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.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is absolutely right. As I read through Bill C-7 I did not understand the provincial jurisdiction and the federal jurisdiction. A lot of what the hon. member is referring to is true. Funding is definitely lacking.

Our lead critic from Provencher spoke about the provincial jurisdiction and the federal jurisdiction. As a new member in the House I have gone through the bill, but I have not been privy to all the witnesses and all the committee meetings. I have heard concern that we are stepping into provincial jurisdiction and that we are putting expectations on the provinces. We are not willing, as we used to say down on the farm, to put our money where our mouth is.

It is a huge problem when we download to provinces programs which perhaps they should be in charge of and there is no money available to help follow up. The whole thing should be looked at as far as the federal portion of funding is concerned. If they are willing to come with these programs, the government had better be willing to back it up with its wallet.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, we were speaking to Bill C-7, the amendment to replace the Young Offenders Act with the youth criminal justice act. We were speaking about the use of alternative measures or community based programs for non-violent offenders who pose no threat to society.

We firmly believe that only through lengthy periods of incarceration where there are effective rehabilitation programs including education would violent offenders cease to be dangerous.

We are encouraged that the bill would make these educational and rehabilitation programs mandatory. When and if young offenders are incarcerated, they would be forced to go through programs so that they could be integrated back into society thus making it a safer place to live. Protection of society is the key guiding principle of the Young Offenders Act or of the youth criminal justice act.

According to an old Statistics Canada fact finder a very small percentage of violent offenders are incarcerated. It means that a very small percentage of them are actually held in custody. They are unable to go through those programs while a disproportionate number of non-violent offenders are incarcerated, limiting the space and resources needed to rehabilitate the violent offenders.

Prison is not necessary for young persons who commit minor offences. We are not asking that there be incarceration in that regard. In many cases it may be detrimental to them. They may be assaulted by other violent young offenders or they may also learn from the other ones in the prison system. After their release, depending on how we look at it, the educational program may also allow them to progress to higher levels of crime or lower levels of crime.

We fully support alternative measures but only for non-violent first time offenders. In 1995, with the passage of Bill C-41, the Liberal government legislated conditional sentences and alternative measures. My party fought adamantly but to no avail to amend the legislation limiting the use of conditional sentences to non-violent offences. As a result of the government's failure to make such amendments, judges have repeatedly handed out conditional sentences throughout the country to persons convicted of serious crimes.

There is one case that has been raised many times in the House. A man who abducted and viciously sodomized a young woman was given a conditional sentence. The young woman was scarred for life. She now lives with that in her memories and is plagued by that conditional sentence.

A few weeks ago in Ottawa, another case dealt with a woman who was convicted of attempting to hire a hit man to kill her parents and was given a conditional sentence.

The first and guiding principle of Canada's criminal law should be the protection of society. Without strict limits placed on the use of alternative measures or conditional sentences, whether it be for violent adults or violent youth, the tenet for the protection of society would be violated.

In closing I urge the government to take the step to realize and to recognize the importance of dealing with the protection of society within Canada's criminal law. Do we need changes to the Young Offenders Act? Yes, we do. We applaud the government and the minister for recognizing the inadequacies of the Young Offenders Act and for realizing that we need to make changes.

Bill C-7 falls short. It is short of what is required for the protection of society. We are dealing with our children. The throne speech dealt with our children. The protection of our children and grandchildren is paramount. Bill C-7, although it moves in the right direction, falls short of giving the tools we need to help protect society and our children.

Division No. 36Government Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I proceed to speak to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act, I would like to take this opportunity to commend my colleague from Surrey North for his prompt and critical review of this rehashed piece of legislation.

As a new member of parliament in this 37th parliament, I also want to commend him for the wealth of information that he made available to us, especially in the justice committee, and for the many times he has helped us out. We appreciate that. I would also like to commend him also for his diligent efforts over the last three years in holding the Liberal government accountable for its failure to bring about immediate and substantive changes to the young offenders act.

My Alliance colleague lends credibility to this debate. He turned a personal tragedy, the death of his son, into a crusade. Starting with the establishment of a new group called CRY, crime, responsibility and youth, the member for Surrey North succeeded in drawing attention to the inadequacies of the youth justice system and its failure to hold young people responsible for their criminal actions.

Since his election to the House in 1997, he has utilized his wealth of information and exercised diplomacy while working with members of all sides of the House to amend bills, especially those bills that preceded Bill C-7.

I also congratulate the member for Provencher for his election to the House and for his appointment as lead justice critic for the Canadian Alliance.

The former Manitoba attorney general's speech earlier this month clearly demonstrated his experience and knowledge regarding the Young Offenders Act. I also appreciated his references to federal-provincial financial agreements and how they have come to play a part in the bill.

In June 1997 the justice minister promised to make amending the Young Offenders Act a priority. Nearly three and a half years later Canadians are still saddled with an ineffective law that has failed to adequately hold young people accountable for criminal behaviour. In 1997 the minister realized the need to amend the act. She said, and it was publicized, that it was clearly the most unpopular legislation in Canada.

More than five years ago, following the 10th anniversary of the Young Offenders Act, the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs initiated a review of the justice system. After months of cross country hearings, submissions and presentations by people with a vested interest in youth justice, and at a cost of almost half a million dollars, the committee tabled a report in April 1997. The report contained a number of recommendations to amend the Young Offenders Act.

In dissent, the Canadian Alliance presented a minority report which contained a number of recommendations we believed were important. Unlike those of the committee, my party's recommendations dealt with and fell exclusively within federal jurisdiction.

Unfortunately I do not have time to go into all the recommendations and details of our report. However I will use my allotted time to deal with some of the more important or significant points of it.

The most important recommendation was to make the protection of society the guiding principle of the youth criminal justice act. We live in a time when individuals, boards, committees and businesses are all looking to come up with a mission statement or guiding principle which, as they focus on the direction they are taking, they can keep in mind.

The top priority and guiding principle of Bill C-7 needs to be the protection of society. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in October 1996, Mr. Victor Doerkson, a member of the Alberta legislature for Red Deer South, said:

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

The member of the legislature, who spoke on behalf of many Albertans, said the people were telling him that protection of society must be the guiding principle. Bill C-7 does not do that. It does not, as recommended by the Alberta MLA and many others who appeared before the standing committee, make protection of society the first and guiding principle of the youth justice act.

According to the declaration of principles, safety and security of Canadians is secondary to the rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender back into society.

The Juvenile Delinquents Act came into effect in 1908. It created an informal juvenile justice system that was separate from the adult system. The guiding principles of the Child Welfare Act were that young offenders were not criminals but rather misguided children in “a condition of delinquency”. Because of that condition of delinquency they were not to be punished. They were rather to be treated. That was the guiding principle of the Juvenile Delinquents Act.

Under the Juvenile Delinquents Act there was no specific sentencing and the judges had very significant discretion in dealing with young offenders. This meant that in some jurisdictions judges handed out extremely stiff sentences, including periods of incarceration for fairly minor crimes, while in other jurisdictions light sentences of open custody were given to violent offenders.

This is unfair. It is unfair to the offender. It is unfair to the victim. It is unfair to the public at large as there was no guarantee in the law that the offender would be incarcerated.

Recognizing that the exclusively welfare oriented focus of the Juvenile Delinquents Act was not appropriate and to reduce judicial discretion, the process of reforming the Juvenile Delinquents Act began in the 1960s. It was not, however, until the early 1980s with the introduction of the famous charter of rights and freedoms that major juvenile delinquent reform became inevitable.

The Juvenile Delinquents Act was inconsistent with the emphasis on due process that was in the charter. In particular, it was considered to be contrary to section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms which came into effect in 1985. Section 15 guaranteed equality before the law.

Besides failing to make the protection of society the guiding principle in the bill, it would also effectively enact the contentious portion of the Juvenile Delinquents Act that wrongfully promoted an inequitable application of criminal law, in that it would provide far too much discretion to the youth courts.

