Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-7, the Liberal government's latest attempt to replace the Young Offenders Act with new youth criminal justice legislation.
All my colleagues in the Canadian Alliance have tried hard to improve the youth criminal justice legislation. In particular, I would commend my neighbour, the hon. member for Surrey North, for his contribution in this area.
The bill provides principles, procedures and protections for the prosecution of young persons under criminal and other federal laws. It is the third attempt by the government to bring forth young offenders legislation. The bill, with very few changes, is the same as what has been introduced previously. This version of the bill has been updated just to include over 160 technical amendments from the last government.
Here are some specifics. The list of offences for which adult sentences may be imposed is severely limited. The goal of sentencing is solely to contribute to the protection of society by having meaningful consequences for young persons which promote rehabilitation and reintegration, so the goal of protection of society is hardly a concern.
Even for offences that could be treated in adult court, the judge must first consider the least restrictive sentence and only impose adult sentencing as a last resort. Maximum sentencing has not changed for youth sentencing purposes. It is still ten years for murder, with six years in custody and four years under supervision in the community; seven years for second degree murder, with four years in custody and three years under supervision; three years for any offence having an adult sentence of life imprisonment, with two years in custody and one year under supervision for all others.
The deterrent that society demands and needs to cause resistance to commit a crime is effectively not there. Rather, the lack of serious consequences, commonly called the slap on the wrist, acts as a motivation for the youth to commit a crime or for the youth to be used to commit a crime.
I will read from the Canadian Alliance policy book, which of course is dictated by our grassroots membership, unlike the policies of any other political party in the House. Sections 28 and 30 state:
We will make providing safety and security for Canadians, their families and their property the overriding objective of the criminal justice system. We will support rehabilitation programs designed to safely restore offenders to society.
We will introduce measures to hold young lawbreakers accountable to their victims and the larger community. We recognize that custody is not always the most effective way of dealing with young offenders. Detention facilities for youth will be separate and emphasize skills training, responsibility, and community service. Violent or serious repeat offenders 14 and over will be tried as adults, as will all offenders 16 and over.
In various ways this legislation seems to place the safety and security of Canadians behind the interest in rehabilitating and reintegrating the offenders back into society.
We have attempted to encourage the government to amend the bill to make it clear that protection of the public is to be the paramount principle behind this legislation, but the minister refuses.
The legislation does not ensure that violent or serious repeat offenders will be tried as adults. We have proposed amendments to previous portions of the bill to limit extrajudicial measures to first time non-violent offenders. This means no court, no criminal record and community designed informal types of sanctions or punishment. Again the minister refuses to accede to this request. Repeat and violent offenders may never have to see court, be convicted and receive a criminal record.
It was the justice committee and the Canadian Alliance through its former version, the Reform Party, that first endorsed alternative measures for first time non-violent offenders. The minister claims credit, but she once again fails to restrict this form of conditional sentencing. It is open to repeat offenders and it is open to violent offenders.
The list of presumptive offences for which an adult sentence may be imposed is severely restricted. The list includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. It does not include sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a host of other serious violent offences.
In Bill C-7 the minister has further weakened the legislation by limiting presumptive offence procedure even more. Through clause 61, any province may decide that only 15 year old or even 16 year old offenders who commit offences such as murder could be transferred to adult court, while 10 year olds and 11 year olds would still not be held criminally responsible for their crimes.
The legislation will create a patchwork or checkerboard system of youth justice, as many of its provisions permit the provinces undue discretion in whether to seek adult sentencing, in publication of names and in access to records, to name just a few.
The legislation provides some movement toward victims' rights, but even they are not ensured and are still woefully inadequate.
The government has not been open to change for any aspect of the legislation except for some technical amendments. All of the opposition parties except the Bloc presented substantive amendments to the former bill, Bill C-3. Those amendments did not receive debate in parliament and do not appear to have been considered by the government. In fact, the government is not serious about discussion, so the Liberals are ignoring those amendments.
The provinces would be tasked to administer this legal nightmare, but the federal government does not seem to care. The Liberals have promised $206 million over the first three years for the implementation of the bill, but this would not even come close to meeting the responsibility of providing 50% of the funding for the youth justice system. The Liberals have allowed federal funding to slip to about 20%. The provinces have to carry the can financially for these proposals, costs of which are going to dramatically rise through legal argument and procedure.
An initial review of Bill C-7 indicates that the government has made it even weaker, likely to appease the Quebec government and the Bloc Quebecois. For instance, the presumptive offence provision that moves youths 14 years of age and older automatically to adult court for murder, et cetera, now permits the provinces, Quebec in this case, to raise the age to restrict the transfer to only 15 year old or 16 year old offenders.
Restrictions on naming of violent offenders are still not taken into consideration. The bill still has an emphasis on attempting to understand the circumstances underlying the criminal behaviour and rehabilitation and reintegration. Protection of the public takes second fiddle. Denunciation and deterrence seem to be foreign words for the government.
If the legislation passes, its complexity and its loopholes will cause horrendous delays. The costs to our youth criminal justice process in legal bills will be phenomenal.
In conclusion I would like to say that the official opposition carries on with its job of holding the flashlight and showing the Liberals their darkness. We gave the Liberal members a chance to improve on the legislation. They should look at our amendments through the lens of issues, not political stripes.