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

January 31st, 2002 / 12:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is a time and place for government to do those things. I would like to speak to Bill C-7. There are a couple of areas I want to address. First is the bewilderment of most people in Canada as to why the government would put through the Senate to the government an amendment to a bill which gives special consideration to aboriginal youth within the youth justice system.

The place to address the issue of aboriginal youth is with the minister of aboriginal affairs. It is not through the criminal code. Basically the government is saying that it realizes it has failed in how it handles aboriginal affairs and aboriginal youth and therefore it will address it in the criminal code by saying that any crimes committed by aboriginal youth shall be given special consideration.

This is not the way to deal with that issue. Like every other Canadian I think we listen to this stuff which comes from members on the other side and wonder what makes them think that the answer lies in amending the criminal code. If anything, why do they not amend the laws of the country which affect aboriginal people? Better yet, why do they not just fix the problems rather than trying to address them after crimes are committed? I think that is really sad.

Another issue I want to raise is what happens when government members vote for a bill in the House. What do they really do about it? Is it true that they will fix everything that they have put before the people of Canada? Is it true that they will even act on it?

I want to give an example by talking for a few minutes about the issue of the national sex offender registry. That brings home to me what is wrong with the institution of the House of Commons and what is wrong with the government. It tabled Bill C-7 for young offenders. There is no doubt in my mind that it will not deliver on this stuff. Time and time again I see in the House of Commons where it says yes to something but just does not deliver.

At some point last May all opposition parties agreed to a motion in the House for the government to deal with the national sex offender registry issue and develop one by January 30, 2002. That was yesterday. As it turned out the solicitor general and all the Liberals agreed with it. It was unanimous in the House. Approximately 304 members of the House of Commons said yes, by January 30, 2002, we would have a national sex offender registry.

Yesterday I stood in the House and asked where it was, where was the software that is required. That is not a big deal as I will go through in a moment. More important, where is the legislation that mandates that sex offenders shall report certain information and there shall be a penalty if they do not report it?

The solicitor general stood in the House and said that they were working on this thing called CPIC, a police information system which does not do the job. Every police organization in the country says that it will not do the job.

Yet he government says that it does not matter what it promised, what it said or when it said it would do it. It just did not do it and the rest of the people out there can just darn well live with it.

One of the serious problems people have with government today is that it says one thing and does another. It can even come into the Chamber and commit to doing something via a motion, a mandate of the House of Commons, and turn around on the day it is supposed to be delivered and tell everyone to stick it in their ear. That is what it did.

When I leave the House of Commons I think I will look back at this place as one bitter disappointment. We have a government that basically says it will do something and just says that it has decided that it will not do it and to heck with all the victims out there. It just does not care.

I do not know how anybody in the House can get enthusiastic about coming in here and expecting the government to do anything other than what it wants.

Getting back to the Young Offenders Act, the government today calls it something else but everybody else calls it the Young Offenders Act. It is now called the youth criminal justice act. The government changed the darned name on it but did not change a whole bunch of other things that people are looking for. The age for young offenders has stayed the same. There is a litany of things that have stayed the same, yet the government says it is different, calls it a different name and says “By the way, we are really going to enhance this whole issue of youth justice by allowing special circumstances if someone is an aboriginal”.

If an aboriginal commits a crime, the same identical crime as anybody else, that aboriginal is treated differently. How does that go down with the victim? How does that go down with the many victims I have spent time with in court and other places? How does that go down with a person who has been raped?

If I am raped by someone other than an aboriginal, that person might get a stiffer penalty but by gosh if I am raped by an aboriginal youth, there will be a special dispensation. I have never in my life heard anything so bizarre as that kind of thinking. We could not convince one person outside of the House of Commons that this is a necessity. There are all kinds of areas, opportunities and alternatives for judges these days to make allowances. In all the presentations they hear and in all the court proceedings, they can make allowances. They can make allowances in sentencing. On and on it goes. Why on earth does the government say in this case, going through the change in the youth justice act, “if you are an aboriginal youth we have to treat you differently”? That is the biggest insult to a victim I have ever heard in my life. Nobody that I am aware of has really asked for this, other than in the patronizing of aboriginal peoples that goes on in the other side.

It is well known that the bulk of the crimes against aboriginals comes from aboriginal peoples themselves, so what does this say about an aboriginal victim of a young offender? It says to aboriginal victims that they will likely be treated differently from any other victim who is not aboriginal.

I cannot imagine sitting down with any aboriginal victim in my community and saying “you are less, you are considered less because the person who attacked you is aboriginal”. I am certain that not all people on the other side here in the Liberal Party believe that this is the right thing to do. I have not talked to anyone anywhere who agrees with this concept.

One has to ask why a government would start putting race issues in our criminal code or in any of the forms of legislation we have today. The criminal code is supposed to be unbiased. It is supposed to be objective. It is supposed to treat all people as equal under the law, but what it is doing now, thanks to the government, is creating an inequality of peoples under the law.

There are people out there listening to me who vote for the Liberals, and they are saying “They are such a great group, they will fix it”. They will not fix it. The Liberals do not have any plans to fix this sort of thing. By the way, this would not go through the House of Commons justice committee so the Liberals dropped it from the justice committee. They could not get it through. Then they flipped it on over to their buddies in the Senate. The Senate said “yes, we will fix you up”. Talk about another House that is supposed to be objective and unbiased: the Liberals ship it over there to their majority buddies and it comes back to the House under a Senate amendment.

We should just think about what happens in our country. This is scary. What will happen if the Liberal government gets re-elected again? It will be the Liberals' fourth term. It will be four terms in which they appoint all their buddies to the Senate. By the end of the fourth term the Senate will be down to something like 10 or 12 opposition people in the Conservative Party, which is barely a party today. There is only one Canadian Alliance senator in the Senate.

So what the country will have, in effect, will be Liberal upper and lower Houses. If the Liberals cannot get something through the House of Commons, they flip it over to their buddies who rubber stamp it. It comes back here and nobody has a snowball's chance of doing anything about it. That is a very serious flaw in our democracy.

