House of Commons Hansard #121 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was moved.


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4:20 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to a bill which impacts on society as a whole and Quebec society in particular.

From the various speeches, it is obvious that we are far from achieving any consensus as far as the application of Bill C-3 is concerned. The Canadian Alliance would like to go further and the government is proposing a bill without allowing us to express ourselves freely on the impacts of this bill on society as a whole.

It is so sad to see how much the government is playing party politics, how it is using all of its powers to ram through a bill that is absolutely not adapted to the solutions and the position of Quebec. It is a bill which has not been studied and has not received the support of several groups in Quebec, a bill which runs counter to the objective of decreasing the crime rate.

It is a bill that should be the object of some very strong speeches to explain to the public the impact of the application of such a bill in Quebec. Those opposed to it in Quebec see this as a useless and dangerous bill, which has no positive effect as far as the reduction of the crime rate is concerned.

Nowadays, the solutions for returning to society a youth who has committed a violent crime are to make sure that this youth is able to reintegrate into the community, based on our assessment of his needs.

The minister wants to restore public confidence in the youth justice system. I have doubts as to the minister's objective because, to obtain a few votes in the next election, she is bowing to demands in her own riding instead of taking into consideration the effects this bill will have on youth in particular.

Experts from Quebec, people on the front lines who are fighting against youth crime, have criticised this bill. One only has to think of criminologists, social workers, police forces, lawyers and the Coalition pour la justice des mineurs. This coalition is made up of 22 associations or individuals such as le Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, la Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec, le Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal, la Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contrevenants, Institut Philippe Pinel, l'Association des chefs de police et pompiers, la Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux, l'Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, l'Association des CLSC et des CHSLD du Québec, Marc Leblanc of the École de psycho-éducation de l'Université de Montréal, the Regroupement des organismes de justice, the Canadian Criminal Justice Association and the Société des criminologues.

I could name a lot more who are saying no to the minister and to her project, because it is does not carry unanimity, and especially because it goes against the objectives of Quebec, that being the rehabilitation of young offenders.

Quebec, as had been said, has no interest in a repressive approach such as the one favoured by the New Canadian Alliance, the former Reformers. A change of name does not mean a change of mind. The Bloc Quebecois wants to explain these facts to the population, because some have said that the justice system is ineffective. The statistics for Quebec are very clear: the law is enforced and the crime rate has fallen rather than risen.

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4:25 p.m.


Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The animals seem to have escaped from the zoo. Could we have a quorum count, please?

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4:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

I should not have recognized the hon. member because he is obviously not in his seat. What took place a moment ago did not actually take place.

However, I want to point out that I would not have responded to a quorum call in any event. While we can certainly ask for a quorum call, I do not think it is appropriate to refer to hon. members in any circumstance in a deprecating way.

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4:25 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, we did note the absence of the members across the way, government members who do not seem to be concerned. Those Liberal members from Quebec are not here to defend the situation in Quebec regarding the implementation of Bill C-3. We will remind them of this fact during the election campaign. We see them applauding the decision of the Minister of Justice to act in a totally inadmissible way through the introduction of Bill C-3.

Obviously, this bill has not garnered unanimous support and it does not take into consideration the different actors in criminal justice and in the area of young offenders rehabilitation. They want to lower the age from 16 to 14 years and Reformers would like to reduce that from 14 to 12 years and drag these young people before a tribunal for adults. These children rather need guides in society in order to be rehabilitated. We all know that an adult criminal eventually goes back into society after having spent some time behind the bars.

We must look at the type of rehabilitation offered to those who do not have an acceptable behaviour, whether they have committed violent or non-violent crimes. This does not mean that we accept the kind of crime they have committed, but I believe we should give them a chance to return to society. Otherwise, it would mean that we would be keeping them behind bars all their life for the crimes they have committed.

Members of the Canadian Alliance say that society must show its disapproval of these people by punishing them more harshly. To send young people to prison where they meet more hardened criminals, without giving any thought to their rehabilitation, is like sticking one's head in the sand and not see that the individual will be released shortly and have to live in and deal with society.

If this young person has not had all the support he or she needs to behave appropriately in life then society has to have some concern for their rehabilitation. The young person must not be further marginalized. We must look instead at the adolescent's urgent needs so we can provide some help.

In Quebec, we know about personalizing treatment. We have to talk about this. How do we help a young person who has committed an offence? After committing the offence, the young person must undergo a process of rehabilitation. The bill does not permit this.

For example, if a young person appears before an adult court, the period before sentencing would be too long. It is a fact that this period is vital to the individual's rehabilitation. There is a very long time, as we know, between the time of proceedings and of sentencing. The young person could easily divorce himself from his offence. There is no agreement on the approach proposed by Bill C-3.

Under this bill, the face of juvenile justice will gradually change with the new principles. The minister should have looked at the impact of the way the Young Offenders Act is applied in Quebec and the drop in the crime rate. We know that Quebec sets the example in the treatment of young offenders.

A number of briefs were submitted by, among others, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse. These briefs point out that it is dangerous to treat minors like adults and that rehabilitation will become increasingly difficult for a young person who has committed an act of violence, which is certainly reprehensible, but whom we should nevertheless try to rehabilitate.

The minister refuses to budge. She did not allow us to review the full impact of this legislation. It is regrettable that, today, we must oppose this bill so strongly to show how this is not the right way to do things.

While she may appear to be flexible, the minister is not at all flexible regarding the implementation of this bill. Things will be done on a case by case basis. Young people in particular will not get adequate help on time to be rehabilitated.

The bill includes a series of limited powers held by crown attorneys. This is not what Quebec had hoped for. Quebec was in favour of including an opting out clause, to allow us to proceed the way we already do in the area of youth crime.

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September 25th, 2000 / 4:30 p.m.


Derrek Konrad Reform Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-3, the youth criminal justice act. I am pleased because it matters to the people of my riding of Prince Albert. They are concerned about youth crime and about this legislation. They are concerned.

We have a federal penitentiary in the city of Prince Albert. We have at least three other provincial jails in the riding. People know about youth crime, adult crime, all kinds of crime, crime committed by people on parole who should not be on parole, the whole gamut. It affects my riding a lot, so I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak.

This bill is meant to replace the Young Offenders Act, as we all know, but that act is so bad that it has been characterized by the Minister of Justice herself as “easily the most unpopular piece of federal legislation”. This legislation, after it comes into effect, will probably get the same title. It will be right in there with the firearms legislation.

When the government announced a new youth criminal justice act, it claimed it would be a top priority. Yet it has taken five years for the government to get this legislation to second reading, let alone to committee, report stage, third reading and proclamation. If that is a priority, I do not know how the government would characterize anything less than that.

Many of the youths for whom this legislation was crafted are no longer youths. They are already into the adult system. They have had no help from this legislation at all, as if it would help. Not only has it taken five years to get here, but all of the problems the Alliance has pointed out along the way are still in there. It comes with all those glaring weaknesses. It pleads for meaningful amendment, not what the Bloc envisages, which would simply be to return to the old Young Offenders Act.

The Canadian Alliance anticipates that the time spent here on debate and on amendments at report stage and at third reading will be thoroughly wasted, as the governing Liberals appear to be deaf to any reasoned arguments to make changes. There are reasons I say this.

How have the Liberals handled this piece of legislation to date? First of all, Bill C-3 contains very little of what witnesses presented during the 1996 and 1997 justice committee hearings. After almost a full year before the committee and after a significant number of testimonies from witnesses, the committee referred the bill back to the House without a single word changed, if one can imagine that. The time and effort the members of the justice committee spent listening to the witness presentations and preparing amendments for committee were thoroughly wasted.

One of the most significant causes of failure of the Young Offenders Act and youth criminal justice to date is insufficient funding to properly deal with young offenders. There is a federal-provincial agreement to deal with that; it is 50:50. They are supposed to split the cost of youth justice, with the federal government picking up half and the provinces covering half. The federal government is responsible for criminal law through section 91 of the constitution. Section 92 gives provinces the responsibility for administration of criminal law. Rather than maintain its responsibility, the federal government has been slowly permitting its participation to erode. Recent estimates of its contribution place the amount in the range of 20% to 30%.

