Bill C-313 (Historical)
An Act to amend the Criminal Code (prohibited sexual acts)
This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.
Rick Casson Conservative
Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)
Introduction and First Reading
(This bill did not become law.)
March 22nd, 2007 / 10:45 a.m.
Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB
I want to thank each and every one of you for the words that you have brought to the table today, but I want to thank you for more than just the words, because I know the passion that's in your hearts regarding this issue. You really want something done. That's obvious, and I appreciate that kind of passion.
I have been at the centre with Paul Gillespie and some of the fellows in Toronto. I know what a horrendous task that is. Ms. Scanlan, please pass on my sincere gratitude to each and every one of them. I can't believe how they manage to hold up under such difficult conditions.
I've been around a long time. Before the Internet and before all this, we had this problem with this age of consent. As a principal of a school, I had an opportunity to get involved in several incidents of that type. You couldn't do anything because they were 14 and 15 and they consented. But what I want to point out is that most of the time when it happened, almost inclusively they ended in tragedy. I can think of five specific cases in which three ended in suicide; one ended with a tragic beating by the older partner, resulting in irreparable brain damage from this so-called agreement; and one ended up with two children before she reached the age of 17, and she was left stranded.
I know how severe it is. I know they are sought now in new ways with the Internet. I realize that. I could get into some of these things. The chairman and I have been here since 1993. I know personally that he went after every justice minister under a majority government, under Mr. Chrétien, to please do something about this. We hit every one of them. It never happened.
On September 28, 2005, Bill C-313 was brought forward by the member from Lethbridge and did exactly this. When the vote was taken, 99 voted yes and 167 voted no. I could have fallen out of my chair, because there's not a doubt in my mind that there is not one person sitting here who wants to do something about protecting these kids. I know they want to.
I respect Mr. Comartin and his background and his ability that he brings in regard to pedophiles. I don't know anything about that. I wouldn't even want to compete with Mr. Comartin on that. And I don't really care about stats. You know, if this happens to one, that's one too dadgum many, and that's my stat.
All I'm asking is if anybody on this panel has any opinion on what is stopping this kind of legislation from seeing the light of day. I've been here for 13 years and it hasn't happened. What's stopping it, when I know how people feel?
I would suggest to you that, in my opinion, courts are making decisions that say laws that are made are not constitutional. The laws don't meet the charter test. If that's the case, we have to do something about it, because it's hindering protecting our children. That's my opinion. Could you give me yours?
Private Members' Business
October 17th, 2006 / 5:30 p.m.
Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development
Before I continue with my remarks, I would like to take this opportunity to applaud the member for his continued advocacy for the protection of society's most vulnerable, our children. Since his initial election to the House of Commons in 1997, the member has been persistent and vigilant in ensuring issues surrounding the welfare of Canada's children remain on Parliament's agenda.
One highlight of his ongoing advocacy includes his private member's bill, Bill C-313, from the 38th Parliament. That bill would have amended the Criminal Code to raise the age of consent from 14 to 16 years of age. Although that particular legislation was unsuccessful, chiefly due to the previous government's opposition, it helped draw national attention to the age of consent issue and it also crystallized in the minds of many Canadians the need for a new approach in Ottawa toward criminal justice, especially where our children are concerned.
I am proud to report that, unlike the previous government, this Conservative government and this Prime Minister are committed to comprehensive criminal justice reform, including raising the age of consent between children and adults from 14 to 16 years of age. As we move forward in implementing this necessary change, I would like to recognize the member for Lethbridge for his laudable contribution and, on behalf of Canada's children and their parents, thank him.
That brings us to the matter under debate here today, legislation which again deals with an issue important to the welfare of children. It involves difficult and emotional matters. It deals with those parts of life we do not necessarily bring up in casual conversations. When we talk about these matters we tend to do so in hushed tones, with long pauses and guarded expressions: Death and divorce.
These are not parts of life we anticipate in any great measure, only accept for we have no choice. While there is the rare exception, these events are saturated in the most wrenching of human emotions for all those involved. This is particularly true for young children. For it goes without saying that neither the break-up of a parent's marriage or the death of a parent are elements we associate with the carefree innocence of childhood. It is a cruel coincidence of fate that would visit both such events on a child, but the destiny of fate knows not of the sorrow it inflicts.
