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.