Mr. Speaker, I want to make two or three comments.
I have listened to the remarks of members opposite. All of it is well-meaning. Some of it borders on the rhetorical but I understand where they are coming from. I do not find any of this a new issue. I think we can make some headway in this Parliament.
As we know, the amendments being proposed to the Young Offenders Act and the amendments we are debating today do principally three things in response to the election commitments of the government in the last election. The government has moved to expedite the transfer of 16 and 17-year-olds to adult court when they are accused of committing the more serious crimes. We have again proposed lengthening the sentence for homicides committed by young offenders. This is the third time Parliament has done this. Last, we have taken steps to deal with the sharing of information between agencies, police, educators and so on involving young offenders.
Underlying all of this is the recognition that the way to reduce crime among young offenders, and I suppose throughout the rest of society, is through crime prevention techniques. Once the crime is committed the issue is done. The crime has been committed. We all recognize that. We have commenced a national crime prevention council in the hope that we can engender the kinds of crime prevention techniques, ideas and concepts and put them into place.
Having failed hypothetically with crime prevention techniques to prevent a hypothetical young offender from committing a crime, and having arrested the young fellow, we are then faced with a societal intervention. We have decided as a Parliament, as government policy, that we will not simply take a young offender and drop him into the slammer for a couple of years.
We want an intervention that is appropriate to the circumstances so that the young offender does not commit a crime again. There are several ways to go about it. We have heard different suggestions across the floor of the House and there is plenty to read about it in the media. We want to intervene so it does not happen again. The intervention must be prompt.
I have noted even in the amendments that we propose now and in the existing structures of the Young Offenders Act there is too much potential for delay of that intervention. The secret in applying the justice system to the needs of that young offender so that the young offender will stay straight is that society intervenes promptly in an appropriate way.
Even the youth transfer provisions to the adult court involve procedures. The intervention of the state following the offence of a young offender that takes a year or six months is absolutely useless. Could we please stop and take note that if a 16 or 16 and a half year old commits a crime and we wait a year before we are able to convict and intervene we have wasted a whole year. That young offender is 17 and a half years old. He or she is almost an adult. We have blown the entire window of opportunity to intervene.
We also have to remember that the interventions are not done by the federal government. Interventions following the commission of crimes by young offenders are by provincial jurisdictions. Young offenders are dealt with by provincial procedures following conviction.
This House edicts that there will be an appropriate and a timely intervention by a provincial government. We cannot do it. We have to negotiate it. We have to have the provinces on side. This is a fairly complex undertaking in a country like this. These jurisdictions have been successfully dealt with in the past and we can continue to make progress.
It is important to remember as we consider these amendments to this act that the government is committed to reviewing the entire operation of the Young Offenders Act, even the amendments that we are dealing with today, in a review which will probably take a number of months but which will be intensive. I know that review has the commitment of all members. We intend to do a very good job of producing a report that will
indicate the directions for reform if any. I am sure there will be reform proposals. I am certain of it.
This House and the justice minister may be able to make further proposals with provincial counterparts in the weeks to follow.