Mr. Speaker, I am rising to indicate my support of Motion M-261, presented by the hon. member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. I would like to draw particular attention to his proactive action in proposing a preventive solution to crime.
Motion M-261 is composed of three elements. First, that the government should develop, along with their provincial counterparts, a comprehensive National Head Start Program for children in their first eight years of life. Then, that they should ensure that this integrated program involves both hospitals and schools, and is modelled on the experiences of the Moncton Head Start Program, Hawaii Head Start Program, and PERRY Pre-School Program. Finally, the government should ensure that the program is implemented by the year 2000.
Motion M-261 is a good idea, because it addresses the fundamental causes of crime and prevents criminal behaviour in later life. This government's strategy toward crime involves reacting once a crime has been committed. We spend millions of dollars on the criminal justice system processing offenders through the court and prison systems. This approach to the problem is very costly in both financial and personal terms. Anyone who has been the victim of a crime can say that the effects linger long after the actual incident.
If we are really concerned about victims' rights, we should work at decreasing the number of crimes and this will decrease the number of victims.
The purpose of this motion is to address the fundamental needs of Canadian children at a very early age. The NDP has long recognized the importance of meeting our children's basic needs so that they may develop to their full potential with the right nutrition and the right environment. In 1989, the then NDP leader Ed Broadbent introduced a motion aimed at eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. This motion was adopted by all parties, but now in 1998 the situation has not improved, in fact it is even more critical. We must invest in our children in order to ensure a better future, with less crime.
The program this motion is suggesting is not a new one. Head start programs were introduced in Michigan, Hawaii and Moncton, New Brunswick. Hawaii's healthy start program was one of the first early intervention programs for children. It focussed on high risk families and on interventions during pregnancy. By tackling problems such as basic parenting skills, nutrition, conflict resolution and substance abuse, it was able to reduce child abuse by 99%.
The PERRY Pre-School Program in Michigan has focused on improving parenting skills, improving infant health, bettering family circumstances and promoting cognitive and social development. Assessments of this program have shown that it has reduced the adult and juvenile crime rate by almost 50%, decreased the number of teen pregnancies by 40%, and increased rates of employment and income. Long-term savings to taxpayers were substantial and, in all, amounted to six times the initial investment.
The Head Start Program in Moncton, New Brunswick, provides children of parents who are socially, emotionally or educationally disadvantaged with an environment that focuses on children's and parents' basic needs. For each dollar spent under the Head Start program, it is estimated that six are saved in social assistance services. In addition to saving money, we are preventing the considerable emotional difficulties suffered by crime victims.
We should set aside political discourse that talks about crime as though it is inevitable. A proactive approach that invests in our children not only ensures a future with less crime but it also ensures a promising future for our young people. I can think of no better investment.
Motion M-26l should go further. Federal and provincial governments should urge first nations chiefs to take part in the program, because we know that the problem of crime among aboriginals is incredible. By inviting them to join us in our efforts, I think we will be able to accomplish something.
For these reasons, I urge all my colleagues to support Motion M-261. All our children deserve a head start.