What do we do about it? Everybody says there will be an election and we have to work harder and the opposition has to get its act together, but I think it is more than that. I think that those who represent the Liberal Party have to understand that race based legislation is leading us nowhere. I shudder to think about one of my family being injured, molested or murdered by an aboriginal youth. We should just think about me, my mother and my wife being in a courtroom because something has happened to our son or daughter and an aboriginal youth did it and the judge says “Well, because you are aboriginal you certainly do not get the same penalty you would if you were someone else”. I could not bear the consequences of that in a courtroom. My family could never understand that, nor could any other victim in our country, nor could anybody else, even if they are not victims.

What do we do with a drug trafficker of serious drugs? What do we do in a big heroin bust? Believe me, there are a lot of youths doing that. I talked to a youth not that long ago about this very issue. He was doing community time for selling cocaine, just community time. I told this youth that I had some connections with the school board and maybe I could help him finish school and ultimately get a good job. He laughed at me. He said “Why would I do that? I'm pushing cocaine. I can get twenty grand a month. I drive a nice car”. He is 14 years old and says “I have a lawyer on retainer. Why would I do that”? This guy is doing some time, but an aboriginal youth trafficking in heroin, killing our kids and our adults, will not be given as much of a sentence as the other guy. That is absurd. It is unheard of in any country in the world.

The minister is here. I would love to have the minister stand up and provide with me some insight into why the government would do this. It is nice to see the minister here because there are damn few other people here.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I could speak at length on this issue. When talking about our young people, about a sense of humanity and even about an international convention on the rights of the child, we must look first at what is in the best interests of the child.

It is not only in the Divorce Act that we must look at what is in the best interests of the child, but in every aspect of our lives. In dealing with young offenders who are just starting out in life, this sense of humanity that I mentioned should be an important factor.

I am out of time, but I hope my remarks have helped our fellow citizens to gain a better understanding of Bill C-7.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 12:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciated the speech made by my colleague, the member for Châteauguay, who sits on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and who is a lawyer, just like me. I appreciated what he insisted upon in his response to my colleague from Lévis-et-Chute-de-la-Chaudière.

I would like him to elaborate on that and to tell us more on the human aspect of the issue. We are talking about a piece of legislation. My colleague from Châteauguay is a man of law, but we are talking about human beings, about young people who are starting their life on the wrong foot and, therefore, need help.

I would like my colleague to tell me how the approach currently taken by Quebec allows this kind of rehabilitation, as opposed to what is being proposed to us in Bill C-7.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 12:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will begin by answering the hon. member's third question, since I find it is one of the most important matters we have had to address this week.

It is incredible to hear the Minister of Justice, after a scant two weeks in office, a minister from Quebec, telling Quebec “We are going to listen to the stakeholders”. More serious still, he takes the liberty of saying, a scant two weeks after his appointment, that there are others with more expertise in this matter than the Quebecers with their 30 year involvement in rehabilitation and social integration of young offenders. He gets up in the House to send a message to our stakeholders, “I will be coming to see you and to explain Bill C-7, and why it will be better than the present Young Offenders Act”.

It is incredible to hear such words from a minister who was there when the resolution on the distinct character of Quebec was adopted. There is no finer example of what is going on in the House at the present time. A resolution was passed, saying “Quebec is a distinct society”. But what does this mean? This is the first opportunity they have had to show that they respect this resolution. What is going on at present with Bill C-7 and the young offenders is the finest possible example.

Quebec's youth crime rate is the lowest in Canada and one of the lowest in North America. Our system works well. The government cannot claim not to know about this. Quebec stakeholders came to testify before the standing committee on justice. They explained what they could do and even more. Indeed, even judges came and said “We can even help implement our system in the rest of Canada if they so wish, but do not change this legislation. It works”.

It is not just members of parliament who say that the system works in Quebec. There is a consensus among all the stakeholders. And these stakeholders include judges, social workers, defence attorneys and police officers. They are unanimous.

I could mention others, but I do not want to give a comprehensive list. What we are talking about here is quasi-unanimity, in fact, unanimity among stakeholders.

Personally, I have never met anyone who said to me “Change this act”. No, it works. This is why I am saying this. And the facts and the figures show it. Our crime rate is the lowest in North America. This is rather significant, this is not idle chatter. The government must recognize this fact and respect what works well and even very well in Quebec.

This is the first opportunity for us to see how we are respected and perceived in Canada, to see if Quebec's distinct society truly exists. This is a golden opportunity for the government to say yes, to respect Quebec, to respect Bloc Québécois members who are making this request, and to respect the unanimous resolution passed by the Quebec National Assembly, asking for the right to opt out of Bill C-7.

Why not allow us to opt out? It would be consistent with their resolution if they allowed Quebec to be a distinct society, because the current legislation is working fine. Of course, the situation would be quite different if we had the highest crime rate. But this is not the case. Why not let us do what we want in Quebec, in our country, with the people who set up a system that respects our young people, and their parents?

The problem lies not only in criminalizing youth, but it will affect parents.

When young people commit an offence, regardless of how minor the offence may be, if we want to prevent them from repeating it, it is not enough to simply warn them in a letter: they need to be rehabilitated immediately. It is important to find out what prompted them to act in such a manner. Psychologists and social workers can work with them to put them back on track. The results in Quebec have been excellent and could be even better. How could this be done?

Just imagine the excellent rehabilitation services that could be provided to our young offenders if we had the resources, the hundreds of millions of dollars, even a billion dollars that will be used to implement Bill C-7.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 12:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts. The debate today is on the amendment put forward by the member for Berthier—Montcalm, which 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”.

Mr. Speaker, you have made a ruling which we respect, following the point of order raised by the member. However, I wish to submit immediately that there is a fundamental problem. There really is a difference in the translation and that is what the member for Berthier—Montcalm sought to clarify. We therefore respect your ruling from a procedural point of view.

Yet there is a serious matter of substance, as this will not be interpreted in the same manner by all of those involved, by judges and lawyers. I think that this issue will cause all kinds of trouble and confusion. The government must look into this difference at once.

