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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12:55 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC


Motion No. 2630

That Bill C-3, in Clause 190, be amended by deleting lines 36 to 42 on page 157 and lines 1 to 3 on page 158.

Motion No. 2631

That Bill C-3, in Clause 190, be amended by deleting lines 40 to 42 on page 157.

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12:55 p.m.


Jean-Paul Marchand Québec East, QC


Motion No. 2632

That Bill C-3, in Clause 190, be amended by deleting lines 1 to 3 on page 158.

Motion No. 2633

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 191.

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12:55 p.m.


Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC


Motion No. 2634

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 192.

Motion No. 2635

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 193.

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12:55 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Berthier—Montcalm, QC


Motion No. 2636

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 194.

Motion No. 2642

That Bill C-3 be amended by deleting Clause 197.

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with the motions in Group No. 1 of amendments to Bill C-3. This is a very complex bill and we had to look at it very closely to get the government to reconsider, and particularly to show the government that it was making a mistake in wanting to pass Bill C-3 at all costs.

The experts in the area of young offenders do not understand. I parenthesize here to state that not one of the experts from Quebec who appeared before the committee supports the minister's bill.

None of the experts working with the Young Offenders Act on a daily basis can find a single reason for the minister to want to amend the Young Offenders Act at all costs and ram through the bill criminalizing the young people who are having problems with the law. The only reason would be a political one, to try and win votes in western Canada.

Since the creation of the Canadian Alliance, the government opposite has been trying to build an image for itself in western Canada, the image of a party that it more to the right, a party more and more like the Canadian Alliance Party. It has taken the Young Offenders Act and the young offenders as hostage to bolster its image in western Canada on the eve of a federal election.

Everyone knows that I made spoke hours on end in committee, and even reached out to the minister, suggesting that, before completely changing a legislation that has proven its efficiency over the past 15 to 20 years, she should stop the proceedings of the committee and tour the provinces to examine their youth policies, and come and see what we are doing in Quebec, where the crime rate is the lowest in Canada because the Young Offenders Act is enforced properly in Quebec. The present Minister of Justice recognizes it, as does her predecessor, the current Minister of Health, who was the Minister of Justice at the time, the legislation is very well enforced in Quebec.

I was telling the current Minister of Justice that, if she made comparisons and looked at the Young Offenders Act closely, she would be able to see if there was any reason whatsoever to change it.

With my 27.5 hours of speeches in committee over the past 11 months, I have tried to give the minister time to go and see for herself, particularly in Quebec, what was being done.

She did not see fit to take a little time to consult and to check how the act is implemented in Quebec. She did not check either in the other provinces, with the result that we find ourselves today in front of a very complex piece of legislation. The minister has attempted to sprinkle here and there certain notions she picked up along the way either in my speeches or in the briefs presented to the committee by witnesses who came from Quebec to tell her she was on the wrong track.

As a whole, the bill remains complex. Given its goals, it is unenforceable.

I never said nothing should be done to try to improve the enforcement of the Young Offenders Act, quite the contrary. An extensive study conducted in Quebec in the 90s resulted in the Jasmin report, which concluded that the blame did not lie with the act, but rather with its enforcement.

Although it is enforced properly in Quebec, there is always room for improvements. Had the Young Offenders Act been enforced properly in the other provinces, in particular in western provinces such as Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba, they would not be clamouring for changes to the Young Offenders Act now. These provinces where it is enforced the least have the highest detention rates, the highest youth crime rate, and an increasing number of young re-offenders. This shows that the problem is not the act, but its enforcement, as I have been saying for weeks.

One of the good elements in the existing Young Offenders Act is that it is tailored to their specific needs since a 14, 15, 16 or 17 year old cannot be expected to have the same responsibility as a 30 or 40 year old adult.

Section 3 of the existing Young Offenders Act, under the heading declaration of principle, says it very clearly. It contains the major thrusts for dealing with young persons in trouble with the law, and trying to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into society.

The ultimate aim is to help a youth with a problem to become an anonymous citizen and to integrate into society as a citizen, as if he did not have any legal problem or any criminal problem. The aim is really to try to see to it that this youth might someday pay income taxes, get married, have children and get integrated very anonymously into society. In Quebec, we see it as a long term investment and believe that protection of society will be increased if this youth does not re-offend and does integrate into society.

As I said in the declaration of principle, in section 3(1) of the Young Offenders Act and the following sections, there was all that was needed to guide the court so that a judge hearing a case could consider a youth with a criminal problem as a particular case. The judge could deal on an individual basis with young people with criminal problem.

