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.

Sébastien's Law (protecting the public from violent young offenders)Government Orders

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to speak to Bill C-4, which would make certain changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

My colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh spoke about this bill last week. He noted that as a society we have been struggling since about 1960 with this idea of what to do with young people when they are engaged with the criminal justice system. Do we treat them as youth, which is different than adult criminals? Yes, we should, but at the same time we have to recognize that they are not adults even though they commit similar offences as adults. We have been struggling with this for a few decades.

In 2002 the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, which replaced the old YOA, the Young Offenders Act. The Youth Criminal Justice Act built on the strengths of the YOA. It introduced significant reforms to address the weaknesses. The key concept of the YCJA is that it provides a legislative framework for a more fairer and effective youth justice system.

When I was a law student at Dalhousie, I did a clinical law semester where I was expected to work with lawyers on youth criminal cases. One of the very first things that we did in our training was we reviewed the preamble and the declaration of principle to the YCJA. Our instructors thought that reviewing the preamble was the most important thing that we could do. We would always have it in the back of our minds when we were dealing with youth, when we were giving them advice, when we were negotiating with the Crown, and when we were representing them in court.

The preamble contains significant statements from Parliament about the values on which the legislation is based. It is noteworthy that the YCJA came about after extensive research and consultation. Three key reports were released leading up to the YCJA coming into effect.

These statements in the preamble can be used to help interpret the legislation. I think it is useful for us to review them. They include the following:

Society has a responsibility to address the developmental challenges and needs of young persons.

Communities and families should work in partnership with others to prevent youth crime by addressing its underlying causes, responding to the needs of young persons and providing guidance and support.

Accurate information about youth crime, the youth justice system and effective measures should be publicly available.

Young persons have rights and freedoms, including those set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The youth justice system should take account of the interests of victims and ensure accountability through meaningful consequences and rehabilitation and reintegration.

The youth justice system should reserve its most serious interventions for the most serious crimes and reduce the over-reliance on incarceration.

These points are important to remember when dealing with youth who are engaged in the criminal justice system. They are also really important for us to consider any time we try to make changes to the YCJA. We have changes before us in Bill C-4, changes that really come from a push for amendments, a push for reform after the Nunn commission of inquiry which took place in Nova Scotia.

Pretty much every Nova Scotian could tell us the story of Theresa McEvoy and how it resulted in a provincial inquiry led by Justice Merlin Nunn. It was widely reported and it really struck to the heart of Nova Scotians.

After an extensive inquiry upon the death of Theresa McEvoy, Justice Nunn handed down a report in 2006 called “Spiralling Out of Control: Lessons Learned from a Boy in Trouble”. It was about constructive ways to improve the Youth Criminal Justice Act but also to improve the youth criminal justice system. I believe there were six specific recommendations about changing the YCJA.

Justice Nunn, both in the report and in any media interview he did, would always say that the act is a good piece of legislation. It is strong and it is workable. The term he used constantly was that it needed to be tweaked. My colleague from Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe used the word “tinker”. Justice Nunn always said that if we were going to make changes it just needs to be tweaked.

Bill C-4 is an attempt at that tweaking. The NDP will be supporting this bill because there are some good tweaks. There are some good attempts at trying to fix this legislation, which I will describe in a moment.

We very much want the bill to get to committee because Bill C-4 does have its weaknesses. It is important that we make attempts to improve the bill at committee.

Justice Nunn pointed out in his report:

--that for youths adolescence is a time of testing limits and taking risks, of making mistakes and errors in judgment, of a lack of foresight and planning, and of feelings of invulnerability. These factors do not mean that a youth who commits a criminal offence should be excused or should not suffer consequences. Rather, they are factors to be taken into account when dealing with a youth.

I think that the spirit of these words were taken into account when it comes to one provision in Bill C-4, in that it makes certain and absolutely clear that no youth, no matter what crime they are accused of or convicted of and sentenced for will spend time in an adult institution.

Some provinces have already been following this principle but it is not universal across Canada. Sometimes it is because a province has a particular ideological approach to punishment of youth but more often it is simply because it does not have the resources or the facilities to incarcerate youth in a contained setting, especially when we consider rural areas of Canada.

The government has not done anything to assist provinces in actually meeting this goal. So it is my hope that the witnesses at committee will be able to shed a bit of light on what it is that the federal government must do to ensure that the provinces can meet this requirement.

However, there is no specific date concerning this provision. Therefore, there is nothing there to instruct us on when it is going to come into effect. Hopefully, we can fix this so that we do not have a bill that will actually not take effect.

A change to the YCJA, about which I am very concerned, is the provision to allow courts to lift the ban on any publication of the accused's name. There are good reasons why we have that publication ban. Admittedly, I think this could be a very dangerous change to the YCJA, but I am looking forward to hearing from witnesses to see what experts who study youth justice have to say about this provision and if they think this change is a wise idea.

My colleague and the NDP critic for justice, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, has already pointed out some problem areas where it looks like the government is trying to get in stronger language for general deterrence and denunciation, which we know does not work. However, when one looks at the amendments to the act overall, there are a few places where it seems like it is trying to get this language in through the backdoor, trying to get general deterrence in through the back door. There are six recommendations in the Nunn report that deal directly with changes to the YCJA. Deterrence and denunciation are not among them.

I am quite concerned about these sections and once again, I look forward to the bill coming to committee so we can talk to youth criminal justice experts to see if this is actually effective and perhaps flesh out exactly what the Conservatives are doing with this sort of backdoor language.

In all, we are cautiously supporting Bill C-4 at second reading, so we can get the bill to committee to hear from witnesses about these proposed changes to the YCJA and to make constructive suggestions for improvement.

Sébastien's Law (Protecting the Public from Violent Young Offenders)Government Orders

April 23rd, 2010 / 10 a.m.
See context

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to continue my presentation on this very important bill.

Bill C-4 is an amendment. The enactment amends the sentencing and general principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as well as provisions relating to judicial interim release, adult-youth sentences, publication bans, and the placement in youth custody facilities. It defines the term “violent offence” and “serious offence”, amends the definition of “serious violent offence”, and repeals the definition of “presumptive offence”. It also requires police forces to keep records of extra-judicial measures issued to deal with young persons.

As I indicated yesterday, we will be supporting the bill to get it to committee and we are hoping that there will be one or two amendments to the bill. We actually like some of the provisions of the bill; however, we have some concerns about some of the other parts of it, but overall and on balance, there is some merit to the bill.

On February 4, 2002, the House of Commons passed Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act. That new law replaced the Young Offenders Act and was proclaimed on April 1, 2003. The Youth Criminal Justice Act builds on the strength of the old act and introduces significant reforms to address its weaknesses.

We can see that over time legislation does get updated in the House because of changes in society and changes in government or just because in some cases we find things that are not working well with it and we find that, by general consensus, we should improve the legislation.

The introduction of the bill followed an extensive period of review and consultation, much of which is reflected in the following reports. There was a review of the Young Offenders Act and the youth justice system in Canada, and a report on the federal-provincial-territorial task force on youth. There was also a report renewing youth justice, a report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human rights, and there was a strategy for the renewal of youth and justice, which was a 1998 report.

In March 1999, Bill C-68, the first version of the Youth Criminal Justice Act was introduced and Parliament prorogued in June. The bill was reintroduced as C-3 in October 1999. The bill proceeded through second reading, the Standing Committee on Justice, and prior to third reading, the federal election was called for November 27, 2000 and the bill was delayed.

We see the same process following us through what we had to deal with in previous times where, because of elections or the prorogation of the House, we end up starting over. So it is little wonder the public gets frustrated with us when they see that it takes forever. I think they expect immediate responses and the government is at fault here too because it promises immediate responses because it governs itself by press release, media events and polling.

When something happens in the country, the Conservatives push the button and put the public relations factory into overdrive, fire up the issue, get some bill thrown out here, and then of course nothing happens with it. Then they blame the opposition, but the reality is, as we know, they only have to blame themselves.

There have been many concerns in Canada regarding the Young Offenders Act and the youth justice system. As we had indicated before, and a Bloc member as well indicated yesterday, many of the concerns are based upon misconceptions about youth crime, misconceptions about the legislation and how the system operates. Some concerns have been based on the misunderstanding regarding the limits of the legislation and the unreasonable expectations about what the legislation could actually accomplish, and once again, people have the impression that somehow we will pass a law and the problem will be solved.

When we were dealing yesterday with the bill, there was talk about one of the very good parts of the bill that we like, which is the fact that the youth offenders will be kept separate. They will not be put in with adult offenders.

We recognize that while that is a good idea, and we are going to pass this bill in the House, the fact of the matter is that enforcement of the bill would actually be done by the provinces. We will be putting a financial burden on them to make certain they have the facilities to keep young offenders separate. Some of the provinces do not have the proper facilities.

While the public may think they are going to see some immediate changes following the passage of this bill, they will have to wait until the facilities are improved or built within their own jurisdictions. It could be another decade before the bill actually has its full effect.

There are a number of problems in the youth justice system. The system lacks a clear and coherent youth justice philosophy. Incarceration is overused. Canada has the highest youth incarceration rate in the western world, including the United States, which is a bit of a surprise to me. I did not think that would be the case. In spite of its huge expansion of prisons during the Ronald Reagan era, the crime rate in the United States has actually gone up. I would not have expected that to be the case.

The courts are overused for minor cases that could be dealt with better outside the courts. Sentencing decisions by the courts have resulted in disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing.

The Young Offenders Act does not ensure effective reintegration of a young person into society after being released from custody. This is a very important point. We are trying to rehabilitate people. Society does not benefit from people reoffending. Putting people in jail and making better criminals out of them, so that when they get back out in the street they continue their career of crime, is not what the public wants.

We want these people in jail once and only once. Programs need to be provided to them when they are incarcerated so that when they come out, they come out with a new view on life. They have to be integrated into society. They need to have access to employment.

I would like to provide the House with an example, which I find almost impossible to believe. Six prison farms in this country are being shut down by the Conservative government. If we do anything, we should be building more prison farms in the country because it seems to me that over the years we have lost a connection with rural living, a connection with animals, and taking care of animals. A farm environment provides a perfect case of that.

I toured the Rockwood prison farm just outside of Winnipeg in Stoney Mountain during the break a couple of weeks ago. I saw the dairy herd. It is really sad that it will not be there in a few months. This farm has shown good results for over 20 years. The prisoners get up early in the morning and take care of the animals on the farm. They take ownership. They have a much better attitude than what they would have if they were just simply locked up in a prison.

The government argues that there is not a big market for farm work. It is going to train people in trades such as welding. It is a good idea to get them jobs out in society when they are released. The reality is that learning a welding trade and so on is not the same as working with animals. In some cases it would be a good idea if they could be around humane societies where they could walk dogs and stuff like that, and make some sort of connection with animals.

We are about to lose these prison farms. I realize that is another issue for another day and that day is coming soon. A motion will be coming from committee dealing with the closure of prison farms.

It seems to me that there is a lot of room for improvements in all legislation. We certainly do not want to stand in the way of making sensible improvements to laws. As I have said many times, we are looking for what actually works, where we can show results.

The former solicitor general for the province of Quebec spoke eloquently yesterday on this very bill, about how the Quebec system does work and how the crime rate in Quebec has actually decreased. It is beyond me why we would not have every province in the country and other jurisdictions, which I am sure some are, studying the Quebec model to implement aspects of that system that would work in their own jurisdictions.

To me, that is what a sensible government would do. A government that simply approaches the whole issue on the basis of ideology and says, “Because it worked in Margaret Thatcher's England or Ronald Reagan's United Sates, that is the model we have to follow because we are Conservatives. We cannot accept any Liberal, NDP or Bloc ideas because they does not fit with our overall philosophy”. That is just way out of line.

The justice system should always be an open system where we could adopt the best of a jurisdiction anywhere in the world, whatever gets results. Whatever works properly is what we really want to see in here, instead of a government basically operate this whole system on the basis of political expediency, what is good for it in the short-term, and how it can get some headlines.

I introduced some headlines yesterday that we see across the country, and I maintained that if the press in this country were responsible and started writing headlines like “Soft on crime” and “This legislation does not work”, the government would be retreating, but because it gets these cheap headlines out of these boutique bills and amendments that it introduces, it is encouraged to continue.

We would like to see the bill go to committee. I have one further point on the issue of victims. The government continues to talk about how it supports victims of crime. We in the NDP are solidly on the side of the victims as well. Three years ago, the government appointed Mr. Sullivan to be the victims' advocate and has not reappointed him. He, the government's appointee, is saying that the government has spent too much time on punishment issues, that it has spent not enough time and ignored victims. So much for the government's position of being on side with victims, of supporting and looking out for victims' rights, when its own appointee is saying that this is not true, that the government is not as solidly behind victims as it would like the public to think it is.

Briefings or NegotiationsPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2002 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, my Bloc Quebecois colleague has indeed been very brief. He has summarized a thought many of us share, in some very fine phrases couched in impeccable French, and I must congratulate him.

I will soon have sat in this House for five years, but I have still learned something from Motion M-360. The hon. member for Provencher, the mover of the motion, has said that in the debate in the justice committee on Bill C-7, the committee chair indicated that a rule or convention excluded elected representatives of the provinces and territories. Not being an expert like you, Mr. Speaker, on rules, procedures, conventions and traditions, I have learned something new.

I am going to ask our parliamentary leader and our rules and procedures adviser to explain to me in greater detail what this is all about. They refused to allow the provincial ministers of justice, the attorneys general, to speak, based on rules and conventions, claiming that committees cannot accept them as witnesses, if I have understood the hon. member for Provencher correctly.

This led me to wonder. I though the committee was sovereign. I know that royal commissions hear provincial and territorial elected officials and wondered why the same did not hold true for committees. I wondered if there were any examples. There have been a number of examples where provincial and territorial elected representatives have appeared before a committee examining a bill.

SInce there is not much time left, I am going to speak about the famous Bill C-20—now a law—I might even call it the infamous bill on referendum clarity. If I remember correctly, Joseph Facal, Quebec's Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, came before the committee, as did Benoît Pelletier, the Liberal MNA for Chapleau, not far from here.

If, for a bill such as Bill C-20, there was acceptance of provincial ministers and elected representatives, and this issue did not come up, I do not understand why a committee would decide to exclude them because of rules of procedure.

I need more clarification. If it was because of rules, conventions or traditions, the government, which refused to hear from the people of Quebec, among others, during consideration of Bill C-7, citing parliamentary procedure, ignored that procedure during consideration of Bill C-20; this is a double standard. If rules need to be changed, it should change them, but I do not think that that is the case. We have a number of examples of elected provincial government officials appearing before the committee.

I am not sure what the specific purpose of the motion is but, if I understand correctly, the idea is to not exclude elected officials from the provinces and territories when bills which have an impact on the provinces are being considered. We would not disagree. I am learning things. We need some answers.

I listened to my former colleague who crossed the floor, the turncoat who is now the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport. He explained how federal-provincial relations are supposed to work. This government is in no position to tell us how to operate. I think that the previous government had much more credibility when it came to respect for the provinces. The short-lived government that the leader of my party had the opportunity to lead could point to examples of real co-operation.

Members will recall that when the right hon. leader of the Progressive Conservative Party was about to make appointments, he telephoned the then Premier of Quebec, Mr. Lévesque, and told him, “I have some names, but I would like your opinion”.

My leader reminded me that Mr. Lévesque was quite surprised that the Prime Minister had called to consult him about appointments.

This is a fine example of the skilful handling of relations. However, our friends on the other side are arrogant, because they base their decisions on certain rules in order to exclude some people and go their own way, do as they please.

I find it unfortunate that, for Bill C-7, they refused to meet with elected provincial representatives on the basis of some criteria and regulations, some tradition and conventions, whereas, in the case of Bill C-20, which divided the country much more than it united it, the presence of ministers and members of legislatures was accepted.

They resort to double standards whenever it suits them. This is another case of bad handling of relations here in the House by this government. It is another example of this government using the rules for the benefit of its own leader and excluding the provincial elected representatives, who are our partners only when this government finds it convenient.

Finally, we must be careful. We must not forget that there are two distinct philosophies about the vision for our country. On the one hand, some say that Canada is Ottawa. It is a central governmen, which in its great generosity grants some powers and responsibilities to what we call provinces. This is Canada according to some people.

Perhaps it would help to look back further in history. Canada is made up of regions and provinces which decided to act together and to give shared services to Ottawa. It was a bottom up approach, not a top down one. A country such as Canada cannot remain united if decisions are always made at the top. Decisions that shape this country must be made in the regions and in the provinces.

This is why we hope for a fairly quick change of government in order to change the way things are done and if possible, an even quicker change in Prime Ministers and Ministers of Intergovernmental Affairs. This could not come soon enough. In any case, squabbling has already started within the ranks of the Liberal Party.

Having said that, these are two different visions of the country, two different approaches. I hope that the vision of the country that recognizes that it was the regions and the provinces that created this country and that decided to come together for all kinds of reasons, more or less good, will gain more widespread acceptance.

I also sincerely hope that there will be a level playing field when it comes to the witnesses that will be called to appear before committees. We need to acknowledge that on numerous occasions, when it suits the government, provincial and territorial members and ministers have appeared before committees. I hope that decisions will not be made based on rules once, only to flout them the rest of the time.

Briefings or NegotiationsPrivate Members' Business

May 6th, 2002 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should never exclude elected provincial government officials from any briefings or negotiations with provincial civil servants concerning legislation, regulations, treaties or agreements of any kind.

Mr. Speaker,I am pleased to rise to speak to this motion. The motion arises as a result of my personal experience as a provincial justice minister dealing with negotiations with the federal government on the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

While I was a provincial minister I was told by my staff that I could not attend negotiations or discussions with federal officials, nor could I be briefed by my own staff with respect to these meetings with federal officials despite the very real financial, political and administrative interests the provincial government had in administering not only the Young Offenders Act but the new act that has been put in its place.

I initiated the motion after the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights barred the appearances of provincial attorneys general during hearings on the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Bill C-7. The newer members of the committee, such as myself, were told that it was a rule or a convention of the committee to not hear from elected provincial officials. The government members voted down a motion supported by all four opposition parties to waive this rule. As a result, the committee was only able to hear from non-elected provincial officials.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act, which replaces the Young Offenders Act, is enforced on a day to day basis by provincial officials and authorities. While the justice committee regularly hears testimony from the federal attorney general, unbelievably we were prevented from hearing from the officials who are actually responsible for implementing the legislation, paying for it and for making it work: the provincial attorneys general.

Despite the numerous concerns expressed about the lack of consultation with provincial authorities in the ongoing debate over this bill, astonishingly the government members on the justice committee said that they did not believe it was appropriate to invite elected representatives from provincial governments to make representations here in Ottawa. While they discussed matters with staff, they would not hear from the elected representatives who are politically accountable to the people of the various provinces.

Given that the provinces are often shouldered with the burden of the costs in implementing new laws, it is a tremendously important issue for provincial attorneys general or any other provincial minister administering a federal law who have to justify to the taxpayers the moneys they will have to spend. As elected officials responsible for the expenditure of funds and working in partnership with the federal government, there can be no relevant objection to them explaining their views and concerns to parliament.

On the issue of funding, I recognize that the federal government has indicated that it is willing to spend more money to implement the Youth Criminal Justice Act but we know that it will never reach a 50:50 partnership as the act had originally intended. Essentially the provinces will continue to bear about 75% of the cost of this act, and possibly even more in the years to come.

The provincial attorneys general and the taxpayers they represent who are shouldering the bulk of the financial burden of this act could simply say that they will not enforce this legislation or any other legislation the federal government imposes on them in the future. This was done with Bill C-68 where provincial attorneys general said that they would not co-operate in that federal act because it did not meet the needs of the people of their provinces.

The attorneys general of Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba are not required to enforce the new youth justice legislation. They could simply say “Forget it. Let the federal government do it”. They could refuse to accept the delegation to prosecute under that act or to indeed spend any moneys under that act.

Even if that might be an unlikely possibility, and even though in Bill C-68, for example, they did refuse that delegation, common sense, good government and co-operative federalism demand that the provincial attorneys general be allowed to come to Ottawa to explain the difficulties they may foresee in making the legislation work.

It is critical that the federal government continues to work co-operatively and in good faith with the political figures who are responsible to the taxpayers of their respective provinces.

The motion also indirectly addresses the fundamental concerns of parliamentarians who often see committee work as ineffective or irrelevant. During the justice committee hearing in which we discussed whether or not to hear the elected provincial officials, the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice at the time, the hon. member for Erie--Lincoln, said:

With respect to the ministers, they have more than ample opportunity to speak to the Minister of Justice at various federal-provincial-territorial meetings that go on frequently, and went on with this specific legislation. They've had more than ample opportunity to present their views to the minister.

Even if that is in fact correct, which it is not, having had that experience as a provincial justice minister where we were not consulted nor did we have an opportunity to discuss the act with the federal minister, as the member for Winnipeg--Transcona so aptly pointed out at the committee, it appeared that it did not even occur to the parliamentary secretary that perhaps the justice committee might form a different opinion or might even be a different entity in some respects from the federal justice minister.

The parliamentary secretary sat in his chair and said that ministers of justice in the provinces can talk to the federal minister of justice and that was good enough. This lack of democratic consultation is exactly what many Canadians, including parliamentarians, find so disconcerting about the entire legislative process.

There are only two significant ways for individual members to contribute to the political process under the process that we presently have today in parliament. One is through the introduction of private members' bills and the other is through parliamentary committees. However it is now apparent that even these avenues are being shut off. This was demonstrated recently when the Prime Minister rejected the extensive work of a committee reviewing the contentious species at risk legislation, Bill C-5. All Liberal members in the House were instructed to vote against the committee amendments, including amendments that would have guaranteed compensation to landowners for land expropriated under the legislation.

Similarly, last week the new Minister of Justice rejected the recommendations of the parliamentary committee that proposed important changes to protect the interests of children caught up in bitter custody battles after divorce.

Those are but a couple of examples of why so many Canadians, including parliamentarians themselves, have become disillusioned with our political system. What is the point of an all party justice committee when the Liberal majority on the committee is simply an appendage of the justice minister?

Although the motion will not necessarily address issues of democratic reform in parliament, it would go far to remedy one particular consequence of the dysfunctional nature of parliamentary committees. The motion as worded would give parliamentarians the opportunity to confer on a number of fronts with both elected and non-elected provincial officials regarding any matter crossing areas of provincial and federal jurisdiction.

By working more positively and proactively with the elected political figures who are responsible and accountable to the people of their respective provinces, the House could demonstrate an unprecedented measure of good faith that would go a long way to improving co-operative federalism in the country.

Although the motion is not votable, I would hope that it would be a starting point for future discussions on this matter.

I have the minutes from the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as of April 4, 2001. I want to read a few of the comments that were made by members in voting down hearing from provincial officials. When I stated:

I understand there is a standing rule that prohibits elected officials from coming here, and I think that's unfortunate.

The member for Winnipeg--Transcona then expressed his concern and the chair indicated the following:

The rule, the tradition, the convention predates the chair's being a member of the committee, but my understanding is that there are technical aspects of this the provinces would have to be responsible for administering, and we wanted to bring in the technical people who would be doing that. Therefore, what we wanted to do was bring in deputy attorneys general and representatives of the government, rather than elected officials. That was what I understood.

The member for Winnipeg--Transcona then raises other points, saying that on this kind of bill there are political matters in the very best sense and there are federal-provincial issues with respect to the allocation of resources.

The parliamentary secretary then said the following, and it was astounding. He said:

Mr. Chair, I stand to be corrected, but the suggestion that we have not heard from the provinces before this committee would be inaccurate. We have heard from officials. To my recollection, certainly in the case of the Province of Manitoba, the Province of British Columbia, the Province of Ontario I believe...invitations were extended to the provinces as well. We're certainly very happy to hear from the individuals who work with this legislation day to day.

With respect to the ministers, they have more than ample opportunity to speak to the Minister of Justice at various...meetings...They've had more than ample opportunity to present their views to the minister.

The point is however that they were not allowed to present their views to committee.

Perhaps the height of Liberal majority arrogance on the justice committee was seen when one Liberal member stated the following with respect to the motion in favour of having elected representatives there. He said:

Thank you, Mr. Chair. I just want to say that I would not be supporting the motion on the basis that I've spent two years as parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, and I can see that changing our convention would be simply opening it up to a series of fed-bashers. They would come here, the way they do, with the media in tow, and get into that. That's why I think the rule or the convention makes sense, to have officials who aren't going to be here to play the political game. As much as we are discussing political issues, I don't want to be captive to a round of fed-bashing, which I think this would inevitably lead to.

We are talking about the elected representatives of the people of the various provinces. They are responsible for administering and enforcing the legislation.The point of view of the parliamentary secretary is that this is simply fed-bashing. That is the problem with this government. Liberal members think that unless they can absolutely control any discussions to arrive at a predetermined result, it is simply fed-bashing.

This is a federal system. The federal attorney general has the right to speak to the provincial attorneys general. However we, as justice committee members or any other committee members, should be entitled to hear from these elected officials. They are responsible for the payment of this in large part. They are responsible for prosecution. They are responsible for administration. This is a shameful example of how the government refuses to co-operate with the provinces.

The provincial attorneys general could simply say that they will no longer prosecute under the criminal code and that they will leave it to the federal attorney general. They can say they will no longer prosecute under the youth justice legislation. However they are attempting to work co-operatively with the federal government, but unfortunately the Liberal majority on that committee refuses to hear from those who have significant input on this matter.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 3rd, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord Québec

Liberal

André Harvey LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased, like all my other colleagues, to make a few comments about Bill C-55.

As parliamentarians, all party politics set aside, our role is not to exaggerate the impact of a law, but rather to try to fully understand the scope of a bill like Bill C-55, which, of course, is the result of very intensive consultations with provincial and territorial governments, and with many other Canadians.

We have to realize that we are not dealing with an easily identifiable opponent, but rather terrorists operating in many countries and using great cunning to perpetrate their dastardly deeds. They had proven this long before the attacks of September 11.

My colleagues from the Bloc made comments that, at times, I found rather exaggerated. Luckily, exaggeration does not make one sick, otherwise some of them would suffer from an incurable disease. I remember their speeches on Bill C-7, concerning young offenders. The end of the world was near.

As a matter of fact, the governments of the provinces and of Quebec will benefit from a massive injections of tens of millions of dollars for the administration of Bill C-7. I am convinced that the children of Quebec will not all be in prison tomorrow morning. Luckily, our justice minister assumed his responsibilities. He steered this act through the House of Commons.

If we look back at how the act has been administered over the last few months, we see that, despite all the dire consequences the Bloc members were talking about at the time--it was worse than Chernobyl--everything is going fine.

Our country has to deal with a very serious situation. The government's responsibility is, rightly so, to deal with it. We have to do everything we can to fight this very insidious and imperceptible evil, which caused the death of thousands of people in a few seconds in the United States, our main trading partner. The Americans are people with whom we share economic, cultural, and recreational values, among others. The role of responsible governments in the world is to assume their responsibilities and to make laws.

Bill C-55 will allow us to amend 20 acts affecting several departments. This is not an ad hoc process. The provisions of this bill allow us to take measures that also respect the democracy in which we live. Our role is to take our responsibilities to obtain the tools that will allow us to respond to emergencies. This will not be done only at the behest of one person, someone responsible for a department, whether defence, ustice or transport.

Let us take the example of September 11. If the Minister of Transport had not had the authority to react to the closure of U.S. airspace, what could have happened? The number of dead in New York could have skyrocketed. The government's role is to acquire the tools that are essential to assume its responsibilities.

In the hours that follow, it is time to justify measures taken. After that, it is time to get the government and our institutions back to normal.

Bill C-55 affects several departments, health, environment, justice, solicitor general and transport, which I have the pleasure to work with, in partnership with the minister directly assigned to this department. All the ministers are doing their job with the greatest respect for all democratic institutions.

It is not true to say that all of Canada will be considered as a controlled access zone. There are limits to exaggerating things.

Our fellow citizens are beginning to realize that exaggeration should be checked. If exaggeration made people sick, some would have an incurable disease and would have trouble finding a treatment. This situation has to be dealt with in a balanced way, and this is what the government is doing with this bill.

This bill has been introduced in this House, but it will also be referred to a committee, which will analyze all aspects of the bill. Some improvements may have to be made. We will have the opportunity to consider them thoroughly. We did that to such an extent with Bill C-42 that it was finally withdrawn. The bill was reworked and replaced with Bill C-55. This bill is not perfect, and will be referred to a committee to be improved.

I wish to emphasize that a $7.7 billion budget has been allocated to various departments in order to improve our control structure and increase security for Canadians. We also travel throughout the world. Quebec is not the exclusive property of the PQ and the Bloc.

As a matter of fact, exaggeration goes over so badly that they are only at 20% or 25% in the polls. I know them well. I have fought several election campaigns against them. It is a real pleasure to campaign against them and to talk about their record. I wish to tell them once again that we are pleased to introduce Bill C-55. It is not perfect, but it can be improved.

After extended consultations with provincial governments across the country, we will now refer the bill to the committee. We are not naive and we know that nothing is perfect. We believe that Bill C-55, which allows us to improve several legislative measures involving several departments, must be approached meticulously and with respect for our fellow citizens.

Quebec will not be surrounded by a barricade. This is not how things work in life. We saw at the Quebec summit that the security perimeter was erected after a period of consultation, in order to allow people from all these countries to hold their discussions in peace. Access to important activities must be controlled. Whether we like it or not, this is how things work. We also have to protect ourselves.

When officials from all over the world are gathered together, we make every effort to ensure that the discussions are taking place in a serene environment, to promote a positive outcome.

I am looking forward to Bill C-55 being referred to a committee. I am looking forward to hearing witnesses and my friends from the opposition parties, particularly those from Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois members. I am convinced that we will be receptive to what stakeholders have to say. I am looking forward to it and I am used to hearing their speeches. I try to react with wisdom to all their attacks. As I said before, what I like best is to campaign against Bloc Quebecois members. I really enjoy it, particularly when we win. Balance is important in a democracy. They have a point of view. When things go bad, it is always Canada's fault. When things go well, it is always thanks to Quebec. This is not how things work in real life.

I am convinced that we have an important role to play as a government, and it is not the sometimes negative comments of Bloc Quebecois members that will slow us down.

I look at the situation in Quebec and I see that all Quebecers want a provincial election. But the PQ does not dare call an election. A few months ago, Bloc Quebecois members were all set to run as candidates in a provincial election. Now, not a single one of them is interested in doing it, because they fear that Quebecers may be tired of hearing the same old speeches after 20, 25 or 30 years.

Quebecers want reconciliation. They are increasingly aware that they co-own a large continent. The role of the member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord is to do everything possible so that the Canadian government will help us come out of isolation. It is not PQ members who have looked after the regions the most.

Public Safety Act, 2002Government Orders

May 1st, 2002 / 4:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, let us remember that, on November 22, 2001, the Government of Canada introduced, in great haste, its second public safety bill, Bill C-42. The Bloc Quebecois reacted immediately to the introduction of that bill, which constituted the worst attack ever seen by Quebecers and Canadians on their rights and freedoms.

Those who are listening to us will have understood that, since November 22, the Bloc Quebecois has vehemently opposed Bill C-42. We saw the results. Last week, the federal Liberal government withdrew Bill C-42 to introduce Bill C-55, which, believe it or not, is five pages longer than Bill C-42, which had 98 pages. Bill C-55 has 103 pages.

The Bloc Quebecois reacted strongly to this attack on human rights and freedoms from within Canada by the federal Liberal government. When dealing with terrorism, there is nothing worse than trying to counter terrorist attacks by sacrificing our rights and freedoms. It is the worst possible reaction, because the objective of the terrorist network throughout the world is actually to attack the fundamental values that made Quebec and Canada such a great democracy.

Today, I am proud to have helped, with my leader and my colleagues in the Bloc Quebecois, make the federal Liberal government understand that it could not take away the fundamental rights enjoyed by all Canadians. However, it was easy for us to fight Bill C-42 because the ministers who were supposed to defend that bill, namely the Minister of Transport, the Minister of National Defence and all the others—I will name them later—were not the strongest defenders of the bill. Why?

Quite simply because Bill C-42, just as Bill C-55 we are examining today, was prepared by and for public servants. How are things done in a society like ours? In any crisis situation, the government tries its best to pass legislation to achieve its old unfulfilled dreams. That is what happened with DND and its land staff, Health Canada, Transport Canada and all the other departments, which took advantage of the terrible crisis situation resulting from the September 11 events to include in Bill C-42 numerous infringements on our freedoms and rights, and yet more state control.

Such a situation brings us closer to a more militarized, centralizing and controlling state. This is what the Liberal government is trying to do, once again today, with Bill C-55. Even if it was upgraded and improved, even if the Bloc's recommendations were taken into account, it has proven impossible to escape the government machinery which, once again, attacks our rights and freedoms in Bill C-55. I will demonstrate it in a minute.

Another similarity with what happened when Bill C-42 was introduced is the fact that the Prime Minister went before the press yesterday, and with his typical candour and naivety, he could not answer one very simple question from a journalist who was asking if our rights and freedoms will be better protected under the new legislation. He answered “Yes, because I am telling you it is better”.