Those in the health field will find this a familiar story. The government will argue that it recently allotted an additional $206 million toward youth justice, but that $206 million is over how long? Three years. That is less than $70 million a year, and that amount does not cover the present shortfall in funding to the provinces and will not cover the cost of this new legislation.

When we turn to the legislation itself, we see that uniformity of youth justice right across Canada is at risk with this bill. Before the Young Offenders Act we had the Juvenile Delinquents Act. One of the major criticisms of that act was that it permitted the provinces to vary the way in which they operated within the criminal law process. If a young person commits a crime just over the provincial border, that young person may find himself in a more difficult situation or an easier situation just because of the location of the crime. That does not make sense.

Because of the complaints about and criticism of the proposed youth legislation, primarily if not solely by the Bloc, Bill C-3 permits many of the problems of the Juvenile Delinquents Act to return to this legislation.

There has been no adjustment of the age categories. Youths of 10 or 11 years old who commit crime are still not to be held responsible for their actions.

Let me make it clear that the Canadian Alliance has never advocated locking up all 10 and 11 year old offenders. What we are saying is put them in a system so that the courts can review the circumstances and decide the proper method of getting each young person who is in trouble back on the right track.

The government continues to leave young offenders to child welfare, and often the welfare authorities do not have the resources to properly deal with children in desperate straits. Some violent children cannot be controlled without more serious and professional treatment facilities.

On Saturday night in my riding I spoke with a young father who is just frustrated to death with the youth criminal justice system. He is at his wits' end. Parents cannot even force their 12 year olds to be accountable to them. If the courts do not deal with them properly and have the proper resources, if the parents do not have any authority and social services let them go, what is the result? It is a young person who has too much authority, no idea of accountability, and no one to account to for his or her actions or for even what the courts lay out as steps to get this kid back on track. It just is not right.

The Canadian Alliance and many Canadians believe a younger age would be an age where the best opportunity for rehabilitation could take place. It will not occur, however, if there is no accountability for that age group, just as this father said. This is the age group that could be helped the most if they were included in the legislation. This would be real, authentic rehabilitation, and it would place young offenders into programs that could have a positive impact on their lives.

As a side benefit, and this father also made this point, it would identify homes where children are not being given the love, support, and structure they need to develop into law-abiding citizens. In fact it was his contention that neglect is a form of abuse. They could get the help they need when they need it and where they need it. Should that not be the desire of everyone here? Our official opposition justice critic has pointed out that society is not being protected and that this piece of legislation will just change nothing.

If we take a look at crimes committed by 16 and 17 year olds, we see it is a huge problem. This age group constituted over 70,000 of the 135,157 cases heard before the courts between 1991 and 1996. That amounts to well over half the juvenile cases. Of those cases, one might expect to see a significant number raised to adult court, but actually only 385 cases were heard in adult court. Perhaps more significantly, only eight of the 163 charged with murder were transferred out of the juvenile system. Should not this government, should not any government, be making a serious effort to address the particular problem in the legislation it brings to the House of Commons?

We will give the minister a little credit. She seems to have taken note of first time non-violent offenders in this legislation, and for that we are grateful. However it is difficult to understand why she chose not to exclude repeat and violent offenders from lesser forms of punishment. Young people who appear before the courts on a regular basis, who are regular clients, need to be dealt with in a serious manner to impress upon them the fact that society does not condone their actions. This is an issue we will have to deal with. We can deal with it here and now before the bill is enacted, or we can wait for the consequences in society and then deal with it here later on.

If we look at the central message of this piece of legislation we see that preventing crime, meaningful consequences for criminal actions, rehabilitation of the offender and reintegration into society are the principles of the bill. The first principle alone could keep a person speaking all day. We could talk about why kids get in trouble with the law in the first place. It has been studied endlessly.

We read in the declaration of principles, subparagraph 3(1)(a)(i): “preventing crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour”.

That is the crux of this piece of legislation. We are looking for accountability and responsibility for an individual's actions on society. The main point is accountability and we are not seeing it in this legislation.

What made the Young Offenders Act unpopular in the first place continues in the new bill. We can hear members muttering about that over there. The final word is that the bill will not serve those for whom we believe it was written.

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4:45 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate on Bill C-3, which deals with young offenders.

It is a very important bill because we must never lose sight of the fact that it deals with a key segment of our society, namely our young people who will take our place in the future. Some of these young people may be experiencing problems that bring them into our justice system.

First of all, I want to commend my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm for all the work he has done on this issue. He pleaded his case before the justice and human rights committee for 27 hours non stop, trying to convince the government, trying to get through to the minister who refuses to bring fundamental changes to her bill.

The member for Berthier—Montcalm deserves our appreciation because he has worked hard on Quebec's behalf, with a clear mandate from Quebecers and with a strong desire to protect Quebec's fundamental interests on this issue, which goes straight to the heart of Canada's problem and which brings to the fore the constitutional debate that has been going on in this country for 150 years. We must be conscious of the fact that this debate is now reaching a critical point because it touches a very important aspect of our life as a society. So, again, I commend the member for Berthier—Montcalm for his work.

However, we cannot say the same for the government House leader who, in response to the reaction of the Bloc Quebecois, which is defending itself with the means at its disposal, those permitted under the rules of parliament, i.e. introducing amendments, the House leader who, in his great generosity and foresight—we give him his due—said, and I am reading from an article in the September 23 issue of the Nouvelliste , which was in turn based on a Canadian Press story:

The House leader reacted strongly to the Bloc Quebecois tactics “It is an abuse of the rules of the House. Canadians will not be impressed”.

He estimated that this marathon debate could once again be expensive for the House of Commons, particularly because of the overtime paid parliamentary employees. “It will cost $3 million to defeat the Bloc Quebecois amendments. This abuse of procedure has become almost institutionalized. It is shocking and must be changed. But, in the meantime, it is Canadian taxpayers who are footing the bill”.

It is disgraceful for someone with the responsibilities of House leader to react in this way. He is an experienced parliamentarian. He knows just how helpless parliamentarians and parliament are before government when it wishes to steamroller such a bill through. He knows the weakness of parliamentarians. The only course left to us is to take extreme measures, as the Bloc Quebecois has done in this case, through the member for Berthier—Montcalm, by introducing amendments which will bring home the seriousness of the situation to the public.

The high-minded House leader talks to us of $3 million dollars. How much did the Liberal-generated debates on the privatization of Pearson cost? How many millions? How many hundreds of millions? What was the bill for the whole helicopters and frigates saga? The helicopters are too big for the frigates and the frigates are too small for the helicopters. What did that cost. How many other similar examples can be cited?

Just to enforce this new legislation for the next three years will cost Quebec $69 million, $23 million annually. And the government is worrying us about the $3 million it will cost to defend the Canadian democracy that it is so quick to boast about to other nations.

To reduce the debate to such a level is a total disgrace, given the responsibilities and experience of the government House leader. We should keep repeating that it is unacceptable. He must be desperate to resort to such an argument. It is the logic of the weak.

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4:50 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

He is a sorry figure.

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4:50 p.m.


Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Yes, the hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell is a sorry figure.

This is a very important debate for the young people who stand to be directly affected by this bill. The whole process will change. I also mentioned that the debate deals with a constitutional issue.

It is an important debate for our youth, because this bill will completely change the way things work right now. It is a totally new approach. And as in many other areas, the position of Quebec, as a distinct society, as a nation, is different than that of the rest of Canada.

The focus in Quebec is on prevention. Quebec relies on rehabilitation. Canada prefers a more punitive and correctional model. These are two totally different approaches and the federal government comes trampling in to impose its process on us. If it wants to impose it on the English-speaking provinces, it is its right, its choice. But when it tries to impose it on Quebec, it must realize that the opposition being voiced by the Bloc Quebecois is only the tip of the iceberg.

If I have enough time later on, I will list the members of the coalition. The Bloc Quebecois is but the tip of the iceberg. In Quebec, nobody is supporting the federal government at this time. The Bloc Quebecois is doing a great job of opposing the bill through the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, and we will continue to fight for as long as the government lets us and does not impose a gag order as it is wont to do too often, in view of its claims to democracy.