We on this side of the House do not accept the Liberal government's chequerboard approach to the justice that appears to be at the very crux of the youth criminal justice act. We also do not accept the minister's outright rejection of what I consider to be the next two most important principles or recommendations of my party for amending the Young Offenders Act.

The minister has again refused to lower the age of criminality to encompass 10 and 11 year olds in limited circumstances. She has rejected allowing for the publication of the names of all violent offenders. The only way to ensure the safety of our children and grandchildren is to provide parents with the names of violent and dangerous offenders.

We do not have that right now. I listened with great interest to speech of the parliamentary secretary as he elaborated on what may happen if we had those rights. As parents, we need to know who in the school systems, for example, may be threatening our children or perhaps those in schools associating with our children that they need to be careful of. The only way to ensure the safety of our children and grandchildren is to provide the names of these children.

Also the bill does not, and I believe it should, allow the names of drug dealers to be put on that list. This category of offender has wrongly been missed in the new legislation.

Many Canadian schools, including public schools, are faced with serious troubles. We had representation from the school trustee boards that came around and visited with many members of parliament in the last week. They expressed the need to know who the students are in the school systems that perhaps have been through violent offences or are in trouble with the law.

Drugs are a serious problem in schools. According to a 1999 special edition of the province in Burnaby, British Columbia, police are seeing 13 and 14 year old kids selling crack cocaine. The report went on as well to say that girls of the same age were trading sex for drugs.

The same report revealed that 75% of high school students in Coquitlam, B.C., experiment with drugs. An estimated 10% of them misuse drugs on a regular basis and up to half of them have become addicted.

We as parents have the right to know who our children are associating with. We have the right to know if a convicted drug dealer is attending school with our children. We have the right to know if there is a violent young sex offender living three or four houses down the street.

We have the right to know. We must have the right to protect our children. That is why we on this side of the House believe that the names of violent offenders, including drug dealers, should be published.

With regard to lowering the age of criminality to 10, Professor Nicholas Bala of Queen's University, who appeared before the standing committee on justice, summarized a Statistics Canada survey of 27 police forces in Canada.

The data indicated that offending behaviour by children under the age of 12 was very significant. Despite this fact, authorities are powerless to hold these children legally responsible for their criminal actions. Although a number of provinces have a child welfare system that can and does deal with these children adequately, many provinces do not have such a program. Repeatedly witnesses came before the standing committee on justice and bore witness to the fact that violent offences with a welfare response was inappropriate.

Lowering the age to 10 does not mean that there will be a huge influx of 10 and 11 year olds into the system. It does not mean that we will be inundated with 10 and 11 year olds as they are drawn into the justice system. The system can divert most children of this age away from any formal response, particularly with the support of alternative measures or community based programs.

By amending the age we will in the very few cases of violent offenders have the means to provide these children with the rehabilitation they need. As it stands now, the minister has abandoned 10 and 11 year olds who by committing criminal acts signal that they are in need of help.

As we researched a speech for an earlier debate in the House we noticed that many criminals were taking advantage of the fact that 10 and 11 year olds were not touched by the justice system. They were drawing them in to be drug runners in other ways. If these people are falling through the cracks they need to be helped.

Appearing before the standing committee during its indepth review of the Young Offenders Act, in reference to lowering the age, a representative from Citizens Against Violence said:

Preferably I would like to see the age in the Young Offenders Act lowered to 10, because there's a mindset among today's youth who are becoming well educated in the criminal field that they cannot be touched under the age of 12—We would like to see the age lowered so that the kids themselves know they have to face responsibility for their actions.

The last recommendation I should like to touch on today is the need to differentiate between non-violent crime and violent crime for the purpose of sentencing. We on this side of the House recommend that the minister restrict the use of alternative measures or community based programs to non-violent offenders who pose no threat to society.

We firmly believe that only through lengthy periods of incarceration, where there are effective rehabilitation programs including education, will violent offenders cease to be dangerous.

Division No. 36Government Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I should like to address some deeply disturbing comments that were made when the bill was last before the House at second reading.

We have heard many comments from the benches opposite about the need for decorum and restraint in the House. The line of parliamentary respectability was crossed when the member for Berthier—Montcalm singled out a particular official of the Department of Justice and attacked the individual personally. Perhaps he may not agree with the point of view of the individual, but he should not denigrate those who cannot stand in this place to defend themselves. It lowers the level of debate in the House.

If the member's arguments are so compelling against Bill C-7 on substance, let these arguments stand on their own. His views should be considered on their own value. We do not need to debase this place with personal recriminations. The member for Berthier-Montcalm made comments that were extremely unparliamentary and the individual targeted had no opportunity to rebut those allegations.

I will now address the youth criminal justice act. One may ask why we need a new youth justice legislation? The youth justice system under the Young Offenders Act is not working as well as it should for Canadians. Too many young people are charged and often incarcerated with questionable results. Procedural protections for young people are not adequate and too many youth end up serving custodial sentences with adults.

The overarching principles are unclear and conflicting. There are disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing. Interventions are not appropriately targeted to the seriousness of the offences. They are not adequately meaningful for individual offenders and victims or adequately supportive of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The proposed youth criminal justice act attempts to address these fundamental flaws. First, with regard to targeting responses of the youth justice system to the seriousness of the offence, Canada's failure to target the most serious interventions to the most serious crimes has resulted in one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the world. The proposed law would provide a statutory framework through principles, presumption, new sentencing and front end options, so that serious violent offenders are treated seriously and constructive measures are available for the vast majority of less serious offences.

The presumption in favour of an adult sentence for the offences of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault has been expanded to include repeat serious violent offences. While an adult sentence could be applied to youth 14 years old and above under the Young Offenders Act, the presumptions would now apply to them as well unless a province or territory opts for a higher age.

Privacy protections currently do not apply to youth receiving adult sentences, and this would be continued. Where a youth is convicted of one of the most serious presumptive offences and receives a youth sentence rather than an adult sentence, the privacy protections would not apply unless the judge ruled otherwise.

Enhanced options for police and crown discretion at the front end, together with statutory presumptions about when the formal court process and custody are not be used, will lead to meaningful, effective and faster resolutions of the majority of less serious offending behaviour.

The overall effect of this targeted youth justice system should be fewer young people being put through the formal justice system and receiving custody sentences for less serious offences and an overall reduction in our youth custody rates. It would also clarify the principles of the youth justice system.

The proposed youth criminal justice act sets out the purpose of the youth justice system through its principles. Unlike the Young Offenders Act, the principles of the new bill would provide clear direction, establish structure for the application of principles and thereby resolve inconsistencies. The new principles would reinforce that the criminal justice system for youth is different from the one for adults. It emphasizes preventing crime, ensuring meaningful consequences for offending behaviour, and rehabilitating and reintegrating the young person as the ways it would contribute to the protection of society.

It would ensure fairness and proportionality in sentencing. The sentencing principles in the proposed law would provide a clear, consistent and coherent code for youth sentences. They are intended to reduce disparity and reflect a fundamentally fairer approach to sentencing. Unlike the Young Offenders Act, the new legislation states that the purpose of sentencing is to hold a young person accountable for the offence committed by imposing meaningful consequences and promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of the young person.

To reverse the current unfairness, the new law would provide that the punishment imposed on a young person must not be greater than what would be appropriate for an adult in similar circumstances. Given the significant disparity between what similarly situated youth receive for similar offences, principles of proportionality among youth sentences are included in the new legislation. Proportionality sets the framework or limits within which the needs of the young person committing the offence are to be addressed through the criminal justice system to achieve rehabilitation and reintegration.

It would respect and protect rights. The Young Offenders Act does not adequately respect the rights of young people. It would provide that a youth could be transferred to an adult court before conviction and lose age appropriate due process protections including privacy protections on the basis of an unproven charge.