Once again, questions were put to the Prime Minister today and he was unable to answer them. Yesterday, it was the Minister of Defence who could not provide the answers.

In the next few minutes, I will try to summarize the purpose of this bill for the benefit of everyone in Quebec who might be watching this debate, and to show why we constantly have to badger the federal Liberal government which, in an attempt to do some nation building, has let the bureaucracy pursue its objective of centralization. We now have a centralizing state, whcih is detrimental to the rights and freedoms for which people, especially in Quebec, have fought so dearly.

Today, the Prime Minister even added in this House, “Anyway, all of these questions will be answered in committee and we will make all the appropriate revisions and changes”.

My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm knows better. On Bill C-7, he single-handedly moved more amendments and brought more witnesses before the committee than all the Liberal members from Quebec. Despite all his efforts, none of the amendments to Bill C-7 concerning young offenders was passed. Except for some very minor changes, the bill was passed almost exactly as it was introduced in the House.

So today, the Prime Minister said to us, the members from Quebec, “With respect to Bill C-55, you can ask your questions in committee, you will have the chance to call witnesses, and we can make changes when the time comes”.

For all those Quebecers who are listening, for all those groups who appeared before my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm's committee to comment on Bill C-7, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, I regret to inform them that it is not true that significant changes can be made in the House.

There was consensus in Quebec and, believe it or not, the new Minister of Justice, the member for Rosemont, from Quebec, succeeded in forcing Bill C-7 on Quebecers, once he was elected. This despite the fact that the day after his nomination, he told the media that he would meet with all of the groups and representatives in Quebec that are affected, and he did not do this.

This is the reality of this centralizing federal Liberal government, which, once again, with Bill C-55, has used its political power to take away rights and freedoms from Quebecers and Canadians.

Allow me to provide some examples, as the Prime Minister, the Minister of Transport and all of the other ministers should have done to explain Bill C-55. Given that there are three sections of this bill, as the Minister of Transport was saying, as far as I am concerned, it should have been divided into as many bills.

Yet again, the government is using a bill that is almost an omnibus bill, with 20 different parts, a bill that amends more than 10 acts, in an attempt to push through a bill that is packed with provisions that violate people's rights and freedoms.

For the benefit of Quebecers and Canadians who are listening, as the Minister of Transport said, there are three main sections to this bill. I will comment on them in the order that he presented them.

The first part concerns the ministerial power to make interim orders. I will give the list of the ministers who are involved. Anyway, the wording is the same for all amended statutes. The provisions are very lengthy, but the principle is always the same. Every time a minister is granted the power to make an order, he is subjected to the same standards and restrictions, but our rights and freedoms are also violated in the same way.

Here is the list of the ministers who are mentioned in the bill, with the title of the statutes being amended. The Department of Health Act and the Food and Drugs Act are administered by the Minister of Health. The Hazardous Products Act, the Safety Act, and the Navigable Waters Protection Act are under the responsibility of the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. The Pest Control Products Act and the Quarantine Act are administered by the Minister of Health. The Radiation Emitting Devices Act and the Canada Shipping Act are administered by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, and the Canada ShippingAct, 2001, by the Minister of Transport.

Major amendments are made to all these statutes, and each of the ministers responsible will get new powers I will specify.

Let us take for example the Minister of Health and the Department of Health Act. The same provisions are repeated for all the other statutes and for all the other departments.

Here is clause 33, amending the Department of Health Act, at section 11.1:

The Minister may make an interim order that contains any provision that may be contained in a regulation made under section 11 if the Minister believes that immediate action is required to deal with a significant risk, direct or indirect, to health or safety.

This therefore confers on a minister the authority to make interim orders. For all the ministers I have listed so far, and all the laws they administer, they have been authorized to make interim orders, which have regulatory force. This is not done just any old way.

Subsection 4 of clause 11 reads:

An interim order is exempt from the application of sections 3, 5 and 11 of the Statutory Instruments Act and published in the Canada Gazette within twenty-three days after it is made.

What has just been given to the ministers, including the Minister of Health, is the power to enact interim orders with regulatory force and without the constraints of the Statutory Instruments Act sections 3, 5 and 11. It is worthwhile quoting the sections in question, which enable a minister such as the Minister of Health—I will give an example shortly—to make interim orders with regulatory force and no obligation. For instance, section 3 reads as follows:

Subject to any regulations made pursuant to paragraph 20(a), where a regulation-making authority proposes to make a regulation, it shall cause to be forwarded to the Clerk of the Privy Council three copies of the proposed regulation in both official languages.

Thus there will no longer be a requirement to forward them promptly to the Clerk of the Privy Council.

On receipt, the Clerk of the Privy Council, in consultation with the Deputy Minister of Justice, shall examine the proposed regulation to ensure that: it is authorized by the statute pursuant to which it is to be made; it does not constitute an unusual or unexpected use of the authority pursuant to which it is to be made; it does not trespass unduly on existing rights and freedoms and is not, in any case, inconsistent with the purposes and provisions of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights.

This is what is termed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms filter.

Now, these interim orders by the ministers of Health, Transport, Fisheries and Oceans and the others, including Environment, in compliance with the laws I have listed, will no longer have to gain approval or be filed in three copies with the Clerk of the Privy Council for the text to be examined in light of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the framework of the enabling legislation.

Let me give an example. During the September 11 crisis, the Minister of Health bought generic drugs, this in violation of the Patent Act and the patent held by the Bayer company. So, the minister awarded a contract to a company called Apotex. This action was brought up in the House and it was questioned, because it did not comply with the Patent Act. Of course, the Minister of Health argued the decision was not his, that he had simply raised the issue with his officials and they had made the big decision.

Under Bill C-55, the Minister of Health will now have the power to make interim orders whereby public officials would have the mandate to acquire drugs. In the example that I gave, the drugs were bought to counter the effects of anthrax, but it could be any drug to fight any disease. These drugs could be bought without checking who owns the patents for them and, again, without ensuring that all is done in compliance with the charter of rights and freedoms.

With these interim orders, the responsibility of making decisions that may involve public funds and have major consequences on individual rights and freedoms rests solely with one person, namely the minister. He could force the whole population to get a vaccine and take medication. Let us not forget that, in our society, there are communities and individuals who are subject to restrictions with respect to the consumption of drugs, among other things.

All this went unnoticed. However, what I just read is the same text that was in Bill C-42. In the new Bill C-55, the following was added regarding interim orders:

5.1(3) An interim order has effect from the time that it is made but ceases to have effect on the earliest of

(a) 45 days after it is made, unless it is approved by the Governor in Council,

Before, in Bill C-42, it was 90 days. Now, we are told 45 days, and the following is added:

5.1(7) A copy of each interim order must be tabled in each House of Parliament on any of the first 15 days on which that House is sitting after the interim order is made.

Earlier, the minister told us, “Yes, it gave authority for an interim order to be tabled in both Houses, here and in the other place, and there could be motions and a debate”. Note that he said that there could be a debate, if they wanted one and if it were necessary.

People have obviously understood that when there is a debate here, it is the Liberal majority that decides. We can move a motion but, if the Liberal majority decides that we are not going to deal with it, there will not be any debate.

We are told that the interim order will be tabled on any of the first 15 days on which the House is sitting and that it will now be valid for 45 days instead of 90. But an interim order is urgent and is made within hours or days of an event. Inevitably, the harm, if any, will be done. And this will not change with Bill C-55, any more than it did with Bill C-42. Nothing has changed.

The government can say that the issue is evolving, but when an interim order with the force of a regulation does not need to be tested against the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms--the charter filter--the rights of parliamentarians have been violated, and citizens no longer have any way of finding out whether the decisions of one man, a minister, respect their rights and freedoms.

The second part of Bill C-55, as set out by the minister, deals with the famous military security zones, which have become controlled access military zones. The Bloc Quebecois waged a very vocal campaign against this military interference in the civilian activities of militants, of groups of protestors who often take part in demonstrations. The government has obviously eliminated large parts of this bill.

But as for the meaning, the scope and everything DND officials and all those who thought they were going to get new military authority wanted, the basic outline is still there.

It is simple. Members have talked about two pages. In two pages, the government imposes a military state, allows a single person, the minister, to send the army into an area. The new wording is as follows:

260.1(1) Subject to subsection (2), the Minister personally, on the recommendation of the Chief of the Defence Staff, may designate a controlled access military zone in Canada in relation to:

The minister is the only one who can make this decision. The wording is simple. The only man who can make this decision is the defence minister. The very man who did not see fit to inform the Privy Council, cabinet, the Prime Minister and the government that Canadian Forces had taken prisoners in Afghanistan. This is the man. And he is the one who will have the authority to designate controlled access military zones. Of course, only regarding the following:

(a) a defence establishment;

(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside a defence establishment;

(c) a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada by virtue of the Visiting Forces Act.

They seem to be telling us that they want to protect our defence establishments. This makes sense. They must be protected. However, they are already military zones. A military base or any property belonging to the Department of National Defence is already a military zone entirely under its control.

So why add this? Because of the following paragraph which says:

(b) property that is provided for the Canadian Forces or the Department and is situated outside of a defence establishment.

The objective is to say that the minister will be able to designate a zone including a military establishment or military equipment, but not on property belonging to the department, therefore on civilian territory. Of course, there are many appropriate examples of this, which we will point out during the vigorous debate that will be triggered by Bill C-55.

For instance, there is the Citadel in Quebec City and everything around the Armoury, which belongs to the Canadian Forces. As you know, across from the Citadel there is the National Assembly and the Quebec government. This, of course, could be part of what is outside a defence establishment.

Therefore, this means that under this bill, in order to protect his establishment, the minister, the man who did not want and did not bother to inform the Prime Minister, cabinet, the Privy Council and the government that the army had taken prisoners in Afghanistan, will be able to designate, around the Citadel in Quebec City, a controlled access military zone that could include the National Assembly.

This is the reality. Examples abound as the minister is asking the same for “a vessel, aircraft or other property under the control of a visiting force that is legally in Canada”.

We often talk about G-8 meetings and these sorts of things. Some heads of states and governments arrive with their own military equipment. When there is a meeting of the most influential people on the planet, that is members of the G-8, the defence minister could automatically designate a zone around the site of the meeting where there is military equipment—of course, I hope heads of states will land with their helicopters and their planes close to where these meetings take place—to protect such equipment.

This is quite astounding. And it is not only the equipment. The next paragraph says:

The Minister may designate a controlled access military zone only if it is reasonably necessary for ensuring the safety or security of

(a) any person—

Obviously, it is not only to protect property, but also to protect people. Who are these people? They are all the people who could feel threatened at any location where there is military equipment.

Subparagraph ( b ) refers to property that is provided for the Canadian Forces.

So it is not only property that belongs to the Canadian Forces, but also property that is provided for them. It could be any federal building that the government decides to lend to the Canadian Forces to set up headquarters or for some other reason.

Obviously, the government could do indirectly what Bill C-42 enabled it to do directly. These provisions can be interpreted that way.

Yesterday, the ministers, particularly the defence minister, told us that we should not presume that they are acting in bad faith. Bad faith is never presumed, it is observed. Every day, we see the government's bad faith in this House. How could we trust the defence minister who, as far as I am concerned, has lost all credibility over the last few months?

So one man, the Minister of National Defence, is entrusted with the task of designating controlled access military zones, including in Quebec. Of course, we are being told that this will be done only if it is reasonably necessary. This expression is used four times. The zone cannot be of any size. The controlled access military zone may not be larger than is reasonably necessary.

We hear about the zone, the area—

Young OffendersOral Question Period

April 17th, 2002 / 2:35 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate to see that, once again, the Bloc Quebecois is continuing its misinformation campaign in Quebec.

Bill C-7 on young offenders meets the aspirations of Quebec and reflects the techniques and approach developed in Quebec.

As for the constitution, it includes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which has been widely used across the country and in a flexible manner. The charter has proven very useful to Quebec regarding many issues, including language and signs.

Young OffendersOral Question Period

February 20th, 2002 / 3 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to thank the hon. member for her excellent question.

Bill C-7 did indeed receive royal assent yesterday. It is normal for a certain period of time to go by before legislation takes effect.

I would simply like to say that the bill was the subject of many discussions, particularly last week at a federal-provincial-territorial meeting. Because of the broad consensus for more time, which has been repeatedly expressed for quite a while now, all the provinces and territories have agreed with me to postpone the coming into force of this legislation until April 2003, so that they can make the necessary preparations and go ahead with an excellent bill.

Foreign AffairsThe Royal Assent

February 19th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, the Deputy Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bill:

Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts—Chapter No. 1.

Young OffendersStatements By Members

February 6th, 2002 / 2 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Guy St-Julien Liberal Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-7 on Canada's young offenders was passed, following an amendment proposed by the Senate regarding sentencing for aboriginal offenders.

The Liberal Minister of Justice and member for Outremont stated that once it receives royal assent, this bill will provide all of the flexibility required to allow Quebec to maintain its own system, which emphasizes rehabilitation rather than incarceration.

Only 19 Bloc Quebecois members out of 38 voted against the bill. I repeat, only 19 of the 38 Bloc Quebecois members voted against the bill.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
See context

Mississauga South Ontario

Liberal

Paul Szabo LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity this morning to view a press conference by a government agency on the issue of child poverty. Members will know that this issue has seized this place long before we all came here. There has been a great deal of attention placed on the issue.

I know parliamentarians share the view that for children who live in poverty chances are that the cycle of poverty is very likely to occur in their adult lives as well. We in this place care about children.

We also have talked about child abuse many times in a broader sense than sexual abuse. We have talked about its impact on children. The House and the Senate went through the custody and access joint hearings which produced a wonderful report. I remember one of the provisions in the report was children who witness abuse among their parents were as affected as if they had been abused themselves. We have again demonstrated a sensitivity to the impacts on children.

This morning at this press conference and subsequently at an informal gathering with the representatives of the poverty coalition one of the things talked about was lone parent situations. We now have a situation where lone parents in Canada represent less than 15% of all families and yet account for some 52% of all children living in poverty.

Family issues start to come up here. It is a very linked situation. When we look at the fundamental stability of the Canadian family, when we look at the impacts on children when there is abuse in the home or when there are economic pressures, et cetera, children are usually the victims. We certainly saw that in the custody and access hearings.

Canadians should know that this place has a very large spot in its heart for children. Obviously we all win when our children grow up to be healthy, well adjusted young people with a sound set of moral, social and family values so that as they move forward in their lives they do not fall into problems, whether it be the cycle of violence, of welfare, of poverty or of other social ills.

The issue of a national sex offender registry is certainly one that we have discussed for some time. All members agree that in the discussion we had last March it was important for Canadians to know what was happening around the world, what was happening in Canada, and how we could take what we had and move it forward.

Parliamentarians in this place supported a motion to establish a national registry because we knew that the recidivism rate among offenders, among pedophiles and rapists, et cetera, was very high. It is very tragic that in society we have to be vigilant at all times for people who prey on children. It is disgusting and contemptible, but I am not sure whether or not as the previous speaker said that we should throw in jail anybody we identify as possibly doing something.

Our hearts are in the right place, but we have to understand that we have laws which have be to applied in accordance with the charter of rights and freedoms. They have to be applied in accordance with what is right. When people are sex offenders by nature or character, I do not think they were born like that. They are functions of their environment. They are functions of their family home, their relations with those with whom they grew up and the problems in that regard.

I agree with all members who spoke that we need to make a stronger commitment to addressing the serious problem of sex offenders and certainly repeat sex offenders.

Today we have a motion before the House pursuant to one we dealt with on March 13, 2001, which called for establishment of a sex offender registry by January 30, 2002, a date we have just passed.

I clearly understand, in view of the fact there is not a comprehensive, fully integrated national sex offender registry, why this issue would come up again. I applaud the opposition member for raising it with the House because it is reflective of the priorities and value system the House holds collectively.

The motion calls for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to prepare and bring forward a bill reflecting the spirit and intent of the motion with which we dealt last March.

I am not sure why we would take the whole process back to the committee to start again. It is a little confusing to me. I have no doubt the justice committee has the talent to draft a bill. Should that be asked by the minister and referred to the committee for such a purpose, I have no doubt it could do it.

However I am not sure that is the most efficient way for parliamentarians in this place to move the file forward and to get our national registry in place in the fashion it should be to achieve its objectives.

It would be useful to review briefly some of the background to the whole question of protecting our children and what parliament and the government have done to reflect that priority. We obviously are committed to saving communities and preventing crime. Protection of our children is obviously an issue of great concern. That is why we now have a national sex offender registry. It is a registry of all convicted offenders and it is called CPIC.

Unfortunately I did not have an opportunity to speak to the issue last March, but as a member who shares concern about the protection and safety of children in our communities I want to be on record with regard to my shared concern. I ask the House to bear with me as I put forward some of this information, probably for the benefit of my constituents who are interested in my views as well.

The Canadian Police Information Centre is a computerized information system for Canadian law enforcement. It is operated by the RCMP. It serves over 60,000 law enforcement officials in every province and territory in Canada and handles over 100 million inquiries from 15,000 points of access.

When we consider the dimensions of the CPIC system clearly it is a national system. Clearly it is used by policing authorities across the country and by all jurisdictions with policing responsibilities.

The CPIC system contains millions of records on criminals, missing persons, vehicles, stolen property, registered firearms and crime scene information. It is a fairly comprehensive database. It is the primary tool used by our police enforcement officers to do work on crime scene information, to analyze criminal activities and to determine information that might be helpful in bringing resolution to a criminal act.

In 1994 the national screening system was created using CPIC. The national screening system allows agencies serving children to request local police background checks through CPIC. The background checks permit the agency to screen out potential volunteers known to be sexual abusers.

Even before we debated the creation of a national sex offender registry, there was a CPIC system which was accessible throughout communities across Canada for the purpose of screening volunteers and protecting our children. It was already used in a sense to provide a safer environment for our children.

Something I find very difficult to measure or to get information on is whether or not there is effectiveness in this. Some of my research has shown that other countries which have national sex offender registries have been unable to determine if they have prevented crimes that otherwise would have taken place. It is almost unmeasurable. It is more intuitive. I am not sure if I have heard today some evidence that these registries transfer the sort of crime prevention and protection that we seek to achieve.

Intuitively, it is the right thing to do. That is why parliamentarians supported the registry. It was important that it be there. The community thought it was something we needed. It is not a matter of having a silver bullet or that there is only one thing that we need to do to ensure we achieve the objective of full safety for our children and communities. That is not reasonable. Like most problems in society, this is complex. It means we need a multiplicity of solutions. A national registry is obviously one part of it.

I recall a line I have used throughout my parliamentary career. For every complex problem, there is a simple solution and it is wrong.

We are not looking for simple solutions. I think people who watch us on the television or watch from the gallery want to see us working in the best interests of Canadians, our children and communities. They want safe homes and safe streets. These are the themes and important areas which Canadians expect parliamentarians to address.

In April 1999 the solicitor general announced additional funding of $115 million to renew and enhance CPIC. Even though CPIC is a substantially older vintage of database, it has been enhanced and continues to grow. We have done even more.

In September 2001 the solicitor general announced that the RCMP would spend an additional $2 million on CPIC to improve its capacity to track sex offenders.

In March 2001 we first dealt with this motion. We did not wait for an unreasonable period of time to come up with some enhancements in CPIC to bring it up to the standard that members wanted to see. I do not think members are concerned whether CPIC or a national database is something we need. We do need a national sex offender registry.

The concern is whether it includes the kinds of information we need. Is it accessible to all who need to have it? Is it a tool that we can use to keep track of those sex offenders who have a high risk of reoffending?

An additional $2 million was allotted to improve the system. We have also improved the ability of police to locate sex offenders quickly by enabling the database to be searched by a combination of address and offence. These are some of the things that are included in the Ontario model as well.

Protecting our children against sex offenders is ultimately our goal and we want to ensure we achieve that goal. In 2000 Bill C-7 amended the Criminal Records Act to ensure that the records of sex offenders who had been pardoned would be available for screening purposes. This was another important addition to the effectiveness of the existing database.

In 1997, new measures to deal with high risk offenders, including sex offenders, and to strengthen the sentencing and correction regime were introduced. A new long term offender designation targeted sex offenders and added a period of supervision of up to 10 years following the release from prison. Also amendments strengthened the dangerous offender provisions in the criminal code, including requiring judges to impose indeterminate sentences on all dangerous offenders and a new judicial restraint provision to permit controls to be applied to those at high risk of committing a serious personal injury offence.

It is clear that this is a multiplicity of measures to enhance the overall objective to improve the safety and security of our children and of Canadians from repeat offenders.

In June 2000 the DNA Identification Act came into effect. It established a DNA data bank to be maintained by the RCMP. With that data bank judges may order offenders convicted of designated criminal code offences to provide samples of bodily substances for DNA analysis with the resulting DNA profiles preserved in a convicted offenders index within the national DNA data bank. Again, this is another enhancement to the overall or comprehensive approach to dealing with the need to have the information necessary on a timely basis to address sex offenders.

Since March 13, 2001, the federal, provincial and territorial solicitors general and ministers of justice have met to discuss the issue of the sex offender registry on two occasions. They will be meeting again in eight days, on February 13 and 14. Senior federal, provincial and territorial teams have met on a number of occasions in preparation for this.

They are working on such things as a common understanding of the necessary components of a registry system, the principles and objectives of such a system, and the respective jurisdictional roles and responsibilities to deal with some of the legitimate concerns that the provinces and territories have with regard to ensuring that the objectives are met in their provinces.

While this work continues, the advice of the provincial and territorial jurisdictions has been received and CPIC enhancements are further underway. Now a distinct sub-database is to be created. Current addresses will be added and a five year history will be maintained. Registration information will be added. Other identifying information will be carried such as someone who has a tattoo. The database will be searched by address and offence.

As the previous speaker indicated, a number of jurisdictions within the provinces have existing systems. The current provisions within the CPIC system and the related databases already exceed the requests or the requirements of some of those jurisdictions. It is not as if the current system is somehow so deficient that we should go back to the justice committee and start from scratch.

We have a system in place. We have a commitment to that. I think all parliamentarians share the commitment that we need these tools to do the job. We made the commitment last March. We have reaffirmed that commitment by the initiatives we have taken over the months since the House adopted the motion. There should be no illusion whatsoever that there is a parliamentarian in this place who does not support the development, maintenance and upgrade of a national sex offender registry to ensure we have the tools needed to protect Canadians, especially our children.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2002 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough for splitting his time with me and giving me an opportunity to speak to the opposition motion.

One thing that should be of concern not only to parliamentarians but obviously to Canadians from coast to coast is why we are having this debate again at all. In preparing my remarks today I took a look at a speech that I gave in the House about a year ago on a very similar motion. I began that day by stating:

I wish I could say that it is a pleasure for me to participate in a debate this afternoon calling for the establishment of a national sex offender registry but to be honest it is not.

If I was frustrated then on behalf of my constituents, the House can imagine how frustrated I am today. I could read this entire speech that I gave a year ago verbatim and nothing has changed except that another year has gone by, sadly with more victims out in the real world.

The relevant part of the motion put forward by the Canadian Alliance states:

That, since the government has failed to give effect to the motion adopted by this House on March 13, 2001, calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry by January 30, 2002, the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill reflecting the spirit and intent of that motion;--

This is an important motion for all Canadians. One of the interesting things about the motion is that it would instruct the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to do what it should be doing all along in this parliament, that is, non-partisan work for the betterment of society. This is quite a concept: that it could be seized by a similar motion of a year ago, which was unanimously supported by the Chamber, and do that worthwhile work.

We have heard my colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough put forward a proposed amendment. We are waiting to hear back from the Canadian Alliance on that. Why is that amendment so critical? In a question posed to my colleague by the member for Provencher, the reply stated that CPIC does not do the job. There must be a recognition by members from all parties, in a non-partisan way, that CPIC does not do the job for the variety of reasons that my colleague laid out.

If we were to pass this motion which instructs the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to undertake the drafting of a bill, the instructions to the committee should be to come up with something that is separate and stand alone. That way the Liberal government could not simply, with the sleight of hand that it has been using for the last few years, particularly in the last year, fiddle with CPIC and hope that it would be able to have a national sex offender registry that would somehow do the job.

Yesterday we heard from the government on Bill C-7. There was a Senate amendment which sent Bill C-7, the new youth justice bill, back to this Chamber. The government, in its infinite wisdom, decided to bring in time allocation. The argument it used was that it had heard enough about the need to reform the Young Offenders Act, there were enough studies done, and it had enough consensus across the nation from political parties that something had to happen. Even though the provinces and most opposition parties, for a variety of reasons, believe that it was a deeply flawed bill, the government brought in time allocation and rammed it through the House in its flawed state.

This is indicative of what the government does time and time again. The next day we are debating the need for a national sex offender registry. Where is the same concern by the government? We have another wasted year with nothing happening despite a motion passed unanimously a year ago.

A number of colleagues in the House have drawn a comparison, as we did a year ago, between the supposed need for a national firearms registry and the real need for a national sex offender registry. There is quite a difference and a number of my colleagues have laid out the government's misplaced priorities when it comes to the safety of the most vulnerable members of our society.

The government thinks that the priority of Canadians is to register the hunting rifles and bird guns of law abiding citizens and somehow that will make our society a safer place, in deference to bringing forward what all parliamentarians and the vast majority of Canadians want: a national sex offender registry. These are misplaced priorities. A number of colleagues have talked about the horrendous cost to set up this national firearms registry, and for what?

I would like to bring to light and read from a couple of newspaper articles from northern British Columbia. I did a search, going back to last year when we debated the last motion, to see what was said in northern B.C. from where I am proud to be.

The day after the motion passed in this Chamber, an article on March 14, 2001, in the Prince Rupert Daily News stated:

Federal Liberals supported a Canadian Alliance motion Tuesday to create a sex offender registry but say they'll expand an existing police database rather than create a costly new system. The vote to create a registry to keep track of released convicts was unanimous, at 255-0. The solicitor general explained that Liberals supported the motion because the existing Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) fits the bill.

It received some widespread support and was reported all over the country, even in northern British Columbia. It was seen as a positive step forward because there was unanimous support for the motion.

Two days after we passed the motion, the following article appeared on March 15, 2001, in the Prince George Citizen , a newspaper in my riding of Prince George--Peace River:

The family of a 13 year old Prince George girl who was molested by her employer said a newly approved national sex offender registry could prevent sexual assaults.

A registry that requires convicted offenders to report their whereabouts to police and other authorities might have prevented the offence last January, said the girl's stepfather. “These pedophiles and molesters need to be kept track of”, said the man, whose name can't be disclosed in order to protect the victim's identity.

Peter Paul Joseph, 46, was convicted this month of sexually assaulting his children's babysitter and was handed a 15 month conditional sentence.

“Had the registry been in place before the offence, police would have been able to keep a close eye on Joseph, who had a prior conviction for sexual assault in 1996”, the victim's stepfather said.

He said he wants the law to go further, requiring authorities to alert the public about convicted sex offenders living in a particular area. The Liberal government voted this week to support the Canadian Alliance's motion for a national registry.

It goes on to talk about the local RCMP support for that motion.

The point that I am making is that this is a motion, an issue, with widespread support outside of this Chamber. There was unanimous support in the Chamber and yet the government is still dragging its heels in bringing forward an actual implementation.

I cannot speak loudly enough or long enough of my support for the motion on behalf of the most vulnerable citizens of Prince George--Peace River. We must do something to bring this forward. The women and children who are the most vulnerable in our society must be protected. Now is the time to do it. I urge members from all parties to support the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

February 5th, 2002 / 11:10 a.m.
See context

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, if I said I was pleased to intervene today in this debate on the official opposition's motion calling for the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to be instructed to prepare and bring in a bill calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry, it would be a mere sham. I would just be playing along with the game the government played on us on March 13, 2001.

On that date, the House was debating a motion by the Canadian Alliance, which read as follows:

That the government establish a national sex offender registry by January 1, 2002.

This was clear, yet here we are on February 5 revisiting the same matter, because the government has done nothing to follow up on this motion. Yet the solicitor general of the day, and the man still in that position today despite all the speculation that was running rampant about him before the last cabinet shuffle, which had him going to the Senate, concluded his speech that day with “I have absolutely no problem in supporting the opposition motion”.

If the solicitor general had indeed read the motion introduced by my colleagues from the Alliance, and more importantly, if he had listened carefully to their speeches, he would have realized that he supported a motion requesting the creation of a separate registry of sexual offenders, rather than some attempt to revamp, at the cost of millions of dollars, a system known as the Canadian Police Information Centre, which the provincial ministers of justice admit is clearly insufficient.

As if this were not enough, in addition to being inadequate for the needs being discussed today, the system's shortcomings when it comes to protecting privacy were revealed yesterday, by the media. We learned that Citizenship and Immigration employees had accessed the CPIC database for purely personal purposes. Given the very specific nature of the information that could be contained in a registry of sexual offenders, this incident demonstrates the importance of creating a separate database with restricted access in order to avoid any kind of abuse.

Not only has the solicitor general failed to follow through on his support for this motion, but furthermore, for historic and contextual considerations, it is important to remind the House and those who are watching—to be sure that they understand what kind of government we are dealing with—that during the vote, not one member present in the House voted against this motion. In other words, all of the Liberal members present in the House voted for the motion.

Clearly, this government respects absolutely nothing. We already knew that it did not respect the privilege of parliamentarians to express themselves in debate; witness their invoking closure for the eighth time, yesterday when we were debating Bill C-7. No more than it respects the witnesses who do us the favour of sharing their expertise with us in the different committees. It is the same thing when it comes to provincial consensus. Add to this a minister who misleads the House and we have yet another glimpse into those who lead this government.

However, this time the Liberals have reached a new low by not even respecting their own vote. There again, members opposite may tell us that the fact that they supported that motion is just a myth or, better still, that it was a scheme by sovereignists. Why not? Given the current situation, it is obvious that ridicule never killed anyone.

As regards the substantive issues relating to the motion calling for the establishment of a sex offender registry, from which today's motion stems, the Bloc Quebecois remains convinced that it is an interesting idea and that such a project could prove very constructive in terms of protecting society from a very specific type of crime. Of course, the establishment of such a registry would allow us to exert some control but, more importantly, it would also prevent sex offenders who have served their sentences and who want to be rehabilitated back into society from reoffending.

Again, the position of the Bloc Quebecois goes well beyond mere partisanship and party line, because it primarily reflects the will of the people. This idea is also supported by the Canadian Police Association, the Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime, the provincial ministers of justice, as I mentioned before, and all the opposition parties in this House.

Moreover, up until January 1, we were naive to the point of having confidence in democracy and its institutions, and to believe that the government was also on board. Once again, this Liberal government fooled members of parliament and, consequently, the public.

Considering the government's lack of action in that area since March 13 of last year, I want to reiterate my comments on the major principles that should guide the establishment of a sex offender registry.

First, we must take into consideration the particular profile of the sex offender, who is often left to himself and could therefore reoffend, since this type of crime is primarily motivated by deeply repressed sexual urges.

We must also consider the vulnerability of the victims of sex crimes, particularly children, who are easy prey for sexual predators.

Sexual crimes, whether the victims are children or adults, often destroy lives. These people have gone through hell and may possibly go through hell for the rest of their lives, with all the consequences that one can imagine.

It is therefore imperative for all necessary steps to be taken to protect society from the potential risk of recidivism. Concrete actions must be taken in order to protect the public from repeat offenders. This is the only way of appeasing the public's strong reaction to the odious nature of these crimes.

We have reached a point where the families and friends of the victims of this type of crime take the law into their own hands. One example of this is the Many affair, where a father badly beat up the person who had attacked his son. There is also the instance of the retaliatory lynching in Laval of the presumed attacker of an 11 year old girl.

What is even more worrisome in this state of affairs is that, while the public does not openly endorse such behaviour, it still shows understanding of such acts.

That understanding translates into sympathy for the victim's relatives when they resort to this far west style of justice. Under these circumstances, there is not far to go between understanding and legitimizing acts that are contrary to the principles of a law-abiding state.

There is, therefore, an urgent need to develop programs and mechanisms which will restore citizens' trust in the criminal justice system.

We therefore feel that the establishment of a sex offender registry, which would include the offender's photo, name, address and date of birth, and a complete list of all the sex crimes committed, would allow a more thorough follow-up on these people.

By thus requiring offenders to inform local police forces of their whereabouts, society could keep an eye on these offenders and thus reduce, or at least monitor, the threat they pose to our community.

Second, the registry must be maintained by the responsible authorities, in this case, police forces, which, along with certain categories of stakeholders specifically listed in the legislative framework establishing the registry, would be the only people allowed to consult it.

The information in this registry would have to remain confidential and on no account be available to the general population. A consultation procedure and a rigorous framework for the new powers given police would have to be drawn up so as not to create yet another problem in the form of abuse.

There is therefore no question of the general public being allowed to consult the information in this database. The purpose of the registry is essentially to ensure effective follow-up of offenders and not to create a state of alarm, which could traumatize the public or launch witch hunts.

Let us remember that such a registry must serve a dual purpose: protecting the public and providing a means of rehabilitation.

