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House of Commons Hansard #113 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was park.

Topics

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

moved that Bill C-297, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act, be concurred in at report stage.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

In my opinion the yeas have it. I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Madam Speaker, I request consent to split my time with the hon. member for West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

Is there unanimous consent?

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:40 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Cadman Reform Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-297, an act to amend the Young Offenders Act, has been around this place for a number of years now. It was first introduced as Bill C-260 in October 1997. In fact it was my first effort as a private member.

In May last year the government attempted to kill this private member's bill through a hoist motion. Fortunately the government subsequently reconsidered to withdraw its motion. The bill was allowed to proceed to a vote where all members of the House could exercise their voting rights. On May 25, 1999 it passed second reading by a vote of 164 to 75. My friends in the Bloc, most of the NDP and some Liberals voted against the bill but the vast majority of the House voted in favour of it. As is the process, the bill was sent to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

With the prorogation of parliament it was reintroduced as Bill C-297 in November last year. According to the rules of the House it was then placed in the same position as previously and referred back to the justice committee.

On March 27 the bill was deemed to have been reported back to the House without amendment. We are now at the third and final stage of this legislation.

Madam Speaker, while I appreciate that you know the particulars of Bill C-297, I will briefly state them for the folks who may be watching the debate through the benefit of television tonight. There are some very serious misconceptions in the public, in the media and among some of my colleagues in this place about just what this bill proposes.

The bill itself is relatively simple. It merely changes a sanction section of the Young Offenders Act from a simple summary conviction offence to a dual procedure or hybrid offence. What this means is that the crown attorney has the option, and I repeat the word option, of proceeding by summary conviction or by indictable offence. Indictable offences, of course, are reserved for the most serious of circumstances. The maximum sentence in this case is two years. In other words, offenders will receive provincial and not federal time at the top end; that is, the maximum.

What is the offence that is covered by this sanction, we may ask. It has to do with section 7.2 of the Young Offenders Act that covers the offence of wilfully failing to comply with a court undertaking to supervise a young person. As we all know, some young people come into conflict with our laws. Occasionally some of these young persons are considered to be a danger to the safety and security of the rest of our society and are held in custody until their case may be resolved.

Section 7.1 of the Young Offenders Act permits a responsible adult to sign an agreement with the court to supervise the young person. The young person is then permitted to leave custody under the supervision of that adult. The young person and the adult sign a form of contract with the court, agreeing that certain conditions will be followed for the protection and security of other citizens. These conditions might include refraining from alcohol use, geographic restrictions, not associating with specified individuals, curfews and any other condition the court deems appropriate. If the adult wilfully fails, and I stress the word wilfully, to properly supervise, as promised to the court, section 7.2 holds that adult accountable.

As I stated previously, the only real criticism of this bill comes from a misunderstanding or an unwillingness of some individuals to accept that this legislation has nothing whatsoever to do with parental responsibility to their children. We are not holding parents responsible for delinquent children through this bill. The parent of the child who throws a rock through a window or gets into a schoolyard fight is not affected by this bill. We are holding responsible only those adults who deliberately and voluntarily enter into a form of contract with the court to carry out certain defined duties of supervision. These adults are to be held accountable for their wilful failure to obey that contract.

Those adults who make reasonable attempts to supervise or control their charges will not be subject to prosecution and conviction. Those adults who find they cannot control the young person can always advise the authorities and withdraw from their agreement to supervise. As I have said many times before, all the person who makes an undertaking has to do is to make a phone call to the authorities and advise of the difficulty in controlling that particular youth.

All this bill is attempting to do is to impress upon those who sign an undertaking and impress upon the young person the seriousness of the situation and to hold accountable those who wilfully fail to carry out their end of the bargain with the courts. We are only attempting to protect our citizens from additional crime and victimization by the young person who has been released into our community prior to the resolution of the initial charge or charges.

As has been stated many times by myself and others, including the Minister of Justice, this legislation has been incorporated within Bill C-3, which is essentially a re-writing of the Young Offenders Act. Some may well ask why I am pursuing Bill C-297 when the minister and cabinet through Bill C-3 have accepted the same initiative. The answer, of course, is quite simple: We can never be assured that Bill C-3 will become law.

Simply put, as of now, the Young Offenders Act is the law of the land. Bill C-297 amends the Young Offenders Act. Each and every day we do not have this change to our law results in another day in which the failing of the Young Offenders Act in respect of the criminal breach of an undertaking order is permitted to continue.

