Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate.
Today, we tried a new procedure. The government decided to limit debate on this most important bill. The new procedure consisted in giving us half an hour to ask questions of the minister.
I do not know if the minister had been informed of this new procedure and if he was aware of its meaning, but I must admit that he did not quite measure up to what I expected from a justice minister trying to enlighten the House and to answer what seemed to be legitimate questions from our various colleagues.
The minister said something that is indeed true when he said that the bill was not before the House, that we were considering a Senate amendment. However, my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm moved an amendment to the motion. That amendment would allow us not to proceed with second reading of the Senate amendment and would give the minister more time to look into the issue.
The minister comes from a department where everything was secret. Therefore he is not quite used to the kind of transparency that is required in the justice department. He should take the time to sit down and read all the evidence.
As for our side, several members rose and asked the minister to tell us how many individuals or groups from Quebec supported the bill during the hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice.
If the minister had cared at all about informing the House, he would immediately have replied that no individual or group from Quebec came to support Bill C-7. We heard voices behind him—I imagine that, thanks to the two fine persons who are sitting in the middle and taking notes, tomorrow we will know what these voices were saying—say that it was false, that there was no consensus in Quebec. In a way, there is not unanimity, but I would say that there is a consensus in the real sense of the term. When one masters the French language, one knows what it means.
There is a consensus. There is not unanimity. Of course, there are 36 Liberal members of parliament who support the bill and who are therefore opposed to the Quebec consensus. They are the only individuals whom we heard speak out against this bill.
All the Quebec stakeholders, from the least important ones to the most important ones, all the way up to the chief justice of the youth court, are opposed to this legislation. The hon. Justice Michel Jasmin came to testify before the Standing Committee on Justice. One can read his evidence and see the position of Quebec's youth court. He is opposed to the bill.
The minister is acting in bad faith, there is no other word for it. The former Minister of Justice was totally out of touch with reality. She did not know Quebec. She did not know what is going on in Quebec. She did not want to know what is going on in Quebec and she shifted the file over to her colleague. It was the same thing with her predecessor, who was from Ontario: he could not care less either.
In his replies, the minister said something to which I want to go back. He referred to 160 amendments. To claim that the government met the needs of the public by moving 160 amendments is pure demagoguery.
When the bill was first introduced, it was so flawed, so badly drafted that there was not a single legal expert in the country who could understand and accept it.
The minister herself modified her very own bill with 160 amendments but did not take into consideration the demands of Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec or western Canada. All she did was to redraft her bill into more understandable language, but without responding to anyone's needs. The purpose of the 160 amendments was to patch up a bad job done by the legal experts, a result of either too much haste or poor instructions from a minister, a member from the Toronto area, who has since been appointed to health.
When we hear what a good bill this is because of the 160 amendments, I call this nothing but demagoguery. There is no improvement whatsoever to the bill. It has not met any needs whatsoever.
Quebec called for a single amendment: for the minister to add a 161th amendment indicating that Quebec could opt out of Bill C-7 and continue to apply the Young Offenders Act. The minister did not want to hear of any such thing, nor does her successor.
Now we have a Senate amendment relating to aboriginal offenders. This is odd; once again, 160 amendments and still not able to satisfy the aboriginal people. I do not know who it was in the Senate who suddenly felt guilty enough, or whatever it was, to introduce this amendment. Without a doubt, the Senate did not want to go down in history as having blindly rubber stamped Bill C-7, because of all the challenges, so it found this little change to make, doing something for aboriginal offenders.
If all Canadians are treated equally, if what the Minister of Justice said is true, with the bill containing some flexibility and each case being dealt with on an individual basis, then the Senate amendment is totally pointless.
I would go so far as to say that Rosario Pinette, who spoke on behalf of the chief of the first nations at a press conference in Quebec City last week, has said they were opposed to the amendment, that they do not want the amendment that came from the Senate. They were not even consulted, and having a special amendment just for them is discriminatory. They were already included in the bill and do not want anything to do with this amendment.
The government was wrong when it claimed the bill was adjusted and designed to meet all of the needs, because it said it would add this 161st amendment.
The Bloc Quebecois was opposed to the 160 amendments from the outset. I would like to make it very clear here in the House that we will not support the 161st amendment, which is unjustified, unjustifiable, useless and which aboriginal peoples do not want.
Not surprisingly, we will be supporting our own amendment, which asks that this bill be put on hold so that we can have some time to study it properly and see how we could meet the needs of the provinces. I truly do not understand this government's stubbornness, that it cannot stop for two minutes to try and learn what needs to be done to have some harmony in Canada.
Everyone has been on edge since the violence that erupted on September 11. If the government continues to turn a blind eye, people will get tired of it. I think that in Quebec, people will begin to realize that there is no point in believing the Liberals election after election, both at the provincial and federal levels.
The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs told us that he was looking forward to working with a Liberal premier who would understand Canada, who was for Canada. Obviously he is looking forward to it. They sent Mr. Charest to Quebec City on a mission, the great saviour of Canada. They sent him there to save Canada. He is going to sell out Quebec in order to save Canada, just like all of the ministers from Quebec.
