Bill C-214 (Historical)
Carrie's Guardian Angel Law
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous child sexual predators)
This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in May 2004.
This bill was previously introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session.
Art Hanger Canadian Alliance
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
Carrie's Guardian Angel Law
Private Members' Business
February 3rd, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member from the Progressive Conservative Party for his fine speech and also my colleague from Calgary Northeast who, as he mentioned, was a police officer and knows this issue very well.
The first thing I want to address is the speech that came from the government. I cannot believe that the government would have the audacity to put forth such a piece of bureaucratic bafflegab that completely defies imagination. It is a speech that completely flies in the face of the experience of everybody in the House who has seen the effect of child abuse and of pedophilia.
Let me go through some of the comments made by the government. The speech said that the public is taken aback by minimum sentencing for pedophiles. I would like the member to show us one person in this country who is taken aback by minimum sentences for repeat pedophiles.
I want to emphasize that this bill, Carrie's guardian angel law, is not about an individual who has made a single assault on a child, as horrendous as that is. This is about an individual who has not only made multiple assaults and has been convicted once, but this person has come to the attention of the legal department of the police again and again.
In fact, if we look at individuals who have been convicted once for a sexual offence against a child, we know that those persons have not assaulted one child, but that they have assaulted many children. Pedophiles, before they are caught and convicted, have sexually assaulted multiple children before they come to the fore of the legal authorities. Then they come again because they have committed other sexual offences.
At the end of the day, this bill only applies to individuals who have sexually assaulted more than two dozen children. What kind of person does the government want to protect who would sexually assault, sexually abuse, and rape two dozen or more children?
As my friend from the Progressive Conservative Party said, one-third of all girls before the age of 18 and one-sixth of boys before the age of 16 have been sexually abused. They have been abused by individuals who are parasites, who are predators, and who in no way, shape or form should have the protection of the law above the protection of Canadians.
The member also said that Canadians want to feel safe and secure. They want to have high penalties, they want peace, and they want a safe society. That is why my colleague and Carrie Kohan have put the bill forward. That is why I have underneath my hand the names of more than 60,000 Canadians who have signed and supported this initiative. That is why Canadians want the law changed. That is why Bill C-214 should be adopted unanimously by the House.
The problem with the current law for the hon. member and the government is that the law is not protecting innocent people. The sentences are not being applied. Individuals are actually spending only a few months in jail for repeatedly sexually assaulting children. That is the line in the sand and that is the crux of the matter.
This is not like somebody who makes a one-off mistake by stealing something, by committing some offence where the victim is an adult, as horrendous and terrible as those offences are. This is about an entirely different circumstance, where the victim is a child or a baby. The victim is someone who cannot in any way defend themselves and the perpetrator is an adult who has done this multiple times before, two dozen times before the bill would actually come into force. That is what this is all about.
If the members of the Liberal Party do not support wholeheartedly Bill C-214 and unanimously adopt this in the House of Commons, they will pay a terrible price at the election booth. Worse, when they look into the eyes of their constituents and children of those constituents, they will have to ask themselves why they did not stand up to defend those children from sexual predators and from rape.
The gentleman from the Bloc Québécois spoke about rehabilitation. We are all in favour of rehabilitation. I used to be a guard in a maximum security prison, and I am a physician. The problem with pedophilia is that it is incurable. On balance, what we and the justice department have to do for justice to be served, is put the protection of children from pedophiles first and foremost. We have no alternative. That is the line in the sand.
The public may want to ask itself why it has taken so long for this issue to come to the House, why has the government not brought it forward itself and why has the government not made a bill that is patently in favour of the protection of children votable? Why has it prevented that from happening?
Government members were elected 10 years ago. This is not rocket science. As my colleagues have mentioned, a litany of violent pedophiles have raped dozens and dozens of children in our society. As Carrie Kohan would tell us, the justice department and the police are not there to protect them, not because the police do not want to, but because the police do not have the power to do so. Our justice department has not given the police the tools to do the job. Heart-rending as it is for our police officers, they cannot protect those children.
I have known Carrie Kohan for 17 years. She is a fighter. She does not quit. She, my colleague from Calgary Northeast and people across the country, including police forces, want to do something. It is not because they want to be punitive, or unforgiving, or lenient, it is because they recognize that the current state of affairs of the laws do not protect innocent children from pedophiles.
