and the Senate went through the custody and access joint hearings which produced a wonderful report. I remember one of the provisions in the report was children who witness abuse among their parents were as affected as if they had been abused themselves. We have again demonstrated a sensitivity to the impacts on children.

This morning at this press conference and subsequently at an informal gathering with the representatives of the poverty coalition one of the things talked about was lone parent situations. We now have a situation where lone parents in Canada represent less than 15% of all families and yet account for some 52% of all children living in poverty.

Family issues start to come up here. It is a very linked situation. When we look at the fundamental stability of the Canadian family, when we look at the impacts on children when there is abuse in the home or when there are economic pressures, et cetera, children are usually the victims. We certainly saw that in the custody and access hearings.

Canadians should know that this place has a very large spot in its heart for children. Obviously we all win when our children grow up to be healthy, well adjusted young people with a sound set of moral, social and family values so that as they move forward in their lives they do not fall into problems, whether it be the cycle of violence, of welfare, of poverty or of other social ills.

The issue of a national sex offender registry is certainly one that we have discussed for some time. All members agree that in the discussion we had last March it was important for Canadians to know what was happening around the world, what was happening in Canada, and how we could take what we had and move it forward.

Parliamentarians in this place supported a motion to establish a national registry because we knew that the recidivism rate among offenders, among pedophiles and rapists, et cetera, was very high. It is very tragic that in society we have to be vigilant at all times for people who prey on children. It is disgusting and contemptible, but I am not sure whether or not as the previous speaker said that we should throw in jail anybody we identify as possibly doing something.

Our hearts are in the right place, but we have to understand that we have laws which have be to applied in accordance with the charter of rights and freedoms. They have to be applied in accordance with what is right. When people are sex offenders by nature or character, I do not think they were born like that. They are functions of their environment. They are functions of their family home, their relations with those with whom they grew up and the problems in that regard.

I agree with all members who spoke that we need to make a stronger commitment to addressing the serious problem of sex offenders and certainly repeat sex offenders.

Today we have a motion before the House pursuant to one we dealt with on March 13, 2001, which called for establishment of a sex offender registry by January 30, 2002, a date we have just passed.

I clearly understand, in view of the fact there is not a comprehensive, fully integrated national sex offender registry, why this issue would come up again. I applaud the opposition member for raising it with the House because it is reflective of the priorities and value system the House holds collectively.

The motion calls for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to prepare and bring forward a bill reflecting the spirit and intent of the motion with which we dealt last March.

I am not sure why we would take the whole process back to the committee to start again. It is a little confusing to me. I have no doubt the justice committee has the talent to draft a bill. Should that be asked by the minister and referred to the committee for such a purpose, I have no doubt it could do it.

However I am not sure that is the most efficient way for parliamentarians in this place to move the file forward and to get our national registry in place in the fashion it should be to achieve its objectives.

It would be useful to review briefly some of the background to the whole question of protecting our children and what parliament and the government have done to reflect that priority. We obviously are committed to saving communities and preventing crime. Protection of our children is obviously an issue of great concern. That is why we now have a national sex offender registry. It is a registry of all convicted offenders and it is called CPIC.

Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to speak to the issue last March, but as a member who shares concern about the protection and safety of children in our communities I want to be on record with regard to my shared concern. I ask the House to bear with me as I put forward some of this information, probably for the benefit of my constituents who are interested in my views as well.

The Canadian Police Information Centre is a computerized information system for Canadian law enforcement. It is operated by the RCMP. It serves over 60,000 law enforcement officials in every province and territory in Canada and handles over 100 million inquiries from 15,000 points of access.

When we consider the dimensions of the CPIC system clearly it is a national system. Clearly it is used by policing authorities across the country and by all jurisdictions with policing responsibilities.

The CPIC system contains millions of records on criminals, missing persons, vehicles, stolen property, registered firearms and crime scene information. It is a fairly comprehensive database. It is the primary tool used by our police enforcement officers to do work on crime scene information, to analyze criminal activities and to determine information that might be helpful in bringing resolution to a criminal act.

In 1994 the national screening system was created using CPIC. The national screening system allows agencies serving children to request local police background checks through CPIC. The background checks permit the agency to screen out potential volunteers known to be sexual abusers.

Even before we debated the creation of a national sex offender registry, there was a CPIC system which was accessible throughout communities across Canada for the purpose of screening volunteers and protecting our children. It was already used in a sense to provide a safer environment for our children.

