Bill C-16 (Historical)
Sex Offender Information Registration Act
An Act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
Anne McLellan Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
International Transfer of Offenders Act
April 26th, 2004 / 12:55 p.m.
Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I wish to participate in the debate today because it deals with an issue of concern to some of my constituents, thankfully, a small portion of them. I am pleased today to participate in the third reading debate of the government's initiative to update the Transfer of Offenders Act. It has been quite some time since it has been updated.
The parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights gave detailed consideration of the measures, and has returned Bill C-15 to the House for final consideration. I see nothing in the legislation that might delay its passage.
Before proceeding to the specifics of amending the Transfer of Offenders Act, I believe members of the House would indulge me for a brief reflection on the progress of the bill since its introduction.
It is gratifying to see and observe the spirit of cooperation that has brought us to third reading of Bill C-15. I am aware that some hon. colleagues opposite do not feel the same strength about humane treatment where offenders are concerned, but I think the vast majority in the House agree that this is not only right but necessary. However, the broad support of most of my colleagues in this place reflects several factors in relationship to the proposals contained in this legislation. First, there is recognition that the legislation is necessary. Second, the confidence of hon. members in the proposals put forward by the legislation is a fair indicator of the thoroughness of the consultative process that preceded the introduction of Bill C-15.
There is no doubt that all parties, with a stake in this area of criminal justice, were carefully canvassed. The bill reflects a broad range of inputs in numerous sensitive areas in such a way that the approbation of the House and the committee were forthcoming with neither delay nor, I am glad to say, rancorous debate.
I would like to thank the members and the chair of the standing committee for their timely review of the legislation and approval of the bill. This committee has had much business before it. It always has a busy schedule and all of that schedule is important.
There are those who would ask why we should concern ourselves with the circumstances in which offenders serve their sentences in lands foreign to them. I must point out that Canadians who offend abroad and those from foreign lands who are sentenced by Canadian courts are as worthy of humane treatment as are Canadian inmates punished in Canada.
We have laws, policies and practices applicable both at home and abroad that recognize that the deprivation of liberty should be the only penalty for an offence against society. Capital and corporal punishments are things of the past in most democratic countries and we, as Canadians, would support efforts to eliminate physically onerous penalties anywhere in the world.
Offenders come from communities and are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and our extended family. In Canada, almost one in ten citizens has some sort of criminal record. No right thinking individual would maintain that one in ten of his fellow citizens in Canada presents a continuing, serious threat to the community.
I have had parents come to my constituency office, trying to get a child back to Canada to complete a sentence that has been doled out in a foreign jurisdiction. It is a difficult situation, as my hon. colleague pointed out, not just for the offender but also for the extended family who are trying to support that member of their either immediate or extended family.
By the same token, it is not up to us to determine that a Canadian teenager convicted of drug abuse abroad, that might result in a fine in Canada, should serve a sentence of a number of years in an over-crowded jail with adults serving sentences for much more serious offences, and this does happen. Even if it were true that the offender apparently deserved the extent of the foreign sentence, is it up to us to decide that he or she should always serve time in an environment foreign to the individual in all ways, where nutrition, health care and attention to human rights may all be compromised in comparison to the Canadian correctional milieu?
I am not saying that our correctional milieu is without fault. There are some jurisdictions that have quite difficult positions, and I think I am being generous when I say that.
Do the families of our Canadians incarcerated abroad deserve to be deprived of their loved ones and kept in uncertainty as to their condition and whereabouts for the duration of their sentences? It is well known to practitioners in the areas of corrections and conditional release that offenders do far better upon release if they have the support within the community, both during and after their incarceration.
If we leave Canadians abroad for the full term of their sentences, we will welcome them back, untreated and not rehabilitated, as offenders to our own shores inside Canada. It is far better if they are returned to Canadian custody, to the support of their families and communities and eventually to supervised release. I think it is apparent to us that this latter course is a preferable course for our jurisdiction.
I agree that the community at large should be protected from the reoccurrence of criminal activities to the extent possible. The legislation before us contributes to that goal. It will provide the framework by which Canada can continue to treat its citizens humanely while ensuring that they are gradually and safely reintegrated into Canadian society. It is because of initiatives such as the one before us that Canada is a respected leader in criminal justice and corrections in the international community.