This is a big substantive issue, because our whole philosophy is being changed. Instead of talking about prevention, they want to punish and emphasize the seriousness of the offences of the young, and they minimize their reintegration capacity. Until now, in Quebec, our preferred approach has been to build on the principle that the individual who has made a mistake can be rehabilitated if we give him the support he needs and keep his name and the whole matter confidential. In so doing, we believe the young offender will go to school, have a family and lead the life of a law abiding citizen. All of this is being destroyed by this government and especially by the Minister of Justice.

This is also a serious constitutional issue. There are lessons to be drawn from this. I have just explained how Quebec is on a different course. It would be quite possible—and it has been requested—that Quebec be exempted from this legislation, which could be enforced in other provinces if they so wish.

As for Quebec, it should be recognized as distinct, and the Prime Minister and member for Saint-Maurice should keep the commitment he made in the aftermath of the referendum, when he described Quebec as a distinct society. He still boasts about that once in a while, but he does nothing about it.

He is not keeping his commitment when it comes to either young offenders, or the millennium scholarships, the wildlife species at risk, or health care, which is a provincial jurisdiction. It is an empty shell, which is the reason why it should not be forgotten.

The Bloc Quebecois voted against the motion because we knew it was nothing but smoke and mirrors and that it would be an empty shell. The Prime Minister shows it is indeed so every time he misses the opportunity to recognize his own people, the Quebec people, as a distinct society, not only in Quebec, but throughout the world.

No, it is too far in the past, it is asking too much of the Prime Minister, the member for Saint-Maurice.

But this is catching me off guard, I did not think it would happen so fast. I say it again, the Bloc Quebecois' opposition is only the tip of the iceberg. The whole of Quebec is behind us. The National Assembly voted unanimously, that is members of the Parti Quebecois, the Liberals, the ADQ, all of them voted unanimously denouncing the federal government's attitude.

The only support it has in Quebec these days are Quebec MPs in Ottawa. They are the only Quebecers who support this bill. We would hope that at least one of them, maybe the member for Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, would rise and tell the government to stop trying to enact Bill C-3.

Even the Supreme Court of Canada, in previous judgements, voiced its opposition to the spirit of the bill. The same goes for United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Commission. Even the former Minister of Justice who became the Minister of Health, made comments at the time which run counter to this bill, which hopefully will be defeated. Hopefully the government will come to its senses and for once agree with the Bloc Quebecois because we know we are right.

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4:55 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, we are considering Bill which C-3 is an important piece of legislation. It has lots to do with crime among youth. As all of us in the House know, there has been mounting public pressure on the government to give Canada effective laws to deal with youth crime.

I emphasize that the vast majority of Canadian youth offer a bright hope to our society for the future. The vast majority of youth in the country are people of whom we can be proud, people on whom we can base some good hopes for the future. They are fine young people who are working hard to be an effective and contributing part of society while learning skills that will eventually allow them to lead society.

It is important for us to emphasize that we are dealing with laws directed to a very small minority, but a minority that places the majority of youth at substantial risk and in fact risk to the public at large.

Just on the news yesterday there was a report of a severe beating of a 14 year old or 15 year old youth in Edmonton who was set upon by other youths. A gang connection is suspected. What the police had to say really struck me as so bizarre. The police said he was at the wrong place at the wrong time. I am sure that was no comfort to the pain and suffering the young person had to endure at the hands of lawless youths.

It is very important that we protect our children, families and youth from crimes and violence by their peers and others in society.

When she took the justice portfolio after the last election, the minister said that bringing in changes to the Young Offenders Act was her highest priority. That was in 1997. Well here we are on the eve of an election, and an election may be called in less than a week from today, and legislation is being rushed through parliament against huge opposition. Legislation to do with youth justice is being rushed through parliament against grave concerns expressed by numerous experts. Legislation is being rushed through parliament with 150 amendments put forward by the government that have not even been considered by the proper committee of the House. This is no way to deal with the highest priority of the justice minister. I say shame on her for being so ineffectual and derelict in her duty in bringing forward what she says is her highest priority.

Before the last election the justice committee conducted months of extensive cross-country hearings to get Canadians' wishes on what changes they wanted to see to the Young Offenders Act.

Yet we are told by those on the justice committee that most of their work, these months of work, was simply ignored by the justice minister in the bill. In fact the bill has been widely criticized for its ineffectiveness.

On the surface many of the provisions Canadians have been asking for were included but closer examination has disclosed not just to members of the opposition but to members of interests groups, to experts, to the witnesses before the committee that many loopholes in the legislation will result in undesirable and unanticipated exceptions.

I would like to spend a few minutes talking about the worse faults in the bill. Although alternative measures for first time non-violent offenders recommended by the official opposition are in the bill, those measures are open to repeat and violent offenders. In other words, repeat and violent youth offenders may not have any meaningful consequences for their actions. Alternative measures are writing an essay, making a poster or doing a little community service, very minor responses to what can be serious and even violent crimes. This whole area of alternative measures has already proven to lead to incredible injustice within the adult system, for example no jail time at all for rape.

We are facing the same unfairness, the same anomalies now available in the youth justice system. We wonder whether the justice minister watches what is going on when she simply repeats and expands on the mistakes she has made in previous legislation.

The second fault is that adult sentences, while they may be warranted, will rarely apply to the actions of violent and serious young offenders. Adult sentences will apply only to four categories of offences: murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault.

There will be no adult sentences for sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a host of other violent offences. Whereas the justice minister is saying hard core youth criminals can be severely dealt with as adults, the truth of the matter is that in almost every case that will not happen. That is a serious flaw in the bill.

The third flaw in the bill is there is no way to deal with serious offenders under age 12. The minister rose in the House today and asked with horror and contempt in her voice why we would want to make criminals out of 10 year olds. The simple answer is no one wants to do that, but the sad fact is that there are sometimes extremely serious crimes committed, even murder, by 10 and 11 year olds. There needs to be a way for society to deal with that in a meaningful fashion.

In addition, having every person under 12 exempt from any responsibility or accountability in our criminal justice system simply invites them to be exploited by adult criminals. We are actually putting young people, children under 12 at risk by refusing to have them brought into the system.

I agree with my colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who said this morning that if circumstances sometimes warrant youths being transferred to adult court, they also sometimes warrant children being transferred to youth court. That just makes perfect common sense and will benefit everyone in society including the children in question.

The fourth flaw is that the bill will result in a patchwork, uneven, unequal youth justice system because every province will administer it differently. Someone who may be right across the border from another young offender or may travel from one part of the country to another will have completely different measures and processes to deal with their offences.

That simply does not make sense, especially when the government reacts with total horror at the thought that there may be different standards of health care across the country. However it brings in measures that will bring completely different standards of youth justice across the country. I wonder where the consistency is with the government. There is not very much.

My time does not allow me to continue with the flaws in the system. I have already mentioned four serious flaws with the legislation. I appeal to the government to stop the insanity of pushing through badly thought out, widely criticized legislation and to get it right because our children and our society deserve much better than what we have in the bill.

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5:05 p.m.


Pierre De Savoye Bloc Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I rise in the House to speak to this bill on young offenders. I have done so at the various stages. I find myself here again today, at the report stage, repeating things that have been said many times, but the government seems too stubborn to understand them.

The bill before us does not deal with a new federal or provincial issue. An act dealing with young offenders has been in effect for many years. That act even went through a number of amendments a few years ago, and these amendments have resulted in a number of improvements to the current act.

Therefore that act, which has been in force for many years, has had tangible results on youth crime reduction. Indeed, since 1991, for the last nine years, the rate of youth crime throughout Canada went down 23%. This is an excellent result. The federal budget has greatly increased, which is not a good result. But youth crime in Canada has been reduced by 23% in nine years.

The legislation that is currently in force is giving good results. In English, there is a saying that goes like this: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Indeed, we have an act that is effective, and what is the federal government getting ready to do? It wants to scrap it. It wants to replace it with a piece of legislation about which everyone in Quebec says “It is not going to work. It will not give results. It will make things worse”.

The proposed legislation is based on some very wrong assumptions. They are assuming that, if an act imposes heavy sanctions on reprehensible behaviour, those liable to commit such acts will think twice before doing so. Between you and me, Mr. Speaker, who among us in this chamber of members of parliament and legislators, outside of those with a legal background, can say what the sentence is for going out and breaking a car windshield? I do not. I am not even interested in knowing. Most of the people of Canada and of Quebec probably do not know, nor do they want to. I have no desire to break a car windshield, but not because I am afraid of the law. I am a peace-loving person, able to settle life's problems by normal means.