Why should a parent or parents not have information that a pedophile has moved next door to them and is a dangerous threat to their children's lives? Why are pedophiles sentenced yet serve only a third of that sentence? Why are they going on unescorted day paroles when only a fraction of their sentence has been served? Why is the public not informed of this?
This is not an action against an adult. This is an action against a child. I ask the hon. member and the government members who have children to look into their hearts and ask themselves if they were in Carrie Kohan's shoes, where a pedophile moved next door and tried to assault their child, what would they do? Would they still stand up in the House and oppose this bill or would they wholeheartedly support it?
I ask for full support of Bill C-214, and we want this passed for the people of our country forthwith.
Carrie's Guardian Angel Law
Private Members' Business
February 3rd, 2003 / 11:30 a.m.
Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB
Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Calgary Northeast for bringing this bill forward. He is one of the few in this House who can speak from professional experience because if I am correct, he is a former police officer from Calgary. We respect his opinion and his efforts on this issue. We are very much in support of the bill and what he attempts to do with Bill C-214.
Normally our justice critic, the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, would be speaking on the issue but he is out campaigning for the future leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party. We have always in the past relied on his advice and expertise in this area because he is a former crown prosecutor. In his absence I have just a few comments on the bill.
This bill would amend the Criminal Code and would deal specifically with dangerous child sexual predators. The bill would establish the offences of dangerous child or sexual predation carrying a minimum sentence of life imprisonment. As well, it would cover the sexual assault of a child involving the use of a weapon, repeated assaults, multiple victims, repeat offences, more than one offender, confinement, kidnapping and those who are in positions of trust. It would also seek to make parole ineligible for those convicted for a minimum of 20 years and they would be ineligible for day parole or unescorted absences for a minimum of 17 years.
Bill C-214, or Carrie's guardian angel law, which it is often referred to as, would amend the Criminal Code by adding a dangerous child sexual predator offence after section 273. Section 273 supplements the definition of consent found in section 265 of the Criminal Code, which defines all assault offences, including sexual assaults.
Cautious estimates note that one in three young women are sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 16. These are startling figures. Even more frightening is that most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of the authorities. A lot of these offences are never discovered or recognized. We have no way of knowing how many of these go unreported. The cases that we do hear of are just a fraction of the real number.
Sexual predators in many cases are never caught. This is a sad reality but it is a reality. There is a serial element to their behaviour. There are no deterrents or consequences for these people. They can be found in every province; it is not a rural or urban issue. It affects all parts of Canada. It is not a case of a higher instance in one province versus another; it is a situation that prevails throughout the country. There is a high rate of recidivism, in other words, repeat offenders.
The life altering and lasting implications for the victims result in shocking statistics for all Canadians. We have heard time and time again of the impact of these types of offences against children.
Clause 2 in the bill introduces the new offence and defines the circumstances under which someone would be charged under this new amendment to the Criminal Code.
This definition of a dangerous child sexual predator would include anyone who has been convicted of such an offence within 10 years; in the commission of the offence commits a sexual assault on more than one occasion or victim; or is in a position of trust or acts of concert with another. In other words, those people who are in a position of trust, like teachers and troop leaders or coaches or whatever. It would address that reality. That person would be guilty of an indictable offence and would be designated as a dangerous child sexual predator.
The intent of the bill is clear. Anyone convicted under this section of the code would receive a sentence of 20 years to life with no chance of parole. We are talking of cases of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault where children are involved.
It would create a separate type of sentence in the Criminal Code. This is quite clear from the wording of the amendment, which would in effect amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to prevent unescorted temporary absences, day parole, full parole or statutory release from being granted to individuals who have committed child predatory offences or have been found to be child predators under the new provisions of the Criminal Code for at least 17 years. With respect to sentencing this bill seeks to ensure that a minimum of 20 years is served in custody in every case in which a child predator offence is perpetrated.
Bill C-214 is about what happens after the fact, after the finding of guilt. In other words, the bill speaks to what happens after the verdict is rendered. This is a very important point. Because of the special nature of the offence and the special type of harm to society and the individual that results from it, we need a change in response and attitude by the justice department. That is implicit in the member's bill.
