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.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 6:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, there is an old saying: “If it ain't broke, don't fix it”. The implication is that if it is broken it needs to be fixed.

I grew up on a farm and have an old pickup. That pickup truck is so old and there are so many things wrong with it that if I tried to fix it I would not know where to begin. It does not run well. It blows oil out the back. The mirrors are broken and the windshield is shot. If I wanted to build the thing into a new truck I would not start by replacing the mirrors. I would not know where to begin.

We have seen over the past period of time that the Young Offenders Act is broken and needs repair. The government has said it is broken. There were things in the Juvenile Delinquents Act that were unacceptable. There were contentious parts of the act that the government and all sides of the House said needed to be repaired.

Bills and proposals have been brought forward such as Bill C-3 and Bill C-7 which the government has tried to tinker with. As we heard from the Liberal member across the way a new bill has been brought forward, but we are looking at it and asking if it will solve the young offender problem we have in the nation.

One of the things we will grow accustomed to in the House through the years is people standing in the Chamber and saying we need to fix the Young Offenders Act. I believe if we were to ask members opposite they would say yes, there are areas of the act that are not what we would like them to be and they should be fixed, changed and repaired. However the act we have in place does not do that.

The Canadian public would say we need to fix the act. They would say we see many repeat offenders and many teachers who go to school not knowing their students are young offenders. Some are violent offenders yet their teachers are not aware a threat exists.

The recidivism rate for young offenders clearly shows that the Young Offenders Act is broken and its provisions are ineffective. They are ineffective in many areas, particularly with respect to violent offences such as sexual assault. The current maximum sentence of only three years does not provide adequate time for rehabilitation to occur. These are, without a shadow of a doubt, young people whom we want to see rehabilitated. We want to see them reintegrated into society as young men or women who can contribute.

It takes years in some cases for an offender to develop a behaviour and it sometimes takes years to reverse it. The maximum sentence of seven years proposed by my private member's bill would provide judges with greater sentencing options for the most severe cases. Currently judges' hands are tied when they feel that a longer disposition is necessary for the benefit of the offender and the protection of society.

The late mayor of Cornwall, Ron Martelle, said:

Sentencing is the key ingredient in stopping victimization. Sentences must reflect public repudiation of criminal acts by swift, substantial punishment.

I do not recommend longer sentences if we do not first ensure that all prison facilities have mandatory rehabilitative programs.

Those who oppose longer sentences point to the high recidivism rate of young offenders who have been incarcerated. They wrongly conclude that increasing sentences would be ineffective. Others say prison facilities do not provide effective rehabilitation and that this contributes to higher rates of reoffending.

They say this is partly due to limited money and resources. Time does not afford me to go on with the list. However, I implore all members of the House and the general public to read my private member's bill and understand that it is a bill of principles. It outlines requests made to me by the people of Crowfoot and the former member for Crowfoot who, as has been noted here, worked diligently in justice issues, especially with respect to young offenders.

The bill would help restore integrity and sanity to our justice system by making the protection of society its guiding principle.

There are many opportunities through social programs to get to the root causes of youth crime. We need to do that. We need to implore our provincial governments to make sure social programs dealing with education, poverty and a vast number of issues are met.

As legislators in the House, it behooves us to bring down laws that first, would protect our society and communities and then would allow young offenders to be reintegrated into society so they may be contributors.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 6:20 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I very much attach myself to the remarks of the previous speaker and many who have real, legitimate concerns with respect to the implementation of Bill C-7, the new youth criminal justice act, which like its predecessors, contains a very complex and cumbersome approach to youth justice in this country, one which will not achieve desired ends, that is, an attempt to bring about greater accountability and responsibility in our youth criminal justice system.

I do disagree with one comment of the previous speaker, which is that accepting this bill in its entirety would do more than bringing about a new youth criminal justice system. Certainly I think it touches on some very important subject areas which have been debated numerous times in the House. The hon. member's predecessor from Crowfoot also brought about numerous suggestions to improve the criminal justice system.

Although we are generally supportive of this private member's bill, it deals with subject matter that will be addressed by the new youth criminal justice system, particularly with respect to sentencing provisions, implementation of rehabilitative programs and early intervention. The elements that deal with the lowering of the age of accountability is something that other members, including myself, have spoken on, have presented private member's business on going back a number of years. This legislation would not, as the previous speaker indicated, be a licence to somehow hammer 10 year olds.

As members are well aware, it would simply bring about a process where the justice system could intervene at the earliest possible opportunity, particularly when it involves crimes of violence, and particularly when it involves a young person who has exhibited a longstanding record of anti-social behaviour.

At the current rate, the police, counsellors and those who want to intervene, including the young person's parents, may have to wait two years until they reach the age of 12 before the system can kick in. The response that is so often given is that there are social services provisions that can react. They do not have the sanctions available under the criminal justice system. More important, they do not have the resources. That is perhaps one of the greatest flaws of this new legislation that my friend of course did not have time to touch upon.

For all of the good that might come from implementation of Bill C-7, the new youth criminal justice act, the provinces are still left to carry the majority of the resources and the funding that would implement these rehabilitative type programs and restorative justice models. There is increasing frustration among justice officials, prosecutors, counsellors, probation officers and those who are working in the system regarding the downloading of a very cumbersome, complex bill without the resources and actual tools to implement or enact the programs which do not exist.

There are some very good programs currently operating without the involvement of the federal government, without the budget. I had an opportunity to visit Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, British Columbia where there is a unique, highly effective early intervention style program up and running which is based on restorative justice models. On numerous occasions when they have applied for federal funding for resources,in keeping with the spirit, pith and substance of what Bill C-7 represents, they have been told that there is no money available for such a thing. This is in advance of the government bringing in these changes. One has to question whether it is in good faith that we are going to see this legislation actually implemented.

It is unfortunate that the bill is not a votable item. In most instances I think the House would like to express its will on such an important piece of legislation.

The bill does reinforce the principle that reasonable force may be used in a disciplinary manner. This is one of a number of omnibus type bills that we see before us. We are generally supportive of these initiatives but I do not think that restating a principle that is already in existence accomplishes a great deal. Judicial discretion is sometimes absent when we make hard and fast rules about what sentences will apply and when judges will be permitted to apply them.

The existing Young Offenders Act and the proposed amendments currently before the Senate allow for a broader range of sentences on certain issues, particularly pertaining to youths aged 14 and up where a transfer may occur in a courtroom.

That is a good thing. Discretion should be broadened in certain instances, particularly for offences involving violence where judges must weigh a range of circumstances. Some offences, such as assault with a weapon, are deemed violent even when they do not result in substantial injuries.

Those types of decisions should be left to the courts. Judges should be permitted to hear from both defence and crown counsel regarding the extent of the harm that may have been caused before they make a decision to sentence a young person.

I disagree with the suggestion that we lower the application of the Young Offenders Act to age 16. There is ample evidence before the country and in the criminal justice system that youths at age 17 can still avail themselves of a diminished degree of responsibility in the court system.

With new provisions in place that allow for the elevation and transfer of young people into the adult court system it becomes redundant to lower the age of application of the youth justice system.

The private member's bill puts a number of recommendations before the House that deal with lengthening periods of probation. That is a good suggestion. In the past young people have finished their incarceration and left the closed custody of detention centres only to have no follow up or probation period on which conditions are attached. They are not ordered to avoid certain associations, refrain from the use and possession of alcohol, or stay away from individuals who may have been involved in their offence such as the victim or the victim's family.

Probationary conditions are an important part of rehabilitation and the protection of the public, which are of course the fundamental principles that must apply in any justice system. Lengthening periods of probation or making them mandatory is a good thing.

Bill C-7 would apply a new system of probation that would allow for parole and reduced sentences. That is very much a step backward. Despite its flaws the current system is consistent in the application of sentences. Young people incarcerated for a period of time know they will be there for that set time. They realize that is the sentence that has been meted out and they can avail themselves of programs. Under the new system they would be eligible for parole and early release.

This is not the route we should be pursuing. It is not the direction in which the youth justice system should be headed. It would add to the already intense cynicism that exists throughout the country regarding the light sentences often handed down by our youth court system.

The Progressive Conservative Party is generally supportive of the bill. In the past we have consistently emphasized protection of the public and meaningful sentences that bring about accountability and responsibility.

I am glad the new member of parliament for Crowfoot is a convert to the fray and is prepared to bring issues and bills such as this one before the House of Commons. The legislation if enacted would mirror the provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, although not in its entirety. Streamlining legislation is something we should all take seriously.

When the impact is grave and has huge implications for a young person's life the public should have a profound understanding of what the justice system is attempting to do. The new youth criminal justice system as currently proposed by the Department of Justice would accomplish the exact opposite.