Transfer proceedings have lasted as long as two years, which impedes access to a speedy trial. Once transferred into the adult stream, youth as young as 14 could be required to serve their sentences in adult provincial or federal correctional facilities at the discretion of the judge.

The proposed law would address these shortcomings by providing that all the proceedings against a youth take place in the youth court where age appropriate due process protections apply. The hearing on the appropriateness of an adult sentence would only occur after a finding of guilt and all the evidence about the offence had been heard. The youth justice procedure for the most serious offences would be speedier, retain age appropriate due process protection and be more respectful of the presumption of innocence.

Bill C-7 also includes the presumption that if under 18 a youth would serve an adult sentence in a youth facility. This is more consistent with the spirit of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which is expressly referenced in the preamble of the new legislation.

It would enable meaningful consequences aimed at rehabilitation. While youth may know that their behaviour is wrong, they may not fully understand the nature and consequences of their acts for themselves and for others. Some young people lack the structure, guidance and support in their communities needed to change behavioural patterns and overcome damaging influences.

Many of the new provisions in the proposed youth criminal justice act would allow for individualized interventions that instruct the youth. Police, crowns and judges would be given statutory authority to warn and caution young people that their behaviour was not acceptable and more serious consequences may follow if they repeat that behaviour.

Conferencing is encouraged at many stages of the process, which could allow the young person to be a participant in a process with victims, family members and others to learn about the consequences of his or her behaviour and to develop ways to make amends.

The range of sentencing options would be expanded. In addition to sentences that allow the young person to attempt to repair some of the harm caused through restitution, compensation, community service orders, there would also be new sentences that provide for close supervision and support in the community.

Changed behaviour in the community is key to addressing youth crime. These sentences include attendance orders, intensive support, supervision orders, and deferred custody and supervision orders. The proposed law would also provide a new sentence for the most violent and troubled youth stressing rehabilitation and support. It is a serious commitment to the protection of society by making every effort to stop the recurrence of the most violent youth conduct.

It would support reintegration after custody. A major flaw of the Young Offenders Act is that it currently does not provide sufficient provisions for a safe, graduated reintegration into the community.

The proposed law would include provisions to assist a young person's reintegration into the community, which protects the public by guarding against further crime. It would provide that periods of incarceration will be followed by periods of supervision in the community through custody and supervision orders. To ensure truth in sentencing and clarity for the young person, at the time of imposing a sentence, the judge would state in open court the portion of time that was to be served in custody and the portion to be served in the community. Breaching conditions of the community supervision could result in the youth being returned to custody.

Studies demonstrate that treatment is more effective if delivered in the community instead of in custody. The reintegration provisions encourage continuity between the custody and the community portions of the sentence through increased reintegration planning, which takes into account the youth's needs throughout the whole sentence and, through reintegration, leaves for specific purposes of up to 30 days.

It would encourage an inclusive approach to youth crime. The youth justice system under the Young Offenders Act has been criticized for not appropriately involving victims, parents, family, community and representatives from other disciplines. Youth crime is often a complex phenomenon. Involving others can improve understanding and provide support for the victims, youths, families and communities in responding constructively and meaningfully to the offending behaviour.

The proposed law specifically encourages conferences at many stages of the proceedings, including those involving the police, sentencing judges and provincial directors. Some conferences may involve bringing together professionals such as child care workers, school psychologists or others who are already involved with the youth to seek advice and verify continuity of services. Others may be in the nature of sentencing circles or family group conferences involving victims, offenders and their families.

The proposed law would also expand the possible mandates of youth justice committees. These are committees of citizens who can assist in any aspect of the administration of the act or in any program or service for young people. They can encourage community members and agencies to take an active role in supporting constructive resolutions to the victims, families, youth and others implicated by youth crime.

The proposed youth criminal justice act corrects fundamental weaknesses of the Young Offenders Act and will result in a fair and more effective youth justice system.

In the time left, I would like to comment on some of the specific provisions of the bill as they relate to the publication of names. This is a contentious element of youth justice policy, with some arguing for publication in all cases and some opposing it in all cases. Some argue the public needs to know who the criminals are in order to protect itself from them. They argue protection of society requires the press to publish the names of all those who commit an offence.

Before accepting the argument, we should also ask ourselves how much additional protection society gets from the publication of names of adults. Unless we know the person named, or the case is of such importance that it is in the paper for weeks or months, do we pay much attention when we read in the paper the name of a person prosecuted for or found guilty of a particular offence? I am not sure we do. In most cases, a few minutes after reading it, we have already forgotten the name. This hardly can be a factor contributing to the protection of society.

Another argument against the ban of publication of names is that it is contrary to an open justice system and to the freedom of the press. It is important to emphasize that the youth justice system is an open justice system. Members of the public can attend and the press can report every detail of the case and the rendering of justice, except for information which would identify the youth. I am sure that we all recognize that freedom of the press is an important element of a free and democratic society. It should only be limited by law and in a reasonable manner that can be justified in a free and democratic society.

The current legislation governing young offenders, the Young Offenders Act, prohibits publication in all cases where the youth is dealt with in the youth system. The provisions prohibiting publication were challenged almost as soon as the Young Offenders Act came into force. The courts have decided that the provisions were a reasonable limitation on the freedom of the press and therefore valid legislation. The courts came to that conclusion because they recognized that the rehabilitation of the youth was an important enough societal objective to require balancing the right to the freedom of the press with this objective rehabilitation of the youth.

The new legislation would continue to allow publication of offenders' names in all cases where a youth was sentenced to an adult penalty. It would also continue to protect the names of the great majority of youth who commit offences and are sentenced to a youth penalty. It will be an offence to publish their names even after they became adults, unless the youth court considers them to fall under two very exceptional circumstances. First, if a youth is charged with a serious offence and is considered dangerous at large and publication is necessary to apprehend the youth, then the case publication would be allowed for five days.

Second, the youth has asked to be able to publish and the court is convinced it would be in the best interests of the youth to publish information about his or her experience with the youth criminal justice system.

In the first case the judge will authorize the police to publish for five days the name of the youth wanted. In the second case the judge will authorize the youth who asked permission to do so to publish information or cause the information to be published on his or her being dealt with in the criminal justice system. Once the youth has made the information public it is no longer protected.

Under the proposed legislation the presumption in favour of privacy would not apply to a very small category of youth who receive youth sentences. The names of youth who would be given a youth sentence for a presumptive office of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or repeat violent offences could be published unless the judge prohibits publication.

The youth court judge would prohibit publication in two instances. First, when the youth or the crown applied for a publication ban and the judge considers it appropriate in light of the importance of rehabilitating the youth in the public interest. Second, when the crown gave notice that even though it was a presumptive offence, the crown would not seek an adult penalty. The crown would do so when it was convinced that the circumstances of the offence or of the offender did not warrant an adult penalty. In that case the judge would impose a youth penalty would prohibit publication.

The legislation would not only protect the privacy of young offenders but also prohibit publication of names of youth who were victims of young offenders, and the names of youth who were witnesses in a young person's trial. The youth victim or witness could only publish information on their role in the criminal justice system when they became an adult, with the permission of the court before that time, or with the consent of his or her parent.

I believe these provisions strike an appropriate balance between the freedom of the press, which is a fundamental right in a democratic society, and the interest of society in protecting itself by the rehabilitation of young persons who have committed offences.

I will address one other area on the issue of adult sentences. Under the Young Offenders Act, if a youth is 14 or older at the time of the alleged indictable offence, the provincial prosecutor can apply to have the youth transferred to adult court, as I have indicated. In addition, the Young Offenders Act sets out a category of presumptive offences which includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. It is presumed that the individuals charged with a presumptive offence who were 16 or 17 years old at the time the alleged offence occurred will be transferred to adult court and receive adult sentences.