Furthermore, the response to the questions asked of the Minister of Justice by the Bloc Québécois this week raises a serious issue. The minister has been in this portfolio for only two weeks. Quebec's distinct character, which the House passed a resolution to support, is being denied. The minister made things even worse when, after only two weeks on the job, he told us, regarding his bill, which is of course the former Minister of Justice's bill, that he would go and explain it to stakeholders who have spent more than 30 years making sure that the Young Offenders Act works in Quebec. Quebec has expertise in this and he has the gall to tell us that after two weeks, he is able to explain to Quebec stakeholders that their consensus is a house of cards because the bill is good.

I do not know who he thinks he is, but he is trying to tell us that Quebec's distinct character is not important and that Quebec will not be allowed to opt out from the legislation and use the expertise of the people that we have trained: social workers, psychologists, judges, the police and even associations of defence lawyers and crown attorneys. I do not understand how, after two weeks, he can go to them and explain to them in what way this bill will be an improvement.

What is worse is that under this bill, any adolescent who makes a mistake will be considered a hardened criminal from then on. Why such a sudden change in the definition and implementation of the terms for dealing with youth? The Bloc Québécois wants answers to this and has yet to be given any reasonable and logical explanation. The Bloc Québécois has come out against this bill from the beginning and we are still against it today. Let me explain why.

The act that is currently in effect, namely the Young Offenders Act, gives good and concrete results, particularly in Quebec. It was demonstrated time and again that the existing act must remain in effect. That is what this government and the new Minister of Justice should really do. However, it seems that the government, the new Minister of Justice and his predecessor do not want to listen to the comments and wishes of Quebecers, and particularly the consensus among stakeholders and experts on this issue in Quebec.

We are opposed to Bill C-7 because the new youth criminal justice system adversely impacts on the current Young Offenders Act, an act which respects young people for who they are, that is young people.

And how does the Young Offenders Act respect young people? By allowing for the use of a series of individually adjusted measures based on each person's needs, by taking into consideration the fact that we are dealing with young people, and by taking into account their specificity.

The existing Young Offenders Act, not Bill C-7, achieves concrete results in terms of young offenders' rehabilitation.

The goals are achievable and are often achieved, because the sentence relates to the offender, not to the offence. The Young Offenders Act also seeks to make the offender responsible for his actions. It also allows for the treatment of psychosocial problems, as part of a rehabilitation process designed to eventually get the young offender to reintegrate into society.

Therefore, I wonder why the federal government and the new Minister of Justice insist on changing this act, which gives very good results in Quebec, through appropriate and specific implementation.

I also wonder how these goals can be considered as grounds for change. In fact, I wonder how these goals can simply be replaced without any consideration for the results that they provide. The examples in Quebec speak for themselves and the government should have taken them into account.

But now we have Bill C-7 coming along to overturn the approach that is already in place. First and foremost, it seems that the intention is to no longer consider the offender an individual, but rather a criminal. One could even conclude that there is no longer any presumption of innocence. The crime takes precedence over the individual.

According to Bill C-7, it is the criminal principle which dominates, and responsibility and reintegration are somewhat secondary. From now on, hard line intervention with young offenders will be foremost and this is unacceptable.

The criminal act will be given first consideration. There will no longer be any question of taking the specifics of the young offender into consideration, his present context, the family situation, and the personal circumstances that have led to the commission of a criminal act. Nor is there any question of taking into consideration the psychological needs of the young person in determining the sentence appropriate to his case.

It is the governments intention, with Bill C-7, to lump all young people into one category: delinquents with no potential for rehabilitation. Why should this approach be taken, when there is evidence to the contrary in Quebec, with a system that has been successful for a number of years?

The Bloc Québécois believes that our young people deserve better. We are all responsible. Why then are we abandoning them? They belong to us all. Let us take the time to help them, rather than applying a simple criminal definition to them.

I will not refer again to the figures that support the Bloc Québécois's position regarding the successful application of the Young Offenders Act in Quebec, because, as we have seen, they mean nothing to the government or the new Minister of Justice. I will remind the House though that all of the main stakeholders in Quebec have unanimously denounced this bill.

Once again, I just do not understand how the government and the new Minister of Justice can ignore the opinions and recommendations of experts and draft a bill that does not begin to take into consideration young people and their needs, despite the fact that the bill mentions these needs in its preamble.

Therefore, I question the real motives of this government and the new Minister of Justice who have developed and drafted a bill such as this on youth crime without taking into account the reality of youth today.

I fear that the repercussions of Bill C-7 will be disastrous. Rather than adjusting the modalities of the bill to the specific needs of young people, Bill C-7 seems to promote a rigid and strict framework to which young people will have to adapt automatically. It is this type of enforcement with no regard whatsoever for needs and circumstances that makes this bill worrisome.

The Young Offenders Act gives positive results and helps reduce crime among young people because it is enforced based specifically on the needs and circumstances. Its success was demonstrated in Quebec. The Young Offenders Act gives positive results.

Why not allow Quebec to opt out of Bill C-7 and keep doing a fine job with the existing Young Offenders Act?

The Bloc Québécois is opposed to Bill C-7, because this legislation promotes the systematic enforcement of the act and uses the offence, instead of the offender, to determine the applicable sentence.

I am also concerned when I read that the main focus of Bill C-7 is not the child's interest, but presumably society's interest. Thus, Bill C-7 tends to make the child guilty before the conclusion of the judicial process. This goes against international law, which provides that the best interest of the child must always come first. In fact, the Quebec government will challenge Bill C-7 as soon as it becomes law. The federal government is eliminating the status of young person to have only one status, that of adult.

The child's interest must be paramount in any sentence. This is a legally recognized principle. However, in Bill C-7, it has been set aside in favour of the principle of proportionate accountability. In short, sentences must be similar, regardless of the circumstances and needs, which are specific to each individual.

This approach will very likely cause a problem, because it requires a complete change in the procedure to be followed for all stakeholders. Furthermore, there is talk of several hundreds of millions of dollars just to implement Bill C-7, and close to a billion dollars to introduce it. Imagine all that we could do with this money if we used the Young Offenders Act the way it was meant to be used.

Now, youth justice stakeholders will have to place the emphasis on sentencing. Individuals will no longer be individuals, but sentences.