Youth and parents would be confused by the new system. We should refer to legislation such as this which is simple and straightforward and accomplishes all the principles associated with justice.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 6:10 p.m.
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Vancouver Quadra B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, after extensive consultation and deliberation the House of Commons passed Bill C-7 on May 29, 2001. Bill C-7 would repeal and replace the Young Offenders Act with the youth criminal justice act. The bill is now before the Senate and would invoke the key principles of fairness, rights and a focused use of the criminal law power in its framework for youth justice.

The reforms are premised on the notion that it is through prevention and meaningful and therefore varied consequences for the full range of youth crime, rehabilitation and reintegration that Canadians are protected over the long term. It recognizes the need to have a separate justice system for youth, special procedural protections, interventions that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence, and approaches that help to instruct the young person about the consequences of the behaviour.

It would provide opportunities to repair harm, support for rehabilitation and reintegration of the youth, and opportunities for the constructive involvement of victims, family members and others. The new direction for youth justice is both a fair and effective response to youth crime and it is supported by Canadians.

The proposed changes to the Young Offenders Act set out in Bill C-289 were considered by the justice and human rights committee in its study of Bill C-7 and not adopted. In sum, the proposed amendments allow for less discretion in the system and essentially a punitive approach to youth crime.

Bill C-7 embodies a fair and proportionate response to youth crime. Sentences are intended to be adequate to hold a youth accountable for the offence he or she has committed. Youth court judges can apply adult sentences for serious offences, if necessary, to hold youth fairly accountable. However the rule is fairness and proportionality to the seriousness of the offence.

Those who mistakenly believe that punishment alone serves to protect society will never find penalties to be tough enough. Their approach would result in unfair harsh penalties that are not effective in stopping youth crime or reforming young offenders.

Studies are clear that harsh penalties do not deter other youth. Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence that non-custodial penalties are as or more effective than custodial ones and avoid the risks of incarceration.

The youth justice system in Canada is already an overly harsh and ineffective system. Young people are sentenced to custody at a rate four times higher than adults. Studies show that Canada's youth incarceration rate is the highest among western countries including the United States. Young persons in Canada often receive harsher custodial sentences than adults receive for the same type of offence. Almost 80% of custodial sentences are for non-violent offences. Many non-violent and first time offenders found guilty of less serious offences such as minor theft are sentenced to custody.

Currently the youth justice system under the Young Offenders Act is not working as well as it should for Canadians. Too many young people are charged and often incarcerated with questionable results. Procedural protections for young people are not adequate and too many youth end up serving custodial sentences with adults.

The overarching principles are unclear and conflicting. There are disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing. Interventions are not appropriately targeted to the seriousness of offences. They are neither adequately meaningful for individual offenders and victims nor adequately supportive of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The proposed youth criminal justice act would address these fundamental flaws by targeting responses of the youth justice system to the seriousness of the offence, clarifying the principles of the youth justice system, ensuring fairness and proportionality in sentencing, respecting and protecting rights, enabling meaningful consequences aimed at rehabilitation, supporting reintegration after custody, and encouraging an inclusive approach to youth crime.

These approaches are now included in Bill C-7 which would repeal the Young Offenders Act and replace it with a legislative framework that would reflect Canadian values and provide for a fairer and more effective youth justice system.

The proposed amendments in Bill C-289 do not reflect what Canadians want in a youth justice system. The proposed provisions include a return to corporal punishment, removing privacy protections, lowering of ages including the age of criminal responsibility to 10, longer youth sentences, and less discretion in the system.

The direction of the amendments is repressive and does not include efforts at rehabilitation, addressing the needs of youth or involving youth in repairing the harm he or she may have caused.

Canadians have seen that tough, disproportionate punitive approaches are not only unfair but ineffective. Bill C-7, already passed by the House of Commons, reflects the values and directions that Canadians want in a renewed youth justice system. They are not the strictly punitive approaches reflected in Bill C-289. Canadians want and deserve the youth justice system envisioned in Bill C-7 that is the product of consultation, advice and thought.

The proposals that are the subject of today's debate were considered in the development of Bill C-7. They were not adopted then nor should they be adopted now.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

September 25th, 2001 / 5:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

moved that Bill C-289, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act (public safety), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise tonight to speak to my private member's bill, C-289, which attempts to amend the Young Offenders Act and to achieve a number of objectives.

Before I proceed, I would like to point out to the House that I initiated the drafting of the bill before the justice minister introduced Bill C-3, a carbon copy of Bill C-7 that died on the order paper at the dissolution of parliament with the call of the 2000 federal election. Bill C-3 was an act to enact the criminal justice act.

Bill C-289 reflects the sentiments expressed to me by many of the Crowfoot residents during that 2000 federal election campaign, sentiments which have been reverberating throughout the country since the Liberals took power in 1993.

I made a commitment to the people of Crowfoot to restore some sanity to a justice system that has, for far too long, in their opinion, coddled offenders, particularly violent young offenders. Canadians from coast to coast are concerned about their personal safety and the safety of their children.

The Liberals made a promise to Canadians. In successive elections, they promised to make our homes and our streets much safer. It is evident from the lenient justice legislation introduced and subsequently enacted by this majority government, including the subsequent lax amendments to the Young Offenders Act under Bill C-37, that the Liberals have not lived up to those promises; indeed, the Liberals have broken those promises.

The Liberal government's soft on crime position will not enhance public safety and personal security. The Liberal's soft justice legislation, such as that enacting conditional sentences, threatens the safety of all Canadians.

The Liberal justice minister, despite having overwhelming support from people throughout the country, does not have the fortitude to enact the necessary tough measures to hold murderers and other violent offenders, including violent young offenders, fully accountable for their heinous crimes against innocent citizens.

In 1996, the justice minister mandated the standing committee on justice and legal affairs to review the Young Offenders Act following the 10th anniversary of its enactment in 1984. After months of cross country hearings, submissions and presentations by people with vested interest in youth justice, and at a cost of almost half a million dollars, the committee tabled a report in April 1997. The report contained a number of recommendations for the Young Offenders Act.

Despite the committee's report and despite the justice minister's promise in June 1997, immediately following that federal election, to make amending the Young Offenders Act a priority, it took her more than two years to do so.

Thinking that old habits die hard, immediately following the election I requested the drafting of Bill C-289 anticipating that once again the justice minister would move slowly and drag her feet on bringing in changes to the most despised piece of legislation in Canada, the Young Offenders Act.

The minister proved me wrong and did introduce Bill C-3 relatively soon after the 2000 federal election. She did, however, true to her form, bring in a bill with little or no teeth.

At this time, I commend my colleague from Surrey North for repeatedly pointing out the inadequacies of Bill C-3.

The fundamental purpose of Canada's youth justice system is the protection of society, which entails dealing effectively with an offender after a crime has been committed. It was not designed to repair social flaws. It was not designed to deal with dysfunctional families. It was not designed to deal with economic hardships. It was not put into place to deal with the deficiencies of our education system. These root causes of youth crime must instead be addressed through effective social programs, sound economic policies, support for Canadian families and early detection and intervention programs.

By failing to recognize this simple fact, successive federal governments have diluted and weakened the effectiveness of Canada's criminal justice system. Young offenders are no longer being held accountable for their actions in a proper and effective manner. As a result, Canadians have lost faith in their ability to protect their families and their property.

If this all sounds familiar, it is because it is taken from the Reform Party, our predecessor, minority report in response to the justice committee's report on amending the Young Offenders Act. A significant amount of time has passed, actually four years, since that minority report was product. Nothing was different as far as youth crime goes. Therefore, our position has not changed.

The first and perhaps the most important amendment I seek through the private members' bill is to make the protection of society and the safety of others the first purpose of the law respecting young offenders. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in October 1996, Victor Doerksen, who was a member of the legislature of Alberta, said:

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

Bill C-3 does not, as recommended by this Alberta member of the legislature and many others who appeared before that standing committee, make the protection of society the first and guiding principle of the youth act. According to the declaration of principles, the safety and security of Canadians is secondary to the rehabilitation and reintegration of young offenders back into society.

Beside failing to make the protection of society the guiding principle, the new youth criminal justice act effectively enacts the most contentious parts of the old Juvenile Delinquents Act; that is the portion that wrongfully promotes an inequitable application of criminal law, in that it allows or provides far too much discretion to the youth court.

Bill C-289 also serves to support section 43 of the criminal code in that it attempts to reinforce the principle that reasonable force may be used to discipline young persons by those with authority over them. Those in positions of authority over youth, including parents, teachers and police officers, should not be afraid to use reasonable means of discipline or intervention in minor incidents.

Schools are effectively diverting police officers from far more serious matters by calling them unnecessarily to settle disputes that could be handled by teachers or by other students. However, teachers fear that they themselves may be charged if they inadvertently harm a student while trying to stop a fight or dealing with an uncontrollable student. They are reluctant to do anything but standby, stand back and watch until the police arrive. That must be changed.

