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.

Topics

FisheriesOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte Newfoundland & Labrador

Liberal

Brian Tobin LiberalMinister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely nothing so trying, nothing that tests the patience of reasoned, rational, kindhearted and gentle people more than the constant barrage, the constant complaint, the constant call for cuts to reduce the deficit most days of the week

and the occasional call for more expenditure on other days of the week.

The Reform Party really should make up its mind.

Via RailOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, VIA Rail's Atlantic train between Halifax and Montreal is well used and important to the people of Saint John. My question is for the Minister of Transport.

There is an expectation that a private short line company will purchase and operate the main line railway from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Sherbrooke, Quebec, under provincial jurisdiction. It appears that a proposed amendment to the NTA may be required before VIA passenger trains may operate over such a provincial railway.

If this is correct how soon would the government be able to enact this legislation, if requested, and what procedure would be carried out to accomplish same?

Via RailOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the question put by the hon. member is an important one for people in New Brunswick.

Although it is very speculative in its nature, I can assure the member that as Minister of Transport we will expedite whatever legislation or modifications to existing rules are required to accommodate good railway service, both passenger and freight, in New Brunswick and in the rest of Atlantic Canada.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

Dear colleagues, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in our gallery of the hon. Marcelle Mersereau, Deputy Premier and Minister of the Environment of New Brunswick.

Presence In GalleryOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear.

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, could I have the unanimous consent of this House to table draft letters of satisfaction to be sent to BioVac by the office of the Minister of Public Works?

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

The Speaker

The House heard the hon. member's request. Is there unanimous consent to allow the hon. member to table her draft letters?

Point Of OrderOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, as is the custom, at this point I would like to ask the hon. Leader of the Government in the House to tell us what is on the agenda, not for the next few days but, rather, for the weeks to come.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, I have to confirm that the House will not sit tomorrow and will not sit next week. In fact it will resume on May 24. The work that hon. members do-and I am sure they have work to do-will have to be done outside the Chamber during that period.

On May 24 and May 25 the House will begin work on Bill C-28 regarding student loans followed by Bill C-27, the income tax technical legislation. If there is time we will also call Bill C-26, to amend the National Library Act.

Pursuant to special order on May 26 the House will consider report stage of Bill C-17, the budget implementation legislation.

After the House leaders meet again the week we are back, we will have further information for them and for the House.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Milliken Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I rise on a point of order, Madam Speaker. I think you will find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the 21st report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs tabled in the House today be concurred in.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseOral Question Period

3:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

SupplyGovernment Orders

May 12th, 1994 / 3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, before carrying on, could you tell me how much time I have left?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Maheu)

Thirteen minutes.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:05 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, before Question Period, I was explaining the Boscoville report to the House. For those of you who are not familiar with it, Boscoville is an institution for young offenders in Montreal. You probably knew that, Madam Speaker.

From 1968 to 1983, a very serious study was conducted with 25 young people who had committed homicides. It was found out that those 25 young people, thanks to the treatment and help they received in Boscoville, were rehabilitated once they left that institution and did not commit other offences. Moreover, the study shows that these results were obtained over a period of about three years.

So, it took three years for young offenders treated in Boscoville to be turned into responsible persons.

In Boscoville, a great deal of emphasis is put on rehabilitation and reintegration. I used that institution as an example because I have here with me this very serious study which was used by several committees. Statistics and details are available. There is a definite trend in the rehabilitation process of young offenders in Quebec. This study is an extremely important document. I could have chosen another institution, since there are several similar ones in Quebec.

This rehabilitation effort is a team effort involving educators, as well as the family, which plays an extremely important role when a young person has committed a crime such as an homicide, but also young offenders themselves, because a lot of work is done by these young people in the course of the treatment.

The objective is to rehabilitate the young person, who must recognize that he has changed by accepting those whom he will meet following his stay in the institution.

Rehabilitation means first and foremost the explicit recognition of a profound moral transformation which makes the young offender feel that he has regained his dignity as a person. It also means that he must reassert himself on a social level, so as to deserve to be accepted everywhere, without any reservation, as an honest and responsible citizen.

