This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

House of Commons Hansard #150 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

February 10th, 1995 / 10 a.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, with regard to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act and the Criminal Code, there are seven motions in amendment standing on the Notice Paper for the report stage of this bill.

Motion No. 1 will be debated and voted on separately. Motions Nos. 2, 3 and 4 will be grouped for debate but voted on separately.

Motion Nos. 5, 6 and 7 will be grouped for debate but voted on separately.

I shall now propose Motion No. 1 to the House.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-37, in Clause 12, be amended by replacing lines 13 to 18, on page 10 with the following:

"(5.1) Where a young person elects or is deemed to have elected to be tried by a judge of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction with a jury, the youth court shall conduct a preliminary inquiry and if, on its conclusion, the young person is ordered to stand trial, the proceedings shall be before a judge of the superior court of criminal jurisdiction with a jury.

(5.2) A preliminary inquiry referred to in subsection (5.1) shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of Part XVIII of the Criminal Code, except to the extent that they are inconsistent with this act.

(6) Proceedings under this act before a judge of a superior court of criminal jurisdiction with a jury shall be conducted, with such modifications as the circumstances require, in accordance with the provisions of Parts XIX and XX of the Criminal Code, except that".

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia

Liberal

Russell MacLellan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak on Bill C-37 regarding the amendments that are before the House today.

As members are aware undoubtedly, numerous motions were passed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs following very lengthy testimony on Bill C-37. We had before the committee approximately 40 witnesses.

The government today has tabled further motions, eight to be exact, to which I would like to speak. Seven of these motions involve technical improvements to the bill and one addresses a more substantive issue.

These suggestions have arisen as a result of further review of the bill and from recent consultations with the provinces, the territories and youth justice professionals.

The Minister of Justice recently met with his counterparts, provincial and territorial, in Victoria, B.C. The provinces, as members know, administer large aspects of the Young Offenders Act. They requested changes that would be in their interests primarily in the administration of this act. We were most willing to comply because we want the act to work as well as it possibly can.

Motion No. 1 serves to clarify which provisions of the code will apply dealing with the preliminary inquiries where a youth is charged with murder and the matter is going to be dealt with in youth court.

The existing language of Bill C-37 speaks to proceedings being regulated by the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to juries and trials of indictable offences. The revised language is specific as to the relevant provisions of preliminary inquiries as well as the initiation and conduct of jury trials.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The first group is dealing with Motion No. 1. Ten minute speeches.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, before I start my comments on Motion No. 1, I would like to say once again that the Bloc Quebecois has always been opposed to Bill C-37, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act.

It has always been our position, both in this House and in committee, that Canada, and especially Quebec, where the focus of Bill C-37 has no specific application, do not need this kind of legislation.

Since the Young Offenders Act was first implemented a little over ten years ago, the authorities in Quebec have done a good job of harmonizing provincial legislation with the Young Offenders Act. The Youth Protection Act is a case in point. The same people are responsible for enforcing the same laws. I feel that this particular measure is entirely unnecessary and constitutes an unexpected shift to the right.

However, when we see 70 Liberal members rise to vote on Bill C-226, we realize why this kind of bill was introduced. Our young people need jobs far more than they need sentencing. If they had jobs, if their future was not a dead end, there would be no need for legislation to lock them up and refer them to adult court so they will get longer sentences. What we have here is a society that is running scared and a government that will not admit it.

As for Motion No. 1, since that is our topic, it raises far more questions than it answers. Perhaps I may touch on a few points.

The young person's right to elect is provided in the Act, except in the case of murder charges. However, there is no indication when the right to elect to be judged before a jury or before a judge or a magistrate may be exercised. Will a young person exercise his right when he first appears in court? Will he exercise it at the preliminary hearing? Will he exercise it when he applies for bail or release from custody? There is no indication at all. There is absolutely nothing to go by. Does this mean we go by the jurisprudence already established in adult court? There is no indication where the law stands.

I think the government will have to redo its homework on this one. The steamroller approach may have to be moderated a bit.

One wonders also, in the case of a young person charged with murder, to which court his request would have to be submitted for release on bail while proceedings are pending. Would it be a superior court, as is the case presently for adults, or would it be a youth court? The rules are different.

If a young person must appear before a superior court judge to request release on bail for the duration of the proceedings, there are no safeguards against possible information leaks resulting from the presentation of such a request. It might be covered by a journalist, names might be published, although the Young Offenders Act includes specific provisions to protect the young person's identity, in large measure at least.

So the young person may very well appear before a youth court, but be required to appear before a superior court judge to request a release, just as adults must, and then the matter would be disclosed even though it is maintained that the preliminary inquiry would take place before a youth court. This poses a serious problem. I think this needs to be reworked. I also think it was done in a bit of a rush because it was only in a parliamentary committee that the official opposition pointed out that, with longer sentences, the young person would then acquire the choice of proceeding to trial by judge and jury. This aspect has evidently not been thoroughly investigated.

