An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.

This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.


Gary Lunn  Canadian Alliance

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)


Not active, as of Oct. 2, 2002
(This bill did not become law.)


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, an excellent resource from the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Resumption Of Debate On Address In ReplySpeech From The Throne

February 16th, 2004 / 1:50 p.m.
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Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of social justice is very important. The member will know that Bill C-204, which was my private member's bill, was adopted by the government to extend parental leave to a full year. I am quite proud of that and I know all Canadians are pleased with it.

There was a line in the throne speech about the health and well-being of seniors, and the member talked about jurisdictional boundaries. I wanted to advise the member that I have been working on a seniors' poverty initiative, which includes matters such as introducing a guaranteed annual income for seniors, establishing provincial, territorial and regional poverty lines, eliminating mandatory retirement at age 65, increasing the caregiver tax credit, extending employment insurance benefits to caregivers, doubling the medical expense supplement, providing the opportunity for Canada pension plan continuity for caregivers, regulating the nursing home industry, as well as dealing with affordable housing and pharmacare.

Seniors' poverty is more acute than it has ever been. There is provincial jurisdiction. Would the member agree that we should collaborate, all parties with all levels of government, to ensure that we address the significant issue of seniors' poverty?

Youth Criminal Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

January 28th, 2003 / 6:35 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, let me start by saying that I am pleased to see the member for Ottawa—Vanier. He had a very serious illness. Our thoughts and prayers were with him at the time and we are glad he is back with us. Hopefully all will go well.

Back to the issue at hand. I would like to touch on a few points raised by some of the other members. Again, I appreciate all the interventions. The member from the Bloc talked about the harshness and not the need for rehabilitation. That is the whole point of the bill. If young offenders are on probation, it allows the courts and the system to get them the help they need such as anger management, substance abuse programs, curfews and schools. It allows them to get the help they need as opposed to going back into a sometimes very troubling situation or whatever their surroundings. It gets them out of that. It is all about rehabilitation. We in the Canadian Alliance are trying to help these young offenders from going through the courts like a revolving door. We are trying to get them the help they need.

The member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough made some very good points. One that troubled him was holding the parents vicariously criminally responsible for the actions of these young offenders. I want to emphasize that is not so. I agree that they need to be held accountable. If a young offender breaches curfew or whatever, those are the actions for which the young offender will be brought back before the courts and held accountable.

Where the parents could be held criminally responsible is for their own actions or their lack of actions in failing to report. I will put it in this situation. Two people are parents and, heaven forbid, their children are in this situation. They have been before the courts and have a probation order. The children say that they are not going to follow this. They break their curfew and do not come home until 11 o'clock tonight. The parents then say that they have no option but to inform their probation officer because they are legally bound by the courts to phone the probation officer and say, for example, that Johnny is not following his probation order or Johnny is not going to school. Then they ask the child if he wants to be picked up by the police in the next few days and brought back before the judge.

One can flip it around that the parents are actually being given a tool to help them with what may be a very troubled child. I throw that out. The goal is to help these children. I emphasize that.

I remember my discussions when I worked in the courts. The judge would often call the defence lawyer and the crown prosecutor back into his chambers and ask what could be done to help the child, or what could be done to ensure that he or she did not come back before these courts, or what programs did he or she need to go into. There is no question that is the goal.

I think mandatory curfews for home invasion are not harsh at all. I think that would be a very good thing particularly if they are enforced. There is even a provision in the bill that in very unusual circumstances, such as if it is a social worker, or for whatever reason the judge feels that it would not be proper to hold the parents to report, the judge can overrule that one provision. Again, this gives the judge that discretion.

This is about helping children, ensuring that we look after the victims, but ensuring that these children get the help and that the parents are held responsible if they fail to follow their undertakings.

In closing, I would ask for unanimous consent that Bill C-204 be made votable. It is very important that all members should have an opportunity to express their thoughts on this. Failing that, I would ask for unanimous consent of the House that at least the substance of the bill be referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights for further consideration so it could be put into law. I do not care who gets credit, but it is time that we bring it into law.

I would like to thank the member for Surrey North for his contribution and the member for Elk Island for his real life stories. It is so important for all Canadians to hear their interventions.

Youth Criminal Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

January 28th, 2003 / 6:20 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Canadian Alliance Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of my colleague's private member's bill, Bill C-204, which proposes to amend our laws covering certain aspects of youth property crime. I also think it is important to repeat for the record that the last time the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament the hon. member's bill was left on the Order Paper.

