Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act

An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children)

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Rob Nicholson  Conservative

Status

Third reading (Senate), as of March 25, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment amends the Criminal Code

(a) to increase or impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children;

(b) to create offences of making sexually explicit material available to a child and of agreeing or arranging to commit a sexual offence against a child;

(c) to ensure consistency among those two new offences and the existing offence of luring a child; and

(d) to expand the list of specified conditions that may be added to prohibition and recognizance orders to include prohibitions concerning contact with a person under the age of 16 and use of the Internet or other digital network, and to expand the list of enumerated offences that may give rise to such orders and prohibitions.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

March 11th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

moved that the Bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

Hon. Rob Nicholson moved that the Bill be read the third time and passed.

He said: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to begin the third reading debate on Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act.

The bill recognizes that sexual exploitation of children causes irreparable harm to the youngest and most vulnerable members of our society. The bill recognizes that we as legislators not only have the opportunity but also the responsibility to do all that we can to protect children from this harm. No less important, the bill reflects the view held by most, if not all, Canadians that sexual exploitation of children is reprehensible and that the criminal law must treat all forms of child sexual exploitation as such, including by imposing penalties that fit the severity of this crime.

Bill C-54 therefore proposes Criminal Code amendments to ensure that all child sexual abuse penalties consistently reflect the serious nature of this crime as well as to prevent the commission of a sexual offence against a child.

The bill proposes to add seven new mandatory sentences to existing child sexual offences that do not currently impose minimum sentences. It proposes to increase the minimum sentences for seven child specific sexual offences that already have mandatory sentences and to impose two new sentences in the two new offences proposed by this bill. In this way, Bill C-54 would ensure that all sexual offences involving child victims are treated the same by requiring all convicted child sex offenders to serve a term of imprisonment. This would eliminate a distinction that currently exists between the 12 child specific sexual offences that already impose mandatory penalties and the seven additional sexual offences that still do not.

This existing distinction sends out the wrong message. In effect, it says to the majority of child sexual assault victims whose offenders are charged under the general sexual assault offence in section 271 that does not impose a minimum sentence that their victimization is less serious than that of the 19% of child victims whose offenders are charged under child specific sexual offences that do carry minimum penalties. This is just wrong and Bill C-54 would change this.

The bill would also increase seven existing mandatory minimum penalties in the child specific sexual offences to ensure that the minimums are commensurate not only with the offence in question, but are also coherent with those for other offences. For example, offences that carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment on indictment would have the same minimum penalty of one year.

Accordingly, the existing minimum for the offence of sexual interference in section 151 would be increased from 45 days to one year, which in turn would be consistent with the new minimum proposed in section 271, the general sexual assault offence that also carries a maximum penalty of 10 years on indictment.

During its review of Bill C-54 the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights heard from a range of witnesses, including victims' groups, police, academics, psychologists and criminal lawyers' associations. Some disagreed on Bill C-54's approach with minimum penalties. Some argued against minimum penalties. Some advocated for higher minimum penalties and some supported the reforms as proposed by this bill. But without exception they all agreed that child sexual abuse and the exploitation of children is a serious crime and must be treated as such. That is what this bill would do.

This bill proposes reforms to prevent the commission of sexual offences against children. It does so in two ways.

First, it proposes to create two new offences that target conduct that is preparatory to the commission of a contact sexual offence against a child.

The first offence would prohibit a person from making sexually explicit material available to a young person for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual or abduction offence against that child. This offence recognizes that child sex offenders often give this type of material to their victims, often with a view to lowering their sexual inhibitions and making it easier to sexually assault them. If the material is child pornography, irrespective of the reason for which it may be given, this conduct is already prohibited. This bill would now prohibit providing other sexually explicit material for this specific purpose.

Our bill defines “sexually explicit material” in a manner that is consistent with its use and interpretation in the child pornography and voyeurism offences.

The proposed offence would apply to transmitting, making available, distributing or selling such material to a young person for this purpose and would apply whether it is provided directly in a face-to-face encounter or over the Internet.

The second new offence proposed is a prohibition against using telecommunications, such as the Internet, to agree or make arrangements with another person to commit one of the enumerated child sexual or abduction offences.

The existing prohibition in section 172.1 against using a computer system to communicate directly with a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of one of the enumerated child sex and abduction offences only applies where the communication is between the perpetrator and the child. It does not apply to a situation where, for example, one adult uses the Internet to communicate with another adult to agree with or arrange to commit a sexual offence against a third person, the child. Thankfully, this bill would close that gap.

There was much discussion at the justice committee about this new offence as to what the term “telecommunications” includes. How would the offence work? Does its formulation deny an accused legitimate defences and even legitimize police entrapment? The answer to that of course is no.