They will also have to perform small miracles if young offenders are to obtain rehabilitation that in any way meets their needs.

Under the existing legislation, stakeholders can act quickly for lesser offences. The needs of offenders are identified right from the start and the sentences are determined accordingly.

Although the new bill deals with diversion, it will also lessen the number of young people who will be sent to residential youth centres. This might become a problem, because a young person who repeatedly commits minor offences could only be given warnings, rather than any attempt being made to nip his delinquent tendencies in the bud by requiring him to be kept in a youth centre and trying to correct his delinquent behaviour.

Those in Quebec who deal every day with young offenders could tell you—and in fact a number of them did in committee—that there is a real potential for rehabilitation and social reintegration within the current legislation, the Young Offenders Act, as it is applied in Quebec.

The shortcoming in Bill C-7 lies in its inflexibility. There can be no corrective intervention except once the young offender has become fully engaged in criminal activity. So the whole thing has become reversed: the sentence takes precedence over the individual.

Another problem with Bill C-7 is that it introduces the concept of parole. In fact, Bill C-7 provides for automatic parole after two-thirds of a sentence. The Young Offenders Act requires that a young person be kept in custody throughout their sentence. There is no question of parole, unless there is evidence of genuine progress suggesting that the young person could return to the community.

It must be kept in mind that the decision to grant parole is an individualized one, and thus provides proper protection for the quality of rehabilitative interventions.

The Bloc Québécois is totally opposed to Bill C-7 because it does not give free rein to education and rehabilitation and, as the bottom line, does not make the young person assume any responsibility. Bill C-7 transforms young offenders into adults and totally forgets about what differentiates youth from adults.

What is more, with this bill the government has introduced a false notion about young people, by creating an image of the violent and unredeemable young delinquent with no hope. The government has preferred to react to a wave of panic that sees all young people as offenders.

By introducing Bill C-7, the government is seeking to allay society's fears about young people. It is, however, lulling society into a false feeling of comfort and security. I must say again: our young people are being rehabilitated, made to assume responsibility, and reintegrated into society at the present time, particularly in Quebec. Bill C-7 on the other hand is criminalizing our young people by punishing them first rather than rehabilitating them.

This is a rushed bill, and one that has not had sufficient scrutiny of its repercussions. It must also be pointed out that this bill jeopardizes something Quebec is doing well, as it attempts to set national standards but without defining their parameters.

The government has a duty to respect what yields positive results. This bill is vague, confining and repressive. Overall, Bill C-7 is against education, against reintegration, against assigning responsibility, and of course against our youth.

We have learned that it is pointless to count on the government listening. On the one hand, we were being encouraged to present our views in committee but, on the other hand, once we turned up there we were told we could question the government in the House during question period. Being shuttled back and forth like that is not getting the government to listen.

In the same vein, stakeholders from Quebec came to give testimony that the Young Offenders Act must remain in effect because it responds exactly to what young people and society, Quebec society, need if it is implemented properly and in keeping with its intent. This is not something that happened overnight. To get it operating properly has taken 30 years. Our statistics are among the lowest in North America, and the lowest in Canada. Why not use the Quebec model, instead of once again pushing aside what is being done well in Quebec?

We have noticed that the government would rather not hear what those who work with youth everyday have to say. The government and the new minister are responding to some false notion of youth in their approach to this sensitive issue, and this is disappointing.

At the risk of repeating myself, the government and the new Minister of Justice would rather abandon young people and reassure society with a false sense of security than learn from Quebec's extensive experience, which has proven itself on many occasions in this field.

The Bloc Québécois is proud our youth and we want to protect them, but more importantly, we want to listen to them and provide them with the tools they need to succeed and become proud and full-fledged citizens. This is why we oppose this bill.

We are talking about enormous sums of money that could have been used, given to Quebec and Canada to rehabilitate our youth. We had been hoping that a minister from Quebec, and not Alberta would listen to what people from Quebec had to say. Our response is the following: “If you want this bill, if you want to impose stricter sentences and send your young people to jail instead of rehabilitating them, that's your business”.

What we are asking for, and what we have been asking for is that Quebec be allowed to opt out of Bill C-7 in order to protect our young people and rehabilitate them. These are not criminals, these are not delinquents, these are young people.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 11:50 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am rising today to intervene in terms of the Senate amendments to Bill C-7 presently before the House.

In his speech yesterday, the member for Provencher said that the new youth justice legislation contained little, if anything, that would address the ineffectiveness of the Young Offenders Act. In some ways it is indeed less desirable than the old act and is more cumbersome and more administratively complex.

The problems with the Young Offenders Act have been around since the days when I was still running as a candidate for nomination to this place. Before the 1990s the Canadian public was expressing dissatisfaction with the Young Offenders Act. Young people today still express dissatisfaction with the Young Offenders Act because they tend to be the victims of most youth crimes. There is still public pressure to get this fixed and yet the government brings us little tinkerings around the edges. The Senate amendment really complicates the situation by bringing in a race based element to the whole formula.

As was also mentioned by my colleague from Provencher yesterday, the second part of the amendment requires youth court judges to pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal youth at the time of their sentencing. That is similar to subsection 718.2( e ) of the criminal code. Like my colleague, I cannot support legislation that is based on race. My colleague said that it was government sponsored racism, and I tend to agree with him.

We recently gave honours to Mr. Mandela for his work against apartheid in South Africa, and yet the government constantly introduces legislation in this place that is race based. An example that is worth mentioning is the employment equity bill that was brought in by this government in 1994. At the time that bill was brought into the House we warned this place that the race based provisions in that employment equity legislation would cause distortions and problems in the future. In fact the pigeons came home to roost.

I want to read into the record a statement I made in the House in the year 2000.

In 1995 the government passed its so-called employment equity bill which Reform MPs warned would result in employers being forced to unfairly discriminate against job applicants based entirely on their race. The chickens are coming home to roost. The Public Service Commission has admitted that it rejected a job application from one of my constituents because she was a white woman.