As pointed out by others in the House and in deference to those who promote “the law and order approach” above all others, it is recognized that the legislation contains principles that ensure that due deference is shown to the sentences handed down by any of the courts that may be involved. Each country receiving one of its nationals from a foreign correctional system is bound to respect foreign sentence as rendered to the extent that it is compatible with our own legislation. As with all other international agreements, any variance of this practice would soon lead to the disuse of the very mechanisms established by the bill before us.
Some hon. members opposite have asked if the bill is more concerned about offenders than victims. I heard that again this morning. As my colleagues have pointed out, we are considering a bill that is not only designed to implement transfer of offenders treaties, but also to assist in carrying out the correction principles and practices that are known to work.
Some hon. members find these measures unpalatable and that is most unfortunate. What is preferable? Transferring Canadian offenders back to Canada while under sentence so that they can be gradually reintegrated into our society under the supervision of correctional authorities or having a foreign state deport them at the end of sentence to arrive here without any controls? Our research has shown that the control on the offender is helpful to the safer reintegration into society.
I put that this option is by far the most sensible. Once offenders are transferred to Canada, correctional authorities carefully assess their needs and the risk to the public. Those who are eligible and can be safely managed in the community are released under supervision. Offenders, on the other hand, who pose a risk and cannot be managed in the community remain in incarcerated in Canada. This is not coddling offenders. It is realistic, it is appropriate and it is the responsible management of offenders in keeping with sound correctional principles and practices.
It does not make sense to incarcerate offenders beyond the point in the sentence that they can be safely reintegrated into society. In fact research indicates that the extension of imprisonment by itself does not contribute to public safety. Members opposite who favour penalties that would extend incarceration for reasons of deterrence should take heed.
Victims are not excluded from the process. An offender who wishes to leave Canada will have been convicted in open court and held at a penal institution. In both instances it is common for victims to make statements that will henceforth follow the offender as part of his or her record. A victim impact statement may influence sentencing or it may be germane to the administration of an offender's sentence in determining the security level of an offender's custody, for example. Those with an interest in the circumstances of how a foreign offender might be serving his or her sentence can make their view known for the record.
In the case of a Canadian offender wishing to leave a foreign penal system, local laws would prevail. Before the application is processed, we know that the foreign state has consented to the transfer. Presumably, if a mechanism exists for hearing victims' views, the state would factor that input into its decision.
There is nothing in Bill C-15 that would prevent victim participation at either end of the process. It seems to me that victim participation should be considered entirely relevant to the international transfer process, but by the time a transfer to or from Canada could be considered, victim input would have already been on the record. Therefore it is outside the process in this particular bill. I do not want to say that victims are not important in the system. That is not the case.
Although not directly related to the bill before us, it has come to my attention that an hon. member opposite has recently stated in the House that Bill C-16, the sex offender information registration act, does not have a retroactive application. Let me set the record straight. Bill C-16 is retroactive. It provides for inclusion in the federal registry all offenders previously convicted of a prescribed offence who were under sentence as of the date of coming into force of the legislation, as well as offenders registered under the provincial Ontario sex offender registry act. This is what all provinces and territories agreed to and that is what is provided for in Bill C-16. I just wanted to take a moment to clarify that.
In the case of the proposals we have before us today in Bill C-15, the government of the day, in recognizing the importance of implementing change in the area, and quite frankly for modernization since it has been since approximately 1978, proceeded to study options for reform and to present a government bill to the House. This bill proposes simple but comprehensive reform and results from a consensus of those with knowledge in the subject.
The justice committee was fully informed of the balancing of the various interests and alternatives considered before the objectives of the legislation crystallized. They were cognizant of the need to create an act and have acted accordingly. Bill C-15 in my opinion, and I hope in the opinion of many hon. members in the House, clearly promotes public safety by allowing offenders to resume productive lives in their home countries.
Therefore I do urge all hon. members of the House to help with the passage of this necessary and sensible legislation.
Oral Question Period
April 2nd, 2004 / 11:55 a.m.
Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased this morning to advise the House that Bill C-16 received royal assent last evening.
The bill provides for the creation of a national database of convicted sex offenders for use by police to investigate crimes of a sexual nature. The database registry has been unanimously supported by all provincial and territorial governments.
I want to thank all members who participated and cooperated in the House and in the other place, to ensure that the bill, which protects some of our most vulnerable members of our society, in fact has the protection that--
Oral Question Period
April 2nd, 2004 / 11:55 a.m.
Budget Implementation Act, 2004
The Royal Assent
April 1st, 2004 / 5:30 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
Order, please. I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:
April 1, 2004
I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 1st day of April, 2004, at 4:48 p.m.