Everything necessary was there in the declaration of principle. I do not want to read it all for my time is limited, although I could speak for several hours more since the subject is close to my heart, but, only to remind hon. members of a few elements found in the declaration of principle, I will quote this “While young persons should not in all instances be held accountable in the same manner or suffer the same consequences for their behaviour as adults, young persons who commit offences should nonetheless bear responsibility for their contraventions”.

Further on it provides that “because of their state of dependency and level of development and maturity, they also have special needs and require guidance and assistance”. A little further on it says, “depending on circumstances, the needs and facts of a youth's childhood, which might explain his behaviour, must be taken into account once again”. The thrust in this declaration of principle was to provide alternative measures for young people.

There was everything in this declaration of principle. The minister axed this declaration. She said no to Quebec, which is properly applying the Young Offenders Act. She made a sort of omnibus preamble. It contains all sorts of things that are not integrally part of the bill like section 3 of the act is.

In the series of amendments in Group No. 1, there is one by the minister that will complicate things even further. It is an amendment to the preamble, when what counts is how the courts will apply it, especially the interpretation the supreme court gave of the special needs of adolescents dealing with a problem of crime within the context of rehabilitation and return to society especially.

I will to close by saying that the major difference between Bill C-3, which we are studying today, and the Young Offenders Act lies in the fact that the act referred to needs, whereas the minister with her bill now wants to talk about the gravity of the offence. She is putting the offence at the centre to enable a judge to impose a sanction, as the minister puts it in the bill. This is unacceptable.

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1:05 p.m.



John Maloney Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to debate Bill C-3, the youth criminal justice act.

As the cornerstone of the Government of Canada's youth justice renewal strategy Bill C-3 provides for a fair and effective youth justice system that involves young people, families, victims and communities. This legislation modernizes the youth justice system and builds stronger links with other programs and services that help children and youth.

Experience has shown that the current youth justice system is not working as well as it should. More must be done to prevent youth crime in the first place, to develop meaningful responses to youth crime when it does occur, and to emphasize rehabilitation and reintegration so that youth who do get into trouble with the law can turn their lives around. Working toward these three key objectives is the best way to ensure the protection of society.

As a member of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights I have had the benefit of hearing from many Canadians with insightful ideas about youth justice. The Government of Canada has been listening. As a result of the input received from the thoughtful witnesses who appeared before the committee on Bill C-3, and through consultations with provincial and territorial governments, professionals, the legal community, academics, aboriginal groups, voluntary and stakeholder groups, and young people and their families, the government is proposing amendments designed to improve upon the approach in Bill C-3.

The proposed Youth Criminal Justice Act sets out the purpose of the youth justice system through its principles. The new principles reinforce that the criminal justice system for youth is different from the one for adults. Bill C-3 emphasizes preventing crime, ensuring meaningful consequences for offending behaviour, and rehabilitating and reintegrating a young person as the most effective way to contribute to the long term protection of society.

A number of witnesses who appeared before committee put forward suggestions that seek to clarify further the principles in the bill, some of which have been accepted by the government. For example, we are proposing the inclusion in the principles of a reference to the importance of timeliness in dealing with youth offending behaviour. We are also proposing a provision specifically requiring judges to take into account a young person's individual needs and level of development.

Another amendment to the principles would stipulate that measures taken should respond to the needs of aboriginal young persons. In addition, while the importance of treating victims with courtesy, compassion and respect, and of providing them with information about proceedings and an opportunity to participate and be heard, a proposed amendment would enshrine the interests of victims in the preamble of the legislation. We would also propose emphasizing in the preamble the importance of making information about the youth justice system publicly available.

Bill C-3 makes a distinction in the way we deal with the small number of youth who commit the most serious violent crimes and the vast majority who commit less serious offences, providing more effective measures for dealing with both.

Bill C-3 gives the police more tools for dealing with youth in their communities in order to try to turn youth around before they get on to commit more serious crimes. Greater police and crown discretion early in the process will lead to meaningful, effective and faster resolutions of the majority of less serious cases. The formal court process and custody will be used to deal with the more serious crimes.

We have heard concerns expressed about the definitions of non-violent, violent and serious violent offences in Bill C-3. Some have indicated that the definitions may lead to confusion as to what comes within a certain category of offence. To remove any ambiguity the government proposes to delete the definitions of non-violent and violent offences from the legislation.

The difference between a non-violent and a violent offence is obvious and therefore these terms do not need to be defined in legislation. In addition, we would improve the definition of serious violent offences by replacing the phrase “creates a substantial risk of serious bodily harm” with a reference to “attempts to cause serious bodily harm”. These proposed amendments should provide greater clarity to the categories of offences.

We know that it is important to involve others in the youth justice system in order to improve upon understanding and to provide support for victims, youth, families and communities in responding constructively and meaningfully to offending behaviour.

