House of Commons Hansard #69 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.


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12:20 p.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, no, I do not think that is enough. The courts have discretion as to what kind of sentencing they give. They do not have to send everybody to maximum security prisons for minor offences. The courts have that discretion already.

I think what the member is saying is that only the most vicious of the 16 and 17-year old offenders should be taken into adult court. What we are suggesting is that the courts should have discretion. If they feel that a 16 or 17-year old does not have the capacity to understand what they have done or does not appreciate right from wrong, the courts can lower them to youth court. However, as a 16 and 17-year old they know right from wrong and automatically should be held accountable for their actions.

The courts have the discretion to give them suspended sentences or whatever if the offence is of a more minor nature.

Even in an adult court, the flexibility is there to deal with them in a different manner so that the punishment does not have to be harsh or not fair. The discretion is there in adult court and that is where 16 and 17-year olds should be treated.

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12:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Send the right message.

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12:20 p.m.


Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to indicate that I will be sharing this time with the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce.

I am pleased to have a chance to address this important issue. The Young Offenders Act has been recognized as one element of our criminal justice system that is in need of some change and some reform. I know I have heard voices somewhere in different parts of the country saying: "Let's get rid of it altogether". However, I am certainly not one who believes that and I do not think that many members in the House feel that way.

The level of crime committed by young offenders appears to have increased marginally. What is more important about that area of crime is that the violence associated with that category of offender appears to have increased perhaps more than marginally. These types of offences are very disturbing to society at large and to the communities where they occur. They feel particularly handicapped in responding appropriately when young offenders commit serious offences because of the shelter from normal criminal procedures given to young offenders, things like non-publication of name and disposition away from the normal criminal court process in young offender courts.

I am one of those who concedes that we have to pay some serious attention to the increase in violent offences among young offenders.

Most of us here have not directed much of our attention to the petty crimes of young offenders. They have been a problem and always will be but we have petty crime problems with adults too. It is the more serious crimes that disturb us.

The government agrees there have to be changes in a number of areas of the criminal justice system. Our election platform indicated that in the last election campaign. The Minister of Justice has told the House-I know members opposite have listened-that he will be introducing a bill to amend portions of the Young Offenders Act within the next few weeks. This bill I gather has been a long time in preparation, reaching back into the previous Parliament and he is committed to doing that.

Second, the government is prepared to refer the whole issue of the Young Offenders Act to the justice committee which will review it and report back probably recommending additional changes. They may be sweeping, they may be modest, I do not know, but the decision as to what will be recommended to the government will be in the hands of the members of that committee. I look forward to playing a part in that exercise as do all members of the House.

One of the most important facets of the Young Offenders Act regime is the belief, it is really a premise, that young offenders have an opportunity to salvage the rest of their lives if society will permit them an opportunity to do that. The young offender is before the court because he or she has made a serious mistake. The premise that somehow society must intervene and provide an opportunity for the young offender to get his or her act organized is very much a fundamental part of the Young Offenders Act.

One of the things that the government has recognized is that in many cases the sentencing of young offenders is too short to enable them any kind of access to treatment. A two or three-month sentence is simply not enough time for the agencies and corrections professionals to offer to that youth some kind of a framework that would permit the youth to get his or her life properly organized.

I met a young offender at Camp Dufferin in Ontario about two years ago. I remember this vividly. I asked him what he would be doing when he got out, having served three or four months. He said: "I guess I'll just go back to the pool hall". That is where the problems all began. He had no place to go. The three or four months in the facility were nice, structured, organized. It was a bit like a boot camp, it was organized, it was disciplined. When it was over so was the regime of treatment.

There are some other perceptual problems with the Young Offenders Act and I want to bring this one to the attention of the House if members have not mentioned it already. Every time an adult says the Young Offenders Act is useless, it is not working, it is not tough enough, that is the message our youth are getting. This is not helpful.

First of all I do not think it is entirely accurate. A lot of the young offender sentencing or dispositions under the Young Offenders Act are quite significant but the youth are not getting the message that it is disciplined, it is significant. They are simply accepting the message that the Young Offenders Act is a zero on the Richter scale of punishment or of responsibility or accountability.

There are a number of areas that we have to look at in the Young Offenders Act. The motion today deals principally with revising the age group from 12 to 17 down to 10 to 15. I have introduced a bill in this House recommending reducing the age to 10. I have done that, having looked at it closely.

Different provinces across this country have different types of legislation for those under 12. I was surprised to find that while some provinces have good legislation which can enable the child welfare authorities to intervene for the protection of the public, in Ontario they can only intervene for the protection of the child.

For the young offender who commits a relatively serious offence, sexual assault or robbery-and these things happen involving 10 and 11-year olds now-I am told that all the police can do is take the child home to the parents. That does not do any favours for the child, especially when the parents are not at

home, which is often the reason the problem began in the first place. There are urban dysfunctional families.

There is no ability on the part of the provincial authorities to take care of our 10 and 11-year olds. The young offenders regime in each province should be able to accommodate an offender who is 10 or 11 years old in the same way it accommodates an offender who is 12 years old. I certainly support that. On the issue of the 16 or 17-year old, I have not made up my mind. I tend to think the issue should be reviewed by the committee, as envisaged by the Minister of Justice.

There are different views on sentencing and on the issue of publication of the names of young offenders. This is a complex area. It involves the interface among privacy, the public interest, the media and information exchange between institutions. Even those institutions which help young offenders are sometimes handicapped by the existing barriers to publication and disclosure in the Young Offenders Act. This area has to be reorganized and I hope it is done at the committee level.