Something I find very difficult to measure or to get information on is whether or not there is effectiveness in this. Some of my research has shown that other countries which have national sex offender registries have been unable to determine if they have prevented crimes that otherwise would have taken place. It is almost unmeasurable. It is more intuitive. I am not sure if I have heard today some evidence that these registries transfer the sort of crime prevention and protection that we seek to achieve.

Intuitively, it is the right thing to do. That is why parliamentarians supported the registry. It was important that it be there. The community thought it was something we needed. It is not a matter of having a silver bullet or that there is only one thing that we need to do to ensure we achieve the objective of full safety for our children and communities. That is not reasonable. Like most problems in society, this is complex. It means we need a multiplicity of solutions. A national registry is obviously one part of it.

I recall a line I have used throughout my parliamentary career. For every complex problem, there is a simple solution and it is wrong.

We are not looking for simple solutions. I think people who watch us on the television or watch from the gallery want to see us working in the best interests of Canadians, our children and communities. They want safe homes and safe streets. These are the themes and important areas which Canadians expect parliamentarians to address.

In April 1999 the solicitor general announced additional funding of $115 million to renew and enhance CPIC. Even though CPIC is a substantially older vintage of database, it has been enhanced and continues to grow. We have done even more.

In September 2001 the solicitor general announced that the RCMP would spend an additional $2 million on CPIC to improve its capacity to track sex offenders.

In March 2001 we first dealt with this motion. We did not wait for an unreasonable period of time to come up with some enhancements in CPIC to bring it up to the standard that members wanted to see. I do not think members are concerned whether CPIC or a national database is something we need. We do need a national sex offender registry.

The concern is whether it includes the kinds of information we need. Is it accessible to all who need to have it? Is it a tool that we can use to keep track of those sex offenders who have a high risk of reoffending?

An additional $2 million was allotted to improve the system. We have also improved the ability of police to locate sex offenders quickly by enabling the database to be searched by a combination of address and offence. These are some of the things that are included in the Ontario model as well.

Protecting our children against sex offenders is ultimately our goal and we want to ensure we achieve that goal. In 2000 Bill C-7 amended the Criminal Records Act to ensure that the records of sex offenders who had been pardoned would be available for screening purposes. This was another important addition to the effectiveness of the existing database.

In 1997, new measures to deal with high risk offenders, including sex offenders, and to strengthen the sentencing and correction regime were introduced. A new long term offender designation targeted sex offenders and added a period of supervision of up to 10 years following the release from prison. Also amendments strengthened the dangerous offender provisions in the criminal code, including requiring judges to impose indeterminate sentences on all dangerous offenders and a new judicial restraint provision to permit controls to be applied to those at high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.

It is clear that this is a multiplicity of measures to enhance the overall objective to improve the safety and security of our children and of Canadians from repeat offenders.

In June 2000 the DNA Identification Act came into effect. It established a DNA data bank to be maintained by the RCMP. With that data bank judges may order offenders convicted of designated criminal code offences to provide samples of bodily substances for DNA analysis with the resulting DNA profiles preserved in a convicted offenders index within the national DNA data bank. Again, this is another enhancement to the overall or comprehensive approach to dealing with the need to have the information necessary on a timely basis to address sex offenders.

Since March 13, 2001, the federal, provincial and territorial solicitors general and ministers of justice have met to discuss the issue of the sex offender registry on two occasions. They will be meeting again in eight days, on February 13 and 14. Senior federal, provincial and territorial teams have met on a number of occasions in preparation for this.

They are working on such things as a common understanding of the necessary components of a registry system, the principles and objectives of such a system, and the respective jurisdictional roles and responsibilities to deal with some of the legitimate concerns that the provinces and territories have with regard to ensuring that the objectives are met in their provinces.

While this work continues, the advice of the provincial and territorial jurisdictions has been received and CPIC enhancements are further underway. Now a distinct sub-database is to be created. Current addresses will be added and a five year history will be maintained. Registration information will be added. Other identifying information will be carried such as someone who has a tattoo. The database will be searched by address and offence.

As the previous speaker indicated, a number of jurisdictions within the provinces have existing systems. The current provisions within the CPIC system and the related databases already exceed the requests or the requirements of some of those jurisdictions. It is not as if the current system is somehow so deficient that we should go back to the justice committee and start from scratch.