Just briefly on the issue of private members' business, many worthy private member's bills face the same fate of being totally ignored by the government. The bill that my colleague has finally managed to bring to debate in the House today could be easily and quickly passed into law like many other short and simple bills that individual MPs introduce. It is unfortunate that the government does not take enough of the good ideas that individual members of this place bring forward.

As for Bill C-204, the bill would amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act in three meaningful ways. First, it would impose mandatory curfews on young offenders found guilty of home invasion or break and enter offences. Just for the record, my house was broken into on December 8, one week before I went home for Christmas.

Second, the bill would impose mandatory imprisonment for repeat offenders.

Third, the bill would make parents and legal guardians responsible for reporting any known breaches of a young offender's probation conditions and impose fines and penalties on those who fail to do so.

The bill would further efforts to ensure that young offenders, particularly repeat young offenders, are held responsible for their offences against persons and their property.

On the one hand, we are concerned that young offenders receive appropriate guidance and counselling once their behaviour has caused them to come into conflict with the law, but on the other hand, we need to ensure that they are held accountable for their behaviour.

The bill essentially parallels my private member's bill, Bill C-281, which proposes an amendment to the current Young Offenders Act that is in effect until April of this year.

Bill C-281 would establish stronger accountability for parents who sign undertakings to supervise court imposed conditions for the interim release of young offenders. Of course interim release is just another term for bail. Fortunately, the bill has been incorporated into the Youth Criminal Justice Act which will take effect on April 1.

I am sure members are aware of my reasons for bringing forth that particular bill. Ten years ago my family, and particularly my son, fell victim to a violent crime in 1992. It was only six months after the murder occurred that we found out that the offender, who was 17 at the time, was actually under conditions of bail. He had been released to his father under strict supervision and under a dusk to dawn curfew. The murder occurred at midnight in October. We later found out that for three months he had been consistently violating his curfew, which of course was his responsibility. He was criminally liable for that but, more than that, his father signed an undertaking before the court to supervise that curfew, which he never did. That is why I brought forth the bill that I did, and Bill C-204 parallels that because it deals with the probationary aspects.

As I said, my bill deals with the requirements for bail and reflects the measure that Bill C-204 is calling for on probation.

Holding young people accountable in the youth criminal justice system must include people, such as parents and guardians, who need to be responsible for their undertakings entered into during a period of court imposed probation. Far too often we hear of young lawbreakers violating their conditions over and over again.

Whenever our courts impose a curfew or another restriction that the young person is supposed to adhere to and a parent or guardian agrees to enforce it, there must be some recourse to hold the parents or guardians responsible for not enforcing what the court has ordered and what they have promised to do. The bill would provide the means to make these people accountable for the undertakings they have entered into with respect to the release of young offenders on probation.

The bill would establish that these guarantors would be liable to a fine of $2,000 and/or up to six months in jail if they knowingly fail to report a breach in probation conditions. This would not hold a parent criminally liable for the offence that the young person does. The criminal offence would be knowingly not living up to the conditions to which they agreed. In my view this is reasonable. In fact, I would go further and make it a hybrid offence such that the crown could proceed by way of indictment in the case of serious breaches.

If someone comes forward and guarantees a court that he or she will assist the court in ensuring that a young offender follows the court's orders and that person encounters a breach of what the court has ordered, then that person should have a legal, not just moral, obligation to report the infraction to the authorities.

In this way society is protected and the young person will receive more attention, the attention they have earned by failing to satisfy the court's orders. Hopefully the extra attention will turn the young offender around.

However if the person who pledged to the court to monitor the young offender's adherence to the court's orders fails to report the failings of the young offender, then the system breaks down because there will be no alarm sounded that the young offender is not changing his or her ways.

In conclusion, the bill will truly be of assistance in terms of protecting our citizens. It will provide a measure of deterrence to young people contemplating criminal activity. It will hold people responsible when they promise the court to supervise and fail to do so.

I urge the government to give the substance of the bill serious consideration.

Youth Criminal Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

January 28th, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.
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Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise in this debate and to see you back in the Chair.

This bill is one which I think I can fairly say most members of Parliament would embrace wholeheartedly given the idea of parental responsibility, given the necessity I would state to hold parents in most instances responsible for the supervision and the proper accounting as to where their children are and how they are behaving.