While death is inevitable, the end of a marriage is not, but it is today a distinct possibility. A divorce is not a flippant decision for most people. It represents the lamentable end of earlier promise. Some are mutual and amicable, others are bitter and acrimonious.
According to Statistics Canada, each year approximately 70,000 couples will get a divorce. Furthermore, today almost 40% of marriages will end in divorce by the 30th wedding anniversary. I would like to say that I beat that anniversary.
Private Members' Business
October 4th, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
Diane Marleau Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Motion No. 227 introduced by the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. The member has been making his points on property rights for at least 10 years now, first with Bill C-284, then Bill C-304, Bill C-313 and currently with Bill C-235. He also tabled motions, including the current one, which was debated on April 21.
During the first hour of debate he stated that his motion was based on a general principle, a principle that he would like Parliament to approve so that eventually property rights would be entrenched in a bill of rights and ultimately that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms be amended accordingly.
During the first hour of debate on this motion, on April 21, my colleague, the hon. member for Scarborough—Rouge River, explained our government's position very well on the motion being debated today.
In our opinion, the scope of the motion is far too broad; it is unreasonable. And if its principle were incorporated in Canadian law, its application would be impossible under modern governance. Should it be passed and implemented, it could cause major repercussions.
I agree with my colleague.
Speaking on behalf of the government, the member for Scarborough—Rouge River explained that the scope of the motion was far too vague. He added that if it were adopted and put into practice through adoption in Canadian laws, the repercussions based on the current wording would be staggering and that if it were taken to its logical conclusion, it would make much of our current governance unworkable.
I will not repeat the sound arguments made by my colleague. He certainly made a very strong case on the reasons why we oppose the motion. I will instead spend time on what could be the ultimate goal of the member for Yorkton—Melville, that is, amending the Canadian Bill of Rights to increase the protection of property rights in Canada.
The Canadian Bill of Rights is part of Canada's longstanding transition to human rights. The Bill of Rights has included provisions protecting property rights since it has been in force. Section 1 of the Bill of Rights recognizes the right of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property and the right not to be deprived thereof except by due process of law.
Property rights are also protected at the federal level by statute in common law. Federal statutes that regulate the disposition of property have been designed to ensure that people are treated fairly; that is, these laws provide for fair procedures and for fair compensation where property rights are affected.
Property rights are also protected at the provincial level. For example, the Alberta individual rights protection act protects the ownership of property by a due process clause. The Quebec charter of human rights and freedoms provides some protection to the peaceful enjoyment and free disposition of one's property.
The common law also protects property rights. For example, judges frequently apply the presumption that compensation is required where someone is deprived of their property.
It is also important to note that under the Canadian Constitution, property law is primarily the responsibility of the provincial governments. In fact, section 92(13) of the Constitution Act states that the provincial governments have exclusive jurisdiction over civil law and property law, notwithstanding matters under federal jurisdiction according to section 91.
This provision does not mean that the federal government is unable to legislate property law. However, its jurisdiction in this area is clearly limited. Should it reach beyond its jurisdiction, this could raise constitutional issues.
Proposals to include greater protection for private property in the Charter have been rejected many times by provincial governments, since, in their eyes, it would be an intrusion upon their constitutional powers.
Canada already protects property rights in a number of ways. On the whole, the average Canadian enjoys a very high level of protection for property rights under statutes and the common law, including the Canadian Bill of Rights. This is generally true at the provincial level as well. This protection reflects the value that we as Canadians place on property rights.
The right to own things, a home, a car or other possessions, is basic to our way of life. The right to use or dispose of property is also very fundamental to our way of life, but we recognize that these are not unlimited rights. These rights we value very highly in our country. These property rights are ingrained in our legal system. They are ingrained in statutes at the federal level. They are ingrained in statutes at the provincial level. They are ingrained in human rights legislation at the federal level and within the common law.
In fact, a basic premise of our legal system is the right to own and dispose of property. Our laws, whether legislated or judge made, are full of examples of rules concerning the ownership and use of property.