Bill C-289 attempts to do a number of other things. It attempts to lower the maximum age of the Young Offenders Act from 17 to 15 years of age. Sixteen and seventeen year olds are legally allowed to drive cars. They are allowed to get married. They are allowed to live on their own. They have the knowledge and the capacity to know right from wrong. They also have the physical strength of most adults. In some cases perhaps more physical strength than what most adults would have. For all intents and purposes, in my opinion 16 and 17 year olds are adults and should be treated as such under the criminal law. That opinion is shared by a number of people who appeared before the committee as well. It is shared by the former Attorney General of Ontario, Charles Harnick, who said before the standing committee:

Our first recommendation is that a young offender be defined as a person aged 15 years or under. Until the passing of the Young Offenders Act in 1984, the maximum age for young offenders in Ontario under the Juvenile Delinquents Act was 15-years old. For the purpose of criminal law, 16 and 17-year-olds were considered adults... A 16-year-old can legally drive, work, get married and have a family. If, as a society, we accept a younger person's ability to make serious choices such as that, then we must accept that 16-year-olds have the moral capacity to understand the consequences of doing wrong and should be held accountable for their actions.

My private member's bill also attempts to lower the minimum age limit of the Young Offenders Act from 12 years to 10.

Numerous witnesses appeared before the standing committee, including a city councillor from Scarborough, Ontario. That councillor spoke in support of lowering the age of criminality. Councillor Brad Duguid said:

--I'd like to see the age lowered in terms of the applicability to 10 years or under. And that's not an attempt to try to throw 10 and 11-year-olds in custody or in jail...It's simply an attempt to try to give the police a little more legal ability to intervene, and I think that's the key, is being able to intervene...

Regarding lowering the age limit, Constable Sue Olsen, who is a native resource officer with the Edmonton police service, testified. I loved the quote she gave at the standing committee. She said:

I work in the inner city school. One of the issues that comes up for us as street police officers is that there is a gap with the under 12-year-old children who get involved in criminal activity. We're in a sit and wait process, waiting until they're 12 before we can get them into services and deal with them before they become more of a problem down the road.

The officer was saying that as it now applies we must sit and wait until they are 12 years old so that they can get the help they need.

Some of these young people in inner cities throughout this nation need intervention at an early age. This is not so that people can be incarcerated. This is not so we can take 10 and 11 year olds, hold them in custody and throw them in jail. This is so they can get the rehabilitative programs they need so that they will be successfully integrated into society.

On April 18, 1996, Superintendent Gwen Boniface, a member of the Canadian Association of Police Chiefs, said in regard to the anonymity of the Young Offenders Act:

--while valuable from the perspective of not labelling first offenders and for all the very valid reasons that we know of, it is often outweighed by the ability of young offenders to deflect responsibility. The flaw with the system is that it countermands the basic principles that all responsible parents attempt to instill in their children--namely, to accept responsibility for one's actions.

In response to the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and in response to Albertans, who support a partial lifting of the ban, my private member's bill seeks to allow for the publishing of all the names of all violent offenders. I believe that the public has a right to know if a violent offender has been released or may reside in their community. I believe that knowledge far outweighs any privacy considerations for the offender. Parents have the right to protect their children.

I would submit that they cannot do so if they do not know with whom their children are associating; perhaps with a convicted drug dealer or a violent offender.

In recognition that some youth make minor mistakes that they do not repeat, I believe, as does my party, that their privacy should be maintained.

The recidivism rate for young offenders clearly shows that the sentencing provisions of the Young Offenders Act have been ineffective. Particularly in cases of violent offences such as sexual assault, the current maximum sentence of only three years does not provide an adequate period of time for rehabilitation to occur.

It has taken years for the offender to develop this behaviour and it takes years to reverse it. The maximum sentence of seven years proposed in my private member's bill would provide judges with greater sentencing options for the most severe cases.

When I campaigned in the election the people of Crowfoot said that we needed an act that was not simply there to punish but was also there to rehabilitate. Bill C-289 does that.

Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2001Government Orders

September 20th, 2001 / 3:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened carefully to the remarks of the previous speaker. Indeed, the first part of it concerned the conduct of the Liberal government. We have to acknowledge that the Canadian Alliance member was right.

We do have a strange government. It says one thing and does another. It tells the people one thing but, in practice, does something else. We could give many examples of this.

I will give an example similar to the one the member gave, and it concerns organized crime. This is a very important matter. Everyone has debated it here in the House. We quickly passed the bill in June in order to implement it as quickly as possible. Bill C-24 is before the other House as is another very important bill, Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The Liberal government says that public safety is important and that it wants to do its utmost to, in addition to having anti-gang legislation, amend the anti-gang legislation, which has not yet been passed in the Senate, and add amendments in order to fight terrorism. Well, we might have thought the government would instruct the other House to have Bill C-24 examined as quickly as possible in order to be put into effect. Well no, it did not.

The Liberal government instructed the Senate not to pass as quickly as possible the anti-gang legislation, the legislation to fight organized crime, not to make amendments to cover terrorism, as the Prime Minister has been saying since the start of the conflict; no, the government instructed the other House to pass Bill C-7. Declaring war against young offenders will certainly settle the affairs of the world. This is an example of the sort of speech the government makes here for public ears. But, the reality of the matter is something else again.

The Canadian Alliance member is right: we should be discussing something other than a bill as complicated and controversial as Bill C-15. If hon. members took a good look at this legislation, they would agree that it is inconsistent. We cannot deal with and put on the same footing—after all, we are amending the criminal code—the protection of children, the vulnerability of childhood, and the protection of animals. This does not make any sense.

We could pass very quickly all the provisions that have to do with the protection of children, such as Internet games and issues. We could also adopt very quickly provisions dealing with penalties as they relate to harassment. We could adopt them today if the government was willing to co-operate by simply splitting the bill.

There are controversial clauses, such as those on animal cruelty. I can understand the hon. member from western Canada whose constituents are very concerned with this bill, because back home in Quebec, we also have farmers, people who work with animals, hunters, fishers, research laboratories and universities that are concerned. Instead of discussing a bill that no one wants or that is largely controversial, we could have talked about the preparation of the strikes that the United States are about to make. We could have talked about how to help small and medium size businesses, companies, and how to improve our border services. We could have talked about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, about public safety. But no, we are not talking about these issues.

Could the Canadian Alliance member tell us which parts of the bill we could quickly adopt because they are not being challenged by his party, and could he point out those that are more controversial and require a more indepth review? Could we split this bill in two?

We could adopt one part quickly and take more time to properly review the other part.

Attack on the United StatesGovernment Orders

September 17th, 2001 / 7:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Canadian Alliance Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today on this solemn occasion to contribute to this historic debate. I would like to start by expressing my sincere condolences to those thousands of victims and their families whose lives are forever changed as a result of the horrific and cowardly acts of terror.

The victims are from all races and creeds. They were all innocently going about their daily lives when the terrorists struck. I offer these condolences on behalf of the people of Edmonton--Strathcona whom I have the privilege of representing in the House of Commons.

As the only Muslim elected to parliament in Canada, I want to extend my condolences on behalf of the Canadian Muslim community. I feel a responsibility to clarify to the Canadian people what the religion of Islam is about. There are some Canadians who believe that the acts carried out by the terrorists were sanctioned or dictated by Islamic law. In reality these were criminal acts of political terrorism by cowardly extremists in direct contravention of Islamic law.

The term Islam means peace. Muslims around the world believe that peace and tolerance are the very essence of faith. The terrorists who attacked the Pentagon and the World Trade Center have violated the Holy Koran and Islamic values.

A common Muslim greeting, as-Salam-u-Alaikum , means may peace be upon you. The word jihad simply means that each individual must strive to be the best he or she can be.

For example, Muslims are in an internal struggle to prevent themselves from committing bad deeds. Jihad does not mean a physical holy war against other human beings as has been frequently said in the media. Therefore committing violent acts against the innocent is not part of jihad but rather is a sin against the Holy Koran. There is no mention in the Holy Koran about committing violent acts against non-Muslims.

Media reports have identified the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon to be Islamic. However their motives were not in keeping with Islam. Timothy McVeigh was a Christian, but his attack on the U.S. government buildings in Oklahoma City was not motivated by Christian beliefs. Deranged people carried out all these deplorable political acts of terrorism.

In Muslim mosques across Canada and other countries prayers have been held for the victims of the September 11 terrorist attack. Muslim groups across Canada such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Canada and Muslims Against Terrorism have condemned the attack because it goes against our values of peace and harmony.

I implore all Canadians to unite in this time of crisis and fortify our strength of diversity. We are a multicultural nation, the envy of the world, and as such we must collectively fight terrorism by working together to protect our freedom.

