Bill C-22 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Divorce Act, the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act, the Garnishment, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act and the Judges Act and to amend other Acts in consequence
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.
Martin Cauchon Liberal
Second Reading and Referral to Committee
(This bill did not become law.)
November 6th, 2003 / 11:05 a.m.
Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I have the honour to present a petition from constituents in my riding. They call upon Parliament to reject Bill C-22, to consider parental rights along with parental responsibilities and begin with the presumption of mandatory equal parenting in the event of a divorce.
Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
October 21st, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Madam Speaker, I often meet with Canadian and Quebec women's groups. I heard a comment this week and I would like to hear what the member for Lotbinière—L'Érable thinks about it.
First, people told me that if the House adjourns because of an election and if we in fact move up the implementation of the new electoral map, that will mean that what they have said to their members before the election will get lost. To them, this means that it will take almost a year before they can get an answer or a solution to their problems.
Somebody else asked me: “What do we do about Bill C-22 to amend the Divorce Act? What do we do about Bill C-25 on labour relations in the public service? What do we do about victims of harassment? What do we do about same sex marriage? What will happen with all these bills that people are waiting for? What will happen with poverty and social housing?”
That is what the women's groups were asking and it is also what I am asking my colleague.
Oral Question Period
September 22nd, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, in February, the Secretary of State for the Status of Women promised to conduct an analysis to determine whether the changes to the Divorce Act in Bill C-22 would have a different impact on men than on women.
The Secretary of State for the Status of Women made this promise eight months ago. We want to know today whether this gender equality analysis has been concluded and when it will be referred to the committee that is studying this issue.
Lobbyists Registration Act
June 5th, 2003 / 3:05 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-15, an act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act.
We have dealt with the bill before in this place. It has been to the Senate and is back with an amendment. The amendment makes a slight improvement to the bill, but in our humble estimation, it does not go the distance required to ensure that we have before us a piece of legislation that does the task at hand and has provisions for the utmost transparency and the highest of ethical standards. Let us remember where the bill came from, why it is before us and what it was intended to do.
Members of the House will recall that back in the spring of 2001 the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology held hearings on this matter and heard evidence from a wide variety of sources. The committee made recommendations to the House for the development of appropriate legislation in its report entitled “Transparency in the Information Age: The Lobbyists Registration Act in the 21st Century”.
The question for us today is, does Bill C-15 actually do what the process intended to accomplish? Does it take us down the path of legislation that ensures absolute transparency in the work and dealings of lobbyists vis-à-vis government? Have we set the highest ethical standards in terms of this very important aspect of government? We all know how cynical people have become. Our constituents are suspicious of government because of their perception of undue influence by corporate entities, by big money interests, in our society today over the legislation and programming established by government.
This is a very important issue in terms of democracy and in terms of restoring faith in the democratic process. It is very important in terms of assuring the general population that we operate on the basis of the highest standards. I am afraid we cannot say that has been accomplished under the bill as amended by the Senate.
Certainly the bill accomplishes a number of important objectives. Bill C-15 proposes to close some loopholes in the lobbyist regulatory system under the federal Lobbyists Registration Act. Specifically the bill requires that lobbyists who are invited to lobby government will now be required to register. The bill also states that the registration requirements for in-house corporate lobbyists will require more detailed listings of employees who are lobbying. That is very good. The bill also states that because of an amendment made by the House of Commons, a lobbyist for a corporation or organization who had been a public servant, politician or other public officer holder, will have to disclose the past offices the lobbyist held.
Some important changes have been made. Certainly some are on the right path. We are going in the right direction. We are in the process of moving toward greater transparency and higher ethical standards in the whole area of government, but are we there yet?
By all accounts by those who observe this process very carefully and by those who are concerned about the future of democracy in Canada, we are not there yet. We missed the mark. The bill is not perfect and it should be perfect because, goodness knows, we are dealing with a fundamental aspect of parliamentary process and democratic faith in our system.
Let us be clear. Some very key loopholes still remain in Bill C-15. Those loopholes allow many lobbyists to escape registration, to hide key details about the extent and nature of lobbying activities. They allow lobbyists to have inside access and undue influence and weaken enforcement of the Lobbyists Registration Act and the lobbyists code of conduct.
