Youth Criminal Justice Act

An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2002.

Sponsor

Anne McLellan  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

David Anderson Canadian Alliance Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, we are here today to talk about the youth criminal justice act. The question I have this afternoon is: Why do we even need the act? The answer is obvious. Youth crime has increased in the country. It is something that touches everyone including the government, and it has finally realized that there is a problem.

We have a Young Offenders Act that has been demonstrated to be clearly inadequate. Since 1993 the government has promised change. The committee on justice and legal affairs held extensive cross country hearings in 1996 and 1997. It presented its report to parliament called “Renewing Youth Justice”.

There was a change of ministers in 1997 and at that time the reform of the act was to be a priority. In 1999 the government finally introduced Bill C-68. It was reintroduced in October 1999 as Bill C-3 and it hung around until the last election. It was revived again this spring. The bill has had a longer life than some of the young people it was supposed to protect.

We expected that when it did come forward it would deal with the issues but it clearly did not. It not only demonstrates a lack of ability to deal with children's issues but it demonstrates the government's inability to address the real issues in the country. It shows the government is out of touch with its people.

The definition of arrogant is having an exaggerated sense of one's own importance or abilities. I would add a second half to that definition. It shows a refusal to accept one's responsibility. Arrogance is shown in how the bill has been handled. It has been reintroduced for the third time with a new name. Simply calling something by a different name does not change it.

The Liberal government has refused to apply responsible amendments. It has applied some of its own technical housekeeping amendments, but it would not accept responsible amendments from other parties. They have not even been considered so Bill C-7, which was Bill C-3, which was Bill C-68, is the bill we are discussing today.

First, there is a general refusal in the bill to deal with the issues. There is a refusal to take responsibility for young offenders. The bill does not deal seriously with the youngest offenders. It still leaves children of 10 and 11 years of age to child welfare and social services. We are not suggesting that children of this age should be locked up, but it is essential that they are involved with the justice system to get the help they need.

Some of these kids need a structured solution. In the newspaper in the last few weeks there was a case involving a young person who was so out of control in his community that the community was asking someone to come in and do something.

I have worked with young people for many years and one thing I know is that they need structure. The younger they are, the more important it is to give them a direction which they do not necessarily have. The bill deprives them of that.

Second, there is a refusal in the bill to take responsibility for older offenders. In our previous Young Offenders Act, offenders aged 14 and up could be transferred to adult court for a very limited number of offences. That provision was used very rarely. Bill C-7 would allow for even more latitude in this area. Provinces could essentially opt out of this provision in whole or in part. They could change the provision so that it only applies to 15 or 16 year olds. Some kids need to be in adult court to get access to the services they require.

There is also a refusal in the bill to take responsibility for the communities. In terms of identifying young offenders, Bill C-7 would prevent a limited number of instances where young people could be named to protect their community. The list is restrictive. It does not include all violent or dangerous offenders. It would provide courts with discretion to override the identification of the offender.

We saw last night, in the government's defeat of a good amendment that was presented to it, its lack of commitment to these kids, the communities and the school systems that need to deal with young people. We saw it vote en masse to restrict the provision regarding the naming of young offenders.

I have been involved somewhat with education and with young people. Educators and other people in our schools need to know who these young people are in order to deal fairly and squarely with them.

In Bill C-7 the protection of the public is second to understanding the circumstances and the perpetrator. There is an extensive emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration. We have already seen the results of that approach in my area.

Regina has been attacked by car thieves for years. Some of these kids have been arrested dozens of times, with little or no consequences for their actions. Where is the deterrence when people can keep going back again and again to the same offences and grow into adults who have little regard for the law?

The protection of the public is not an overriding principle in the legislation. Why should the protection of our communities take second place?

The bill also refuses to take responsibility for crime seriously. People have always been concerned about the three year maximum sentence in the Young Offenders Act. We heard about that often. We heard about extreme circumstances and an extreme crime that took place, and young people were not held accountable for more than the three years maximum sentence.

Bill C-7 would actually reduce the maximum custody period from three years to two years. The maximum is three years but a supervisory period must be included. For most offences we are looking at two years of custody and one year of supervision being the maximum sentence young people can face. One of the main concerns of Canadians about young offenders is being ignored in the bill.

There is also refusal to take responsibility for provincial governments. The government would download the bill on to underfunded provincial governments. At present the cost sharing program is at about 75%, with the provinces paying 75% and the federal government paying 25%. Our position is that the federal government should be paying 50% of that cost.

It is a strange situation when the federal government has responsibility for criminal law but absolutely no obligation to fund the implementation of it. There have been long term shortfalls in financing and there has been a shortage of consultation with the provinces.

There is also a refusal to keep things simple. The bill is extremely complicated. As one member mentioned this morning, the Young Offenders Act has gone from 30 sections to 70 sections, to over 200 clauses in the current bill.

The bill sets up rules. It sets up procedures. It sets up exceptions to the same rules. The court may or may not name offenders and adult sentencing may or may not be imposed. Many of these things are left to the court's discretion. It is so complicated that there were problems in trying to define a violent act or a serious violent offence.

I have worked with kids, as I mentioned before, but the real problem is not with youth crime. It is policy that destroys families. Every one of us would recognize that the family is the foundation of society. We need strong families if we are to have stable young children.

