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--