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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.

Topics

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

What is the breakdown and ratio of funding that the CBC is receiving in the current fiscal year 2000-01 from the Canadian television fund and Telefilm for the production of documentaries, feature films, children's programming and drama, showing not only national figures but regional figures by province and also a breakdown by name of production company and/or individual independent producer; and how do these figures compare with those for the last three fiscal years?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

The Canadian government provides the Canadian television fund (CTF) an annual contribution of $100 million. The fund assists in the production of high quality programming in English, French and aboriginal languages for broadcast in prime time.

The Canadian television fund is a private not for profit corporation, with a 16-member board of directors drawn from the public and private sectors. The CTF makes its decisions independently from government on who will receive funding.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation does not receive funding. Rather, CTF contributions go to private producers whose programs are licensed and broadcast by the CBC.

The list of funded projects by genre and by producer are posted to the CTF website (www.CanadianTelevision Fund.ca) and are published in the fund's annual report, also posted to its website. 2000-01 data is unavailable as the decision making process is still under way. Figures include all CTF numbers, including those administered by Telefilm Canada through its participation in the fund. We expect the final 1999-00 data early this summer when the CTF presents its annual report. Interim lists are on the CTF website.

Please find attached a table showing national and regional figures, financial and percentage, by province for the CTF and CBC-SRC triggered projects for the years 1996-97, 1997-98 and 1998-99. This information is provided by the CTF.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Reform

Inky Mark Reform Dauphin—Swan River, MB

With regard to the new funding announced for CBC Radio: ( a ) how much and what percentage of the total of the new funding for radio went to the province of Quebec and French radio; ( b ) what is the percentage for CBC radio in French and CBC radio in English of the total funding package; and ( c ) what is the breakdown and ratio in funding for the aforementioned during the last three fiscal years?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Parkdale—High Park Ontario

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Canadian Heritage

The government provides the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation with a parliamentary appropriation to provide a national public television and radio broadcasting service for all Canadians in both official languages. This service is primarily Canadian in content and character.

As a crown corporation operating independently from government, the CBC is not required to provide details of its expenditures beyond those which are contained in the audited financial statements of its annual reports.

(a) The Canadian Broadcasting corporation does not break down its funding by province; rather its funding is allocated to French and English radio and television, and administrative and other services associated with its production, programming and distribution.

Effective April 1, 2000 the corporation has announced an increase to the base funding for its radio services of $10.2 million. This new funding is being shared roughly 60:40 between the English and French radio services respectively and will be directed at enhancing and enriching the quality of their program schedules as well as for new initiatives designed to extend CBC's radio services to more Canadians. These latter initiatives are currently under developement by both the English and French language radio services.

(b) and (c) CBC's English and French language radio services have a combined annual funding platform of roughly $260 million. This represents close to 20% of CBC's total annual spending for its operations including specialty services.

Of the $260 million spent annually on CBC's radio services, roughly 60% goes toward funding CBC's two English language radio services: Radio One and Radio Two. The remaining 40% funds La Première Chaîne and La Chaîne Culturelle, CBC's French language radio services. As a percentage of CBC's total funding package, therefore, this equates to close to 12% being spent on CBC's English language radio services and 8% begin spent on CBC's French language radio services.

This funding relationship does not migrate much from one year to the next as can be seen from the following which has been extracted from CBC's annual reports for the respective years provided:

($ Millions)—1996/97—1997/98—1998/99 English Radio—$167—$156—$157 % of total funding—12.1%—12.6%—12.4% French Radio—$101-$98—$104 % of total funding—7.5%—8.0%—8.1% Total Radio—$268—$254—$261

*Excludes funding for downsizing and revenue from one time special events such as the Oympics.

Amounts for the 1999-2000 fiscal year will be available once the CBC's annual report is tabled before parliament early next fall.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Liberal Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

September 25th, 2000 / 3:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Before we get to orders of the day, I have a notice concerning Private Members' Business. I have received notice from the hon. member for Rosemont—Petite Patrie that he is unable to move his motion during private members' hour on Tuesday, September 26, 2000.

It has not been possible to arrange an exchange of positions in the order of precedence. Accordingly I am directing the table officers to drop that item of business to the bottom of the order of precedence. Private members' hour will thus be cancelled and the House will continue with the business before it prior to private members' hour.

The House resumed consideration of Bill C-3, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, as reported (without amendment) from the committee; and of the motions in Group No. 1.

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3:15 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Bill C-3, which hon. members will recall is the former Bill C-68, which was introduced in 1997, unfortunately only to die on the order paper when the last federal election was called.

I recall that when I spoke to that bill at that time I commented that the Liberal Party was reforming itself by adopting such an attitude. Bill C-3 is a complete repeat of Bill C-68 as tabled in the House. What I should perhaps say today is that the Liberals are alliancing themselves, if that is the right word.

