House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.


Division No. 36Government Orders

1:05 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we have been saying all along, the Bloc Quebecois is totally against the bill introduced by the justice minister.

We cannot agree to the rigid model she is proposing, because her bill goes against the values shared by all the people in Quebec and everyone working with children at risk. The government is ignoring years of efforts to implement programs to help young people facing violence in their daily lives. We are not about to backtrack on this.

The government is looking backwards by taking unnecessarily repressive measures without proposing acceptable alternatives to its strong action. To supervise and to punish seems to be the underlying principle of the bill but what about preventing and addressing the problems of our youth? The question remains unanswered.

Despite what the justice minister says, what makes a bill good or bad has nothing to do with the government being reelected but rather with the bill being in touch with reality. The minister is ignoring Quebec's experience in this area. By turning young people into criminals, she is rejecting the Quebec model and its proven success based on rehabilitating young offenders. In doing that, she is compromising an effective approach in favour of considerations on which there is no consensus.

Why is the minister being so hard on our young people who need to be supported and guided rather than punished? Why does she want to send our young people to crime school, which is what prison is? Why deprive them of any hope? Does she want to ruin their chances of getting back on the right track? Does she want to take away their future? These are the goals pursued by the Minister of Justice.

How can a government get swept up in such a piece of legislation, the severity of which is totally pointless? According to recent statistics showing a drop in violent crimes in Canada, such an attitude on the part of the minister, which she insists on keeping despite all opposition, is absolutely unjustified.

Our young people should have a chance to tackle life with more confidence, with proper guidance and supervision, but the government wants to do the opposite.

The bill opens the door to consequences that the government has yet to measure. Young people, gobbled up by this repressive system, will find themselves with their backs to the wall, with no choice but to try to survive in the prison environment. Can we believe that the measures contained in the bill would really have a deterrent effect? Does the minister truly hope to do society a great service by treating this way young people in trouble?

They are being pushed too far. They are left to fend for themselves. What other result can we expect but to turn these young people into future criminals? We must denounce the bill, which was drafted mainly to satisfy a visceral need for revenge which, in the long run, will do more harm than good to our justice system and, more to the point, to our young people.

We have repeatedly denounced all this during the many discussions and debates we have had regarding the bill. Despite our repeated representations, despite the statistics on youth crime—Quebec has the lowest youth crime rate in Canada—despite negative comments from people in the field, despite the success of the Quebec model, the government keeps on turning a deaf ear.

The justice minister, confined in her ivory tower, has chosen to attack the bill's opponents instead of showing its possible benefits, which everyone is still trying to detect. The warning issued to the minister by the Bloc Quebecois failed to make her see the light, so strong is her determination to legislate at all cost in this field. We remain convinced that this legislation ignores Quebec's expertise in the matter and destroys everything that has been accomplished over the years.

The implementation of this new legislation would create more problems than it would solve. We would have to start again from square one and rebuild from a basis whose future efficiency is doubtful. What the Minister is proposing is nothing short of a radical change in philosophy. Nothing justifies tightening up the current act, which has a proven track record and, I repeat, has produced the expected results.

The minister has failed to take into account the criticisms, the objections and, more important, the arguments presented to her. She has come up with a bill nearly identical to the one she introduced in the last parliament.

A few changes here and there—in the French version, the term “infliger” in relation to sentences becomes “imposer”, a fundamental nuance if there was ever one—some of the wording may be slightly different, a few scattered sentences, this is the kind of frivolous changes the minister has the nerve to call improvements.

I cannot see any significant change, any change of direction, any notable redesign, which means that the minister has not seen fit to rethink her bill in the light of everything that has been said or written on the matter. Her bill is based on a lack of maturity and the denial of principles dear to a majority of citizens.

Canada's reputation for tolerance, compassion and good judgement will not survive this new image that the minister is trying to give her government.

Is that the way that the government wants to go? Does it want to erode its reputation on the international scene by choosing a repressive approach over a preventive one?

The Bloc Quebecois refuses to go down this path of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and would rather rely on the law as it is applied in Quebec which, together with adequate resources and programs, is the best tool to solve the problems that the minister's bill claims to be resolving.

No, we will not go for this because, in its current form and in light of the actions taken, the system is achieving the desired results. These actions are not dependent on interest groups, but on needs this bill is not addressing.

Why does the minister not accept the arguments of all the stakeholders concerned? Does she not take their expertise into consideration? If she insists on going about it the wrong way, she will have to shoulder the blame for destroying something that is working well. She will have only herself to blame.

Finally, I want to underline that the Bloc is still vigorously opposed to a bill that does not respect the public consensus in Quebec. The minister must not let the bill be used to promote the hateful agenda of a small number of people. I would advise her to re-examine her position and to think a little longer about the impacts of the bill on Quebec.

I will conclude by saying that, since it does not seem that the minister will let herself be guided by reason but by futile impulses, there is no doubt that she will go ahead as she has said she will in the last few days. She should at least consider giving Quebec an exemption allowing it to continue with the act as it is right now. I doubt that the minister will have enough goodwill and good faith to satisfy this demand, considering what she recently said on the Bloc and which all my colleagues and I still remember.