We have a system in place. We have a commitment to that. I think all parliamentarians share the commitment that we need these tools to do the job. We made the commitment last March. We have reaffirmed that commitment by the initiatives we have taken over the months since the House adopted the motion. There should be no illusion whatsoever that there is a parliamentarian in this place who does not support the development, maintenance and upgrade of a national sex offender registry to ensure we have the tools needed to protect Canadians, especially our children.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2002 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough for splitting his time with me and giving me an opportunity to speak to the opposition motion.

One thing that should be of concern not only to parliamentarians but obviously to Canadians from coast to coast is why we are having this debate again at all. In preparing my remarks today I took a look at a speech that I gave in the House about a year ago on a very similar motion. I began that day by stating:

I wish I could say that it is a pleasure for me to participate in a debate this afternoon calling for the establishment of a national sex offender registry but to be honest it is not.

If I was frustrated then on behalf of my constituents, the House can imagine how frustrated I am today. I could read this entire speech that I gave a year ago verbatim and nothing has changed except that another year has gone by, sadly with more victims out in the real world.

The relevant part of the motion put forward by the Canadian Alliance states:

That, since the government has failed to give effect to the motion adopted by this House on March 13, 2001, calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry by January 30, 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill reflecting the spirit and intent of that motion;--

This is an important motion for all Canadians. One of the interesting things about the motion is that it would instruct the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to do what it should be doing all along in this parliament, that is, non-partisan work for the betterment of society. This is quite a concept: that it could be seized by a similar motion of a year ago, which was unanimously supported by the Chamber, and do that worthwhile work.

We have heard my colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough put forward a proposed amendment. We are waiting to hear back from the Canadian Alliance on that. Why is that amendment so critical? In a question posed to my colleague by the member for Provencher, the reply stated that CPIC does not do the job. There must be a recognition by members from all parties, in a non-partisan way, that CPIC does not do the job for the variety of reasons that my colleague laid out.

If we were to pass this motion which instructs the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to undertake the drafting of a bill, the instructions to the committee should be to come up with something that is separate and stand alone. That way the Liberal government could not simply, with the sleight of hand that it has been using for the last few years, particularly in the last year, fiddle with CPIC and hope that it would be able to have a national sex offender registry that would somehow do the job.

Yesterday we heard from the government on Bill C-7. There was a Senate amendment which sent Bill C-7, the new youth justice bill, back to this Chamber. The government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to bring in time allocation. The argument it used was that it had heard enough about the need to reform the Young Offenders Act, there were enough studies done, and it had enough consensus across the nation from political parties that something had to happen. Even though the provinces and most opposition parties, for a variety of reasons, believe that it was a deeply flawed bill, the government brought in time allocation and rammed it through the House in its flawed state.

This is indicative of what the government does time and time again. The next day we are debating the need for a national sex offender registry. Where is the same concern by the government? We have another wasted year with nothing happening despite a motion passed unanimously a year ago.

A number of colleagues in the House have drawn a comparison, as we did a year ago, between the supposed need for a national firearms registry and the real need for a national sex offender registry. There is quite a difference and a number of my colleagues have laid out the government's misplaced priorities when it comes to the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society.

The government thinks that the priority of Canadians is to register the hunting rifles and bird guns of law abiding citizens and somehow that will make our society a safer place, in deference to bringing forward what all parliamentarians and the vast majority of Canadians want: a national sex offender registry. These are misplaced priorities. A number of colleagues have talked about the horrendous cost to set up this national firearms registry, and for what?

I would like to bring to light and read from a couple of newspaper articles from northern British Columbia. I did a search, going back to last year when we debated the last motion, to see what was said in northern B.C. from where I am proud to be.

The day after the motion passed in this Chamber, an article on March 14, 2001, in the Prince Rupert Daily News stated:

Federal Liberals supported a Canadian Alliance motion Tuesday to create a sex offender registry but say they'll expand an existing police database rather than create a costly new system. The vote to create a registry to keep track of released convicts was unanimous, at 255-0. The solicitor general explained that Liberals supported the motion because the existing Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) fits the bill.

It received some widespread support and was reported all over the country, even in northern British Columbia. It was seen as a positive step forward because there was unanimous support for the motion.

Two days after we passed the motion, the following article appeared on March 15, 2001, in the Prince George Citizen , a newspaper in my riding of Prince George--Peace River:

The family of a 13 year old Prince George girl who was molested by her employer said a newly approved national sex offender registry could prevent sexual assaults.