The term “telecommunications” is defined in the federal Interpretation Act as “the emission, transmission or reception of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds or intelligence of any nature by any wire, cable, radio, optical or other electromagnetic system, or by any similar technical system”.

Using such a broad but clearly defined term would ensure that this new offence would apply to the same prohibited use of new technology that may be created after this offence is enacted.

The new offence would operate in a similar manner to the existing luring a child offence that is found in section 172.1 of the Criminal Code. It includes the same provisions about presumed or reasonable but mistaken belief in the age of the child.

Like the existing luring a child offence, the common law defence of entrapment would still be available to an accused in the appropriate circumstances.

Bill C-54 also proposes to require a court to consider prohibiting a child sex offender and a suspected child sex offender under section 810.1 from having both access and opportunity to sexually molest a child. It proposes to expand the list of sexual offences for which such prohibitions could be included to include four prostitution offences where the victim is a child.

Courts would also be specifically directed to consider imposing two new conditions prohibiting the offender from having any unsupervised access to a young person or from having any unsupervised use of the Internet.

These conditions would help prevent the offender from being placed in a situation where he or she has access and opportunity to sexually assault a child, and from having unfettered use of the Internet or other similar technologies that are instrumental in the commission of child pornography and other child sexual exploitative offences today.

Witnesses before the justice committee were generally quite supportive of these proposed preventive measures.

There was some discussion of what is meant by these provisions' use of the term “the Internet or other digital network”. Bill C-54's use of “the Internet or other digital network” is consistent with its commonly understood meaning. It is also used in Bill C-32, the Copyright Modernization Act, which is currently before Parliament.

Clearly, the intention here is to direct the court to consider imposing such a prohibition where it is appropriate in the circumstances of the accused and the safety needs of the community and, as specifically directed by this bill, to impose the prohibition subject to any appropriate conditions as determined by the court.

I am confident that this proposal strikes the right balance in providing sufficient clarity and needed flexibility to enable the courts to craft a clear and understandable prohibition with any applicable conditions warranted by the circumstances of each case.

This is an important step forward in the protection of children in this country, and I am asking the House to pass this bill as rapidly as possible.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

March 11th, 2011 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-54. We have dealt with a lot of justice issues in the House. I follow all of them very carefully and, when I have the opportunity, I contribute to the debate. I am not a lawyer, although I have often been accused of being one, so I often let the people who have done this for a living handle the major bulk of the debates, but I have always been very interested, as are all members.

I am pleased to see Bill C-54. I think there is some work to be done, and with this piece of legislation, I wonder whether not being a lawyer is a detriment or not. One thing that makes us interested in this legislation in particular is our being parents, as many of us are, or grandparents. That is not to say that people who are not parents do not have an interest in what is happening with children.

I have a child who is now a teenager and one who is getting there rapidly. I worry about what happens with my children. People worry in this day and age with the new communications tools that are available to children. We try to monitor them, but there are lots of different things that people worry about when it comes to the exploitation of children.

I have organized how I am going to speak to this bill for the next few minutes. There could be up to 30 million Canadians watching this and I want them to be able to judge their time. This bill is important. I want to talk about the sexual exploitation of children, what happens and how often it happens. I want to set it in the overall context of the crime agenda of the government, and I will have a few comments about what people have to say about it. Then I will come back to the bill and conclude.

As has been noted, Bill C-54 seeks to amend the Criminal Code to introduce or extend mandatory penalties for crimes against children of a sexual nature and to introduce two new offences. We support this legislation. We are very concerned about the safety of our children. We recognize that times are changing and there are different threats to our children than used to exist.

It was the former Liberal government in 2002 that made it illegal to deliberately access a website containing child pornography. In an age where new technologies have the negative effect of increasing access of our children, we need to be responsible and have a look at the Criminal Code to ensure it is up to date.

This bill would introduce mandatory minimum sentences for seven existing Criminal Code offences, including sexual assault on a person under 16 years of age, luring a child, and conducting an indecent act in the presence of a child. It would also increase mandatory sentences for seven sexual offences involving child victims.

I think generally members of the House are going to support this bill. I am not sure but I think the New Democrats and the Bloc are going to support sending the bill to committee. There is a legitimate concern, which I understand and in many ways share, about mandatory minimums. They are controversial. There is a lot of conflicting evidence as to whether mandatory minimums work.

We supported mandatory minimums as a government. The Liberal government brought in some mandatory minimums. We do not think they work in all cases, which I will get to later, but we think in this instance they are appropriate.

The Department of Justice has a family violence initiative website. Let me preface my comments by mentioning people who have come to my constituency office, as people go to the offices of all members, with their concerns. It is pretty disconcerting when they visit their MPs to say they think the law needs to be changed because of something that happened in their own families and then they provide the details of what happened to their children.

