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 30th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to address the Senate amendments to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act. Before I do so I also want to welcome the minister to his new and demanding post. I wish him every success in the difficult decisions that he will be making over the next few months or years.

I believe it is necessary to review some of the reasons I believe the legislation will fail. Indeed Bill C-7 will fail for reasons that are well known to most members of the House, many of whom share this view.

The attorney general of Ontario recently wrote a letter to the minister articulating his numerous concerns with both the ideological issues and the practical difficulties the legislation presents, as have countless witnesses before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights that examined the bill in painstaking detail.

Indeed the new youth justice legislation contains little, if anything, that will address the ineffectiveness of the Young Offenders Act. In some ways indeed it is less preferable or less desirable than the old act. It is certainly more cumbersome and certainly more administratively complex.

Furthermore, the new legislation will be extremely costly to the provinces and cumbersome to administer. One of the greatest causes of concern for me is that of funding. It is well known that when the Young Offenders Act first came into force the government of the day committed itself to a 50:50 cost sharing arrangement with the provinces. By now that percentage has dropped to at best 25%, leaving 75% of the financial responsibilities to the provinces.

The previous justice minister indicated that the federal government would throw in an additional $207 million over three years to help with the implementation of the new act. However preliminary estimates from the provinces indicate that the initial implementation cost will exceed $100 million per province. This does not even include the ongoing additional costs that will be incurred by the provinces in administering the new act.

It is abundantly clear that not only will the children suffer but the provinces will be required to increase legal aid budgets, another program where the federal Liberal government has avoided its responsibility.

Although the government may have consulted with provincial governments on the new legislation, it is debatable whether or not the federal government listened. Indeed looking at the bill it is clear that it has not listened.

A number of representatives of provincial governments who gave testimony at committee stated their concerns about Bill C-7, as no doubt they were aware their time was being spent in vain.

Furthermore, there has been a deliberate exclusion of provincial attorneys general in respect of the development of the provisions of the bill and a stubborn refusal to consider any suggestions for amending its provisions. The provinces are not even constitutionally obligated to take on the cost of the legislation, never mind to administer or to enforce it.

I would not be greatly surprised if a provincial government took this matter to court in order to determine its constitutional responsibility to have anything to do with the legislation. Indeed the government could find the law back on its own lap to administer by itself because of its refusal to co-operate with the other federal partners.

While the federal Liberal government has given up on co-operative federalism and continues to implement its policies on to the provinces through government by ransom, it is to the credit of the provinces that they continue to take efforts to ensure that co-operative federalism remains alive.

While funding is one of the most serious concerns I have with the bill, many other issues of importance have been ignored by the government.

My view of the issue of notification is that school teachers and administrators, parents of vulnerable children and the vulnerable children themselves have a legitimate and compelling interest in knowing who the dangerous youthful predators are in the community. On this and many other areas of the bill the balance in the legislation favours the rights of the dangerous criminal over the rights of victims and potential victims.

I have met with representatives from the school boards. They certainly impressed upon me the need for school authorities to be informed if there are, for example, dangerous individuals attending school. They are not asking for a broad publication of the names of these offenders but simply that the school authorities need to know.

This amendment would not only provide for safer learning environments. It would also enable schools to direct necessary attention to those young persons who are in the process of attempting to rehabilitate themselves back into society.

The school boards quite rightly believe that they have an important role to play in the youth justice system, particularly in terms of alternative measures, prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration. They want to be real and effective partners with our government in the process of keeping our young people safe and secure and helping those needing real assistance.

I have also maintained an opposition to restricting the application of the legislation to children 12 years of age and over. The theory of referring children under 12 years of age to the child welfare system may at first blush seem reasonable, but through my experience as a prosecutor in Manitoba, and indeed as the minister of justice in Manitoba, I realized that the child welfare system simply was not equipped to deal with children whose criminal conduct brings them to the attention of the authorities. It does not have the appropriate resources to deal with these children, and many of them are violent and dangerous.

Under the Young Offenders Act children are falling between the cracks of the child welfare system and the young offender system. Children under the age of 12 fail to receive help either through the courts or through the child welfare system. For all the shortcomings of the old Juvenile Delinquents Act under which I prosecuted, at least it provided for a measure of accountability for youth under the age of 12 so that they could be helped or dealt with by the courts.

