Mr. Speaker, I want to speak to the broader issue of dealing with youth rather than getting into the details of the amendment. I will do that by asking at least four questions, to which I will give some answers. I understand that in the House we do not always get answers to questions, so I will try to provide my own as I go through.
The first question is: With whom are we dealing? It sounds like a very simple question because obviously we know we are dealing with youth under 18 years of age. We are not sure whether that should go down to 12 or 10 years but we are sure that it is youth under 18 years of age. What does that mean? Who are these people?
I was severely shocked about 20 years ago when I walked out to my backyard in Regina and heard some kindergarten children and first graders using language that I had never heard in my youth all the way through high school. I came from the sticks, as the House can tell, but I had never heard that kind of language.
What I realized was that we live in an age where the age of participation in violent and vulgar activities is becoming lower and lower. It is a declining age of awareness and involvement. We are dealing with young people who are in that kind of time.
We are also in a time when young people are dealing a lot more than I ever did with the peer pressure trap. They sometimes get into situations where they must commit crimes to be in the in group. They play games of committing certain crimes.
Recently in my city I was at the police station one day and learned that overnight every colour of Jeep Cherokee had been stolen because that was the game of the evening for young people. A Jeep Cherokee of every colour was stolen, joyridden and then trashed or parked somewhere. That was the game of the evening. We have had the Oldsmobile gang in Regina. Now I understand it is the SUVs, the sport utility vehicles, and the Volkswagen Jettas that are the vehicles to have.
A group of people are doing such things to be in the in groups in our high schools. There is a group of repeat offenders. A couple of years ago one offender in our town was up on his 85th car theft charge. Something is wrong when we allow one young person to accumulate 85 car thefts charges in one lifetime in one town. We are in an age of when these things are happening.
We are also dealing with young people who are in some cases basically rebelling against any authority in their lives. Perhaps they are out and making a laughing stock of police, teachers, parents or any authority figure in their lives. That is going on.
There are also young people out there who are crying out for some authority to be exercised in their lives. They do not experience the restraint from teachers and parents that teenagers require to develop properly. We are dealing with that kind of a young person.
We are dealing with young people who commit crimes against their communities. We are also dealing with young people who have been victims of other young people's crimes. Almost two-thirds of youth crime is committed against other youths. We need to take a good look and get an understanding of what kind of person we are dealing with.
Before I go any further, let me also say who we are not dealing with. We are not dealing with some of the finest young people who have ever been born, some very bright students, some keen personalities, some who have tremendous athletic ability and academic ability and who participate in many things. We are told in our town that 80% of the youth crime is done by only 20% of the youths.
We have some tremendous young people in my riding. I would like to call attention to a young lady named Brea Burgess, a key player in the Regina Lady Cougars basketball team for the University of Regina. They won the national championship a couple of weeks ago. She attended the Dr. Hanna School as a young elementary student where my wife teaches and then Thom Collegiate. I know her parents Laurie and Spencer Burgess are very happy about this fine young lady who is not a young offender and who displays all this great talent. I commend those proud parents for their wonderful daughter.
Just how are we dealing with the youth crime problem? I believe that we insult their intelligence in the way we deal with the problem. They understand much more than we give them credit for.
I have an eight year old grandson. I have him come and visit us and stay with us about one weekend a month. Every once in a while he puts on the front of being a baby. He tries to convince me and his grandmother that he is a baby, and yet we know that he knows much more than that.
It seems to me that somehow the youth of the nation have been quite successful in duping adults into believing that they are not intelligent and that they are incapable of making adult decisions. At the age of 11 or 12 my youngest son, who is now 23, came to me and declared that he had known right from wrong ever since he was 10 years old or younger. He said when they say they do not know what they are doing, they are not telling the truth.
We have young offenders who certainly know how to work the system. They are smart enough to know that. Some years ago a man taught me how to finish concrete and he told me that learning to finish concrete was very simple. He said there was only one thing required: to be just a little smarter than the concrete.
When it comes to making laws and dealing with young offenders, perhaps that would be a good guideline for us too: to be just a little smarter than young people to be able to figure out how to best help them. I think we are failing them on that point. Lawmakers, enforcers, teachers and parents all need to be ahead of our young people.
We insult their intelligence. I believe we also strip them of responsibility and accountability. We take responsibility and accountability away from the parents. We take it away from the teachers. Then we take it away from our young people. We tell little Johnny, if he is bad, that we will not tell anyone. He will not be accountable. We do not want him to feel badly about it. We know he will grow out of it when he gets older. We turn our heads away and forget that they need a sense of responsibility and accountability. We simply pretend that they are innocent little kiddies, too little to understand, and that is not true.
We take away their opportunity to experience positive peer pressure, leaving them subject only to the others around them who are encouraging their offending activity. This is what I mean.
If someone in the community knows what is happening with a young offender, if someone knows what is going on in his life and that young offender knows the person knows, there is peer pressure on him, some kind of community pressure. If he knows the teacher knows, there is pressure on him. If he knows the other students know what he is like, there is pressure on him. It seems that we want to insulate him, protect him and keep him from having any kind of positive peer pressure, which only throws him to the negative peer pressure that is readily available.
I have in my hand some notes that were taken this past weekend as I met with some salvation army officers who had been flown to somewhere in southern Ontario to meet with the justice minister. There is a list of oppositions. Let me quickly name three of them. They oppose the legislation because there is no provision to make parents responsible. It fails to address the root cause of youth crime. There is no provision to reverse existing standards regarding rights.