House of Commons Hansard #66 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was c-7.


Youth Criminal Justice ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

It is all part of a whole. Everything is linked.

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4:10 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, as a matter of fact we are against the amendment, if that is what the hon. member wants me to say. We are opposed to the amendment because we do not want piecemeal amendments to the bill.

We do not want piecemeal amendments but rather for Quebec to opt out. We want Quebec to be excluded from the application of the act that the minister is trying to impose on Quebec.

This is another example of what flexible federalism is not. This is another example, like the millennium scholarships and parental leave. The fact is they do not understand the way Quebec does things.

It is unfortunate that members of the Alliance Party do not agree with us because they want a tougher bill, whose approach is the exact opposite of the one taken by Quebec. They are at the other end of the spectrum from what Quebec wants.

They say they want to accompany young offenders with this bill. To the contrary, they will analyze the seriousness of the offence allegedly committed by the young offender rather than his background to find ways to postpone measures which would be more efficient if implemented at the right time. What does that mean? It means that young offenders would not be made aware immediately of the seriousness of their offence.

When it toured Quebec, the Bloc Quebecois had the support of an actor who portrayed a young offender who had committed a serious crime against a person, a crime against life. He was part of a gang of young people. This young comedian, Marc Beaupré, who played Kevin, spent two days in jail to really get into his role of a young offender.

Treating a young offender as an adult will teach him to become a criminal instead of teaching him to take responsibility for his actions. This was what this young comedian learned during those two days. He learned what it was like to go to the school of crime, to become part of the network of adult criminals.

In Quebec, the current act resulted in a 23% decrease in the crime rate among young people. We have groups in Quebec—there are so many that I could not mention them all today—that have thought things over. These are people whose approach is geared to the needs of young people. They are not, as claimed by the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry, people who want to delay the passing of the bill and who seem to be talking through their hats.

The minister's bill involves a major change in direction and we deplore the fact that the government does not accept Quebec's ways of doing things.

It is even said that Quebec's model is envied and that it generates interest on the part of various stakeholders dealing with young people at the international level. We are even told that officials from centres in Chile and Brazil came to Quebec to see how the act was implemented and how we were dealing with young offenders.

This is unfortunate because, as with parental leave, Quebec is a model but it is being ignored and, more important, it is not respected.

I hope this act, like the parental leave scheme, will show the public just how inflexible the federal government is.

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4:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Cumberland—Colchester, Lumber Industry; the hon. member for St. John's West, Infrastructure.

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4:15 p.m.

Erie—Lincoln Ontario


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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to respond today to Motion No. 2 to amend Bill C-7, the youth criminal justice act.

Motion No. 2 calls for clause 125 to be amended to make the disclosure of information about young persons mandatory rather than permissive. Clause 125, like the Young Offenders Act, specifically recognizes the interest that a school, professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person may have in receiving information when a young person is dealt with in the youth justice system.

Clause 125 would allow the provincial director, the attorney general, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to a young person to disclose identifying information to any professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person, including a representative of a school under the following circumstances: first, to ensure compliance by the young person with a court order; second, to ensure the safety of staff, students or other persons; and, third, to facilitate the rehabilitation of the young person. This can be done without a court order.

The clause expands the Young Offenders Act provision that was included in 1995 by adding the authority to disclose information to facilitate rehabilitation of the young person. It is important to remember that privacy protections are a hallmark of the youth justice system in Canada. Any disclosure of identifying information in the youth justice system is dealt with as an exception to the general rule that no person shall be given access to the record of a young offender.

Non-legislative approaches could be developed to assist in implementing and supporting the disclosure provisions of the youth criminal justice act. Provinces could develop guidelines for police officers, probation officers and others on the issue of disclosure of information. Provincial government officials have indicated that they prefer guidelines rather than mandatory disclosure.

The Department of Justice has provided funding for the Canadian School Boards Association to develop an information sharing guide and protocol for the education community relating to information sharing between schools and professionals in the youth justice system.

The disclosure provisions in Bill C-7 strike an appropriate balance between the need to support a constructive role for the educational system and others working with young people, ensuring that pertinent information is disclosed, and the need to respect guaranteed privacy protections and to avoid stigmatization of a young offender.

Unlike an automatic notification approach, the approach in Bill C-7 would enable the exercise of professional judgment which takes into account the circumstances in individual cases, the protection of the public and the impact on the rehabilitation of the young person.

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4:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am speaking to the report stage amendment to illustrate as an example the larger difficulty with Bill C-7.

The amendment to change the word may to the word shall at page 129, clause 125, line 4, is a case sample of fundamental philosophical confusion. The Liberals cannot manage and they really do not hear the public either for they perpetuate the outdated system agenda rather than an accountable people community agenda.

The minister said that the enactment would repeal and replace the Young Offenders Act and provide principles, procedures and protections for the prosecution of young persons under criminal and other federal laws.

It sets out a range of extra judicial measures. It is to establish judicial procedure and protection for young persons alleged to have committed an offence. It is to encourage participation of parents, victims, communities, youth justice committees and others in the youth justice system. It sets out a range of sentences available to the youth justice court. It is to establish custody and supervision provisions. It sets out the rules for the keeping of records and protection of privacy. It provides transitional provisions and makes consequential amendments to other acts. Those are the claims of the government.