For example, the laws concerning real property, consumer protection or security interests contain many rules protecting both purchasers and vendors. Thus, when I consider the broad range of legislation and judicial precedents that protect property rights, it is not clear to me that the solution offered by the hon. member provides any further protection.
Taking that into account, it is important to reflect on what the proposed motion would actually do if its principle were incorporated into law. It singles out property rights from all the other rights in the Canadian Bill of Rights for very special protection. Again section 1 of the Canadian Bill of Rights recognizes the rights of the individual to life, liberty, security of the person and enjoyment of property.
Out of all those very fundamental rights to Canadians, the hon. member tries to raise property rights up for special protection. It seems that all of those rights are very important. When one considers the right to life and liberty, certainly one would not raise the value of property higher than those very special and important rights.
I do not see why, under the circumstances, we should support the motion of the hon. member for Yorkton—Melville. If it were carried through, it would establish a hierarchy within the rights that are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which would not be desirable. Every one of these rights should have equal importance. They are all very important, and I believe it would be inappropriate to try to favour one above the rest.
As I mentioned earlier, the right to own and dispose of property is not an unlimited right. It is limited by laws that regulate the use of property in the public interest. For example, land use, planning and zoning laws may limit the type of building that can be placed on residential lots. They may limit the type of construction in certain types of business districts. Environmental laws regulate everything from the disposal of hazardous waste to the removal of trees. There are laws that regulate the ownership of transactions and shares in limited companies. Other laws regulate bankruptcy and the ownership of corporate interests by non-Canadians, and so on. All of these laws impose real limits on the ownership and use of property.
No one disputes that these are necessary limits in a free and democratic society. When that is realized, it is incumbent upon us to think carefully about the implications of amending the property rights protection in a general human rights document. I am concerned about that effect in general.
The United States has had considerable experience in property rights and we should learn from its experience. On the other hand, Canadian courts have demonstrated that they will go their own way in interpreting the provisions of human rights laws. The proposed motion, if it became a legal principle, would leave us with uncertainty about the meaning of property rights and the effect of the motion on a wide variety of laws that touch on property in one way or another.
October 3rd, 2005 / 2:50 p.m.
Rick Casson Lethbridge, AB
Mr. Speaker, we have obtained a copy of the justice minister's position paper regarding private member's Bill C-313, an act to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. In this document, as hard as it is to believe, the minister argues against raising the age of consent because of potential costs associated with increased prosecution of such cases.
Why does the government have millions of dollars for golden handshakes for patronage hacks, but does not have enough funds to protect our kids from predators?
Private Members' Business
September 28th, 2005 / 6:25 p.m.
The Deputy Speaker
The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading stage of Bill C-313.
(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)
Private Members' Business
June 28th, 2005 / 6:20 p.m.
James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC
Madam Speaker, I am sorry to see the member leaving, because I wanted to address her remarks.
She will hear them from inside, she says.
What is disturbing on this side is that the hon. member comes forward to extoll the virtues of Bill C-2, which has just passed, which does not deal with the age of sexual consent that this private member's bill, Bill C-313, addresses, raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16.
Members on the opposite side simply do not want to deal with that issue. The member makes a great point of talking about how the government has raised these maximum penalties, and she gave a list of all the things it has raised the maximums on. It is hard to find a single case in the last five years where maximum penalties have ever been used for anything. It makes good rhetoric, but there is no substance.
I asked what are the minimums--
Private Members' Business
June 28th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians
Madam Speaker, first of all, I would like to recognize the hard work that does go into private members' legislation. I had the pleasure to work with the member opposite from Lethbridge when I chaired the finance committee and he was a member of that committee. He does hard work and I respect him as an individual. I know that every good intention was put into this legislation.
I currently work on aboriginal affairs as the parliamentary secretary. In the last Parliament, before the election, I was the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Justice. And before I hear the catcalls, yes, I was a lawyer for 15 years in a previous career. I enjoyed that, and I bring that training to this Parliament too. I also taught law at the local university part time and also for the bar admissions.
That is not what this is about. This discussion today is to try to come to grips with the activity of teenagers and differentiating that from criminal activity that occurs as the sexual exploitation of children, which we are all concerned about.