The category of dangerous young offender does not need much justification. I believe the minister's bill when introduced shortly will direct attention to that category of young offender.

I want to indicate from my perspective of sitting on this side of the House, the Minister of Justice and this government are "on the case". There will be ample opportunity to address the issues raised today in the opposition motion and many of the other issues in the Young Offenders Act. I look forward to working with other members in that exercise.

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12:30 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

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.

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12:45 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague opposite. Members would know that my hon. colleague opposite has a long history in this Parliament and has been involved in the criminal justice system as far as Parliament is concerned for many, many years.

As a matter of fact as my hon. colleague mentioned he is at this time the chair of the Commons justice committee, a very important and powerful role within the Commons. I would point out that the chair of the justice committee has a particular perspective on crime as evidenced by the fact that recently the member is on record of having suggested that perhaps 15 years is the maximum that anybody should be in jail for any crime no matter what that crime might be, no matter what their age.

The member opposite will also recall that in this Parliament on October 7, 1971 as a continuation of changing the incarceration system, the jail system, a very needed change, the government of the day directed the emphasis away from the protection of society to the rehabilitation of criminals, which is just fine. The Solicitor General of the day is on record of having said: "From this day forward we will put rehabilitation ahead of the protection of society". That was October 7, 1971. This was a quantum shift in direction of the correctional service. It was a quantum shift in direction of attitude of this Parliament.

Perhaps after 23 or 24 years we might revisit this and say "Wait a minute. Let us back up. Maybe we should ensure that we have a concentration on rehabilitation because we know how important that is and we do not want people to reoffend. We also have to protect society".

At any rate, the hon. member asked: "Since we have this opportunity to present a votable motion, why would we make it so mild?". The reason we made it so mild is that it was only by having the mildest of possible motions that there was any hope at all of getting any support from the Liberals who got us into this mess in the first place. We want to move this debate incrementally down the road. We wanted to make this motion so mild that it would be virtually impossible for anyone in this House to disagree with it.

How wrong we were. If the hon. member opposite does not like this motion, would the hon. member opposite, the chair of the justice committee, tell this House and Canadians what is his number one priority? If he were going to introduce a motion today what would that motion be?

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12:45 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to answer the questions of the hon. member. First of all, the proposal he is putting before the House today is not mild. It is harsh and ineffective. He is including 10 and 11-year old children under the Young Offenders Act who should be dealt with because they are below the age of puberty under child protection acts and other legislation under provincial jurisdiction.

We are against it because it is a harsh piece of legislation and it will be ineffective and it will not solve the problems he is referring to.

Second, with respect to the quote attributed to Mr. Goyer, the Solicitor General on October 7, 1971, all I can tell him is that I was appointed Solicitor General in 1972 and I took the completely opposite point of view. If he wants quotes I can give him many quotes in which I said over and over again that our principal goal and our priority is protection of the public in everything we do in the Solicitor General's department. That was the policy from 1972 right on. I can put on record if he wants-not today but any day he wants-speeches made in this House, legislation, speeches outside the House which are totally contrary to the quote attributed to Mr. Goyer. I do not know whether that quote is complete or not. Let us forget about the quotes of Mr. Goyer. I can give him quotes from myself, Mr. Fox and Mr. Blais, many Solicitors General over the years who have not supported that simple quote that was cited in the House several times.

The members of the Reform Party talk about bringing a new approach to Parliament and taking a more honest and fair approach with respect to things. Yet today the hon. member has accused me of saying that 15 years should be the maximum for criminals of all kinds. I never at any time said that and I would never support such a proposal, never. However, I see there is a letter campaign going around Parliament to all members which accuses me of saying murderers should be released automatically after 15 years. It is completely false.

What I said was that for first degree murder the parole eligibility date should be 15 years and we should do away with article 745 which gives the possibility of release after 15 years and that for second degree murder it should be 10 years. There is quite a difference from what the hon. member said and what that letter says. He should correct that. He should apologize for suggesting that I said there should be automatic release or release for all prisoners no matter what their crime after 15 years. He is wrong.

When we had parole eligibility at 10 years less than 50 per cent got released on that date. If he looks at the statistics, parole eligibility does not mean that you are released automatically. As

a matter of fact you have to prove that you are rehabilitated and no longer a danger to the public. That is not easy to do.

The purpose of parole eligibility is to ensure that those who are really rehabilitated and are not a danger to society can go back into society, pay their own way, take care of their families and not be taken care of by the state.

Let us make sure that when you cite me or you quote me that you quote me correctly. I do not mind your disagreeing with me on what I really say, but do not distort what I have said.

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I know that members have very strong views on a very important subject, but in wanting to give everyone the opportunity to speak, as many as possible during the course of the day, I have to respect the timeframes.

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12:50 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. To the member opposite, I unreservedly withdraw that remark in impugning his character. I thank him for the opportunity of setting the record straight.

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12:50 p.m.


Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

I appreciate it.

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12:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Kilger)

I thank the hon. member for his assistance.

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12:50 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to join the debate on the Young Offenders Act today.

In starting out, my party and my constituents and I look forward very much to seeing the results of the bill being drafted by the justice minister to be tabled in this House. I would express the idea that it is unfortunate that the extensive review process and recommendation process that the former speaker spoke of would not take place before the drafting of the bill so that there would be some real opportunity for change.