It is obvious that the government has failed, particularly at the operational community level, and at the levels of broad themes and societal objectives. The Minister of Justice tabled legislation three times and three times she struck out. For example, the minister once again fails to restrict 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 restrictive. The list includes murder, attempted murder, manslaughter and aggravated sexual assault. However it does not include sexual assault with a weapon, hostage taking, aggravated assault, kidnapping and a host of other serious violent offences.

The minister will further weaken the legislation by limiting presumptive offence procedures even more. For example, in clause 61 any province may decide that only 15 or 16 year old offenders who commit offences such as murder could be transferred to adult court. Ten and eleven year olds are still not to be held criminally accountable for their crimes.

The legislation would create a patchwork or chequerboard system of youth justice as many of its provisions would permit the provinces undue discretion whether to seek adult sentencing, publication of names and access to records, just to name a few. The legislation would provide some movement toward victim rights but even those are not ensured and would still be inadequate.

British Columbia has had a legislative basis for diversion since 1968, some 33 years ago. Parliament has been struggling with a criminal set of rules since 1908 to address the specialness of young offenders. Now we have a bill that is so complex it caves in upon itself to accomplish the original broad objective.

We need to clarify the basics. We are striving for a set of rules that outlines how criminal law would apply to a child or a young person. It is assumed that there is a diminished capacity for a young person to appreciate criminal acts and therefore should not be subject to the full weight of the law. As the bill shows the Liberals have fallen all over themselves. They have tied themselves in knots because they do not have a guiding vision.

In each province we have social welfare legislation with large systems of care, including social workers who have the legal capacity to take into care with the full authority of a legal parent any child who is deemed to be in need of care and protection. If we had a wise but simple and more circumscribed youth criminal justice act, it could complement and support the social welfare mandates of the provinces. However the latest managerial disaster of the government is off target in this respect because philosophically the Liberals do not stand for anything.

A dichotomy is revealed in the bill. Through many convoluted provisions it tries to deal with the principle of diminished capacity for young people but in a most complex way tries to accommodate violent offenders and criminal code precepts such as protection of society and denunciation.

Clearly the community expectations of a government providing peace, order and good government are not met in the bill. The anger in the land over public observance of how young offenders are dealt with generally in the courts will not be diminished with this prime example of Liberal ideological confusion.

This is why the symbolic yet substantive amendment is very important. It is about knowledge to care. If a social welfare agency, a social worker or school authority is to be part of the community response for children in conflict with the law, they must be knowledgeable and fully informed. That must not be discretionary.

The previous minister of justice had no satisfactory answer when I asked him in question period about the principle of disclosure, all the secrecy around the operations of the law, and to deal with the theory of preventing community shame for young people to give them a fresh start. How can pursuing that theory be justified when its very operation has caused unnecessary deaths as a consequence? The government persists in pursuing its unsubstantiated theory even though people have died because of it. Secrecy has no place in young offender court proceedings and its final judgments.

In summary, the bill is so misguided that it will be back to the House in the future. It is not based in its substance on a reasonable canopy of values. The preamble of the bill is nice sounding fuzzy mush. Then comes the substance of 171 pages that does not put to rest what communities want: predictability, reliability, clarity, being operationally pragmatic and having political legitimacy.

The report stage amendment before us today reveals the utter confusion upon which the bill is based. My community does not support that kind of a bill and I cannot justify it either. Consequently I will be voting against the bill at third reading.

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4:25 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, many things were said about Bill C-7. I listened to the speeches made by some Liberal members and I am very disappointed.

If there is one issue where we must avoid playing politics, and I try to avoid it myself, it is the young offenders issue. I sincerely doubt that if they have to rise to vote for this bill as they did for the motion to curtail the debate, these members will do it with great relish.

I spent 14 days doing a whirlwind tour of all Quebec's regions. I met with judges, lawyers, Crown attorneys, stakeholders, victims, persons in charge of centres for victims of crime and senior citizens. Even the Quebec Federation of Senior Citizens of some administrative regions supported the approach, not the Bloc's approach, and it was more a social than a political tour, but the purpose which was to defeat Bill C-7 proposed by the Minister of Justice and to allow Quebec to continue enforcing the Young Offenders Act.

I met at least 20 organizations per region or more than 400 people. Right from the beginning I knew there was a consensus in Quebec. After the tour, it was obvious that we should not talk of consensus but of unanimity. Everyone I met unanimously said that the justice minister was on the wrong track and that by wanting to impose her own vision of things she was jeopardizing the Quebec approach, that shows beyond any reasonable doubt that we have a winning formula.

I spoke from a non-political point of view in a non-partisan way. As members know I was accompanied by Marc Beaupré, the young and talented actor who played Kevin in the TV series Les Deux frères , in order to reach a segment of the population that we, as politicians, are unable to reach simply because we may enjoy the credibility we justly deserve. Our credibility among people in general is not very high. This actor was very surprised to see that nobody was in favour of the minister's legislation.

I do not understand Quebec Liberal members who rise to say the opposite of what their constituents are saying. Earlier as I was listening to the speech by the member for Beauharnois—Salaberry—I do not want to play politics—I was wondering if he was on the same planet as I was.

I am convinced he was simply reading from a speech prepared for him and which he was delivering without being aware of its content. He went as far as making light of his Liberal friends in the national assembly who unanimously voted with the government in favour of a motion asking the Government of Canada for a special allowance so that Quebec might continue implementing the Young Offenders Act. He even ridiculed his colleagues in the national assembly saying that they did not know what they were doing. Imagine that.