We have many government policies that cause community and family breakdowns and family stress. We have parents who want to be at home when their kids get home from school. They want to be at home when their kids leave in the morning. However they are not able to be because of their financial situation brought about by government policies. There are families that cannot keep up in the world unless both parents work.

There are some things that need to be done to address the problem of family stress. The government needs to take a fair look at its taxation policies. At every turn people are being taxed to death. Taxes continue to increase. We hear daily about the government's huge supposed tax cuts that took place, but they just do not register with people and they do not register on their paycheques. We have property tax. We have income tax. We have fuel tax. We have sales tax. The list goes on and on. The government needs to take a look at its taxation policies and how they affect families.

Our monetary policies have a great deal to do with family stress. We see our dollar falling. We see Canada falling behind in production. We see that people must work harder and harder to break even, which continues to put pressure on the people who least need that pressure on their families. People are forced into the workplace. Some of them do want to be there. Families are under stress.

Earlier I talked about arrogance and defined it as an exaggerated sense of one's importance or abilities. The whole bill smacks of that. It seems to be a congratulatory and ineffective piece of legislation. It is unfortunate that it does not deal realistically with the problems of youth justice in a concrete way.

The problem has existed. It continues to exist and it will continue to exist. Our kids are being left at risk. The government should not be wasting our time and taxpayer money, but I am afraid that is exactly what the bill would do.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was watching this with great intent. I appreciate having the time to discuss Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice bill, and the implications of that bill in communities such as mine.

There are several things I want to address. One is the age upon which the current Young Offenders Act is applicable to and where I think it should go.

One of the biggest questions I get when I talk to young people in colleges and schools is when do we decide they are adults. The age of sexual consent in Canada, thanks to the government, has been reduced from 16 to 14.

People can drive cars I believe at 16. In some provinces people who are younger than 16 can get a learner's permit. Drinking is allowed at the age 18 or 19. People can be sent to adult court maybe at the age of 18, or 17 or 16, but certainly at the age of 18. In fact, we are not sure when a young person is an adult. We give the widest of messages to our young people.

The age of a young offender in this act remains at 12 to 18. We suggested that ages 16 and 17 up to age 18 be applicable to adult court. For instance, a young person can drive a car, and I cannot think of a bigger weapon in the hands of anybody in this society. If young people are old enough to drive a car, they are old enough to think right from wrong and know that their actions are right or wrong. Therefore, I believe the age of an adult is above the age of 16. I will come back to this in a moment.

One of the frustrations I have personally had with the bill is that the government has been messing with it, quite frankly, since 1993 when it came into office. I was not elected yet, but back in 1989 and 1990 many of us said the Young Offenders Act had to change because it did not work. This is now the third act that has been tabled in the House after three parliaments, and we are still debating this. Even today I do not have the confidence that this is going to become legislation at the end of the day. I do not feel the government has the commitment to it nor understands all the implications of the bill.

A part of the legislation particularly disturbs me. It is the list of presumptive offences for which an adult sentence may be imposed. The list includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault. It does not include sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a host of other serious violent offences. Where I come from issues like sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping are all serious offences. Yet they are not acknowledged by the government as being so.

I went through this with some British officials last week. Two individuals in England, named Thompson and Venebles, are young offenders. These individuals murdered a very young person who was about two and a half years old. A price is on their heads. The courts said that because of that they will allow them to change their name and change their identity. In fact, they are looking at shipping them to another country.

I believe these two young people have turned 18. The British government is looking for somewhere to send them. My information is that it has one of two choices: Canada or Australia.

I bring this up because the government side is so sympathetic to issues like this. I am concerned that individuals like them cannot only come to our country, hide their identities and live next door to anyone, but under the Young Offenders Act we still refuse to make full identification of young offenders who commit serious offences. Not only do we not disclose that, but we are now in consideration of bringing two young offenders into Canada under other names, and we will never know who they are until they commit another crime.

I asked the solicitor general in committee a couple of weeks ago whether these two would be coming to Canada. Of course he denied knowing anything about it. What I did not ask him was whether or not the justice minister or the immigration minister knew anything about it. I believe that someone in the government across the way has made a deal, and it is most inappropriate that it happened.

In Canada there are individuals who commit serious offences like murder or kidnapping. These are crimes for which a 16 or 17 year old should be treated like an adult. There should be no deals or appeals to a judge. They are adults. In my opinion if they are old enough to drive a car, they certainly are old enough to know right from wrong.

Although complex, the bill does not address two significant things which I am concerned about. It does not address the age factor nor the seriousness of crimes. If it were just these two issues in and of themselves, I would say we probably could sit here and negotiate something more worthwhile with the government. However the fact is we have heard a whole litany of problems with this piece of legislation.

What we will end up with is another convoluted, ineffective young offenders act. I will call it that because that is really what it is. We will end up with the same mess we had before, except with a few more lawyers trying to simplify it and make sense out of it, busier judges and a lot more police scratching their heads, still not understanding it.

As much as the government would like to say it has everything figured out on this, it has not. It has not addressed the two issues that I and the people of Langley—Abbotsford, British Columbia are concerned about, yet because we have a majority government of course this perhaps will go through. It has only been eight or nine years in coming.

