House of Commons Hansard #220 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:05 a.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

moved that Bill C-374, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Customs Tariff (prohibited toys), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time since I was elected to the House in 1993 that I have introduced a bill. I introduced this bill, but it was inspired by people in my riding, who took up this fight. I will describe this later in greater detail.

I will first explain what the thrust of this bill is before talking about a broader problem, namely the violence our children are exposed to on a daily basis in society at large. As lawmakers we have to ask ourselves whether we provide the best possible framework to regulate this whole area.

The purpose of my bill is to ban the manufacture, importation, marketing and sale of toys with instructions—and this is the significant point—that clearly encourage violent behaviour. I make this distinction because the toy might appear innocent enough, but the instructions are not.

This is what happened to one of my constituents who bought a doll, more specifically a troll, for her children. At first glance, on the shelf, the toy was quite appealing, and there did not seem to be a problem. Then one day she saw the instructions accompanying the doll, which said “To keep your troll happy, beat it, shut it up in the dark, deny it all possible happiness” and so on.

This is where the problem begins, because it is totally bad taste. It is inappropriate even and unacceptable that this sort of message accompanying toys should appear on the market without impunity.

Obviously, a person faced with this situation would react first by saying “That must not be legal. I am going to find out”. Ms. Ayotte, who is a resident of my riding, therefore checked around and finally discovered that it was a perfectly legitimate practice and nothing prevented it. That led her to give thought to the greater problem of violence in general.

I come back to my bill, which concerns toys specifically. However, I would like there to be a much broader debate than just the focus of my bill, because the problem of violence is much broader.

My bill aims to introduce a prohibition in the Criminal Code, to create a criminal offence for these kinds of instructions. I will read the description of Bill C-374 in the summary accompanying it:

The purpose of this enactment is to prohibit the sale to persons under the age of eighteen years, the offer for sale in a place to which persons under the age of eighteen years reasonably have access or the importation into Canada of a doll together with a label or writing urging any person to mistreat the doll or cause it to suffer injuries or degrading acts, or the packaging of which contains such a label or writing.

Why was the word doll included in the bill? It was included because words have meaning in our language, and the word “doll” means an object with a human form. So, obviously, the link is even more direct when a person is encouraged to inflict injuries on or treat in a degrading manner an object with a human form.

Probably far more can be done. My approach is aimed at banning this practice, using a specific example. I am sure, however, that a number of improvements can be made to this bill.

It can be broadened to encompass all toys, although the point needs to be made that a toy per se may be relatively inoffensive. The problem lies far more with the use a child is invited to make of it.

Coming back to the action taken by some people in my riding, Mrs. Ayotte, who has five young children, set up a team, with community support. The university provided researchers. She started up a petition, which has taken on the form of a giant jigsaw puzzle, and which people were invited to sign to indicate their wish to see society take steps to decrease the violence with which our children are confronted.

To date, the petition initiated by Mrs. Ayotte has been signed by 400,000 people. The puzzle-petition, which has turned into the project “Joue-moi la paix”, has been exhibited on two occasions, one of them before this House. Unfortunately, when they came to put it together in front of parliament, it was election time, and most MPs were unable to see it.

It was also assembled in the riding of Rouyn—Noranda, and at that time all necessary steps were taken to get it into the record book, as it is the biggest jigsaw puzzle ever put together in the world. In the updated version of the Guinness Book of Records , the biggest puzzle in the world is associated with the “Joue-moi la paix” project.

The mayor of Rouyn was in attendance. So was our bishop, Mgr. Jean-Guy Hamelin. A large number of citizens came that day, which became a day of celebration in Rouyn-Noranda. They came to sign this puzzle, if they had not already done so, or to see it being assembled.

The group had a much loftier goal than my bill, and it conducted much broader research. In the process, some became more knowledgeable. Mrs. Ayotte met with officials from the Department of Justice to submit her project to the government, asking that steps be taken to reduce the number of violent stimuli to which children are confronted on a daily basis.

Should we not be concerned about the violence shown through video games and on television? A debate was held in the House on this issue. A petition signed by a large number of people was also initiated by a young woman, following a tragedy that had triggered a debate on the violence shown on television. The government followed up on this to see if additional measures should be taken.

We need only think of recent events in our society. The tragedy that occurred in Denver, Colorado, where two young men entered a high school and killed several of their fellow students, is still fresh in our minds. The same thing happened last week, in Alberta, where a young man was killed and another injured because teenagers entered the school with weapons. It was terrible.

Obviously, there is no legislation, regulation or measure that can guarantee us protection from this sort of catastrophe indefinitely. Far from it. However, particularly in light of recent events, we should ask ourselves if we are doing all we can as individuals, as parents, and also as members of parliament, as the lawmakers of our society.

We can be glad that there has been much less overall violence in Quebec and in Canada than in the United States, for instance, but we are not isolated from trends that originate there and eventually come our way.

The research showed that most of the toys I mentioned originated in the United States, but they still end up in our stores. With the way companies operate, and distribution networks and free trade zones, the marketplace takes in all of North America, the whole world. It is not true that, because they are made somewhere else, we are completely free from them. They end up in our businesses and they have an impact.

At the dawn of new phenomena such as the Internet or satellite TV, we will have less and less control over these things, in the near future. We will not be able to deny people direct access to American channels. We will be able to regulate less and less. It will come directly on the computer, which will be hooked up to the TV. People will make their own choices about what they want to watch.