In addition to legislating exactly the type of discrimination it was supposed to prevent, the bill was badly flawed because compliance could only be accurately measured if minorities were willing to voluntarily self-identify. Therefore a department could be 100% composed of visible minorities but if the employees identified themselves as Canadian, the department would be registered as non-compliant and would have to hire more visible minorities.

The government should put a stop to this appalling program of state sponsored discrimination based on race yet it is continually popping up in government legislation.

There was a time when some members opposite claimed that we had racist tendencies. We have always fought against racism and have demanded that there be equality in legislation. We have the example again here where built into the amendment to Bill C-7 is special discrimination. This discrimination will not fix the underlying problems of youth crime. All it does is attempt to disguise the real problems.

I just mentioned the employment equity bill. I can give some examples of how that bill has distorted employment based on race. For example, in 2000 the Government of Canada placed some ads in newspapers across the country for job openings. A $45,900 per year job was advertised for an advisor on Canadian identity for Heritage Canada.

The advertisement was almost amusing in that it asked for an adviser on Canadian identity to be based in Montreal and was open only to persons identifying themselves as being members of a visible minority employment equity group.

Common sense makes one ask what qualifications someone identified as being a member of a visible minority employment equity group would have to make them authoritative in terms of Canadian heritage.

Another advertisement was for a regional director in the B.C. and Yukon region. Health Canada was offering from $74,300 to $87,400 for a person to manage a group of about 30 highly dedicated professional staff in the innovative delivery of the full range of branch programs and services in B.C. and Yukon. However the job was open only to applicants who were self-identified as a member of a visible minority group. This is another example of discrimination based upon race. If people did not fit a particular racial profile, they were not entitled to a government job. How is that different from anything happening in South Africa? It is government sponsored racism.

Another advertisement was for a service delivery representative. Under the heading “who can apply”, Human Resources Canada was offering a salary of $34,200 to persons who self-identified as visible minorities living or residing in the greater Vancouver regional district. The job involved handling EI applications over the telephone. The main qualification for handling EI applications over the telephone was to be able to say that one belonged to a particular racial group. This is appalling, disgusting behaviour by the government.

Another advertisement was for an income tax, excise tax auditor. It was open only to visible minority persons, aboriginal peoples and persons with disabilities working or residing in Nova Scotia and surrounding areas. This job was offering $38,900 with the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. An interesting sentence appeared in a lengthy paragraph under the heading of “who can apply”. It read

Individuals who consider themselves to be a Member of the Visible Minority Persons of Canada, Aboriginal Peoples of Canada and Persons with Disabilities are invited to apply...

The interesting words in there are “consider themselves to be”. It illustrates a folly in the employment and equity legislation because it is illegal in Canada to ask people what their race is. Everything depends upon self-identification.

I know the government and the Senate are well-intentioned in bringing forward these types of provisions where they make special rules to apply to aboriginals or visible minorities, but it is not the way to fix the problem. The way to fix the problem is to apply equal rules to everyone. There is a difference between equal outcome and equal opportunity, and that is a key difference that the government is unwilling to recognize.

While we are talking about native issues, in my riding of North Vancouver there are two native reserves, the Squamish reserve and the Burrard reserve. Over my period as a MP, I have received numerous letters and petitions, and have had meetings in my office with people from those reserves demanding and pleading that I do something about the lack of democracy on the reserves and the way that people on reserves are treated by their own unelected, unaccountable chiefs.

All the government does is perpetuate the problems on those reserve with the types of legislation that it constantly passes in this place.

I am holding in my hand an article from the North Shore News with a picture of one of the band members from North Vancouver on the front page. The headline reads “Meeting leaves Band questions unanswered, upset Squamish seek information on Band spending”. The entire article deals with another problem of racial discrimination whereby the band leaders are not required to disclose the way they spend money from the taxpayers of Canada.

The taxpayers of Canada provide the reserve in North Vancouver with at least $20 million a year, yet we have no accountability for that spending either to the taxpayers of Canada or even to the band members themselves.

As long as we continue to pass in this place legislation which provides special rules based on race, there will be no equality and that is wrong. We must vote against the Senate amendment, if only for the reason that it provides special rules based on race.

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

January 31st, 2002 / 11:45 a.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

I am ready to rule on the point of order raised yesterday by the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm seeking clarification about an alleged discrepancy between the English and the French versions of the Senate amendment to Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Specifically, the hon. member argued that the phrase “doivent faire l'objet d'un examen” in the French version was stronger than the phrase “should be considered” in the English version.

The hon. member raises a most interesting linguistic point, however it is not a point that the Chair is empowered to decide.

I verified the text of the amendment in both languages, as it appears in the Senate message printed in our Journals and I am satisfied that it is accurate. This is as far as the Chair’s responsibility goes in these matters.

I refer the hon. members to page 674 of Marleau and Montpetit:

It is not for the Speaker of the House of Commons to rule as to the procedural regularity of proceedings in the Senate and the amendments it makes to bills.

I thank the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm for raising his concern.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys.

Last fall the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act, at third reading stage. The bill has now been returned from the other place with an amendment which must now be considered by the House. The amendment came from the Liberals in the other place and the government is supporting it. I will oppose this amendment for reasons I will go into in a moment.

If memory serves me right, a similar amendment was proposed by the government at the justice committee during deliberations on Bill C-3, which of course died on the order paper at the last election call. Interestingly though, it was not in the bill when it was reintroduced as Bill C-7 but now it shows up from the other place.

This amendment would in part change the purpose and the principles of sentencing, requiring that “all available sanctions other than custody that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all young persons”. I take little issue with this. Of course we should consider all reasonable options before resorting to incarceration for many offences, especially minor first offences.

The second part of the amendment requires youth court judges to pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal youth at the time of sentencing, similar to section 718.2(e) of the criminal code, which we opposed in the 35th parliament for similar reasons.

Personally, I do not believe that race has any place in criminal law sentencing provisions, be it adult or young offender. A sentencing judge is already required to consider “any other aggravating and mitigating circumstances related to the young person”. These would normally include factors such as family and social circumstances, background and special needs, among other things.

