Mr. Speaker, I am happy to join in the debate because it gives me an opportunity to respond to yet another Reform simple minded, facile, quick fix proposal.
Reform Party members have already made up their minds about the Young Offenders Act. The thought that they want to amend it now certainly rings hollow. The Reform fresh start pamphlet says under the category of safe streets that Reformers promise to eliminate the Young Offenders Act and replace it with laws making juvenile offenders accountable for their actions. If they want to eliminate it, I have no idea why they want to amend it at this time. Inconsistency, I suppose, is not something that they have any trouble dealing with because they are inconsistent in many ways.
They claim that the people of Canada are obsessed by youth crime. They use inflammatory rhetoric and, quite frankly, misleading information or misinformation to support that claim and to fire up the public who listen to them without realizing that they do not have the statistics, the numbers or the research to back up what they say.
What is interesting to me is that the member for Crowfoot, who is the only member of the Reform Party who travels with the justice committee which I chair, has said from the very beginning that he thinks the age should be lowered. He thinks we should change the publication terms of the act. He is still saying the same thing after five weeks of touring the country and listening to people on all sides of the issue. Members of his party are still saying the same thing they were saying during the last election campaign. They have not listened to Canadians.
In an absolutely unbelievable act yesterday, those members moved to try to prevent the justice committee from completing its deliberations by hearing from Canadians across the country. I am happy to announce to all of Canada today that their little, cynical act did not work. I can announce that the justice committee, on November 22, will spend a day with 40 experts and ordinary citizens from across the country trying to reconcile the different views on the issue of youth justice.
Members of the Reform Party tried to prevent us from hearing from Canadians. They tried to prevent us, at the same time, because the hearings will be televised, from sharing this massive information and discussion with all of Canada. They tried to prevent us from doing that. They tried to stifle debate. However, we caught them and we stopped them. Fortunately for Canadians, we will have an excellent chance to review all of these issues.
Members of the Reform Party have tried to pre-empt debate today by bringing this motion, knowing that it is their intention to eliminate the act altogether. But I have it figured out. They know they will never form a government, so they will never get a chance to eliminate the act in any event.
The first speaker from the Reform Party talked about and quoted an eminent psychiatrist from Vancouver, Dr. Roy O'Shaughnessy. Dr. O'Shaughnessy also said what the member for Crowfoot and the mover of this motion have conveniently not included. Dr. O'Shaughnessy commented on the age of 12 years as being the cut-off age in the Young Offenders Act. As a developmental psychiatrist with an expertise in child development, when I told him that age 12 was a fairly arbitrary selection that was a compromise among the different provincial views, he said to me: "Oh, is that not funny? I thought it was chosen because in terms of child development it is the perfect age. It is the average age at which one could attribute some form of culpability". It is funny that the member for Crowfoot did not quote that.
The mover of the motion said that Liberals have done nothing with respect to the Young Offenders Act and, by inference, with respect to youth justice. Let me quote Sean Durkan who is a columnist with the Sun chain of newspapers. In the Ottawa Sun in July 1994 Mr. Durkan said the following: ``Jean Chrétien's red book brigade has introduced more tough law and order legislation in a little under nine months in office than the Tories did during nine years in power''.
Under our red book commitment we said this: "Every person has a right to personal security and a Liberal government will move to protect that right, with particular attention being paid to those who today, by virtue of gender, sex, religion, age or sexual orientation, are more likely to be targets of violent crime".
We then introduced Bill C-41, which was given royal assent in July of 1995 to provide that in sentencing a judge must consider those characteristics.
Did the Reform Party join us in trying to make the streets of Canada safer, in trying to make the homes of Canada safer? No, instead it focused on the words sexual orientation in that bill. Its members voted against it.
We promised in the red book to strengthen gun control: "A Liberal government will, among other measures, counter the illegal importation of banned and restricted firearms into Canada and prohibit anyone convicted of an indictable drug related offence, a stalking offence or any violent offence from owning or possessing a gun". We had massive public backing for this, including the active support of the Canadian Police Association. Did the Reform Party support it? No.
We promised to reform the Young Offenders Act to increase sentence length for violent crimes, to ensure that treatment and rehabilitation services are available to all convicted young offenders and we promised to review the act. Bill C-37 amended the Young Offenders Act. Are Reformers commenting on that? No.
Nor are they admitting that it created longer sentences in youth court for young people where first or second degree murder applied; that it transferred 16 and 17-year olds charged more easily to adult court; that it provided better rehabilitation for lesser crimes; that it improved measures for information sharing, which they are talking about today. Did they admit that? No.
This motion is somewhat disingenuous. It is inconsistent with their party policies. It is inconsistent with their participation in the justice committee review of the Young Offenders Act, another promise that we are keeping, and it is inconsistent with anyone who is concerned about family values and about safer streets. Why do they not just play ball?
I will tell members why. It is just politics as usual with the Reformers. They do not care about anything but getting re-elected.
We are very busy in the Commons justice committee trying to make the streets safer for Canadians and trying to deal honestly, openly and fairly with young people who go astray in our society.