Can that objective be reached by lowering the legal age of young offenders?

To ask the question is to answer it. I can understand that the perception of juvenile delinquents in English Canada is different, since they do not have the whole protection system that we have set up in Quebec in recent years.

In some provinces, we can even say that young people are practically treated as adults once they are found guilty of an offence, except that there is one wing for young people and another for adults. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the young offender spends time in prison, which is a school for crime.

It is to be expected that people in western Canada see things differently than we do. The whole approach to young offenders is completely different. Only in Ontario have they really begun in the past few years to acquire facilities similar to those that exist in Quebec for looking after juvenile delinquents. But even so, Ontario's experience is fairly recent; they still do not have the full program and do not have complete results from setting up such a system.

You must understand that stiffer penalties such as those called for in this motion or lowering the age limit for the Young Offenders Act is not a solution to the problems facing society today. Instead, we must take a very clear political option, namely giving the whole legal system facilities for treating juvenile delinquents. That is what we must realize and that is the way to go.

I have already said that Private Member's Bill C-217 is simplistic. Of course, it is much easier for society to try to crush or wipe out the rebelliousness of a young offender by imprisoning him, isolating him and putting him out of circulation for a period of time. That definitely solves the problem while he is in prison, but what happens to the young person after? What does he become?

I think that we must instead really look at the young person's problem. We must know why that individual committed the crime of which he is accused and how he can really be helped to return to society.

I think that most citizens of Quebec and of Canada are prepared to listen to those who have spent their career, their life, in this cause, those who have received training in this area, who have met with offenders every day and try to help them. We must listen to them, but we must also ask ourselves the right questions. We, as legislators, have the obligation to ask the real questions. Such as, what can I do with them? Not for them, but what can I do with them, with the young offenders? Why has this offender committed these crimes? What can I do to ensure that at some point he or she will be able to re-enter society as an honest citizen who does not require constant supervision?

The motion that we have before us invites the Government to lower the age for considering a young person a young offender under the Act from 18 years less a day to 16 years less a day.

I do not know whether the proponents of this amendment are aware that nearly 80 per cent of the clientele who are currently treated and monitored in the reception centres under the authority of the Quebec director of youth protection are precisely

between the ages of 16 and 18. These figures are surely not different in the other provinces of Canada.

What is dangerous to Quebec, and that is why I am fiercely opposed to any amendment of this nature, is that such amendments directly affect the philosophy and the entire system of rehabilitation that we have developed in Quebec.

By lowering the age to 16 years less a day, the desire no doubt is to ensure that young people are automatically referred to adult courts. But such referral already exists in the present Act. If the Crown prosecutor believes that the young person should be brought before the adult courts, he can do so when the person is between the ages of 16 and 18, and this is not done. The system hardly ever does it. According to the statistics, only 5 per cent of referrals are made to adult courts. This means that we must not attack the consequences of a disastrous social phenomenon, but rather attack the cause, the root of criminality. That is what is important and that, I believe, is what the motion has completely ignored.

The causes must be attacked, as I just said. But perhaps we may wonder what are the causes, because today I rarely heard reference to the causes of criminality.

There was a discussion panel that examined this question, and I will list some of them for you. Crime is caused, among other things, by the weakening of the social fabric, unemployment, poverty, the disintegration of the family, social isolation and the loss of community spirit, the lack of a collective sense of responsibility, violence in the media and on television, drug and alcohol use, the slowness of the judicial system and uncertain sentences.

Those are all the true causes of crime, and that is what we are trying to forget with the kind of motion we have before us this morning.

I said a few moments ago that I was opposed to changes of the kind being proposed in the motion. I am opposed as a member of the Bloc Quebecois. However, it goes farther than that, because the Quebec National Assembly took a stand on this issue on May 4 and 5 in a debate that was non-partisan and sincere. During the debate, the government and the opposition parties tried to determine what should be changed in the Young Offenders Act and what should remain the same.

In this non-partisan debate, the members unanimously passed a motion, which reads as follows: "This motion is to the effect that this Assembly insists that any amendments to the federal Young Offenders Act comply with the laws and policies of Quebec with respect to youth protection". Through this short but explicit motion, Quebec has made its position very clear. From now on, no one in this House can claim to be unaware of Quebec's position in this regard.