JoAnn MacKenzie for Barbara Uteck
Secretary to the Governor General
The schedule indicates the bills assented to were Bill C-16, An Act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts--Chapter No. 10; and Bill S-15, an Act to amend the Act of incorporation of Queen's Theological College.
It being 5:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.
Message from the Senate
April 1st, 2004 / 4:35 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
Before resuming debate, I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed the following bill:
Bill C-16, An Act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
March 22nd, 2004 / 12:35 p.m.
Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform
Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to take part in this debate on a motion by the hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough
Before jumping into this debate, I want to congratulate his colleague, the member for Calgary Southwest and new leader of the Conservative Party, on his win yesterday. I wish him a happy honeymoon. His intellectual thoroughness will no doubt ensure quality debates in the House of Commons.
This motion is based on certain premises. Unfortunately, these premises have no basis. There is criticism about lack of change. However, those who say that are closing their eyes to what is going on here. Reference was made to a lack of new legislation. Such a conclusion could only be drawn by someone truly out of touch with what goes on in Parliament. Democratic reform was mentioned. The members opposite often talk about democratic reform, but it is increasingly apparent to me that these are hollow words for them, since they did not have the courage to do what we did in this area. I will show the House what I mean.
Our brand new government was sworn in barely three months ago. Almost immediately, we were confronted with the Auditor General's report. Faced with allegations like those from the people across the way, particularly following that report, no government has ever acted as promptly, or in such a determined and transparent way, to get to the bottom of the matter. Never.
It is not just the words. Let us look at concrete facts. For the first time, to my knowledge, in the history of our Parliament, cabinet documents have been revealed to a parliamentary committee so that it could get to the bottom of all this. That was a first. An investigation was conducted by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, which was convened earlier than planned. An independent inquiry was set up under Justice Gomery with absolutely extraordinary powers to get to the bottom of the matter. A special prosecutor has been appointed to recover any funds that might have been misused.
This set of measures is a perfect illustration of our approach to problems when they arise. It is a perfect illustration of the approach recommended by the Prime Minister to deal with the problems faced by our government.
The Conservatives are deploring, using rather dubious arguments at that, the lack of new bills, claiming that therefore nothing is getting done in Parliament. This is such a simplistic approach, to judge what is being done in Parliament by the number of bills before it, so simplistic that it is almost beyond comment.
It shows that they have grasped absolutely nothing about democratic reform. It also shows that they are not interested in what is done in committees. Committees are not necessarily involved only with bills. There are a number of other things they can do, and I will give some examples in a moment. Neither are they interested in the take note debates held in this House, which are so vital as a reflection of what the Canadian public thinks of the hot issues of the day. Does none of this count as parliamentary work?
To reduce parliamentary work to a mere list of bills is to mislead the public. Nevertheless, I shall offer in a moment proof that many new things have been introduced, including bills.
Since our government was sworn in, democratic reform has not only been a major issue in our debates in this House, it has also been the object of concrete actions taken unilaterally by this side of the House, after inviting opposition members to join us. To this day, I am still waiting for a reply to the invitation that I sent them to reform parliament to make it more receptive to the needs of Canadians. I am still waiting for a reply.
Now, I see that some very nice rhetoric is being used in electoral platforms, such as “We are supporting it”. What reform are they talking about? Are they talking about words or actions? About words coming from members opposite, or about actions taken by us?
Here is a concrete example of our efforts to implement a democratic reform. Members opposite know about this and, in fact, they agreed to it because they had no choice. Indeed, from a political point of view, it was neither proper nor feasible to reject this initiative.
The Supreme Court told us, in a ruling, that the criterion that we had been using, namely that to be recognized a political party must have 50 candidates, was unconstitutional. Some quick action was in order to correct the situation and act on this ruling.
We succeeded in doing two things regarding this issue, and this very simply. First, we tabled a new bill which, in the short term, will allow us to prevent the use of political parties for financing purposes. This is somewhat technical, but there is an important issue here. For the first time in our history, we have a definition of a political party. We did not have such a definition in our legislation before. Now we do.
Nevertheless, what I have done as well, as government House leader, at the instigation of the Prime Minister and our cabinet, of course, has been to say, let us go further. This is where democratic reform becomes important. Let us go further.