In many ways, we are powerless to help these folks. We want to reach out and help them. One way we can help them, of course, is by bringing their stories to Parliament to try to make sure the laws of the land respond to their concerns and the wishes they extend.

The family violence initiative website states:

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth may involve a range of behaviours....Sexual exploitation may involve prostitution as well as making children and youth participate in pornographic acts or performances for personal or commercial use.

Those are fairly serious issues. The question is:

HOW WIDESPREAD IS SEXUAL ABUSE AND THE EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN AND YOUTH IN CANADA?

Further on it states:

However, the available national data indicates that sexual abuse and exploitation of children and youth is disturbingly common in Canada.

It was not recognized as a problem in Canada until the 1984 Badgley report. All evidence we have indicates that this is a very serious issue.

As to the extent of sexual abuse and exploitation, in 2002, 8,800 sexual assaults against children and youth were reported to a subset of 94 police departments in Canada. This included 2,863 sexual assaults against children and youth by family members. This is pretty disturbing. Sexual abuse was the primary reason for investigation in 10% of all child maltreatment referrals to social service agencies.

There is some very good information in terms of types of sexual abuse. According to the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, the most common form of substantiated child sexual abuse in child protection cases was touching and fondling of children. It goes on to talk about other things that are more graphic than that, which I probably do not need to recite here but which need to be brought to the attention of parliamentarians.

Who is doing these crimes? The perpetrators are more often individuals who know the victim rather than strangers. About half of sexual assaults against children and youth reported to a subset of police departments in 2002 involved friends or acquaintances, while a quarter of those assaults involved family members. About 18% involved assaults by strangers. Most but not all are male.

There is a bit of a pattern. We have some information that has been gathered over the years on who is committing these heinous acts against our children. What has been done about it? There have been a number of pieces of legislation that have been brought to this House, mainly by Liberal governments over the years.

Bill C-2, introduced October 8, 2004, proposing amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act that are intended to protect children and others who are vulnerable. It lists all the things that it did, expanding the scope of existing offences, narrowing the availability of statutory defences, composing the creation of new offences, voyeurism, proposes amendments allowing children and other vulnerable witnesses greater access to aids. I will mention a few of them.

Bill C-15A, proclaimed into force in July 2002, created new Criminal Code offences.

Bill C-7, which is the Youth Criminal Justice Act, replaced the Young Offenders Act. It holds young people accountable for their actions through interventions that are fair and in proportion to the seriousness of the offence committed.

Bill C-79, proclaimed in 1999, amends the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act to facilitate the participation of victims and witnesses in the criminal justice process.

I will not go through all of the bills, but they include: Bill C-27 in 1997; Bill C-46 in 1997; Bill C-41 in 1995; Bill C-42; Bill C-72; Bill C-126; Bill C-49; and Bill C-15. These are all relatively recent pieces of legislation that address the issue of sexual exploitation of children.

We have to accept the fact that there is a problem. Part of that is the changing technology, the changing way children communicate with other children and adults, and sometimes we do not even know who our children are communicating with. I am sure I am no different from any other parent in this place in that we try to keep an eye on those sorts of things. We want our children to be aware of what is happening around them.

We support this legislation. I want to put this in context of the greater criminal justice agenda of the government. Today, we have come together. I think all four parties are speeding up the process so that we can deal with this bill and get it to the Senate so that it can be adopted. The Minister of Justice no doubt is very appreciative of the support of all parties so that we can get this done. However, he has not always been so appreciative of the support of the Liberal Party.

One of my favourite letters that I have seen, and I am sure the minister has had a chance to look at it extensively, is one from February 4 of last year. Senator Cowan sent a very affectionate letter to the Minister of Justice responding to concerns the government had that the Senate was holding up all kinds of legislation. I wonder if the minister remembers that letter.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

March 11th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

This very good letter outlines some facts. It said:

I was puzzled to read reports in which you defended the latest Senate appointments as necessary to allow your Government “to move forward on [y]our tackling-crime agenda.” You accused the Liberal opposition of having “obstructed that agenda in the Senate.”

If members knew Senator Cowan as I do, they would know that he always assumed the most purest of motives about anybody. He said:

I can only assume that you have been misinformed as to the progress of anti-crime legislation. In fact, as I am sure your Cabinet colleague, Senator Marjory LeBreton, would tell you, the overwhelming majority of your Government’s anti-crime bills had not even reached the Senate when [the] Prime Minister...chose to prorogue Parliament. Indeed, an honest examination of the record compels one to acknowledge that the greatest delays to implementation of your justice agenda have resulted from your own Government’s actions--sitting on bills and not bringing them forward for debate, delaying bringing legislation into force, and ultimately, of course, proroguing Parliament. That action alone caused some 18 of your justice-related bills to die on the Order Paper.

