Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion M-278. I have just listened to the remarks of my colleague on this side of the House. He has mentioned some incidents that I, and many people in this society, find very sad. They are extremely reprehensible, I agree, and we
can see that there is a malaise in this society. But I do not agree with him on the way to resolve these problems.
I will begin my speech by summing up the member's thinking as follows: "My son, if you play with fire, I will punish you". I do not think this is the route to take. Rather, let us say: "My son, I am going to teach you that you must not play with fire and why you must not do so". What I am getting at is that legislation will have no effect on these young people. It will certainly not steer them away from criminal behaviour.
Recently, I was talking with a street worker in Alma, a city in my riding. The way she works with young people, who are sometimes in difficulty, who have completely lost hope, is not by saying to them: "Listen, if you do that, you will be punished, so you should not do that". I do not know if some members here are cut off from the real world, but young people, I would not say all of them, but many young people, get a kick out of breaking the law. We will not improve matters by bringing in tougher legislation.
I am inclined to think that the member on this side of the House wants to block out the world. Some people shut themselves up in their houses because they are afraid, the world is crazy, and they think they must bring in tougher laws to put these young people back on the straight and narrow. It is my belief that we must try to help them, rather than bring in even harsher legislation. They must be given hope.
When the member says that the public must be protected by laws that make people think twice, laws that will improve things, I have my doubts. It looks more to me like we are putting a band-aid on a gaping wound. This is not the answer. We must find the courage to treat the wound itself.
I know that sounds easy to say, but there are ways. In my view, rather than bring in tougher and tougher legislation, we must approach these young people and try to understand why they are turning to crime. The essence of my speech is more or less this: let us not just put on a bigger band-aid, particularly since young people are not familiar with the law.
Of course, there is talk of dropping the age limit of young offenders to 10 years, from 12. Come on. Even at 14, I cannot give any specific statistics, but how many people of any age are familiar with the laws of this country? When all is said and done, people do not know much about them. So imagine a 14-year old. We will not accomplish anything by throwing more severe laws at them.
It is extremely difficult, I agree, to propose concrete solutions. They are very much at the grassroots level.
I believe that street workers play a very significant role. I do not know if they can be found in every city in the country, but these individuals have the courage to approach young people who might be in trouble, to speak to them, to give them hope. In Quebec, we have help groups such as Tel-Jeunes, which allows young people to talk to someone about their troubles when they are having a rough time.
In the end, we must ask ourselves what is happening to our society and how come it is the way it is, instead of pointing our finger at young people, saying they must be punished. It is not their fault if they are the way they are, I believe there are other problems. To study all the reasons why they commit such serious offenses might lead us to an in-depth sociological debate. We must be careful.
I am certainly not saying I approve of the offenses committed by these young people, far from it, but I seriously doubt a stronger law can convince young people to behave. I seriously doubt it.
What are we talking about in this case? When a young person between 12 and 18 commits a minor crime or the kind of crime committed by most young offenders, he comes under the Young Offenders Act, which is a little different from the laws applying to adults. Younger children are, considered perhaps not careless, but easier to talk into repeating an offence.
What Reform is proposing is to reduce the minimum age from 12 to 10, which is harsher in the end.
I would also point out that Canada's crime rate is dropping. I feel we are trying to alarm the population by saying it does not make sense. Perhaps it is true that it does not make sense, but we have to see the positive side of things, such as the fact that the crime rate is going down in Canada. Is it necessary to make our laws harsher? I doubt it very much.
Local discussions involving stakeholders who see this current loss of hope among our young people will do a great deal more to revive young people's hopes. Young people do not commit crimes for the sake of it. Recently, I recently had a discussion with a criminology professor, who told me that the rise in crime is like a message sent by our young people to the rest of society. They also want their share.
In the animal world, those who are hungry are prepared to attack the stronger ones to get their share of the food. What is happening throughout the world is a bit alarming. Young people are losing hope and these extremes push them to commit criminal acts. Again, I do not approve such acts. However, instead of resorting to punishment, we should hold out our hand to them and lead them toward much more constructive solutions.