Most of us in the House travelled from different parts of the country to get here. In the airports we witnessed a sense of uneasiness and vulnerability on the faces of those travelling with us. Canadians are looking to us, their elected leaders, for a response to the acts of atrocity. We need legislation to tighten up the loopholes that have aided the cause of terrorism on Canadian soil.

I am not here today to point fingers and lay blame. I believe that we must follow the example of our American neighbours and put aside partisan differences to address the immediate security needs of Canadians. The government opposite must address the deficiencies present in its national security policy. To do so is not admitting culpability but rather accepting the responsibility of protecting the lives and livelihood of Canadians.

Canadians watched in horror as the terrorist attacks were carried out on the United States. It struck at the heart of our sense of morality and freedom. However what amplified the horror was the possibility that some of these evil men had travelled through Canada on their journey.

This news is not surprising, given the numerous reports highlighting the presence of terrorist organizations in Canada and the ease with which they abuse our humanitarian initiatives to settle refugees. The Prime Minister's face saving response last week that there is no need to revisit our security policies was unacceptable.

As a newly appointed critic for Canada Customs and Revenue Agency I will address the role of Revenue Canada in the fight against terrorism. We are a trading nation. As a result of NAFTA over $1 billion a day crosses the U.S.-Canada border. This activity has fuelled our economy, sustained job growth and allowed Canadian families to prosper.

National revenues required to fund tax cuts, health care, education spending and debt reduction are contingent upon our trading relationship with the United States.

In what seemed to be a veiled message to Canada, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell stated last week:

--some nations need to be more vigilant against terrorism at their borders if they want their relationship with the U.S. to remain the same. For those nations thatwe believe can do a better job of policing their borders, of going after this kind of activity, we're going to work with them. We're gonna make it clear to them that this will be a standard against which they're measured with respect to their relationship with the United States--

One measure available to the U.S. is to implement section 110 of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. This initiative implements mandatory entrance and exit checks at the U.S. border crossings. In effect, all foreign nationals, including Canadians, would be required to register when entering and exiting the United States.

The U.S. has postponed implementing section 110 until adequate technology can be developed to expedite this process with minimal delays. This week commercial traffic attempting to enter the United States from border crossings in the Niagara region are experiencing 9 to 12 hour waits. These extreme measures may become the norm if the government does not take action to rectify our border security.

There was much ado this summer about an open border with the United States. This concept was being entertained by a desire on the part of the U.S. and Canadian industry to minimize the encumbrance of border security in order to maximize the efficiency of moving people, products and capital across our border. Yet from a national security perspective, we must ensure that those people, products and capital entering Canada are not economic, medical or criminal risks.

The growing success of the NAFTA relationship in conjunction with the emergence of e-commerce and the growing needs of just in time manufacturing have put increased pressure on our border crossings.

The Canada-United States accord on our shared border was signed in 1995. Its goal had four key points: to promote international trade, to streamline processes for legitimate travellers and commercial goods, to provide enhanced protection against drug smuggling and the illegal entrance of people, and to reduce costs for both governments.

One response to this accord is Bill S-23 which is about to be introduced in this House. Bill S-23 includes many electronic systems used to expedite and track cross border commercial traffic. I believe these initiatives can only be entertained once the integrity of our borders is ascertained.

Bringing to light the inadequacies of Canada's national security is a wake-up call in the midst of a nightmare unfolding on the east coast of the United States. Canadians may not be aware of our porous borders; however every terrorist organization, drug cartel and organized crime operation in the world is fully aware of these deficiencies and have been exploiting them for years. Canada's porous border is by no means a reflection of the men and women who serve as customs officers. It is the reality of naive and irresponsible government policy. A philosophical shift in Liberal policy is required.

In 1994 Bill C-7 moved customs from a security mandate to the Department of National Revenue. Its prime objective is to recover tax and duty revenue for the crown. We must give our customs officers the tools, resources and the mandate required to protect our borders from those who are intent on destruction. If Canada is not willing to increase its standard of national security, the United States will not be willing to jeopardize the safety and security of the American people by continuing an undefended border with Canada. Such a decision will have an incredible impact on our economy.

I believe that Canada must take the lead in implementing a continental security agreement among NAFTA partners, particularly with the United States. This must include shared intelligence, including exit and entrance data and criminal profiling. Such an agreement is not an erosion of our cultural identity or our national sovereignty, as some would have us believe. It would serve to protect our trading and diplomatic relationship with the U.S. thereby serving to stabilize our economy and protect our citizens.

The federal government must first of all admit that there is a problem of terrorist activity in Canada and resolve to work with the United States in a legitimate partnership to secure our borders and protect our citizens and economies from future attack. The government's only response to terrorism thus far has been Bill C-16 which states that those Canadian charities found to be financially aiding terrorist organizations will be stripped of their charitable status. This is a baby step in the marathon fight to eradicate terrorism. Canadians expect much broader and tougher legislation to follow.

In closing, I would like to repeat my appeal to Canadians to unite during this time of crisis and embrace the strength of our diversity. Our Islamic neighbours are bearing a double burden. Not only are we grieving over the horrendous loss of life, we are bearing the burden of misplaced blame upon our community.

SupplyGovernment Orders

June 12th, 2001 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to once again rise in the Chamber to speak to the issue of parliamentary reform. I will be splitting my time with the member for Port Moody—Coquitlam—Port Coquitlam, a riding whose name is sometimes tough to get one's tongue around.

The motion today is as follows:

That the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs be instructed to draft, and report to this House no later than November 1, 2001, changes to the Standing Orders improving procedures for the consideration of Private Members' Business, including a workable proposal allowing for all items to be votable.

I suggest that we all take a serious look at what we are attempting to accomplish here. I particularly appeal to backbenchers of all parties. The constituents of their electoral districts equally elected all 301 members of the House of Commons but only a select few are ever really provided the opportunity to enact legislation for the benefit of our citizens.

Ministers bring forth legislation from time to time. It all gets passed as there is little substantial opportunity for members to influence the government to accept suggestions or amendments.

Backbenchers must overcome private members' business rules when attempting to advance legislation of importance to themselves or their constituents. To be successful they must have their names drawn in a lottery and then be able to convince the subcommittee in charge of private members' initiatives that the proposal should be deemed a votable item. A member's bill or motion is then given three hours of debate and voted upon.

I fully understand the limitations of time in this place to debate private members' initiatives. Everyone with private members' business on the order paper has an equal chance to be drawn for debate, and that is just fine. Over the past few years I have been successful a few times in winning the lottery, so to speak, which is the way we refer to it around here. I have no problem with the system up to that point.

As a footnote I should point out that I had a bill deemed votable and passed by this place at second reading. I got the bill to third reading in the last parliament but it died when the election was called. I had to start the whole process again when we returned for this parliament. There is some good news in that the substance of my bill in its entirety was incorporated into the recently passed Bill C-7. However I have also had bills deemed non-votable.

The bill incorporated into Bill C-7 was the only time my name was drawn in the lottery in the entire 36th parliament, in spite of the fact that I had private members' business on the order paper about 99% of the time.

After first being elected it took me a few days to get bills drafted and on to the notice paper. I also fully appreciate that well over 200 backbenchers are in competition for the lottery. This goes to show how difficult it is to get one's name drawn. Mine was drawn once in over three years. Some of my colleagues have told me that they have never been drawn.

Getting drawn is just a small part of the battle. It seems almost as difficult to subsequently get one's motion or bill deemed votable. I have appeared three times before the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. Each time I made a very similar case on the merits of deeming my bill votable. In each case my legislation met all the criteria to be considered votable according to House rules. I do not know why the subcommittee approved one bill and disapproved the other two.

I will not second guess the subcommittee. It must be difficult for members to decide on the basis of a five to fifteen minute examination with the presenting member of parliament.

I expect that most, if not all, private members' initiatives meet all the qualifications for being votable. Otherwise, why would members even try?

While I will not question or second guess the subcommittee, I will point out some of the problems or questions that arise from a process that does little to enhance House procedure and reputation.

First, the subcommittee has recently not been taking full advantage of its powers to declare motions and bills votable. At times the full complement of items is not deemed votable. The subcommittee can deem up to 10 items votable but seems to seldom go that far. It apparently keeps some space in reserve but that does little to encourage members who are arguing for votability.

I had to wonder about that when my legislation was unsuccessful. Why was my bill unsuccessful when there were vacancies on the votable list? Does the committee determine votability on the basis of party affiliation or favouritism toward certain members of the House? I am not saying it does but the question must be raised.

Is the subcommittee playing politics with private members' business? We all know this whole place reeks of politics, so that too is a fair question.