A child, a teenager will be no more aware of the law than I. The fact that we are going to make speeches here in this place and that the government is going to toughen up certain measures is not going to scare him or her out of the idea of doing something wrong. Most children are normal and will not do such a thing.

For a variety of reasons, some children have behavioural problems and are going to commit some act that they will come to regret. Legislation is not going to make them stop and think, when they do something wrong on an impulse.

I was going to make a comparison, a rather poor one, but one that comes to mind. This approach is akin to sweeping dust under the rug. The child, the adolescent, commits some reprehensible act and, rather than help him with rehabilitation, we send him to prison and put him away, “Go on, dirt under the rug”. Yes but, let us stop and give that some thought. One day, this young person will return to society. Do you think he will be a better citizen for having been shoved under the rug for a time? Absolutely not.

If we the public are to enjoy quality of life, we must give our children appropriate care. The existing law provides for this. The one being proposed would not permit it any more.

In Quebec, we do more in rehabilitation even. Our program in Quebec is further ahead than that of anywhere else in North America. In Quebec, the juvenile crime rate is the lowest in North America. The process of rehabilitation is the best in North America. The rate of recidivism is the lowest in North America.

The recipe works. The moral is, since we have a recipe that works, the federal government says “Dump it. Let us make sure we have a recipe that will not work”. This is what we have before us. It is not just the member for Portneuf or the members of the Bloc Quebecois saying this. This is what associations, organizations and intermediate bodies are saying throughout Quebec and Canada.

In Quebec there is a consensus. The Quebec bar has criticized this bill. In the national assembly, all the parties together, unanimously, have criticized it.

Here, the Bloc Quebecois, through its actions in parliament, speaks on behalf of everyone in Quebec when it says “This bill must not be passed as it stands”.

If the people in the rest of Canada want to treat their children this way, I find it unfortunate, but that is their business. For the love of heaven, do not impose that approach on the people of Quebec. For the love of heaven, do not force Quebec into this unsuitable mould you are going to impose on your families and your children.

What we are asking is very simple. We want Quebec treated in a manner worthy of its values, its experience and its children.

All we ask is to have added to the bill a little clause to the effect that “This law does not apply to Quebec. The existing law will continue to apply”, so that our successful results will continue to be a fact of life for Quebecers.

If Canada wants to go through with that unfortunate measure, so be it. Perhaps in a few years, when it sees this 23% reduction go the other way, it will realize it made a mistake, but we do not want to pay for the stupid mistake that is being made.

If I were Mr. Bouchard, I would hold a referendum on behalf of children and I would say “We do not want to stay in a Canada that will force us to treat our children in an such a shameful manner. Let us get out of this country”.

If the bill is passed in its present form, it will be yet another reason, and a good one, to hold a referendum to achieve Quebec's independence, so that we can live in accordance with our own values, so that we can treat our children properly, something which the rest of Canada does not seem to be able to do.

It would be so simple for the rest of Canada to go its way and to let us go ours. We do not want to impose our views on anyone and we do not want anyone to impose their views on us, particularly when it comes to our children.

My time is up. I hope the government will hear this call and will exempt Quebec from the provisions of this bill.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.


Gary Lunn Reform Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak to the bill, as I have in the past. I appreciate that we are in the first group of amendments. I will keep my comments general with respect to the youth criminal justice act.

I want to state at the outset that prior to being elected as a member of parliament I did practise law. I did a fair amount of work in the youth criminal courts. It was a real eye-opener. I want to put this premise at the very beginning: every single youth who ends up in our youth courts will end up back in the community, whether they have committed a lesser offence or are incarcerated. At some point in the continuum they will all end up back in the community. We have to keep that in mind so that we can help them help themselves and be integrated back into the community.

My greatest concern with the new youth criminal justice act is that we have taken the old Young Offenders Act and repackaged it. We have put some new wrapping paper and ribbons on it and given it a new name but by and large we have not made the substantive changes that are necessary.

I will give a few examples. I want to emphasize that in my experience I have seen a lot of troubled children with horrific backgrounds who end up in our court system. Trying to stop them from becoming career criminals and going through a revolving door is another problem in itself. The focus has to be on ensuring they do not end up back in our courts. How do we help them? How do they become productive members of society?

I call it a tough love approach. I think we need to deal with these people. When these young offenders are institutionalized, the people at those facilities need to have the tools and resources they need to do the job, as so often they do not, such as the right counselling and drug programs. The goal at the end of the day is to make sure these young offenders are taught discipline and respect for society. I think that can be done.

I heard the Minister of Justice say today during question period that we want to send 10 year old children to jail. In very serious offences that will be necessary. That is what we are pushing for.

There are cases where 10 and 11 year old children absolutely need to be institutionalized to get the help they need. I mean that sincerely. If we do not send them away when they are committing really serious offences at a very young age, it is a problem. In most cases they come from terrible backgrounds. The best thing we can do for those young children when we institutionalize them is to make sure that they get the programs and the counselling they need. I would say based on my experience that at least half of them have fetal alcohol syndrome. There are all kinds of problems.

I heard the Minister of Justice say in question period today that we have no compassion, no feelings, and that we want to send 10 year old children away. I believe in my heart that it is the right thing to do if we are going to get them the help they need. That is just one example.

Adult sentences under this new youth criminal justice act are for only very specific offences: first degree murder, second degree murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. That is why I say we have only repackaged the old Young Offenders Act.

There are many other offences, such as assault causing bodily harm, that are extremely violent offences. There are property offences such as breaking and entering and home invasion. These are very serious offences. We also need to look at these offences. I call it a tough love approach. We need to deal with these young offenders and make sure that this is not a place they want to come back to, that they learn respect and discipline. We will only be helping them.

There are other areas I would like to see addressed that are not. One is with respect to the whole area of legal aid. I watched young offenders who were given lawyers under the legal aid program. One of my concerns is that we are sending the wrong message. Many of these people are striving for attention. They get their own lawyer and think that is cool. They walk into the courts and it is “I have my lawyer with me.” We do not do them a service. There are other ways in which that could be much better addressed. I do not see this legislation as addressing any of that.

I want to emphasize that at the end of the day our goal is to help these people, because every single one of them, at least at this point in their lives, will be back in society. We want to make sure that they are not just being institutionalized. If they need psychiatric help, counselling, anger management or schooling, we want to make sure that all of it is happening while they are in these institutions, that they are not just going through a revolving door. I want to emphasize that I do not believe in my heart that the bill is doing any of the things I am talking about. It is important that we focus on providing what I call tough love.

Youths used to come up to me and say they did not mind going to jail for two weeks. Some of them actually kind of liked it. What they used to absolutely hate was curfews. Under section 7 of the old Young Offenders Act there was a provision whereby a curfew could be enforced by parents. In other words, if a young offender breached that curfew the parents, as legal guardians, had an obligation to report that breach. Obviously they could not control that child, but they had to report the breach to the authorities. That person would then be picked up at a later date and brought back before the courts.

If, along with other conditions, we made curfews mandatory for many offences, that would go a long way toward helping these children, as I call them, with their problems. We need to take a tough approach. It does not have to be a mean approach, but it has to be a tough approach up front so that young offenders get discipline and guidance and learn to respect society.

Home invasion and break and enters are not even mentioned in the act with respect to adult offences. Other than sexual assault, those are some of the most intrusive invasions into one's personal privacy. These are very traumatizing for victims and affect their lives for years. These young offenders, these children, who are committing these terrible offences need to be dealt with swiftly, not by taking a year to go through the process, and without the adjournments. They need to be dealt with very swiftly. They have to realize that society will not tolerate these actions. They have to learn that there are consequences. We will be helping those children to become much more productive members of society and to have a much better life in the future. That is a good approach.

I know that members from the Bloc oppose this vehemently and seem to want to take a lesser approach. I do not share that view. I am not talking about a mean approach. I am talking about an approach whereby offenders learn respect for and discipline in society. The institution becomes a place they do not want to go back to. While offenders are institutionalized, those institutions must have the resources to help offenders to help themselves. Those who do not want to be helped will have to learn that there are serious consequences and that those actions will not be tolerated in society.