I believe the Young Offenders Act was an attempt to balance the approach of the socialistic juvenile delinquents act and the demand to protect society from crime.

I am not advocating the repeal or the abolishment of the Young Offenders Act as some members in society are today. After consulting with individuals within the RCMP and corrections field it is my belief that the fault lies more in the administration of the legislation than in the legislation itself.

Perhaps legislated sentencing grids or mandatory minimum sentences providing less discretionary powers to the courts might be more of a deterrent to young offenders.

I am here to advocate amendments to the act to deal with the 20 per cent of the young offenders this act does not work for. One of the better aspects of the juvenile delinquent act was the ability to charge individuals who contributed to the delinquency of youth. If we brought this measure back it would bring back the responsibility to the parent and would not allow adult criminals, i.e. drug offenders or car theft ring leaders, to hide behind young offenders.

There have been a lot of statistics thrown around here today in the debate and I have a few of my own that I would like to throw into the pot. According to Statistics Canada in 1991, 22 per cent of all federal statute charges were laid against youth. Of the 146,000 charges against youth, 13 per cent or 18,800 of the charges were violence related. Since 1986 the violence related charges have increased by 102 per cent despite a 1.8 per cent decrease in the population of this age group. I think there is a crisis here.

Of all the youth charged approximately 53 per cent were over 16 years and approximately 46 per cent had prior records. Of this 46 per cent 19 per cent had five or more prior convictions. It is this 19 per cent that are the problem we really want to address. This particular group appears to be flaunting the law and hides behind the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The victims of youth offences have been left out in the cold and are not included in the legal process. We all would agree that the victims and families of victims suffer greatly and feel violated, abandoned and unprotected by the Canadian justice system.

I can only ask the previous speaker for the Bloc and a number of other speakers I have heard today how they would feel if their own family were torn apart and destroyed by a repeat young offender with no respect for authority.

I think the recent introduction of youth justice committees and victim service units in parts of my constituency in Alberta is making a difference. For the first time the victims and the community are having a say in the process. I would strongly encourage more victim service units to be developed throughout the country as victims have the ability to have their voices heard in the sentencing of their assailants through the use of victim impact statements and it is making a difference. Victims as well should be financially compensated by their assailants, the guilty party, to the greatest possible extent. It is Reform Party policy that the Young Offenders Act be amended to include: the lowering of the age of eligibility of being charged from 12 to 10 years of age as stated in our motion; offenders aged 16 and 17 would be considered adult offenders; offenders aged 14 or 15 who commit serious offences should be transferred to adult court; the release of names of offenders to the public and to the news media; the holding of parents responsible where it can be shown that a lack of parenting control is evident; that offenders in custody should be required to enrol in adult life skills upgrading programs.

The justice minister and some members opposite suggest that to solve the problems of youth crime we must attack the root causes. These root causes are poverty, permissive social attitudes and the perceived lack of opportunities. I say certainly we must continue to work to resolve these problems but these problems will be not solved quickly if ever.

Society more and more is losing faith in our justice system and demanding immediate change. This demand for quick action is becoming more and more urgent as we witness the dramatic increase in the instances of brutal violent crime like the recent stabbing of a young mother in her home in the city of Edmonton, or the stabbing death of a 16-year old youth in Hull only last week, or the series of drive-by shootings at locations all across the country.

Only two days ago the theft of a large semi-trailer truck by a young offender who went on a joy ride ended in the killing of a mother and daughter right here in Ottawa after trying to escape from the police.

I would wager that almost every member here today knows an example in which an overlenient treatment of a repeat young offender allowed uncontrollable youth to thumb their noses at the system.

Last summer I travelled through my constituency. I recall a particularly alarming example of a juvenile habitual property offender who was sentenced to do community work as retribution for his crimes. This youth was escorted to the community cemetery with a lawn mower and a can of gas and was instructed to cut the grass. When the supervisor returned some time later to check on the progress, not only was the young offender gone, but so was the lawn mower and gas can which was later found to be sold some piece down the road. Sometime later rumour has it that in an expression of frustration this youth was last seen leaving the community bound and towed behind a pick-up truck. This youth went on to reoffend and eventually moved on to adult court, but he never did reoffend in that particular community again.

This example not only demonstrates in a real way the disregard many of these repeat offenders have for the system but I believe it is also an ominous sign of the direction communities and individuals might go if they continue to lose confidence in the criminal justice system to protect their property and their families.

I am sure all members here would agree that vigilante justice is not something that we want to see. Therefore I urge the government to respond to this growing public concern as demonstrated by the huge criminal justice rallies taking place across the country and to move quickly in order to restore public confidence in this most vital criminal justice system.

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1 p.m.


André Caron Bloc Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the speech of my colleague from Athabasca and I think that it was made with sincerity and honesty.

I note, however, that the examples given concern specific cases, and the member asked what would be the reaction of Bloc members or Government members if their child had to experience particularly painful situations caused by young offenders.

No doubt the reaction would be one of outrage and it would be a strong reaction concentrating on punishment and resentment. It must be noted, however, that as members of the Parliament of Canada, we have the responsibility to look at things in perspective and a little more coldly, perhaps.

I note with interest that the member for Athabasca pointed out that it is necessary to attack the roots of the problem, which are poverty and the problems of drugs and poor schooling. There is no doubt that the often excessive reactions or the crimes committed by young offenders can be explained by a particular sociological context. But I particularly liked what the member for Athabasca said at the start of his speech.