Private members' initiatives can cover a multitude of issues, almost everything under the sun. I often wonder how committee members can be up to speed on all issues of environment, finance, justice, health, technology or what have you. How can members of the subcommittee know the importance or relevance of all initiatives presented to them on the basis of only a five minute presentation by the sponsoring member and the opportunity to ask a few questions? How can they weigh the benefits of one presentation over another?

Members of parliament may be very capable individuals but I wonder whether we are expecting the unreasonable when we task them to decide on so many disparate issues.

These questions, concerns and others, I should imagine, raise the question of why we do not make all items votable that are selected through the lottery process. Private members' business is the one avenue whereby all backbenchers can bring forth legislation of importance to their constituents and to Canadians.

Why do we allow games to be played to obstruct private members from successfully pursuing the process? If my experience is any example, I was provided three hours to convince this place of the importance of changing the young offenders' legislation. As I said, I was successful.

In another case I was provided only one hour to convince this place of the importance of changing the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I do not know if I was successful because my proposal was deemed non-votable. The House did not get the opportunity to deal with the matter. Recently some collateral matters of that private members' bill have been receiving a great deal of public attention.

We may all be criticized before long for sleeping at our posts because the subcommittee has spoken for all of us on one issue.

In my other case I suggested that those who commit multiple motor vehicle thefts should face more serious consequences. I specifically attempted to attack what is becoming more and more an organized crime activity. Once again the subcommittee deprived this place of the chance to consider the matter.

I will now briefly respond to skeptics who may think I am trying to mislead or entrap others into agreeing with my arguments. Deeming all items votable would not end the matter. This place would still have the opportunity to vote on each and every issue. For various reasons we all support or oppose private members' proposals. There is nothing wrong with that. If we are forced to make difficult decisions that is good as well. If we are to be paid at the level of senior executives we should expect to be forced to earn our keep, so to speak.

When decisions concern what is best for the citizens of the country rather than what is best politically, they become much easier and simpler to justify. It is that type of choice we should be considering with this motion.

Lastly, the motion we are debating today merely proposes that the issue be sent to committee for further review. We are not making the final determination today. We are sending the matter on for more detailed and reasoned analysis. It is in the interest of all members of parliament to improve our rules so our work may be more beneficial to citizens. That is, after all, why we are here.

Farm Credit Corporation ActGovernment Orders

June 7th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am hugely pleased to speak today in the context of Bill C-25, an act to amend the Farm Credit Corporation Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I am also pleased to announce to my colleague in the Canadian Alliance that the Bloc Quebecois will support the three amendments he has proposed. Both the Bloc Quebecois and the Canadian Alliance tried everything in their power, while the committee was studying the bill clause by clause, to propose amendments. In some instances, the Canadian Alliance presented an amendment similar to our own, and we withdrew ours in order to debate theirs.

Once again, we had the annoying experience of running headlong into an arrogant government, and an even more arrogant head of the corporation.

We noted that, basically, we were coming to parliament, but the die had already been cast. The members can take that as they will, that is their business.

We came here to legislate what the board of the Farm Credit Corporation had already decided. So much so that, at one point, the Bloc Quebecois had proposed an amendment to limit loans to $1 million. In discussions, we went as far as $5 million; actually, FCC loans should not exceed $5 million.

I know members will be very interested to learn that the head of the Farm Credit Corporation said “There is no point your introducing this amendment, my board of directors has already decided that the maximum loan would be $20 million”. Of course, we looked completely silly wanting to limit loans to $1 million or $5 million, when they had already decided they could lend up to $20 million.

That means that the Farm Credit Corporation wants to change its mission. Until now, the Farm Credit Corporation had been helping primary producers. It tried to help businesses which, very often, had not been able to get loans from traditional financial institutions. The FCC was there for the small farmer, the family farm that had problems making it.

Now, the Farm Credit Corporation will have a new name. It will be called Farm Credit Canada. It is intended that this new corporation will lend up to $20 million. It remains to be seen to whom that money will be lent. This suggests that we could have unpleasant surprises, because the Farm Credit Corporation could end up funding businesses that are either upstream or downstream in relation to traditional farm production and to traditional small farms.

According to the figures that we were given, currently, 94% of the corporation's loans are made to primary types of farm productions. We wanted to put it in the act that we were giving them a chance. We said that at least 80% of the loans should be made to primary farm productions.

We are truly concerned that the Farm Credit Corporation will fund mega-industries. When we look at how this government is behaving, that concern is justified. Since the past is indicative of the future, we are justified in being concerned by the government's action.

Then the government told us “We held consultations in Quebec. Everyone in Quebec agrees with this”. Everyone in Quebec was opposed to Bill C-7, but it did not stop the government, which is now telling us that “Everyone in Quebec agrees with us. They all agree with the Farm Credit Corporation”.

We contacted the UPA, or Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec. In a press release—not written by the Bloc Quebecois, but by the UPA—the union said:

We have reservations about the Farm Credit Corporation broadening its current mandate to include the funding of non-farming businesses that are not majority owned by farmers and to provide venture capital to businesses related to agriculture.

That is the UPA's position, not what we were told, which was that the UPA was in complete agreement with the government's bill.

I went further in my quest to check out what I was told. I always make a point of checking things out. The Fédération des caisses populaires Desjardins du Québec also told us it had reservations about the Farm Credit Corporation broadening its mandate to include companies upstream and downstream of agricultural production. In the lower St. Lawrence region prior to 1998, the corporation was not very present and it existed alongside the Société de financement agricole du Québec and the financial institutions present in the lower St. Lawrence region.

In fact, the corporation's interest rates were higher, credit conditions were more stringent, and the Farm Credit Corporation was less aggressive on the regional market. In those days, the Farm Credit Corporation was an alternative for farmers when they were turned down for a loan by the financial institutions or the Société de financement agricole du Québec.

Since 1998, the situation has changed completely. It must be remembered that, when the Farm Credit Corporation lends money, it gets it out of the pockets of Canadian taxpayers; this is the public's money. The corporation takes this money and engages in unfair competition with caisses populaires and financial institutions.

What does the Farm Credit Corporation do? It sends its officials out to the 5th, 6th or 7th concession to visit farms. They knock on doors and ask “You wouldn't happen to need any money, would you?” No longer need a farmer go and visit the banking institution. Now the banking institution leaves Ottawa and heads for the best farms in Quebec. They are hard to miss.

They find the best, most productive farms, knock on the door and ask “Could we by any chance lend you some money? Do you happen to need any? We will give you a great deal. We will lend it to you at at least 0.5% less than any other financial institution”.

In the City of Laval, they even went so far as to make a loan at 1.5% under the going rate; in Nicolet, for some loans the rate given was 1.1% under.

When we are told that people in the financial institutions are satisfied, it remains to see what the banks have to say. The banks submitted a brief to the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food in which they stated:

Canada's banks are in favour of competition in the marketplace by institutions that are all subject to the same regulations.

We are, however, of the opinion that government agencies such as the Farm Credit Corporation, which operate thanks to government support and are not subject to the whole range of prudent regulatory requirements, ought not to be mandated to be in direct competition with private sector financial institutions.

Such a mandate falsifies market competition by enabling such suppliers of services to carry out activities under conditions that are not only different but less stringent than those applied to others in the same field.

Here we have a bill that is extremely dangerous for the financial institutions of Quebec and Canada. This will be an institution, an agency, in unfair competition with the financial institutions, which are governed by very, very strict rules.

As a result, although we in the Bloc Quebecois will support the Canadian Alliance amendments, we are unfortunately obliged to not support the government in the passage of Bill C-25.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

June 1st, 2001 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on the motions in Group No. 2 to amend Bill C-11, an act respecting immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger.

While the bill contains much needed changes to the Canadian immigration system, it also has a series of serious flaws, no matter what the weak Liberal government tries to tell Canadians about the new legislation. It can participate in all the propaganda and sugar coating it wants, but Bill C-11 will not deliver what it intends to deliver without proper enforcement, management and accountability.

Earlier the NDP member from Winnipeg Centre spoke to the first group of amendments. I do not believe he believed in what he said in his speech. The lack of clarity, prudence and real enforcement behind the legislation, despite its wrong tone and content, would ultimately cause more troubles than the legislation it purports to replace.

There is far too much reliance on 89 pages of regulations to interpret the legislation. Much of what is in the regulations could be drafted into the new legislation. The regulations essentially give the minister the option of running the department any way that she or he sees fit. This is not accountability or transparency by government.

The weak Liberal government has a habit of governing not by legislation but by regulations. It not only makes legislation undemocratic but makes it complex and opaque. Being the past co-chair of the Joint Standing Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations I can say that with certainty. The regulations cannot be debated in parliament, so I call it governing through the back door.