In the latter regard, a registry that stigmatized an individual within a community would be very harmful and eliminate practically any chance of rehabilitation, which comes about through an individual's return to the community, not through his exclusion from it.

Incidentally, the following are included among the guiding principles of the criminal justice system, and I quote: first at all times the rights and dignity of all those involved in the correctional process must be respected and upheld; second, the offender remains a member of society and forfeits only those rights and privileges which are expressly taken away by statute or as a necessary consequence of the custody and control imposed by the court; third, correctional policies and practices must not deny the offender the hope of regaining status as a free citizen; fourth, correctional agencies have the responsibility to assist the offender to develop or maintain positive and supportive personal and family relations; fifth, correctional objectives should be met through shared responsibility and co-operative action by the community, correctional workers, other segments of the criminal justice system and the offenders themselves.

Furthermore, among the many goals and objectives behind criminal sanctions is that of promoting reintegration into the community. Therefore, the undeniable principles that guide our criminal justice system are rehabilitation and reintegration. These goals cannot be reached overnight. The offender must go through a long process, which must include a period of supervision and support.

It is imperative that there be long term follow-up, which would require an offender to report in for a period to be determined in accordance with the sentence handed down. Obviously, the stiffer the sentence, the longer the period during which he would have to report to police authorities.

It is understood that the offenders concerned will have to be informed that their names will remain in the registry for a set period of time.

In conclusion, it is now commonly known that in most cases sex offenders present a high risk of recidivism. This is much more than just a popular myth. It is borne out by research and by the experience of those working directly in the field. This is why this phenomenon deserves a special approach.

Furthermore, it is easy to understand that a sex offender registry would be an integral part of the rehabilitation process, which should in theory end with an application for pardon. Of course, we would have to make sure that police forces have all the necessary information to do proper follow-up and be able to act quickly before the worst happens. All this would be in the best interests of the offender, victims and society in general.

The Bloc Quebecois supports this motion and will be voting in favour.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 6:15 p.m.
See context

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to have to address my support for Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act. I have followed the bill with great interest during its passage through the House of Commons, the Senate and now back before us for consideration of one amendment dealing with the overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody.

As the House knows, the youth criminal justice act was passed by the House in May 2001. The Senate then approved the bill in December with one small amendment dealing with a very important requirement: to consider non-custodial sentences for aboriginal youth. This is the amendment now before the House.

It is important to remember that Bill C-7 and its predecessors have been before parliament for over three years. It has been the subject of extensive and prolonged scrutiny by the House of Commons and also by the Senate. Many hours of parliamentary time have been spent in reviewing the proposals. Parliament has heard from dozens of witnesses whose views have been taken into account in the amendments that have been approved by both the House and the Senate.

It is important for us to recall that several months were dedicated to parliamentary hearings on Bill C-3 which was the predecessor to Bill C-7. Many hours were spent examining that bill. In fact the House standing committee heard from close to 100 witnesses. It found the substance of many of these interventions very compelling. Some 160 amendments to the bill were actually put forward.

Unfortunately Bill C-3 died on the order paper. It was reintroduced as Bill C-7 in February 2001. I should add that it was done so with the amendments. The overall direction and all key elements were retained, designed to reduce complexity and provide greater clarity and in fact improve flexibility for the provinces.

I must say that as a member of parliament who practised law for 18 years before seeking public office, and as a mother of three children, two boys and a girl age 20, 12 and 17 respectively, I have been impressed throughout the consideration of the bill by parliament, as well as listening to my constituents and the Canadian public as a whole, with just how much support there is across Canada for the government's efforts to provide solutions to respond to this complex area of youth justice.

People are genuinely concerned that our society finds fair and effective ways of dealing with young people who are alleged or are found to have committed offences. There may be some differences of approach in certain areas but I am very encouraged by the fact that the majority of those who appeared before parliament supported the bill's main objectives.

Members of parliament and Canadians from all walks of life have shown support for a youth justice system that is based upon clearly stated principles that emphasize the key features of the type of system we want for our youth who come into conflict with the law. Bill C-7 provides for this.

It acknowledges the fact that young people lack the maturity of adults. It includes an emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration and holding young people accountable in a manner that is consistent with their reduced level of maturity. It requires that interventions with young persons be fair and proportionate, encourage the repair of harm done, and involve parents and others in a young person's rehabilitation and reintegration. In addition, interventions must respect gender, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences, and respond especially to the needs of aboriginal young persons and of young persons with special requirements.

The bill is aimed at reducing use of the formal justice system and increasing the amount of diversion for the vast majority of youth crime. In fact experience in other countries shows that measures outside the court process can provide effective and timely responses to less serious youth crime as well as the opportunity for the broader community to play an important role in developing community based responses to youth crime.

As an aside, in my riding, community impact statements are something which my community has always called upon. In a sense, Bill C-7 addresses that with respect to young offenders.

Canadians also support a reduction in the overuse of custody in this country. It was amazing for me to learn that Canada has the highest youth incarceration rate in the western world, including the United States.

In contrast to the Young Offenders Act, the new legislation provides that custody is to be reserved primarily for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders. The youth criminal justice act recognizes that non-custodial sentences can often provide more meaningful consequences and be much more effective in rehabilitating young persons.

This bill also contains measures for the rehabilitation and reintegration of those who in fact do go into custody, putting an emphasis on assisting a young person to successfully make the transition back to the community. Young people can be reintegrated if they receive the proper support, assistance and opportunities.

The proposed youth criminal justice act will ensure a fairer and more effective system as well as address our overreliance on incarceration in this country. For those who do go into custody, it will increase their opportunity for reintegration into the community. Those appearing before parliament have reinforced that legislation alone will not change the course of youth justice and will not in itself reduce youth crime. That is why the legislation is part of a broader youth justice renewal initiative which was launched in 1999. The legislation is the centrepiece, the cornerstone of the federal government's youth justice renewal initiative.

There is more to the initiative however. The broader initiative recognizes the legislation will need to be carefully and effectively implemented. Officials and professionals implementing the new legislation will have the training and the tools they need to successfully implement it. In addition, public legal education materials will be available in easily accessible language to reach everyone involved, including youth themselves, parents, victims, schools and others.

This initiative includes significant resources to stimulate new youth justice programs consistent with the federal policy objectives and new partnerships with child welfare, schools, crime prevention workers and others for more enduring solutions to youth crime. The federal government has fostered consultations and funded projects as part of the strategy, inviting collaborative, multidisciplinary approaches to the developmental challenges facing children and our youth. Youth crime is a complex problem that cannot be effectively answered by discipline working in isolation.

The federal government has also made offers of financial support for youth justice programs under its spending power authority and consistent with the social union framework agreement. These offers are for five year financial agreements totalling more than $950 million to the provinces and territories in support of the policy objectives of the youth justice renewal initiative. This amount does not include the significant additional federal resources to support the intensive support and rehabilitative custody and supervision orders intended to provide therapy and support for the most violent and troubled youth.

Moreover, about $27 million of resources, that is, $12.7 million this fiscal year, $7.5 million in the last fiscal year and $7 million the year before that, have been made available to the provinces and territories to assist in preparing for the new legislation through training, encouraging partnerships, improving information systems, addressing implementation contingencies and preparing for reintegration planning and support.

The federal government is also firmly committed to preventing crime. The federal Department of Justice began the government's community crime prevention initiative in 1999, which includes children and youth as priorities for the $32 million available annually for community based crime prevention initiatives.

On July 5 last year, the Government of Canada announced that it will invest a further $145 million in the national strategy on community safety and crime prevention to strengthen its efforts to support community based responses to crime. This is in addition to the national children's agenda which focuses on supporting children's development, particularly for the critical ages of zero to six years.

I ask that all members of the House support Bill C-7, a bill that has been debated and looked at by both houses. We are here now to finally approve the final amendment. Let us start working together to stop youth crime.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 6:10 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member's speech and I have a question for him.

The purpose of Bill C-7 is to repeal and replace the Young Offenders Act. Could the hon. member tell us what he believes is, in fact, not working in this act and what the new Bill C-7 will rectify?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 6 p.m.
See context

Liberal

John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise tonight to debate the Senate amendment to Bill C-7.

The proposed amendment and the rest of Bill C-7 would provide a legislative framework that would support a fairer and more effective youth justice system for all Canadians, including our aboriginal youth. Real change however, requires more than legislation. That is why Bill C-7 is only one element of a broader initiative to renew youth justice in Canada.

The youth justice renewal initiative was launched in 1998 as a broad based approach to dealing with youth crime in Canada. From the start, it was implemented in close collaboration with the provinces and territorial ministries responsible for youth justice. It is linked to other federal, provincial and territorial strategies including the government's response to the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples, the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention and the National Children's Agenda. It comes with significant new federal resources.

Since the launch of the youth justice renewal initiative, new five year financial arrangements worth $950 million have been negotiated with the provinces and territories to support the implementation of Bill C-7 and the overall policy objectives of the initiative. All provinces and territories except two, Ontario and Quebec, have signed the offers made to them.

The new agreements promote and support the program and services most likely to help in the rehabilitation and reintegration of young persons in conflict with the law and in reducing Canada's reliance on the formal court process and custody.

Additional financial support is also available again to provincial and territorial ministries responsible for youth justice but as well to aboriginal communities, bands and organizations, alternative measures societies, school boards, public legal education and information associations other non-governmental organizations, and community groups with a role to play in the renewal of youth justice in Canada.

The youth justice renewal fund is carefully targeted to lay the groundwork for and assist and support in the implementation of the youth criminal justice bill and the broader youth justice renewal initiative.

The capacity of aboriginal peoples to participate in and deliver community based youth justice programs is critical to repairing a flawed youth justice system, limiting the use of the formal court process for aboriginal youth and reducing their rate of custody. Through the youth justice renewal fund, funds would be available to assist aboriginal peoples and communities to build their capacity to develop, assume or expand their role in the youth justice system.

The aboriginal community capacity building component of the fund would be used by communities to, among other things, inform themselves about the youth criminal justice bill, assess their justice needs and develop their capacity to establish and deliver culturally relevant youth justice committees, extrajudicial measures and sanctions, alternatives to pre-trial detention, community reintegration initiatives and community based sentences.

To date, approximately 50 aboriginal based projects have been supported through the youth justice renewal fund including: reintegration and alternative measures programs in Barrie, Ontario; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; and Punky Lake, British Columbia; community justice committees at the Cowessess First Nation in Saskatchewan, at Coral Harbour in Nunavut and in the Ermineskin region in Alberta; national training and information sharing conferences including the fourth national Metis youth conference in Regina, and the 2001 restorative justice conference in Winnipeg; as well as regional training and information sharing workshops in southeastern Vancouver and in first nations communities in Quebec and Nova Scotia.

There are many aboriginal and other communities across Canada eager to do more to reduce the number of their young people going into custody. In an effort to target the aboriginal community capacity building funds to those communities experiencing some of the greatest difficulty with their young people, a one day snapshot of aboriginal youth in custody was undertaken. This project, as well as providing vital information about aboriginal youth in custody, also served as a prime example of a collaborative approach to researching a problem and devising a solution through the involvement of a wide range of partners.

The study, conducted by the federal Department of Justice with the support of all provincial, territorial ministries responsible for aboriginal youth in custody, profiled aboriginal youth in custody on a single day. It indicated who these youth were, what their home communities were like, where they committed the offence leading to custody and where they would be returning upon their release.

The study provided a rough blueprint of the communities that needed support in dealing with aboriginal youth crime, thereby helping to target youth justice resources. Perhaps not surprisingly, the snapshot revealed a significant western urban problem of aboriginal youth in custody. The results of the study were shared with representatives of other federal departments with mandates relevant to youth justice matters and with provincial and territorial youth justice officials. Discussions were held on how best to respond to the study.

While the study pointed to western urban areas generally, it clearly identified Winnipeg as the city with the greatest number of aboriginal youth in custody on snapshot day. How do we respond? How do we ensure that this research does not become another shelved study?

We need to move quickly and first of all in Winnipeg. We need to bring together Winnipeg based community representatives, provincial and municipal officials, youth justice officials, federal representatives with programs in Winnipeg, aboriginal youth, police officers, arts and recreation specialists and elders to identify current programming for youth in conflict with the law, discuss gaps in programs and services, and plan how best to fill these gaps, both in the short term and the long term.

This initial Winnipeg workshop was held on November 12, 2001 in Winnipeg with over 60 participants. With a goal of marshalling current programs and services and tapping into some new money, the first step has now been taken in moving ahead collaboratively with what is being called the Cities Project for Aboriginal Youth.

Similar planning workshops will be held in several other cities over the next few months while work continues in Winnipeg. Frontline police officers are often, if not always, the first to confront young people about to be in conflict with the law. The new legislation would strengthen and promote the use of their discretion in dealing with youth. Many of Canada's police officers are using their discretion effectively, developing and bringing to bear innovative and creative ways of dealing with youth. Aboriginal police working with aboriginal youth are in the forefront.

The Minister of Justice national youth justice policing award, established in the year 2000 with the full co-operation and support of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, recognized this innovation. In both years in which the award has been given, aboriginal police working with aboriginal youth have been the winners.

In 2000 the award was presented to Constables Rick Kosowan and Willie Ducharme of Winnipeg for their work with the Ganootamaage justice system, school justice circles and gang members, as well as their successful efforts to bridge the gap between police and aboriginal cultures.

This year the award was presented to Constable Max Morin who was recognized for his imaginative leadership in starting and supporting a number of innovative projects involving aboriginal youth in Ahousaht, British Columbia. It was an honour for me personally to present the award to Constable Morin last summer. Some of the projects included educational field trips, encouraging careers in law enforcement, active participation in healing circles, and discussions involving youth in conflict with the law, victims and families. Family circles, talking circles and circle sentencing were just some of the options used by Constable Morin as an alternative to the court system.

The role aboriginal peoples and their communities can play in the renewal of youth justice in Canada and how this role can be facilitated and assisted was a key feature of this initiative. As early as November 1999 Youth Justice Policy hosted a three day aboriginal youth justice information and skills exchange forum in Winnipeg for more than 180 representatives from aboriginal communities across Canada.

The forum was an opportunity to share experiences, advice and successful programming tips. Following the forum participants were invited to visit one or more of the programs they had learned about as a way of helping them determine whether a similar program might work within their own community.

Youth Justice Policy recently held a roundtable discussion on aboriginal youth and the proposed youth criminal justice bill here in Ottawa. The roundtable provided an opportunity for key professionals across the country to discuss the challenges and possible avenues associated with implementing the provisions of the new legislation in a manner that was culturally relevant and addressed the needs of aboriginal youth. This roundtable was one in a series in which Youth Justice Policy sought a discussion on the complex issues associated with youth and the criminal justice system.

Over 200 invitations were extended since the launch of Youth Justice Policy's internet based discussion forum on aboriginal youth justice issues.

This web based forum is a vehicle for sharing information and exchanging ideas on aboriginal youth justice issues. Following up on the round table discussion, the forum is open to all national and local aboriginal organizations and community groups as well as individuals working in the youth justice field.

These are just a few of the many initiatives for aboriginal youth supported by the Department of Justice through the youth justice renewal initiative.

In closing, the new youth criminal justice act and the broader youth justice renewal initiative provide us with an excellent framework to work together in addressing some profound aboriginal youth justice challenges. This new law together with the Senate amendment will give us the opportunity to build a better youth justice system, not just for aboriginal youth but for all Canadians.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 5:50 p.m.
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NDP

Svend Robinson NDP Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was a member of Parliament in 1984. I believe that I am the only member still in the House today who was also a member of the Standing Committee on Justice that actually drafted the Young Offenders Act.

I rise today in support of the amendment moved by my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois and more importantly to say that I believe that the Young Offenders Act has worked well in Quebec. It has worked well precisely because the Government of Quebec has respected the fundamental principles of this legislation by providing the necessary resources to support the alternatives found within the act and to achieve the results that those who drafted the legislation wanted. That was to reduce the number of young offenders and to emphasize rehabilitation and prevention, rather than imprisonment and retribution. It was designed in fact to avoid, as many provinces do, young offenders being put in the same jails as adults.

I would have hoped that all of the other provinces could have respected the principles of the Young Offenders Act, as Quebec has done.

I regret the proposal that Quebec opt out of Bill C-7. What I would prefer instead, is that Bill C-7 be withdrawn and that the fundamental principles adopted by Quebec by supporting the Young Offenders Act be applied throughout Canada, in every province and territory. That is what I would hope for. Unfortunately, such is not the case.

Therefore, I have no objection recognizing the distinct character of Quebec society and recognizing at the same time that the current legislation has worked well in Quebec. Our objectives, those of us who drafted this legislation, have largely been met in Quebec, but not in the other provinces.

For this reason, I rise today to congratulate Quebecers and to tell them that we respect you for the way that you have embraced the principles of prevention and rehabilitation instead of vengeance and imprisonment. I wish that these principles could be respected throughout Canada. If this cannot be done through this bill, then at least Quebec should respect them.

For this reason, I will be supporting the Bloc Quebecois amendment.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 5:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the Senate amendment as well as to the amendment brought forward by my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm. I am all the more pleased because Bill C-7 now before us, the youth criminal justice act, has been around for a while.

Discussions have been going on in this House since 1995. I was not there then. Today, I am pleased to close this debate. I will probably be one of the last members of the Bloc Quebecois to speak to this issue.

I want to congratulate my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm who, since 1995, has done a good job defending Quebec's position as well as the interests of young people and of all Quebecers. I salute his work.

The amendment to the Senate amendment proposed by my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm is simple. It reads as follows:

That the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-7, An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts, be not now read a second time and concurred in, since it does not in any way take into consideration the distinct character of Quebec and the Quebec model for implementation of the Young Offenders Act.

This amendment to the Senate amendment fully summarizes the position and the consensus reached by Quebec stakeholders. They did not want Quebec to be subjected to this legislation. They all wanted Quebec to have the right to opt out. Again, I am pleased, as the last speaker for the Bloc Quebecois, to name the members of the coalition: the Commission des services juridiques, the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, the Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec, Jean Trépanier of the University of Montreal School of Criminology, the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal, the Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contrevenants, the Institut Philippe Pinel, the Association des directeurs de police et pompiers du Québec, the Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux, the Association des Centres jeunesse du Québec, the Crown Prosecutors' Office, which is under the Quebec Department of Justice, the Association des CLSC et des CHSLD du Québec, Marc Leblanc of the University of Montreal School of Psycho-Education, the Regroupement des organismes de justice alternative du Québec, the Child Welfare League of Canada, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, the Association des avocats de la défense du Québec, the Société de criminologie du Québec, Dr. Jim Hackler, of the University of Victoria Department of sociology, Tim Quigley, a law professor at the University of Saskatchewan, Marge Reitsma-Street, an associate professor at the University of Victoria Faculty of Human and Social Development, the British Columbia Criminal Justice Association, the Innu, the Government of Quebec through a resolution unanimously passed by all the parties at the National Assembly, the Action démocratique du Québec, the Quebec Liberal Party and the Parti Quebecois.

All these stakeholders built a broad consensus in Quebec to ask the federal government to simply exempt Quebec from this legislation. Why? Namely because of the data that have been published over the past seven or eight years, since 1995. Why has it been so hard for the Government of Canada to adopt new provisions in the House? Simply because the numbers do not support such measures.

It wanted to amend the Young Offenders Act, which was passed in this House in 1984, and has produced results. I will give some statistics.

For instance, between 1991 and 1997, the indictment rate for youth dropped by 23%. The indictment rate for violent crimes among young people has dropped by 3.2% since 1995. In 1997, the national crime rate declared by the police was down for the sixth consecutive year. Rates for nearly every violent offence went down, including sexual assault by 9%, robbery by 8%, and homicide by 9%. The rate for youth charged with criminal code offences is down by 7%, confirming the general downward trend observed since 1991. The rate of youth charged with violent crime dropped by 2% for the second consecutive year. It should also be noted that the majority, 53%, of young people who were indicted were charged with property offences and 20% with violent crimes.

Furthermore, when one compares Quebec to the other provinces with regard to the youth incarceration rate, Quebec has the lowest rate. When comparing indictment rates among provinces, again Quebec has the lowest rate.

This is also true of British Columbia, when it comes to the incarceration rate. No wonder our colleague from British Columbia supports the Bloc Quebecois in its demands to keep the current act, which focuses mainly on rehabilitation and reintegration rather than indictment.

This is the harsh reality: in 1984, when the Young Offenders Act was passed by a Conservative government, there were more members from Quebec in the House at that time than there are now under the current Liberal government. The 1984 act came into being as a result of discussions started under the Liberal government of Pierre-Elliott Trudeau, which had many more Liberal members from Quebec than the current Liberal government has today.

Naturally, there is a good reason why the Young Offenders Act of 1984, which reflected a consensus on rehabilitation and reintegration, was passed. What does the Liberal government of today intend to do with its 35 Liberal members from Quebec? It wants to go against this direction given by a Tory government in 1984, following discussions held under a Liberal government. These two governments had a far greater number of members from Quebec and, naturally, they achieved a greater consensus from Quebec in this House.

Today, we have 35 Liberal members from Quebec, a fair number of whom are ministers. They do not want to antagonize the majority, which is, of course, from Ontario.

When you look at the charge, conviction and custody sentence rates, you see that Ontario and Western Canada, except British Columbia, are the regions where the number of custody sentences and the charge rate per province are the highest.

These provinces, these societies have not chosen the direction recommended in the 1984 act, that is an approach focused on rehabilitation and reintegration. In fact, given the results, only two provinces have chosen that path: Quebec and British Columbia.

There is a reason why—ironically—in this House today, we have a Minister of Justice from Quebec proposing and discussing closure. This is ironic because, since 1995, since the very first debates, we never had a Minister of Justice from Quebec to discuss such an important situation as that of criminal justice for youth or young offenders. So, ironically, it is a Minister of Justice from Quebec who had to answer our questions today.

He had to answer our questions on the Quebec consensus. The questions our colleagues have put repeatedly to the Minister of Justice were simple. How many stakeholders, individuals or groups from Quebec appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice to support Bill C-7?

The Minister of Justice, a minister from Quebec and a member from Quebec, has never been able to answer this question to which we, in the House, all know the answer. No individual, group or coalition from Quebec appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice to support Bill C-7.

Why? Because the Quebec consensus is virtually unanimous. We say virtually, because there are at least 35 Liberal members from Quebec in the House who support Bill C-7. And, of course, the government is rushing to invoke closure today. It rushed to invoke closure when Bill C-7 was debated in the House before being sent to the Senate. Why? So that government members would not have to speak.

When a gag is imposed, the time MPs have for interventions is limited, and the opposition is restrained in the expression of its opinion, but so are the Quebec representatives of the Liberal Party, who might have had the opportunity to go and explain to their constituents why they were supporting a bill like Bill C-7 that we have before us, on which there is nowhere near anonymity. It is even denounced by all those working in the field.

It is difficult for the Quebecers and Canadians listening to us to have a proper understanding of how we can end up today with a restricted debate and acceptance of a bill that is intended to bring in a totally new law. It does away with the 1984 Young Offenders Act, and with the consensus of that time, which brought the bulk of Quebec members of this House on side.

The 1984 statute was the work of the Conservatives. It followed on to the discussions held initially under the Pierre Elliott-Trudeau Liberal regime, at a time when there were more Quebec Liberal MPs than at present. There were more Conservatives as well, as this was the time of the Mulroney government. At that time, the majority of that House, including the representatives of Quebec, made the decision to pass a piece of legislation that was focused on rehabilitation and reintegration.

In 2002, the decision was made to set that legislation aside. This evening, the Liberal MPs from Quebec will likely be voting along with the others and C-7 will get passed, against the consensus in Quebec. This is very hard for the Quebec community to accept.

Once again, I thank the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm for his tireless battle over the past eight years on amendments to the young offender legislation.

What the Quebec representatives were asking for was simple: the system is working well, as statistics show. The 1984 Young Offenders Act is working well, so why not allow Quebec to opt out of this bill?

I would remind hon. members that, after the 1995 referendum, this House passed a resolution—the Liberal majority of course ensuring that it was passed—recognizing the distinct character of Quebec society. It must be acknowledged that, when we are able to convince the Liberal majority that Quebec is distinct in the way it applies the Young Offenders Act, the way it handles youth crime, when we have the chance to apply that distinct character here in this House, then the Quebec Liberals vote against the specific nature and distinct character of Quebec.

This is why, for Quebecers who are listening to us, the federal government does not have a good reputation in the community, whichever party is in power. Federal politicians are terribly unpopular in Quebec. It is not like Bloc Quebecois members are not trying to boost the image of federal MPs.

The hard reality is that, once again, when the federal Liberal members from Quebec have a chance to prove to their constituents that they are useful and can defend their interests, they vote for a bill like Bill C-7, which has been criticized by the majority of stakeholders in Quebec and by the Quebec national assembly. This is the situation faced by the Quebecers listening to us and watching as they eat their supper. Once again, they are witnessing what will have been a hard day for Quebec's identity in Canada.

Our approach to adolescents and to the youth justice system is not the same as elsewhere in Canada. We have much better results.

We have much better results and, for over 30 years, we have had an entire organization made up of individuals and organizations who are working and who have worked to build the present system for young offenders throughout Quebec.

That is why these stakeholders, who were working well before 1984, managed at the time to convince the Liberal government of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the Progressive Conservative government of Brian Mulroney that the solution needed in the case of young offenders was to have independent legislation targeting rehabilitation, which will no longer be the case with this bill.

It is why the majority of stakeholders, the Coalition pour la justice des mineurs, the organizations that I mentioned earlier, this series of organizations and all those who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, all denounced the bill before us, which will be voted on this evening. It will not be possible to change or amend this legislation for several years, since we have been working to change it since 1995. We have worked on it for eight years and it will probably take another eight years before any changes are made to it.

The stakeholders in Quebec, the various groups and politicians in Quebec, will have to be happy with what will be passed today by parliament, the Government of Canada, with 35 Liberal members who have decided to toe the line, and a Minister of Justice—I repeat, this is a terrible coincidence for Quebec, a Minister of Justice from Quebec—who, on this last day of debate on Bill C-7, had to answer such important questions as “How many stakeholders from Quebec appeared before your committee to support Bill C-7?” He did not wish to answer. He preferred to play politics and tried everything he could to change the direction of the discussion, when we know very well that there is no organization, no individual in Quebec, who appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to support Bill C-7.

All the stakeholders who appeared asked that Quebec be recognized as a distinct society and allowed to opt out of the legislation for the good and simple reason that things are working for us in Quebec, and the statistics prove it. I repeat, it is not for nothing that, since 1995, this parliament has been unable to reach an agreement.

Somewhere, Canada's nation building is still not working. Different societies and communities have different policies. And the Quebec community, the nation of Quebec, has a position that is very different from the rest of Canada. That is the reality. And 35 Liberal members from Quebec have not recognized that reality, and will not recognize it a little while from now. Perhaps some of them will not be here to vote and will prefer to be absent, obviously.

However, it is a hard day for Quebecers and for all the organizations and stakeholders who work for youth justice, who work with young offenders. Once again, they will have to go along with different legislative amendments or different interpretations by judges, which will change the rehabilitation-oriented approach that Quebec has been proposing for the past 30 years.

I will conclude by thanking the member for Berthier—Montcalm for his efforts over the past eight years, for so relentlessly defending the young offenders file, for so relentlessly defending the interests of Quebecers who, once again, will never have been as ill-served as they will be this afternoon in the House.

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February 4th, 2002 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think the speech made by the member for Mississauga West is just further proof that government members confuse things and do not understand Bill C-7 that is before us.

I will give you just two examples from the member's speech. He talked about the criminal code and Bill C-7 as two pieces of legislation that should be identical. He even referred to section 718 of the criminal code to justify certain changes made to the legislation dealing with young offenders.

They are two different systems. Each time the government amended the Young Offenders Act, it was to bring it more in line with the criminal code. It is a mistake. I think the member does not understand that.

He also does not understand when he said that Bill C-7 would allow us to use various extrajudicial measures, as if this were something new. The Young Offenders Act already provides for alternative measures. It is exactly the same thing as extrajudicial measures. Maybe it was easier for the member to understand when we were talking about alternative measures instead of extrajudicial measures, but it is the same thing. Once again, this shows that the member for Mississauga West does not understand the bill on which he will be voting.

When he says that he is representing his constituents, I am sure that if he were still in Queen's Park, he would be against Bill C-7, as the majority of MLAs in Queen's Park is against it, not for the same reasons as the Bloc Quebecois and Quebec in general, but rather because it is not repressive enough.

To illustrate the fact that there really is a problem with this legislation, it does not have the support of hardliners nor does it have the support of Quebec that has been using an approach based on rehabilitation and reintegration for 30 years. What should have been done is what we proposed, namely allowing provinces to withdraw. All those provinces wanting to withdraw from Bill C-7 to continue using the Young Offenders Act should be allowed to do so.

Does the member, who sits on the government side, find it normal that the new Minister of Justice is refusing to meet with the experts and stakeholders in Quebec to gain a better understanding of what we are doing there before ramming Bill C-7 through, as he has just done by limiting debate and gagging opposition members, particularly those from Quebec who want to properly defend Quebec on this matter?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 4:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, since I do not have much time, I mostly want to congratulate the member in my comment. In the end, his stand is not that far from the stand of the Bloc Quebecois. I think that we could sit down and surely find some common ground.

In fact, as regards its treatment of young offenders, British Columbia is one of the provinces that has listened the most intently to Quebec. I know quite well, since I talked with the deputy public prosecutor, who, I believe, appeared before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, that there have many years of consultation between Quebec and British Columbia to know exactly how the law was applied and particularly to know what the Quebec model was. In British Columbia, it was recognized that there was a Quebec model, that things were done differently as regards the treatment of young offenders.

What does the member think of a Minister of Justice who is rushing to have Bill C-7 passed even before consulting or meeting with the stakeholders in the field to understand the issues and to see how the law is applied in Quebec and, I would say, even in British Columbia?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to represent the constituents of Saanich--Gulf Islands in British Columbia. After sitting in the House for the last hour listening to the debate of members from the province of Quebec it will be nice to bring this discussion back to all of Canada.

We are talking about Bill C-7, a new youth criminal justice bill that will affect all of Canada in every province and every territory. Arguably I believe this is one of the most important things we have to do in the House. We have challenges to make our youth criminal justice act more effective and more accountable. After eight years of study it amazes me that this is the best that the government, the lawyers and the drafters at the Department of Justice can come up with.

We have an amendment put forward in the Senate that has been brought before the House. I would like to focus my comments on that for just a few minutes. Basically the Senate has suggested a change to Bill C-7 that when aboriginal youth specifically are to be sentenced the sentencing judge should take into consideration their aboriginal descent.

I do not disagree that there are absolutely massive problems within the aboriginal communities across the country. I have personally practised youth criminal law and seen many aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in our courts. I also acknowledge that a higher percentage of aboriginals is incarcerated.

What is that telling us? That is telling us that over past decades governments have failed aboriginal people. The Indian Act, which is still before parliament, is failing aboriginal communities.

We could get into a long discussion about the lack of accountability. It is completely unfair to put everybody in the same basket because there are some success stories across the country. Unfortunately they are few and far between.

I quote the current Minister of Justice from Hansard of Wednesday, January 30, at page 8491 wherein he said:

The House of Commons now has an opportunity to consider and vote on this amendment which relates to the serious problem of the overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody.

I have witnessed this firsthand. Instead of trying to fix the problem, instead of going to the root of the problem or the cause, an amendment is brought into the House that would base sentencing on race. That will not help aboriginal youth. That will not change anything.

When I practised law and did some criminal work in the youth courts I never met a judge whose interest was not to try to ensure that the youth did not come back before the court and to ensure that he or she got the help needed.

Yes, some punitive measures will also be considered. All those factors are considered, but should we write into statute that we will now sentence based on race? Is this the best the government can come up with, the best it can do to address the real problem that governments over past decades have failed the aboriginal community miserably?

When I have spoken in communities throughout my riding I have yet to find one non-aboriginal person who would be willing to trade his or her place in society for that of the aboriginal people who live in my riding. There is a lot of poverty.

Unfortunately the current government and past governments have failed them miserably. They spent hundreds of millions of dollars on aboriginal people. In recent years Indian affairs has budgeted somewhere between $23,000 to $25,000 for every man, woman and child of aboriginal descent. That is not reaching aboriginal people. There is no accountability within our aboriginal communities.

Again I qualify that by saying it is not fair to throw everyone into the same basket but it is a massive problem throughout our aboriginal communities. I am absolutely horrified that the best the government can do to address this problem is to put a provision into statute, into our criminal code, that if someone is of aboriginal descent he or she would get special consideration from a sentencing judge in youth court. I find that absolutely appalling.

Let me deal with the larger problem. I acknowledge that the member for Surrey North has not only faced very serious challenges of his own personally in this area but has used his experiences to try to improve the system, to try to come up with solutions that would actually make a difference.

The ultimate goal would be to help these people by ensuring that they get the tools and resources they require and by putting the ones who are committing serious crimes into some type of institution where they can get help, where they can learn to respect other people and where they will not be compelled to live a life of crime. That is the time to turn these people around.

