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

February 1st, 2002 / 2:05 p.m.
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Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I wish to advise the House that an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Order 78(1) or Standing Order 78(2) with respect to the stage of consideration of Senate amendments to Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3) I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose, at the next sitting of the House, a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

January 31st, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, with the ring of the bill so to speak, we transition from Bill C-7 to Bill S-7. Since seven is one of my favourite numbers, I guess I am fortunate to be able to speak today.

The bill produces a bit of a conundrum to us as individuals. We are aware of the fact that private members' business is always subject to free votes so my job in the next few minutes will be to persuade the majority of the members of the House to consider carefully their reaction to the bill.

As I understand it, the purpose of the bill, as originated by the Senate, is simply to allow the CRTC to provide reimbursement of expenses for people who intervene in a hearing before the commission. It is an interesting and defendable bill in the sense that it would equalize what is already in place in some instances.

As most members know, and I imagine many of the public knows, the CRTC is charged in Canada with regulating and managing both broadcasting functions and telecommunication functions. These are two rather diverse functions and involve everything from radio and television broadcasting, cable, satellites, cell phones and other telecommunication devices.

From time to time applications are made and rulings are contemplated by the commission. At that stage it is advantageous in our democratic process to have people come forward and present their arguments either in favour of the changes or against the changes or perhaps to bring forward proposed amendments.

In most instances this involves preparation. Sometimes it involves technical work. In all cases it involves some form of communication and meeting with the commission. There would be travel, hotel, food and other expenses involved in the actual presentation plus on occasion considerable costs incurred by experts helping to prepare the presentation. Sometimes it involves a little more in terms of getting the required technical information.

The bill before us is a very short bill. It states that the Broadcasting Act would be amended so that:

The Commission may award interim or final costs of and incidental to proceedings before it and may fix the amount of the costs or direct that the amount be taxed.

In other words, it can investigate to make sure that the costs submitted are fair before they are paid.

The second part of the bill states that:

The Commission may order by whom and to whom any costs are to be paid and by whom they are to be taxed, and may establish a scale for the taxation of costs.

There is also a clause included about establishing the criteria for the awarding of costs.That pretty well finishes the bill.

The bill was derived in the Senate. Some members in this place say that anything coming from the Senate should not be considered. I happen to disagree with that to a certain degree. The Senate is comprised of a number of members who work hard and consider things that are important for this country. They are honourable people and I do not think we should automatically discount them.

However it is regretful that the Prime Minister feels that only he has the capability of choosing them. It would be much better if Canadian citizens could send their representatives to the Senate. If that were the case, they would automatically receive a higher degree of esteem and respect because of the fact that they would be accountable to the people who elected them. Right now they seem to be accountable to only the Prime Minister.

This gives me my present dilemma. We have a Senate that is appointed, the majority by far by the Prime Minister. We have Liberals members here who will undoubtedly be encouraged to vote in favour of the bill, even though it is a private member's bill and normally would not be what we call a whipped vote. That congers of course all sorts of pictures, a bunch of people going ahead and being whipped by their whip to do as they are told and to go where they are told. I do not know whether that is the original meaning of that word, but it certainly means that there is a choice taken away.

I would encourage members to consider what they will do here. I know after this reading it will go again to the committee. Hopefully, there could be a delay from the time the committee gets the bill until it brings it back to the House. Only two things can happen. Either the bill should be passed or it should be defeated.

As I see it, there is no great objection to this. I believe our democratic process would be served by the passing of the bill. It is already true that for hearings that come to the CRTC, based on telecommunications issues, that costs are assessable, but not for broadcasting issues. For broadcasting issues, probably more individuals are directly involved and they would benefit from the ability to make a presentation to the commission. Democracy would be served by passing the bill.

Yet the dilemma that we face is that if we pass it and if the government gets it into its head to zing it through, then we have a situation which puts things out of order.