What can we do? I would like to have the Standing Committee on Justice consider not specifically the focus of the bill but to consider what we can do. Can we do something?

There are experts in the field. We have seen a little more of this with the events in Colorado and Alberta, in the information programming on television and in all sorts of public debates. Questions have been raised, phenomena discussed. There are people who are experts in this area.

Is a child really influenced growing up in this environment? Maybe yes, maybe no. I do not claim to know for sure. I think it does have an influence.

Why not debate the matter with these experts, who will give us their opinion. It seems to me we study enough things here, for a question of such importance to be studied, particularly after the recent events.

Avoiding demagoguery and remaining realistic, I am not trying to tell the government that what I am proposing is a magic solution, far from it. This is not a simple or easy issue. We can never be fully protected from phenomena or actions that are violent, gratuitous, incomprehensible and unexplainable. They result in individuals feeling so desperate and aggressive that they can go as far as killing others. This kind of occurrence can never be completely prevented. It will probably never be fully understood, either, but there are a certain number of things that can be done.

Within my very specific bill, it seems to me that what I am asking for is not unrealistic. Moreover, when a toy, which may be merely totally tasteless in itself, also comes with instructions which, as the bill says, urges any person to adopt a violent behaviour or commit degrading acts, appropriate action must be taken against those behind the marketing of these toys. We are not talking of disproportionate penalties to be made part of the Criminal Code. The bill speaks of maximum fines of $25,000 for manufacturers and, in very serious cases, a sentence not to exceed six months. This would not be the first time penalties would be applied, but it would not be a bad thing to send a message to those tempted to make money from such gadgets.

The message would be: “In Canada, the Criminal Code contains provisions that prevent you from doing that, so take care”. Public pressure will always be very useful. The companies that will be judged negatively by the consumers because they sell such products will suffer the consequences. The vast majority of people find this unacceptable.

Moreover, this measure would make it illegal to do such things. The price to pay would be very high, not just in terms of the fine imposed, but also because of the negative publicity that would follow. If this bill became the law, it would be a deterrent.

Before concluding, I should point out one thing. I am not saying that this is the sole responsibility of government.

As parents—I myself am a young parent—we have a responsibility to our children. The best guarantee against all this is certainly the way we approach these issues with our children. The family setting, friends and the environment in which children grow are more effective than most laws.

Still, it is appropriate to start a debate on this issue and to expand it to allow people to express their views on it.

Unfortunately, my bill was not selected as a votable item. This means that, at the end of this hour, we will have heard nice speeches but little action will be taken. I am hoping this bill can be reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice. The committee could, of course, conduct this review on its own terms, but the best guarantee would be to make the bill a votable item in the House, so that it would be referred to a committee between second and third reading.

I am asking all the members of this House—even though this is not very appealing, since it only launches the debate—to give their unanimous consent to put this bill to a vote after debating it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to make this bill a votable item?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:20 a.m.


Sue Barnes Liberal London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-374, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Customs Tariff, would provide for a new criminal offence of selling to a minor or offering to sell in a place accessible to minors or to import any doll that comes with a label or packaging which urges any person to mistreat the doll, cause it to suffer injuries or degrading acts.

The hon. member's bill would further define doll as including a model of a troll or a model of an imaginary creature with a human shape.

The bill would create a summary conviction criminal offence with a maximum penalty of $25,000, six months in prison or both.

In essence, the hon. member's bill is aimed at a product which he believes, and I understand many of his very concerned constituents believe, desensitizes children to violence and fosters violent behaviour among children.

It is commendable that more and more people are now linking products that society offers and the environment that we have created to potential actions of our children and youth. For example, I think of our laws on gun control. I hope that more people start thinking of these connections.

I share the hon. member's concerns about the many depictions of violence in the media and other aspects of our lives. I recall when, as vice chair of the justice committee in the 35th Parliament, we actually tabled a report dealing with those very issues.

I must say that the criminal law is a very blunt instrument which carries harsh penalties and procedures. It should be employed to deal with conduct that causes or threatens to cause serious harm to individuals or society. However, it should only be used where other social control means are inadequate or inappropriate. I would suggest that neither are present to the degree necessary to create a new criminal sanction.

Does the hon. member opposite really suggest that fighting dolls represent a possible threat to individuals or society in a similar magnitude as the social and individual harm which is caused by drugs, theft, guns or violence against people? I think it is the relative situation here, although I understand the premise of what the hon. member is attempting to do.

Dolls such as the one the hon. member is concerned about are really just one aspect of a larger issue. Other forms of social control are perhaps more appropriate for helping our children deal with the images and the invitations to violence and aggression which these products sometimes suggest.

Children are daily exposed to depictions of violence in all forms in the mass media, from TV to movies to books. It is a serious component of many of the video games and websites that are now popular with children. Children's games sometimes revolve around fighting, chasing and killing.

Does the hon. member want the Criminal Code to make it a crime to have a G. I. Joe doll or to play cops and robbers? I am sure he does not. Parents make choices around those issues. I made choices with my children and I am sure that all of us should be making those choices. It is simply not reasonable to think that addressing the availability of one kind of doll will have an effect on children's tolerance and reaction to violence.

We need evidence that the inclusion of a label urging mistreatment may make some difference to a toy. Does it really affect the outcome? Can we prove this? Can we prove it to a criminal burden of proof? That is a little different. It is a high burden.

