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House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was crime.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

I said “thinking of”. We on this side of the House are witnessing certain Alice in Wonderland experiences. The most recent evidence of bizarre experience is that the people of Windsor—St. Clair allowed those two parties to fight over 6% of the vote. We think the people of Windsor—St. Clair have a certain element of wisdom in their insight.

Speaking of Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Speaker, since you are as erudite as anyone in the House you will recall one of the great phrases in that book: “First the sentence, then the verdict”. In some respects that is my reaction to the hon. member's speech.

I will direct the minds of hon. members to the meaningful consequences the bill proposes with respect to serious and less serious offenders and I will direct my remarks to sentencing. Only a small number of people are involved in serious and repeat criminal acts, particularly acts of violence, but I say with respect that they seem to drive the agenda. It is as if those on the other side of the House wish to set policy based on Toronto Sun headlines.

In 1997, 82% of charges laid against youth were for non-violent crimes like theft and breach of court orders and contempt orders. Unfortunately there are too many examples in our current youth justice system of young people serving time for minor offences.

We incarcerate youth at a rate twice that of the United States and ten times that of Europe, and we are soft on crime. The figure when it comes to adults is entirely reversed. The United States incarcerates adults at six times the rate we do.

A fundamental question for all members is whether we are safer by incarcerating youth at a rate twice that of the United States and ten times that of the Europeans. Are our streets safer? Is our crime rate lower or higher? Will “toughening up” this system of youth justice make our streets safer?

We incarcerate youth despite the fact that we knowingly run the risk they will come out hardened criminals. It is trite but it is true that this is where these kids learn how to be real criminals. We incarcerate them knowing that the alternatives to custody can frequently do a better job of ensuring that young people learn from their mistakes.

Under the balanced approach we have taken in this new act there is a clear distinction between serious and less serious offences. All young people who commit offences will be held accountable through meaningful consequences. However the new act recognizes that taking minor offenders to court and sending them to jail is not the best way of holding them accountable and is often counterproductive. I would submit that is frequently lost on the other side.

For the first time judges will be given a rationale for the act and some sentencing guidelines. Up to now they have been without guidelines and all over the map. Section 37 gives the purpose and principles of the act with respect to sentencing and states:

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 and that promote his or her rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

The first purpose is the protection of society. The second is to hold youth accountable. The third is the imposition of just sanctions. The fourth is meaningful consequences. The fifth is to promote rehabilitation and reintegration of the youth. Subsection 37(2) states:

A youth justice court that imposes a youth sentence on a young person shall determine the sentence in accordance with the following principles:

(a) the sentence must not result in a punishment that is greater than a punishment that would be appropriate for an adult who has been convicted of the same offence committed in similar circumstances.

That directly addresses the issue raised by the previous speaker with respect to the “shell game”. It continues:

(b) the sentence must be similar to the sentence imposed on young persons found guilty of the same offence committed in similar circumstances;

(c) the sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and the degree of the responsibility of the young person for that offence.

It goes on further to outline various other issues to be taken into consideration in sentencing. To review, subsection 37(2) states that the sentence cannot be greater than that of an adult, that it must be similar to that of another young person, and that it must be proportionate.

Having said that there is now some coherence, some purpose and some rationale for the sentencing principles in these guidelines, I draw the attention of members to subsection 2(1) dealing with presumptive offences or, as they have become known, the big five. It reads:

“Presumptive offence” means:

(a) an offence under one of the following provisions of the Criminal Code:

(i)...first degree murder or second degree murder...

(ii)...attempt to commit murder,

(iii)...manslaughter,

(iv)...aggravated sexual assault—

The minister has attempted to add to the list subsection (b):

—a serious violent offence for which an adult could be sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years committed by a young person after the coming into force of section 61, if at the time the young person committed the offence at least two judicial determinations have been made under subsection 41(8), at different proceedings, that the young person has committed a serious violent offence.

In other words another category, the category of youth who commit serious violent offences in a repeat pattern. I turn to subsection 41(8) which states:

—On application of the Attorney General after a young person is found guilty of an offence, and after giving both parties an opportunity to be heard, the youth justice court may make a judicial determination that the offence is a serious, violent offence (and it may not be in the top four categories) and endorse the information accordingly.