In my previous life, among other things, I taught programming. One thing I taught my students was that the order in which certain things were done was of critical importance. The order is wrong here because currently a committee of the House is studying the mandate of the CRTC. For us in the House to pass the bill prior to the completion of that study of that mandate would be inappropriate. We are doing things in the wrong order. It is like backing the tractor up to the trailer, then driving away and wondering why it is not following. We forgot to hook it up. This is the same type of situation. We could be running away ahead of the actual mandate of the CRTC as it turns out in effect after this study.

We know there are huge changes in our society right now. The Internet has greatly affected it. What is the role of the CRTC with respect to the Internet which is a huge issue in Canada and around the world? Those issues should be determined before we give the CRTC this privilege.

In essence and in principle, I have no great problem with this. However I would recommend members defeat the bill right now so that we do not get things out of order.

Barring that, I would appeal to members, especially those who serve on the committee, to ensure that their work is done in a timely, orderly fashion and that they delay the reporting of the bill back to the House until such time as the CRTC study has been completed.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 5:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Clavet, right. I had forgotten his name. There was Mr. Clavet, and there were some actors who came to explain to youth why organized crime was not a solution.

I could have spoken for hours, but we are well aware that young people are interested in media, the cinema, for instance.

Some 300 young people were there. It was my responsibility, as a member of parliament, to explain to them why organized crime is not the way to go, that they should stay away from it.

This was in April last year. Maybe some got sentenced, and maybe some committed an offence. But is it not better to say that our society should rely on rehabilitation? Rehabilitation does not mean the young offender should not take responsibility.

If a 14 or 15 year old was charged with breaking and entering and stealing $300, for example, would the social consequences be the same if he had to go through a court of justice and the adult system, ending up with a criminal record and a prison sentence? This is not hypothetical.

The main issue with Bill C-7 is that, in specific situations, some 14, 15 or 16 year olds will end up in the adult court system. In adult courts, sentences are adult sentences. And these youngsters will end up in prison with adults. This is cause for concern.

In the House, our concerns have not be shared by many members. It could be said, perhaps, that the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm has a one track mind, that he is stubborn or that he has a kind of obsession. But this is not the case. The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm is not that kind of guy. Those who got to know him well enough find he is a rather nice chap.

The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm is not alone in this fight. If I were to give the list of all the groups, besides his own caucus, who have supported him, members would realize that he has had a great deal of support.

Here are a few names: the Commission des services juridiques, the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse. The Conseil permanent de la jeunesse is a public organization created during the International Youth Year, in 1985, if I am not mistaken. I myself was a member of the Comité national des jeunes. For that matter, I already had a working relationship with the hon. member for Jonquière. As members will know, Mr. René Lévesque did not believe very much in having youth organizations inside the Parti Quebecois, and it is Marcel Léger who in fact convinced him of the necessity of having real youth organizations inside the party.

Now, all political parties, Liberals, Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance alike, have youth organizations. Believe it or not, in 1984-85, I was part of the Comité national des jeunes. This committee was maintained under all governments, by Robert Bourassa as well as Daniel Johnson. It was a non-partisan group. Its members represent all segments of society.

There are children whose parents are workers, scholars, professionals, people engaged in non professional studies. It is a non-partisan organization. The Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, which is an authorized youth representative, gave its support to the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm in his fight.

There is also the Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec, which is now called the CSQ. These professionals work with young people every day and they are well acquainted with the issue of juvenile delinquency.

The list is quite long. There are about 30 organizations representing thousands and thousands of young people throughout Quebec. In short, the best thing the government could do for the House—and I implore the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, the hon. member for Chicoutimi, the hon. member for the area of Valleyfield and the hon. member for Saint-Lambert to lobby their own government—is withdraw the bill and go back to square one.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member for Surrey North has spoken on this issue many times in the House along with other members. He has personal experience dealing with the Young Offenders Act.

I cannot give any data at the moment about the trend in criminal behaviour of young offenders. The Bloc Quebecois wants Bill C-7 to be squashed; we do not go that route. We believe that our youth are the future of the country. The youth criminal justice system has to be dealt with in a scientific, logical and analytical manner. We cannot punish people to the extent that we do not reform or rehabilitate them. It is a combination of so many things.