We know by observing children that they often damage their toys. This is activity which happens in homes and schoolyards. However, I wonder whether we want to relegate it to criminal activity. If we do then we have limited some of the freedoms we enjoy. There is freedom of speech even in commercial labelling. Any law which directly or indirectly regulates labels or packaging could violate some of the freedoms that are guaranteed by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

That is one area. It is an area that in some ways we already overcome when the threat is serious enough. There could be those instances and there are many times when we should be acting. We certainly act when toy products affect physical safety. We have regulations to deal with those situations.

I have not seen the product described by the hon. member, but I am sure the message is rude. It is not something that most people in Canadian society would want to see. However, in this society we have freedom of choice in what we buy for our children. Dolls are usually bought by children, with their parents' money, under parental supervision. There are ways we can choose products for our children or limit choices, just as there are ways we can choose to let them watch any amount of TV and any programming or to limit those choices.

It is important that parents do these things because how we handle our children in the early years in our homes affects the outcome. I am certainly a supporter of more protection and social support for children, especially in the early years of life. However, even when there are parents in the home, I think there are safeguards and more resources we could use.

That is not what this bill is about. This bill is specifically about creating a new criminal offence. I think what we really have is not a criminal situation but a very important social situation that needs to be addressed.

In my home I sometimes hear music on compact discs which causes me to say “Get that out of here. I don't want to see you ever having this kind of trash”. I do trash some of those compact discs because they are not appropriate. They are more than rude. They use language and incite behaviour that is not found in Canadian values. That is the role of a parent and that is a role which we should support.

If there is criminal activity, then obviously the criminal law is appropriate. That is where there are violent actions. However, we are talking about a doll and the labelling on the doll. I think the concerns of the hon. member and his constituents are very well intentioned. I could certainly support doing something in this area.

There is a technical difficulty. The section in the Customs Tariff to which the member's bill applies no longer exists. However, there is another section that is comparable, so it could be corrected.

On balance, the criminal law is a very serious tool. Environmental and social controls and actual social resources do far more to address the problems for more people. A bill that narrows it down to one toy at one point in time will not fix the problem. It would certainly be a token acknowledgement that there is a problem in a lot of areas around certain products, but a lot of these products are still and will remain legal. They have some protections under charters when we get into some of the areas.

I commend the hon. member opposite for bringing this debate forward because I think it is worthy of an hour's debate. I do not think we should be going beyond that when our committees in the House have already deemed something not to be votable. I think that is the fair way and that all of us should play by the same rules.

This scenario does not reach a threshold where a criminal offence of such magnitude should be there, although I commend and see the logic which started this process.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:30 a.m.


Deepak Obhrai Reform Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to participate in the debate on Bill C-374 introduced by the hon. member for Témiscamingue.

I commend the member for this most worthwhile initiative and for bringing before the House an issue with such profound consequences for our children. At the outset I would like to say that the work of the member's constituent, Mrs. Martine Ayotte, should be acknowledged. Mrs. Ayotte has collected some 26,000 signatures in her petition to parliament to have this product in question censored. Mrs. Ayotte is a responsible and courageous individual, and we commend her for her bold initiative.

The toy we are debating about today is the warrior troll. The purpose of toys is to bring enjoyment, joy and a smile to the faces of their owners. Toys are also effective tools for education and often challenge our imaginative and intellectual capabilities. They reflect society's moral and social values.

However, this warrior troll represents the direct opposite of what we are trying to foster: a caring, loving, honest and tolerant society. At a time when all parents seek the wisdom and strength to properly raise and guide their children to wholesome development and moral living, we have a corporation selling a toy that is intended to foster and promote violence. This toy attacks the foundation of law-abiding citizens who seek peace and harmony, not violence and destruction. Allow me to tell the House a little about this warrior troll.

It is my hope that I will dispel any notion this is a harmless little toy with no psychological consequences. The toy in itself is not bad. It is the instructions and the series of commands recommended by the manufacturer that are harmful. In short, these instructions call for the child to beat the warrior troll each day. One is never to feed this toy. One is supposed to keep this creation in a dark place that gives off a foul odour. Finally, the instructions recommend that the child never show this monster any love or affection. Is that what we want our children to learn?

At a time when youngsters and society in general are yearning for affection and love, we want our children to own a toy that promotes these basic, positive human traits. Shame on the inventor and the corporation that is marketing this toy.

What is truly sickening is that the instructions go on to reward this behaviour by stating that the warrior troll will gain strength and be ready for battle and defend the owner. Let us be honest about it. This toy is intentionally being marketed as a tool to teach violence, neglect and hatred. Are our children not exposed to enough of this negativity in society?

As we debate this worthy initiative I cannot help but be reminded of the tragic events in Littleton, Colorado, and Taber, Alberta. If ever this world needed proof of the destructive effects of allowing our children to view, read and emulate people of violence or violent acts then Littleton and Taber surely come to mind.

Today there are memorial services taking place in Taber, Alberta. It is heart wrenching to witness the pain and suffering arising from the tragedy which took place there. I do not wish to say more. It is very painful. At this time let me extend my deepest and sincerest condolences to members of the family of Jason Lang. We share their pain and grief.

