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

An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

In committee (House), as of May 3, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the sentencing and general principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, as well as its provisions relating to judicial interim release, adult and youth sentences, publication bans, and placement in youth custody facilities. It defines the terms “violent offence” and “serious offence”, amends the definition “serious violent offence” and repeals the definition “presumptive offence”. It also requires police forces to keep records of extrajudicial measures used to deal with young persons.

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 / 12:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Marc Lemay Bloc Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is what is so ironic. Both my colleagues are right.

Clearly, someone who is under 18 will not be sent to prison with adults, at least not until he is 18. That is the subtlety and the irony of this bill. Will an 18-year-old be smarter once he has spent three or four years in a reception centre and then finished serving his sentence in an adult prison? I do not think so. The government would have us believe things that are completely unrealistic and unacceptable.

We believe that young people should be treated like young people, in other words, like people who are not too bright and who have committed crimes. Society knows that they need much longer time-outs, but before we send them to an adult prison, we need to do everything we can to get them back on the straight and narrow.

But that is not what the government is going to do if this bill is passed as is. If it is passed, young offenders will be handed a heavy four-year sentence. A 17-year-old offender will spend a year in a reception centre and serve the rest of his time in an adult prison. What the members opposite are forgetting is that there is no parole for young offenders, and this bill does not provide for any. What is even more ironic is that young people could get heavier sentences than adults for the same sort of crime. That is unacceptable.

The more I look at the bill, the more I realize that it must be studied, chopped up, amended and transformed in committee to meet the needs of our young people, not tailored to get political support as the other side is trying to do.

It is very strange that when the Conservatives are low in the polls, they come back with the old tough on crime mantra and introduce more crime bills. They are planning to introduce another bill on suspended sentences. That is not the way to deal with crime in Canada. In Quebec, we believe that youth justice should focus on rehabilitation.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had planned to make a 20-minute speech, but we just crossed over the line. I have been very impressed by the debate so far. In particular, I would refer people to the speeches of the member for Windsor—Tecumseh and the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, both of whom are lawyers and have extensive background and experience in the legal field. They certainly had some very sound words of wisdom for the House with regard to young offenders and the related legislation.

There has been a rash of bills before Parliament over the last four years. Many of them continue to be recycled. When there is prorogation or an election, we have to start the process all over again. That is exactly the situation the government wants. It does not want a lot of these bills to pass. One of the big reasons is that if most of these bills passed, the legal plan would cause more people to be in jail for longer times and parole, house arrest and faint hope would be things of the past.

The Minister of Public Safety updated his numbers. If all this were to be implemented, it would cost Canadians about $10 billion to build the jails and incarcerate the number of people it is estimated would be put in jails pursuant to much of this legislation. Some of the opportunities for parole or house arrest would be closed down. It is an extraordinary number and it is not necessary. Some of the speeches that have been given have indicated why Bill C-4 may not be the right approach. It may need to be reconsidered.

I received a letter from Defence for Children International-Canada which would certainly like to see a more balanced approach. That group disclosed something that I was not aware of. The group stated in its letter of April 26, 2010:

How can a government, with all its resources for research, get its proposal for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act so wrong? They [the government] held a series of Round Table discussions but didn't publish the findings.

It is extraordinary that a public consultation would take place but the public's views would never be disclosed. It raises some interesting questions. The minister spoke on Friday, March 19. I highlighted a couple of his statements in his speech. He stated:

The law must be adequate to hold them [young offenders] appropriately accountable for the offences committed, consistent with their degree of responsibility in a manner that protects the public.

He went on to say:

Canadians look to their government to ensure that the justice system is working effectively and that the country's citizens are safe.... Our approach is balanced. It includes: prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation.

Those are good words, but what are the facts? Consistency with the degree of responsibility is the principle point I want to raise in debate. If we are talking about public safety, is this public safety before or after a crime is committed? Most of the legislation is to get tough on crime after a crime has been committed, after someone has committed an offence and after the person is in the prison system.