To summarize it in a sentence, I see this youth criminal justice act as just a repackaging of the old Young Offenders Act. It has a new outside, but by and large it is almost the same as what we have.

The substantive changes that are required are not there. There is not the commitment on funding that is required to make sure that the resources are available for these institutions in order to actually help these people help themselves. For those reasons, I will not be supporting this new act. I look forward to this debate. Hopefully there can be some amendments that will help to move us in this direction.

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5:25 p.m.

Algoma—Manitoulin Ontario


Brent St. Denis LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, after listening to my colleague from Saanich—Gulf Islands and my colleague from Portneuf one gets a good sense of the divide that has come to this difficult subject of youth justice. That is why I believe the government has in this bill found a balance between the two sides of the divide that I think all Canadians will ultimately appreciate.

I would like to focus on one of the most important areas of the bill, that is, the area dealing with youth custody and supervision. Although one of the main objectives of the bill is to ensure that custody is not overused, it will of course still be used in appropriate cases, such as those of violent offenders and repeat offenders who have not complied with previous community sentences.

The bill contains a number of significant changes to ensure the youth custody system operates so that youth who serve time in custody do not return to the community in a situation that is worse than when they left.

Underpinning the whole bill is the belief that young people can be rehabilitated and successfully reintegrated into the community. The focus of every custody sentence will be on reintegration, on ensuring that public protection is increased by measures aimed at assisting the young person so that he or she will not reoffend. This reintegrative approach is in everyone's best interest.

One of the most significant changes is the requirement that every period in custody is to be followed by a period under supervision in the community as part of the sentence. The judge, when imposing time in custody, will clearly state in open court the portion of the sentence to be served in custody as well as the time to be served in the community under supervision and subject to conditions. This is a very important requirement as it increases the transparency of the youth justice system and makes it clear that a part of the sentence to be served is to be served in the community.

This increases public confidence in the system, as a decision as to when the youth should return to the community is stated in open court by the judge. The judge will also make it clear that a youth who is serving the community portion of a sentence must comply with conditions and that if they do not they can be brought back into custody to serve the remainder of that sentence.

Before discussing the supervision period in more detail, I would like to speak in support of the government motion that would provide for increased judicial discretion in setting the community portion in relation to the most serious offences.

Under the bill, young people can receive youth sentences consisting of a period of custody followed by a period of supervision in the community. This can occur either through a custody and supervision order that sets the time in the community at one half the time in custody or through specific sentences whereby the judge sets the proportion in custody and in the community. The bill currently provides for this judicial discretion in regard to youth murder sentences and intensive rehabilitative custody and supervision sentences.

The government amendment would provide for judicial discretion to set the community portion of the sentence in a manner that is similar to that for murder sentences, where the offence is the attempt to commit murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault. These offences, along with murder, are the most serious violent offences. It is appropriate that a judge have discretion in setting the custody and community portions in these serious cases, as well as for murder.

I would like now to turn in more detail to conditions that apply to the young person serving the community portion of a sentence. The bill contains a list of mandatory conditions, such as keeping the peace, good behaviour, and reporting requirements, that apply to a young person while under supervision in the community. Further, the bill provides that additional conditions can be imposed which address the needs and manage the risk of a particular young person.

The supervision and support in the community will be provided by youth workers. The extent of the contact with youth will depend on the individual case. It will vary according to the needs of the youth, degree of risk posed and the program for support and supervision that is put in place.

The conditions to be imposed cover a full spectrum and include: (a) conditions to establish structure in the youth's life, such as school attendance, place of residence, employment and curfews; (b) conditions that prohibit factors associated with the youth's offending behaviour, such as not associating with members of a certain youth gang or abstinence from drugs or alcohol; and (c) conditions that encourage law-abiding behaviour, such as attending substance abuse programs, counselling or participating in community service programs.

Elements of support would also be encouraged by the youth worker to assist the youth's reintegration, including such things as family counselling, finding educational and employment opportunities, mentors and community supports for the youth.

I would like to speak in support of proposed government amendments which clarify and reinforce that the period under condition in the community is not just for the purpose of supervising the young person to see whether or not he or she complies with the conditions, but also to provide support to the young person and to help meet their needs during their critical transition from custody to the community.

When a young person fails to comply with a condition while under supervision in the community, reviews will be conducted which may mean a change in conditions or which can mean that the young person may be apprehended and brought back into custody. After a review by the youth justice court the young person can be ordered to serve the rest of the community portion in custody. There is an onus on the young person in this situation.

Each sentence with a custody and supervision portion is made subject to the possibility that the young person will not serve the community portion if they present a serious risk of endangering the community. The youth justice court may order that the young person remain in custody for a period not exceeding the remainder of the sentence, if it is satisfied that the young person is likely to reoffend before the expiry of the sentence by causing murder or serious harm to another person or for sentences other than murder where the conditions that would be imposed on the young person in the community would not adequately protect the public against offences against the person.

A judge will make it clear to everyone at the time of sentencing that if a court considers the young person to be a danger to the public, he or she will not be released into the community to serve the community supervision portion of the sentence but will continue to serve the whole sentence in custody.

Looking at part 5 of the bill, we find, for the first time, a legislative statement of the purpose of the youth custody and supervision system as well as the principles that guide it. The emphasis is on contributing to the protection of society through safe and humane custody and supervision and through programs that assist the young person in effectively reintegrating into the community.

As I noted earlier, reintegration is a key component of the bill and supports the protection of society by reducing recidivism through guidance and support of a youth during the critical period when he or she returns to the community.

Also, among the amendments tabled by the government is one that will make it clearer that the principles in the declaration of principles should be taken into account when it comes to making a decision on the custody and supervision order.

Another measure that supports the reintegration of youth is the bill's requirement for a reintegration plan. When a young person goes into custody, a youth worker will work with the young person to plan for his or her reintegration into the community, through preparation of a reintegration plan that sets out the most effective programs for the young person in order to maximize his or her chances for successful reintegration into the community. When the young person is serving the community portion of the sentence, a youth worker will supervise the young person and provide support and assistance to the young person in respecting conditions and implementing the reintegration plan.

It is clear that the custody and reintegration provisions of the bill, strengthened by the amendments proposed by the government, will work in practice to increase long term public protection by assisting in the reintegration of a young person into the community following custody. It is for these reasons that I am pleased, along with my colleagues, to support the bill, because after all, it does indeed put the young person first.

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5:35 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have not had the chance to speak to this bill before, and the many parliamentary duties I have to perform almost prevented me from studying it closely.

It is not as a legal expert or as a person who is knowledgeable in this field that I want to take part in this debate today, but as a father of five. It is not easy to know what goes on in a young person's head, particularly if that person has suffered from socio-affective problems, maternal deprivation or other problems of that kind.

I would like to tell a little story. One day, I went hunting with my four year old son and we had a flat tire. For those who know a little bit about cars, I took the bolts from the wheel and put them in the hubcap, which I left on the road. While I was removing the wheel, my son took the hubcap containing the bolts and threw it as hard as he could into the woods. What was he thinking? I was not very happy, but it is hard to predict what a child will do.

As our colleagues from the Alliance, we are all appalled when we hear about a criminal act or a brutal assault like the one that happened in England a few years ago when two boys aged 10 or 11 killed a two year old boy. Of course we were all appalled. We see these kinds of things once in a while.

However, is revenge society's right? Rather, should it not act to protect itself and individuals, especially when they are as pretty as my party's assistant whip? Kidding aside, society must protect itself. But should it bear a grudge? Should it punish, and vengefully so? I believe we are heading in the wrong direction when we claim society should exact some kind of vengeance on individuals, in particular young people, since they are at issue today.

I did not read or see the statistics, but I heard them and they tell me, and all the experts and those versed in this area, that in Quebec youth crime has really dropped. Earlier the member for Portneuf very convincingly said that youth crime fell by about 23 p. 100. This is worth noticing, and I believe we should stay the course.

I had the opportunity to work with someone who made a mistake when he was young, he killed someone. Fortunately it happened in the early 50s. He spent several years in prison, and when he came to work with us in Sept-Îles, on the North Shore, he kept it a secret, he talked to no one about it. Unfortunately, it became known, eventually, which was a real heartbreak for this man who was sincerely sorry for what he had done in the past and wanted to keep it a secret. He claimed he had paid his debt to society, and I believe he had. He behaved in an exemplary manner, was a hard worker, but had made a mistake when he was young, and he was the first one to be sorry about it.