Like thousands of parents I have a child who is about to enter high school. The events of the past few weeks have made me more than a little apprehensive about the safety of my children at school. I can only pray that our children are spared the hatred and violence that is plaguing our society. As parents and parliamentarians in Canada we have a sacred responsibility to protect our children from those people and from those products which promote hatred and violence.

I listened to the member opposite for whom I have great respect. She acknowledged that there was a social problem, but she did not say what is supposed to be done. At least we have a bill that is addressing an issue and something will be done. The member acknowledges that there is a problem but that is all she said. We know that if we do not do anything it will carry on and on.

We can make a statement today by supporting Bill C-374. Bill C-374 would prohibit the sale of this doll to anyone under the age of 18. It would also prohibit the offer for sale of this doll in a place to which persons under the age of 18 would have reasonable access. This bill would make it illegal for the doll to be accompanied by labelling calling for it to be subjected to degrading acts and mistreatment.

For the sake of our young Canadians, I call upon the House to support Bill C-374.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:35 a.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the opportunity to rise in the House today to speak in support of Bill C-374 as put forward by the hon. member for Témiscamingue.

The bill coming forward at this time provides us with a very important opportunity to talk about youth violence and some of the causes of youth violence in society. Having listened to the government member and the Reform Party member, it is fair to say that all members of the House share a very deep concern about the nature of violence in society. The consequences that we see in communities like Taber, Alberta, or in Colorado are very tragic and devastating.

This debate is also about a very specific bill that has come forward. It gives us an opportunity to do something that is concrete. I congratulate the hon. member and his constituents who have worked so hard to bring the issue forward. It is amazing that 400,000 people signed a petition calling on the House to support the bill. This is something not to be put aside. That is an incredible amount of support in the community. It speaks to the very deep concern of people about what is happening in society.

As we have heard, the bill would not ban toys. The issue is not toys. According to the bill, where there is production, marketing or sale of various toys and where the use that is being encouraged through written instruction is actually something that is violent, that would be prohibited under the Criminal Code.

That is a very common sense approach. It is something we should all be supporting. This is a concrete step we could take in the House from a legislative viewpoint to deal with the vast array of products on the market that are available to young people and children. In this specific instance there are actually instructions that are condoning, encouraging and supporting a very negative and violent use.

The bill should be supported. One of the issues coming from the bill is the question of social responsibility by the manufacturing industry of children's toys. We are talking about a multibillion dollar industry.

Parents want to do the right thing. Their kids are subject to massive overload in advertising and are asking to have this toy and that toy. Most parents try to do the right thing in terms of monitoring these products, of trying to figure out whether they are toys or games that are suitable and appropriate for the age of the child and whether or not they are violent. Most parents and most communities feel absolutely overwhelmed by the barrage of stuff on the market.

Let us not forget we are talking about a marketplace. We are talking about companies that basically are making massive profits as a result of peddling and marketing toys such as the ones being described today and their attached instructions.

There is a very serious issue of social responsibility in the manufacturing industry of children's toys. If the bill were approved, or if the issue were sent to the justice committee, it would go some distance in saying to that industry that we expect a measure of social responsibility. It is entirely unacceptable to be marketing toys which encourage children to be violent and to deny feelings of care, love and responsibility which they learn from their families or communities. Children are faced with very conflicting messages in society.

A primary responsibility in the House in terms of the legislation we enact is the protection of our children. We value that as a society. It is not just about freedom of choice or freedom of speech. It is about protecting children and saying that the marketplace has run amok. The marketplace is now dictating and selling products in such a fashion that it is contributing to a lot of confusion, a lot of mixed messages.

A government member raised a question as to whether or not this kind of product would actually lead to violence against people. We are talking about toys for sure, but does it lead to further violence against people? That is the same issue that is being raised by the member who put forward the bill. That is why the member is suggesting it should go to the justice committee for a proper debate about issues of violence so that we can look at some of the underlying causes. That has to include the products available on the market and the way they are marketed.

The New Democratic Party is very much in support of the bill and very much in support of the debate taking place, in particular at the justice committee, given the tragedies of the past week where communities and families are grappling with the senseless violence which takes place around us.

We do have a responsibility to be reflective, to step back and ask, “Where can we begin to put this picture right”. There is a legislative and a community response to how we develop healthy, strong communities and how we involve children in our society by ensuring that there is no social isolation which I think is one of factors that is beginning to emerge with the tragedy in Taber.

We see programs that have been cut to the bone. I remember having a conversation with one of my colleagues who was telling me about the level of suicides in her community in New Brunswick. She said there were no youth preventative programs available and no youth drop-ins. The kids had nowhere to go. All these issues are linked. We all understand that they are linked but it is sometimes hard for us to actually figure out how specifically we can begin to address these issues.

We should not put aside the opportunity that is being presented today in the House. We should actually move forward with this kind of initiative and not just see it buried on some dusty shelf as a private member's bill.

Let us take the bill today and continue discussion of it in the justice committee because of the importance in terms of the debate that can flow from that on how we can deal with products on the marketplace. We want to ensure that there is adequate regulation so that children's toys are not used for a violent purpose. We do not condone nor encourage behaviour that is violent in terms of how kids interact with inanimate objects, with their peers, with other children or within their community.

We would support the hon. member if, in his closing remarks, he chooses to seek the consent of the House for this matter be referred to the justice committee for further debate. We believe it is a very important initiative. We owe it to the 400,000 people, who took the time to think about this issue, to not let debate die on the bill. Something useful and beneficial can come out of it. It may well be an amendment to the Criminal Code or some other option, but it is something that should be supported.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise before the House to debate Bill C-374, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Customs Tariff with regard to prohibited toys.