He implied that the problem may not be the Act, but the administration of the Act. It is indeed my impression in looking at the Act and, frequently, in looking at what judges do, it is my impression that it might, in some cases, be applied with more severity.

For example, unless I am mistaken, young offenders may be brought before adult courts under the current Act. So, I would like to ask the member for Athabasca this question: Does he not think that if judges, those who apply the Act, and also the people who apply it in the prisons, those who are concerned with issues of parole, if these people paid a little more attention to the concerns of some and applied the Act with more severity, perhaps we would not be obliged to amend the present Act?

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1 p.m.


Dave Chatters Reform Athabasca, AB

Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the member and I are in agreement in much of what he said.

I very much agree that more vigorous enforcement of the regulations that are there now would be a giant step in the right direction. Certainly having said that, there is a small percentage of offenders the legislation now is not working for. I would suggest from my statistics that would be some 25 per cent of the offenders who are repeat offenders. A number of them repeated many times and the legislation simply is not working for them. There has to be a real deterrent put in the system to deal with those offenders.

Let us not lose perspective. The legislation that is there is working for 70 per cent or 75 per cent of the offenders who go before the courts. I really hope that we do not throw out the whole act, that we bring in amendments to the act that will deal

severely with the percentage of young offenders the act is working for.

I would not go so far as perhaps some of my colleagues or constituents who made some remarks lately about the youth in Singapore who got caught writing graffiti on cars and the punishment that was applied to him is perhaps severe in most Canadians' eyes. However, that particular youth I am sure will never write graffiti on cars in Singapore again.

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1:05 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

I thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the House for the opportunity to speak to this very topical and important debate today.

What we are talking about today is the confidence that Canadians have in their legislatures to be aware and to be part of what is going on. For instance, we cannot have rallies in Edmonton and Calgary of 5,000 people and then our parliamentarians here in Ottawa pretending that there is not outrage in the land over the perception of the Young Offenders Act, or criminality in general.

The debate today is focused on one aspect of the Young Offenders Act. In reality what we are talking about here today is whether or not Canadians feel safe in their own homes, whether or not Canadians have security of the person, whether or not Canadians have a sense of safety with their property. When you leave your home and come back, what is left?

All of us knocking on doors in the last election can recall walking down street after street where people are hostages in their own homes, paying monthly remittance to burglar alarm companies. Why? Because people can break into a home, walk down a street, break into another home, and if they are under certain ages all they ever get is a slap on the wrist.

The statistics that we have had here today will show that crime by those who have been accused and convicted is not particularly high. Let us talk about the number of crimes committed, not the number of convictions. Let us talk about the number of people who are convicted on one crime but who have done perhaps a half dozen or 15 or 20, or perhaps two.

Statistics are not always the measure of the security that people feel in their homes. Perhaps better security would be the growth of the private protection agencies in Canada, growth of the industry in providing protection in people's own homes and their own businesses.

We have to have balance in this debate. As we go forward over these next weeks and months as the government introduces its Young Offenders Act and the changes thereto, we need to have balance. To do so we need to know where we started and have some idea of where we are going to go.

I will read the motion for those viewers who might have just tuned in.

That this House urge the government to respond to the evident lack of confidence that has arisen from Canadians over the Young Offenders Act, and recommend modification to the definition of "young person" in section 2(1) of the act to mean a person ten years of age or more, but under 16 years of age.

The effect is to lower it by two years. This, as other hon. members have mentioned, would serve on the upper end to ensure that there is a venue for more strict retribution, and on the lower end to bring people into the system so that they can be helped at an earlier age.

This motion responds to a very evident concern in my constituency. Fully 80 per cent to 90 per cent of my constituents are calling for a strengthening of the Young Offenders Act; fully 80 to 90 per cent of my constituents want stricter penalties and harsher penalties in the courts.

We are talking in this House about gun control laws, the potential changes to gun control. Yet our courts do not enforce the rules we have now. That is the primary problem, the primary cause of the crime that we have in our society today.

If we are going to do anything about crime, young offenders or adult offenders, there must be three certainties. These are the three certainties that we have when raising our own children: the certainty of detection, the certainty of a swift and fair trial, and the certainty of retribution.

I would submit that many Canadians feel that our criminal justice system, particularly as it applies to young offenders, not only does not have one of these pillars to make it successful, it has none of the pillars.

When your home is broken into, when the police finally get there they do a report and you submit it to your insurance company and that is the end of it. Once again we are hostages. We are paying increased premiums for insurance because we accept the fact that our homes are going to be broken into. A swift and fair trial-how many of these instances ever come to court? And retribution, give me a break.

Here we have a criminal justice system particularly as it applies to young offenders which has none of the pillars that would be required to change attitudes, not one. It is not the way we would respond or react in our own homes with our own children.

If our children did damage to our own property and came home would we be upset? Would there be detection? Would there be a swift and fair trial? Would there be retribution? You bet there would. Why is it then that while we would take this responsibility personally as a nation we absolve ourselves of this responsibility and we say because a child may have wet the bed, they therefore have the right to do whatever they want to do to society, it is society's fault.

An extension of that argument, logical or illogical as it may be, could well be that every child who is born and lives in modest circumstances would naturally go on to be an offender of some description and every child born into more privileged circumstances would never get into trouble. We know that is not the case. Offences, whether young offenders or not, cut across all demographic lines, across all racial and linguistic barriers. It has to do with societal values and what we as a society have decided is okay and what we as a society have decided is not okay.

