Mr. Speaker, I am splitting my time. I have been given only 10 minutes to speak on third and final reading of Bill C-7.
Third reading is the time to talk about the general thrust of a bill as a whole. There has been a lot of talk and deliberation about this type of legislation since the nationwide consultation conducted by the Conservative government during 1992-93. It was attempting at the time to address the anger in the land that had developed over the operation of the Liberal legislation of the day.
At this point we as a country are still not much further ahead, because the Liberals are still in charge. Since they have caused the present problem with the law, they are not now in any position to repair the basics of their errors. The Liberals have had reviews and some small amendments, but this time they are to be judged by the public on what they are finally bringing to the communities of Canada.
The bill is an example that goes to the heart of the competence to govern. In the broadest estimation the bill is an utter failure. It is a failure in many technical ways, but on the general level it is another example of why the Liberals are not worthy to govern. The bill is an example of a bureaucracy entangling itself with objectives that are at cross purposes, combined with insufficient political leadership to provide guidance out of the forest.
Although many political analysts admit that the Liberals are without principle, the bill is certainly the technical evidence that the Liberals have no canopy of values to find the moral compass of direction when they become lost in the tall forest of competing interests and opposing concepts.
The nation is in this mess because of a previous Liberal government that in its usual high purpose, we know best manner, with all the great arrogance of the day, gave us the Young Offenders Act over the clear objections of millions of Canadians. In many respects the very objections and warnings given years ago about the folly of the underlying assumptions about social psychology and of the criminal justice theory assumptions have all come true.
Here we are now, years later, still trying to fix the flaws. True to form, the arrogance of the government over the bill, which would be an administrative labyrinth, brings us convoluted fixes to the problems that the Liberals created. They can never fix their dilemmas as they do not possess the vision or the principled perspectives to address what the community needs in order to respond to the most fundamental Canadian social problems.
The minister claims with self-satisfaction 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. The bill sets out a range of extrajudicial measures. It would establish judicial procedure and protection for young persons alleged to have committed an offence. It would encourage participation of parents, victims, communities, youth justice committees and others in the youth justice system. It sets out the range of sentences that would be available to the youth justice court. It would 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. In summary terms, those are the claims of the government.
However, 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 has tabled legislation three times and three times she has struck out.
Like most Liberal bills this is well intentioned, but it is barely an improvement over the old YOA. It does not address the concerns of Canadians, including provisions for realistic sentences for violent crimes, focusing the law to deal truly with young offenders rather than youthful adults or comprehensively accommodating victims' rights needs.
British Columbia has had a legislative basis for diversion since 1968, some 33 years ago. Street diversion and community programs for offending youth, especially through Christian churches, were working in the urban settings of Canadian cities for years before matters became of such national concern that parliament began to deal with it in about 1908.
When Liberals talk of their bill, one would think that the alternative measures and diversions were invented by them. Parliament has been struggling with a criminal set of rules at cross-purposes to address the specialness of young offenders seemingly forever.
Since we have had mostly Liberal governments, we as a society have never been able to put to rest these issues. Now we have a bill that is so complex that it caves in upon itself trying to accomplish broad and competing objectives.
We need to clarify the basics. We are striving for a set of rules that would outline 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 they 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.
We could have a supportive law that would help break the cycle of offending and more fully support the huge amounts of money that is spent in community responses. 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 it tries to accommodate violent offenders and criminal code precepts such as protection of society and denunciation. Gradually victims are being allowed back into the scene. The bill is most inadequate in that regard also.
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 would not be diminished by this prime example of Liberal ideological confusion.
It is clear that the government wants a bill, any bill that is in the topic area, just so that it can say it has one. However when the fundamentals of secrecy, age of application and a confusion of focus is the substance, we can understand why the Liberals have refused all the contrary evidence provided by so many that they should be going in a different direction.
It goes to the heart of how we as a society value family and children, how we care for those who do not seem to be able to care for themselves and help those who are out of step with community norms. It is about the knowledge to care. If a social welfare agency, a social worker and a school authority are 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.
People in my community are aware of young offender cases. They observe what happens and they follow a case through the community. They are not part of the process and anger begins to increase. They watch time and time again as the case slowly winds through the system and then they react. They call their local MP and they sign petitions of protest.
Parliament has received millions of signatures in objection to the philosophical underpinning of the bill that we have before us today. People almost have a fatalistic approach. With a law that is so out of touch with community values they have just given up protesting at this point.
In view of what I have heard over the years, I can say that my community does not support the bill and the underpinnings within it. I cannot justify it either. Consequently I will be voting against the bill at third reading.