Among other things Bill C-3 specifically encourages conferences at many stages of the proceedings. Some conferences may involve bringing together professionals such as child care workers, school psychologists or others who are already involved with youth to seek advice and ensure continuity of services. Others may be in the nature of sentencing circles or family group conferences involving victims, offenders and their families.

While conferencing has been strongly endorsed, some are concerned about the lack of definition in the bill. Therefore we are proposing amendments clarifying who may hold a conference and giving provinces and territories scope to regulate non-judicial conferences.

A number of witnesses also expressed concerns about youth ending up in the criminal justice system when their problems and needs could be more effectively dealt with through the child welfare system. A proposed amendment to Bill C-3 would recognize that a judge can make a referral of a young person to child welfare authorities for an assessment. While this is something that judges already have the authority to do, the amendments would encourage a link between the two systems in appropriate cases.

A major flaw of the Young Offenders Act is that it does not include sufficient provisions for safe, supervised reintegration into the community. Bill C-3 aims to better support the young person's reintegration back into the community, which protects the public by guarding against further crime.

The bill provides that periods of incarceration will be followed by periods of supervision in the community. To ensure “truth in sentencing” and clarity for the young person at the time of imposing the sentence, the judge will state in open court the portion of time that is to be served in custody and the portion to be served in the community. Breaching conditions of community supervision could result in the youth being returned to custody.

Generally the reintegration scheme has been strongly endorsed. Some, however, have expressed concern about requiring that the period of supervision in the community be half as long as the period of custody in all cases. Under a proposed government amendment, where a young person rebuts the presumption for an adult sentence on a presumptive offence, judges will have the discretion to set the periods in custody and the periods in the community. This will allow more flexibility in dealing with those who receive youth sentences for the most serious violent crimes.

A number of witnesses have raised concern about the admissibility of statements made by youth. The legitimate concern of the police and others that the exclusion of youth statements for technical reasons under the Young Offenders Act brings the administration of justice into question needs to be addressed.

Bill C-3 currently permits a judge to allow the introduction of a statement that has not been taken in accordance with the requirements set out in the bill if the admission of the statement would not bring the administration of justice into disrepute. In order to clarify the intent in drafting this provision, the government is proposing an amendment specifying that this applies only to technical breaches and that statements will only be admitted if the admission would not bring into disrepute the principle of enhanced procedural protections for youth.

An important concern about the Young Offenders Act has been voiced by both the police community and victims groups. The existing law does not allow for publication, without a court order, of information that would identify young victims or witnesses who are involved in a young offender's case, even where the victim or witness and his or her family want the information to be published. This means, for example, that parents of a deceased child victim of a young offender do not have the right to publish the name of their son or daughter without facing criminal sanctions.

A proposed amendment to Bill C-3 would correct this situation by allowing a young victim or witness to have his or her identity published with parental consent, and in the case of a deceased young victim, by allowing parents to publish or cause to be published information identifying their deceased son or daughter.

Finally, many of the proposed government amendments are aimed at enhancing the clarity and reducing the complexity of Bill C-3. These amendments include improvements to drafting language in the bill and the consolidation of certain clauses in order to streamline the legislation. In addition, at the request of the provinces and territories, the Government of Canada is proposing a number of technical amendments aimed at facilitating the administration of the new legislation.

The new Youth Criminal Justice Act is built upon the values Canadians want in their youth justice system. Canadians want a system that prevents crime by addressing the circumstances underlying a young person's offending behaviour. They also want a system that seeks to rehabilitate young persons who commit offences and reintegrate them into society. The system must also ensure that a young person is subject to meaningful consequences for his or her offence. Canadians know this is the most effective way to achieve the long term protection of society.

Our new approach also responds to the concern of Canadians that the youth justice system has to do a better job of instilling values such as accountability, responsibility and respect. The system must also be more responsive to victims needs, encourage young people to acknowledge the harm done and provide restitution where appropriate.

I am confident that Bill C-3 will provide Canadians with the kind of youth justice system they want and deserve.

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1:15 p.m.


Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to comment on what we are doing here today. The longer I am around this place, the more I become convinced that most of what we do here borders on being a sham.

The public is given the impression that legislation is drafted pursuant to the needs of Canadians. The government presents legislation, and parliament reviews and improves it as necessary. Supposedly that is part of what we are doing today. I seriously question how effective our review and improvement can be under the circumstances.

Bill C-3 was first introduced in March 1999. The justice committee was assigned to review it, and after listening to interested parties of expert and lay witnesses, to consider necessary changes.

Members of the justice committee from all parties, including the government, decided that a number of alterations were needed to Bill C-3. One particular member of the committee decided that rather than put all the substantive amendments forward for consideration, he would filibuster the committee in an attempt to force the government to consider only his wishes for change.