Unfortunately after eight years of study when we actually speak to the experts who will be affected by the new youth criminal justice act we realize that we will bog down a system that is already bogged down. We will make a slow system even slower. We will create a whole lot of work for a whole lot of lawyers.

As we try to bring in a statute we try to regulate everything, all the discretionary powers which the police have now. We will bring it in so that what they have to do, what they have to go through, is all written in statute. Just to transfer a youth into adult court will be much more complex.

After eight years of study, after people across Canada have been crying out for change to the Young Offenders Act that it is not working, is this the best the government could come up with?

I emphasize that we on this side of the House have argued, and I completely agree, that we should not be putting into statute provisions of sentencing based on race. I acknowledge there is a problem, but that problem lies within the Indian Act and the lack of accountability that is there. It goes back over decades of chronic problems which have never been addressed.

When young aboriginal or non-aboriginal offenders come before a sentencing judge I submit that his or her goal should be to do whatever is necessary to make sure they do not come back before the courts.

Sometimes that might be a little bit of tough love. That does not mean, as the previous Liberal member just stated about the new youth criminal justice act, and I will look at my notes to make sure that I have that statement right, that it is not useful to sentence young persons unless they have committed major crimes. It will take them right out of the legal system. The member said that it is important to get them out of the legal system before it is too late.

I could not believe my ears when I heard the Liberal member state that. I would argue the very opposite: that it might be important to get that young offender, aboriginal or non-aboriginal, into the justice system. People in youth courts are not there to throw people behind bars and then throw away the key. It is very much the opposite. I would argue that they are there to help these young people. Do these young individuals need anger management? Do they need some kind of drug counselling program? Sometimes really tough discipline would be the best thing to bring into these young people's lives.

I do not disagree that many of the people brought before the youth courts, both aboriginal and non-aboriginal, have had horrific pasts. When these people come before the courts the best thing we can do is make sure that they are monitored very closely and that they are brought before the right probation officials. If they are put on long terms of probation and put on strict conditions such as curfews and other things that are enforceable and are closely monitored, there are a lot of things we could do to help them and ensure that they do not follow a life of crime.

I find it almost horrid that the other House sent back this amendment that gives special sentencing considerations to someone of aboriginal descent. Sentencing judges today take into account many factors, such as the background of the individual, the severity of the offence, whether the individual has been before the courts before, whether they want help and whether they have support. All of that is taken into consideration for aboriginal and non-aboriginal people now. Why are we bringing an amendment before this House that will, purely based on the race of an individual, give that individual special sentencing consideration? This is completely unacceptable.

The government has recognized the fact that there is a problem. The Minister of Justice has said that we have an opportunity to vote on the amendment, which relates to the serious problem of overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody. Again I come back to the quote of the justice minister that we have an opportunity to consider and vote on an amendment “which relates to the serious problem of the overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody”. This is a problem, but the Liberal government for the last ten years or so, and governments over the past decades, have had an opportunity to do something about it. This is not a problem that has just materialized overnight nor has it materialized over the last eight years since I have been in this place. This problem has been around for a long time. This government had an opportunity during the last eight years to do something about it. It had an opportunity to change the Indian Act and bring in more accountability. Nobody is arguing that should not happen. That is the root of the problem.

What has the Liberal government done? It is unbelievable. This is its solution to the miserable failings and lack of accountability within the Indian Act. If we go into aboriginal communities and listen to the aboriginal people in those communities who are most affected, they will also tell us that.

I cannot support this amendment and I do not believe my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance will support it either, although I do not know for sure. We will find out when it comes time to vote.

I urge the government to look at the real problem. We cannot just slap a band-aid on the problem of having a higher percentage of aboriginal youth in our institutions and youth detention centres. Just saying that we will give them special consideration and will put it into a statute for the sentencing judge is not the solution. We have to go to the root of the problem.

I agree that something that has been this complex over many decades will not be fixed overnight. The government has been in power for eight years. Since I arrived here in 1997 we have heard promises from the then Minister of Justice, now Minister of Health, that this was a priority, that we would see a new Young Offenders Act or a new youth criminal justice act. When we actually speak to the experts in the field they say that what has been done will bog down the system even more. It makes one wonder if the government is in touch with local communities and with the people in our youth courts.

It is critical when our young people get in trouble with the law that they are dealt with in a very swift and decisive manner so that they will not be back in the courts six or eight months later. Unfortunately when they are in the courts, the system is bogged down and they are given conditions that are not enforceable.

I know of countless cases where young offenders have been released under the supervision of a probation officer and are given conditions. The conditions are not worth the paper they are written on. They are not enforced. There are curfews, they are picked up and the police get tired of bringing them back in because they get a slap on the wrists sometimes or the conditions are not enforceable.

There are many positive things we could do to change this, starting with making it mandatory that when a young offender is placed on a curfew it is incumbent upon the parents or legal guardians to report a violation. Obviously we cannot hold the parents completely accountable if they refuse, but they should know that when there is a violation of probation conditions the parents have a legal obligation to report it to the authorities, have the offender picked up and have it acted on.

No one in the Canadian Alliance wants to put our young people in youth detention centres and throw away the key. They are some very troubled people in our society who need help more than anyone. Aboriginals and non-aboriginals need help. They need programs. Some need anger management and some need drug rehabilitation and sometimes the only place they can get those services is before the youth court, because then they will be under some sort of surveillance or guidance or under the eyes of a probation officer, and even that, as imperfect as it is, needs a lot of help.

Again I want to come back to the crux of this problem and talk about what we are talking about here today, and that is the amendment on Bill C-7 that has brought the youth criminal justice act back before the House. If this is the very best that the government can do for a problem that is so apparent to Canadians across the country, it is mind-boggling. I read the first three paragraphs of the current MInister of Justice's speech. He stated that we have an opportunity that “relates to the serious problem of overrepresentation of aboriginal youth in custody”.

The government's solution is just to give them special sentencing provisions, as opposed to trying to give them the resources and the tools needed to stop them from getting into the courts in the first place or to try to work with those people, aboriginal and non-aboriginal, when they do get into the courts.

I think it is absolutely dead wrong to start putting in provisions based purely on race. Again I acknowledge that there is a problem, but this is not the solution. We cannot just stick a band-aid over it and pray that it will go away. It will not.

I urge the government to look at the root of this problem and get serious about bringing in some effective legislation that will actually start turning these things around for aboriginal youth in our country.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 4:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, is the truth only on one side or the other or both? I have a very simple question for the member for Laval East.

She has consulted many groups in Quebec. Could she name one group in Quebec that is in favour of Bill C-7?

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February 4th, 2002 / 4:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague will understand that in Quebec, we have looked at new approaches. We have gone a bit further. We have developed many solutions, many alternatives.

The member will also recognize that in Quebec, a juvenile court judge rules according to two laws: the Youth Protection Act and the Young Offenders Act. Therefore, those who work with youth in Quebec have to deal with two groups of people, those who have been referred to them because they need protection, coming from a broken family or something like that, and those who are young offenders.

We have indeed developed community alternatives, perhaps more than other provinces have done. But there is still much to do. That is why Bill C-7 is trying to put forward an improvement, a standardization of what is being done in Canada, so that youngsters in British Columbia have the same opportunities and the right to the same alternative measures as those in Quebec.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 4:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, frankly it is difficult to remain calm when one hears a member from Quebec saying such things and adding that she is proud to use strong arm tactics against Quebec on an issue like the Young Offenders Act. It is unbelievable that she has the gall to say all those absurdities.

According to the hon. member, there is no coalition for justice for minors. According to her, the centres jeunesse are supporting Bill C-7 introduced by the federal government. I would point out to the member that there are at this time at least 42 groups from Quebec who are part of the coalition for justice for minors. This is practically every organization dealing with young offenders. There are judges, stakeholders, defence councils, deputy public prosecutors, psychologists from the Institut Pinel, academics. No one in Quebec wants this bill.

Worse, despite its 160 amendments, which, according to the government, answers all questions, there is still opposition in Quebec and no one wants this bill.

Another absurdity is that the member seems to be unaware that Quebec is the province with the least custodial sentences. As regards the Centres jeunesse, it is nonsense to say that they are jails. The Centres jeunesse do an excellent job and, thanks to them, we have a good rate of success in Quebec. The hon. member should apologize.

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February 4th, 2002 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

The principles are contradictory and not uniform. The Young Offenders Act is outdated.

Bill C-7 has the great advantage of ensuring that no longer will young people appear before an adult court. The youth court will have exclusive jurisdiction. Let us quit grandstanding and think of the young people of Quebec, who have rights, including the right to freedom and the right to be confident that their rights will be protected in our society.

I see that the game of the Bloc opposition has finally been revealed. Even our senators voted in favour of the bill. They passed it and are proposing a single amendment. Let us congratulate them as well and move forward with Bill C-7 because Quebec society is in great need of it.

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February 4th, 2002 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

They told me that when young people commit an offence, we should be able to make them immediately realize the seriousness of their acts”. When they arrest young people who scribble graffiti, they should make the offenders buy products to clean up their scribblings immediately.

These alternative measures, these extrajudicial measures, as they are called in the bill, are important. It is important to have some flexibility and this is what this bill provides.

Victims want to be involved. The new legislation includes a whole chapter that ensures that victims can participate, meet the young offenders, know what is happening and try to help them. The goal is always the same. Young people are our future. They are the ones who will see to it that tomorrow's society is a good society. We must help them and protect them. We must get adults involved. We must get the victims involved. We must not strip society of its responsibilities.

The Bloc Quebecois has been trying to tell us—and I have actual quotes from some members of that opposition party—that this is terrible, that from now on under Bill C-7 a young offender will not be arrested for a minor offence. For the Bloc Quebecois, putting a young person in a youth centre is a form of therapy.

What we are saying is that depriving a young person of his freedom must be a necessary measure. A young person is subject of the law just like an adult. What happens in a youth centre? I read the report of Quebec's Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse. It mentions cases of young people who are forgotten in youth centres, young people who are there under the youth protection act with other young offenders and delinquents.

The system is not perfect. Despite the goodwill of those working with young people in Quebec, there is a danger of oversights and young people being forgotten.

I visited the Laval youth centre. It has locked cells where young people are forced to live in situations which deprive them of their freedom.

If we can find solutions, get community organizations to participate involve the greatest possible number of members of our community, let us do it. Are we helping our society by saying that this bill is repressive? It is not repressive. It takes into account a situation that already exists in Quebec and which is relatively successful. We must do something to ensure that young people are treated the same everywhere in Canada. We must be able to take what Quebec has done well and apply it elsewhere. The other provinces must be able to benefit from Quebec's success in implementing so-called extrajudicial or diversionary measures.

The existing Young Offenders Act is outmoded. It has no declaration of principle.

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February 4th, 2002 / 4 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, the opposition does not want to hear the truth. We cannot deprive young people of their freedom and send them to a youth detention centre if they are not a threat to themselves and to society.

Youth detention centres are not the ultimate solution for youth. These centres should not take the place of the parents and the family. We should not take away all of society's responsibilities. In the last year, many articles have exposed the situation that prevails in many youth centres in Quebec.

It is therefore very important that the bill we are debating today deals with the excessive referral of youths to the courts. A lot of this is based on the premise that we do not help youths by hauling them into juvenile court if they are not a threat to themselves and to society and if there is no major offence.

As for the young offenders and the criminal justice system, the new bill contains five main principles.

There is the age at which a young offender is liable to an adult sentence. The new act will not change anything. It is set at 14 years of age. What is said is that provinces will have the power to keep the age limit at 14. Quebec will be allowed to use this provision to maintain the limit at 14 years of age.

There is also the place where the youths will serve their sentence. The new act provides that the youths will serve their sentence in a correctional facility for youth.

As for the court, youths will not appear before the adult courts anymore. Everything will be done before the juvenile court.

Let us talk about the frequency of detention. There are two kinds of offences: minor offences and major offences. Once again, why should we send a youth before the juvenile court for a minor offence?

Currently, if a police officer stops a young person who has just committed an offence, he has no choice. He is required to report the offence to a crown attorney who will decide on whether or not to maintain the charge. What this bill proposes is establishing a very clear distinction between minor offences and young people who are not dangerous, and serious crimes which require that the youth who commit them be rehabilitated. We also need to enhance the protection of society.

When it comes to minor offences, we would like to divert them from the courts. This means that we will allow the police and community organizations to take care of these young people instead of sending them to youth court. The police and other stakeholders will have more flexibility to apply what are known as extrajudicial measures, which have been used in Quebec for many years. These measures are not specified in the Young Offenders Act, but are contained in the new bill.

These extrajudicial measures exist in Laval and throughout Quebec and may need to be applied on a more regular basis throughout Canada. This is a bill that will help young people because it will keep them out of the courts.

For example, when I was touring the Centre jeunesse de Laval, I was able to observe a whole series of measures that are currently being applied. These measures are being applied and they will continue to be applied with Bill C-7.

For example, Bill C-7 will create community youth justice committees. Citizens from the community will sit on these justice committees. They will be able to advise community organizations with respect to the treatment of young people who have committed petty crimes.

I defy the Bloc Quebecois opposition members to prove me wrong. The wording of the bill is very clear. The objective of the new system is to ensure that custody and detention will only be used for repeat offenders or for those who commit serious or violent crimes.

Youth having been kept in custody or in a youth detention centre, even those having committed designated crimes and offences, will be subject to a mandatory supervisory period in the community. This is contained in the new bill. This is not found in the Young Offenders Act.

Some improvements are necessary in Quebec. This is a bill that modernizes the system and takes into account the convention on the rights of the child. It seeks to avoid having young people find themselves before the youth court too often, because then the consequences of their acts come too late.

I met police officers in Laval.

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February 4th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to a bill that I consider very important. Since my election I have been sitting on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and have had the opportunity to thoroughly examine what is proposed in Bill C-7.

Today I wonder if I live on another planet. I hear my colleague from the Bloc and my colleague from the New Democratic Party, who do not seem to understand at all the fundamental aspects of this bill.

I congratulate my colleague, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, for his recent speeches on this issue and also the former minister of justice for the work she has done. What she proposed is a modern bill that is in keeping with international conventions signed by Canada throughout the world, particularly concerning the protection of the rights of children.

The bill goes back some years. In 1985 the present Young Offenders Act, which applies to young people who commit crimes in Canada, was passed.

In 1997 there was a proposal that the youth justice system be changed and a bill was introduced, Bill C-68, which was subsequently amended by Bill C-3.

In September 2000, more than 160 amendments were moved with respect to the bill, and after my election, when I became a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, I had before me Bill C-7, a modernized piece of legislation that satisfied all the criticisms.

We must not delude ourselves; within our Liberal delegation there are some members who are concerned about the future of Canada's young people. They have proposed amendments, There have been numerous discussions to improve the system proposed for our young offenders.

Today, therefore, I am very pleased and proud to see that this government is proposing a rehabilitation based system for young offenders. Those who claim otherwise have, unfortunately, not read the bill.

I have had the opportunity to meet with the directors of the youth centre in my riding of Laval East, the Centre Jeunesse de Laval, and I can tell hon. members that the Bloc Quebecois opposition is greatly exaggerating when it states that all Quebec stakeholders are opposed to the bill.

As a government, we cannot of course please all the pressure groups. We have to make decisions. Had the bill been based on the proposals of the Quebec bar association, we would be accused of playing along with the lawyers and faulted for that. In this bill, the government chose from among the proposals that came from all sides.

I can only regret the opportunism of some members in the opposition, in the Bloc Quebecois, who have been very skilled at voicing criticisms connected with the existence of a so-called Quebec coalition.

As far as that so-called coalition is concerned, I have had the opportunity to look into just how serious a list this is. I can state in this House—

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February 4th, 2002 / 3:50 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question, which is fundamental. It can be raised about many areas.

What is wrong with this government? It is unable to understand the problems faced by fishermen in the maritimes, the problem Quebecers have with Bill C-7 and the problems farmers have in Saskatchewan. Every time there is a problem in one of the provinces of Canada, we are stonewalled by a stubborn government blinded by its arrogance, which continues to get its way saying that there is no opposition in Canada.

Canadians are about to wake up and there will be opposition at the next election. If needed, there will be a maritime block, a western block, an Ontario block, and together we will form a block to save this country before we leave.

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February 4th, 2002 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, the questions and comments will certainly allow my colleague to continue what I found to be a most eloquent speech, particularly the last remarks she made about sovereignty, with which I totally agree. We can see what Canada is doing to its sovereignty. This is not the kind of sovereignty we want in Quebec. We want true sovereignty.

I would like my colleague to talk about these international conventions. We must always look at what is in the best interest of the child, instead of the interest of society. I think the picture that is being painted for us is not true. It is false to say that we must protect society by handing down harsher sentences to children.

Quebec has proven that rehabilitation and reintegration are the way to making our young people better. Our province has been enforcing the Young Offenders Act for some time. It took us 30 years to achieve such a low youth crime rate. It is one of the lowest in North America, one of the lowest if not the lowest in Canada.

Would it not be appropriate to respect what has been done, as requested by Quebec? The national assembly requested unanimously that Quebec be allowed to opt out of Bill C-7 and to continue using the Young Offenders Act.

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February 4th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in this debate.

Today, we tried a new procedure. The government decided to limit debate on this most important bill. The new procedure consisted in giving us half an hour to ask questions of the minister.

I do not know if the minister had been informed of this new procedure and if he was aware of its meaning, but I must admit that he did not quite measure up to what I expected from a justice minister trying to enlighten the House and to answer what seemed to be legitimate questions from our various colleagues.

The minister said something that is indeed true when he said that the bill was not before the House, that we were considering a Senate amendment. However, my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm moved an amendment to the motion. That amendment would allow us not to proceed with second reading of the Senate amendment and would give the minister more time to look into the issue.

The minister comes from a department where everything was secret. Therefore he is not quite used to the kind of transparency that is required in the justice department. He should take the time to sit down and read all the evidence.

As for our side, several members rose and asked the minister to tell us how many individuals or groups from Quebec supported the bill during the hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice.

If the minister had cared at all about informing the House, he would immediately have replied that no individual or group from Quebec came to support Bill C-7. We heard voices behind him—I imagine that, thanks to the two fine persons who are sitting in the middle and taking notes, tomorrow we will know what these voices were saying—say that it was false, that there was no consensus in Quebec. In a way, there is not unanimity, but I would say that there is a consensus in the real sense of the term. When one masters the French language, one knows what it means.

There is a consensus. There is not unanimity. Of course, there are 36 Liberal members of parliament who support the bill and who are therefore opposed to the Quebec consensus. They are the only individuals whom we heard speak out against this bill.

All the Quebec stakeholders, from the least important ones to the most important ones, all the way up to the chief justice of the youth court, are opposed to this legislation. The hon. Justice Michel Jasmin came to testify before the Standing Committee on Justice. One can read his evidence and see the position of Quebec's youth court. He is opposed to the bill.

The minister is acting in bad faith, there is no other word for it. The former Minister of Justice was totally out of touch with reality. She did not know Quebec. She did not know what is going on in Quebec. She did not want to know what is going on in Quebec and she shifted the file over to her colleague. It was the same thing with her predecessor, who was from Ontario: he could not care less either.

In his replies, the minister said something to which I want to go back. He referred to 160 amendments. To claim that the government met the needs of the public by moving 160 amendments is pure demagoguery.

When the bill was first introduced, it was so flawed, so badly drafted that there was not a single legal expert in the country who could understand and accept it.

The minister herself modified her very own bill with 160 amendments but did not take into consideration the demands of Ontario, Nova Scotia, Quebec or western Canada. All she did was to redraft her bill into more understandable language, but without responding to anyone's needs. The purpose of the 160 amendments was to patch up a bad job done by the legal experts, a result of either too much haste or poor instructions from a minister, a member from the Toronto area, who has since been appointed to health.

When we hear what a good bill this is because of the 160 amendments, I call this nothing but demagoguery. There is no improvement whatsoever to the bill. It has not met any needs whatsoever.

Quebec called for a single amendment: for the minister to add a 161th amendment indicating that Quebec could opt out of Bill C-7 and continue to apply the Young Offenders Act. The minister did not want to hear of any such thing, nor does her successor.

Now we have a Senate amendment relating to aboriginal offenders. This is odd; once again, 160 amendments and still not able to satisfy the aboriginal people. I do not know who it was in the Senate who suddenly felt guilty enough, or whatever it was, to introduce this amendment. Without a doubt, the Senate did not want to go down in history as having blindly rubber stamped Bill C-7, because of all the challenges, so it found this little change to make, doing something for aboriginal offenders.

If all Canadians are treated equally, if what the Minister of Justice said is true, with the bill containing some flexibility and each case being dealt with on an individual basis, then the Senate amendment is totally pointless.

I would go so far as to say that Rosario Pinette, who spoke on behalf of the chief of the first nations at a press conference in Quebec City last week, has said they were opposed to the amendment, that they do not want the amendment that came from the Senate. They were not even consulted, and having a special amendment just for them is discriminatory. They were already included in the bill and do not want anything to do with this amendment.

The government was wrong when it claimed the bill was adjusted and designed to meet all of the needs, because it said it would add this 161st amendment.

The Bloc Quebecois was opposed to the 160 amendments from the outset. I would like to make it very clear here in the House that we will not support the 161st amendment, which is unjustified, unjustifiable, useless and which aboriginal peoples do not want.

Not surprisingly, we will be supporting our own amendment, which asks that this bill be put on hold so that we can have some time to study it properly and see how we could meet the needs of the provinces. I truly do not understand this government's stubbornness, that it cannot stop for two minutes to try and learn what needs to be done to have some harmony in Canada.

Everyone has been on edge since the violence that erupted on September 11. If the government continues to turn a blind eye, people will get tired of it. I think that in Quebec, people will begin to realize that there is no point in believing the Liberals election after election, both at the provincial and federal levels.

The Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs told us that he was looking forward to working with a Liberal premier who would understand Canada, who was for Canada. Obviously he is looking forward to it. They sent Mr. Charest to Quebec City on a mission, the great saviour of Canada. They sent him there to save Canada. He is going to sell out Quebec in order to save Canada, just like all of the ministers from Quebec.

I challenge all the francophone ministers from Quebec to run in ridings that are 100% francophone, like ours, to see if they can get elected. There are limits to how much they can mock us, pretending that there is no consensus in Quebec. There is consensus. We do not want Bill C-7.

Even if it were just for this bill, and we did not have any other reason to leave Canada, this would be an excellent reason for us to be able to create our own legislation in our own country to protect our young people and teenagers.

I will make a point to remind Quebecers, every day if I need to, that they have to be on their toes. In 2000 they were lulled by all the fine promises saying “We will reform the Employment Insurance Act”, but there was no reform. Acadians and Quebecers, among others, were had. I presume some also believed the Liberals in the rest of Canada but not many, seeing as though this government represents only 38% of the wishes of the population.

I have in my hand a text that I find absolutely extraordinary. It appeared in Le Devoir on Tuesday June 19, 2001. It is fairly recent. It deals with young offenders. The text was written by a young man named Richard Tremblay. I was impressed. I do not believe we are related, but he is a member of the Canada Research Chair on childhood development and teaches at the University of Montreal. Moreover, he is a member of the juvenile delinquency task force of the National Science Academy of the United States. It is interesting to see—they made a study at the National Science Academy—that the academy finally gave an opinion on the subject. Mr. Tremblay writes:

Canada and the United States are quite different as regards homicide rates involving young people.

We have to be very careful when quoting statistics. In certain parts of Canada people are more used to a north-south approach than to an east-west one. We have a tendency to use statistics from the United States thinking that it reflects Canadian society. We must be very careful. Situations and crime statistics are quite different in Canada. He goes on to say:

For reasons that are difficult to clearly identify, “the young offender problem” has always seemed worse in the United States than in Canada. When it comes to homicides committed by young people, the gap between the two countries has grown wider between the mid-eighties and the early nineties. During that period, the United States experienced a very high increase in violent acts by young people, particularly homicides. It was even suggested that a new type of juvenile predator was born. Numerous states in the U.S. reacted quickly by passing laws imposing stiffer penalties on minors. In most cases, these laws authorize or order the transfer of minors to the adult system at an earlier age.

When I reread this and think about the bill proposed by the Liberal government of this country, I tell myself that it closely relates to the report of the U.S. national science academy and that, in this area as in many others, we are becoming increasingly americanized. We are increasingly losing our sovereignty and our specificity, and we refuse to see ourselves as being different and to propose different measures for different situations.

We are copying the Americans more and more. This could be very serious for the future of Canada.

I will quote something that was said a long time ago in 1904 by President Theodore Roosevelt when he was asking the U.S. congress to create a court for minors in the federal district of Columbia. He used the following arguments:

No civilized Christian community can afford to be unconcerned about the young people of today because to do so would cost it very dearly in the future, through an increase in its financial burden and the deterioration of society.

So said Roosevelt in 1904 and in 1990 the district of Columbia had one of the highest homicide rates in the United States.

If we follow in the steps of the Americans on this issue, if we take a punitive rather than a rehabilitative approach, if we send young people to prison rather than keep them under supervision in more educational and rehabilitative settings, if we send 14- and 15-year-olds to adult court, to adult prisons, we will find ourselves in the same situation as the District of Columbia, with more and more young people committing more and more acts of violence.

There is no doubt about the research findings. There is no doubt about the evolution of societies or about the statistics. A focus on prevention and rehabilitation will produce positive results. A coercive approach will produce the opposite.

The article talks about legislation:

As for the legislation concerning crimes committed by minors, the American group of experts presented the following conclusions:

Tension has always existed between two reactions to juvenile delinquency: focusing on the needs of the young offender, or punishing him, making it impossible for him to harm, and protecting society.

What we have done in Quebec for 30 years, with real success, is to focus on the needs of young people. We even have a judge who, one day, sentenced a young person to be packed up and taken off to the minister's home because there were no longer any vacancies in the centres for him. Admittedly, this was felt to be a bit of an extreme reaction but one picture is worth a thousand words and people began to take a serious look at the problem saying that something had to be done.

Consequently, we must have time to rethink this bill and eliminate everything that could lead us to more violence and less rehabilitation or at least add a clause an amendment that would allow us to opt out of the application of this bill.

The minister was saying in the Senate that it was possible to continue, even afterward, to do what we were doing before. Since clause 199 of the bill repeals the Young Offenders Act, I do not see how, with the act repealed, we could continue to apply it afterwards. I do not have a law degree but it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that, if an act is repealed it cannot be applied and we must therefore apply the new one.

Here is another conclusion:

During the last decade, American legislation and practices concerning youth crime became more punitive and now tend to break down the barrier between adult and minor treatment in the justice system.

This is exactly what we are doing. Again, we are copying the Americans. I am beginning to understand why Canada tried so hard to have Quebec stay in Canada. What makes Canada different is Quebec. Canada tried to keep us; I understand, because it does not know what sovereignty is. Every day, this government is giving up a little bit of sovereignty; it is copying the Americans, even when they should not be copied.

I find that the 20 minutes that were allowed to me went by very quickly. I would still have many things to say.

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February 4th, 2002 / 3:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member for Elk Island if he could give us his opinion in response to the Minister of Justice's comments earlier, in which he told us that the government was flexible because it kept some 160 amendments.

I would also like to know his position regarding the Bloc Quebecois' amendment, which reads as follows:

That the amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-7, An Act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts, be not now read a second time and concurred in, since it does not in any way take into consideration the distinct character of Quebec and the Quebec model for implementation of the Young Offenders Act.

Does the member and his party respect the amendment moved by the Bloc Quebecois and do they respect the fact that Quebec has a system that is the envy of other provinces because our youth crime rate is the lowest in Canada? And, based on the unanimous resolution passed by the National Assembly of Quebec, which asked that Quebec be exempted from the bill, could the member please tell us if he would respect Quebec's request, and that of the National Assembly, to opt out of Bill C-7?

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, if we look at the bill as a cornerstone, even though it is not in the House, it seems clear to me that it focuses first and foremost on the rehabilitation of young offenders. We believe that principle is important. We believe as well that in proceeding with rehabilitation there is a chance for young offenders. Let us look at the way provinces have applied the legislation in past years. Some have been very successful with that principle. We are very proud of that. We are also proud to be moving forward with a bill that would put in place rehabilitation as a principle which can be found in Bill C-7.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, it should be noted that it is not the bill that is before the House but rather the amendment.

On the opposition benches they say that the government is being inflexible. I think it is important for people to understand that after testimony was heard—we know that the House committee travelled across the country—the bill was amended. There were more than 160 amendments.

Some people say that the government is not listening. Has any other bill received over 160 amendments? The government's position on this demonstrates, at the very least, a great deal of flexibility. With those 160 amendments to Bill C-7, we were able to put in place reforms that will benefit all the population.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I know all parties on the other side of the House would like to re-open debate on the bill but the bill is not in the House at this point in time. We are talking about an amendment.

It is rather curious that they would want to re-open debate on the bill knowing the amount of time we have spent discussing Bill C-7. The process began back in 1995.

What I am saying today is that it is time to move forward and proceed with the full implementation of this brand new reform and vision.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hidden goal of the actual discussion is the amendment that was sent back by the Senate to the House of Commons, an amendment that reflects a principle that already exists in Bill C-7.

I would refer the House to clause 3, the declaration of principle. The amendment is in conformity and according to the provision that we have in Bill C-7.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the debate has begun.

Let us have some fun. They want to talk about the time spent on reviewing the bill, which is not up for debate today.

The process began in 1995. Hearings were held across the country, including in Quebec, by a House committee, which tabled its report in 1997. We had Bill C-68, followed by Bill C-3 and then Bill C-7.

The House of Commons committee heard 93 witnesses, while the Senate committee heard 72 witnesses. The bill was under consideration for a total of 75 hours in the House committee and 40 hours in the Senate committee, and over 160 amendments were put forward.

What we have before us, namely Bill C-7, is good legislation. People now want us to move forward so we can work together as partners to implement this legislation and the measures needed to promote the rehabilitation of young offenders.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, we do not have any lessons to learn from the other side of the House. Our party has given more free votes to its members than any other party in the past.

With regard to the amendment, as I have said many times, such a provision is found in the criminal code. Essentially the amendment reflects the principle of the legislation that we find in clause 3. With regard to the possibility of the opposition parties voicing their concerns to Bill C-7, I will just mention the number of hours we have spent discussing the bill.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, what we are dealing with today is called overstatement. It should be pointed out that those members have a tendency, when they speak about Quebec, to claim that they do so in the name of all Quebecers.

I would simply tell them that I have also been elected by Quebecers, like many other members of the Liberal Party caucus. There are people on the government side who come from Quebec, who are proud to be Quebecers and who are doing a very good job of protecting the interests of the whole population of Quebec.

With regard to meetings, one only has to look at the work that was done on Bill C-7, for instance, by the Standing Committee on Justice. Ninety-three witnesses appeared before the committee on Bill C-7 and Bill C-3.

In the Senate, 72 witnesses were heard. I believe the time has come to move on and to find a way to work together to implement a bill that will serve the whole population of Canada.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, the amendment is essentially based on one of the principles of Bill C-7. Clause 3 of Bill C-7 takes into consideration young aboriginals. The Senate amendment takes this into consideration as well as the sentencing. The exact same thing is found in the criminal code.

This is always a very sensitive issue. We on this side of the House do believe in rehabilitation. If we look at clauses 3 and 19 of Bill C-7 there is a place for victims which did not exist in the previous legislation.

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February 4th, 2002 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, again I will be precise. The bill does not come back to the House. It is the amendment that comes back to the House.

Regarding the question of the government listening to people and being open minded about the bill, I remind the House that the process started in 1995 with some amendments to the legislation. We then proceeded with Bill C-68 in March 1999 and Bill C-3 in October 1999. Before those bills were introduced we proceeded with a full hearing across Canada by a standing committee of the House which tabled a report in 1997. After that the bill came before the House. We are talking of course about first reading, report stage and third reading. Altogether we have been discussing the bill in the House for almost 19 hours.

When we compared Bill C-7 to Bill C-3 we went through over 160 amendments. If opposition members have been unable to make their point with all this discussion they will never be able to.

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February 4th, 2002 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, let us be clear one more time. We are talking about an amendment coming from the Senate.

The point raised by the hon. member is interesting. Some members say the bill is too flexible and soft. Others say it is too rigid. In Bill C-7, which will not come back to the House, we find a balanced approach which focuses mainly on the rehabilitation of young offenders. That is what we believe in.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have already said several times before that the procedures developed throughout Canada over the years are derived essentially from the same piece of legislation. It is true that some provinces have developed a more forward looking approach. Quebec has an excellent one and Bill C-7 has borrowed heavily from it. British Columbia is another province that has had good results and meets the goals of Bill C-7.

As to the need to deal with the bill right now, we know that actors in the field are examining the bill and want to proceed with the implementation of this legislation based on rehabilitation. I will get a chance later on to talk about the number of hours opposition members have had to discuss this bill.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 12:50 p.m.
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Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as has been mentioned by the hon. colleague, if we look at Bill C-7 and go to the declaration of principles, which is where its foundations are, we will find reference to the question of native people across the land and how we must act with regard to young native people.