The consequences of this ruling are much broader than those covered in this bill. Is there a way to make the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs—a multi-party committee where all parties are represented—responsible for examining these consequences, producing and actually writing a draft bill, and not a draft bill written by the bureaucracy, however good it may be, or by a minister, however good he or she may be, but written by parliamentarians tackling a problem that affects all Canadians, that affects the definition of a political party, that affects the very foundation of our democracy?
We have implemented democratic reform. We have announced that the role of parliamentarians will be strengthened. I remind you that they have not yet agreed to this reform. Nevertheless, why is there a need to reform the role of MPs? The answer is simple. When a member rises to vote here in the House, and is told how to vote, when he goes home to his riding and talks to people, they ask him, “Why did you vote that way?” He replies, “I had no choice; I had to”. That is not representation. That is an echo; it is transmitting a decision made by Ottawa to the riding and not the opposite.
We have introduced the principle of a free vote. What does that mean? Each of us must assume our own responsibilities. When, as MPs, we assume our responsibilities and return to our ridings, we are accountable to the people. With free votes, the people will have the power to evaluate their elected representatives.
We have already been doing this. Other than those votes identified in the action plan, related to the budget or fundamental issues for the government, such as the throne speech, all the other votes in the House have been free votes and, for those opposite, not free votes. That is what we have done in concrete terms.
Democratic reform is absolutely fascinating. Currently, five provinces are seriously considering this issue. In fact, measures have been taken. I spent 24 hours in Vancouver. The day before yesterday, I went to Vancouver to meet the Citizens' Assembly.
The Citizens' Assembly in B.C. is a beautiful experience which proves that if we call upon what citizens have best to offer, they do offer the best. I came back from B.C. inspired. They are working on the other side of democratic reform, which is how people are sent here to represent them. We in this House have started to work on what it means to be representing the people. These two things are complementary.
I met with students at the Université de Chicoutimi and professors at the Université Laval. I met my colleague in Quebec City, the minister responsible for democratic reform. There is a fundamental movement inspiring the young and the not so young that has a growing national presence. This motivating and idealistic movement seeks democratic reform in the true sense of the term.
Our democracy is meaningful and has stood the test of time. It is time to take the next step. That is what we are doing, and they are still refusing to join in. They are lagging behind and there is nothing we can do about it.
Democratic reform is also, and above all in my opinion, a question of confidence. That is why, as the government, we have adopted measures reinforcing ethics standards and ensuring more transparent management of public finances. All this has been done here, and yet the opposition dares to say that no work is being done here. Can it be serious for two seconds? Can it be open-minded enough to stop playing petty politics and understand and recognize what has been happening here over the past three months alone?
While the parties opposite—in particular the Conservative Party of Canada—persisted in waging procedural battles when we came back to the House, we brought in a time allocation motion on procedural debates so that we could move on to substantive issues. We felt it was important for substance to prevail in this House in order to serve the public; procedure no, substance yes.
It is quite fascinating when we see the agenda that this government has already set for Canadians for the 21st century. Let us look at it. There is a new deal for Canadian communities. There are bold initiatives in health care, including transfers to provinces, of course, but also the creation of a public health agency. There are innovative measures for early childhood learning and child care. There are innovative measures to help students; we know how heavy the debts are on students.
There is a much needed environmental program to clean up contaminated sites. We have a plan to develop a 21st century knowledge based economy. There is the promotion of Canada's international role. I can give complete examples of a number of things which have already been done within the framework of this Speech from the Throne. They have already been done here in this House and those people do not even know they exist.
This is just the beginning. Tomorrow, my colleague, the Minister of Finance, will table this government's first budget. With seven consecutive balanced budgets, Canada is in a league of its own in the G-8. The budget also will introduce new financial control measures. In short, this government's plan has Canada poised to achieve unparalleled success.
Winston Churchill once said, “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind”. This is also a reminder to all of us that government has a responsibility to innovate.
Just over three months ago, the Prime Minister's government entered office determined to modernize government and to provide solutions to the rising concerns and priorities of Canadians. We created a new public safety and emergency preparedness department to promote safety for all Canadians. We instituted a new public health agency to better manage public health risks. We restructured the former department of human resources development to arm Canadians with two strong proponents for social policy.
To govern is also to listen. We are all aware of the challenges of globalization. The people demonstrating at the summits have to be heard. They represent the desire for social conscience that we all should have.
Many of the demonstrators at the summits are young people. Our young citizens have to be heard. That is why it was so important to reinstate Bill C-3, and allow Africa to get drugs from Canada under conditions beneficial to that continent, in order to address its problems and pandemics.