If that finding is made on two separate occasions, the youth will be subject to a jeopardy that is not faced by adult criminals. In my view the minister has addressed the subsection of the youth population which garners the headlines in the Toronto Sun .

Section 69 deals with presumptive offences and states:

—If a young person who is charged with an offence set out paragraph (a) of the definition “presumptive offence” in subsection 2(1), committed after having attained the age of fourteen years, is found guilty of committing an included offence for which an adult could be sentenced to imprisonment for more than two years, other than another presumptive offence set out in that paragraph,

We set out a presumptive offence. An individual could be less than 14 years old and a sentence of at least two years could be imposed. Instead of a presumption youth justice can make an order. The scheme is coherent, rational and proportionate. It is now time for the provinces, the judiciary and the lawyers to step up to the plate and make the system work. The ball has moved over to that court.

The new act provides that in general incarceration is to be reserved for violent offenders and serious repeat offenders where there is no reasonable alternative that would be capable of holding the young person accountable. Some judges have indicated that they reluctantly use custody for some offenders because of the lack of alternatives to custody.

The act provides new sentencing options that allow the judge to impose meaningful consequences that do not involve incarceration. These options include an intensive support and supervision order which will provide closer monitoring and more support than probation to assist the young person in changing his or her behaviour.

In addition, an attendance order will require the young person to attend a program at specified times and on conditions set by the judge. Also a deferred custody and supervision order will restrict non-violent offenders and will require an offender who would otherwise be sentenced to custody to remain in the community subject to conditions set by the judge. Failure to comply with the conditions can result in a young person being sentenced to custody.

These alternatives to custody are in addition to other alternatives that will continue to be available under the act, such as probation, restitution and community service.

In some respects the minister puts her money where her mouth is. The new resources allocated in the 1999 budget for youth justice are $206 million over the next three years. It will be available to the provinces to ensure that front end alternatives and alternatives to custody are available. In other words it is great to set it out in legislation, but if we do not put the resources with it, it is not terribly meaningful. This will enable the more expensive court process and custody facilities to be targeted for the more serious youth crimes that warrant their use.

My submission is that this is a balanced approach. This recognizes the concerns of Canadians to their safety. It recognizes the reality that all youth offenders are not created equal and that some deserve a certain kind of treatment. That treatment will in fact result in, it is hoped, turning out useful citizens to our society.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I do appreciate the input that the hon. member for Scarborough East makes at the justice committee. I know that he takes this matter very seriously.

I do however question some of the statistics that he cites. In particular, he mentioned first that it was four times the U.S. model, then two times the U.S. model. We all know that statistics on these matters can be very, very misleading when it comes to the human impact that a violent crime has on a person and the faith that a person has in the justice system to respond adequately.

I have a few questions and comments I would like to put on the record with respect to the practical implications of some of these changes to the act.

My own feeling is that it takes a long, long time before a judge actually exercises the option of putting a young person in jail. That may sound contrary to the statistics that have been cited, but most young offenders I dealt with as a crown prosecutor had been before the court numerous times, occasionally for violent offences. It took several appearances before the judge even contemplated that option of incarceration. That was built into the intention of the act, that we treat young people differently. But when it comes to violence, if the only option of protecting the public at large is to remove the offender from society, so be it. The first obligation of the justice system is to protect the innocent.

With respect to the length of incarceration that young offenders will receive under this act, there is a misnomer that that in fact will result in longer sentences. That is simply not the case. With the presumptive offences, I would ask the hon. member, why is it that certain what I deem to be violent offences, offences including armed robbery, offences involving assaults and sexual assaults with weapons, are excluded from those presumptive sections?

This concept that there is a catch-all built into the act, this definition of serious violent offences and the fact that a judge can then exercise his discretion, does it not make it simpler for all to simply enunciate those in the bill the way they are in the original presumptive section? Why would we omit some that obviously are violent by their very nature?

My last question pertains to this concept that alternatives to custody do not presently exist. There are numerous options currently available to judges. Those options are being exercised now as they have been since the inception of the Young Offenders Act.