The Liberal Party is getting chummy with the Canadian Alliance, drifting to the right, I would say, because its ship literally veered off in that direction. I think it is a fundamental error for the Liberal Party to drift so far to the right on a bill such as this.

As recently as this past weekend, I read that the hon. Minister of Public Works, that great Liberal Party organizer in Quebec, the hon. member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, was saying that one of the four fundamental pillars of the next election campaign would be compassion.

I would like to understand, and I would like to hear the minister's explanation of how they plan to show any compassion when they propose to lock up young offenders as young as 12, 13 or 14 years of age. Where is the compassion in that? Is that what compassion is? Maybe this is the Liberal version of compassion. It is not, however, the Bloc Quebecois's idea of compassion, nor that of Quebec.

I am anxious to see how my Quebec colleagues from the federal Liberal Party will vote on this. I am anxious to see them vote one by one, and to hear them explain their vote to their constituents. Some things are fundamental: there is a systematic and generalized opposition to this bill in Quebec.

The Coalition pour la justice des mineurs opposes it, among others, and it seems important to me to mention it. I will name all those who oppose the bill, and you will see that there are even people from outside Quebec who oppose it. Everyone who wants to defend minors in Quebec is on this list. Let us not be fooled. Liberal members, including members from Quebec, are getting ready pass this bill. It must be made clear that these members will vote against all the members of the coalition that I will mention here.

There are the Commission des services juridiques, the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse, the Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec, Jean Trépanier, of the Criminology Faculty of the University of Montreal, the Community Legal Center of Montreal, the Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contrevenants, the Institut Philippe-Pinel and the Association des directeurs de police et pompiers du Québec. These people are in a good position to know what they are talking about. They are constantly in contact with this type of clientele and they say that this bill would not work and should not be passed.

Also included on this list are the Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux, the Association des centres jeunesse du Québec, the Crown Prosecutors' Office—that is the Justice Department of Quebec—and the Association des CLSC et des CHSLD du Québec.

We must also realize that they are in daily contact with these people and understand that what exists today in Quebec is much more valuable than what the minister wants to introduce and force down the throats of all Quebecers.

Marc Leblanc of the École de psychoéducation, 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, Dr. Jim Hackler of the Department of Sociology of the University of Victoria, Tim Quigley of the University of Saskatchewan, Dr. Marge Reitsma-Street of the University of Victoria, and the British Columbia Criminal Justice Association are all part of the coalition that is telling the Minister of Justice today that she is headed the wrong way. Many Canadians and practically all Quebecers are opposed to this legislation. This is easy to understand because the bill before the House is strictly political.

Before examining a bill and voting on it, we, as lawmakers, must first know if such a measure is needed. There is no need for such a drastic law in Quebec. Members need only look at the statistics. Youth crime is decreasing, but there is more to it Statistics show that the further one goes east the more one notes a drop in youth crime.

In other words, the youth crime rate in Quebec is lower than in Ontario, Manitoba and British Columbia. The reason is that: Quebecers consider the youth justice system more as a rehabilitation process. We have to get the young offenders back into society. This bill before the House does just the opposite. It would throw these young people in jail. And as everyone knows, prison is a school for crime.

In prison, 14 year old kids are living among older criminals for whom it is perhaps harder to get back into society because of their age. For a 40 or 50 year old man who has been a killer all his life, rehabilitation is less likely. Of course, Quebec will try to give him a chance, but the most important thing is to give young offenders the opportunity to redeem themselves. Throwing them in jail with hard core criminals would defeat the purpose. Statistics show that Quebec has a higher rehabilitation rate among young offenders because we have come to realize that these young people need support and supervision, not jail time.

I mentioned earlier a major coalition and all its members. But there is also another very important element that must be mentioned. Not one of the 125 members of the Quebec National Assembly supports this bill. I have here a motion I consider important which was adopted by the Quebec National Assembly on November 30, 1999:

That the National Assembly request that the federal Minister of Justice suspend the legislative process with respect to Bill C-3 in order to make a better assessment of the implementation by the provinces of the measures provided for in the Young Offenders Act and ascertain that Quebec will be able to keep its strategy based on the needs of the young, with an emphasis on crime prevention and rehabilitation.

Obviously, the basic principles in the motion are rehabilitation and prevention. These notions should prevail much more frequently in our society. We should stop investing money to deal with just the consequences of crime. With the minister's proposal, we will have to invest a lot of additional money. It is expensive to put people in prison, and even more expensive when we deal with young offenders because, with this bill, they will probably end up in prison several times during their lifetime.

Also, this does not take into account the international impact. There are United Nations conventions dealing with juvenile delinquency and the protection of children. The government is totally disregarding that, because these conventions say that within a justice system the young person must come first.

As I have been explaining for the last 10 minutes or so, we have proved that it works in Quebec. Social reintegration is possible and we rehabilitate young offenders. We do not condemn them to be criminals for the rest of their lives.