We are going to protect citizens' safety not from the crime but from recidivism. That is an important point. We are dealing with public safety after the public has already been hurt once. We really have to tighten the screws and keep these violent young offenders from ever hurting the public again. It is interesting to use the words “to protect public safety”, but it is a matter of when. We hear a lot about protecting victims' rights. We should not have to be worried about protecting victims' rights because we should be reducing the number of victims in the first place. This is the whole aspect of prevention.

The minister suggests that the government's approach is balanced and includes prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation. With regard to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, formerly called fetal alcohol syndrome, I asked the health minister a question in the House as to whether or not the funding was going to continue for those support programs for fetal alcohol syndrome. Ultimately, the answer came out that the funding for FASD was cut. It was cut in each of the last two years.

Why is fetal alcohol syndrome, now called fetal alcohol spectrum of disorders, relevant to this debate? It is relevant because the evidence by the federal and provincial governments, as well as in expert testimony and the speech by the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca indicate that 40% to 50% of the people in Canada's jails suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome or other alcohol-related birth defects. Almost half of the people in Canada's jails have a mental illness.

When I was first elected in 1993, I was involved with a hospital, I was very involved in the community, and I wanted to see what the health community was doing. I had spent nine years on the hospital board. I saw that in 1992, the year before I got elected, the health committee did a study on fetal alcohol syndrome, called “Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: A Preventable Tragedy”. I did not know what it was. I did not know what caused it. I did not even know where it was coming from.

I am an educated person, experienced in the community and have done a lot of community service, and I had never heard of it before. That is where the level of involvement of the Government of Canada changed. I took it on as a project. I have been working on it for at least 10 years. I want to raise the level of information and education of Canadians and governments to be able to address the issues.

The point here is that there is an inextricable link between the social conditions in which people grow up and their experience with the law. As a matter of fact, just through looking at the budgets, the last time we had a full-blown recession, the relationship between property and violent crime and the unemployment rate actually tracked very well. We can understand that when people are under pressure for money, those things happen.

I wanted to raise this because the government has a slogan that says it is going to be tough on crime, but there is no plan that deals with crime in reality, such as with fetal alcohol syndrome. Almost half of the people who are in the jails of our country are not culpable. The minister said in the opening of his speech, “consistent with their degree of responsibility”. It is incurable but it is preventable.

People with mental illness do not know the difference between right and wrong. In all of the presentations on these criminal justice bills and particularly now with regard to the young offenders legislation, the government members still have not talked about dealing with those for whom rehabilitation is not applicable and where recidivism is high because of mental illness. These are realities in terms of our criminal justice system.

My plea to the House and to the government is to make an effort to inform Canadians and to support programs that will help to address this problem in our criminal justice system. It is not going to be solved by throwing away the key. These people need help. Their parents have to take care of them, many for the rest of their lives probably, because they are incapable of working or living independently.

This is a serious issue. Fetal alcohol syndrome is part of the discussion of criminal justice matters. I urge the government to start supporting that work.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the evidence before us in terms of crime, recidivism and crime rates, there is a huge gap between what works, what the Conservatives are suggesting, what the reality is and what the Conservatives are attempting to insinuate with the general public.

I was very interested to hear my colleague talk about the fact that the government had a consultation process and yet did not release any of the information. It is highly problematic, when we are talking about creating public policy with regard to crime and youth and taking way some of the tools that already exist for dealing with youth who have done some terrible things or are in very bad situations, that the government would suppress that information.

It seems to be a general pattern of the government to regularly suppress information that does not fit with what its little war room comes out with, what fits in 140 characters or less or what fits in a BlackBerry message it can send to its members to respond to local media. The need for public policy must be based on evidence, not just ideology.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague what he thinks about this situation.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that was precisely what I was thinking when I got this letter from the Defence for Children International-Canada dated April 26, 2010. What the member describes is plausible but there is other evidence.