The difficulty that I have with it at the outset is the possible criminal ramifications for a parent. I understand the way in which the bill is presented. The intent is to have these probation orders in force so that they are enforced, that is, the parents themselves will be brought before the court to require them to ensure that their children, within the definition of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, formerly the Young Offenders Act, will in fact comply with curfews, with other conditions of non-association, with not drinking or using drugs.

I have had experience, as has the mover of the motion, with the practicalities. I listened to his remarks and I congratulate him on his intent. He has had the experience, as he said, of the frustration that is felt on the part of the court, both the crown and the defence, social workers, victims services and the police, all those involved in the justice system who see these probational orders routinely flouted, that is, conditions that are in place as a result of criminal conviction, as a result of the court's real attempts to hold young people to account and to control their behaviour. Let us be very frank about what the sentence is supposed to do. In meting out those conditions, what the court is suggesting is that the anti-social behaviour has to be controlled.

The difficulty is one of vicarious responsibility. There are a number of offences in the Criminal Code that deal with this very issue. It is a tricky issue, to say the least. For example, there are Criminal Code provisions that require persons, once they begin to render assistance, to continue to render assistance. This type of legislation is akin to that. There is a new creation of a criminal offence by virtue of the Firearms Act, which in essence creates a criminal offence for not doing something. Without getting into all the lack of merits that we find in the gun registry, we know that this flawed piece of legislation will eventually collapse under its own weight due to mismanagement and ineffectiveness.

However, this type of legislation in essence criminalizes a parent's behaviour for not doing something, for not enforcing or supervising an order of the court. It is worrisome in that regard. The act, if it were to be passed, in a sense would make mandatory the imposition of these probation orders, be it a curfew or other conditions, for any young person found guilty of a home invasion and holds the parent or those responsible for the child responsible directly in relation to the enforcement of the curfew, upon threat, I am quick to add, of a criminal conviction. Those who are responsible for the child but are not the parents is another area that has to be examined closely, because we know that there are foster parent situations, there are agencies occasionally involved in the enforcement, and there are siblings, grandparents or others who would fit that definition as the person responsible for that child. The act would hold that person or group of persons directly responsible.

I agree that there are innumerable areas of improvement in this new Youth Criminal Justice Act. This is probably one of the most cumbersome and confusing pieces of legislation ever passed through the Parliament of Canada. It is a bit like the Income Tax Act. That is how complicated it is. When we were examining this bill at committee, of which you were a member, Madam Speaker, you might recall that there were judges who had difficulty interpreting sections of the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It is unfortunate, because we had a chance to get it right.

I am sure, Madam Speaker, that as parents you and other members of the House would be ill at ease to know that you could be held criminally responsible for the actions of your child. As much as you love that child and try to foster the very best environment, there are occasions, sadly, and we have seen them, where despite the best efforts of a parent, young people, for reasons that may be related to their mental health or related to their propensity to be involved in drugs or alcohol or their involvement with another group of youths who are on the wrong track, find themselves in the justice system and find themselves under a probation order. Again, despite the very best legitimate efforts of the parent, they break those conditions.

Sometimes those conditions are broken by a very short margin. I can think of an instance where a young person confined by a curfew misses a bus and does not get home under the curfew. Because it would be the parent's responsibility to see that the young person was in the strict parameters of a court order, this scenario could result in a parent being charged criminally. I am uncomfortable with that. It is not a stretch to suggest that it might play out that way.

The first clause of Bill C-204 amends the Criminal Code and subsection 2(1) of the Youth Criminal Justice Act in this instance, involving break and enter and a list of offences that is outlined in the act. This clause is mainly a housekeeping amendment. It does specifically introduce a related offence into the act, which would be interpreted as adding more weight to the specific offence of home invasion, which again I am quick to embrace, but Parliament has to be extremely careful when prioritizing certain offences. In this vein we need to examine whether other offences might be considered as part of this envelope.

Second, the clause that amends subsection 42(2) is where we find the substance of the bill of the hon. member for Saanich--Gulf Islands. This clause would force the court to impose automatic probation on a young offender convicted of a crime as a condition of that probation. That is an automatic curfew. I have no difficulty with that because I believe that the offence of home invasion is so serious. I believe that the offence of home invasion often results in violent confrontations. We are going to hear in a short time from the hon. member from Surrey who, sadly, can speak from personal experience about what happened to his family in his home. This is a very real and substantive issue that is before the House.