This is why, naturally, I will support all the amendments. Judging by the number of amendments on the table, it is clear that the bill is totally inadequate. We have had to move 3,000 amendments to improve it.

Let us pass all these amendments. If it is not possible, we will definitely vote against the bill at the third reading stage. It is not too late for the minister, however. It is not too late for my Quebec colleagues, the Liberal members from Quebec. They can still set an example for once and pay attention to the heartfelt cry of the people of Quebec.

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3:25 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, in 1993 when I first came to the House one of the first speeches I was able to deliver was on the Young Offenders Act.

In 1993 there was a cry from the public throughout Canada to do something about this act which after 10 years of being in place, having been brought into the House in 1984, had proven to be not a very effective means of dealing with young people. If a 350% increase in violent crimes means it was successful then there is something wrong with that success.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. My apologies to my worthy colleague. Our colleague is recognized as the House expert on this subject. I think it most unfortunate that we do not have a quorum here to listen to him.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has called quorum.

And the count having been taken:

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We have quorum.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:25 p.m.

Reform

Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, here we are in the year 2000 and nothing has changed.

When we came here in 1993 I was informed that the top priority at that time was the Young Offenders Act. In fact the previous Minister of Justice called for a meeting with me and one of my colleagues to discuss the Young Offenders Act because it was such a high priority. Yet it did not go anywhere. There were submissions from across Canada from thousands and thousands of Canadians. There were submissions from all parties in the House of Commons. There was a strong cry to do something about the Young Offenders Act, and here we are still tinkering around with this issue.

The previous justice minister did nothing. It appeared to me quite obvious after a little while that the idea that the Young Offenders Act was top priority was nothing more than smoke and mirrors and just talk, because they tinkered with it and did nothing. Then the new justice minister came in in 1997 and again it was a top priority. What did we get? A glossy print of a new thing called the youth justice system, a glossy print of tinkering around, not truly bringing any significant changes to the Young Offenders Act.

Then along comes the day we are to have a discussion on it, and we find out the act has gone through a justice committee for days and days, being filibustered most of the time, and nothing has changed in it. It has not been amended. It has not been changed at all. Now we are looking forward to voting this week on something like 3,000 amendments the Bloc has presented. The Bloc is opposed to this particular bill for certain reasons, but we are opposed to this bill for totally different reasons.

The one thing that puzzles me is the cry from the Quebec population, who through various polls have indicated that 70% to 80% of them are calling for tougher measures in the Young Offenders Act. They want something done but the Bloc is presenting the opposite. That is not very good representation.

What really amazes me is hearing the Liberals and the Bloc talk about what they are going to do with young offenders. They spend minutes and then hours talking about the criminal element, the ones who commit the crimes. They make no mention of the victims. Once again, as with all legislation regarding justice, the victims are shoved in the background. The criminals are brought to the foreground; we talk about them and what we must do.

We talk about the successful justice system we have. That is the one where Karla Homolka lets herself in and out of her cottage and dresses up in an evening gown and has a birthday party. She is able to do all the things the victims can never do. Yet that is our wonderful justice system. We must concentrate on Karla Homolka. We cannot concentrate on the families and on the victims of these people.

We talk about 10 year olds being brought before the courts and being run through a system to deal with the problems they have. The NDP and the Liberals scream, oh my goodness gracious, 10 year olds. I spent 32 years in the business of working with young people in a schoolhouse. Believe me, 10 and 11 year olds know right from wrong, as do a lot of 8 and 9 year olds, and maybe even younger ones.

I am a strong believer in prevention. We had excellent programs for trying to detect young people at risk. We tried to catch them early in life so we could deal with them properly and through the right channels, in the hope that we could prevent them from ever entering the crime scene. There are two fine towns in my riding, Strathmore and Airdrie, that have excellent youth justice committees. They are working hard to prevent crime and help these people, but we need legislation. When someone crosses the line and prevention methods do not work, something has to be done. What is that something to be?

I have heard the suggestion that we should listen to the United Nations, the wonderful United Nations that says we have to learn to teach people to be more sensitive, that we have to sensitize our children. Maybe we have to sensitize them to Hollywood and to TV and all the violence that goes on there. I do not know what the United Nations means by saying that we have to sensitize our children to all of these issues.

The whole problem is getting worse, not better. All the rhetoric and all the reports they talk about do not indicate at all that it is getting better, yet the government claims it is doing a wonderful job. It is not happening. It is now 2000. Since 1993 it has gotten worse. It continues to get worse. Nothing is happening.