In conclusion, I will summarize the Bloc's position with respect to this motion in these terms. I have ten points that I will make very quickly.

First, we are against the motion presented by the Reform Party, because the motion is basically repressive. With it, we forget the ultimate objective of the criminal justice system, which is the rehabilitation of the offender. Second, crime statistics do not justify the lowering of the age from 12 to 10. Third, the motion does nothing to deal with the problem of youth crime. Fourth, the increase in criminal offences by young people is largely due to acts of minor assault against peers. Fifth, in 1992, according to the latest figures, the crime rate rose less than in previous years, which may indicate that the changes suggested in the motion would be unnecessary.

Sixth, an increase in crime statistics and media interest in crimes committed by young people have amplified the problem of juvenile crime. Seventh, a general increase in the number of violent crimes, largely due to minor assault. Eighth, many intervenors maintain that the problems concerning the referral of young people to adult court are caused by the attitudes of the various parties, not by the legislation. Ninth, the motion overlooks the whole issue of rehabilitation and social reintegration, and tenth and last, according to the information we have so far, there is no indication that more severe sentencing and lowering the age under the act have any deferrent effect whatsoever.

For all these reasons, Madam Speaker, as you may have guessed, I am against the motion and any bill that would ultimately undermine the entire rehabilitation and social integration system we set up in Quebec years ago for the benefit of young offenders.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:15 p.m.

Liberal

Morris Bodnar Liberal Saskatoon—Dundurn, SK

Madam Speaker, the dissertation just given deals quite succinctly with many of the areas in dealing with some of the problems of young offenders.

I am wondering whether the hon. member would consider that perhaps a reduction of the age from 18 to 16 would be reasonable so long as the young offender who is of the age of 16 or 17 could still apply to the courts to be placed in young offenders court, thus eliminating the repeat offender from being able to be in young offenders court but allowing the young person who seldom gets into trouble to remain in young offenders court.

If I am not clear on that, perhaps I can put it a different way. At present the crown must apply to elevate young offenders into adult court. Would perhaps the reversal of that onus be more appropriate by having the young offender apply to be placed in young offenders court?

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, as I said earlier, according to the statistics I analysed, more than 80 per cent of young people in youth court are between the ages of 16 and 18. The reversal of the onus, which make it incumbent on the young offender to apply to be tried under the Young Offenders Act instead of in adult court, would have two implications. First, the considerable number of applications will increase the burden of the courts. All, or at least 80 per cent of young offenders will ask to be tried under the Young Offenders Act, which will put an additional burden on the courts.

Second, at the present time a young offender may be referred to adult court, but only 5 per cent of such cases are actually referred. So this would create an additional burden and more work all around for nothing, since we know that 95 per cent of the applications by these 80 per cent will be approved by the judges who make the final decision on the basis of the jurisprudence, their own experience and the merits of the case and the available evidence, and decide not to transfer these young offenders to adult court.

I think that putting the onus on young offenders between the ages of 16 to 18 to apply for a referral to youth court instead of the reverse, which is the case now, is not the answer. I do not think that is a good way to deal with the problem.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Liberal

Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, I would like to begin by making the following comment. I am concerned that my hon. friend is operating under certain false premises in terms of his feeling that the motion put forward by the Reform Party is speaking for all westerners.

As a westerner I would like to tell the House and my colleague that the policies that underlie the motion we have heard from the Reform Party which seem to favour punishment over any kind of analysis of the problems facing our young offenders are certainly not the policies or the approach favoured by western Canadians and certainly not by me or my other western colleagues in the government.

I would like to invite him to visit us in the west and I personally will tour him to meet various people who will show him another side of western viewpoints on this issue.

Second, I can understand why my hon. friend would come away with this notion, assuming he sees the Reform Party as speaking for some westerners, given the nature of the motion put forward which are debating today. I say that because this motion offers simplistic solutions to complex problems. It reflects the Reform Party's obsession with cuts and saving a penny no matter what the cost. It also reflects a rather slogan approach to solving very complex difficulties that face us as a society.