The amendment before the House today which was referred by the Senate would ensure we considered the question of native people during sentencing. If we look at paragraph 18.2(e) of the criminal code we find more or less the same principle.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2002 / 12:45 p.m.
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Wascana Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved:

That in relation to Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the stage of consideration of Senate amendments to the bill, and fifteen minutes before the expiry of the time provided for government business on the allotted day of the consideration of the said stage of the said bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the bill shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

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

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The second part of the bill states that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

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

The amendment moved by the Bloc reads as follows:

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Bloc Jonquière, QC

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

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

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

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

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

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

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

Liberal

Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Gerald Keddy Progressive Conservative South Shore, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Randy White Canadian Alliance Langley—Abbotsford, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Points of OrderGovernment Orders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Former Chief Sparrow said:

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Dick Proctor NDP Palliser, SK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is correct, so far.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

January 30th, 2002 / 3:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

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

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendment made by the Senate to Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

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

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

January 30th, 2002 / 2:25 p.m.
See context

Outremont Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

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

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Liberal Outremont, QC

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

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

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

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

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

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

Nuclear Fuel Waste ActGovernment Orders

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

Bloc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

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

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anti-terrorism ActPrivate Members' Business

November 27th, 2001 / 5 p.m.
See context

Bloc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Independence of the RCMPPrivate Members’ Business

November 5th, 2001 / noon
See context

Bloc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Courts Administration Service ActGovernment Orders

October 3rd, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

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

Edmonton West Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

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

Young OffendersOral Question Period

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

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

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

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

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

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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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—

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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.

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May 29th, 2001 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I wish to inform you that I am sharing my time with the hon. member for Mississauga West.

We are about to pass an amendment as important as it is needed in the way Canada deals with youth crime. The rate of youth incarceration in Canada has now reached a totally unacceptable level. It is the highest in the western world, even higher than in the United States.

Some members from Quebec like to praise their province's justice system, which they say is based on rehabilitation of young offenders. According to a pamphlet prepared by the Bloc Quebecois, the suggested approach calls for rehabilitation therapy in a youth centre before a young offender commits an even more serious crime.

The member for Berthier—Montcalm declared that Quebec tends to personalize the process based on three fundamental principles: punishing the young person; making him accountable for his actions; and addressing his psychological and social problems, all with a view to rehabilitation and reintegration into society

What the hon. member neglects to tell us, however, is that Quebec tends to make use of committal to custody for young people guilty of offences that are not particularly serious, I repeat, as it is very important: young people who have not done anything particularly serious, more often than any other jurisdiction except one. This tendency is not affected by whether the adolescent has no prior convictions or has only one or two.

Numerous studies and experiments worldwide have shown that what works best is to get the young offender to assume responsibility outside the formal system. This type of intervention makes it possible to react promptly to the adolescent's misbehaviour by imposing a significant measure, that is one from which he or she learns something, thus bringing about rehabilitation and redressing the wrongs caused.

I would like to get back to the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm. He engaged in a tour, to which he referred, during which he described certain scenarios in order to convince people that Bill C-7 is bad for Quebec.

I will pick up on one of the scenarios to demonstrate the incongruity of the arguments presented by the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm. It is the case of Hugues, which hon. members may well have seen in the Bloc Quebecois pamphlets so widely distributed throughout Quebec.

It starts by stating that, under the Young Offenders Act, Hugues' problem, which is connected to gang membership, would be revealed immediately upon his arrest and first court appearance. They go on to say that the crown and the defence attorney will probably agree on a training and social reintegration program where he would be kept away from his gang.

They conclude, that is the Bloc Quebecois and the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, that with a six or eight month social intervention program Hugues seems to have a chance.

Then, in the second scenario, according to the Bloc Quebecois, Hugues would receive totally different treatment under Bill C-7. The person who wrote the pamphlet indicates that Hugues would appear before a court after his offence and temporary detention would be accepted as a defence strategy. After a trial, Hugues would be sentenced to eight months detention. He would not have access to rehabilitation programs because time would be too short; he would be left to himself. The various intervenors, specialists, teachers and scholars would become prison guards.

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May 29th, 2001 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I have just a few comments as the end of a long process winds down, not only in the context of time allocation but also in the context of a bill that has received a great deal of attention by this parliament and the previous parliament.

We regret to say that we cannot support Bill C-7 because we all started from the proposition, with perhaps the exception of the Bloc Quebecois because the Young Offender's Act seems to be working in Quebec in a way that it does not seem to be working in the rest of the country, that the Young Offender's Act did not live up to expectations. I say that as someone who was here in 1983-84 when we passed the Young Offender's Act. There was a great sense of progress in that we had finally shed the juvenile delinquent's act and that a new day in youth criminal justice was ahead of us. Some 15 years later we do not have that feeling at all.

We have the feeling that the Young Offender's Act does not work, that it has many unintended consequences and that it does not have enough discretion built into it. Too many young people are being forced into and clogging up the court system. We feel that that kind of discretion should be available to the system, which is not available in the Young Offender's Act. So we have before us the youth criminal justice act.

Unfortunately, we can also say today that, given the unwillingness of the government to consider many of the criticisms that have been levelled at the bill, to consider the need for more resources if this bill is to be implemented properly, a point that has been made over and over again by various provincial governments and to consider the complexity of the bill and the fact that it might actually extend rather than shorten the distance in time between the offence and consequences, one has the ominous feeling that 15 years from now, and some of us may still be here, we will be discussing the failure of the youth criminal justice act.

That might be something in the nature of this kind of legislation or it might be something peculiar to this legislation. It is probably a little bit of both. In the end no amount of youth criminal justice legislation, whether it is the Young Offender's Act or the juvenile delinquent's act or the youth criminal justice act, is going to be enough to solve our problems.

Our problems are fundamentally social, economic and moral. They have a lot to do with the kind of values young people are picking up in the media, on television, from the popular culture and even from our economic system. We have an economic culture that more than ever before holds up self-interest as the guiding light, that everything works well if we all pursue our own self-interest in an extremely competitive way. The language of co-operation that we might find in older notions of how we should relate to each other or that might be found on Sesame Street, soon evaporates for many youths when they see how the world unfortunately sometimes really works. We have a much larger task ahead of us than anything we could accomplish through the youth criminal justice system.

I want to re-emphasize some of the things we said at second reading and which have not really been addressed in committee. We find ourselves in much the same position as we were at second reading. I already mentioned the fact that the complexity in the bill was a problem in of itself. However it could also lengthen the time between the actions and the consequences.

One thing we know, at least it seems so to me, is that there is a great deal of agreement that for justice to be effective, particularly with young people, it should be swift. People should be able to make the connection between what they have done and what the punishment is or what the consequences are and not have it so delayed as to be remote in the connection in the young person's mind.

The question of the changing the reverse onus provisions, changing the existing situation whereby the state now has to argue for youth between the ages of 14 and 17 to be brought before adult court, will change. What is this going to mean? This will mean a bigger role for lawyers in the system. This in itself will delay things. Anything lawyers have something to do with is a source of delay, sometimes legitimate and sometimes not.

This will further complicate the system, given the fact that many young people who find themselves in trouble are not always from families of means. This will mean an increased burden on legal aid. We are very concerned about the chain reaction involved. This is all part of a downloading of costs onto the provinces, legal aid et cetera without the corresponding resources being devolved to people who will have to deal with the complexities of this new system.

The province of Manitoba has a concern with this legislation. We do not want this new act to apply to children under 12. However, at the same time we need a strategy for dealing with children under 12. In the inner city of Winnipeg and many other places we know that children under 12 are being employed by gangs to effect their criminal intentions. We need a strategy to deal with that which is effective and at the same time respects the fact that we do not want children under 12 to be brought, strictly speaking, within the rubric of the youth criminal justice act.

There are a lot of things that need to be done. This bill does not do them in terms of resources. It does not do them in terms of its own stated objectives. For the record, for this reason and many others which I do not intend to go into at the moment, the NDP will be voting against the bill at third reading stage.

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May 29th, 2001 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough. I know he has a great deal of background on this issue, having been a crown prosecutor and having dealt with the very act that Bill C-7 seeks to amend.

I learned quite a bit from his speech. I would like him to elaborate a little further on one thing he raised. The old Juvenile Delinquents Act had some 30 odd sections. The Young Offenders Act had roughly 70 sections. This bill, which ostensibly seeks to clarify, streamline and make more accessible the Young Offenders Act, has 200 sections. What is even more worrisome is the omissions in the bill, which he pointed out.

How can we have a new act that deals with young offenders but fails to contemplate or mention things like gang activity or home invasions? The single most frightening thing for senior citizens today is the possibility that some thug will kick their doors in and invade their home while they are sitting watching television. This is a very genuine fear for Canadians. They want some specific mention of the seriousness of that crime.

Could the hon. member elaborate, not so much on what is worrisome in the act but on some of the glaring shortcomings or omissions, which he pointed out.

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May 29th, 2001 / 11:50 a.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is with some regret that I rise to take part in the debate on Bill C-7. It has a lengthy history. As the Chair and members of parliament know, it has been before the House in various incarnations since 1993. In effect, Bill C-7 is an aptly named bill because it is seven years old.

It has had numerous changes. It has been put through committee. It has been examined and it has been adjudicated upon, to a degree, in the sense that we have had numerous judges, lawyers and prosecutors and those who work in the justice system look at it intensely.

It saddens me to say we have a bill before us that is in a very flawed and very troubled state. It is a bill that may be arguably the most important piece of legislation we will see in a decade. It is a bill that has long term, broad implications, because it deals with what is, I would certainly say, perhaps our most valuable commodity. I do not mean to diminish our youth by calling them a commodity, but the bill deals directly with young people in Canada. The bill deals with their future. It deals with the way in which they are dealt with by the criminal justice system.

One of the supposed assets of this type of legislation is its flexibility. The legislation was supposed to allow provinces to be flexible in the way in which they approached youth justice. They were supposed to be able to hold conferences. They were supposed to be more inclusive of victims, of social workers and of accused persons in the way in which they interact, in the way in which the justice system was to envelop them and hopefully improve and thus produce a better life.

Yet when one delves into the details, and the devil is in the details in this type of legislation, one finds, sorrowfully, that this legislation will have the complete opposite effect of what it is intended to do.

The philosophy and the emphasis in this legislation is very much on rehabilitation, on reintegration and on early intervention and prevention. To that end I very much agree with those sentiments. I agree with the direction in which the legislation is attempting to take us in terms of our criminal justice system.

Yet again it falls far short. The legislation will not achieve these noble objectives. It will not allow our young people to avail themselves of all of these noble ambitions, because it is a bill in which the Minister of Justice and her department have very much tried to please everyone. They have gone so far afield in trying to bring everything together in this one massive, complex, convoluted bill that none of these objectives will be achieved.

Therefore I stand here with great consternation, because the bill is one which we very much want and need in the country. Yet, as the Progressive Conservative justice critic representing my party in this process, I do not feel that I can in good conscience support the bill. I do not feel that the bill will achieve all those things that need to be achieved in our justice system today.

For example, the bill would give unspecified regions power to customize sentences and trends according to area standards, whatever that means. The bill would allow judges, who complained that the first version of this bill was too complicated and upon seeing it a second time were even more confused as to what the bill actually intended, various sentencing alternatives, which might vary by province, by city and by individual judge or court. For example, paragraph 38(2)(b) states that sentences must be similar to the sentences imposed in other regions “on similar young persons found guilty of the same offence committed in similar circumstances”.

Again, is this effective? Is this the type of language that leads to any real sense of clarity in terms of what is intended? The bill has left judges with much experience, with years and years of work in the justice system, scratching their heads as to how they would implement this type of legislation.

One of the greatest assets of any justice system is the ability to be timely, the ability to have justice done swiftly and to have it be seen to be done swiftly, as the old legal maxim goes. The legislation would make that virtually impossible because of this complexity and the new and convoluted route that cases would have to navigate. In regard to timely hearings, timely trials, a person having access to justice will surely find that it will take months, if not years to reach the end, to reach the conclusion of that process.

I know, Madam Speaker, that you have a history with the justice committee and have taken a great interest in the process as well. We are left feeling very shortchanged by the bill. After having heard from so many with so much expertise, understanding and history as to how the system works, we are left with a virtual nightmare in terms of the legislation.

It does not get to the point. It does not accomplish the goals that we should be striving to achieve. Justice delayed will be justice denied. That phrase will encompass and be stamped indelibly on the bill when it comes to fruition, if the government does not pull back at the last moment, which is unlikely.

For example, if young people were to find themselves charged with first degree murder in my home town of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia, and were taken through the process, would they receive the same treatment, the same end result as they would in Vancouver?

That is a test that should be met. The purpose of our federal justice system is to have balance and parity. The very symbols of justice must be balanced. My genuine feeling is that it will not happen. There is a great deal of reason to believe, in looking at the various clauses in the bill, that a parity of justice will not exist. There is nothing to mandate that a young person who commits a deadly crime pays with serious time, regardless of the province in which it is committed.

There is an amendment, for example, to subclause 42(2)(o) that three years or less in a penitentiary would be served. In the mind of the public, a three year sentence coupled with probation, if it is to follow, does not adequately or proportionately respond to the gravity of the offence.

However many attempts were made to amend the legislation and however many sources came forward with innovative and intelligent suggestions on how to improve the bill, most of those attempts were rebuffed. There was little time in this round of parliament to delve into the details of the bill. For all intents and purposes time allocation or closure was invoked in committee just as it was in the House.

Again, because of the importance of the bill, members of the opposition, some members of the government side and perhaps some members of the committee were left feeling very frustrated because they were not allowed to call witnesses to go over some of the very flawed legislation. Some would argue, and I would be one, that there is so much wrong with the legislation that it is impossible to improve. It is like trying to polish a rotten apple; it cannot happen.

Supposedly this process is open to change in order to result in the best possible bill. Yet that did not happen. It was not effective. It was not functional. It broke down, perhaps was because of the personalities involved or perhaps because the government was not listening. That seems to be very much the case with not only the bill but with many pieces of legislation that we see in the House.

There is an attitude of superiority, that members of the opposition do not quite get it, that somehow they are out for purely partisan purposes and have a lesser understanding of the importance of the government's agenda. That is hogwash and simply not true. Many people in opposition approached the bill in a very professional, straightforward and common sense way. They were left feeling as if they got very short shrift. They were treated with very little respect.

Yesterday I attempted to move an amendment to the bill with respect to subclause 125(6). I did so at the request of the Canadian School Boards Association and other associated groups on behalf of teachers. It was meant to try to improve the information sharing regarding dangerous youth offenders who may be in our school system. The amendment would have provided for the sharing of information so that the provincial director, a youth worker, an attorney general, a peace officer or a person engaged in the justice system could share information mandatorily. They would have to do so, for the simple reason that information would be used for a very important purpose. It would protect other students and help in the rehabilitative efforts of the young person who is in the school system.

If the bill provides for that in some instances where it says may, my amendment would have made it mandatory so that it had to happen. There is a breakdown in the information sharing in the current system. It was very much in the interest of everyone to have this information mandatorily shared with our schools.

Others are trusted with the information. There are no privacy concerns when it comes to police officers, community workers or the staff involved in the court system. It is almost insulting to suggest somehow that if we were to give this information to teachers they would abuse it. One is left wondering why the government would vote against such a common sense amendment. Perhaps we will hear some response to that at some point, but I doubt it.

We have tried time and time again to improve upon the legislation. I worked with the old Young Offenders Act and there is no question in my mind that it was not a perfect system either. Although it was a great motivation in my decision to come to parliament, I am left with the inescapable conclusion that the old system will function better or was functioning better than the system we are about to embark on.

It troubles me greatly to think that simply by being here and participating in this system I will have to answer to some future generation as to how parliament could put in place such a convoluted and complex system, such a monster in terms of the delay it would wreak on the system. I will have to ponder as to how I would respond, but at least I will have some solace in knowing that I tried. I tried to make some changes. I tried to put forward some suggestions on how to improve the bill.

There is much talk again about the flexibility of holding these conferences in which the accused, victims and others will be able to participate in the system. Yet it seems to be left in a cloud of doubt and a shroud of complexity.

There is a question with respect to new responsibilities of the police in their actions. They are to engage in a new venture of counselling wherein they will be required to issue cautions. They will be required to delve into the young person's life in detail and to some extent be required to become like social workers. All the information when gathered, which is another very serious flaw in the bill, would not be admissible for the purposes of a bail hearing.

If a young person has been the beneficiary of several warnings and cautions, if the police are aware that he or she is likely to embark on more serious crimes such as break and enter, violence or drug use, and if the person is taken into custody, the police will not be required to refer to the information they had gathered through this new system for the purposes of holding or detaining the young person at a judicial interim release hearing or a bail hearing.

I brought this information to the attention of the justice minister and her officials, and yet there is no willingness to change. The Liberal government has also ignored numerous community concerns with respect to mandatory increased sentences for gang violence or swarming. There was no attempt to essentially up the ante for that type of violent behaviour. There was no attempt to have recognized in legislation a specific offence for home invasion when young people were aware or should have been aware that the person was at home when they entered the dwelling house.

That would have been the correct message to send if we were to make the legislation firmer and fairer in order to protect the public. Our justice system should be about protecting the public and keeping in mind rehabilitation and reintegration.

At the end of the day there has to be corrective action taken if young people or otherwise are wreaking havoc in a community. Sometimes it involves removing them from the community for lengthy periods of time given the offence that has been committed. The bill is not sending the signal that violent offenders and those who commit serious offences will be treated in a serious and firm but fair way.

I have already mentioned the delay involved in bringing forth the legislation, but another flaw that ties into my earlier comments is the lack of language referring to deterrence and denunciation, deterrence being either general or specific and denunciation for the crime itself. The bill is completely void of that type of language. It makes no mention of it, yet it is used in courtrooms across the country every day. The department and the minister in their wisdom are loath to use that type of language in the bill.

We have heard many complaints from numerous individuals across the country about the way in which the bill has been put together. I cannot stress enough the complexity of the bill. We had the Juvenile Delinquents Act which comprised 30 sections. From there we went to the Young Offenders Act which contained approximately 70 sections. Then we talked about the need to streamline and the need to make the legislation more user friendly so that parents and young people could understand it.

What did the department come up with? It came up with a bill that has 200 clauses. The legislation will be more than doubled. Yet the department and the minister have the audacity to say that it is streamlined legislation. It could not be more the antithesis of streamlined legislation. It is the complete opposite. The minister is being very economical with the truth when she uses that kind of language.

For example, subclause 45(2)is 86 words long in one sentence. That is the type of complexity we are talking about. It reads like Chinese arithmetic. It is something that will be extremely difficult for those working in the justice system to try to administer.

This leads me to another major flaw or chasm for the provinces. Due to the new complexity, new processes and new requirements for the administration of the bill, it will take massive resources to accomplish this task. The provinces are feeling extremely frustrated. Many who came before the justice committee stated in a very straightforward and polite way that they did not have the resources to accomplish the task given to them by the government.

In many ways that is exactly what is happening. The government is asking the provinces to administer the bill. Yet it is trying to micromanage the way in which they would do it. It is telling them they have these new responsibilities and new hearings to administer. The provinces will have all sorts of problems in trying to accomplish this task. Yet the government will not give them the additional resources they require.

Understandably the provinces are very upset but the government would not listen. It essentially says that is too bad and that it will go ahead with it any event. It thanked the provinces for voicing their concerns but informed them that they would have to do it. That is not exactly what I would call co-operative federalism. This is not the type of approach that should be taken, particularly on a bill as important as this one.

The minister has talked numerous times about a decrease in crime and how the statistics are plummeting. She should talk to the police, to case workers and to probation workers. They will tell her otherwise, particularly when it comes to violent crime. We know that violent crime is very much on the rise, particularly among young women. In the last 10 years it has risen over 77% as far as youth are concerned. Since 1988 it has risen 127% among young women. These are shocking statistics.

Public concern about lack of accountability for crimes, particularly those committed by young people, hinges on the fact that there does not appear to be much in the way of deterrents. We have new processes of statutory release, presumptive release, conditional release and conditional sentences. These are some of the same flawed practices that exist in the adult system. Now the government is downloading them on to the youth court system and telling the provinces to do their best. However it will not be there to help them when it comes to light that it will cost considerably more and result in more delay.

Frontline police officers are saying the same. They are very concerned about the new responsibilities. Victim groups are not satisfied that they will be given enough participation or recognition in the new system.

The new bill, although it is not new and has been recycled several times, is one that is fraught with grave financial implications and grave implications in terms of delay, complexity and breakdown in the system. The only people perhaps who will be happy will be the lawyers, particularly the defence lawyers. This will be the best make work program that the government could possibly have come up with. What will be accomplished?

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May 29th, 2001 / 11:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will use the four minutes I have left, despite the fact that I find deplorable what is happening here. Frankly, when I toured Quebec I always said that my tour was more of a social than political initiative. It was an information tour. I did not want to turn the matter into a political issue.

I understand that the member of the Canadian Alliance may feel some resentment or whatever. However, since we are dealing with an issue as important as youth, and an approach that has proven effective in Quebec, the hon. member could put aside the partisanship and arrogance he has shown all morning and deal more seriously with the bill.

I repeat what I have already said “It is not too late for the government. It is not too late”. Yesterday, I offered to go on another tour of Quebec with the minister, on a non-partisan basis and with all the necessary interpreters and personnel, and meet with the people I met and others also, because I am ready was anywhere. I am sure of what I am saying. Quebecers are unanimously saying that the federal government is on the wrong tack.

The minister refused to meet with these people. She refuses to listen to them, to go to meet them, as if she were living in a glass bubble in Ottawa, briefed only by her officials who have drafted legislation in their ivory tour, the kind of unenforceable and complex legislation that they alone can draft. The minister refuses to acknowledge that kind of reality. Maybe she cannot spare the time to go on a tour of Quebec.

That is why I am saying that it is not too late to send Bill C-7 back to the committee where it could be further reviewed, allowing Quebec and other provinces wishing to continue using an approach based on rehabilitation and reintegration rather than repression to do so.

I moved an amendment that was rejected yesterday. It was a legal and constitutional amendment examined by specialists. However the government is not listening.

It wants, at all costs, to pass legislation based on the seriousness of the offence and that consideration will influence the whole process while the existing Young Offenders Act is based on the needs of young offenders. By correctly enforcing the Young Offenders Act, we could individualize the treatment needed by each youth to become an honest citizen.

The Supreme Court of Canada took at least 15 years to interpret the act concerning the needs of young offenders and to say what it really means. How many years will it take it to interpret what the legislator meant when he said that the seriousness of the offence must take precedence over the sentence, the treatment and the process? How long will it take the Supreme Court of Canada to determine the issue of the day to day application of the act? There is a series of automatic processes.

Today, with the bill the government wants to impose on Quebec, judges will use a grid to assess a case and simply put a checkmark depending on the severity of the offence, without being able to take the kind of action they would like to take. That is the difference between the two.

During my tour I met Quebecers who dealt with victims of crimes, including people from CAVAC. They shared the same opinion as everyone else. They were against the approach chosen by the Minister of Justice in Bill C-7. I would have like the minister to have heard that.

I also met fathers and mothers who told me that I was not making the point clearly enough that the Young Offenders Act gave them the tools they needed to help their children get back on the right track.

Youth crime does not affect only those families where children are neglected by the parents. If there is one thing that is true about youth crime, it is the fact that it affects families indiscriminately, whether the parents' wallets are full or empty. Youth crime can affect rich families as well as poor and needy families.

People asked me to stress the fact that the Young Offenders Act gave them the tools they needed, which they will no longer have once Bill C-7 has been passed. Everything will be based on mechanisms. Certain decisions that parents can make now will be left to the system. This bill will take all responsibility away from the parents. It will destroy the balance reached in Quebec over a period of more than 20 years between the needs of the young offender, his or her accountability, society's intervention and the measure.

Over the years, a balance has been reached, and everyone agrees that this bill will hurt that balance. I urge, and this will conclude my speech, both the Prime Minister, who is from Quebec, and the Minister of Justice, who is responsible for the bill, not to go ahead with this piece of legislation. I urge them to send this bill back to committee to allow us to work on it some more so we can find a compromise for all the provinces, but most of all so Quebec can continue to use its approach, which has been proven effective.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

As my colleague said, I even heard aboriginal people, the sons of the federal government, state in a press conference that Bill C-7 will never be applied on their territory. We will continue, even though the federal government passes its bill, to apply the Young Offenders Act on our territory. They even said that this act did not necessarily reflect their cultural values, but that it included everything they could use to get closer to these values and that they were getting good results. Even aboriginal people, and they can certainly not be accused of being separatists, are opposed to the government's bill. I challenge the members opposite: no one in Quebec supports Bill C-7.

Yesterday, the Minister of Justice misquoted the letter from the Quebec bar association. It is not true that the Quebec bar association supports Bill C-7. Just contact them through Carole Brosseau, to whom I spoke personally. This is misinformation.

To get a letter from the bar association, the government even said that the Bloc Quebecois had moved amendments to Bill C-7 in committee, but that is not true. The Bloc Quebecois never moved an amendment in committee.

The Bloc Quebecois will never seek to have an act that is so flawed, ill-conceived and dangerous for Quebec amended. We did not do so in committee and we did not do so at report stage. We simply did not. It is being intellectually dishonest to tell the Quebec bar association, in order to get a letter from them, that the Bloc Quebecois moved an amendment on the speediness of the proceedings and that we were satisfied. This was not true. No member of the Bloc Quebecois was satisfied with that. Contrary to what the minister said yesterday in the House, the Quebec bar association does not support the bill. No one in Quebec supports this bill.

I am convinced that some government members have friends in the national assembly. Jean Charest, the saviour of the Liberals opposite, does not support the federal approach. Liberal, PQ and ADQ members unanimously condemn Bill C-7. Does this not mean anything to government members? Do they not realize that they making a mistake?

They always think that they, the government, know best, that they are right and that everybody else is wrong: all the experts, youth court judges, reporters, lawyers, crown prosecutors and criminal lawyers whom I have met and who have expressed their views on this, all those who are working under the Young Offenders Act, and the unanimous position of Quebecers. Can they all be wrong?

It would be so easy to make things right, and it is still not too late. The government should wake up, realize that it is mistaken, that members are mistaken. It is still not too late, before third reading, to refer the bill to committee in order to include an amendment that would allow those provinces that so desire to take a more repressive approach and to let Quebec keep its approach, which has required a good deal of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop over the years—

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was about to use a few choice words that are popular in Quebec. However, I will carry on. I will take a deep breath, because it is very difficult to concentrate when we are constantly being interrupted. I will now deal with the core of this issue.

We realized very quickly that there was a consensus in Quebec. Even though I had already toured Quebec, even though I had already met people from English Canada, following the refusal of the Minister of Justice to hear witnesses from Quebec on Bill C-7 which is a response to Quebec, I decided to do another tour of Quebec.

I was accompanied, as everyone knows, by Marc Beaupré, the actor who played Kevin in a televised series. His life and professional experiences differ from mine, but he delivered an excellent message and did a very good job. I am taking this opportunity today to thank him for depoliticizing the whole debate. He comes from Lanaudière and has not only depoliticised the whole debate, but has raised perceptions in Quebec. I think he has improved perceptions there of our treatment of young offenders.

On top of that, I went to hear these witnesses, people the minister refused to hear. I met them on site: at youth court, in centres for young people, in rehabilitation centres, in group homes for young people and in social groups. The minister would have done well to listen to them, because their message was clear.

They do not want, for all sorts of reasons, to have Bill C-7, which will be passed here in the House in a few hours perhaps, applied in Quebec. What they want is to continue to apply the Young Offenders Act as it stands and to try to apply it better, if that is possible.

I was surprised to learn that it could cost an additional $200 million to $250 million a year to implement Bill C-7, the bill no one in Canada wants, except perhaps the Alliance. Over five years, the federal government will invest and pour $1 billion into this system of criminal justice for young persons.

If the Liberal government opposite has $1 billion for young people it does not know what to do with, instead of paying for the luxury of new legislation, it should take the money and give it to the provinces, as they are asking it to do.

In committee, representatives from five Canadian provinces came to tell us that, if asked to choose between a complex, incomprehensible and unenforceable piece of legislation such as Bill C-7 and cash, to use their term, they would prefer the cash. Why? In order to pattern themselves as closely as possible on the Quebec approach, which is based on rehabilitation, stepping in at the right time and treating youth fairly, which produces concrete results, results we have all seen. Department of Justice statistics document these results. Given a choice between new legislation and cash, they want the cash.

I am certain that if we invested $1 billion on improving enforcement of the Young Offenders Act, the results would point more in the direction of continuing with that legislation. Very good results would also be obtained in the other Canadian provinces, as they are in Quebec. What is needed for the legislation to be enforced properly is money, not new legislation. The problem lies in the perception of the Young Offenders Act, not in the act itself.

The federal government puts out publicity on almost anything going: Canadian defence, Canada Post, the protection of small birds, fish, just name it. Why?

Why does the federal government not publicize the real costs of properly enforcing the Young Offenders Act? There has been success in some cases, and in many cases in Quebec. I have personally met people who, at the age of 15 or 16, committed a murder. Today, they are anonymous members of the public. For all sorts of reasons to do with families, gangs or drugs, they committed a reprehensible act, but at least we saved them and they are now anonymous citizens.

What good will the minister's wonderful legislation do, if a 14 or 15 year old youth gets a life sentence? As we know, under the current system, that youth would serve 25 years. In 25 years from now, that 15 year old youth will be 40. He will still be in the prime of life, but he will have spent half of his life in a school for crime, an adult prison. What will he do?

In adult prisons, there is no treatment such as the one provided to young people in youth centres. He will serve his time, as they say in the penitentiary jargon. What good will it do to society that that youth get out at 40? The protection of society might be ensured for 25 years, but that is pushing the problem forward.

Today, under the Young Offenders Act, that youth may be sentenced to six years of detention at worst, but those are six years of firm treatment, six years with specialists, because there are several working on any given case. Afterwards, he will be monitored over a 10 year period, until they are sure he has been rehabilitated or is on his way to be so. During 16 years, that youth will be monitored.

Eventually, he might end up paying taxes like us. He might have children. He might get integrated in the society in which he lives. He will not be branded as some would like him to be, with his name published, his picture in the papers and a life sentence for a 14 or 15 year old youth.

I can already hear people say “But this would make it possible for a province to prevent 14 and 15 year olds from getting an adult sentence”. This is true, but do members realize that a young person will still have to stand trial in an adult court, with adult rules?

It is only after the trial, whether he is found guilty or not, that the order comes into play. Despite the order, the crown prosecutor might still ask, for all kinds of reasons, that this young person be given an adult sentence. There would be a trial, with a very complex series of judicial measures before that, such as the adult court.

Would this be a service to both the population and the 14 year old to have him tried as an adult, to treat him as an adult? Would we solve his situation or his case? Would society feel more secure if this young person were tried as an adult? There are all kinds of legal fictions in this bill. Government frontbenchers say, one by one, that a youth justice court judge will hear these cases, that they will no longer be referred to an adult court.

This is true verbally, but when we take a look at clause 3 of the bill, we realize this is not the case. The government thinks we have not read the bill. To say this demonstrates a lack of intellectual rigour, because this is not the case.

The bill does provide that a youth justice court judge will be responsible, but in fact it will be a superior court judge who, for such trial, will be deemed to be a youth justice court judge. I know very well that in several judicial divisions of Quebec and Canada, youth courts do not have the necessary facilities to hold trials by judge and jury.

Everything is provided for in the bill. Such cases will be tried before adult court, but for the purpose of the proceeding, this court will be “deemed to be a youth justice court”, and the judge will be “deemed to be a youth justice court judge”. This is going very far. It is tantamount to being tried before adult court. Furthermore, the age limit will be lowered from 16 to 14. A young person aged 14 could be tried as an adult.

People across the way tell us that the bill does not affect Quebec's approach. On what planet do they live? During my 12 to 14 day tour, among the many people I met, there was not one who supported the bill. Everybody wishes to keep the Young Offenders Act.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 10:25 a.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, finally we are reaching the last stage of bringing forth a new law in respect of young criminal offenders.

When I first came to this place in 1997, I remember the minister commenting on how youth justice was on her list of priorities and had been since the previous spring. It is now the spring of 2001, four years later. Four years for this piece of legislation is just a little much, especially when we look at the lack of the quality of this bill.

Canadians soon became disenchanted with the Young Offenders Act when it replaced the Juvenile Delinquents Act, but just wait until this youth criminal justice act begins its journey through our courts and through our justice system. It is an abysmal attempt to relegislate our youth justice law. It is complicated and will be extremely costly, as legal argument after legal argument is made over what parliament's intention was when it is passed.

The bill will unduly delay justice for young offenders, for victims of youth crime and for communities. Anyone listening to this speech will quite naturally ask why. Because this government was never interested in listening to sound arguments and suggestions for improvement. Why? Because the government had a preconceived strategy to merely go through the motions over a number of years and appear to hear from interested parties from one end of this country to the other, while having no intention of deviating from its own determination of what was right for its citizens.

I will spend just a few moments to outline the progress of this legislation.

In 1997 the justice committee completed a cross country review of the Young Offenders Act and made a number of recommendations. One of the most significant recommendations of that committee was to include 10 and 11 year olds under the youth justice legislation. Remember that Liberals controlled the committee as they made up the majority of the body. The committee heard of a number of tragic cases whereby 10 and 11 year olds were committing serious and violent crimes, and thumbing their noses at police and the justice system. These young law breakers knew that the present law would not touch them.