I want to read into the record a letter that I received from Theresa McCuaig. She is the grandmother of Sylvain Leduc. Members may remember the terrible tragedy that took place in Ottawa. She says:

Along with other family members victims of horrific youth crimes, on three separate occasions we have addressed the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights concerning youth crimes. I truly wonder if anyone knows how difficult and embarrassing it is, to sit in front of a group of strangers to share our ugly stories and the grief we feel over our murdered and maimed children. Did you know that as we walk into that room, we are filled with hope that the people we are addressing will hear us and make our world right again? We do not ask for much, simply the protection of future victims and hopefully some justice for them. We sometimes cry and tremble inside as we re-live the horrors of our children's pain or death for you. We feel like we're begging for the common sense changes needed to our unjust laws. At the time, we feel soothed and are impressed that you, our government members, actually take the time to hear us. We leave the room tapping each other on the back, convinced that what we've said will really make a difference.

I've followed the committee's progress, watching its members working hard in preparing their many recommendations to the new youth justice act. I was impressed with their hard work and was appalled that the committee was given only 10 hours to debate their recommendations. Apparently no one cared to hear what we had to say. Regrettably, none of us were heard.

With all its inadequacies the new youth justice act will be debated this week. I'm told that those who have grave concerns will debate it forcefully. Regardless, I know in my heart that the act will be passed simply because those who oppose it are outnumbered.

Among we insignificant `little people' it is whispered that the bill is quickly being pushed through to make it look good for the upcoming election that will soon be announced.

In the future, I suggest you do not bother asking victims to come humiliate themselves by testifying in front of the justice committee. The resulting pain and disappointment added to our great grief are just too difficult to live with.

I feel that our testimony had about as much impact on our government as our victim impact statements have in the courtroom. None!

To the members of the justice committee who have worked so hard on this bill, I offer you my heartfelt sympathy and can appreciate your great disillusionment and disappointment.

Regards, Theresa McCuaig, Sylvain Leduc's grandmother.

The victims are not being heard. Canadians are not being heard. We have been here for seven years and it has not happened. It is time the government got off its duff and started to do something right.

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3:35 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I note again that the Liberals are showing their utter contempt for the House, as they usually do. I would ask for a quorum, please.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

The hon. member for Cypress Hills—Grasslands has requested a quorum count.

And the count having been taken:

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

We have quorum.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

3:35 p.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, usually I begin my speeches by saying that I am pleased to speak on an important bill. This time, although it is an important bill, I am not at all pleased to speak to it. Why? Because this bill is an aberration.

The government is in a much greater hurry to go after 14 year olds than organized crime. How long have my colleagues from Berthier—Montcalm and Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert along with the leader of the Bloc Quebecois and all its members been fighting for more effective measures against organized crime and reinforcement of the criminal code more consistent than the reinforcement and amendments to it in 1997? They are fighting for real anti-gang legislation and, if necessary, the use of the notwithstanding clause. Well, no.

On the other side of the House they are hedging because they are not interested in going after the real criminals. Pursuing the real criminals does not necessarily bring in votes. However, pursuing young children and thereby meeting the demands of the former Reform Party, now comprised of Alliance members, is more profitable. They think they will be able to win more seats in the west in the next election with a certain right-looking vision.

In so doing, the Liberals are completely overlooking one thing, namely the well-being of teenagers and their ability to be rehabilitated and returned to society. The Liberals are advocating caning, not rehabilitation for these young offenders.

During oral question period, I was surprised to hear the minister say that some members have tried to distort the debate. She was referring to opposition members, particularly Bloc Quebecois members. I remind the minister that she was the first one to distort the discussion by turning a deaf ear to the consensus throughout this debate and by moving over 200 amendments without having had the courage to defend her bill and the 200 amendments that she moved in the House a few months ago.

The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm, who is doing an extraordinary job on this issue, managed to achieve a consensus among Quebec's major stakeholders in the area of young offenders' rehabilitation. He invited the minister many times to appear before the justice committee, precisely to justify the thrust that she was giving to the new young offenders legislation. But the minister declined.

Someone has been distorting the discussion since Bill C-3 was first introduced, but it is the Minister of Justice herself. She has ignored everything. Above all, and we will not let this drop, she has ignored the needs of troubled adolescents. Instead of a bill that addresses needs, there is a call for caning. Needs are no longer important to the Liberal government. The needs of a 14-year old adolescent who has lost his way are no longer important. What is important is throwing him in jail. That is important for winning western votes.

The government talks about the flexibility in the bill. I have read and reread it and listened to all the explanations of the member for Berthier—Montcalm, for whom I have tremendous respect, as well as of all those who spoke to this bill. There is no flexibility, and one of those who offered his opinion was a spokesperson for the Coalition québécoise d'opposition au nouveau projet de loi sur les jeunes contrevenants. He said, and I quote:

The provinces' supposed flexibility in enforcing the legislation is no more than a series of limited powers dependent on the crown attorneys. Nowhere in this bill is it stated that the provinces may implement their own model.

So much for flexibility. Furthermore, it is very strange that a government wants to change its young offenders legislation, which works when properly enforced. Extraordinary results can be achieved with the existing legislation, when it is properly enforced. If there is one place in Canada where the Young Offenders Act is being so enforced, it is Quebec. In Quebec, we have had the best results of all of Canada.