By the time many seriously disturbed children reach the age of 12, anti-social and indeed criminal patterns of behaviour already have been established. The Young Offenders Act only succeeded in breeding a younger, more anti-social lawbreaker.

Furthermore, by refusing to extend even the rehabilitative powers of the youth court to children under the age of 12 the federal Liberals are in fact trying to dump 100% of the costs on to the provinces in respect of these children. Every time a Liberal minister gets up and says they are doing this in order to protect children under 12, the truth is that what they are trying to do is evade any financial responsibility for those children. They are dumping those costs on to the provinces.

They are not even keeping up with their responsibilities as a partner in terms of the 50:50 financial relationship that was first in place when the Young Offenders Act came into effect. It has gone down to 25% for those children over 12, with the provinces carrying 75% of the costs of the children over 12 and 100% of the costs of the children under 12. That is the real agenda. It has nothing to do with wanting to have a more caring, compassionate and understanding system for children under 12.

The government realizes that the child welfare system is simply not a system that is flexible enough to deal with these children.

Again, all we are doing is creating younger, more anti-social criminals by the time they reach the age of 12. That is unfortunate. That is doing a disservice to the people of Canada and indeed to the children themselves.

As I have said in the past I do not believe that the government's policy has anything to do with protecting children from the punitive powers of the court. It is simply a cynical device to ensure that the federal government can escape any financial responsibility for children under the age of 12.

Another issue that I feel strongly about is the matter of extrajudicial measures. The bill would allow access to alternative measures by violent offenders and would minimize the supervisory authority of the courts. While alternative measures are often appropriate they need to be administered in an appropriate and structured context. The bill would do nothing in that respect. The court system should direct if alternative measures are to be implemented.

In any event the court should always be involved when considering such measures in the case of violent repeat offenders so that it can be satisfied that the public will be protected.

Into the context of a flawed, administratively cumbersome, expensive piece of legislation that will fail, that will not do the job for children and for the society that the minister claims it will, a new amendment has been brought here by the Senate.

To address the amendment to the youth criminal justice act I want the record to show that I am opposed to it. I will indicate the reasons. The amendment states that for sentencing purposes:

All available sanctions other than custody that are reasonable in the circumstances should be considered for all young persons--

That means any circumstance can be considered and every sanction can be considered other than custody. There is nothing inappropriate about that. We want to see custody as a last resort, or it should at least be the appropriate response. This part of the amendment is reasonable.

However the second part of the amendment requires youth court judges to pay particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal youth at their time of sentencing, similar to subsection 718.2(e) of the criminal code. I cannot support that.

Despite the fact that Canadians pride themselves as being a nation which judges people on the basis of their actions and not on the colour of their skin, subsection 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code of Canada states that a court imposing a prison sentence shall take into consideration all available sanctions other than imprisonment, with particular attention to the circumstances of aboriginal offenders.

The Canadian senators have proposed that the new youth criminal justice act which is to replace the Young Offenders Act should also adopt this racial consideration into youth sentencing guidelines.

The Liberal government created this law in 1995 in an effort to reduce the high number of aboriginals in Canadian prisons. The law was upheld and declared to be constitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada in the case of an aboriginal woman who stabbed her husband to death. The woman served six months for that crime. Yet the court still criticized the trial judge for not adequately considering her aboriginal ancestry when sentenced.

Proponents of this law claim that Canada's justice system is racist and biased against aboriginals and therefore we must work toward a separate justice system.

Those who make these arguments have overlooked the fact that many of the violent crimes committed by aboriginals are perpetrated against other aboriginals. This is a particularly horrific example but in 1997, three aboriginal men raped an intoxicated aboriginal woman in Yukon. They each were sentenced to only 20 months in jail instead of the three to five years each in a federal penitentiary that the crown prosecutor had recommended. The judge cited reasons of cultural considerations when handing down the lesser sentence, cultural considerations for three men who had brutally raped an aboriginal woman.

Needless to say, sexual assault, murder, robbery and other violent crimes are as traumatic to an aboriginal person as they are to any other Canadian.