The minister recognized the problems of these undertakings when she incorporated my Bill C-297 almost word for word in her youth criminal justice legislation known as Bill C-3. All we are doing with Bill C-297 is bringing into law a portion of Bill C-3 to address the Young Offenders Act, the current law of Canada. Given the history of Bill C-3, we do not know when it will become law. Indeed, we do not even know if it will become law. If and when it does, we do not know if it will remain in its present format.

In fact, yesterday, when I asked the minister if we would have new legislation before an election call, she declined to give a direct answer.

However, we do know that Bill C-297 is acceptable to the Minister of Justice because she used it when she prepared Bill C-3. We do know that the majority of this place voted at second reading to pass the legislation and send it to the justice committee. We do know that the bill was returned to this place without amendment.

It is good law. It is one of the primary reasons I sought election to parliament. I think many members know that I have a very personal reason for proposing the legislation. If it succeeds in addressing justice in even one instance during the anticipated limited existence of the Young Offenders Act, then we as parliamentarians will have fulfilled some of our responsibilities as legislators.

I appreciate that some may question the placing of this legislation on our agenda when the government plans to address the issue with its own legislation. However, that legislation is severely stalled. It may be shelved or radically changed. It may never see the light of day. We simply do not know what will happen to it.

Bill C-297 is on the parliamentary calendar. It is a private member's initiative. I understand it has the support of a significant portion of members. It is my understanding that most, if not all, of my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance will be supporting the bill. It is my hope that many, if not all, members of the government will support the legislation as it does exactly as proposed by the Minister of Justice in Bill C-3.

The minister has incorporated my initiative into her legislation, and I thank her for her support. Members of the New Democratic Party and the Progressive Conservative Party have spoken in support of the bill. I urge everyone to carefully consider its aim, its content and its consequences for victims of crime and for the support and respect of our justice system. I urge all members to support the bill.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:50 p.m.

Reform

John Reynolds Reform West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Madam Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure to contribute to the debate and add my support to Bill C-297 introduced by my colleague, the member for Surrey North.

The legislation now before us is testament to the determination and dedication of the member for Surrey North in his campaign to bring some semblance of rationale to the Young Offenders Act and to put some emphasis and focus on an area that cries out for attention.

As most members of the House now know, the member for Surrey North and his family have been visited upon by youth crime. In 1992 the member's son, Jesse, was killed by a young offender. This young offender was in the community on what is called, under the Young Offenders Act, a section 7.1 undertaking. We are here today to address this section by way of the member's initiative to ensure such a tragedy, like the kind that befell the member for Surrey North and his family, can from this point on be averted.

As the member for Surrey North has said, the bill is simple and minor. However, the consequences of the bill are profound, addressing an issue that begs for attention and justice. In short, Bill C-297 calls for parents and guardians of young offenders to account when they fail to discharge their responsibility to supervise. One would not think that we would have to tell parents and guardians of their responsibilities in such instances, but alas, some parents and guardians are less responsible than the young offender in their charge. It is sad but true. The son of the member for Surrey North was a victim of this irresponsible and reprehensible parenting.

Bill C-297 changes section 7.2 of the Young Offenders Act from a simple summary conviction offence to a dual procedure or hybrid offence. If passed, Bill C-297 would make offenders of section 7.1 of the Young Offenders Act subject to either imprisonment of up to two years or the normal summary conviction penalties.

This amendment, by way of this private member's bill, should not cause the government much concern. In fact this initiative forms part of the new Youth Criminal Justice Act, Bill C-3. Sometimes it takes a Canadian Alliance initiative to make things right, even if the government cannot admit it.

Allow me to outline the genesis of Bill C-297 and what it attempts to accomplish. Section 7.1 of the Young Offenders Act permits a youth court judge to allow an accused person, who would otherwise be held in custody, to be placed in the care of a responsible person who must undertake in writing to be responsible for the attendance of the young person in court as required, and to ensure compliance with such other conditions as the youth court judge may specify. At the same time, the accused youth must also undertake in writing to comply with the aforementioned arrangements and to comply with any other arrangements as specified by the youth court judge. It seems fairly straightforward and easy to understand. It simply allows a parent or guardian to supervise the young person until charges are decided by the court. It is a form of custody outside of formal detention and can be considered bail.

One would think that any responsible parent or guardian would enter this contract with the courts in good conscience and abide by the terms and conditions. One would think that no matter what the penalty would be for breaking the contract, the parent would be mature enough to comply. Sadly, as was the case involving my colleague for Surrey North, some parents wilfully fail to provide proper and sufficient supervision. It is this negligence on the part of the parent or guardian that Bill C-297 seeks to address. It is a shame that some parents are less responsible than the young person who is supposed to be in their custody. This bill would make it clear for those irresponsible types that the penalties for breaking the contract are very severe.