The imposition of a curfew on a young person convicted is not necessarily a negative, by any means. In fact, it definitely would send this message of deterrence, which is one, I have found in my experience, that the government would like to stay away from. It does not like to use the word deterrent. It does not believe that this is the proper phraseology. I suggest that there is a common parlance, a common use of deterrents in courts of all levels across the country every day. The idea is that both the protection of the public and the sending of a message of general and specific deterrence are very much at the root of the bill.

The condition of probation would remain in effect for a period of at least one year, or at least until a person reaches the age of 18, to a maximum of three years. Again, this approach is a practical one. It amends the act, requiring those convicted of subsequent offences to spend a mandatory minimum of 30 days in custody. Arguably this takes away from the flexibility that currently exists for young offenders and again I suggest we would have to look at that in greater detail. It does put down firm parameters in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, where often those parameters are lacking.

The increase of a minimum of 30 days in custody for a second conviction also could be construed as a move that denotes the seriousness of this type of offence. This offence of going into a person's home is extremely detrimental and has extremely serious consequences.

However, to go back to my initial assessment, my main difficulty with the bill is the amendment that makes it mandatory for the parents reporting to a probation officer any violation of a young person's curfew. The difficulty I have is that the legislation that deals directly with the way in which the parent or guardian interacts with a child is what amounts to a disciplinary action against the parent. It seems to me to raise a question of morality.

This bill essentially is penalizing and criminalizing a type of parenting. I have great difficulty with that. It pains me to say that I could not support the bill for that reason, but unless this legislation were at least amended in such a fashion that it would make the parents' attendance at court mandatory and make it necessary for the parents to come and explain their actions or lack of actions in supervising the child, denoting where they were at the time of the offence, I cannot support the vicarious criminal liability that would flow to a parent.

I congratulate the member for bringing the matter forward. I think it is timely and important. It is an approach that is novel. I agree with the majority of the bill in substance, but that aspect of it causes me great difficulty. For that reason, until we get the bill in such a form that this clause is removed, I am afraid I cannot support the bill.

Youth Criminal Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

January 28th, 2003 / 6:05 p.m.
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Richard Marceau Bloc Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Madam Speaker, the debate on Bill C-204 introduced by my colleague for Saanich—Gulf Islands will provide me with an opportunity to give a bit of an overview of the whole debate surrounding the Young Offenders Act.

Listening to the Canadian Alliance member and the Liberal member, we finally get the picture that, when it comes to law and order, the two parties are very hard line, very right wing, and do not take into consideration the whole rehabilitative aspect of justice.

At the time, there was a debate in this House led by my former colleague for Berthier—Montcalm. This debate made it very clear that, when the accent is on rehabilitation rather than punitive measures, we get results.

With the adoption of the new young offender legislation—to which the Liberal speaker referred—we have seen that the way things were done in Quebec—the only place where the law was really being enforced properly—really gave results. The Liberal Party, with the support of the Canadian Alliance, which was urging it to go still further, wanted to shunt aside this approach, which was working.

You will recall the raucous debate in the House, in committee and off the Hill, when defence lawyers, crown prosecutors, judges, social workers, police officers and police commissioners said, “Do not touch the Young Offenders Act; it is working well”.

However, carried by the right-wing wind being blown by the Canadian Alliance, the Liberal Party decided to impose one vision across the country and do away with Quebec's approach, which was working well, in order to impose a vision that was diametrically opposed to Quebec's. Bill C-204 goes along much the same lines. It seeks to toughen the treatment of young offenders even more. This falls in line completely with the Canadian Alliance's philosophy. I am not calling into question the importance of punishing and preventing crimes referred to as “breaking and entering in relation to a dwelling-house”.

However, that said, I believe the approach of the member from the Canadian Alliance—whom I respect, incidentally—is wrong.

First, it duplicates existing legislation. Second, clause 2 of the member's bill, in respect to minimal sentencing, uses the word “shall”, which is—in legal terms, as we know—imperative. Judges would be required to impose a curfew. This fails to take into consideration the circumstances and to provide any leeway for judges. This clause ignores the discretion of judges and imposes a uniform treatment without any possibility of varying it based on the circumstances.

However, it could very well happen that the circumstances would in no way justify the imposition of a curfew. In other cases, the circumstances would justify it, but it would be left to the discretion of a judge, who would base his decision on facts and law. In certain cases, an obligation to impose a curfew would very likely be counterproductive. However, what the member is trying to do here is to help young offenders put their lives back together. If this is passed, if there are such minimum mandatory sentences, the effect might be the opposite of the one desired.