The bill would amend the Criminal Code and allow the court to find people to be child predators on the basis of having committed offences against children or their inability to control their sexual behaviour. A finding of guilt and a finding of that designation would have certain consequences. We are talking about a type of dangerous behaviour, a dangerous offender application, something that is already permissible under the Criminal Code. We are talking about the worst of the worst.
I shudder to think of it. I know we all get chills when we mention the names Olson and Bernardo in reference to this bill, but these are the types of predatory, sexual and violent offences envisioned by the change in the Criminal Code that the member has in mind. We can talk about rehabilitation in the context of some offenders, but at the upper end of the scale rehabilitation means nothing and is no longer a consideration. Rehabilitation of these offenders is virtually non-existence and cannot happen.
When looking at the intent of our justice system, the protection of the public must be given precedence. This is brought about by deterrence and denunciation. This is why I recognize what the hon. member is trying to do. He is drawing a clear line to distinguish the types of offences that are so horrific and damaging to their victims. The psychological and physical impact on the victims cannot be over-emphasized.
Such offences require special treatment. The offenders should be denied early release or any leniency that could be misinterpreted in the sense of condoning or embracing that type of behaviour.
At a time when the government is trying to remove the artistic merit defence through the introduction of Bill C-20, the vulnerability act, this piece of legislation would seem to fit in with that agenda. We support this initiative because we think it is very important. We hope that the government members will support it.
Carrie's Guardian Angel Law
Private Members' Business
February 3rd, 2003 / 11:20 a.m.
Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on the bill before the House, Bill C-214. This bill is, in fact, a carbon copy of Bill C-396, introduced by the member for Calgary Northeast during the first session of this Parliament.
I speak as a member of this House and, of course, also as a parent. My children are 18, 16 and 12. I am therefore very much aware of the realities that are out there and of parents' fears for their children.
I have also taken inspiration from the former member for Berthier—Montcalm, Michel Bellehumeur, and his highly responsible attitude toward the Criminal Code, as well as from our present critic, the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier.
Obviously, I cannot sanction the position taken by the Canadian Alliance, which is always based on the same logic that toughening up the Criminal Code is the solution. I see this as a simplistic approach that does not address the real issues.
This ideology in favour of extremely harsh criminal justice legislation is, in their minds, the key to controlling criminals in this country. We know that this is not the solution.
We have seen that with the Young Offenders Act. The pressure in favour of toughening up this legislation, coming from the United States and the Canadian west, and espoused by the Canadian Alliance, influenced the government to such an extent that it ended up paralyzing the enforcement of the young offender legislation in Quebec, which was far more practical, realistic and successful at reintegrating young offenders into society.
The bill we are looking at today is a bit along the same lines. The thought is that adding to the length of sentences is automatically going to solve our problem.
I was listening to my colleague opposite a minute ago, and it appears as though judges and the general public may need educating to learn more about the current situation. If judges enforce the Criminal Code properly as it now stands, people would see that significant penalties can be sufficient, especially if they are combined with efforts to systematically create a situation whereby there would be fewer of this type of criminal, particularly if we can succeed in returning them to society if possible. There are cases where it is not possible, but there are measures that can be taken in such cases.
We will not solve anything by sending people to the Canadian correctional system for life. When these criminals are put in Canada's penitentiary system, they wind up dealing with a quite specific dynamic, in sexual terms, that does not necessarily help them. This means that young people would not necessarily be better protected by this type of bill.
In fact, our approach focuses more on rehabilitation and strict supervision to limit the problem. Of course we must not give pedophiles the impression they can perpetrate their crimes without punishment. We must enforce the current provisions in the Criminal Code. There also needs to be sufficient pressure from society and everyone must know the consequences of such acts.
Bill C-214 would amend sections 261, 262, and 273 of the Criminal Code. Under these provisions, anyone having committed an offence would be designated a dangerous child sexual predator.
I must comment on the rather awkward translation of the English expression, “dangerous child sexual predators”, but this debate today is not about that.
The purpose of the bill may well be commendable, and at first glance, this type of solution may seem necessary. However, I believe we must be more responsible as Parliamentarians and realize that this is not the real solution to this problem.
It is as if a bill was being created for a specific case and, each time something horrible happens, the Criminal Code was being amended in an attempt to find a solution for all situations. I think that, in this regard, it is important to consider the big picture, to study things in depth, and to consider the Criminal Code as a whole; this is presently not the case.
The Bloc Quebecois is, therefore, opposing this bill for the simple reason that the approach recommended by the Canadian Alliance is, in our eyes, simply not the right one.
In considering, in a broader context, the problem for which a solution is being sought, passing the bill would mean imprisoning for life any person who has committed sexual harassment in one form or another.
There are different levels of seriousness. I am speaking as a father. Of course, there are things that, in my mind, do not merit life in prison, and certain others that could. People should be able to make the distinction and to understand the situation correctly.
I do not believe that the problem will be resolved by applying harsher sentences. In fact, some sexual offenders are sick. These people have issues they need to work on and a longer sentence will not result in any change in behaviour.
It is a bit like a confirmed alcoholic who has been given every possible chance of a cure. But some of them continue to drive, even if they do not have a driver's licence, even if they have already been convicted; they continue because they are in a situation, in a state of mind where they no longer obey, in any way, the law.
In the case at hand, the same type of situation could exist, and the stated sentence will not necessarily make people think twice.
I believe that the intention of this bill is commendable, but the solution is not the right one.
For example, an unwanted touch, a stolen kiss, if repeated twice with the same person, will automatically be considered sexual harassment. There are things in there that can be resolved much better through education, by working with people properly.
In this House, the hon. members each have a right to their opinion. There are some people who live in society and think there should be maximum punishment all the time to resolve the situation. I want to remind the members of this House that in Quebec, for instance, there is a higher rate of rehabilitation of young offenders and there is less recidivism than anywhere else, especially in provinces where there is an attempt to enforce the Young Offenders Act strictly.
Here there is a different practice and I think people, especially members from these provinces, need to be informed about it. They would perhaps do well to look at the situation in Quebec. This might help them to adjust their thinking and ultimately achieve much better results, rather than coming up with simplistic solutions such as those proposed in this bill.
Quite frankly, this bill seems heavy-handed and not relevant. Rather than attempt to resolve all the problems by amending the Criminal Code section by section, the Canadian Alliance members should try to find a way to overhaul it, and all the members of this House should work with the Minister of Justice to that end.
The Bloc Quebecois is therefore against this bill, which offers unrealistic solutions and ultimately will not allow for adequate corrections to be made in 5, 10, or 15 years.
Carrie's Guardian Angel Law
Private Members' Business
February 3rd, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-214, an act to amend the Criminal Code, being introduced by the hon. member for Calgary Northeast.
The private member's bill before us today seeks to create a new section, section 273.01, in the Criminal Code that would affect sentencing of offenders convicted of section 271, sexual assault; section 272, sexual assault with a weapon, threats to a third party or causing bodily harm; or section 273, aggravated sexual assault.
The amendments would come into play where the victim is a child under the age of 16 and where the offender comes within one of six prescribed circumstances, any of which could result in designation of an offender as a dangerous child sexual predator. If designated under the proposed scheme, the offender would receive an automatic life sentence.
The three existing offences mentioned in the proposed bill currently carry maximum penalties ranging from 10 years to life imprisonment, the most severe penalty known to our law. As well, if firearms are involved, there is a provision for a four year mandatory minimum penalty.
I suspect most Canadians would be surprised that these offences already attract such severe maximum penalties. In fact, surveys conducted by the Canadian Sentencing Commission in the mid-1980s showed that the public had very little knowledge of either maximum or minimum penalties generally and that many were taken aback by the severity of the existing maximum.
The Criminal Code provides that “the fundamental purpose of sentencing is to contribute... to respect for the law and maintenance of a just, peaceful and safe society”. The objectives of sentencing set out in the Criminal Code include denouncing unlawful conduct, deterring the offender and others from committing offences and promoting a sense of responsibility in offenders and an acknowledgement of the harm done to victims and to the community.
The government shares the concerns of Canadians. Courts across the country have been imposing stiff sentences for this type of crime, which address sentencing objectives, such as denunciation and deterrence, and highlight the importance of individuals being able to feel safe and secure.
In addition to providing a maximum penalty of life imprisonment, which the Criminal Code already does for specified sexual offences, Bill C-214 would provide for full parole ineligibility be set at 20 years.
In Canada, we have tried to avoid reliance on mandatory minimum sentences. Our judicial system has always respected the discretion of judges to fashion a sentence that is proportionate to the gravity of the offence and the conduct of the offender. A judge having the benefit of all the facts and evidence regarding the circumstances of the offence and the offender is well placed to determine the appropriate sentence in an individual case.
