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 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Megan Leslie NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, honestly, at first blush, this piece in Bill C-4 raises my hackles and makes me very worried. Right now, I do not see opportunities where this is a good idea. I am open to hearing evidence at committee that this may be an effective tool in some cases. The Youth Criminal Justice Act is also about protecting communities, so I have room for being convinced.

However, on its face, it seems very problematic to me. If it is ever used, it should be used so sparingly that we could hardly count on one hand how many times it is used. I do not see how this would be in keeping with many other principles of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, in particular rehabilitation and reintegration into community. However, again, I look forward to hearing witnesses at committee.

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

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

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-4.

I would like to begin with a side comment about crime. Crime dominates the media. The trials of violent offenders and notorious fraud artists get extensive media coverage. We sometimes get the wrong impression and think that crime is on the rise, when quite the opposite is true. Statistics Canada's facts are rather clear and no one is accusing of it partisanship.

Youth courts are seeing fewer and fewer cases. In 2005-06, 56,271 cases were heard, a decrease of 2% from the previous year. While it is true that the youth crime rate increased by 3% in 2006, I must point out that that was the first increase since 2003 and for that reason, we cannot conclude that there is a strong upward trend.

Furthermore, with the exception of Quebec, where the rate dropped by 4% in 2006, all the provinces saw increases in the youth crime rate. Quebec focuses on rehabilitation. Some people will say that it is quite a coincidence, but it is no coincidence. When it comes to justice, the Bloc Québécois firmly believes that the most effective approach is always prevention. We must go after the underlying causes of crime.

Tackling the causes of crime and violence, rather than waiting for things to break down and then trying to fix them, is the wisest, and more importantly, the most profitable approach, in both social and economic terms. Clearly, we must first tackle poverty, inequality and exclusion, all of which provide fertile ground for frustration and its manifestations: violence and crime.

Speaking of fertile ground, I remember when I was young, during the most critical years of childhood and pre-adolescence. I lived in a poor neighbourhood where everyone was poor. People were either the poorest, less poor or just poor. There were some rich people, but they did not live in my area. In that environment there were some people my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue described as “having the makings of a criminal”. It was a social setting where that was likely. The funny thing is that there was a real divide between two streets: one street where people committed lesser crimes and the other street where people committed more serious crimes. This comes to mind because I saw people change under these circumstances. The difference came mainly from the influence, or lack of influence, of their absent parents. We also saw how the context affected the most vulnerable young people in these environments.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to a party hosted by a family that had lived in that neighbourhood. It was a rather big party and many of the young people who had lived in that neighbourhood were invited. I saw that for some people, things had turned around and changed. Some people who were not there were probably still in prison or dead. Other people there had had rather turbulent lives. In talking about it, we realized that social structure and support had been missing in some places. However, other people had been more privileged and things worked out for them.

Prevention is the dominant theme when we talk about potential crimes by young offenders.

Prevention can take a number of forms at the family level. These days some significant tools are available. Let us take, for example, early childhood education centres in Quebec, the CPEs, where children receive intellectual stimulation and physical activity. Young people can make progress more easily than in the past.

With respect to prevention, members will recall that the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie already introduced a bill regarding violence on television. I strongly believe that violence on television influences the actions of our children today. Crimes are often broadcast during prime time and are seen by young people. They get a message. Often, these crimes are excessively gratuitous and seemingly have no consequences. We can see someone committing robbery, acts of violence and even shooting another person.

The people committing these crimes seem to have no emotions, or perhaps just smiles on their faces. We never see the consequences. We do not see the police showing up. We do not see the people supporting the victim. We do not see the effects that these actions have on society and on the loved ones of the victims. We do not see any consequences. It is gratuitous and the scenes of violence do not show any sign of a punishment at the end of the day.

My colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie did some fantastic work on this issue. He held consultations all over Quebec. Many groups that work with young offenders and at-risk youth have helped kids avoid getting involved in criminal activity.