We are living at a time of rapid communications, when we can fax a photograph. Some 20 years ago, the RCMP and the QPF had bought a publicity slot during Hockey Night in Canada to show what was the ancestor of the modern fax machine. They wanted to show how it was possible, with the methods of communication then available, to send the picture of someone wanted in Halifax to Vancouver in record time.

With the amazing speed of all these methods of communication, imagine what will happen if the name of a young person who has made a mistake and often regrets it immediately is released to the public. How will he escape the condemnation of the community if the facts of an affair are made public by the media? Only one avenue remains. If he wishes to rebuild his life, he could perhaps leave the country.

Society protects itself and I am not against it being able or wanting to do so. But this bill goes further than protection. We have not asked that heinous and highly reprehensible crimes be allowed to go unpunished. That is not what the Bloc Quebecois is calling for. It is simply asking that all the chances be put on the side of those young people who can be rehabilitated.

What I find surprising is that Canadian Alliance members, whom I respect, are asking elected representatives to lower costs, taxes, just about everything. Now that they have an opportunity to take up the call for less, they are calling for more.

It is expensive to keep young people in prison, and experience has shown that those who end up there are more hardened criminals than those who were spared. Spending 10, 12 or 15 years of one's life drinking coffee, playing billiards and being bored does not do anything for one's compassion. Prison is the best school for crime. We all know that. I am not saying anything new to the members opposite.

We want to keep our youth out of there as much as possible, in order to save those who can be saved. I believe this will be better for society. The role of justice is not to take reprisals, to play the role of avenger and to substitute itself to victims. Justice must administer matters in the best interests of the public.

I am surprised, and all the more so when I see the government House leader attack us in the newspaper by saying that the Bloc Quebecois has chosen a path which will cost the House of Commons a lot and that he would not have done that.

I would simply remind him that the cancellation of the privatization contract of the Pearson airport was supposed to cost $225 million. I believe this is what it has cost for Air Canada alone. The last time we checked, I believe the amount had already reached $700 to $800 million. I also remind him of the cancellation of the famous helicopters, which the government now plans to buy once more. How much did that cost?

The government House leader says nothing about those issues. He blames the opposition because it does its work, because its opposes a measure which will be totally unjust and harmful to our youth. The present system already works well in Quebec, where the government administers justice in accordance with the established constitutional order. Why not let the government administer the system the way it does, since it does it so well?

I support my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois. Even if I am not very familiar with this kind of legislation—we each have our qualities and weaknesses—being more skilled in economic matters.

I support them on this issue. We should never allow ourselves to be guided by grudges or by vengeance, which are bad advisers.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, like everybody else, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-3, which is the final response by the government to what we said during the 1993 election when we said that the Young Offenders Act had to be toughened up. We talked about it and hammered on it. We ranted and raved in this place to bring about changes to the Young Offenders Act.

Then we got the new Minister of Justice, the hon. member for Edmonton West. In 1997 when she was appointed the Minister of Justice, she said “Right on. We are going to bring in changes to the Young Offenders Act”. Here it is the fall of 2000, seven years after the Reform Party and now the Canadian Alliance began talking about the fact that we need changes to the Young Offenders Act and finally we have a document in front of us.

If one has been reading the papers and listening to the rumours, there could be an election before this bill is passed and we would be right back to square one. That would not be quite so bad because then we would be on that side of the House. We would make sure that a young offenders act was introduced in short order. It would be a clear instruction to the young people in our country that we do not like to mess around with kids. We are going to instruct young kids who think they can mess around with the laws of the country and that they can abuse people and commit property crimes and so on that young people should not be doing these things.

A short sharp lesson to young kids at that impressionable age sometimes can speak wonders and can get them right back on the straight and narrow. That sums up the position of the Canadian Alliance: something short, sharp and productive that lets young people in Canada know we want them to be good, productive, dare I say taxpaying citizens, rather than a drain and a drag on our society as we have to incarcerate them and haul them through the court process month after month. It drags on. Sometimes by then they have even forgotten why they are up in front of the judge. They scratch their heads and say “Oh, yeah, I remember. Gee, that was a long time ago, wasn't it?”

That is unfortunately how our justice system works. It takes months and months and sometimes years and years before the young kids get before a judge. And what do they get? A little smack on their fingers and a reprimand from the judge saying “Excuse me, but we really do not like you doing that. Can you please refrain from that kind of behaviour from here on in. Off you go and be a nice little kid from here on in”. And they laugh as they go out the door.

There is lots wrong with the Young Offenders Act. While the Minister of Justice says that she has made some changes and recommendations in the bill, from our perspective it is woefully inadequate.

We heard the minister say today that there is no way that she would touch 10 and 11 year olds, but we know that 10 and 11 year olds need to be brought under some kind of supervision when they get totally off track. They need to be advised even at 10 and 11 years that there is good behaviour and bad behaviour.

Talking about bad behaviour, there are the amendments tabled by our colleagues on this side of the House, notably the separatist party, the Bloc Quebecois. The number of amendments tabled by the Bloc Quebecois looks to be about 50% more than the total bill itself judging by the thickness of the document. I think they are playing games.

We are serious about changes to the Young Offenders Act. We think this is a serious issue. The country thinks it is a serious issue. The Bloc members obviously do not think it is a serious issue because they have tabled irrelevant amendments. They filibustered the bill in committee for 10 hours so that there was no intelligent legitimate debate. Unfortunately that is the type of debate we get from the Bloc Quebecois, without intelligence and without relevancy.

I am looking at one page of their amendments. It seems that in their some 3,000 amendments they suggest that each and every clause be deferred for three years, five years, ten years before coming into force and that the minister report on each and every clause every year, second year, five years, or whatever it is. If that was their intelligent intention, they could have called for the Minister of Justice to table a report in the House on the operation of the Young Offenders Act, but obviously the way that they are doing it is not for the benefit of society. It is not for the benefit of the people who are victimized by young kids. It is not for the benefit of young kids who need to be brought under the Young Offenders Act. They have done this strictly for their own political gain. That is why I would hope that after the next election there are a lot fewer Bloc members in the House than there are today.

I am looking at Bloc Motions Nos. 2231, 2232 and 2233. Motion No. 2231 calls for the deletion of lines 1 to 13. It gets rid of the whole clause. Motion No. 2232 calls for the deletion of lines 5 to 8. The next motion calls for the deletion of lines 9 to 13. There are three motions dealing with the same issue. That shows the petty political games our Bloc friends are playing with a serious issue.

The Canadian Alliance is concerned about safe streets. We are concerned about safe communities. We are concerned about ensuring that Canadian society continues to be respected as one of the best in the world.

We hear in the crime capitals in the United States, for example New York City, that crime is down 10% to 20%, that murders are down 10% to 20%. In the United States serious inroads into crime are being made. They are tough on crime. Perhaps there is a correlation there that the Liberal Party and the government have missed. If we are tough on crime, if we punish crime, then people get the message. They should not do it and it should not happen again. That is not with disregard to rehabilitation.

There are myriad reasons for crime. We cannot point to one single issue: broken families, alcohol, drugs, lack of education, cultural problems. There are myriad reasons that people resort to crime. One of them is a lack of education and the capacity for people to live, work and prosper in this complex technological world we live in. The other one is the lack of moral instruction to differentiate between what is right and wrong.

We have heard in other debates in the House about the fact that we cannot talk about morality. Then we find that young children cannot differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, and what society considers to be respectable behaviour and what society considers to be behaviour that is reprehensible.

Somewhere along the way, through our soft and fuzzy and pat them on the head and ask them not to do it again concept, we have lost the notion that we have to teach our kids the difference between right and wrong. We have to teach them how to survive and prosper and take advantage of the complex technological world we live in. Other issues enter into it but these are the types of things we need to work at.

The rehabilitation of young criminals pays dividends for the rest of the young child's life. We can take someone who is falling off the rails and keep them on the rails, keep them productive and a contributing taxpaying member of society. Compared to someone who is a continuous drain, the rewards and benefits are immense.

