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STANDING COMMITTEE ON JUSTICE AND HUMAN RIGHTS
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE LA JUSTICE ET DES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Tuesday, May 2, 2000
The Chair (Mr. Andy Scott (Fredericton, Lib.)): I'd like to call the meeting to order.
Ah, Monsieur Bellehumeur, welcome back.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur (Berthier—Montcalm, BQ): I would like to speak.
The Chair: No problem.
The chair will recognize Monsieur Bellehumeur first. Before going to that, since I may not be speaking again for a long, long time—
Voices: Oh, oh!
The Chair: —I'd like to welcome everyone back as we consider, theoretically consider, clause-by-clause on Bill C-3, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts.
I want to welcome everyone back. I hope everyone has taken advantage of the two weeks in the fashion we were advised to do so. I hope also that Monsieur Bellehumeur has followed his own advice. I'm certain he's been working hard on the file, preparing notes.
Also I welcome back officials, who have been very patient. I don't know where you get your patience medication, but you'd better take more.
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: Mr. Chairman, the motion to which I was speaking before the Easter break, the aim of which was to postpone the clause-by-clause study of the bill until May 2, 2000, no longer applies. That is why I gave notice of a motion on April 12 last at 6:06 p.m. I would now like to move the motion and I will read it, Mr. Chairman. This is what it says:
That the clause-by-clause study of Bill C-3, an Act in respect of
criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other
Acts, be postponed so as to allow the Minister of Justice and
Attorney General of Canada to appear before the committee in order
to explain her many amendments to the bill and to answer our
Mr. Chairman, as I said, this motion was tabled last April 12. I must already have been inspired by the Holy Spirit, because during the two weeks break, the minister of Justice took up her pen to convey her message to Quebec newspapers. I believe that my motion is quite consistent with this approach, since the Minister has obviously not understood anything or is acting in bad faith. Since, in law, there is the presumption of good faith, I imagine that she is acting in good faith. So that must mean that she has not understood. It would therefore be important, Mr. Chairman, to invite her to appear before the Justice Committee, but we don't want her to rush through her appearance like she did the last time. We must set aside enough time for this important bill so that she can give us explanations, but especially so that she can listen to the examples that we often raise in committee. I will be taking examples from briefs over the course of this week, Mr. Chairman. I will quote briefs, concrete examples that the Minister says she did not receive. She must not have read them because in her letter dated April 25, she says that the member should give examples of what Quebec will not be able to do with C-3. She knows full well that the 30 seconds that I have during the Question Period is not enough time to give her examples, because it is a very complex issue. I say that she is acting in bad faith when she says that kind of thing. She is very much aware of the fact that parliamentary rules do not allow us to argue, to give an example, or to speak for more than 30 seconds during Question Period in the House of Commons. Half a minute is not enough time for any member to give a concrete example of a problem as complex as this one.
I think and I hope that the Minister will be happy to appear before the committee to hear about these examples and to listen, so that she might no longer give the answers that she has been giving. It's terrible.
I know that the Minister won't immediately agree to appear. The last time she came to the committee, there were only 30 or 40 minutes remaining before the vote. We could have continued to ask her questions, and besides, it was my turn. But the Minister begged off by saying that she had an extremely important engagement.
Mr. Chairman, the Minister must return to the committee and we must have enough time. Would that be 20 hours? Would that be 32 hours? I am not sure, but I think it is important enough for the Minister to take the necessary time to listen to what Quebec and the other provinces have to tell her, and more specifically what Quebec has been doing over the past 20 years and why we fear that Bill C-3 will put an end to what Quebec is doing.
Mr. Chairman, I said that the Minister had taken pen in hand to write a lovely article. I hope that all members have read the Minister's extremely important article, which was published in La Presse last April 25 with the heading: "Bill C-3: Greater means to rehabilitate young people".
I wondered whether we were living on the same planet because that is not quite how I read the bill. What I find reassuring and what leads me to think that I am on the right planet while the Minister is not, is that all of the stakeholders from Quebec with whom I have been in touch since the article appeared have told me that I am right. Mr. Chairman, the Minister is not living on the same planet as we are. I would like the people from the department, her secretary and the members of the Liberal party to thank her. I should be grateful to her. Through her letter, she has given new emphasis to the coalition and consensus in Quebec.
The little fibs in her letter are so outrageous that they have awakened the coalition, as they were wondering whether they should continue or whether the message had been understood in Ottawa. It seems obvious that Ottawa has not got the message. I will tell you quite sincerely that the Minister really raised their hackles with the paragraph that I will quote:
More than once, I asked those who were criticizing the bill to give
me examples of practices or policies that are not covered by the
bill or that could not be improved upon. I was given no examples.
The coalition members concluded that the Minister had not even taken the time to read their briefs and that it had been an exercise in futility to appear before the Justice Committee to explain their approach. They thought: “The Minister is laughing in our faces. What can we do?”
That will follow. It is quite obvious that the Minister has not read the extremely important documents that we have here, very serious examinations that have been made of Bill C-3 as compared to the Young Offenders Act that applies today and that is being quite properly enforced in Quebec.
This letter did not go unnoticed. I can't wait to see the Barreau du Québec. I imagine that the Barreau will eventually send a reply because the Minister is using the Barreau du Québec. It would seem that she and I did not read the same brief. Today and this week, I will revisit various points raised in the brief submitted by the Barreau du Québec, something that is quite important. The Minister's understanding of the brief is probably not the same as mine. I will try to convince you that she must go back to the drawing board and return to the committee to listen.
Mr. Chairman, the Barreau du Québec has not yet responded to the Minister. Look out when I take off my suit jacket. However, the Jeune Barreau du Québec sent a quick response to the Minister, last Wednesday, April 26.
The heading is very important, Mr. Chairman: “Young offenders: between stubbornness and contempt”. It is a much better developed and much more serious letter than the previous one. The first paragraph is noteworthy. I hope that the Minister has read it and that she will be able to give us a definition from the dictionary. That is where any good legal expert often finds the best definitions. I remember that during a trial, I quoted the Petit Larousse in order to explain certain definitions to the judge. I think that the president of the Association du Jeune Barreau de Montréal, Mr. Philippe J. Laurin and myself practised at the same time and he must have been called to the bar in 1986, at about the same time as me, because he uses the same approach. This is what he said:
According to the Larousse definition, a stubborn person is someone
who persists in doing something, undeterred.
That is exactly what Minister McLellan has chosen to do. She has chosen to ignore everything, to spew half-truths and to disseminate legal misinformation through the newspapers. I imagine that caused a reaction in the courthouse cubicles and corridors because I also received other letters that I will read to you. That's why I would like you to extend my sincere thanks to her.
If you translate or send to the Minister any part of what I have to say, I would like it to be the following. In any case, of the first 10 minutes spoken by Member Bellehumeur, would you please at least send her this short excerpt so that she might understand:
The fundamental difference between the present Act and Bill C-3 is
basically in the approach that is advocated. While the present Act
is based on rehabilitating and re-educating the young person, by
evaluating the offence in relation to the young person's overall
behaviour and any difficulties he or she might be experiencing
within the family, at school, or in the immediate environment, the
reforms put forward an approach based on the seriousness of the
offence as well as on punishment and deterrence. The latter
approach is for the most part similar to the philosophy on which
the adult justice system is based.
This is not something that I can explain in 30 seconds, and the Minister is well aware of that. She knows that you need more than 30 seconds to demonstrate the fundamental difference between Bill C-3 and the Young Offenders Act. But heaven knows that this difference is very present and very important.
When the Minister says that those who criticize the bill should give practical examples, we can tell her that this is an example of the terrible long term consequences of Bill C-3. I hope she will pay close attention to the paragraph.
When we say that the Minister's stubbornness seems more like contempt, there are other questions that must be raised. I have asked a number of questions, but when they come from a Bloc member, from a bad separatist, it's like water off a duck's back, isn't it? People might say that he is playing politics, that he makes no sense and that it is a good piece of legislation. That is engaging in misinformation, as the Minister is doing, with a lovely photo. She should perhaps send in another one because this particular photo does not do her justice.
Mr. Chairman, the very important question raised by the Jeune Barreau, and that I asked earlier, is the following: "Why do we need this reform?" The Jeune Barreau explained the situation as it exists today, and pointed out that in Quebec, the crime rates are the lowest in Canada; they describe how the Young Offenders Act is applied. They wonder why this type of reform is necessary. They say:
We cannot find a rational explanation to justify such a radical
shift in youth criminal justice.
Can one be any clearer? I don't think so.
Indeed, the present system works. According to relevant studies,
Quebec has the lowest juvenile delinquency and youth prosecution
rate in all of Canada.
Once again, these studies come from the Federal Justice Department. So, the figures must be accurate.
The Quebec approach, which, for the past 20 years, has favoured
crime prevention among young people, is proof that this works, as
is the high rate of social reintegration among young offenders.
As you can see, the president of the Association du Jeune Barreau de Montréal begins with a premise, examines what is being done and explains the differences. He had a look at the Federal Justice Department documents and at the statistics and he wondered why the Young Offenders Act should be amended and why such a reform should be undertaken. Finding no answers, he went a little further to see whether he was the only one who felt that way. Once again, I quote:
Since Bill C-3 was tabled, in the fall of 1999, there has been
lively opposition expressed in Quebec. Minister McLellan even
managed to get the entire National Assembly to agree on something
because it adopted, last December, a unanimous motion demanding
that the federal government postpone its reform, as it went against
Quebec's values of rehabilitation and prevention. Quebec's Minister
of Justice, Ms. Linda Goupil, and the Liberal justice critic, Mr.
François Ouimet, spoke out at that time to tell Ottawa they were
against its approach.
The Jeune Barreau comes to a conclusion, sees what is happening elsewhere and realizes that at the National Assembly, all 125 members, feel that the federal Minister should take a step backwards and should not go ahead with Bill C-3 before evaluating the consequences of such an action. The Minister did not do that. We must read the speeches. I will deal with those later on because I have them. I have the Liberal speeches. The Liberals went quite far, maybe even further than the Péquistes, in saying that the federal government should not proceed with C-3. The Liberal members opposite me are listening quite attentively. They must surely agree with me.
A federal cabinet minister, Ms. Robillard, was the Quebec Minister for Health and Social Services when the first attempt was made to amend the Young Offenders Act, namely Bill C-68, and she co-authored a letter with Mr. Lefebvre, who was the Quebec Liberal Justice Minister, to tell Mr. Allan Rock, then Minister of Justice, that he must not proceed with Bill C-68 because it went against what was being done in Quebec. You were not aware of that?