When a youth is transferred to adult court, the rules applicable to adults apply to the youth and the special protections granted by the Young Offenders Act, including the ban on publication do not apply. In addition, a transfer hearing which takes place before the trial begins can significantly delay the start of the trial. Some transfer hearings, including appeals of the decision to transfer, have taken more than two years to complete. Such delays can be problematic because for most young people the consequences that follow closely after the offending conduct prove to be much more meaningful.

As under the Young Offenders Act, the proposed youth criminal justice act would allow prosecutors to seek to have an adult sentence imposed if a youth 14 or older were found guilty of an indictable offence. The youth criminal justice act maintains the category of presumptive offences in the Young Offenders Act, but extends the presumption to youths 14 or 17 and to serious repeat violence offences.

A youth charged with a presumptive offence has an opportunity to demonstrate to the youth court judge that the presumption should not apply. In addition, under the proposed youth criminal justice act, provincial prosecutors would have the discretion to waive the presumption in an individual case, in which case the judge must impose a youth sentence.

Under the Young Offenders Act the crown must make an application to waive the presumption and the decision rests with the judge. The provincial attorney general could also issue guidelines to prosecutors respecting the waiver of the presumption. Finally, through an order in council a province could raise the age of the application of the presumption from 14 to 15 or 16.

The bill eliminates the transfer to adult court and provides that all proceedings against a youth take place in youth court, where age appropriate due process protections apply, as I have already indicated. Hearings to determine whether a youth sentence or an adult sentence should be imposed would be held only after the youth has been found guilty. Therefore, the youth court judge would make the decision whether to impose a youth or adult sentence after all the evidence regarding the circumstances of the offence and the offender were put before the court.

This bill is a good bill. We look forward to hearing the comments today and moving forward with this legislation. The bill was before the House in the previous parliament and it is now time to get on with it. Canadians are demanding it and we should respond to their demands.

Division No. 36Government Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the member believe that this government would pass legislation that goes against the interests of young Canadians? Can she assure the House right now that she has read Bill C-7 in its entirety before making the remarks we just heard?

Division No. 36Government Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Canadian Alliance Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville.

I am pleased to rise today to speak to the legislation. If the people out in the real world were listening earlier today, they would have noticed that time allocation has been forced on the House in regard to Bill C-7, a matter which is a foremost problem faced by myself, as a member of parliament, as it is I am sure for many other members in the House, since coming here in 1993. We are talking about the Young Offenders Act.

Let us just take a look at this. For well over seven years the government has been working on or promising to introduce new legislation with regard to the Young Offenders Act. For over seven years it has worked on this problem and this is the best it could come up with. It has come up with a piece of legislation that absolutely does not address many areas of concern that out there in the public when it comes to young offenders.

Not only our party but other parties in the House were involved in committee hearings that went on across Canada. We listened to different people and had witnesses come in with regard to this piece of legislation, yet the government has just about totally ignored most of these recommendations.

A government's first and foremost responsibility be to any country and to any of its citizens has to be safety and well-being. That should be the foremost responsibility of any government. This piece of legislation does not come anywhere close to addressing that. We have a habit in this country of saying that children and our young people are precious gifts, which they are. They are also our responsibility, not only in regard to their safety and well-being but their spiritual, physical and mental well-being. That is our duty, as elected representatives, to them, to parents and to the rest of our citizens: to try to protect.

When we have pieces of legislation such as this that are supposed to address the problems in our country facing young people today and when we go out and speak in schools, I listen to the young people in the schools and they tell me that the Young Offenders Act is a joke, a laugh. These are young people who themselves are concerned about going to school, concerned about gang violence, concerned about losing their own personal property through theft or concerned about intimidation by their peers, by other young people. When we ask them about the penalties that can be imposed, they look at what has happened in our court system and start to laugh.

There is nothing out there to deter these young people—and there are a few of them but not a majority of them—out there committing these types of crimes. They look upon our judicial system and how we handle them as a joke and, when we go through it all, it is a joke.

Since the Young Offenders Act was incorporated, the violent acts of crime by youth have increased 100%. That statistic alone should tell the government that there is something wrong with the legislation it has been introducing in this regard.

When we hear people saying that the young offenders legislation should start taking in people from the age of 10 and up, we should be listening to them. Instead, we turn away from them. The government has been told this by every party in the House except the Bloc, and even its own members agreed to this in committee, and yet in this piece of legislation it has refused to address this.

I am not saying that all crimes committed by young offenders should be treated in that strict a manner. When we look at diversion or extrajudicial measures, which have been brought up, we see that they have been quite successful. For those who do not know what that is, it is merely a program whereby the accused young offender admits guilt and agrees to be dealt with in an informal manner through some form of community based committee. The committee may be made up of citizens of the community, if the accused and perhaps the victim are so inclined. The committee will talk over the case. The accused gets to acknowledge the damage and decides how best to show remorse and so on. Community service may be decided on. An apology may be written. The offender may either pay the victim for the damages or work off the damages by assisting the victim in some other manner. By successfully completing the program, the accused avoids a criminal record, which is good, and hopefully the community is satisfied with having been involved and with seeing how and why certain decisions were made.

This is all good, but the legislation was supposed to be for first time non-violent offenders. Yet this piece of legislation is not limited to first time non-violent offenders. That is why it is open to abuse. There has to be concern about that. There are some positive steps in the legislation, but it is extremely unfortunate that for the small steps it has taken forward there are still large loopholes left. Therefore we in our party cannot support it.

Liberal members come to us and ask us why we cannot support it, telling us to look at the good in it, but when we look at it, it is like asking us to pay the full price for a loaf of bread that is three-quarters rotten in order to get four good slices. It is unacceptable.

Yet when amendments come forward from other parties in the House they are totally disregarded. Instead of standing here and debating it, when a person can stand and talk for 20 minutes or a half hour and really get into the root causes, we are told there is time allocation on it. Our real concerns are not addressed. We do not have time for proper debate.

Let us take a look at clause 2 regarding definitions. A non-violent offence means an offence that does not cause or create a substantial risk of causing bodily harm. Non-violence would appear to include: drug offences such as trafficking; theft, including car theft; break and enter; perhaps even sexual touching; possession of child pornography; and fraud, just to name a few.

This is a very important definition because for these types of offences offenders will likely avoid custody. In fact it is also presumed that extrajudicial measures are sufficient and they will not even gain a criminal record.

We have to wonder what is going on here. Presumptive offences include only five offences: first degree murder, second degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, and aggravated assault. That includes serious violent offences for which an adult can be sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years, if at the time of the offence committed by the young person there have been at least two previous judicial proceedings where the judge has made a judicial determination that offences were serious violent offences.

When we look at that we realize that the list does not include violent crimes in which a firearm has been used or sexual assault with a firearm or even a knife. These can be quite traumatic to the victim, yet they are not included. Why?

We leave these pieces of legislation open to interpretation and we all know what happens when we allow the courts to start interpreting what we are supposed to be doing here. We run into a bigger mess than we already have.

Although there are some good parts to the legislation, much more has to be done before it would be a viable piece of legislation.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 12:10 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved

That in relation to Bill C-7, An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration of the second reading stage of the bill and, fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the allotted day of the second reading consideration of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the second reading stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

March 22nd, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to make the weekly business statement and to indicate to the House that I intend to do my utmost to have order paper questions answered as rapidly as possible.

This afternoon we will resume debate on Bill C-12 respecting compensation for judges. We will then continue with Bill C-18, the equalization bill, which we started this morning. That will be followed, if there is time, with Bill C-17 respecting the innovation foundation.

On Friday we will consider report stage of Bill C-4 respecting the sustainable development foundation, and any time left will be used on second reading of Bill C-7, the youth justice bill.

In an effort to complete consideration of the youth justice bill, we will continue discussing that bill on Monday next.

Next Tuesday we will commence report stage of Bill C-8 respecting the financial institutions legislation. Should that be completed, we would then continue with Bill C-22, the income tax amendment. As previously announced and as adopted by the House, in the evening there will be a special take note debate on the summit of the Americas.