That was his right, Mr. Speaker. Please do not get me wrong. That was his right under the rules. I certainly understand that there are tools and procedures available to opposition parties and members to try to get their point across. However, where the committee, as representative of this place, failed in its duties is when it was given its marching orders, so to speak. A closure motion was issued to the effect that the committee was to be given only 10 hours of further debate, and then it had to report back to the House of Commons.

At that point, with all due respect, the chair of the committee had an obligation to take control of the committee, close down the debate on the filibuster, and move to the clause by clause consideration of the many proposed amendments. Having the committee return the bill to the House without any change whatsoever has in effect left this place without the value of the committee's time and effort of review. The House is in the same position it was in almost two years ago. What a waste of time, especially on a bill that was supposed to be a top priority of the government.

To further compound my consternation over the operation of this place, we then have the manner in which the whole process at the report stage of the legislation has unfolded. The committee reported back to the House on Bill C-3 last Thursday, September 21. Because of the government's scheduling, amendments had to be filed with journals branch by Friday at 2 p.m.

It is only now, on Monday morning, the day of the debate at report stage, that we can even see the amendments proposed into groupings as assigned by the clerk. After years of delay and after months and months of waste, we are provided with a bill without the benefit of committee recommendations. After years of delay and after months and months of waste, we are now in a type of overdrive to process the legislation almost overnight. Regardless of any individual political perspective, I would argue that the public is definitely not well served by this process, at least in the way it has unfolded with Bill C-3.

It truly amazes me that this place can be mired in quicksand and be going absolutely nowhere, and that it takes an imminent election to force the government to move. What disappoints me the most is that even when the government does move, it exhibits little consideration, if any, for our citizens. Although I do not wish to jump to any conclusions, my intuition tells me Bill C-3 will be passed virtually intact, with little difference from the questionable version of the supposed new youth justice law as presented by the government back in March 1999.

I may be proven wrong, but debate in this place at this stage will likely have little, if any, influence on the legislation. Regardless of the arguments presented by interested Canadians and by members of this place, it appears that it was always the intention of the government to merely go through the motions. There was never any real intention to listen to or even seriously consider other viewpoints calling for substantive change. This legislation, if it passes from this place in its current form or with little change in substance, will be a travesty to Canadians.

Just to address some of our amendments that are proposed in this grouping, our Motion No. 35 would eliminate a presumptive offence. Under our amendments we are doing away with the whole concept of presumptive offence, serious violent offence and the interpretation problems of the government's legislation over just what will be determined to be a violent offence.

Under our proposals there are to be just two categories of offence, namely violent offences and non-violent offences. Violent offences are defined as those within a list of named offences. The list has been taken directly from the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

Violent offences will be those that federal legislation already uses to determine safety concerns when considering how to treat adult offenders. By following this list we are being consistent, we are being all inclusive, and we are being transparent so that Canadians citizens, our courts, and offenders will know why and how our youth justice process will operate.

There will be no guessing. There will be no extensive legal argument. If an offender is charged with a specific offence on the list, that offender will be processed in a predetermined manner. The courts still retain all the powers and discretion to apply specific circumstances to each specific case. If the offence is not on the list, the offence will be classified as a non-violent offence.

Our Motion No. 44 would similarly eliminate the definition of “serious violent offence”. There would be no presumptive offence designation; there would be only non-violent and violent offences, as I spoke to before. We have a “serious violent offence” designation, but only if the crown attorney makes application and the court sees fit to endorse the information. We have an overly restrictive list of presumptive offences. Under our proposal, violent offences are specifically listed. No interpretation will be necessary.

Again Motion No. 49 speaks to the whole issue of violent offence and presumptive offence. Leaving the terms undefined will not ease the difficulty; it will just put the problem into the courts to be interpreted. This will be costly and will delay justice once again as the legal argument is made and the appeals have to be heard. It is the responsibility and obligation of parliament to present laws that do the job. We should not put off these problems on to the courts.

Our proposals at least attempt to clarify what will be a violent offence and what will be a non-violent offence.

The present definition within the legislation states “An offence that causes or creates a substantial risk of bodily harm”. That definition will keep lawyers and judges busy for years to come and is open to various interpretations. Just like conditional sentencing, it will bring criticism and dissatisfaction from our citizens when it is limited in scope.

Easy questions of fraud upon the elderly will obviously be determined to be outside this definition, but many of our seniors may well be hurt much more seriously on being defrauded of their life savings than if they were hit over the head and robbed of their cash on hand.