During his opening remarks in earlier debate on Bill C-297, the member for Surrey North painted a tragic and bleak picture, which I will paraphrase. For example, suppose one of the terms and conditions of the handing over of the young person to the parent or guardian is a parent agreeing to a curfew to ensure that the young person, while awaiting court, is not tempted to fall back into a situation where friends can influence the person and cause that person further criminal charges. What if the parent has always been the problem, never raising the young person properly to begin with, running loosey-goosey rules of curfew and never paying much attention to the young person's lifestyle? Is it not time for that parent to be held accountable for this irresponsibility?

There is no doubt that most Canadians have come to realize that parents have to take more responsibility in raising their children and that they should not start after they offend. It should be a deeper responsibility. Raising children is a commitment. It means more than having them around as a accessories. Bill C-297 reinforces that premise.

In Bill C-297, if a young person merely breaks a condition of release, then the parent may face a summary conviction procedure for this failure to comply with the undertaking to supervise. If the breach of the release condition leads to the commission of a serious offence by the young person, that same parent may be subject to an indictable proceeding. Like all hybrid offences, the crown has the option. In the final analysis, the judge naturally has the final say on the appropriate punishment.

We must impose on parents the gravity of improper, irresponsible parenting, particularly when they have entered into a contract with the courts. We have a responsibility to society to protect the innocent, the innocent like Jesse Cadman. If a parent thwarts this responsibility by not complying and wilfully breaks this trust they accepted, then penalties should be imposed.

Some will say that Bill C-297 blames the parents for crimes committed by their children. This is not the intent of Bill C-297, as the member for Surrey North pointed out. Young persons are responsible for their actions. Bill C-297 simply says that parents or guardians are guilty of an offence for failing to comply with an undertaking they entered into with the courts. It is a serious commitment and not to be taken lightly. If they cannot comply or have no intention of honouring the commitment, they should never have entered into the contract in the first place.

Bill C-297 requires our support now. We cannot wait for Bill C-3 which contains the essence of this private member's bill. I ask my colleagues on the government side and opposition members, who have already agreed, to acknowledge the urgency of this legislation and add their support.

Finally, I congratulate the member for Surrey North for his tenacity, in the three years we have been here since the last election, in getting his private member's bill to this stage and for the great work that he has done. Most constituents never see it when their people are working in committee. There is no more dedicated member than the member for Surrey North when working in committees of the House of Commons. I and I know all members of the House congratulate him for that. He has worked very hard since he has been here. I hope and trust that we will see this bill passed and become law so that what happened to his family will never happen to another family in Canada again.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I must say at the outset that I understand what can motivate the member to present such a bill. However, I will surprise no one by saying that we, in the Bloc Quebecois, cannot support a bill aimed at changing certain rules provided for in the Young Offenders Act, which is working well at this time.

I am not saying that the Young Offenders Act is the answer to all the questions and all the problems and that it cannot be touched. That is not what I am saying.

However, with regard to the subject matter of the bill proposed by the member from the Canadian Alliance, it works. We must not change the whole procedure and change legislative provisions based on a single unfortunate incident.

Obviously, out of a large number of cases, there will always be one, two or three cases where people did not meet their commitments, which is unfortunate. It happens with young offenders as well as with adults, and each time people do not meet their commitments or honour their signatures, there must be a penalty. Certain penalties are currently provided for in the Young Offenders Act, and we must not touch that.

Before getting into the details of the bill, I would like to comment on some of the things the Canadian Alliance member said in order to set the record straight.

The member said he could not trust the government on this, simply because Bill C-3, the government bill that treats young people as criminals and increasingly turns the youth justice system into an adult system is somehow a rewrite of the Young Offenders Act. Nothing is further from the truth. It is totally false.

I must confess I am extremely proud to say that I am the one to blame for Bill C-3 not being passed before the end of this session in June. I am the one, and I am proud of it. I am preventing its going through committee stage with my endless speeches, and this is why the government decided to move on to something else.

Why am I doing this? Simply because, in Quebec, we enforce the Young Offenders Act the way it should be enforced, and it is bearing fruit. When I am saying that, I am not just talking through my hat. We have the statistics to prove it, the same Canadian government statistics the minister is using to do her sell job, except that she makes a selective use of statistics.