Since nobody has succeeded in bringing the hon. members to take a moment to think about what they are doing with this bill, I will end on a quotation by Montesquieu, hoping that he will. “Any punishment that is not absolutely necessary is tyranny”.

I would myself add that any legislation that is not absolutely necessary is unacceptable.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, the statements of the member are totally irresponsible.

Is she against the fact under the bill young offenders would no longer be brought before adult courts?

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, progress cannot be made by making disparaging remarks and attacking members of parliament.

What the Bloc Quebecois has been asking for, and what I also want, is for the current legislation, which is working very well, to continue to apply in Quebec. That is what my remarks boil down to.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the member believe that this government would pass legislation that goes against the interests of young Canadians? Can she assure the House right now that she has read Bill C-7 in its entirety before making the remarks we just heard?

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly do read the bills before making any comments about them. I can even tell the House that I attended the hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice, where several witnesses, experts and lawyers, told me how incomprehensible this bill is. They told me that even lawyers who read their fair share of such legal documents all agree that people in the legal profession would have a tough time understanding this piece of legislation. Can you imagine how tough then it is for people who are not really used to this kind of legalese—which could be the case of the member opposite—to understand this bill? As far as I am concerned, I stand behind what I have said.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:15 p.m.


Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague for this most interesting speech. She was just telling us that some people within the justice system were opposed to the introduction of this bill, whatever the member opposite may say.

I would like her to tell us who are these serious stakeholders who have spoken out against the bill. I would be interested in knowing if the Barreau du Québec, the professional body of which the member opposite who is shouting so loud is a member, has expressed its views on this issue. I would like the member to tell us.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:20 p.m.


Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, a whole group of witnesses from Quebec told us unanimously that they were opposed to this bill.

Indeed, the Barreau du Québec appeared as a witness. We also heard from all the groups that are directly involved in this field. We heard from Cécile Toutant, a well known criminology professor at the Université de Montréal. She came to tell us how this bill would be harmful to our young people and that we should continue to apply the law as it is in Quebec. I think that was a unanimous opinion in Quebec.

Maybe the member opposite has not heard those views but I think she will have the opportunity to hear them when the bill reaches committee stage.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I should like to address some deeply disturbing comments that were made when the bill was last before the House at second reading.

We have heard many comments from the benches opposite about the need for decorum and restraint in the House. The line of parliamentary respectability was crossed when the member for Berthier—Montcalm singled out a particular official of the Department of Justice and attacked the individual personally. Perhaps he may not agree with the point of view of the individual, but he should not denigrate those who cannot stand in this place to defend themselves. It lowers the level of debate in the House.

If the member's arguments are so compelling against Bill C-7 on substance, let these arguments stand on their own. His views should be considered on their own value. We do not need to debase this place with personal recriminations. The member for Berthier-Montcalm made comments that were extremely unparliamentary and the individual targeted had no opportunity to rebut those allegations.

I will now address the youth criminal justice act. One may ask why we need a new youth justice legislation? The youth justice system under the Young Offenders Act is not working as well as it should for Canadians. Too many young people are charged and often incarcerated with questionable results. Procedural protections for young people are not adequate and too many youth end up serving custodial sentences with adults.

The overarching principles are unclear and conflicting. There are disparities and unfairness in youth sentencing. Interventions are not appropriately targeted to the seriousness of the offences. They are not adequately meaningful for individual offenders and victims or adequately supportive of rehabilitation and reintegration.

The proposed youth criminal justice act attempts to address these fundamental flaws. First, with regard to targeting responses of the youth justice system to the seriousness of the offence, Canada's failure to target the most serious interventions to the most serious crimes has resulted in one of the highest youth incarceration rates in the world. The proposed law would provide a statutory framework through principles, presumption, new sentencing and front end options, so that serious violent offenders are treated seriously and constructive measures are available for the vast majority of less serious offences.

The presumption in favour of an adult sentence for the offences of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault has been expanded to include repeat serious violent offences. While an adult sentence could be applied to youth 14 years old and above under the Young Offenders Act, the presumptions would now apply to them as well unless a province or territory opts for a higher age.

Privacy protections currently do not apply to youth receiving adult sentences, and this would be continued. Where a youth is convicted of one of the most serious presumptive offences and receives a youth sentence rather than an adult sentence, the privacy protections would not apply unless the judge ruled otherwise.

Enhanced options for police and crown discretion at the front end, together with statutory presumptions about when the formal court process and custody are not be used, will lead to meaningful, effective and faster resolutions of the majority of less serious offending behaviour.

The overall effect of this targeted youth justice system should be fewer young people being put through the formal justice system and receiving custody sentences for less serious offences and an overall reduction in our youth custody rates. It would also clarify the principles of the youth justice system.

The proposed youth criminal justice act sets out the purpose of the youth justice system through its principles. Unlike the Young Offenders Act, the principles of the new bill would provide clear direction, establish structure for the application of principles and thereby resolve inconsistencies. The new principles would reinforce that the criminal justice system for youth is different from the one for adults. It emphasizes preventing crime, ensuring meaningful consequences for offending behaviour, and rehabilitating and reintegrating the young person as the ways it would contribute to the protection of society.

It would ensure fairness and proportionality in sentencing. The sentencing principles in the proposed law would provide a clear, consistent and coherent code for youth sentences. They are intended to reduce disparity and reflect a fundamentally fairer approach to sentencing. Unlike the Young Offenders Act, the new legislation states that the purpose of sentencing is to hold a young person accountable for the offence committed by imposing meaningful consequences and promoting the rehabilitation and reintegration of the young person.

To reverse the current unfairness, the new law would provide that the punishment imposed on a young person must not be greater than what would be appropriate for an adult in similar circumstances. Given the significant disparity between what similarly situated youth receive for similar offences, principles of proportionality among youth sentences are included in the new legislation. Proportionality sets the framework or limits within which the needs of the young person committing the offence are to be addressed through the criminal justice system to achieve rehabilitation and reintegration.

It would respect and protect rights. The Young Offenders Act does not adequately respect the rights of young people. It would provide that a youth could be transferred to an adult court before conviction and lose age appropriate due process protections including privacy protections on the basis of an unproven charge.

Transfer proceedings have lasted as long as two years, which impedes access to a speedy trial. Once transferred into the adult stream, youth as young as 14 could be required to serve their sentences in adult provincial or federal correctional facilities at the discretion of the judge.

The proposed law would address these shortcomings by providing that all the proceedings against a youth take place in the youth court where age appropriate due process protections apply. The hearing on the appropriateness of an adult sentence would only occur after a finding of guilt and all the evidence about the offence had been heard. The youth justice procedure for the most serious offences would be speedier, retain age appropriate due process protection and be more respectful of the presumption of innocence.

Bill C-7 also includes the presumption that if under 18 a youth would serve an adult sentence in a youth facility. This is more consistent with the spirit of the United Nations convention on the rights of the child, which is expressly referenced in the preamble of the new legislation.

It would enable meaningful consequences aimed at rehabilitation. While youth may know that their behaviour is wrong, they may not fully understand the nature and consequences of their acts for themselves and for others. Some young people lack the structure, guidance and support in their communities needed to change behavioural patterns and overcome damaging influences.

Many of the new provisions in the proposed youth criminal justice act would allow for individualized interventions that instruct the youth. Police, crowns and judges would be given statutory authority to warn and caution young people that their behaviour was not acceptable and more serious consequences may follow if they repeat that behaviour.

Conferencing is encouraged at many stages of the process, which could allow the young person to be a participant in a process with victims, family members and others to learn about the consequences of his or her behaviour and to develop ways to make amends.

The range of sentencing options would be expanded. In addition to sentences that allow the young person to attempt to repair some of the harm caused through restitution, compensation, community service orders, there would also be new sentences that provide for close supervision and support in the community.

Changed behaviour in the community is key to addressing youth crime. These sentences include attendance orders, intensive support, supervision orders, and deferred custody and supervision orders. The proposed law would also provide a new sentence for the most violent and troubled youth stressing rehabilitation and support. It is a serious commitment to the protection of society by making every effort to stop the recurrence of the most violent youth conduct.

It would support reintegration after custody. A major flaw of the Young Offenders Act is that it currently does not provide sufficient provisions for a safe, graduated reintegration into the community.

The proposed law would include provisions to assist a young person's reintegration into the community, which protects the public by guarding against further crime. It would provide that periods of incarceration will be followed by periods of supervision in the community through custody and supervision orders. To ensure truth in sentencing and clarity for the young person, at the time of imposing a sentence, the judge would state in open court the portion of time that was to be served in custody and the portion to be served in the community. Breaching conditions of the community supervision could result in the youth being returned to custody.

Studies demonstrate that treatment is more effective if delivered in the community instead of in custody. The reintegration provisions encourage continuity between the custody and the community portions of the sentence through increased reintegration planning, which takes into account the youth's needs throughout the whole sentence and, through reintegration, leaves for specific purposes of up to 30 days.

It would encourage an inclusive approach to youth crime. The youth justice system under the Young Offenders Act has been criticized for not appropriately involving victims, parents, family, community and representatives from other disciplines. Youth crime is often a complex phenomenon. Involving others can improve understanding and provide support for the victims, youths, families and communities in responding constructively and meaningfully to the offending behaviour.

The proposed law specifically encourages conferences at many stages of the proceedings, including those involving the police, sentencing judges and provincial directors. Some conferences may involve bringing together professionals such as child care workers, school psychologists or others who are already involved with the youth to seek advice and verify continuity of services. Others may be in the nature of sentencing circles or family group conferences involving victims, offenders and their families.

The proposed law would also expand the possible mandates of youth justice committees. These are committees of citizens who can assist in any aspect of the administration of the act or in any program or service for young people. They can encourage community members and agencies to take an active role in supporting constructive resolutions to the victims, families, youth and others implicated by youth crime.

The proposed youth criminal justice act corrects fundamental weaknesses of the Young Offenders Act and will result in a fair and more effective youth justice system.

In the time left, I would like to comment on some of the specific provisions of the bill as they relate to the publication of names. This is a contentious element of youth justice policy, with some arguing for publication in all cases and some opposing it in all cases. Some argue the public needs to know who the criminals are in order to protect itself from them. They argue protection of society requires the press to publish the names of all those who commit an offence.

Before accepting the argument, we should also ask ourselves how much additional protection society gets from the publication of names of adults. Unless we know the person named, or the case is of such importance that it is in the paper for weeks or months, do we pay much attention when we read in the paper the name of a person prosecuted for or found guilty of a particular offence? I am not sure we do. In most cases, a few minutes after reading it, we have already forgotten the name. This hardly can be a factor contributing to the protection of society.

Another argument against the ban of publication of names is that it is contrary to an open justice system and to the freedom of the press. It is important to emphasize that the youth justice system is an open justice system. Members of the public can attend and the press can report every detail of the case and the rendering of justice, except for information which would identify the youth. I am sure that we all recognize that freedom of the press is an important element of a free and democratic society. It should only be limited by law and in a reasonable manner that can be justified in a free and democratic society.

The current legislation governing young offenders, the Young Offenders Act, prohibits publication in all cases where the youth is dealt with in the youth system. The provisions prohibiting publication were challenged almost as soon as the Young Offenders Act came into force. The courts have decided that the provisions were a reasonable limitation on the freedom of the press and therefore valid legislation. The courts came to that conclusion because they recognized that the rehabilitation of the youth was an important enough societal objective to require balancing the right to the freedom of the press with this objective rehabilitation of the youth.

The new legislation would continue to allow publication of offenders' names in all cases where a youth was sentenced to an adult penalty. It would also continue to protect the names of the great majority of youth who commit offences and are sentenced to a youth penalty. It will be an offence to publish their names even after they became adults, unless the youth court considers them to fall under two very exceptional circumstances. First, if a youth is charged with a serious offence and is considered dangerous at large and publication is necessary to apprehend the youth, then the case publication would be allowed for five days.

Second, the youth has asked to be able to publish and the court is convinced it would be in the best interests of the youth to publish information about his or her experience with the youth criminal justice system.

In the first case the judge will authorize the police to publish for five days the name of the youth wanted. In the second case the judge will authorize the youth who asked permission to do so to publish information or cause the information to be published on his or her being dealt with in the criminal justice system. Once the youth has made the information public it is no longer protected.

Under the proposed legislation the presumption in favour of privacy would not apply to a very small category of youth who receive youth sentences. The names of youth who would be given a youth sentence for a presumptive office of murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault or repeat violent offences could be published unless the judge prohibits publication.

The youth court judge would prohibit publication in two instances. First, when the youth or the crown applied for a publication ban and the judge considers it appropriate in light of the importance of rehabilitating the youth in the public interest. Second, when the crown gave notice that even though it was a presumptive offence, the crown would not seek an adult penalty. The crown would do so when it was convinced that the circumstances of the offence or of the offender did not warrant an adult penalty. In that case the judge would impose a youth penalty would prohibit publication.

The legislation would not only protect the privacy of young offenders but also prohibit publication of names of youth who were victims of young offenders, and the names of youth who were witnesses in a young person's trial. The youth victim or witness could only publish information on their role in the criminal justice system when they became an adult, with the permission of the court before that time, or with the consent of his or her parent.

I believe these provisions strike an appropriate balance between the freedom of the press, which is a fundamental right in a democratic society, and the interest of society in protecting itself by the rehabilitation of young persons who have committed offences.

I will address one other area on the issue of adult sentences. Under the Young Offenders Act, if a youth is 14 or older at the time of the alleged indictable offence, the provincial prosecutor can apply to have the youth transferred to adult court, as I have indicated. In addition, the Young Offenders Act sets out a category of presumptive offences which includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. It is presumed that the individuals charged with a presumptive offence who were 16 or 17 years old at the time the alleged offence occurred will be transferred to adult court and receive adult sentences.

When a youth is transferred to adult court, the rules applicable to adults apply to the youth and the special protections granted by the Young Offenders Act, including the ban on publication do not apply. In addition, a transfer hearing which takes place before the trial begins can significantly delay the start of the trial. Some transfer hearings, including appeals of the decision to transfer, have taken more than two years to complete. Such delays can be problematic because for most young people the consequences that follow closely after the offending conduct prove to be much more meaningful.

As under the Young Offenders Act, the proposed youth criminal justice act would allow prosecutors to seek to have an adult sentence imposed if a youth 14 or older were found guilty of an indictable offence. The youth criminal justice act maintains the category of presumptive offences in the Young Offenders Act, but extends the presumption to youths 14 or 17 and to serious repeat violence offences.

A youth charged with a presumptive offence has an opportunity to demonstrate to the youth court judge that the presumption should not apply. In addition, under the proposed youth criminal justice act, provincial prosecutors would have the discretion to waive the presumption in an individual case, in which case the judge must impose a youth sentence.

Under the Young Offenders Act the crown must make an application to waive the presumption and the decision rests with the judge. The provincial attorney general could also issue guidelines to prosecutors respecting the waiver of the presumption. Finally, through an order in council a province could raise the age of the application of the presumption from 14 to 15 or 16.

The bill eliminates the transfer to adult court and provides that all proceedings against a youth take place in youth court, where age appropriate due process protections apply, as I have already indicated. Hearings to determine whether a youth sentence or an adult sentence should be imposed would be held only after the youth has been found guilty. Therefore, the youth court judge would make the decision whether to impose a youth or adult sentence after all the evidence regarding the circumstances of the offence and the offender were put before the court.

This bill is a good bill. We look forward to hearing the comments today and moving forward with this legislation. The bill was before the House in the previous parliament and it is now time to get on with it. Canadians are demanding it and we should respond to their demands.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Canadian Alliance Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the member dealt at length on the issue of naming young offenders. We support the idea that a person who has done something wrong ought to confess to it, make it right and make restitution, if it is a property crime, and do everything he or she can do to restore and build their character.

I would like the member to give us his rationale for including in this legislation that which has been practised in Canada for a number of years now. I am speaking of hiding the identity of a person who has been charged and convicted. It seems to me that it is part of accountability when someone admits that he or she did something wrong and asks for help. If the community knows who that person is that person can then go on to make a good life for himself or herself. That is what should be done. I am puzzled by Liberal insistence on keeping identities of young offenders secret.

Could the member comment on that?

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:40 p.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I certainly agree with the preamble to the member's question.

There is a certain stigmatization that goes with knowing the name of a young offender, especially when he or she has committed a minor crime. That certainly counteracts rehabilitation and reintegration, not only within the youth's community but within school as well. These people get targeted. Little Johnny is a bad boy so we should not associate with him. How can that help with the individual's reintegration into the community?

With regard to serious offences, I have already indicated that names will be and can be published.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:40 p.m.


Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, if I might add to the comment made by the parliamentary secretary, I think he is quite right in what he said about stigmatization.

We must remember that youth are, by definition, in a protected category. We do not assign to youth the same rights and responsibilities that we assign to other members of society. Children exist within families. Releasing the name of one member of a family who is having difficulties stigmatizes the entire family. The entire body of youth justice is built on the basis of rehabilitation.

As the parliamentary secretary has indicated, it is true that there are circumstances in which youth who are determined to be a danger in the community may need to be identified. However, that is an exception rather than the rule.

Division No. 36Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Canadian Alliance Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, before I proceed to speak to Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act, I would like to take this opportunity to commend my colleague from Surrey North for his prompt and critical review of this rehashed piece of legislation.

As a new member of parliament in this 37th parliament, I also want to commend him for the wealth of information that he made available to us, especially in the justice committee, and for the many times he has helped us out. We appreciate that. I would also like to commend him also for his diligent efforts over the last three years in holding the Liberal government accountable for its failure to bring about immediate and substantive changes to the young offenders act.

My Alliance colleague lends credibility to this debate. He turned a personal tragedy, the death of his son, into a crusade. Starting with the establishment of a new group called CRY, crime, responsibility and youth, the member for Surrey North succeeded in drawing attention to the inadequacies of the youth justice system and its failure to hold young people responsible for their criminal actions.

Since his election to the House in 1997, he has utilized his wealth of information and exercised diplomacy while working with members of all sides of the House to amend bills, especially those bills that preceded Bill C-7.

I also congratulate the member for Provencher for his election to the House and for his appointment as lead justice critic for the Canadian Alliance.

The former Manitoba attorney general's speech earlier this month clearly demonstrated his experience and knowledge regarding the Young Offenders Act. I also appreciated his references to federal-provincial financial agreements and how they have come to play a part in the bill.

In June 1997 the justice minister promised to make amending the Young Offenders Act a priority. Nearly three and a half years later Canadians are still saddled with an ineffective law that has failed to adequately hold young people accountable for criminal behaviour. In 1997 the minister realized the need to amend the act. She said, and it was publicized, that it was clearly the most unpopular legislation in Canada.

More than five years ago, following the 10th anniversary of the Young Offenders Act, the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs initiated a review of the justice system. After months of cross country hearings, submissions and presentations by people with a vested interest in youth justice, and at a cost of almost half a million dollars, the committee tabled a report in April 1997. The report contained a number of recommendations to amend the Young Offenders Act.

In dissent, the Canadian Alliance presented a minority report which contained a number of recommendations we believed were important. Unlike those of the committee, my party's recommendations dealt with and fell exclusively within federal jurisdiction.

Unfortunately I do not have time to go into all the recommendations and details of our report. However I will use my allotted time to deal with some of the more important or significant points of it.

The most important recommendation was to make the protection of society the guiding principle of the youth criminal justice act. We live in a time when individuals, boards, committees and businesses are all looking to come up with a mission statement or guiding principle which, as they focus on the direction they are taking, they can keep in mind.

The top priority and guiding principle of Bill C-7 needs to be the protection of society. Appearing before the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in October 1996, Mr. Victor Doerkson, a member of the Alberta legislature for Red Deer South, said:

In listening to Albertans, one lesson became very clear. The protection of society should take priority over all other considerations and there must be accountability on the part of all offenders—Alberta also recommends that the declaration of principles within the act be amended to give the protection of society and offender accountability priority over all other considerations.

The member of the legislature, who spoke on behalf of many Albertans, said the people were telling him that protection of society must be the guiding principle. Bill C-7 does not do that. It does not, as recommended by the Alberta MLA and many others who appeared before the standing committee, make protection of society the first and guiding principle of the youth justice act.

According to the declaration of principles, safety and security of Canadians is secondary to the rehabilitation and reintegration of the offender back into society.

The Juvenile Delinquents Act came into effect in 1908. It created an informal juvenile justice system that was separate from the adult system. The guiding principles of the Child Welfare Act were that young offenders were not criminals but rather misguided children in “a condition of delinquency”. Because of that condition of delinquency they were not to be punished. They were rather to be treated. That was the guiding principle of the Juvenile Delinquents Act.

Under the Juvenile Delinquents Act there was no specific sentencing and the judges had very significant discretion in dealing with young offenders. This meant that in some jurisdictions judges handed out extremely stiff sentences, including periods of incarceration for fairly minor crimes, while in other jurisdictions light sentences of open custody were given to violent offenders.

This is unfair. It is unfair to the offender. It is unfair to the victim. It is unfair to the public at large as there was no guarantee in the law that the offender would be incarcerated.

Recognizing that the exclusively welfare oriented focus of the Juvenile Delinquents Act was not appropriate and to reduce judicial discretion, the process of reforming the Juvenile Delinquents Act began in the 1960s. It was not, however, until the early 1980s with the introduction of the famous charter of rights and freedoms that major juvenile delinquent reform became inevitable.

The Juvenile Delinquents Act was inconsistent with the emphasis on due process that was in the charter. In particular, it was considered to be contrary to section 15 of the charter of rights and freedoms which came into effect in 1985. Section 15 guaranteed equality before the law.

Besides failing to make the protection of society the guiding principle in the bill, it would also effectively enact the contentious portion of the Juvenile Delinquents Act that wrongfully promoted an inequitable application of criminal law, in that it would provide far too much discretion to the youth courts.

We on this side of the House do not accept the Liberal government's chequerboard approach to the justice that appears to be at the very crux of the youth criminal justice act. We also do not accept the minister's outright rejection of what I consider to be the next two most important principles or recommendations of my party for amending the Young Offenders Act.

The minister has again refused to lower the age of criminality to encompass 10 and 11 year olds in limited circumstances. She has rejected allowing for the publication of the names of all violent offenders. The only way to ensure the safety of our children and grandchildren is to provide parents with the names of violent and dangerous offenders.

We do not have that right now. I listened with great interest to speech of the parliamentary secretary as he elaborated on what may happen if we had those rights. As parents, we need to know who in the school systems, for example, may be threatening our children or perhaps those in schools associating with our children that they need to be careful of. The only way to ensure the safety of our children and grandchildren is to provide the names of these children.

Also the bill does not, and I believe it should, allow the names of drug dealers to be put on that list. This category of offender has wrongly been missed in the new legislation.

Many Canadian schools, including public schools, are faced with serious troubles. We had representation from the school trustee boards that came around and visited with many members of parliament in the last week. They expressed the need to know who the students are in the school systems that perhaps have been through violent offences or are in trouble with the law.

Drugs are a serious problem in schools. According to a 1999 special edition of the province in Burnaby, British Columbia, police are seeing 13 and 14 year old kids selling crack cocaine. The report went on as well to say that girls of the same age were trading sex for drugs.

The same report revealed that 75% of high school students in Coquitlam, B.C., experiment with drugs. An estimated 10% of them misuse drugs on a regular basis and up to half of them have become addicted.

We as parents have the right to know who our children are associating with. We have the right to know if a convicted drug dealer is attending school with our children. We have the right to know if there is a violent young sex offender living three or four houses down the street.

We have the right to know. We must have the right to protect our children. That is why we on this side of the House believe that the names of violent offenders, including drug dealers, should be published.

With regard to lowering the age of criminality to 10, Professor Nicholas Bala of Queen's University, who appeared before the standing committee on justice, summarized a Statistics Canada survey of 27 police forces in Canada.

The data indicated that offending behaviour by children under the age of 12 was very significant. Despite this fact, authorities are powerless to hold these children legally responsible for their criminal actions. Although a number of provinces have a child welfare system that can and does deal with these children adequately, many provinces do not have such a program. Repeatedly witnesses came before the standing committee on justice and bore witness to the fact that violent offences with a welfare response was inappropriate.

Lowering the age to 10 does not mean that there will be a huge influx of 10 and 11 year olds into the system. It does not mean that we will be inundated with 10 and 11 year olds as they are drawn into the justice system. The system can divert most children of this age away from any formal response, particularly with the support of alternative measures or community based programs.

By amending the age we will in the very few cases of violent offenders have the means to provide these children with the rehabilitation they need. As it stands now, the minister has abandoned 10 and 11 year olds who by committing criminal acts signal that they are in need of help.

As we researched a speech for an earlier debate in the House we noticed that many criminals were taking advantage of the fact that 10 and 11 year olds were not touched by the justice system. They were drawing them in to be drug runners in other ways. If these people are falling through the cracks they need to be helped.

Appearing before the standing committee during its indepth review of the Young Offenders Act, in reference to lowering the age, a representative from Citizens Against Violence said:

Preferably I would like to see the age in the Young Offenders Act lowered to 10, because there's a mindset among today's youth who are becoming well educated in the criminal field that they cannot be touched under the age of 12—We would like to see the age lowered so that the kids themselves know they have to face responsibility for their actions.

The last recommendation I should like to touch on today is the need to differentiate between non-violent crime and violent crime for the purpose of sentencing. We on this side of the House recommend that the minister restrict the use of alternative measures or community based programs to non-violent offenders who pose no threat to society.

We firmly believe that only through lengthy periods of incarceration, where there are effective rehabilitation programs including education, will violent offenders cease to be dangerous.

The EconomyStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


John McCallum Liberal Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, one thing that drives me moderately up the wall is declarations on the Canadian dollar by that well known economic guru, the Leader of the Opposition.

The quickest way to get a 50 cent dollar would be a return to the huge deficits the Alliance was calling for during the last election campaign.

On the other hand, if a stronger dollar is what we want, the only thing that can be done in the short term is to raise interest rates, and that would be the worst possible thing to do.

I have two suggestions for the Leader of the Opposition. First, he should do what good little right wing parties do and trust the markets to determine the value of the Canadian dollar, given that this is a time of U.S. dollar strength rather than Canadian dollar weakness.

Second, at this time of economic turbulence he should stop trashing the Canadian economy on the floor of the House of Commons.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, the foot and mouth epidemic that has gripped the United Kingdom and parts of Europe continues to spread. This highly contagious disease, although not harmful to humans, has devastated the livestock industries in the affected countries.

Canada has been foot and mouth free for 50 years. It is critical to keep Canada a foot and mouth free zone. If foot and mouth were transported to Canada, our export of almost all livestock would be immediately curtailed. The costs of lost exports and the expenses of disease control are estimated to be in the range of $20 billion in the first year alone.

I implore the government to take all the precautions necessary to protect our dairy, beef, hog and sheep operations, indeed, all our primary and secondary livestock operations, from annihilation. Producer groups and individuals are implementing their own precautions and need to be supported in their efforts by real government action.

A national strategy involving all government ministries is needed to battle this outbreak. Decisive action is needed now.

HealthStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nancy Karetak-Lindell Liberal Nunavut, NU

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to announce that the Government of Canada is investing $3.7 million in the Ikajuruti Inungnik Ungasiktumi Network, which is a tele-health service developed by the Nunavut Department of Health and Social Services.

Given the distances involved in Nunavut, tele-health is a welcome tool in helping to provide accessible health care and related social services to Nunavummiut.

The $3.7 million from Health Canada's infrastructure partnerships program shows how the federal Minister of Health is working together with the Nunavut minister of health and social services and showing a commitment to improving the quality and accessibility of health care for Nunavummiut.

Winter SportsStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Carole-Marie Allard Liberal Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise with great pleasure today to congratulate one of the most acclaimed and recognized of our winter sports figures, Jean-Luc Brassard, a gold medal winner in the 1994 Winter Olympics.

Jean-Luc won the dual moguls event at the 2001 Canadian Freestyle Ski Championships this past Sunday at Mont-Gabriel in the Laurentians.

This is particularly good news, since Jean-Luc had surgery to his knee last year and is coming off rehabilitation.

Congratulations, Jean-Luc Brassard. We salute your perseverance and skill.

I would also like to report on an event I attended this past weekend, as part of the family cup.

For the third year in a row, thanks to the financial participation of our government, competitors from one family have been honoured and rewarded. I saw one race in which a 73-year old grandfather, his son and two grandchildren competed.

Congratulations to all the families that participated, and to the competition champions.

Arts And CultureStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Mauril Bélanger Liberal Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members of the House who will be at this evening's special screening of a new Canadian feature film entitled Café Olé .

The story, written by Emil Sher, who will be with us today, is a romantic comedy about a young man whose universe revolves around the video store where he works and the funky little coffee shop, his home away from home, all of this until he meets Alicia, a delightful young Chilean woman who works at the bookstore across town and, to know the rest, members will have to see the movie.

The film is the product of Montreal based Ficciones Films, the director, Richard Roy, and the distributor, France Film/Equinox Entertainment.

We are pleased to have with us today the representatives from the production and distribution teams, as well as three of the actors we will see in the movie, Mr. Andrew Tarbet, Mme. Stephanie Morgenstern and Mr. Dino Tavarone.

Please join me in wishing success to all those who have contributed to the making of Café Olé .

Correctional Service CanadaStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, in January 1998, Patrick Lees violently murdered his wife, Laura, in their family home. Once convicted, he was assessed by Correctional Service Canada and sent to the William Head Penitentiary. I find it deplorable that Mr. Lees could be sent to a club fed, condo style penitentiary to begin his sentence.

My office submitted an access to information request over a year ago to obtain documents on this case, yet to date we have not received one scrap of paper. In fact, I met with the director general of the Information Commissioner's Office and was told that staff could not release anything because it would violate the murderer's rights.

Our justice system currently grants more rights to murderers than to the Canadian public, the victims and their families.

I ask the solicitor general to direct Correctional Service Canada, which has complete discretion to reassign any inmate to any institution at any time, to ensure that all people who have been convicted of murder serve at least two years in maximum security, even those who have been sentenced within the last two years.

David McTaggartStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Clifford Lincoln Liberal Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to salute the memory of a Canadian and international hero, David McTaggart. He died before his time as the result of a car accident in Italy.

A giant of the global environmental movement, a precursor and a visionary, David McTaggart foresaw decades ago the threat to our planetary ecosystem as the defining issue of our time. At the risk of his life and displaying amazing courage, he challenged by his continuing presence the surface nuclear testing carried out by France in the South Pacific, which led to the eventual cessation of such tests.

This feat alone would have given him a place in history, but he was to go on to found Greenpeace International, no doubt the best known environmental organization and the most responsible for raising environmental consciousness in all parts of the world.

As Canadians, we owe a huge debt of gratitude to David McTaggart, environmental hero and a Canadian whose legacy will have marked not only our history but that of the world at large. I ask all Canadians to join with us in saluting his memory.

University HockeyStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Patriotes of the Université du Québec at Trois-Rivières have become the new Interuniversity Athletic Union champions. This is also the third time in their history they have won the championship. They beat the X-men of St. Francis Xavier 5 to 4 in the second overtime period.

I would like to congratulate the players and the coach, Jacques Laporte, and all who in one way or another helped these young people achieve their dream and share it with us. I congratulate them on their courage and their determination.

This is a fine example of courage and determination these young people have given us. It is an example that will inspire the young and not so young to go the extra bit and do it. This is the importance of sports.

Hats off to the Patriotes, to the UQTR and to Trois-Rivières.

French Language ServicesStatements By Members

March 26th, 2001 / 2:05 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt has just introduced a bill to cut the delivery of services in French on the grounds that doing so is a waste of money.

In my opinion, this bill is a clear illustration of just how far the Canadian Alliance is out of touch with the concerns of Canadians living in a minority situation in one of Canada's regions.

There is the francophone community of Toronto and its cultural survival.

There are the French legal services currently being offered in Toronto and elsewhere in Ontario.

There is the work done by the Regroupement des jeunes filles francophones in my riding to provide social and medical services to young people in their language.

There are the needs of French speaking immigrants requiring services in their mother tongue in order to be able to contribute to their new country.

There is the issue of national unity. I must conclude that this bill flies in the face of what underlies our spirit of bilingualism in Canada, and I am surprised at the lack of understanding it represents.

Business Development Bank Of CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Canadian Alliance Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the owner of the Auberge Grand-Mère was turned down for a Business Development Bank loan because the inn was deemed a bad risk, but was later approved when the Prime Minister intervened. In contrast, an inn in my riding was granted a BDC loan on its own merits with no political intervention.

The Auberge Grand-Mère missed 12 payments and the loan was not called. The inn in my riding missed three payments on a low ratio BDC first mortgage during an exceptionally slow winter season and the loan was called.

Why is the government's Business Development Bank so reluctant to take action in the Prime Minister's riding and yet so quick to take action in mine? Obviously there are two standards, one for the Prime Minister and one for the rest of Canadians.

The other question that begs to be answered is why the Prime Minister interfered with the operation of a crown corporation to force it to provide a loan it judged unworthy of consideration. That question has been asked repeatedly, and although the true answer has not yet been given, the truth will come out. Unfortunately it may be too late for a small western inn that does not happen to be next door to a Prime Minister's golf course.

Via RailStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport announced a major injection of funds into VIA Rail and has initiated a study into the business case for VIA service between Peterborough and Toronto.

All the evidence suggests that we should get people off our roads. Passenger rail service reduces pollution, dependence on gasoline and highway accidents. It provides a predictable rush hour commute.

The rail track between Peterborough and Toronto is in a reasonable state and there is now a local freight rail company that has great experience of it.

The time has come to provide the people in Peterborough and those along this rail line with good commuter service and good tourist season service.

I urge the government to move quickly on this. I have the full support of the members for Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, Durham and Whitby—Ajax.

Tobacco AdvertisingStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I want to draw your attention to a flagrant violation of Canada's tobacco laws and make an appeal to the government for urgent intervention.

Last week an advertisement appeared in daily newspapers across Canada promoting du Maurier cigarettes and offering a trip to New York City, but there is a hitch. One has to be a smoker to apply. The ad says “Live it up in the city that never sleeps”.

Do not think for a minute that this ad was not designed to appeal to young people. Do not imagine for a moment that this was not another insidious attempt on the part of tobacco companies to have young people associate glamorous living with smoking.

It undercuts so much of the work we have done here and it is certainly contrary to the Tobacco Act.

I call upon the government to take action against du Maurier and to stand up against big tobacco companies and refuse to tolerate any violation of the laws of this land and the values of Canadians.

Prime MinisterStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, after the many contradictory statements by the Prime Minister and his ethics counsellor, after last week's revelations, Industry Canada's dealings with respect to the golf club records, and the direct intervention of the Prime Minister's Office in the testimony of Mélissa Marcotte, this House is going through an unprecedented crisis of confidence, not only with respect to the person who holds the highest office in government, but also with respect to several ministers.

Out of respect for the office he occupies, the Prime Minister should immediately release all documents having to do with the golf club and the Auberge Grand-Mère, and agree to appear before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs.

The time for ducking and hiding is over. The public's trust in the very office of Prime Minister of Canada hangs in the balance.