The September 30, 2002 Speech from the Throne confirmed that protection of children is a key priority of the Government of Canada. Numerous legislative reforms and initiatives have since been introduced to strengthen the criminal law's protection of children against sexual exploitation. For example, Bill C-23, the sex offender information registry act, was tabled in December and would establish a national sex offender registry requiring sexual predators to report to police agencies on an annual basis and which would allow rapid police investigations through an address searchable database. Failure to register under the proposal would be a Criminal Code offence with serious penal consequences.
We also introduced Bill C-20, a comprehensive set of measures to protect children and other vulnerable persons from harm, which includes amendments to the Criminal Code providing for substantial increases in penalties for abuse and neglect, and requirements for more sensitive treatment of children who participate in criminal proceedings.
Other notable features of Bill C-20 include the following: tougher child pornography provisions; a new category of sexual exploitation, increasing the level of protection for young persons between the ages of 14 and 18; tougher sentencing provisions for offences where children are the victims; abuse of a child in the commission of any Criminal Code offence is now required to be considered by a judges as an aggravating factor in sentencing; distributing material knowing that it was produced through a criminal act of voyeurism; and also, the creation of the new offence of voyeurism, primarily targeting Internet activity, capturing those who observe or record others without their knowledge for sexual purposes.
Prior to the current session of Parliament, we introduced a number of other reforms that were also designed to protect children. For example, Bill C-15A, which received royal assent on June 4, 2002, amended the Criminal Code by adding offences and other measures that provide additional protection to children from sexual exploitation, including sexual exploitation involving the use of the Internet. That new legislation came into force on July 23, 2002, and resulted in the following changes: it is now illegal to use the Internet to communicate with a child for sexual purposes, as well as to transmit child pornography; courts can now order the deletion of child pornography that is posted on Canadian computer systems as well as the seizure of materials or equipment used to commit a related offence; and the procedure has been simplified to prosecute Canadians who sexually exploit children in other countries.
In 1997 the dangerous offender provisions of the Criminal Code were amended to toughen up the provisions against the most violent sexual predators. 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.
Police and the courts can also impose strict conditions on the activities of known sex offenders through the use of probation orders, that is, section 810, recognizances, prohibition orders and peace bonds.
Another significant impact in this area was the amendment of the Criminal Records Act to make the criminal records of pardoned sex offenders available for background checks, which greatly reduces the possibility that sexual predators would be employed or allowed as volunteers in positions of trust over vulnerable children.
In 1993, the Criminal Code was amended to create a new prohibition order, lasting up to a lifetime, to ban convicted child sex offenders from frequenting day care centres, school grounds, playgrounds, public parks or bathing areas where children are likely to be found. The order also prohibits convicted child sex offenders from seeking or maintaining paid or volunteer positions of trust or authority over children. Another provision was created to allow a person to obtain a peace bond, a protective order lasting up to one year, if he or she fears that another person will commit a sexual offence against a child.
All of these efforts demonstrate the federal government's continued commitment to protecting children. As such, there is no need to create a minimum penalty for this type of offence given the high maximum penalties already found in the code and sentencing patterns for this offence.
While I recognize the concerns of the hon. member for Calgary Northeast with respect to this type of offence, I do believe that the existing penalty of life imprisonment currently demonstrates our commitment to providing protection for children.
Furthermore, the reforms in Bill C-20, which are currently before the House and being debated, will result in changes to our laws that will be much more effective in ensuring the protection of our children.
Carrie's Guardian Angel Law
October 7th, 2002 / 3:10 p.m.
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
moved for leave to introduce Bill C-214, an act to amend the Criminal Code (dangerous child sexual predators).
Mr. Speaker: I am pleased to reintroduce this bill entitled Carrie's Guardian Angel Law. The intent of the bill is to get tough with dangerous child sexual predators. It carries a sentence of 20 years to life imprisonment in cases of sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault on a child that involved the use of a weapon, repeated assaults, multiple victims, repeat offences, more than one offender, confinement or kidnapping for an offender who is in a position of trust with respect to the child.
As the bill is identical to Bill C-396, which I introduced in the previous session, pursuant to Standing Order 86(1) I ask that the bill be reinstated in the order of precedence.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the hon. member for Prince Albert for seconding the bill.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)