The committee also heard case after case whereby social welfare or children aid facilities lacked the expertise and the resources to properly assist these delinquents to get back on to the straight and narrow.

The justice committee recognized the necessity to bring 10 and 11 year olds into the more formal youth justice process for the safety and security of communities, but especially for the interest, guidance and protection of the offenders themselves. There should be a definite desire to address misbehaviour before it develops into more serious criminal activity and before it becomes too late.

Bill C-7 fails to include 10 and 11 year old offenders. Those who are in so much need for assistance and redirection will not get it. The government does not seem to be interested in helping those who desperately need it. The minister's answer seems to be that we should just leave it to present social welfare organizations even though it has been acknowledged that they are failing and have failed in that regard.

In 1997 the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Ontario came to an agreement on youth justice at what was known as the Prince Edward Island conference. One of the proposed amendments to the Young Offenders Act was to reduce the age of criminal accountability. As I already mentioned, this aspect was completely ignored by the government's youth legislation even though those provinces represented a significant portion of the country.

Those provinces also agreed on a number of issues, such as: first, providing for easier transfer to adult court and automatic identification of repeat and serious offenders; second, application of their victim surcharge to young offenders; third, restriction of legal aid to circumstances where youth or the guardians cannot afford to pay for legal services; and fourth, mandatory custody for offences involving the use of weapons.

Needless to say the government did not listen to these provinces. Their proposals were ignored and disregarded. This was in spite of the fact that it was the provinces that were on the ground floor, so to speak, on the whole aspect of youth justice.

In Canada the provinces have constitutional responsibility to administer our youth criminal law. The federal government merely makes the law and leaves it to the provinces to try to administer whatever mess the legislation creates. No wonder we often question why the provinces and the federal government seem to be at odds with each other over so many areas of mutual involvement.

Our constitution could not have been drafted any better for the federal government. It writes the law and then when the law causes difficulty, impossibilities, criticism and outrage, it merely points an accusing finger at the provinces and their administration of the legislation.

As we can see, the government refused to listen to its own justice committee and it refused to listen to the provinces, its partners in the youth justice process. I do not know how much influence the minister even had over her own legislation. We all hear how the Prime Minister's Office seems to dictate and direct almost everything that happens in parliament. I do know that she is ultimately responsible as this legislation has her name on it.

However, so far I have only spoken about the situation back in 1997. She still had a lot of time to rectify legislation that was so far off track. After all, she still had debate in this place to consider. The justice committee would also have had the opportunity to review the legislation and propose changes, and the House would have had the opportunity at report stage to consider further proposals.

I remember very well the fall of 1997 and spring of 1998 because it was when I first came here. For a number of months the minister kept answering questions about legislation to replace the Young Offenders Act. Upon her appointment as Minister of Justice in the early summer of 1997, she stressed that a new youth justice program was among her priorities. She also characterized the Young Offenders Act as “easily the most unpopular piece of federal legislation”.

For the rest of 1997, all 1998 and into the spring of 1999, the official opposition pressured the minister to introduce her long promised legislation. We all should remember her continual claims that it would be coming to the House in a timely manner or fashion.

In March 1999 it finally arrived as Bill C-68. It was little more than a revision of the Young Offenders Act. A significant number of experts and persons involved with the youth justice process criticized the legislation as being as bad as or worse than the Young Offenders Act. Others characterized it as being essentially the Young Offenders Act with a new name, the youth criminal justice act. In any case, the government merely brought in the legislation to put off the pressure that had been coming from all directions over just where the youth justice legislation was.

Not much was done with Bill C-68 when the House recessed for the summer of 1999. Over the summer the Prime Minister prorogued parliament and the bill died on the order paper. It should have stayed dead.

At the beginning of the second session of the 36th parliament, the justice minister again talked about youth justice legislation appearing in a timely manner. She then reintroduced her legislation as Bill C-3. It was nothing more than Bill C-68 with a new number. From its introduction in October 1999 until parliament was dissolved in October 2000, the government had clearly indicated that it was not open to suggestions. After almost a year before the justice committee, and after a significant amount of witness testimony, the Liberal dominated justice committee referred the bill to the House of Commons unchanged.

The committee did not deal with any of the submitted amendments. It received approximately 250 proposed amendments, including roughly 150 from the government itself which were primarily technical in nature. The Bloc submitted two amendments. In summary, its amendments were to keep the Young Offenders Act or exempt Quebec from the youth criminal justice act, allowing the province to continue operating under the Young Offenders Act.

The Progressive Conservatives had some very practical suggestions that would likely have received support from many members of the official opposition. The NDP proposals were not generally in accordance with our views and we likely would not have supported them.

I proposed approximately 50 substantial amendments which followed much of what had been heard through the justice committee process, as well as a number of changes to simplify what many experts deemed to be a complex piece of legislation that would become a haven for legal arguments throughout the various court levels. Youthful offenders would be subject to inordinate delays, legal aid costs would sore, as would costs for court administration, crown attorneys and police.

At report stage of Bill C-3, the opposition parties and the government resubmitted their committee amendments. In addition, the Bloc decided to filibuster the process and presented more than 3,000 proposals to send a message of its dissatisfaction with the bill. Consequently, Bill C-3 died on the order paper with the election call in October 2000.

The legislation was essentially reintroduced as Bill C-7 in this parliament. It was almost in the same format as it was when it was known as Bill C-68 in 1999. In over two years the government merely reaffirmed its intention of refusing to accept any significant change.

Just recently the minister, in response to one of my questions in the House, attempted to confuse Canadians when she suggested that she had made some 182 amendments to her youth criminal justice legislation. Yes, she made about that number of changes, but at least 90% of them were as a result of poor drafting in the first place. The government, after almost two years as a priority and after months of promises to bring forth legislation in a timely fashion, ended up rushing the law into parliament with a significant number of French translation problems and a number of inconsistencies between various clauses.

Other amendments included in Bill C-7 were as a result of the government finally recognizing some of the problems created by its legislation. Some things would just not work as set out in Bill C-68 and Bill C-3.

Other changes came about as a result of lobbying by special interest groups because they came from left field and had never been discussed or argued before the justice committee. However not one word changed as a result of the work of the justice committee or the amendments proposed by the opposition. As I said before, the government was obviously not ever in a position to consider amendments through the parliamentary review process. It was a done deal.

The whole process of parliamentary review has been in fact a sham. The opposition, the government backbenchers, the committee process are merely window dressing to assist the government in selling its program for youth justice. There has never really been an open review toward improving proposed legislation. It has already been decided that only the powers within this government know what is best for Canadians. Some might say that is indeed a shame.

I say it is essentially a fraud on the Canadian people. We are all sent here to do a job as best we can and to have our input into having legislation take into account the interests and concerns of all the various parts of the country. When we are essentially placed in a position of merely going through the motions for appearances sake, the something is drastically wrong with the process.

Some listeners may suggest I am being unduly harsh and critical of this legislation. I do so because of my concern for a proper and effective response to the universally accepted failure of the Young Offenders Act. When the country fails to properly address youth crime, we fail those young persons who get themselves on the wrong side of the law. When the process becomes so time consuming and complicated that many offenders are able to beat the system, we lead them and their peers into believing that they can get away with breaking our laws. When we fail to properly rehabilitate those young offenders, we do them no favour as it often becomes too late to subsequently bring them back on track.

It is not just the offender. What about the family of the offender who sit on the sidelines to witness that young person repeat and perhaps move on to more serious and violent crime? What about the victims of those initial and repeat crimes? It is a common fact that the most common victim of youth crime is another youth. Young people assault other young people. Young people sexually assault other young persons. The list goes on. What about the communities? When a young offender does not receive proper guidance and reformation, that person will likely reoffend against the same community against which he committed his original crime.

No wonder citizens and communities do not feel safe and secure these days. We have all heard the horror stories of the failure of the Young Offenders Act. I am afraid we will hear the same stories when this youth criminal justice act works its way through the system.

The government has had almost four years to bring in an efficient and effective bill to address the youth justice problem. It has had the opportunity to hear from experts and professionals from right across the country. It has had the opportunity to hear from the provinces to address their concerns. It could have done a much better job than Bill C-7.

I fully appreciate that many members and Canadians have not had the opportunity to spend the time on this legislation as I have. I have been the official opposition justice critic responsible to watchdog this particular piece of legislation. As well, I have been a member of the justice committee since the bill first saw the light of day back in 1999.

I would like to cover a few aspects of my concerns. The minister likes to play lawyer games and provide half truths and worse about this bill. It is her job to sell the legislation after all. She needs the support and she is forced to sing the song to get it.

First, the bill formerly recognizes a process of what has been described as diversion or alternative programming. The process has been around for a number of years, and I have worked with it myself for over five years now. It is essentially an informal process of dealing with the young person who becomes sidetracked and breaks our criminal law. Specified members of the community, the offender and perhaps the victim get together and decide how to best recognize the damage done and how best to have that offender address the misconduct and the misbehaviour. The offender accepts blame, faced agreed upon consequences and moves on with his or her live hopefully having learned the error of his or her ways. The program has a good success rate, when limited in scope.

The problem with Bill C-7 is that this procedure is not restrictive. It is open for repeat offenders and is available for violent offenders. Being an informal system, there will be little, if any, accounting to ensure that the offender has learned the error of his or her ways if the system permits offence after offence without a more formal and serious reaction by society to the criminal behaviour.

The minister said that it would be up to the provinces to police or administer. We proposed to limit this scheme to no-violent first time offenders, essentially a one time opportunity to avoid a criminal record and get back on track. The minister refused to consider this proposal and has merely dumped the problem on to the provinces.

The problem of extrajudicial measures is very similar to the government's introduction of conditional sentencing a few years back. Conditional sentencing was brought in for adults to permit less serious offenders to serve their sentences at home. However, in that case as well, the government did not limit the use of that form of more lenient sentencing. We have seen our courts provide home sentencing to violent, serious and repeat offenders. Victims and communities are outraged.

The minister has finally recognized that there is a problem and that it should now be studied. Are we to end up with the same problem with youth extrajudicial measures when it is allowed for violent and repeat youth offenders? I thoroughly support diversion and alternative measures but their use must be restricted, otherwise its whole use will come into disrepute. Once again, however, the government will not listen.

There is also major concern over the legislation and its presumptive offence scheme. For some reason the government has severely restricted the list of offences for which a young person is liable for automatic adult sentencing and identification. The minister has been saying that there is provision for naming those who receive adult sentences. What she has not said is that there is also provision for those young persons to apply to have their identity protected.

There is also major concern over the lack of sufficient resources for our youth justice process. For years now the federal government has been delinquent in paying its share of the 50/50 cost of youth justice with the provinces. The minister has been trumpeting the fact that the government has allotted $206 million over three years toward the initiation costs of the new youth criminal justice act. Nowhere has she acknowledged the already significant shortfall on the shared financial obligation toward youth justice.

Two hundred and six million dollars sounds like a lot of money, and it is, but it is over three years and it is for all the provinces. The provinces are already raising the red flag that there has been no real cost analysis of the increased demands of the changes proposed by the legislation.

Obviously in the past this government has not been too concerned about ensuring that young offenders receive sufficient and proper supervision and rehabilitation. The government's cheating on the 50/50 formula is evidence of that. It is no wonder there is so much skepticism about whether the $206 million will be adequate to address the additional demands of this law. We are going into the new initiative with no idea of its cost. Only the Liberal government operates in this fashion.

Then there is the opting out clause, clause 61, whereby the provinces can create a different criminal law from province to province. Under this clause, an offence as serious as murder would be treated differently depending on the province in which it is committed.

The government is not too keen to hear criticism of the legislation. It is bringing in closure on debate of the bill. Whenever it gets into trouble it does that. How many Canadians realize that the legislation would reduce sentences for the most serious offenders? The bill would mandate a supervisory or probationary period after custody. That period would be half the custody period. Therefore, instead of serving a maximum sentence of three years in custody, as was done under the Young Offenders Act, the most serious offenders would only need to serve two years in custody and would be able to serve another year at home under some form of supervision.

The minister often relies on the fact that the Bloc criticizes the legislation as too harsh and the Canadian Alliance criticizes it as too soft. She says that she has a balanced approach that is between the two alternatives.

With all due respect, if the bill is hopelessly flawed—and I would use stronger terms but that might be unparliamentary—then it is expected that the opposition parties will disagree with it from different angles. The minister's response is a copout. She has failed in her duty to develop proper and effective legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I know you are aware that about eight and a half years ago my son Jesse was murdered as he walked home with two friends from a party on a Saturday night. He was murdered in what was determined to be a random, unprovoked attack on the street by six total strangers. He was knocked to the ground unconscious, beaten, pummelled with a shopping cart and stabbed once in the back as he lay on the road. A 16 year old was charged and eventually convicted. I can therefore say that I have experienced the youth justice system from an entirely different perspective than most members in this place.

My family and I spent 20 months in the courts. We experienced the youth justice process. We heard the excuses. We went through a transfer hearing. We heard counsellors come in and say that the offender did not need to be transferred to adult court because all he needed was to finish high school and receive alcohol counselling.

In the ensuing years I have come to know many families of victims of young offenders.

Less than a week after my son was murdered there was a case in Courtenay, British Columbia, where a young girl, six years old, was murdered by her neighbour. He was 15 at the time and was on probation for sexually assaulting three young children a year earlier. The reason that happened was that under his probation conditions no one was monitoring him and he was allowed to play with young children. The police did not even know about him and his neighbours certainly did not know about him.

That opened my eyes to the whole issue of anonymity for young offenders. I have been a firm believer ever since that people must be aware when they have sex offenders in the community, even if they are young offenders.

There is also the case of Mr. Graham Niven, a 31 year old man murdered on the street by a 15 and an 18 year old. The last thing Mr. Niven did in his life was help out a 14 year old by giving him the last of the change in his pocket to take a taxi home. A few minutes later he was dead at the hands of a 15 year old.

I went to court with that family and had to sit through the snickering, laughing and high fives that went on continuously between the accused and his friends. That is the attitude some of these young people have with our court system.

As a sideline, that offence occurred in Coquitlam. The mayor at the time was Mr. Lou Sekora, a former member of this place. I recall like yesterday the hoopla that Mr. Sekora raised. He said he would come to Ottawa and change the Young Offenders Act. However after a photo op with the former justice minister and a bit of press for about a week we never again heard from Mr. Sekora on the issue, even when he came to this place as a member. It was more Liberal lip service.

Another case is that of Mrs. Jeanne Richter, a 79 year old widow beaten to death by a 15 and a 19 year old. Young girls in the courtroom who were friends of the accused were partying, winking, smiling and laughing as if it were something that happens every day. Again, that is the attitude.

I do not suggest for one minute that this is a reflection of all young people. It is a very small minority. Unfortunately the government, through this legislation and philosophy, chooses to treat these young people the same way it would treat a 12 year old shoplifter. That is wrong.

Yesterday during report stage debate I heard some of my colleagues in the Bloc speak of an actor who spent time in a youth facility studying for a part in a particular project and decrying the treatment of young offenders in prisons. Things could be done to improve the lot of young offenders who are incarcerated. I certainly do not argue with that. However I think the actor might like to spend time with me and my family, even eight and a half years later. Within the last month two of my son's best friends have seen the birth of their first children. He should see how we deal with that.

There is a family in Alberta mourning the loss of a 16 year old son just last week. Maybe the actor would like to spend a week with them and see it from their perspective.

After my son's murder I made a commitment to try to effect change. I have spoken at schools for the past eight years. I have spoken with young people, parent groups and legislators. I appeared before the justice committee a couple of times before I came to this place. I have done so to increase awareness and to make young people understand what they are doing, what they are getting into. I think it gets through to most of them.

As I said before, I work with a diversion program because I believe it is more important to prevent crime in the first place. However that does not mean that those who choose to persist in criminal behaviour or commit serious or multiple repeat offences should be treated with leniency. As long as the philosophy persists that killers and rapists should be treated in the same manner as shoplifters, Canadians will never accept the process.

I will close my comments by saying that this is definitely not the last we will hear of the youth criminal justice act. We will be back time and time again to debate its failures and propose changes. Instead of trying to get it right the first time the government seems more intent on getting it passed as is and leaving it to others to rectify. Unfortunately the bill is such a mess that it will not and cannot be remedied piecemeal after it passes this place. The bill is doomed to failure and as parliamentarians we are failing Canadians by allowing it to become law.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
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Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act.

The youth criminal justice act is a balanced, fair and effective approach to youth justice that is supported by a majority of Canadians.

Of course, there are many views on how to address a topic as complex as youth crime and the youth justice system. Some argue that the youth criminal justice act is too harsh. Others argue it is too weak and not tough enough. The federal government, which is responsible for criminal law, has heard these views and considered them in the development of the youth criminal justice act.

The youth criminal justice act is not about what is tough or easy, but about what is fair and appropriate. I would like to focus my comments today on recent get tough recommendations made by the attorney general of Ontario.

Before addressing some of Ontario's specific recommendations, I will first comment on Ontario's claim that it has not been allowed to voice its concerns about the youth criminal justice act. This claim is simply baseless.

The Minister of Justice met with provincial and territorial ministers of justice on this issue on a number of occasions and she has heard Ontario's views. Furthermore, Ontario, like all other provinces, was invited to have its officials participate in the parliamentary committee hearings on the bill. It was Ontario's choice to decline to participate in this forum. Instead, it held its own hearings after three years of consultation and debate.

Let us turn to some of Ontario's recommendations in its get tough approach.

Ontario recommends that 16 and 17 year olds be automatically tried and sentenced as adults when charged with a serious offence, such as murder, attempted murder and manslaughter. This recommendation is part of Ontario's call for adult time for adult crime. This may be a catchy sound bite but it is a terribly flawed youth justice policy.

Bill C-7 makes it clear that 16 and 17 year olds who commit serious offences can receive an adult sentence. The bill provides a presumption that a young person 14 years of age or older found guilty of the most serious offences should receive an adult sentence. These offences include murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault and repeated other serious violent offences. The presumption means that it is up to the young person to persuade the judge that he or she should receive a youth sentence rather than an adult sentence.

Bill C-7 also permits provincial prosecutors to apply for an adult sentence for any offence for which an adult would liable to more than two years in prison. This allows provincial prosecutors to request an adult sentence for a wide range of offences.

Unlike Ontario's proposal, the youth criminal justice act does not make adult sentences automatic. The youth criminal justice act reflects a belief that judges can be trusted to consider the specific circumstances of a case and to determine whether a particular offence and offender requires an adult sentence. It also assumes that provincial prosecutors can be trusted to seek an adult sentence in appropriate cases. If the judge finds that a youth sentence would not be adequate to hold the young person accountable, the judge is required to impose an adult sentence.

Ontario's proposal neglects to take into account that judges, after having heard all the elements of the case before them and after consideration of the facts, are best placed to determine whether a youth sentence would be adequate to hold the young person accountable or if an adult sentence is appropriate. Ontario apparently does not trust its own prosecutors to use their judgment, consider the circumstances of a particular offence and apply for an adult sentence in appropriate cases.

Allow me to address another area of Ontario's concerns. Ontario recommends applying adult parole provisions to young people who have received an adult sentence for murder.

Under Bill C-7, if a young person receives an adult sentence for first degree murder a life sentence would be imposed. What is fundamental to a youth justice system is the underlying principle that a youth has a better chance of rehabilitation and a re-integration into the community. This is precisely the reason for which we have allowed for intensive rehabilitation programs to be initiated where appropriate.

It is important to remember that no one serving an adult murder sentence would be released unless the parole board is satisfied that the public would not be at risk if the person were to serve a portion of the sentence in the community, under supervision.

Ontario also recommends that the maximum youth sentence be increased. Ontario fails to specify what the maximum youth sentence should be and it fails to provide any rationale for increasing the maximum sentence.

The youth criminal justice act does not increase the maximum youth sentences for a good reason. There is no evidence that judges have found the existing maximum sentences to be not long enough. Longer maximum sentences are not required to impose meaningful consequences that are fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. Longer maximum sentences would not increase the likelihood that the young person will be rehabilitated.

Ontario may not be aware that young persons often receive sentences that are more severe than the sentences adults receive for the same offence. For example, for eight of the nine most common offences in youth court, youth currently receive longer periods of custody than adults who receive custody for the same offence. In addition, youths spend more time in custody than adults with similar sentences due to the adult conditional release provisions. These are interesting statistics indeed.

Ontario further recommends mandatory non-discretional sentences for 12 to 15 year olds who receive a youth sentence for murder.

Under the youth criminal justice act, the judge must impose a custodial sentence for murder. The maximum youth sentence for a first degree murder is 10 years and the maximum youth sentence for a second degree murder is 7 years. The judge determines what proportion of the sentence will be served in custody and what portion of the sentence will be served in the community, under conditional supervision. If the young person breaches a condition of the conditional supervision, he or she can be returned to custody.

It is very unusual for 12 to 15 year olds to commit murder. If such an event occurs, it requires a careful consideration of all the circumstances of the offence and flexibility for the judge to design a sentence that will hold the young person accountable for the offence by imposing meaningful consequences while promoting the rehabilitation of the young person. This is the approach taken in the youth criminal justice act. It is based on the assumption that judges are quite capable of exercising their discretion appropriately.

Ontario recommends that co-accused adults and a young person be tried together. Bill C-7 is based on the fundamental principle that young persons aged 12 to 17 are not adults and they are entitled to separate rules and procedures to take into account their reduced level of maturity.

For nearly 100 years in Canada, young persons charged with offences have been tried separately from adults. A separate trial for young persons and youth courts are a cornerstone of the youth justice system in Canada and throughout the western world.

Although joint trials are possible under the Young Offenders Act, if a young person is transferred to an adult court they are rarely used, and the current transfer process has many problems, including complexity, long delays and unfairness. These problems are addressed in Bill C-7 through the new adult sentencing provisions. All youths would be tried in youth court and only if and when the youth has been found guilty does a court turn its mind to the appropriate sentence. This is fairer and more efficient.

Ontario further recommends that the focus on alternatives to custody be removed. The youth criminal justice act emphasizes the importance of alternatives to custody because a major problem under the Young Offenders Act is the very high use of custody, particularly for the less serious and non-violent offences.

The youth incarceration rate is higher in Canada than in other western countries, including the United States. The youth incarceration rate is higher than the adult incarceration rate in Canada.

About 80% of custodial youth sentences are for non-violent offences. Alternatives to custody, such as requiring the young person to repair the harm caused to the victim, can be more meaningful and more effective than custody in terms of rehabilitation.

Ontario locks up more than 12,000 young persons a year. Ontario has one of the highest rates in the country of incarcerating first offenders found guilty of minor theft. Ontario has been criticized by its own provincial auditor for wasting taxpayer dollars by failing to use more alternatives to custody.

Bill C-7 emphasizes the importance of alternatives to custody while retaining considerable discretion for judges to decide on a fair sentence that holds the young person accountable based on principles of proportionality and promoting the rehabilitation of the young person.

Ontario also recommends that the youth criminal justice act permit publication of the identity of any young offender who is 14 years or older and is charged with a serious offence for which an adult sentence is being sought for the duration of the trial. This recommendation would mean that whenever a provincial prosecutor decides to seek an adult sentence the identity of the young person would be made public before a judge even determines whether the young person was guilty of the offence. This would place enormous power in the hands of prosecutors. It would be fundamentally unfair to young persons who are entitled to be presumed innocent and would largely destroy the longstanding protection of privacy of young persons.

The youth criminal justice act would provide a much fairer approach. It would permit the publication of a young person's identity after a young person has been found guilty of the offence and a judge has determined that an adult sentence is necessary to hold the young person accountable.

It is clear that Ontario's recommendations cannot be supported. Ontario's approach is overly punitive and fails to recognize that young people are not adults. It is not supported by research and it is not reflective of the approach that most Canadians support. It also reflects a fundamental lack of competence in judges and prosecutors being able to exercise discretion to achieve fair, proportionate results. It also lacks faith that youth can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into communities.

Bill C-7 is a much more balanced, fair and effective approach to youth justice. It would require meaningful consequences to be imposed yet recognizes that such consequences do not necessarily require incarceration or sending a young person to an adult system. It emphasizes the importance of prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration. It recognizes that young persons are still maturing and should be treated differently from adults. It recognizes that the circumstances of an offence can be complicated and that judges should be able to consider these circumstances in determining a fair, proportionate sentence.

The youth criminal justice act is legislation that most Canadians support because, unlike Ontario's approach, it is based on fundamental principles of fairness.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 29th, 2001 / 10:15 a.m.
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Western Arctic Northwest Territories

Liberal

Ethel Blondin-Andrew Liberalfor the Minister of Justice

moved that Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, be read the third time and passed.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 7 p.m.
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The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded divisions on the report stage of Bill C-7. The question is on Motion No. 1, as amended. A vote on this motion also applies to Motion No. 3.

(The House divided on Motion No. 1, which was negatived on the following division:)

Business Of The HouseGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 5:55 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions with the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following. I move:

That Motion No. 1 of Mr. Bellehumeur (Berthier—Montcalm), seconded by Mr. Bergeron (Verchères—Les-Patriotes), to amend Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, as reported by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights with amendments, be amended by replacing the word “ten” with the word “twelve”.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 5:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, since debate started on Bill C-7, I have learned how effective the Young Offenders Act was in Quebec.

This all began with the press conference my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm held in Sept-Îles, which was attended by many organizations dealing with youth, including the police chief. On that occasion, I collected many testimonials about how well youth had been helped.

During the recess, I travelled around my riding. I met with parents and of course the discussion dealt with Bill C-7. I heard very emotional testimonials. A mother, with tears in her eyes, told me how, in Quebec, her husband had been helped when he was young. Who did not make any mistake? Who among us can boast that he never made a mistake?

That woman told me that today he is out of trouble and he is angry because this government is so pigheaded. Never in the history of any government have we seen a government so stubborn in its position against another government, against a nation, over a law that is so good and that has proved so good in Quebec. An expert from Montreal told us “It has been said before, and I say it again, that law is universally approved in Quebec”.

Another witness told me “My kid is 14 years old; he is too young to buy cigarettes, too young to buy booze, too young to vote. But the federal government says that he is not too young to be judged like an adult, that he should act like an adult. Giving a last chance is not an option”.

We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the parents of these children. I do not know how many of the members have children. If one of their children was to tell them that they have made a mistake, a serious mistake, they would ask for another chance, for a last chance. Are there any parents who would say no, it is over, you will be punished?

I think that our society is more modern. We pride ourselves on living in the most beautiful country in the world. We go out and meet people who really care and who ask, with emotion, if this is at all possible.

What will the Liberals from Quebec do? The question has been asked. How will they react? How will they vote? That is something we have been asked. How will they vote? I disappointed a lot of people by saying that we are used to seeing them follow. When the time comes for a vote, their leader gets up and they all follow, voting as he did. They do not have the right to speak.

What is great in the Bloc is that we have the right to speak. We have the right to express ourselves. I think the Bloc's history in Ottawa proved that a long time ago.

It is unacceptable and incomprehensible for the government to continue being so stubborn. Worse, the government submits motions for time allocation. It is because what we are saying is too much for its taste. The Bloc Quebecois and the opposition parties are too honest and candid. Why spend time, money and energy on modifying a legislation which is satisfactory for everybody in Quebec?

In my riding, more specifically in Havre-Saint-Pierre, I met someone who had had some bad experiences and was being rehabilitated. He told me: “Mr. Fournier, the Quebec legislation is excellent because it served me quite well. I got a second chance”. Therefore, I am convinced we should not interfere with that and barge into an area of provincial jurisdiction, of Quebec jurisdiction.

I am eager to hear the position of Liberal members from Quebec when we vote on Bill C-7 shortly. I urge them to vote with the Bloc Quebecois. Quebec is looking at them today. It is not a minority but a majority of Quebec citizens who are looking and these members will have to live with the consequence of their vote. They will be politically marred for the rest of their life.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 5:05 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on Bill C-7.

The Liberal government appears to have only reintroduced its previous legislation, Bill C-68 and Bill C-3. In Bill C-7, the name of the bill was changed for window dressing but the problems remain. On top of that, using closure to stop debate and move the bill through clearly shows the government does not care and lacks the political will to have effective legislation in the youth criminal justice act.

I would like to ask if this is what happens to the top priority of the justice minister. It is shameful. The amendment we are currently debating, put forth by the fifth party in the House, calls for a requirement to divulge the identity of a young offender to any professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person. This requirement to make known the identity and record of a young offender falls on the shoulders of the provincial director, a youth worker, the attorney general, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to young people.

This amendment kicks in if such disclosure of this information is necessary, and the bill says it is necessary to ensure that the young person complies with orders under the act, to ensure the safety of staff, students and other persons, and to facilitate the rehabilitation of the young person.

This amendment is reasonable. It is the least of what this side of the House is asking of the government. It is a shame the Liberals are stuck with their heads buried in the sand, refusing to allow even basic amendments to their bill even though they have introduced or accepted 182 amendments, 180 of which are just technical in nature, which shows that when they drafted the bill it was poorly drafted from just a technical point of view as well.

The amendment we are debating today is what the Canadian Alliance asked for at committee stage of the bill. People in our society such as teachers, counsellors, camp counsellors, volunteers, sports coaches, supervisors at religious events and many others need to know that there is a young person in their midst who is capable of violent behaviour.

It is with regret that I watched the infamous video clips on BCTV when a student in a school badly beat his schoolmate while other kids watched. Someone from the group secretly videotaped it. I saw in yesterday's or today's news that this aggressor has joined boxing to let off steam. I believe that Canadians want such aggressive behaviour or the offenders in those cases identified, in this case to the coach and to other officials who are responsible for management and supervision of other youths in that group.

The refusal of the government to accept an amendment that would notify people in supervisory roles about the presence of a young offender in their midst is typical of the way the government has handled the bill.

After months of review and after hearing so many experts on all aspects of youth justice systems, the only changes the government has agreed to make are technical amendments proposed by the government to correct the technical errors of Bill C-3, the predecessor to Bill C-7. The government has not been open to changing any aspect of its legislation.

All of the opposition parties except the Bloc presented substantial amendments to Bill C-3. Those amendments did not receive debate in parliament. What a shame that we are not debating those amendments here. They were not accepted in the committee. They do not appear to have been considered by the government at all.

The Minister of Justice has tried this legislation three times and three times she has struck out. The Canadian Alliance, through its former version, the Reform Party, and the justice committee first endorsed alternative measures for first time non-violent offenders. The minister has once again failed to restrict this form of conditional sentencing. It is open to repeat offenders and it is open to violent offenders.

The list of presumptive offences for which an adult sentence may be imposed is severely restrictive. The list includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. It does not include sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a host of other serious violent offences.

In Bill C-7 the minister has further weakened the legislation by limiting presumptive offence procedure even more. Through clause 61 any province may decide that only 15 year old or 16 year old offenders who commit offences such as murder could be transferred to adult court, while 10 year olds and 11 year olds would still not be held criminally responsible for their crimes. There is a free ride.

The legislation would create a patchwork or checkerboard system of youth justice as many of its provisions permit the provinces undue discretion in deciding whether to seek adult sentencing, in publication of names and in access to records, to name just a few.

The legislation provides some movement toward victims' rights but even those are not ensured and are still woefully inadequate.

The provinces will be tasked to administer this legal nightmare but the federal government does not seem to care. This weak Liberal government, which is so arrogant, which lacks vision, which lacks backbone, does not care. The Liberals have not been open to a serious discussion of the proposals in their youth justice law.

The Liberals have promised $206 million over the first three years for the implementation of the bill, but that will not even come close to meeting their responsibility of providing 50% of the funding for youth justice. The Liberals have allowed federal funding to slip to about 20%. The provinces have to carry the can financially for these proposals, the costs of which will rise dramatically through legal argument and procedure.

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.

For instance, the presumptive offence provision that moves youth 14 years of age and older automatically to adult court for murder et cetera, now permits the provinces, that is, Quebec, to raise the age to restrict the transfer to only 15 year old and 16 year old offenders. Age of application remains at 12 years to 18 years, and there are still restrictions on naming violent offenders.

The bill still has an emphasis on attempting to understand the circumstances underlying criminal behaviour and on rehabilitation and reintegration. The protection of the public plays second fiddle. Denunciation and deterrence seem to be foreign words to the government.

If the legislation passes, the complexities and loopholes would cause horrendous delays and costs to our youth criminal justice process. Legal bills would be phenomenal. The government should understand that deterrence should not be a motivation to commit a crime. The amendment, if accepted, would provide for deterrence. It would also provide an opportunity to develop solutions for a safer environment.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 4:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, despite the interest and concerns that Canadians have expressed over the failure of the Young Offenders Act to deal effectively with youth crime, the Liberal government seems to be at a loss for finding a solution to this problem. Today the only solution the Liberals are willing to impose is closure. I am very disappointed in the response as there are serious issues that remain to be debated.

The Minister of Justice introduced the legislation into the House, but unfortunately the new legislation contains very little, if anything, that will address the ineffectiveness of the Young Offenders Act. The lack of substantive change is not surprising, given the lack of consultation and the failure to listen to the many Canadians who have reasonable solutions to offer.