These are significant loopholes and must be closed. Our caucus, all members of the NDP in the House have been saying that time and again. Our critic, the member for Windsor West, has been very diligent and persistent about ensuring that the bill is amended to reflect those very concerns.
Our member for Windsor West told the House time and again that the act fails to address the issue of compulsory disclosure. He has said, and we agree with him, that the act should include a requirement that anyone covered by a federal code of conduct, including ministers, political appointees, civil servants and lobbyists, disclose any wrongdoing of which they have knowledge. It is very important to point out that it has not been addressed by the government.
There is another matter on which the member for Windsor West and also the member for Winnipeg Centre have been very outspoken. It has to do with the matter of whistle-blower protection. The member for Winnipeg Centre has had legislation before the House. He has tried to convince this place of the need to have such provisions entrenched in law so that we have a way to give protection to those in our civil service who know of wrongdoing, who want to report that wrongdoing, but fear for their jobs and repercussions in their working lives.
The member for Winnipeg Centre, reinforced by the member for Windsor West and others, has said very clearly that there must be whistle-blower protection in the legislation. Of course it needs to be in this legislation. We are talking about lobbying. We are talking about those who can exert undue influence on government. We are talking about loyal members of our civil service who observe, know and learn about wrongdoing and who want to report that wrongdoing for the public good, to serve the public interest.
What is holding the government back from ensuring whistle-blower protection in the legislation? As my colleague for Windsor—St. Clair has said, what are they afraid of? What are the Liberals afraid of? Why is this absolute bottom-line requirement, this fundamental position for whistle-blower protection, not in Bill C-15?
Is it because the government is afraid of the results, the outcome of the possibilities that their civil servants, those who work in the departments, know too much, see too much and can do too much damage to the politicians in this place, to members and ministers in the government? Is that a possibility? Perhaps it is because when we get down to it and analyze what has been happening lately with the government and the whole area of public policy decision making, there seems to be an awful lot of undue influence by corporate and monied interests in our society today over the direction of the government's legislative initiatives and over serious propositions that would serve the public good.
I have seen it time and time again in the last little while that I have been here in this place, particularly during the time when I was serving as the health critic and had a chance to observe what happened to important policies and initiatives in Health Canada and how the Minister of Health refused to act on important initiatives. I want to provide a few examples because they are very important to this debate.
I want to begin with an area that should touch the hearts of every member in this place and comes very close to home, and that is the matter dealing with fetal alcohol syndrome. I say it touches this place because members in the House voted on a motion that I presented and almost all members supported it. The motion said that Health Canada and the Government of Canada should require labels on all alcohol beverage containers to warn women not to drink while pregnant because of the danger of causing fetal alcohol syndrome or fetal alcohol effects.
It was an important initiative and I was so delighted to receive the support of members from all political parties and to see the work that was begun by the member for Mississauga South who worked so long and hard on the issue of fetal alcohol syndrome was paying off, that we were making headway in this place and making good public policy.
That was two years ago when the House passed this motion almost unanimously. We expected, perhaps naively, that motion would form the basis for government action. Perhaps it would not be overnight. Perhaps it would take a few weeks, a few months, maybe even a year, but who would have dreamed that it would take a whole two years with still no government response or action? How could this happen? What could come in the way of a very progressive initiative that makes the difference in terms of our battle against fetal alcohol syndrome?
No one in this place, certainly not me or anyone in my caucus, left the impression that this measure was the be all and the end all in terms of fetal alcohol syndrome, but that it was one small step, one measure as part of a bigger package, to help us deal with a very serious problem, a problem that costs our society dearly in terms of financial expenses and personal consequences. It costs millions of dollars over the life of every individual suffering from fetal alcohol syndrome for all society. It costs us dearly in human terms and in financial terms, so every bit we can do makes a difference.