A registry that requires convicted offenders to report their whereabouts to police and other authorities might have prevented the offence last January, said the girl's stepfather. “These pedophiles and molesters need to be kept track of”, said the man, whose name can't be disclosed in order to protect the victim's identity.

Peter Paul Joseph, 46, was convicted this month of sexually assaulting his children's babysitter and was handed a 15 month conditional sentence.

“Had the registry been in place before the offence, police would have been able to keep a close eye on Joseph, who had a prior conviction for sexual assault in 1996”, the victim's stepfather said.

He said he wants the law to go further, requiring authorities to alert the public about convicted sex offenders living in a particular area. The Liberal government voted this week to support the Canadian Alliance's motion for a national registry.

It goes on to talk about the local RCMP support for that motion.

The point that I am making is that this is a motion, an issue, with widespread support outside of this Chamber. There was unanimous support in the Chamber and yet the government is still dragging its heels in bringing forward an actual implementation.

I cannot speak loudly enough or long enough of my support for the motion on behalf of the most vulnerable citizens of Prince George--Peace River. We must do something to bring this forward. The women and children who are the most vulnerable in our society must be protected. Now is the time to do it. I urge members from all parties to support the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2002 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I said I was pleased to intervene today in this debate on the official opposition's motion calling for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry, it would be a mere sham. I would just be playing along with the game the government played on us on March 13, 2001.

On that date, the House was debating a motion by the Canadian Alliance, which read as follows:

That the government establish a national sex offender registry by January 1, 2002.

This was clear, yet here we are on February 5 revisiting the same matter, because the government has done nothing to follow up on this motion. Yet the solicitor general of the day, and the man still in that position today despite all the speculation that was running rampant about him before the last cabinet shuffle, which had him going to the Senate, concluded his speech that day with “I have absolutely no problem in supporting the opposition motion”.

If the solicitor general had indeed read the motion introduced by my colleagues from the Alliance, and more importantly, if he had listened carefully to their speeches, he would have realized that he supported a motion requesting the creation of a separate registry of sexual offenders, rather than some attempt to revamp, at the cost of millions of dollars, a system known as the Canadian Police Information Centre, which the provincial ministers of justice admit is clearly insufficient.

As if this were not enough, in addition to being inadequate for the needs being discussed today, the system's shortcomings when it comes to protecting privacy were revealed yesterday, by the media. We learned that Citizenship and Immigration employees had accessed the CPIC database for purely personal purposes. Given the very specific nature of the information that could be contained in a registry of sexual offenders, this incident demonstrates the importance of creating a separate database with restricted access in order to avoid any kind of abuse.

Not only has the solicitor general failed to follow through on his support for this motion, but furthermore, for historic and contextual considerations, it is important to remind the House and those who are watching—to be sure that they understand what kind of government we are dealing with—that during the vote, not one member present in the House voted against this motion. In other words, all of the Liberal members present in the House voted for the motion.

Clearly, this government respects absolutely nothing. We already knew that it did not respect the privilege of parliamentarians to express themselves in debate; witness their invoking closure for the eighth time, yesterday when we were debating Bill C-7. No more than it respects the witnesses who do us the favour of sharing their expertise with us in the different committees. It is the same thing when it comes to provincial consensus. Add to this a minister who misleads the House and we have yet another glimpse into those who lead this government.

However, this time the Liberals have reached a new low by not even respecting their own vote. There again, members opposite may tell us that the fact that they supported that motion is just a myth or, better still, that it was a scheme by sovereignists. Why not? Given the current situation, it is obvious that ridicule never killed anyone.

As regards the substantive issues relating to the motion calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry, from which today's motion stems, the Bloc Quebecois remains convinced that it is an interesting idea and that such a project could prove very constructive in terms of protecting society from a very specific type of crime. Of course, the establishment of such a registry would allow us to exert some control but, more importantly, it would also prevent sex offenders who have served their sentences and who want to be rehabilitated back into society from reoffending.

Again, the position of the Bloc Quebecois goes well beyond mere partisanship and party line, because it primarily reflects the will of the people. This idea is also supported by the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, the provincial ministers of justice, as I mentioned before, and all the opposition parties in this House.

Moreover, up until January 1, we were naive to the point of having confidence in democracy and its institutions, and to believe that the government was also on board. Once again, this Liberal government fooled members of parliament and, consequently, the public.

Considering the government's lack of action in that area since March 13 of last year, I want to reiterate my comments on the major principles that should guide the establishment of a sex offender registry.