In a substantive way, the closure being imposed today by the Liberals is symbolic of the seven years of not listening to the people of Canada and to the concerns that they have over the Young Offenders Act.

I appreciate some of the comments raised by members of the Bloc. There certainly are issues that need to be discussed. However I would suggest that the Bloc need not worry about this bill sending anyone to jail. The bill is so convoluted that I would be surprised if the youth will ever get out of court and out of the clutches of judges and lawyers. They will certainly never see the inside of any type of rehabilitative program that could assist them. In that sense I certainly agree that the law is not a good law.

I also would express some sympathy in the Bloc's desire to ensure that the programs that it already has in the province that are working should be allowed to continue under the act. There should be a measure of flexibility to account for different programs and different issues that we face in different parts of the country. We can do this without taking the drastic and radical step of suggesting separation. I think the confederation is flexible enough to take into account some of these differences. However, given that the Liberals are imposing closure in the matter, there are a few things that need to be discussed.

The first is the specific issue of notification to school and child welfare authorities in respect of young offenders. The Canadian School Boards Association, the Canadian Association of School Administrators and the Canadian Teachers Federation have called on the federal government to make the disclosure of this information mandatory. I also received letters from a number of local school boards in my riding and across Canada which called for parliament to support the amendment to Bill C-7.

I heard the concerns expressed regarding a possible failure to keep the information confidential. These organizations and the people who are in these organizations, our school administrators, are well acquainted with the requirements of confidential information and how to utilize that information in a legally appropriate way so as to assist other students and, indeed, the young offender himself or herself in the context of the school.

I met with representatives from the school boards. They impressed upon me the need for school authorities to be informed if there were, for example, dangerous offenders among the students. They are not asking for a broad publication, but simply that the school authorities know so that that information can be taken and used for appropriate purposes.

The amendment would not only provide for safer learning environments, it would also enable schools to direct necessary assistance to those young people who were in the process of rehabilitating themselves back into society.

These school boards want to be real and effective partners with the government in the process of keeping our young people safe and secure. However, the federal justice minister refuses to take the step to help school officials provide such a safe learning environment. She has said repeatedly that the provision already exists in the proposed youth criminal justice act and permits provincial officials to provide this information.

However, it should be pointed out that the present Young Offenders Act already provides for this discretionary sharing of information in these cases, but as we all know that process has failed. The new bill simply reintroduces past failures. The minister ought to listen to reasonable people across Canada who want to provide every possible support. The executive director of the CSBA has said “Without an amendment requiring information sharing we simply can't do our job”. She says “Our surveys indicate that information sharing has been inconsistent—sporadic at best”.

One of the other significant shortcomings of Bill C-7 is its failure to make provisions to assist youth under the age of 12. I have raised this issue in the past but the government has done nothing to remedy these shortcomings, to put in place a system that will prevent under 12 year olds from becoming repeat offenders and indeed hardened criminals.

While the minister attempts to justify this failure on the basis that the provincial child welfare system would deal with children under 12 who are involved in criminal activity, it is clear that the child welfare system on its own, without the assistance of our youth courts, is not equipped to deal with children whose criminal conduct brings them to the attention of the authorities.

It is evident from recent statements by the Minister of Justice that the real reason for Liberal reluctance to improve the proposed youth crime legislation is the financial commitment that would be required in order to assist children under the age of 12.

The Canadian Alliance has proposed that we provide the courts with the power to allow them to provide to these children the same rehabilitative measures offered by the act to those over 12 years old. Working together with provincial child welfare authorities in a co-operative and co-ordinated fashion, the youth courts could supervise these children and ensure that we save them from a life of crime.

The most significant issue aside from legislation and the lack of substantive reform in this new bill is that the minister has refused to financially partner with the provinces on a 50:50 basis. When asked why, she has said that the federal government does not have the money. This is a federal program, a federal initiative, and yet she expects the provinces to pick up, in effect, 75% of the cost of her program. The minister is asking us as local taxpayers to pick up the cost that the federal government will not pick up.

Although there is some initial funding over the first number of years, the funding, as is well known with other federal programs, becomes discretionary. As we know all too well, the funding will eventually diminish if not disappear.

Last, the bill is a complex bill. Mr. Rob Finlayson, a committee witness from the province of Manitoba and assistant deputy minister, said on April 25 of this year:

On the complexity in proceedings and drafting, the complexity of the YCJA is perhaps the first thing that strikes a person who attempts to read it. This complexity has two undesirable consequences. It makes the act extremely difficult to understand, and it will create delay and cause court backlogs.

Mr. Finlayson, the assistant deputy minister, has a long history of working in the courts and indeed at one time was in charge of youth prosecutions in the province of Manitoba. He understands the issue. Canadians understand the issue. Why does the Minister of Justice not understand this problem?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm when he spoke about his amendment a few moments ago. I wish to draw to the attention of the House the fact that there is an error in the text of the amendment as shown in today's order paper and notice paper.

The amendment proposed by my colleague should read as follows:

3.1 The lieutenant governor in council of a province may, by order, fix an age greater than twelve years—

It says 10 years in the document but it should say 12. I know the member for Berthier—Montcalm will see to it that the necessary correction is made.

The amendment that was tabled and signed by the member says “twelve years” but there is an error in today's notice paper. You should have this information, Mr. Speaker, so the necessary correction can be made. My colleague is taking care of it.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7. I listened to the member who spoke before me and he expressed his support for the amendment proposed by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

To understand this amendment, one has to look at the bill because the text of the amendment itself makes absolutely no sense. If one reads paragraph 125(6) of the bill, one will see that it says:

125.(6) The provincial director, a youth worker, the Attorney General, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to young persons may disclose—

The amendment proposes to replace the word “may” with the word “shall”. This kind of amendment can only be characterized as trivial. In a bill containing such a large number of pages and clauses, an amendment is proposed to replace the word “may” with the word “shall” in one particular paragraph but not anywhere else where there can be disclosure.

Clause 125 is all about disclosure of information. It says “may disclose” in virtually every paragraph. Why is it that all of a sudden, in paragraph 125(6), it should no longer be “may disclose information” but “shall disclose information”?

The clause said that information may be disclosed to teachers. I do not understand why this should be turned into an obligation. It is not always necessary to disclose information to all teachers involved with a young person. In comprehensive schools, there is not just one teacher in charge of a group of students.

A student who is considered an offender could have classes with 10 or 12 teachers in a single week. Should the information be disclosed to all of them? We might as well brand him or her on the forehead so that everybody knows he or she is an offender. It would be like in the United States, where convicted offenders have to hang a sign at their doorstep saying “A pedophile lives here”, or “A sexual offender lives here”.

Where are we heading with this kind of policy? In all simplicity and truthfulness, I worry very much about the future of Canadian society when I hear some of the debates we have had in the House since 1993. If this bill is passed, I hope Quebecers will understand that they do not want to be part of a country that deals with its young people is the way Bill C-7 would. We should get out of this country. It is urgent. It is a fundamental reason for leaving when we cannot agree on such a thing.

I heard what the Ontario attorney general had to say. He wants the bill to be even more repressive. Let those who want to travel that road do so but give us a chance to maintain the status quo because it works.

Why does the minister not want to understand? Why do the ministers of the Canadian government who represent Quebec not want to understand? I have often heard the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister for International Trade say “Quebecers are well represented in cabinet. We are Quebecers”.

I wonder how Quebecois they are if they cannot understand the message sent by Quebecers who do not want Bill C-7. What are they waiting for to stand up and say to the minister to go back to the drawing board? This does not make any sense. This is unacceptable. I fail to understand why the federal Liberals from Quebec are the only ones to agree with this bill.

All the representatives of the people in the national assembly, who represent the people of Quebec, unanimously said no to Bill C-7 “We must keep the law as it is; we want to continue to make the crime rate go down; we want to continue to rehabilitate our young people who are experiencing difficulties”.

A young person who is experiencing a delinquency problem at age 12 is not a criminal. He is not a bandit. Unfortunately he is a child who was poorly raised, who was neglected by his parents and who was badly influenced in school, by a movie or something else, but something happened to him. He was not born an offender. He became an offender but he was not born so. At the time of their birth, children have the potential to become balanced and honest people, good workers, sincere persons and so on. Society shapes them. Then they become victims.

Why should we not approach children in a way which would treat them as victims rather than criminals? It is irresponsible on the part of adults not to acknowledge the importance of taking care of children and rehabilitating them instead of putting them behind bars.

We had the opportunity to meet young Marc Beaupré, who helped my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm on his tour of Quebec and who met several colleagues. He told us that in order to portray his character on TV, he spent short periods in prison. This allowed him to learn things to better play his role.

I wish he could be a member of parliament for one day in order to stand in the House and tell members what inmates tried to teach him during his short stay in prison so he could become a real criminal. He was taught the tricks of the trade. Prison is not the appropriate place for children. Coercion is not the way to rehabilitate young offenders. They must be taken charge of and given the support they need to become rehabilitated and honest citizens.

In Quebec, some children had the misfortune to commit reprehensible actions. Society as well as justice took care of them. There are even people who did reprehensible things when they were young and who have since become ordinary citizens and active members of their community. They have become fathers and mothers who take good care of their children and raise them the right way. It is a lot better than to have sent them to prison where they would have become bad seeds, which is exactly what this bill wants to do.

Among the amendments brought before the House is a cosmetic one. Members know as well as I do that when applied cosmetics do not last long and do not mean much. We know what cosmetics are worth. It is only a cover-up attempt that does not deal with the real issues.

My hon. colleague has put forward some basic and fundamental amendments. The lieutenant governor in council of a province should have the authority to exempt his or her province from the application of this legislation.

During question period today, my colleague from Roberval told me “If the minister refuses to write it down, she must have reasons to do so. She knows full well that it will be not be possible afterwards”.

If the hon. member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, among others, has some influence in cabinet, I strongly urge him to stand up and say that as a true Quebecer he supports Quebec's demands.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 4:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to speak to the Motion No. 2 at report stage consideration of Bill C-7 dealing with the issue of young persons.

The Young Offenders Act has been the talk of Canadians for a long time. I have received numerous calls and petitions in my riding in reference to the Young Offenders Act. The government is now making an attempt to address these concerns, but like everything else it does it is a haphazard attempt to address the concerns of Canadians.

I listened to my colleague from the Bloc who said that whatever amendment was done was because the minister was from the west. I should like to tell him that there is uniformity across the nation in asking that the Young Offenders Act be reviewed, that proper amendments be made and that concerns be addressed. The government has failed to do so.

Today the government brought in closure on the bill. It left the impression that it is serious about the issue of young offenders and was bringing in closure in order to pass the bill. However the history of the government on the bill has been very poor. It has been in the process for six and a half years. The government dissolved parliament without thinking about the impact of that on the bill. I hope Canadians do not see closure as an attempt by the government to take the issue seriously because it is not.

We support the motion in amendment put forward by my colleague in the Conservative Party because a concern has been expressed by teachers, and rightly so, that they need to know what they are dealing with. I will repeat what some teachers in Calgary have said.

According to statistics Calgary schools are no strangers to violence. In the 1999-2000 school year more than 1,300 students in Catholic and public schools were suspended for incidents related to drugs, alcohol, weapons and assault. That is a huge number. We are putting an undue burden on teachers. Naturally they need the tools by which to deal with rising violence in schools so that they can protect students and provide rehabilitation for those who need it.

Not related to this, only yesterday there was an unfortunate incident at a Calgary high school where two young students went outside to fight. Regrettably one of the students lost his life. The incident has shocked everyone in Calgary. It underlines the fact that teachers need the tools to stop these kinds of things.

We are all very saddened that a young, promising individual lost his life. For what? From the newspaper I understand that it dispute had been brewing in the corridors for a while. If teachers had known about it, I am sure they could have addressed it and cooled passions, and a young man would not have lost his life. School boards are requesting that they be given the tools to address the issues.

As usual the government only went halfway by saying that it may disclose information on violent offenders to school boards if it feels it is necessary. Those involved in teaching and school affairs have said that such a system has not worked. Let us look at what they have said.

The president of the Alberta School Boards Association, says the provisions do nothing to improve the release of information to schools. Let me quote her:

We are looking for the amendment because we believe without it you are going to get the haphazard (situation) that we have right now.

No one has to share information so it is left to the person to decide who needs to be told. That has not worked. It is left to someone else to decide what information is important and what information is not. When the decision is left to someone else, the right information may not go fast enough. As a result, we do not know what kinds of situations there are in our schools.

We need to create an environment of safety. Schools need a safe environment. They are where our children learn. Our children are the future of the nation. What children learn in school will form and shape the society of the future. They therefore need a safe environment in school where they can go and learn without fear or intimidation. Newspaper reports across the country and across the continent have shown an increase in school violence and this is creating concerns.

I have a son who goes to Lisgar high school in Ottawa and at times I am concerned about violence in school. I am concerned about the atmosphere in which he is growing up. At times that puts pressure on me to find out what is happening.

It is commendable that teacher associations have raised these issues. They are looking after the best interests of students, and rightly so. We should give them the tools. However the bill would leave the decisions to someone who is not in the school system. It would be up to someone outside the school system to decide whether the information should or should not be released to schools. As a parent I am saying that it should be released to the schools and to teachers.

I heard the argument of my colleagues from the Bloc who are opposing the motion. They say they do not want to go this route because, if I understand correctly, youth crime is not very high in Quebec. At the end of the day we need to create a safe environment in schools so that students can study, which is what they are there for.

In conclusion, I feel it is very important that we support the motion. I am happy to support it although I do not support the bill in totality.

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May 28th, 2001 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, many things were said about Bill C-7. I listened to the speeches made by some Liberal members and I am very disappointed.

If there is one issue where we must avoid playing politics, and I try to avoid it myself, it is the young offenders issue. I sincerely doubt that if they have to rise to vote for this bill as they did for the motion to curtail the debate, these members will do it with great relish.

I spent 14 days doing a whirlwind tour of all Quebec's regions. I met with judges, lawyers, Crown attorneys, stakeholders, victims, persons in charge of centres for victims of crime and senior citizens. Even the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens of some administrative regions supported the approach, not the Bloc's approach, and it was more a social than a political tour, but the purpose which was to defeat Bill C-7 proposed by the Minister of Justice and to allow Quebec to continue enforcing the Young Offenders Act.

I met at least 20 organizations per region or more than 400 people. Right from the beginning I knew there was a consensus in Quebec. After the tour, it was obvious that we should not talk of consensus but of unanimity. Everyone I met unanimously said that the justice minister was on the wrong track and that by wanting to impose her own vision of things she was jeopardizing the Quebec approach, that shows beyond any reasonable doubt that we have a winning formula.

I spoke from a non-political point of view in a non-partisan way. As members know I was accompanied by Marc Beaupré, the young and talented actor who played Kevin in the TV series Les Deux frères , in order to reach a segment of the population that we, as politicians, are unable to reach simply because we may enjoy the credibility we justly deserve. Our credibility among people in general is not very high. This actor was very surprised to see that nobody was in favour of the minister's legislation.

I do not understand Quebec Liberal members who rise to say the opposite of what their constituents are saying. Earlier as I was listening to the speech by the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry—I do not want to play politics—I was wondering if he was on the same planet as I was.

I am convinced he was simply reading from a speech prepared for him and which he was delivering without being aware of its content. He went as far as making light of his Liberal friends in the national assembly who unanimously voted with the government in favour of a motion asking the Government of Canada for a special allowance so that Quebec might continue implementing the Young Offenders Act. He even ridiculed his colleagues in the national assembly saying that they did not know what they were doing. Imagine that.

Frankly I realize that the justice minister might have made commitments to her constituents in western Canada who, under the influence of the Canadian Alliance and the right wing movement in Canada, are asking for a much more punitive legislation to deal with young offenders. Coming from Alberta, the minister undoubtedly made such a commitment.

I do not want to bring up politics but the minister can, if she wants to, answer all the expectations of the west as well as those of Quebec.

I have moved the only amendment which should be accepted here. The amendment we are talking about would add a couple of words to a subsection without changing the ultimate purpose of the legislation. We are totally against such an amendment.

Rotten apples will stay rotten apples, no matter what. The same is true with this bill.

That is why the only acceptable amendments, to please everybody as well as to make concessions are the two proposed by the Bloc Quebecois. According to one of those amendments the lieutenant governor in council of a province may, by order, exempt from the application of Bill C-7 a young person between 12 and 18 years of age. In such a case the Young Offenders Act would continue to apply in that province.

This would please both sides. Those who wish a stricter legislation would have Bill C-7 which will be passed and those who wish to continue enforcing the Young Offenders Act will be able to do so since one section would allow it.

Some will ask if this is legal, if it is constitutional. I would not promote something that was not. Some may have doubts and questions when it comes from me but a legal opinion was tabled in the national assembly.

Three constitutionalists, people doing law involving young people, examined these amendments or similar ones. With the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada on the application of criminal law, on regional differences and the social aspect of criminal law, they concluded that it was legal and feasible.

The government can do it but one thing is lacking: political will. When I reached out to the Minister of Justice this morning I was sincere and am still. It is not too late. Let the minister set her bill aside. Together we will repeat the tour of Quebec I did in the past few days. She will be able to see for herself. She will hear for herself what the regional stakeholders have to say. She will see how the Young Offenders Act is applied daily. No one will support her proposed repeal of the Young Offenders Act, on the contrary.

Today I have the clear impression that the minister is in a glass bubble here in Ottawa. She is defending a bill drafted by public servants in Ottawa's fine office towers who have absolutely no idea how the Young Offenders Act is applied on a daily basis.

Today these officials have made it a personal issue. They want the bill passed at any cost, even at the risk of threatening a Quebec approach that shows how well we succeed in Quebec. We have the lowest crime rate. They want to implement it at any cost and win, as if they had something to win.

It is not too late. If the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister are sincere when they say they want to allow Quebec to continue to enforce it, I would hope that they will act on it, that the minister will first agree to tour with me and that she will then vote in favour of the amendments we have proposed.

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May 28th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the report stage amendment to illustrate as an example the larger difficulty with Bill C-7.

The amendment to change the word may to the word shall at page 129, clause 125, line 4, is a case sample of fundamental philosophical confusion. The Liberals cannot manage and they really do not hear the public either for they perpetuate the outdated system agenda rather than an accountable people community agenda.

The minister said 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.

It sets out a range of extra judicial measures. It is to establish judicial procedure and protection for young persons alleged to have committed an offence. It is to encourage participation of parents, victims, communities, youth justice committees and others in the youth justice system. It sets out a range of sentences available to the youth justice court. It is to 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. Those are the claims of the government.

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 tabled legislation three times and three times she struck out. For example, the minister once again fails to restrict conditional sentencing. It is open to repeat offenders and it is open to violent offenders.

The list of presumptive offences for which an adult sentence may be imposed is severely restrictive. The list includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. However it does not include sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a host of other serious violent offences.

The minister will further weaken the legislation by limiting presumptive offence procedures even more. For example, in clause 61 any province may decide that only 15 or 16 year old offenders who commit offences such as murder could be transferred to adult court. Ten and eleven year olds are still not to be held criminally accountable for their crimes.

The legislation would create a patchwork or chequerboard system of youth justice as many of its provisions would permit the provinces undue discretion whether to seek adult sentencing, publication of names and access to records, just to name a few. The legislation would provide some movement toward victim rights but even those are not ensured and would still be inadequate.

British Columbia has had a legislative basis for diversion since 1968, some 33 years ago. Parliament has been struggling with a criminal set of rules since 1908 to address the specialness of young offenders. Now we have a bill that is so complex it caves in upon itself to accomplish the original broad objective.

We need to clarify the basics. We are striving for a set of rules that outlines 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 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. 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 tries to accommodate violent offenders and criminal code precepts such as protection of society and denunciation.

Clearly the 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 will not be diminished with this prime example of Liberal ideological confusion.

This is why the symbolic yet substantive amendment is very important. It is about knowledge to care. If a social welfare agency, a social worker or school authority is 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.

The previous minister of justice had no satisfactory answer when I asked him in question period about the principle of disclosure, all the secrecy around the operations of the law, and to deal with the theory of preventing community shame for young people to give them a fresh start. How can pursuing that theory be justified when its very operation has caused unnecessary deaths as a consequence? The government persists in pursuing its unsubstantiated theory even though people have died because of it. Secrecy has no place in young offender court proceedings and its final judgments.

In summary, the bill is so misguided that it will be back to the House in the future. It is not based in its substance on a reasonable canopy of values. The preamble of the bill is nice sounding fuzzy mush. Then comes the substance of 171 pages that does not put to rest what communities want: predictability, reliability, clarity, being operationally pragmatic and having political legitimacy.

The report stage amendment before us today reveals the utter confusion upon which the bill is based. My community does not support that kind of a bill and I cannot justify it either. Consequently I will be voting against the bill at third reading.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 4:15 p.m.
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Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

John Maloney LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond today to Motion No. 2 to amend Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act.

Motion No. 2 calls for clause 125 to be amended to make the disclosure of information about young persons mandatory rather than permissive. Clause 125, like the Young Offenders Act, specifically recognizes the interest that a school, professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person may have in receiving information when a young person is dealt with in the youth justice system.

Clause 125 would allow the provincial director, the attorney general, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to a young person to disclose identifying information to any professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person, including a representative of a school under the following circumstances: first, to ensure compliance by the young person with a court order; second, to ensure the safety of staff, students or other persons; and, third, to facilitate the rehabilitation of the young person. This can be done without a court order.

The clause expands the Young Offenders Act provision that was included in 1995 by adding the authority to disclose information to facilitate rehabilitation of the young person. It is important to remember that privacy protections are a hallmark of the youth justice system in Canada. Any disclosure of identifying information in the youth justice system is dealt with as an exception to the general rule that no person shall be given access to the record of a young offender.

Non-legislative approaches could be developed to assist in implementing and supporting the disclosure provisions of the youth criminal justice act. Provinces could develop guidelines for police officers, probation officers and others on the issue of disclosure of information. Provincial government officials have indicated that they prefer guidelines rather than mandatory disclosure.

The Department of Justice has provided funding for the Canadian School Boards Association to develop an information sharing guide and protocol for the education community relating to information sharing between schools and professionals in the youth justice system.

The disclosure provisions in Bill C-7 strike an appropriate balance between the need to support a constructive role for the educational system and others working with young people, ensuring that pertinent information is disclosed, and the need to respect guaranteed privacy protections and to avoid stigmatization of a young offender.

Unlike an automatic notification approach, the approach in Bill C-7 would enable the exercise of professional judgment which takes into account the circumstances in individual cases, the protection of the public and the impact on the rehabilitation of the young person.

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May 28th, 2001 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill on criminal justice for young persons.

During the week of recess, the Bloc Quebecois members were working; we went on a tour. My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm went on a tour of all the Quebec regions to meet with people. Unlike the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, we met with people and asked them their views about the young offenders bill.

In Quebec, many representatives of organizations with a particular expertise on troubled youth or young people with delinquency problems have a different approach. They told us that the bill was unacceptable and that it was a major change of direction with respect to the rehabilitation of young persons who have committed minor or serious offences.

This does not mean that we do not deplore the fact that these young people are committing criminal offences, serious offences against some people, and that it affects society as a whole.

I heard the new member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, who got elected on the promise to have a bridge built in that riding, say that once again the Bloc Quebecois wanted to delay the passage of the legislation and that we were in bad faith. I remind the House that we have done some field work. In my riding, representatives from 15 different organizations, people who are working with street youth or in youth centres, came to tell us that this legislation represented an approach totally contrary to the one in Quebec.

I remind the House that the Jasmin committee was struck to conduct a study aimed at improving the approach used to work with young people who have committed serious criminal acts. What we wanted in Quebec was to act more swiftly, ensure consistency of action and give more room to parents and victims, and to have a good measure at the right time.

The legislation put forward by the minister ignored that approach. To illustrate what we mean when we say that our approach is different in Quebec, and that it brings a good measure at the right time, I will summarize Hughes' case and how under Bill C-7 that young person would be accompanied.

Hugues would appear before a court after his offence. Given the antecedents of the accused, the crown would deny him a release on bail and Hugues' counsel would agree by strategy. After a 30 day period, at best, the trial would begin and Hugues would finally be found guilty.

What would happen then? A pre-sentence report would be requested. After a minimum of 30 days, the report would recommend eight months detention. Hugues would have already served two months of temporary detention. The judge would sentence him to four months in prison. Hugues would serve two-thirds of the sentence; he would really serve 80 days, at worst. Note that during the 80 days of detention, Hugues will not have access to rehabilitation programs; he will be left to himself. Finally, our specialists, teachers and scholars will become prison guards.

That is the bill this member, who says he is a Quebecer, will support. He will support the federal minister. Under the existing Young Offenders Act, there is a totally different approach providing immediate support. This is what the Jasmin committee requested: quick action in dealing with young persons who have committed a serious crime.

There will be an appearance before the court and a request for a report on the adolescent. His background will show that his belonging to a street gang is the problem and that he is retrievable. The crown and the defence attorney will probably agree on a training and social reintegration program where he will be kept away from his gang. With a six or eight month social intervention program, Hugues has a chance. He will be working with specialists who will be more demanding

Members can clearly see that the approach we offer in Quebec is different. I do not understand how the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry can say this comes from the Bloc Quebecois. It goes well beyond the Bloc, it is a consensus. Therefore, one must think twice before supporting this bill.

Another event occurred last week. A motion was unanimously passed at the national assembly. I must stress that the Parti Quebecois and Bloc Quebecois members are not the only ones to oppose the minister's bill. There are also federalist members in the national assembly who adopted a motion asking for Quebec to be excluded.

Why is it that when questions are asked in the House—

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May 28th, 2001 / 3:50 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate Motion No. 2 to amend Bill C-7. I would like to draw the attention of the House to the content of the motion itself, which amends the word may to read shall.

What is the significance of that word? That word tells the judge that he shall make information available to the appropriate school authorities, among other people. They have to be people in a responsible position who need to know information. That is what we are trying to achieve. Why is this so important? Without knowledge, it is impossible to deal with the problem.

This act deals with young offenders. Sad to say, there are among our young people those who commit violent acts and do things they are not supposed to do, things which society says should not be done. Some people would argue that the only way to deal with them is to put them in jail or incarcerate them somewhere. That is not the only way.

It is impossible to help young people to understand what they have done wrong and how they can right it without first knowing who they are. We need to know who they are if we are going to have a program of rehabilitation and a program that will prevent future behaviour of this type. That is the absolute number one requirement. That is what this amendment does. I am very surprised that there are members in the House who are avoiding this amendment. That amendment should pass unanimously in the House.

Some might ask why are some people not supporting this amendment. I have to refer back to question period today. I was terribly surprised at the response from the Minister of Justice to a question raised by the member for Fraser Valley concerning two children who were forced to visit their father. The conditions of that particular order were such that we had to wonder where the common sense was in this situation. Rather than sympathising with these poor children who did not want to visit their father, the minister said the system said they had to go. A social worker had to intervene in this case.

It was absolutely atrocious that the Minister of Justice, who had the golden opportunity to sympathize, to show compassion and recognize that there was perhaps a flaw in the system, did nothing. She defended the system, then the law. She did not recognize that there could be a problem. There are problems not only in this instance, but also in a variety of other instances.

While a lot of things can be adjusted in this young offenders act, this is an instance where there should be no quarrel. Yet, we had to bring to the government's attention not only at committee level, but at report stage the fact that some changes had to be made.

We need to recognize that the reason why school officials need to know is because they act in loco parentis. It is significant to recognize what this phrase means. This phrase has been used for school boards, teachers and principals. Teachers who act in loco parentis act in the same position as a well meaning judicious parent. It is not only their actions, it is also their responsibility. They have the responsibility to look after our most precious resources.

There are many people in this House who have children. Probably the most traumatic experience we face is when our five or six year old youngster leaves home for the first time to be entrusted to a teacher. We are giving teachers custody of our children and we have to trust them to act in our best interest as parents and in the best interests of society.

Our judges ought to be acting in that same way. They need to recognize the responsibility that exists in our schools. They need to recognize the responsibility of teachers and principals. Judges should take the same care as if their child were being accused of certain things. What are they trying to do? Hopefully, they are not punishing the child but helping him or her to grow into responsible citizens. That is what the purpose of this should be and that is what it is. That is why we want the word shall in there.

We want it so that the judge shall make it possible that those who are charged with the responsibility of looking after our kids will do so in a manner that will reflect the values of our society and the best thinking among our professional people and among us as well-meaning parents. That is why the word shall should be in there.

I will now refer to a speech made very recently by the ex-prime minister of Great Britain, Margaret Thatcher. She was at a college in the United States recently and reminded the assembled group of a visit she had from Mr. Gorbachev just before the system changed in the communist U.S.S.R.

She made the observation that he recognized that the system was not working and that an attitude had to change. The attitude that had to change was that human beings need to have the incentive to do what is right coming from within them, that the government could not force upon them a certain behaviour pattern. The government tried that for 50 years. It did not work. Finally the economic system broke down. The social system broke down. The judicial system broke down. Fear itself was no longer strong enough to bring these people under control.

Mrs. Thatcher said there is one thing we need to recognize, which is that the human spirit requires liberty in order to evoke the best and most noblest of emotions. That is what we need to engender in young people. We need to recognize that the greatest liberty for youth is to be able to walk down the street safe from the threat of punishment or violent attack. The same thing should happen in the corridors of schools. As well, teachers should know that they are free and have the liberty to work with these youngsters without feeling the threat of being violently attacked.

To do that we have to know who these people are. That is not an infringement on their privacy. They took the public action of committing violent acts. Those acts were not done in secret. They took it upon themselves to make victims of us all, because when one of us is attacked we all suffer, directly or indirectly.

How many of us did not empathize with the two young kids who had to go and visit their father, a convicted sex offender? Who did not? It would be a very callous, heartless person who would not sympathize with that. We did sympathize.

Now we want to create an environment where school officials will indeed have the knowledge and then develop the skills in order to treat these people. Can it be done? Yes, it can be done.

I want to refer to an interview in the Vancouver Province with RCMP inspector Rick Betker. He has been a cop for 30 years and has seen every type of bad guy and heard every sob story excuse.

Why is Inspector Betker waxing so enthusiastic about a program in which the bad guys do not go to jail, do not go to court and do not even get charged? For him the answer is simple: because it works.

What is this program? “Probably for me it is the most positive thing I have seen in 30 years of policing”, he says of the community justice forums he has now started in Victoria's western suburbs, where he commands the RCMP detachment. The idea of the forums is to bring offenders and victims together face to face, with a trained facilitator, to talk about what happened and to work out a resolution that leaves both happy.

Inspector Betker says:

It is very powerful...You can see the remorse (in offenders). You can see...this may be the first time they really realize how their actions have affected not just the victim, but their own family as well.

Here is an RCMP officer with 30 years' experience who shows us a way. It is not the only way, but it is a way that works. Will we give that kind of tool to our educators and school authorities, which is what we are talking about today? Will we tell the judges they shall make it possible for them to do that? Yes, we should do that. I hope we all support this amendment.

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May 28th, 2001 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could speak without hearing all the barnyard noises across the way. The Bloc Quebecois believes that Bill C-7 favours repression over the rehabilitation of young offenders. Even the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm said in this regard “that the new legislation continues to focus on repression by neglecting the needs of young offenders. Once more, the federal government has rejected the consensus in Quebec that focuses on rehabilitation, an approach that is working in Quebec”.

I read this in the press release he issued at that time but we are still asking the question. We get the impression that we are not reading the same bill. There are two sides to a coin. They read the bill one way, and we read it another.

We know very well that the objective of the federal government in Ottawa is not to marginalize young offenders. The purpose of this bill is to prevent crime, to ensure the rehabilitation and the reintegration of minors into society and to show that when they commit an offence there are real consequences.

The Bloc Quebecois cannot oppose such objectives, which will make our communities safer as well as allow for the rehabilitation of young offenders. We are talking about rehabilitation, we are not talking about repression. This is why the bill provides that young offenders who have committed a serious crime and gets an adult sentence will be held apart from adult criminals.

While these young poeple are in custody, they are supervised and those in charge will provide them with any therapy or other program needed for their rehabilitation into the community.

We should realize the obvious: the Bloc Quebecois exaggerates all the time. It is a grand master of the art of blowing things out of proportion. The balloon eventually blows up.

The Canadian government is not intent on repressing adolescents. The measures in the bill give the preference to rehabilitation and the reintegration of young offenders into the community. We should speak the truth. Some, especially in that party, have a tendency to tell the opposite of the truth.

We want young offenders to get the help they need to develop in our society. A young offender is just starting in life. The bill's purpose is to help young offenders through a difficult period in their life in the best way possible so that they can have a fulfilling life afterward.

The Bloc Quebecois is asking the government to withdraw the bill or to give Quebec the right to opt out so it can continue to implement the current Young Offenders Act.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 3:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

When the Bloc Quebecois says that it believes Bill C-7 favours—

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Serge Marcil Liberal Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to recall the facts about Bill C-7 now under consideration.

In the last parliament, the government introduced a bill to amend the Young Offenders Act.