Since 1991, the youth crime rate has dropped 23%. Quebec has its lowest youth crime rate in 20 years. We also have the lowest indictment rate, the lowest conviction rate and the lowest custody rate.

It goes to show that when the Young Offenders Act is enforced properly, when the focus is on rehabilitation and on the needs of young offenders, it works. It works very well and we have proved it. And in those places where the act was not enforced properly, the results are totally the opposite of what we have seen in Quebec.

Let us look, for example, at the situation in Saskatchewan, Ontario and New Brunswick. It is incredible. The conviction rate and the custody rate per 100,000 inhabitants show that the Young Offenders Act was not enforced properly. Those provinces have conviction rates and custody rates that are considerably higher than the national average. Their rates are very high compared to what they are in Quebec. All the stakeholders in Quebec think this bill is useless and extremely dangerous. As far as reintegration is concerned, this bill is way off the mark.

Reference is made in this bill to publishing the identity of offenders. How can one think that publishing the names of young offenders will help them re-enter into the community? For one thing, does publication not make the illegal act committed look good in the eyes of other young people?

How can we, while claiming to want to help them and meet some of their needs and talking about social reintegration, allow young people to see their reputations tarnished by having their identity published and whatever offence they committed be glamourized, so to speak, in the eyes of their peers? It was totally unacceptable to introduce such a bill.

Moreover, most of those who condemned the Liberal government's behaviour said the bill was so complicated that, even if one were in agreement with it, it would be an extremely difficult bill to enforce.

In particular, the bar association's recent brief indicated the following—which confirms what I said earlier—on page 63:

The wording of clause 41 and the following clauses is so complex that experts had tremendous difficulty understanding those clauses. They have to be rewritten, because it must be remembered that this legislation is addressed to adolescents.

When Quebec bar association experts have difficulty interpreting what the minister means and, moreover, there is a solid consensus in Quebec to the effect that this is a bad piece of legislation, we have a problem.

The hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm asked for an opting out provision, whereby a province would be able to opt out with full compensation, so that Quebec, which properly enforced the Young Offenders Act and which achieved spectacular results with the rehabilitation of young offenders, could eventually be fully exempt from these new provisions and continue to use an approach that has so far given such good results.

The minister rejected that request from the coalition, from all the major stakeholders in Quebec.

Yet, as I said, youth crime has continuously been dropping over the past 20 years, and in Quebec in particular we have achieved incredible success, with the result that our youth crime rate is now much lower than elsewhere in Canada, because we did things right.

We respected the spirit of the Young Offenders Act, whose purpose is not to marginalize young offenders for the rest of their lives by dragging them before adult courts without any consideration and without taking their needs into account. Rather, we looked at the alternative and tried, whenever possible, and most of the time it is possible, to rehabilitate young offenders and return them to society.

When I spoke about unanimity in Quebec, I should have mentioned that the supreme court also voiced the opinion that the Young Offenders Act should not be seen as the counterpart of adult criminal laws. Even Mr. Justice Antonio Lamer made this point, and emphasized that the Young Offenders Act took into account the very specific needs of adolescents and that it was not necessary for a new law to be the mirror image of the criminal laws for adult offenders.

There is a coalition in Quebec, which has made representations to the minister, with the assistance of the member for Berthier—Montcalm, using shock arguments, arguments set out in the documents of the Minister of Justice, which show beyond a shadow of a doubt that, if the Young Offenders Act is properly enforced, no rod is necessary. We do not need a new act. The one we have is fine. It needs to be properly enforced, but it should not be used for electioneering, as the minister is now doing.

We hope that the House will approve our amendments, that the minister will listen to reason or that the government will ensure that this bill dies on the Order Paper before a federal election is called.

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3:50 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, again we are in the House talking about the Young Offenders Act.

When we first arrived here in 1993, I remember the hon. member for Wild Rose mentioning that one of the big reasons we came here was to see what the government was doing in regard to young offenders. It seems to go on forever.

We can throw blame and shift it around all we want. I just listened to the member from Quebec state that all we believe in is the whipping post. He said that Quebec instituted legislation that that works really well. Well, according to 77% of Quebecers, particularly those who have been victims of the Young Offenders Act, they want the act toughened up a whole bunch. I would bet, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that it is at least 77% in the rest of Canada.

We have heard the government, time after time, stand in the House and say that its number one priority is for the safety and well-being of law-abiding citizens but time after time it has failed the law-abiding citizens. The Young Offenders Act is just the tip of an example of what is going on.

There are many reasons for this. One of the significant causes for the failure of the Young Offenders Act and youth criminal justice is the lack of significant funding to properly deal with young offenders. There is a federal-provincial agreement to split the costs 50:50 for youth justice. Under the Constitution Act, 1867 the federal government is responsible for the criminal law through section 91. Through section 92 the provinces are responsible for the administration of the criminal law. Much like this government's shenanigans with health care, it has been playing games with young offenders funding. Rather than maintaining its 50% responsibility, the federal government has been slowly allowing its participation to erode to the extent that recent estimates of its contribution places it closer to 20% to 30%.