Frankly I realize that the justice minister might have made commitments to her constituents in western Canada who, under the influence of the Canadian Alliance and the right wing movement in Canada, are asking for a much more punitive legislation to deal with young offenders. Coming from Alberta, the minister undoubtedly made such a commitment.

I do not want to bring up politics but the minister can, if she wants to, answer all the expectations of the west as well as those of Quebec.

I have moved the only amendment which should be accepted here. The amendment we are talking about would add a couple of words to a subsection without changing the ultimate purpose of the legislation. We are totally against such an amendment.

Rotten apples will stay rotten apples, no matter what. The same is true with this bill.

That is why the only acceptable amendments, to please everybody as well as to make concessions are the two proposed by the Bloc Quebecois. According to one of those amendments the lieutenant governor in council of a province may, by order, exempt from the application of Bill C-7 a young person between 12 and 18 years of age. In such a case the Young Offenders Act would continue to apply in that province.

This would please both sides. Those who wish a stricter legislation would have Bill C-7 which will be passed and those who wish to continue enforcing the Young Offenders Act will be able to do so since one section would allow it.

Some will ask if this is legal, if it is constitutional. I would not promote something that was not. Some may have doubts and questions when it comes from me but a legal opinion was tabled in the national assembly.

Three constitutionalists, people doing law involving young people, examined these amendments or similar ones. With the decisions of the Supreme Court of Canada on the application of criminal law, on regional differences and the social aspect of criminal law, they concluded that it was legal and feasible.

The government can do it but one thing is lacking: political will. When I reached out to the Minister of Justice this morning I was sincere and am still. It is not too late. Let the minister set her bill aside. Together we will repeat the tour of Quebec I did in the past few days. She will be able to see for herself. She will hear for herself what the regional stakeholders have to say. She will see how the Young Offenders Act is applied daily. No one will support her proposed repeal of the Young Offenders Act, on the contrary.

Today I have the clear impression that the minister is in a glass bubble here in Ottawa. She is defending a bill drafted by public servants in Ottawa's fine office towers who have absolutely no idea how the Young Offenders Act is applied on a daily basis.

Today these officials have made it a personal issue. They want the bill passed at any cost, even at the risk of threatening a Quebec approach that shows how well we succeed in Quebec. We have the lowest crime rate. They want to implement it at any cost and win, as if they had something to win.

It is not too late. If the Minister of Justice and the Prime Minister are sincere when they say they want to allow Quebec to continue to enforce it, I would hope that they will act on it, that the minister will first agree to tour with me and that she will then vote in favour of the amendments we have proposed.

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4:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Canadian Alliance Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise on behalf of the constituents of Calgary East to speak to the Motion No. 2 at report stage consideration of Bill C-7 dealing with the issue of young persons.

The Young Offenders Act has been the talk of Canadians for a long time. I have received numerous calls and petitions in my riding in reference to the Young Offenders Act. The government is now making an attempt to address these concerns, but like everything else it does it is a haphazard attempt to address the concerns of Canadians.

I listened to my colleague from the Bloc who said that whatever amendment was done was because the minister was from the west. I should like to tell him that there is uniformity across the nation in asking that the Young Offenders Act be reviewed, that proper amendments be made and that concerns be addressed. The government has failed to do so.

Today the government brought in closure on the bill. It left the impression that it is serious about the issue of young offenders and was bringing in closure in order to pass the bill. However the history of the government on the bill has been very poor. It has been in the process for six and a half years. The government dissolved parliament without thinking about the impact of that on the bill. I hope Canadians do not see closure as an attempt by the government to take the issue seriously because it is not.

We support the motion in amendment put forward by my colleague in the Conservative Party because a concern has been expressed by teachers, and rightly so, that they need to know what they are dealing with. I will repeat what some teachers in Calgary have said.

According to statistics Calgary schools are no strangers to violence. In the 1999-2000 school year more than 1,300 students in Catholic and public schools were suspended for incidents related to drugs, alcohol, weapons and assault. That is a huge number. We are putting an undue burden on teachers. Naturally they need the tools by which to deal with rising violence in schools so that they can protect students and provide rehabilitation for those who need it.

Not related to this, only yesterday there was an unfortunate incident at a Calgary high school where two young students went outside to fight. Regrettably one of the students lost his life. The incident has shocked everyone in Calgary. It underlines the fact that teachers need the tools to stop these kinds of things.

We are all very saddened that a young, promising individual lost his life. For what? From the newspaper I understand that it dispute had been brewing in the corridors for a while. If teachers had known about it, I am sure they could have addressed it and cooled passions, and a young man would not have lost his life. School boards are requesting that they be given the tools to address the issues.

As usual the government only went halfway by saying that it may disclose information on violent offenders to school boards if it feels it is necessary. Those involved in teaching and school affairs have said that such a system has not worked. Let us look at what they have said.

The president of the Alberta School Boards Association, says the provisions do nothing to improve the release of information to schools. Let me quote her:

We are looking for the amendment because we believe without it you are going to get the haphazard (situation) that we have right now.

No one has to share information so it is left to the person to decide who needs to be told. That has not worked. It is left to someone else to decide what information is important and what information is not. When the decision is left to someone else, the right information may not go fast enough. As a result, we do not know what kinds of situations there are in our schools.

We need to create an environment of safety. Schools need a safe environment. They are where our children learn. Our children are the future of the nation. What children learn in school will form and shape the society of the future. They therefore need a safe environment in school where they can go and learn without fear or intimidation. Newspaper reports across the country and across the continent have shown an increase in school violence and this is creating concerns.