My colleague who just spoke said that he does not agree with the fact that this young fellow in Singapore doing whatever he was doing, abusing the law, ended up getting the punishment of the day in Singapore which is caning.

I would submit that there is one heck of a lot less crime in Singapore than there is here. I would question where people would feel safer, in downtown Ottawa, downtown Toronto, downtown Vancouver, downtown Edmonton or downtown Singapore.

I am not suggesting we go all one way or all the other but I can remember from my personal experience a brush with the law. I got involved with the Reform Party at a very young age. I went to reform school I think when I was about 11. I was at a camp with other young boys and we decided we had had about enough of that so we ran away. I guess we were 11 or 12 or something like that. We were on the loose for three or four days.

I can look back at it now and imagine the pain and suffering that caused to everyone associated. I would have gone crazy if one of my kids had done that.

In any event, we sort of lived off the land. If we had had the brains we would have been able to figure out how to steal a car but we could not, which is not to say we did not try. What we were doing was mischief. It would be perceived as mischief today.

I will never forget walking along a street and feeling the hand of the law on the back of my neck as he picked me up. He could probably be arrested for that. There I was walking along the street. The next thing I knew my feet were off the ground and I had this hand around the back of my neck holding me up, a voice saying: "Get in the car, kid". To this day I have trouble eating Shreddies because that is what they served us at the detention home. That is not to say that every kid who gets in trouble as a youth is going to turn out all bad. They may end up being members of Parliament, perhaps a logical extension. I throw no collar on hon. members opposite. I am speaking strictly about myself.

How are we as parliamentarians going to get somewhere with this perception, not just of youth crime but criminality in general? I submit it goes much deeper than changing or applying the law. It has to do with the values that we treasure in our society. It has to do with things like family values, with a sense of community. It has to do with accepting personal responsibility. It has to do with leaders leading. It has to do with people who are responsible taking responsibility.

We have heard today of students in school being wild and doing whatever they want to do. Do the teachers like that? I submit they do not. The teachers will tell you time and time again that they are handcuffed. We have put them in handcuffs so they cannot do anything. They cannot touch the children. They can say: "You are a bad little Johnny, you are a bad little Sue. You should not be doing that". Saying that is not going to change a thing.

We have to change our values. We have to make personal responsibility and personal accountability, whether you are a young offender or a mid-sized offender or an adult offender, the primacy.

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1:15 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton Southwest took the liberty of relating a story which, in my opinion, shows how a young person who commits a minor crime or offence can turn himself around and become a model citizen. Not only can he do so, but we must make every effort to ensure that this happens.

My colleague, the member for Saint-Hubert, indicated to us this morning that young people commit 10 per cent of all crimes, regardless of their seriousness. This means then that adults are committing the other 90 per cent. I feel that we must always keep in mind the fact that crime is primarily the work of adults, and it is often organized.

As the Bloc Quebecois's spokesperson for young people, I think we have to send a very positive message to our young people, and tell them of our intention to crack down on crime. Figures provided by the Library of Parliament indicate that despite the addition of police officers and security personnel over the past 30 years, things have not improved.

A short while ago, I repeated what my colleague, the member for Saint-Hubert, had said, namely that in Quebec there were few protests and few movements and no mobilization of people demanding major changes to the current legislation. However, we are led to believe on listening to the members of the Reform Party that this is not the case elsewhere.

I would like to ask the honourable member if he can give us statistics or survey results from his region or even crime rate statistics to support his own position and his party's position on this legislation, because we confess that we, from Quebec, do not understand.

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1:15 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, in my presentation I spoke briefly about statistics, their value and what they say or what they do not say. The statistics we received at the justice briefing had to do with the number of charges and convictions but it had nothing to do with the number of offences and break-ins. If the

number of break-ins and the number of offences are combined, those statistics are up dramatically.

What I am responding to and the statistics that I quoted came from surveys in my constituency of people who are specifically concerned about the effect of crime.

It is absolutely essential, as we proceed with this debate, we do not make the blanket statement that all young people are bad. They are not. The vast majority of them are great. The vast majority of them are inspirations. We see them coming through here on tours and we are involved with them. It is something that we need to be very cautious about as we get into this debate and as we proceed down the road that we do not suggest for a moment that all kids are bad.

However there is a time when we have to recognize things as they are, not as we wish them to be. There comes a time when young people, regardless of age, show by what they have done that they need special treatment, that they need the care that society has to give them or that society needs to be protected from them.

In my view we need to draw a distinction between people who make a mistake and people who make the same mistake over and over again and do not learn from it. If you make a mistake once and learn from it that is experience. If you make the same mistake over and over and over again that is character. We have to make the distinction between those who need a nudge to get themselves on the right track and those who are a danger to society. We have to be very careful that we do not paint everyone with the same brush.

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1:20 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Pierrefonds-Dollard.

I rise today to respond to the motion under debate respecting the Young Offenders Act. The government is very much aware of Canadians' concerns respecting youth crime.

During the election we campaigned on the need for reform of the Young Offenders Act. Since the election the Minister of Justice has indicated on several occasions his desire to proceed expeditiously to respond to some of the key concerns in this area with an amending bill in the very near future.

In addition, the minister has also indicated his commitment to a review of the entire act. This will be undertaken by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs over the course of the coming year.

