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.