The proposal is to have labels on alcohol beverage containers, which, as we know, is done in the United States. It is required for Canadian beer brewers, wine producers and alcohol producers to put those labels warning of fetal alcohol syndrome on bottles we export to the United States, so it would not take too much to do it here in Canada. Yet the government has refused. The Minister of Health has said that she must study the matter before she can decide, even though this matter has been studied to death over the years. The evidence is in and it is clear that, as a measure which is part of a whole package of initiatives focusing on fetal alcohol syndrome, it is important and it matters.
The question for us today in the context of Bill C-15 is, what undue influence happened over the government and the Minister of Health to cause this important initiative to be put on hold and shelved? I think we can say with some certainty that there was influence from the alcohol industry on the government. There was pressure from the beer companies on that minister. How else can one explain something this important being put on the sidelines? I think there is lots of evidence to suggest that.
The member for Mississauga South a number of years ago worked hard to have this matter dealt with before the health committee, and he proposed Bill C-22.
In a book he produced after that period in our parliamentary history entitled Fetal Alcohol Syndrome: The Real Brain Drain , he said:
There is no doubt that the alcohol industry killed the bill. They reportedly spent over $100,000 on lobby efforts... The Brewers Association announced that if the bill went through, they would withdraw their $10 million annual contribution to prevention programs that they jointly funded with Health Canada.
That sounds like blackmail to me.
May 27th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Chair, dear colleagues, this is the second time that I have the opportunity to present the estimates for the Department of Justice. I must say that I still find this quite an interesting exercise. Every time, colleagues and members of Parliament have had some constructive input to offer.
I am pleased to present the spending estimates of the Department of Justice Canada to the House.
As I just said, this is the second time I appear before you to deal with the estimates. I would like to take this opportunity to highlight our current priorities and to discuss the latest achievements of the Department of Justice. I would also like to go over some of the challenges we are facing.
First, as we have seen today, one of the priorities of my department is the reform of the cannabis legislation, which I have tabled as the cannabis reform bill.
I want to be clear from the beginning that we are not legalizing marijuana and I have no plans to do so. Marijuana remains a controlled substance and offenders will continue to be punished by law.
What we are changing is the way we prosecute certain offences of possession through the use of alternative penalties.
The bill I introduced earlier today amends the legal provisions with respect to the possession of small amounts of marihuana, which will become a ticketing offence instead of leading to criminal prosecutions.
While introducing these new legal provisions, the Government of Canada will continue to proactively implement its renewed drug strategy to discourage young people from using drugs and to go after traffickers in order to reduce both the demand and supply for illegal drugs.
Through the renewed Canada's Drug Strategy, we will review the legislation to take into consideration the modern viewpoints of Canadians. The strategy seeks to ensure that the provisions concerning possession offences are more consistently enforced and that the penalties fit the seriousness of the crime.
In order to promote health, the use of marihuana must be discouraged and cannabis possession will remain illegal in Canada. However, the new measures reflect the opinion of the majority of Canadians who no longer accept the permanent stigma of a criminal record or a prison sentence that the people found guilty of possessing small amounts of cannabis have to bear.
The debate over modernizing our marijuana laws has been on and off the public agenda for three decades now. The time has come to act. We need strong, enforceable laws that make sense for Canadians and make sense internationally, laws that will send a strong message to our young people, a message saying that marijuana is harmful and will remain illegal.
This reform will address the current lack of consistency in the enforcement of cannabis possession offences across the country and ensure that enforcement resources are focused on where they are most needed by allowing police to enforce the law, but without the complications of going before the courts for minor offences.
The decision to reform the law was not taken lightly. It came as the result of an enormous amount of research, consultation and debate. Cannabis consumption is a complex issue and is first and foremost a health matter. However, one thing is clear, the time has come for us to reform our laws in this area.
The House of Commons Special Committee on the Non-Medical Use of Drugs recommended that cannabis be decriminalized. The Senate special committee on illegal drugs recommended that the production and sale of cannabis be legalized.
Recent polling indicates that a majority of Canadians believe that convictions for possession of small amounts of cannabis for personal use should not result in criminal penalties.
Again I want to be clear that the government has no plans to legalize the possession of this drug but clearly the current laws do not serve the public good.
However, the commercial growing of marijuana is no doubt a serious indictable offence that has serious and negative consequences on society. Commercial growers generate huge profits for criminal organizations and other stakeholders in this trade.