He goes on in his helpful way to further enunciate the status of those bills. He says:

Your Government introduced 19 justice-related bills in the House of Commons. Of these, 14 were still in the House of Commons at prorogation. Of the five justice bills that passed the House of Commons and came to the Senate:

two passed the Senate without amendment;

one (the so-called Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime bill) was tabled by your Government in November in the Senate but not brought forward for further action after that;

one was passed with four amendments and returned to the House of Commons which did not deal with it before Parliament was prorogued; and

one was being studied in committee when Parliament was prorogued and all committee work shut down.

He goes into a bit more detail on exactly what happened with the government's alleged tough on crime agenda.

There have been a number of initiatives and we have been supportive of just about all of those bills. However, we have had concerns because some of the bills have come to us with very little or misleading information. I think about what we could do for the health of our children. One of those, in fairness to the minister, is to deal with it in the way that Bill C-54 would.

When we look at any societal problem, we need to do two things. We need to ask if there are regulations in place that ensure we are protecting our children from being exploited or hurt in this manner. There not only needs to be a legislative response but also a response that looks at the causes of the issue that we are trying to prevent.

If we could invest more money in the boys and girls clubs, we would need less prisons. If we could invest more money in early learning and child care, we would need less prisons. The studies on the impact of early learning and child care on criminal behaviour are absolutely amazing. If we want to reduce the amount of money that we need to spend on prisons, then we should invest in reducing poverty.

Just this week, the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development snuck in a totally inadequate response to a poverty report done by all members of this House, including members of her own party. We have heard from people like Don Drummond and just about every social policy organization, including the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. We have seen the impact that can be made on reducing criminal justice by investing in reducing poverty. We would see huge reductions in health costs as well. A report organized by the food banks in Ontario, which Don Drummond was part of, said that by reducing poverty we would reduce criminal justice costs in Ontario alone by some $600 million in a year.

We are on a failed course in terms of criminal justice. Those who the government emulates on criminal justice, who are the hard right Republicans in the United States, have had an epiphany, a change of course.

Newt Gingrich, who will be running for president in 2012, was one of the architects of this new tough on crime agenda. It was part of the contract with America in, I believe, 1994. The Americans were saying that they needed to invest in prisons, that they needed to spend money on our prisons, that they needed to put people behind bars because that is how to deal with these situations.

On January 7, 2011, Newt Gingrich and Pat Nolan wrote an op-ed in The Washington Post titled “Prison reform: A smart way for states to save money and lives”. This is an amazing document that repudiates the alleged tough on crime agenda of the eighties and nineties that put so many Americans behind bars. The article reads:

There is an urgent need to address the astronomical growth in the prison population, with its huge costs in dollars and lost human potential. We spent $68 billion in 2010 on corrections--300% more than 25 years ago. The prison population is growing 13 times faster than the general population. These facts should trouble every American.

Our prisons might be worth the current cost if the recidivism rate were not so high, but...half of the prisoners released this year are expected to be back in prison within three years. If our prison policies are failing half of the time, and we know that there are more humane, effective alternatives, it is time to fundamentally rethink how we treat and rehabilitate our prisoners.

That is a pretty powerful statement.

What Mr. Gingrich is calling for is a Conservative response to what the Conservatives caused in the last two or three decades with this “tough on crime” approach, which has not reduced crime. In fact, the article goes on to say:

Some people attribute [this] to more people being locked up. But the facts show otherwise. While crime...some of those with the largest reductions in crime have also lowered their prison population. Compare Florida and New York. Over the past seven years, Florida's incarceration rate has increased 16 percent, while New York's decreased 16 percent. Yet the crime rate in New York has fallen twice as much as Florida's. Put another way, although New York spent less on its prisons, it delivered better public safety. Americans need to know that we can reform our prison systems to cost less and keep the public safe.

Asa Hutchinson was quoted recently in the Globe and Mail on March 3 talking about these same issues. Part of that article reported that:

Because of tough criminal justice policies in the United States, one in every 100 American adults is behind bars--up from one in 400....

Mr. Hutchinson was also stated:

The United States has five per cent of the world’s population but 23 per cent of the world’s recorded prisoners.

That was an admission that there was a failed policy brought into the United States to jail more people and spend more money on prisons. The problem is that it did not reduce crime, but it cost a lot of money. We know the condition of the American economy and the situation that it is in.

The case is very clear. In all cases, throwing more money into prisons and locking more people up does not work. We are not be looking at the causes of crime and the root issues that create criminal intent in our young people. We are not investing in early learning and child care. We are not doing very much to equalize out the opportunity. It does not need to be all kinds of government spending. It could be targeted support for our wonderful Boys and Girls Club.