Unfortunately the minister has fallen far short in this bill. We wish we had more time to debate it. I would love to have more time to debate it but let us get this bill in place before the election.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.


Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased also to speak to this bill. I must say that I made a special effort to be present today because I believe that it is extremely important for me to comment on this bill.

To begin with, I would like to congratulate the Member for Berthier—Montcalm. I have watched him these last few month and I know he has done a considerable amount of work on this bill. In our caucus, he has kept us correctly and adequately informed. In committee, he has moved and debated many amendments and tried to play a positive role. He has done an extraordinary job and I wish to congratulate him.

I followed the debate from its start. We all know that Bill C-3 is a rehash of Bill C-68, which died on the order paper when parliament was prorogued. We started all over and the bill was examined for a long time in committee.

I was elected in 1993. During my first mandate I was my party's critic for training and youth, even though I am a little older today. I met with youth groups who were anticipating the bill. Their concern was its approach, which was different from the one used in Quebec. Consequently, I have been aware of the problem for a long time.

As a former service director in the field of recreational and community activities, I remember the approach in Quebec, which favoured community work instead of imprisonment for delinquents; municipalities and recreational services made much use of this approach, which has proved very effective in Quebec.

Let us talk about statistics. It must be said that Quebec has the lowest youth crime rate in North America. As mentioned by the member for Portneuf, that rate has not increased since 1991 under the existing legislation. Usually when a new bill is introduced it is in response to a growing problem. In this case, the youth crime rate has decreased by 23%. Where is the logic?

I went back to read what the former justice minister, who is now Minister of Health, used to say on this issue. For a long time, during question period, he used to answer that he did not think it was a good approach, that the existing legislation was effective, as evidenced by a decrease in the youth crime rate.

Why this sudden change? The new minister comes from an area that seems to focus more on this issue. We just have to listen to the speeches made by members of the Canadian Alliance. There was a time when they talked about youth violence every day.

The Minister of Justice, wanting to be re-elected in her part of the country, probably decided that she should change direction and take harsher measures with regard to young offenders.

Let us talk about one particular aspect of the bill. The main change is that from now on 14 and 15 year old offenders would be considered as adults under the criminal code. They would be incarcerated and treated as adults. As if incarceration were the answer.

I will make a comparison. Australia is now hosting the Olympic games. We see that the Australians are doing very well; granted, they are at home. We also see that the Canadians are not doing so well. We realize that our efforts are perhaps misdirected. As a recreation professional and a former director of leisure activities, I have always thought that the educational approach, participation in different activities and the avoidance of idleness are a good solution. The more the young are busy, the less prone they are to commit crimes.

This bill goes against common sense. I am not surprised by this position. Members of the Alliance, who represent a specific area, have a certain position, and it perhaps is a reflection of their constituents' concerns, and I can respect that.

As the hon. member for Portneuf said earlier, it is obvious in this regard and so many others like the education of the young, that we have two nations in Canada. In Quebec, a perfect consensus has emerged between all stakeholders. I think it is worth repeating their names.

The Commission des services juridiques, the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal, the Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contrevenants, the Institut Philippe-Pinel, the Association des chefs de police et pompiers du Québec, the Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux and all its members, the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse, the Bureau des substituts du Procureur général, and the attorney general herself, Linda Goupil, who happens to be the MNA for my riding, are all against this bill. Incidentally, the minister did all she could to oppose this bill.

Quebec's solicitor general adopted the same approach against this bill; the Association des CLSC et des centres hospitaliers du Québec, the Regroupement des organismes de justice alternative du Québec, The Child Welfare League of Canada, The Canadian Criminal Justice Association, the Association des avocats de la défense du Québec, the Société de criminologie du Québec, the 125 members from all parties in the Quebec National Assembly are all opposed to this bill. There is a perfect consensus in Quebec.

Nothing illustrates this better than the fact that no Liberal member from Quebec has yet risen during this debate to speak in favour of the bill, because they know that parents, young people and youth organizations in their ridings are all opposed to this bill. But, because of the party line or the impending election, they keep quiet, if they show up at all in the House.

I can see one Liberal member from Quebec, but his colleagues are not in the House. They cannot bear to listen to what we have to tell them. They would rather stay in their offices than hear Bloc members, who are really speaking for Quebecers on this issue. They prefer to stay away. They do not wish to speak on this issue. They are not true representatives of Quebecers. It is time for a change and it will change soon.

The member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik has just come in, he is getting closer. The government House leader said that we were only wasting public funds.

The finance minister's last budget provides for $343 million more over three years, supposedly for crime prevention, but most of it is for this bill.

However, a closer look shows that the present government still owes the Quebec government $87 million for its application of the current legislation since 1989. What a scandal. How does it dare say it intends to spend more while it is not even able to pay its debts, while it refuses to pay the Quebec government for what it is doing very adequately. This is unacceptable.

One last point, since my time is almost up. Some are saying that the Bloc Quebecois is playing petty politics over this. This is absolutely false. There is a consensus. I will not repeat the list, as it is a long one. Thousands of our constituents who talk to us about this cannot believe that the government wants to do this.

To conclude, let us not forget our young. Is it the right approach to lock up 14 year olds to rehabilitate them into society? It is the right approach, since, as everybody knows, prison is the best school for crime?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:05 p.m.


Jay Hill Reform Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are back again debating the Young Offenders Act or, as it is now called, the youth criminal justice act.

I want to say a couple of things about our youth. The first thing is that we can very clearly distinguish the two kinds of youth. The vast majority of youth are law-abiding young people much like their parents or adult friends, and indeed most people in Canada, who are struggling to try to make their way in life. They want to look forward to the future with some hope but they do worry about their personal safety when they go out at night, when they wait at a bus stop or when they interact with other young people.

We also have a very small minority of young people who choose a life of crime, to break the laws, whether it is a lesser crime, such as property offences, or more serious offences.

The thing that most concerns me and Canadians is what I would call a lack of respect. I have heard over the past number of months my new leader, the leader of the Canadian Alliance, talk about respect and the need to instil respect not only in this institution in the way we do politics and government but the need to instil respect at every level.

What concerns me the most is the lack of respect young criminals have for the law, private property, other people's rights and, sadly and tragically in some cases, even the lack of respect for other human life.

However, I will focus for a moment on the young people themselves. If we are going to address the need for young offenders' legislation, what is now called Bill C-3, the youth criminal justice act, we have to talk about the young people in the sense that they are the most vulnerable because they are the most at risk from their peers. Who interacts with young people more than young people themselves?

I can speak from experience in that regard in that I have three young children. I am very fortunate to have three beautiful young children: a son who is 17, a daughter who is 19, and my oldest daughter will be 22 within a month. I am extremely fortunate that they have never been victims of crime. I thank God every day of my life that they have not been victims of crime, because I cannot imagine a greater pain for any parent or grandparent than to have a young person they are related to become a victim of crime.

The great failing of this bill is that it does not address the fundamental issue of the protection of the vast majority of our young people, who as I said are law-abiding citizens, our youngest citizens, the future leaders of our nation. The bill in its present form will not address that fundamental issue in any meaningful way. It will not hold young criminals accountable and responsible for their actions, and it will not protect the vast majority of our youngest citizens who are law abiding.

If I were to sum up the bill, right at the outset I would have to say it is a colossal waste of time, energy, and effort and a betrayal of the trust and faith the Canadian people put in their elected parliamentarians.

We have to take a look at the history of youth justice, or what the government chooses to call youth justice. For my entire lifetime as a politician, which admittedly is not all that long I have been speaking and writing on this issue. I was only elected in 1993 so it has been about seven years now. I am fortunate that, with the co-operation of the newspaper in my riding of Prince George—Peace River, I have been writing a weekly column for over seven years. I have probably written a dozen times on this single issue of youth justice and the need to reform the Young Offenders Act to accomplish those two important goals: to hold young criminals accountable and responsible for their actions while at the same time respecting the rights of and the need to protect the vast majority of young people who are law abiding.

To me it is a bit of a sad testament that all of us, regardless of what party we are from, have had to talk and talk and talk about this issue for so long with so very little happening. In the last parliament a lot of work was done by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as it travelled across the country holding hearings. Dozens, hundreds, of Canadians participated in those hearings. They came as witnesses willingly. They gave up their own time to come and relate their feelings about this important issue to parliamentarians, in the hope that something would change. That was back in 1996 and 1997.