I have a son who goes to Lisgar high school in Ottawa and at times I am concerned about violence in school. I am concerned about the atmosphere in which he is growing up. At times that puts pressure on me to find out what is happening.

It is commendable that teacher associations have raised these issues. They are looking after the best interests of students, and rightly so. We should give them the tools. However the bill would leave the decisions to someone who is not in the school system. It would be up to someone outside the school system to decide whether the information should or should not be released to schools. As a parent I am saying that it should be released to the schools and to teachers.

I heard the argument of my colleagues from the Bloc who are opposing the motion. They say they do not want to go this route because, if I understand correctly, youth crime is not very high in Quebec. At the end of the day we need to create a safe environment in schools so that students can study, which is what they are there for.

In conclusion, I feel it is very important that we support the motion. I am happy to support it although I do not support the bill in totality.

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4:45 p.m.


Suzanne Tremblay Bloc Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm when he spoke about his amendment a few moments ago. I wish to draw to the attention of the House the fact that there is an error in the text of the amendment as shown in today's order paper and notice paper.

The amendment proposed by my colleague should read as follows:

3.1 The lieutenant governor in council of a province may, by order, fix an age greater than twelve years—

It says 10 years in the document but it should say 12. I know the member for Berthier—Montcalm will see to it that the necessary correction is made.

The amendment that was tabled and signed by the member says “twelve years” but there is an error in today's notice paper. You should have this information, Mr. Speaker, so the necessary correction can be made. My colleague is taking care of it.

I am pleased to speak to Bill C-7. I listened to the member who spoke before me and he expressed his support for the amendment proposed by the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

To understand this amendment, one has to look at the bill because the text of the amendment itself makes absolutely no sense. If one reads paragraph 125(6) of the bill, one will see that it says:

125.(6) The provincial director, a youth worker, the Attorney General, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to young persons may disclose—

The amendment proposes to replace the word “may” with the word “shall”. This kind of amendment can only be characterized as trivial. In a bill containing such a large number of pages and clauses, an amendment is proposed to replace the word “may” with the word “shall” in one particular paragraph but not anywhere else where there can be disclosure.

Clause 125 is all about disclosure of information. It says “may disclose” in virtually every paragraph. Why is it that all of a sudden, in paragraph 125(6), it should no longer be “may disclose information” but “shall disclose information”?

The clause said that information may be disclosed to teachers. I do not understand why this should be turned into an obligation. It is not always necessary to disclose information to all teachers involved with a young person. In comprehensive schools, there is not just one teacher in charge of a group of students.

A student who is considered an offender could have classes with 10 or 12 teachers in a single week. Should the information be disclosed to all of them? We might as well brand him or her on the forehead so that everybody knows he or she is an offender. It would be like in the United States, where convicted offenders have to hang a sign at their doorstep saying “A pedophile lives here”, or “A sexual offender lives here”.

Where are we heading with this kind of policy? In all simplicity and truthfulness, I worry very much about the future of Canadian society when I hear some of the debates we have had in the House since 1993. If this bill is passed, I hope Quebecers will understand that they do not want to be part of a country that deals with its young people is the way Bill C-7 would. We should get out of this country. It is urgent. It is a fundamental reason for leaving when we cannot agree on such a thing.

I heard what the Ontario attorney general had to say. He wants the bill to be even more repressive. Let those who want to travel that road do so but give us a chance to maintain the status quo because it works.

Why does the minister not want to understand? Why do the ministers of the Canadian government who represent Quebec not want to understand? I have often heard the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and the Minister for International Trade say “Quebecers are well represented in cabinet. We are Quebecers”.

I wonder how Quebecois they are if they cannot understand the message sent by Quebecers who do not want Bill C-7. What are they waiting for to stand up and say to the minister to go back to the drawing board? This does not make any sense. This is unacceptable. I fail to understand why the federal Liberals from Quebec are the only ones to agree with this bill.

All the representatives of the people in the national assembly, who represent the people of Quebec, unanimously said no to Bill C-7 “We must keep the law as it is; we want to continue to make the crime rate go down; we want to continue to rehabilitate our young people who are experiencing difficulties”.

A young person who is experiencing a delinquency problem at age 12 is not a criminal. He is not a bandit. Unfortunately he is a child who was poorly raised, who was neglected by his parents and who was badly influenced in school, by a movie or something else, but something happened to him. He was not born an offender. He became an offender but he was not born so. At the time of their birth, children have the potential to become balanced and honest people, good workers, sincere persons and so on. Society shapes them. Then they become victims.

Why should we not approach children in a way which would treat them as victims rather than criminals? It is irresponsible on the part of adults not to acknowledge the importance of taking care of children and rehabilitating them instead of putting them behind bars.

We had the opportunity to meet young Marc Beaupré, who helped my colleague from Berthier—Montcalm on his tour of Quebec and who met several colleagues. He told us that in order to portray his character on TV, he spent short periods in prison. This allowed him to learn things to better play his role.

I wish he could be a member of parliament for one day in order to stand in the House and tell members what inmates tried to teach him during his short stay in prison so he could become a real criminal. He was taught the tricks of the trade. Prison is not the appropriate place for children. Coercion is not the way to rehabilitate young offenders. They must be taken charge of and given the support they need to become rehabilitated and honest citizens.

In Quebec, some children had the misfortune to commit reprehensible actions. Society as well as justice took care of them. There are even people who did reprehensible things when they were young and who have since become ordinary citizens and active members of their community. They have become fathers and mothers who take good care of their children and raise them the right way. It is a lot better than to have sent them to prison where they would have become bad seeds, which is exactly what this bill wants to do.