Tomorrow I will be bowling in Halifax for the Big Brothers Big Sisters. Let us think about the work it does to reduce crime in our communities and the work it does to mentor young Canadians so they do not, as a first instinct, think about becoming a criminal but instead think about the dignity and self-worth they have as individuals. Those are the kinds of things we should be investing more in if we are going to be reducing crime.

I appreciate the minister's indulgence in being here for the discussion on this debate. I commend him on this bill but, overall, I think the justice agenda of the government is taking us in a wrong direction. We cannot even get the exact costs of what the government is proposing in terms of building these mega prisons. It seems that building more prisons is the Conservatives' answer to a national housing strategy but it is not. If we want to keep people out of prison, one way to start is to ensure people have a roof over their heads when they go to sleep at night. We need to provide those kinds of supports that Canadians need.

I am pleased to support this bill. Our Liberal critic, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, has worked very hard on these issues and will also support the bill. It is a sensible bill under the circumstances. We worry about our kids and we want to give them all the tools they need to be happy, healthy and productive adults. From a government point of view, there is a responsibility on us as legislators to recognize that the world is changing.

I support Bill C-54 and I urge other members to do the same.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

March 11th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois about Bill C-54, which pertains to minimum sentences for sexual offences against children. This bill would amend the Criminal Code.

On March 22, my grandson will be 18 months old. Grandparents are always proud of their grandchildren. There are grandparents who are watching today and I know that they are proud of their grandchildren. I cannot remain unmoved by a bill introduced in Parliament that pertains to minimum sentences for sexual offences against children. If anyone touched my grandson, I would have difficulty abiding by the law; however, I would, as all citizens are obliged to do.

Bill C-54, which is well-intentioned, must be examined. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the bill at this stage and feels it should be sent to committee. When it is reviewed in committee, we can ask witnesses questions. The fight against crime is of the utmost importance, particularly when children are the victims. However, it must be said that, in Quebec, as in the rest of Canada, the crime rate has been declining for the past 15 years or so. The measures set out in Bill C-54 warrant our attention. This bill creates new offences and imposes new restrictions on offenders. However, the bill also provides for minimum sentences.

We must hear from legal experts on the matter. When the Conservatives introduce crime bills, they do so to satisfy their own ideology rather than to improve society. They have that annoying tendency of trying to do what the justice system should do. When minimum penalties are brought in, we tell the judges what they have to do. Our parents and grandparents passed on a legacy of the rule of law and a justice system in which judges look at offences on a case-by-case basis and assign penalties in accordance with precedents that have been developed over years. In short, looking at case law means looking at what has happened in the past and giving similar penalties for similar crimes, so that justice is balanced.

When minimum penalties are brought in, it changes this balance that was passed on to us by our parents and grandparents. I am a grandfather to a boy who will be 18 months on March 22, and I would not want to leave him a justice system that completely disregards our history and the foundation of our society.

The Bloc Québécois is generally in favour of the principle of sending a bill to be studied in committee. There, we can hear from witnesses and make any necessary amendments to the bill. The purpose is that when the bill is passed, it helps develop society. The sole objective should not be to replace the justice system that was passed down to us by our parents and grandparents with the new system that the Conservatives and their ideology are trying to impose.

Quebeckers and people from the rest of Canada can trust the Bloc Québécois to maintain that balance. We have always done so in the House and we will continue to do so. The principle of the bill is very interesting and we want to develop it and discuss it.

The bill would create two new offences. The first offence would prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child. This hybrid offence would carry a mandatory prison sentence of 30 days imprisonment and a maximum penalty of six months or a mandatory prison sentence of 90 days.

The second offence would prohibit anyone from using any means of telecommunications, including a computer system, to agree or to make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child. This provision was part of former Bill C-46, which was introduced in the previous parliamentary session but was not passed because of the last election.

The Bloc's goal is to help society evolve. This bill would prohibit the use of telecommunications. Our parents knew nothing about these kinds of things. I am getting older, and my father never saw such things, nor did my grandparents. Laws need to be adapted, and I think this is a step in the right direction. Once again, at this stage in the discussions surrounding Bill C-54, the Bloc Québécois will support the bill.

Next, we need to proceed with this bill so that the legal and criminal aspects of our society, passed down by our parents and grandparents, will evolve and be more suitable for our grandchildren. That is the challenge that the Bloc Québécois has taken on. We will bring the necessary witnesses forward and we, along with the other parties, will try to move this bill forward to achieve the final goal of helping society move in a positive direction and not towards a right-wing conservative ideology as has happened with the U.S. Republicans and in totalitarian societies in the world. There needs to be a balance, and that is what the Bloc is here for.

At this stage, the government can count on the Bloc's support.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

March 11th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-54 today. I know my hon. colleague, the member for Niagara Falls, the Minister of Justice, and I lived through a horrific period of time a number of years ago, with Paul Bernardo and the luring of who were then ostensibly children. He and I have intimate knowledge of that, living in the area at that time and knowing the consequences of the actions of that couple.

