moved that Bill C-25, An Act to amend the Youth Criminal Justice Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to begin the second reading debate on Bill C-25, which amends the sentencing and pretrial provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
The government has committed itself to respond to the concerns that Canadians have expressed about youth crime. Bill C-25 now before this House is an example of how we are going to meet that commitment. We are going to strengthen the youth justice system and ensure fairness and effectiveness in the application of the criminal law for young people. We are ensuring that society is effectively protected from violent and dangerous offenders. Young offenders, like adults, must face meaningful consequences for serious crimes.
In the last election we said we would make changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act and last month in Halifax, accompanied by the former Nova Scotia minister of justice, I announced that the government would deliver on this promise and introduce amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. This has been done with the tabling of this bill on Monday. It is not just Nova Scotia that has been requesting these improvements. Manitoba has been requesting them as well.
I have to refer to a couple of colleagues in my own caucus. For many years the member for Wild Rose has called for changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act. I know he takes a great deal of satisfaction from the progress that he has made in a number of areas. The protection of 14 and 15 year olds definitely is one of the crusades that he has had and I very much appreciate that as well. The member for Crowfoot has been one of those individuals who has continued to encourage me and the government to move forward with these changes. I have received pretty good support right across this country from provincial attorneys general, but I am very appreciative of those colleagues of mine who have come forward and asked for these changes.
I should point out that the Nova Scotia request for change is in large part based on the recommendations in the Nunn commission report. Many of us are aware of the tragedy that was experienced in Nova Scotia where a youth with outstanding charges for automobile theft was continuously released prior to his trial. The individual stole another vehicle and again it resulted in a tragedy in which Theresa McEvoy was killed.
Nova Scotia has done great work in pushing for these changes. Yesterday I was pleased to see in a news release that the justice minister of Nova Scotia, Cecil Clarke, said he welcomes our Youth Criminal Justice Act amendments and he called on all members of the House to support this bill.
The pretrial detention provisions of Bill C-25 are also the result of consultations I undertook this summer with my provincial and territorial counterparts and various other stakeholders. We continued those discussions again last week when I was in Winnipeg at a federal-provincial justice ministers meeting in that city. They too shared with me their concerns about detaining dangerous youth prior to their trial.
I am confident that the amendments we have tabled in the House of Commons will address those concerns. The proposals now before the House provide new measures to protect communities from young people who pose a significant risk to public safety and to hold youth accountable for their criminal conduct.
It will amend the youth justice system by including as well deterrence and denunciation as sentencing principles and by making it easier to detain a broader range of young persons who pose a risk to public safety.
Currently under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the purpose of a youth sentence is to hold the young person accountable through meaningful consequences and rehabilitative measures. The sentence must be proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and it must also be the sentence most likely to rehabilitate the young person.
Last year the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Youth Criminal Justice Act does not allow deterrence and denunciation to be considered by the courts as specific objectives of the courts when they are sentencing youth. These are important objectives we believe for judges to have when considering an appropriate sentence.
Deterrence means imposing a sanction for the purpose of discouraging the offender and others from engaging in criminal conduct. Denunciation refers to society's condemnation of the offence. My proposed sentencing amendment would allow courts to consider both deterrence and denunciation as objectives in youth sentences. Again, we appreciate the support of our provincial counterparts for the inclusion of both of these in the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Many Canadians are concerned about youth crime and believe that changes to sentences can be very helpful. They want to stem the reported recent increase in violent youth crime and restore respect for law, so I am asking Parliament to move expeditiously in getting this bill passed.
For some time now, the government has been taking part in a comprehensive review of the pretrial detention and release provisions on the youth justice system. I have indicated as well to my provincial and territorial counterparts that I would like to have their input for a complete, comprehensive review of the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
This is an appropriate time, it seems to me, in view of concerns that I have heard right across this country with respect to youth crime and youth violence. I think it comes at an appropriate time inasmuch as this is the fifth anniversary of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and indeed the 100th anniversary of a separate youth criminal justice system in Canada.
I indicated to my provincial counterparts, and I have indicated publicly, and certainly I will be getting input from my colleagues as to how to go about that so that we can bring forward comprehensive changes.
This is just one of the measures that we have placed before Parliament. I was very pleased as well to introduce the bill that has mandatory prison terms for people who commit serious drug offences. I saw on television a couple of academics who had some problems with that. I can say that they do not represent the majority of Canadians. Canadians want to see tough sentences when it comes to drug offences and they want to see changes to the youth criminal justice act.
I tabled a bill a few minutes ago on identity theft, and the tackling violent crime act has been reported back to Parliament. Bill C-25 should be seen in the context of a wide range of government initiatives, all of them designed to make our communities safer, to make our streets safer, to stand up for the innocent victims of crime.
One of my clients--one of my colleagues--I am not practising law anymore in Niagara Falls, although I was very proud to do that for many years. My colleagues have been very supportive of these initiatives because they know we are on the right track to help build a better and safer Canada.