Mr. Speaker, when the Young Offenders Act came into force in April 1984 it replaced the Juvenile Delinquents Act of 1908. The old Juvenile Delinquents Act was informal and attempted to respond like a wise parent wherein dependent children had few rights.
In April 1985 the maximum age of 18 became uniform across Canada because of the new Young Offenders Act. In fact, many provinces formerly had 16 years as the upper age limit for young offenders.
The main issues that are significant for the average citizen are age limit, transfers to adult court for serious crimes and the privacy provisions.
The Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs will be conducting a 10-year review of the entire act. The situation we are left with is "get it right next time".
The government is proceeding with Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act. Its main thrust is to lengthen some penalties but not to touch on areas about which the Reform Party and the majority of Canadians have been asking.
The Reform Party believes that the justice system should place the denunciation of crime and the protection of law-abiding citizens and their property ahead of other justice system objectives. The principle should apply to the Young Offenders Act and the general operation of the Criminal Code.
We believe that the criminal justice policy toward young offenders should be guided by the principles of individual responsibility and system accountability. Young offenders should be held individually responsible for the harm caused by their acts. The justice system should be held accountable for how it handles young offenders. The results that the system delivers should be measured against clearly stated objectives.
I want to provide some alternatives to the criticisms of the previous member of the Reform Party's suggestions. Here are some meaningful proposals that are not simplistic but are reasonable and considered and, most of all, are what mainstream Canada wants.
Lower the Young Offenders Act age definition of young persons to 10 to 15 years inclusive from 12 to 17 years inclusive. Any young offender who commits an indictable offence could possibly be transferred to adult court. Remove extra privacy and secrecy provisions of the Young Offenders Act and treat all YOA records, access to information and ability to publish in the same manner as for adults.
Sentencing must emphasize victim compensation, community service, skills training, education and deterrence to others. In custodial facilities, opportunities for rehabilitation must be
emphasized in a disciplined environment and medical and psychological treatment orders should not require the consent of the offender.
Above all, parents of young offenders should be held responsible for compensating victims of property crime if it can be demonstrated in court that they have not made a reasonable effort to exercise parental control.
The consensus among average Canadians is that the Young Offenders Act is too soft and that stronger, more predictable consequences are needed. Serious and repeat young offenders should be transferred to adult court. Young offenders have to be held accountable for their actions.
A recognition that crime prevention occurs best within nurturing families and early intrusive social services outside the justice system are much better than sentencing.
The public's right to know must take precedence over the rights of an offender for privacy and for general deterrence to work.
It is not a Reform plan to incarcerate all those who commit a crime, only those who commit serious crimes. We encourage community involvement with volunteers supporting alternative measures under the Young Offenders Act.
In summary, the legislative changes previously done and currently planned arise because the original Young Offenders Act was misguided concerning its age of operation. We are therefore not supporting the government's inadequate amendments to the Young Offenders Act.