I will be voting against this. It is high time the government got off its keester and started listening to the Canadian people, as well as the people in opposition who know full well that this has become another convoluted piece of legislation that the police will give up on, judges will not understand and lawyers will make money.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
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Waterloo—Wellington Ontario

Liberal

Lynn Myers LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I want to point out first of all that criminal law is the responsibility of the federal government, and for good reason. The previous exchange points that out. As a federal government we need to bring to view the balance and flexibility that is required. I believe we have done a very good job with Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act. We have done it in a balanced and fair way.

On the one hand we hear people in Ontario saying to wait a minute, that we are being very weak-kneed and not tough enough, yet we just heard the member for Berthier—Montcalm say we are too tough and it is too much.

That is the beauty of being a federal government that has compassion, ability and the political smarts to get the job done. That is exactly what we are doing. We are ensuring that we bring about the kind of balance and flexibility that is required.

I marvel at the Bloc member arguing about whether or not Quebec would benefit. In reality, $191 million more would flow to Quebec between 2000-01 and 2004-05 if it signs the agreement, which represents a 39% increase over what Quebec received previously in other agreements.

Fair minded Canadians wherever they live in this great country, including Quebec, the maritimes, the west and central Canada, recognize that the government has to act in this very important area in a way that underscores the values and the generosity of the people of this country especially as they relate to our youth.

It is important to underscore that this is a pillar of the youth justice renewal strategy our government has undertaken. Yes, it has taken a little longer than we would have liked, but at the end of the day I think we have a workable piece of legislation, a piece of legislation that I believe people across Canada will see as fair minded and important given their day to day lives, the lives of their children, their neighbours and the children in the community.

I believe it brings about accountability. I believe it brings about responsibility. I believe it notes rehabilitation in a way that is in keeping with the way Canadians operate, not too tough and not too weak, but balanced in the way the Liberal government has always tried to do it. We do it effectively. I think it is worth trumpeting to Canadians the fact that we are able to bring forward the kind of legislation that brings about the broad interests of all Canadians across this vast country of ours in a meaningful way.

We talk about respect in the bill. We talk about fairness. We talk about the kind of built in flexibility sought by the provinces to ensure that accountability is there at the end of the day. Having listened to many witnesses, having been in committee, having gone through the ways of this parliament in terms of coming out with a good piece of legislation, that is the kind of measured response we have done.

It has been a meaningful exercise. Despite some of the protests of the opposition, I think that at the end of the day people will see this as a very meaningful approach to youth justice. They will see it as having the very key elements that are required.

I would like to take a few minutes to review them, if I may. First is prevention. Fair minded Canadians understand that the key to preventing people from getting into the system is to ensure that prevention is there. We will be spending additional money, $206 million over the course of the next little while, to ensure that prevention is part of this.

In my own community I think of the Waterloo Regional Crime Prevention Council that we were able to implement and put in place. These are important grassroots initiatives. They are important things that we have done community by community to ensure that we have built in prevention for our young people. I can tell the House that if we spend one dollar now, we will not have to spend seven dollars later.

I think fair minded Canadians, who are what this legislation is all about, will say “Wait a minute, an investment of one dollar now is far better than seven dollars later”, especially in the process of ensuring that young people with promising futures in this country are then able to advance what they believe is right, in keeping with their family values and the values of this great country.

Second, we talk about meaningful consequences. We have to ensure that people, especially young people, understand that there are consequences of actions. As a former high school teacher, I can tell the House that this is part and parcel of what is required for any young person. Knowing that there are meaningful consequences in place as a result of one's actions is part of growing up.

Finally, rehabilitation and reintegration make up the third key element in terms of what is required. We do not want young people to get into that system and learn to become even better criminals. We want them to know that there are consequences. We want to rehabilitate them, get them back out with their community, their school, their family and others in the area to ensure that they go down a path that makes sense for them, their families and the community at large. That is precisely what this bill does, and I think in a very effective way. We have gone on to ensure that the youth criminal justice act better distinguishes between violent and non-violent crimes. For example, punishments are proportionate to the seriousness of offences.

That is part of listening to people through the committee process, listening to Canadians through consultation and focus groups and listening to parliamentarians and others with vested interests in these very important areas. We have done that and I am encouraged by the net result. It is a very good piece of legislation, in keeping with what the great family of Canadians think is required.

I also want to highlights a few things in the bill. Canadians need to understand that the bill encourages community based sentences, for example, which will be more appropriate. They will note that the compensation for victims will be part of that, as well as community services, supervision in the community and other things.

I also want to note that it would allow courts to impose adult sentences on conviction when certain criteria apply. It presumes that adult sentences will be given to young people, 14 and older, who are found guilty of murder or attempted murder. In other words, it may be the answer to more serious offences. That is important. That is what I was talking about earlier when I mentioned meaningful consequences.

It would create an intensive rehabilitative custody and supervisory sentence. That is in keeping with the underlying philosophy of this bill and the intent of the justice minister, who worked very hard, along with the parliamentary secretary to my left, to make sure the bill had the kind of details in it that would make sense to Canadians wherever they lived.