The government will argue that it recently allotted an additional $206 million toward youth justice. However, as is typical of the government, particularly the present finance minister, figures are always used to make larger numbers. Let us take a look. The $206 million is over three years. That is less than $70 million a year. Those funds do not cover the present shortfall in funding to the provinces and they will not cover the additional cost of this new piece of legislation. Again the government comes out with numbers that do not match reality.

We have a government, as we have had governments before, saying “We will be the parent. We will look after your children”. How it did this was by forcing both parents out to work. When that happened the children had nobody at home to look after them when they came home from school. The name that was used for them, and I think is still used, was “latchkey kids”. Where have our young people been learning while their parents were working? Was it in the parks? Yes, they have learned very well how to shoot dope, how to pull break and enters and, in some cases, assault, and they have learned how to rob. When the parents decided to crack down and put some law and order and discipline into their lives the government stepped down on the parents. The government has has taken the rights of parents through something called the charter of rights for children.

There is an old saying “You reap what you sow”. This is what we get. We have young offenders now who know they will get away with just about anything. They will serve soft time if they serve time at all. The most they will probably get is probation and, in many cases, not abide by it. I say this because I have talked to students at various schools.

Young people in grades 7, 8 and 9 have said to me “Mr. Stinson, we are afraid to go to school, afraid to go out at night and afraid to hang around with our friends because of the gangs that intimidate us. They take our clothes when we go to school and our lunches because they know nothing will happen to them”. There will be no severe penalty and probably no penalty at all. We have case after case of repeat young offenders going into different communities. Why? Because the public is not allowed to know their names. They are protected. Our neighbours do not even know what their children are up to.

The hon. member for Wild Rose quoted letters from victims who classified themselves as insignificant little people. When they came as witnesses before the committee they felt abused by their own politicians.

Members have to wonder exactly what we were put in this place to do when we have people going out of committee feeling that way. Something has to be done. We have tried study after study. We have listened to what I like to call the bleeding hearts of Canada tell us that soft love works and yet violent offences by youth are up 365%. Same on the government members who sit on the other side and say that their programs work when we have a 365% increase in violent offences by young offenders.

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3:55 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Where?

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3:55 p.m.

Reform

Darrel Stinson Reform Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

The member from Quebec asks, “Where?”. That is a good question. Where does it work, as members are sitting around their tables? I have to wonder.

Let us take a quick look at what is happening today. We hear government members saying that 15 and 16 year olds are not adults and that 10 and 11 year olds do not know right from wrong. We all know full well that 14, 15 and 16 year olds know exactly what they are doing when they commit a violent act. We know that and yet we want to keep going down the same old road of doing nothing and studying the situation.

I want to speak to a personal experience I had before entering politics. My mother had the unfortunate experience of being stabbed and left for dead by a 14 year old and his 15 year old sister. They were caught and had to go before the court. The court asked them what had motivated them since there was no robbery and no intent. Their answer to the court was “Who cares?” That is the attitude that is out there. We have a very small minority of young offenders saying “Who cares and even if I do care what are you going to do about it because the laws protect me and not the victim”.

I began my speech today saying that the government's first and foremost responsibility was for the safety and well-being of its law-abiding citizens. Who needs our help and protection more than the young people of Canada? Who needs our help more than those 6, 7, 8 or 9 year olds who want to walk to school in safety and are afraid of children their own age or just a little bit older because our system does not have the penalties which those predators of our children deserve.

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4 p.m.

Bloc

Daniel Turp Bloc Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, at the request of our justice critic, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, who for the past few years in this House has been trying to make sure that pieces of legislation dealing with young offenders are the best, and in keeping with the fact that young people are not the criminals they are believed to be in some parties.

In this regard, I would like to remind the member who spoke before me of a few statistics he is trying to hide because, somehow, he agrees with the government's approach, which is not based on a fair and reasonable appreciation of what is really going on across Canada, especially in Quebec, and which shows to what extent the reform brought about by the justice minister and her government is purely political and is a vote-seeking initiative. It seems that it will have to be implemented before an election is called, which looks like it could be very soon.

The minister's very own statistics, which appear in a fact sheet dated March 1999, show for instance that between 1991 and 1997, the charge rate for young people dropped by 25%, and that the charge rate for violent crimes among youth has decreased by 3.2% since 1995.

According to the most recent statistics, the crime rate fell for the sixth consecutive year in 1997. The 5% drop resulted in the lowest police-reported crime rate since 1980. This decrease applies to most offences, including violent crimes which seemingly would justify a tougher approach and legislation, especially sexual assault, for which the rate fell by nearly 1%, robbery, which dropped 8%, and homicide 9%.