Further to that, the bill's declaration of principles says in part:

--measures taken against young persons who commit offences should...be meaningful for the individual young person given his or her needs and level of development and, where appropriate, involve the parents, the extended family, the community and social or other agencies in the young person's rehabilitation and reintegration, and...respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences and respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements--

These requirements are already sufficient for a sentencing judge to give consideration to any young person. The operative word here is any. There is no reason whatsoever to bring a person's race into play. I believe that the injection of race specific wording in the criminal law is dangerous. Criminal law should be blind to race.

I think we have all heard comments about the aboriginal community being over-represented in our jails. I acknowledge that, but I do not for a moment believe they were incarcerated for being aboriginal. They are there because they have been convicted of committing a criminal offence. If, as it is sometimes argued, it is shown that bias against aboriginal offenders exists in the courts or in the system in general, then that is wrong and by all means it must be rectified.

Also I do suspect that in many cases incarceration is the only option available to the court due to the lack of resources and support mechanisms in the community. I think we all agree that those issues must be addressed and remedied. Equally as, if not more important, the substandard social and living conditions experienced by many aboriginals both on and off reserve must be rectified. That being said, I do not believe that the criminal law is the appropriate place to address those issues.

I have heard the point made that children coming to Canada from parts of the world where war, civil strife and violence are commonplace may be more predisposed to antisocial or criminal behaviour as teenagers or adults than are children born and raised in Canada. However at no time have I ever heard anyone suggest that those people representative of parts of Southeast Asia, the Balkans, or parts of Africa, to mention but a few, be singled out by race in the criminal code for special consideration. The courts consider their mitigating factors in the same way as any other offender, as I described earlier.

If our goal is to achieve the equality of all people, how can we justify race specific sanctions under the criminal law? Can we reasonably expect tolerance and respect when some offenders based solely on their racial origin are singled out for less punitive sanctions than offenders of all other racial origins, all other things, including circumstances of the offence being equal?

Imagine for one moment the well deserved hue and cry if we were to legislate the opposite, that individuals of one race be singled out for more punitive sanctions than all others.

I would like to quote Gail Sparrow, a former chief of the Musqueam Band in British Columbia. She was commenting on a case in which two Musqueam youths, one of whom was already on probation, were given conditional sentences for their involvement in a severe beating in Vancouver that put 17 year old Joel Libin into a coma and left him brain damaged.

Former Chief Sparrow said:

The message for younger kids now is, “Hey, they got off, and I can get off too, because there's a special law for us”. You're going to put the community at risk.

She went on to say that the sentences have left the Musqueam community angry:

The undercurrent here is that people are afraid to speak up because of the repercussions. They're asking, “Why do we have a separate set of laws for us? Now my son will go and beat somebody up and think it's no big thing because it's home arrest”. A lot of people didn't support that action. They're very upset.

Before some of my colleagues begin falling all over themselves to label me as a racist, anti-Indian and anything else that they can think of for opposing this amendment, I would remind them that the words I have just quoted were spoken by a former chief.

I oppose this amendment because it allows the criminal law to treat one specific group of people differently from all others based solely on their racial origin and nothing else. That is wrong.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 5:15 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the issue with respect to teachers is a very good one. There must be a specific recognition in legislation that teachers need to be informed and included. The bill falls short in that respect.

There was an opportunity to ensure that teachers would be provided with, in particular, conditions of probation orders that were attached to a young person. There are often instances where young people find themselves in court for a criminal offence that occurred in a schoolyard and they are sentenced to go back to school. Sometimes the parameters of their probation orders are not made known to the principals and the teachers who are operating in the schools.

The second issue with respect to funding is critical. There is bridge funding in the amount of $207 million attached to the legislation which is supposed to help with the start up costs but as stated previously each province is estimating that up to $100 million per province would be necessary. So, $207 million spread among all the provinces and territories would come up far short. The critical issue would be the inability of the provinces to bear the costs of enforcement and implementation.

Finally, the 160 amendments to Bill C-7 proposed by the Liberal government did not convince Quebecers of the merits of the reform of our youth justice system. On the contrary.

When the committee of the other place studied the bill, most of the witnesses from Quebec said that the amendments were nothing but cosmetic amendments that did not change the principles and the contradictory provisions of Bill C-7.

Moreover, these amendments did not weaken the large consensus in Quebec that Quebec's approach to youth crime would be threatened should this bill be passed.

That approach, which is unique in Canada, is cited as an example all over the world. It has allowed Quebec to have the lowest youth crime rate and the lowest youth detention rate in the country. Unfortunately, these achievements are being threatened by the intransigence of the new Minister of Justice.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure I fully understood the question.

I believe that it is wrong to say that Bill C-7 allows for early intervention. Yes, but that can be negative, given the experience in Quebec. Let me explain.

Thanks to Quebec's social system, the youth centres and the ministry of social affairs are able to intervene very quickly, with today's Young Offenders Act. We would rather deal with a young person that has a small problem than deal with a 17 year old with an extremely serious delinquency problem that cannot be turned around.

Intervention is already being done very quickly and it could not be done any quicker. Perhaps, with additional money, the net would be tighter and we could catch all of the problems, but we could not intervene any quicker.

Bill C-7 does the opposite. With its whole series of different levels of intervention, a young person could slip through more easily if the has only committed petty crimes. But petty crimes, if they are not immediately caught, become serious crimes. All of the social workers, all psychologists, all professors and criminologists say the same thing, the greater the crime, the more difficult it is to treat; that is the first thing.

Second, it is also wrong to say that Bill C-7 attempts to implement what is being done in Quebec. The Quebec model was created with the Young Offenders Act by investing money and because there was the political will to do so, by looking at what the police can do, what schools can do, what parents can do as well. We looked at all of this. Naturally, we looked at the legal aspect, enforcing the legislation. We managed to come up with our own way of doing things today, with the Young Offenders Act.

Out west, if they have not had the same success, or if they have a different way of doing things, it is not the act that needs changing; they should come to Quebec to see how it works. What works for Quebec is not all bad; others can copy it, we do not have a copyright on the system.

As Justice Jasmin said to the Standing Committee on Justice on several occasions, Quebecers are always happy to show other provinces or countries how we treat young offenders and how we have produced such good results when it comes to crime, rehabilitation and reintegration.