What happens to the offence of sexual assault? Will an offence be determined to be violent if the victim does not fight her aggressor? Will it be a violent offence if the purse snatcher is successful in grabbing the purse from a senior citizen without knocking her over? Where will the line be drawn between what is a violent offence and what is non-violent?

The definition proposed by this amendment clearly lists the offences to be included within the category of violent offence. We avoid these interpretation difficulties, we avoid the cost and time of legal argument, and we bring greater certainty to our laws.

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1:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to the amendments before the House on Bill C-3.

Let me begin my remarks by saying this is a bad piece of legislation. It is a bill the government has typically brought forth after seven and a half years of promising it would try to fix our youth criminal justice system.

Let us be frank. What we have seen happen here is the government has tried, in its typical form, to do all things to all people to fix this situation. As a result it will please no one. As a result, we have a piece of legislation that is unworkable, cumbersome, complicated and confusing. At the end of the day it will make worse a system that is already struggling and not working. It will make the situation worse for Canadians, worse for youth, worse for parents, worse for police, and worse for all those in the system who are struggling to make it work.

One of the initial underpinnings of the criminal justice system, coupled with the usual protection of the public and coupled with elements and philosophies of rehabilitation, was deterrence and denunciation for those who cross the line, those who choose in their wisdom to act in a way irresponsible and contrary to the laws of the land.

This bill, like others we have seen brought forward, is completely devoid of any reference to deterrence, of any reference to the fact that society, the public, and the government have a right to express their dismay with those who choose to break the law. This is not to say we should ever go too heavily in that regard, but it should be there. Courts use it. Lawyers refer to it. Judges have it at their disposal to mete out as part of a sentence references to the word “deterrence”, general and specific deterrence. That is meant not only to aim this sort of justice at the offender, but also to send a message to those who choose to act in a like fashion. This bill is devoid of that concept. It is devoid of that philosophy.

My loquacious friend from the Bloc has taken it upon himself—and as has been referred to, it is his right to do so—to express his outrage on behalf of his party. He says on behalf of his province that this is the only way he can get his message heard. It is a sad comment that here we are now debating in a summary fashion on the floor of the House of Commons amendments to this bill, which is perhaps the most important we will see in this session of parliament.

We heard from witnesses from across the country, many of whom expressed extreme reservations about the way in which the bill has been tabled. The government has admitted its failure in putting forward over 150 amendments to its own bill, which only has 199 clauses. That is an absolute condemnation by the Department of Justice of its own work.

What has happened is that the opposition has had to resort to extreme measures. I believe this has now gone over the top. This has now gone far beyond what was intended as a statement in terms of trying to bring the government back to the centre, back to a point where there can at least be reasoned discussions as to how we compromise, how we bring about some feeling that we can at least bring about legislation that will be responsible, that will respond to the needs of Canadians but will also respond to the lack of resources that exists.

That as an underpinning in this legislation is telling Canadians they should do more. It is telling the people in the system they should do more with less. It is saying “We are going to give you the ability through legislation to do more counselling, to do early intervention, for police to now sit in the living rooms of Canadians with their children to discuss how it is that we remedy these problems of young people who have gone astray”. At the same time there is not a single commitment, not even a reference to the fact that police, parole boards, counsellors, social services, anyone involved in the criminal justice is going to receive further resources, further back-up, a further strategy even to adjust and to react to an escalating situation of more violence among young people.

Perhaps most startling, Mr. Speaker, and you would be aware of this as someone who follows the criminal justice system, is the escalation of violence among young women. It is something that has caught the attention of many Canadians that to their shock and horror this is happening. It is happening across the country. It is not limited to cities. It is happening in rural Canada as much as it is in our cities.

This entire piece of legislation is such an inadequate response to the problems that exist. It is such a convoluted, cumbersome, bureaucratic, red tape response that it is going to make the system worse.

Much of the commentary on the bill and the debate in the House in the coming days and weeks, if it comes to that, is going to point out a lot of the technical problems that exist with the legislation. One of the problems I hasten to point out is that it creates in essence new procedures that are already not working in the adult system.

I am speaking specifically of preliminary inquiries. Ironically the justice department envisions a system where we may limit the use of preliminary inquiries in some instances. That is already being done in some jurisdictions. The new territory of Nunavut is collapsing the justice system to make it more efficient and streamlined. What are we doing as a result? We are taking the same systems that are failing and pulling them into the new youth criminal justice system.

Similarly we are taking a system that was never intended to be used for violent offences that pertain to sexual assaults—I am talking of conditional sentences—and lo and behold what do we find? Yes, wait for it, the justice department in its wisdom has decided to bring conditional sentences into the youth criminal justice system. Once again it is applying them to crimes which they should not be applied to and judges are being given that discretion. In fairness, judges have to listen to the arguments, they have to listen to the constitutional submissions that will be put forward by lawyers. Lo and behold once again there is a gaping hole in our justice system, something that is not working for adults, and we are bringing it like a plague into the youth criminal justice system.