A voice: [Editor's note: Inaudible]
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: Okay. I will find the letter this week and...
A voice: It isn't the same...
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: It's C-68. No, it was not about firearms.
Let's agree on something. Bill C-3, before being called C-3, was C-68. Isn't that right? That's right. I will bring you the letter from Minister Lefebvre and we can then have a discussion about the letter.
At the time, when the Liberals were in office, the Parti québécois had even moved a motion to give instructions to Ottawa, and the governing Liberals had amended the PQ motion; the party was in opposition at the time. I have something to show you, Ms. Lafontaine. I will find all of that and bring it in. I would be happy to do it.
I will continue reading the article written by Mr. Philippe J. Laurin. I will read you another quote because it is important. As I was saying, the Jeune Barreau du Québec and all 125 members of the National Assembly—that fact has been established because I have the resolution here before me—ask the federal government to take its paws off Bill C-3 so that the Young Offenders Act might continue to apply in Quebec. Here is another quote:
This unusual unanimous agreement in condemning a federal bill was
also demonstrated by numerous social stakeholders, as well as
teachers, professors and police officers. The Barreau du Québec
also expressed its opposition to the bill at the end of February.
The Chief Associate Justice for the Youth Court in Quebec, the
Honourable Michel Jasmin, as well as the Quebec Coalition for
Justice for Minors, were also very critical of the bill.
What more do we need to make the Minister understand that in Quebec, not only are there concerns, but people are absolutely convinced that Bill C-3 will change the way that we have been operating for the past 15 or 20 years? The present method of enforcement of the Young Offenders Act has evolved over time. About two weeks ago, I had an opportunity to explain the history of the Act. I will not do it all over again, but I see that some committee members were not present at the time. I will give you a brief recap so that everyone will have the same information, everyone will be on equal footing. I am sure, Mr. Saada, that you will be delighted to listen to me.
Therefore, Mr. Chairman, the conclusion is also very important. The Minister would do well to read the end of the open letter written by the Jeune Barreau de Montréal. There again, this cannot be explained in 30 seconds. This is what the conclusion says:
The approach in Bill C-3 is in no way justifiable. Why destroy the
balance between public safety and nurturing of young offenders that
Quebec has managed to establish? It is of the utmost importance to
maintain the leeway that will allow us to set a young person
straight, while it is still possible to do so, rather than to
abandon the young person to a life of crime.
A comment that is often made by coalition members, by those who are involved in the regular enforcement of the Young Offenders Act, is that with Bill C-3, there will no longer be a difference between the young offender and adult court. There will no longer be two parallel systems. Whatever parallel does exist will soon disappear. What will the next amendments bring? Since I was elected, I have noticed that the federal government makes a habit of amending the Young Offenders Act every two or three years. What will it do after C-3 passes? They are coming very close to completely abolishing any type of youth justice in Canada. They are coming very close. They need only make two or three more amendments, and it will be all over. We must put a stop to it.
I think the time has come for the Minister to understand and to stop making amendments. She must have some understanding of what is happening and, more importantly, she must ask the right questions of those who are involved in the application of the Young Offenders Act.
Someone else wrote a letter. It is someone that I did not know and who is not part of the coalition. There are 22 or 23 organizations represented by the Coalition for Youth Justice in Quebec, but there are other organizations that might be less structured and that are not part of larger associations, etc. Members of the coalition cannot know everyone who works in that field. This particular association might belong to a subsection of an association that is a coalition member, but in any case, I had never spoken to Mr. René Binet until I read a letter in Le Devoir on Friday, April 28, 2000, a letter with a revealing heading: “When your neighbour tells you how to raise your children...”
That must also be someone who is not aware. He and the Minister are not saying the same thing. He must not understand the law. He must not understand the Young Offenders Act. Nevertheless, he is president of the Association des avocats et avocates en droit de la jeunesse de Montréal. I checked with him, and he has only been involved in the daily application of the Young Offenders Act and the Youth Protection Act in Quebec for the past 11 years. He has only been doing this on a daily basis for 11 years. He told me some things that gave me goose bumps. However, he is totally opposed to the approach advocated by the Minister in C-3. He is against any amendment to the Young Offenders Act. When I spoke with him, he told me over and over again that it isn't the Act itself that is faulty, but its implementation.
As the Barreau said on page 16 of their brief, it isn't the Act that is faulty, but its implementation. As Justice Jasmin said at the beginning of his report, it is not the Act that is faulty, but its implementation. That is a given, and I quote:
What we have done over the past two and a half years has convinced
us that the Young Offenders Act is good legislation. We were in
fact surprised by the consensus that exists among all of those who
are involved in this field in Quebec.
It isn't the Act that is faulty, and everyone says so.
Mr. René Binet, a lawyer, wrote an open letter to the federal Justice Minister. I hope she will take the time to read the letter because it is very important. It contains a noteworthy paragraph, something that can't be explained in 30 seconds during Question Period. I am sure that the Minister is professional enough to be aware of that. When she responds as she did when I put a question to her in the House yesterday, she is playing politics. I don't find that behaviour worthy of a Minister of Justice. This is what Counsellor Binet says in the fourth paragraph of his letter:
A young person is a special being who is in the process of
learning, who has special needs that are different from those of an
adult. One must use a multidisciplinary approach when analyzing the
offence committed by a young person. We must not promote
legislation that would change this approach by narrowing the
distinction between the adult correctional system and the system
that applies to young people, an approach that would reduce from 16
to 14 the age at which a young person could be sent to adult court.
You can't explain that in 30 seconds, but it is important.
Also, in terms of sentencing, with all of the new rules in C-3, you would need more than half a minute to illustrate this for the Minister. She has to come to us. I am convinced that if she were to appear before us and listen for a week or a week and a half, she would have a better idea of what we are up against. She has never taken the time to sit down and talk to the members of the coalition. She has never taken the time to visit the youth centre where Mr. Jasmin works, or the court house, to see exactly what is being done. She hasn't taken the time to do that. It would be high time for her to do it, to take the time.
I once again quote Counsellor Binet, who says:
In terms of sentencing, we must not choose the principle of making
an example of or stigmatizing the young person over the need for
rehabilitation and, consequently, public safety.
That is something else that can't be explained in 30 seconds. The Minister should come to the committee, and I will take the time to explain the situation with concrete cases. We will take out the briefs. There are a great number of briefs. I will not have time to deal with all of them, unless she decides to appear and to listen to us. However, setting examples and stigmatizing seem to be the Minister's new jargon in Bill C-3. It's worrisome.
The justice system must take into consideration a set of factors
including the victim and the accused and must not sacrifice a young
person to satisfy the public perception of safety.
Moreover, another erroneous concept emphasizes the identification
of the offence as the main element governing the decisions made
with respect to a young offender, that is to say, crimes involving
violence. Our experience based on the processing of thousands of
files allows us to state that the crimes committed by our clients
are actions that must be considered in a dynamic perspective
bringing together concepts of development, evolution and degree of
maturity, as recognized by the Supreme Court in J.J.M. (1993,
Volume II, Supreme Court Reports, page 421).
Moreover, everyone knows that it took ten years for the Supreme Court of Canada to truly identify the limits and establish what the Court can do in accordance with section 3, the declaration of principle of the Young Offenders Act, and to truly examine the needs of adolescents. All this took about ten years.
Now we know where we're going. Now we have a good idea of the application. We know the limits and we also know the deficiencies of the Act. I never said that this Act was one of the wonders of the world. It's an Act that may require some amendments regarding timelines, but that's all. You don't need a 199-clause bill to do that.
Counsellor Binet, who has 11 years' experience and who has dealt with thousands of such files has what I think is an experience that none of us here around this table can boast. And with all due respect to the Minister of Justice, she doesn't have that expertise either. I'm not familiar with the résumés of everyone who works for the Department of Justice, but I'm not convinced that they all have 11 years of practical experience and thousands of files under their belts as do Counsellor Binet and the members of the Association des avocats et avocates en droit de la jeunesse de Montréal. They've come to the conclusion that we're on the wrong track and that amending the Young Offenders Act is a major mistake.
The letter also says: “You have to work closely with the youngsters to question and become aware of mechanisms for transmitting values. It is in those institutions that we must invest. Those are the true ideological benchmarks that disseminate values. It is thanks to them that we can transmit values and a sense of civic duty to our teenagers. However, these institutions must survive in the midst of media pollution with a lynch mob mentality and myopic analyses. It is when these institutions are weakened that repression starts. We have to make choices as a society and the Quebec society has made its choice, and that choice is not reflected in your bill.”
This is someone who has taken the time to examine the bill, who has conducted a comparative analysis of Bill C-3 and the Young Offenders Act and who has drawn this conclusion.
In Quebec, we've made our choice. Before we did so, we conducted an extremely careful study. I'll get back to that later. We made our choice and when I look at Bill C-3, I find nothing of the choices Quebeckers have made. That is why he entitled his letter “When the neighbours tell you how to raise your kids...” We all make choices as parents. We want to raise our children in such and such a way and the neighbours are going to come and tell us “Hey, that's not how it's done; you have to lock your kid up in a closet because he's just done this or that”.
Allow me to quote this letter one last time, Mr. Chairman, because I think we must recognize that Mr. Binet has studied this in great depth, and especially, he feels compelled to respond to the Minister of Justice right now and to these amendments to Bill C-3. He feels so compelled that he took the time to write this letter despite a workload that is as heavy or heavier than that of anyone around this table. You have to be a lawyer in private practice to know that the role of lawyers at the courthouse requires a lot of work: meeting with clients; preparing files; meeting with police officers; travelling to institutions to meet with other clients and all the rest. Very often, that requires work throughout the evening as well. Yet, Mr. Binet took pen in hand and wrote to the Minister of Justice after her letter appeared in La Presse on April 25, a letter that I would call provocative. The last passage that I will quote is as follows:
But what is even more obvious in your persistence in imposing your
way of seeing things, beyond Bill C-3, is your inability to come to
terms with Quebec's approach to youth intervention.
This approach was explained to you by the Government of Quebec, the
Ministry of Justice, the Quebec Bar Association, the Coalition
québécoise pour la justice des mineurs, etc.
Violence is constraining someone by force. Your attitude is to
impose by force a piece of legislation that affects Quebec youth
despite our representations. Another missed opportunity.
This imposition by your government seems to be the result of
lobbying by pressure groups who are advocating values very
different from our own.
This leads us to the conclusion that we are being dictated too, or
even having our neighbours impose their views on how we should
raise our children. These are neighbours who are insensitive to our
reality, our values and our traditions.