Let me make it absolutely clear to everyone, including those who have taken the time to watch the debate on TV, that the Canadian Alliance policies are pro-immigration, but we do not want ineffective legislation passed in the House.

The hon. member for Dauphin—Swan River, the hon. member for Blackstrap and I as members of the citizenship and immigration committee attempted to make amendments to make the legislation effective and workable, but the Liberals refused to co-operate. Most of our amendments were rejected by the Liberal dominated committee.

There is history to indicate that the arrogant Liberal government will not accept most opposition amendments to any bill. It has blatantly refused to accept amendments from the opposition to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act which we debated a few days ago.

Bill C-11 would replace the 25 year old Immigration Act, 1976. The previous act has been a mess. That is why in many of the constituency offices of MPs major workloads are arising from mismanagement by the department. Sixty to eighty-five per cent of the resources in constituency offices are utilized in many ridings by immigration alone, and that is not fair.

I have difficulty understanding why politicians have to be involved in visitors' visas, for example. MPs are elected by Canadians and represent Canadians, not people in other countries. It should be the responsibility of the immigration officers abroad to make fair decisions, not the politicians but those well-trained immigration officials.

Surprisingly the Liberal candidates, or even the failed candidates, made promises to people to get visitors' visas issued. They should be immediately stopped from making any representations on behalf of Canadians to the immigration officials in our embassies and high commissions abroad. Ministers continue to abuse ministers' permits to oblige their Liberal friends for political support.

In this group there are four amendments.

Motion No. 5, moved by the Canadian Alliance, deals with the inadmissibility clause 34 of the bill. It replaces line (d), “being a danger to the security of Canada” with “being a threat to the security of Canada as defined by section 2 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act”.

There is no definition of danger or threat to the security of Canada in the act. It is left to the subjective judgment. Therefore, this amendment is very important.

The opinion of those government agencies and officials with expertise in security must be heard and employed. It should not be ministers or politicians who should decide on political lines. The decision should be made by experts, based on facts and logic.

CSIS, RCMP and other law enforcement agencies know who is a risk and who is not a risk. They should be the authority in the area, not the weak Liberal minister.

That is why the finance minister and the international co-operation minister should not have attended the fundraiser by the organization said to be the front for Tamil tigers based on advice from CSIS. That is why this weak Liberal government should not have ordered to shred the report called “Sidewinder” written by a frontline officer, Brian McAdam. He is contacted for advice on security issues by the United States, Australia and many other countries. However, at home the Liberal government applied political pressure and had that report shredded.

Bill C-11 is weak with respect to security risks. It allows for front end security screening, but it only applies to refugees, which in some cases is a physical impossibility. Front end screening does not apply to applicants in general.

The bill promises to deliver better enforcement of security measures for both refugee and immigrant applicants, but there is no plan of action set out in the bill to explain how this will work. No one should be allowed into Canada without proper checks as to his or her risk to the security of our country.

There are no provisions in the bill for improved communications between visa officers, law enforcement and international criminal investigative units. Communication among the RCMP, CSIS and other international criminal investigation units should be mandatory and employed immediately. The auditor general pointed out in his most recent report that this type of communication was imperative. However, without a more open system and a far more communicative department, the bill will not achieve these goals.

We have seen Lai Changxing, the accused kingpin smuggler, land in Canada through queue jumping. He was not detected by the visa officer by even a simple background check. Then there is the example of the fellow who came to Canada with an active case of tuberculosis and exposed some 1500 people to the deadly virus.

Motion No. 6 was also moved by the Canadian Alliance. It deals with loss of status by replacing line 1 in clause 50.

At present, there is no linkage between CSIS and the Department of Citizenship and Immigration. Information from SIRC is presently not utilized. CSIS may make mistakes which oversights people's rights. The whole purpose of an appeal may be defeated just because of that. SIRC reviews cases, and it is an oversight committee over CSIS. It could take away power from the minister. Probably that is the reason why many Liberals will not support this. I urge them to look at the merit of the amendment and how effective this will make the bill.

Motions Nos. 7 and 8 were moved by other parties. Motion No. 7 deals with right of appeal. This amendment will delete some clauses and replace some others. Motion No. 8 will add something to clause 64 that a permanent resident would be allowed to state his or her case before being subjected to deportation or refusal of entry, when CIC that saw fit to allow them into Canada in the first place after due processing. These amendments are important.

Immigration And Refugee Protection ActGovernment Orders

May 30th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, thank you for allowing me to take part in debate on Bill C-11, even if my time will be quite limited.

Bill C-11 deals with immigration to Canada and the granting of refugee protection to persons who are displaced, persecuted or in danger.

I am very glad to have this opportunity to speak to this bill. I remind the House that when I was the critic for my party a couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to debate this bill, which was called Bill C-31 at the time.

The purpose of Bill C-31 was to amend Canada's immigration law, which dated back to 1976.

We all agree that the time has come to review the legislation. Why? Because, as my colleague from Laval Centre pointed out earlier, those who live in an urban riding, especially in Quebec and in the greater Montreal area, realize that many citizens and families must face incredible tragedies and go through hardship because of the inconsistencies in the current immigration legislation.

With regard to the Immigration and Refugee Board, the minister tells us that from now on it will take 72 hours for a refugee claim to be filed with the IRB, which will have to bring down its decision within six to nine months. Why do we support an improvement in the process? Because the present system is much too slow.

IRB figures from December 1999 indicate that the average time to process a claim is about ten months. Right now, there are 7,000 asylum seekers waiting for a decision from the Immigration and Refugee Board, and this is in Montreal alone.

We can imagine that while a person is waiting for a decision from the IRB a certain degree of integration into the Canadian and Quebec society inevitably occurs, and we must not be indifferent to that. We agree that it is important to reduce the processing time.

Motion No. 2, brought forward by my colleague from Laval Centre, is an attempt to prevent the government from making regulations outside the legislative process. We would like the government to include these regulations in the future federal immigration act. Why? So that the legislation will be understandable and consistent with needs.

When I was my party's citizenship and immigration critic, I remember meeting privately with organizations such as the Canadian Council for Refugees, which is located in my riding. I took the trouble to meet with them in my office.

I started off by asking them “What do you think of the bill to amend the Immigration Act?” Representatives of these organizations replied “This is not an easy question to answer, because the bill is difficult to evaluate. The government wants to pass a series of regulations, rather than include important measures within the bill”.

This is why the member for Laval Centre's Motion No. 2 is important. As parliamentarians, we must not be cut out of the loop. We must ensure that the bill is as complete as possible and not leave a large number of measures outside the process, outside the bill, in draft regulations.

Another important aspect of this bill has to do with automatic detention. It will be recalled that when the minister announced her bill a few weeks before the last election was called, her intention was clear. She was introducing a tough bill. Why? Because she naturally wanted to respond to the repeated demands from certain provinces west of Quebec seeking a tougher law.

This is consistent with other legislation, such as Bill C-7, which aims for tougher treatment of children. When I asked the government in committee to exclude minors from the detention process, I was told that this would be included in future regulations. What I wanted was for this to be a provision in the act. This would be a clear sign of the government's willingness.

A number of international conventions are mentioned in the bill. I am thinking of the convention on the rights of the child—

Young OffendersStatements By Members

May 30th, 2001 / 2:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois tour of the various regions of Quebec in connection with Bill C-7 has garnered more support for a definite no to the Minister of Justice as far as the content of her young offender legislation is concerned.

I would remind hon. members of the repressive approach of this bill, which runs counter to Quebec's current rehabilitation based approach to young offenders.

I would like to express particular thanks to a young actor who volunteered his time to the tour and made a tangible contribution to raising public awareness of the impact of the federal legislation.

Marc Beaupré, who plays Kevin in the popular series Deux Frères , spent some time with prisoners in order to get into his role, and has called our prisons schools for crime. He made an impassioned argument for the importance of vehemently opposing Bill C-7. His message could be summarized as follows “Young offenders will turned into criminals instead of being helped”.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I thank Marc Beaupré for his commitment, and for his generosity in particular.

Youth Criminal Justice ActStatements By Members

May 30th, 2001 / 2 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-7, the new youth criminal justice act has finally left this place. Unfortunately for Canadians it will, in the opinion of many, ultimately turn out to be worse than the much reviled Young Offenders Act that it is intended to replace.

The provinces who must administer the youth law have said that the federal government failed to properly consult and that no proper cost analysis was ever conducted.

The new act is riddled with discretions and loopholes. Its sheer complexity will lead to delays and soaring legal aid bills to the taxpayer. Violent and repeat offenders will be eligible for extra judicial measures. That is another term for avoiding court in favour of community programs.

Maximum custodial youth sentences for serious violent offences will actually be reduced. Murder, manslaughter, attempted murder and aggravated sexual assault will be presumed serious enough for adult sentences, maybe. Sexual assault with a weapon, armed robbery and kidnapping will not.

