House of Commons Hansard #137 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was senate.


Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I move that the 11th report of the Standing House Committee on Justice and Human Rights, presented on Wednesday, February 28, be concurred in.

I must admit that it is an honour for me to seek concurrence of this report, and I will read the motion:

That this House take note of the importance of the contribution that the ethnocultural communities make to the prevention of crime, social reintegration of offenders and rapid growth of safer communities and that it recognize the need to ensure every means and resource to allow police departments, the Correctional Service of Canada, the National Parole Board and the ethnocultural communities to respond better to the new needs of the increasingly diversified offender and prison population.

The Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights held a special meeting to hear testimony from various experts from police forces, our judicial and justice administration system, and experts working in the field with communities that are victims of violent and foul crime, but which are also communities where these delinquents live, where they are made and trained, in a manner of speaking.

The committee members unanimously passed this report and this recommendation. The committee members understood that if our government and Canadian society truly want to tackle crime in our communities, if they truly want to reduce crime—especially violent crime—and if they want to ensure that Canadians are safer in their communities and their homes, then greater effort is needed. Of course we will have to pursue the efforts made by our police services for preventing crime, for finding criminals; our crown attorneys still have to try the defendants; our judges still have to make rulings and decide whether the evidence is beyond any reasonable doubt and whether the defendant did indeed commit the criminal act he is accused of; our correctional services have to continue to work with those who receive jail sentences; and our parole services have to continue their work. But more is needed.

Crime prevention starts in our communities. We need to implement policies and programs to help communities tackle this issue, to really focus on prevention and discover how this can be achieved. The former Liberal government understood that and had started working on crime prevention. It went beyond the traditional method—dependence on our police service—by involving the communities.

Year after year, data from Statistics Canada show that cultural, ethnic, racial, religious and linguistic diversity is on the rise. Some 25% of the Montreal population is non francophone and the large majority of this 25% is anglophone.

Moreover, the most recent data shows that, in the anglophone community, racial and ethnocultural diversity is much greater than in urban communities from other provinces. It also indicates that, despite an educational level much higher than that of the average Canadian, ethnocultural communities are underemployed and underrepresented in the labour force. When members of ethnocultural communities and visible minorities have a job, they are often underemployed, in the sense that the quality of their job does not reflect their academic training and work experience. This is particularly true with immigrants, but it is also the case for members of visible or ethnocultural minorities who were born here, in Canada.

All the studies also show that when we make resources and means available to communities, these communities and the surrounding areas experience a real drop in crime. I urge all hon. members to read a book published in 2006 by Irvin Waller.

The title of this book is Less Law, More Order: The Truth About Reducing Crime.

Any government, any political party, which wishes to claim that it is serious about reducing crime has to look at all of the elements of crime. Those elements are not just at the level of arrest, at the level of prosecution, at the level of sentencing, at the level of incarceration and possibly rehabilitation subsequently, and the reinsertion into the community. It is also about prevention.

The studies are consistent that a dollar spent in prevention can easily produce $50 and more in the reduction in cost at the arrest, prosecution, incarceration and parole section of the dollars that we spend there.

Irvin Waller's book is actually a compilation of major studies that have been done with thousands and thousands of children in the United States over the last 40 years, in the U.K. and in Canada. It has shown clearly that if the government and Canada wishes to be serious about getting tough on crime and effectively reducing crime, we need to invest in parenting and child development.

We need to invest in helping kids to succeed by the use of mentors, by providing resources to our schools, our colleges and our universities. We need to invest in making our schools safe for our children. What does that mean?

We know that there has been a rise in bullying, for instance, in our schools. We began to notice it in the 1990s. At that point in time, we found it primarily in the high schools, but today we are finding evidence of bullying in elementary schools.

One of the ways we can ensure that our schools are safe is to invest in our schools. We can provide our schools with resources to, for instance, put into place programs of non-violent conflict resolution. That is one example. We can give training to the professionals who work in the schools to enable them to identify the children and the youth who may be at risk of becoming delinquent, of becoming offenders, or of becoming bullies.

We also need to invest in keeping youth in the communities. We have to ensure that youth have available to them jobs that are more attractive than crime.

Studies have shown consistently that ethnocultural and visible minority communities are at higher risk of being victims of crime than in larger communities. For instance, we are talking about the rise of street gangs today. Where are many of the potential members of these street gangs being recruited? They are being recruited in the very communities which are at risk. Yet those communities, which wish to work on this issue, which wish to invest in their children, are not being provided with sufficient resources.

If you will allow me, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read to you some of the testimony that we received from a young gentleman, Harry Delva, who works for la Maison d'Haiti, which works in the street. It has caseworkers in the street working with the parents and the children to ensure that children do not become eligible recruits for street gangs in the Saint-Michel area of Montreal and Montreal North, but also to assist parents so that they are provided with the resources, parenting skills et cetera.

Harry Delva had this to say very clearly about prevention:

Getting back to prevention, yes, I think we have to work very hard to do it. For a very long time, we've been trying to work with youths in the Saint-Michel and Montreal North neighbourhoods doing prevention. Unfortunately, we don't have the resources to fight this phenomenon, this plague. This phenomenon has been promoted on TV with billions of dollars, with hip hop music and artists like 50 Cent and others, but it's unfortunately very difficult for the various community groups, which are in the field, which every day experience what the youths are experiencing and exactly report their day-to-day experience to us.

Unfortunately, we can't find the funding to be able to keep caseworkers who can continue working with these youths. Today, we've definitely realized that we have to start earlier. Unfortunately, we have to start in kindergarten, with children five or six years old, because they already have a red bandanna or a blue bandanna in their pocket and they already know... I don't mean these youths belong to gangs, but they already know their allegiance. That means that, if they belong to the Bloods, they know they have to hate and detest the Crips, and if they belong to the Crips, they know they have to hate and detest the Bloods--

There is an expert in organized crime who has been used by our courts across Canada to assist in providing evidence so that a judge can determine whether or not the individuals who have been accused of being part of a criminal organization, that organization is in fact a criminal organization. His name is Retired Sergeant Guy Ouellette. He has been retired from the Sûreté du Québec, the Quebec provincial police, for the last six years. He said:

It's not normal for a guy like Harry Delva, who, as he told you, is in the field in Montreal North and Ville Saint-Michel to tell you that, every day, in the pool of emerging street gangs he sees youths of five, six, nine, 10 and 15 years of age, which corresponds to the real police definition of street gangs. However, every six months, he's forced to fight with various departments in order to authorize a program to train a successor. There's nothing permanent in his work, and he has no security. However, it's announced there will be 2,500 police officers or more and $10 million to invest in prevention programs. But, every six months, he is forced to fight for $90,000 in funding. And yet he's the one who has them in his face very day.

The purpose of the motion passed unanimously by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights was to show all the members of this House—including government members—the urgent and pressing need to put more resources at the disposal of the communities. Indeed, these communities must, to some degree, look after their own safety, after crime issues and after crime prevention. This will ensure that children are raised in good and quiet communities that support their development.

Ethnocultural communities must—not “should”—be involved in crime prevention from the very beginning. This government and this society have an obligation to take note, as the motion says, of “the importance of the contribution that the ethnocultural communities make to the prevention of crime, social reintegration of offenders and rapid growth of safer communities”. In other words, we must recognize the need to use all the means and resources available.

I also want to mention another point very quickly. I talked about the need to invest in our children. All the studies show that investing in our children means investing in early childhood development and daycare programs, and providing means to families.