That's what you call a clear letter. Unfortunately, Mr. René Binet, President of the Association des avocats et avocates en droit de la jeunesse de Montréal had not submitted a brief containing all that. But he did write a letter which I feel is extremely important and that should be taken into account. We must examine it. It should be recognized that this is someone who has extremely valuable practical experience.
This morning, in the Tuesday, May 2, edition of Le Devoir, Michel Venne took the time to write a brief editorial. I'm sure that the people from the department have all seen it, but I'm not sure that the members opposite have read it.
One should never assume anything. I know that you've read all that, Mr. Saada. The problem, however, is that I would like you to echo what it says. I don't hear that echo.
Echo, echo, echo. That's right.
Even with 162 amendments, Bill C-3 on criminal justice for young
persons remains inappropriate, bad for youth and threatening for
the Quebec approach.
There seem to be a lot of people in Quebec who don't want Bill C-3. I hope that you realize that. I don't want to go on about this ad nauseam, because that's just the preamble of what I wanted to tell you, but I think that this is an editorial that merits quoting, particularly the two paragraphs in the middle and one last paragraph that is addressed specifically to the Liberal members from Quebec. The two paragraphs I'm quoting from the very beginning of the editorial are as follows:
We repeat for the nth time: treating a child who has committed a
crime in the same way as an irredeemable criminal is promising this
young person a long term criminal career.
The fundamental problem with this bill is that it provides for
sentences for children that are proportional to the severity of the
offence, as is the case during trials for adults, without taking
into account, as is possible under the current legislation, the
young person's situation, economic and social difficulties and
This is difficult to explain in 30 seconds. It can be stated quickly, but when the Minister asks us to give her concrete examples, we need more than 30 seconds during a Question Period. The Minister knows that full well. This is why I'm giving her an opportunity, through my motion, to comply and make an important gesture by coming before the committee to answer our questions and explain the statements she's made. I forgot to quote one of these statements that can hardly be more provocative. She said that the government of Canada has committed itself to developing a bill that respects the approach adopted by Quebec in the past 15 years. Oh, boy! If she'd wanted to provoke Quebeckers anymore, she would have had a hard time doing so. Poor Madam Minister. I don't know who advised her to do that, but she really put her foot in it by writing that. In any event, there are typos in this text. She should have sent it to me and I would have corrected it. I would have deleted a whole bunch of paragraphs, and then she might have had the right tone because right now she doesn't have it at all. In any event...
Let me continue to read you Michel Venne's editorial. This is a passage that worries me a little more and that is addressed to the members from Quebec, among others. It reads as follows:
If the bill is adopted as is, we will have proof of two phenomena:
one, the rise of right-wing ideologies in Canada that the new
Canadian reform-conservative Alliance wants to exploit, and two,
Quebec's loss of influence over Pan-Canadian policies.
How would I react if I were a government member from Quebec and heard this from a Le Devoir editorialist who has an uncontested reputation and who is very familiar with Canadian and Quebec politics? What would happen if I were told that Bill C-3 will be a good example that will be cited in the future to demonstrate that Quebec has less and less weight in determining Pan-Canadian policies? I will finish my quote by saying that Quebec has less and less weight in determining Pan-Canadian policies, to its own detriment vis-a-vis Ontario and Western Canada. That's very worrisome for a member from Quebec, whether from the opposition or the government side.
You Liberal members from Quebec should read this editorial and realize that you are being completely hoodwinked with this Bill C- 3. It's high time you woke up and demanded that the Minister come here to testify, in accordance with the motion I have tabled. We need to take enough time, that is a block of 25, 30 or 35 hours, to examine a bill as important as this one, even according to the Minister.
Later on, I will have an opportunity to respond to another comment made by the Minister in her letter of April 25. But since this can't be explained in 30 seconds, I wont do so immediately. I want to do it in accordance with the plan I drew up for myself. I may have time to discuss those points with you on Thursday or next week.
In addition, Bill C-3 corrects a number of deficiencies in the
Young Offenders Act by making the system fair, more effective, and
more protective of youth.
Is the Minister sincere when she wrote that Bill C-3 corrected a number of weaknesses in the Young Offenders Act by making the system fair, more effective and more protective of youth, when everyone says that Bill C-3 is an escape route so that the courts can treat as many young people as possible like adults? She claims that this will give young people greater protection. Is it by treating young people like adults that we will protect them? Are we going to protect them by giving them adult sentences? Are we going to make this process more effective by increasing the number of steps involved? Will the system be made fairer through broad consensus, almost unanimous in Quebec?
Back home, we say that one should roll one's tongue seven times before speaking; I'd be tempted to say that the Minister should have rolled her pencil seven times before writing. This doesn't make sense. She also gives examples of measures that will accelerate the process and that will take greater advantage of the presumption of innocence. The right to an attorney will be improved. Hey! She has to be scraping the bottom of the barrel to try and sell her Bill C-3 by saying there will be a greater right to an attorney. Isn't there a Charter of Rights and Freedoms? That exists. Saying that the right to an attorney will be improved is just nonsense; it will not be any better than it was beforehand. Will attorneys participate more than they do now? These are all things that are done already in practice. In those cases, I always quote a law professor from the University of Ottawa, who was also a tax attorney, who said: “Listen to young people; with practice you will learn that you stuff the mattress and not the springs.” I think that the Minister is stuffing the springs and now doesn't realize that they're bouncing right back in her face.
She said that young people will benefit from the fact that the judge will be an expert in youth justice. Hello, Earth calling Minister! There are judges who appeared before us to say that they wanted nothing to do with Bill C-3. Young people will benefit from the fact that the judge will be an expert in youth justice, she said. Is the Minister implying that Judge Jasmin is not an expert in youth justice, because he correctly and effectively applies the Young Offenders Act and has considerable expertise? If that's not provocation, what is? I don't know. Did the Minister even think for five minutes before she signed that letter?
The court will have to wait for all the evidence before imposing an adult sentence, she says. Well, look at that: it is certainly something new. What did the judge do before? Did he wait for half the evidence before imposing a sentence? Reference did exist before.
the family's participation at every step of the process will be
encouraged and given greater importance;
Well, that's good. We will force a family that no longer looks after their child to participate more. Do you know the reality of all this? Judge Jasmin told me that there are young people who knock on the door of the court house at 4:30 p.m. because they want to be in custody, because they have nowhere to go and because their parents don't want to look after them. After school is over, there are youngsters who go to youth centres because their parents don't want to see them and don't look after them.
Well, Mr. Chairman, what a big advantage to have C-3 provide for greater participation by the family at every step of the process. This will be encouraged and will be given greater importance. Congratulations, Madam Minister! You've discovered something that has never been done in Quebec!
When I read that, I didn't feel like laughing. This morning, I found it a bit funnier because it's so ludicrous, but it is disinformation. Such things are unworthy of a Minister of Justice. There's not much here that's one hundred percent certain. There's the whole passage about 14-year-olds. I'll get back to that later. If there's one specific example that many stakeholders came here to tell the Minister about, it's the case of 14-year-olds. In her letter, she discusses the issue of 14-year-olds and she adds that those who criticize her bill have never provided her with examples. She's understood nothing, and that's unforgivable for a Minister of Justice. In any event, you can rest assured that I won't be gentle with her from here on in.
To end this part on a happier note, I would like to say very sincerely that I want you to thank the Minister. I'd rather thank her personally when she comes here before the committee, following my motion as tabled this morning. I will attempt to convince my colleagues opposite that she must come here to testify. I would like to congratulate her because she has spread so much misinformation that in Quebec, we feel the need to react.
There are other articles. I know that Manon Cornellier wrote two on this subject and that other journalists have also written about the federal offensive against young offenders. I know that there are many others things, but I've alluded myself to certain articles that I found extremely important. I hope that members opposite will run to get a hold of these articles. I only quoted brief excerpts, but these are articles with substance that explain the Quebec approach quite well without going into detail, as I will during the course of this week. I think that this gives us a good overview of the reason why we in Quebec do not want any amendments to the Young Offenders Act.
Mr. Chairman, during the week of April 10, I attempted to explain the Quebec approach to the members opposite. I attempted to demonstrate why, in Quebec, we didn't want this bill. My prime objective was to sensitize the Liberal members opposite, to make them see the good points of the Young Offenders Act and to convince them to go to Quebec to see what it did differently from other provinces.
On Friday I checked with certain Quebec stakeholders to see whether any members had taken the time to contact the coalition, among others, or certain individuals who apply the Young Offenders Act in the course of their day-to-day activities. I checked to see whether the eight and a half or nine hours of speeches that I'd made in the days before the Easter break had sparked something among these members and convinced them that they should gather more information about what's being done in Quebec with the Young Offenders Act.
Mr. Chairman, I was disappointed to hear that no one had taken the time to call anyone at the coalition or anyone elsewhere in Quebec to see what's going on there. Despite nine hours of speeches, no one was tempted to call them.
One of two things is true: either they were so convinced and everything was so clear in their minds that they did not feel the need to see what was going on in Quebec or the party line is so constraining that they just crossed their arms, tied their hands together real tight and don't want to do anything nor especially know what's going on in Quebec: "Hey, what if I had a pang of conscience when the time came to vote".
Fortunately, I'm here. During the last election we were saying: “The Bloc Québécois is there for you”. I could even apply that to the Liberals. It's a good thing I'm there for you, because I will educate you. I will tell you about what's going on in Quebec with the Young Offenders Act.
Incidentally, let me tell you about something quite funny that I already mentioned without quoting the right paragraph. You know, when you make a speech without a text, you sometimes forget things. I will read you a passage.
Mr. Chairman, I had read a passage from a speech made by a Baptist speaker during the Atlanta Games of 1996, a person who had invited some youth court judges from all over North America to a conference. There were Quebec judges there. They are the ones who gave me a cassette of this American Baptist speech. Did you find it? You're signalling that you did. No. You remember that I quoted it. Very well, I see. I will send you the cassette because it's really good. I had it translated and printed in order to be able to provide it to the committee.
The Americans have more or less the same problems we do with their young people. However, there are States that treat their young very differently than Canada does, but others that treat them somewhat like we do in Quebec. Maybe they don't go as far from a social standpoint. But some Americans States treat their young offenders very differently from others, very differently also from western Canada or Ontario. They have a way of doing things that is quite similar to that of Quebec.
At some point, before passing a law, before deciding whether it has to be changed, we have to ask certain questions. The Americans, who are no less intelligent than we are, certainly did ask questions. This is what the Baptist speaker, an expert in youth intervention, tells us:
How did we get to this point? There are three reasons for this.
