Mr. Speaker, I have the great pleasure of taking part in this debate. I believe that we should credit our colleague for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont for presenting a bill that I believe is balanced.
This bill is based on what is known in Quebec as the harm reduction strategy. Before incarcerating a young person, this strategy calls on us to recommend a certain number of measures. Resorting to incarceration has a social cost. We must examine the factors, reasons and the paths taken by young people which sometimes lead them to commit crimes.
In Quebec, I have often had the opportunity to discuss this with my colleague for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, who was a former minister of justice, solicitor general and even a minister responsible for public safety. Since the 1980s, all governments in the National Assembly have applied a strategy known as “the right measure at the right time”. Our colleague for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont is quite right to remind us that we must deal with the young person before the courts are forced to hand down a sentence. His bill, which seeks to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, is a bill with a lot of common sense.
Clause 6 of the bill provides the possibility, in some circumstances, of using extrajudicial measures. The commitment to use an addiction treatment is highly defendable at a social level. Obviously we must ensure that the provinces have that responsibility. They are the ones responsible for planning addiction treatments. In Quebec, this is handled through health agencies and social services. It is important to ensure that resources are provided and treatment is available.
As an aside, we must commend hon. members who present such great ideas. Measures like the one proposed by the hon. member for Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont should spread in the Conservative Party caucus. I must say, the member for Edmonton is like a rose among thorns and I wish him a stronger voice in his party so that he may rub off on his colleagues, the Minister of Justice, in particular, who, unfortunately, sometimes tends to consider repression somewhat unnecessarily.
The Bloc Québécois has always been very interested in the issue of addiction and the attitudes that should be adopted toward drugs. I want to remind my colleague that his former colleague, Randy White, presented in this House a motion that was passed unanimously, if memory serves me well. We created a committee to review the whole issue of drug use for non medicinal purposes. I was on that committee. My colleague was on it as a member of the Canadian Alliance Party. The Parliamentary leader of the New Democrats was also on the committee.
We were dismayed to find out that 90% of the public resources we vote on in the House of Commons were being used for law enforcement. There were very few measures and budgets available for prevention. This has to change. Obviously when offenders commit acts repeatedly and are a threat to society, we have to encourage incarceration. Nonetheless, we are well aware that in most cases, young offenders are offenders who commit acts because they are in a difficult family situation or they are social outcasts.
In many cases, they disengage from society because they are living in poverty.
In that sense, I think that our colleague's proposal is a good one. However, if this bill, which offers an alternative solution to prosecution, is to be truly effective, we as a society must talk about how we plan to fight poverty.
Members of the Bloc Québécois are very interested in the issue of poverty. Personally, I have taken an interest because I represent a riding where poverty is rampant. My colleague from Québec has also taken an interest. Our human resources development critic, the member for Chambly—Borduas, has taken an interest too. We think that as parliamentarians, there are five things we need to do.
First, it is unacceptable that Canada—that is, the federal government—is one of the only governments that does not prohibit discrimination based on social condition in either the Canadian Human Rights Code or the Canadian Human Rights Act. Eight provinces have legislation that prohibits discrimination based on social condition, but the federal government does not.
Second, the members of the Bloc Québécois believe that we need measures related to banking. I went to the United States to study the Community Reinvestment Act, which was passed in 1977. It requires financial institutions to offer credit to disadvantaged communities. When it comes to access to credit in my riding, banks in my neighbourhood cleared out in the 1990s. Some communities have a very hard time getting financing or microcredit because the banks are not interested in those things. We also need to talk about excessive ATM fees.
The third measure is very important. We do not believe that we can fight poverty without addressing the housing issue. I was very sad to read the report submitted by the United Nations rapporteur on housing in Canada. The report illustrates to what point we have abandoned the homeless. At least 300,000 people in Canada are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless. Yet the government, sadly, allocated no additional funds in its latest budget to homelessness and affordable housing.
As a fourth measure, the Bloc Québécois has introduced bills urging the government to use the actuarial surpluses from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation to allow the provinces to launch initiatives and build affordable housing, in cooperation with the municipalities.
Fifth, the Employment Insurance Act must be reformed in order to allow people in transition between two jobs to access the EI program. That is an appalling legacy left over from the former Liberal government. Under that government, a program that allowed 90% of workers to access employment insurance—which they themselves had paid for, since it is not an assistance program, but rather an insurance program—in the end, allowed coverage for only about one-third of all workers.
The bill presented by my hon. colleague is a good bill. He belongs to the progressive wing of the Conservative Party. There will always be members against him, for him and like him. We will vote in favour of this bill, although it does not go far enough. We still need to come up with a plan to address poverty. This is the duty of all members of Parliament. Nevertheless, this in no way diminishes the hard work of my colleague in presenting such a bill. I would like to assure him that all members of the Bloc Québécois will support this bill.