The minister knows that I was more than pleased to work with the Minister of Public Safety to ensure that one of the perpetrators, Karla Homolka, did not receive a pardon, when she came to the end of her sentence. I was extremely pleased to work with the government. I thank the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice for their work with me to ensure it did not happen. It was immensely important, not just for the people who live in Niagara where those heinous crimes were committed, but for all Canadians across this land who believed that justice would not be served if it happened.

When we talk about child luring for the purposes of sexual exploitation, all of us in the House agree it has to be one of the most repulsive and heinous acts committed against the most vulnerable and cherished in our society, our little ones. As the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour said earlier, whether we have little ones or not, we must protect them. As my mother always says to me, I am always her little one. I am not sure how that happens with my size and age, but I guess I am always her son. I have a son who is six foot five, but he is still my little guy and he always will be.

There is no greater thing in this world that we can do than protect those little ones. No matter how old they get, they are always our little ones and we want to protect them. That should be, by extension, not just for family but out across the broader community, across this province, across the country and around the world. They are the folks we cherish most. They are put in situations where they are vulnerable and we cannot allow folks, who have the wherewithal, to make decisions to go ahead and try to lure those little ones.

The New Democrats actually brought forward a bill on child luring through the act of using communications as various methods. In fact, I congratulate my good friend and colleague Dawn Black who has now moved on to British Columbia's legislature. She initially put two bills before the House to deal with this very subject.

I want to congratulate the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam who has taken them on himself to ensure that the work started by Dawn continues to go forward. That is how we feel in this party about the importance of it and how we ensure we protect our little ones.

Also, I give a great deal of thanks for our member for Windsor—Tecumseh who is our critic for justice. He gives yeoman work when it comes to debating the bills and ensuring they are crafted in such a way when they get to committee, with amendments and good questions, and calling good witnesses. It was in second reading that my friend from Windsor—Tecumseh said that part of the failings of the initial part of the bill was around the sense of what was “telecommunications”. He highlighted the point that the definition was too narrow when it came to telecommunications.

As many of us know, the art form of telecommunications moves at a horrendous speed, which makes it very difficult for us to keep up. Modern telecommunications could be yesterday's telecommunications within less than a year or even months in some cases. He has pushed for that, and I am sure he would want let the minister know that the committee has broadened the sense of what “telecommunications” is and what “communications for child luring” is. He has made it more accessible and not a narrow definition but a broad one. Therefore, we will not have folks escaping the very net we are casting to catch those who would lure our children for sexual exploitation.

All of us believe they need to be punished. I do not believe anyone would say they should not be. We need to find ways to not only to reduce what happens to our young people, but to find ways to stop it.

What do we want to see happen? I believe the bill accomplishes a fair amount, but it unfortunately leaves parts out. My friend for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour articulated issues around poverty and the things that we ought to do that might be helpful at the preventative level so we would not see young people get lured and then engaged after the fact.

Part of the aspect that is missing is this sense of how we treat those offenders. As I read through the committee transcript, there were some eminently qualified witnesses, psychiatrists and psychologists, who talked about the types of offenders who committed and perpetrated these crimes. They are not exactly as we think they might be. The witnesses explained that they fell into three different categories. It is not for me to try to explain it because they are the experts. They quantified the numbers included in there. For one category of offenders, there was great hope that with certain forms of treatment, there was the possibility that they would not reoffend, and the treatment would be successful.

Therefore, the sense is not that they should not be apprehended and punished. They should be. However, we do not want to just simply end it with that and allow them back out to reoffend. If they do reoffend, it is not simply a question of saying that because they have reoffended, we will put them back in jail to punish them again. The person who has really suffered the greatest is that child. Accordingly, if we can catch the perpetrators and find ways to get them into treatment, and experts have told us there are ways to do this in the vast majority of cases, hopefully when they get out, they will not reoffend. That would set us on a path to reducing child luring, child exploitation and child molestation. However, to send them back out to reoffend does not make any sense.

I hope the minister and the government will look at this and decide that perhaps they ought to spend a few dollars to do that.

Let me be abundantly clear that all New Democrats feel revulsion when it comes to child luring and child exploitation. All of us want to put an end to it to ensure our children are protected.

Therefore, for all of the above reasons, we will support the bill as it goes forward. We have heard that from my other colleagues in the House. Let us put an end to the exploitation of the most vulnerable citizens in our communities, our families and across our country. It is our obligation to do so and we take that obligation seriously.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today on behalf of this. I hope, once and for all, some day in the not too distant future, we will not have to talk about a subject like this again because we have put ourselves on the road to ensure it will not happen to our most vulnerable.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / noon
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to Bill C-54.

