Madam Speaker, we have an opportunity today to be positive.
We can show the youth of our country that we do care and that we are willing to make the decisions necessary to benefit them in the long run. At the same time, we can show Canadians that we are listening, that we not only hear but also care about their anguish and anger.
We have an opportunity today to take all the pain, all the frustration and all the hopes and expectations and act substantively. What Canadians want from their members of Parliament is action and this motion from my side of the House responds to the expectations of Canadians.
The members opposite can also show today that they have heard and that they do care. I know that they do. They can support our motion. It appears that it will take further effort to get the members opposite to come to understand the problem of youth crime in the same way that we do.
Given this, I intend today to make an argument for change. My colleagues have provided many constructive arguments for ways to change the Young Offenders Act. We are simply proposing more vigorously to reform the criminal justice system and, most especially, bring change to the Young Offenders Act.
Despite contrary voices there has been an increase in youth crime and there are a myriad of contributing factors to this increase. We have heard about those today. It is clear that the lack of effectiveness of the YOA is one of those contributing factors, but I also want to point out that the Canadian perception of an increase in youth crime is not a false perception. Some of the members across the floor are quick to dismiss any talk of rising crime statistics as fearmongering or some kind of knee-jerk response and a reaction perhaps to isolated instances.
I will provide information a little later showing just how wrong minded so many of the members across the floor are. I ask them to raise their heads, to listen to Canadians and then they too will appreciate the magnitude of this problem.
The members of my party are attempting to substantively address the problem. During the election campaign, on the doorsteps, at town hall meetings, during public debates and in the coffee shops people were talking about the Young Offenders Act and victims' rights. We heard them and we promised we would bring those concerns, the concerns of Canadians, with us to Ottawa. And we are living up to that promise. Unfortunately, the government has done nothing to date but we hear good things in the offing. To date it has done nothing about the Young Offenders Act and criminal justice reform. Promises are made. Yes, indeed. Soon, we are told and we continue to wait.
I know how concerned Canadians have become because on Mothers Day I attended the rally in Calgary that was held simultaneously with Edmonton and between those two rallies over 4,000 people came together to voice their concerns about the increase in violent crime by youths and the commensurate
lack of judicial action to deter criminal activity. Believe me, it was painful to hear their stories.
When the Young Offenders Act was introduced it may have been well intended but it has failed miserably. After the act came into force young offenders quickly came to understand that they could commit crimes and that if they were caught the punishment they would get would no worse than a slap on the wrist.
Unfortunately young offenders have become very clever. They know that when committing a crime their chances of being caught are very slim. Worse than that even if they are caught they know that their names will not be published, they know their records will be expunged five years after their sentence is finished. They know that the maximum sentence they can receive in youth court is three years. They know that the courts do not even like to try young offenders in adult court. In fact, in 1990-91 less than 1 per cent of violent cases were even transferred to adult court. They know that they can return to the community without undergoing any treatment whatsoever. Simply put, they know they can continue to get away with it.
Those of us who herald this debate have been called alarmists by many people in this House today and I wish to dispel that misunderstanding. I want to bring the debate even a little closer to home with some chilling statistics and we have had a lot of those thrown out today.
According to the MacKenzie Institute in Calgary, between 1988 and 1991 the violent crime rate among youth increased by 179 per cent. When those people rallied on Mothers Day they were not reacting in an alarmist fashion to a make believe problem. They were reacting to their heartfelt knowledge that the instances of violent crimes committed in Calgary and elsewhere by youth are increasing at an alarming rate. As well, not only is there a statistical increase in youth crimes but a Mount Royal criminologist, John Winterdyk, is also concerned that the nature of the crimes committed by young people seem to be more random, more violent and more senseless.
On that unhappy topic I have further statistics to corroborate Mr. Winterdyk's concerns. Of the 135,348 youths charged in criminal code incidents in 1992, 15 per cent were charged with violent crimes. This proportion was up 10.5 per cent from 1988. We should be very concerned that there was a 5 per cent increase in only four years. As well, the number of youths charged in violent incidents increased at a faster rate than the number of adults charged with crimes of violence. From 1988 to 1992 the average increase in adult violent crimes was 85 per cent whereas the average annual increase in youth violent crimes was 14 per cent. This demonstrates that as a society not only are we becoming more violent but that in particular more youths are becoming more violent more quickly.
Madam Speaker, I do thank you for the time allotted me today. I have appreciated very much, along with other members, the opportunity to speak on this matter.