I come from the west and I also have a Scottish background. No one could be more concerned with saving a few pennies than my ancestors from Scotland. Therefore, I would like to say to this House and my friends in the Reform Party that I would put to them three slogans for their consideration of this very serious problem. One is that we consider the old comment about being penny wise and pound foolish.

I would also ask them to consider another slogan dealing with money, pay me now or pay me later. The third slogan is haste makes waste. I feel quite qualified to speak on all three of those and to expand on why I mention those.

On penny wise and pound foolish, certainly we may throw a few young offenders into prison today and maybe that will make us feel that we are saving money in some ways because we do not have to bother rehabilitating them, but we will ultimately pay the price because, as my learned friend points out, they go to the university of crime in prison and they learn very well. If there is no money to help with their difficulties we end up with more serious criminals.

Pay me now or pay me later is on the same theme. I will not bother repeating myself.

Finally, on haste makes waste, we are dealing here with young offenders who have a multitude of problems. As my friend from Quebec has pointed out it is not a simple matter of saying this person wanted to steal a car, lock him up. To proceed in an analysis of this issue in a hasty manner, possibly a knee-jerk response to such things as the tragedy in Britain which was brought up earlier today will only make us pay a much higher price down the road.

I congratulate my friend from Quebec for his thoughtful analysis of the root problems. I agree with him that careful study is warranted. I congratulate the Minister of Justice on taking this kind of approach to the young offenders. I urge the minister and this government and all thoughtful members of this House to proceed on a slow and steady course to analyse the root problems, to balance the dual concerns of protection of society and dealing with the problems facing our young people.

I would conclude by saying I am pleased to have my friend from Quebec on the justice committee with me and I look forward to working with him to provide solutions to all of these very complex problems.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to speak after such laudatory comments from a government member. We do not hear that every day, and I will take it with pleasure today. I am also pleased to know that there are people in

Western Canada who think differently from the Reform Party. I congratulate the member for rising to say so.

Currently, what is heard in this House is amplified by all the media attention surrounding the issue that we see in the newspapers and the whole issue of young offenders. I see that in Western Canada there may be people who think somewhat as we do in Quebec. I therefore invite the Minister of Justice to pay attention when he wishes to amend the Young Offenders Act. It seems there is a position in Quebec that may in some respects be reflected in Western Canada.

The Young Offenders Act can be amended if there is felt to be a need to do so. As for me, in Quebec, we do not see the need to amend the Young Offenders Act, but the need the apply it fairly and provide the resources for it to be applied throughout Canada.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nic Leblanc Bloc Longueuil, QC

Madam Speaker, I found it interesting when the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm spoke about the Boscoville Institute. I would like him to say a little more about this institute which plays an important role in Quebec. It could serve as an example for the rest of Canada.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I had planned on talking about it in my speech but as I was interrupted, I skipped a few passages dealing with the Boscoville Institute. What is interesting about this institute is that individuals are assessed as soon as they arrive. A case study was done to draw a profile of young offenders.

I think it is important for Reform members and those who support lowering the age limit to know what the 25 young offenders treated at the institute were like. There were very few repeat offenders; it was usually their first time in court.

Second, the offence seems to be the result of a set of circumstances rather than of a life focused on crime. Most young offenders come from a very deprived environment at every level. Again, bells rang when I heard some members deny that most young offenders come from poor families. The statistics say otherwise. Let us look at the statistics and we will see what the situation is. Of course, there will always be black sheep but the vast majority come from underprivileged backgrounds.

Third, the motivation to go to an institute such as Boscoville is very high. People know one another. Young offenders think it is to their advantage to be treated under the Young Offenders Act when they can be re-integrated. It is extremely important to them, which may explain why in the end there are almost no repeat offenders.

There are roughly two treatment phases at Boscoville. I think I will eventually have the opportunity to discuss it in greater detail. I see that my time is running out. I will eventually have the time to describe the two phases. I think I will submit this document to the Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs because it is extremely important.

If the federal government wants to intervene, if it has money to invest in young offenders, it should perhaps consult with the provinces in order to invest in the right places, like the Boscoville Institute, where it is extremely important to emphasize self-respect and make young people acknowledge their actions.