I challenge all the francophone ministers from Quebec to run in ridings that are 100% francophone, like ours, to see if they can get elected. There are limits to how much they can mock us, pretending that there is no consensus in Quebec. There is consensus. We do not want Bill C-7.
Even if it were just for this bill, and we did not have any other reason to leave Canada, this would be an excellent reason for us to be able to create our own legislation in our own country to protect our young people and teenagers.
I will make a point to remind Quebecers, every day if I need to, that they have to be on their toes. In 2000 they were lulled by all the fine promises saying “We will reform the Employment Insurance Act”, but there was no reform. Acadians and Quebecers, among others, were had. I presume some also believed the Liberals in the rest of Canada but not many, seeing as though this government represents only 38% of the wishes of the population.
I have in my hand a text that I find absolutely extraordinary. It appeared in Le Devoir on Tuesday June 19, 2001. It is fairly recent. It deals with young offenders. The text was written by a young man named Richard Tremblay. I was impressed. I do not believe we are related, but he is a member of the Canada Research Chair on childhood development and teaches at the University of Montreal. Moreover, he is a member of the juvenile delinquency task force of the National Science Academy of the United States. It is interesting to see—they made a study at the National Science Academy—that the academy finally gave an opinion on the subject. Mr. Tremblay writes:
Canada and the United States are quite different as regards homicide rates involving young people.
We have to be very careful when quoting statistics. In certain parts of Canada people are more used to a north-south approach than to an east-west one. We have a tendency to use statistics from the United States thinking that it reflects Canadian society. We must be very careful. Situations and crime statistics are quite different in Canada. He goes on to say:
For reasons that are difficult to clearly identify, “the young offender problem” has always seemed worse in the United States than in Canada. When it comes to homicides committed by young people, the gap between the two countries has grown wider between the mid-eighties and the early nineties. During that period, the United States experienced a very high increase in violent acts by young people, particularly homicides. It was even suggested that a new type of juvenile predator was born. Numerous states in the U.S. reacted quickly by passing laws imposing stiffer penalties on minors. In most cases, these laws authorize or order the transfer of minors to the adult system at an earlier age.
When I reread this and think about the bill proposed by the Liberal government of this country, I tell myself that it closely relates to the report of the U.S. national science academy and that, in this area as in many others, we are becoming increasingly americanized. We are increasingly losing our sovereignty and our specificity, and we refuse to see ourselves as being different and to propose different measures for different situations.
We are copying the Americans more and more. This could be very serious for the future of Canada.
I will quote something that was said a long time ago in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt when he was asking the U.S. congress to create a court for minors in the federal district of Columbia. He used the following arguments:
No civilized Christian community can afford to be unconcerned about the young people of today because to do so would cost it very dearly in the future, through an increase in its financial burden and the deterioration of society.
So said Roosevelt in 1904 and in 1990 the district of Columbia had one of the highest homicide rates in the United States.
If we follow in the steps of the Americans on this issue, if we take a punitive rather than a rehabilitative approach, if we send young people to prison rather than keep them under supervision in more educational and rehabilitative settings, if we send 14- and 15-year-olds to adult court, to adult prisons, we will find ourselves in the same situation as the District of Columbia, with more and more young people committing more and more acts of violence.
There is no doubt about the research findings. There is no doubt about the evolution of societies or about the statistics. A focus on prevention and rehabilitation will produce positive results. A coercive approach will produce the opposite.
The article talks about legislation:
As for the legislation concerning crimes committed by minors, the American group of experts presented the following conclusions:
Tension has always existed between two reactions to juvenile delinquency: focusing on the needs of the young offender, or punishing him, making it impossible for him to harm, and protecting society.
What we have done in Quebec for 30 years, with real success, is to focus on the needs of young people. We even have a judge who, one day, sentenced a young person to be packed up and taken off to the minister's home because there were no longer any vacancies in the centres for him. Admittedly, this was felt to be a bit of an extreme reaction but one picture is worth a thousand words and people began to take a serious look at the problem saying that something had to be done.
Consequently, we must have time to rethink this bill and eliminate everything that could lead us to more violence and less rehabilitation or at least add a clause an amendment that would allow us to opt out of the application of this bill.
The minister was saying in the Senate that it was possible to continue, even afterward, to do what we were doing before. Since clause 199 of the bill repeals the Young Offenders Act, I do not see how, with the act repealed, we could continue to apply it afterwards. I do not have a law degree but it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that, if an act is repealed it cannot be applied and we must therefore apply the new one.
Here is another conclusion:
During the last decade, American legislation and practices concerning youth crime became more punitive and now tend to break down the barrier between adult and minor treatment in the justice system.
This is exactly what we are doing. Again, we are copying the Americans. I am beginning to understand why Canada tried so hard to have Quebec stay in Canada. What makes Canada different is Quebec. Canada tried to keep us; I understand, because it does not know what sovereignty is. Every day, this government is giving up a little bit of sovereignty; it is copying the Americans, even when they should not be copied.
I find that the 20 minutes that were allowed to me went by very quickly. I would still have many things to say.