They are options like conditional sentencing, which is in my opinion inappropriate for violent offences in any event, not only existing for adults but existing for youth as well, and the hon. member trumpets that as a good thing. Conditional sentences were never intended to apply to violent offenders. I take great issue with that, but I would be very interested to hear the hon. member's comments.

As a final comment, I would also like to know how all of these changes that put greater emphasis on rehabilitation and community reformation, greater emphasis on alternative measures and putting the emphasis on the community services element now to help in the reformation of these young people, will be paid for.

I am sorry, but $206 million over that period of time does not even equal the amount that has been taken out. It certainly does not allow these services any kind of an increase to match the increased responsibility they are receiving by virtue of this act.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if that was a series of questions or an additional speech. Having said that, my hon. friend's crown attorney bias is showing somewhat.

We are trying to achieve a balance on this side of the House which reflects the need and concern about public safety. The need and concern about public safety are something which we take very seriously on this side of the House. That is why we have set up these five categories.

The first four categories of murder, attempted murder, sexual assault, et cetera are categories with which my hon. friend and I agree. We could go on to list multitudes of various other issues right out of the Criminal Code and my hon. friend and I could argue about whether or not those are appropriate.

The minister has chosen for better or for worse a system which is basically a two strikes and you are out approach. The two strikes and you are out approach is that this may not fall within the first four offences, but we are entering a conviction on offence x and if the offender is back on a separate occasion, then it will be offence y . If the offender is back a third time, then x and y will result in the offender doing special time under section 2(1)(b).

That is a better response to the way in which we should go about recognizing serious youth violence, rather than simply getting out the Criminal Code and listing everything that is there.

With respect to one of his other questions regarding the $200 million, I would like to point out first that it is dedicated money. The second thing is that the 1999 budget put an additional $2 billion in cash back into the CHST, the Canada health and social transfer. That is a serious amount of money for provinces to use presumably at their own discretion for their justice system and their youth justice system. I would submit that is an additional amount of money.

My own province of Ontario received another $936 million right out of the sky which it was not anticipating. It has used it for pre-electioneering of some kind or another.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

All money out of the taxpayers' pockets.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

All money is out of the taxpayers' pockets. That is like saying the sky is blue, it is about that useful an observation.

The $936 million is money the Ontario government was not anticipating. It will be profiled into the CHST and can be used for justice initiatives. In particular, it can be used for youth justice initiatives. There are no strings attached to that money.

In addition, we put a further $3.5 billion into health care. Arguably this is a bit of a stretch on health care, but I would submit that a number of the offenders have far deeper problems than the criminal justice system. These kids are there for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they punched out some kid in the school yard. These kids have some real serious problems and that money can be used there as well.

I would submit that the response of this government is a very strong response to the provinces and their needs to administer their systems.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the intervention by my hon. colleague across the way. I always appreciated his voice in the justice committee. It always had a logical and sound ring to it. I do not know what if anything has happened to change that since I left the justice committee.

I would like to ask him this brief question. This new act is being heralded as getting tougher on violent youth crime. This is as a result of the cry across the country from concerned people. The government has responded to that, yet it has not mandated that the courts must apply the tough measures. Throughout the bill the discretion has not been left to the legislators but to the courts. Does the member have any concern about that?

For instance, the publication of names, particularly of repeat violent offenders, is subject to the discretion of the courts. Attendance of the parents with their children in court is not mandated by this legislation. It is also at the discretion the courts.

Does my hon. colleague have any concern about the status quo remaining because the bill is not mandating these actions? In so many cases this procedure has been left to the discretion of the courts.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the short answer is no.

I am not a great fan of fettering judicial discretion. There are certain points where parliament needs to give its guidelines in terms of minimum and maximum sentences or in terms of various other issues. In this particular instance I do not know how one could draft a piece of legislation which says that x, y or z.

When a crown attorney is faced with a youth who has committed one of the five offences, the crown attorney will give notice that he or she will be seeking an adult sentence for this particular crime. Upon conviction there will be an argument as to whether this crime warrants the imposition of an adult sentence. It is like Alice in Wonderland, first the sentence then the verdict. That is that side. We go for the verdict first then we go to the sentence.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:25 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Surrey North has clearly set out where the Reform Party is coming on this. He said:

The youth criminal justice act is nothing more than the Young Offenders Act with a facelift and a new name. We will be proposing a number of amendments in the hope significant improvements will be made to protect Canadians. It is our youth who are affected by this legislation; it is our youth that are most often the victims of crime by their peers. Our youth deserve better from this government.