I congratulate my hon. colleague from the Bloc, the member for Témiscamingue, for recognizing the inherent dangers that exist within the labelling of some products that are readily available to very young and impressionable children.

Although the bill focuses primarily on the labelling of dolls, it does raise important questions about all labelling in general and the effects the labelling could have on our children.

On the surface, it would seem that the information contained within the labelling of dolls could not possibly be detrimental to our children. However, nothing could be further from the truth. Certain labels could realistically create subliminal messages that negatively influence the perception some children have in regard to what constitutes acceptable behaviour.

The impetus for creating the bill originated from the efforts of one concerned citizen who happened to purchase a toy for her child only to discover that it contained within the instructions messages encouraging violence. Not only did the instructions encourage violence, it suggested that violence would make the child happier and more powerful in our society.

There is violence everywhere in our society. Evening television abounds with examples of how we are influenced by it.

What is more disturbing is the age of those committing acts of violence. Increasingly, they are under the age of 20.

Bill C-374 speaks to a broader issue of the prevalence of violence in our society. Everywhere one turns, children are being bombarded with messages that effectively state that violence is an accepted means of resolving one's problems.

One only has to look around to see that violence is depicted just about everywhere. For years now the motion picture industry has been competing against each other to see who can recreate the most realistic special effects depicting violent acts within our society.

Many television programs are also helping to accentuate the prevalence of crime in major cities. The portrayals of these crimes are so realistic that it is sometimes hard for some children to differentiate between what is real and what is fiction.

There is no doubt that our young people are influenced by what they see on television. The Colorado tragedy is proof of this. The method used to commit the murders bears a strong resemblance to a film seen in theatres.

What happened in Colorado is truly appalling. I would like to offer my heartfelt sympathy to all those who were affected by this tragic event. This massacre was followed by another high school attack on two teenagers in Alberta that left one young man dead and another seriously injured.

Details of such vicious attacks are becoming far too prevalent. Canadians used to believe that these terrible crimes were confined to big cities in the U.S. However, the shooting in Alberta and the terrible torture and murder of Reena Virk in B.C. have opened our eyes to the reality that our youth are increasingly turning to violence to resolve their differences.

The increase in crime is why the PC Party and Canadians as a whole have been calling on the Minister of Justice to amend the 1984 Young Offenders Act to make it tougher on those who insist on pursuing a life of crime. Canadians are sick and tired of seeing violent young offenders getting off virtually scot-free. Canadians want the government to start focusing greater attention on victims. They want their rights recognized and protected, just as much as the system presently protects young offenders.

In May 1998, the justice minister unveiled a new youth strategy to renew the 1984 Young Offenders Act. During meetings with provincial justice ministers, the federal minister heard her counterparts demand tougher legislation that would respond to the demands of society. Calls included lowering the age of application of the Young Offenders Act for serious violent crimes from 12 to 10 years of age and providing for easier transfer of cases involving serious offences to adult court from youth court, instead of a general reduction of the maximum age.

The PC Party endorsed measures to make the act tougher on youth crime. Led by our party's justice critic, the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, a former crown prosecutor who witnessed the lives of many of the victims of youth crime, we fought hard to convince the government that tougher legislation was needed to help protect society. Besides lowering the age of application of the Young Offenders Act from 12 to 10 years of age, he strongly supported giving judges more power to impose mandatory treatment or therapy on troubled youth.

We now know that changes to the Young Offenders Act will fall far short of what Canadians expected and what the country needs to help reduce the prevalence of youth crime within society. Therefore, it is important that as elected officials we continue to pressure the government into accepting its responsibility of protecting Canadian society.

Bill C-374 will not eliminate youth crime. However, it could help to prevent young children from being exposed too early to violence.

In closing, I again congratulate my colleague, the member for Témiscamingue, as well as Ms. Ayotte, who took her petition far and wide to educate us to the danger found on the labels of children's dolls. Bill C-374 is a good initiative and I urge all members to support it.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to debate this bill, which I know fairly well.

Together with my Bloc colleague, the member for Témiscamingue, I met with Mrs. Martine Ayotte at the very beginning, when she started her petition and her giant puzzle. She wanted to raise the awareness of politicians, but mostly she wanted to find out what they thought of this kind of toys. She was interested in the Bloc's position, and more specifically its justice critic's.

Right from the start she got the unwavering support of her federal MP in this matter, but she wanted to know what a member of the Standing Committee on Justice thought of her petition and giant puzzle.

I will not repeat what has been said so far on the issue. It can easily be summed up as follows: a woman realized that in Canada in the 1990s you can purchase a toy with instructions inciting young people to violence. These instructions were aimed at young children. Teenagers do not play with trolls, young children do.

We know how vulnerable young children are. The instructions said “To make your troll happy you must beat it up, throw it around, lock it up in the dark without food, and so forth”. This will make a troll happy. Is this the kind of instructions we want to give children in Canada? Of course not. I can see that all the representatives of the opposition parties are against this kind of violence.

Since this is allowed and legal, one must wonder if is it normal that in a country as advanced as ours in every respect, toy manufacturers, merchants, and stores are allowed to market toys inciting children to violence.