Many times over the last dozen years while I have been in this Parliament I have heard that we have been delaying this. I want to take people back to the point before the last Parliament, when I stood up in this chamber many times, in fact day after day, trying to get what is now Bill C-2, which is the act to amend the Criminal Code, protection of children and other vulnerable persons, and the Canada Evidence Act, through this Parliament then.
This Parliament just passed Bill C-2, which gave major protections on the subject matter we are talking about. It could have been passed in the prior Parliament. I will say what happened here, because I need to refresh, and maybe the people who were not here at that time need to be advised that that bill had basically the same format. Now there have been a few minor changes as it travelled through this time around in committee.
Basically, that bill was subject to a procedural hoist motion, which means it was postponed. It was postponed by the opposition and we did not get that bill. That bill not only had sections respecting the protection of children and child pornography, it had voyeurism sections. It also had really important sentencing sections, and it had the facilitating of testimony for children, so they did not get retraumatized when they had to go through the court system.
We are not in any party of this House immune from what happens to our children. I am a mother. I have a 16-year-old. I have kids in university too. We are all trying to do the right thing. But we cannot take that “I am better than you” position. What we have to do is look at this in an objective way and look at not only the good a piece of legislation can do, but also the unintended consequences that could affect our children for a long time.
That is why I am very much in favour, when we look at criminal activity, of looking at the activity of the person doing that activity and judging that. That is what Bill C-2 did, and it is now in the Senate.
I know what the hon. member's intention was to do here. It was to allow that close-in-age exception for an accused who is 12 or more but under 16. The reality in homes across this country is that we have teenagers who could get into trouble with this bill, serious trouble that will affect them. It will give them a criminal record and it will affect their ability to get into college or university or to get into employment with the government, or a whole pile of other things.
I am not only talking about the trauma of what happens, but under this bill as it is currently written, I want to give members the scenario of what could happen.
Under Bill C-313, a 15-year-old boy could engage in consensual sexual activity with his 14-year-old girlfriend, but on the day of his 16th birthday the boy would be committing a sexual offence even if he kissed his girlfriend. Remember, we are not talking rape here. Rape is rape, and that is a criminal offence and it does not matter at what age. What we are gathering inside this net is something that was not intended.
We have to be very careful, because when you take a net widening in the Criminal Code, you put not only all of those emotional situations on the children involved and the parents, but you have financial implications in the criminal justice system and the social service system. That is what happens when you get that scenario of the charging prosecution.
I used to work with young children in the court system, and it is not easy when they go there. It is certainly not easier on their parents and their guardians. We have to be concerned, and we have to do this in a logical manner.
The member who spoke before me talked about Bill C-2. I will go to Bill C-2 because the section the hon. member's bill tries to get at is in Bill C-2. It is already there. It just passed this House; it is in the Senate. As I said, it could have passed in the last Parliament if it had not been hoisted by the opposition, because they did not want this bill before they went into an election.
Bill C-2 proposes the creation of a new prohibition to better protect youth against sexual exploitation. Under the prohibition, courts would be directed to infer that a relationship with a young person is exploitative of the young person by looking to the nature and circumstances of that relationship, including specific indicators of exploitation. Those indicators could involve a number of things. First is the age of the person. Obviously the younger, the more there is a presumption of exploitation. Next is the age difference between the child and the accused. Obviously the greater number of years between their ages, the child's age and the accused's age, the greater the amount of exploitation that could probably be inferred, especially if it is a person in a position of trust. Another is the evolution of the relationship, how the fact situation in that particular situation occurred. Then there is the degree of control or influence exercised over the young person. These are all elements that the criminal mind has to be apprised of, that the court has to look at, and in actual fact it gives a greater amount of probability of success in the conviction of a true exploitation. It eliminates that situation where you could have young people doing things that maybe as a parent I do not want my 16- or 14-year-old doing, but, ladies and gentlemen, they are doing them, and that is reality.
We live in a real world where teenage youth in this country are engaging in something every day. It might not be what we want, but it is also not criminal activity--not criminal activity with lifelong criminal sanctions. I think we have to deal with that.