Violent youth crime is still on the decline. Fewer charges are laid, yet the government wants to pass new legislation and get rid of the Young Offenders Act; it actually wants to repeal it even though it has proven to be effective when implemented properly, like the Government of Quebec has done in recent years, and when a real effort is made to show the kind of compassion the courts and those responsible for enforcing legislation passed by parliaments to deal with young offenders ought to have.

As a matter of fact, the Bloc Quebecois tried to stop and will continue its fight to stop the federal government from passing legislation that, according to all stakeholders in Quebec, will in no way solve the problems nor help those who must not only sentence young people, but also try to rehabilitate them and facilitate their social reintegration.

The Bloc Quebecois has succeeded in creating awareness among all stakeholders dealing with young offenders. Not one of these stakeholders supports this bill.

On the contrary, all groups joined in a coalition around our party to indicate to the minister that this legislation should be withdrawn, that it is not good for Quebec or the rest of Canada and that, as it is, the existing Young Offenders Act meets our needs and provides the necessary tools to prevent youth crime or to ensure that crimes are punished and that rehabilitation and social reintegration of young offenders are not threatened.

For the benefit of all Canadians and especially of young offenders, the Bloc Quebecois will continue to plead for this legislation to be withdrawn or at least for it to provide an opting out clause, since not only the players I mentioned earlier and my colleague from Saint-Jean listed oppose the bill, but all Quebec MNAs unanimously adopted a resolution to that effect. They all wanted to indicate to the government that they do not want this legislation to apply to Quebec.

In this sense, the right for Quebec to opt out would be a lesser evil if, as some members say, Canadians they represent elsewhere in Canada want stricter and more restrictive legislation for young offenders.

For the purpose of this debate, I would like to add a more personal note that I find interesting as an international law professor. The bill itself makes reference in its preamble—I am referring to one of the preamble's last paragraphs—to the fact that Canada is a party to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Since Canada has ratified that convention, the bill must meet Canada's obligations stated in the convention.

This convention forces member states to get Canada to make a commitment to the international community as a whole, as this convention is one of the few treaties to have been signed and ratified by almost all the members of the international community.

More than 180 of the 191 states, within the international community, have ratified the treaty. Canada appears to be ignoring one of this treaty's basic provisions that says that one of the most important considerations in any decision concerning children, and also teenagers who are still children, is the best interests of the child.

As we know, this bill does not seem headed that way, since it focuses more on the protection of society, which should not be neglected of course, on the protection of victims, than on the best interests of the child, a notion that has the same importance in our human rights law as in international conventions, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In this connection, I would like to remind hon. members that article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which codified the rule of best interest of the child is one which Canada has invoked specifically, claiming that the Young Offenders Act respected that principle.

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child reminded Canada, when it tabled one of its reports on the application of the convention, that the principle of best interests of the child should be better reflected in Canadian internal legislation. This is far from the case with this piece of legislation we have before us.

It is important that I finish my presentation. I would like to point out in closing that in the Jasmin report in Quebec—a totally remarkable report on young offenders—within and beyond the law, an appendix titled “Adolescence, from turbulence to independence” concludes with the words of a psychologist, Louisiane Gauthier, which are very much worthwhile quoting to this tribunal of the people that is parliament:

From the time a child leaves his mother's body until he becomes a member of the social body, the identity he will construct for himself will reflect the significant adults whom he encounters. These adults, by the authority of membership in the generation of those who begat him, are the beacons that light the way for the child, through their kindnesses, their mores and their rules. Adults provide him with the ability to respond to the major questions encountered in life.

We in this House are adults, let us act as adults. Let us give precedence to the best interests of the child. Let us not pass this legislation which this government wishes to have us pass.

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4:10 p.m.

Reform

Val Meredith Reform South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and contribute to the debate this afternoon on Bill C-3.

I thought it was interesting that when the minister responded to a question today she said that the Young Offenders Act had been under debate for the past two years. I thought she must have been sleeping in the 35th Parliament. The debate on the Young Offenders Act was one of the first things we dealt with when we entered the House in January 1994. There had been a nationwide request for submissions on the Young Offenders Act in the late fall of 1993 and the justice committee tried to move that agenda forward in the 35th Parliament. I believe we were successful only in forcing the federal government to bring a very weak piece of legislation at the time into the House which dealt with nothing that was identified by Canadians as a problem with the Young Offenders Act.

It would appear that Bill C-3 is another lackluster attempt by the federal government to deal with the concern of Canadians with the Young Offenders Act and its inability to deal with the changes in our society and where young people find themselves.

It is not just adult Canadians who have identified the problems with the Young Offenders Act. It is the young people who have indicated to my colleagues and to myself that they do not feel at all protected by the Young Offenders Act. There is no significant penalty being paid by young people who choose to live a life that is less than desirable.