Next Wednesday, March 28, we will debate Bill C-2, the employment insurance amendments, at report stage and hopefully have third reading on next Thursday, March 29.

That is the agenda of the House for next week.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2001 / 4 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion, which reads:

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

Obviously I am able to support that motion because there already exists such a national registry. It is called the Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC. I want to make it perfectly clear that while I am able to support the motion, I certainly do not support some of the premises and some of the arguments we have been hearing from the official opposition in the course of today's debate.

If we would listen to the official opposition, we would believe that the government has been sitting on its hands and doing absolutely nothing as far as protection of society is concerned.

Madam Speaker, I know that as a former Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice you are fully aware of many of the initiatives the government has undertaken over the last few years.

I would like to mention just a few of them. There is the national screening system that was put in place in 1994 and allows an agency serving children to request a local police criminal background check through CPIC on anybody wanting to be involved with that agency. In 1999 the solicitor general announced an additional $115 million to renew and enhance CPIC.

The Liberal government has taken a number of steps to protect our children and other targets of sex offenders. For instance, in 1997 the Liberal government passed a number of tough measures dealing with high risk offenders, including sex offenders, to strengthen the sentencing and correctional regime. These include a new long term offender designation which permits supervision of up to 10 years following release from prison. There is also a strengthening of the dangerous offender provision which requires judges to impose indeterminate sentences on all dangerous offenders. There are also new measures in judicial restraining provisions for certain individuals.

There is also the national flagging system. In the year 2000, Bill C-7 was passed, which ensures that even the records of pardoned sex offenders are available through the screening process. Colleagues have made also reference to the DNA identification act, whereby DNA profiles are preserved in a convicted offenders index.

These are all measures that have been put in place by the government to ensure the protection of society, and in particular, children and people who might be susceptible to sex offenders.

I will take the rest of my time to concentrate on what it is that we are doing here today and what the gist of the motion is. Today is a supply day, commonly known as an opposition day, when the opposition gets to choose the topic for debate and put a motion forward for consideration by the House.

Unfortunately, inasmuch as the whole issue of sex offenders is a very serious subject, we are once again seeing partisan politics coming from the opposition party. We hear those party members complain about the way things function around here and about how the government does not listen to their concerns, et cetera. When they have an opportunity to bring forward serious subjects in a serious fashion, we get tricked up opposition day motions. They employ a little device whereby, in this case, they amend the date on the motion, which prevents the government from bringing forward meaningful amendments to the motion so that we can deal with the very serious issues that this whole topic engenders.

There are a lot of things we could be discussing. There are a lot of implications in the subject matter we have here, but with the limited motion designed to entrap the government members so that they would be embarrassed by the vote, it is that trick question where a person is held culpable whether he or she says yes or no. This is the type of tactic that has been employed here. That is why I personally have no compulsion in supporting the motion on the basis that the registry already exists, because I think that is more or less in the spirit of the motion that has been presented.

It also gets us to the point that the opposition would have Canadians believe that crime is out of control in our streets and that we need these draconian measures that have been suggested from time to time in order to increase penalties and in order to protect society. That is the spirit I do not want to be seen to be contributing to and supporting through my support for this motion.

We have a perfect example of this, and that was the Sharpe decision on possession of child pornography, where the opposition, in an opposition day motion, brought a motion to invoke the notwithstanding clause to overturn the B.C. court's decision. Obviously the government was not prepared to invoke the notwithstanding clause to overturn a trial court decision or even the British Columbia Court of Appeal decision when we had recourse to the Supreme Court of Canada, so the government voted against that opposition day motion.

Lo and behold, in the most recent campaign in November 2000 it became an issue when the Alliance candidate in my riding said that the member of parliament for Simcoe North obviously supported child pornography because he voted against an opposition day motion, refusing to invoke the notwithstanding clause to overturn the Sharpe decision. By the way, the Alliance candidate was only parroting what his leader was saying on that same motion in the middle of the campaign. To that I attribute the increase in my plurality from 45% to 51%.

The constituents of Simcoe North know their member. They know that he does not condone child pornography, but that these arguments go too far. When one is dealing with extremists who take their arguments too far, this is a big help in opposing them.

The House should also know that polls were released this week showing that 54% of the Canadians questioned think that more funding is needed for crime prevention programs. What we do not need are measures such as those proposed by the opposition, which keeps calling for tougher sentences because they think that is what the public wants, even though all the experts say the opposite.

However, I think the Canadian public has passed the opposition on this issue. The Canadian public in that poll this week is way ahead of the opposition and knows full well that crime prevention and measures that lead toward rehabilitation are the best ways to protect Canadian society. The best way is not necessarily to bring in more draconian measures.

In conclusion, I just want to confirm that since the CPIC system already exists, which is in conformity with the motion, I will be able to support the motion, but I do want to make it very clear that I certainly do not support the spirit behind the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, if I may, I will make a final point with respect to the DNA registry which was created in the last parliament.

Canadians need to know that in the last parliament there was a DNA registry created. DNA can be obtained by two methods. One is under section 487.05, which has an ex parte application. Canadians need to know that when an ex parte application is made by a police officer to a judge or by a crown attorney to a judge, he or she has to be satisfied that it is in the best interests of the administration of justice to issue a warrant.

Then it goes to a schedule of offences for which a warrant can be issued for a DNA analysis. They include a number of the offences that members opposite are most interested in with respect to their motion, namely: section 151, sexual interference; section 152, sexual touching; section 272, sexual assault with a weapon, et cetera. There is an ability on the part of the police and the crown to get evidence of a DNA nature available to them in order for them to be able to compare their crime scene index with the analysis.

In the last parliament we also passed a bill which is in some respects quite radical and to my knowledge has not been tested before the courts at this point but likely will be, and that is the ability on the part of the crown to obtain DNA from people who are convicted and not necessarily make the linkage between one crime scene index and another. This would apply to people under section 487.055, before the coming into force. Before the coming into force of this section, one may make an ex parte application for someone who has committed a murder, more than one murder at different times, or who before the coming into force of this subsection is convicted of more than one sexual offence within the meaning of subsection 487.05(3).

These are the kinds of applications that members opposite are most interested in. They give the police a tremendous tool to compare what they have on their crime scene index with a convicted pedophile. They can compare those two and in fact link individuals in prison with DNA analysis.

In summary, the past parliament passed Bill C-7, which tags pedophiles for pardon applications. Bill C-753 is a long term offender designation so that people who are convicted of these kinds of crimes can be required to report for up to 10 years after they have served their sentences. There is also the DNA section.

I am quite supportive of the motion and if it means that the registry needs to be expanded or the computer system needs to be upgraded, I cannot see how I would mount any argument against the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2001 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is somewhat of a strange day when the opposition motion is such that government members all agree with it. There does not seem to be much argument as to whether there should be a so-called registry of offences. The question is whether there should be a separate registry of offences.

Members opposite think that in some measure the creation of a separate registry will protect people and children from dangerous pedophiles. The people in Canada listening need to know there is a registry of offenders. If an hon. member is convicted of a criminal code offence it goes into a police registry system. It is called the Canadian Police Information System, or CPIC as it has been referred to. It is a fairly simple system and yet a lot of detailed information goes into it.

For example, if an hon. member is convicted of an assault, that information appears along with all relevant information pertaining to his or her blood type, fingerprints, last known address, age and height, et cetera. It is a fairly elaborate system. When a police officer or any of his colleagues across the country punch the name into the computer they have access to that information. The information on the computer shows what the individual has been convicted of. It also includes sexual offences.

I am a little hard pressed to know how the opposition motion assists the concerns of Canadians that there will be somehow more information if we have a separate registry system. If the argument were rephrased in terms of making more information available in the CPIC system, it would get even more support from members on this side of the House.

To set up an additional registry system that would in theory require a police officer to look at the CPIC system and then to check an additional system does not make a great deal of sense on the face of it. If the argument in the motion is that the systems should be merged and that information generated in the CPIC system should disclose not only criminal information but also information regarding sexual issues, I think all members could support that.