These statistics show that Quebec has the lowest youth crime rate and the lowest recidivism rate in all of Canada. Why? Because we invest where it counts, namely in the reintegration and social rehabilitation of young offenders. We did not start yesterday and we are not about to stop either.

If the member really wanted to improve certain things, he could ask his provincial government to look at the Quebec model and see to it that his province does the same thing.

If I said that we have been at it for a long time and that we have not stopped, it is because recently the Quebec government decided to deal with delinquency at its onset, because it is well known that delinquency starts at a very early age, especially in low income families. The poorer you are, the more likely you are one day to have a brush with the law. Quebec is poised to invest up to $20,000 per child in the zero to five age group. In total, Quebec is willing to invest $100,000 per young person to prevent delinquency and assist the very parents the member wants to help with his bill.

Here again we have the statistics to prove that there is less violence in Quebec. There is still some violence, but less so than in other provinces. And as long as there is violence, we will have to intervene, I am quite aware of it.

In Quebec, we have civil provisions as well providing that parents have the right and duty of guardianship, supervision and education of their child. I believe there is similar legislation in other provinces also. On the civil level, then, the parent has a certain degree of responsibility if the child causes damage.

On the criminal level, there have been some very sweeping studies done in Quebec, one of them the Jasmin report, to which I have referred a number of times. Justice Jasmin, the co-ordinating judge of the youth court, carried out an exhaustive study of this matter and reached the conclusion that—to connect this directly with the hon. member's bill—what the member wants to do must not be done, that is criminalize parental non-compliance with an undertaking they have signed in relation to a commitment to release or support their child who is experiencing problems.

All parents cannot be lumped together. The situations must be analyzed case by case and discretion must be left for the head of the tribunal, the judge who examines the situation and will bring down the decision required to attain the objective of returning the young person to society as soon as possible.

We know that Bill C-297 has a negative effect on three major points in terms of youth rehabilitation. That is why we are opposed to it. A potential two year jail sentence for the parents is not going to help their child fit back into society, when he has the example of parents who have not honoured an undertaking and have ended up behind bars.

I think the government must support and accompany such parents so they realize the importance of the undertaking they have signed, but not to make them criminals by doing so because of something their child did.

The second thing concerns the parents dealing with the situation. As I said earlier, it is often parents who have nothing, who are living in poverty, are needy and do not understand the whys and wherefores of the undertaking they have signed. I am not saying that all those who sign it do not understand it, but I can say that, with the way the courts proceed and given the volume of cases presented, parents sign undertakings and often leave the court without understanding the implications of the undertaking they have signed.

The third point concerns a situation that could arise through a young person's abuse of his parents. We know that at certain stages of their development, adolescents go through periods of rebellion. Who is to say that, with a bill such as the one the hon. member would like passed, the young person would not use it to blackmail his parents, saying “Listen Dad, Mum, you signed that. If I make a mistake or if I go back to court, you will pay for it. What is more, you could end up in prison”.

At present, the law contains a certain balance, especially as concerns parental undertakings. The undertaking must be honoured and nothing must be done that would alter the balance of parent-child pressure. These things work well, as I said earlier and should remain in force.

In conclusion, I wish to say that before trying to amend individual sections of the Young Offenders Act because of situations in our riding or our province, we must look at the overall picture.

I have a question for the member to put to his provincial legislature, to the police in his province, and to all those with direct or indirect responsibility for enforcing the Young Offenders Act: How are they applying the legislation and what is their policy with respect to young offenders? Very often, he will see that the answer is next to nothing. That is where he needs to direct his efforts, to harp on this as often as possible so that the provinces apply the legislation properly and invest properly in retraining and rehabilitation, as the Young Offenders Act now in force requires them to do.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

7:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Progressive Conservative Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to take part in this important debate that deals with youth in this country.

I want to begin by commending the hon. member for Surrey North who has been tireless in his efforts on this subject. The hon. member has much credibility and great sincerity with respect to this issue, as it holds great personal importance for him. I commend him for this, for all the work he does on the justice committee and for the contributions he makes.

Bill C-260 was the forerunner to the present bill, Bill C-297, which would amend the Young Offenders Act in its current form and place significantly more responsibility on persons who agree to ensure that young persons will abide by specific court conditions. They would be sureties that the judge would look to to give the public the confidence that in fact conditions that are placed on a young person will be adhered to. Most often it would involve parents, but there would certainly be guardian situations and times when agencies would be involved in the assumption of these responsibilities.

In the time that has passed since October 1997 the government has had ample time to revamp the Young Offenders Act and could very easily have incorporated much of the same spirit that is behind Bill C-297.

