Liberal MP wants report on youth crime act meetings
By Laura Stone, Postmedia News
OTTAWA — A Liberal MP and member of the federal justice committee says the Harper government is taking too much time to release valuable information about proposed changes to the Youth Criminal Justice Act.
Brian Murphy, the representative for Moncton-Riverview-Dieppe in New Brunswick, says the justice committee has yet to see any documentation of some 13 "roundtable" meetings between Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and experts from across the country which were held in 2008, prior to the introduction last March of a new government bill to change the act.
That means several of Bill C-4's "huge amendments" to the act — such as giving judges discretion to name young offenders and changing the rules for pre-trial detention — have not been accounted for in the public record, said Murphy.
"I don't have a clue who the minister met with in 13 meetings on the topic of YCJA — and I'm a member of the justice committee," said Murphy. "There's something wrong with that."
Murphy said he hopes a motion passed by all party members of the committee before the summer break, which asks the minister to present a report based on his roundtable meetings before the committee examines the bill clause by clause, will force the minister to produce a timely record of his discussions.
"I left it very vague . . . I'm saying Minister of Justice, give us something," said Murphy.
"Wouldn't you, if you were deciding on where the bill should go — in addition to calling your own witnesses — want to know what the minister learned on his publicly funded roundtable tour?"
A spokeswoman for Nicholson said the government "will follow parliamentary procedure and respond in due course" to Murphy's motion. She did not say if a report would be released to the committee, or when. The justice committee has not been scheduled to meet since the House resumed.
The Conservative government originally introduced a bill in November 2007, which made slight amendments to the act. After prorogation, the minister crafted another bill with several additional changes, which went to first reading last March, Murphy said.
Youth and child advocates from across Canada, some of whom met with the minister during the 2008 meetings, also have asked for a report. They say the bill would make "regressive" changes to the law and are campaigning against it.
Nicholson has said the changes will only affect violent and repeat offenders and will have nothing to do with rehabilitation.
Some amendments proposed in the bill, such as prohibiting the imprisonment of youth in adult correctional facilities, have been widely praised by committee witnesses.