We already had a Young Offenders Act which was enforced differently in different regions of our country. Each province would enforce it in its own way and Quebec is a model in that regard. Quebec has its own culture and thus its own way of approaching problems.

The Bloc Quebecois was very much opposed to the first bill tabled at that time. It had even received the unanimous support of the Quebec national assembly, which had passed a motion in November 1999 asking the federal Minister of Justice to suspend passage of Bill C-3 and to allow Quebec to continue implementing an intervention strategy based on prevention and rehabilitation.

The Bloc Quebecois had moved almost 3,000 amendments. In fact, it had moved 2,977. That was a lot of amendments for one bill, to delay what we call at home—in political language or at least in parliamentary language—filibusters. We came back and we moved amendments; we moved them to play for time and to prevent passage of the bill.

In February 2001, the Government of Canada introduced in the House of Commons Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice Act. There was also a reason for this. Most of us, Liberal members here in Ottawa had met with some members of the Quebec national assembly to know about the inherent objections to passage of Bill C-3.

Of course, after some discussion, five points stood out and we made representations to the federal Minister of Justice. A specific answer was given to the five points raised by the members of the national assembly in their letter. Of course, not all the members of the national assembly signed the letter. We did not have consultations with the sovereignist members of the national assembly. We had consultations with the federalist members of the national assembly because this is also a federal bill. We really wanted to know their position.

We answered the five concerns raised about Bill C-3. We have amended the bill to completely resolve these issues.

We now learn Quebec's national assembly has unanimously agreed to another motion expressing its opposition.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 3:25 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his limited edification on such an obvious matter. As I was indicating before, the issue before us is the time that Bill C-7 has taken up before parliament and in particular the time that has been wasted by the rampant contradictions of members opposite and their provincial counterparts.

The so-called gentler society in Quebec actually put 23 kids into adult court whereas Ontario's incarceration rate in that regard was less.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 3:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I resume where I left off before question period, when I still had a few minutes left to debate Bill C-7.

During question period it was obvious that the federal government either totally misunderstands the situation or lacks the political will to act.

The Prime Minister himself said that the legislation put forward by the justice minister would allow Quebec to continue to implement the current legislation. However, he was totally incapable of giving us a clear answer when we asked: “Why then not include that provision in the legislation?”

We are all of us legislators and we all know that when we specify or not something in a legislation, we do so deliberately. If the justice minister refuses to grant Quebec the right to continue living with the current legislation, even if the rest of Canada would have a more punitive law, a more rigorous law which would encourage young offenders to end up in prison, if this is the type of legislation the rest of Canada wants, let them adopt it.

If, as he said, the Prime Minister really wants Quebec to continue to enforce the existing legislation, I think that is most important. It is a fundamental question which goes well beyond the Conservative amendment. It is an important question because there is an extraordinary consensus in Quebec on this point.

All stakeholders are against Bill C-7. They say that we must be allowed to keep the existing legislation, which is giving good results because it has reduced crime and permits social reintegration and rehabilitation of our young people.

This legislation is not so easy on young persons. They have to answer questions and they have to understand their responsibility in what they did. The success rate is very high and few of them return to a life of crime, whereas the model proposed by the government is influenced by the strong right wing current spreading in the United States. It is also flourishing in western Canada and in Ontario. Ontario also wants amendments that would make for a stricter legislation.

Would the solution not then be for the minister to make it possible for us to end up with a bill that would allow Quebec to continue to enforce the Young Offenders Act while the rest of Canada enforces another law?

I would like us all to rise to this challenge. If the Minister of Justice accepted this decision, this approach, then in five or ten years we would be able to provide clear proof that the Quebec model yielded the best results, that it was the one to enable our youth to be reintegrated into society and not sent to the school for criminals. I hope we will have that latitude. The government still has the leeway to do so.

Today we are engaged in debating the provisions of the bill at the report stage, along with the proposed amendments. One introduced by the Bloc Quebecois has been turned down. These amendments will be voted on this evening. In the end, the government will also have the opportunity of deciding to redo its work, not start the third reading debate too precipitously but to give itself an opportunity to again consult those who are opposed.

This is not a partisan approach. It is not the Bloc Quebecois calling for this, nor the Parti Quebecois. It is all the Bloc Quebecois MPs here in Ottawa, along with the entire national assembly, which is unanimous in Quebec on this matter, along with all the stakeholders.

I hope the federal Liberal MPs representing Quebec ridings will be in solidarity with this position. If the Liberal members vote in favour of Bill C-7, then they will be quite simply voting totally against the wishes of all Quebecers who want the present legislation to continue.

Here we are faced with a fait accompli. In the report stage debate on the Conservative amendment, this view is important. It is not merely changing the details in a bill. No, for Quebec what is important is for this bill, as tabled by the federal government, not to apply to Quebec, for us to have the right to opt out and continue to enforce the existing legislation in order to get the results we have in the past.

JusticeOral Question Period

May 28th, 2001 / 2:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, they must not understand either, because the same chief said, and I am again quoting:

The errors are quickly forgotten. In fifty years, perhaps they will make available a fund to repair the social damage caused by C-7, as in the case of the residential schools.

Before committing the irreparable and repeating past mistakes with native peoples, is the minister prepared to delay passage of Bill C-7 until she has formally met the native leaders of Quebec and Canada? Is she prepared to meet them before implementing this bill?

Young OffendersOral Question Period

May 28th, 2001 / 2:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have just finished a tour that took me all over Quebec and enables me to state that there is a unanimous feeling in Quebec that Bill C-7 is a bad bill, a useless, costly and dangerous one.

Everyone, seniors, judges, victims of crime, teachers, condemn the minister's bill.

My question, a very simple one, is for the Prime Minister of Canada. Before causing irreparable harm to the Quebec approach, is the Prime Minister prepared to bow to the very broad consensus in Quebec and to allow Quebec to continue to apply the Young Offenders Act in its present form?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 1:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the motion as it is identical to a motion I submitted. It has been put forward because of evidence presented to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The Canadian School Boards Association, the Saskatchewan School Trustees Association and others have presented an argument to the effect that subclause 125(6) of the bill be changed to mandatory language from its permissive nature. What I mean is that the subclause uses the word may and the motion changes the word to shall. Instead of saying that maybe we should be getting schools involved with the youth justice process, we would be saying that we shall get schools involved.

Schools are an important partner in the youth justice process. Our schools, by law, must be accessible to young offenders. Our schools are obliged to facilitate attendance and educational success. Like any employer, our schools have a statutory obligation to ensure the physical safety of their employees, to say nothing of their obligation to protect the safety of their students. These are all noteworthy objectives.

However, as with most noteworthy objectives, there is often a but or an exception. In this case it is this: To properly participate in the rehabilitation and reformation of young offenders, schools must be informed when young offenders enrol within the school environment.

As I have stated, our schools have a number of obligations to the various participants in the system. The interests of employees, students, the community and the school system must be considered along with the interests of the young offender.

The present wording of Bill C-7 states that the provincial director, youth worker, attorney general, peace officer, et cetera, may disclose to those engaged in the supervision or care of a young person, including schools and other educational institutions, information contained in a youth record if such disclosure is necessary to ensure compliance with an order of the court, to ensure safety of staff or students or other persons, or to facilitate the rehabilitation of the young person.

All the motion is saying is that if it is necessary to ensure compliance with a court order, to ensure safety of a school population or to assist in the rehabilitation of a young offender, the necessary information from the youth records shall be disclosed.

Some will argue that this type of mandatory disclosure will abuse the privacy rights of the offender. First, I have difficulty swallowing that argument when the legislation already permits disclosure in some circumstances. The clause says that information may be disclosed. Where is the privacy protection there?

Second and far more important are the security rights of staff and other students at the school. The institution must know the background of the student to provide proper safeguards for all to work and learn in its surroundings. Surely this is an example when the rights of the many should come ahead of the rights of the few, especially when the many are innocent and law abiding and the few have voluntarily decided to break the laws of society.

Other critics talk about the fear that education professionals will not respect the confidentiality of the information. That is also bogus and it is a red herring. Bill C-7 already permits the disclosure of this type of information. It is just not mandatory. There seems to be little concern for breach of confidentiality in these few cases.

As well educational people are professionals. They deal with confidential material every day whether it has to do with child welfare involvement, police investigation or even student disclosure in confidence. There is little, if any, concern about abuse of confidentiality by school board personnel.

Lastly there is the argument of civil liability. I can readily foresee, especially with the way society has been rapidly moving toward holding others civilly liable for damage and harm, that we may be placing the taxpayer at risk by failing to provide this type of information to school board officials. I can imagine a day when a violent young person is released from custody and placed in one of our high schools without anyone knowing the background of the youth.

Should that youth commit another violent crime such as a sexual assault and it becomes known that there was a previous record of violent behaviour, I cannot help but think that the victim and/or her parents would have a case to pursue to obtain compensation for damages and suffering.

After all, we have the state permitting a young person to surreptitiously enter the community and the school, yet we are not providing any notice whatsoever to prepare unsuspecting school employees and students. It is like putting a time bomb in a school and not telling anyone. Surely our courts will hold someone accountable when this occurs.

The government's feeble response to the cries of our citizens to replace the despised Young Offenders Act is most disappointing. For the past number of years I have been actively involved in the review of Bill C-7 and its predecessors, Bill C-3 and Bill C-68. The minister and the government have been quite clear that there is to be no deviation from or improvement on the government's idea of what is best for Canadians when it comes to youth justice.

I am not holding my breath for the government to accept this motion. However it is my job as a critic to present changes such as this motion after hearing from various groups and witnesses from many parts of the country. Nonetheless I urge members of this place to have a serious look at what is a relatively simple proposal. I also urge members to consider whether they want to be responsible for failing to support school boards and institutions across the land.

I will conclude by reading a paragraph from a letter I received from the British Columbia School Trustees Association. It reads:

As school boards, we have the responsibility to ensure the safety of our staff and students, and to provide the best educational opportunities for every student in our care. We also work through our school communities to prevent crime. Young offenders are often students in our care. In order to provide a safe school environment and also facilitate the education (and rehabilitation) of a young offender, it is vital that we have access to information about the young offender.

I urge all members to support the motion.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 1:35 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-7, in Clause 125, be amended by replacing line 4 on page 129 with the following:

“services to young persons shall disclose to any”

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to the amendment which, given the length, breadth, width and complexity of the legislation, would classify as an improvement.

Without getting into a full debate on the merits of the bill itself, the amendment would in essence change but one word in the legislation. I know the Minister of Justice is very interested in the amendment and I know she would not want to miss my comments on how to improve her own bill. The amendment would change the word “may” to “shall”. It would make it obligatory for the justice system, mainly the courts, upon making a finding, to mandatorily inform the school boards, that is, to give them relevant information that could be used in a very productive and, in some instances, protective way to enhance the rehabilitation of a student and, perhaps equally if not more important, other students and those in the educational community.

The amendment has the important backing and blessing of those who are most affected, short of the students, which is the teachers themselves. The Canadian School Boards Association, the Canadian Teachers' Federation and the Canadian Association of School Administrators have all expressed their unanimous support and their desire for the amendment to take place in the current youth criminal justice act.

They, among a plethora of other representatives who wished to have input in the drafting of the bill, were denied the opportunity to appear before the committee. They were denied the opportunity to have input into Bill C-7 prior to it being introduced in the House, as they were on the previous bill, Bill C-68. They were not given the opportunity to speak to the specifics as to why the amendment was necessary. I am pleased to have the opportunity to give members the opportunity to put their thoughts on the record.

One of the justice minister's justifications for not permitting or for not endorsing changing of the word “may” to “shall” was that it would impinge upon a young person's privacy or confidentiality with respect to having been involved in the criminal justice system.

Without being too dismissive, I do not believe that is a relevant response. Teachers routinely and as a matter of course in their profession deal discreetly with sensitive information. As part of their own ethics, as a school teacher and as a person working within the system, they are required to positively enhance a young person's life. To say that this would somehow jeopardize the privacy and the sensitive information about a young person trivializes what an important role teachers play in the development of our youth. It is akin to not giving doctors all the relevant information they need to make a diagnosis.

Allowing the courts to transfer relevant information to teachers for a specific purpose would allow teachers to provide the necessary attention to young people in order to help enhance their rehabilitation and to ensure that when they go back into the school system their specific needs will be addressed. It would also recognize that if a young person had been involved in a violent act or if the act itself involved aggression toward other students, a teacher or property, it would allow the teacher to have all of the information when approaching that child. The teacher could take into consideration the child's education, the education of other students in the classroom and other students with whom the young person might come in contact.

The amendment is very straightforward. It should not require a great deal of consternation on the part of the department or the minister herself. It is one that has broad support among the teaching community and the education systems, the ones which would be most effected.

The youth in question are already protected by other sections of existing legislation, namely the Young Offenders Act, and by virtue of confidentiality sections that are contained in the current bill. It is still a criminal offence to disseminate or use information about a young person's conviction or the terms thereof for a non-specified purpose. This would specify that it would only be used for the purpose of informing schools, principals and teachers. Therefore, to suggest that it would perpetrate a stigmatization of a young person or cause a young person's privacy to be jeopardized or brought into question is simply incorrect.

I submit to the House that the amendment, if it is supported and passed, would enhance legislation that is drastically in need of improvement. It is a complex and cumbersome bill. Those who were allowed to appear before the justice committee indicated that it was unworkable and that it would be extremely costly and impossible to administer by those in the provinces who would have the task to do so.

The amendment would have a profound effect by changing one word. It would make it mandatory for the youth court system to share information about a young person with teachers and school boards. It would significantly enhance the ability of the schools to do their work in conjunction with the criminal justice system. Sharing of information for a specific purpose has its merit. It is something that those who have worked in the justice system or those who have been teachers will be quick to embrace.

I look forward to hearing what other members have to say about the amendment. It is one I urge them to support.

Surely it is repetitive to say that if we can make a positive change or a positive impact on the bill, we should be very quick to do so. The law enforcement community is supportive of the legislation as well.

We know that teachers are much like police in the sense that they are on the frontlines. They are dealing most directly and in a most concentrated way with young persons. It therefore stands to reason that they should be given the information, the support and the backup to carry out their very important duties.

Once again I will put on record the words of Marie Pierce, executive director of the Canadian School Boards Association. She said that inconsistencies in the way information is relayed to school boards could pose a serious threat.

Her comments specifically suggested that lack of information could in some cases cause a serious problem. I illustrated by an earlier example that if a young person has a propensity for violence and has been convicted of a violent offence, it is common sense to suggest that the school board, the teacher and in some instances the principal of the school should know about it so they can act accordingly.

Marilies Rettig, president of the Canadian Teachers' Federation, said justice officials were misguided if they were concerned about the confidentiality of a student's past. She said:

There is no reason to deny us access to information we need to work effectively with justice officials in helping offenders while fulfilling our commitment to all students.

It is about the greater good. It is about ensuring that the community is protected but that the efforts of teachers do not in any way infringe upon privacy concerns. It is specifically aimed at helping students and ensuring that a person in their class does not interfere with the education of others or put others at risk in terms of safety.

The amendment addresses just that. It addresses safety concerns in the classroom. It specifically touches upon the sharing of information in a specific and protected way to give teachers a better ability to know the student, to know the background of the person who is in part the focus of their daily existence. The teacher is in many cases trying to focus on what is wrong in the young person's life outside what takes place in the classroom.

This type of information sharing in specific instances would be addressed effectively and specifically by support for the amendment, the changing of one word. I hope that in their wisdom members of the House, and particularly those on the government side, will also support the amendment.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 1:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to take part in this debate, although I had not intended to, and to say that in the opinion of all Quebecers there is absolutely no comparison between this bill and the act that now applies in Quebec.

The hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles said, and it was well put, that the current legislation in Quebec is designed to promote reintegration of young offenders into society. One can make all sorts of mistakes in life but in Quebec we believe in reintegration. We believe that the sometimes tragic mistakes of youth do happen, and I agree.

Recently in my riding five young people killed an 81 year old woman after breaking into her home. Obviously such a crime does not leave us indifferent in Quebec. It affects all of us. I am especially affected for it happened in my riding, in the beautiful city of Chambly that I have represented in this House since 1993. I admit it has affected the whole community. The crime was despicable if not downright heinous.

However society should not seek revenge. Society must manage our legal system, our criminal justice system, and ban terrible acts like the one I have mentioned. It is not there to seek revenge. The penalty for seeking revenge is very heavy.

Having a young person who made a mistake at age 14, 15 or 16 years of age dealt with by adult court and sentenced to 5, 8, 10 or 15 years in prison, under the rules applying to adults, to hardened criminals, is in fact, as the hon. member for Rivière-des-Milles-Îles was saying, sending that young person to a university for crime.

All young people are seeking to find themselves, whether they are young people who have made a mistake or students trying to choose a career. Sadly, in this quest for a future, for good and evil, some are doomed to failure. The social environment has a major impact. The famous Dr. Mailloux would speak of “maternal deprivation”, a concept that has been greatly overworked. For my part, I do not believe in it. In many cases, we are just dealing with a single mistake.

This is no reason to turn them into hardened criminals, to send them to adult prison where they will complete their education as criminals. We can bet a hundred to one that those young people who live through this situation, who are sentenced and treated like hardened criminals will, in 10, 12 or 15 years, at the end of their sentence, be a bit older, old enough to look for work, since we are asking for their reintegration into society.

In their resumes, they must indicate that they spent 10 years at Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines or 12 at Kingston or Port-Cartier. What employers would take such a risk? They do not know who they are dealing with. They will not hire these youths, even if they are deeply repentant and have chosen to live a respectable life on all accounts. If we do not want to give them a chance and to reintegrate them into society, what option have they got? Once again, they will turn to crime and we will have repeat offenders.

In Quebec, crime is not praised, crime is not forgiven indiscriminately. We try to guide youths, under close supervision, toward specific goals. Psychiatric evaluations are done. There are also tests similar to those applied to young students looking for a goal in life. We supervise and help young offenders. We say “You are good at this. You can complete your post-secondary education. Go for it, the state is behind you.” We are not out for revenge.

After a few years of training, the youth often gets a diploma, which does not mention where he learned and which is delivered by an authorized educational institution. The youth has then been reintegrated into society. The success rate is absolutely convincing. In Quebec, it is beyond all expectations.

All those involved in the fight against crime in Quebec, including the Quebec bar association, are unanimous in saying that the provincial law is in itself a success. The rehabilitation rate is well above what any legislator might have imagined, even in his wildest dreams.

Now the federal justice minister has come up with her infamous Bill C-7 to try to please western Canada and get the support that has eluded her so far and will continue to elude her. In the end, this bill is only an indication of the revenge some members in this House are looking for. Whatever it takes, whatever needs to be done, they are out for revenge. But it is not up to society or the government to meet these kinds of expectations and to seek revenge.

The role of the government is to build a good relationship between its citizens and to create sustainable peace within its borders. I know from personal experience that members of a political party do not always agree but we learn to cope and to accept our differences of opinions. The same thing goes for society.

With her infamous Bill C-7, the Minister of Justice is sending the following message “We no longer believe in social rehabilitation. Young offenders will be criminals their whole lives”. This is not true.

Whether we are young or not so young, we have all made our share of mistakes and blunders. A few years ago, we found out, shortly after an election that a respected member of this House, who had been elected in a riding in the heart of Montreal, had made a rather huge mistake when he was young. He had committed armed robbery when he was 18.

What was done to that man was terrible. Twenty years after committing the offence, he was truly rehabilitated, as evidenced by the fact that he was elected to represent a large segment of the population. His political career was destroyed because of his past. Such things must never be allowed to happen again. We must be able to support our youth, guide them, accompany them, supervise them and make sure they stay on the right path.

That is what Bill C-7 introduced by the Minister of Justice does not do. I know, Mr. Speaker, that you are not allowed to take part in this debate, but if you could, I am sure you would agree with me.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 1:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I rise today.

I am saddened by the attitude of the government for the umpteenth time, if not the 69th, 70th, 72nd or 75th time, is gagging the opposition. This morning a time allocation motion was agreed to. It is always a little sad to see the government refuse to listen or have an indepth debate on a bill.

If the Bloc Quebecois has been so steadfast in its opposition to the bill it is not for the mere pleasure of playing its role as an opposition party. Everyone has certainly noticed how relentlessly and how hard my colleague for Berthier-Montcalm has being working on this for the past year and a half or two years. I take this opportunity to acknowledge his perseverance and the unique work he has been doing on this bill. My colleague has travelled across the province of Quebec. He has met with various people. He has discussed the bill with every stakeholder in Quebec, bar none.

Once again, we have compelling arguments but the justice minister refuses to hear them. The current Young Offenders Act has been in force in Quebec for close to 30 years. So far, it has been successful because it has been properly implemented. The government should ensure that the act is correctly enforced in the rest of Canada instead of trying, as the minister is doing, to go along with a far right trend coming mostly from western Canada.

I understand that being from the west she is trying to hang on to some votes. I hope this is not the only reason why the justice minister is not more attentive to the 23 groups mentioned by my colleague for Repentigny. I have here the list of these 23 groups in Quebec but I will not name them all.

They are among others the Centrale de l'enseignement, the Conseil permanent des jeunes, the Commision des services juridiques, the Assocation des centres-jeunesse, the Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux. There is also the Association des avocats de la défense du Québec, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association, and the Child Welfare League of Canada.

They all support the Bloc in its opposition to Bill C-7. These are not people with grey hair like you and I, Mr. Speaker, these are people who work with young people on a daily basis. What should people with grey hair do? They should look at what is going to happen to young persons.

We sould think about it. It could be our grandchildren who we will be sending to the school for crime at 14 years of age by throwing them in jail. We will be sending them to the school for crime. It is a shame to send our young people to the school for crime.

If the Young Offenders Act were applied properly in the rest of Canada, as it is in Quebec, people would see a 23% drop in the youth crime rate. Quebec has the lowest youth crime rate in Canada because it has applied the current legislation properly using the available tools.

The youth crime rate in Quebec is still too high, with 500 young offenders per 10,000 youths, compared to 900 young offenders per 10,000 youths in the rest of Canada.

Throwing our children in jail is not the answer. It will not help. We must look closely to see why a youth has gone down that path and what we should do to help him instead of giving him a criminal record. We must help him instead of making him a criminal for the rest of his life.

As a young father, the member for Berthier—Montcalm understands that. When he studied this piece of legislation, he looked at the future of his young children: his daughter who is about 10 years old and who is a skater, and his son who is about 12 years old. If one of these children had the misfortune to commit an offence, how could we get them out of this mess? Certainly not with the Minister of Justice's Bill C-7.

There is a consensus in Quebec. A motion was brought forward last week and agreed to unanimously. It tells the minister that if she wants to win votes in western Canada, her law sould apply there, but that she sould exempt Quebec from legislation that will only more criminals in our prisons. That is what Bill C-7 is all about. That is the ultimate goal of Bill C-7.

In closing, at the beginning of March, not too long ago, I received a letter from Geneviève Tavernier, the secretary of the ASRSQ, an association dealing with criminals.

I will read this letter so that members can understand properly. I hope the members opposite, as well as those to my right and to my left, will listen. It reads as follows:

Although specializing in dealing adults in trouble with the law, the volunteers and professionals belonging to our association are interested in the situation of the young offenders and are well aware of the needs of the youth at risk. This is why our association studied Bill C-7.

We are calling on you today to reiterate our opposition to Bill C-7. We remain part of the Coalition pour la justice des mineurs.

It is on the basis of our great expertise in the area of criminal justice for adults that we want to raise awareness regarding the pitfalls of this bill.

The letter goes on to say:

As the Coalition has said, and as we have also said regarding other bills, we are convinced that the legislative elements contained in this bill promote the categorization of crimes by creating automatic reactions that will have a major impact on the way these people are dealt with. It is important to understand that the nature of the offence does not always reflect the offender's true personality.

There are three more pages I could read, but the only thing that I would like to say in closing is: Let us think about it. Let us not make criminals out of our youth. Let us not send our youth to the university for crime for no good reason.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 1:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, we will frequently be hearing the same appeal in the various interventions by the Bloc Quebecois, an appeal aimed primarily at our friends and colleagues, the federal Liberal members from Quebec, to whom we extend a hand one last time.

As the countdown to the passage of Bill C-7 becomes more pressing, the extension of this hand is becoming more pressing for our Liberal friends and colleagues from Quebec. We ask them once again to listen to the consensus expressed throughout Quebec society in opposition to C-7.

I will read a motion that was introduced at the Quebec national assembly and passed unanimously, as mentioned by my colleague from Charlesbourg earlier. I would like all Liberals from Quebec to listen.

That the National Assembly call on the Government of Canada to make provision within the criminal justice system for young persons for a special system for Quebec under the Young Offenders Act, in order to fully reflect its particular intervention model.

I believe that when we analyze the motion introduced in the national assembly properly, we see that it is, in every respect, rational and adaptable to the requirements of federal government parliamentarians. If we read this motion properly, we see that it is not calling for the bill to be withdrawn outright or scrapped, nor is it describing the bill as terrible for Quebec society. It is asking whether there is a way of including provisions in Bill C-7 to preserve what is working well in Quebec, and the system is working well in Quebec.

The purpose of Bill C-7 is to provide solutions to problems in certain regions of Canada but if there were a problem in Quebec it seems to me that it would be very difficult to get the unanimous approval of Liberal, ADQ and PQ MNAs for a motion calling on the federal government, unanimously as I keep repeating, to consider the possibility of including provisions in Bill C-7 to recognize the distinctive character and the successful approach of the government of Quebec in its policy in this area.

As the member for Berthier—Montcalm repeatedly mentioned and as he also pointed out during his tour—which was much appreciated by the public—with Marc Beaupré, the actor who played the character of Kevin in Deux frères , they made a non-partisan tour of Quebec. For a politician, it is very difficult to seriously say that we have been on a non-partisan tour because we are always for the Bloc Quebecois or sovereignty, but with this bill, we tried to behave in a non-partisan way; this is why the actors agreed to join the Bloc Quebecois on this tour.

The justice critic for the Bloc Quebecois and the young actor who went on the tour heard the same message everywhere: if the rest of Canada wants to implement Bill C-7, there is no problem. If it is more acceptable elsewhere, culturally speaking, to have Bill C-7, there is no problem but we want no part of it.

As my colleague from Charlesbourg said earlier, the Liberal Party voted on a motion recognizing Quebec=s distinct character. Since then, Liberal members have never used this for a House of Commons bill. Perhaps the time has come to do so.

My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm went on the tour. We, on this side, have tried to meet, one by one, all Liberal members from Quebec to ask them why they would vote with their government and therefore against their constituents on Bill C-7.

I have talked about this in speeches at general meetings of the Bloc Quebecois in some ridings. I must admit the answer was quite surprising and rather weak as an argument. The answer we heard was: “We know you have the unanimous support of Quebec groups because they are funded by the government of Quebec and therefore have no other choice”. I find it despicable for Liberal members from Quebec to assert that we bought the support of different groups in Quebec by giving them some financial support.

I would like the Liberal members from Quebec to explain how the government of Quebec, sovereignists, can financially support the Liberal Party of Quebec. I would like to mention that the MLA for Brome—Missisquoi, Mr. Pierre Paradis, voted for the unanimous motion of the national assembly. I do not believe he is being funded by Mr. Landry, no more than his colleagues of the Liberal Party.

The Association des chefs de police et de pompiers du Québec is against Bill C-7 and I do not think it is funded by the government or has a real say in decisions or ties to the government.

As the hon. member for Charlesbourg said earlier, other organizations are against this bill, like the Innus, the British Columbia Criminal Justice Association, Tim Quigley from the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. James Hackler from the Sociology Department of the University of Victoria; I doubt they are funded by the Parti Quebecois. I do not believe that the League for the Well-being of Children of Canada is funded by the Parti Quebecois either.

I told the members from Quebec that they may be right in part and that we may be biased in terms of our defence of or our opposition to Bill C-7, but that they also have to realize and acknowledge that they are somewhat biased. We recognize that both the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberal Party are biased on this issue.

I suggested to them that we have a list of 23 individuals, organizations, institutions or associations that are against Bill C-7, choose anyone of them at random and ask them what they think about the positions taken by the Bloc Quebecois and the Liberal Party and that they could and why they are against Bill C-7. I was not asking them to talk to one particular group that happens to share the views of the government of Quebec, which is subsidizing it. I was telling them to choose anyone of them at random.

We have been making this request to Liberal members from Quebec for the last two weeks and, from what I understand, none of them have even tried to find out why the people in the field in Quebec—not the officials of the justice minister—are against Bill C-7.

I believe that, with the kind of unanimity found in Quebec, with 23 organizations opposed to Bill C-7 and the national assembly, which passed a unanimous motion to that effect, not to mention the Liberals in Quebec, the government members who argue that the Bloc Quebecois is being stubborn in opposing this bill ought to respond to the motion passed by the national assembly.

The motion of the national assembly states, and I quote, “That the Government of Canada make provisions within the criminal justice system for young persons for a special system for Quebec”.

To conclude, I would ask the government to listen to what the people have to say, to reach out to them and look at what is being done in Quebec to meet the aspirations of those who work to fully rehabilitate young offenders.

Division No. 100Government Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, before becoming Speaker, you sat on the benches opposite. Debate in the House can sometimes be intense, exchanges sharp, sometimes caustic, perhaps overly so. The very layout of the House, with benches on opposing sides, unfortunately, perhaps contributes to an often confrontational attitude.

I also have a tendency, of which I am very proud, to defend my party's position tooth and nail based on internal discussions. I owe no one any apologies for this tendency, nor do I ask any members of the House to apologize for positions they are defending on behalf of their party.

The debate on Bill C-7 must be completely non-partisan. We must eliminate every ounce, every trace of partisanship from a debate such as this because what is involved is the future of our youth. It is in this non-partisan spirit that I rise to speak today to the young offenders bill.

The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm has just returned from a tour of Quebec. He met with people from various sectors in all regions of Quebec. I congratulate him on his excellent work on this issue. During this tour, he confirmed in a concrete, not an abstract, way the very broad, I would even say almost unanimous, consensus of Quebec's stakeholders with respect to the young offenders legislation.

All stakeholders, judges, lawyers, including the bar associations, social workers, youth groups and so on, were almost unanimously in favour of keeping the existing Young Offenders Act. They rejected the unfortunate new approach of the Minister of Justice.

This consensus so completely transcends party lines that the three parties represented in the national assembly, parties whose views differ on sovereignty and on a whole spectrum of issues ranging from left to right unanimously agreed to a motion calling for the existing Young Offenders Act to be maintained intact.

In Quebec there is a strong national desire to retain the system in place today, which has proven itself. It has given Quebec the lowest rates of youth crime and of recidivism by young offenders.

I have trouble understanding why a system that is working properly would be shunted aside, destroyed by the Liberal government out of mere political calculation aimed at pleasing people on the right wing who are often the western voters.

Last week new stakeholders made their voices heard. They are the aboriginal communities of Quebec. Rosario Pinette, chief of the Sept-Îles Innu community, met with my colleague, the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm. Speaking on behalf of Matthew Coon Come, the grand chief of the Assembly of First Nations, he took a strong position against the provisions of Bill C-7. He said:

If Bill C-7 is passed, it will not get into our community. It will be kept out because it attacks aboriginal people outright. It is an imposed law that does not respect our cultural reality.

That is pretty strong language. He went still further:

Mistakes are quickly forgotten. In 50 years, there may be a compensation fund to undo the damage done by Bill C-7, as there was for the residential schools.

Here we see an alliance between the aboriginal nations and the Quebec nation in demanding that this government not put in place, not enact, not pass Bill C-7.

Is there perhaps a compromise? I am very open to that. Let us ensure that Bill C-7 allows provinces which so desire to withdraw from the new system the Minister of Justice is putting in place and allows those provinces which so desire to retain the present system.

The mechanism is possible. Mr. Justice Dickson, the former chief justice of the supreme court, said so in a legal opinion which, I hope, most members of this House and particularly Liberal members from Quebec have consulted and read. This legal opinion provided that it was quite possible to adopt such a mechanism.

Another legal basis is the concept of distinct society. This government had a motion passed to the effect that the government should take the distinct character of Quebec into account before passing a bill. We could base our decision on that. Let us ensure that Quebec, if it so desires, and heaven knows it does, can be exempted from implementing the harmful system that would be put in place through Bill C-7 and can continue to apply the existing Young Offenders Act.

One may wonder, and many actually do, why this government is not using the bill to promote its political option. It could easily say “Look how open federalism is, look how it promotes diversity. We are allowing Quebec to withdraw from the application of this bill”. The government could earn brownie points. It always pays to listen to what the public wants.

I sincerely call on the Liberal government and Liberal members from Quebec to not support Bill C-7 or at least to ensure that Quebec can apply the existing Young Offenders Act. It is not too late to respect the consensual choice repeatedly expressed by Quebecers through various forums, including the House of Commons by a majority of members from Quebec, the national assembly or the various stakeholders representing civil society.

I ask Quebec Liberal members to vote with us and to ensure that Bill C-7 does not apply to Quebec.

Division No. 100Government Orders

May 28th, 2001 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak again to the bill, which was under consideration prior to the parliamentary recess.

I would like to draw the attention of the House to an important event that took place on our final day of debate on this matter, and that is the motion passed unanim