Mr. Pierre de Savoye (Portneuf, BQ)
Mr. Speaker, this is not the first time that I rise in the House to speak to this bill on young offenders. I have done so at the various stages. I find myself here again today, at the report stage, repeating things that have been said many times, but the government seems too stubborn to understand them.
The bill before us does not deal with a new federal or provincial issue. An act dealing with young offenders has been in effect for many years. That act even went through a number of amendments a few years ago, and these amendments have resulted in a number of improvements to the current act.
Therefore that act, which has been in force for many years, has had tangible results on youth crime reduction. Indeed, since 1991, for the last nine years, the rate of youth crime throughout Canada went down 23%. This is an excellent result. The federal budget has greatly increased, which is not a good result. But youth crime in Canada has been reduced by 23% in nine years.
The legislation that is currently in force is giving good results. In English, there is a saying that goes like this: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Indeed, we have an act that is effective, and what is the federal government getting ready to do? It wants to scrap it. It wants to replace it with a piece of legislation about which everyone in Quebec says “It is not going to work. It will not give results. It will make things worse”.
The proposed legislation is based on some very wrong assumptions. They are assuming that, if an act imposes heavy sanctions on reprehensible behaviour, those liable to commit such acts will think twice before doing so. Between you and me, Mr. Speaker, who among us in this chamber of members of parliament and legislators, outside of those with a legal background, can say what the sentence is for going out and breaking a car windshield? I do not. I am not even interested in knowing. Most of the people of Canada and of Quebec probably do not know, nor do they want to. I have no desire to break a car windshield, but not because I am afraid of the law. I am a peace-loving person, able to settle life's problems by normal means.
A child, a teenager will be no more aware of the law than I. The fact that we are going to make speeches here in this place and that the government is going to toughen up certain measures is not going to scare him or her out of the idea of doing something wrong. Most children are normal and will not do such a thing.
For a variety of reasons, some children have behavioural problems and are going to commit some act that they will come to regret. Legislation is not going to make them stop and think, when they do something wrong on an impulse.
I was going to make a comparison, a rather poor one, but one that comes to mind. This approach is akin to sweeping dust under the rug. The child, the adolescent, commits some reprehensible act and, rather than help him with rehabilitation, we send him to prison and put him away, “Go on, dirt under the rug”. Yes but, let us stop and give that some thought. One day, this young person will return to society. Do you think he will be a better citizen for having been shoved under the rug for a time? Absolutely not.
If we the public are to enjoy quality of life, we must give our children appropriate care. The existing law provides for this. The one being proposed would not permit it any more.
In Quebec, we do more in rehabilitation even. Our program in Quebec is further ahead than that of anywhere else in North America. In Quebec, the juvenile crime rate is the lowest in North America. The process of rehabilitation is the best in North America. The rate of recidivism is the lowest in North America.
The recipe works. The moral is, since we have a recipe that works, the federal government says “Dump it. Let us make sure we have a recipe that will not work”. This is what we have before us. It is not just the member for Portneuf or the members of the Bloc Quebecois saying this. This is what associations, organizations and intermediate bodies are saying throughout Quebec and Canada.
In Quebec there is a consensus. The Quebec bar has criticized this bill. In the national assembly, all the parties together, unanimously, have criticized it.
Here, the Bloc Quebecois, through its actions in parliament, speaks on behalf of everyone in Quebec when it says “This bill must not be passed as it stands”.
If the people in the rest of Canada want to treat their children this way, I find it unfortunate, but that is their business. For the love of heaven, do not impose that approach on the people of Quebec. For the love of heaven, do not force Quebec into this unsuitable mould you are going to impose on your families and your children.
What we are asking is very simple. We want Quebec treated in a manner worthy of its values, its experience and its children.
All we ask is to have added to the bill a little clause to the effect that “This law does not apply to Quebec. The existing law will continue to apply”, so that our successful results will continue to be a fact of life for Quebecers.
If Canada wants to go through with that unfortunate measure, so be it. Perhaps in a few years, when it sees this 23% reduction go the other way, it will realize it made a mistake, but we do not want to pay for the stupid mistake that is being made.
If I were Mr. Bouchard, I would hold a referendum on behalf of children and I would say “We do not want to stay in a Canada that will force us to treat our children in an such a shameful manner. Let us get out of this country”.
If the bill is passed in its present form, it will be yet another reason, and a good one, to hold a referendum to achieve Quebec's independence, so that we can live in accordance with our own values, so that we can treat our children properly, something which the rest of Canada does not seem to be able to do.
It would be so simple for the rest of Canada to go its way and to let us go ours. We do not want to impose our views on anyone and we do not want anyone to impose their views on us, particularly when it comes to our children.
My time is up. I hope the government will hear this call and will exempt Quebec from the provisions of this bill.
Topic: Government Orders
Subtopic: Youth Criminal Justice Act