The government has taken over seven years to produce legislation that is doomed to failure. Unfortunately it is mainly our youth who will pay the price, and that is sad.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 4:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise to speak to the bill today. It takes me back to the first year I campaigned for this job in 1997. When I went door to door, one of the topics at the time was the Young Offenders Act and the changes that people wanted to see.

I remember one business that I went into. The gentleman was completely distraught over the fact that he could not get any justice for the problems he had been having with young offenders. It is interesting to note that many years later Bill C-7 still does not address the issues that so many Canadians are concerned about.

I compliment my colleague from Surrey North who has made it his life's work to bring in proper youth justice in Canada. Some of the amendments he put forward would have made great additions to the bill. Every amendment we put forward would have strengthened the bill, made it more receptive to the needs of Canadians and would have made our streets safer. These were the underlying factors for putting forward our amendments to the new youth justice act. We wanted our streets to be safer so people could feel more comfortable in their homes and in their daily lives. The member for Surrey North put a lot of effort into those issue. He knows from personal experience what can happen when young offenders go wrong.

One of the things our party proposed and probably one of the most contentious was the lowering of the age range from 12 to 18 to 10 to 16. People said that we would be locking up 10 year olds but that was not what we were talking about. We were talking about helping young people in trouble, and heading in the wrong direction, to get back on track and become better citizens in order to contribute to society in a way that all Canadians should.

Our party wanted a clear definition of a violent offence. We wanted a schedule of offences so there would be no necessity to play legal word games in the courts and no need for millions of dollars to be spent in legal costs for arguments and appeals. We should have a list of what a violent offence means. We should include the offence of murder plus all the listed offences in schedule I and II of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. These are the offences Canadians want to see listed as violent offences. Those were in the amendments we brought forward.

We proposed the deletion of the term presumptive offence within the legislation. We preferred the term violent offence to determine when a young person ought to receive adult punishment. We proposed the deletion of the term serious violent offence because we felt that all violent offences were serious and that it should be left up to the courts to decide the punishment in those circumstances. However violent offences must be handled in a specific manner to protect our citizens and our communities.

We proposed an overriding principle making the legislation the protection of the public. We heard time and again that the government placed more emphasis on the interests of the offender than on the protection of citizens. The protection of our communities should not take second place to anything.

We proposed the limitation of extrajudicial measures to first time non-violent offenders and only if those extrajudicial measures were adequate to hold a young person accountable. Accountability is a part of the act that really needs to be highlighted. Young people and their parents have to be held accountable. If we did that it would put some real meaning into the legislation.

We proposed a requirement for the attorney general to inform victims of their specific rights. We felt that was important. We proposed that the principles of denunciation and deterrence be included within the legislation. A big aspect of any youth justice act should be methods of deterrence.

We proposed that an adult sentence be imposed on young persons who commit violent offences after their 14th birthday. The range of adult sentencing would still be left up to the courts, and that would include youth style punishments, but 14 and 15 year olds who commit violent offences would be held accountable for potential adult sentencing. Some people felt that proposal was fairly harsh but we were talking about serious, violent and repeat offenders. We must deal with those people in such a way that our communities will be safe and our public will be protected.

We proposed that young persons who commit violent offences be identified for the protection of the public. People wanted to know who those young offenders were and what they had done. They felt they had the right to know if somebody who was capable of a violent offence was living in their community.

We proposed that a young person who received a life sentence through adult court should receive parole eligibility between 10 and 15 years at the discretion of a judge. This was an increase from the present range of 5 to 10 years, to put a little more bite into the legislation.

We also proposed an increased maximum sentence for violent offences other than murder. Bill C-7 would bring a custody period followed by a supervisory period with supervisory time to be one-half of the custody time.

We put forward all these proposals as amendments to the legislation. They were researched and had the benefit of the firsthand knowledge of the member for Surrey North. Not one of them was accepted.

We ended up with a bill that appears to be the same as Bill C-68 and then its subsequent Bill C-3 and now Bill C-7. There is no change. There is no more bite in the bill and no more protection for Canadians than there was in the bill introduced as Bill C-68. After months of review and hearing experts from all aspects of youth justice, the only changes made include many of the technical amendments proposed by the government to correct errors in Bill C-3.

The government has not been open to change on any aspect of the legislation. There were hearings where witnesses came forward with many good ideas and with firsthand experience. People involved in the youth justice system brought forward excellent ideas that were not accepted. All the opposition parties, except the Bloc, presented substantive amendments to Bill C-3. None of them received debate in parliament. None of them appear to have been considered by the government.

The provinces will be tasked to administer this legal nightmare but the federal government does not seem to care. The government has not been open to serious discussion over the proposals in its youth justice law. There needed to be more willingness on behalf of the government to listen to Canadians, the experts and the other parties in the House of Commons to improve the law.

The government has promised $206 million over the first three years for the implementation of the bill, but it would not even come close to meeting the responsibility of providing 50% of the funding for youth justice. The government has allowed federal funding to slip to about 20%.

This does not only apply to the bill. We have seen that in other areas of government responsibility where it has historically committed funding to a certain level to help the provinces administer the laws that are created here. The funding has decreased from 50% to 20%.

The provinces have to carry that financial burden and to take that extra cost into their own budgets to administer a law that many of them are not happy with because it does not go far enough.

An initial review of Bill C-7 indicates that the government has made it even weaker likely to appease the Quebec government and the Bloc Quebecois. That was one thing we saw. It said that if the Canadian Alliance thought it was too soft and the Bloc thought it was too severe it had to go right down the middle of the road. We do not agree with that at all.

The age range of application will remain at 12 to 18. Many people thought 10 to 12 year olds that were starting to get into trouble needed some help. They needed someone there to pull them back, to help them out and to put them back on the right road. That has not happened and these young people are still out there without direction.

The restrictions on naming violent offenders have not been put into the legislation. It is up to the courts to do that. That was something of critical importance to Canadians.

After the entire process of bringing the bill forward three times this will be its last debate before it is voted on this evening. We still do not have what Canadians have asked for. A lot more could have been done with the overall philosophy that the protection of Canadians as a whole should be the meat of the bill. If the government had kept that in mind, it would have had a bill that Canadians would have appreciated and supported.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 4:40 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time. I have been given only 10 minutes to speak on third and final reading of Bill C-7.

Third reading is the time to talk about the general thrust of a bill as a whole. There has been a lot of talk and deliberation about this type of legislation since the nationwide consultation conducted by the Conservative government during 1992-93. It was attempting at the time to address the anger in the land that had developed over the operation of the Liberal legislation of the day.

At this point we as a country are still not much further ahead, because the Liberals are still in charge. Since they have caused the present problem with the law, they are not now in any position to repair the basics of their errors. The Liberals have had reviews and some small amendments, but this time they are to be judged by the public on what they are finally bringing to the communities of Canada.

The bill is an example that goes to the heart of the competence to govern. In the broadest estimation the bill is an utter failure. It is a failure in many technical ways, but on the general level it is another example of why the Liberals are not worthy to govern. The bill is an example of a bureaucracy entangling itself with objectives that are at cross purposes, combined with insufficient political leadership to provide guidance out of the forest.

Although many political analysts admit that the Liberals are without principle, the bill is certainly the technical evidence that the Liberals have no canopy of values to find the moral compass of direction when they become lost in the tall forest of competing interests and opposing concepts.

The nation is in this mess because of a previous Liberal government that in its usual high purpose, we know best manner, with all the great arrogance of the day, gave us the Young Offenders Act over the clear objections of millions of Canadians. In many respects the very objections and warnings given years ago about the folly of the underlying assumptions about social psychology and of the criminal justice theory assumptions have all come true.

Here we are now, years later, still trying to fix the flaws. True to form, the arrogance of the government over the bill, which would be an administrative labyrinth, brings us convoluted fixes to the problems that the Liberals created. They can never fix their dilemmas as they do not possess the vision or the principled perspectives to address what the community needs in order to respond to the most fundamental Canadian social problems.

The minister claims with self-satisfaction that the enactment would repeal and replace the Young Offenders Act and provide principles, procedures and protections for the prosecution of young persons under criminal and other federal laws. The bill sets out a range of extrajudicial measures. It would establish judicial procedure and protection for young persons alleged to have committed an offence. It would encourage participation of parents, victims, communities, youth justice committees and others in the youth justice system. It sets out the range of sentences that would be available to the youth justice court. It would establish custody and supervision provisions. It sets out the rules for the keeping of records and protection of privacy. It provides transitional provisions and makes consequential amendments to other acts. In summary terms, those are the claims of the government.

However, it is obvious that the government has failed, particularly at the operational community level and at the levels of broad themes and societal objectives. The Minister of Justice has tabled legislation three times and three times she has struck out.