These growers are everywhere in cities and in houses rented in the suburbs, among other places, and often the owners are not aware of these illegal activities.
Marijuana growers resort to water and electricity meter jumping, which means they rob public utilities and pose a serious threat of fire.
Several law enforcement agencies have found very sophisticated traps designed to endanger the lives of competitors, police officers and firefighters. We must obviously protect the lives of women and men who represent our first line of defence.
I believe that Bill C-32, an act to amend the Criminal Code, which was recently referred to the Standing Committee on Justice, will effectively serve as a deterrent. Indeed, it would amend section 247 of the Criminal Code regarding the placing of traps that are likely to cause death. The amendment would provide that, if a trap is used for the purpose of committing another indictable offence, the term of imprisonment would go from five to ten years.
If bodily harm is caused to a person, the term of imprisonment would be 14 years and, if the person dies, the maximum penalty would be life imprisonment, whether the place was used for the purpose of committing an indictable offence or not.
Bill C-32 would also ensure that our laws keep pace with the rapid evolution of the Internet. The amendments in the bill would allow citizens and businesses to take reasonable steps to protect their computer systems and the valuable information that they contain against computer hackers and sly electronic communications that might contain viruses.
The amendments to the Divorce Act contained in Bill C-22 address a top priority of Canadians, ensuring that the best interests of the child remain paramount in decisions made following their parent's divorce or separation. I understand that the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights expects to resume hearings on C-22 shortly.
Canadians have already stated clearly that changes to the law are not enough. Improvements must also be made to services, such as mediation and education. Canadians have also demanded a simpler, more efficient court system to accommodate the needs of parents and families struggling with separation and divorce.
In December we responded by proposing the child centre family justice strategy. Together with the provinces, territories and non-government organizations, we have embarked on an ambitious and multi-faceted program of change that includes increased funding for family justice services, expansion of successful initiatives, such as unified family courts, and legislative amendments, such as Bill C-22.
The Department of Justice will make substantial investments in this strategy. In December I announced $163 million over five years to modernize the family justice system in Canada.
Now, another very important issue raised by Bill C-20.
This bill deals with the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. Protecting children is obviously a high priority for Canadians, and the government is listening to them.
Bill C-20, which was introduced recently, provides better protection for children against all forms of exploitation. It reflects the broad consultations and close cooperation with the provinces, the territories, non-governmental organizations and the general public.
The proposed reforms are designed to give children better protection against all forms of exploitation, including sexual abuse and child pornography, and to meet the needs of children and other vulnerable persons, such as victims and witnesses in the criminal justice system, more effectively.
Canada's criminal laws against sexual abuse of children, including child pornography, are among the strictest in the world. Bill C-20 will go even further in strengthening our prohibitions with regard to child pornography. It also proposes creating a new category of prohibited sexual exploitation for those who are between 14 and 18, which will require the courts to examine the nature and the circumstances of the relationship, including the age difference.
Another purpose of Bill C-20 is to make it easier for young victims and witnesses to testify. It proposes to strengthen their ability to provide a clear, complete and accurate description of the events while ensuring that the rights of the accused will be protected and respected.
Another topic that I would like to talk about concerns the protection of Canada's capital markets. I believe that improving the fairness of our system extends well beyond matters of liability and into our capital market. Recent scandals involving corporate malfeasance in the United States have spurred officials in my department to review Canadian laws. I hope to table a bill on this matter in the very near future.
My department will be investing resources and playing a significant role in the integrated enforcement teams that will be investigating and prosecuting the most serious corporate frauds and market illegalities. Justice officials will partner with their peers in finance, industry and the office of the Solicitor General in this coordinated approach.
The other important topic I would like to talk about now is the criminal liability of corporations. Improving fairness in our justice system is indeed an ongoing priority.
The Department of Justice has been working very hard to draft new legislative provisions on corporate criminal liability taking into account the recommendations made by the many commissions and studies on the Westray mine disaster. A series of amendments to the Criminal Code would make business executives more responsible for the safety of their employees.