What a five or six-year old does will stay with him all his life. We know that at that age, at five or six, children are very vulnerable and impressionable. If they are told that to make a toy happy they must mistreat it, they might eventually come to believe this is the way to behave when they grow up. This is unconscionable.

The private member's bill introduced by the member for Témiscamingue deals with dolls. It could have included video games, board games, violent movies and so forth. But to respond to the request of one person in particular, Mrs. Martine Ayotte, the member specifically restricted its scope to dolls, more particularly trolls.

What member for Témiscamingue and I are asking its that the House unanimously agree to make this item votable.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to make this bill a votable bill?

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members


Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business

11:55 a.m.


Pierre Brien Bloc Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry to see—I must point this out for our audience because it is not clear—that the Liberal MPs are the ones refusing to give consent for this bill to be votable.

I would like to thank the hon. members for London West, Calgary East, Vancouver East and West Nova, for having expressed their opinions. I particularly thank the NDP, Reform, and Conservative members who have supported the bill, and in particular the idea of expanding the debate to encompass an examination by parliament of the entire issue of the violence faced by our children.

Since there will be no vote on this bill, the issue will not get to committee by that means. I hope that the members of the justice committee—the majority of them from the party in power—will take it over and address this issue, which has become so terribly timely. We cannot continue to do nothing and to not examine this situation.

In the two or three minutes I have left, I also wish to thank Mrs. Ayotte and all those in her region, in all of Quebec, and in all of Canada, who have supported and encouraged her. I want her to know that today is far from being the end of the matter. We took an hour to discuss it here in the House today, but things will not stop there. I will continue to focus my energies on trying to persuade my colleagues in the House that we must do something. I will also encourage members of the Standing Committee on Justice to initiate the consideration, discussion and public debate of the issue of the violence children are subjected to.

I would also like to respond to the Liberal member, who spoke, raising legitimate questions. Is the Criminal Code the most effective way? Care must be taken when the Criminal Code is used. I am very open to this sort of criticism. This is why we want a debate.

However, I think we have to create a criminal offence. Obviously, offences under the Criminal Code are not all the same sort. And they are punished differently. The fact that they come under the Criminal Code does not mean they are judged the same way. Nevertheless, they are criminal offences. Then there are degrees.

We must look closely at the fact that a number of business are aiming their marketing directly at our children. We have to react when these marketing strategies focus on behaviour we consider unacceptable in society, such as violence. We do so with anti-smoking campaigns, where we fight to ensure that young children cannot have access to tobacco products, and with good reason. We must do likewise to prevent companies from directing at young people messages inciting them to violence and encouraging them to use these products and to behave this way.

To those who still have doubts and are saying “No, we must not act”, we put the following question. One can rightfully argue that children are also influenced by their parents, their family, their environment and other factors, which are not necessarily regulated by the government. But are the members across the way sure that all available means have been used? Are they sure nothing more could be done?

If there is any doubt in our minds, then we should continue the debate and expand it to include the general public, which has something to say about this issue.

I want to thank and congratulate Mrs. Ayotte and her group, all the stakeholders who supported her, including those who sponsored and financed the representations, the university that provided the research staff, and all those who were involved—I will not name them, because there are many—and those who supported this initiative, including the hon. members from the various political parties who spoke to the issue today.

I hope further consideration will be given to this issue and that action will be taken. We should go the extra mile and hold a broad public debate to find out whether the federal government is using all the means available to it to try to further restrict these messages of violence to which our children are confronted on a daily basis.

Criminal CodePrivate Members' Business


The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and this item is dropped from the order paper.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB


That this House calls on the government to develop a new national shipbuilding policy to support the revitalization of the Canadian shipbuilding industry by maintaining and advancing the degree of excellence and the technologies for which Canada is historically renowned, given that Canada has the longest coastline of any nation in the world and that historically Canadians are among the finest shipbuilders in the world.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Burin—St. George's.

A new shipbuilding policy is a pan-Canadian issue. Shipyards are located across Canada, in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, P.E.I and Newfoundland. Many ridings from coast to coast in Canada, including my riding of Saint John in New Brunswick, are suffering from the lack of leadership from this government on the very important issue of a national shipbuilding policy.

Twice in the past six years the Liberal Party of Canada passed resolutions at its 1993 and 1998 national meetings stating that it considered shipbuilding to be a priority and that it was going to establish a new, modern, national shipbuilding policy. We are still waiting for it.

This government has let the industry slide to the point of near extinction in Canada. Many shipbuilding companies are on the verge of shutting down without a policy from this government to bring our industry to a competing level with our competitors around the world. How can a Canadian shipbuilding company survive when our ships end up being almost twice the cost of those built half a world away?

We are not winning contracts. Just to give hon. members an example, if Saint John Shipbuilding does not land a contract soon, it will be closing its doors. Saint John Shipbuilding is the most modern shipyard in the world, but it will have no choice. It has bid on over 50 contracts around the world and it is unable to compete.

Canadian shipbuilding at its peak employed almost 12,000 people. It is not unrealistic to think that the number of spinoff jobs was around the same, for a total of 24,000 people across Canada employed, happy, contributing to the tax rolls and the economy and contributing to their communities as well.

Now at its lowest point, the Canadian shipbuilding industry employs roughly 4,000 people across the country. Again, the number of spinoff jobs is about the same. Through this government's lack of initiative, approximately 20,000 people are out of work. This is simply not acceptable.