Television violence also has a major impact on crime rates among young offenders. We should consider taking a closer look at this important factor because, if I am not mistaken, television networks can choose not to broadcast programs or to broadcast them at times when young viewers are much less likely to see them. That is an important aspect of prevention.

As I said earlier, peer groups, poverty, follow-up and support are important factors for at-risk youth. If young people lose interest, cannot keep up at school and feel alienated, and if authority figures do not help them develop a sense of belonging and to their peer group and to society, they may look elsewhere, start getting in trouble and eventually get involved in criminal activity.

Prevention is essential, but unfortunately, there are always going to be some people committing some crimes, whether major or minor. Once that happens, we have to work with those people to identify the root causes. We cannot deter young people just by sticking offenders in jail for as long as possible. They need structure, support and help to identify the problems and fix them.

Some kids really do seem headed for a life of crime. That is when we have to take a different approach. We should adopt Quebec's approach, which focuses on prevention and rehabilitation.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, could the member to continue with the issue of rehabilitation and other items that are necessary in youth justice? It shows the wrong direction of the government.

The reason the government's crime agenda has been failure is it has not dealt with the fact that when convicts are released into society, rather than put them in what is called the university of the jails, there have to be other treatments such as rehabilitation, anger management and education so people are released less dangerous rather than more dangerous. As he said, if prevention programs are implemented to begin with, a lot of people will not end up in jail in the first place.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, prevention means that fewer people go to prison. However, some will still go and if they are looking at four or five years in youth reception centres before going to prison, the important thing is that there is structure. There needs to be active intervention. We cannot just shove them into a corner, as my colleague from Abitibi—Témiscamingue said. He is our party's critic on this file. He said that if these people do not get help from within the system, the first thing they will want to do is escape. However, getting them help is important, but it is something that is also very taxing on the system. It is a fact. There are constant follow-ups.

He gave the example of a young man who, at 15, I believe, killed his father. It took a year and a half for him to figure out why—a year and a half before this young man truly realized what he had done. When the crime was committed, was this young man really in a position to not commit the crime? I cannot say, but at least there was a follow-up and now, the member told us, he is an eminent surgeon.

The potential was there. If he had been shoved into a corner and then transferred to a prison, a school for crime, where people who would teach him about crime, he would not have gone to the university that he did, and he would not be an asset to society as he is today.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I guess the question we are talking about is priorities.

The government is going to spend billions to build prisons, to demonize youth, to take away the protections they have so that they can be thrown into prisons, and yet we see underspending of $180 million every year in first nations schools.

In the James Bay region that I represent, in the last two years we have had 11 suicides and 80 attempts among children and youth who feel their lives are so hopeless. In my region I have two communities without grade schools.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague, why is it that the government is spending billions to build jails, to throw young people away, to treat them as a discarded generation, when the children in communities on the James Bay coast and northern Canada are being left without the most basic supports, so that we have such outrageous levels of suicide attempts and such outrageous levels of dropout because the schools are substandard?

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Serge Cardin Bloc Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, as an aside, we may need money to build prisons if there are too many real criminals—as I will refer to them—who must pay their debt to society. However, we should never lose sight of the fact that, at the same time, we must deal with the root of the problem. We must work with youth in all areas, whether it is education or development, to truly prevent all kinds of inappropriate social behaviour.

We have work to do and investments to make in all areas. Prevention is one of those areas. The framework for this bill clearly establishes that prevention is an essential component. Granted, that could cost more than the $180 million mentioned by the member. Naturally, we have to make a commitment if we truly wish to succeed.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are debating another, another, amendment to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I say that knowing that the act used to be referred to, at one point, as the Young Offenders Act. This is probably the fifth set of changes this Parliament has dealt with since the time when Parliament accepted that the old Juvenile Delinquents Act did not really suit where we were headed as a society.

