Mr. Speaker, I have noticed there are really two main themes in this debate on the Young Offenders Act.
The first theme seems to be that we should deal with the root problem, the cause of youth crime. The other theme is that filling the jails is not going to be the deterrent that we should use to prevent crime, that filling the jails is not the only answer, is not the whole solution to the problem.
I would like to talk a little about these two issues. First I agree absolutely with those who have said that we must deal with the root cause of youth crime. I do not think members would find anyone who would argue with that position.
If we look at the legislation that this government and past governments over the past 20 to 30 years have passed, we find that the role of the family has been weakened by laws, including changes to the criminal justice system and the tax system. These changes have certainly done nothing to get at the root causes of crime, in fact just the opposite. The weakening of the role of the family and the increasing of the role of the state have weakened and added to developing the root cause of crime. It has allowed crime.
The other thing I would like to talk about is the issue of filling our jails as really not being a good deterrent to crime. Jail is part of the answer and jail does provide a deterrent but I too am concerned if we only look at filling the jails as deterrence to crime, including of course crime committed by young offenders.
We have to look at all possible options as deterrents. For example, we have to seriously look at boot camps and other types of set-ups where there is strong discipline. This could be used with young offenders.
Let us also look at something that was removed as an option for deterrence from the Criminal Code in 1971. I am talking about the use of corporal punishment not just with adults but with young offenders. We have to examine the possibility of bringing back corporal punishment as a very effective deterrent.
Before I was involved in politics the first time in 1975 I heard from a constituent who told me about his personal experience in the use of corporal punishment.
This gentleman was at a coffee table in a local restaurant when we were talking about how the criminal justice system had to be improved and how criminals were not being dealt with very well, not firmly enough. One person got on to the suggestion that we reinstate and use corporal punishment in our system again.
One gentleman who had been saying nothing until this point said: "I am going to tell you something that I have never told anyone before. When I was a young man I committed a violent crime". We never asked what the crime was. It was not important in the discussion.
"As a result I received a prison sentence of about two years and I received the lash". This gentleman said that because he received the lash going in and going out of prison that he believed a deterrent had been provided that kept him from a life of crime. He believed that if it had not been for that corporal punishment, he would have been a lifetime criminal.
When members opposite talk about the harshness of corporal punishment in our criminal system, I would like to ask them this question. Which is more harsh? Which is more kind and gentle, using corporal punishment to prevent a life of crime or not having sufficient deterrents and having an individual become a lifelong criminal?
This gentleman who had received the lash said that he believed it kept him from a life of crime and he also believed that was far less harsh than the alternative of being a lifetime criminal and living every day, every year of his life knowing that he would go back to crime again and again.
Therefore when we are talking in this House about being kind and gentle, let us look at it from a factual and real point of view. I ask again, which is more kind and gentle?
I heard a very similar story from another gentlemen in my riding at an Elks meeting a few years later. This gentlemen had personally received the lash. He received the lash going into jail. He had a longer sentence. He said if he had his choice he would have stayed in jail for life rather than receiving that corporal punishment. This came directly from the person involved. He would have stayed in jail rather than receive the lash on his way out.
I think that says a lot about using corporal punishment as a deterrent. There are many different degrees of corporal punishment that could be used. Certainly with young offenders I think the degree of corporal punishment should be far less.
I know from personal experience throughout my life as a young person growing up that pain was a terrific deterrent. I believe that pain through corporal punishment should be seriously considered in this House as a deterrent to prevent young offenders from reoffending.
When I asked the parliamentary secretary a question in the House last year whether his government had even considered
corporal punishment as a deterrent, the parliamentary secretary stood up, looked at me in a scoffing manner-