After the second phase-the process is actually much longer-, they acknowledge their actions and learn to live with the consequences. In the end, however, they can re-integrate society as better and anonymous citizens who pay taxes and support the system.

SupplyGovernment Orders

3:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Madam Speaker, allow me to congratulate the hon. member on his speech.

If I may say so respectfully, it was a very helpful analysis of the issues we face in respect of this legislation and in the debate today.

As we discuss this resolution, Canadians have made it clear that community safety and crime issues are high on their agenda. Concerns about youth crime particularly in light of the tragic events in recent months have made this subject one of particular importance for the House of Commons.

I know that members of all parties would want me to observe at the outset that when we speak of youth crime and young offenders, we speak about a small segment of young people in Canada today. By far the vast majority of young Canadians are dedicated toward improving themselves and leading productive lives as citizens of this country.

Nonetheless, members of the public have expressed growing concern about how the Young Offenders Act works and how it deals with youth who do commit crimes. I believe in the act; I believe in its fundamental principles and the model of juvenile justice it creates for Canada. And while I believe in the focus on both public protection and youth rehabilitation, I recognize and this government recognizes there is a need for changes in the act now.

As I said, I will be introducing a bill to amend the act in this House in June. This bill will reflect the commitments made during the election campaign to improve the act's provisions as they pertain to youth crimes, particularly violent crimes of a serious nature.

Let me just say, however, that amending the legislation is not in itself a solution to youth crime in Canada. To say so would be to mislead Canadians.

It must be clear that progress in dealing with youth crime means not only initiating more effective criminal justice responses but it also means crime prevention in a broad and constructive sense. It means addressing the causes of crime as well as an acceptance of the need to address the culture of violence in which our children and youth are growing up in Canada today.

In my capacity as Minister of Justice I co-ordinate on the Prime Minister's behalf the efforts of nine ministries of government which are addressed to the question of violence in Canadian society. It is a broad effort which includes ministries as disparate as: Heritage Canada, with responsibility for broadcasting and which deals with violence on television and in movies; the Ministry of Health, which deals with programs for young people, programs for pregnant women, and government undertakings to ensure the provision of social services in the health context to deal with some conditions that breed crime in this country; and the Ministry of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, because the criminal justice system fails so profoundly in dealing with the needs of the aboriginal peoples.

These efforts are made in recognition of the fact that we must not only make the Young Offenders Act more effective, we must also adopt a wide ranging approach to the entire question of crime and youth crime in particular.

I am fond of speaking of the root causes of crime. I respond to questions in the House about crime in that way and I stress a two track approach to the challenge of crime in Canadian society: Amend statutes like the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code to ensure they send a stern message that there is to be accountability, that there is punishment and it will be certain and effective. At the same time acknowledge and communicate that the criminal justice system by itself is not going to be able to overcome this problem in our society.

If the answer to crime was simply harsher laws, longer penalties and bigger prisons then the United States of America would be nirvana today. Surely that is an abject lesson for us all that that approach alone will not and does not succeed. Surely it is plain that the causes of crime must be addressed.

When I am asked about the causes of crime, I surprise no one when I refer to dysfunctional families, to the abuse of children, to the fact that some children do not have a hot meal once a week, to the fact that schools and their curricula have become irrelevant for many children. Young people in large numbers feel they do not have a stake in our economic system and have no future to look forward to. They lose an interest in preserving and enhancing the status quo because for them it is something in which they have no part.

Therefore I say that the Minister of Human Resources Development, the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Industry have as much to do with crime prevention as the Minister of Justice. We are only ever going to be able to have long term and effective results if we create a society in which we minimize the conditions which breed crimes.

Almost 30 years ago Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States of America. I was reminded recently by someone who made reference to a study done I believe it was by the Eisenhower Foundation, in respect of the great society. This was the program of legislation President Johnson introduced in 1964 or 1965 by which the Government of the United States of America undertook a broad initiative in terms of education for young people, strengthening of the health care system, headstart programs for the disadvantaged, the kind of integrated comprehensive approach of which I speak today.