Yes, this bill was first introduced under the former government. I will not apologize for continuing to be concerned about Africa because we have a new government. I have no reason to apologize. Africa needs our help. We have to be there to help.
It is the same for tariffs. Hon. members know there are preferential tariffs that provide less developed nations access to our markets without tariff barriers. This helps them to start to develop their own industries. I have no reason to apologize for reinstating this bill. On the contrary, I am proud to do so.
As for the ethics bill, we began to study it a while ago. Your humble servant, at the time a member of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, worked with the hon. members on establishing the position of ethics commissioner—independent and reporting not to the Prime Minister, but to Parliament. Was I to say that we should no longer do that because the government has changed? That would be nonsense. It was good, it was necessary, and we are doing it.
I could continue in this vein for a very long time. For example, we all know how strongly Canadians feel about the Assisted Human Reproduction Act.
We had begun work on a bill containing measures to prevent the exploitation of children. If the opposition could be serious for 30 seconds, could it say that we should have let that legislation drop just because we have a new government? Should we say that, because we have a new government, it is no longer worthwhile to protect our children? Of course not; that is ridiculous. Of course it is a worthwhile bill. Of course we brought it back. And of course I hope that it will be passed quickly.
The same is true of the sexual offenders bill. For those interested in specifics, it is Bill C-16.
We are not guided by dogma, or division, but by what we think is good—in our opinion—for the people of Canada.
I would like to speak to you a little about leadership in action and initiative. We are a new government and we are advocating a new culture; our approach is new and we are implementing a new program. Unfortunately, rather than trying to understand how important this is for Canadians, the other side is content to laugh stupidly, without really understanding what is going on. This revolution is beyond them. They have not yet understood it. It will take time; they will understand one day, not because they want to understand, but because the public will force them to understand.
Today, we are introducing a bill on whistleblowers. This means that a public servant who observes activities that are not normal or proper or acceptable in the management of public funds or in procedures, will be able to denounce such activities without fear of reprisal.
I hope that I will not hear that this bill will be opposed. It is a bill that ensures we will have more means of better administering government.
The health bill, as I have said previously, includes $2 billion in transfer payments to the provinces, plus the equalization arrangements. Moreover, the Bloc Quebecois, with all its loud hilarity, voted against equalization; yet Quebec benefits from it. Incidentally, they voted against the $2 billion for health care.
We are also going to introduce a bill implementing an agreement with British Columbia, Manitoba and the first nations on allocating parts of national parks to certain reserves to meet urgent housing needs.
The government we want to give Canadians is a government of passion, a government that is inspired and is not afraid to innovate.
No government can be perfect. We cannot provide perfect government, but we do have a duty to acknowledge what has not been done well and, above all, to learn from it.
This is a new approach. What we want to provide Canadians is a straightforward government, one that is not afraid to break down barriers, a government that brings people together. Canadians take pride in the lead role played by our country in a number of areas, including our international credibility and our social conscience. What we want to provide is a government that chooses to build bridges to the future rather than rehashing the past.
Canadians will be able to differentiate between allegations made in a motion that is not unexpected—a surprise to no one—and seek political revenge, and our government's determination to work to further enhance the greatness of our country, inspired by the people in all regions of Canada, a Canada where the best is yet to come. A Canada of ideals and vision, a Canada that will inspire our youth to great things.
A vote in favour of this motion is a vote in favour of the past; a vote against it, a vote for the future.
Private Members' Business
February 23rd, 2004 / 11:50 a.m.
Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to take part in the debate on private member's Bill C-471 introduced by my colleague, the hon. member for Crowfoot. As has been previously mentioned, the purpose of this bill is to protect children from repeat sex offenders. This protection is to be enhanced by amending the sentencing provisions in the Criminal Code.
Obviously, our government is just as concerned as the Canadian public about protecting our children from sexual predators. But as for the arguments that the courts of this country are too soft on these offenders, that their current sentences are not severe enough, that sex offenders ought to have their basic rights withdrawn, that these predators get released without any concerns about children's safety, I have been hearing them for years from the other side of this House. They may get great press coverage, but they do nothing for public safety, as I have already said.
The Criminal Code states that the fundamental purpose of sentencing is “to contribute to respect for the law and the maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society”. The objectives of sentencing in the Criminal Code include denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring those who would commit offences and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders in acknowledging the harm they have done to victims and to the community. The most vulnerable victims in our society are our children, as has already been said.