In that time the youth criminal justice bill has been brought forward in parliament and has been before the justice committee. Sadly, it is hopelessly bogged down in that committee and will not see the light of day in the remaining time we have in this parliament. The majority of witnesses who appeared during the deliberations on Bill C-3 consistently denounced the bill in its present form. They were very much in opposition to the bill itself and the manner in which it was drafted. For these reasons and many others, it brings us to the current day where a new bill is sitting on the order paper in the committee and, because of a number of factors, the country will be deprived of very common sense and very positive amendments that could have been made, much like the premise of the private member's bill.

Public pressure is very much on the Liberal government to change this legislation because there is an active feeling in the country that the youth criminal justice system is not working. It has in fact failed Canadians and exacerbated the situation to such a degree that there are many young people in the country who feel that the current legislation protects them rather than Canadians.

I would be the first to acknowledge that there are parts of the country where the current legislation works better than others. One of those provinces is Quebec. The initiatives taken within the justice system in the province of Quebec are quite innovative. It leads the country in many regards in the application of programs and the positive initiatives that can and do in fact take place under the current legislation. That province has interpreted this legislation in such a way that it works better there than it does in many other provinces. We have to be quick to acknowledge that. It signals that the problem is something that can be addressed.

Sadly, one of the most overriding flaws in our current young offenders system is the lack of funding, the lack of resources which the current government has allotted to address the issue. We know that the original intent of the Young Offenders Act was that the funding would be shared 50:50. The federal government has never approached that level of funding commitment. It has never held up its end of the bargain. In spite of this, Quebec has been able to be very innovative and use programs to move into areas of restorative justice, early intervention, police counselling and community policing.

That is what was behind the spirit of the new youth criminal justice bill, minus the funding. In fact, what we saw was a bill that became very convoluted and very cumbersome in terms of the references, new interpretations and new processes that we would be putting into place. There were things like a parole system for young individuals that would undermine any concept of truth in sentencing that currently exists.

We would see a new type of system that would determine whether an offence was a violent offence or a serious violent offence; very esoteric and subjective notions which would be a make-work program for many lawyers. I know that there are many criminal defence lawyers in the country and we heard from many of them at the committee. They were wringing their hands in anticipation of the work that was going to be created by this new youth criminal justice act.

There is a great and dire need for the government to introduce legislation that will be effective, and effective in a way that will address the current problems, but will also streamline the way the system is working and address the issues of funding, not only for those in the policing community, but also for those in social services upon whom much of the responsibility of the current system falls.

There have been many high profile cases in recent years. The previous speakers would be very aware of them. Many of the cases have tragic implications. I am speaking of cases involving victims such as Clayton McGloan, Matti Baranovski and Jonathan Wamback.

I had the pleasure of meeting Jonathan Wamback's parents quite recently in Newmarket, Ontario, and again recently in February. We heard from Mr. Wamback at the justice committee. He raised many of the same concerns we are discussing which form the premise of this debate.

Their teenage son Jonathan was brutally attacked by a group of teenage thugs and is still recovering from life threatening injuries. As a result of this incident, his father Joseph Wamback is actively involved in a petition drive that has currently received over 800,000 signatures. The petition calls for mandatory adult court trials of youths charged with serious violent offences with sentencing changes which involve strict incarceration, mandatory treatment programs and compulsory follow-ups, to mention a few of the initiatives.

It is the action of concerned citizens like Mr. Wamback as well as the actions of members of the House that are needed to bring about legislative change. Bill C-297 is a very good beginning in dealing with but one of the many complex mosaic of issues that arise in our youth criminal justice system.

Sadly Bill C-3 will very likely die in committee. It is too complicated. It establishes too many hurdles. Most of all it accomplishes persistent, experienced, repeat offenders preying upon a system that does not address their needs and does not address the needs of the public.

Teenage victims like Matti Baranovski and Clayton McGloan lost their lives in violent attacks by young offenders. Their cases and that of Jonathan Wamback are glaring examples of what is currently wrong with our system and our ability to address serious violent offences. If Bill C-3 were to pass it would only aggravate and further undermine the confidence of Canadians in an overloaded and overburdened system.

As a crown attorney I have had firsthand experience in dealing with young individuals, the victims and their families, and the fallout. When I was elected as a member of parliament I came to this place on a platform that included changing in whatever way I could the way in which the system and the Young Offenders Act were operating.