I am a member of the justice committee and I am particularly pleased to be part of the committee that will be doing the review of the Young Offenders Act. The act is now 10 years old. As it happens I had just finished law school at the University of Saskatchewan when the Young Offenders Act was introduced. Our class was among the first to do a very detailed study of what was then a new act so I am pleased to be part of the group that will be reviewing the act after 10 years of practice.

One aspect of the committee will be to listen to the viewpoints of all Canadians, to listen to the concerns that are certainly very real.

The Young Offenders Act creates a separate system of justice for young people. It has a unique spirit and philosophy which seeks both the protection of society and takes into account the special needs of youthful offenders.

The Young Offenders Act provides for a balance between the imperatives of assuring public protection and meeting the needs of our young people who run afoul of the law. We should not forget that the interests of society do include the objective of rehabilitation of young people as well as for the protection of society itself.

The interests of society also dictate that we should allow young people to mature and, as the hon. member just mentioned, to learn from their mistakes and that is a need for a separate juvenile justice system. We believe that the protection of society entails two obligations: preventing young people from committing criminal offences and helping young people who commit crimes to become law-abiding citizens again.

As a parent I subscribe to the principle that young people are responsible for their actions. I am also cognizant of the fact however that young people are not on an equal footing with adults in terms of their degree of responsibility and if they were I would probably not need to be a parent.

Owing to their state of dependence and the level of development and maturity of young people they have special needs. These needs include counselling and support as well as supervision, discipline and guidance. The adequacy of the Young Offenders Act for youth involved in very serious offences however has become a major public issue in Canada.

From a public perspective there is a strong lobby for increased sentences in the belief that they would offer enhanced protection to the public, provide general deterrents and reaffirm fundamental norms regarding the sanctity of life and societal repudiation of the crime of murder. Canadians must have confidence in the laws designed to protect them.

One of the major concerns of the public relates to minimum age of criminal responsibility which under the present legislation is 12. Many would like to see it lowered to 10. Under the

previous legislation, the juvenile delinquents act, the minimum age of criminal responsibility was seven years of age.

Support for lowering the age to 10 is not new. In the consultations and debates leading up to the passage of the Young Offenders Act, some observers made much the same argument we are hearing now, that we should have a lower age of 10. Others suggested it should be as high as 14. The age of 12 finally received broad support in the belief that, generally speaking children under 12 would not have the knowledge and experience to appreciate fully the nature and consequences of their actions, nor would they be able to participate meaningfully in the proceedings against them. These capacities of course are fundamental to a fair and just criminal prosecution.

Another concern of the public relates to the maximum age of criminal responsibility, the upper end of the scale under the Young Offenders Act. It has been suggested to lower to 16 years the maximum age under the Young Offenders Act. The issue surrounding the maximum age also received a great deal of attention in the debates that preceded the passage of the Young Offenders Act in 1982. The inclusion of 16 and 17-year olds in the juvenile system was done in the belief that it was in the best interests of youth and Canadian society that young persons be dealt with in this manner.

For the vast majority of young offenders, particularly those committing less serious offences, the current age limit allows them the time to mature away from the influence of older, more hardened adult offenders. I think this is the point that was being made by the member from Edmonton.

The government is committed to a juvenile justice system which will effectively seek to provide protection for our communities, to hold young people responsible for their illegal acts, but also to take into account any special needs a youth may have which are pertinent to the youth's offending behaviour and therefore relevant to the goal of rehabilitation.

The issues of minimum and maximum ages are very important to the operation of the act and Canadians' belief in it. Consequently this issue will be looked at in the context of the broad based review of the juvenile justice system. This will allow all views on the issue to be examined in the context of an overall examination of the act.

Another public concern has to do with the publication of the name of the young offender. It has been suggested that the name of the young person who has committed or who is alleged to have committed an indictable offence where this youth has been previously convicted on at least two separate occasions be published. There is scope under the current Young Offenders Act to allow for the details of an offence or a trial to be reported. Broad coverage of the youth justice system, the trends, the profiles of youth and successful programs is permitted under the present act.

It is important however to distinguish between perception and reality. The current emphasis, particularly in the media on extreme or exceptional cases, creates a distorted picture of juvenile crime and its treatment by the justice system. In view of that it is important to understand that there are a number of reasons that support the prohibition on publication of information serving to identify young accused, including such things as the protection of innocent siblings of offenders from shame and possible ostracism, encouragement to youth to comply with a disposition and to remain free from further involvement in crime, prevention of barriers arising that may stand in the way of a youth becoming more positively involved in a community, including employment and educational opportunities.

We must also remember the families of young offenders are often part of the rehabilitation process and the prohibition on publication may enhance their capacity to move forward positively for the benefit of the youth, the family and the community.

In the context of public safety the publication of a youth's identity may foster an illusion of public safety. The media however can only offer selective publicity rather than full reporting of all cases to a limited segment of the population.

Balanced against this however is the protection of society. The Minister of Justice has indicated in his response to the throne speech that he is in favour of a greater sharing of information about convicted young offenders with those who need to know for reasons of safety. He has also indicated that he intends to include provisions related to information sharing in the June bill.

I would like to comment quickly on an important election proposal to increase the maximum penalty available in youth court for first and second degree murder. Again the Minister of Justice has indicated he is committed to increased sentences for certain violent crimes, including murder.

In the June bill, the Minister of Justice will develop his proposals in a way that will seek to improve the juvenile justice system and to promote more effective and efficient measures to help young offenders while providing protection for the public.