The only advantage to this bill and this debate is the opportunity to set out a strict philosophy of law and order for young offenders. This philosophy, I repeat, comes from the Canadian Alliance and was imposed on Quebec by the Liberal Party. When it comes to young offenders, the Liberal Party is a watered down version of the Canadian Alliance. They share the same philosophy and the same basic principles. These basic principles, as I said earlier, are foreign to how Quebec does things.

In closing, I want to stress that this is a very good example of the fact that, in Canada today, when Quebec's values and way of doing things conflict with Canada's way, the Canadian steamroller goes over Quebec's uniqueness, Quebec's distinct character and the Quebec nation. We will not forget this when the time comes.

Youth Criminal Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

January 28th, 2003 / 5:55 p.m.
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Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Madam Speaker, I rise today to address Bill C-204, an act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Bill C-204 addresses the issue of home invasion. The government agrees that home invasion by young persons is a serious issue. However the government opposes Bill C-204 because the issue has already been addressed effectively by Parliament.

Bill C-204 would amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act to create the criminal offence of home invasion.

Under the bill, the offence of home invasion would occur when a young person committed certain offences, such as break and enter, in relation to a dwelling house, when the house was occupied and the young person knew or was reckless about whether the house was occupied, and the young person used violence or threats of violence.

The bill sets out a minimum sentence of probation with a mandatory curfew for a period of one year or until the young person becomes 18 years old, whichever period is greater, to a maximum of three years.

Bill C-204 further provides that if a court makes a second or subsequent finding of guilt for home invasion and imposes a youth sentence, the court shall, in addition to any other punishment imposed, order the young person to serve a minimum sentence of 30 days in custody.

In addition, the bill provides that a responsible person, such as a parent or any person responsible for supervising the young person's probation, who fails to report a curfew breach would be liable to a fine of up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment of up to six months.

Members may recall that Parliament recently addressed both home invasion and youth justice legislation. Parliament recently amended the Criminal Code to include section 348.1, which has been in force since July 23, 2002. This amendment reflects Parliament's recognition that home invasion is a serious issue and that Canadians are entitled to feel safe and secure in their own homes. It requires courts to consider certain offences to be more serious if there is a home invasion aspect to the offence.

Section 348.1 of the Criminal Code requires a court to consider as an aggravating circumstance that a house was occupied and that the person knew it was, or was reckless about whether the house was occupied, and used violence or threats of violence.

This consideration by the court is required for offences of forcible confinement under subsection 279(2), robbery under section 343, extortion under section 346 and break and enter under section 348. These offence provisions are the same offence provisions referred to in Bill C-204.

This new provision of the Criminal Code applies not only to adults but also young persons. Young persons are subject to the provision because the Young Offenders Act and the new Youth Criminal Justice Act incorporate the offence provisions of the Criminal Code, including section 348.1.

There is no need to create a new separate offence in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. It was not long ago that the House and the Senate completed a comprehensive reform of Canada's youth justice legislation. Parliament passed the new Youth Criminal Justice Act which will replace the Young Offenders Act.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act will come into force on April 1, 2003.

As a preliminary comment, it seems to me premature at this juncture to embark upon revision of the Youth Criminal Justice Act before it has even come into force, legislation that was the subject of intense scrutiny and debate prior to its passage, without the benefit of practical experience under the legislation.

This amendment is not only premature, it is, as I have explained, also unnecessary because the issue has already been addressed by the recent addition of section 348.1 of the Criminal Code.

It is clear that Canadians want to and are entitled to feel safe and secure in their homes and communities. They want a youth justice system that protects society and responds to offences by young persons with sentences that are fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.

In replacing the Young Offenders Act with the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Parliament has established the legislative framework for this type of youth justice system.

A youth court imposing a youth sentence must be guided by the purpose and principles of sentencing and other factors set out in section 38 of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

A fundamental principle of the act is that a sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person for that offence. In brief, this basic principle of fairness means that less serious cases should result in less severe sentences and more serious cases should result in more severe sentences.

In determining the seriousness of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the young person, the court must, in relevant cases involving a dwelling house, consider the aggravating circumstances referred to in section 348.1, such as knowing that the house that was entered was occupied and using violence or threats of violence. These factors, if present, make an offence, such as break and enter, more serious and the Youth Criminal Justice Act requires that the sentence must be more severe to be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence.