Unfortunately there does not seem to be a great deal of consensus among attorneys general across the country on the efficacy of a separate system. From the standpoint of this side of the House there does not seem to be any great reason for a separate system if attorneys general across the country had consensus that the necessary modifications to the CPIC system could be set up.

Members need to know that information can be forwarded to CPIC automatically if a police officer gets information on a new address of a convicted pedophile. That is process rather than a legislated information update. Rather than forcing it, it is simply good police practice.

In Ontario there is a strange situation where a sexual assault registry has been proposed. I am hard pressed to understand how it works. If people are convicted of a sexual assault of some kind they generally do not go to police stations after the completion of their sentences to tell the police where they are living. To have an additional sanction of a $25,000 fine seems like a response to an issue, but I respectfully submit it is more of an appearance of a response to an issue rather than a meaningful response to an issue.

Police officers are generally at the forefront of soliciting information pertaining to people who are convicted of sexual offences. When they come in contact with an individual they can certainly update the CPIC information so that all police officers across the country know of it.

Canadians should also know Bill C-7 was passed in the last parliament which closed an anomaly in the pardon system. Prior to the passage of Bill C-7 a convicted individual who had completed his or her sentence for a sexual matter could have the record sealed and ask for a pardon.

Parliament was persuaded this was a loophole and addressed it, so that if an individual applies to teach school or participate with children in a Boy Scout's activity or something of that nature, a criminal record check is now done. Even if the record is sealed the individual is tagged. A little flag comes up on the CPIC system saying that the individual has been convicted of some sexual matter. Then the organization receives the information. That is significant to people who are concerned about known pedophiles in individual communities.

Canadians also need to know about subsection 753(1) of the criminal code which is generally known as the dangerous offenders legislation. It is an extensive section that was passed to address this issue, if not by the last parliament, the one before. Any crown attorney dealing with matters pertaining to sentencing can make an application concerning a dangerous offender.

It would be instructive to read into the record that section of the criminal code. People should know that a crown attorney can make an application at any time after a conviction. Once the sentences of individuals are completed their names can be tagged. They can be required to report to probation officers and to provide updates on their addresses.

The criminal code says that the court may find an offender to be a long term offender if it is satisfied that there is a substantial risk that the offender will reoffend, that there is a reasonable possibility of eventual control of the risk in the community. It then gives a list of sections where this application may be made: section 151, sexual interference; section 152, invitation to sexual touching; section 153, sexual exploitation; and section 271, sexual assault. It lists all the sections that concern Canadians the most about this issue.

The crown can make that application and can say that it has reason to believe that an individual will reoffend. That is consistent with the testimony that we heard on the justice committee, which was that people who are convicted of these kinds of offences do reoffend. Pedophiles do not get over whatever it is that affects them and creates the behaviour that they participate in.

If the crown can make the case and if an offender has been shown to have a repetitive behaviour of a particular pattern, then the crown can order that at the end of the individual's sentence, whether it is a five year jail sentence or whatever, the individual would have a period of up to 10 years of community contact with the probation services. That is a pretty effective way in which the community can be advised of the presence of the individual in the community and can then take whatever preventative measures are necessary.

There are two fairly significant initiatives in parliament's recent past that address the concerns of Canadians in a substantive way. The first has to do with tagging people who are making applications for pardons. The second has to do with the creation of dangerous offender legislation. This is a pretty substantive intrusion into people's civil liberties.

I appreciate that members opposite have mixed views on the rights of the accused. They argue that there are rights for the accused but they want to know where the rights are for the victims. Members should bear in mind that all Canadians have exactly the same rights. We are intruding in, on this schedule offences, on the notion that an individual has served his or her sentence and time to society.

To give an example, if I assault an individual and I serve my sentence, at the end of five years I will not be categorized as a dangerous long term offender. However, if I sexually assault an individual and it is found to be a repetitive behaviour on my part, I can be, in effect, on parole for up to 10 years after I have served my sentence. That is a pretty significant change in the thinking. I would support that change because the people for whom the legislation concerns are people who simply do not get over whatever it is that they have.

Canadians need to know that when the opposition members raise the issue of a separate sexual offence registry, it is in the context of these two fairly significant initiatives on the part of previous parliaments, namely, the pardon issue and the dangerous offender issue. Those are two very significant issues.

Would we have a better system if we created a separate sexual offence registry? I submit that is a dubious proposition at best. We may have some rather bizarre anomalies where an individual may show up in the one registry as having been convicted of a sexual offence of some kind, but the other registry would have all the material pertaining to the fact that the person had been charged and convicted with attempted murder or a variety of assaults, et cetera. It seems somewhat strange that we should be arguing about whether we should have two registries or one registry.

If the argument is simply that the current system be updated, I do not think that is difficult. If the argument is that the current system is inadequate in some respect, again I do not think that is difficult. We are into arguments about technicalities. If the argument is about whether the police communicates properly with their communities or whether there are dangerous offenders released into the community, I think we can talk about that.

The hon. member for Etobicoke North made a rather significant point, that at some time all offenders end up back on the street. At one point or another every convicted criminal ends up back on the street somehow or other. We could say that we will lock these people away forever. That does not work, so the question is: Can we stage it?

If we create with these kinds of debates an hostile atmosphere toward the release of these individuals back into the community, we have the ironical issue of creating the very conditions we wish to resolve. It is a bit strange. If we are not careful about what we are saying we are in fact creating conditions which will make hostile the release of any individual into the community. Therefore we marginalize the individual and the more we marginalize the individual we have the ironical impact of the individual repeating his or her behaviour. In effect, in some bizarre fashion we create more difficulties than intended. A bit of Murphy's law applies here.

Those are the issues of significance to Canadians. Canadians legitimately are concerned that there are people in their communities they should know about. I believe, with the greatest respect to colleagues opposite, that we are not debating whether the information is not available. The question is whether the information should be formatted within the greater CPIC system or whether it should be formatted in a separate registry altogether.

This is not merely a criminal justice issue. It is as much a social justice issue as anything. All criminal behaviour occurs in a social context. I hope that members concerned about amending the criminal code regarding dangerous pedophiles would also be supportive of initiatives on the part of Correctional Service Canada and of provincial governments that in fact create conditions which prevent that behaviour. My concern is that if we hit from the left and hit from the right we see these initiatives not merely in the context of criminal justice but in the context of social justice.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2001 / 1 p.m.
See context

Etobicoke North Ontario

Liberal

Roy Cullen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to re-enter the debate. The members opposite talk about the wording of their own motion. I will read the motion to the House: “that the government establish a national sex offender registry”. It says nothing about a new national sex offender registry. We are not trying to be pedantic, but I think the members opposite should read their own motion.

That is part of the difficulty. The emotions have been running pretty high. This is a very serious issue. However, when the Alliance brings forward a motion like this and the members of parliament on this side look at what the government has done, it is confusing. The members on the other side are saying that what we have does not work and yet the information they have shared with other members does not seem to make that point very well.

As I said earlier, last year in my riding of Etobicoke North we had a sexual predator who was convicted. His name was actually quite high profile and got into all the media. Mr. Peter Robert Whitmore had been convicted and had served a full term of five years in a federal penitentiary. He was then released, but with a set of conditions. I would like to read some of the conditions to the House, because they were quite exhaustive. The one he did not adhere to caused him to be arrested again. He was moved out of the Etobicoke North area into downtown Toronto, breached one of the conditions and on the basis of that was put back in jail.