It is quite fair to accept that, from time to time, it is necessary to fine-tune our legislation. That is essentially what we do here all the time for all of our laws and our public policy. Approximately five years ago, there was an inquiry in the province of Nova Scotia dealing with young offenders. That particular inquiry produced a very credible report that suggested that components of our Youth Criminal Justice Act were not up to par and that portions of it could use some minor amendments in the public interest.

Those areas dealt with the way we handled youth who, with 20/20 hindsight, were potentially violent and seriously violent offenders and were not really controllable by the kinds of routine orders and judicial intervention available under the act. I sat on the justice committee at the time and I recall pretty much around-the-table acceptance of those suggestions. Those suggestions for reform have now found their way into this bill.

In fairness, I should say that there have been a couple of other bills before Parliament that attempted to implement the same changes. We are finally getting around to it now. For those changes dealing with the really hard-to-handle procedural problems involving young offenders, I could not imagine there would be too much dissent.

Even the judge who led the inquiry in Nova Scotia said that these should be seen as minor amendments. There is no need to make a radical overhaul of the statute, but these amendments would suit the public interest in the sense that they would protect both the public and the young offender from potential serious harms in the period that follows the police intervention until the time when the youth is sentenced. That would be the interim period while the youth is being processed, while charges are being laid and during the trial.

I do not think he pointed out any problems with the act regarding the period after conviction and sentence. But he did request that these amendments look very clearly and honestly at the problem of youth who have adopted a potentially violent modus operandi and society needs protection from that.

In this particular bill, there is a whole lot more than just those recommended changes. Members should go to the title; this is not the first time I have spoken about this. On the front page, it says, “An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act”. There is nothing the matter with that, but then clause 1 says that this act may be cited as somebody’s law, protecting the public from violent young offenders.

That is a commercial. That is an Orwellian mantra. It is a distortion. It is an adulteration of what should be there in the first section. This is a bill that is there to make a minor but important amendment, not a very complex set of amendments, to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I object to that type of title. When that kind of a title is in there, it actually ought to tell us something. The bill just might be torqued to do a little bit more than just a minor amendment to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. Anyway, we read through the bill and find it does attempt to make some significant changes.

I note that this is one of about half a dozen criminal law amendment bills, and I also ask the question: Why did the Conservatives not put all these criminal justice bills into one bill? We have done that lots of times before. We make several amendments to the Criminal Code, we put them in a bill, call it an omnibus Criminal Code amendment bill and the House deals with it. But no, the government has to do a separate bill for every category of change it can think of. That has to tell us something also.

So utterly telling is the contrast between this bill and the budget implementation bill, Bill C-9. Do members know how many bills that bill changes, how many statutes that bill amends? It seeks to amend 29 statutes in one bill, and yet when it came to making amendments to the Criminal Code, the government had to introduce a half dozen separate bills. I do not quite understand that. Maybe I am naive and maybe there is something going on here I do not see, but I will leave it to the voters to figure that one out.

When it comes to youth criminal justice, a term we should be dealing with is the concept of intervention. I have not heard that term a lot here, but it is so important, and in my view it is the most important concept. When a youth goes offside, breaks the law, and I am talking of a person who is between the low threshold and 17 years old, I prefer to regard our obligation as that of intervention. Now some Canadians would just like to treat that like a normal criminal act; we charge, we convict, we sentence, we deal with it. But we have learned in society that it is the absolute worst way to deal with young offenders. For a person in the sometimes turbulent, confused youth years, a lot of things happen.

I will admit that, when I was under 10 years old, I broke into a house, I as a little kid with some other kids. As great irony would have it, Mr. Speaker, you will not believe it, but the house I and the others broke into was the house of a Juvenile Delinquents Act judge. Is that not unbelievable? And I was the son of a policeman, to boot. At the time I really did not think I was breaking any laws. I actually did not know a lot about what I was doing. But the point is: What if they had taken all those youths who were all different ages and just put us all in jail? How would our lives have turned out? That would have been a bad story.

