Madam Speaker, I understand the sensitivity to the truth but I will continue anyway.
I have enumerated some of the good things in the legislation. I understand how sensitive sometimes the Reform Party is to the truth.
I go on to suggest some of the good things. There is a role for victims in this legislation which is important and needs to be recognized. The publication of names for serious offences for which a young person receives adult time is an important and significant change.
That being said, some other areas of the bill will require extensive study. I have serious concerns with some areas.
First and foremost is the cost of the program and whether or not there is sufficient funding by the government to implement the changes in the act.
The act departs from the Young Offenders Act in many ways. It grants a great deal of judicial discretion and a great deal of power to the community in extrajudicial remedies.
The purpose of the legislation is to determine that only those young people who commit serious violent offences or the prescribed offences will be incarcerated, whereas the others will find a way through the system to rehabilitation or reintegration. The problem is that is not new; that is what the old Young Offenders Act set out to do.
I remember practising law with respect to young offenders when that piece of legislation was introduced. The real problem from the trenches, as we used to say at legal aid, was the resources were not there. My hon. Conservative colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough will understand this. While there was progressive legislation in place and a call for community groups to deal with young offenders, without adequate financing, those young offenders went to jail because that was all the judiciary could do with them.
My concern is that the $206 million committed by this government over three years is not enough, especially if we look at it per capita. If this money is to be distributed to the provinces on a per capita basis, it will mean very insignificant funds for the provinces with small populations, and the funds are necessary to fulfill the purposes of the act.
It is interesting to look at youth crime statistics, especially violent youth crime statistics. They are down, as the minister has said. They are down in some provinces, in Newfoundland, P.E.I., New Brunswick, Quebec, British Columbia and Ontario. They are down in Canada as a whole. But in Saskatchewan, in my home province of Nova Scotia, and in Manitoba, violent youth crime is up. It is up from 1990 to 1997 by 23% in Saskatchewan, by 32% in Nova Scotia, and by 34% in Manitoba.
Unfortunately, if the money is to be distributed on a per capita basis, the very provinces that need the funding in order to implement the good parts of this legislation will not have significant funding.
The $206 million over three years would be roughly $68 million per year to be distributed Canada wide on a per capita basis. For my province this would amount to perhaps $2 million to do many of the things the bill calls for.
It calls for the creation of community organizations to work with young people and to ensure legal aid. The bill makes it very clear that every young person is entitled to a lawyer, which is as it should be but without substantial increased funding, that will not be there and will create problems.
The costs for changes to mandatory probation and increased supervision, which is what the bill calls for, will fall primarily to the provinces. When the young person leaves the court to be under the supervision of a probation officer, the funds will not be there for that probation officer to do the job.
Like the old act, faced with no probationary services, no community groups, or special facilities to deal with young offenders, the judge will have no option but to sentence them to a custodial period. Without adequate funding, and this is a primary concern, even the good parts of the bill cannot be implemented and will require scrutiny.
The bill also fails to deal with some of the concerns of the provinces. Provinces were unanimous in requesting a return to 50:50 funding so that 50% of the funding for youth crime and the implementation of the bill would come from the federal government. That has been cut back in recent years. Saskatchewan, Manitoba and British Columbia have sought that kind of funding. As I have indicated, all of the provinces have.
Manitoba has requested many things, such as mandated time lines, which are not contained in the bill. Part of the problem is that under the current system the funds are not there to ensure speedy justice. Justice has to be speedy if it is to be just. Many of the concerns of the provinces have not been met.
Other areas of the bill have to be examined in committee. I can assure the people of Canada that we in the NDP and myself as its justice critic will examine those things with a critical eye to implementation.
In this legislation there is a great deal of judicial discretion in determining whether or not a young person over the age of 14 will face adult sentences for particular crimes. That will require careful examination.
I agree with providing police discretion to caution young people, but again we cannot hold the police to a high standard of behaviour if the funding is not there to ensure adequate training. We have to ensure that the police understand the conditions under which a cautioning can take effect. If we do not, we run the risk of the police overstepping their bounds and the police run the risk of not understanding where the bounds are.
We have always encouraged police discretion, but realistically and sensibly, the average cop on the beat who is concerned about being held accountable has to know what those time lines are, what he or she can or cannot do in terms of cautioning. That will require careful examination.
There are special provisions in this act for young people who are suffering from mental illness or severe problems. We do not know how that is to be financed or exactly what young people will fit into that category. The statement that mentally ill young people will find this as an alternative to adult sentencing causes me some concern. The place for mentally ill people is not in prison. We know that and we cannot change that for young people. I am sure that is not the intent of the legislation but we will guard against that kind of thing.
I appreciate that this is the Young Offenders Act, but provisions could be made to the Criminal Code to address the concerns we have. The Minister of Justice is right in one sense. There is no place in jail for 10 and 11 year old children. They should be dealt with through social services in each province because they are children.
We have asked and called for changes to the Criminal Code to punish those who recruit 10 and 11 year old children into crime, especially young people who know that a 10 or 11 year old child cannot be charged under either the old legislation or the new legislation.
As has been pointed out by the Minister of Justice, there is a parties section. Anyone who encourages another to commit an offence is a party to the offence committed. However, we think there should be a special section dealing with those who recruit 10 and 11 year olds. It is perhaps the most heinous of crimes to induce young people into a life of crime and then only be a party to that. Perhaps the penalty should be increased for those who do that. Again, that is a subject matter outside of the Young Offenders Act but an amendment to the Criminal Code could meet the concerns of many people concerned about youth gangs in their cities.
The member for Surrey North has put forward a private member's bill in good faith which has been included in the provisions of the Young Offenders Act. It is a section that will require careful examination. I appreciate that the member says this is not to make adults responsible for the crimes of their children. I believe he means that but I am concerned about the wording of the legislation.
He is also absolutely correct when he says there is currently a provision in the Criminal Code which deals with that. The difference is this change will make it a hybrid offence. This means that under the old legislation when a parent or a guardian signs an assurance saying they will be responsible for the young person while he or she is released pending trial, if the young person breaches the conditions then the person who is supervising him or her has some liability for that. Currently it is a summary offence.
My understanding of the proposed change is that it will make it a hybrid offence where the parent can either be charged indictably, which carries a more serious penalty, or summarily at the discretion of the crown. If we are not imputing the crime of the child on to the parent, one must ask why we would have differing penalties. The crime is clearly the failure to supervise. It is not failure to supervise if one robs the grocery store or commits armed robbery, it is failure to supervise, period.
That we would have differing penalties for the person who fails to supervise leads to the impression, which is why the member from Surrey said the members of the press were reporting it this way, that the parent is then responsible and faces a more serious penalty if a more heinous crime is committee. That is something we will check on balance at committee.
As I have indicated, there are many areas to this act. There are over 101 sections that need to be examined carefully. I think the member from the Bloc Quebecois who spoke prior to me is correct to some extent. The agenda has been pushed.
What we have in this new legislation, in a way to balance, is tremendous discretion. It is in part a response to find that balance. We will be checking that discretion carefully to ensure that while there is discretion the principles that guide that discretion are proper.
At the end of the day we need legislation based on sound public policy. We need neither hysteria nor platitudes. We owe it to the young people of this country, to the people who live in communities and who are concerned about crime. We owe them a piece of legislation that works, that balances and that is fair.