I mentioned preliminary inquires. It is also introducing a parole system for young people. If there was any redeeming feature in the old Young Offenders Act it was that when a judge specified a young person was going to be incarcerated in the worst of all circumstances, when there was no other alternative available, a young person would receive a sentence and would do every day of that sentence. There was the confidence that the young person would do every stick of time that the judge in his or her wisdom decided was appropriate.

What are we going to see now? We are going to see a parole system foisted on the young offender system. Now young people are going to be released at the discretion of an official who is working within the system. I do not mean to cast aspersions on the entire system or whitewash this problem, but we have seen problems in the adult system, such as the 50:50 release plan that was put in place by the former commissioner of corrections. We have seen a philosophy where we have to get people out of the prison system, even putting people at risk on occasion. Lo and behold the justice department through these amendments, through this bill intends to put in place a system that will undermine this concept.

I hesitate to use the words truth in sentencing, but at least there was an indication that when a person received a sentence he or she would do that time under the old Young Offenders Act. That will be wiped out, completely taken out of existence by the amendments the new bill has brought in.

That is not to say we should not allow judges to use discretion. Surely we have to support judges in their very difficult duty in a very difficult time. Crime is becoming more complicated. It is becoming more pervasive certainly in different areas. We know for a fact that young people are becoming involved in crime at an earlier age, which is another amendment I will hopefully speak to later in the debate.

The minister stated the intention when this bill was introduced and reintroduced in her many comments outside the House, through the public forum of the press gallery as opposed to on the floor of the House. If the intention is truly about early intervention, if it is truly about borrowing the concepts of restorative justice, better community involvement, more involvement of parents, more involvement that focuses on reconciliation with the crime, with the offender, with the community that has been offended, why would we want to prevent the ability to bring young people in at the earliest stage?

This is not to suggest that crime is rampant among very young children that are outside the parameters of the Young Offenders Act, that is to say under the age of 12. This summer there was a recent example of a young man, 11 years old, who walked into a bank to rob it. Under the current system there is no mechanism to respond to that.

If we can transfer youth to adult court, we should be able to transfer children to youth court. The minister has completely closed her mind to this. She has not responded to the wishes of the provincial attorneys general. She has not responded to the wishes of reasoned individuals who have put forward evidence that this should happen. It is indicative again of a closed mind, holier than thou approach, an approach which says “We will bestow upon the country the system that we feel is appropriate”. It is wrong. It is not going to work. Hopefully throughout this debate we can demonstrate in opposition that there are reasonable amendments that should take place for the legislation to work.

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1:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Before the House resumes debate, I know there are a lot of popular members in the House who receive telephone calls, but I remind hon. members that cellular telephones are not permitted in the Chamber.

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1:35 p.m.


Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in response to some of the comments made and to discuss some of the amendments moved in this large group of amendments. It is important first of all that we come to some kind of understanding as to how we arrived at this point today.

My colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough said we are debating amendments to what may be the most complex piece of legislation to come before the House of Commons in this setting. Indeed, one colleague who has been here a lot longer than I have told me that this was the most complex piece of legislation after the Income Tax Act.

The bill was introduced in the last session of parliament. It was then unfortunately numbered Bill C-68, not a popular bill number for the Minister of Justice. It went before committee and there was some discussion at first reading. Then for whatever reason, it was determined that parliament would prorogue and the legislation died. It came back as Bill C-3. It has had a long life.

Those watching and those who read Hansard will know that the Minister of Justice was questioned time and time again on this bill. Members asked when it would be brought forward by the government and they were told it would be in a timely fashion and it was. Unfortunately the debate has not taken place in a timely fashion.

Sadly, when this complex piece of legislation was in committee, there was no opportunity to debate the necessary and important amendments that have been placed before the House by different parties. Those amendments fall in different camps and different areas. On behalf of the New Democratic Party I moved 20 amendments, all of which I thought were reasonable and sensible, some of which would have been healthy to debate at committee. My colleagues from the Conservative Party moved another 40 or so. We will not talk about what some of those were because they are not in this group of amendments.

Let me say that there were problems with this bill on the day that it was announced. I outlined the problems and I had hoped that by the time the legislation came to the House some of those problems would have been resolved. We now know that there was an opportunity to resolve them.

I think the thrust of the bill is that the Minister of Justice has attempted to appease both those who want tougher sentences for children and those who call for restorative justice. It is a difficult balancing act.