Europe sees Quebec as a model for the treatment of young offenders, but bringing in Bill C-7 will put an end to that.

The hon. member's response is that the shortcomings in the bill were not what prevented us from having the Quebec model, but rather shortcomings in its enforcement. WIth the hundreds of millions of dollars the minister seems to have available for implementation, they would be as capable of success as Quebec, provided the funds were invested in the right places, in the social area, as is done in Quebec.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not know the exact figure but I think it is around $1 billion over five years, or something like that. The House will agree that the then minister said that she would put hundreds of millions of dollars into implementing Bill C-7.

When this amount was broken down, we realized that there was not much left for those who were going to implement the new legislation. One thing is certain and that is that the problem was examined very closely in Quebec in the 1990s. A very important report, the Jasmin report, was produced. This report concluded that the problem, if there were one in the other provinces, but also in Quebec, was not due to the legislation but to its application.

Although there were a series of social programs at the time, starting in 1990, different departments took a very different approach to young offenders. This is why, since 1990, with Quebec dollars, we have been able to build or finalize the model now used in Quebec.

If there is a problem in the other provinces it is not because of the legislation but because of how it is applied. There is nothing surprising about that because the money the federal government gives the other provinces, particularly English Canada in the past, was invested in bricks and mortar instead of in social programs.

Right now, if the new minister still has these millions available, changing the legislation is not what is going to solve the problem. The money needs to go to the provinces if there is to be a better application of the Young Offenders Act. We in Quebec are not any better than anyone else. If our results are better it is because we are investing the time and the energy and, most important of all, we are implementing the legislation properly.

If the government has any spare money for the application of the new legislation, or the Young Offenders Act, it should hand it over to the provinces in the assurance that the provinces will have a better understanding and, especially, a better perception of the Young Offenders Act because this act will give results.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to congratulate my colleague on his eloquent speech on the subject of young offenders. He has a lot of expertise in that area and I think that he has a good knowledge of the situation, having met with the people, the various coalitions and all stakeholder groups.

The Minister of Justice, who has held that position for two weeks only—and who happens to be a Quebecer—says that he is going to explain his bill to Quebecers, to those people who had the chance to study the bill long before he did. But the bill is not his. It comes from his predecessor. All stakeholders have said, almost unanimously, that the bill was complicated and that it would not give us a system that works as well as the one we have now under the Young Offenders Act.

The minister said that he was going to demonstrate that this bill will be even more interesting. And yet, the consensus is telling him not the change the current legislation because it is working well.

I would like to ask a question of the justice critic of the Bloc Quebecois. The implementation costs of Bill C-7 will certainly run in the hundreds of millions of dollars. I would like him to tell us what we could do now with such huge sums with the Young Offenders Act.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 4 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my comments will be based on disappointment. I would even say that I am dismayed by the attitude of the Minister of Justice in the young offenders file. The Minister of Justice comes from Quebec, so he should know what we do differently in Quebec and he should know that the statements made this week are absolutely awful.

Maybe it is because of my age, but I feel he could have acted differently. Maybe I am politically naive, but I am still appalled to see that politics can bring people to make such gigantic blunders. This is not a partisan issue about Tories, Liberals, the Parti Quebecois, sovereignists, federalists or anything of the sort. It is about a system yielding good results, a system that we, Quebecers, must try to safeguard as much as possible.

Earlier, I even heard the Minister of Justice say that he was happy to table the Senate amendment, which will, to some extent, lead to Bill C-7 being enacted, because the House will undoubtedly pass the bill when it is called upon to vote.

The member for Outremont in Quebec, now Minister of Justice, has no qualms about acting in collusion with his government to dismantle a system that works well and has proven more than adequate.

If the justice minister had been in that portfolio for 10 years, if he were well acquainted with the youth justice system, if he had a great expertise in that area, I might think that perhaps we are mistaken, that perhaps the Quebec coalition for youth justice is wrong. However, he has been the Minister of Justice for 15 days only. It is impossible that he could be more qualified, more knowledgeable and better advised than some people in Quebec who have devoted their life to building a system, to developing a special approach to dealing with delinquent youth.

He had been barely appointed minister that he was stating from on high that, in the area of youth offenders, there was no distinct status for Quebec. Even worse, he added that those were myths circulated by Quebec stakeholders, by the Bloc, but also by all the politicians and the stakeholders who know the issue related to the Young Offenders Act.

I understood a little earlier, listening to his remarks, that the minister, first, does not understand the Quebec approach and, even worse, does not understand the legislation; he does not understand Bill C-7.

From on high, as the Minister of Justice, he said that this bill was a major cornerstone. In order to make us accept that we must absolutely vote on the amendment and implement Bill C-7, he said that sentences would be determined proportionally to youth needs. I noted that, because it was too much to swallow.

According to the minister, Bill C-7 is a good bill because it is going to have sentencing that is tailored to the young offender's needs. I invite him to consult clause 38, which I shall take the time to read, because it is rather long. Clause 38(2)( c ) reads as follows:

38.(2)(c) the sentence must be proportionate—

This is correct, so far.

—to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person for that offence;

If the minister understood his own bill, he would never have said such a thing. What he has just said about taking the young offender's needs into consideration in determining the sentence, is done when the present Young Offender's Act is applied properly, the legislation which the minister himself, judging from his actions, wants to do away with. That is one of the aberrant statements the minister has just made.

He spoke of diversion, as if it were something new, and of extrajudicial measures. These already exist. The only thing that is new is what they are called. Now they are “extrajudicial measures” while in the present Young Offenders Act they are “alternative measures”. The bottom line is the same but the means of getting there is very different.

At present, the alternative measures are determined according to the young person's needs. Now, with Bill C-7, the severity of the offence will be looked at in order to determine the extrajudicial measures. This makes a big difference. A justice minister who comes from Quebec should understand that and should above all oppose such a change.

This would be somewhat understandable from his predecessor, the previous minister of justice, who had very little grasp of French. It is no criticism of her but this may have made it harder to communicate with the stakeholders in Quebec, to go to speak with them, to grasp the problem and how things worked there.