Among the amendments brought before the House is a cosmetic one. Members know as well as I do that when applied cosmetics do not last long and do not mean much. We know what cosmetics are worth. It is only a cover-up attempt that does not deal with the real issues.

My hon. colleague has put forward some basic and fundamental amendments. The lieutenant governor in council of a province should have the authority to exempt his or her province from the application of this legislation.

During question period today, my colleague from Roberval told me “If the minister refuses to write it down, she must have reasons to do so. She knows full well that it will be not be possible afterwards”.

If the hon. member for Papineau—Saint-Denis, among others, has some influence in cabinet, I strongly urge him to stand up and say that as a true Quebecer he supports Quebec's demands.

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4:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Canadian Alliance Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, despite the interest and concerns that Canadians have expressed over the failure of the Young Offenders Act to deal effectively with youth crime, the Liberal government seems to be at a loss for finding a solution to this problem. Today the only solution the Liberals are willing to impose is closure. I am very disappointed in the response as there are serious issues that remain to be debated.

The Minister of Justice introduced the legislation into the House, but unfortunately the new legislation contains very little, if anything, that will address the ineffectiveness of the Young Offenders Act. The lack of substantive change is not surprising, given the lack of consultation and the failure to listen to the many Canadians who have reasonable solutions to offer.

In a substantive way, the closure being imposed today by the Liberals is symbolic of the seven years of not listening to the people of Canada and to the concerns that they have over the Young Offenders Act.

I appreciate some of the comments raised by members of the Bloc. There certainly are issues that need to be discussed. However I would suggest that the Bloc need not worry about this bill sending anyone to jail. The bill is so convoluted that I would be surprised if the youth will ever get out of court and out of the clutches of judges and lawyers. They will certainly never see the inside of any type of rehabilitative program that could assist them. In that sense I certainly agree that the law is not a good law.

I also would express some sympathy in the Bloc's desire to ensure that the programs that it already has in the province that are working should be allowed to continue under the act. There should be a measure of flexibility to account for different programs and different issues that we face in different parts of the country. We can do this without taking the drastic and radical step of suggesting separation. I think the confederation is flexible enough to take into account some of these differences. However, given that the Liberals are imposing closure in the matter, there are a few things that need to be discussed.

The first is the specific issue of notification to school and child welfare authorities in respect of young offenders. The Canadian School Boards Association, the Canadian Association of School Administrators and the Canadian Teachers Federation have called on the federal government to make the disclosure of this information mandatory. I also received letters from a number of local school boards in my riding and across Canada which called for parliament to support the amendment to Bill C-7.

I heard the concerns expressed regarding a possible failure to keep the information confidential. These organizations and the people who are in these organizations, our school administrators, are well acquainted with the requirements of confidential information and how to utilize that information in a legally appropriate way so as to assist other students and, indeed, the young offender himself or herself in the context of the school.

I met with representatives from the school boards. They impressed upon me the need for school authorities to be informed if there were, for example, dangerous offenders among the students. They are not asking for a broad publication, but simply that the school authorities know so that that information can be taken and used for appropriate purposes.

The amendment would not only provide for safer learning environments, it would also enable schools to direct necessary assistance to those young people who were in the process of rehabilitating themselves back into society.

These school boards want to be real and effective partners with the government in the process of keeping our young people safe and secure. However, the federal justice minister refuses to take the step to help school officials provide such a safe learning environment. She has said repeatedly that the provision already exists in the proposed youth criminal justice act and permits provincial officials to provide this information.

However, it should be pointed out that the present Young Offenders Act already provides for this discretionary sharing of information in these cases, but as we all know that process has failed. The new bill simply reintroduces past failures. The minister ought to listen to reasonable people across Canada who want to provide every possible support. The executive director of the CSBA has said “Without an amendment requiring information sharing we simply can't do our job”. She says “Our surveys indicate that information sharing has been inconsistent—sporadic at best”.

One of the other significant shortcomings of Bill C-7 is its failure to make provisions to assist youth under the age of 12. I have raised this issue in the past but the government has done nothing to remedy these shortcomings, to put in place a system that will prevent under 12 year olds from becoming repeat offenders and indeed hardened criminals.

While the minister attempts to justify this failure on the basis that the provincial child welfare system would deal with children under 12 who are involved in criminal activity, it is clear that the child welfare system on its own, without the assistance of our youth courts, is not equipped to deal with children whose criminal conduct brings them to the attention of the authorities.

It is evident from recent statements by the Minister of Justice that the real reason for Liberal reluctance to improve the proposed youth crime legislation is the financial commitment that would be required in order to assist children under the age of 12.

The Canadian Alliance has proposed that we provide the courts with the power to allow them to provide to these children the same rehabilitative measures offered by the act to those over 12 years old. Working together with provincial child welfare authorities in a co-operative and co-ordinated fashion, the youth courts could supervise these children and ensure that we save them from a life of crime.

The most significant issue aside from legislation and the lack of substantive reform in this new bill is that the minister has refused to financially partner with the provinces on a 50:50 basis. When asked why, she has said that the federal government does not have the money. This is a federal program, a federal initiative, and yet she expects the provinces to pick up, in effect, 75% of the cost of her program. The minister is asking us as local taxpayers to pick up the cost that the federal government will not pick up.