I want to talk about the benefits that were in Bill C-2, which just passed. These were some of the additions that were put in Bill-2. It proposed significant reforms to ensure that sentencing in cases involving the abuse and sexual exploitation of children better reflects the serious nature of crimes. And this was just passed. This work was done. It is complete in this House. It is now in the Senate. It increased the maximum penalties on summary conviction for child-specific offences from six to 18 months. It doubled the maximum penalty on indictment for sexual exploitation of a young person from five to 10 years. That is serious time in our system of justice. It increased the maximum penalty on indictment for failure to provide the necessities of life and for abandonment of a child from two to five years. And it increases the maximum penalty on summary conviction for all child pornography offences from six to 18 months. That is what was done. I do not want anybody in Canada to believe that this House has not been paying attention to these issues.
Why did we do Bill C-2? The Speech from the Throne committed to crack down on child pornography. It proposed criminal law reforms that strengthen child pornography and sentencing provisions of the Criminal Code, and it created a new category called sexual exploitation. In other words, something was added to the Criminal Code that focused on this particular activity that should not be occurring with our children in this country. It facilitated testimony by children and other vulnerable victims and witnesses, those with an impairment of some type, and it created new voyeurism. Those little photo cameras? There is now a criminal offence that goes with those cameras and any voyeurism offence.
I think we have done a good job in Bill C-2. I am very pleased it passed the House this time. I wish it would have passed over a year ago, as it could easily have done if we had not been so interested in delaying it so that another party could claim victory down the road.
I am not going to take anything away from the member who worked on this bill, because I know him and I know what he is trying to accomplish. I just do not think that this bill is complete enough, and it creates as many problems as it could solve in this country.
Private Members' Business
June 28th, 2005 / 5:55 p.m.
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Madam Speaker, I appreciate this opportunity to speak to Bill C-313. I appreciate the fact, with all sincerity, that my colleagues on this side of the House, at least, have offered their support for this particular bill.
I have personally introduced several times a similar bill to raise the age of consent. It is something in the neighbourhood of six times. The member from Lethbridge, of course, was higher up on the order paper in private members' business and was kind enough to put it on his agenda. The member from Wild Rose, of course, has also fought this particular issue since he here in 1993. Both members have concerns for what has unfolded in the streets of our country when it comes to the age of sexual consent.
I have listened to the members on the opposite side, including the member who just spoke from the NDP. This is not the sky-is-falling type of situation he seems to portray in his delivery, although I would have to say that there is a sense of urgency to this matter, given the fact that law enforcement, for instance, has been trying to deal with issues around the age of sexual consent. It has been trying to help the parents whose children have left the nest, if you will, for whatever reason, and are being manipulated, enticed by those unsavoury characters who think nothing of exploiting a young girl, sometimes a young boy, who may be 14 years of age.
I think on that particular issue alone this bill should proceed and should not be delayed any more by red herrings that have been thrown into this debate by members on the opposite side of the bench.
I would ask my colleagues to quickly act to protect children of this country. I say “quickly” with a sense of optimism, for once. That certainly does not have its basis on past performance of the government or other members in the House. I have risen in the House on numerous occasions to debate the bill, as I had mentioned before, all with the express purpose in mind of ensuring that our children were protected.
I am not about to get into the legalese, and there have been lawyers speaking on this issue time and time again, about what is acceptable and what is not acceptable on the legal side of things, but there have been judgments made in the courts of this land that take precedence and address all of the concerns that have been expressed here.
The NDP member says that we on this side want to deal only with emotion when it comes to this issue. Well, let us look at it from the other side of the coin here. There is a reality that is happening out there that members on the opposite side have not come to grasp yet.
They have not grasped the reality of what is really happening out there in the world. They are looking at things through rose-coloured glasses, where 14 year old girls often run away, who are being exploited time and time again by manipulative older men, and all in the name of sexual consent. The police cannot touch them and take them out of that very trying situation and bring them back home because the argument, as put forward, is that they consented, so it is out of police jurisdiction and they cannot do anything about it. That is the reality.
This has been the case throughout the years that I can remember and as long as I have been a police officer. Prior to this job, that is exactly what I did for a living. Cases of this matter were brought before the courts. Even when it came to the judgment of police officers looking at two teenage kids involved in sexual activity, the courts already set precedents in the matter.