If parliamentarians claim to serve the interests of the aboriginal community by ensuring that aboriginal criminals do not face the full consequences of their actions against their own people, then they are surely misguided. Overly lenient sentences for aboriginal criminals demean the life and the liberty of the aboriginal victim. That is what is not being stated here. We are saying that the aboriginal criminal deserves a break, but who do they get that break in respect of? They get that break on the back of the aboriginal victim. No one has said a word about the victim.

What has been proposed is a racist solution that does not address the root causes of the problem. The solution is not to statutorily recognize racism or to excuse criminal conduct on the basis of race. A separate justice system or a justice system that determines sentences on the basis of race will do nothing to solve the underlying problems that lead to a high criminal rate among many aboriginals in some parts of Canada.

Furthermore, this distinction is fundamentally unjust to the aboriginals who may be the victims of crime. This is a clear example of the rights of a criminal taking precedence over the interests and the rights of the victim.

This is a disturbing trend. This is the beginning of an institutionalized distinction between people on the basis of race. This is wrong. I was proud of Canada when it stood up against apartheid in South Africa. We could not tolerate distinctions in law based on race and here we are, self-righteous parliamentarians creating distinctions on the basis of race. This is disgusting.

I for one will not vote for a provision that creates a different class of criminal on the basis of race. I for one will not vote for a provision that demeans aboriginal victims as this provision does. There are enough provisions in the criminal code today that permit the courts to take into account all circumstances, that look at the social background and ask, did the individual have a chance? Are there other things to be done?

What about sophisticated urban aboriginals educated in a large city in Canada? There are many of them rising to take their rightful place as equals in our society. What about them? Are they allowed to escape responsibility for criminal actions on the basis of these kinds of provisions?

This is a misguided attempt to solve a problem that is much more complex. This country has never agreed in the course of my lifetime that racial statutory distinctions can be justified. How dare we go back in time and start classifying people on the basis of race? We as parliamentarians are doing it. We are asking the courts to carry out our dirty work, courts which are there to protect equality and ensure that justice is blind to social conditions or racial attributes which have no relevance to a crime.

I am proud to stand here today and say that I will not vote for this racist provision. I will continue to provide the courts with the flexibility they need to make decisions, not on the basis of who I am as a person, but on the basis of what my actions are and the personal responsibility that I bear for my actions. I do not think that the aboriginal people of this country want anything different.

This is an insult. It speaks of the old reserve system. What it says is that aboriginal people are just wards of the crown, that they are less than a Canadian citizen and that a paternalistic attitude must be taken toward them because they are of a different race.

That is wrong. The House should be the guardian of equality of all Canadians regardless of race, ethnicity, language and culture. This House needs to work to ensure that aboriginal people are entitled to the same democratic rights and freedoms as all other Canadians. If there are circumstances in a particular case that indicate mitigation by the courts is in order, the courts have that power. The courts do not need racism to propagate rights and freedoms. This is antithetical to the principles that the House and certainly the government should stand for.

This is a disappointment. Let the record show it is for those reasons that I cannot support the bill generally or this amendment in particular, an amendment which puts the rights of criminals ahead of the interests of victims and institutionalizes racism in this bill, the youth criminal justice act.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 3:30 p.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, 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.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate today. I hope that, following the vote on the Senate amendment, we will finally start the implementation phase of the youth criminal justice bill and we will all be able to appreciate the merits of Bill C-7.

As I just noted, after careful study and reflection the Senate adopted one amendment to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act, before it passed third reading in the Senate on December 18, 2001.

The House of Commons now has an opportunity to consider and vote on this amendment which relates to the serious problem of the overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody. Canada generally incarcerates youth at higher rates than all other western countries and its incarceration rate for aboriginal youth is even worse. The overrepresentation of aboriginal people in custody was an issue identified in the Speech from the Throne and is one that the government is committed to address. I therefore urge members to give serious consideration to voting in favour of the amendment.

The amendment proposed by the Senate adds a sentencing principle that is essentially the same as the one in paragraph 718.2( e ) of the criminal code. The courts will be equired to take into consideration alternatives to incarceration for all young offenders, aboriginals in particular.