Although there is some initial funding over the first number of years, the funding, as is well known with other federal programs, becomes discretionary. As we know all too well, the funding will eventually diminish if not disappear.

Last, the bill is a complex bill. Mr. Rob Finlayson, a committee witness from the province of Manitoba and assistant deputy minister, said on April 25 of this year:

On the complexity in proceedings and drafting, the complexity of the YCJA is perhaps the first thing that strikes a person who attempts to read it. This complexity has two undesirable consequences. It makes the act extremely difficult to understand, and it will create delay and cause court backlogs.

Mr. Finlayson, the assistant deputy minister, has a long history of working in the courts and indeed at one time was in charge of youth prosecutions in the province of Manitoba. He understands the issue. Canadians understand the issue. Why does the Minister of Justice not understand this problem?

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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Canadian Alliance Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the report stage debate on Bill C-7.

The Liberal government appears to have only reintroduced its previous legislation, Bill C-68 and Bill C-3. In Bill C-7, the name of the bill was changed for window dressing but the problems remain. On top of that, using closure to stop debate and move the bill through clearly shows the government does not care and lacks the political will to have effective legislation in the youth criminal justice act.

I would like to ask if this is what happens to the top priority of the justice minister. It is shameful. The amendment we are currently debating, put forth by the fifth party in the House, calls for a requirement to divulge the identity of a young offender to any professional or other person engaged in the supervision or care of a young person. This requirement to make known the identity and record of a young offender falls on the shoulders of the provincial director, a youth worker, the attorney general, a peace officer or any other person engaged in the provision of services to young people.

This amendment kicks in if such disclosure of this information is necessary, and the bill says it is necessary to ensure that the young person complies with orders under the act, to ensure the safety of staff, students and other persons, and to facilitate the rehabilitation of the young person.

This amendment is reasonable. It is the least of what this side of the House is asking of the government. It is a shame the Liberals are stuck with their heads buried in the sand, refusing to allow even basic amendments to their bill even though they have introduced or accepted 182 amendments, 180 of which are just technical in nature, which shows that when they drafted the bill it was poorly drafted from just a technical point of view as well.

The amendment we are debating today is what the Canadian Alliance asked for at committee stage of the bill. People in our society such as teachers, counsellors, camp counsellors, volunteers, sports coaches, supervisors at religious events and many others need to know that there is a young person in their midst who is capable of violent behaviour.

It is with regret that I watched the infamous video clips on BCTV when a student in a school badly beat his schoolmate while other kids watched. Someone from the group secretly videotaped it. I saw in yesterday's or today's news that this aggressor has joined boxing to let off steam. I believe that Canadians want such aggressive behaviour or the offenders in those cases identified, in this case to the coach and to other officials who are responsible for management and supervision of other youths in that group.

The refusal of the government to accept an amendment that would notify people in supervisory roles about the presence of a young offender in their midst is typical of the way the government has handled the bill.

After months of review and after hearing so many experts on all aspects of youth justice systems, the only changes the government has agreed to make are technical amendments proposed by the government to correct the technical errors of Bill C-3, the predecessor to Bill C-7. The government has not been open to changing any aspect of its legislation.

All of the opposition parties except the Bloc presented substantial amendments to Bill C-3. Those amendments did not receive debate in parliament. What a shame that we are not debating those amendments here. They were not accepted in the committee. They do not appear to have been considered by the government at all.

The Minister of Justice has tried this legislation three times and three times she has struck out. The Canadian Alliance, through its former version, the Reform Party, and the justice committee first endorsed alternative measures for first time non-violent offenders. The minister has once again failed 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 restrictive. 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 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. There is a free ride.

The legislation would create a patchwork or checkerboard system of youth justice as many of its provisions permit the provinces undue discretion in deciding 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 those are not ensured and are still woefully inadequate.

The provinces will be tasked to administer this legal nightmare but the federal government does not seem to care. This weak Liberal government, which is so arrogant, which lacks vision, which lacks backbone, does not care. The Liberals have not been open to a serious discussion of the proposals in their youth justice law.

The Liberals have promised $206 million over the first three years for the implementation of the bill, but that will not even come close to meeting their responsibility of providing 50% of the funding for youth justice. The Liberals have allowed federal funding to slip to about 20%. The provinces have to carry the can financially for these proposals, the costs of which will rise dramatically through legal argument and procedure.

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 youth 14 years of age and older automatically to adult court for murder et cetera, now permits the provinces, that is, Quebec, to raise the age to restrict the transfer to only 15 year old and 16 year old offenders. Age of application remains at 12 years to 18 years, and there are still restrictions on naming violent offenders.

The bill still has an emphasis on attempting to understand the circumstances underlying criminal behaviour and on rehabilitation and reintegration. The protection of the public plays second fiddle. Denunciation and deterrence seem to be foreign words to the government.

If the legislation passes, the complexities and loopholes would cause horrendous delays and costs to our youth criminal justice process. Legal bills would be phenomenal. The government should understand that deterrence should not be a motivation to commit a crime. The amendment, if accepted, would provide for deterrence. It would also provide an opportunity to develop solutions for a safer environment.

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5:15 p.m.


Ghislain Fournier Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, since debate started on Bill C-7, I have learned how effective the Young Offenders Act was in Quebec.

This all began with the press conference my colleague for Berthier—Montcalm held in Sept-Îles, which was attended by many organizations dealing with youth, including the police chief. On that occasion, I collected many testimonials about how well youth had been helped.

