Mr. Speaker, when I read this Reform Party motion last night, I could not believe my eyes. Here we have a party, the Reform Party, which for several weeks has been standing up in this House proposing prompt and comprehensive action to deal with youth crime. As a matter of fact today the two previous speakers for the Reform Party said we must have prompt action now to deal with youth crime.
What did we get? The Reform Party had an opportunity. It had an opposition day and it could put its specific proposals to the House, but all we get is a simplistic proposal to change the age. That is going to deal with youth crime? That is the kind of prompt, comprehensive action it wants to deal with youth crime, one simplistic proposal to change the age? It is true that in his speech the member for New Westminster-Burnaby referred to other matters which should be changed, but why are they not in this votable motion, if the Reform Party thinks we need action now?
Perhaps the reason we are getting this simple one line proposal is that the Reform Party is not really sure what should be done about youth crime. Maybe it is because it has no real commitment to any other proposal but this one simple change.
Perhaps it is because the Reform Party really does not know what should be done about youth crime that we are getting such a simple one proposal motion. Maybe this one point resolution is a sign that Reform members are beginning to realize this matter is more complex than they originally thought. Maybe they are beginning to realize there is no simplistic solution that we can simply take off the shelf and youth crime will go away.
The tough hard line approach to criminal justice has been tried in some of the United States. Florida, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana have the tough hard line approach proposed by the Reform Party and what are the results?
Florida has 9 murders per 100,000 population; Georgia has 11 murders per 100,000 population; Texas has 12.7 murders per 100,000 population; and Louisiana has 17.4 murders per 100,000 population. In Canada, where we have a more humane, rehabilitative and comprehensive approach to deal with crime, we have 2.5 murders per 100,000. And the Reform Party wants to move in the direction of Louisiana, Florida, Texas, Georgia, and other states. I hear that from Reformers every day in the House.
We in the Liberal Party have said that some amendments are required to the Young Offenders Act and we are going to introduce them. The Minister of Justice said he is going to introduce them within a couple of weeks. But we have also said that this is not the comprehensive solution to youth crime. Merely changing a few words in the Young Offenders Act is not going to stop youth crime.
It misleads the public. I believe certain members of the Reform Party are sincere, but they are really misleading the public when they say they want prompt action now, and they give us a one line proposal to simply change the age in the Young Offenders Act. They mislead the public if they think that is really going to deal with the problem of youth crime.
People who are familiar with the problem say over and over again that if you really want to do something about youth crime you have to address its many, many causes. Whether it is the breakdown in families, whether it is the lack of jobs, whether it is the lack of recreation, or whether as some of my colleagues have said it is that many young people have no home to go to, there are many causes. Unless you address those causes you will not get real solutions.
It appears the Reform Party has based this motion on the presumption that there has been a considerable increase in youth violent crime. That is not the case. There has been an increase in certain categories, but the impression Reform members give is that the situation is out of control.
It is much worse in some parts of the country than in others. But if we look at the statistics, offences resulting in the most serious personal injury, that is the offences of homicide, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault and so on, account for 2.4 per cent of youths charged with a violent offence, and 0.4 per cent of all youths charged with Criminal Code offences. The majority of charges, 62 per cent of those charges against youth, are for property offences.
With respect to murder, the highest rate of murder with respect to young offenders 12 to 17 years old was in 1975 when there were 68 youths between 12 and 17 who committed murder. The lowest was in 1987 when there were 35. There really is no discernible trend. Thirty-five are too many. Sixty-eight are too many. They are all too many. But this sort of panic approach that everything is out of control is completely wrong.
The Reform Party is proposing in its motion that the age be reduced from 12 to 17 years inclusive, which is the age for a young offender under the Young Offenders Act, to 10 to 15 years.
Under the present law persons who are 18 or more are treated as adults and they go before the adult courts. Those under 18 down to 12 years go to youth courts and are covered by the Young Offenders Act. As most of us know, a youth between 14 and 17 years can be transferred to the adult court on a motion presented by the crown to have that individual transferred to the adult court because the crime has been serious, a crime of violence and so on.
Let us repeat over and over again that those under 12 years are left to the jurisdiction of the provinces. It is up to the provinces to do something to protect the public and to rehabilitate and take care of those persons under 12 years.
Why did we pick 12 and 18 a few years ago when we did the Young Offenders Act? We did so because 18 was considered the general age of majority, not only in Canada but around the world. Therefore we said that once you were 18 you would be in adult courts and if you were under 18 you would be in the youth courts. We picked the age of 12 because that was the generally recognized age of puberty, and under 12 years you were considered not to have the same characteristics as a person 12 years and older. That is why we picked those ages.
As I said, the Minister of Justice is going to bring in a bill in a few weeks dealing with very specific changes to the Young Offenders Act. It will go much beyond this simplistic motion presented today by the Reform Party. He has also said he is going to refer the entire Young Offenders Act to the justice committee of which I am the chair for a complete review, no holds barred. Every part of the act will be looked at. Action will be taken, but action will be taken in a deliberative way.
Again this morning I heard Reform Party members continually asking whether we favour the rights of the offender or the rights of the victim, or do we favour the rights of the offender or the safety of society. These are not exclusive things. This is a false proposition.
It is not a contradiction to be concerned for the protection of society and for the offender. As a matter of fact if we are really interested in protecting society, we have to believe in rehabilitation because the overwhelming number of offences are limited offences and those people will be returned to society. Therefore we have to care about what happens to offenders when they are under our control, whether it is in a prison, on probation or parole, or whatever. If we do not show concern for the offender we are ignoring the safety of society.
We have to be extremely concerned and improve our programs for victims of crime and for protection of society. Sure, we must do that. But to pretend that you do one or the other and you ignore the offender and the offender's rights and the rights of society to make sure that the offender returns to society a safer person is wrong. We must do both. Rehabilitation is in the best interests of society.
In conclusion let me say this. We must deal with the Young Offenders Act and youth crime and the Minister of Justice will present us with a bill in a few weeks. We are also going to get a complete review of the Young Offenders Act. We must do that.
However, we should not deal with youth crime in the simplistic manner suggested to us this morning by members of the Reform Party. It will have no effect on the youth crime rate in this country. It will not solve the problems they refer to and they have raised some pretty serious problems.
They keep raising these individual cases which are horrible examples of crime by young people. Everybody will agree that these are horrible examples. By the way, because these crimes are reported in a spectacular way in the press the public has the perception that the youth crime problem is more widespread than it is. However we admit there are serious problems but we do not deal with them in the simplistic way the Reform Party suggests today.
We are going to get a bill in a few weeks. We are going to have a complete and thoughtful review. We are going to hear from individuals and organizations from all parts of the country.
That is the way to do it. We hear from all sides. We get input from experts and ordinary citizens. We get input from the police. We get input from correctional officers, social workers, teach-
ers, psychologists, the whole gambit of people who have some interest in this matter.
We will do it that way. That is the way we should do it. I invite the public during that review to work with us in Parliament to improve the situation and have better laws and a better situation with respect to youth crime.