This amendment is in line with the current provisions of the bill, which provide that incarceration should only be imposed as a last resort and that measures should be proportionate and appropriate to the needs of young people, in particular those of young aboriginals. The amendment also reflects the content of a provision that is already included in the criminal code in the case of adults.

It is disturbing to see such a large number of young aboriginals in detention centres. While some young aboriginals do commit serious and violent offences that may justify the imposition of stiff penalties, detention is often imposed, even for less serious offences.

Some theorize that the current system uses custody as an alternative means of addressing social or medical problems and not because the seriousness of the offence requires it. If a youth comes from a dysfunctional family or problem community, some may feel that custody will give the youth needed structure and support. If a youth has a medical condition, some may believe that a secure, structured environment is warranted. Using the criminal law power to address social and medical conditions results in a young person being punished because of his or her needs. This is simply not fair. Needs should be addressed when the youth is subject to a youth justice sentence, but they should not be the reason for more intrusive or longer sentences than the offence requires.

The sentencing principles stated in the legislation correct this situation. The principle of proportionate accountability sets the limit of a measure taken under criminal law. Within that limit, every effort will be made to meet the needs of young people. Other responsible authorities, including child protection services and children's mental health services, should be involved in the whole process, on a long term basis if necessary.

The sentencing principles and the amendment proposed by the Senate also promote the imposition of community-based sentences, while reserving incarceration for those who commit the most serious offences. Studies show that the most effective sentences to change a person's behaviour are community-based, particularly when both the family and the community are involved.

The declaration of principle in the Youth Criminal Justice Act already expressly recognizes the needs of young aboriginals. This recognition will impact on how the provisions of the act will be applied to young aboriginals.

Bill C-7 provides the legislative framework to promote constructive approaches to very difficult youth crime problems. For example, the legislation permits key decision makers in the system, like police officers, judges and correctional workers, to hold conferences to support them in making decisions.

Conferences can take many forms, but they often embrace restorative justice concepts and encourage the offender to meet with the victim, family members and community members. The youth is no longer a passive observer but hears first hand how his or her behaviour has harmed others and the community. This helps to teach young people about the consequences of their behaviour. They are participants in determining how to carry out their measure of accountability for their wrong in a way that makes sense to the victim, the community and themselves. Conferencing may have a particular resonance in some aboriginal communities because it is consistent with some traditional practices.

The amendment proposed by the Senate and the new act will provide a framework that will promote a fairer justice system that will be better suited to young aboriginals' needs.

We should accept this amendment and implement Bill C-7.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I think that is going too far. Obviously, they think they have found a weak point here and they are once again trying to exploit it for the sole purpose of advancing their own political doctrine to the detriment of young offenders. I find this extremely unfortunate.

What must be understood is that the enforcement of the existing legislation in Quebec has actually been successful. What we are saying, after many months of discussion and more than 160 amendments is that, with Bill C-7, the approach can in fact be just as flexible and the system's emphasis on diversion maintained.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that Bill C-7 is a reincarnation of other bills. Let us take the previous version, Bill C-3.

Indeed, many people provided input on Bill C-3, with the result that more than 160 amendments were made to it. A great number of the requests made by all the different stakeholders have been met by Bill C-7, which is, once again, a flexible piece of legislation.

Bill C-7 no longer allows for referrals to adult court, this is a fact. It is also a fact that it will divert—

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, indeed, Bill C-7 is a bill that places the emphasis on diversion, on rehabilitation. I answered earlier that Quebec had found very avant-garde solutions. Bill C-7 makes certain provisions.

Also, Bill C-7 is flexible enough to allow all of the provinces to adapt. It is, in fact, a reform. Reforms always cause a bit of a stir. This is why I am saying that now is the time to proceed, to act and move forward with the implementation of this bill.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, that is not at all my way of looking at Canada's justice system. This is essentially a matter of principle.

Bill C-7, which is pending and which is coming back before the House of Commons, is a good piece of legislation that will promote rehabilitation. It will also provide diversion methods, because the system is overjudicialized.