The Progressive Conservative Party has advocated changes. One of the changes is to give judges more power to impose mandatory treatment on troubled youths, those in need of therapy, those in need of an attitudinal adjustment that came about through no fault of their own. Many young people who find themselves involved in the criminal justice system have been victims themselves and have come from extremely troubled homes. They have been involved in alcohol and substance abuse and have never had an example or a guiding hand. With early intervention and the attention and counselling that sometimes come with it, those individuals would have a chance.

We in the Conservative Party would also be advocating an ability to make it easier to transfer serious violent crime cases involving young offenders to adult court. Much of that has been accomplished. We would also enact parental responsibility into our system in the way in which young offenders would be held financially responsible, as would their parents if there was in fact culpability.

We would lower the age of accountability to include violent criminals of all ages. Currently violent offenders below the age of 12 face no criminal punishment under our system. I saw on many occasions the failings of our system up close and personal.

I commend the efforts of the member for bringing the bill forward. It is a bill that we support. It is a bill that we very much embrace in the need and the drive to change our system.

With Bill C-3 the focus is correct. The focus is on rehabilitative front end justice, modelled after what they are doing in the province of Quebec. I support that. However, to have front end preventive measures enacted it is necessary that the resources and the focus be there to help those programs reach fruition.

The type of initiative before us in the form of a private member's bill is very much a step in the right direction. We need to broaden the approach and create more accountability, and this is what the bill seeks to do. By putting greater emphasis on protecting the public Bill C-297—

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member but his time is over.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

7:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to say at the onset, as mentioned by my colleague, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, our party's justice critic, that even though the Bloc Quebecois is not in favour of the bill, we have the greatest of respect for what motivated its mover.

We understand that very private event in his life, which I am told was the reason he entered public life, led him to look at the role of parental responsibility within the context of delinquency, I would even say of the criminalization of young persons.

However we have to be very consistent with the approach and the values we have always adhered to in this regard and that are somehow part of the Quebec model.

There is a Quebec model in philanthropy, economic development and cultural affirmation. There is also one in the way we see equal opportunity. This vision of equal opportunity makes us realize that we are not all born equal, and I will get back to this later.

My colleague from Berthier—Montcalm established a somewhat mathematical link between the potential for crime in young persons and the environment they live in. As the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, I am keenly aware when I rise in this House with the ardour, enthusiasm and determination that are my trademark, that, unfortunately, without prevention some of my constituents may in the future join the ranks of these youths who may, at one time or another, turn to abuse and delinquency.

The Quebec model leads us to believe that there must be a difference. I wholeheartedly subscribe to what the member for Berthier—Montcalm said. There must be a difference between the way we administer justice for young offenders and for adults. This difference must be centered on the potential for rehabilitation we believe in.

As a member of parliament, I have often seen young people of 14 or 15, and sometimes as young as 13, who belonged to gangs. They were subject to what was not always a positive influence, even though there were very often parents in the picture, parents who did their best to be good role models for their children. This can happen at a time when young people are vulnerable also.

Why are we vulnerable at 13, 14 or 15? We were all that age once. For some of us, that was longer ago, but we were all 13, 14 or 15 at one time. That is a time when we rebel. There are some for whom that rebellion goes on for quite some time, but we were all members of gangs at one time. At that particular time in our lives, we try to distance ourselves from parental authority. We ask ourselves questions. It is a time of life when physical transformations occur and we do not always understand them. It is a time when we wonder whether we have a place in society. It is a time when we ask ourselves questions about the future.

If we do not find satisfactory answers, we may try various ways to attract people's attention and look for ways to challenge the social order. Some young people may choose delinquency.

In Quebec, we have always believed in rehabilitation. Incidentally, I must say that the Bloc Quebecois is extremely disappointed to see that the government decided to make the Young Offenders Act, which will become the youth criminal justice act, much harsher.

We do not understand. Still, we are well aware that the Minister of Justice, who is from Alberta, is moved by electoral motives. She must be more to the right than the Liberal Party's natural position. Why is such a thing happening in the year 2000? It is because there are clear indications—and political intuition never fails—that we are on the eve of an election. And on the eve of an election campaign, the whole issue of the reform of the Young Offenders Act is of particular importance in western Canada.

We all know that in Alberta and Saskatchewan and, to a lesser degree in British Columbia, there is the issue of radicalization. It involves discovering whether the Liberal Party or the Canadian Alliance Party will go farther in radicalizing justice and the treatment of young people.

I congratulate myself and the member for Berthier—Montcalm for not having lost sight of the values of justice and rehabilitation of young Quebecers.