There are some good measures in the bill that deal with extrajudicial sentencing. By extrajudicial measures we mean ways to deal with young people who find themselves in trouble with the law on their first or second offence, not a serious offence, who in many instances are acting out against society. There are provisions in the bill that allow the community to get involved in a restorative justice sense, to help work with a young person. The problem is that the provinces are to administer the criminal justice system.

At the federal level we pass the legislation dealing with the criminal code and the criminal youth justice act. It is then left to the provinces to administer the law we create. Part of the problem with the bill is that the resources will not be there to put in place the extrajudicial measures that might be so helpful to young people who find themselves in trouble with the law for a first or second time.

I do not know of one attorney general at the provincial level across the country who thinks the resources allocated by the federal government will be sufficient to put in place those measures.

I remember when the Young Offenders Act, which we are replacing, was first introduced. We ran into the same problem. I was practising in the courts in those days. On many occasions a young person would come before the judge and the judge would not want to send the young person to jail. The act had provisions for other measures but the province had no money. What was written on paper and what was provided for in the law were not put into effect by the provinces. When I questioned the Minister of Justice on this she felt that the resources were adequate and given the tight financial circumstances we found ourselves in as a nation, there were no more resources.

We know now there was a $12 billion surplus. It has gone to pay down the debt because it was not allocated for any of the other programs that might have found the money useful. I submit that putting in place this comprehensive piece of legislation and asking the provinces to take on the administration of it, those provinces could have used some of the resources the government found itself with. It would ensure that young people who come into conflict with the law would at first instance have the benefit of working with their community and the community would have the resources to work with them.

After all, we are all responsible for the children in our country. All of us are responsible for the children in our community. When a child breaks the law it is a call to all of us to respond. Poorer communities will not be able to take advantage. Poorer provinces, especially the have not provinces, and there are more of them than the have ones, will not be able to take advantage of some of the good, proactive measures that are in Bill C-3.

The other thing the Minister of Justice did in an effort to calm members of what was then the Reform Party was to make the law tougher, if that is the word one wants to use, at the other end. In the bill is legislation which allows a judge to send 14 year olds to do adult time if necessary. Under the previous legislation it was rare; an adult sentence would not be imposed on a young person unless he or she was over 16. This bill goes a little further than that. It allows the court to sentence a 14 year old to adult time for certain types of offences or if the judge feels it is necessary.

My colleague from Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough has talked about judicial discretion. That is where I disagree with him, and I do not disagree with him often.

When we are dealing with young people in particular, no one is in a better position to understand the type of sentence that young person needs than the judge who has heard all the evidence, has seen the parents in court, has seen the victim in court, has seen, sometimes, the victim's parents in court, and has access to all kinds of information from social workers and doctors. No one has that information except the judge.

Surely if we are going to provide judicial discretion in any area of the law, that judicial discretion should be used in the case of young offenders. I have worked in the criminal court system and the criminal youth justice system for a long time. The complexity of those cases can be understood only by the judges.

There has been a shift, but before I go on to that I want to respond to the case that was raised, about the 11 year old who went in and committed a bank robbery. I submit that the appropriate measures were taken. That was a young boy. He did not know what he was doing. What became clear in the investigation was that there was an adult who directed this boy to do something. Surely the person to be charged is the adult. If we are going to start elevating 11 and 10 year olds to the criminal justice system, then I wonder where we stop.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Pampers in the courtroom.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.


Peter Mancini Sydney—Victoria, NS

Yes, Pampers in the courtroom.

There is a strange conundrum here. When we are dealing with crime what we know under the rule of law is that to be convicted of committing a crime one must have a knowledge of what it means to commit the crime. That is an adult concept. We do not let 14 year olds drive cars. We do not let 12 year olds go into the liquor store. We do that because we know they do not possess the necessary judgment. Yet some members of the House are prepared to send them to jail. I have serious questions about that aspect, but my time is up.

Youth Criminal Justice Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.


Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-3, but seeing where we are today it is less than a privilege to address the problems we are having with the bill.

I want to go back in time a little. Since being elected in 1993 I have been working on issues of justice. In 1995 or 1996 I met a fellow whose name was Cadman. He had lost his son. His son was murdered by a young offender. I heard him speak many times, in British Columbia in particular, about the need for change. I thought he was a good speaker who was certainly dedicated to the issue.

When it came time to look for nominees for the 1997 election, I approached him. I said that if he wanted to go further with this issue, why not become a member of parliament, go into the House of Commons and make a change? Today that person is the hon. member for Surrey North, who is somewhat frustrated, as we could hear a little while ago. He has headed up the Young Offenders Act for us from the day he came into the House in 1997.