We need a youth criminal justice system in the country that will restore some deterrents for youth who commit any crime, rather than motivate them with a slap on the wrist when they do commit a crime.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member for Surrey Centre, but I would have liked to know his position on the amendment moved by the Bloc Québécois with respect to the Senate amendment.

The amendment moved by the Bloc reads as follows:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-7, An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, be not now read a second time and concurred in, since it does not in any way take into consideration the distinct character of Quebec and the Quebec model for implementation of the Young Offenders Act”.

Quebec relies on the Young Offenders Act to apply an individualized treatment approach based on the characteristics, family situation and needs of the youth. This act also takes into consideration the background of the youth, for example whether he has been subjected to physical or sexual abuse.

I would have liked to know my colleague's opinion on Quebec's approach. I hope he is aware of that approach, because it has been acknowledged and supported unanimously by those who work in the field of justice. Furthermore, the National Assembly unanimously passed a resolution opposing Bill C-7. Through this bill, Canada is saying to youth that coercion is what is needed to bring young offenders back onto the right track and that, therefore, 14 year olds will be incarcerated with adults.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair for his clear understanding of the problem and his position on the way Quebec deals with its young offenders. It is refreshing to see today that it is not only the people of Quebec who are unanimous in saying that Quebec treats its young offenders in an exceptional way.

I would like to ask the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair if he has gone to speak with the new Minister of Justice—who does not believe what Quebecers tell him—and to explain to him how things are done in Quebec and what exceptional expertise Quebec possesses in getting young offenders back into the community.

What they are trying to do with this bill is serious business. They are trying to coerce young people. Consideration must be given, as it is in Quebec, to the young people's backgrounds, the kind of community they have grown up in and how this has disadvantaged them and led them to carry out reprehensible acts.

With this new bill we have before us, Bill C-7, all of that expertise is being shunted aside, and coercion will be the rule of the day.

I would like to ask the hon. member for Windsor—St. Clair to go and talk to the Minister of Justice for Canada. Drawing on all the past experience he has brought with him to this House, he told us before oral question period just how important it would be for the Quebec model to be extended to all of Canada.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

January 31st, 2002 / 3:50 p.m.
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Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this is my first reply to the customary Thursday question about House business. I want to thank all the House leaders and deputy House leaders of the other parties for the manner in which they have received this newcomer into their fraternity of House leaders. I look forward to a constructive relationship.

This afternoon we will continue with Bill C-7, the youth justice bill. If this is completed we will proceed to report stage of Bill C-30 respecting courts administration.

Tomorrow we will debate second reading of Bill C-48, the copyright legislation.

Monday we will continue with unfinished business and Tuesday will be an allotted day. Next Wednesday, we hope to be able to start the debate on second reading of the budget legislation.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 1:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am stunned by the comment of the hon. member for Ancaster—Dundas--Flamborough—Aldershot when he says that Quebec is not a distinct society. They adopted a resolution in the House. They recognized Quebec's distinct character. When I say distinct society, this is a minimum. We are more than that, we are a nation. It goes much further than that.

The hon. member should at least have recognized that his government adopted a resolution in this House explaining that Quebec is a distinct society.

Why not respect Quebecers, not just Bloc Québécois members, but also members of his own party who are Quebecers and who hear him say that he trusts the standing committee on justice? That committee heard evidence and Quebecers were unanimous in saying that they want to have the right to opt out of Bill C-7.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 1:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should think about the astronomical amounts that will have to be spent on a bill like Bill C-7. We are talking several hundreds of millions, perhaps even a billion dollars, just to implement Bill C-7.

What could we have done with all that money to help our young people?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 1:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, these individuals do not seem to understand that I need not address every specific thing in the bill. I need not address every specific thing anyone else wants in the House on a subamendment or an amendment.

I came here to address three things that are important to me on the whole issue: the fact that race is being put into the criminal code where it ought not to be; the fact that the House of Commons is not operating right; and the fact that this affects Bill C-7 and every other bill. Another thing I am trying to address is that one day the House of Commons will have to operate right.