Canada is totally opposed to the use of draconian measures like the death penalty or the various forms of “three strikes and you're out” legislation, which would call for life sentences with no chance for parole. Our legal system has always respected the discretionary power of judges to adapt their sentences to the severity of the offence, the offender's behaviour, and the risk that offender poses to society.
A judge who has taken into consideration all the facts and all the testimony on the circumstances of the offence and the situation of the offender is in a better position than the members of the opposition to bring down a sentence that is appropriate to each case.
The recent Speech from the Throne confirmed that the protection of children continues to be a key priority for the Government of Canada. As a part of this renewed commitment to protect children from sexual predators, the government has reinstated the former Bill C-20, now Bill C-12, regarding the protection of children and other vulnerable persons.
This legislation proposes criminal law reforms that would provide increased protection to be given to children against abuse, neglect and sexual exploitation. It would strengthen the child pornography provisions by broadening the definition of written child pornography and narrowing the existing defences to one defence of public good.
Bill C-12 would also create a new prohibited category of sexual exploitation of young persons resulting from the existence of such factors as the age of the young person, the difference in age and the degree of control or influence exerted over the young person.
Bill C-12 would increase the maximum penalties for offences against children and would make the commission of an offence against any child an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes. It would also facilitate testimony by a child and other vulnerable victims and witnesses.
These changes would build upon amendments that have been in force since July 2002 for protecting children from sexual exploitation through the use of new technologies. These amendments addressed the communication of child pornography through the Internet and created a new offence of luring that made it illegal to communicate with a child on the Internet for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against the child. The changes also simplified the procedure to prosecute Canadians who sexually exploit children in other countries.
Another example of our focus on the protection of Canadians from sexual predators is the reinstatement in the House of Commons of former Bill C-23, now Bill C-16, the sexual offender information registration act, as was mentioned by my hon. colleague who first presented it in the House. That proposal seeks to establish a national sex offender registry requiring sexual predators to report to police agencies on an annual basis, which will allow rapid police investigation through an address searchable database. Under the proposal, failure to register would be a Criminal Code offence with serious penal consequences.
The February 2 Speech from the Throne also indicated a new commitment by the government to do more to ensure the safety of children through a strategy to counter sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. Under the lead of the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we are working with our federal, provincial and territorial, private sector and international partners in the development of a strategy to coordinate and enhance our efforts to counter child sexual exploitation on the Internet.
Certainly I would be remiss if I did not point out that in 1997, when I was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice, the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code were amended to toughen up the provisions against the most violent sexual predators.
The private member's bill before us today seeks to amend these provisions to go after repeat sexual offenders against children. Really, that is exactly what the 1997 amendments did. Individuals who are declared dangerous offenders by the courts are now subject to a mandatory indeterminate sentence. The 1997 amendments also included a provision that permits judges to impose a long term offender designation resulting in up to 10 years of community supervision after serving a penitentiary term.
Moreover, in 1997, we also toughened up the conditions for recognizance under section 810, particularly by adding section 810.2, a new category dealing with serious personal injury offences. Section 810 has been very useful to the police in protecting vulnerable persons—even when there was no conviction, or even charges against a potential sexual predator likely to attack children.
I would also like to say a word about the 1993 Criminal Code amendments that created a potentially life-long order of prohibition, prohibiting convicted sexual offenders from frequenting daycare centres, schoolyards, playgrounds, public parks and swimming places where children are likely to be seen.
The order also prohibits these offenders from seeking or continuing any employment, whether remunerated or volunteer, in a capacity that involves being in a position of trust or authority. Another provision was added to permit an individual to obtain a peace bond—a protective order lasting up to a year—if he or she fears that another person will commit a sexual offence against a child.
In closing, I want to insist that all efforts have been made in order to protect Canada's children.
While recognizing the validity of the concerns of the hon. member for Crowfoot with respect to sexual predators on children, I simply do not believe that his proposal would improve the existing provisions.
Moreover, the latest reforms now before Parliament will translate into changes in our laws to give our children even better protection.
We also are doing everything we can for the safety of Canada's children. It is for the sake of our children that we have to stop scaring them with the worst, most heinous crimes cited in the House. In fact, sexual predators are not the majority of criminals but the minority, and thank God that is the case.
Sex Offender Information Registration Act
February 12th, 2004 / 10:10 a.m.
Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-16, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to special order made earlier, I wish to inform you that this bill is in the same form as Bill C-23 was at the time of prorogation of the previous session.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)