It would require in general that youth be held separate from adults. We do not want them mixing in a way that would end up putting them into a different kind of situation that is far more criminal. That is a real problem.

It would require all periods of custody to be followed by a period of supervision and support in custody as well. We have that kind of support mechanism built in that enables our young people to be taken care of and hopefully mentored in a positive and not a negative way.

While publications of names would be permitted, there would be limitations with respect to that. It would only be permitted when the crime was very serious.

I want to note that it underscores the ability of the government to listen to Canadians, to deal as required and act as required in a very positive and meaningful way in this very important area. It underscores the ability of our government, the justice minister, the cabinet and the caucus, to ensure that at the end of this process, which has been a while, we come up with a very workable piece of legislation which is in keeping with the benefits that should go to our young people and with the requirements that I believe society demands of us.

It saddens me a little when I think that the Ontario government believes that punishment alone serves to protect society. It saddens me a little when I understand that it wants to take, as a philosophical base, that very harsh kind of approach. I do not see that as working. I did not see that in high school. I did not see that when I served with the Waterloo Regional Police.

What it requires is a concerted effort by all of us parliamentarians.

I see the members opposite are clapping the Waterloo Regional Police. They should because that is a police service it is second to none in this great country of ours.

At the end of the day, this is a balanced approach, a flexible approach and is an approach in keeping with the values of this great country; tolerance and compassion. We are very grateful that people on this side of the House had the wherewithal to bring in this kind of excellent legislation.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is something I need to clarify.

The member should read today's newspapers. He would see that, contrary to the claim made by the Minister of Justice yesterday, the Barreau du Québec does not support Bill C-7. There was a correction by the president of the Barreau du Québec in the newspapers today. The member should contact the Barreau du Québec directly, particularly Mrs. Carole Brosseau, to know exactly where those people stand on the issue.

The Barreau du Québec does not support the minister's bill and it is part of the Quebec consensus unanimously asking the government not to go ahead with Bill C-7.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is very simple.

How does the member explain the fact that, despite all that he said, nobody in Quebec supports this bill? It does not have the support of any youth worker, any judge, any crown prosecutor, any defence attorney or even any crime victims' assistance centre. Senior citizens are also against it. Several branches of the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens in certain administrative regions have expressed their opposition to the bill.

I toured Quebec and I did not meet even one person who supports this bill.

I know the member was very active in the justice committee, perhaps not as much recently, when we started looking at this whole issue in 1994-1995. He has a good knowledge of the Quebec approach with regard to the Young Offenders Act.

Here is my question: Why is his government refusing to allow Quebec to continue applying the Young Offenders Act? Why is it refusing to indicate clearly in Bill C-7 that a province could, by order in council, continue to apply the Young Offenders Act, knowing that constitutional experts, lawyers and legal experts have already assessed the legality of such measure, considering the fact that the Young Offenders Act deals with social law as well as criminal law and affects various departments within the province?

Why is the government, his government, ignoring Quebec's unanimous request to continue to apply the Young Offenders Act?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Tom Wappel Liberal Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to advise you as I begin that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Waterloo—Wellington.

I am very pleased to engage in the debate on Bill C-7 today. I want to do so by taking an historical look at what has happened in the treatment of young people in Canada. The reason I want to do this is that I believe we can learn from history and that we can predict from history. If we examine history, we can get a general feel for where we are going and for what is likely to happen in the future.

I want to remind the members of the Bloc Quebecois in the 10 minutes I have that ever since the first day of Confederation criminal law has been the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government. It is up to the federal government of the country to pass criminal law. That makes us distinct from the United States where, for example, there are 50 states and 50 different types of criminal law. Here in Canada we have one criminal law for the entire country and it has been so since the creation of our country. The various laws governing the treatment of young offenders have all been federal laws and have pertained to all youth across Canada from coast to coast.

In approximately 1911 we passed the Juvenile Delinquents Act. It existed in one form or another for over 70 years. I doubt very much there are too many people in Canada who would seriously argue that the frame of mind in place in the early 1900s insofar as it related to youth remained in place in the late seventies and eighties. Over the course of those 70 years, the ideas about youth and about treatment of young people changed. As a result, there was a movement to modernize, shall we say, the treatment of young offenders.

That movement to modernize culminated in 1984 in the Young Offenders Act, which was developed during the Liberal years in power. It was, however, implemented during the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.

It became evident rather quickly that there were some problems in the legislation. As time went on, it became more evident. A lot of people started to complain about the Young Offenders Act. Indeed, it became such a problem that during the second Mulroney government mandate between 1988 and 1993, the government amended the Young Offenders Act. Then justice minister Kim Campbell brought in what I would call cosmetic amendments to try to placate voters who complained about what were seen as defects in the act.

One example of the kind of cosmetic amendment I am talking about is, on the one hand, the Conservative government saying it had increased the sentence for violent crimes to five years when the reality was that the sentence remained at three years of incarceration with an additional two years tacked on by way of mandatory supervision in the community. On the one hand the Conservative government pretended that it had increased the maximum sentence to five years in jail, when on the other hand in reality it was three years with two years of mandatory supervision.