First, we must take into consideration the particular profile of the sex offender, who is often left to himself and could therefore reoffend, since this type of crime is primarily motivated by deeply repressed sexual urges.

We must also consider the vulnerability of the victims of sex crimes, particularly children, who are easy prey for sexual predators.

Sexual crimes, whether the victims are children or adults, often destroy lives. These people have gone through hell and may possibly go through hell for the rest of their lives, with all the consequences that one can imagine.

It is therefore imperative for all necessary steps to be taken to protect society from the potential risk of recidivism. Concrete actions must be taken in order to protect the public from repeat offenders. This is the only way of appeasing the public's strong reaction to the odious nature of these crimes.

We have reached a point where the families and friends of the victims of this type of crime take the law into their own hands. One example of this is the Many affair, where a father badly beat up the person who had attacked his son. There is also the instance of the retaliatory lynching in Laval of the presumed attacker of an 11 year old girl.

What is even more worrisome in this state of affairs is that, while the public does not openly endorse such behaviour, it still shows understanding of such acts.

That understanding translates into sympathy for the victim's relatives when they resort to this far west style of justice. Under these circumstances, there is not far to go between understanding and legitimizing acts that are contrary to the principles of a law-abiding state.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to develop programs and mechanisms which will restore citizens' trust in the criminal justice system.

We therefore feel that the establishment of a sex offender registry, which would include the offender's photo, name, address and date of birth, and a complete list of all the sex crimes committed, would allow a more thorough follow-up on these people.

By thus requiring offenders to inform local police forces of their whereabouts, society could keep an eye on these offenders and thus reduce, or at least monitor, the threat they pose to our community.

Second, the registry must be maintained by the responsible authorities, in this case, police forces, which, along with certain categories of stakeholders specifically listed in the legislative framework establishing the registry, would be the only people allowed to consult it.

The information in this registry would have to remain confidential and on no account be available to the general population. A consultation procedure and a rigorous framework for the new powers given police would have to be drawn up so as not to create yet another problem in the form of abuse.

There is therefore no question of the general public being allowed to consult the information in this database. The purpose of the registry is essentially to ensure effective follow-up of offenders and not to create a state of alarm, which could traumatize the public or launch witch hunts.

Let us remember that such a registry must serve a dual purpose: protecting the public and providing a means of rehabilitation.

In the latter regard, a registry that stigmatized an individual within a community would be very harmful and eliminate practically any chance of rehabilitation, which comes about through an individual's return to the community, not through his exclusion from it.

Incidentally, the following are included among the guiding principles of the criminal justice system, and I quote: first at all times the rights and dignity of all those involved in the correctional process must be respected and upheld; second, the offender remains a member of society and forfeits only those rights and privileges which are expressly taken away by statute or as a necessary consequence of the custody and control imposed by the court; third, correctional policies and practices must not deny the offender the hope of regaining status as a free citizen; fourth, correctional agencies have the responsibility to assist the offender to develop or maintain positive and supportive personal and family relations; fifth, correctional objectives should be met through shared responsibility and co-operative action by the community, correctional workers, other segments of the criminal justice system and the offenders themselves.

Furthermore, among the many goals and objectives behind criminal sanctions is that of promoting reintegration into the community. Therefore, the undeniable principles that guide our criminal justice system are rehabilitation and reintegration. These goals cannot be reached overnight. The offender must go through a long process, which must include a period of supervision and support.

It is imperative that there be long term follow-up, which would require an offender to report in for a period to be determined in accordance with the sentence handed down. Obviously, the stiffer the sentence, the longer the period during which he would have to report to police authorities.

It is understood that the offenders concerned will have to be informed that their names will remain in the registry for a set period of time.

In conclusion, it is now commonly known that in most cases sex offenders present a high risk of recidivism. This is much more than just a popular myth. It is borne out by research and by the experience of those working directly in the field. This is why this phenomenon deserves a special approach.

Furthermore, it is easy to understand that a sex offender registry would be an integral part of the rehabilitation process, which should in theory end with an application for pardon. Of course, we would have to make sure that police forces have all the necessary information to do proper follow-up and be able to act quickly before the worst happens. All this would be in the best interests of the offender, victims and society in general.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this motion and will be voting in favour.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

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 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech and I have a question for him.

The purpose of Bill C-7 is to repeal and replace the Young Offenders Act. Could the hon. member tell us what he believes is, in fact, not working in this act and what the new Bill C-7 will rectify?