I know a lot of emotions about this run through his mind, and I think back to the meeting we had in a restaurant in Langley. I said that if he became a member of parliament he could make substantial changes and all the things that happened to Jesse would at least be the start of major change in the years ahead.

What do I find? I find that for at least the last decade Canadians have been looking for changes to the Young Offenders Act. For the past seven years we have had a Liberal government in place and for seven years we have had no substantive changes to the Young Offenders Act.

Here we are, before an election, rushing through the House of Commons a bill effecting changes to the Young Offenders Act. I must say that in many cases the changes are poor at best. They leave out a lot of things that many witnesses who came before committee have asked for and will not get.

This bill was tabled two years ago. One could hardly say it has been rushed, but what has been rushed is that at the last minute we find some 3,000 amendments before us, some 150 of them made by the government to its own legislation, some 50 amendments made by the Canadian Alliance and on and on. With that many amendments, the legislation obviously is not good enough.

One could say that perhaps with all the amendments accepted we could make an omnibus change bill and things would get done and would change for the better, but there are some serious things in this bill that will not get changed. One wonders why, after its seven long years in office, the substantive things we are looking for will not get finalized by the government.

Why not allow the publication of the names of young offenders convicted of serious offences? That is not included in the bill. It was discussed and recommended by probably the vast majority of witnesses who came before members of the House of Commons. In the final analysis this was ignored by the government.

Why not carry over youth records to adult records? So many times I have been involved with inmates who have committed other crimes after they have been released from prison. We look for their records. We see what is behind these individuals. When we talk to corrections people all we get is a shrug of the shoulders. They say that they did not know the individual was as bad as that. They say that the other part of his history was as a young offender and they do not know about that. They are not allowed to know. They are not allowed to put it on his record. People like me or the police cannot see it. It is as simple as that.

Why not allow the carrying over of youth records? What is wrong with that? Why, after the government's seven years in office, does this issue continue to get ignored? Why, after this bill is passed by a majority government, will it not be included? We all know that it will be a long time before the government again tables legislation on the Young Offenders Act.

Why not include young offenders who are aged 10 to 15? What is wrong with that? Time and again the government has been told about the need to get 10 and 11 year olds not necessarily incarcerated but onto a path to try to change them when they do get into trouble. What is wrong with that? Why did it not get addressed?

It is interesting to see that with all these amendments before us, many of them coming from the Bloc, which is stalling for time to make it difficult for the government because that party is upset at the bill, there are changes in the bill that are necessary. My fear is that they will get tossed out by the government because there are so many amendments to the bill.

I agree with the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough on his point of order this morning. He asked the Chair to have a look at this situation. We are going to be looking at amendments to the bill that are really just wasting time.

It is important that the House understand the need to have changes to the Young Offenders Act. We have been demanding them for well over a decade. The Liberals are into their seventh year of responsibility for the act. Still, at the end of the day we will be faced with nothing substantive. What do we do when we get to third reading and find that all we are dealing with is the shell of what we wanted?

I think it is time for the government to call an election. I think it is time that we put issues like this before the people. In my opinion the government has a poor track record on many things, but the one thing in justice that it will be hauled up on is the lack of substantial action on the Young Offenders Act, something we have all been looking for.

I apologize to the member for Surrey North. I thought he could come to the House and get substantial changes to something that he wanted very badly, like the rest of Canadians. It is just too darn bad that the Liberal government is not listening.

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1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleagues, it is almost 2.00 p.m. Before I recognize the next speaker, we will now proceed to statements by members.

The Late Hon. Jacques Flynn
Statements By Members

September 25th, 2000 / 1:55 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, former Quebec senator Jacques Flynn, who was the leader of the Conservative Party in the Upper Chamber for 17 years, died in Quebec City on Thursday, at the age of 85.

Mr. Flynn was called to the bar in 1939. He was elected member of parliament for Québec-Sud in 1958 and became deputy speaker of the House in 1960. Among other positions, he held the job of Minister of Mines and Technical Surveys. Later on, he also became Minister of Justice and Attorney General, in June 1979.

Mr. Flynn was known as a person of great judgment and wisdom. His knowledge of the country and his understanding of Quebec were also appreciated. Mr. Flynn retired from the Senate in 1990, when he reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.

We wish to offer our sincere condolences to Mr. Flynn's family.

Roy Romanow
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Lee Morrison Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the retirement of a long time fixture on the national stage, the hon. Roy Romanow. How could we ever forget the historic role he played in the debate on repatriating the constitution 20 years ago?

Mr. Romanow has wisely called for a new generation of politicians to step forward. As an MP who is stepping down at the next election, I agree. We may have disagreed on many issues in the past, but I certainly share his view that it is time for new leadership, not only at the provincial level but at the federal level as well. Sayonara , Roy.