In any event, along came the 1993 election. In the 1993 red book we said the following:

The Young Offenders Act will be reformed to increase sentence lengths for certain violent crimes, allowing for full treatment and rehabilitation of young offenders. We will ensure that treatment and rehabilitation services are available to all convicted young offenders. A Liberal government will restrict the charges for which a young offender could be transferred to adult court, but at the same time will develop the category of “dangerous young offender,” designating a youth who could be transferred to adult court, receive an adult sentence, and be kept in an adult facility.

Obviously there is a question that has to be asked. If that is what we promised, what did we deliver? Indeed, it is a fair question. What we delivered was this: Bill C-37 provided for amendments to the Young Offenders Act which came into force in December 1995. The amendments focused on harsher remedies for violent young offenders while encouraging alternative sentences for non-violent offenders. That, however, was only phase one of a two phase process. The second phase implemented by the justice minister of the day was to ask the justice committee of the House of Commons to fully review the youth justice system.

That second phase began during the first mandate of the Liberal government and indeed was completed by the justice committee. That was between 1993 and 1997. Once the justice committee completed that study, it then had to be studied by the justice department. The department considered the study and began the drafting of legislation.

Along came the 1997 election campaign. This was one of the issues that was dealt with in the 1997 election campaign and we on this side promised to improve the Young Offenders Act. The result of that promise was the youth criminal justice act.

It turned out that it was apparently too tough for the Bloc Quebecois. There were some arguments about what was going on in the province of Quebec, which we heard many times. On the other hand, it was too lenient for the then Reform Party. I would say that is probably not a bad thing. It is therefore a middle of the road approach: too tough for some and not tough enough for others. It is probably a fairly good middle of the road approach.

In any event, we asked the justice committee to consider the legislation. During a period of time between 1997 and 2000, the justice committee did that. It reported, there was a filibuster by the Bloc Quebecois and the bill was stalled. The bill continued to be stalled until along came the election of the year 2000. We won again, thankfully, and as a result we reintroduced the act in February 2001.

Let us remember, then, that there was a two-pronged promise in 1993 to toughen up the existing act and to study the Young Offenders Act. In 1997 we had the results of the study by the justice committee and then we introduced this legislation. It got stalled, then we had the election, and we have reintroduced it again. The subject matter has been studied for many years. It is now time to pass it. We will not be able to please the Bloc Quebecois. We will not be able to please the critics. Our role in government is not to dither but to get on with the job, so we are going to pass the legislation, or at least that is the hope.

What will we be able to learn from history? I think we will be able to learn that the treatment of young offenders changes with time and with societal values. That means it is not static. That means that after we pass the bill, in future years society may decide to treat young offenders in a different way and this bill may become anachronistic.

Second, we can learn from history that anything drafted by human beings is not perfect. That is not a startling statement, but we should remember it. This bill is not perfect. The bill before this one was not perfect. Nothing we do can be perfect. All we can say is that we have done the best we can given the circumstances and given our knowledge.

Third, we can learn from history that it takes time and experience to expose the faults of any legislation.

Fourth, we can learn that it has taken 17 years for the problems in the Young Offenders Act to be exposed, studied and hopefully dealt with in the youth criminal justice act.

Fifth, we can learn that the problems with this new act, and I am sure there will be some, will be exposed, studied and corrected over time, but probably not in less than a decade. In the meantime, we can only do our best to try to enact corrections to the problems we have found in the Young Offenders Act. I believe this act does just that and I believe, therefore, that it deserves the support of the House.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just want to make a comment. When I heard the member for Laval East compare the youth centres to prisons, I thought to myself that she must not have set foot in a youth centre in a long time, because these centers really focus on rehabilitation in the community.

I have met several of the 319 young persons she mentioned when I toured Quebec, and especially on the North Shore. I spent a whole morning talking to the parents of these young persons and to the people who implement the Quebec legislation on a daily basis. The youth centres are not prisons. That is the kind of misinformation we can expect from the member for Laval East. She should go over the bill more carefully.

I would like the member to comment on what the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine said this morning about the Quebec coalition for youth justice making its position about Bill C-3 and Bill C-68 known, but not about Bill C-7.

No later than today, Pierre Lamarche sent out a press release where he said:

We have to realize that the federal government is going ahead with a backward bill that is totally inconsistent with what is going on in youth crime in Quebec as in the rest of Canada.

My question concerns the comments made by Mr. Lamarche, who is the president of the coalition of the various organizations that were mentioned earlier, saying that, according to the coalition:

—Instead of wasting public money to implement a new system that is not needed, the government should spend wisely and use the money to strengthen the current Young Offenders Act, instead of drafting a new legislation.

What has the member to say to Mr. Lamarche on this issue?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I simply wish to point out to the hon. member that, according to Statistics Canada figures, community centres, as she says, which should look after young people, are represented by the Youth Justice Coalition.

This coalition opposed Bill C-7: the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal, the Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contrevenants, the Quebec Association of Police and Fire Chiefs, the Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux, the Crown Prosecutors' Office, the Child Welfare League of Canada, and the Association des avocats de la défense du Québec.

I will stop listing the organizations opposed to Bill C-7 who have said they support the Young Offenders Act as enforced in Quebec. I hope that this will satisfy the hon. member.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 3:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts.

This will be my last opportunity to speak to this bill. It is difficult to see how arrogantly the Liberal government in power is treating the citizens, youth, and adolescents of the province of Quebec.