We can speak about anything we want in the bills. I am not sure what the Bloc members are getting at but the other thing they must understand as much as anyone else here is that all opinions put forward by all members in the House of Commons should go toward impacting some kind of decision. If we all spoke to the same thing within any bill we would only need one speaker. In representing my area I speak to the issues that concern my area, not the issues that concern the Bloc or anyone else for that matter.

I reiterate what I said. Race based legislation, regardless of any amendments to any part of any bill, does not fit in the House of Commons whether in public works legislation, finance legislation, the criminal code or any other code. It is wrong. It is trying to address the fact that the government is not--

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I heard the answer given by my Canadian Alliance colleague to my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville, who asked him a relevant question without raising the point of order that was called for.

Being an experienced parliamentarian, the Canadian Alliance member, who at one time was his party's House leader, and as such is one of the members who know the standing orders best, he should have referred to the amendment to an amendment put forward today. I also listened to him answering the Liberal member.

As a member of a party looking to reform parliamentary customs, what he is saying is “It is not really necessary to answer the questions put to us. In the end, we will not change anything. The Liberal Party will do as it pleases”. What a fine example. Really, what a bad one.

I would like to give him another chance. I am taking for granted he took his responsibilities seriously and read Bill C-7. What does he think of the amendment to an amendment put forward today? I am seeking his opinion on that and nothing else.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

It is the quality people. I could call for quorum but I will not.

I want to get my point across, even to the minister. The minister is trying to do a pretty decent job. If the aboriginal program is failing for any reason and if there are more aboriginal youth having problems for any reason, the minister should try to fix that, but the government should not try to make an excuse for it, because those youths have committed crimes and we would give them less of a consequence than anyone else. That is no consequence at all. In fact it is making matters worse.

If I may, I would like to go back for just a minute to what I really believe about the House of Commons. I thought when I came here from British Columbia that I could actually sit down and negotiate with a majority government, with anyone on the other side, and try to make common sense of things, but it is such a partisan place that I do not believe it is possible.

In regard to some of the issues brought up here, particularly the national sex offender registry, the issue I mentioned, I want to say that it is something that all the provinces need. They need it so badly that Ontario had to undertake it on its own. I have heard the solicitor general say in the House that there is not much compliance in this thing, so why would we build a national sex offender registry? In fact, the first provincial registry set up in the country is Ontario's and it has 90% compliance. Of the 10% who are incompliant, that is, offenders not reporting, many have left the province. They have left the province because there is such a restriction as far as compliance and reporting is concerned. There are laws in place. How this hurts Ontario is that other provinces do not have registries, so sex offenders who want to reoffend and do not want to report just go to another province.

What we need is a national guideline, a national sex offender registry that has mandated reporting and mandated penalties if offenders do not report. It is not a difficult thing to do. In fact Ontario indicated that it would give the software to anyone who wants it, including the federal government.

Putting the legislation in place would take nothing. I have done it myself. It is sitting here as a private member's bill, but it will not see the light of day because there is no will on the other side. What we are stuck with here is a government that does not want to implement a national sex offender registry, maybe because it was not the government's idea. That may be it. Everybody else seems to want it, including its own members. All it would take is to have a bill like that, make it law and take the software from Ontario. We would then have a much better system of promptly finding young people when they are missing, but I guess that will not happen. I guess that when the government stands up and says “yes, we're all for it and we'll do it by January 30”, it does not mean a damn thing, quite frankly.

To get back to the youth justice act, Bill C-7, I guess that all the speaking we do in the House does not really mean a lot either, because the government will do what it wants. It will neglect our concerns. It will not even use its own committee to put this in place because it lost it on the committee, thanks to the opposition. It will go to the Senate and the Senate will bring it over to the House, where it will pass, much to the objections of the Alliance, the Bloc and the other opposition.

All of us in our country have a lesson to learn. Majority governments do not work if we have a specific interest that is not the government's, because it will just tell us to take a hike, stick it in our ear, and it will damn well do what it wants to do.