That is the first thing. Second, it is also about housing. It is about ensuring access to programs for the poorest, the most marginal, and who are they? They are the ethnocultural communities and visible minorities. The level of poverty is the highest there. Our first nations also have these problems. It is about ensuring that these communities have access to programs that they can help design, in early childhood development, child care, investing in our schools, investing in conflict resolution, investing in our communities and our community organizations in the ethnocultural communities, in the visible minority communities. It is about ensuring that they can participate all the way along in prevention, in the administration of justice, in policing. The police use the majority of the organizations in these communities that work on these issues as their experts, as their entry for intelligence, and yet it is amazing that those very organizations literally have to beg for resources from the government.

I urge this House to adopt the 11th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I urge the government to make sure that its policies and programs are improved to provide the--

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments.

The hon. member for Ottawa South.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was very moved by the comments of my colleague. I have learned quite a bit about the connection between a number of things, one obviously being the need to invest in prevention at the early stages so that we can reap the huge rewards at the back end and reduce costs in terms of prosecution, incarceration, parole and other expenses that might flow.

I would like to ask my colleague about some of the learning she may have derived from the professor's book she cited. Some of the comments she made would shock viewers and Canadians, that five- and six-year-olds are now either participating in a gang or ostensibly are members at a very young age, and are being inculcated way too early in either the Crips or the Bloods.

I find this interesting because here we have a government that has just appointed a former minister from the Ontario government who was the first minister to privatize a jail in my home province, something which was rescinded by the new Government of Ontario.

I want to get a sense from my colleague of what exactly is going on here. How important is this now to get to the youngest ages in Canadian society so we can reap the important rewards to reduce crime and the associated costs?

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.


Marlene Jennings Liberal Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Ottawa South for his question because it provides me with some time to expound on the issue of investing in our young children.

The phenomenon of street gangs began in the United States in the 1980s and has now moved its way into Canada, and now into Montreal. Originally the gangs were made up of young men. In the 1980s the overwhelming majority of the membership of the Crips and the Bloods which appeared in the Los Angeles region of California were young men. They were of legal age, but as time went on, we began to see younger and younger and younger members recruited.

The phenomenon began to appear in Canada toward the mid and late 1990s and it has become a real issue. Initially in the Montreal area we saw it in Montreal north and Saint-Michel, but the street gangs have now moved into my riding and I am on the west side of the island. Just to situate it geographically, Montreal west and Saint-Michel are on the east side of Montreal Island in the centre and north. My riding is in the southwest and part of it is the west island. I have spoken with police and with the community organizations on the ground. The street gangs are now in NDG and they have now moved further west in my riding into Lachine.

Let us turn to the issue of the young children and young people in their teens and early twenties who have been recruited into the gangs or who have become wannabes. We already know there are higher rates of pregnancies among young people who have dropped out of school, et cetera. The young woman may be the girlfriend of someone who is either in a gang or considers himself to be a wannabe and she dresses her three year old in the gang colours of her boyfriend or her partner.

This is the phenomenon that Harry Delva talked about. We already know that children are very intelligent and have such fertile minds. I remember that my daughter, who is now 14, at five years old was actually teaching me how to use the DVD.

We have to ensure that the parents of these young children are provided with the proper resources. They must be provided with parenting skills. We must ensure they are provided with affordable housing, social housing. They must be provided with the appropriate programs.

I can talk about one program in my riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine which is called Elizabeth House. Elizabeth House receives funding from the provincial government, and part of that funding obviously comes from the social transfer from the federal government, in order to provide, for example, parenting skills, cooking skills, budgeting skills to young mothers. There are two homes where these young women can live.

The problem is there are gaps and when the young women have to leave, if they are unable to get into social housing, or even if they get into social housing, their development and skills are not necessarily at the level where they really can raise their children autonomously. Therefore, working with Elizabeth House a number of community activists and I supported a plan for a transitional home. That home saw the light of day in December 2005 in NDG, where? On Benny Farm. Benny Farm, which formerly was veteran housing, has been renovated. In many cases it is green renovation. The architects have won prestigious international prizes for the work that has been done.

There are now a number of units in one building where young women who leave Elizabeth House with their families can go. The children are under five years of age. They are provided with the additional assistance that they require. They are encouraged to go back to school or to seek the skills they need in order to become employable and then they are provided with assistance in job seeking. Once they are able to stand on their feet, they are assisted in finding their own place off the area.

The point, though, is there are virtually no programs that the Maison Transitionnelle 03, which is what it is called, can find to pay for the program and case workers. It is not just young women, I should say. A young man is there who lived, from the time he was two years old, in foster homes and never felt that he had an identity or was worth anything. He has several children. He lives there and for the first time in his life feels like he is someone who can actually contribute. Those are the kinds of needs that the government needs to be addressing and is not addressing.

The national crime prevention strategy that the Liberal government put in place in 1998, I believe it was, needs to continue. It needs to be expanded. It needs to have a component of sustainable, or in French “durable”, core funding.

These organizations need to know that in six months' time or in three years' time they are not suddenly going to have to be scrambling to develop some project to get another year or two years funding. They need to know that they will be able to continue to provide the support in the ethnocultural and visible minority communities, but also in the wider communities.

In Lachine the overwhelming majority of the population is francophone de souche, white francophone Quebeckers. That is where the level of poverty is high and the dropout rate is high. Guess what? When one looks at the criminality rate in Lachine, that is where the criminality rate is high.

The 11th report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights is clear. It is making clear recommendations to the House and I hope that each and every member in the House will vote in favour of concurrence.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:35 p.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Rob Moore ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's remarks. I know that she has been a longstanding member of the justice committee, but I also listened to the evidence of the witness that she was citing, the youth worker from Montreal, and he had some powerful testimony for our committee.

I noticed that the hon. member, although citing some of the things that the witness said, left out the fact that that witness appeared at our justice committee to support a bill that the hon. member opposes.

Here is someone who works with youth, who works in an environment where there are a lot of gangs. We heard his evidence about recruitment into gangs and the kids wearing the red or blue bandanas. He provided such powerful testimony, but he said we should support what the government was doing with our justice bills, our bills to get tough on crime.

I find it most interesting that the hon. member left that out of her remarks when she was talking on this issue. She left out the fact that this person was supporting a government bill that she opposes, so I would ask that she comment on that if she gets an opportunity.

The motion today speaks to the importance of the contribution that ethnocultural communities make to the prevention of crime, social reintegration of offenders, and rapid growth of safer communities. It asks the House to recognize the need to ensure every means and resource to allow police departments, Correctional Service Canada, the National Parole Board, and the ethnocultural communities to respond better to the new needs of the increasingly diversified offender and prisoner population.

In this regard, I wish to recognize the importance of the contribution of ethnocultural communities in a specific context, namely, in helping to ensure the national security of Canada in a manner that respects the fundamental rights of all Canadians.

In this regard, I wish to single out especially the work of the cross-cultural round table on security. The recent report that reviewed the Anti-terrorism Act from the other place discussed the cross-cultural round table on security and made recommendations to improve its effectiveness. The government is currently considering this report.

It is not my intention to discuss the Senate's recommendation at this time. My purpose today is to summarize the work of the round table members to date as an important example of how members of ethnocultural communities can contribute to a Canada that is safer because it takes action against wrongdoers, in this case terrorists, while respecting fundamental human rights.

The cross-cultural round table on security was established in February 2005. Its mandate is to engage Canadians and the Government of Canada in an ongoing dialogue on national security. The round table meets periodically with the Ministers of Public Safety, Justice and Canadian Heritage, as well as other ministers and security officials, to discuss national security matters. I had the privilege last year of attending the national round table and it was a very rewarding experience indeed.

To date, six formal meetings of the round table with senior government officials and, as mentioned above, periodically with ministers, have been held. During the last two years of operation, round table members have helped inform policy and decision-making by providing insights on security issues.

The cross-cultural round table on security has brought together 15 individuals, all volunteers I should add, from diverse ethnocultural and religious communities from across the country. While they may come from different backgrounds and different cultures, it is their commitment to human rights, to strong and safe communities, and to protecting Canada and Canadians from harm that unites them as a round table.