I sympathize with the Bloc in that Quebec does have a much better system for early intervention than we will find anywhere else in the country. Early intervention is certainly not something that replaces the Young Offenders Act. It is something that should work with the Young Offenders Act. It is something that should continue to be used and supported in the province of Quebec and hopefully in other provinces.

In my province of British Columbia we have a program in a number of communities that deals with first time offenders or young people who show that they are getting into the wrong choices. Two of the communities in my riding have that program. The process is to bring them into the program for counselling, to work with the parents and their schools and to try to give these young people, who have made a bad choice or perhaps got mixed up with the wrong group of friends, an opportunity to change the direction in which they are going without having a criminal record.

That is not what a young offender act is all about. A young offender act, although it can deal with some of these alternative measures for first time offenders and for young people who are not criminal in nature or who are not going to be repeat offenders, should have other ways to deal with that. A young offender act deals with young people who have chosen to go in a direction that is not acceptable to society. They need to know very strongly and very clearly that their actions are not acceptable and there is a penalty to pay to behave that way.

That has not happened in the past. With the present Young Offenders Act under which we now operate there is not a clear definition of what a young person can get away with. I think young people are asking for that clear definition.

Once again the government has brought in a piece of legislation that does not give those kinds of clear definitions. I have noticed that again there is a reluctance to understand there are 11 year olds in society who are part of the group of young people that have chosen to violate the law and do things that are abhorrent to society. Unfortunately those 11 year olds are not dealt with.

If the government thinks that they are dealt with under the social services and child protection acts of the provinces, surely the statistics out there would indicate that is not the case. The provincial governments do not have the resources or the ability to make sure those young people get appropriate treatment.

It has also been brought to my attention over the course of this debate that the federal government has once again reneged on its commitment to fund the services for young offenders to 50%. If the federal government is to bring in legislation that puts the onus on the provinces to deliver a service with the understanding that there would be financial contributions of up to 50% of cost, why does it never meet that commitment? Whether it is in health or the young offenders act, why is the federal government not meeting a commitment it is making to the provinces to fulfil an obligation that is there?

If these young people are brought into the system and are treated, perhaps we will not have an increase of 360-odd per cent of violent offences by young people. If a young person breaks the law repeatedly, does not pay any significant price for doing so and then goes back into the school environment holding himself up as a tough dude who will continue that kind of behaviour, why would we expect anything different?

We on this side of the House and others in society are asking for the government to acknowledge that there are young people out there who need substantial support because they do not mean to be doing whatever it is they are doing and are being led astray. There are also some young people out there who are not nice and whose intentions are not to be good citizens of society. Those young people also have to be brought into a system where they know what will happen to them, what the lines are and what the punishment will be. It has to be substantial enough that they change the direction in which they are going.

It is quite obvious to many of us when we see what happens in society. If young people are not given opportunities to readdress where they are going with educational opportunities, counselling or whatever they might need when they are young offenders, chances are they will be in the system when they are adults. We have seen it. Anyone who has had any exposure to the prison system has seen that many individuals in that system started at a young age and were young offenders.

A lot of it is because they never had to pay when they were young people. The concern we have in the House is that we are not distinguishing between young people who make a bad choice and violent offenders. In this piece of legislation there is reference to alternative sentencing, which means something other than incarceration, being applicable to violent offenders.

We saw in the sentencing legislation brought down under the criminal code a couple of years ago that violent offenders are now being given alternative sentences, which means something other than incarceration, and put back or left out in society because there was not a clear definition in the legislation which said a violent offender should be treated differently than an ordinary non-violent offender. The legislation for young offenders allows that same abuse of the system.

We have had numerous cases brought before the House of how it is not working in the adult system. Why would we repeat the same mistake in the Young Offenders Act when we have identified that mistake in adult legislation in the criminal code?

Although there may be the odd provision in the legislation that is supportable, for the most part it should not supportable by individuals in the House. It is another weak attempt by the Liberal government to brush the issue aside and say that it has dealt with it. We will be revisiting the same issue, mark my words, in another couple of years because the government has not addressed it any more now than it did in 1995-96 when it brought in its previous legislation on the Young Offenders Act.

It would be nice if the government would be a little more willing to listen to the witnesses who appeared before the committee giving constructive suggestions and if it would listen to opposition members and actually do something meaningful to readdress the Young Offenders Act.

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4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

There is a correction to the Speaker's ruling regarding report stage of Bill C-3. Earlier this day the Chair delivered its ruling on the groupings of motions for debate at report stage of Bill C-3, the youth criminal justice act, and explained that a further decision would be forthcoming on the voting pattern for each of the motions in all groups.

At that time the Chair neglected to mention that Motion No. 123, standing in the name of the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, could not be proposed to the House because it was not accompanied by a recommendation of the Governor General.

Standing Order 76.1(3) requires that notice of such a recommendation be given no later than a sitting day before the beginning of report stage consideration of a bill. Consequently Motion No. 123 will not be selected and will be removed from the notice paper.