The sentencing provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act also reflect Parliament's view that judges should retain considerable discretion in determining an appropriate sentence for an individual young person.

Parliament has decided that, unlike Bill C-204, youth court judges should not be required to impose minimum sentences of probation or custody on young persons.

There is no question that home invasion by young persons is a serious issue. Parliament has recognized the seriousness of the issue and effectively addressed it.

By enacting section 348.1 of the Criminal Code, Parliament has required that if an offence involves home invasion circumstances, the court must consider the offence to be more serious and the sentences should reflect the increased seriousness of the offence.

By passing the Youth Criminal Justice Act, Parliament has made it clear that section 348.1 of the Criminal Code applies to young persons. In addition, Parliament has set out in the Youth Criminal Justice Act sentencing provisions that require judges to impose sentences that include meaningful consequences that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and that reflect the aggravating circumstances of the offence.

The combined effect of these recent legislative reforms is that the issue of home invasion by young persons has already been addressed effectively by Parliament. For these reasons the Minister of Justice does not support Bill C-204.

Youth Criminal Justice ActPrivate Members' Business

January 28th, 2003 / 5:45 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved that Bill C-204, an act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Madam Speaker, I rise today to debate my private member's Bill C-204, an act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

I have been pursuing this bill for over four years and today I have mixed emotions. On one hand I am pleased to finally bring these important amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act to Parliament for discussion. On the other hand I am dismayed that the lack of democracy in this place makes the bill non-votable. An hour from now, barring a miracle, the debate will collapse. There will not even be a vote on the bill so that Canadians can hear where members stand on this issue. This is shameful.

It is more shameful that hundreds have come before me and said the same about legislation they have advocated, and hundreds more will come after. Why should we be afraid of a simple vote in our own Parliament?

Bill C-204 will amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act in four meaningful ways. First, it defines home invasion in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Second, it imposes mandatory curfews on young offenders found guilty of home invasion or break and enter offences. Third, it creates a mandatory imprisonment for repeat offenders of a minimum of 30 days. Finally and most important, it makes parents and legal guardians responsible for reporting any known breaches of a young offender's parole conditions and imposes fines and penalties of those who fail to do so.

Apart from murder and sexual assault, there is no more psychologically damaging crime than a property crime. Once a person's home has been invaded either by force of by stealth, it is hard to ever relax and feel safe again.

Most young offenders do not pursue a life of crime if they receive correct guidance early. Longer probationary periods allow for this guidance without incarceration. However, repeat offenders must be shown that their actions have consequences. Property crime, particularly home invasion, takes a terrible psychological toll on its victims. We need to put these victims first.

I would like to speak a little about the minimum sentencing requirements of the bill. Bill C-204 recognizes the fact that any youth convicted of a home invasion offence would be forced to comply with probation which shall include a curfew for a period of one year or when the youth turns 18, whichever is greater. A youth found guilty of a subsequent home invasion would face a minimum 30 day jail term.

Imposing curfews and probation is one way to help keep troubled kids off the streets. Imposing jail time for repeat offenders underscores the seriousness with which we treat these offences as a society, but punishment is not enough. At a deeper level, we do this so that we can get the youth guidance, to take them out of a negative environment and get them working on something positive.

The second step is not possible if probation conditions are not enforced. Sadly, troubled kids often come from troubled homes. Releasing them back into these bad environments often does them more harm than good. The Youth Criminal Justice Act currently allows guardians to sign an undertaking that they will report any breaches of probation to the proper authorities. Occasionally this is done but usually it is not.

As a defence attorney who worked with young offenders, it was heartbreaking to send the kids back into these very troubling environments knowing they would be back through the courts like revolving doors, and it would go on and on. If they had had these probation conditions, it is possible they could have gotten the help they needed through the courts and we could have ended the terrible cycle. That is why Bill C-204 defines the failure to report a breach as an offence and allows authorities to pursue fines of up to $2,000 and jail terms of up to six months if this occurs.

Some of my critics have asked why I would want to impose fines on the parents or guardians because some of them may not be able to control their children. I acknowledge that, but what we are saying is that it is their duty to report the breaches to the authorities. As long as they know that if the child under their care and control is in violation of a probation order and they do not report that breach, they themselves could face criminal prosecution.

