Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to enter the debate on Bill C-68, the changes to our youth criminal justice system.
I come to this debate with some new-found experience. I left the House on Thursday and entered my home around 12.00 a.m. to discover it had been broken into and violated. Windows had been smashed. I lost about $20,000 of personal assets. It is the second time this has happened. Obviously I cannot accuse young offenders of doing this because I am not certain who it was. They may well have been graduates of the young offenders school. Therefore, I speak with some experience today.
The first constituent to come into my office on Friday sat down and pounded on the table. He had sold some cattle and had some money in his house. He believed that young offenders had broken into his house and had stolen his money.
On the train coming back here last night another constituent told me that someone had stolen his car on the same night my house had been broken into. He is a local high school teacher. His car was found at the high school.
I come to this debate today saying there is definitely a problem. I can now say that I am a victim of this type of crime. However, I do not believe that incarceration and penalizing by a harsh system is the answer. Canada has one of the highest incarceration rates for young offenders in all the western world. That is not the answer. A very informative trip to Millhaven penitentiary convinced me of the total waste of human assets in our prison system. People are wasting their days away at the taxpayers' expense.
In studying the whole youth justice system, one thing which seems to be missing is some kind of retribution. The retribution process is one which recognizes that somebody has committed a crime against another person. We live in a very plastic society. We turn on the television set and see crimes committed. We do not believe there are any human beings behind the crimes. We believe that people's property can be stolen, or they can be maimed and there really is no downside.
I have been very impressed with some of the programs our minister has sponsored in my riding to increase the awareness that the people who commit crime have done so against other people. An aggressive program in south Oshawa involves the street crime unit, the crown prosecutor and others. We have had some positive results. Youth crime has declined in these areas.
One commonality is it seems that communities are acting in a holistic fashion to deal with the problems of crime. One issue which also seems to be in there is that younger people for example go to the supermarket and talk to the person who is running the store or talk to families or other people who have been violated. They see that real people are involved in the process and it is not just some statistic.
I listened attentively to the Leader of the Official Opposition. His simple answer was that to empower families would solve all of our youth justice problems.
I have taken the time to sit down with some families that have been affected in that their children have committed youth crimes. There was a period during which they felt they had lost control of one of their children while the other children were fine. These things often are not predictable. Parents understand that personalities can be very different.
Everyone of these people came from very caring families. They all said that the intervention of the state at a certain period of time was useful. It takes the custody situation out of the family unit. Somebody else is responsible for curfews, et cetera, and creates a positive attitude of rehabilitation.
I know of many dysfunctional families. There are limitations as to what we can do to empower families. It is a fair and respectable thought process to take care of each other within our family units, but the reality is that is not where society is today.
Whether we should go back to that regime is another point of view. Even if it were possible to go back to that kind of a society is questionable as we enter into a more global society. People are moving. Families are scattered all across the country. People do not live in the same little areas they grew up in, the flip side of which I suppose is that people are pursuing more interesting careers.
The bill tries to segregate violent and non-violent crimes. Basically it takes two courses of action. The Leader of the Opposition talked about the fork in the road, but we are talking about treating crimes differently depending on what the commission of the crime is.
I think we would all stand back and say that this legislation attempts to be tougher on acts of violent crimes against people by allowing younger violators to be tried in adult court, the publishing of their names, et cetera. The second area is non-violent crimes, the type that affected me and would be dealt with differently. I fully respect that. I would rather have these young people out working in the community, earning money and paying people back as a consequence of their actions rather than having them sit in a penal institution wasting their days away.
We are talking about preventative measures and more community based measures in order to solve the issue of youth crime. When the person is reintroduced into the community they realize they are part of a family, a family of communities. Within that structure they have a responsibility for their actions. It is for those things that are in this bill that I am very supportive of the minister and her legislative process. We all have a tendency to wish there were simple solutions.
I have said to a lot of my constituents, “Do you not think that if changing a couple of lines in the Young Offenders Act would do away with youth crime in this country we would not have done it long ago?” The reality is that it is a societal issue.
Members of the Reform Party think there is a cause and effect, that before they commit a crime they study the Young Offenders Act and the sentencing provisions and then commit the act. People tell us all the time that there is no thought process put in place before the crime is committed, even with adult crimes. There is no consequence of people saying “Should I or should I not carry a gun”. They are not brilliant people. They are probably some of the lower educated people for a variety of reasons and do not think that way.
Simply changing an act here in Ottawa is not going to change the problems of youth crime in our communities. It has to be done through assistance to communities and through preventative action programs such as the ones in the bill. Communities must also become more aware of how they can enhance their communities to make them safe and ensure that young people will not follow a course of violence and crime.
I am very supportive of the legislation, especially the preventative measures. And I hope I do not have another incident like the one last week.