Madam Speaker, I want to thank all hon. members who have contributed to this debate. I have some comments I would like to make on this subject. Of course I rise in support of this motion.
I grew up in a large family. Corporal punishment was used in our family. We knew the rules and we knew the consequences of breaking those rules. I know today what the consequences are of breaking those rules.
I do not use corporal punishment in my home. I have four children. They know if the rules are violated in our home there are consequences to be paid. The rules very seldom are broken in our home. Of course, the greatest weapon I use against that kind of behaviour on the part of my children is I show to my children the love and concern I have for them and I provide for their needs.
In 1984 the Young Offenders Act came into force repealing the Juvenile Delinquents Act. Since 1984 on average 46 homicides a year have been committed by children age 12 to 17 years. Figures reveal that in 1991, 22 per cent of the 679,000 federal statute charges laid were against youth. Of the more than 146,000 charges against young people, 13 per cent were violence related. These 18,000 violent offence charges marked an increase of 102 per cent from 1986. However, over the same period the size of the youth population decreased by 1.8 per cent.
I ask those people who advocate that the Young Offenders Act is working: Do 46 murders per year represent a victory? Does an increase of 102 per cent in violent attacks prove success? If the system is working of course there is no need to change it, but if it is not working, then we ought to be earnestly engaged in looking at ways to reform the system.
I do not think this represents a success. Anyone who believes it does has no idea of the anatomy of a murder. They do not know the fear, pain and anguish inflicted upon a murder victim by the criminal. They are unaware of the acts of desperation and the pleas for mercy by the victim in their futile attempt to survive.
Those figures I have just quoted represent a failure. It is a failure to respond to the criminal behaviour of our youth. Those figures represent the utter contempt and disregard held by the criminal for your right and my right to live. They represent a contempt for our laws and our justice system, a system that does not hold them accountable for their criminal conduct in any meaningful way.
These figures are why members on both sides of the House want action and they want it now. We do not want to wait a year because that means perhaps another 46 deaths. We do not want to wait six months for another 23 murders to occur. We want to move as speedily and as expediently as is possible. We want to start now to introduce reforms that will provide greater protection to the people of this country.
We are asking that the government amend the Young Offenders Act to ensure greater responsibility and accountability among our youth for their delinquent behaviour. We are recommending that the minister give kids a choice and a message: Behave or pay the price.
We all have the power to make choices. When we make the wrong choice there are consequences to pay. That is a fact of life, a fact that our justice system has failed to teach many of the youth of this nation.
The original intent of the Young Offenders Act was to balance society's demand for protection with the need to protect the rights of the young offender. What right does a young offender have? This is a question we must address before proceeding with any changes to the Young Offenders Act.
Convicted murderers, rapists and others regardless of their age who take it upon themselves to vandalize or to murder another human being throw their rights away the moment they launch their deadly attack upon the life of another. This is made clear by the fact that we as individuals have the right to administer death to an assailant in order to protect our lives. The assailant casts away all his rights including his right to life the moment he attacks, provoking the defendant to either retaliate or give up his own life.
The Young Offenders Act and other laws have improperly restored the rights to the murderer. That should be the guiding principle of the Young Offenders Act; that should be the guiding principle of our laws and our criminal justice system and for our legislators: that the rights of the individual are extinguished by their criminal act.
The balance that was to be struck by the Young Offenders Act has been tipped in favour of the local high school drug dealer and rapist and murderer. Lenient sentences, unpublished names and the belief that 10 and 11-year olds do not know right from wrong are the considerations that have skewered the justice system. The Young Offenders Act has allowed the rights of the offender to outweigh those of the victim.
Let us examine the question of rights. When individuals burst into your home and attack you or your family, you have the inherent right and responsibility to defend yourself and your children. If that requires using deadly force, then you have that right within our society.
The delinquents who shot and killed defenceless Nicholas Battersby did not consider his rights. They did not consider his right to life, his right to live in peace in his own home, his right to experience the joys of his future. The state failed to protect these rights of Nicholas Battersby and they were extinguished by his assailants. We cannot say Nicholas Battersby's murderers have been denied the same rights. Under the current Young Offenders Act they will continue to enjoy the rights they have so brutally denied their victim.
The question we must ask is: What more must individuals do to forfeit their rights and freedoms? If taking the life of another does not extinguish all their rights except to a fair hearing through our courts of law, then it destroys the meaning of individual rights and it extinguishes the meaning of life itself within our society.
I say with respect, the bleeding hearts in this country who have restored the rights of the offender after he has taken the rights from his victim do not comprehend, I believe, the rights associated with human life. They have erroneously made the criminal the victim by suggesting that the criminals are not responsible for the choices they make that lead to their criminal acts. They read into the circumstances of the criminal's life justification for the brutal and sadistic acts committed by them.
Regardless of our upbringing, no matter now deplorable the conditions of our life, we all have the power to make choices. We all know the difference between right and wrong and we are all responsible when we make the wrong decision. We cannot blame anyone else. We must be accountable for our own actions.
Millions of Canadians every day make decisions to be honest, to be fair and to respect the property and the lives of others. Therefore there is no justification in saying that one's past experiences or environment is the cause of one's criminal behaviour.
However our justice system particularly in regard to the Young Offenders Act says that young people are not responsible for their choices and their actions. This has been a major blunder in the creation of the laws protecting the property and lives of the people of this nation, that somehow someone else is responsible for the choice made by the criminal.
What these legislators are saying is that we do not reap what we sow. I find this unreasonable and unacceptable. The injustice in this country, the major flaw within our justice system is that we have legislated to restore the rights of criminals, rights which were lost at the time the depraved person launched their deadly attack upon the rights and the property of another human being.