The question we have to answer on behalf of Canadians in this debate is are their families safer under this renamed Young Offenders Act, the youth criminal justice act?

Canada has been saddled with inadequate young offender legislation for a number of years. Even the justice minister has characterized the Young Offenders Act as seriously flawed and easily the most unpopular piece of federal legislation.

Canadians have become more and more disenchanted and concerned with youth crime, believing that our justice system is too soft. Young people themselves say to me that the majority of youth crime goes unreported. I am sure that is something which could be reflected on by all members of the House.

After years of criticism and months of political pressure the Liberal government has finally introduced its replacement for the failed Young Offenders Act. The new youth criminal justice act we are debating today repeals and replaces the Young Offenders Act and provides principles, procedures and protections for the prosecution of young persons under criminal and other federal laws.

For years the Reform Party has been fighting for better youth crime legislation. Unfortunately the Liberals' new bill falls short of the hopes and expectations of Canadians. On the surface it appears to be what Canadians want, but for every step forward they have taken a couple backward.

For example, the Liberals have changed the name of the Young Offenders Act and they have changed their sales pitch. A close study of the new legislation reveals, as I say, that for every step forward there is a hidden step backward.

In the hope of salvaging the most unsatisfactory legislation and making it work, I would like to draw attention to some of these issues. The question is what is missing from the youth criminal justice bill.

First off the youngest offenders are left out. Our opponents on the other side like to go out of their way to place all sorts of characterizations on me and our party for talking about incorporating 10 and 11 years olds in young offender legislation. They can have their characterizations.

The reality is that it is because the Liberals refuse to see the involvement or the encapsulating of 10 and 11 year olds that those young people at that very tender age are being drawn into criminal activity without any way for the justice system to involve itself. Their argument of course is to let the provinces do it; let somebody else do it; let the youth social system take care of it. In certain situations, that is inadequate.

Under the new legislation 10 and 11 year olds will not be held criminally responsible for their crimes. The government is leaving them to child welfare. How can child welfare control violent criminals who quickly learn they are immune to punishment under Canada's youth laws?

We are talking about only the tiniest fragment of the youngsters of that age. The reality is that tiny fragment of youngsters can wreak havoc on their families, on their neighbourhoods, on people around them, and particularly on youths of their own age. We want them brought into the system so that the system can handle them. They can either be rehabilitated or indeed, habilitated. Often we get mixed up between rehabilitation and habilitation. In many instances some 10 and 11 year olds that are involved in this very awful activity have never had the opportunity to learn what is right and what is wrong.

A Liberal across the floor says to hang them high. That is the kind of inane characterization I was referring to. The reality is that by not bringing these young people into the justice system, by not dealing with these youngsters at that age, they are simply outside of the system. They are preyed upon by youngsters and older teens to do their work because they are small enough to fit into places and slide under things and do this and that. It reminds me of Fagin and his hoards of little youngsters in the old musical play Oliver . This kind of do-goodism by the Liberals is leaving those people and indeed the people around them to the vagaries of what may come.

Many serious crimes can only receive a light youth sentence. Many serious and violent crimes must be added to the list of presumptive offences for which adult sentences may be imposed. The Liberals have included murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated assault. But they do not include sexual assault. They do not include sexual assault with a weapon. They do not include hostage taking. They do not include aggravated assault. They do not include kidnapping.

In British Columbia we are very conscious of the issue of home invasions. Unfortunately some young offenders are involved in home invasions. Home is the place of sanctity. The place where Canadians feel comfortable is in their own homes. When their home is invaded it is a scar for them for the rest of their lives. The Liberals do not include that offence as being one that can be treated as an adult offence.

In order to continue the protection of society, to create a situation of meaningful consequences, to promote rehabilitation, habilitation and reintegration, this bill falls desperately short. Unfortunately the maximum youth sentences remain light.