At the outset, I want to indicate that one of our previous members, Dawn Black, introduced a bill on this subject on two occasions. Then the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam reintroduced those bills in the last few months.

We are encouraged and happy that the government has taken the necessary steps to introduce Bill C-54. We intend to support the bill going to committee. Hopefully, we will be able to study the bill in committee and make whatever necessary amendments need to be done.

The government has recognized that children are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse and exploitation. In its Speech from the Throne in March, it promised to increase penalties for sexual offences against children.

The proposed Bill C-54, Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act, supports the commitment in two ways: first, by ensuring that the penalties imposed for sexual offences against children better reflect the extremely serious nature of these acts and are consistent with one another; and second, by seeking to prevent child sex offenders from engaging in conduct that would facilitate their sexual offending or re-offending.

The proposed legislation amends the Criminal Code in a number of ways. It provides mandatory prison sentences for 7 existing offences relating to child sexual exploitation, including sexual assault where the victim is under 16 years of age, aggravated sexual assault where the victim is under 16 years of age, incest where the victim is under 16 years of age, luring a child through the use of a computer and exposure. Also, the addition of mandatory prison sentences for these offences would also have the effect of eliminating the use of the conditional sentences or house arrest for any of these cases.

The bill would create two new offences. The new offences are aimed at certain conduct that could facilitate enable the commission of a sexual offence against a child. These offences would prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child.

This hybrid offence would carry a mandatory prison sentence of 30 days imprisonment and a maximum penalty of 6 months when proceeded on summary conviction and a mandatory prison sentence of 90 days imprisonment and a maximum penalty of 2 years when proceeded on indictment. In addition, it would prohibit anyone from using any means of telecommunications, including a computer system, to agree to make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child.

This proposed offence was previously proposed as part of former Bill C-46, Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act, in the previous session of Parliament. This proposed hybrid offence will now carry a mandatory prison sentence of 90 days and be punishable by a maximum of 18 months on summary conviction and a mandatory prison sentence of one year and be punishable by a maximum of 10 years when proceeded on indictment.

The mandatory prison sentences for seven existing offences would be increased to better reflect the serious nature of these offences, as well as to bring greater consistency in sentencing in these cases. For example, the existing mandatory prison sentences for 3 child specific offences, which carry a maximum penalty of 10 years imprisonment when proceeded on indictment, would be raised from 45 days to 1 year.

The existing mandatory prison sentences for possessing and accessing child pornography, which carry a maximum penalty of 5 years imprisonment when proceeded by indictment, would be raised from 45 days to 6 months. The existing mandatory prison sentences for the indictable offence of a parent or guardian procuring their 16 or 17-year-old child for illegal sexual activity and for a householder permitting illegal sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old, both of which carry a maximum penalty of 2 years imprisonment, would be doubled from 45 days to 90 days.

In addition, new restrictions are being created for offenders. These reforms would also require judges to consider prohibiting suspected or convicted child sex offenders from having any unsupervised contact with a young person under the age of 16 or from having any unsupervised use of the Internet.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the last time I was involved in a discussion here, we discussed what constituted sexually explicit and whether that was well enough defined terminology with regard to the one element of the bill about using sexually explicit materials to have someone agree.

It would seem to me that different people have different views as to what constitutes something that is sexually explicit. I wonder if the member is satisfied that the precedent and/or the bill satisfactorily cover that question.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a well considered point and it has been mentioned in the past. I guess that is one of the reasons that we are supporting the bill at second reading in principle and wish to send it to committee so we can examine, through the process of expert witnesses, that particular point that the member makes.

I also want to point out that the bill proposes coordinating amendments to other bills currently before Parliament which would include reforms to better protect children against sexual predators, namely, Bill S-2, protecting victims from sexual offenders act, and Bill C-16, the ending house arrest for property and other serious crimes by serious and violent offenders act.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague indicated that Dawn Black introduced this bill twice and that our current member for New Westminster—Coquitlam has also introduced the bill. We are glad the government has kind of copycatted the bill and added a few more things because we think it is important that we have the protection of our young children at heart. We cannot condone child exploitation.

We have concerns about certain aspects of the bill, for example, the unintended consequences of maximums and minimums. We need to keep that in mind. Perhaps my colleague could indicate why it is important to send the bill to committee so we can ensure this is not just a bill that will fill prisons but that we also look at rehabilitation.

Perhaps the member could talk about the importance of which groups should be coming to committee to talk to us about this.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the actions of our former member, Dawn Black, having introduced the bill a number of years ago on two occasions, and our current member for New Westminster—Coquitlam are y evidence enough that the NDP is not only tough on crime but also smart on crime, unlike the government.