Members will recall 1988, which was an important year in parliamentary annals. The year 1988-89 is important because, as the member for Québec and critic on poverty reminded us frequently, this parliament decided to eliminate poverty. A resolution was passed by all parties in the House. It was a time when politics lived without the Bloc Quebecois, with the litany of injustices against Quebec that that meant.

I want to remind members that in 1988-89 all political parties represented in the House passed a resolution to ask this government to reduce poverty substantially over 10 years. There was even talk of eliminating child poverty.

To add to this fight against poverty, the Progressive Conservative Party, whose political weight we are aware of at the moment—and I do not want to bring back bad memories for anyone—which was in government at the time passed the CAPC program, the community action program for children.

Why am I mentioning this program? Some may say that the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve is wandering off topic, which is not like him. One of the objectives of this program was to develop parenting skills. In my riding, there were several projects.

We do not always learn how to become parents. There are no courses on becoming parents. It sometimes happens in life that one is faced with a pregnancy and one sets out on this adventure that most of us find exciting, but one does not always have the parenting skills to cope with the various human development challenges that arise.

The community action program for children was designed to provide parents with tools for developing a meaningful relationship with their children and keeping them from turning to delinquency.

If Bill C-297 were passed, it would mean that we could find ourselves in a situation where this vital parent-child relationship could be destroyed. When I say this, I do not in any way wish to downplay the importance of parental responsibility. In the Quebec system, the civil law system, there is full provision for parental responsibility. There are even mechanisms for the loss of parental authority.

I will conclude by saying that we understand the hon. member's entirely legitimate motivations. We hope that he will decide, as the Bloc Quebecois has done, to invest in prevention and to believe that one cannot have the same justice system for both young people and adults.

It is with these considerations in mind that the Bloc Quebecois, with its usual sense of responsibility, has unfortunately concluded that it will be unable to support the bill before us.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

7:30 p.m.

Reform

Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, it seems that some people construe this bill as an attempt to oppress people, throw kids in jail and throw away the key. It is actually about accountability and accepting responsibility and consequences for one's actions and undertakings.

I am grateful for the opportunity to rise today to speak to the private member's bill of my hon. colleague from Surrey North, Bill C-297. Last November I was ready to speak to Bill C-3, the new youth criminal justice act, which incorporated the entire substance of Bill C-297. Unfortunately, the hon. member's words and remarks of last year have come true. He said of the government's legislation “Quite simply, I do not anticipate that the new youth justice legislation will be implemented for some time yet. I have heard possibly by year's end at the earliest, but even that may be wishful thinking”.

He also thought that this amendment was sufficiently important to be incorporated within the present Young Offenders Act. As there is much to complain about the current legislation, it seems that we are left to reform by amendment rather than come up with new legislation that will do the job. We will wait to see if Bill C-3 can get out of committee before the next election. In the meantime, I certainly wish this bill success because the government's legislation seems to be bogged down.

The hon. member for Surrey North is right. This legislation is of sufficient importance. From all accounts, it has sufficient support from most members of the House to succeed, despite the actions of the Bloc Quebecois in committee, which is filibustering the whole youth criminal justice bill. Consequently, this bill had to be brought back to the House in its present form, rather than incorporated in the new legislation that was meant to cover the entire range of youth justice.

I was going to say that it will be interesting to see if Bloc members will support this private member's bill, but according to the speeches we have just heard, obviously they are not interested in accountability and responsibility.

Bill C-297 seeks to amend section 7.2 of the Young Offenders Act by allowing a youth court judge or a justice to allow an accused young offender to be placed in the care of a responsible person. This person would undertake in writing to be responsible for the attendance of a young person in court when required and comply with other conditions that a youth court judge or justice may specify, such as curfews. The young person would also comply in writing with the arrangements and other conditions specified by the youth judge or justice. It is a form of bail. It is also a contract, with all the inherent elements of a contract, such as responsibility, terms, conditions and penalties for breaching the contract.

Bill C-297 seeks to broaden the accountability of those who have in writing agreed to provide proper supervision for the young person involved. This amendment would broaden the consequence of failure of compliance to the conditions of the contract from a simple summary conviction to a dual procedure or a hybrid offence. Failure to comply under the new amendment would be punishable by up to two years of imprisonment. It is a fairly serious punishment.

Currently, failure to supervise constitutes a summary offence punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 or six months of imprisonment, or both, which for some offenders is a very small requirement. One could argue that serious incidents seldom happen with such breaches under the current system. This may or may not be so. However, no matter if there were absolutely no incidents, such an amendment would still be necessary because the seriousness of the issue would still exist.