First of all, this mess can be explained by the fact that we're
trying to solve an ill-defined problem. If a problem is not
properly defined, it goes without saying that the solutions applied
will not produce the desired results. The problem that concerns us
and that we all want to attack is the fact that people do not
realize that the maladjustment and turbulence of the young
generation are not due primarily to economic causes, because if the
problem was an economic one, throwing money at it would suffice,
whereas we know that we've invested enormous amounts of money, all
in vain. It's not a political problem either, because if that was
the case, all we'd have to do is change the party in power in
Washington to improve the situation. Yet we did change the
Republicans for the Democrats, or the donkeys for the elephants.
But things did not improve. The problem is not a sociological one.
I find that rather amusing because here, in Canada, in the time of the Conservative government, a similar approach was taken. They talked about amending the Young Offenders Act, etc. The Reformers say that there is a problem with young offenders. If they come to power, I'm sure that this is one of the first amendments they will make. The Liberals are in power and they want to do exactly the same thing, that is amend the Young Offenders Act.
So it really isn't a political problem because even if you replace donkeys with elephants—we could think of some other more common Quebec farm animals—then it doesn't result in any change.
That was a digression aimed at sensitizing you to the fact that our problem in Canada is not a uniquely Canadian one. On the contrary, I think that youth crime is even more serious among our neighbours to the South; I thought it was important to emphasize this before turning to the heart of the matter.
The States with the highest youth crime rate, where the problem is so serious that it has become a terrible mess, as the Baptist speaker said, are the States where young people are the least well treated, where the laws are the most repressive and where the incarceration rate is the highest. These are the American States with the greatest number of problems and the highest crime rate.
Do we in Canada want to beat the crime rate of the Americans and their youth incarceration rate per 100,000 inhabitants? Is that what our ultimate objective is? Then say so right away. At least we'll know what the intention is. If that is your aim, since you have the majority, you can do what you want. I don't think it is right. Make your intention known so it can be taken into account during the third referendum in Quebec. But be clear about it. You who are so strong on clarity, be fair and tell the truth.
I personally believe that Canadians as a whole and all Quebeckers do not want to end up looking like the Americans either in their treatment of youth or in the way they look after the environment or their economic or social policies or anything else. I'm convinced that we want to have our own systems reflecting our way of looking at things and our values.
The Minister doesn't see things that way. I think she's americanizing the youth justice system in dealing with the problems of justice. And it's turning out to be a disaster. It's a disaster that the Minister has taken the worst example as her inspiration. Everyone agrees that the best example to follow is the example of Quebec.
There is unanimous agreement on that. Quebec's example is the example to follow. Has the Minister given any consideration to the expertise of Quebec in this Bill C-3? She says she has. She says so in her letter. She says that the government developed a bill that respects the approach taken by Quebec for the past 15 years. The problem is that the Minister is the only one to think so. All the Quebec experts, all those who apply the Act are of the opposite view. Bill C-3 takes far more inspiration from the action or lack of action in the west of Canada than from what is being done in Quebec.
Everyone agrees, even those who have written open letters to newspapers, that the approach taken by the Minister is far more reflective of what is happening in western Canada and Ontario than in Quebec. Can we hold it against her, in view of the fact that she comes from the west of Canada? Can we blame her, since she is from Alberta, I believe?
According to statistics, she apparently won the 1997 election with a majority of 200 or 300 votes. With the arrival of the far- right-wing Canadian Alliance and the impassioned speeches against youth that we hear in the House of Commons, can we blame the Minister for giving in to the western lobby on young offenders if she wants to keep her seat for western Canada in the next federal election? Well, the answer is yes, Mr. Chairman. We must blame the Minister for giving in to pressure from the West because her responsibility as Minister comes before her responsibility as member of Parliament. She is Minister for everyone in the same way that MPs represent everyone, not only those who voted for her.
As Minister she must take into account all the different approaches. She must give particular consideration to the expertise of successful provinces. She must not bring everything down to the lowest common denominator. As Minister of Justice, she must take into account what is being done in the successful provinces.
At the present time, one province has demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that in the field of youth justice, justice for young people grappling with problems of crime, it has successfully applied the Young Offenders Act; this province is Quebec.
Why has Quebec been successful contrary to other provinces? That is something that the Minister has not understood or does not wish to understand. We have an Act that works well, we know that it works well when it is properly applied. Why attempt to amend this Act before undertaking a serious study to determine why it is working well in Quebec when this is not the case elsewhere?
How do we explain the fact that Quebec does not want any amendments to the Young Offenders Act, contrary to the west of Canada? I don't know, but the Minister of Justice is responsible for looking into this matter to determine what aspects of the Act are not working and why the West wants amendments whereas Quebec does not.
Is the Act defective? Is it the application of the Act that is defective? Is it because of a lack of money? What is the explanation? The Minister has chosen the easiest route and the most spectacular one without asking the right questions and she has ended up producing Bill C-3 for us.
Does this respond to the needs? No, Mr. Chairman. It may respond to the western lobby but it is quite obvious that it does not respond to the Quebec concerns. This Act is a bad act. Why is Quebec successful? I cannot overemphasize the point. The success of Quebec is attributable to the fact that they have taken the Young Offenders Act and applied it. They have understood the declaration of principle to be found in section 3 of the Young Offenders Act. I'm not able to explain this or give an example to the Minister in 30 seconds. I won't be able to explain in 30 seconds the expertise acquired in Quebec over 30 years. This cannot be understood through a single example, as the Minister has been repeating for some time. She has come up with this new record and she plays it on every opportunity but it's soon going to get worn out because there is no basis for her remark. If I were to follow her reasoning, I could ask her to give me an example of something that justifies the changes to the Act. It doesn't make any sense.
In Quebec we apply the law properly and the important thing is that we have understood the meaning of the declaration of principle. I would like to hear the Minister testify in the committee without any time constraints. I'd like us to have enough time for this. I'd like to hear her come to the committee and say: “Look, I have lots of obligations, but even if we need 10, 15, 20 or 30 hours, we'll review the law together and I will listen to what you have to say, Mr. Bellehumeur”.
That is my purpose this morning, to have the Minister come back before the committee to explain to us her many amendments and answer our questions. We would need more than 30 seconds for that, I agree with her. But I think it is our duty to do so.
If she were to come, we could examine, among other things, the declaration of principle to be found in the Young Offenders Act. This declaration of principle is extremely clear. We could also take a look at the preamble of Bill C-3. If I have the time, I am going to speak a bit about the preamble in a little while. I have a number of cases of jurisprudence that we can examine together. One of the arguments I have already put forward is that the preamble may serve the purposes of morality but nothing else. It is a fine facade but very often judges do not look at the preamble to interpret an Act. I have other examples to give to you. The preamble does not have the same force as a section of the Act.
Paragraph 3(1) of the Young Offenders Act contains the declaration of principle. In that connection, Mr. Chairman, I would say that in all the cases, in all the files examined, this declaration of principle motivates the decision or the action of the investigator, the policemen, the guards of the youth centres or the social workers. A part of this declaration of principle provides motivation and encouragement to all those working with young people who are in trouble because of crime.
Section 3 of this declaration of principle encourages these workers and sets out the parameters to be respected in properly applying the Act and taking the appropriate decision. Section 3(1)a.1: states
(a.1) while young persons should not in all instances be held
accountable in the same manner or suffer the same consequences for
their behaviour as adults, young persons who commit offences should
nonetheless bear responsibility for their contravention:
With a statement such as this, what example does the Minister expect me to give her to demonstrate that if we do not find a similar statement in Bill C-3, this will have a long term influence and the absence of such a declaration will be felt in court decisions? Does she need a drawing? Do I have to write it down for her? I would like to hear what she has to say.
One of the points that both the Minister and I agree on is the complexity of the problem. It is indeed a very complex problem but it is not by making complex legislation that we resolve it. So I would like the Minister to come here. We could sit down and she could tell us what she thinks and what she wants us to demonstrate to her. It is not easy to demonstrate in all decisions but we know that when the judge makes a decision, when the social worker does something and the policemen carries out his investigation they do so conscious of the principle whereby a youth is not an adult. A youth may not have the same degree of responsibility as an adult and cannot be responsible for the consequences of his action in the same way as an adult. This is something that everyone realizes. But if it is not in the Act, it will no longer be taken into account in rulings.
It's hard to make the Minister realize in 30 seconds that this declaration has disappeared and that it will have such consequences. The proof will be found in the application, there is no doubt about it, of the changes made to Bill C-3. We have seen the experience: it took the Supreme Court about 10 or 12 years to give appropriate consideration to the declaration of principle and establish precise parameters for the interpretation of this declaration. You cannot expect us to come up with such evidence from one day to the next. But I can make a case to the Minister to show that when judges are called upon to make a decision, they will no longer be keeping this text in mind. The same holds true for policemen since the text is no longer there.
Paragraph (c) is also important:
c) young persons who commit offenses require supervision,
discipline and control, but, because of their state of dependency
and the level of development and maturity, they also have special
needs and require guidance and assistance;
If this paragraph is removed, then such elements will no longer be taken into account by judges. This will have long-term effects. Otherwise, we might as well say that the drafting of a legal text is of no import, it has no effect on its application. That is not true.
There is no jurist, judge or reasonable person who will claim that it is just an act and no matter what the act may happen to say, we will apply it as we wish and do whatever we want. It is not true. The enactment of a law means establishing an important legal framework. If we remove things that have proved to be effective in the past, they will no longer be present in judges' minds.
Of course, at the beginning, there will be some problems of application but there will come a time when judges, who are professionals, will apply the law as the legislator intended and in keeping with their duty. Even if they do not share the views underlying the law or the way in which it is drafted, they are professional enough to apply it. The minister cannot claim that nothing will change in practice in Quebec when large elements of the Declaration of Principle have been removed and are to be found nowhere in the new act, or when they have taken on such a truncated form to fit in with the new philosophy of the act that they mean nothing at all.
There is also subparagraph (c.1) of the Declaration of Principle, Mr. Chairman:
(c.1) the protection of society, which is a primary objective of
the criminal law applicable to youth, is best served by
rehabilitation, wherever possible, of young persons who commit
offenses, and rehabilitation is best achieved by addressing the
needs and circumstances of a young person that are relevant to the
young person's offending behavior;
You know, the legislator does not put in words that have no meaning. That is a rule familiar to everyone. When the legislator takes the trouble to insist and repeat on several occasions that the needs of young persons constitute the main aim of an act, then this is not without meaning. In other words, the needs of youth must be a priority. A judge, a social worker, a Crown prosecutor, a defence lawyer or any policeman or investigator keeps this element in mind, namely the needs of the young person. If this is removed, as is the case in Bill C-3, or if it is introduced with all sorts of considerations, subsections and subparagraphs, as is the case with the amendments, in making his decision, the judge will have in mind the fact that this is no longer the first concern.