In many cases the criminal behaviour of youths appearing before the youth courts constitutes an isolated and often not very serious act. For a much smaller percentage of youth however, their criminal behaviour is part of a pattern of more serious difficulties. It is essential to understand the special needs of these youths if their interests and indeed the long term interests of society are to be met.

Canada's Young Offenders Act has received international recognition by the United Nations as a model for juvenile

justice. It clearly takes a bold step by delineating the parameters of criminal law for youth and permitting resort to criminal law sanctions only for behaviour which is clearly criminal.

In doing so however, it has firmly entrenched the recognition that adolescents are to be distinguished from adults because their needs are distinct and therefore warrant a distinct response. This distinction must not however detract from the principle that society is entitled to protection from the criminal activity of youth.

Canadian courts have interpreted interests of society to mean both protection of the public and rehabilitation of offenders. This dual interpretation places a very heavy onus on the juvenile justice system to deliver on both fronts. The magnitude of this task is best illustrated when youths are involved in violent crimes or chronic reoffending. These classes of offenders reveal the multidimensional nature of the challenge facing those involved in the juvenile justice system and the challenge that lies ahead of us.

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1:30 p.m.


Leon Benoit Reform Vegreville, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member in referring to our motion of lowering the age from 12 to 10 under the law said that many people support this. My question is how many?

In a situation like that which happened in Britain where two 10-year olds murdered a two or three-year old, how would she suggest we deal with that situation in our society under our law?

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1:30 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I believe what I said was that prior to the passage of the original bill there had been arguments on both sides as to whether the age should be 10, 12, 14 or some other age. The consensus was that 12 would more adequately meet the needs. Therefore I cannot answer directly the member's question of precisely how many supported 10 years, if I understood the member's question properly.

On the tragic situation in England with children of that age involved in a brutal murder of a baby, I would like to be able to tell the hon. member that simply by cranking up the Young Offenders Act we can prevent that kind of thing but that simply is not true. It is not possible for that sort of abhorrent behaviour to be legislated away.

What we must keep foremost in our minds is the dual aspect of our juvenile justice system which is to have a system that will protect people from repeat offenders and at the same time to look at the underlying causes of the kinds of behaviour we saw in the tragic British case. Only by dealing with it as a complete package can we provide any solutions to these kinds of things.

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May 12th, 1994 / 1:30 p.m.


Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is a member of the justice committee would she not agree that when this matter is referred to the committee there is a fairly high probability we will not see any recommendations from the justice committee at least until 1995?

There seemed to be some references earlier in this debate that everything is wonderful in Quebec according to the Bloc members and that we are talking about a regional matter. As the member comes from western Canada perhaps we do not have that communication barrier.

Would she not agree that on the basis of the representations she has had with her own constituents, is there not a real groundswell of concern on the part of her constituents as there are on the part of mine? This very simple thing of doing something that very logically is going to happen, would she not agree it would be a good strong indicator to the people of Canada and her constituents that the House really was serious about doing something?

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1:35 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public will realize this government is very serious about doing something by the fact that the justice minister has moved swiftly to introduce immediate changes in June. That is something he has committed to do from the beginning. Also the entire act will be turned over to the non-partisan parliamentary committee for a thorough review which will involve a careful study of what works and does not work in the act and what can be improved upon.

I know the hon. member opposite enjoys giving us his views on how we should listen to the constituents by referendum and other measures. I can think of no better way than to ensure that the parliamentary committee system is following that process by permitting Canadians to bring forth their views, people who are involved in the criminal justice system from all aspects. Canadians will be reassured to know that the justice minister is committed to providing a process by which their concerns can be heard and action taken.

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1:35 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Young Offenders Act is extraordinary because its application is not general.

It is extraordinary because it provides for different conditions for young people. It is extraordinary because its approach and philosophy are unique. And finally, it is extraordinary because it recognizes the specific needs of our young people.

The Young Offenders Act strikes a balance between protecting society and meeting the needs of the young person. We must remember that the rehabilitation of young offenders is as important to society as protecting society itself. Society also has an interest in letting a young person acquire the maturity he needs to cope with the realities of life.

Protecting society, to us, means two things: an obligation to prevent the young person from committing criminal offences and an obligation to provide the help he needs. Of course, young

people are responsible for their actions, but they cannot be expected to assume the same level of responsibility as adults.

Because of their dependent status and their level of development and maturity, they have special needs and requuire not only counselling and support but also monitoring, discipline and supervision. The treatment of young people who are in trouble is something we should not just accent but actively promote, approve and support.

Mr. Speaker, the question of youth rehabilitation is not an easy one. It is clear that the existing legislation has its shortcomings, and the tragic incidents that occurred recently are an indication that it must be improved. Criticism of this legislation is becoming increasingly vocal and widespread. Many factors contribute to a general lack of public confidence, including a poor understanding of the phenomenon of youth crime and of the provisions of the legislation.

For instance, the public does not realize that in youth court, sentences may be for the same period as sentences given in adult court for a similar offence, and proportionally speaking, more offenders are convicted in youth court than in adult court, and this applies to practically all types of offences.

I agree there is a very genuine public concern about the increase in violence among young people, but when we talk about youth violence, we must also consider the broader social and cultural context in which it occurs. Poverty, low self esteem, unemployment, little education, isolation, lack of decent housing and early exposure to abusing treatment, often in the young person's family, are all factors that in many cases will cause a young person to become violent.

