Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for bringing this motion forward at this time. As the member who just spoke indicated, some members of the standing committee have just finished a cross-country tour to examine various aspects of the Young Offenders Act under the direction of the justice minister. He asked us to look at lowering the age from 12 to 10, and from 17 to 15. He asked us to look at the whole business of disclosure.
This motion is not a votable motion because my colleagues from the Liberal Party voted against that. It gives us an opportunity, at least those of us who have spent the last month or so travelling across this country listening to experts and others expressing their views on these issues that the justice minister asked us to examine, to examine what we have heard in light of the possibility of some of these amendments. The people who are going to finally decide on these issues of course will be the electorate in the next election. If we are going to make recommendations for changes, I have always looked for balance in the presentations that appeared before the committee, and sometimes they were balanced and sometimes they were not. Some members or witnesses were totally concerned with the rehabilitation of the members and they did not believe that the disclosure of names would aid and abet the rehabilitation of those individuals.
They would not take into consideration the other side of the equation which was of course the safety of the public in the case of a sexual offender or on those rare occasions when it might be necessary and in the best interest of the public to disclose the name of the repeat violent offender or the sexual offender so that not only would groups in society have that information to defend themselves and their children from the actions or potential actions of those individuals but also there are groups and individuals in society who may want to come forward and offer assistance and help to those individuals. Without that knowledge they would not be able to do so.
There is one point I would like to touch on in my examination of this motion, the area of reducing the age from 12 to 10.
The Canadian Police Association supports lowering the age of criminal responsibility in recognition of the fact based on experience that there are offenders under 12 years of age who currently slip through the system and go on to be full fledged youth criminals because the justice system cannot deal with them.
As mentioned by my colleague, in the spring of this year an 11-year old Toronto boy with accomplices aged 10, 13 and 15 abducted and raped a 13-year old girl. This young offender was well known to the police because they had picked him up on more
than one occasion in the past. This juvenile individual taunted police with the fact that they could not charge him.
If the Liberal justice minister and his government believe that 10 and 11-year olds should be held accountable for their criminal actions and if they had heeded our well founded advice and amended the YOA under Bill C-37 to include 10 and 11-year olds, there may have been one less rape victim in the city of Toronto. One less person may not have been so brutally traumatised as this 13-year old girl.
The Liberals may have ignored us and our recommendation to lower the age to 10 and 11-year olds but they cannot ignore the experts. They cannot ignore the Canadian Police Association and they cannot ignore Professor Nicholas Bala, associate dean of the faculty of law at Queen's University. On May 9 Professor Bala testified before the justice committee. Contained in his comments were a number of statistics which I would like to reiterate.
He stated: "I summarized the work of a 1992 StatsCanada survey of 27 police forces in Canada. The data indicated that offending behaviour by children under 12 is a significant problem, although it is a relatively small part of Canada's total crime picture. The study indicates that children under 12 committed about 1.2 per cent of all crimes compared to 20.8 per cent by young persons and 78 per cent by adults".
During his deliberations Professor Bala referred the justice committee to a paper he wrote on behalf of the Department of Justice. This Queen's law professor's paper was not circulated to members of the committee and I have yet to ask the committee why the paper was not made available. I question whether or not this paper was to meet the same fate as Terrance Wade's report which was also commissioned by the Department of Justice. Wade's incriminating paper regarding the handgun registration system was not made public, nor was it easily attainable until some members including myself inadvertently received a copy.
Fortunately I have obtained a copy of Professor Bala's paper entitled "Responding to Criminal Behaviour of Children Under Twelve: An Analysis of Canadian Law in Practice". This report provides some additional statistics which Professor Bala did not reveal to the committee during his appearance before the committee.
The report states: "While some of the reports of the offender behaviour involved children as young as four or five, the police reports indicate that almost two-thirds of the offences by children under twelve involve 10 and 11-year olds. Males accounted for 89 per cent of the children involved. While most of the crimes were property related, one major offence of concern is arson. About 13 per cent of all arson cases involve children aged 12. About 6 per cent of the offences by children under 12 involve violence, for a total of 275 victims. Only 4 per cent of the victims of these assaults were family members of the offender; 2 per cent were close friends; 12 per cent were strangers and 82 per cent were acquaintances; 74 per cent of the assaults involved physical force; 8 per cent involved knives; 7 per cent involved clubs; 10 per cent other instruments and 1 per cent guns".
Referring to a paper released by the Department of Justice in 1994, Professor Bala said the paper raised: "Some disturbing questions about sexual offending by children under the age of 12. Based on police records, about 20 per cent of all sex offences were committed by youth under 18. Of these, about 10 per cent were committed by children under the age of 12. Many of the acts committed by this youngest age group were such highly intrusive acts as oral sex and vaginal penetration".
This is information provided in the study commission by the justice department and paid for by the taxpayer, a report that was not circulated to members of the committee.
On page 5 of the report Bala concludes: "Present legal responses are not totally adequate and serious consideration should be given to lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 10, with restrictions to ensure that a criminal response is used in an appropriate and restrained fashion".
Professor Bala told the committee that his paper is: "Probably one of the most exhaustive, recent treatments of the issues by an academic in this country. It traces the history, the variation in provincial offence rates and responses and some of the problems that are there and comes up with the ultimate conclusion".
Professor Bala cited the findings of Dr. Peterson-Badaili and Dr. Rona Abramovitch. Dr. Peterson-Badaili gave 144 students in grades 5 to 8, roughly ages 10 to 14 a series of questions about hypothetical criminal offences committed by children and adolescents. She found that all of the children were: "Reasonably accurate at identifying specifically what the transgression was. These results suggest that at least when the offence is relatively straightforward, children are capable of understanding what constitutes a criminal action. This is an important point since comprehension of wrongdoing is a prerequisite to criminal responsibility. It is already acknowledged in our juvenile laws that it does not make sense to hold a child responsible for an action that he or she did not know was wrong".
The work of the Canadian psychologist, Thomas Dalby, Alan Leschied and Susan Wilson was also referred to by Bala.
I see that I am running out of time. The report is there for all members of the House to read. It recommends, based on findings and exhaustive investigation into this particular area, that the age of criminality should be reduced from 12 to 10. I hope that when the committee looks at its final report and considers this particular
area that the justice minister asked us to examine, it will consider Professor Bala's testimony and his report together.