Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the whip of the Reform Party I would like to advise the House that pursuant to Standing Order 43(2) our speakers on this motion will be dividing their time.
When I came to Parliament I came with the belief that as a member of Parliament I should be reflecting my constituents' wishes to Ottawa, not the reverse. For far too long the people of Canada have had the impression, much of it correct, that when they elect politicians in their constituency somehow they come down here and take on a particular aura, that somehow Ottawa ends up engulfing them.
I am committed to representing the views of my people in my constituency and they are starting to know that and believe that.
I believe the future of Canada resides in our young people. The young people of Canada truly are the future of Canada because as great and as magnificent as this country is physically with all of the assets that we have from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic, we are still no more than the spirit of the people of Canada.
I have been going out and making presentations to schools throughout my entire constituency as a first priority. Every day that I have been in my constituency since January I have made it a priority to be in a school because this is where the future citizens of Canada are and our young people are our country's future greatness.
At Fernie Senior Secondary School, Mr. Randy Rae teaches Law 12. In addition to being a teacher he is a rancher and also a director on the regional district of East Kootenay. Randy understands democracy and believes in democracy. Coming to a consensus with his class that the Young Offenders Act is flawed, he directed them to construct a process to try and make some changes to the act. He also told them that it would not be a waste of time because he believes that he has a member of Parliament who will go into the House of Commons and represent his and his students' wishes to Ottawa. He is right.
The assignment identified the present Young Offenders Act, explained what it is and how it works. They got copies of various changes that have been proposed to the act and finally conducted interviews, had discussions and surveyed at least 10 different people each and then summarized their views.
It is interesting that the survey results reflect much of what the Reform Party has been proposing in terms of changes to the Young Offenders Act: stiffer penalties for young offenders, lowering the age at which a youth is considered to be a young offender, holding parents financially responsible for the actions of their children in some cases, and allowing the media to release the names of repeat young offenders.
Within the survey we came across two people who were talking about the inclusion of corporal punishment in the penalties of the Young Offenders Act. This is indicative of the responses that I have been getting on the street.
However, understand clearly this is not the Reform Party position nor is it necessarily my position. All I am saying is that because the present system of justice for young offenders is not working, my personal opinion is that we should be prepared to take a look at corporal punishment after a thorough objective review of all pertinent information gathered from around the world.
As I pointed out before, it was interesting to see that some of the points brought up in the survey were reflective of what the Reform Party has been promoting. This reminded me of something that took place in last year's federal election. The editor of one of our local newspapers slammed our belief that the Young Offenders Act should be amended so that parents and guardians of young criminals should have the legal responsibility to exercise parental control over youth. In fact a great deal of our media attacked the party for this view.
However, this survey conducted by the students supports this line of thinking.
I believe that society has responsibilities, responsibilities to the young people of our community and to their parents. Clearly there has been a fork in the path. The politicians who have come to Ottawa have been going down the fork of permissiveness, whereas society as reflected in the comments gathered by the young people in this survey and comments made by people I come across daily, whether it is at trade fairs I attend or clubs or organizations or in our schools, as people come up to me and communicate to me it is very clear that people who come to this House historically have been co-opted by the system. They have been co-opted by Ottawa and they have ended switching from the path that people in the constituency wanted to the path that was established by the Liberal Solicitor General, Jean-Pierre Goyer, 23 years ago in 1971.
My only question is will this government listen? It has promised and promised, but will it listen? Will it actually turn around and start to bring in what needs to happen or will it get engaged in a review of the justice system that is going to take
another 18 to 24 months? Will it meet the demand of the people of Kootenay East and indeed all Canadians?
No one can argue there is not a need for change to the Young Offenders Act. It is clear there is something wrong when we consider statistics from recent years as reported by Statistics Canada in January this year. In 1992 youths accounted for 13.7 per cent of all persons charged with violent crimes, up from 10.5 per cent in 1986. That is a jump of 3 per cent in just six years.
Of the 135,348 youths charged in Criminal Code incidents in 1992, 15 per cent were charged with violent crimes and that figure was up from 10.5 per cent also in 1986.
Even more shocking is the rate of increase in violent youth crime compared with that of adults. Since 1986 violent crime among our youth has risen at an average annual increase of 14 per cent compared with an adult increase of only 8 per cent over the same period of time.
Recently the Liberal member for London West who is also vice-chairman of the committee for justice and legal affairs told this House that when it comes to youth crime we should divorce perception from reality. She went on to say that Canadians would be able to tell their concerns to a committee when the legislation undergoes a thorough 10-year review. If that is going to take another 18 to 24 months that is not soon enough and that is what our motion is all about.
With respect to the vice-chairman of the justice committee and her attempts to dilute my party's thrust and concern about the Young Offenders Act there are many victims and families of victims hurting because of this inept legislation and quite frankly they are not interested in a 10-year review. There are problems we have to confront now.
I would like to read the following incident as was reported by Canadian press news wire this week. The vicious assault which I am about to relate took place in Oyama, a small community of about 500 homes located 30 kilometres north of Kelowna in the Okanagan:
A man whose head was caved in with an axe after he scolded a teenage driver for running a stop sign was in critical condition today and might be permanently paralysed.
Rodney Bell was hit in the head with the blunt edge of an axe in front of his horrified wife and children. Eight teenagers showed up to confront Bell at his secluded lakefront home on Friday just before midnight, a day after he chased them when they sped through an intersection, narrowly missing his car. Bell tried to reason with the teens, one of them grabbed an axe from a nearby woodpile and swung it full force at Bell's head. The gang then fled.
Police have arrested two 16-year olds in connection with the assault but they cannot be named under the provisions of the Young Offenders Act.
As Mr. Bell lies in a hospital clinging to life, and if he does survive with the possibility of some form of paralysis ahead of him, the greatest injustice is probably the last line of the story:
One teen was charged with aggravated assault and remains in custody while the other was charged with assault and released-
He has gone back to school:
-but of course they are too young to be named under the protection of the Young Offenders Act.
I am committed to the concept that the youth are the future of Canada, that they are Canada. The minimum they should expect is protection by law for themselves, their persons, their property and protection for their parents.
I commend the students in my constituency. I commend Randy Rae and the Fernie Senior Secondary School and I thank them for their diligence, for their project and for the effort they made to communicate with me. It is this kind of communication from my constituents that gives me confidence that I am speaking for them when I speak about the Young Offenders Act. It is this kind of communication that I want from people in my constituency. Your Reform MP truly is different, I am listening.
I want to represent the views of the people of my constituency in this House. I hope the Liberal government gets it through its head that is what we are doing and that is what we are here for. We might not be using the correct political words. We might even be doing things that are politically incorrect. We do not care about political correctness; we want results. Above all we care about representing the views of the people of Canada. In this particular case we demand that the government move immediately so that we protect our youth and our parents by force of law.
I implore all members of the House to support the motion to start the momentum toward changing the Young Offenders Act. Our young people, the future of Canada, demand our support and our protection.