The current Minister of Justice is a Quebecer, and a lawyer. He certainly knows people working in the field. He should have checked things out and consulted people before going ahead as he has.

He has also touched upon, despite the brevity of his speech, the role of the family, and it will have a role with Bill C-7. The Young Offenders Act is one of the instances where parents really have a role to play, if the parents are still in the child's life.

It must be really understood that, if a youth is having problems, quite often one of these problems is his family. His father or mother has a drug problem, is involved in prostitution or is a member of the organized crime. I am not saying this is widespread, but a part of the problem is the family.

At present, with the Young Offenders Act, we are able to respond quickly and take the youth out of his environment, if that is the problem. But with Bill C-7, we are being deprived of this rapid response tool, supposedly because youths have rights. Yes, they have rights but it is rather odd that this statement should come from a minister who, with Bill C-7, categorically denies some rights recognized by the UN convention on the rights of the child. All the experts are saying that the bill is contrary to this convention, which was signed by Canada. Indeed, this is a very major argument raised by the Government of Quebec in its legal challenge to Bill C-7.

At present, the family has an important role to play. I am well acquainted with some cases where parents, for various reasons, did not anticipate what would happen, that their child, because of societal pressure, his school, his environment or his friends, would commit some offence. The parents were there and supervised their child as the law allows them to do. At present, this youth is an anonymous citizen.

I toured all of Quebec and had consultations with many agencies. I met with many parents who have had problems with their teenagers and knew all about the Young Offenders Act. After reading Bill C-7, which I had sent them, they told me “Mr. Bellehumeur, it is easy to understand the Young Offenders Act, but nobody understands Bill C-7. Parents will have to rely on lawyers”.

Parents are losing to the legal professional what little role they could play under the Young Offenders Act. Do not tell me this will help the family unit. I think the Minister of Justice does not have a good grasp of the situation at all.

I had a conversation with the Minister of Justice after his appointment and I got the impression that he wanted to have consultations, because Bill C-7 has been around for a long time. I thought he wanted to consult personally, like any new minister would with a bill such as this one. I even suggested he meet with Mrs. Cécile Toutant of Institut Pinel, which deals with the most desperate cases, with the teenagers who have committed the worst crimes, crimes like murder. He would have realized that the approach used with them has a rate of success of nearly 100%.

We have to understand what goes through the mind of a young offender. We have to understand his circumstances and his case before passing judgment. With the series of automatic sentences in Bill C-7, young offenders are judged by the public even before they are tried in court. This does not help.

I also invited the minister to come and see for himself, perhaps even with the members of the justice committee, if he is reticent about coming alone, to have an official meeting with the coordinating justice of the youth division of the court of Quebec, Justice Michel Jasmin, not to name names, who does wonderful work and who offered to give the parliamentary committee a tour of the court house to show us to what extent it really is a small business operation.

Young offenders are received in the ground floor where there is a youth centre with specialists. Then he would have shown us the administrative centre and the court, to see how young people are treated, from A to Z, in order to witness the speed of the process, because time is of essence in treating a young person. He was ready to have us, as well as the Minister of Justice, pay him a visit in order to help him understand.

I also asked him to meet with Jean Trépannier, a specialist who is widely known, who is called upon by other universities across Canada to explain his approach with youth. There is Jean Trépannier, but there are also a number of other university professors, and I do not know of one that supports Bill C-7.

There are also the legal centres, defence lawyers, crown attorneys. He should also meet with the government of Quebec. He should consult, because the previous minister did not consult with the ministers either, on the drafting of Bill C-7. What he refers to as a consultation was more him saying “here is the bill, but you will not have any say in it”. That is not what can be described as a consultation.

The minister was required to consult. He cannot bring back Bill C-7, as he is doing, without consulting, without checking anything, and saying whatever he wants, because that is what he has been doing since he became Minister of Justice on the issue of young offenders. He is saying any old thing. This is so obvious that a newspaper headline today reads “The more things change...”, which would no doubt have ended “the more they stay the same”.

It says:

Just after being sworn in, the new Minister of Justice... is prepared to do anything to impose himself, even if it means making some outrageous remarks in the process.

The article then mentions some of the comments made by the minister and refutes them.

It refutes, among other things, the minister's comments on charging. Everyone surely knows, except the Minister of Justice, that fewer charges are laid in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. The article says:

In the rest of the country, 4.9% of young people are charged, compared to 2.7% in Quebec. The percentage of young people committed to custody is also lower and, more often than not, young people are registered in rehabilitation programs that allow them some freedom.

During a television program on RDI, the minister said that youth centres were jails. This is how he understands the system. It is very insulting for those who have been working in youth centres for 30 years, those who spent their professional lives building a Quebec way of doing things that has proven successful. It is very insulting and the Minister of Justice should even apologize for having said that.

The journalist makes that comment, sets the record straight and concludes by saying:

By accusing his Quebec critics of preserving myths regarding the bill, the Minister of Justice—

He comes from Quebec, but he is currently in Ottawa.

—is showing his ignorance of the system put in place in Quebec.

As we can see, it is not just the Bloc Quebecois that saw through the minister's ploy; others did too.

On several occasions during this same television broadcast, he was asked “Why are you saying that this is the right solution and that the way Quebec is enforcing it is the right way? Why is it that nobody in Quebec supports you? Why is it that nobody in Quebec agrees with the changes you want to make in the young offenders system?”

Whether they are judges, lawyers, specialists, psychologists, or social stakeholders, there is nobody who wants the minister's changes. He was unable to answer because nobody supports him. Nobody in Quebec wants these changes.

Today, we have an amendment from the Senate for the purpose of recognizing the specificity of aboriginals. The minister seems to be saying that this is the discovery of the year. The government has found the secret. As it now stands, the Young Offenders Act recognizes the specificity of aboriginals. It also recognizes the specificity of all young persons. We are talking about needs. Furthermore, aboriginals have said that they do not want Bill C-7, even with its few amendments.

Having said that, I would move an amendment to the motion before us. I move:

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.”.

With such an amendment, we should have the agreement of the federal Minister of Justice, who is a Quebecer. He is here to defend Quebec, not to defend the government and the Prime Minister.