The government seems to rely more heavily on slogans than it does on delivery of solutions to some of the problems. It is why so many of the justice bills have not gone through the full cycle of the legislative process. They have died on the order paper for a variety of reasons, are reintroduced, sometimes in omnibus bills, sometimes not, and sometimes not even reintroduced, just like Bill C-25 in the last Parliament on young offenders. We are two years into this Parliament and now the bill finally comes up. Does that reflect the priority of the government with regard to the youth criminal justice system?

There is a very good possibility that this bill will not be dealt with at all stages simply because the summer is coming and it seems like it is a good time to call an election.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up with my colleague on the fact that there has probably never been a government that has had such a pitiful record in terms of output as the present government.

We talk about the Auditor General looking at value for dollar. Perhaps we should look at how many bills the government has brought forward and how many times it has beaten the drum, waved the flag and said that it would do something but then let the bill die and then started the whole process over again.

My colleague has been sitting on a number of committees. In terms of its record, the government has done nothing for the environment except support big oil, it has done nothing to deal with pensions and it has done nothing to deal with the unemployed. It is now five years into its term in office and it cannot even get its own dumped-down crime bills through the House because it is not interested in getting them through the House. It is only interested in running up the flag and sending out the attack ten percenters.

If he could look back on the last four or five years, has the government amounted to very much?

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very serious about Bill C-4 and the need to take into account that there are other social factors related to the incidence of crime and public safety. I am interested in prevention. With regard to fetal alcohol syndrome and other alcohol-related birth defects, it means that the government needs to start investing in programs to deal with those who have a tendency to commit crime in Canada as young offenders.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today on behalf of my party to speak to Bill C-4. Amending the Youth Criminal Justice Act has consequences for all Canadians and it is, without a doubt, a bill of great interest to many.

The bill would amend not only the current sentencing under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, or the YCJA, but the fundamental principles of the system in Canada. Much of the debate in recent days has involved the merits of possible amendments to the current act and this ought to be done with an understanding of the basic guiding principles and the purpose of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

The YCJA is so important it is appended to the Criminal Code and any compilation of it. It is a separate act from the Criminal Code, it should be noted, because things dealing with youth are not meant to be dealt with all within the Criminal Code. That is fundamental to the comments that I will make today.

Since the foundation of Canada’s criminal system for young offenders, amendments have been consistently made in an evolutionary manner. The current act strikes a necessary and proven balance between the interests of the young individual and those of society, and notably endeavours to have young offenders recognize the consequences of their actions.

The Young Offenders Act came into force in 1984 and marked the commencement of a progressive and effectual criminal justice system for Canada’s youth.

Today the fundamental principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act can be seen as a balance between addressing circumstances that lead to offending behaviour and reintegrating young offenders into society through rehabilitation.

Public protection would supercede prevention under this bill as proposed by the government, something utterly inexcusable. While we prohibit criminal acts in Canadian society, certainly some will offend regardless of age. This does not, however, mean we should abandon any and all efforts to prevent criminal offences in Canada. The proactive approach facilitated under the current Youth Criminal Justice Act should never be deserted for a reactionary system bent on increasing the number of incarcerated youth offenders.

I will quote from the declaration of principle in the act. It reads:

the youth criminal justice system is intended to: (i) prevent crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour, (ii) rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society, and (iii) ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his or her offence....

Reading that, how could we disagree with the fundamental principles underlying the existing act? What the government has failed to recognize is that public safety is inherent in the act itself as it exists. As seen in the second principle as I just quoted, the long-term protection of the public is already in the act. The criminal justice system for young persons must be separate from that of adults and the act emphasizes the following: rehabilitation and integration; fair and proportionate accountability that is consistent with the greater dependency of young persons; and their reduced level of maturity.

Also, there is enhanced procedural protection to ensure that young persons are treated fairly and that their rights, including the right of privacy, are protected. There is also indication that there would be timely intervention to reinforce the link between the offending behaviour and its consequences.