There was a list of 11 conditions for his release from federal penitentiary after serving five years. First, he was not to be in the presence of children under the age of 14 unless accompanied by an adult who had previously been approved by the Toronto Police Service. Second, he was not to attend any public park or public swimming pool where persons under 14 years of age were present or could reasonably be expected to be present. Third, he was not to attend any day care centre, school ground, playground, community centre or arcade where persons under 14 years of age were present or could reasonably be expected to be present. Fourth, he was not to enter into any romantic relationship, cohabitation, marriage or common law relationship with a person who was the parent or guardian of a child under the age of 14 years until that person had been identified to the Toronto Police Service and there had been an opportunity provided to inform that person of his criminal behaviours involving children. Fifth, he was required to report once a week to the Toronto police at specified times. Sixth, he was to notify the Toronto Police Service of his current address and any change within 24 hours. Seventh, he was to notify the Toronto Police Service of any employment or change of employment within 24 hours. Eighth, he had to make himself available for random visits by the Toronto Police Service between the hours of 8 a.m. and 11 p.m. at his place of residence. Ninth, he was to notify the Toronto Police Service at least 24 hours prior to leaving the jurisdiction of the city, et cetera.

Peter Robert Whitmore served his full five years. There was a lot of rhetoric at a town hall meeting in my riding with some people saying that the reason he was back in the community was because of liberal attitudes and the soft attitudes of the Liberals. I will tell the House that he served his full five years in a federal penitentiary, he was released with 11 conditions, and one of the conditions was broken and he was put back in jail.

I find it disturbing when members opposite cite the pamphlet “Canada's National Screening System” and say that it is the only way in which the government has responded. In fact, the national screening system is one of a variety of responses and measures introduced by the government to deal with criminals and sex offenders. I would like to remind the House of some of these, because I think that Canadians watching this debate could be very confused, as they often could be because we often do not really deal with the facts.

The most important tool in our bag is CPIC, the Canadian Police Information Centre. This centre has a criminal history database that provides access to criminal information for law enforcement agencies across Canada. The government has just put another $115 million into the system to upgrade it and make sure it is fully functional and operating smoothly.

In my riding of Etobicoke North I have not had division 23 policemen tell me that what they really need is a sex offender registry. We have had a lot of crime in Etobicoke North. We have had nine murders or thereabouts in the last year or so. That is why we had the chief of police, Mr. Fantino, out to the riding at a big town hall meeting. Basically the chief said that the whole community has to be engaged and involved. Yes, tougher enforcement could be implemented, and yes, the police could change their routines and techniques, but we as citizens all have to work together, not just the different orders of government. The federal government obviously has a role to play in terms of criminal law and many other aspects. There are the provincial government, the provincial court system and the police, all with a role to play. However, individual citizens also have to take some responsibility for their own behaviour.

At churches, gudwaras, mosques or schools in my riding of Etobicoke North, I take the opportunity to tell people that this is where the rubber hits the road. Yes, we can ask for tougher laws and say the federal and provincial governments are not doing this or that, but if we do not start taking individual responsibility for our own behaviour and actions, we are missing the boat.

I mentioned CPIC, but the government has also lengthened sentences for dangerous and long term offenders. Perhaps the opposition has forgotten that. The government has tightened the rules for early parole. The government has passed one of the toughest child pornography laws in the world. Maybe that has escaped opposition members. The government has cracked down on child prostitution and stalking. We in the government also have implemented the very famous and very effective national screening system. Let me remind the House that this system empowers volunteer, community and service groups to screen persons seeking positions of trust with children and other vulnerable people. To date, over 700,000 screenings have been conducted using the CPIC system.

The government has done other things. It has partnered with Volunteer Canada to promote screening and to train users. The government has passed Bill C-7 to make pardon records accessible for screening purposes by flagging the records of pardoned sexual offenders on the CPIC system. The government has put in place extra protection to allow police more control of high risk offenders even after they have completed their sentences. The government also recently created a national DNA databank, a critical investigative tool that has already resulted in successful matches.

If the opposition party really wants a thoughtful debate on these opposition days, perhaps it should elaborate more on its motions so members could understand them. We are saying we already have this and the opposition is saying we do not.

Maybe members opposite have much more contact with the police than I do. I have a lot of contact with my police and, as I say, they have not been banging on my door saying that we need this registry. They have been banging on my door saying that we need to get the community mobilized, that we need everybody to take individual responsibility. Certainly there are things that different orders of government can do, along with the techniques the police use.

I think we should try to bring this debate back to some level of decorum and rationality. It is a very emotional issue. A pedophile was released into the community a block away from where I live. The community responded. I think there were over 1,000 people at a town hall meeting. What happened? The pedophile was moved to downtown Toronto and then breached one of the conditions and was reincarcerated.

It is a very serious issue. I certainly will be supporting the motion, but I am not exactly sure what the motion proposes that we do not already have. If the opposition parties have some information they could share with the House about why what we have does not work, I am sure members would like to listen.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Scarborough East. I hope we can refocus our debate on the issue. We are dealing with an extremely important issue and I know that we all have very strong feelings about it.

I am pleased to participate in the debate brought about by the motion put forward by the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford. I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate how the government has risen to the challenge of protecting victims and potential victims of sex offenders.

In the past eight years the Solicitor General of Canada and the Minister of Justice have taken a number of initiatives, each of which contributes significantly to public safety. In short, as other speakers will mention, the government has already taken action to prevent the victimization of children.

The motion put forward by the hon. member for Langley—Abbotsford basically endorses the efforts undertaken on this side of the House and ultimately has my support and I would assume my government's support.

These efforts began immediately after the change in government following the 1993 federal election. In 1994 the Minister of Justice and the Solicitor General of Canada responded to the needs expressed by child centred organizations and groups representing victims by introducing the national screening system.

I was part of one of those groups that lobbied the government as a result of the horrible murder of little Christopher. I was very pleased to see the government listening to and responding to it. I wear a button today that I have kept for many years since meeting the Stephensons. Together with thousands of other Canadians I have worked on lobbying the government and pressing forward for these changes to happen.

Today, as in 1994, the RCMP's Canadian Police Information Centre, CPIC, already provides a national registry of all criminal convictions. It is not limited just to sexual offences. Employers and volunteer groups providing services to children can screen all potential employees by requiring them to obtain a CPIC check through the local police. Any individual who has a criminal record, no matter what, can be screened out by the agency.

To assist local agencies with the process, which in the beginning they found expensive to carry out, the government has also supported Volunteer Canada in providing a national education and training campaign for volunteer agencies to promote effective screening approaches for the protection of children and other vulnerable groups.

This database was enhanced by government action and these enhancements did not stand alone and unused. The announcement was followed by programs to promote awareness of its existence and the necessary initiatives to educate the appropriate individuals in the use of the database.

These efforts have enhanced the ability of child caring agencies to obtain the criminal records of those seeking positions of trust. Great efforts have been made by government officials and their counterparts in the private and voluntary sectors to educate those who are involved in the selection of employees and volunteers to work with the most vulnerable members of Canadian society.

For the most part, I have been referring to children as the potential victims of sex offenders. I am sure that the minds of most members take a similar direction when they hear of sexual exploitation of victims.

Children are not alone when it comes to victimization. I recognize that the institutionalized, the mentally challenged, the physically disabled and the elderly may also be particularly susceptible to victimization through the sexual misconduct of those who prey on the most vulnerable.

Canadians from all walks of life in various circumstances who until victimized participate in the daily life in their communities, oblivious to the predations of a small number of offenders who do not think that the rules and the mores of society apply to them. Nonetheless it is for our children that we reserve our highest level of concern. I am sure all hon. members will recognize that the positive actions of the government on their behalf contribute to the safety of all Canadians.

The most recent reform to strengthen our defences against sex offenders came into effect on August 1, 2000. In the spring of 1999 the solicitor general introduced legislative proposals to ensure that even the records of sex offenders who have been pardoned would be available for screening purposes. This addition to the CPIC arsenal of information focused on the attention of police forces conducting criminal investigations of those offenders previously convicted of offences of particular interest to those who might otherwise engage them in positions of trust involving children.

Even a successful application for a pardon is no longer a shield against the discovery of relevant offences by a records check. The legislation was Bill C-7 and its provisions came into effect on August 1, 2000. Such government initiatives are not undertaken on a whim or without the recognition that other jurisdictions also have an interest in protecting Canadians.