I refer colleagues to the Perry preschool project and the whole history of that project, which began about 1960 and went on for 25 years in the Chicago area. It measured outcomes between one group with which there was a huge intervention, in school and otherwise, and another group for which there was no intervention. The outcomes were like night and day. We have proven that intervention works and jailing does not. Even though it can be very expensive, the dollars we spend on intervention are infinitely better spent than any money we are going to have to spend later, after the fact, jailing and punishing. In addition, the youth who get through these turbulent years and make better choices rather than bad choices end up costing us zero and are productive citizens.

I am getting close to the end of my time for debate. I will pause here in the hope of being able to speak further at a later date.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for his speech and his éminence grise character with respect to justice issues. I want to ask a point-blank question though. Does he think the additions to a preamble of a bill to take away from its concentration on children and move it to a concentration on public security, when those factors are already covered, are necessary? Why is it, then, that the Criminal Code does not have any preamble at all?

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, everyone knows what the Criminal Code is. It is straight, charter-based criminal justice.

Our Young Offenders Act and Youth Criminal Justice Act were designed to shape the hand of the societal intervention. The preamble we put in there is intended to show us why we are doing this, to shape the hand of the intervention so the outcome can be better than it would have been. We are looking for outcome. It is not the societal response. It is not the punishment. It is the outcome in relation to the life of the youth in question.

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

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

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, if I interpreted the member's speech correctly, he said the government should have put this bill in with a bunch of other bills into an omnibus bill. I would definitely disagree with that. The government does that when it has a whole bunch of ineffective, poor bills it wants to pass all at once.

On the other hand, does this mean the member also thinks that Bill C-9 as an omnibus bill was a good idea? There were lots of things all in that one bill.

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

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

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, most of us have difficulty with omnibus bills sometimes, because they do tend to have a lot of legislation buried in them. The thing about an omnibus bill is that there is a theme that brings all the pieces of proposed legislation together. In Bill C-9, the budget implementation bill, there is virtually no theme. With the potential sale of AECL and legislation about payment cards or credit cards, it is all over the map. There is no theme.

In terms of criminal law legislation, we have seen bills in the past here and in other jurisdictions that have a themed Criminal Code amendment, and I was referring to those.

My colleague makes a good point that, when we are dealing with youth criminal justice, it is a very visible separate component of our criminal justice system. We keep it separate. That is why I styled my remarks around the theme of intervention as opposed to retribution, accountability, deterrence, these types of issues.

I recall visiting a youth boot camp in the Ontario jurisdiction. It was a very successful operation that dealt with youth. It was well run and disciplined. The young men there earned points to get the chance to go home on weekends on a supervised home visit.

I did bump into one young man and I asked him where he was going after he was out of there. It was a very sad comment because he said he did not have any family so it did not matter whether he earned any points to go home on the weekend. He said he would probably go back to the pool hall.

What a sad situation that the intervention that was there, which seemed to be having some benefit, was going to come to an end. The intervention would end and that young man would go back to a pool hall in Toronto. He was not going to go back to school. He did not seem to have any appetite for that. He was about 17 years old. I was quite saddened that the intervention that was there was going to come to an end and he was going to end up back at the same place that probably got him into trouble in the first place.

I go back to my theme of quality intervention. The better the quality, the better the outcome and the better it is for our society.

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

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

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleagues will notice that my voice is a bit hoarse; I have a terrible cold. I have water and throat lozenges in case I cough too much; I have everything I need. I hope I will not have to interrupt my speech.

The Bloc Québécois has serious misgivings about Bill C-4, an Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, which would toughen prison sentences for youth. This bill is part of the Conservative government's tough on crime policy.

Protecting society is the bill's guiding principle, but I will show that this is definitely not what will be achieved in the long term. The tough on crime policy will not, in the long term, protect society. The experience of California, which has been operating under this policy for 30 years, is proof. Quebec, however, with its rehabilitation policy, has the lowest crime rates in North America.

