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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.

Topics

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Drouin Liberal Beauce, QC

The member for Berthier—Montcalm is talking while I am giving my reply. If he will let me conclude, he will understand.

I was saying that it is these Centres jeunesse that are responsible and they provided some arguments to the effect that there may be problems with Bill C-7.

However, we demonstrated, with statistics to back it up, that there was room for improvement and we are convinced that Bill C-7 will serve as a tool. I am convinced that Quebec will be able to make good use of it and remain a leader in certain areas, while improving the situation in others, since it is in last place or next to last place in certain areas. I think there is room for improvement when it comes to helping our young people.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, there are some critics from Quebec who feel that Bill C-7 is too tough. On the other hand there is no hesitation in Quebec of utilizing the current transfer provisions under the Young Offenders Act to transfer young offenders from youth court to adult court.

Could the member for Beauce please explain this phenomenon and elaborate briefly on the current transfer provisions under Bill C-7?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:40 p.m.

Liberal

Claude Drouin Liberal Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question. Statistics for 1997-1998 show that Quebec and Manitoba were tied in first place for the number of transfers of young persons to adult courts, with 23. In 1998-1999, Quebec came in second, still with 23 transfers, behind Manitoba, while Ontario only had six.

Some measures will provide alternatives to young persons to facilitate their reintegration into society with as little damage as possible.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of things that are obvious when we debate young offenders. The summary of the bill suggests that we want to try to increase public confidence in the youth justice system. One of the difficulties with that is there are certain crimes that occur in society that we take greater offence with than others. We had a debate in the House on the sex offender registry and there can be no crime more repugnant than that.

When young people get into trouble with the law, they cannot be named and they appear to get a slap on the wrist, headlines scream. People get upset and the flames get fanned. We get the impression that the Young Offenders Act, which the bill is designed to replace, will not solve the problems. Young people will be running amok committing crimes, raping, pillaging, murdering and building a society that will fall apart.

The reality is that the vast majority of young people who commit crimes do not commit rape, assault, aggravated assault, attempted murder or murder. Surely to goodness we can arrive at an agreement on that. The vast majority of young people who do commit crimes, commit crimes that need to be dealt with seriously but dealt with in some new creative way rather than just punishment. We as a society should perhaps look at solutions on how to properly rehabilitate.

A member opposite spoke about a young offender in western Canada who had been charged with 85 car thefts. That is absurd and absolutely ridiculous. We need to find out why that is happening. We need to put a system in place that would allow society to address the problems that this young person is obviously having.

Perhaps we could agree that many of the people who commit youth crimes have other problems. They may have been abused or they may have grown up in a less than supportive family. There is no justification by any means, but perhaps there is an explanation as to why the young person went against the law. That is not what we talk about in this place. We talk about throwing away the key after three strikes.

I will check Hansard but I made notes on one of the speeches made by a member who quoted from a study. It stated that kids did not shoot up schools before gun control. He quoted another study that said that kids who have been taught how to use guns show more maturity and better attitudes. The member went on to say that there are programs being recommended by himself and others that would teach our kids how to kill an animal. They believe that it will somehow teach our young people the consequences of pulling the trigger.

Let me be clear here. I have nothing against hunting whatsoever. My oldest son, much to my amazement, hunts bears with a bow and arrow. I do not know how in the world he ever got into that, but he loves it and he is a good sportsman. He will go out with a gun with some friends and hunt for deer at the appropriate time. There is no background of that in my family, but that is his choice. I have no difficulty whatsoever with that practice.

I also recognize that hunting is an activity. That was the point that I was trying to make for the hon. member. It was the same issue as involving a young person in any organized activity. However, to suggest that gun control in some perverse way is preventing hunting clubs and other organizations from organizing hunting expeditions or taking young people out and teaching them how to target shoot is just absurd.

If that is what people in some parts of rural Canada want to do to get their children involved in an activity, by all means. The difference is that under gun control they will be using a weapon that is registered. Is that awful? Maybe that would also teach them that it is no big deal and that maybe their parents should get over that fact.

I heard an hon. member say that he had heard some language that he could not imagine, that he had never heard before. I am sitting here thinking, what could they have said? We know all of the big bad words. I raised three boys and, as a result of that, I had the wonderful opportunity and privilege of having young children around our house all the time. We were involved in all the different activities in the community. I am afraid I have to admit that the odd time we may have heard something a little stronger than ah, shucks come out of the mouths of some of these young competitive individuals.

Did any of them go astray? We had young children come through our lives who got into trouble with the law, who may have been mixed up in some drugs. Fortunately in most of the cases that I have seen the services have been there in the community. Whether it was through the home, church, school, social services or working with the police, the services have been there in the community to help these young children get their lives back together again.

I almost sit and marvel at the naiveté of some members who say they have never heard bad language like that. The society our children have grown up in is dramatically different from our own. Times were fairly simple for those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s compared to what these young children go through today.

Today everything is instantaneous. There is instant gratification. They watch the news at night or play video games and they see the violence. These are realities. Are we supposed to put our young people in cocoons and say that they will never be exposed to any of these kinds of problems? Are we supposed to dwell on the fact, as one member opposite did, that somehow it was different in our day? Of course it was different in our day. That is why we need to change the bill.

If young offenders get charged with serious violent crimes, should we name them? Should we put their picture on the front page? I think not. The bill would not allow that to happen. However, if they are convicted of a crime and they in turn receive an adult sentence, to be served in a youth facility, because there is absolutely no sense in putting young convicted criminals together with adult criminals as we would simply turn out an adult criminal, or if they have escaped and are considered dangerous, then their names could be publicized. Simply throwing their names out, destroying their lives, and then finding out that they are innocent is not something that is based on justice at any age, and surely it is not based on justice in terms of Canada's youth.