As far as I am concerned, this is a matter of principle. And if I believe in the values set out in this bill, I also believe that they apply to all of Canada.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 29th, 2002 / 2:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Incidentally, much of what is contained in Bill C-7 is based on Quebec's approach, such as the declaration of principle in clause 3.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 29th, 2002 / 2:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Minister of Justice said that he was prepared to meet with stakeholders from Quebec to discuss Bill C-7.

Will the minister tell us when he is going to meet with them, and promise not to bring Bill C-7 back to the House until he has had the chance to hear them, and more important, to understand the Quebec model? Otherwise, what is the point of this meeting?

I remind him that he has been Minister of Justice for only two weeks and that the coalition includes people who have dedicated their entire lives to creating the Quebec model.

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

December 14th, 2001 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

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

—a hot potato, as the member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles just said, it means that the issue ought to be given serious consideration.

This is an issue that must be dealt with in a way that will reassure the public so that they have confidence. To get their confidence there should be an ongoing and real public consultation with the various stakeholders in the field, not only the scientists, not only the experts, but also the people in the field.

I realize that we must not always say “not in my backyard”, but the fact remains that this must be done somewhere and in appropriate areas. Why should an area accept nuclear waste coming from another area and another country?

I know there are not enough hon. members here this morning and they are not quite awake. Perhaps they are too tired to criticize me and tell me “Come on, why are you saying that? The bill does not say that we will agree to nuclear waste imports”.

Yes, but an issue such as this one is somewhat like the bills on public security that were passed or tabled here in the House, where the government was saying “Yes, but rest assured, this is not written in the bill”. The fact is we are not reassured. We would prefer it were written that there will be no such imports. Why not do so?

I did not take part in the committee's proceedings but I reviewed the amendments put forward by Bloc Quebecois members who wanted to make sure, among other things, that we had better definitions, and rightly so.

The suggestions to correct one of the flaws were aimed at making sure that the authority was not given to one minister or to the cabinet because, on such an important public issue, specific projects or the subject matter should to be reviewed by the House of Commons on a regular basis, and be audited, not just by anyone, but by someone under the Auditor General of Canada.

As the member for Jonquière mentioned earlier, every proposed amendment was turned down one after the other in committee and here at report stage. Members who used to be on the other side, but who have to tow the party line when a bill is put forward by a minister, voted down these amendments because the government bill was supposedly perfect.

I am making an aside here to remind the House that we have been here for eight years now. This is probably the last speech I will make before the end of the 2001. I said it on several occasions, but I believe it bears reminding.

We saw the way the government dealt with anti-terrorism and public security bills after September 11. We realize that the authority is concentrated in the hands of a single minister, or cabinet at times which is made up of members of parliament appointed by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister appoints the Governor General, the senators when the time comes to send members to the other House. He is responsible for appointing people to high offices. Some say that proportionally, Canada is not the United States, and the powers of the Prime Minister of Canada are actually greater than those of the President of the United States.

In the United States, through a veto, both Houses can prevent the president from exercising certain powers such as sending troops abroad or using supplementary funds. He needs to introduce a specific bill or program in both houses of congress. This is not the case here.

In Canada, when we want to buy time, we refer bills to the other place. However, seeing as Liberal Party members also sit in its caucus, they receive instructions from the Prime Minister—naturally, they also share with him what is going on in the other place—saying, “Take your time on that bill”, or the opposite, “Hurry up and adopt that bill”.

An example of this was the bill on organized crime, which has yet to be passed officially by the other place. But they rush through bills on public security, or Bill C-7 on young offenders. Now with Christmas around the corner, during the last sitting of the session before the holidays, we are studying Bill C-27. No doubt an important issue, but the bill is seriously flawed

The Prime Minister or the caucus will have the ability to appoint all of the members of the board for this new waste management organization that will oversee nuclear waste. Who will he appoint? People in whom he has complete trust, or to whom he feels indebted. I know that the word patronage is not necessarily parliamentary, but if the shoe fits, then I do not see how I could avoid the term. So I will use it. This opens the door to patronage.

Under these circumstances, with an issue as important as nuclear waste, how can we expect the public to believe that things will not be decided by the powers that be, the cabinet, the Prime Minister, or the minister responsible?

But it so happens that the minister could be appointed elsewhere, according to the rumour that a cabinet shuffle may take place before Christmas. Therefore, he must please the Prime Minister to make sure that he gets promoted.