Another important topic I would like to raise here is access to justice; as we have said, this has been an ongoing priority of my department, which wants to ensure that Canadians, no matter where they live, can use the official language of their choice in all their dealings with federal legislation. This is the whole issue of official languages.
We have made great strides in that respect, working closely with our governmental and non-governmental partners in the provinces and territories, and I am confident we can still improve access to justice in both official languages.
Under the government's action plan on official languages, my department will invest $27 million over the next five years to meet its obligations under the Legislative Instruments Re-enactment Act and the Federal Court's decision on the Contraventions Act.
Another $18.5 million will also be invested in a fund in support of access to justice in both official languages. Together, these initiatives represent a $45.5 million investment in the area of access to justice in both official languages.
Legal aid is another significant component of the access to justice. The government is strongly committed to ensuring that economically disadvantaged Canadians have equitable access to criminal legal aid. I am pleased to report significant progress on initiating criminal legal aid renewal.
The recent federal budget announced increases to the criminal legal aid base fund and committed additional funds for innovative programs developed and implemented by the provinces and territories. Federal funding for criminal legal aid will increase by $89 million in the new criminal legal aid agreement. Of this amount, $83 million will go directly to the provinces and territories.
Over the next three years the government will invest $379.2 million in legal aid. These funds will help ensure that economically disadvantaged Canadians have access to justice.
Now let me deal with another important topic, crime prevention. To work effectively, our justice system must be relevant to all Canadians. It must be directly connected to and be an integral and familiar part of every community.
I am convinced that a relevant system must help citizens recommend, develop and implement effective solutions to community problems. Even though such solutions may go beyond the regular limits of case law, often they are powerful engines of social change.
The national crime prevention strategy has proven to be especially successful at improving the relevance of Canada's justice system. This strategy involves providing financial support for innovative local projects that reduce crime and victimization, and target issues of local concern.
For example, in Surrey, British Columbia, a literacy project would enable disadvantaged Canadians to acquire new skills and jobs. In Fort McPherson, a summer camp program would help instill a new sense of pride in young people at risk. In Ontario, a partnership project with the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police would help combat auto theft by educating youth about the negative consequences of that act.
These projects are just a few current examples of our collaborative approach to crime prevention, an approach that has succeeded in enlisting an increasing number of Canadians in the fight against crime. These projects also establish vital links between Canadians and their system of justice. I am pleased to say that over the next three years the national crime prevention strategy will invest $225 million to make our communities safer.
In conclusion, while I am pleased with the accomplishments of my department, I recognize that much work remains to be done to create a system that is fair, accessible and relevant to all. We must broaden our collaboration with the provinces, territories, and with individual Canadians to improve our justice system, prevent crime, and reduce the effect of victimization.
Statements By Members
April 8th, 2003 / 2 p.m.
Bob Mills Red Deer, AB
Madam Speaker, Lisa Dillman's worst fear came true last week when her lawyer said her ex-husband, John Schneeberger, was re-applying to force his two daughters to visit him in prison. This felon was convicted of drugging and raping two females, one of them his 13 year old stepdaughter, and obstructing justice for seven years by inserting another man's blood vial in his arm in order to thwart DNA tests.
I was there two years ago when Schneeberger forced Lisa and her daughters to visit him at the Bowden Institution. I will never forget the terror and horror I saw in those little girls' eyes. An RCMP officer on duty said to me with tears in his eyes, “I have kids at home. I can't believe our justice system is torturing two little girls like this”.
Yesterday, the minister said that Bill C-22 would prevent this. That is just not the case. I plead with the minister to make the necessary amendments now.
Oral Question Period
April 7th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should read Bill C-22, the amendments to the Divorce Act. Essentially the starting point of that bill is the question of the best interests of the children. Taking into consideration the best interests of the child, we list for the very first time some criteria that a judge will have to use in order to come to that conclusion. With regard to the Lisa's law case he just referred to, he should look at the bill as well. In the amended bill, we deal with that situation.
Sex Offender Information Registration Act
March 31st, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-23, the sex offender information registration act, and I am pleased to follow the discussion and presentation by the spokesperson for the Bloc.
As the Bloc Quebecois member has said, it is clear that we are going to support this bill in general, but with some reservations. We are going to ask the parliamentary committee to look at certain things in connection with this very important bill.