This is definitely not a frivolous amendment, as the Bloc would construe it. It is obvious, merely by the inclusion of this amendment in the legislation of the Minister of Justice, Bill C-3, that there is widespread support for this initiative.

It is important to note what this legislation is not. It is not the sins of the sons or daughters being visited upon the parents. This is a common misconception of the bill. No adult will vicariously suffer any penalty for the misdeeds of a youth. The circle of accountability has been broadened with this amendment, as has the circle of responsibility.

Both the adults and the courts will have agreed to take on this responsibility. With the passage of this bill the courts would have a choice of summary conviction or to proceed by way of indictment. That is a choice for the courts to make.

If those responsible for the accused decide that the responsibility would be too much for them to handle, if circumstances change during that time, or even if the young person violates the agreement, the adult has the means to change the contract or has the option to inform the authorities. In fact, I would say that the adult has the responsibility to inform the authorities.

Taking on such a responsibility as that of parents and guardians for youth charged with crimes would be a tall order, requiring a serious commitment to the task. For instance, if a youth had ADD or ADHD the parents would have to consider carefully their capacity to supervise and to comply with the agreement. Such a disorder has a huge effect on behaviour. Parents of youth with ADD or ADHD would say that it is difficult to manage at the best of times. It would be almost impossible to ask parents or guardians to be responsible for such an unpredictable situation and person.

The amendment would also bring to bear the gravity of the agreement that would well address the relationship of the youth to the parents or guardians. Rather than exacerbate the situation between the parents and the youth, this amendment would call upon the parents to acknowledge responsibility where perhaps none existed before. Rather than avoiding the situation of lack of parental supervision, which may have contributed to the charges in the first place, a positive reaction would be the clarity in the issue of responsibility brought to the attention of the parents or guardians. A clear choice would be made by the parents and a serious consequence would be the result of failure to comply with an agreement. Again, I must reinforce that this is not a forced choice, but a serious one nonetheless.

I was glad to read of the support from members of both the government and the opposition for this bill. We know that we are on the right track and that my hon. colleague is right to have this amendment in a private member's bill, given the state of Bill C-3 being bogged down in a Bloc engineered filibuster in the standing committee.

In this amendment we do not see a “throw the book at them” approach, of which we on this side are sometimes accused. We do see the bar of accountability and responsibility raised for both the courts and those who seek to enter such an agreement. The punishment for failure is greater because the stakes are higher and the cost of failure of compliance can be great. People experience and in fact my hon. colleague from Surrey North experienced the cost of failure to comply. No one knows the price of the failure of the current system better than he does.

Reading the speeches of the various members of the parties in the House I see a common refrain: Canadians want more accountability on the part of parents for the criminal actions of their children. We also hear from some quarters that society is to blame and that accountability is somehow everyone's responsible. We know that when we say everyone is responsible, that usually means no one is responsible.

We must get to the root of crime. Peer pressure, poverty and a myriad of other conditions contribute to the decision to break the law, but we also know that there are many young offenders for whom social conditions were not a factor. It is a complex issue, but let me say that it is also a decidedly simple one. Our personal actions are ours alone. We take on responsibility individually and our accountability is personal.

The bill strikes a chord at all levels: the courts, the adult population and youth. The act, by enlisting the co-operation of parents or guardians in the courts, illustrates to the young offender that even adults must act with some sense of responsibility.

This seemingly tiny bill, the purpose of which is to make a common sense amendment to the Young Offenders Act, illustrates clearly that while people may forgive, circumstances can be very unforgiving. The circumstances which resulted in the death of the son of the hon. member for Surrey North were the result of a series of wrong decisions made by individuals. He and his wife and daughter will never recover from the loss. He and his family have turned their tragedy into a positive crusade to save others from similar pain. He is to be commended for his courage in acting upon his convictions.

I call upon all hon. members of the House to put aside partisan concerns, consider not only where the bill came from, but the possible consequences to people and their families if we fail to enact the bill. I call upon all members of the House to please support this legislation.

Young Offenders ActPrivate Members' Business

7:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The time provided for the consideration of Private Members' Business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

June 13th, 2000 / 7:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to order made on Monday, June 12, 2000, the House in committee of the whole will now proceed to the consideration of Bill C-37, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act.

I do now leave the chair for the House to go into committee of the whole.

(The House went into committee thereon, Mr. Milliken in the chair)

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

The Chairman

Shall clause 1 carry?

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Clause 1 agreed to)

Parliament Of Canada ActGovernment Orders

7:40 p.m.

The Chairman

Shall clause 2 carry?