Let me be very clear. I am very proud to say that the district municipality of Sparwood is in my constituency. There are three people in Sparwood, although one of them has now moved to Fort St. John after being promoted from sergeant to staff sergeant. They are Judge Waurynchuk, lawyer Glen Purdy and the sergeant. Between these three people we have ended up with a situation of diversion. Property offences by youth in that municipality have been reduced from an average of over 80 a year to only six or seven a year. It has been through a creative way of dealing with young offenders.

The vast majority of young people can be handled intelligently and well by their local community with all sorts of creative ways of driving home the seriousness of their offences and what it has meant to the people they have offended against, even in a property offence. These young people can be reintroduced into society and can become functioning parts of society. I do not say this as a matter of theory. It works. These are real numbers.

The exciting thing is that it does not just work in small communities like the district of Sparwood which has approximately 5,000 people. We have seen it work in larger communities, in communities as large as Edmonton where there has been diversion.

I will say one good thing about this bill. It recognizes the idea of diversion. Having said that, we can deal with these kinds of offences not only in a humane way but in a way which builds society and pulls society together.

There are still those who will not respond. There are still those for whom there must be a system of protecting society from them. They are by far in the minority of people who even become involved with the police but nonetheless, this bill goes light on them and that is wrong. It is not fair to them and it is absolutely not fair to their peers and it certainly is not fair to society. Even repeat and violent offenders may avoid jail terms.

Reform supports alternative measures as I just described for first time non-violent offenders, but we are dismayed that the government has not excluded repeat and violent offenders from this lesser form of punishment. We do not want violent and repeat offenders to be serving their entire sentences in communities. Sometimes it is simply not appropriate. When you have to be tough, you have to be tough. Unfortunately this government has not shown the backbone to handle that.

This bill, as a result of a lack of negotiating ability on the part of the justice minister or whatever, has not been able to bring a situation of establishing national standards with this bill. As a consequence youth offences in one jurisdiction will be handled very differently from youth offences in another jurisdiction.

The question we ask is why are victims not protected and why are violent offenders sheltered?

Here is the Reform position on youth crime. Serious offenders aged 14 and 15 and all offenders 16 and over should be tried as adults. I said serious offenders. The justice system should maintain separate young offender facilities that emphasize education, skills, training, discipline and community service. The records of young offenders should be treated similarly to the criminal records of adults. Parents of young offenders should be held financially responsible to victims where lack of reasonable parental control has proven to be a factor contributing to the offence.

Again this is something the Liberals love to jump on. They choose not to understand. I think they have some intelligence so let us try it on them for size. Let us be very clear. I will read it to them again so that they can understand the words. Parents of young offenders should be held financially responsible to victims where lack of reasonable parental control has proven to be a factor contributing to the offence.

The Liberals turn around and simplify that and ask how parents can be financially responsible for young offenders, full stop. It does not say that. It is where lack of control has proven to be a factor. That is where there has to be some responsibility. It is very clear and straightforward. The devil made me do it is not a term that actually works in this particular case.

The government has changed the name of its legislation. It has changed its sales pitch. Once the bill is carefully considered, Canadians are being shortchanged. For every step forward, there is a hidden step backward.

It may take months or years after this legislation is brought into force before we see its problems develop. In many areas there are provisions to satisfy Canadians, but the corresponding loopholes and openings for provincial initiative will bring forth criticism in individual cases. Over time Canadians will realize this legislation will have done little to quell criticism and outrage over our youth legislation.

I had occasion to have an extended discussion with a defence lawyer. He was pointing out to me as a layman going through the bill all the places where he could drive his arguments through. We know that the courts are doing everything they can to avoid getting into a situation of appeal. He was saying that this legislation is convoluted, the word I used this morning when we were talking about taxes. This legislation is so convoluted, has so much overlap, has tried to deal with so many eventualities in oblique ways and has done so much to spread around authority. He showed me all the loopholes and spent about half an hour discussing how he would argue them. This legislation has the potential to be an absolute money maker for defence lawyers.

Canadians have been saddled with poor young offender legislation for a number of years. The Minister of Justice has promised legislation over a period of almost two years. We recognize she has only been in that chair for two years, but her predecessor was talking about young offender legislation as well. We wonder why the minister could not have done a better job when we finally witnessed the results of her endeavours. We will be proposing a number of amendments in an attempt to improve this most unsatisfactory legislation.