The diversity within its membership and the spectrum of opinions reflect the diversity and concerns of Canada's citizens. The round table is part of a pluralistic process of consultation, collaboration and learning. This is a different model from those created in Europe and Australia, which focus solely on the Muslim community. Instead, the round table is a multicultural model, which rejects the stigmatization of any one community.

Since the round table's inception, initiatives such as the Canada Border Service Agency's fairness initiative and the RCMP's bias-free policing policy have signalled the commitment of federal agencies to ensure that the Canadian values that we respect so much are reflected in the way government officials perform their everyday duties.

The agenda that the round table members adopted for 2005-06 covered many diverse facets of national security concerns and brought many new perspectives to the understanding by all participants of the important security issues and the impact of national security measures on Canadians.

The first year the round table allowed round table members to really appreciate the multicultural nature of the round table as they did not shy away from discussing difficult issues regarding national security that often involved debates around foreign policy and religious issues.

Round table members have also facilitated numerous meetings between government and local community groups to ensure that a two-way dialogue takes place, explaining what security measures have been enacted, why and what is being done to protect all Canadians.

Equally important has been the information exchange, the listening to those who may feel there is a disproportionate impact on them from some of these measures.

Based on feedback from round table members, security agencies are reassessing how they should interact with diverse communities, with a long term view to establishing sustained and effective relationships.

More broadly, federal government departments, including the Department of Justice and Public Safety, are also re-examining how they engage in outreach activities to Canadians on national security issues. Through their own outreach, round table members have recognized the need to build trust and understanding among Canada's diverse communities and the security agencies toward the common goal, the goal that we all share, of enhanced security.

Moving forward into 2006, the round table, through a series of community outreach activities, locally, regionally and nationally, focused on achieving strategic results in four main areas. First, beyond the government's efforts to protect its citizens, Canada's overall security depends on the responsibility and attitude of all Canadians and their desire and ability to work together to protect our communities.

Round table members recognized the need to develop and reinforce the concept of responsible citizens and underlined the responsibilities associated with being part of Canadian society, including the necessary commitment to the security of their own communities.

Round table members wish to advise government on the potential role and responsibilities of all members of Canadian society including, very importantly, youth in the security of Canada. This would also include how the government itself could support its people in this role and relationship.

Second, the London bombings which took place in July 2005 raised the notion, disturbing to all round table members, of second or third generation Canadians, born in an open and democratic society, adopting violent solutions such as suicide bombings as a means of protesting government actions.

There is no reason to believe that Canadians are immune from the conditions that led to these events. This is not an issue unique to the United Kingdom. Round table members recognized the need to better understand these concerns domestically and to dialogue with communities about understanding the conditions that could potentially lead to the adoption of extremist views and the commitment of terrorist acts or hate crimes by Canadians, particularly youth, at home or abroad.

They also recognized the need to discuss potential effective interventions to prevent such tragedies from occurring within our own borders.

Third, round table members will continue to facilitate a two-way communication regarding the implementation of Canadian government security measures and their impact on ethnocultural communities and individual members as best they can and they will continue to carry on promoting intercultural dialogue within the respective communities on local issues and concerns related to national security.

Lastly, in the event of a terrorist act in Canada or an act directed against Canadians, round table members recognized the need to be concerned with the possibility and even likelihood of community backlash and hate crimes against members of Canada's communities.

By talking with communities, strategies to deal with this scenario could be examined and developed. These would aim to strengthen community relations and mobilize communities, cultural businesses and youth groups in an effort to mitigate the fallout of a terrorist attack in Canada.

As I explained previously, the great strength of the round table lies in its multicultural makeup. Being a country with a strong sense of multiculturalism, Canada has developed and will continue to build a solid capacity for dialogue and expression in diverse communities.

In today's complex security environment, intelligence and law enforcement agencies must work with community groups to be effective. Within a multicultural country such as Canada, each round table member brings something unique to the table, and those are the diverse Canadian communities they come from. Concerns about security measures do not come from just one community or one religion. The round table, either through the rotation of new members or through its outreach activities, will seek out as many of these perspectives as possible. It is hoped that any and all impacts of this dialogue will help move Canada forward.

I will give an example. At the outreach meeting held in Calgary on March 18, 2006, the members of the security agencies had the opportunity to present to the audience the nature of the work undertaken by them and the challenge they face in this regard. Thereafter, they participated in a question and answer session. Not surprising, the audience brought up issues such as racial profiling, security certificates and the possible abuse of power by the authorities. According to the report of the round table member who organized this outreach activity, it stated:

It was heartening to see members of the security agencies explain to what extent they strive to prevent such abuses and invite the audience to contact them in case of such occurrences.

In addition, from this past fall to early February of this year, the round table hosted four regional symposiums aimed at seeking public views with respect to the role of Canadian society in national security. These events have provided an opportunity to bring together members of Canada's ethnocultural communities with officials from the Department of Public Safety and security agencies, such as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Canada Border Services Agency, as well as officials from the Department of Justice.

To summarize, input from the round table to date has led to better interaction between ethnocultural communities and the security agencies, development of improved communication approaches and products by security agencies, and improved cultural awareness and sensitivity training of security agencies' officials.

As well, the Department of Canadian Heritage through the multiculturalism program, has been an active participant in the round table.

The work of the cross-cultural round table on security is a prime example of how members of Canada ethnocultural communities can work together to dialogue with government on the impact of the current government policy and laws in a manner that exemplifies the nature of this great nation and avoid stigmatizing any one segment of Canadians.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

12:50 p.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not have the opportunity to sit on the committee that produced this report. However, I have the privilege of coming from a family that has traditionally been open to cultural communities. I can remember that, from early in my childhood, my father would bring home people from various backgrounds to allow us to learn from their music, culture, theatre and writing. We always were very open to having people from wherever visit, and being enriched by them; it was an opportunity to get to know them better and to share their culture.

When we talk about crime in cultural communities and the desire of these communities to see their children, teenagers, young men and women, get out of crime, we talk about communities which have been consistently striving to fit in with society, in Quebec and Canada, and to really work together with police and other institutions.

On the subject of crime, there are things we do not talk about. What I would have liked the government to do is give the reasons for crime, instead of going on and on about cultural communities getting together in committees to discuss the terrorist potential of some of their own. I would rather discuss what causes crime to exist in cultural communities, because it is caused by extreme poverty. There is no social housing and no employment.

Today, in Quebec and Canada, those least likely to find employment are people from the cultural communities, particularly visible minority cultural communities.

The vast majority of women in these communities cannot find jobs because they are unable to cope with today's very demanding labour market, and also because employers are not doing what they are supposed to do; they do not have non-discriminatory hiring policies in place.

If these problems are not addressed and members of Parliament and legislators do not deal with poverty issues, as is their duty, crime will never be stopped. Try as they may, without help in doing what they have to do, cultural communities will never succeed in stopping crime.

Not one child born to a mother from Haiti or from countries in Africa or Latin America sat in Santa's lap and said that he wanted to become a gang member when he grew up. Not one.

The reason why some of these children are on the street today and chose to join a street gang is because they wanted to feel valued. Obviously this is not the right way to achieve that. It is not what we wish for our children. That is often what happens when a society abandons its children and does not ensure that they have everything they need to grow and blossom in a fair and equitable environment. Instead of demanding more measures to fight crime or more prisons, we should be demanding measures to help people find a way out. We need more social housing, more jobs and more people who really have the good of their community at heart.

There are glaring examples. In Winnipeg, children and families living in poverty formed a cooperative so they could buy a house. Poor people cannot afford to buy houses. They do not have RRSPs and they cannot benefit from the home buyers' plan. Home ownership is just not accessible to them.