The member's points are well taken. It seems to me that at committee we will have ample opportunity to look at all the different aspects of the bill. Her point about having rehabilitation in the prison system is not just building $9 billion worth of prisons to house people without any rehabilitation components to it, is certainly not acceptable and something that society absolutely needs to deal with this problem in a smart on crime approach.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know my colleague was running out of time which is probably why he did not get a chance to say which groups would benefit from coming to committee and the importance of these groups. Our audience needs to be aware of what committees actually do and which interest groups would be involved in this particular matter, because it does, as I have indicated, deal with the safety of our children.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, with the computer age upon us, this is becoming an expanding and exploding area of activity for people involved in the exploitation of children. Governments and authorities in general always seem to be behind the curve and never in front of the problem. They are reactive rather than proactive to what is happening in society.

The point I am trying to make is that the NDP saw this problem very early on. After putting in a lot of effort to consult with groups and people, former member Dawn Black was able to get a bill before the House. At that time, the government did not support or adopt her bill.

Several years went by and then the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam reintroduced the bill and, bingo, the government has now seen the light. It sees that this was a smart on crime approach by two NDP members and it has now simply copied it. It is great because it is now doing what we in the NDP wanted done. It is certainly the right thing. The public is ready for it and wanted to see this happen long ago.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, it is great to see that the NDP is finally coming around to the Conservative government's position of fighting crime for Canadians.

I find it interesting that NDP members continually oppose our tough on crime legislation but today, because it was originally an NDP idea, they are prepared to back the government. I am wondering if it is the NDP's motto that if it is not an NDP idea, it is not a good idea and, therefore, it will not support it. Is that the position of the NDP today?

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that the member is adjusting to the cold weather in Ottawa but this is not something that only members of the NDP noticed. The luring of children and child exploitation has been with us for centuries. However, since computers have been around, it has become a much more serious issue in the last few years.

Yes, the NDP did get on this file a lot earlier than the other parties and Dawn Black did the research and work necessary to bring the bill before the House. Where was the government and the other parties at that time. Why did the other parties not see that this would become the problem it has become? Why did the government not get smart on crime at that point and support the bill? Why did it leave it until months before another election before it decided to copy Dawn Black's good bill and the recent bill introduced by the member for Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam? The government simply copied them, which is not a problem. We endorse that and think it is great. We are trying to point out to the member that it is really the NDP that is tough in crime but also smart on crime, unlike the government over there.

Protecting Children from Sexual Predators Act
Government Orders

December 6th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of Bill C-54, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (sexual offences against children), is to increase the mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children.

I will digress a little and explain what a child is. A child is any person from the age of 0 to 16 years. It was the Liberal opposition that pushed this age of consent and finally drove the government to pass this legislation.

Bill C-54 was introduced on November 4 by the Minister of Justice. It would increase or impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children.

When one looks at the various changes to the subsections of the Criminal Code and one looks at the minimum penalties for different offences, it is important that the bill, which we support, goes to committee. A lot of issues need to be addressed and a lot of witnesses need to be called. It is important that everybody speaks from the same page because children are a very important asset. We have heard about heinous things being done to children. Not a day goes by without hearing a report on sexual activities against children. It is important that the bill is sent quickly to committee so we are able to really put into effect protection for children.

The bill would impose mandatory minimum penalties for certain sexual offences with respect to children. It would also prohibit anyone from providing sexually explicit material to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against that child.

With the proliferation of things going back and forth on the Internet at such high speeds, it is very important that we look at this issue very critically. With the providing of sexually explicit materials to a child for the purpose of facilitating the commission of a sexual offence against the child, one needs to figure out how that child would be implicated, how the adult was involved and one needs to figure out through what means this was done.

The bill would also prohibit anyone from using any means of telecommunication, including a computer system, to agree or make arrangements with another person for the purpose of committing a sexual offence against a child. Too often we have seen the ramifications of child pornography where children are used as sexual toys for the pleasure of adults who have absolutely dehumanized them.

This is an important aspect of the bill because we need to understand how we would catch the perpetrators, how we would ensure that children are protected and how we would ensure that a child understands because children aged 0 to 16 are naive and vulnerable. They are our asset that needs to be protected. They believe in people.

I attended a memorial service for the victims of the December 6 massacre. I listened to Stevie Cameron talk about girls, about the fact that children are taught that they can do anything possible, that they are the masters of their destiny, and about how we protect these children and then suddenly somebody takes their life away.

With this bill, I am hoping we are able to not only ensure that the laws are in place but that we have a mechanism in place that will enforce the protection of our children, not only in Canada but worldwide because if we look at what is happening in today's age, we see child trafficking across the globe.

If we look at the sex trade or visitors who go to places like Thailand to have sex with little children, it is pornography that gives them that problem. It is the access to pornographic sites on the Internet that dehumanizes the poor child. