Mr. Speaker, we were speaking to Bill C-7, the amendment to replace the Young Offenders Act with the youth criminal justice act. We were speaking about the use of alternative measures or community based programs for 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 would violent offenders cease to be dangerous.
We are encouraged that the bill would make these educational and rehabilitation programs mandatory. When and if young offenders are incarcerated, they would be forced to go through programs so that they could be integrated back into society thus making it a safer place to live. Protection of society is the key guiding principle of the Young Offenders Act or of the youth criminal justice act.
According to an old Statistics Canada fact finder a very small percentage of violent offenders are incarcerated. It means that a very small percentage of them are actually held in custody. They are unable to go through those programs while a disproportionate number of non-violent offenders are incarcerated, limiting the space and resources needed to rehabilitate the violent offenders.
Prison is not necessary for young persons who commit minor offences. We are not asking that there be incarceration in that regard. In many cases it may be detrimental to them. They may be assaulted by other violent young offenders or they may also learn from the other ones in the prison system. After their release, depending on how we look at it, the educational program may also allow them to progress to higher levels of crime or lower levels of crime.
We fully support alternative measures but only for non-violent first time offenders. In 1995, with the passage of Bill C-41, the Liberal government legislated conditional sentences and alternative measures. My party fought adamantly but to no avail to amend the legislation limiting the use of conditional sentences to non-violent offences. As a result of the government's failure to make such amendments, judges have repeatedly handed out conditional sentences throughout the country to persons convicted of serious crimes.
There is one case that has been raised many times in the House. A man who abducted and viciously sodomized a young woman was given a conditional sentence. The young woman was scarred for life. She now lives with that in her memories and is plagued by that conditional sentence.
A few weeks ago in Ottawa, another case dealt with a woman who was convicted of attempting to hire a hit man to kill her parents and was given a conditional sentence.
The first and guiding principle of Canada's criminal law should be the protection of society. Without strict limits placed on the use of alternative measures or conditional sentences, whether it be for violent adults or violent youth, the tenet for the protection of society would be violated.
In closing I urge the government to take the step to realize and to recognize the importance of dealing with the protection of society within Canada's criminal law. Do we need changes to the Young Offenders Act? Yes, we do. We applaud the government and the minister for recognizing the inadequacies of the Young Offenders Act and for realizing that we need to make changes.
Bill C-7 falls short. It is short of what is required for the protection of society. We are dealing with our children. The throne speech dealt with our children. The protection of our children and grandchildren is paramount. Bill C-7, although it moves in the right direction, falls short of giving the tools we need to help protect society and our children.