The government talks about a balanced approach. We have no problem with a balanced approach but it must be done right for Canadians and not just for our criminals. We see in this legislation a repeat of the question I asked of the solicitor general in question period yesterday. An example is the terrible murder case that has just been resolved by the jury in Toronto. Why does the government consistently lean in favour of the criminal? Why does the government not put the protection of society first?

Let me draw attention to clause 37(2)(d)(i) of the bill. The first five words are “be the least restrictive sentence”. In context it is “subject to paragraph (c), the sentence must be the least restrictive sentence that is capable of achieving the purposes set out in subsection (1)”.

The largest single problem in Corrections Canada today is the phrase included in the legislation covering the incarceration of convicted criminals: “be the least restrictive sentence”.

I do not understand why the government continuously puts the rights of criminals and the rights of those who would become involved in criminal activity ahead of the safety and protection of the person and the property of law-abiding Canadian citizens.

I was just leafing through and there it was: “be the least restrictive sentence”. Unfortunately this is their pattern. It is to the detriment, chagrin and denigration of society in Canada that this is the pattern of the Liberals.

In my summary I also point out that 10 and 11 year olds are still not to be held criminally responsible for their crimes. The government is leaving them to child welfare, but child welfare obviously cannot control violent children who quickly learn they are immune to punishment under Canada's youth laws. Reform does not want to lock up 10 and 11 year olds. We want them to be put into the system. We want them to have a chance to be rehabilitated before they develop more serious and habitual criminality.

The bill is a massive disappointment after the tour parliamentarians made. An all party parliamentary committee recommended that 10 and 11 year olds be included and they were not included.

It is a terrible disappointment that government members, given the opportunity to correct something that is so very wrong in society, have come up with a flawed, badly designed bill which will do nothing except give them a way of presenting a new sales pitch on how they will take care of the problem.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member lamented the inclusion in section 37 of the term “the least restrictive sentence possible”. Put in the context of the legislation, he should go on to say the least restrictive possible to accomplish the goals of rehabilitation, restitution and all the proper components of sentencing.

Why is it that the member finds that objectionable? If the courts are able to come up with a sentence that accomplishes the proper goals of sentencing, why we would want something more than the least restrictive? What is it the member is seeking? Is it appeasement of the popular opinion, the misconception that Canada is soft on crime? Is it revenge? Precisely what is it that the member is looking for?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am referring to the phrase which appears in the legislation that gives us the ability to incarcerate convicted criminals. In taking a look at that phrase in the legislation, the practice is that the officials are directed to the whole issue of least restrictive.

I was at the Drumheller Institution last July or August. We were looking at the fact that five criminals had walked away from the minimum security facility. I got into a discussion with the warden and with other people at that institution and asked why they made the decision they made.

I do not want to characterize their input to me other than to say I took from them that they felt compelled, because of the term least restrictive, to move people through the system far too quickly to areas where they were walking away from various institutions.

I am taking that phrase from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. I am taking a look at the experience we have had from the use of that phrase and the way officials have responded to that phrase. I am taking a look at it in the context of this act. I cannot help but come to the conclusion that we will have the same decision, that the least restrictive decision will be made to the detriment of the safety of society, which I believe is what Canadians are looking for.

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1:50 p.m.

NDP

Nelson Riis NDP Kamloops, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest, as I always do, to my friend's comments. I acknowledge the fact that approximately 25,000 young people are incarcerated in Canada each year.

If I can quote from the hon. member's speech, he was concerned that the handling of young offenders would differ from province to province as a result of the legislation. That might be just paraphrasing, but I think is a fair comment to make.

In the discussion we are having today and will probably have for some time, it is important that we keep as much balance among ourselves as we try to improve the legislation.

While there might be a criticism, while there might be a variety of ways of dealing with young offenders across the country, would the hon. member not agree there are provinces that have dealt with young offenders more effectively than others and that by having this flexibility it gives those provinces which have a progressive and effective way of dealing with young offenders more opportunity to continue in that way?