An attempt was made, of course, to link the right to trial by jury, guaranteed by the Canadian constitution even for young persons liable to a prison term of more than five years and Bill C-37, which, originally, made no reference to it at all. Departmental lawyers will have to look at the question more to avoid having the courts establish jurisprudence on procedure over the years.

I understand that, in substantive law, the courts have considerable power to establish rights, but the procedure should be established by the legislator in as safe and certain a context as possible. Vague provisions such as these cannot be ignored. Provision must be made at least for a ban on the publication of the name of the applicant in an application for release, if the application is to be heard by a justice of the superior court, because this is absolutely not clear.

Currently, appearance is made before a youth court justice, and the preliminary inquiry takes place in a youth court. What happens, though, if a bail application is made in between the two; where is it heard? It could be claimed that, since, at least until this point, proceedings are held in a youth court, all proceedings could take place there, but the legislation does not speak on this. Provision must be made to permit everything to remain in youth court, even the application for release on bail, since it is made generally between the appearance and the preliminary inquiry, which takes place in youth court.

Guidelines must be established and limits set on motions for a referral order by the Crown. When can the Crown make such motions? At any point before the trial? Immediately before appearance is made? Following the preliminary inquiry? Between the time of appearance and the preliminary inquiry? Here again it is vague. We will have to rely on the precedents that will be set to determine at what point the Crown will be able to do it under the new legislation. I think it should occur between the appearance and the preliminary inquiry or very shortly after the appearance. Certainly not any longer than the three days that the Crown already has to request that the release from custody hearing be delayed. The legislation is not specific. This must

absolutely be clarified, and surely the department's jurists could help out in this area.

Since Part XVIII of the Criminal Code is referred to specifically, in relation to Motion No. 1, as much for what it says as for what it fails to say, I ask myself the following question: Does the crown have the right to evoke preferred indictment in cases involving young adolescents or is preferred indictment out of the question?

If preferred indictment can be used, young people will be treated exactly like adults, at each stage. If the crown decides to proceed by preferred indictment, the young person will appear before a justice and then will be sent directly to trial by judge and jury, without any preliminary inquiry.

At the very least, there must be a provision ensuring that preferred indictment cannot be invoked for a young person accused of a criminal act which is punishable by a prison term of over five years, or, if it is used, certain procedures must be put in place for the youth court, otherwise the Young Offenders Act will have lost all meaning. By proceeding by preferred indictment the crown will be able to sidestep the Young Offenders Act and to send the young person directly to criminal court.

I was already of the opinion that bill C-37 was extremely regressive, considering all of the improvements made to criminal law between 1969 and 1980. I believe that Motion No. 1 makes it worse and the opposition will vote against the motion.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Motion No. 1. We in this party recognize it is a step in the right direction, but it is a small step. It does not accomplish what the Canadian people want to see accomplished. It does not accomplish what we in this party recognize needs to be accomplished.

I will draw what may be a poor analogy. If you wanted to head from Ottawa to Vancouver and you got on the 401 heading west, you would say that you were going in the right direction but you would not pat yourself on the back because you hit the outskirts of town here. People do not want us to drive on a highway in first gear. They want us to get to Vancouver in a hurry. They want us to get on a jet and get there overnight.

That is what we find wrong with this legislation. It does not begin to accomplish what we know needs to be accomplished. For that reason my party and I have a great deal of difficulty with this amendment.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 76.1(8), a recorded division on the proposed motion stands deferred.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Cardigan P.E.I.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Liberalfor Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-37, in Clause 31, be amended: a ) by replacing line 34, on page 24, with the following: offence referred to in the schedule shall, when the circumstances set out in subsection (1) are realized in respect of the records, be'' and <em>b</em> ) by replacing line 42, on page 24, with the following:tion 41(1) shall, when the circumstances set out in subsection (1) are realized in respect of the records, be transferred to that special''.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-37, in Clause 31, be amended by adding, immediately after line 3 on page 25, the following:

"(4) Paragraphs 45(1)( d .1) to (e) of the act, as enacted by subsection (2), apply in respect of a record relating to a finding of guilt made before the coming into force of that subsection only if the person to whom the record relates applies, after the coming into force of that subsection, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to have those paragraphs apply.''

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-37, in Clause 32, be amended by replacing line 24, on page 25, with the following:

"to ( d ) may be kept indefinitely in the special''.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Cape Breton—The Sydneys Nova Scotia

Liberal

Russell MacLellan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the three motions which have been grouped together are consequential in nature.

Motion No. 2 flows from the creation in Bill C-37 of two additional repositories. One is the special records repository which is referred to in clause 32, page 25, proposed section

45(2), and the other is the fingerprint repository which is referred to in clause 32, page 27, proposed section 45(3).