Back in the days when the government was in opposition the Minister of Industry was the transport critic. Many pieces of correspondence, of which I have copies, were sent to the shipbuilding industry members by the transport critic, now our Minister of Industry. He claimed that the issue of a revamped modern shipbuilding policy was an utmost priority. This sentiment was echoed by the current Prime Minister when he was in opposition. I quote from one of those letters. The Prime Minister when in opposition stated “It is safe to say that most people recognize that something needs to be done to create a much more competitive shipbuilding industry”. Today where is the Prime Minister and the Minister of Industry?

In 1993 the Liberal Party membership voted in favour of developing a new national shipbuilding policy. In 1993 the Liberal Party became the government. It was being given the chance to make the changes that it for so long decreed as necessary.

Suddenly the sentiment of the government changed. In further correspondence with members of the shipbuilding industry the current Minister of Industry started to change his tune. He stated “Your proposals were insightful and creative; however, to implement these would require the dedication of significant resources which are not presently allocated to shipbuilding”.

A national shipbuilding policy was no longer on the top of his agenda nor on the top of the agenda of this government. It was relegated to the bottom of the list apparently, because after six years of being in government, no sign of a modern national shipbuilding policy has been seen.

What happened to the Liberal promise of change? Need I ask? It has gone to the same black hole with other Liberal promises from the red book, just like the GST, the helicopter situation and the Pearson airport deal.

The last Tory government considered national shipbuilding to be a priority and developed many initiatives to promote our skill in this field.

For example, the Canadian patrol frigate program produced thousands of jobs in Atlantic Canada and Quebec through contracts that produced 12 new frigates. This program brought worldwide attention to Canada's capability to design, integrate, test, construct and manage large projects.

Also in 1991 we awarded 12 maritime coastal defence vessels for the Canadian navy, designed and built here in Canada. The contract for the MCDVs created a steady flow of work into the shipbuilding industry.

The following is from experts and is in today's Ottawa Citizen :

Unlike other countries, the Canadian military has no dedicated transport ships necessary to move equipment overseas. It must either rent commercial vessels to go to a conflict area or hitch a ride from its allies.

That is a disgrace.

The PC government in its time was in an era of fiscal responsibility and had to reduce total transportation subsidies. However we took the steps to ensure the viability of the shipbuilding industry because of the many positive spinoffs to Canada.

We are asking the current Liberal government to recognize the importance of a national shipbuilding policy and to develop it immediately so that people will still be working in our shipyards across the country at the turn of the new millennium.

In discussions with members of the shipbuilding industry, we have determined what the industry requires in order to survive. There are four things: one, exclusion of new construction ships built in Canadian shipyards from the present Revenue Canada leasing regulations; two, provision of an improved export financing and loan guarantee program similar to the title XI program in the U.S.; three, provision of a refundable tax credit to Canadian shipowners of shipbuilders who contract to build a ship or contract for conversion with change of emission, mid-life refit or major refit; and four, eliminate the one-sided aspects of NAFTA which allow the U.S. to sell new or used ships duty free in Canada yet absolutely prohibit Canadian access to the U.S. market.

I am asking the government today to live up to the promises the Liberals made to get elected and form the government in 1993 and again in 1998. The Liberal government adopted resolutions, as I have stated, that this situation with shipbuilding would be rectified. The Liberal government has not followed through and the people are still waiting.

These highly skilled workers will have to leave this great country of ours and find work in the U.S. if we do not get a new national shipbuilding policy immediately. I say that because they came up from Louisiana, U.S.A. to my riding a month ago and offered jobs in the United States to 200 men.

To make sure these people can stay in Canada to raise their children on Canadian soil and be proud to be among the best shipbuilders in the world, please let us all work together in this House. Let us develop this new shipbuilding policy with this end as our goal for our people.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I heard the member opposite speak about shipbuilding and some of the things the previous government did. I did not hear anything about the Jones act in the United States when her party decided to throw in the cards from Canada and did nothing about changing the Jones act. Maybe the member could address why the member opposite did not do anything about changing the Jones act and allowed the protectionism in the U.S. to continue.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, we are asking for changes in the Jones act. The Liberal government has been in power now for six years. The Liberals see the problem. It was not a problem when we were in government because we were supporting shipbuilding. We gave the frigate program. We gave the program to Halifax and to B.C. as well, all across this country. But if they do not change the Jones act, then there should be an act to protect the Canadian shipbuilding industry.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Saint John on her motion and speech, which echo Bloc Quebecois sentiments.

However, I would tend to agree with the parliamentary secretary. I think that the Mulroney government did not have enough time to implement certain solutions. It had begun to propose a rationalization of shipyards and had approached all provincial governments with shipyards in Canada. Quebec took action. We had three major shipyards, one in Sorel, one in Longueuil, and one in Lévis, and all operations were shifted to Lévis.

I would like to know why the maritimes have not fully rationalized shipyards.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, when we were in power we did not rationalize the industry. The industry rationalized itself at a time when the demand for ships was in decline. Our government continued to provide assistance and support to the industry. We invested $60 million in capital improvements in the port of Vancouver, which allowed Vancouver to become an internationally recognized maritime centre.

The Canadian patrol frigate was the largest federal program ever awarded. The original contract for six frigates in 1983 and the additional six in 1987 went to the Saint John shipyard. The frigate program brought worldwide recognition of Canada's capability to design, integrate, test, construct, manufacture and manage large projects.