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1:50 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, the comments of my colleagues are well taken. There are jurisdictions from which we can learn a lot. The province of Quebec has different societal values than other provinces. The province of British Columbia has done an excellent job by comparison with other provinces in dealing with youth. I think that maintaining a degree of flexibility is important.

My concern is that in six years the government has not taken the opportunity to pull the attorneys general from all of the provinces together and come up with legislation that would reflect a better way. There is too broad a scope still involved.

I would fault the government for not having been able to get a stronger consensus of opinion. I am concerned about the fact that because of that we will end up, particularly in the area of serious criminal offences, with disparate responses to those offences on a jurisdiction by jurisdiction basis.

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1:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gilles Bernier Progressive Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, the people of of Tobique—Mactaquac, New Brunswick, are sick and tired of violent crimes. Since 1993 we have seen the Liberal government downloading services to the provinces with no resources. It seems to me the government through Bill C-68 is expecting police forces, social services and provinces to do more.

I have a great deal of respect for the Reform member. Does he expect the same government to provide funding for the new Young Offenders Act?

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1:50 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments of my colleague. He points out that although the government is boasting about the fact it is putting $200 million toward this area, I believe the justice minister said the reason she was so long delayed in coming forward with this criminal legislation was that she was having something of a budget debate with the finance minister. She got her $200 million and therefore felt that she was able to go ahead with the legislation.

I agree totally with the member on the issue that the government has been squeezing off, squeezing off and squeezing off the fiscal resources and the ability of the provinces to able to come forward with any intelligent kind of program, this program being part of it.

I am also very much aware of the constriction of resources to the RCMP, for example. It is only through goodwill from the top to the bottom, and I say that without any equivocation, from Commissioner Murray to the constable on the beat, that we still have a national police force that is actually in working order. It is only their goodwill that is keeping our streets safe.

The government continuously cuts off the resources to them. It will continue to cut off resources to be able to do a proper enactment of this legislation and will continue to cut off the resources to be able to take proper care of Corrections Canada and the National Parole Board.

In all these issues the government keeps on strangling and handcuffing our ability to be able to come forward with proper, correct and humane ways of dealing with criminal justice or criminal acts in Canada.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Lynn Myers Liberal Waterloo—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member opposite and I wanted to say as a former chairman of the Waterloo Regional Police that Bill C-68 is a very balanced and effective piece of legislation. I think we should be very proud of what it is attempting to accomplish and indeed will accomplish.

It is interesting to hear the member from the Reform Party and his colleagues speak about the kinds of things that they do, always with an extremist kind of view, fear mongering and trying to stir up the pot. They have no monopoly on criminal justice issues. We in the government have done the right thing with this piece of legislation.

Why would you not spend a dollar now to save seven later for youth rehabilitation?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

Members should address their questions and answers to the Chair.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Reform

Jim Abbott Reform Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the member must have wax in his ears because that is exactly what I was saying. That is precisely what I was saying.

We want the government to spend money in the areas that will be effective in being able to take care of criminal activities in Canada, and indeed it is not. That is exactly what I just finished saying.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It is just about 2 p.m. so we will proceed to Statements by Members.

KhalsaStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Liberal Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will now ask my colleagues to tune in to their Punjabi translation channel as I say:

The Khalsa (pure) is of the God.

The victory is of the God.

Happy 300th birthday of Khalsa, the Sikh religion. Sikhs in my riding of Etobicoke North and Sikhs all across Canada are celebrating the tricentennial of their religion this week with a variety of celebrations and festivals. I look forward myself to attending the World Sikh Organization's gala celebration this Saturday in Etobicoke.

At this special time I would like to acknowledge the outstanding contribution the Sikh community has made to Canada. Because Canada is a country that celebrates and honours diversity, the contribution that Sikh Canadians have made to Canada is well recognized and appreciated. The social, economic and cultural contributions made by Sikhs have strengthened the fabric of our country. Happy Vaisakhi .

The Khalsa (pure) is of the God.

The victory is of the God.

Aboriginal AffairsStatements By Members

April 15th, 1999 / 1:55 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, not a week goes by without grassroots aboriginals banding together to fight for accountability.