Bill C-7 was born of the recommendations of a federal-provincial-territorial working group. It was supported by all jurisdictions in Canada as represented by federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for criminal justice. These officials heartily recommended and endorsed Bill C-7.

Through this forum the government has studied and discussed the question of a sex offender registry on more than one occasion and conducted extensive consultations. As requested by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers, senior officials have prepared a report entitled “Information systems on sex offenders against children and other vulnerable groups”.

At their meeting in Regina on October 29, 1998, the FPT ministers accepted the 10 recommendations contained in the report and agreed to its public release. Since then FPT officials have met several times to review progress regarding the implementation of these recommendations.

At any rate, the recommendations in the FPT report became the foundation for the Criminal Records Act amendments of Bill C-7 that came into force in August 2000. These will provide genuine enhancement of the protection of children and other vulnerable sectors.

With the exception of the governments of Ontario and British Columbia, officials from all jurisdictions supported the amending legislation. We can conclude from the support that the majority equally rejected the notion of a sex offender registry, be it national or local, at that time.

Therefore the thrust of the current proposal for a national registry is largely addressed through the current practice of the government. The current national screening process announced by the solicitor general in November 1994 was done after careful study. The study was conducted by the departments of the solicitor general, health and justice. It included extensive consultations across the country. It involved victims, police and child serving organizations. There was a general consensus that a registry system would be expensive, difficult to administer and not very useful. It would also give the public a false sense of security rather than enhance public safety.

We have a national registry of all criminal convictions which is provided through the RCMP CPIC database. There is broad agreement that the federal government has produced meaningful initiatives to protect all Canadians. In addition there is a degree of consensus that a national sex offender registry is not the answer to the problems identified by the hon. member.

The government is always open to suggestions that may promise positive reform. It is open to changes in policy that come from time to time when provincial elections are held or senior officials are given different positions within the machinery of government. This is a government that is open to constant review of its legislation to strengthen it in order to protect all Canadians.

At the recent meeting of the FPT ministers of justice, the Saskatchewan justice minister, with the support of his colleagues from Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, favoured another review that would revisit options regarding the protection of children against sex offenders, including a national sex offender registry. The ministers agreed that officials would again study these options and related issues.

The government will never be satisfied that all possible measures have been taken to protect the vulnerable from sex offenders. As long as there are victims there will be the willingness to move toward a safer society. The federal door is not closed to suggestions, and motions such as the one before us today provide a welcome occasion to review positive action of the recent past as well as possibilities for the future.

Perhaps the motion will lead to reinforced protection for young and vulnerable Canadians as well as for any other individuals who might fall prey to the recidivism of a sex offender. We should not deny these proposals a chance to contribute to the ongoing improvements stemming from the government's public safety agenda.

SupplyGovernment Orders

March 13th, 2001 / 10:50 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me great honour to stand in the House to discuss the national registry for convicted sex offenders. It makes a valuable contribution to protecting the most vulnerable members of our society from the most dangerous offenders who would sexually abuse and exploit them. No one in the House or Canadians across our great country condone that kind of action.

I am sure all members of the House would agree that we want the best system possible to protect our communities from high risk offenders and to enhance public protection, especially for our children.

The primary goal of our national registry of convicted sex offenders is to prevent individuals from having the opportunity to perpetrate these horrendous crimes while remaining unidentified and undetected. To contribute to this most vital effort of prevention and protection, the government is committed to giving police better tools to help fight crime. We are fulfilling our commitments.

For this reason, the federal government can assure all Canadians that the Canadian Police Information Centre, or CPIC as the national registry for all convicted sex offenders, is the appropriate tool to achieve the goal of enhancing public safety through the timely and well directed sharing of relevant information.

As all hon. members in the House are aware, we in Canada are currently protected by a criminal justice system that actively encourages and participates in extensive information sharing. Furthermore, through co-operation and consultation with all partners and stakeholders, we are looking at ways to build on the framework now in place. Our ultimate goal is to find ways to maximize the contribution that our criminal justice system makes to public safety and security.

With the primary goal of achieving excellence in protecting the Canadian public, the government has attempted to implement more effective practices and to correct any inadequacies. This means the focus now is on maintaining and improving the lines of communication between and among the police, the courts and the correctional and conditional release authorities.

As many members are aware, the Department of the Solicitor General has been leading a federally integrated justice information initiative. The goal of that initiative is to create a trans-Canada highway of criminal justice information to improve the sharing of offender and crime related information among all partners in Canada's criminal justice system.

The system is called the Canadian public safety information network, and it is a top priority of the government. A crucial improvement will be in the ability to share information more widely and in a more timely manner among police, prosecutors, courts, corrections and parole officials. The backbone of the initiative is a funding contribution of $115 million to the RCMP to renew CPIC to which the solicitor general just referred.

However, because these tools are so critical for law enforcement agencies, it is necessary to embark upon important endeavours, such as the Canadian public safety information network, with foresight and planning. That is something that we as a government are doing. They need to be developed in close co-operation with partners in the system.

In addition to the well-directed efforts and initiatives previously mentioned, the federal government, in consultation with the voluntary and child care sectors and with police and provincial representatives, has chosen a range of other effective measures targeted to protect children from sex abusers.

First, we have put in place a national screening system based on CPIC that allows child caring organizations and individuals to access the criminal records of persons assuming positions of trust with children and other vulnerable groups.

Second, we have passed legislation to give police access to pardon records for screening purposes through Bill C-7, which was passed in the House last spring.

Third, we continue to work in partnership with Volunteer Canada to conduct training and public education about screening practices and to promote screening with voluntary and public sector agencies.

In addition to that, we have adopted strict measures for the most serious offenders, such as the dangerous and long term offender designations. In addition, we provide support for post-sentence programs, such as circles of support.

We also work closely with local police to support public notification schemes about sex offenders. We have put in place special protections to restrict the movement and conduct of sex offenders after their release.

Finally, we have created new offences to protect children and other vulnerable groups.

All of this underscores the commitment of the solicitor general and the Government of Canada to ensuring the protection, safety and security of our children, especially as related to these horrific cases.

These are tangible examples of how seriously the government takes public safety. However, our work is not done. We need to continue to make good on additional work. We have made a good start with CPIC as a national registry of convicted sex offenders. We have already complied with the hon. member's motion, which is why I, for example, have no hesitation in offering my support.

The point is, as the solicitor general outlined in his speech, we will continue to ensure we have the absolute best possible tools necessary and available to protect all Canadians, especially our young people. The values of Canada and of the government are to ensure safety and security for our children and to ensure we have in place the kind of system necessary to ensure that ours is a good and decent society. That is precisely what we on the government side want, that is what the solicitor general wants and, more to the point, that is what all Canadians want.

I repeat that I have no hesitation in supporting this motion. It is something that we are already doing and will continue to do in the best interests of all Canadians.

Corrections And Conditional Release ActPrivate Members' Business

March 12th, 2001 / 11:25 a.m.
See context

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, chastise, punish, stigmatize: this would summarize the Alliance philosophy, one from which the hon. member for Surrey North has not deviated with his introduction of this bill. It is intended as an extension of the repressive and punitive approach that is characteristic of the Canadian Alliance. The same approach has been used in connection with the newest young offenders bill, Bill C-7, which that party does not feel is harsh enough.

Outside of its propensity for the rod, the Canadian Alliance has nothing particularly tangible to propose. Its concept of justice is way out of date, hearkening back to the days when the law was enforced by threats and terror.

Studies have proven that extreme measures have never constituted a remedy, so why does the Alliance persist in promoting this outmoded model of justice? That party is limited by its short term vision, which offers no concrete solutions.

The bill of the hon. member for Surrey North represents an excessively punitive addition to the parole application process for inmates eligible for this program.

The bill proposes the addition of two paragraphs to section 123 of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act—