We, like the Bloc Quebecois, want to see a balance struck between protection of our children and protection of our rights. This will always be our goal, and time must be taken to hear witnesses when this very important matter is being considered.
As I tried to say in French, members of the New Democratic Party, like the spokesperson for the Bloc, wish to offer our general support for the bill and indicate that we believe it is a very important initiative. At the same time, as is our wont on all cases pertaining to constitutional matters and legal provisions, we seek to ensure that the rights and liberties of individuals are protected and upheld and that nothing we do by way of legislation in the House takes away those hard fought freedoms.
It is clear that we are dealing with a long overdue piece of legislation. This matter of a sex offenders registry has been before Parliament and in public policy circles for many months. In fact, I think back to a couple of years ago when this place dealt with this subject by way of a motion from Alliance members, I believe. It was subsequently pursued by provincial ministers of justice on a regular basis.
In fact, I think if it were not for the constant push by ministers of justice at the provincial level the bill in fact would not be here today. It is clearly a culmination of a long process and an outcry from Canadians right across this land for action to deal with a most serious and critical matter in our society today.
No one in this place can ignore the agony that families go through when a child or a loved one is raped or sexually assaulted. No one can ignore the fact that in our society there are pedophiles who are at large and will continue to offend and reoffend if serious actions are not taken.
Bill C-23 is certainly one step in the right direction. It is important because it will help police services investigate crimes of a sexual nature by requiring the registration of certain information relating to sex offenders. It is a tool and a provision that will allow the police to keep track of the whereabouts of those who have offended in terms of rape or sexual assault against children or any vulnerable member in our society. That is very important, because one does not have to follow this issue too far to know the extent to which our children and women in our society today are at risk of sexual assault and exploitation.
The primary objective with the legislation is to ensure the effective protection of Canadians. In this case in terms of Bill C-23, we are concerned about the potential victims of sexual crimes, primarily women and children, who are especially vulnerable.
I will first talk about violence against women. This is a matter that the House must continually come to grips with and I think that through this bill we have such an opportunity. I think we all agree that Canadian women have a right to live without the threat of violence, yet we know that for many women it is a reality. One study shows that 42% of women, and that is in comparison to 10% of men, feel totally unsafe walking in their own neighbourhoods at night. Nearly as many, 37%, are worried about being home alone at night.
We know that much of the violence against women manifests itself through sex related violence. We know that, and we have to continually be vigilant in finding ways to reduce the incidence of sexual violence against women, because we are tired of building monuments to victims.
Let me also talk briefly about sexual violence against children. Understandably, there is a feeling of sickness and rage every time we enter another search for another child's body. This bill actually will help us to channel those justifiable feelings to the positive objective of improving prevention.
There are a few other facts. It is estimated that only 10% of sexual assaults on women are reported to police. In Canada this means that more than half a million assaults occur each year. Another fact: Every minute of every day in Canada a woman or child is being sexually assaulted. Let us not forget in this debate, as in other debates we are having, particularly on Bill C-22, the divorce act, that 98% of sex offenders are men and that 82% of victims surviving reported assaults are women.
Tragically, recent well-publicized incidents confirm the fact that those most often committing assaults are in positions of trust. They are fathers, other relatives, religious officials, doctors, teachers, employers, friends and dates.
There are more facts to be put on the record. There are more examples of the kind of emotional upheaval that families go through when a child, a woman or a vulnerable person experiences sexual assault, but perhaps that is enough for now to highlight the importance of the bill and why we are in general support of Bill C-23.
There are some problems with the bill. We heard the member from the Bloc speak about some of those issues that we have to grapple with. Some of the provincial governments have raised other concerns with the bill. The concerns before us fill the whole spectrum. They range from those who believe the bill is not tough enough to those who believe the bill may infringe on civil liberties, and that is something we must sort out in the next stages of the bill, particularly when it is sent to the standing committee and witnesses are heard and testimony is received. I would suggest that we take seriously all those concerns.