The study done some 25 years after the programs of the great society were introduced demonstrated the effect of those initiatives and the positive consequence of putting the emphasis on that aspect of government as well as criminal justice.

Those studies showed that for the beneficiaries of the great society, for those kids who were brought up with the advantage of those programs, the contrast between their lives and the lives of those without those programs was very stark. There was a higher degree of employment, a lower crime rate, a greater degree of stability among families, a greater degree of health. These are demonstrable consequences of enlightened approaches which recognize the linkages between social programs effectively designed and administered in the criminal justice system.

In developing our responses to young offenders we must also keep youth crime in perspective. Let us bear in mind it is adults in this country who continue to commit the majority of crime. Seventy-nine per cent of crime is committed by adults. Adults commit 86 per cent of all violent crime in this country.

While there is no doubt that some youth crimes of violence are on the increase, the increase in youth violent offences is for less serious offences. The number of youths charged with homicide and attempted murder for example has remained relatively stable over the years.

The vast majority of crimes committed by youth are property crimes. Sixty per cent were property crimes in 1992. More than half of those crimes were for theft and most of those involved property with a value of less than $1,000. Only 14 per cent of young people charged in 1992 were charged with crimes of violence, including homicides. That is an increase of only 6 per cent since 1986.

Let us not lose sight of those facts when we propose changes to the law. But we do propose changes and let me speak to those now.

As far as amending the legislation is concerned, we are considering the possibility of increasing the maximum sentences handed down by a youth court for the crime of murder. Judges would also be allowed to hand down longer sentences if they felt such action was necessary to ensure reintegration and to better protect the public. Maximum sentences would include periods of reintegration into the community to ensure that youths receive some supervision and support when they return to the community. This is a determining factor both for the young person and for the safety of the public.

We also believe that the adult system may be more appropriate for dealing with some 16 and 17-year olds who commit violent offences causing the most serious personal harm. In addition, public safety concerns may require that the act be clarified to allow for information to be shared with professionals such as police and schools and with select members of the public when violent offenders are involved.

We are looking as well at longer retention of records in the cases of young people convicted of personal injury offences. Furthermore we acknowledge that crime victims often feel that the justice system fails them. One response to that concern would be to allow victim impact statements to be considered by the court in sentencing a youth, similar to the adult system.

May I observe that too many of Canada's young people, disproportionately aboriginal and minority youths, are ending up in custody. Currently one-third of youth cases with guilty decisions result in custodial sentences and nearly half of those sentences involve property offences.

When we put lower risk youths in custody, we use up expensive and limited resources that are better directed at youth posing a danger to the public. It may also increase the likelihood that those persons will reoffend upon their release. Where appropriate, such youths should be held accountable to communities and to victims through community based sanctions, away from the influence of more antisocial offenders.

I should emphasize that in designing the changes that I will introduce in the House in the coming weeks, I have attempted to take into account the views of the provinces and the territories. The provinces and territories administer the statute. The federal government shares the cost, but it is primarily their obligation to administer it.

At the same time as we introduce the changes to which I have referred, I have also made it clear that the government proposes to initiate a broad public review of the Young Offenders Act in this its 10th year since proclamation. The review which will involve Parliament will be comprehensive in scope. Speaking to the resolution which is before the House today, may I say it is the view of the government that the age at which the application of the statute should begin is a matter which should be considered by the justice committee when it undertakes its broad and comprehensive review.

I hope that with this in-depth review, we will succeed in achieving a much broader consensus on the most effective way of resolving the numerous, difficult problems associated with youth crime.

In closing, I would like to say a few words about the importance of crime prevention, particulary as it concerns young people.

I emphasize, as I have already, that we approach our task from a broad based perspective acknowledging that our traditional response to crime by itself is inadequate. We are committed to a comprehensive and an integrated approach that looks to reducing opportunities for crime, improving enforcement efforts and addressing social factors.

I call upon all members of the House to work with the government to improve the Young Offenders Act so that we can ensure that our youth, the nation's greatest resource, grow up as law-abiding and fully participating members of Canadian society. That is a challenge for all of us.