The courts ordered the State of California to let 40,000 prisoners go, 6,000 of them this past January. Are we supposed to believe that we can promote public safety by freeing 6,000 prisoners who spent many idle years in overpopulated and underfunded prisons that produce aggressive and violent individuals? That is not what Californians think.

Tougher sentencing will not enhance public safety, and I will explain why. Repression does not work. Rehabilitation does not work either because costs are soaring and there is no money for these kinds of programs.

Quebec's juvenile justice system works because of its legal aid program, rehabilitation incentive program, offender education program, probation and, most importantly in this context, the complete overhaul of preliminary intervention approaches under the 1977 Youth Protection Act. Our system is the envy of Californians.

An in-depth statistical study entitled Did Getting Tough on Crime Pay? showed that American tough on crime policies introduced since the 1980s were driven by media manipulation and false perceptions about lenient sentencing for serious crimes. Political arguments for tougher sentencing are invariably based on exceptionally lenient sentences that create false impressions about typical or average sentences.

The opposite is true in this case. Bill C-4, which the Conservatives have dubbed Sébastien's law, does not constitute a response to Sébastien's murder at all because the murderer, who was a minor at the time, is currently in jail for life. People who commit serious crimes go to jail for a long time. This proves that the current law works and that we do not need to change it. We cannot do more than that. No law can do more than that.

Unlike California—which, for lack of funding, is keeping prisoners in spaces that are too small and overpopulated with nothing productive to do, which only feeds their violence—the governments of Quebec and Canada have thus far been spending money to keep prisoners in a healthy environment, to occupy their time productively and teach them to reintegrate into society. If we were to begin overcrowding our prisons, that situation would change, as it did in California.

Just when the Canadian Conservative government is about to make the system even tougher, former journalist Art Montague and a number of associations that work with inmates are showing how the American model, which the Conservatives are emulating, is going through a major crisis that is forcing it to move more towards the kind of system that we have here. The Quebec model, as I said earlier, with its focus on rehabilitation, has the lowest crime rate.

The crisis in California is happening on two levels, socially and economically, each echoing the other. One reinforces the other, which demonstrates not only how completely ineffective tougher sentences are when it comes to fighting crime, but also how devastating it is for the economy and the quality of correctional services. A punitive approach undermines the importance of social services such as education and rehabilitation programs for inmates, which are the key to effectively reducing crime.

Many articles in the Wall Street Journal and The Economist, serious publications that cannot be called leftist, demonstrate how 30 years of tough on crime policies have led to overcrowded prisons. The California prison system is currently at 200% of capacity, with 187,000 inmates.

This sort of overcrowding creates a serious threat to public safety. The 2007 Chino prison riot, where authorities stood by powerless while inmates took control of dormitory Z for more than 20 hours, is proof of this.

As the articles in the Wall Street Journal and The Economist show, prison overcrowding is having a disastrous effect on the state's budget, which already has an enormous deficit. More inmates require more resources, yet the state recently had to cut $1.2 billion from its prison system.

The State of California spends nearly 10% of its budget on its correctional system, but only 5.7% on universities. The reverse was true 25 years ago.

The United States has the dubious distinction of incarcerating more individuals per capita than any other documented country in the world. That was the finding of a 2008 study by the Pew Research Center.

California's high budget costs are forcing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to come up with totally crazy solutions, such as having prisons built in Mexico by Mexicans to house American inmates. The Supreme Court, though, ordered him to release 40,000 inmates.

When prisons are overcrowded, it is impossible to maintain proper health and safety services. This led the Prison Law Office to file a lawsuit against the state. A federal judge ruled in favour of the organization and ordered the state to reduce the prison population by 40,000 inmates, which would bring it down to 137% of capacity, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Just recently, on January 18, 2010, a special judicial panel decided to get around the Supreme Court deadline and order the release of 6,000 inmates.