It is difficult, Mr. Chairman, to demonstrate that to the minister in 30 seconds. It is difficult to provide an example of practices or policies that do not fit in with the Bill, as she is asking us to do. But the entire approach and all the decisions are inspired by this Declaration of Principle. Remove the declaration and in the short or medium term, the approach will change. You don't have to be a genius to understand that.
It seems to me the Minister should realize that what she is doing is dangerous. I hope the Minister will agree to come back before the committee. I hope that she will do so as a gesture of humility, that she will give in to our request to appear once again before the Justice Committee and allow us to ask her questions so that she can explain how her amendments, among others things, respond to the concerns of the Quebec Bar, the coalition, the school of criminology and how her amendments demonstrate that she has heard Quebec's concerns. Then it will be my turn to ask her for precise examples.
During the Minister's appearance, we should have considerable latitude. We need several hours to explain to her the Quebec approach. I will go over the briefs which contain precise examples of how her Bill C-3 does not fit in with the Quebec policies on young offenders.
We need to hear the Minister in committee to give her precise examples. Let's go through this exercise together, Mr. Chairman, since I intend to keep on going, because I really haven't finished. In Quebec, before doing anything and asking anything of the federal government, we examined what the practice was in Quebec. We answered an important question. The National Assembly struck a committee to determine how the Young Offenders Act is applied in Quebec and what our youth policy is before attempting to determine whether anything should be amended or changed.
It is quite obvious that the Minister is not aware of this study and I would like to inform her of it. I would like to examine the Jasmin report with the Minister, answer questions and show her clearly that her bill is dangerous for the Quebec approach. I would like to do this and I hope the Minister will give in to reason and show generosity as well as ministerial humility and come and testify before our committee and study Bill C-3 with us, to compare it with what is being done at the present time under the Young Offenders Act.
This question of how the Young Offenders Act is applied in Quebec is something I asked my colleagues opposite to look into in each of their provinces. I asked them to call the Minister of Justice or the minister responsible for the application of the Young Offenders Act in their respective provinces, in the Maritimes, Ontario, the West and put the question that Judge Jasmin asked when he put himself in the situation of the federal legislator. I asked the members opposite to do that during the Easter break in the hope that it would enlighten them and prove to be of some assistance.
You are not getting to the root of the real problem. If I were the
federal legislator, I would suspend my bill for the time being and
I would ask the provinces how they apply the present act and what
their youth policies are.
If I were a school teacher, I would be tempted to ask my colleagues opposite to raise their hand if they asked their provincial legislature how the Young Offenders Act was being applied in the province and what their youth policies were.
Unfortunately, Mr. Chair, we are not in a classroom and I won't get an answer. But I do know that there was no attempt at communication on the part of any member with the Quebec coalition to find out how Quebec's practice differs from the rest of Canada with respect to the Young Offenders Act. No one attempted to get in touch with anyone from the coalition. If there is someone who did try to get in touch or spoke with someone from the coalition, let him make himself known because, according to my information, there was no attempt to contact the members of the coalition.
I imagine that the same holds true for the request I made to them to ask the ministers of justice of each province how they apply the Young Offenders Act and what their youth policies are. I imagine that there is no answer to that question either.
Mr. Chairman, if the Minister were to appear, we would be able to look together at Quebec's experience in the application of the Act. We could go back quite far because that is necessary to understand what is being done in Quebec. We could look at the history and the various reports that were drafted both at the federal and provincial levels. She would find out that in 1908 one of the most proactive provinces in the field of young offenders was Ontario. She would also see that later on, Quebec overtook Ontario and that it now has much greater expertise in youth protection and rehabilitation than Ontario.
We could examine together the various reports, particularly the Jasmin report. The Jasmin report studied this matter in a very professional and precise manner. They contacted the various stakeholders. As I said previously, they looked at the entire chain, the way the file is processed, the treatment of young persons in trouble with the law. In Quebec various avenues were explored and a number of things attempted and a great deal of expertise has now been acquired. Quebec spent many years in building up this expertise it now has. The main thing is that they asked the right questions of the right people.
The make-up of the Jasmin working group was revealing. Everyone will be aware of the importance of the study undertaken by these acknowledged experts in the application of the Young Offenders Act.
For those who didn't understand or who were not present when I raised the matter, because there are people who are not always present when I am speaking or who are speaking at the same time as I am and disturbing me, I will repeat the passages that I read and that they didn't understand.
I'd like to say something about the members of the task force. Judge Michel Jasmin, Assistant Chief Justice of the Youth Section of the Quebec Court, was chair of this task force. Mr. Maurice Boisvert, who at the time was the Assistant Deputy Minister with the Regional Directorate for the Regional Coordination of the Department of Health and Social Services, was also a member. When they received their mandate in 1995, I think, but I am not sure, that the responsible minister was Ms. Lucienne Robillard. Ms. Lafontaine, I'll find the letter from the Minister of Health and Social Services at the time. There was also Mr. Normand Bastien, Director of the Youth Division of the Montreal Legal Community Centre. He is still in that position at the present time, as the director of this division. The people of this division are engaged solely in youth law. He is an important specialist in the daily application of the Young Offenders Act. I might note in passing that Mr. Normand Bastien is one of the members of the Quebec Bar Committee that studied Bill C-3 and presented a brief during the examination of this bill. There was also Mr. Pierre Michaud, Director General of the Chaudière- Appalaches Youth Centre. Why Mr. Michaud? Because of his significant expertise with young people, which enabled him to make a special contribution. There was Mr. Jean Turmel, Director of the Youth Directorate in the Department of Justice. He is now with the Department of Justice, very close to the Minister, Ms. Goupil. At the time, he was also with the Department of Justice but the department was under the direction of a Liberal minister.
It is not a question of politics. I'm emphasizing these elements to make it quite clear to you that this has not become our hobbyhorse for political reasons. If there is anyone playing politics with this, it is the Minister of Justice, certainly not us. I'm simply saying out loud what the Quebec participants have said, written and think.
So this task force consisted primarily of the people I just mentioned. What did these people do? They toured Quebec. They met with different groups. I must clarify something here. They toured Quebec, but they did not spend three years travelling. You have to understand that. Many people worked on this study on a volunteer basis because they strongly believed in the cause. They did a lot of unpaid work, given the importance of the issue. The people who worked on this task force were keenly interested in the application of the Young Offenders Act.
One of the committee members told me that for several weeks, after his normal working hours, he read briefs, made calls, and drafted certain sections of the report. He came back from court about 5:00 or 6:00 p.m., grabbed a bite to eat, then continued his study because he believed in the cause. He still believes in the cause today. He believes we must invest in young people.
The problem with Bill C-3 is that it is based on false premises. It is based on the idea that young people are hooligans. Some people believe that we must deal with young people who are in trouble with the law as quickly as possible and try to put them on the inside. That is not true!
Yes, there are young people who are in trouble with the law, but because a young person is not an adult, because he cannot be given as much responsibility as an adult, because a young person is developing, because a young person does not have an adult's experience, because we can work on the way young people think, because a young person is constantly developing, he must be treated differently, and above all, we must be convinced that we will succeed if we invest sufficiently and we are able to put the young person on the right track.
Of course, this involves an act of faith and an awful lot of self-confidence. In Quebec, we did not gain that confidence overnight. We did not wake up one fine morning and say: From now on, we are going to treat young people differently and we are going to have a good success rate. It was over the years that we saw what we were doing well and what we were not doing well, and we tried to correct the latter, Mr. Chairman.
You have to stop and ask the right questions. You have to do the same analysis that I did, look at the documents I looked at and consult the people I consulted. We cannot really make many mistakes in Quebec. I think I consulted a fair amount of people. I think I covered a broad enough cross-section to have seen everyone who is even remotely involved in applying the Young Offenders Act.
If the minister does exactly the same work as I did during the 15, 20, 30 or 40 hours during which she will make herself available to study the Young Offenders Act and Bill C-3 in detail, I'm convinced that she will reach the conclusions I did. I'm convinced that she will come to the same conclusions as the task force in Quebec that studied the matter and reported to the National Assembly in February 1995. I am convinced that she will reach exactly the same conclusion. This conclusion is brief but very important. I'm going to start with the conclusion to illustrate exactly what conclusion must be reached. If the minister were present and were to examine the issue as I have examined it and read the reports and briefs from the same perspective as me, she would arrive at the conclusion that the problem is not with the Young Offenders Act, but with its application.
The Jasmin report, on page 5, reaches the same conclusion as me, but in different terms. I quote:
The approach that we have been using for the past two and a half
years has convinced us that the Young Offenders Act is good.
Moreover, we were struck by the consensus in this area that exists
among the various people who work with young offenders in Quebec.
In the year 2000, the Barreau du Québec has a way of saying things that resembles mine. I think the comments can be found on page 16 of the Barreau du Quebec's brief, which was tabled in February 2000, and I quote:
The Barreau du Québec believes that the problem lies not in the
Young Offenders Act, but in the manner in which it is applied.
Whether you are a lawyer, a field worker, a judge, an official at the Department of Justice, or whether you work in almost any area where the Young Offenders Act is applied on a daily basis, the more you examine the matter, the more you come to the same conclusion: the Young Offenders Act is good. The problem is not with the act, but with its application. That was true on February 17, 1995, when those words were written, and it is still true today. The newspapers, reports and the various workers in Quebec all say that there is consensus in Quebec, and even unanimity at the National Assembly in this regard.
I told you earlier on that I would tell you about some speeches that were made. Before addressing the Jasmin report, it would be a good idea to examine the decision made by the National Assembly on November 30, 1999. And if the Minister were to appear here and listen to me, it would give me an opportunity to remind her that on Tuesday, November 30, 1999, at 2:00 p.m., a motion was introduced in the Quebec National Assembly and adopted unanimously. All members, 125 members out of 125, supported it. One hundred per cent is a good percentage and that support cannot be much clearer. Some people made extremely important speeches from which I will quote certain excerpts.
The motion introduced in the National Assembly read as follows:
Motion without notice
This motion has been moved jointly by the Minister of Justice and the member for Marquette. The member for Marquette is a Liberal member and the official opposition critic of the Minister of Justice. His name is François Ouimet.