Last week in Nova Scotia a Micmac group announced that it was planning to take its message to every reserve in Atlantic Canada by late summer. Its message is clear to pressure chiefs and band councils to be more open, honest and accountable as well as to demand copies of their band's audited financial statements. This group has found no conflict of interest guidelines, accountability requirements and no means to deal with corrupt officials.

This week in the Vancouver Sun a group of aboriginal women spoke out against the department's policy of transferring the administration of social programs as preliminary steps to self-government. They say it is so mismanaged and misdirected that it threatens the democratic rights and freedoms of native Indians. The $6.4 billion a year is simply not trickling down to rank and file natives on and off reserve. Fraud, nepotism, intimidation and theft are the orders of the day.

When will the minister finally listen to the grassroots? It will not be long before the demands of accountability and the refusal of self-government are rampant across the nation.

Dental Health MonthStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Cannis Liberal Scarborough Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to inform the House that April has been declared Dental Health Month.

One of my constituents, Dr. Raffy Chouljian, is president of the Toronto East Dental Society and he wants us all to be more aware of our dental health every day, not just dental health month.

I want to inform the House that the average Canadian consumes approximately the equivalent of 40 kilograms, or 88 pounds of sugar each year. No wonder the House gets a little bit raucous sometimes. Sugar, as we know, is one of the main causes of dental problems.

This past weekend in my riding of Scarborough Centre, the Albert Campbell and Cedarbrae Libraries held book displays and had questions answered by local dentists. In addition, the Toronto East Dental Society has donated a number of dental patient educational books to the Scarborough Public Library system to help promote dental health.

I commend Dr. Chouljian and his association on their hard work and ask that all Canadians take a moment this month to think about their dental health.

Dr. Judith HallStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Ted McWhinney Liberal Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I signal the achievements of a distinguished Canadian medical scientist. Dr. Judith Hall, educated at Wellesley College, the University of Washington and Johns Hopkins, is currently head of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia's children's hospital.

She combines world class expertise in pediatrics and genetics. She has been able to develop and apply new genetic techniques to patient care, particularly in respect to children. She has now been named Officer of the Order of Canada for her internationally recognized research on human congenital anomalies and children's growth disturbances.

United AlternativeStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Devillers Liberal Simcoe North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Reform leader's grand dream of a united alternative continues to implode. Not only is it proving to be incapable of uniting the right, but it seems to be tearing apart the old Reform Party.

Twelve Reform MPs, or 20% of the caucus, have publicly stated that they want nothing to do with the Reform leader's latest scheme and other Reform MPs have announced they do not plan to run with the party in the next election. The only Reformers who seem to like the united alternative are the ones who see it as a means to get rid of their current leader. They are the sensible ones.

As Susan Riley so succinctly wrote in the Ottawa Citizen last Friday:

If the right keeps uniting this way, they're going to have to print longer ballots on election day to accommodate all of the emerging splinter groups, rival factions and breakaway rumps.

Aboriginal PeoplesStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada often boasts about how it is a world leader in the promotion of civil and political rights. But last week, in one of its reports, the United Nations Committee on Human Rights took the federal government to task for its treatment of aboriginals.

It said that Ottawa has not given effect to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples with respect to first nations lands and resources. Yet these are fundamental considerations in the process leading towards first nations self-government.

The Bloc Quebecois joins with the UN in urging the federal government to quickly and energetically implement the royal commission's recommendations with respect to lands and resources. It is time the Liberals stopped patting themselves on the back and understood that, for first nations, Canada is still a long way from being the best country in the world.

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Maurice Vellacott Reform Wanuskewin, SK

Mr. Speaker, a government study released in March showed that students are among those hardest hit by the changes to the employment insurance program. For example, students who work part time while in school who have no chance of collecting benefits are still forced to pay inflated premiums.

The most shocking thing we have learned is that those responsible for this problem are themselves students. There are three of them.

One is the Minister of Finance, a graduate of the school of accounting sleight of hand.

Another is the Minister of Human Resources Development Canada, a member of the school's debating society who is skilled in the art of defending positions dictated by others.

Lastly, there is the Prime Minister, the schoolyard bully, who sees no need for studies like the one released in March. Such studies only get in the way of stealing the lunches of weaker students.