The crisis is twofold. On the one hand, the high cost of 30 years of so-called “tough on crime” detention policy has killed more sensitive prevention and rehabilitation policies. The current punitive policy has put the prison system in an untenable situation, though, forcing authorities to empty the prisons of thousands of inmates who will reintegrate into society without proper supervision, which is raising serious concerns among local authorities and community leaders in California.

The inmates will leave prison without any training, without any job prospects and without having worked on their rehabilitation. Imagine 6,000 inmates looking for a job while also looking for a place to live. These same 6,000 inmates went to crime school for years in close quarters with nothing else to do than to become more violent and fuel their aggression and rage. Six thousand people are a threat to public safety. The president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League even called this a perfect storm for public safety. Imagine what will happen when that number goes up to 40,000, as the Supreme Court is calling for.

Various media and organizations such as Prison Fellowship, feel that the soaring costs associated with overcrowded prisons in California have other adverse effects, namely budgetary cuts that affect the system's capacity for maintaining or implementing rehabilitation and education programs. In addition to being held in increasingly inhumane conditions, inmates do not receive any help in learning how to control their violence, live in society and become law-abiding citizens.

This lack of services and follow-up, both inside and outside the prison, leaves the inmates to fend for themselves and makes them more likely to end up back in prison. Tougher sentences have a negative impact on all aspects of programs that have for more than 40 years focused on preventing crime through social rehabilitation. It comes as no surprise that the rate of recidivism there is 70%, while in Quebec it is between 10% and 20%.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois will conduct a thorough analysis of the study in committee in order to hear all the players involved and improve whatever aspects of this bill that we can.

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

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

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to this discussion all day and what really concerns me about the Conservatives' agenda on crime, or their so-called agenda on crime, is that they continually bring forward bills that address key elements that are already within the justice system. However, they are creating the image for the public that these huge gaps exist.

In looking at many of their bills, we see that they do not even bother bringing them into the law. They run them up the flag pole, beat the drums, try to get the public angry against the justice system and then they let the bills die or re-introduce them.

The Youth Criminal Justice Act is a cornerstone. The Youth Criminal Justice Act already contains a wide degree of support for dealing with youth who are very dangerous offenders. However, the whole issue of rehabilitation and the need to treat youth separate from adults is a cornerstone principle of a modern justice system. The government seems to want to blur that. It wants to treat youth offenders as if they were the Hells Angels.

Why does my hon. colleague think the government is continually playing politics with issues that really require a cohesive and thoughtful response in order to make good public policy?

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Carole Lavallée Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government's tough on crime approach is completely incomprehensible. The experience of the State of California shows that this approach is a total failure. After 30 years of tougher sentences, California has learned that this approach does not foster rehabilitation. The state has a recidivism rate of 70%.

This also shows that being tough on crime does not work. Budgets are soaring because of recidivism. The system is self-perpetuating. Requiring the state to release 40,000 inmates, including 6,0000 in January, shows that public safety has not been maintained in the long term.

The only plausible explanation for the government's insistence on adopting this unworkable approach is misguided populism. It has been proven that this approach does not work. Everything I said earlier has been documented in full. The Conservatives do not know or are unable to explain to their voters that this is a policy that just does not work. Rather than explaining that it does not work, they prefer to present this populist measure here and pretend that it does work.

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

May 3rd, 2010 / 3:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Ed Fast Conservative Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her intervention, although I disagree with her.

One thing we do not hear from the Liberals, the Bloc or the NDP when we have these kinds of debate is the word “victim”. It virtually never comes up.

The other thing that never comes up is the whole notion of protecting society. I know that went out the window back in 1971 when the Liberals put all their focus on rehabilitation and took the focus off the protection of society.

Since the member is so fundamentally opposed to this bill, which focuses on the most violent and dangerous young offenders, what does she propose our government do to protect society and ensure that in the future we do not have the number of victims of youth crime that we have had up to date?

She should perhaps visit my town of Abbotsford to see some of the impacts of youth crime.