The Minister of Finance used to have a degree of independence, but this year, contrary to what he did in the past, he came up with a budget to please the Prime Minister. So much so—it was funny, but it really was not—that a Canadian Alliance member said “Let the real author of that budget rise”, and both the Prime Minister and the Minister of Finance got up at the same time.

This shows beyond any doubt that, this time, this is not a Minister of Finance's budget, but mostly a Prime Minister's budget. After eight years in office, one would have thought that the Prime Minister would become reasonable, would be less power-hungry, but no. Now, he wants to assume powers which, under our parliamentary system, are normally held by the Minister of Finance.

Mr. Speaker, I realize that I am digressing a bit, but I have always recognized your spirit of tolerance and your flexibility. Knowing that this is my last speech in 2001, you are giving me a small Christmas present by allowing me to say what I think, even though this sometimes goes beyond the scope of the bill.

I know that the hon. member for Abitibi--Baie-James--Nunavik is very jealous of me. Indeed, because of the way the current Canadian parliamentary system works, he will not be able to say what he really thinks, since he has a small hope of being appointed parliamentary secretary, or perhaps minister some day. He hopes that the Prime Minister will forget that he once sat as a Conservative.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 6th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address Bill C-24, but I will be very brief.

I will briefly discuss the background of Bill C-24, which seeks to fight organized crime. The Bloc Quebecois repeatedly asked the government to take measures. We will not go so far as to say that we are the sponsors of this bill, but we pressured the government regarding several clauses in this bill. Indeed, we were relentless in asking the government to provide Canada with proper tools to fight gangs, including criminal biker gangs.

We worked very hard to propose some changes. We also made gains. When I say we, I mean Quebec, since Quebec was among those asking for major legislative changes.

So, the House passed Bill C-24, which was then sent to the other place. Senators examined it and felt the need to propose amendments. I took a close look at these amendments—we are not against them—but I sincerely think that the bill would have been very acceptable without these changes.

It is true, as the Canadian Alliance member said, that it is a bit funny that the other, unelected, chamber seems to have more power than duly elected representatives of the people, those who were actually chosen in a very democratic ballot.

But that is how the system is. As people know, the Bloc Quebecois would like out of this system. But, for now, we are still part of Canada. We therefore live with the rules dealt us. The Senate has put forward amendments. Do we have a major objection in this regard? No. Should this bill be passed quickly? Yes. Are we already late passing it? Yes again.

I will conclude with this. Before even studying Bill C-24, before even studying the bill which is intended to do something about the problem of criminal biker gangs, the Senate preferred to start out in September by looking at Bill C-7, which is intended to something about the problem of young offenders, instead of assuming its responsibilities and doing something about organized crime, so that Canada will have the legislation it needs.

We are past the point of worrying about commas, dropping periods and fussing over wording. We have reached the point where we must pass this bill. We must do so quickly so that the public knows that we have taken action, so that people feel safe as well, but especially so that the police and the system will have the legislative tools they need to combat organized crime for once and for all.

The government has taken so long reacting that even before Bill C-24 becomes law, organized crime has already examined the legislation and is getting ready to challenge it. That is how very slow the system is, with its two chambers, among other things. The bill has therefore come back here and we will have to pass it again, and then it must receive royal assent. Some of Bill C-24's provisions probably already no longer apply.

We will still be very vigilant. Yes, it is a step in the right direction. Yes, we must pass Bill C-24 quickly. Yes, the Bloc Quebecois will continue to be vigilant and push the government to take appropriate action if ever any provisions of this bill are no longer adequate to deal with the present organized crime and biker gang situation. It is no to violence, no to intimidation and yes to Bill C-24. We must act quickly.

Anti-terrorism ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
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Bloc

Stéphan Tremblay Bloc Lac-Saint-Jean—Saguenay, QC

Mr. Speaker, as far as Bill C-36 is concerned, clearly we want efficient legislation that can adequately meet the needs of an emergency situation, but it must not disturb the delicate balance between people's safety and their rights and freedoms.

We stated unequivocally that any legislation sacrificing freedom would be tantamount to capitulating to terrorism, and that terrorists would get their way.