During the recess, I travelled around my riding. I met with parents and of course the discussion dealt with Bill C-7. I heard very emotional testimonials. A mother, with tears in her eyes, told me how, in Quebec, her husband had been helped when he was young. Who did not make any mistake? Who among us can boast that he never made a mistake?

That woman told me that today he is out of trouble and he is angry because this government is so pigheaded. Never in the history of any government have we seen a government so stubborn in its position against another government, against a nation, over a law that is so good and that has proved so good in Quebec. An expert from Montreal told us “It has been said before, and I say it again, that law is universally approved in Quebec”.

Another witness told me “My kid is 14 years old; he is too young to buy cigarettes, too young to buy booze, too young to vote. But the federal government says that he is not too young to be judged like an adult, that he should act like an adult. Giving a last chance is not an option”.

We have to put ourselves in the shoes of the parents of these children. I do not know how many of the members have children. If one of their children was to tell them that they have made a mistake, a serious mistake, they would ask for another chance, for a last chance. Are there any parents who would say no, it is over, you will be punished?

I think that our society is more modern. We pride ourselves on living in the most beautiful country in the world. We go out and meet people who really care and who ask, with emotion, if this is at all possible.

What will the Liberals from Quebec do? The question has been asked. How will they react? How will they vote? That is something we have been asked. How will they vote? I disappointed a lot of people by saying that we are used to seeing them follow. When the time comes for a vote, their leader gets up and they all follow, voting as he did. They do not have the right to speak.

What is great in the Bloc is that we have the right to speak. We have the right to express ourselves. I think the Bloc's history in Ottawa proved that a long time ago.

It is unacceptable and incomprehensible for the government to continue being so stubborn. Worse, the government submits motions for time allocation. It is because what we are saying is too much for its taste. The Bloc Quebecois and the opposition parties are too honest and candid. Why spend time, money and energy on modifying a legislation which is satisfactory for everybody in Quebec?

In my riding, more specifically in Havre-Saint-Pierre, I met someone who had had some bad experiences and was being rehabilitated. He told me: “Mr. Fournier, the Quebec legislation is excellent because it served me quite well. I got a second chance”. Therefore, I am convinced we should not interfere with that and barge into an area of provincial jurisdiction, of Quebec jurisdiction.

I am eager to hear the position of Liberal members from Quebec when we vote on Bill C-7 shortly. I urge them to vote with the Bloc Quebecois. Quebec is looking at them today. It is not a minority but a majority of Quebec citizens who are looking and these members will have to live with the consequence of their vote. They will be politically marred for the rest of their life.

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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on Motion No. 2. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

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

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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

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5:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

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5:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The recorded division on Motion No. 2 stands deferred.

The assistant government whip has asked to defer the votes on the report stage motions until adjournment tonight at 6.30 p.m.

The House resumed from May 15 consideration of the motion that Bill C-19, an act to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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May 28th, 2001 / 5:20 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I speak today to Bill C-19 to amend the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

This act was passed several years ago, in January 1995, but not without debate.

I will remind the House in the few minutes that I have left of the history of the Canadian environmental process as opposed to the history and claims of Quebec in terms of environmental assessment.

It is quite ironic to see former members of the Quebec national assembly, members of the Robert Bourassa government that defended Quebec's interests and who are now federal Liberal members, getting ready to pass this bill which goes against everything that Quebec wanted under Robert Bourassa, René Lévesque, Jacques Parizeau, Pierre-Marc Johnson and every Quebec government since 1975, since the beginning of the environmental process in Quebec.

The federal environmental assessment initiative is not new. On June 18, 1990, the federal government decided to introduce a bill, Bill C-78, dealing with the federal environmental assessment process. In many respects, this bill represented duplication and invaded provincial jurisdictions. It was a bill of which, at the time, Quebec's national assembly was very critical.

Quebecers were so firmly opposed to the bill that in 1990 Quebec's minister of the environment, Pierre Paradis, well known by members of the House—he always defended Quebec's environmental powers and prerogatives—wrote a letter to the federal minister of the environment, Robert René de Cotret, to ask him for two things.

On the one hand, what we wanted in 1990 was for Bill C-78 to introduce some flexibility with respect to Quebec's environmental assessment process.

On the other hand, Quebec's then minister of the environment, Liberal Pierre Paradis, asked that the legislation not duplicate the process because we had an environmental assessment process responsive to Quebec's initiatives, and we still do.

Following the letter, unfortunately,—and as usual it was a Liberal government in Quebec that realized this—the federal minister of the environment refused to amend the bill dealing with the environmental assessment process. Given the federal government's systematic refusal, Quebec's then minister of the environment even wrote a second letter.

On December 17, 1990, the Quebec environment minister wrote a second letter to the same Canadian environment minister clearly demonstrating that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act encroached on provincial jurisdictions. In this letter, of which I have a copy, the Quebec minister demonstrated this invasion into provincial jurisdiction and the negative impact of the Canadian legislation.

In spite of repeated requests, the Canadian government of the day did not seem to get the message. In May 1991, the government came back with essentially the same legislation, Bill C-13, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Because of the federal government's lack of understanding and recognizing that the Canadian environmental assessment bill was essentially an exact copy of the old one, Quebec's environment minister wrote a letter dated November 22, 1991. To whom was this letter addressed? To the Canadian environment minister, Mr. Jean Charest.