Throughout the election campaign, the Government promised to proceed quickly with reform of the Act. It adopted a comprehensive and balanced approach to criminality among young people, with a number of leading ideas, including recognition of the importance of preventing the particular problems of Aboriginal youth and the defence of a separate but strengthened system of justice for all young people, except the most dangerous.

In order to adopt the best approach to reform, the Government is taking into consideration a number of factors that are deemed important. It is clear that the system of justice for young people cannot be assessed in isolation from other systems, that is, youth protection, health and education, which are essential to the prevention of crime among young people and which interact with the justice system when an adolescent commits an offence.

The confidence of the public must be re-established, but the federal government will not achieve this on its own. It is useless to blame the Act blindly without taking a look at the shortcomings of its application and the inadequacy of services.

The Minister of Justice announced recently the strategy chosen to reform the Young Offenders Act. The proposed new justice strategy has two phases: first, a bill which shall be tabled during the month of June; and second, a parliamentary review which will examine the nature and extent of youth crime.

The review will also look at the age limits, parental involvement and alternatives to criminal responses. In fact the old justice system applicable to youth will be under review. The review will examine ways the federal government can better prevent child and youth crime and promote integrated responses to child and youth problems at the federal level with health, immigration and employment.

The bill will focus primarily on murder and other serious personal injury offences. Other changes to the act are also under study to better respond to youth who are involved in criminal activities. These changes may include amendments to court provisions, custody provisions, and the evidence provisions of the act.

The government wants to strengthen the effectiveness of intervention in the interests of greater protection and enhance rehabilitation in the youth justice system. The government is also looking at alternatives to custody for less serious offences.

These changes will represent important improvements to the act. They target two distinct categories: youth whose behaviour shall be addressed by the youth system in the community; and youth involved in the most serious offences who may require longer sentences.

The proposed changes remain true to the ideal of an individualized approach which permits the youth court to make the most rational choice in the individual circumstances of each case. I believe that the modifications will be well balanced, will recognize the principle of rehabilitation and will encourage community based sentences.

It is true that Canada is having problems with a minority of youth who are involved in serious and violent crimes. But we must not lose sight that the vast majority of youth who are dealt with in the juvenile system do not reoffend; they become contributing members of our society.

Our youth justice system is geared to dealing with the particular needs of young people who are still developing and maturing. The youth justice system benefits from a specialized judiciary with expertise in dealing with young persons. It allows pre-sentence reports which allow for a more holistic approach than that pursued in the adult system. It also allows for specialized medical and psychological reports which may be ordered when the judge is of the view that the young person may be suffering from problems such as learning disabilities or emo-

tional disorders. It has the capacity to involve families at all stages of the process.

It is obvious that youth crime requires a multifaceted response. Legislative change alone will not solve the problem, but it is an important first step to restoring public confidence.

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1:45 p.m.


Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments about the remarks by the member for Pierrefonds-Dollard. I would also like to make a few comments, because I personally have the pleasure of having teenagers who say things sometimes that I find a little annoying, such as "You know, Dad, if I'm arrested, no problem. They won't do anything to me until I'm 18."

That reflects to a certain extent what young people are saying. They say that even if they do things that are wrong, the police cannot arrest them in any case or charge them, because they are minors. This is one of the aspects, when we talk about enforcement, as the member for Pierrefonds-Dollard mentioned, that I feel we should consider, in this respect in any case, without penalizing young people unduly. We should at least inform them of their responsibilities.

He also mentioned the fact that young people often behave the way they see adults behave. If we misbehave, chances are our children will do the same. In my opinion, we should maybe think a little about changing the laws as they apply to adults and the way in which adults are judged in order to create a better society and to ensure that our children can behave as well as possible when they have to accept responsibility. We should ensure that we adults set a good example.

We should also talk about violence on television. We should also talk about giving young people hope. As long as young people do not have any hope, they will more likely tend to give up on life, not really care and not show any respect for society. It is in this spirit that, in my opinion, we have to respect these young people who, basically, are not really guilty of these crimes. This does not mean that we have to let them do as they please, but I feel we have to be very open, as the law stipulates. I feel that we have to be very open-minded in the way in which we judge these young people.

I would like the member, since I have the opportunity to ask a question, to tell us what he thinks we could do to improve the way in which we mete out punishment to young people.

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1:45 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Longueuil for his question. As a parent, I too am always being told, even by my own family, that parents should never strike their children because they could be hauled off to youth court.

In answer to your question, I think the problem today is the fact that the current legislation is poorly understood. Young people often rationalize that if they commit a crime, a minor one, it will not be a problem for them because when they turn 18, they will not have a criminal record and they can do whatever they like.

That is the impression young people have. The reality of the legislation is, however, quite different. Which is not to say that this government is unwilling to make changes to the act. I am sure that the changes will be aimed first at broadening people's understanding of the legislation as it will be defined in the future and second, at ensuring that young offenders face up to the reality of what they have done.

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1:45 p.m.


Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure whether the hon. member is trying to defend the Young Offenders Act or not judging from his speech.

I would like to ask the hon. member a few questions here. First, does the hon. member know or could he tell this House what the sentence is right now for a young offender, say age 16, committing rape or murder? He says that they may consider longer sentences. I certainly hope they would do more than just consider it.

The vast majority of youth are very respectful, hard working and are trying to get ahead. I wonder if the member realizes that the majority of children going to school today and trying to learn are going there in fear of the minority creating these problems. I would hope they would also take into account and listen to some of the youth today about the problem that the minority is creating before they make any decisions.