I want to put on the table some of the concerns raised by the provincial minister of justice of the Government of Manitoba, the Hon. Gord Mackintosh, who in fact was central to the push that led to the bill before the House today. It was Gordon Mackintosh, back in September 2001, who actually presented a motion to the federal-provincial-territorial ministers of justice meeting calling on the government to establish, together with the provinces and territories, a national registry for sexual offenders.
He introduced that motion with the support of many provinces to try to force the Government of Canada to listen and to act. Fortunately today we are in a position where the federal government has listened, has acted and has brought before us a bill that is consistent with the wishes of the provincial and territorial ministers of justice as well as the wishes of many Canadians who are very worried about ensuring that the incidence of child sexual assault and rape of women and children is dealt with on a consistent and effective basis.
The minister from Manitoba, Gordon Mackintosh, has raised some outstanding matters that need to be pursued by the House and by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. He raised the issue of retroactivity. That is a matter that has been before us throughout the debate. It is a matter of concern. The position of the Manitoba government is that it makes sense to look at a provision that deals not just with those who offend once this bill is proclaimed, but also gives some consideration to the fact that it ought to apply to those who are now serving sentences for sexual offences.
I think we ought to give that some thought. Our caucus has remained open to the question. I know that there are strong views on both sides and I think we need to really grapple with this whole issue of retroactivity and whether or not we are doing a disservice to Canadians at risk by not applying this provision retroactively to some extent.
The Manitoba government has raised the issue of photographs and whether or not the bill will in fact allow for the use of photos. There was some understanding that in fact the federal government has acknowledged that photographs are important and will be introduced at some time in the future. However, there appears to be no mention of the question of photographs in the legislation before us. I think we ought to deal with that issue here and now; otherwise it is clear that the legislation will have to be reopened and that we will have to deal with this issue all over again once the federal government decides to live up to its commitment to the provinces to include the matter of the use of photographs.
A third issue raised by the provincial governments that I think has to be taken seriously as we pursue this bill is the question of financial support for the new responsibilities that provincial governments will face once this bill is proclaimed. It is clear that there will be additional costs because, as we know from the proposals in the legislation, judges must in fact make written application to ensure that a person convicted of a sexual offence is added to the registry. That takes time.
We know that judges are now overburdened with existing demands and provisions. A new piece of legislation does require the government and all of us to look at the question of what resources are required and whether that is being considered as the bill goes through the various stages. It would be irresponsible on our part to pass legislation that in fact puts all kinds of financial requirements on the table and leaves it to the provinces to sort out. That would be irresponsible and unfair. I think it is important for us to now get commitments from the federal government as we pursue Bill C-23 about how it intends to support, fund and finance the new demands placed on our provincial judicial systems as a result of the implementation of Bill C-23.
I think it is clear that the House acknowledges the importance of having a registry that is mandatory and requires the documentation and identification of those who have offended sexually against children and other vulnerable members of our society. I think that there is this understanding. As a House, we are grappling with some of the intricacies of the bill and with how we can ensure that the balance is upheld between protection of the most vulnerable in our society and the adherence to our charter and our constitutional traditions. I think this is the mandate of the committee and I ask that we all take the process very seriously and ensure that the standing committee is given the time it needs to do this work.
For now let me say that my colleagues and I in the NDP support the broad thrust of the bill. We know that it is long overdue. We know there are some problems, but on the other hand we say thank goodness it is finally here and thank God we have such a proposal before us. Let us ensure that we do not lose sight of the objective at hand and that we do everything we can to make this a fine piece of legislation and a law that will actually work. Not only do we have to ensure that we track sexual offenders and ensure that if they reoffend they are picked up quickly, but through the bill we actually have to ensure that we find a way to prevent sexual assault of our children and vulnerable citizens. We have to do everything we can to make our communities safer and more secure for everyone among us.
Oral Question Period
March 25th, 2003 / 2:55 p.m.
Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for that very important question. Essentially he is talking about Bill C-22, the Divorce Act, which has passed second reading in the House.
We put in place a brand new philosophy. We want to ensure that the system is less adversarial. We will change the notion of custody and access moving toward what we call parental responsibility. We want to ensure that we will be using more mediation.
February 25th, 2003 / 6:55 p.m.
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at the second reading stage of Bill C-22.