THAT the National Assembly ask the federal Minister of Justice to
suspend the adoption of Bill C-3 to allow her to better assess the
application of the measures set out in the Young Offenders Act by
the provinces and to ensure that Quebec can maintain its
intervention strategy, which is based on young people's needs and
focuses on prevention and rehabilitation.
Mr. Chairman, this motion that stipulates that the objective is to “enable the minister to better assess the application of the measures set out in the Young Offenders Act by the provinces” contains exactly the same question that Mr. Justice Jasmin told us that he would ask the provinces if he were the legislator. He would ask them: “How do you apply the current act and what are your youth policies?”
The National Assembly did not formulate a question that is strange, highly political or anything like that. It did its duty and asked the Minister of Justice the question it had to ask her; it asked her to suspend the consideration of Bill C-3 so that she could evaluate what the other provinces were doing with respect to the application of the Young Offenders Act. And that motion that was tabled without notice and jointly by the Liberal Party of Quebec and the Parti Québécois was adopted unanimously by the members present, including the members of the Action démocratique du Québec, and Mr. Mario Dumont, who was present and who voted in favour of this motion.
The debates in the National Assembly were very important, even though all members were unanimous. The National Assembly heard good speeches, speeches that were highly emotional and very well structured on why the federal government should suspend the consideration of Bill C-3 until it had obtained answers from the people applying the Young Offenders Act in the other provinces.
On Tuesday, November 30, 1999, at about 4:00 p.m., Ms. Linda Goupil, Minister of Justice, rose in the National Assembly and said the following:
Our experience to date has shown us that to help young people
effectively, we must be able to step in quickly. It is also
important to apply the right measure at the right time. If the
federal bill is adopted, we will have to deal with major delays in
hearings and the possibility of complex parole procedures. We will
also have to use a host of measures that are not adapted to young
What she said is important, Mr. Chairman. And when I hear the Minister of Justice of Canada say that the opponents to her Bill C-3 should provide her with examples of sections in the bill that are inconsistent with the Quebec approach, she has certainly not discussed it with the Quebec Minister of Justice, Ms. Goupil. She has surely not met Ms. Goupil and had a good discussion with her. In five lines here, Ms. Goupil has shown a good part of what is wrong with Bill C-3, as well as what amendments we should be making to the Young Offenders Act to improve it. If the act can be amended, it is with respect to the time frames that it should be done.
I have always said that if we wanted to improve the Young Offenders Act, we should amend the provisions regarding time frames, because timing is very important. The young person must be aware of the seriousness of his actions. How can we make him aware of that? By dealing with his case quickly. If the young person has committed theft, he must be made aware of the consequences of the theft quickly. If he has committed murder, he must be made aware of the consequences quickly. It is not by setting longer time frames for hearings, or establishing procedures, notices or studies, or increasing the number of hearings that we will ensure that the young person is quickly aware of the impact of his actions.
As adults we have the same reflexes. When we go through a red light or roll through a stop sign, we look left and right to see if the police are there. Two or three blocks later, have we forgotten the offence we committed? If we are stopped a block later by a police officer who gives us a ticket, we will come to a complete stop the next time. The same is true for a child, although the impact is a hundredfold, because the child does not have the experience or the maturity of an adult. And that effect is being multiplied with Bill C-3. Delays in the case of certain serious crimes are being extended, even though they are perhaps cases where action should be taken as quickly as possible.
And if that were not enough, the government plans on applying complex rules for parole similar to those in the adult system. Moreover, a 14 year old who has to serve an adult sentence will be locked up in a young offenders institution for part of his sentence and will have to serve the rest of it in an adult prison. The transfer will take place once he has reached the age of 20, or in some provinces, on his 18th birthday, if the province in question has institutions to deal with young people.
Aren't these examples that the Minister has heard about? I heard these examples here in committee. They are examples cited by many witnesses. If they do not answer her questions, then tell me how Bill C-3 does not run counter to what Quebec is doing. I have the impression I have heard this said many times. I believe it is what criminologist Jean Trépanier said right here before the committee. That is what I read. If the Minister had read what I have read, she would see that there are many questions outstanding and that there is something wrong with many aspects of Bill C-3.
In a speech on November 30, Ms. Goupil gave a very specific example of something we should look at carefully. This is what she said:
Mr. Speaker, let us take a young person who may be found guilty of
drug trafficking. Let us say that he has no criminal record, but
has been expelled from school; he has no parental supervision; and
he is part of a gang. So we might say that he is rebelling against
all forms of authority, and does anything he wants at home. This is
a young person who has not had a good start in life.
With the current legislation, the young person can be placed in
custody. This provides him with a supervisory framework and makes
it possible to begin a rehabilitation program that is adapted to
his own individual circumstances. If we take action quickly enough,
there is a chance that the young person might escape the vicious
circle of crime, and become a responsible citizen. But this will no
longer be possible if Bill C-3 is passed. Before we can take any
action, we will have to wait until the young person is well
entrenched in a life of delinquency or commits a violent offence.
In fact, before we can help him, we will have to wait until it is
too late to help him.
This is another example of something the Minister appears unaware of. If she had taken the time to become familiar with examples like this one, we would not have to keep repeating ourselves as we do.
"Many times, I have asked those who criticize the bill to provide concrete examples of practices or policies that are not in line with the Bill, or that could not be improved." These are the words of Canada's Minister of Justice. In my view, Quebec's Minister, Ms. Goupil, has provided just such an example. And this is not the sort of thing you can explain in 30 seconds. I will not take just 30 seconds to ask the Minister a question. We have to stop and study this issue carefully. We have to see what individual provinces are doing or not doing to improve the system.
Mr. Chairman, that is why the Minister must testify before this committee. She must make a gesture of good faith and humility, and appear before us to answer our questions. She must be made aware that the explanations that she has provided are erroneous, or inadequate. I'm giving her an opportunity to come back. If she believes in her cause, and if she believes she is right, then she should take the time to appear before us. If it takes 10 hours, so be it; if it takes 20 hours, so be it; if it takes 35 hours, so be it. She has said herself that this is undoubtedly the most important bill of the 36th Parliament to be studied by the Justice Committee. If it is that important to us, then it should be just as important, if not more important, to her. It is her bill, and it will haunt her all her life.
If I were Minister of Justice, I would defend and explain my bill. In particular, I would respond to the issues raised by the province that criticizes my bill. I would ask how my amendments reflect what I have heard or read from Quebec stakeholders. If the Minister fails to do this, then I can say she is afraid to come before us. If she does not come before us, it will be because she has no explanations to provide, particularly because her bill does not respond to the claims and demands put forward by Quebec. That may be why she does not wish to appear. I can understand why she would refuse to appear, but I hope she understands when I have no hesitation in telling everyone else why.
François Ouimet, Liberal MNA for Marquette and Quebec justice critic, said the following during the November 30, 1999, debate:
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am of course very happy about this result
and our presentation of a joint motion. I share the views of the
Minister of Justice and of the massive coalition established to
fight Bill C-3, which is a federal government bill.
Mr. Ouimet is allied with the Liberal Party of Canada. He does not campaign for the Bloc québécois during federal elections. He is the Liberal MNA for Marquette, and stands on the same podium as Quebec Liberals when election time rolls around. Yet this man is telling federal Liberals that they are wrong. As he just said:
...I share the views of the Minister of Justice and of the massive
coalition established to fight Bill C-3, which is a federal
He goes on to say:
Bill C-3 focuses much more strongly on the offence committed by the
young person, and the punishment befitting the crime. In Quebec,
however, our strategies have been extremely effective... Because
Quebec has the lowest crime rate in Canada, and I believe in North
America, in Quebec, Mr. Speaker, we focus on rehabilitation and on
the young person's needs.
Will the amendments coming down the line reflect our approach? I doubt it in the light of my consultations with a number of people, but we will see.
Further on, Mr. Ouimet states:
The Quebec system is admired throughout the world. Minister
McLellan herself said that she was drawing on the Quebec model in
her attempt to defend Bill C-3. However, Mr. Chairman, if Minister
McLellan believes that Quebec's approach to dealing with young
offenders has provided conclusive evidence, then she should
obviously suspend Bill C-3 and do some more checking, not only in
Quebec, but across Canada, to see how other provinces use the means
provided in the Young Offenders Act.
Mr. Ouimet is saying exactly the same thing as the Quebec Minister of Justice. He is saying exactly the same thing as Judge Jasmin, Deputy Chief Judge of the Quebec Youth Court. He is saying exactly the same thing as many social workers. He is saying exactly the same thing as the defence lawyers and the prosecutors. He is saying exactly the same thing as the Quebec association of police and fire chiefs. I could go on, but I won't.
Before amending the Young Offenders Act, the Minister should take the time to ask the provinces how they apply the Young Offenders Act within their jurisdiction, and what youth policies they have. These are fundamental questions, the very first questions that should be asked before amending legislation that works so well in Quebec.
Mr. Chairman, there are, of course, many other MNAs who spoke in support of Quebec's Minister of Justice and in support of the justice critic, a member of the official opposition, Liberal MLA François Ouimet. All agreed on the motion introduced in the National Assembly requesting that Canada's Minister of Justice suspend consideration of Bill C-3 until such time as she obtains answers to certain questions. Clearly, Minister McLellan has not done this.
Clearly, Minister McLellan does not know what is being done, or does not wish to know what is being done. However, I will give her the benefit of the doubt. In my view, she is not well informed. She is not aware of what is being done in Quebec and the other provinces. Once she is aware of it, we will come back to this issue and see that the Young Offenders Act is in fact the legislation we need.
The YOA could, of course, be amended and improved. Response times could be shortened to better meet the wishes of Judge Jasmin, as expressed in his testimony, and the wishes of some witnesses who appeared before this committee. As Ms. Goupil said, responses must be quick if they are to be effective. The right measure must be applied at the right time, and to the right young people.
We should not have legislation that stipulates automatic responses, or legislation that imposes a homogeneous approach and penalties for young people. Every young person is different, and has a different history. Every young person has his or her own history, and we must know that history before determining that young person's needs. Under the Young Offenders Act, we can do that, we can proceed case by case. But for many offences, we cannot do that with Bill C-3.
The funniest, or perhaps the saddest, thing, Mr. Chairman, is that this applies to serious offences, the offences that require the quickest possible response, the offenses in which we invest the most money because they constitute the most serious problems, both for the young person and for society. In order to protect society, we have to get to young people in time, know their history, know what their needs are, and invest in them to ensure they become anonymous citizens as quickly as possible.