These people used to live in a place where graffiti, crime and vandalism were a daily occurrence. When these people were finally able to buy a house, when these children could finally be proud to have parents who owned their own house, there was a drop in crime.

There was a noticeable decrease in crime, even an end to crime altogether. Graffiti is no longer seen on the houses. The houses are no longer covered in graffiti because the people and children living there are proud. This is what we must keep in mind. Cultural communities can try to do everything in their power to stamp out crime, but if they are not given the tools they need, they will never succeed.

And by tools, I do not mean additional prison sentences or the imprisonment of 12-year-old children. I do not mean jailing people who commit misdeeds because they want to impress their young peers. That is not what I am talking about. Instead, I am talking about measures to help cultural communities keep their outreach workers in the street, such as the Maison d'Haïti mentioned earlier by my colleague. Communities need to have outreach workers who work on a daily basis with young people in the streets, to try to convince them to become involved in something other than crime. These youth need role models. And it is not until people get out of poverty that they can become role models. Once these mothers and fathers have decent jobs, they can get out of poverty, their children will be able to go to school and on to post-secondary, and these children will stop being marginalized because they do not have what everyone else has. This is how we should talk about reducing crime.

Unless we reduce poverty in Canada, we will never be able to reduce crime. For years now, we have been saying that we want to reduce poverty, but we still have one million children living in poverty. Given 1.5 or 1.6 children per family, that means that at least 700,000 people are living in abject poverty. That creates fertile ground for criminal activity and for children who have nothing and want what other people have. That is to be expected.

We live in a consumer society where everything we see on television, on the Internet and all around us tells us that we have to have the nicest clothes, the best cars and the best weapons. In the United States, despite last week's tragedy, the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America are suggesting that all students should be armed to go to school. Just imagine. And they would have us think that such policies do not promote criminal activity. They are trivializing the use of guns, trivializing the fact that a gun does not have to be registered, trivializing the fact that women want the gun registry so that police officers can continue to track down people who might be inclined to misuse them.

There are many things we can do to fight crime other than build prisons and hire people to figure out whether a private prison would be better than a public one. That was done in the United States, where the incarceration rate is seven times that of Canada.

I am privileged to have many ethnic communities in my riding. Everywhere I go, those communities have community centres to help their young people. The centres encourage the youth to help older people and participate in choirs and basketball, baseball and soccer clubs. Even though they do not have the financial means to do it, they dig deep and do as much as they can to help their youth.

As my colleague said earlier, to fight crime, we have to give ethnic communities the necessary tools. By tools, I also mean money, because it is always about money.

I would like to add that youth from ethnic communities are not the only ones falling prey to increasing criminal activity. Because of the media, young Quebeckers, both anglophone and francophone, also seek the notoriety achieved through criminal activity.

One way to combat youth crime might be to prohibit the media from talking about it, because whenever they run stories about young people from cultural communities, it is because they have done something wrong. The media never report on young people from cultural communities who have done something noteworthy for their community, but do talk about them when they do something wrong, as all young people are likely to do.

A person does not have to come from a cultural community to want to assert his or her identity at 14, 15 or 16. Unfortunately, however, young people sometimes choose the wrong crowd. But if there is no one in the community to help them when this happens, I am afraid our young people will do things they will regret later. We must do everything we can as members of Parliament and legislators to give cultural communities all the tools they need and try to create more culturally diverse police forces. Only by initiating a dialogue involving institutions, communities and children can we stop the rise in violence and crime.

As I said earlier, young people do not aspire to be criminals when they get older, just as they do not necessarily aspire to be members of Parliament. They think about being happy and enjoying their childhood. But a child who, at 12, 13 or 14, already has a weapon is no longer a child, at least mentally, if not physically or emotionally. And that is even more serious, because children whose childhood is taken away from them lose their ability to wonder and to laugh for no reason. Is there anything more beautiful than an innocent child's laughter? Is there anything more beautiful to hear as a mother and grandmother? Sometimes, I stop and listen to my grandchildren laugh. Children's laughter gives us the warmest feeling we as parents and grandparents can have, because it means that our children perhaps do not have to prove to others that they are men or women. When they laugh, it is because our children perhaps do not have to prove to themselves that they can escape the abject misery they live in.

Have you ever been to Ville Saint-Michel or to Montréal-Nord, Mr. Speaker? Have you ever been to Verdun in areas where some apartment buildings are real slums, with mould on walls, with broken windows and without heat because landlords do not maintain them? Do you know what it means for a child to grow up in such a slum? No. We have the good fortune and the privilege of coming from rather well-to-do families, or if it was not the case, at least we did not live in that kind of abject poverty. We did not live in ghettos.

Now a lot of cultural communities are ghettoized. And they are ghettoized even more when we hear statements like the one made earlier by my colleague from the Conservative Party who said that these people who live here but who are from a different culture are just thinking about committing suicide, as was the case in England, that these children want to commit suicide by killing other people.

I do not think so. We must have more respect for cultural communities. We must meet them and get to know them better to make sure that when we say things about them, we say the right things.

Again, I hope the government will understand how important it is not to use crime to put in place measures that are totally inappropriate to deal with the problem that we are facing.

I hope the hon. members will be wise enough, as the hon. member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine is asking, to recognize the contribution of the cultural communities and to recognize their efforts in dealing with the difficulties experienced by their children and adolescents. We must also recognize that without these cultural communities, our social fabric would not be as vibrant.

I am married to someone from Africa, from the Congo more specifically, and today it is a great pleasure and privilege for my grandchildren to talk about their ancestors and where they are from.

As long as we welcome people from other countries, our lives will be enriched. We experience the best of those who come here: their food, music, dance and literature. The freedom of spirit they have taught us, the ability to break out of our shells and exceed our limitations, has put us on the world stage. We have succeeded in doing this, in Quebec in particular, where we have a number of world renowned artists, because of the contribution from all the cultural communities that live here now and that we have come to know. Thanks to these cultural communities, we have a sense of our own worth, we recognize our own values, and we have established very enriching dialogues with the communities.

I hope the government will very seriously consider adopting measures for decreasing poverty, increasing the stock of social housing, cutting unemployment and reducing incarceration. I hope there will be more measures for finally giving people in the cultural communities the right, the legitimacy, and the freedom to live here and prosper. That is the right of every individual under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which was celebrated this week and of which all Canadians are so proud. It is not through repressive measures that we will succeed in tackling crime, but with our hearts, our hands and our open minds. We have to listen to the communities and do what we can so they can better help their children and loved ones to find success.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:05 p.m.


Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with care to the speech by the hon. member and there is something I am interested in pursuing a little further. She mentioned that home ownership is very important in being a role model for new Canadians, as well as youth, in decreasing crime rates in neighbourhoods.

In my riding, home ownership by individuals is at about 85%. One would think that 85% is quite high, and it is, although we would like it to be a little higher. However, even though ours is a thriving community and we might be the sixth wealthiest riding in the country in terms of household income, we still have our problems or challenges when it comes to crime.

Recently in my area, the police found out that the people in one home were dealing in counterfeit papers, including passports and other important papers. There also have been many grow ops in our area even though ours is the sixth wealthiest riding in the country.

I understand that when an area is economically depressed it will have a larger amount of crime and problems with youth, especially where there are ethnic ghettos, as the member mentioned.

I came to Canada when I was 13 years old. My family lived in a kind of ethnic ghetto at the time, but I did not see it as an ethnic ghetto then. I did not know any better. My mother and father went to work every morning and I started work when I was 14 years old, right after we came to Canada, when I could speak very little English. Sometimes I would speak to people in sign language when asking for food or a drink, the same way MPs ask the pages in the House of Commons to get them a drink.

However, the grow ops in our area, if I may expand on that, are coming at us fast and furious. The faster they are closed down or uncovered, the faster there is another one opening up down the street. As a matter of fact, a home just around the corner from my own house was busted twice in a row within a year. Since it was last closed down in October or November, the home has been boarded up and is not being used at all.