Like most Liberal bills this is well intentioned, but it is barely an improvement over the old YOA. It does not address the concerns of Canadians, including provisions for realistic sentences for violent crimes, focusing the law to deal truly with young offenders rather than youthful adults or comprehensively accommodating victims' rights needs.

British Columbia has had a legislative basis for diversion since 1968, some 33 years ago. Street diversion and community programs for offending youth, especially through Christian churches, were working in the urban settings of Canadian cities for years before matters became of such national concern that parliament began to deal with it in about 1908.

When Liberals talk of their bill, one would think that the alternative measures and diversions were invented by them. Parliament has been struggling with a criminal set of rules at cross-purposes to address the specialness of young offenders seemingly forever.

Since we have had mostly Liberal governments, we as a society have never been able to put to rest these issues. Now we have a bill that is so complex that it caves in upon itself trying to accomplish broad and competing objectives.

We need to clarify the basics. We are striving for a set of rules that would outline how criminal law would apply to a child or a young person. It is assumed that there is a diminished capacity for a young person to appreciate criminal acts and therefore they should not be subject to the full weight of the law. As the bill shows, the Liberals have fallen all over themselves. They have tied themselves in knots because they do not have a guiding vision.

In each province we have social welfare legislation with large systems of care, including social workers who have the legal capacity to take into care with the full authority of a legal parent any child who is deemed to be in need of care and protection. If we had a wise but simple and more circumscribed youth criminal justice act, it could complement and support the social welfare mandates of the provinces.

We could have a supportive law that would help break the cycle of offending and more fully support the huge amounts of money that is spent in community responses. However the latest managerial disaster of the government is off target in this respect because philosophically the Liberals do not stand for anything.

A dichotomy is revealed in the bill. Through many convoluted provisions it tries to deal with the principle of diminished capacity for young people, but in a most complex way it tries to accommodate violent offenders and criminal code precepts such as protection of society and denunciation. Gradually victims are being allowed back into the scene. The bill is most inadequate in that regard also.

Community expectations of a government providing peace, order and good government are not met in the bill. The anger in the land over public observance of how young offenders are dealt with generally in the courts would not be diminished by this prime example of Liberal ideological confusion.

It is clear that the government wants a bill, any bill that is in the topic area, just so that it can say it has one. However when the fundamentals of secrecy, age of application and a confusion of focus is the substance, we can understand why the Liberals have refused all the contrary evidence provided by so many that they should be going in a different direction.

It goes to the heart of how we as a society value family and children, how we care for those who do not seem to be able to care for themselves and help those who are out of step with community norms. It is about the knowledge to care. If a social welfare agency, a social worker and a school authority are to be part of the community response for children in conflict with the law, they must be knowledgeable and fully informed. That must not be discretionary.

People in my community are aware of young offender cases. They observe what happens and they follow a case through the community. They are not part of the process and anger begins to increase. They watch time and time again as the case slowly winds through the system and then they react. They call their local MP and they sign petitions of protest.

Parliament has received millions of signatures in objection to the philosophical underpinning of the bill that we have before us today. People almost have a fatalistic approach. With a law that is so out of touch with community values they have just given up protesting at this point.

In view of what I have heard over the years, I can say that my community does not support the bill and the underpinnings within it. I cannot justify it either. Consequently I will be voting against the bill at third reading.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 4:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Jerry Pickard Liberal Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in debate at third reading of Bill C-7. The introduction of Bill C-7 followed a lengthy period of consultation and review.

I remind members not only of the breadth and depth of the study that preceded the introduction of the bill but of the very strong arguments that were put forward to make sure the Young Offenders Act and the youth justice system would be changed. I further point out the extent to which the youth criminal justice act responds to the recommendations of task force and standing committee reports tabled over a number of years.

When the current Young Offenders Act was last amended in 1995 the government reiterated its commitment to conduct a comprehensive review of the legislation and the operation of the youth justice system. After a decade of experience with the Young Offenders Act it was time to step back and assess how the legislation and the youth justice system were working, and how they could be improved in ways that took into account the concerns and values of Canadians.

The standing committee on justice and legal affairs was asked to undertake an extensive review of the youth justice system. In carrying out its review the committee convened round table discussions, held a national forum, canvassed various parts of the country, heard from witnesses representing more than 100 different organizations and received more than 100 written briefs. The standing committee on justice and legal affairs released its report entitled “Renewing Youth Justice” in April 1997. It included significant findings about the youth justice system and made 14 recommendations for change.

Contributing to this comprehensive review by the standing committee was the report of a federal-provincial-territorial task force on youth justice. The task force, established in 1994 by the federal-provincial-territorial ministers responsible for youth justice, was given a mandate to review the Young Offenders Act and its application. The task force was composed of provincial, territorial and federal officials with expertise in youth justice. Its members worked in prosecution services, correctional services, statistics and research, youth law policy and law enforcement.

In proposing its response to the standing committee report entitled “Renewing Youth Justice” the federal government took into account not only the findings and recommendations of the report but also the findings of the task force and calls from Canadians across the country for a strategy to change the Young Offenders Act.

As a result, a strategy for the renewal of youth justice was released in May 1998. The strategy sets out the basic themes and policy directions contained in Bill C-7 and, perhaps more important, the rationale. The strategy identifies three key weaknesses in Canada's youth justice system.

First, not enough money is being put into the system to prevent young people from falling into a life of crime. Prevention has been mentioned by almost everyone in the House. My colleague who preceded me was very much of that mind and many members of the House have said very clearly that prevention is important. This is the direction in which we need to go.

Second, the system must improve the way it deals with the most serious violent youths, not just in terms of sentencing but in terms of ensuring they are provided with extensive, intensive, long term rehabilitation that considers their interests and those of society.

Third, the system relies too heavily on custody for the vast majority of non-violent young offenders when alternative, community based approaches could do better. The system must instil social values, help right wrongs and ensure that valuable resources are targeted where they are most needed.

In response to these weaknesses, the new strategy proposes to renew Canada's youth justice system with a focus on three key areas: crime prevention and effective alternatives to the formal youth justice system; meaningful consequences for youth crime; and rehabilitation and reintegration of young people. All of these, working together, will help society have a better system.

It commits us to target custody as a response to the more serious offenders and to provide more meaningful community based sanctions for the vast majority of youth crime, thereby contributing to a reduction in Canada's youth incarceration rates, which are among the highest in the western world.

For provincial and territorial governments, the federal financial commitment takes the form of a five year financial arrangement worth a total of $950 million to support the implementation of the youth criminal justice act and the overall policy objectives of the youth justice renewal initiative. The new agreements promote and support a wide range of services and programs considered most likely to assist in the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons in conflict with the law and in reducing reliance on the youth court system and incarceration.

Additional federal funding would also be available to support the development of programs required for the implementation of the new intensive rehabilitation custody and supervision sentencing option. These financial arrangements are an important component of the flexible implementation phase undertaken in close co-operation with the jurisdictions.

Through the youth justice renewal fund, provincial and territorial ministries responsible for youth justice may apply for grants and contributions to assist in the preparation for and implementation of the youth justice renewal initiative. Funds are available for activities related to training, community partnership development or expansion, reintegration planning and support and implementation contingencies. Examples of such activities include: assessment of staff training needs in light of new legislation; development of policies that will govern youth justice committee work; review of policy and procedural materials; and development and delivery of orientation sessions on the new legislation for frontline workers, managers, administrators and youth justice committee members.

With respect to the legislative process, let me note that prior to the third reading of Bill C-7's predecessor, Bill C-3, the election call came. However, the government's commitment to move forward with new justice legislation remained strong. The Speech from the Throne to open the first session of the 37th parliament of Canada stated that the government would reintroduce legislation to change how the justice system deals with young offenders. New legislation would encourage alternatives to custody for non-violent offenders, emphasizing rehabilitation and reintegration into society while toughening consequences for more violent youth.

This commitment to reintroduce youth justice legislation has been kept. Bill C-7 was introduced in the House of Commons on February 5. Bill C-7 is basically the same bill previously introduced as Bill C-3, except that Bill C-7 incorporates government amendments that were made public before the election call. The inclusion of these amendments demonstrates once again the ongoing consultation that is accompanying this bill as it moves through the parliamentary system.

The government has consulted and listened. Many views have been expressed, some diametrically opposed to others. The overriding goal is to put in place a youth justice system that is fair and effective, and that is what Bill C-7 would do.

The substance of Bill C-7 has been open to public scrutiny for a long time. Its introduction was preceded by lengthy studies and consultation. Now is the time to move forward and replace the Young Offenders Act with the youth criminal justice act, an act that would instil values such as accountability, responsibility and respect, which are long overdue in all of our systems. This is an act that would result in the kind of youth justice system all Canadians want.