What exactly is an anonymous citizen? An anonymous citizen is the kind of citizen who could be here in this room, whose background we may not necessarily know, who works, pays taxes, has a family, has children, has a car, has a house, and, most important of all, has no involvement with the justice system any more.
That is the goal the Minister should be striving to attain. That is the goal which is reflected in the Young Offenders Act, that is conspicuously lacking in this proposed Act in Respect of Criminal Justice for Young Persons and to Amend and Repeal Other Acts.
Thus, if Minister McLellan appeared before this committee, we would do what I will attempt to do very quickly: we could provide a brief but detailed summary of the arguments presented by everyone. I could acquaint her with the questions that the task force headed by Judge Jasmin asked all those involved, and their responses. She could then work through the same process I did before taking a position, Mr. Chairman.
When I arrived at the House of Commons in 1993, I had no specialized knowledge of the Young Offenders Act and its application. I had dealt with youth protection cases. I had known cases where young people were involved in the justice system. But I viewed the act differently than I do today, simply because now I have read it carefully and in great depth. We are not born knowing everything: I was not born knowing any more than Minister McLellan. We must make a gesture of humility and acknowledge that we do not know everything, and agree to learn what others do elsewhere to improve the system.
For that to be possible, the objectives must be more than just to get re-elected in one's riding. The objectives must be broader, more noble. One of our members used to tell us often that we needed to bring politics to a higher plane.
I would invite the Minister to do the same thing. She would come to the conclusion, as I did very quickly in 1994 and 1995, when we studied the issue in committee, among other places, that the problem lies not in the legislation but in the way in which it is implemented.
The people who have studied this issue much more exhaustively than I have been able to and than all the other committee members have been able to are Judge Jasmin and his task force, who prepared an extremely important study. They looked at a number of aspects of this complex issue.
Mr. Chairman, I repeat that the system that deals with young offenders is a complex one dealing with a complex problem. That said, it is not with complex legislation is not what it takes to solve the problem.
Mr. Chairman, in the historical context that I provided, when the Young Offenders Act was passed by the Canadian Parliament in 1982, and then came into force on April 2nd, 1984, do you remember what was said and done in Quebec at that time? In Quebec, the Young Offenders Act was praised. People agreed with that Bill, simply because it gave Quebec the latitude it needed to carry out what was already embodied in various pieces of social legislation, that is, reintegration and rehabilitation of the young people concerned.
The Young Offenders Act enabled Quebec to invest or rather to continue to invest in young people so that they could become independent citizens as quickly as possible. In 1981 and 1982, when this Act was passed, Quebec lauded the federal government's decision to pass this legislation, which had nothing in common with Bill C-3, which the Minister has come up with. There was strong consensus in Quebec in support of the Young Offenders Act in the 1980s, and there is equally strong opposition in Quebec to Bill C- 3.
Far from being illogical, the contrast is easy to understand. The approach in Quebec has not changed over the years; in fact, it has always been maintained. There has been no legislative about- face in Quebec. On the contrary, the Quebec approach has always been consistent. The justice system in Quebec has done the same things since the beginning and kept the same objectives. Today, why is there such strong opposition in Quebec to Bill C-3? It is because this new legislation will not enable Quebec to continue doing what it wants to do and, in particular, what it has been doing for the past 15 or 20 years.
If the Minister has not yet understood that, she has a serious problem. I hope that someone will explain things to her. I believe that the Minister has a problem right now regarding the Young Offenders Act. She does not understand the problem this poses in Quebec.
That is why I am again extending the invitation that I made earlier, or rather that Judge Jasmin asked me to make. At any time, if the Minister would like to see how the Young Offenders Act is being implemented on the ground, Judge Jasmin will open the doors of his courtroom, the doors of the centres he knows, etc. She will be able to look at all aspects of the system. After that, we will be talking about the same things and we will be able to understand each other. At the moment, when I read her open letter that appeared in La Presse on April 25th, it is obvious that we are not talking about the same things. We are not even talking about the same Bill.
I would be tempted to say that she is out in left field, but I know that that would not be very parliamentary. I think we need to have a good discussion, and now is the time. I think that the motion that I have moved this morning is precisely aimed at giving the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada an opportunity to come before the committee in order to answer our questions and explain how Bill C-3 takes into account Quebec's approach over the past 15 years and how the amendments she wants to bring in jibe with what Quebec is asking and calling for concerning Bill C-3.
How can she reconcile her statements that Bill C-3 takes into account Quebec's experience of the past 15 years with the fact that she has to introduce over 120 amendments to respond to Quebec's criticism? It seems to me that there is something wrong in this way of thinking, but I imagine that she has a logical explanation to give, and I would like her to come and explain that to us. If you would like to participate, that would be fine with me, but the Minister and I can look at the various steps in the process and go over in detail the report prepared by Judge Jasmin and his collaborators. We will look at the whole issue of delinquency, which is a very worrisome phenomenon, as everyone knows. Everyone knows that delinquency is a cause for concern and must be taken seriously. We have known that in Quebec for a very long time, and that is why we have invested money and time in this area.
But while delinquency is important, it must be viewed realistically. We must not overdramatize things, but the problem of youth delinquency must not be oversimplified either. People will realize that in order to overcome delinquency, we need to have practices and policies based on a proper understanding of the problem. It is important not to cry wolf if there is no wolf around.
That is what has been happening for years at the federal level. People have criticized the Young Offenders Act to gain political points. The best examples of that were the famous Liberal Red Books of 1993 and 1997, which said that the Young Offenders Act needed to be amended, even though no studies of any kind had been done.
How can there be any serious consideration in the committee when the conclusions of the report have already been written and adopted at the biennial convention of the party in power? At some point, the truth must be told. People need to get their heads around this issue and look reality straight in the face.
They need to come to the conclusion that the issue of delinquency needs to be dealt with, and there are no easy answers. People will realize that delinquency is not so horrifying, that the crime rate is not skyrocketing, contrary to what some people want us to believe.
The Minister and I, when she appears before the committee, will even be able to go over the documents she tabled when she indicated her intentions regarding Bill C-3. The statistics she provided as at that time show very clearly that, rather than panic, we need to look at the problem of delinquency and criminal behaviour among young people in a somewhat critical way, of course, but also realistically.
It is important that they not leave, since we will not have quorum if they do. That's fine, Mr. Chairman.
The Minister will realize that crime rates, contrary to what one might think, are not going up. In fact, they are going down. This does not mean that the battle is won. We need to continue to work hard, but the crime rates certainly do not warrant any intervention by the Minister. The current crime rates might justify reviewing certain aspects of the Young Offenders Act in order to tighten up the timeframes.
If rapid intervention means that the young person will assume more responsibility for his or her actions and will be less likely to come back into the system, the results in the longer term will be even better.
To do that, we do not need to throw out 20 years of experience in Quebec. We do not need to rip up the Young Offenders Act, as the Minister is doing, and abandon everything that is done under the Young Offenders Act.
Even for the most serious violent crimes, there has been a decrease of 2% over the past year. There is a slight decline. It is a small improvement, I admit, but the trend is downward. Everyone will acknowledge that criminal activity is directly proportional to the rate of unemployment, to the financial difficulties of the parents and all sorts of other things. That is why we need to be vigilant. We must not give up our efforts. We must continue to look for ways to improve things that already exist, but for heaven's sake, let us not destroy a system that has proven its worth and is working well. That is what the Minister is doing with her Bill C-3. I would like the Minister to come and for us to have the time we need to question her.
The way things work currently, Mr. Chairman, there is not enough time in committee to adequately question the Minister responsible. With the five-minute and three-minute rounds, the Minister has it easy. The Minister has six minutes to answer a one- minute question. We have no right of reply or anything.
Then the Minister tells us to give her examples and answer her questions. I am taking her at her word. She should come to the committee. She should set aside 20 or 30 hours and I will be there. We will discuss these things together. We will talk to each other and maybe we will understand each other. I am convinced that she will come to the same conclusion as me and the other people from Quebec who came as witnesses. But for that to happen, she has to show her willingness by saying yes.
Before that, however, the committee needs to decide to ask the Minister to come and to suspend our work until the Minister comes before the committee. Then she will have no choice but to answer our questions. If you do not have any questions to ask her, I do. You can leave it to me. I am capable of asking her questions and examining her young offenders bill. However, she needs to come here, and we can also look at the submissions and letters that the Commission des services juridiques du Québec tabled with the committee and that contradict everything she has said.
We will see what the Conseil permanent de la jeunesse says about the Young Offenders Act and about the Minister's Bill. We will see. The Conseil permanent de la jeunesse also disagrees with the Minister. Maybe we can look at what the CEQ, the Centrale de l'enseignement du Québec, has to say about the Young Offenders Act and Bill C-3. We will take the time together, the Minister and I, to go over documents that I have and that she may not have. She may not be acting in bad faith. She may just be poorly informed. After all, there are only 150 lawyers working for her. Maybe she does not have all the information. So we will work with her.
Jean Trépanier of the University of Montreal's Criminology Department prepared an extremely important document. I would like to discuss Jean Trépanier's approach. He has a great deal of experience in criminology. Maybe we could talk about the stigmatisation of young people and repressive measures and what the consequences are. Maybe we can look at that. Maybe she has some documents up her sleeve that I do not have. Up to now, she has not provided very much, except for a smoke screen to get her policy through.
There is the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal, where there are some lawyers who work on this issue only. Ten or 20 lawyers have been working with young people for years. If all their years of experience were added up, I think that the total would be more than the number of years since Confederation. That is also worth taking into consideration. I would like to do that with the Minister. I would like to look at that with her, as well as the letters, the submission and the resolutions adopted by the Centre communautaire juridique de Montréal.
The Fondation québécoise pour les jeunes contrevenants is also an organisation with practical experience working with young people who are having problems with the law. Perhaps the Minister is not aware or has not understood what they do. I would like to take the time to explain to her face to face, without being stressed by any agenda. Maybe I could convince her that she is on the wrong track with Bill C-3.
Ms. Toutant from the Philippe-Pinel Institute in Montreal, who is well-known to some members of the committee—I don't bother with these things, but it seems that she shares the political allegiances of some members opposite—does not say that Bill C-3 is a very good piece of legislation. I would like to go over the Philippe-Pinel Institute's submission with her and with the Minister of Justice and give some examples.
We could even screen some videos together. There have been a number of television programs on Bill C-3 and some amount of commentary. We could also watch the Le Point program—I think they did a report on the Canadian prison system—to see if that is the objective we should aim for. With the motorcycle gangs and everything we have seen on television, it seemed very good. Is that what we want for our young people? Do we want to adopt the adult system, which has been such a success in Canada, for young offenders?