When the Liberal Party was in power it gave the first contract for the first six frigates to Saint John and Quebec. Then we came into power and we gave the six frigates contract to Saint John. There are companies in the country which are hoping and praying that once again the government will bring in a national shipbuilding policy. There are trained people, manufacturers and so on waiting for this policy.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

John Herron Progressive Conservative Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Speaker, I applaud my colleague from the neighbouring riding of Saint John for the efforts she has put forth on a consistent basis, not just during this mandate of 1997 but during her first mandate between 1993 and 1997. She knew it was imperative to have a viable shipbuilding industry.

I commend the member for her efforts. I also point out to the parliamentary secretary that Canada has benefited from a rules based trade regime such as NAFTA and the FTA. This does not mean that we have stopped fighting for our shipyards, and I know the member for Saint John will.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Once again, Mr. Speaker, I have to say that in today's society when we are running to become a member of the government in the House we cannot make false promises any more. Our people across the country are educated people and—

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but her time has run out. I understand the member is sharing her time with the hon. member Burin—St. George's who has 10 minutes for his speech and 5 minutes for questions and comments.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Matthews Progressive Conservative Burin—St. George's, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to second the motion put forward by my colleague from Saint John.

As the member for Fundy—Royal said, we have been trying to raise the issue of the shipbuilding industry in the House of Commons over the last number of months because there is a crisis in that industry. As we speak a campaign is being organized by the marine workers union and by the CAW across the country to try to have some impact on the federal government, in particular the industry minister, and to impress upon him the need for a new shipbuilding policy.

The shipbuilding industry and the ship repair industry are presently dying a slow death in Canada. If the government does not implement some new fiscal measures, we will see the situation worsen.

In 1990 there were some 12,000 people employed in the shipbuilding industry in Canada. In 1996-97 those numbers had dropped to approximately 5,000. In 1998 it was down to 4,000 as my colleague from Saint John mentioned in her address. That is a significant drop. The shipbuilding industry provides very good jobs and well paying jobs for the people employed in it.

Shipyards and ship repair centres are located across the country in some of the areas hardest hit economically. We could talk about Atlantic Canada, Quebec and British Columbia. We need all the economic stimulation we can get in these areas.

This is why we have brought forward this motion. We are trying to get the support of our colleagues in the House of Commons. This matter goes beyond our own constituencies. I have a shipyard in my constituency of Burin—St. George's located at Marystown. It is a great economic stimulator for the Burin peninsula and for the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador.

However the motion goes beyond our own parochial needs. It talks about the need for a national shipbuilding policy. Shipbuilding is a very important industry. It does wonders for us economically by creating employment. All we are asking is for the industry minister to attach some priority to the issue.

However he refuses to meet with the major players in the industry. He refuses to meet with the unions that are spearheading this campaign. Why does the industry minister have such a closed mind on this issue when just last week he hastily arranged a summit of the NHL franchises in Canada?

As pro sport and pro hockey as I am, and my background speaks volumes about that, how can the industry minister so hastily arrange a hockey summit to talk with the owners of NHL franchises in this country that are struggling because of our situation compared with that of the U.S.? We are paying our players in U.S. dollars. We are a small market.

Yet he refuses to deal with the major shipbuilding crisis. One of the main problems is the competition from the U.S. which builds new ships and repairs them and sends them to Canada, but we are not allowed to return the favour and send ships to the U.S.

Why does the industry minister not treat shipbuilding in the same way he is treating hockey? The shipbuilding industry is certainly as important to the country as our NHL franchises. They are important as well. That is my point.

My colleague from Saint John has highlighted very well some of the fiscal measures we would like to see the government implement. No one is asking for direct subsidies. The industry minister, time after time when he has risen on the issue in the House, keeps talking about subsidies. No one is asking for subsidies.

We are asking for fiscal measures which will level the playing field for the shipbuilding industry in the country, level the playing field with the U.S., with the European countries and with the Asian market so that we at least have a fighting chance to bid on work and obtain work.

I want to move an amendment, seconded by my colleague from Chicoutimi, before I conclude my remarks this morning:

That the motion be amended by adding after the word “develop” the word “immediately”.

My colleague from Saint John alluded to a number of fiscal measures which we would like to see the government implement such as a loan guarantee program and tax credits. Changes have to be made to taxation laws for vessel leasing, and trade and tariff policies need to be reviewed. May I be so bold as to suggest that they need to be revised to provide a level playing field for the Canadian shipbuilding industry.

We are trying to raise the profile of this important issue in parliament. There are still 4,000 to 5,000 jobs in the industry in Canada today. There is potential to double or triple that number and provide good paying jobs in all regions of the country where shipbuilding is present.

By putting forth the motion we are asking members of the House of Commons to join with us and vote to support a motion which we consider most important for the shipbuilding industry, for employment and for economic stimulation.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Speaker

The amendment is in order.

SupplyGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

St. Catharines Ontario


Walt Lastewka LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to the member for Burin—St. George's. He indicated that the industry minister refused to meet with the association and the shipbuilding industry. The minister reported to the House once before that he met with the shipbuilding association and the industry executives from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

Rather than trying to mislead the Canadian public, the member should indicate the minister reported to the House that he had met with them. The member's statement is totally incorrect. As an hon. member he should withdraw it and insert that the minister met with the association and executives from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia last March.