There are some horrific consequences that happen as a result. One of my colleagues who is very close to this issue, the member for Surrey North, has worked tirelessly on this issue. His own son was murdered. Had this been law, it likely would have saved his son's life because the offender was out in violation of a probation order. He had breached the probation orders numerous times and nobody was reporting him.

To emphasize the necessity and importance of this bill and why I believe it needs to become law I want to tell a real life story. I would like to quote from a report of the B.C. Children's Commission. This story is a terrible one and is all too common under our current justice system.

On Vancouver Island in 1997 a 16-year-old youth with a history of violence stabbed a 17-year-old girl to death. Since 1993 the perpetrator had been before the courts 11 times. He had been given probation 11 times. The conditions of probation in almost every case included curfew, counselling and regular school attendance. Here are some of the quotes from the Children's Commission inquiry following the murder:

Subsequent to the murder... the perpetrator told the probation officer that during the Summer of 1996 he used crack cocaine heavily for a three week period with his mother--

This is another quote:

It appeared both parents contributed to the youth's criminal activities, the mother by actively encouraging him to steal for her and abetting his non-compliance with Court Orders and the father by his tacit acceptance of these transgressions.

In March 2000 the report found the following:

Great deficiencies in both the youth justice system and the child protection services left this youth at great risk of harm. Adequate intervention and treatment failed to occur. It is noted that at the time of the murder, he was simultaneously serving three sentences of probation.

I have to ask, who failed here? Was it the youth? Certainly like all of us he was ultimately responsible for his actions, but can we lay all the blame on this extremely troubled 17-year-old?

In 1990 the principal of the youth's school when he was 10 years old forwarded the following to his social worker:

This youth is one little guy that could be “saved”, given some consistent love and attention. I hope legalities and bureaucratic BS don't take precedence over what's right for him.

No one listened to that principal who was desperately trying to get this youth help. The youth's parents never gave him the help he needed. While this youth serves a sentence for murder, what penalty will these parents pay? What would other parents do if they were held criminally responsible for failure to report?

Social workers care about these kids. Police officers care about these kids. The judges at sentencing, the lawyers, probation officers all care. I have witnessed it first hand. They want to do what is right for these kids.

Although the example I have given is severe, it is important to note that most parents do care. If we get these children the help they need, maybe we can get them out of the revolving cycle of crime.

Parliament should provide the tools to punish wilful blindness to their delinquency, but also the tools to help them get their kids the guidance they need before they go completely astray.

My party is often accused of believing in only harsh justice. This is not so. We believe in fair justice. Kids who invade homes should suffer the consequences. The consequences should be fair and severe, as the situation warrants. My bill deliberately does not spell out specific curfew conditions because I recognize the judge needs to vary them in various circumstances.

Maybe we will not save all of these kids. Maybe in the example above there was simply nothing that could be done. However the vast majority of kids can be set straight on the right path.

This bill improves this in three critical ways. One, it sends a clear signal that punishment for serious crimes is necessary to protect society. Two, it demonstrates that we can tailor the punishment of young offenders to provide them long term guidance in putting their lives back together. Finally, it provides a simple but effective mechanism to the legal system to hold parents and guardians to account for failing to be active participants in the rehabilitation of their sons and daughters.

In short, it could have helped to save the lives of young offenders as well as the lives of their victims.

Youth Criminal Justice ActRoutine Proceedings

October 2nd, 2002 / 3:15 p.m.
See context

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-204, an act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of all the residents of Saanich--Gulf Islands. I rise to reintroduce my private member's bill to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This is the second time in six months the bill has had to be reintroduced, largely because of the Prime Minister's unnecessary prorogation of Parliament.

My bill seeks to balance the need to punish youth who commit property crimes with the understanding that many young offenders never reoffend if they get the help they need.

If passed, the bill will do three things. First, it will impose mandatory curfews for all young offenders convicted of a B and E or a home invasion until the age of 18, or one year to a maximum of three years.

Second, it will impose mandatory jail terms for repeat offenders of these crimes, with a minimum sentence of 30 days.

Third, it will lay charges against the guardians who fail to report breaches of a probation upon discovering them. Penalties could both be up to $2,000 or six months.

I conclude by saying that without enforcement mechanisms, many probation breaches go unreported. Without reporting, youth do not get the guidance they need. The bill seeks a fair balance between punishment and rehabilitation. I encourage all members to support it.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)