Finally, there is an element that promptness and speed with which persons responsible for enforcing this act must be done in a manner to give the young person's perception of time a reality.

Needless to say, preventive, accountable justice is central to the criminal system for young offenders, where public safety is above all understood to be the final aim.

As this House knows very well and reinforced after initial debate on this bill on protecting the public from violent young offenders, the fundamental pillars of the existing act are accountability, rehabilitation, reintegration, and respect for societal values. It is important to highlight the existing laws because they meet the needs of young people and also meet the need for public safety.

This brings me to another point. Bill C-4 would overhaul the sentencing principles for youth criminal justice to include deterrence and denunciation. So, there are a number of elements to this bill, and some of them have been canvassed widely by previous speakers.

Anything that inserts the recommendations of Justice Merlin Nunn in the Nova Scotia report consequent to the McEvoy incident, those are good recommendations. There is no question that this bill will be sent to committee and those recommendations, which have been widely accepted, will be adopted by parties at the committee and sent back here.

I started my speech talking about the need or not for a preamble. I think it is a bit of a red herring. The Youth Criminal Justice Act has a preamble that covers issues of public safety and public security. If the Youth Criminal Justice Act were not needed and not mandated by international convention and not mandated by our sense of how youth are different from adult criminal offenders, then it would not need to exist. However, it clearly needs to exist because it is in the preamble.

We might think that the Criminal Code of Canada, the larger part of the book, would have a preamble saying that the purpose of this act is to make the public secure. However, it does not have a preamble. It just has a title saying that this is a law respecting the criminal laws of Canada. The substance of the Criminal Code of Canada is within the Criminal Code of Canada. I would submit that the criminal code for dummies version that I might author some day would concentrate on section 718, the sentencing principles of the Criminal Code, that takes into account all offences and says that when a court or a judge is imposing a sentence, it should take into consideration the pillars of what we want in society.

This brings me to my next point with respect to criminal behaviour among the youth.

I find it troubling that the insertion of deterrence and denunciation is being attempted here. Why have a separate act? Why not just put it all into the Criminal Code?

My friends across the way will know that in certain presumptive offences, youth who are convicted of certain heinous crimes can be sentenced as adults. We ought to have a separate system because the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children demands that we do. Not only that, we are a progressive, enlightened republic and we understand that children are different. When youth are involved in criminal activity, if there is class of criminal offenders who we ought to have hope for it is our youth, the young men and women who are covered by the act that exists.

I fear that, and we will have this debate at committee, the introduction of a preamble, the insertion of grown-up principles of deterrence and denunciation into the act, will leave judges more and more to treat all youth offenders like adult offenders. It will blur the line between youth criminal acts and adult criminal acts. It will say to judges and to the public in general, why do we need a Youth Criminal Justice act? Why not just have a Criminal Code? I think we would then be on the way to throwing away generations of youth offenders who might be reintegrated into society and who are clearly rehabilitatable because of their age and their lack of maturity. As the act says, they do not understand the consequences of their act.

This bill will go to committee where we will study it. There are some meritorious changes in the act but there are some overwhelming philosophical consequences that will spur on great debate at committee.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would certainly like to thank my friend, a member of the justice committee, for his thoughtful comments regarding this bill. I am glad to hear that he will support this bill at second reading so we can study it in more detail at committee.

However, as a precursor to those debates that he has indicated will occur, given that young persons are very media savvy with respect to new forms of media and certainly when an individual is subject to the youth criminal process the word of the disposition filters out through the electronic media very quickly, does he not see some role for the concepts of deterrence and denunciation in the youth court sentencing process?

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the answer, in reading the Youth Criminal Justice Act as it exists, is that it is already there. The preamble, the founding principles of the YCJA, make it clearly different from the Criminal Code.

The Criminal Code lists all the crimes and at the very end of the code, section 718 out of about 800 sections, it says how we are going deal them, and that is the pith and substance of the Criminal Code. It says that we are going to take into account rehabilitation, et cetera.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act says that we are dealing with children, that they must be saved, and we are going to respect society's desire to have public security and to make young people understand the consequences of their actions.