Pierre Paradis wrote to the federal environment minister, Jean Charest, to reiterate Quebec's position. What was Quebec's position at the time that prompted Quebec's environment minister to reiterate it to the federal minister? First, it recognized that the environment was a shared jurisdiction. We recognize that, we even recognize the federal government's power to do environmental evaluations of projects for which a federal decision is needed.

For that matter, the Quebec government has drawn the federal government's attention to a supreme court judgment, the Oldman decision. In his decision, Justice La Forest said, and I quote:

Thus, an initiating department or panel cannot use the Guidelines Order as a colourable device to invade areas of provincial jurisdiction which are unconnected to the relevant heads of federal power.

Following this decision, Quebec's environment minister wrote to the federal environment minister. In his letter dated February 28, 1992, the minister of the environment, Pierre Paradis, reiterated his concerns. However it is clear that his concerns fell on deaf ears in Ottawa. Consequently, the legislation was not changed.

Because of the constant arrogance of the federal government, and it's repeated efforts to impose by legislative means its environmental evaluation process, Quebec responded through it's national assembly on March 18, 1992. Certain Liberal members who are in the House today were part of the Quebec consensus expressed on March 18, 1992 when the national assembly unanimously passed a motion to denounce the federal government's determination to impose its environmental assessment process.

In today's political context, when men and women elected by the people to represent them want to maintain a minimum of credibility, the one fundamental value that they have to adhere to is consistency in their ideas. One cannot, in 10 years, do a complete about face and say “I supported the national assembly's consensus, I was part of that unanimous decision, but today I am voting in favour of a bill that totally ignores all the work that has been done in Quebec”.

Had the Quebec experience proved inconclusive, I might have understood why some members would be reluctant to vote against the bill. However, let us not forget that the environmental assessment process has been around for a long time in Quebec. It dates back to 1975, when the need for an environmental assessment process was recognized in the James Bay agreement.

When we created the Bureau québécois d'audiences publiques en environnement, the BAPE, it was in response to the following basic expectation: a transparent process that would be open to the public and that would not be a self-assessment of government projects. The BAPE is an arm length's agency, contrary to what the environmental assessment bill is proposing, that is the possibility for the federal government to conduct environmental self-assessments. The BAPE does not do that.

In this regard, transparency in terms of public participation, the fact that the Quebec process is at arm length's as compared to the federal self-assessment approach, the fact that not as many projects are excluded thus providing a better environmental protection, all that proves that it is effective. The Quebec environment minister has regulations and amendments to the act passed on a regular basis in order to be able to adequately protect our environment. It is part of the normal process.

A case in point is what happened last week. The Quebec environment minister announced that from now on any hydro projects of more than five megawatts had to undergo an environmental assessment, whereas only a few weeks ago and for years before that only projects of more than ten megawatts had to undergo one.

The environmental assessment process in Quebec is not static. It changes as projects and their impact on the environment evolve. I think we must be consistent in our approach. It is rather peculiar; I was reading a moment ago notes from a speech by the then Quebec environment minister. This Liberal Quebec environment minister was saying, concerning Bill C-13 on the environmental assessment process, that “Bill C-13 is a steamroller condemning everybody to a forced uniformization, which might in turn jeopardize the environmental assessment process in Quebec and needlessly bring into question all our efforts in this area”.

This is not Quebec's current environment minister, whom opponents would dismiss as a sovereignist and a separatist. This is Quebec's former Liberal environment minister, who is still a member of the national assembly and who was part of the unanimous consensus in that assembly, which has just told the federal government “We have a process that works; leave it as it is”.

For some weeks and months now, there has been a shameless desire on the part of members opposite to introduce legislative amendments or bills in order to destroy the Quebec model, anything produced by Quebec that is working well—from the environmental assessment process to the Young Offenders Act—and move their centralizing agenda ahead.

If there is really a desire to protect youth, if there is really a desire to protect our environment, why not let the Quebec model do what it is designed to do? It is a model which is working well and which has stood the test of time.

I see the reactions of some members opposite; I would not want to name these members, who were part of the consensus in Quebec, who voted in favour of the unanimous motion in the national assembly, but a number of them could be found in this House and are listening to me now. It is a bit surprising to see them reacting in the places.

I repeat, in politics, credibility is based on consistency. If one cannot be consistent about how one votes in this House, one would do better to defend other interests.

The bill before us, it must be remembered, goes against the Quebec model. In 1978 Quebec set up its own assessment system, which it incorporated into the environment quality act. As I said, the environmental assessment process in Quebec had its origins in the James Bay and northern Quebec agreement.

A few years later, three years later to be exact, an environmental assessment system was put into place within the framework of the Clean Water Act. In 1980 the Bureau des audiences publiques sur l'environnement was created. Of course, it called for a renewal of the Quebec environmental assessment act, and the government of Quebec acted accordingly.

I was reading over notes published in 1992 by the government of Quebec at a time where a Liberal government was in power in the province and while the MNA and minister of the environment in Quebec was still a member of the national assembly. The 1992 reports from the government of Quebec said:

There is indeed a risk that the latter—

This refers to the federal Environmental Assessment Act.

—will constantly be duplicated, disputed or subordinated to the application of the federal process. Yet, the Quebec procedure has been well established for ten years already; it is well known by the general public and the promoters from Quebec; and it has proven itself.

The areas where the federal authority can get involved are somewhat limitless, given all the levers one can find in the bill itself to force the mandatory examination of projects by the federal authority.

For months the federal government has been shamelessly tempted to destroy the Quebec model. We hope that all the members from Quebec, at least those who voted unanimously at the national assembly, will be able to vote against this bill.