The choice before us as legislators is obviously a choice about security, but first and foremost, it is a choice about society. We must make decisions which, at the end of the day, are responsible ones, decisions that guarantee the safety of the women, men and children that we represent in this House, but which are also clearly protecting their rights and freedoms.

There are many aspects of this bill that are open to criticism. In order to begin studying the group of motions that are of interest to us, let us say that the bill allows the governor in council to put entities on the list of terrorists without any legal authorization.

What is more, there is no mechanism allowing anyone on the list access to evidence against them, which makes it impossible for them to challenge their inclusion on the list. The consequences of being put on the list are very serious. By virtue of being on the list, anyone unfairly listed would be precluded from renting an apartment, opening a bank account, and so on.

We were also calling for a three year sunset clause to apply to every clause of the bill. This legislation is in response to a situation that can only be described as exceptional, and we accept that. We must act responsibly, and the government must resort to certain powers that will not be required after a certain amount of time.

The minister agreed to include a clause which, in our opinion, is not a sunset clause, since it only applies to two provisions: preventive arrest and investigative hearings, and this for a five year period.

As for the legislative review, we proposed an annual review by an independent commissioner who would report to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, which could then make recommendations to the House. This bill is an exceptional bill in response to an emergency situation, hence the importance of setting up a review mechanism that is thorough and appropriate.

Unfortunately, the minister preferred instead to have the ministers responsible for implementing the act report only on the number of preventive arrests and of investigative hearings.

We proposed amendments to limit the definition of terrorist activity. The minister's promised open-mindedness and attentive ear resulted in their rejection. Even with the minister's amendments, it is still possible for people demonstrating during a strike, for example, to fit perfectly into the definition of terrorist activity in the bill, so here is some impact.

In the case of access to information, to ensure greater transparency we wanted the information commissioner to have full authority over the application of the Access to Information Act. However, the attorney general will be able to remove information without any safeguard provided, something the information commissioner roundly criticized.

What about the complaint of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, who called for a sunset clause too? What happened to the opinion of a number of important witnesses who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, who warned the minister against an abuse of power and a lack of transparency in the application of the law?

What about the testimony of the president of the Quebec bar association, the president of the Canadian Auto Workers Union, the Canadian information commissioner, the privacy commissioner and the Canadian Bar Association?

Warnings came from his cabinet colleague, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. In the light of what happened in committee, clearly the minister did not heed or hear the testimony of experts during committee deliberations.

I was very much in favour of the bill's consideration in committee, so that we might have a real debate and hear the views of experts like the ones I have just referred to.

To our satisfaction, the amendments proposed by expert witnesses and their criticisms were more or less in line with the Bloc Quebecois position. Then, when the minister introduced her amendments, the total opposite happened. It is clear that the minister is doing as she pleases.

We have shown nothing but good faith from the start of the debate on Bill C-36. We could see, however, that we were dealing with a minister who is doing just as she pleases, not just once, but twice. She has shown that her mind is made up and it has nothing to do with rights and freedoms and transparency. She took us in with her talk of open-mindedness in committee, but then our 66 amendments ended up rejected.

She also did just as she pleased in connection with Bill C-7, when all of Quebec clearly indicated to her that she was on the wrong track. She chose to dismiss out of hand Quebec's expertise, the best there is in connection with young offenders, imposing on Quebec a system that is totally the opposite of the Quebec way of doing things.

Given the way things went in committee, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting against this bill, because it goes far too far and is therefore unacceptable.

Independence of the RCMPPrivate Members’ Business

November 5th, 2001 / noon
See context

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, to conclude this debate, I would like to make a few comments. First, I strongly doubted that this motion would find an attentive government ear. The government would have had to eat humble pie and acknowledge that it had interfered inappropriately as the result of its improper relations with the RCMP. However, the statutory codification we are proposing is the only way to ensure that the mega mess of November 1997 could never recur. However we can legitimately ask ourselves whether there would be government support for this.