The present justice minister was appointed following the election of 1997, so she has been in this position now for over three years. She said her number one priority was to bring about these changes. Finally in March 1999, almost two years after she took the office, she introduced Bill C-68, not to be confused with the infamous Liberal gun registration bill. Of course that bill died on the order paper when parliament was prorogued in the fall of 1999, and it was reintroduced as Bill C-3.

Clearly what Bill C-3 means to people and what it proves to people is that the government simply is not listening. It is not listening, and what clearer way to demonstrate that. Bill C-3 is the Liberal effort at youth justice. There are the 3,133 amendments to Bill C-3. What is important is not that there were so many amendments, because obviously political opposition parties will use the process of amendments as a delaying tactic, or that the Canadian Alliance put forward roughly 50 amendments to Bill C-3 which were well thought out and well intended. What is really notable is that the government put forward 150 amendments to its own bill. This must indicate how badly flawed its legislation is when it had to bring forward 150 amendments.

What frightens me is that Bill C-3 and its amendments, undoubtedly because of the sheer enormity of the task ahead of us as parliamentarians to try and sort through over 3,000 amendments, will be passed by the government because it has a majority. I suspect it will bring in time allocation, as it has countless other times, and will ram a bill through the House that it very well knows is deeply flawed. It will then be up to the courts to try and deal with the mess later. What an absolutely ridiculous way to pass legislation.

What do Canadians want? I believe it is not a long list. Canadians want sentences to fit the crime. They want violent criminals removed from society. They want effective crime prevention programs in schools to save younger children brought into the system so they can get the help they need. They want older teens and violent criminals to face adult court. They want the names of violent and sexual assault criminals to be published so that everyone knows about them. They want the rights of victims to be paramount to that of the criminal irrespective of age.

The reality is that Bill C-3 does not contain any of the priorities that Canadians want to see addressed with the reform of the Young Offenders Act.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:15 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the time when the Liberal Party could describe itself as a social democrat party is long gone. Everybody remembers the time when Prime Minister Trudeau bragged about being a social democrat and introduced in parliament many bills taking into account the concerns of those members of parliament who were sincerely interested in their constituents.

How did the Liberal Party become a right wing party almost overnight and to everybody's surprise? I submit that the change can be explained by the imminence of an election. On the eve of an election, the Liberal Party has the unfortunate habit of spending indiscriminately and of adopting specific ideas to try to please different groups, be it from the west, from Quebec or from the maritimes. That is what the Liberal Party does.

This has to be said, and people have to know and remember it. Quebec's approach young offenders is much more humane and more focused on rehabilitation. Curiously enough, the area of Canada where the repeat offence rate is the lowest is Quebec, where we take these young people, we work with them, we help them, we support them and we try to put them back on the right track. The members opposite like to say how beautiful and great Canada is, but as for young offenders, it is Quebec that gets the best results.

Why should we, as lawmakers, change what is being done in Quebec to implement a Canadian model that is more rigid? Is there an hon. member in this House who can explain to me what principle dictates that we should legislate the wrong way around? They do not care about what works, while they should. I say this not to play party politics, but to inform our viewers. We should take a look and ask ourselves some questions. Where is the situation best dealt with? Is there a place in Canada where we get better results?

It just so happens that Quebec gets better results with young offenders. There are statistics and data supporting this, and the approach is different. Would it not be smart to follow the example of the government that has the best results? Would hon. members not be commended for taking Quebec's approach? They could decide that, since the results are better, they could improve their system.

Well, no, they make it harsher. Not only do they make it harsher in the rest of Canada, to please voters in western Canada who share this view, which is really inconceivable, but they also want to influence Quebec's system. They want Quebec's system to become harsher.

Did anyone ever see a government that legislates the wrong way around more than this one? The government will go even further. In the one place that gets the best results, the government will ensure that the same rules will apply as in the rest of Canada. We do not want the lowest common denominator. We do not want it.

The government House leader made the unfortunate mistake of saying that we were wasting the money of the House of Commons with all our amendments.

Here is the government House leader's reasoning on the Bloc Quebecois amendments “All your salaries, the electricity, the fact that parliament is kept open, this is a waste of money”. However, when the 200 amendments introduced by the Minister of Justice, because she did not do her job right, are being examined, this is not a waste of people's money. Interestingly, for the Liberal government—I hope that citizens who are listening will take note—when Bloc amendments are being examined, we are wasting the government's money; when Liberal Party amendments are being examined, this is good. I am baffled.

If we listen to the government, if we follow such reasoning to its logical conclusion, let us close parliament, let us stop talking about all these things, because we are wasting money.

We will have this debate because we deeply believe that for a 14 year old who is sentenced to a minimum of about 15 years in a penitentiary, that is a very long time. We know how sentencing works for very serious crimes. An offender with a life sentence will spend 15 or 20 years in a penitentiary.

Is there a parent in Quebec or in the rest of Canada who does not understand that his child, a 14 year old, could end up in a federal penitentiary for 15 or 20 year, if convicted of a serious crime committed out of youthful aberration, out of total carelessness or because of a more serious problem? Is there anyone listening tonight who believes that when he is released at 29 or 34, the young offender sentenced when he was 14 years old will have any chance at all of becoming a normal citizen? No one thinks so.

We are being asked to scrap human beings. We are being asked to destroy their lives. Out of rage, or lord knows what mental process, they are asking us in Quebec to abolish a rehabilitation program which is, by far, giving the best results in Canada, and to replace it with a system that will put 14 year old children—it could be your son, my son or my daughter—behind bars, in a penitentiary, until they are 30.

This means a life completely thrown away, an unspeakable reprimand, an indescribable approach, which has nothing to do with patience, tolerance or the capacity a society has to support its deviant members and to turn them into responsible citizens. That is what we have done with young offenders in Quebec, and we have succeeded in 98% of the cases. We must not forget that.

This is not a political issue, it is a human issue. All the associations in Quebec that take an interest in these issues are unanimous, not because they support the Bloc Quebecois, not because they are all mean separatists, but rather because they are human. They have an open approach, believe in what we do, and want to save human beings, not destroy their lives. They are profoundly convinced that our past is a guarantee of our future, and they believe in good faith that Quebec may have a contribution to make to the rest of Canada in terms of rehabilitating offenders.

I am asking her colleagues to think about it. I am also asking our colleagues of the other parties to do so. She said it dozens of times in the House, and everybody heard it. It was in the debates of the House, in Hansard . We heard it and people who usually listen to us heard it. She repeated it on all television stations, in all the newspapers of Canada and said it many times to my colleague, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, who was questioning her. She said “The bill is good. The member does not understand it. Quebec does not have to apply this bill that way. It will be able to apply its system, as it did in the past. The bill will not compel it to use the new system”.

However, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, who is a lawyer, a jurist, a serious man who has given it thought and discussed the issue with people from Quebec, disagreed. He told the minister over and over again “This is not true. This is not what we are being told. This is not what the judges are telling us. This is not what the lawyers are telling us. We cannot all be insane in Quebec. There must be someone who is right somewhere. The minister has to be wrong”.

Yet the minister kept saying “Quebec will not have to enforce this act. There is no problem. It will not change the system in place. It will only give the rest of Canada the means to satisfy its needs”.

I am asking members opposite, particularly the Liberal members from Quebec, in front of all the people watching us if what the minister has been repeating dozens of times in the House is true, why does she refuse to add a short sentence in the bill to the effect that Quebec will not have to enforce the act. She has said so in this House. Why not write it down, then?

Let me say in front of the cameras to the people in Quebec and the rest of Canada, that I have personnally offered to the government House leader to have the bill passed in less than 30 minutes if he were to agree to include in the legislation one little sentence that the minister must have repeated 10, 15 or 20 times in the House, to the effect that the system in Quebec will not be affected and Quebec can choose to ignore this legislation. If the minister were to put this in the bill, we would pass it.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Our right to opt out.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.


Michel Gauthier Bloc Roberval, QC

If our right to opt out is not upheld, the government will be leading Canada right where we want it to go. Some day, no one in Quebec, not even the federalists, will have a reason to stay in this federation.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 6.30 p.m., the House stands adjourned until 10 a.m. tomorrow, pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6.30 p.m.)