These two repositories will permit the RCMP to store records for additional periods of time. The provisions however require a more limited access than the general repository of the RCMP. The amendment will clarify the point in time at which the records may be transferred from the general repository to the special repositories. The existing scheme already requires a crime free period of behaviour before a youth's record may be subject to destruction.

The scheme in Bill C-37 prolongs the period that records of certain offences will be detained as further precaution. In effect, the records from the general repository are moved to a more restricted repository once the young person has met specified conditions set out in section 45(1) as amended by clause 31 of Bill C-37. The time periods for retention in the general repository were amended in Bill C-37 to generally correspond with pardon periods applicable to adults.

Motion No. 3 flows from the Bill C-37 changes to the record provisions which allow for shorter retention periods for less serious offences and require longer retention for more serious offences. These retention periods will apply to the records of young offenders dealt with prior to the coming into force of Bill C-37.

The effect of the motion is to require young offenders who have received absolute or conditional discharges or have been found guilty of a summary conviction offence to apply for the destruction of their records if they wish the shorter time periods to be applied to them. The conditional discharges were not legislatively provided for in the Young Offenders Act but were introduced into Bill C-37. This motion includes conditional discharges as some judges ordered them.

This measure will allow eligible youth the benefit of early destruction of their records. It is also resource efficient and will avoid the necessity of a mutual case by case search through the existing data bank which could cost well in excess of one million dollars.

For a youth whose records will come into existence following implementation of Bill C-37, the process will be automated and no application by the young person will be required.

With respect to Motion No. 4, like the other two it is consequential in nature. It flows from the motion passed by the committee at the committee stage which removes aggravated assault from the list of offences which trigger presumptive transfers. The option of seeking to have a case involving this charge transferred to the adult court remains open to the crown or course.

The effect of section 45.02(2) is that records relating to murder and to any of the presumptive transfer offences may be kept indefinitely in a special repository of the RCMP.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, Motions Nos. 2, 3 and 4 are indeed rather technical. Their purpose is to improve an ill-conceived bill. By making technical improvements to an ill-conceived bill, we are in fact making it worse.

We will, however, agree to Motions Nos. 2, 3 and 4 on division without a recorded vote.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Mike Scott Reform Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, Motion No. 2 merely provides further amplification and clarification but does not materially change the bill. Therefore, we are opposed to this motion on the basis that we oppose Bill C-37.

Motion No. 3 provides clear direction for the RCMP to destroy records at set periods of time subsequent to conviction of the less serious offences for which an absolute discharge, a conditional discharge or a summary conviction punishment has been imposed.

Motion No. 4 merely corrects a mistake or a typo in the bill which states "in paragraphs 16(1.01) (b) to (e)". The list only went up to (d) so there was no (e).

Once again, on behalf of the Reform caucus I oppose these cosmetic changes. The only way I will lend support to anything dealing with the Young Offenders Act is if it has teeth, if it does something to reduce criminal activity among youth, if it provides for the increased protection of society which is at the heart of this debate and which is the objective of the traditional role of justice in this country. This is an objective the Liberal government and its predecessor seem to have forgotten in the quest to have the rights of criminals supersede the rights of victims, the victims' families and society at large.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I just listened to the speech made by the member from the Reform Party who says he will only support measures with respect to young offenders or amendments to the Young Offenders Act if they have teeth and will do something to substantially reduce youth crime. If that is the case, I am wondering why the Reform Party does not support measures which will really be directed to the causes of crime and to the real reasons young people commit crime.

Every time measures are put forward that will really do something to reduce the rate of crime in this country, including youth crime, Reform Party members are opposed to it. They are opposed to spending money on serious social programs. They are opposed to spending money which would really help youth reintegrate into society. They are really opposed to programs that would help youth re-adapt in society. All they want to do is

put young people in prison and let them sit there by themselves doing nothing.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The member for Skeena will realize that one can only debate once at this time, therefore, the hon. House leader for the Reform Party.

Young Offenders ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Reform

Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, in response to whether or not there is substantive material here that we are dealing with, I would concur with the hon. member for Skeena. What the amendments we are discussing today really include is so minor it does not substantially change the material beast of Bill C-37, which is not even a half-baked measure, perhaps not even a quarter-baked measure as far as solving the problems of young offenders and their criminal activity are concerned.

I had the privilege in January before we came back to the House to visit many schools in my constituency. In a free question and answer period students were able to dialogue with their member of Parliament.

They brought up the case of the Young Offenders Act. It was not something I mentioned in my brief presentation to them. They indicated it was insufficient. It has no support among young people. They felt it was casting them in a bad light. They were demanding change.

When will this Liberal government realize that even young people want reform of the Young Offenders Act? Give us some meat. Give us something that is substantive and will change the Young Offenders Act to protect the reputations of our young people.