Mr. Speaker, I admit my ignorance of soccer, so I will have to trust you.
We were talking about the law of retaliation. If it was ideological, I would say that such positions are disturbing because they arise from convictions that might one day result in laws that could not be enforced. I do not believe that it is ideological. The Reform Party's motion has much more to do with electioneering than with philosophy.
Anyway, just saying that the Reform Party's positions might be philosophically motivated would shock them, I am sure. They are not philosophers but politicians. The basis of this motion is nothing but public sentiment that the Reform Party is trying to use to its advantage. That is very easy.
Riding the wave of public feeling, the Reform Party is declaiming that young people are not charged for the crimes they commit, that young people commit more crimes than adults do, that the sentences imposed on young people are ridiculous and that most violent crimes are committed by young people. That is the rumour. Even if the hon. member does not say so openly, his whole argument is based on these propositions.
One can present such a motion without believing that juvenile delinquents are a large enough criminal group in society to really threaten public safety.
On the contrary, all the statistics available so far show that young people are charged more often than adults for their offences.
According to the 1991 report of the federal Department of Justice, the charge rate for young people was 61 per cent compared with 25 per cent for adults, and the data shows that 16- and 17-year-olds are treated more severely than adults.
On the other hand, according to the same figures, the conviction rate on charges laid against young people is still much higher than for adults. Finally, since it is the most serious offence, young people who commit murders may be tried in adult court.
A young person convicted of murder in a superior court of criminal jurisdiction is liable to life in prison. It is only when the individual is not tried in adult court that the maximum sentence for murder is five years.
If the Crown does not ask that he or she be referred to adult court, he or she will be tried in juvenile court. And even if the Crown makes that request, it will be up to the judge to decide depending on the circumstances of the case. This system works, Mr. Speaker. Unless we systematically challenge the judicial system, we must admit that the judges are in the best position to assess the objective and subjective circumstances of an offence.
I think the law is quite adequate in letting judges decide whether or not the case should be referred to adult court. That is why I think the law should not be amended in any way in this regard. All the parties concerned with juvenile delinquency say that the current system works well. Not perfectly, of course, but well.
That is not good news to the Reform Party, which urges us to focus on isolated cases. Canadian figures are generally consistent from one province to another. I therefore can say without a doubt that juvenile crime is not more prevalent in Western Canada than in Quebec or the Maritimes.
At this point in time, nothing can reasonably justify the hysteria of those who blame young people in their fight against crime. On the contrary, everything shows that crime is a reality of adult society. The proportion of teenagers guilty of Criminal Code offences is quite marginal compared with adults.
I have before me the latest figures from the Quebec public security department, and the same ratios can be applied to the Canadian population as a whole. In 1993, only one out of 51 qualified murders may have been committed by a young person.
The ratio is 6 out of 25 for second-degree murder and 0 out of 4 for manslaughter.
On a grand total of 90 murders committed in Quebec in 1993, young people may have committed 7, or less than 10 per cent. Of 241 attempted murders, 25 or about 10 per cent may have been committed by young people. As far as crime against property is concerned, young people committed 644 out of 3,177 robberies or about 20 per cent and 2,244 out of 21,592 offences against persons or a little over 10 per cent.
With respect to drugs, the facts are overwhelming. The vast majority of drug offenders are adults. Less than 5 per cent of offences for heroin possession, trafficking or smuggling are committed by young people. For cocaine offences, the rate is 8 per cent. Who can argue that the crime rate is higher among young people? Or that the proportion of criminals is about the same among young people as it is in the adult population? Let us face it: While adults represent 75 per cent of Canada's population, they commit over 90 per cent of crimes. Mr. Speaker, the reality is clear. Young people are not criminals. In their teens, that short period from 12 to 18 years of age, a very small proportion of them, less than four per cent in fact, will commit an offence, and that includes any incident, from the most ordinary to the most serious one. The majority of these offences will be assaults following arguments, as well as acts of vandalism and statutory offences.
The current Young Offenders Act is based on a long study of juvenile delinquency. We cannot talk about juvenile crime, because the reality does not support that false perception. The overwhelming majority of young people will reach adulthood without any problem, while two adults out of three could one day become part of the statistics on criminality.
Faced with such evidence, what is the relevance of a motion such as the one which is before us and which we will vote on? If the hon. member for New Westminster-Burnaby looked at the issue carefully, he knows that amending the Young Offenders Act as proposed in his motion would have the immediate effect of making that act almost useless. Since juvenile courts almost always hear cases involving young people aged 16 to 18, why does the hon. member not simply suggest repealing the act? It would be simpler, more honest and more direct. Such a measure would not be hidden behind a pretence of good intentions.
On what philosophical view of human nature is this notion of criminal responsibility based in the case of ten-year-old children? I agree that a ten-year-old child knows the difference between good and evil, but does the hon. member truly believe that a ten-year-old understands the nature of what is evil? Does he think that a child of that age is already corrupted and bad to the point of purposely doing something wrong and drawing from it a gratuitous satisfaction related to the fact that he is copying adults?
Who does the member represent? Does he speak on behalf of these paranoiac groups who have nothing better to do than throw the population into a panic? Or those individuals who flood us with hysterical correspondence reeking of hate? Or those new right-wing extremists who think that a jail sentence is still the best solution for young offenders?
In 1984, the new Young Offenders Act was based on a humane approach to juvenile delinquency. Realizing that young people were not criminals and that the dependency on their parents had the effect of reducing the risks, the legislator, after countless consultations, passed a law which favours a helping relationship between the various officials and the young person guilty of an offence.
The purpose of the law-and I repeat it again in case the member for New Westminster-Burnaby did not catch all the subtleties and nuances-is to help the young offender become a responsible person, by ensuring an effective intervention by all the professionals involved.
Instead of imposing a judicial sentence which would immediately turn the young offender into a criminal with a record, the law favours the effective rehabilitation of that young person through a series of actions. And if you read the act carefully, you will see how generous its provisions are in that respect. If that law helps only one young offender stay away from a life of crimes, it will have achieved its goal. The Criminal Code, on the other hand, serves no purpose other than to punish those who are guilty of an offence. If you make a guilty offender out of a young person, he will remain guilty for the rest of his life. However, if you give that person a chance to see what his options are, you will probably save him.
I realize that such a solution is not acceptable for someone who is bent on revenge, but if adults seek revenge, let them first use that solution on themselves. Let them build social, family and political structures adapted to the young before avenging an isolated offence committed by a young person to whom they were unable to teach honesty. This motion is simply deplorable. It might have afforded me the opportunity to discuss the amendments that the Minister of Justice gave us notice of some months ago, if it had had the merit of proposing something substantial in the administration of the Act. I know that there is a strong temptation among the Liberals to yield to certain pressures to make the Act more severe. I know that some day we will have to examine certain situations that the Act did not make provision for when it was adopted because the social reality at the time did not demand it.
I am prepared to admit that the system should be adjusted to new realities, particularly regarding organized crime. I am aware of the danger from bands of young people in certain urban areas. I believe that this is a phenomenon with which we must come to terms specifically, but we will certainly not do so by changing the focus of the Act, by stripping it of all its impact on the practical level and by lowering the age of criminal responsibility. I do not believe that bands of young people have many members between the ages of 10 and 12.
The problem of bands of young people is related to that of adult organized crime. In this regard, we will take a position at the proper time. For the present, I ask this House to reject the motion of the member for New Westminster-Burnaby.