I spoke with members of the police associations who were here the other day at the reception for the Canadian Police Association. They are asking for more support in their plight in order to tackle this sort of problem. I certainly do not want grow ops in my area or anywhere in Canada. If only we could do more about that. Maybe the member can elaborate on how we can tackle the problem of the grow ops and chemical labs that are popping up all over the country.

I understand that people get caught, but there are people who know nothing about what is going on. People are living on the first and second floors of a 4,000 square foot home and meanwhile the basement is a grow op. They go down to the basement with water every day, but they are living on the first floor with a big plasma TV and living in luxury that someone has given to them.

I am not sure what we can do about it, but I am sure that building more prisons, as has been suggested across the floor, is not the solution to this problem. What may help is prevention in regard to this issue rather than punishing people and putting them away for longer at the end, with more people put away in more prison spaces. I believe more in the preventative method rather than punishment at the end.

Statistics and information have told us, even at the time when I was going to university, which was many years ago, that a longer sentence is not a deterrent to them repeating the offence later on. There is a break point where it serves no purpose to keep somebody in jail for a longer period.

Could the member comment on that?

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I know this is a slow Friday afternoon, but we are under questions and comments. This is a 10 minute question and comment period. The question lasted six minutes.

The hon. member has four minutes to respond.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.


Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague made his point very clearly and I am pleased that he took the time to do so because it is also very important to make a distinction between different types of crime.

My colleague told us that when he was younger, his family was poor and lived in a ghetto. I believe him. In those times, I do not know if poor families had television, and if during the shows there were so many advertisements to show them what all the other children had.

This does not mean that in wealthy communities there is less crime. It only means that there is perhaps a little more idleness, disinterest and perhaps a little less involvement. I think that as adults, we have a responsibility to look out for all children, regardless of whether they are from rich, poor or multicultural communities. We have the responsibility to ensure that there is prevention. This is very true.

My grandparents used to always say, “The devil finds work for idle hands”. We were taught how to knit so that our hands were always busy. We were taught how to crochet and all sorts of other things that I loathed. I am left-handed and I really disliked all of that. The results were always terrible but we were taught to always keep busy.

I think that today we have a society where everything goes very fast, where everything is very fast. My colleague spoke earlier about television violence. There is violence on television and also in video games where you can die 20 times and then come back to life in the next second. That makes our young people think that they are immortal. When I was 14, 15 or 16 years old, I believed that I was immortal and invincible. Today, at the age of 57, I know for certain that I will die one day and that I am not invincible. It took me many years to figure that out. Until we are confronted by the realities of life that make us aware of such things, we continue to believe that we are invincible and immortal.

Video games can make us believe it for many years. Young people who are 30 or 35 play them every day and may still believe that they are immortal. Furthermore, when there are television programs such as Weeds, which sings the praises of marijuana and endorses its use, our youth will want to continue down that road.

We must realize that the most important news media for youth today are not newspapers but the Internet and television. We must take action to ensure that if we wish to have television without censorship, it must be television that is appropriate for our youth. We must be sure that our young people are learning things of importance when they watch television and not just values associated with crime.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:15 p.m.


Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind those who have been following this debate what we are speaking to in order to draw the total context for the comments I will make.

We are talking about the Standing Order with respect to the committee's report on justice and human rights and a motion that came out of committee with respect to the contribution that ethnocultural communities can make to the prevention of crime and so on. It has been emphasized through this debate that crime is not relegated to the ethnocultural community. Crime is of concern to all communities across the country. The issue before us deals with finding the best ways to respond to crime.

There have been broad discussions on other days with respect to the criminal justice system. I will not speak on that side because the other side of the debate with respect to the prevention of crime deals with programs and targeted strategies. Nine times out of ten they are programs to support our educational systems, our boards of education, our policing agencies, our community-based organizations across the country.

I am sure the House appreciates the comments made by the parliamentary secretary. This broader issue of crime prevention is the subject of a round table, consisting of people from all walks of life and all cultural organizations. It crosses every particular part of our communities needs. Strategies and suggestions will be coming out of that round table.

I will emphasize from my perspective as a member for a constituency that is very needy. I do not know whether we can conclude that home ownership is an indicator of whether there is more crime or less crime, but it probably is one indicator with respect to poverty. I think we can all conclude that poverty is an important root cause of criminal activity, especially in young people. While my colleague has indicated that 85% of the people in his riding own their own homes, in my community of York South—Weston 31% of people own their homes. If this is an indicator of the distribution of wealth, we can see that both parts of the spectrum represented.

While that may be an indicator of poverty, in my particular area crime rates are below average, which means something must be happening to make people take some carriage in ownership of the issues that lead to criminal activity. We have very strong citizen involvement in community based organizations, and that is absolutely critical to the prevention side of dealing with the symptoms and the reality of crime in our communities.

I want to take this opportunity to outline three areas. I think common sense and practice have convinced us that these are the areas in which we can support police, community based organizations and educational institutions, all those who either in their jobs or as volunteers people want to be active in their communities. The areas are seasonal employment, apprenticeship-type training and sport. It seems an understatement to suggest that whatever strategy comes forward, those are fundamental areas in which we should invest.

I will speak to those, but I want to show, because of our corporate memory lapses and our fundamental loss in wisdom, how we probably do things inadvertently that undermine our capacity to respond.

I will talk about the apprenticeship training programs that had been worked out, and there was continuity from the last government to this government. However, I believe there was an oversight in the last budget and key programs were not supported. In the area of apprenticeship training in the trades, there is a crying need across the country for young people to be trained in the trades. Where there is youth at risk, they should be involved in pre-apprenticeship training.

In my area of York South—Weston in the greater Toronto area, and I know there are parallels in other provinces, the trade union councils and union members work together with the boards of education to develop pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training programs. To assist them, there was the apprenticeship infrastructure training program. This program allowed boards of education to invest in tools, supplies and equipment, which were in keeping with the changing technology in the trades, and to train young people, either in a pre-apprenticeship program or in an apprenticeship program, to engage and become part of the mainstream of life in our community.

Believe it or not, as obvious as it should be but as a surprise probably to members of the government, the apprenticeship trades infrastructure program was suspended. There no longer are those funds or investments going into partnership programs, which were serving very well both youth at risk and young people who wanted to engage in trades across the country.

When we talk about developing partnerships, we know how hard and long it takes to do that. Those programs in apprenticeship training were not carried by government. In this case they were carried with incentives provided by government, picked up by union members and labour within the trades and complemented by the space made available in the schools, particularly in my riding of York South—Weston.

It was a program that had the capacity to become very effective, and was very effective, to ensure that youth at risk did not fall through the cracks of the system and become those who would be exploited by gang activity or by those who would exploit them for nefarious purposes. I use that as one illustration.

The second is seasonal employment. All of us for years have been using the student and summer employment program. MPs were working with community based organizations, ensuring the mentoring was taking place in solidly managed volunteer organizations, which were deploying young people very effectively in working with youth. In my area the For Youth initiative was one example of that. It also worked with seniors and shut-ins who were virtually abandoned in their apartments and homes. That program was cut back. I use it as another illustration that inadvertently, possibly innocently, we lose one of the basic ingredients for mobilizing communities and dealing with young people who could be subject to exploitation by those who are involved in gang and criminal activities.

The final thing is sport. My friend from Prince Albert has introduced his bill, which was unanimously taken by the House.

I have a letter from members of my community, and I am sure this is typical across the country, who are volunteers working with young athletes. They point out that even when they get accreditation through sports organizations, they have to pay a fee through Athletics Canada when they want to participate in national and international competition. In many cases, those volunteer organizations have to try to raise that money so these young people can compete, either interprovincially or on behalf of their country

I think conventional wisdom tells us that there are three ways to meet the objectives of this motion to deal in an effective way with criminal activity: to invest in communities, to invest in volunteerism and to bring our communities together.

I hope all members of the House are conscious of how through these examples we can do better.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:25 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It is my duty to interrupt the proceedings on the motion at this time. When we return to this motion there will be 10 minutes left for the hon. member for York South—Weston with 10 minute questions and comments.

Accordingly the debate on the motion will be rescheduled for another sitting.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.


David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I believe there are a number of members in the House of Commons who would seek the opportunity to present petitions this afternoon. I am wondering if we could ask for the consent of all parties to allow a number of those members to present those petitions as a matter of convenience.

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.

Some hon. members



Justice and Human RightsCommittees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

1:30 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

It being 1:31 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion that Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

1:30 p.m.


Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to again speak to Bill C-327, an act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts).

This would amend the Broadcasting Act to grant the CRTC the power to make regulations respecting the broadcasting of violent scenes. I commend my colleague, the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, for raising this issue.

I do not plan on supporting the legislation but it certainly concerns a serious matter and it can only benefit Canadian society that violence be examined and debated here in the House of Commons.

As the father of four children, I certainly share my colleague's concerns about the levels of violence broadcast on television to young children. My children are older now, but violence on television is certainly an issue I had to deal with while they were growing up.

However, I am not sure the legislation is now necessary. The objective of Bill C-327 is consistent with the current regulatory practice of the CRTC and self-governing standards from both public and private sector broadcasters.

The CRTC already sets out policy and rules that govern violence on television and, more important, are a mandatory condition of a licence for all broadcasters. Moreover, there is an established and enforced requirement that does not allow violent television programming to air before 9 p.m. eastern time.

Viewer advisories referencing unsuitable programming for children are communicated through voice and print before programs. This is encouraging news but we must not be complacent and must be ever vigilant to ensure that images our children are exposed to are healthy.

On the subject of violence, the government has so far done very little to counter my constituents' concerns about violence in our midst and criminal justice issues in particular. My position on criminal justice is that an effective and comprehensive approach to crime is one that deals with every aspect of fighting crime, preventing crime, catching criminals, convicting criminals through competent and quick administration, and rehabilitating criminals.

I am committed to appointing more judges, putting more police officers on the street and more prosecutors in the courts, protecting the most vulnerable, including children and seniors, and giving our youth more opportunities to succeed.

This is where the Liberal justice plan comes into play. The Liberal offer was originally made last October as an attempt to get effective criminal justice legislation passed through Parliament as quickly as possible with the goal to protect Canadian communities.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government has again rejected Liberal efforts to fast-track a number of its own justice bills. This is a bizarre and puzzling decision on the part of the government.

The Liberal opposition has tried three times in the last six months to expedite a number of government bills dealing with justice issues and the Conservatives have failed to collaborate with us. My question is simple: Why does the Conservative government not cooperate with Liberals to get its own criminal justice legislation passed? After all, I recognize the importance of effective criminal justice legislation.

As a member from the GTA, I know all too well the number of firearm offences that have occurred in my area. Thankfully, gun-related deaths have subsided and I applaud the efforts that have been made by stakeholders in the city, at all levels, in reducing the number of gun crimes.

The work is not yet done and the government could certainly help by collaborating with the opposition to pass important and effective criminal justice legislation.

While I am speaking to these issues, it is important to note that the present Liberal justice plan is in addition to the important justice initiatives that were taken while the Liberals were in power. This is something that the Conservatives do not seem to want to recognize but they should give credit where it is due.

First, Canada's first comprehensive national security policy, a strategic framework and action plan designed to ensure that the government can prepare for and respond to security threats while still maintaining Canadian values of openness, diversity and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms.

Second, the creation of a national sex offender registry to protect Canadians from violent sex offenders.

Third, further protection of our children through Bill C-2 from the 38th Parliament. This bill would have strengthened prohibitions against child pornography by broadening the definition of child pornography to include audio formats as well as written material. It would have also increased the maximum penalty for child sexual offences.

Still on the subject of violence, there is another matter the government should start taking seriously. I am amazed that the government has not introduced animal cruelty legislation to the House. The only animal cruelty legislation we have seen is from Liberal parliamentarians.

I commend my Liberal colleagues for introducing private member's bills on this subject. It seems that only the opposition is concerned about this very serious issue. We have seen a whole array of justice bills introduced by the government. Why has animal cruelty not been one of them?

Different governments have attempted over the years to pass this kind of legislation but the Conservative government has not taken it seriously. The government owes an explanation to Canadians as to why it has not introduced legislation to better protect our animals, over which we have an important responsibility.

Those are the issues my constituents are concerned about and they expect to see action from the government. Instead, they see criminal justice legislation stalled and, in the case of animal cruelty, ignored by the government.

I commend my colleague from Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for bringing forth legislation dealing with violence. The bill is not necessary as I am satisfied that there are already sufficient safeguards to protect our children.

The real onus lies with the government. There are a number of things that it can do to immediately make our communities safer. I have been pleased to outline some of these thing today, and they include working with the opposition to get effective criminal justice legislation passed, as well as immediately introducing an animal cruelty bill as a piece of government legislation. I look forward to continuing to follow these debates.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

1:40 p.m.


Luc Malo Bloc Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am especially pleased to rise in this House to give my support to Bill C-327, An Act to amend the Broadcasting Act (reduction of violence in television broadcasts), introduced by my colleague the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie. Allow me first to congratulate him on the importance of this legislation that was inspired by his personal experience. The effect violence in television had on his child pushed the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie to do something concrete, positive and brave.

The small screen holds a significant place in our lives. It contributes to defining our identity. Childhood memories of television are lasting and young watchers are impressionable. That is why it is right to be concerned about the quality of programming being offered to children, especially since according to Canada's Report Card on Physical Activity for Children , more than 80% of youth watch more than two hours of television a day, which exceeds the maximum recommended by medical organizations.

This bill reminds broadcasters that they, like the public, have certain responsibilities and that through attractive and modern formats they can leave more room for positive models that can provide young people with inspiring examples. I am thinking in particular about the athletes that Luc Dupont, marketing expert at the University of Ottawa communications department, recently described as dream sellers. I would add that they also sell hope: athletes from the Alouettes and the Canadiens give sick children the courage to hang on, simply by visiting them in hospital.

Not so long ago, Julie, a constituent from Varennes, told me the story of her little boy. Samuel, inspired by the champion Shawn Sawyer, asked his mother to sign him up for figure skating lessons and this year he won two medals in that discipline. I am convinced that this simple story of emulation is a reality experienced by many families.

Athletes can inspire change in lifestyle habits, which is not just desirable but also urgent. The number of young people who are physically out of shape has increased dramatically over the past few years.

This fall, a study on the physical activity of young people in Canada showed that at the age of 13, 10% to 21% of girls never participate in continuous activities. The rates are almost as high with boys. Even worse, at 15, 18% to 34% of girls do not participate in any activity that gets their heart pumping, and the same goes for 10% to 27% of boys. There are consequences to this inactivity, since according to the Association pour la santé publique du Québec, 15% of young Quebeckers are overweight, and 7% are obese.

Ultimately, there needs to be a plan to reduce the number of hours spent in front of the television and to increase the amount of physical activity.

At the federal-provincial-territorial conference of ministers in charge of sports, physical activity and leisure, which was held in Whitehorse in February, and which I had the privilege of attending, a presentation from the Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute confirmed that children are not active enough, to the point that their growth and development are compromised.

In order to address this worrisome situation, would it not be good to take this opportunity to offer positive role models on television to children, instead of violent images and behaviour, which are hardly part of a healthy lifestyle?

Making people responsible is no longer a long-term solution to the problem of children who are out of shape or obese. It is about time that we take action with respect to their environment. This is what was recommended in a study carried out jointly by the Institut de la statistique du Québec and the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, entitled “Excès de poids dans la population québécoise de 1987 à 2003”. This study concluded that:

—behaviour related to nutrition and physical not really the result of a person's free choice, but rather a response to environments where there is a mix of powerful economic, cultural and political forces.

The fact is—it can hardly be denied—that television is an economic, cultural and political force. It is therefore imperative to mobilize all players in the television industry to achieve the widest possible consensus around the major public health issue that sedentary living represents.

Instead of trying to put the blame on someone, we should use television and the power it obviously has to influence, to change attitudes and bring about the necessary behavioural changes. Members will recall that, following the Montreal Olympics and the outstanding display of grace and flexibility of Nadia Comaneci, in 1976, gymnastics enjoyed a sudden surge in popularity. At the time, the CBC had innovated, providing viewers with some 12 hours of television coverage per day, thereby allowing the public to familiarize itself with many little-known sports. The power of an image is such that it can foster callings in sports. The medals won by athletes like Gaétan Boucher and Marc Gagnon have helped Quebec become a real breeding ground of elite speed skaters.

Conversely, there were also a number of unfortunate incidents involving young children who sustained serious injuries trying to imitate professional wrestling stars. A few years ago, the TVA network, a private broadcaster in Quebec, decided to take off the air these types of shows which had until then been a staple in Sunday morning entertainment.

But that type of program is a far cry from Les Héros du samedi, which was a television show from my childhood. Everyone I meet in the context of the sporting events I attend as spokesperson for my political party seems to agree that that program served as an excellent showcase and was a great initiative on the part of Radio-Canada. That program unfortunately disappeared over 15 years ago, and many people are asking themselves what the public broadcaster is doing today to diffuse positive sports messages.

In February, Sports-Québec appeared before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage to present its position regarding the role of a public broadcaster in the 21st century. The evaluation of the situation by this key player in the Quebec sporting community is clear and unmistakable. When it comes to the broadcasting of Quebec's French-language organized sports, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has almost completely failed to fulfill its responsibilities, to such an extent that French-speaking viewers are now forced to turn to the public broadcaster's English network. This situation is unacceptable, as indicated by Sports-Québec:

For increasing numbers of young [Canadians] who want to have sport in their lives today and tomorrow, we must stimulate them and give them models. However, this right to hear about those of our athletes who inspire them is as legitimate for young francophones as it is for anglophones.

Since sports are an integral part of culture, Sports-Québec has concluded that the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is not adequately fulfilling its role and recommends, among other things, that the legislated mandate of the CBC/Radio Canada, “include the responsibility to contribute to the promotion of healthy living habits ... ”, that the CBC/Radio Canada “produce and broadcast promotional material on improved physical fitness” and that “programming for children and youth include segments popularizing healthy living habits”. Thus, Sports-Québec is laying the foundation for a responsible image of sports, particularly organized sports, on public television.

As parliamentarians, it is our responsibility to create the conditions within our society that facilitate and promote the development of our children and youth. What role models would we like to give them? What kind of demonstrations should we present? These are important questions and Bill C-327 opens the door to television programming that will promote values to contribute to the development of the people watching. The bill does not propose censorship of television. Rather, as indicated by this bill's sponsor last January, it is about adjusting broadcasters' programming to ensure they respect all members of the viewing public.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Kootenay—Columbia B.C.


Jim Abbott ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick comment about the Liberal member's speech.

My colleague from Wild Rose, who is a member of the justice committee, reminded me that it is the Liberal members on the justice committee who are shredding and gutting our government justice bills in committee. The member's complaints would be more genuine if he were to bring those complaints to his Liberal colleagues. I really do not think the Conservatives are very interested in taking lessons on justice issues, particularly when they are delivered by Liberals.

Today we are dealing with a very important subject that is a major cause for concern. Bill C-327, An act to amend the Broadcasting Act, that is before us today for debate has the worthy objective of reducing violence in Canadian society. The reduction of violence in society is a priority of Canada's new government and I want to thank the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie for his efforts in bringing this enactment before Parliament.

The tabling of Bill C-327 gives us an opportunity to consider our accomplishments in Canada in addressing the exposure of Canadians, and particularly children, to the violent and offensive content in television and other media.

Bill C-327 proposes that the Broadcasting Act be amended to alter the broadcasting policy for Canada. Furthermore, it proposes that the machinery of the broadcasting system be adjusted by mandating the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the CRTC, to make specific regulations respecting the broadcast of violent scenes as a means to reduce violence in society.

Bill C-327, however, seems to ignore or discard any reference to or awareness of regulations, authorities or tools in current existence in Canada's broadcasting system. One such tool is the Canada Broadcast Standards Council.

The council's mandate is to oversee the administration of the Canadian private broadcaster codes. These currently include the Canadian Association of Broadcasters', CAB, sex role portrayal code, and the CAB violence code, both of which are imposed by the CRTC as conditions of licence for Canadian broadcasters, the CAB code of ethics and the Radio and Television News Directors Association of Canada code of journalistic ethics.

I should add that the CRTC last week issued a public notice calling for comment on a new CBSC code, the journalistic independence code. It would be administered by the CBSC and would be a CRTC condition of licence on Canadian broadcasters with ownership interests in both the print and broadcast areas.

There is another code in the offing, the equitable portrayal code. It will in due course extend to all communities the benefits hitherto available on the basis of gender alone, under the terms of the sex role portrayal code. It should be the subject of another CRTC public notice this year.

It is essential to note that the codified standards reflect Canadian values.

In the exercise of the CBSC mandate, they have since 1991 received complaints from tens of thousands of Canadians about all forms of programming, whether in the news and public affairs area, drama, comedy, talk radio or television, entertainment news magazine shows, feature films, reality programming, children's programming and so on.

Moreover the CBSC receives the expression of those concerns directly and indirectly. Even those which are initially sent to the CRTC are, with rare exception, forwarded to the CBSC for resolution. They deal with approximately 2,000 complaints every year from Canadians who are unhappy about something they have seen or heard on the airwaves.

What relates to this debate is that as a percentage of complaints to the CBSC, those relating to violence on television have been steadily declining by a huge margin, namely 37%, between 2001 and 2006.

Moreover, Bill C-327 would add nothing to the panoply of tools the CBSC has to deal with the subject, since issues relating to violence on television are already thoroughly covered by the combination of the CAB violence code and the CAB code of ethics, and rigorously enforced by the self-regulatory system solidly entrenched in the Canadian broadcasting system.

There is already a watershed hour that is not limited to violence intended for adults. It restricts all forms of adult content to the post-9 p.m. period.

We already have provisions for ratings and viewer advisories, which apply well beyond violence on television. To protect children from inappropriate television programming, we already have the most detailed provisions that can be found anywhere in the world. Bill C-327, if passed, would deliver less to the Canadian public than we already have.

For my friends in Parliament who will be voting on this bill, permit me to repeat that last sentence. Bill C-327, if passed, would deliver less to the Canadian public than we already have.

It is a mark of the success of the Canadian private broadcasters' self-regulatory system that it does not require the huge financial penalties of the American regulatory process to work. The system works because the private broadcasters have committed themselves to the process. They created it. They support it financially. Ninety-five per cent of the broadcasters in Canada pay into the CBSC.

Most importantly, though, they support it morally. After all, they live in the communities in which they broadcast. They want the CBSC to deal with all substantive public concerns about content, not just some of them. They want to tell Canadians, in their languages of comfort, how to access the self-regulatory process. Thoughtful Canadian viewers will recall the number of times there have been public service announcements, at the broadcaster's expense, that have directed them to the CBSC.

I would ask hon. members to consider the overall government approach to media violence. Media literacy and empowerment is a central tenet of the Government of Canada's approach to media violence.

Strategies to combat violence in various media and to protect children in particular from injurious information and material transmitted through the media, Internet, videos and electronic games include the Canadian strategy to promote safe, wise and responsible Internet use, called the CyberWise strategy, and the work of federal-provincial-territorial officials to mitigate against the exposure of children in particular to violence in video games.

It is important for us to acknowledge that we have a limited jurisdiction over foreign television signals as well as the material that may be accessed through other media outlets such as the Internet. Foreign television and radio signals can be received over the air by any Canadian residing near the U.S. border. The CRTC has no tools to deal with these broadcasts. The CRTC authorizes some foreign services for distribution in Canada. As they are authorized but not licensed by the CRTC, the conditions of licence imposed on Canadian broadcasters do not apply and they are not subject to the Canadian broadcasting industry's code of conduct and ethics.

I was informed yesterday that for a $60 one time fee I can access foreign satellite programming from anywhere in the world, delivered to me on my computer by any high speed ISP. This is not the future. This is now, today. The service bypasses the CRTC or any regulatory authority by direct, uncensored, uncontrolled technology.

In the current media environment, we find ourselves living in a global village. It is more important than ever that Canadians be well informed about the content they may be exposed to and the possibility of new technologies, but also about the potential harmful effects and limitations.

Just as we cannot be with our children at all times to keep them safe from harm, with the digital revolution we cannot protect our children and other Canadian audiences from controversial and objectionable content that originates from all over the world, and which, as we know, can be accessed by those who are determined.

Hon. members may take note of the recent launch of National Media Education Week. This initiative is precisely the sort of action through partnership that this government supports.

In conclusion, yes, we support measures that will combat violence and crime in society, but this government should not support the regulatory measures and legal sanctions advocated in Bill C-327 because the Canadian public will end up net losers.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

1:55 p.m.


Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to the bill presented by my colleague for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, which is really quite interesting. It is always surprising to note, unfortunately, how slowly things move in our society; however, they seem to move even more slowly through the levels of government and the legislative apparatus.

To illustrate, I would like to go over the chronology of events surrounding Canadian and U.S. discussions about television violence to demonstrate that theories about this issue and the studies proving that there is a link between television violence and societal violence go back a long way. It is somewhat sad to note that even today there are still some who are not convinced and would leave it up to the broadcasters to voluntarily improve the situation.

I will start in June 1952, over 50 years ago. In the United States, the subcommittee on interstate and foreign commerce of the House of Representatives held the first congressional hearings about violence on radio and television and its effects on children and youth. This is not very recent history. We are not talking about a new issue today; this is something we have been debating for quite some time.

In December 1971, the U.S. Surgeon General's Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behaviour published its report. It concluded that there was a link between watching violence on television and the aggressive behaviour of some children. These findings date back to 1971, and continue to prompt us to wonder if we should be taking stronger action.

In 1977, the Ontario Royal Commission on Violence in the Communications Industry published a report establishing a link between violence in the media and the incidence of violent crime in society.

In 1982, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health updated the 1972 Surgeon General's report on television and behaviour. The report found that most people carrying out research in the field agree that there is a link between violence on television and aggression.

In February 1985, the Special Committee on Pornography and Prostitution recommended that the federal government treat violent publications the same way it treats sexual and obscene publications under the Criminal Code, and that the provinces establish a system to review and classify films.

I must add that this provides an interesting parallel to the issue we are considering. I do not think anyone in this House would argue against the fact that we must limit and control the dissemination of pornographic material. Why? Because we think that if it were to be distributed freely, it could have a negative impact on people. We are doing this because we do not want people to copy the kind of behaviour they might see in those movies. We do this for pornography, which often promotes degrading practices, so we should be asking ourselves questions about violence, which is always unacceptable. It is shocking to hear the Conservatives, who are supposedly champions of law and order and defenders of morals and virtue, object to allowing the CRTC to exert more control over programs with violent content.

Although I must, unfortunately, omit some points, I want to mention another event that touched me personally. In 1992, when I was younger—I did not say when I was young, because hon. members would not believe me—a young Quebecker of 14, Virginie Larivière, presented to the government a petition signed by over 1.2 million Canadians, asking it to pass legislation against violence on television.

By 1993, the petition had been signed by over 1.3 million people. I personally remember that we discussed this issue in school—I was still in school at that time—and everyone agreed that something had to be done. Even now, some members in this House are still wondering whether we should act, whether it would be relevant to do so, or whether we should simply let the market regulate itself. A recent study done by Laval University shows that, since 1994, the number of acts of violence on television has increased by over 200%.

After more than 15 years, despite all the public pressure urging broadcasters to do something, violence on television has doubled. There is no decline at all. Looking at the situation in a reasonable, rational, objective fashion, we can only conclude, in good faith, that the voluntary system is not working, that it has not been successful in restricting access to violence on television.

This consensus still existed on June 7, 1993, because a Gallup poll indicated that 72% of Canadians supported an act that would restrict violence on television.

On November 16, 1994, the House Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs tabled its report entitled “Report on Crime Cards and Board Games”, in which it recommended that the obscenity provisions of the Criminal Code be expanded to prohibit the importation, distribution or sale of goods or materials whose dominant characteristic is the undue exploitation or glorification of horror, cruelty or violence. This issue was discussed in this House, 13 years ago.

In 1996, the CRTC unveiled its policy on violence in television programming, and set a deadline of September 1996 for making V-chip technology and a corresponding program rating system available in Canada. These tools were implemented gradually and delayed a few times.

In April 2000, the national coalition against violence on television was created, with the support of the Bloc Québécois. In addition, on April 11, 2006, coroner Catherine Rudel-Tessier questioned the effectiveness of television violence regulations following the death of a young boy who was watching the movie The Patriot, rated 13 and up.

My point is that it is high time we took action. We can wait no longer. There must be regulations, we must give the CRTC the power to do its job. It seems to me that the public is asking us to move forward and do something about this issue.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

2:05 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I am about to give the floor to the member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, who made this motion. He has five minutes to answer and close the debate.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

April 20th, 2007 / 2:05 p.m.


Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank all my Bloc Québécois, Liberal, NDP and Conservative colleagues in the House of Commons for taking part in this important debate on reducing violence on television during prime time, especially the hours when children are watching.

Although Bill C-327 was important a few days, weeks, months and years ago, it is even more vital today, in light of recent events. Eight years ago today, on April 20, 1999, the tragic events at Columbine High School left 12 students and several teachers dead and many people injured. Today, we mark the eighth anniversary of that tragic event, which teaches us that we must fight against all sources of violence in our society. Like it or not, television is an important medium that conveys our social values. I believe that we need regulations that establish a middle ground between total freedom of expression and total censure. We are not suggesting censure. Our approach is designed neither to censure nor to allow total freedom of expression, but to strike a balance so that programs with violent content that are intended for viewers 13 and over are broadcast after 9:00 p.m. That balance is there.

As we all know, after the Columbine massacre, another tragic event took place at Dawson College, where a young woman, Anastasia De Sousa, was killed. The crazed gunman who entered Dawson College was inspired by a number of violent films and events. That fact cannot be denied.

Most recently, this week, the greatest tragedy of its kind in the United States took place at Virginia Tech university. In 1999, Virginia Tech's communications department published a study showing that a person exposed to violent programs for a certain number of hours would begin to seek violent solutions to conflicts with others.

We should have reacted back in 1999 when Virginia Tech researchers sounded the alarm. Today, Bill C-327 proposes a balanced solution to reduce violence in our society by reducing violence on television. I hope that my colleagues here in Parliament will keep the tragic events of the past few years in mind and support Bill C-327.

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon members



Broadcasting ActPrivate Members' Business

2:10 p.m.


The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

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