Mr. Speaker, in my previous comments, I was talking about Bill C-10 and specifically the portion affecting the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
On the old Bill C-4 from the last Parliament, the justice committee heard concerns from many of the provincial attorneys general concerning the issue of pretrial detention. I would remind the House that the primary concern of provinces with the approach of Bill C-4 was that pretrial detention would not be available to a youth charged with an offence that was not “a serious offence”.
The provisions in the current Bill C-10 address this concern. Under the proposed amendments, pretrial detention of a youth charged with a non-serious offence is possible if the youth has a history that indicates a pattern of either outstanding charges or findings of guilt and if the court finds that detention is necessary for the protection and safety of the public.
This change would allow for detention of so-called out-of-control youth who would pose a danger to society even if that youth were not presently before the court on a serious offence charge.
Moreover, the test for pretrial detention will be self-contained in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, without requiring reference to the Criminal Code provisions as is currently the case.
The second modification to the former Bill C-4 deals with the availability of the deferred custody and supervision order, which is a Youth Criminal Justice Act sentencing option that allows a young person who would otherwise be sentenced to custody to serve his or her sentence in the community under conditions. If those conditions are violated, the young person can be sent to custody.
Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act, this order is not available as a sentencing option if the young person has been found guilty of a serious violent offence, currently defined in the act as an offence in the commission of which a young person causes or attempts to cause serious bodily harm.
The new narrower definition of a “serious violent offence” proposed in Bill C-4 would have expanded the scope of offences for which deferred custody and supervision orders would be available.
However, the provisions in the current bill include the new definition of “serious violent offence” and would also include a change to the amendments proposed in the former Bill C-4 in order to retain the current law on eligibility for these orders, meaning that a deferred custody and supervision order will not be available if the youth is found guilty of an offence involving either serious bodily harm or an attempt to cause serious bodily harm. I think members could agree with me that these modifications are an improvement over the former Bill C-4.
The third modification since Bill C-4 concerns the adult sentencing provisions in the Youth Criminal Justice Act. The amendments to the former Bill C-4 and contained in this new bill would require a prosecutor to consider seeking an adult sentence for young offenders 14 and older who committed serious violent offences. Prosecutors would also have to inform the court if they decided not to apply for an adult sentence for individual 14 or older who were convicted of a serious violent offence. When the Crown would apply for an adult sentence, the onus would have been on the Crown to convince the judge that an adult sentence was justified.
In part these amendments respond to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in the case of R. v. D.B. that certain provisions of the Youth Criminal Justice Act violated section 7 of the charter. These presumptive offence provisions placed an onus on a young person found guilty of certain serious violent offences to justify receiving a youth rather than an adult sentence and to justify the continued protection of their privacy.
The proposed amendments remove the presumptive offence provisions from the Youth Criminal Justice Act as well as other inoperative provisions to clarify the test for the imposition of an adult sentence and ensure that the onus is on the Crown to satisfy the court as to the appropriateness of an adult sentence.
In the former Bill C-4 the proposed test for an adult sentence would have required that a judge be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that an adult sentence was necessary. When we were consulting, a number of the provinces expressed the view that “beyond a reasonable doubt” was too high a standard to meet, was not required by the current case law and would make it significantly more difficult to obtain adult sentences in appropriate circumstances.
The current proposals remove reference to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that had been in the former Bill C-4, thus leaving it up to the courts to determine the appropriate standard of proof, as is the case under the current law.
I think all members of the House will agree that the amendments to the Youth Criminal Justice Act included in Bill C-10 are the result of the widespread consultations and respond to the concerns of Canadians. Our government listened to our provincial and territorial counterparts, to provincial attorneys general, Canadians and victims and have made the necessary changes to this part of Bill C-10.
I think all members can agree that the changes I have described and outlined for the House are reasonable and responsive. I encourage all hon. members to support all parts of Bill C-10.