For more than 16 years now, Quebec has been enforcing the Young Offenders Act, and the system has worked very well. It has worked so well that the Liberal government commissioned a study called “Canada's Youth Justice Renewal Strategy”, conducted by the officials responsible for drafting Bill C-7, which involved a province by province analysis. It was noted that Quebec's charge rate was the lowest in Canada.

Quebec's youth incarceration rate was also the lowest in Canada, at fewer than 500 per 100,000. Quebec is the only province under this threshold.

It was therefore not for nothing that last week, on May 23, all parties in the national assembly of Quebec, the Parti Quebecois, the Liberal Party and the Action Démocratique party passed a unanimous motion rejecting Bill C-7, which the House of Commons is getting ready to pass.

In this House, we are supposed to represent the elite, but in some areas, we are not the elite. When dealing with young offenders, the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons in Quebec and in Canada, we are not the elite.

In Quebec, the elite is made up, among others, of members of the Quebec coalition for youth justice, representatives of the Association des policiers et pompiers du Québec, youth organizations and defence attorneys, all those who deal day in and day out with young persons. They are the experts in rehabilitation who, for sixteen years now, have made the Young Offenders Act successful in the interest both of the people in Quebec and in Canada who are watching us and of young offenders in need of rehabilitation. Their task is enormous but so useful to society.

It is always sad to realize that a young man or a young woman has committed a crime. Thanks to the comprehensive strategy concerning the reintegration of young offenders in the community developed by Quebec, the number of charges laid and offenders sentenced to custody is lower in Quebec than in the rest of Canada. So, the system in Quebec is working fine.

With Bill C-7, the federal government is again interfering with a system that works well in one province in Canada. Members of the House must understand that, if Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Atlantic Canada had a system that was working well, everyone would be inclined to defend the interests of that province.

Well, that is what is happening in Quebec. As a member of the Bloc Quebecois, it is hard for me to see that Liberal members from Quebec, who were elected in that province, do not understand that the approach used by Quebec over the last 16 years with regard to the Young Offenders Act is the best in Canada.

It is hard for me to understand that some of my colleagues in the House speak out against Quebec's interests, against an approach that has been recognized as being effective by all experts who deal with the rehabilitation of young offenders.

There are several reasons for committing a criminal offence. In the case of young teenagers, rehabilitation is the key to getting back on the right track. That is how Quebec treats young offenders, by going to the root of the problem and by trying to rehabilitate the young teenager, in his or her interest, before imposing a sentence.

That is why we have the best success rate in Canada. So it hard for me to see members and the Prime Minister, who is also a member from Quebec, take a stand yesterday, in this House, and say: “If the Quebec act is so good”. As far as I know, the Prime Minister of Canada is still a member from Quebec. He should know and he should have noticed.

Numbers were used in the Canadian renewal strategy by those who drafted Bill C-7. Those persons noticed, when they drafted tables that the situation in Quebec was the best in all Canada. I have copies of them that I could table in this House.

We can see that young people, young men and women who have committed criminal acts have a better chance of getting back on the right track in Quebec. Ideally we should never have to use such a bill. Young people should never have to appear before youth courts, but this is still a reality.

It happens not only in Quebec, but in every province in Canada. Too often, young men and young women commit crimes for any number of reasons. When we can understand young persons and their problems, it is not too late to set them back on the right track, which is what the Young Offenders Act is doing in Quebec. Once again, the justice minister told us that all provinces could adapt the bill to their own situation. We still have time before the end of the session to include an amendment that would allow any province to opt out of Bill C-7 and continue to enforce the legislation currently in force in its jurisdiction.

It would be so simple and much easier for community stakeholders. However no, look at how dumbfounded the members opposite seem to be. Even if they do not want to believe the Bloc Quebecois, the members from Quebec should at least take note of the motion unanimously passed last week, on May 23, by the national assembly of Quebec.

At the national assembly, members of the Parti Quebecois, the Liberal Party and the Action démocratique du Québec unanimously agreed to urge the federal government not to pass Bill C-7 or at least not to implement it in Quebec. Once again, in Quebec we have our own way of doing things, our own approach. It is a societal choice.

Each province has the right to have its own vision for the future. It has the right to make societal choices. Quebec made a choice for its teenagers. It chose to take charge of them, to trust the professionals, who tried to bring the young offenders back on the right track, whatever their sentences were.

It is never too late to understand. That is exactly what I hope my Liberal colleagues from Quebec, the Prime Minister, who is from Quebec, and many of his ministers will do. Once again, they are trying to make Quebecers believe they are wrong. I repeat that all of us here do not form the elite who can best judge what is good for our youth.

Let the specialists in the field decide. Leave it up to those who deal with the difficult cases of teenagers and treat them individually depending on their crimes. Quebec has a success rate that all other provinces envy. When we get to the vote, let us try to make the intelligent choice. Let us vote in the interest of Quebecers. I hope my colleagues opposite will understand that.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 1:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I can see that once again Quebec federal Liberals look at Bill C-7 from a Canadian, as opposed to a Quebec point of view.