In view of the increasingly extraordinary discretionary powers the ministers are giving themselves with each new bill, the policy of silence that reigns throughout the government, its lack of respect for parliament during this crisis and its closer co-operation with the media than with parliamentarians, an unbridled arrogance toward the opposition, especially that part of it representing Quebec's interests, through its mockery of the unprecedented consensus in Quebec over Bill C-7, it is not surprising that the Liberal government wants to dilute the mandate of the RCMP to make it its political police, as was the case in the 1970s when the RCMP was given the task of ridding Quebec of the sovereignist heresy.

Moreover, as if the obstacles faced by this motion were not enough to have it tossed under the table, it will not even be voted on, as several members pointed out earlier.

I have always believed that motions and bills presented by members of parliament should be votable items, otherwise we feel that we are treated unfairly and that our initiatives have little importance. It is easy to quickly lose faith in the system. We get to the point where we wonder if it is worth investing so much effort in drafting motions or bills and in preparing speeches to defend them.

By working on issues that may well not be acted on, we waste our energy, effort and time, and also those of the House. In such a context, a member does not bring any added value to parliamentarism. For example, since the beginning of the 34th parliament, in 1988, when I was first elected, 1,670 private members' bills have been introduced and, out that number, 17 have received royal assent and been enacted. One can imagine the interest that a motion like this one, which is not even a votable item, is likely to generate with the government.

With a system that kills initiative in this fashion, it is not just members of parliament who become frustrated, but also the public which, given such situations, is becoming increasingly cynical about our role.

Recently, on two different occasions, I talked to people about my private member's initiatives. When I told them that all private members' initiatives must go through a draw to be included in the order of precedence, these people were flabbergasted.

Members can easily imagine these people's reaction when I explained that, once an item had been selected, it had to go before a committee that would choose, depending on its mood, a few of these initiatives to make them votable items. Then, even if this motion had been selected to become a votable item, given the probabilities that I just mentioned, the chances of getting actual results are very slim to say the least.

Sadly, I can only conclude that private members' business is used much more to kill time than to help our society move forward in a democratic fashion.

Courts Administration Service ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I have not had the pleasure of reading Mr. Macdonald's book. It is something I should do. He makes the point that there is a pressing need in the country to have sufficient judges and courtrooms as well as physical space to hear cases.

The issue of backlogs, whether they be in the justice system for adults or juveniles, is a huge problem. When I worked as a crown attorney we encountered that difficulty many times, particularly as it pertained to charges that proceeded by indictment and resulted in jury trials. The backlog often resulted in a waiting period of two years. In the life of a young person two years severely undermines the ability to bring about the requisite deterrence and rehabilitative efforts.

I have concerns about the system as it currently operates. There is an effort in the bill to streamline and to ensure that judges are appointed in a timely fashion, to paraphrase the Minister of Justice and her favourite characterization.

I also believe that there is a huge problem looming with respect to the youth criminal justice act. We could be building new courtroom facilities and appointing judges. Yet there is a bill currently in the other place that is more complicated than the Income Tax Act. It is so convoluted, cumbersome, unmanageable and unenforceable that it will be an administrative nightmare. The local bar associations around the country are licking their lips in anticipation of that legislation passing.

On the one hand the government through the bill is attempting to streamline justice. On the other hand the justice department has produced Bill C-7 in an attempt to replace the Young Offenders Act, which will gum up the system.

The hon. member is exactly right. We will have young people who will be ready to collect their pensions before they will have made it through the youth justice system. It is rather incongruous that the justice department can work at such cross purposes at times and in essence leave the justice system cross threaded to the detriment of Canadians.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

October 1st, 2001 / 3 p.m.
See context

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as we well know, the vast majority of Canadians want reform of youth justice legislation in this country and that is what Bill C-7 does. In fact, the hon. member should be aware that in relation to Bill C-7, not only does it permit the province of Quebec to continue the approach it has taken, but in fact we are going to be providing all provinces and in particular the province of Quebec with more money by which to pursue their approach.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

October 1st, 2001 / 2:55 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice is building a larger consensus against her Bill C-7 on criminal justice for young persons.

After judges, lawyers, crown attorneys, members of the National Assembly and experts on young people, senators are now getting on board.

How many people will have to add their voices to those of the already large consensus that opposes the minister's bill before she will listen to reason and withdraw her legislation, to prevent irreparable damage to both the system and some of these young persons?