There are many very positive points in the bill. I wish we could talk about the positive stories of our young people instead of scaremongering and dwelling on the problems that are there. The bill will help fix many of these problems to ensure that young people who do run afoul of the law have an opportunity to get their lives back together again.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Canadian Alliance Calgary West, AB

Mr. Speaker, I could not help but notice from the lobby the member's speech. He was saying that he did not want to restrict hunting and that he did not want to cause problems for hunters.

I do not know if the hon. member owns firearms himself. I will let him know that his government has spent in excess of $600 million so far of taxpayer money. If I divide that by 30 million people, that is $20 for every man, woman and child. Not every man, woman and child owns a firearm. Looking at the number of firearm owners, we could be looking at $100 per firearm owner.

Looking at what firearm owners are spending independently; looking at trigger locks the government is telling them they have to use; looking at a firearm's acquisition certificate, which is something I have applied for; and looking at the hunter education courses the government asks people to take, that is all money as well. A person is looking at several hundred dollars for owning of one firearm.

For the hon. member to stand in the House and say that even though he wants to impose a restriction of several hundred dollars for any firearm owned, that somehow that is not a restriction is ludicrous.

By the same token, I will lay the blame at his feet for some of the criminal problems in the country. His government dabbles around with criminal justice instead of coming up with a sex offender registry. It does not go ahead and get rid of early parole for rapists and other types of offenders. It does not change the law. His own members in the House want to come up with consecutive sentences so that people who commit multiple crimes do not serve one single sentence but instead serve multiple criminal convictions one on top of the other for their offences. When it will not act on some of the various criminal provisions, it in a sense creates a hothouse environment for criminals to breed in, to be attracted to. Hence we see those types of people abusing those laws.

His government will not go ahead and crack down on child pornography and pedophilia. It allows people to possess these things and to profit from keeping the avails of these types of activities. It only encourages these types of activities.

How could he say that several hundred dollars for owning one firearm is not a restriction? How could he claim that he is doing a good job on criminal justice when all these other provisions for getting at the real problem of crime are let go by his government?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is almost incredulous and astounding. I thought we were dealing with the young offenders situation, the new bill for Canadian youth justice.

My hon. friend's party's official name is the Canadian Conservative Reform Alliance Party or something like that. I did not know we were dealing with their views on gun control. How could a party with any credibility whatsoever stand up, speaker after speaker, to talk about all these issues as if they somehow cause youth crime?

How could members in the House stand by statements made by a member that kids did not shoot up schools before gun control? We are supposed to extrapolate from that twisted logic that somehow the minute we brought in gun control and Charlton Heston was busy writing their policy manuals, kids ran out and obtained guns because of gun control and started shooting their peers in class. That is just bizarre.

It demonstrates the major difference between the government and the opposition. If they want to lay the blame for gun control at my feet, they can lay it at my feet. They can put it on my shoulders and I will stand truly tall and proud. I will say that Canadians want and believe in gun control. They do not believe in the American style system as espoused by Charlton Heston and other people like some members opposite.

I heard nothing about youth justice in that question and I think the bill addresses many of the deficiencies in youth justice.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

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.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like the member who spoke to perhaps expand a little on one of the recommendations the Canadian Alliance was bringing forward, and I certainly want to congratulate my seatmate, the member for Surrey North, for all the work he has done on the issue and for the expertise he brings to the table when we are discussing this matter.

One of the things we in our party want implemented is that we want to let Canadians know who the repeat violent offenders are who get charged under the new act. We feel that Canadians and society in general have a right to know that. We are saying that if it is a serious crime or if it is a repeat crime, we should be publishing the name of the offender.

I would just like the member to expand a bit on that and to perhaps let the House know of some of the instances he is familiar with in his own riding where publishing the names has been something that Canadians have been asking for.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his excellent question. We all hear some horrendous stories in our communities. Unfortunately, youth are involved in many of them. Not all youth are bad. Many youth are very good and very well behaved and they understand what is good, what is bad, what is wrong and what is right. However, some youth who are involved in those activities may be well known to the police or at least the community understands those instances.

In Surrey Central some time ago an old man who was a war veteran was beaten to death. He had 104 stitches on his face and body and died of his injuries. The police force did its job. They got hold of the people responsible for the incident. To my dismay, and to the dismay of many other members in the community, some youths were involved in the incident, youths who had already had dealings with the police.

If the Young Offenders Act had been improved as suggested by my colleague and by us on this side of the House—we are trying our best to make improvements and to suggest amendments—then probably those offenders would have been known. Those offenders would have had some sort of repercussions from or consequences of what they had done in the past.

This is a very important issue. We would like to see the government look through the lens of issues, as I said, and make those amendments and improvements to the bill and really make it an effective bill to protect society and our communities.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It being 6.15 p.m., pursuant to order made earlier today, it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the second reading stage of the bill now before the House.

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

6:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 37Government Orders

6:40 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from March 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, an act to amend the Judges Act and to amend another act in consequence, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

March 26th, 2001 / 6:40 p.m.

The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-12.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe if you seek it you would find unanimous consent that the members who voted on the previous motion be recorded as voting on the motion now before the House, with Liberal members voting yes.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

The Speaker

Is there unanimous consent to proceed this way?

Judges ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Judges ActGovernment Orders

6:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, Alliance members present vote no.