Fortunately, we in the Bloc Quebecois are here to call them to order, to remind them that in Quebec we have a system that works, a system that matches Quebec's reality, and that we do not want Bill C-7.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 1:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Madam Speaker, I heard my hon. colleague say that he had been a journalist, like me. Therefore I salute a former fellow journalist.

Would my hon. colleague agree to say that the current situation is unacceptable in the sense that, as the hon. member is surely aware, the names of young people are currently published even before they are found guilty?

Is he aware that the new legislation proposes to prohibit the publication of names before the end of a trial, which means that a young person will have to be found guilty and sentenced as an adult before his name gets published?

Does he not find that is a benefit provided by the new Bill C-7?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Madam Speaker, at the outset, I want to point out that I will be sharing my time with my hon. colleague from Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel.

I want to focus on some aspects of the bill that I find particularly worrisome. First, we see once again that if members of the Bloc Quebecois were not here to stand up for Quebec, we certainly could not rely on federal Liberal members to do so.

Everyone in Quebec agrees on one thing. We do not want Bill C-7. We do not think it reflects the reality in Quebec. Despite what members on the other side might say today, Bill C-7 deals with Canada, with the problems faced by Canada, and we believe that the situation in Quebec is quite different. Unlike the other provinces, we have been successful.

Earlier, when the member for Laval East gave us what she called alarming statistics, she said that over 1,000 young persons were sent to prison in Canada. I would have liked to know how many Quebecers were among these offenders.

I was here, during last parliament, when Bill C-3 was introduced but could not unfortunately be passed. It was both fortunate and unfortunate that this bill could not be passed. When the House of Commons reconvened, we thought we would see some changes to the bill. We detected a certain amount of electoral opportunism with the tabling of Bill C-3. We noted that the efforts of the Minister of Justice were directed at charming the electors. We all know the results.

We would have thought, when she again submitted her bill to the House that she would have provided for a little more realism and openness in the case of Quebec and the rest of Canada. That was not the case.

I was a journalist for 16 years, and worked at the Quebec City court house for two and a half years. In Bill C-7, what I really object to is the talk of releasing the names of young offenders. It permits publication of the name of an adolescent serving an adult sentence. Reference is made as well to an adolescent serving an adolescent sentence for violent crimes.

There is no point saying that the worst punishment a young person could be given is to have his or her name, picture and background published in the papers. Even today, we see in the case of repeat young offenders who have reached adulthood, 18 or 19 years of age, that the effect is incredible. The harshest punishment a criminal can be given is to have his or her background exposed in the media.

Let us imagine a young adolescent, male or female, aged between 14 and 18, who for all sorts of reasons has committed an offence, and we know our society is undergoing profound change, these are turbulent times, and that we publish his or her photo and background in the papers while this young person is in high school or college. The effect is extremely negative and may harm the individual. He or she will carry this image and have a really hard time, despite the best of efforts, in rehabilitation. The media trial will be with him or her a long time.

As politicians, we are always on parade, facing the media and we often make a statement and then retract it the next day. The retraction may appear in a corner somewhere, while the day before we made the headlines.

The same goes for young offenders who find themselves in a similar situation. Indeed, even after a fair trial, a trial that has taken into account all the circumstances, the young offender will be haunted by the media coverage of his trial.

People often only remember the original story. When there is a retraction, or when a sentence or a verdict is handed down later on, people have completely forgotten.

What they remember is the front page news with the original story, a story that is often taken directly out of the police investigation, but whose impact is not fully known.

I cannot believe that Bill C-7 will now allow the media to get hold of this information. If we let the media get hold of such stories, the young offender will be judged by the media and will not be able to make it, regardless of the rehabilitation efforts.

I also want to point out the fact that, once again, we see that the situation in Quebec and the one in Canada are very different. Some are trying to claim that the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm and the members of the Bloc Quebecois have been conducting a misinformation campaign, but it is the other side of the House that is leading such a campaign.

When Liberal federal members talk, we hear the word Canada constantly, and from time to time the word Quebec, but they seem to forget about the consensus that exists and the coalitions that were formed against Bill C-7. They always follow the party line. They always hide behind the objectives of Bill C-7 and forget what really matters, the Quebec reality.

Today, just a few hours away from an important vote that will certainly have an impact on our young people, I am asking, on behalf of my colleagues, on behalf of young offenders and on behalf of Quebec youth, that the present government show some openness and allow the government of Quebec to continue the good work it has been doing with the current infrastructures.

This situation could allow us, Quebecers, to continue to function with a system that has already been proven effective, while respecting the other vision people from western Canada and maybe also people from Ontario have with regard to young offenders.

What we are saying today is that we would like to opt out of Bill C-7 so that Quebec may continue the good work it has been doing for many years.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 12:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Odina Desrochers Bloc Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have just heard the most partisan speech that I have ever heard since the beginning of this debate. It is a partisan and biased speech made by an Ontario MP who knows absolutely nothing about Quebec.

For that matter, everything he says in the House of Commons shows that this member knows nothing about Quebec, that he knows nothing about the act and that he is only trying to misinform the House.

When the only example he can find is a situation that occurred in Nova Scotia, referring to parole, that makes us wonder what he is taking about.

We in the Bloc Quebecois know what we are taking about. We know that Bill C-7 is unjust to Quebec's young offenders, and we do not want to have imposed on us the vision of the west, which, unfortunately, is also endorsed by Ontario MPs.