It does not have to deal with a red herring section that the NDP says is missing in this legislation, a red herring that the Liberals, and now the NDP, are acting upon saying that children who will engage in sexual activity will suddenly be criminalized. The courts have already decided that. Precedents have already been set.
What these members are now saying, to divert attention from the bill and its effectiveness, is that this provision of charging and criminalizing youngsters for sexual activity is not included in the bill and is not going to protect them. That is a bunch of nonsense. I am absolutely surprised as to how the NDP member can even suggest that. I believe that member is a lawyer, is he not? He is a lawyer and should know better. Shame on him because he should know better, as should the Liberals.
This is not new. These red herrings have been thrown into the debate, not by us, not by those law enforcement officers across this country, not by the parents who grieve because they cannot get their children out of the clutches of adult men, but by the Liberals. They have chosen to throw this into the mix, and deflect away from the real purpose of why this legislation is here before us.
I would like to touch on a couple of rather odd instances that I do not believe the Liberal's Bill C-2 legislation for the protection of children will address. There was one situation that came up with a Mr. Beckham out of Texas, a 31 year old man who had lured an Ottawa boy to a hotel room for sex. It just shows where we are at here with our legislation and the fact that the members on that side of the House, the governing party, never intended to ever address.
Under Canadian law, 14 year olds, and everyone knows it because this is what the debate is all about, are qualified to consent to sex, unless they, of course, are with a person of trust or authority, or unless it is anal sex in which case the Criminal Code says everyone involved has to be 18 or older.
That law, the latter part of what I just read there about anal sex, has been ruled unconstitutional by two Canadian courts already. Guess what is going to happen? Do members think that this law will ever be challenged and put into the right perspective by the government? No. The government has consistently gone the other way. It has consistently rejected the common good when it comes to our youngsters, and it will not challenge it.
Canada's basic law regarding age of consent is 14 for non-anal sex, so as not to criminalize most sex acts between teenagers. Now, the law even allows for children as young as 12 to consent to sex in some circumstances. That is the law. Do you see the trend, Madam Speaker? It is going the other way. It is not reaching out to protect those youngsters. It is going the other way and opening the door so more of them can be exploited, as young as 12. I think that is absolutely shameful.
Given that trend, given that concern raised by so many people in this country, and given the fact that the government here has no intention of protecting our children, with all the rhetoric and red herrings, we can tell that the government is not serious about this particular bill. This is the concern we have on this side of the House.
I know this is the concern that law enforcement officers in this nation have. I ask all members in this House to rethink their position, especially on that side of the House. For the sake of our children, support this bill. Get behind it.
Private Members' Business
June 28th, 2005 / 5:50 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
It is not nonsense. Again, it is typical that we hear that from the Conservatives. They did not even look at it. That is the law of the land.
On top of that, we have this situation in every province in this country. It is the constitutional right of every province in this country where one can go into court and if the young woman in the relationship is pregnant, one can apply to the court and have a marriage take place under the authority of the court, the parents or guardians. That exists in just about every province. I do not think I checked Quebec, but all the other provinces have that provision.
So again, we could have this anomaly where at the federal jurisdiction we fix the age of consent at 16. I think this one is really quite interesting that we have not dealt with and we are going to have to if we ever get this methodology into play. We are going to have judges who are going to be one day authorizing the marriage and the next day being faced by the prosecutor and the police bringing the same couple before him, one of them, whoever is the older, and charging him or her because of the age not being there as a proper defence.
So there are problems with this. It is not anywhere near as simplistic as we always hear from the Conservatives when it deals with a law and order matter. It is more complex than that because the human scene in this country of course is more complex.
Bill C-313 does not cut it. If the Conservatives went back and maybe spoke to their member for Provencher maybe they could get some amendments at some point. However, as long as they go on a motion, we are not going to get this problem resolved.
Private Members' Business
June 28th, 2005 / 5:45 p.m.
Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON
Madam Speaker, I feel like a broken record because, as the member for Wild Rose has already mentioned, the Conservative Party has spoken to this issue repeatedly and as recently as yesterday. I spoke against the private member's motion yesterday and I am speaking against Bill C-313 for basically the same reasons.
The first thing I want to say to the Conservative Party is that if it perhaps got its act together maybe we could deal with the age of consent. When it does this holus-bolus, scattergun approach it just does not work and it will not get the support of the rest of the members of the House.
