Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party to address justice issues and in particular the new legislation that has been tabled by the minister.
I follow some eloquent speakers, who have put forward concerns. While I concur with many of the remarks of the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, I would suggest to him that not all MPs from the west are members of the Reform Party. Indeed, it is my privilege to be part and parcel of the party that contains the progressive elements of western Canada and the progressive MPs from that part of the country. I just remind him of that. I know he is cognizant of it.
That being said, I would like to comment first about some statements that were made. I will deal with the bill and the minister's comments shortly.
For those who are listening to this debate or reading Hansard , it is important to recognize that as opposition parties it is our job not just to oppose for the sake of opposing, which is often sadly what the Reform Party does, but to examine the legislation, to offer constructive advice and alternatives, to offer genuine criticism, to also offer congratulations when sections of a bill are well done and to examine that in committee. That is the job of the opposition. Unfortunately, members of the official opposition, the Reform Party, have forgotten that.
The comments made by the member for Surrey North tended to defeat their own purpose. He criticized the government saying it was one dimensional in its approach to crime and then went on to criticize the bill in one dimensional ways.
I think some things need to be clarified, specifically with respect to the sentencing provisions. The member for Surrey North said there was nothing in the sentencing provisions that would make young people accountable, that there was only reference to rehabilitation and reintegration into society. This is an example of simplistic language in what is an extremely complex document.
The bill has many sections and deals with a fundamental issue. To clarify and illustrate the simplistic measure of the Reform Party as opposed to the complex piece of legislation which the New Democratic Party will examine thoroughly and balance, I will read that section.
“The purpose of sentencing under section 41 is to contribute to the protection of society by holding a young person accountable for an offence through the imposition of just sanctions that have meaningful consequences for the young person, that promote his or her” and then there is rehabilitation and reintegration into society. It is a complex piece of legislation, not one to be dealt with with simplistic hysteria.
Many people came before the justice committee in the preparation of this report. They are to be congratulated for their input. They included the Church Council on Justice, the Canadian Police Association and legal aid lawyers from across the country, many of whom I had the opportunity to work with before I came to parliament. It was interesting to read the comments of my colleagues in that report. I also want to commend the members of the justice department who prepared this document which as I have indicated is complex.
There are some good things in this legislation. It is important that we offer a balanced approach. In the principles, the minister recognizes that the basic premise for the legislation is the protection of society. The reason we have criminal laws is to ensure that as a society we are safe.
As the minister indicated, many people in Canadian society today do not feel safe. They feel that the law has failed them in certain criminal areas. Sometimes that is fed for political reasons. Sometimes hysteria is put forward. We hear repeatedly day after day in this House stories from the opposition about isolated incidents of heinous crimes, and they are heinous crimes. For every one young offender whose story is told for political points by the Reform Party, there are 20 young offenders who do find their way through the system and do find rehabilitation.
The protection of society and the accountability of young people for the commission of their crimes are good things. The taking of responsibility by young people has to be enunciated and this legislation does that.