The member must know that it is different in Quebec. As the present parliament progresses, we are realizing more and more how different we are from them, and that they do not understand us.

I would like to know if the member would accept, once and for all, to go to Quebec to find out what is going on there, find out what Bill C-7 is about and what its consequences are, and to understand, once and for all, that we are different from them and that we want to be on our own.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 12:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I thank the hon. member for his question. I would like to tell him that I was elected in the past to sit on the board of Batshaw, which is responsible for all the youth centres in the English speaking community of the island of Montreal. I know very well the youth criminal justice system in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada.

Secondly, I have examined the first bill introduced by the minister. I did not support it, because it was too complicated and it penalized the young. I also thought that if it was not possible to make improvements through that bill, it was better to simply correct the shortcomings in the Young Offenders Act, which does have some shortcomings.

However the minister heeded the representations of the justice committee and more particularly the recommendations of the Quebec Bar Association. My colleague opposite will probably agree that the Quebec Bar Association knows what it is talking about.

In its presentation, this association made comprehensive recommendations to improve the bill. The minister listened, and she incorporated all or most of these recommendations. That is the first point.

Second, I have been asked if I had any knowledge of the position of the coalition, for example. Yes I do, and I find it rather unfortunate that that position is in fact a position on an earlier version of the bill. The coalition does not seem to be aware of the major changes the minister made to her bill. I would like to give an example.

Under the Young Offenders Act, 14 year-olds may be given adult sentences for certain criminal offences. However when we listen to some of the people who are opposed to Bill C-7, we hear them say how terrible it is that 14-year-olds may receive adult sentences under Bill C-7. The possibility already exists.

I wonder sometimes if people are trying to mislead Canadians when they do not give the facts, when they do not interpret correctly the present legislation that has been in effect in Canada for 16 years and when they do not give all the information.

Also, under the Young Offenders Act, teens can be transferred to adult court for certain criminal offences. That is terrible. Not one single expert working with young offenders is in favour of that. However, Bill C-7 corrects this flaw in the Young Offenders Act. Now, the youth court will have exclusive jurisdiction to hear cases involving young offenders prosecuted under the youth criminal justice bill, including—

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, what is very clear in Hugues' case, as narrated by the member for Berthier—Montcalm, is that the comparison between the two pieces of legislation is based on some unfounded premises which the author is presenting as absolute rules when in fact everything is hypothetical.

For example, it is hard to believe that the reasons why Hugues and his lawyer plead guilty and accept the sentence for an eight-month detention in a youth centre, as is proposed by the crown, according to the scenario involving the Young Offenders Act, would disappear simply because another act applies.

Also, it is hard to understand why Hugues would be confined to temporary detention under Bill C-7 when in fact this new act says that a young offender can be released from detention in the custody of someone and requires that the court check if someone trustworthy can and will take care of the young offender. This option applies perfectly to Hugues' case, especially if the purpose of the intervention is to keep him away from his gang.

Finally, it is unthinkable that a teenager could be left to himself instead of being enrolled in rehabilitation programs. A good social reintegration requires the implementation of programs which begin during the custody period and continue within the community with the support and under the supervision of a youth social worker.

This is exactly what Bill C-7 provides for by stipulating that rehabilitation programs assisting young persons to be reintegrated into the community must kick in as soon as the offenders are sentenced and held in custody.

It is also important to note that the effectiveness of any intervention cannot be measured only by the number of days in custody, but rather by the quality and the relevancy of the programs designed for young persons and the quick and fair treatment of young offenders. These are the principles underlying Bill C-7.

I would now like to deal with the right to opt out.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking the federal government to give Quebec the right to opt out so it can continue to implement the current legislation. The federal government has enacted the current Young Offenders Act and has proposed this bill in respect of criminal justice for young persons under its powers pursuant to section 91 of the Constitution Act of 1867.

These two pieces of legislation are codes of procedure and sentencing for crimes committed by young persons. The fact that criminal law is nationwide in scope does not require, and former Justice Dickson said so in 1990 in the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in R. v S. (S.), that it be implemented in a uniform way and in all its details in all the provinces.

The youth criminal justice act provides enough leeway to allow each provincial government to implement it in a way that meets its own challenges and particular needs. This leeway will allow Quebec not only to preserve but also to improve its youth criminal justice system.

I also wish to remind the opposition that Bill C-7 is the result of broad consultation of the provinces, territories and people interested by youth crime. Through this consultation, numerous flaws were identified in the present system.

The bill is to fix the flaws of the Young Offenders Act, while building upon its strengths. The main features of this reform have been approved by the Canadian population as a whole, including the population of Quebec, as shown by a CROP survey conducted in June 2000.

The last point I wish to raise is the implementation cost of this legislation.

I must say that federal support to Quebec, in particular in terms of preservation and improvement of its youth criminal justice system, also takes the shape of an increased financial contribution. As a matter of fact, by 2004-05, basic federal transfers for youth criminal justice will have increased by 39% compared to 1998-99.

I hope that these clarifications will allow members of this House and in particular those of the Bloc to better appreciate the scope of Bill C-7, and that they will support the bill at the third reading vote.