I want to acknowledge the work that its member for Provencher did with regard to Bill C-2. He did some significant work on dealing with the age of consent and introducing amendments that I was prepared to support as a member of the justice committee for my party and in fact did support the amendments. The Liberals and the Bloc chose not to support them and to go on with this methodology that they have used.
I want to touch on this. I do not think the Conservatives get it. They have to get their act together. They can respond with emotion, yell in the House and try to shame the rest of us into doing it, but if they practically dealt with the problem maybe we could reach a resolution.
We really are talking about social engineering. Until the late 1800s, the age of consent in Canada was 12 years of age. We raised that in the early 1900s and have not touched it since then, except playing with it in a few areas with regard to specific offences.
What began happening in the late 1960s through to the late 1970s was that successive governments, mostly Liberal but, quite frankly, some Conservative, at the federal level began to tinker with it. The option they went for was the exploitative dependency relationship.
In the course of the witnesses and evidence we heard on Bill C-2, we heard from a number of police officers and, more important , from a number of prosecutors who dealt with the sections that were based on the relationship being of an exploitative nature.
What they told us repeatedly from both their own experiences and that of other prosecutors across the land was that the methodology, if I can put it that way, in social engineering simply did not work. They could not get convictions. It was just too difficult to prove.
I was convinced at that time by the witnesses, I have to say, and not by the Conservatives on the committee, that in fact we should be looking at using a different methodology.
The basic problem we have of fixing rigid ages, and we heard it from the Liberal member who preceded me, is the risk of criminalizing a large number of our youth. I am going to throw some numbers out because it is something the Conservatives did not do.
We the following are some figures we asked for and received. There are roughly 800,000 youth in the country at any given time who are 14 and 15 years of age. Of them, close to 50%, are engaging in sexual relations. Of the ones who are engaging in sexual relations, roughly 41% of them are engaging in sexual relations with an older person. It does not matter whether it is male or female. This is something that changed from my generation because it tended to be and still is the stereotype we hear from the Conservatives that it is always the male who is the older person.
The reality is that it is almost exactly equal. Of the 50%, and we are talking now about 150,000 to 180,000 youth, 41% are engaged in a relationship where the age gap between them is more than two years but less than five. We have an additional group of almost 5% who are engaged in a relationship with an individual who is six years or older than they are.
This is where I want to acknowledge the work of the member for Provencher from the Conservative Party. He brought forth an amendment that said we are going to put into the Criminal Code the age of consent by fixing it at 16 from 14, which is where it is now, but we are going to allow a defence to the other youth engaged in the relationship if the age gap is five years or less.
When I saw that, I thought that was a reasoned approach on his part. However, I do not see that in Bill C-313 and I did not see any concept of that in the motion yesterday. Those members just did not do their work. They are quite prepared to criminalize as many as 100,000 youth for engaging in sexual contact. Those are our children. They are not the pimps in downtown Toronto. Those are kids who go to our schools. And they are going to criminalize them.
So when the member for Wild Rose gets up and says, “Shame on you”, I repeat that back to him and to his party. If they got their facts straight and they dealt with this, as they have tried to do, based entirely on emotion, it is never going to go any place. If they did it on facts, if they took a proper and reasoned approach to this, got away from the emotion and feeding their own egos, maybe we could get this problem resolved.
Our party supports the member for Provencher. We could not convince the Bloc or the Liberals to do it, and I blame the Conservatives for that. If they had over the years taken a more reasoned approach, we probably could have brought some of them on side and we could have got that bill, Bill C-2, back to this House with an age of consent and that age differential defence in it. We could have passed it.
That bill, by the way, is before the Senate right now. It may in fact have passed in the last day or two, I am not sure. So we could have actually had it in place. But because the opposition wanted to deal with emotion, we did not get it through.
One of the other things they did not consider was that we still have a problem even if we do fix the age at 16 and we put in the near age defence. We would have a constitutional problem between ourselves and the provinces. One of the territories still has the marrying age set at 15. We are going to have this anomaly if we fix the age of consent at 16. We are going to have people in the north who can get married at the age of 15, but be charged if they engage in a sexual relationship with their husband or wife.