Everyone agrees that the adult prison system in Canada is a real catastrophe. It is a complete failure. Is that what we want to apply to young offenders? Perhaps, but she will need to prove her point. Personally, I would like to have the time to prove to her that she is on the wrong track and quote people like the representatives like the Philippe-Pinel Institute, who have substantial expertise in this area, who do not necessarily work with angels, but who do have a good success rate.
Maybe we could go over the submission made by the Association des directeurs de police et pompiers du Québec. Maybe she has not had the time to read it or the resolutions and positions that they have adopted. Perhaps we could look at that together, Mr. Chairman. But in order for that to be possible, she needs to come before the committee. The committee has to vote for her to come here, so that she can explain her many amendments and her approach and how all this lines up with Quebec's criteria and demands.
The Conférence des régies régionales de la santé et des services sociaux du Québec covers all of Quebec. The organisation has resolutions from all regional health boards in Quebec. We are talking about a lot of people, I can assure you. There are doctors, specialists, psychologists and psychiatrists on these regional boards. There were no dissenting voices, Mr. Chairman. I would like to discuss this with the Minister.
The Association des centres jeunesse du Québec also represents a lot of people. I would like the Minister to know who these people are. And since if you want something done it is always best to do it yourself, I am convinced that the departmental officials have got these messages to the Minister. I am sure that is the case, but I am a doubting Thomas. I would like to tell her myself so that I can be sure that the message really gets through and, in particular, that the right message is getting through, so that there will not be any special considerations or any West wind guiding her answers and approach. I would like to tell her myself.
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse gave us an excellent submission. I will go over it very quickly, because I want to come back to it. It seems clear that the Minister has not seen it.
The Bureau des substituts du procureur général du Québec, for those who do not know, is the entity that initiates prosecutions against young people. They are not necessarily on the side of these young people. They are taking them to court every day. However, the Bureau, which represents Crown prosecutors in Quebec, told the Minister that she was on the wrong track with Bill C-3. It is unlikely that they are being overprotective of young people, since they take them to court every day. But these people are professional enough to be able to assess a piece of legislation.
Their day-to-day experiences tell them that Bill C-3 is bad. They must know about the Young Offenders Act: they apply its provisions every day. They do not want Bill C-3.
I do not know what else to do with you. Do I need to draw a picture? Tell me and I will do it right away. In any case, since it is not working with you, perhaps the Minister and I could reach an agreement if we met face to face. We would look over the submissions and resolutions of these people.
The Association des CLSC et des CHSLD du Québec also represents many people. There are CLSCs, or local clinics, in nearly all municipalities. The association covers all of Quebec and, as a member for Quebec, I have a received a number of resolutions from boards of directors of CLSCs in my riding, asking me to do something, since the Minister is pushing ahead with legislation that is unacceptable to Quebec.
On paper, that does not seem to have convinced the Minister of Justice. If she were to come back before the committee and if I had time to discuss things with her without strict rules, I am convinced that we could share information and that she would see the young offenders problem differently. As you can tell, I have a lot to say. We could easily set aside 30 hours, but in order to do that, she would have to come here, Mr. Chairman.
Marc LeBlanc of the University of Montreal's Psycho-Education Department, did not present a submission as such, I believe. I am not sure. He is a member of the coalition, but he did not actually make a submission to the committee. If the Minister comes before the committee, I will call Mr. LeBlanc at the University of Montreal and ask him to submit some written questions. I am convinced that he will do that. At the same time, he could send me a short note that I could provide directly to the Minister.
There is also the Regroupement des organismes de justice alternative du Québec. The Minister probably does not know what that Quebec organisation does. We could explain that and provide her with documentation. She would see that Quebec has well- developed structures, the young people are not left to their own devices, that we invest in young people, that young people's needs are the priority, while the other important aspects are taken into account as well. Victims are important. Protecting society is important.
Costs are important too. We are not crazy. I would like to talk about that with the Minister and I am sure that after our discussions, the members across the table might also have some things to say to the Minister. But for that to happen, the committee has to decide that the Minister needs to come back to the committee.
The Child Welfare League of Canada is an organisation that exists across Canada. But it has the same approach as the coalition. Has the Minister looked at the League's approach? I would like to discuss that with her.
There is also the Canadian Criminal Justice Association. It might be interesting for the Minister to know what that association said. We could review and analyze that together.
The Société de criminologie du Québec also provided a very important submission. I think that it is one of the submissions that I want to use this week to try to convince you that it would be important for the Minister to appear here so that she can do some thinking out loud with the members of the committee.
The Association des avocats de la défense du Québec has a different point of view from everyone else regarding intervention and everything, but they are very closely involved with young offenders and their views are very interesting. Mr. Binet, whom I mentioned to you earlier, is a defence lawyer and a member of the association who did a private study of these issues.
In order to be able to discuss these things with the Minister, I need her to be present. That is why I am inviting her. That is why I would like her to come.
I am convinced that all of you up at the front are saying to yourselves... I can see by your faces that you would also be interested in having the Minister appear before the committee. When I look at you, I see that you are definitely interested in this whole issue and I actually feel honoured because I have initiated this idea of inviting the Minister. I am convinced that the Minister will be pleased to come before the committee to once again hear what people have to say.
But the most important document that I would like to go through with the Minister is the Jasmin report. Four or five times now, I have touched on it and I know that you are eager for me to go into more detail. The Jasmin report, in my opinion, is a must. The Minister needs to familiarize herself with this report before doing anything else toward passing Bill C-3.
Mr. Chairman, there are a number of extremely important points in that report. But to understand the analysis and the major thrusts of the Jasmin report, you need to have some background, or else you will not have a full appreciation of the report. I am convinced, since you are not listening very carefully, that you did not do what I asked you to do during the two-week break and that you did not read what I asked you to read.
Mr. Jacques Saada (Brossard—La Prairie, Lib.): [Editor's note: Inaudible]
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: That is because you missed some things, Mr. Saada. When you were not here, I said some things that I cannot go back over.
Mr. Jacques Saada: [Editor's note: Inaudible]
Mr. Michel Bellehumeur: I said that if we were in elementary school, I would ask those who called coalition members to find out how things are done in Quebec and all that to raise their hands. But we are not at school, and I will never know. And I will never know whether you asked each of the provincial legislatures about their youth policies, like I asked you to do. We will never know, but I do have my doubts. I strongly suspect that you did not do that. Ms. Carroll, did you make those calls? No, all right.
Of all the elements that we must keep in mind, there is the whole issue of delinquency, which I mentioned earlier, as well as the protection of society. Quebec's approach takes into account the protection of society and states clearly that, by investing in young people, we ensure public safety and the protection of society. We believe that by promoting the reintegration of young offenders, even in the short term, we ensure that society is better protected. These are the concepts that we must keep in mind when looking more closely at the main conclusions of the Jasmin report.
The offence is also mentioned. The nature of the offence helps us set the limits within which the education and rehabilitation measures will be selected and implemented. We have to remember that the type of offence will necessarily influence the measures taken to ensure better education and reintegration of the youth.
We must also keep in mind the responsibility of teenagers, a concept which is also part of the approach put forward by Quebec. The Quebec approach is based on that; in other words, we want to act as quickly as possible so that young offenders can understand that they are responsible for the offence they have committed.
If the young offenders are supposed to appear in court 3, 4 or 15 days after the offence, they still have fresh in their memory what they did and all the details of the offence they committed. If the trial takes place in the following month and if the case is dealt with without delay, the young offender doesn't have time to forget. He still is living intensely the offence he committed. He is very aware of the fact that he is responsible for the offence he committed and, at the end of the day, the responsibility of the teenager is part of the rehabilitation and reintegration process. When we deal with young offenders quickly and help them realize they are accountable for their actions, we are helping them become gradually more responsible. This is a process that doesn't happen overnight, Mr. Chairman.
We have to put things in perspective and realize that youths who come in contact with the law do not generally live like we or our children do. Often they are from broken families, families where there is violence; families where the mother or the father is involved in prostitution while the other sells cocaine or commits robberies. These young people have many problems. The majority of young offenders—Im not saying that some of them don't come from other segments of society—are children born in families at risk, problem families, families living in poverty and hardship, Mr. Chairman.
In Quebec, we have a saying: misery breeds misery, and it's true. Even if we treat young offenders and invest in them, they won't become responsible overnight. However by making them understand and assume responsibility for their actions, we are gradually making them more responsible. That is another thing we have to keep in mind when we look at the Quebec model.
Teenagers have rights as well as obligations. That is why I smile when I read the Minister's letter dated April 25 last in which she says that with Bill C-3, young people would be better protected and have increased right to counsel. We know that teenagers have rights. We know that there is a Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as well as a Quebec Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provide that young people have the same rights as adults, including the right to counsel. We don't need the federal Justice Minister to tell us that teenagers have rights, we already know that. The authors of the Jasmin report examined the rights of young people according to various elements which must not be overlooked. That also is easily forgotten and explains statements such as the one the Justice Minister made. Whether it is during the police investigation, in court or for the purposes of prevention and other social measures, youths have rights and we know that. We must keep that in mind in order to do a proper assessment.
There is one thing that cannot be overemphasized and that was analyzed in depth by those who studied and reported on the problems of young offenders in Quebec. That's the needs of young people. Mr. Chairman, it is so important that, if I may, I will read you an excerpt of the Jasmin report entitled Les jeunes contrevenants, Au nom... et au-delà de la loi, chapter 1.6, on page 22.
An adolescent is a person in the process of being raised and
educated and who has special needs that set him apart from adults.
Among those special needs, educational needs are the most
important. Those who are involved with young offenders must be
aware of the importance of their educational role and base their
work and professional conduct on it.
The seriousness of the offence leads to various options; the choice
must be made according to the needs of the youth. The needs of the
adolescent may warrant the handing down of a sentence lighter than
the one that could be justified by the offence, if that sentence
were to have consequences that would be incompatible with the
This approach in terms of the needs of teenagers is not new, Mr. Chairman. What we find in this chapter of the Jasmin report on the needs of young people can also be found, although worded differently, in section 3 of the Declaration of Principle in the Young Offender's Act. That's not new. It is just being put in it's true context and in the perspective of our study. Let's go back to 1995, Mr. Chairman, when the report was being drafted.
Questions were asked about the needs of youths...
The Chair: Mr. Bellehumeur, respectfully, the clock has reached 12:30. I anticipated that you were going to break into some new ground and I didn't want to interrupt it later, so perhaps this is a good time for us to adjourn.
We will reconvene in this same room at 3:30.