It is inferred in the Criminal Code that adults have to intend the consequences of their actions and by law, subjectively or objectively, are taken to know the consequences of their actions. The implication in the Youth Criminal Justice Act is that many youth do not understand the consequences of their actions, and through reintegration and the extrajudicial measures that are in the YCJA, they can be made contributing members of society without introducing the adult concepts, word for word, from the Criminal Code.

Again, it raises the debate of having two separate laws, jurisdictions or codes, and it does not sound like my friend wants to have a YCJA.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague's speech on this because one of the problems we are finding with the Tories' dumb on crime approach is that they create this chimera, that provisions do not exist so they are going to somehow solve it, that there is no way that the police had any powers to deal with crystal meth, when they obviously did have the tools.

We know that they have gone out now and said that there is no way we can stop these young gangbangers and hooligans, when the Youth Criminal Justice Act has all these powers.

I would ask my hon. colleague if he thinks it is maybe a dangerous, continual undermining of Canadians' confidence in a well thought out judicial system that, as he says, can hold very dangerous youth and treat them as adults, but it also treats youth as being a separate and needed category because it is not just a national priority. It also fits with the rules of international law.

Why does he think that bill after bill that the government has been bringing forward seem to be undermining confidence in the justice system by claiming to fix problems that do not exist because they have already been dealt with in the Criminal Code?

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member. There have been allegations that the system is not working, that all acts are bad, that judges are soft, and it does not do a lot to strengthen the confidence in the system.

All members of our committee and all members of the House should know that we have very hard-working prosecutors, police forces and judges who work to make the system survive and responsive to crimes.

We are not exactly against the tinkering with the YCJA and the idea that Justice Nunn's recommendations for interim release be instituted. That is not a problem. It is fine to do some tweaking with violent offenders who are pawns in gang activity and who many know the status of their actions, but this carte blanche denunciation and deterrence, this carte blanche change of the preamble is not necessary. It is done to be divisive. It is done for politics and it is really a disservice to the sense of public safety that all of us in this House should be working toward.

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

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I share the views of my hon. colleague on the cautious optimism about this particular bill as it enters committee.

One of the issues the member brought forward, which is dear to my heart, is the idea of how to handle rehabilitation of young offenders in rural areas, and the facilities and programs that are available for that rehabilitation process.

I would like the member to discuss that further. I know she did not have a lot of time and she has a wealth of experience in this sort of thing. She did mention the rural areas. I am particularly concerned about the lack of rehabilitation. Depending on where the resources are, certainly where I am, in an area that is sparsely populated, it is of major concern.

Therefore, I ask the member to bring that up and perhaps bring more details to the House.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure about my wealth of knowledge, but it is a really serious issue.

In Nova Scotia there is really one facility for young people to go to if they need to spend time in a youth detention facility. It is pretty much in the centre of the province, but it really ends up taking many of these young people away from their homes and from their communities.

In Nova Scotia we have a restorative justice program that is contingent and relies on the community to hold young people accountable. It relies on the community to be there when the youth is released and to match their progress in the community. That can have a really detrimental effect.

We see the situation in other rural areas of Canada where youth can be put into adult facilities, which is entirely inappropriate. They are young people and they need to be treated like young people, not in adult facilities where they will learn how to be better criminals. We need them to be where they will learn how to be better citizens.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, one of her concerns with the bill is that a publication ban on the name of the offender might be lifted. I certainly agree with her that a blanket lifting of publication bans is not appropriate under the circumstances. However, I can envision certain circumstances where the name of the young person ought to be released.

I think specifically of a particularly violent offender, perhaps a sexual predator who is about to be released into the community and who perhaps attends a high school. I am curious to hear her comments as to whether she believes that in this situation the public has a right to know about the individual and his or her imminent release into the community.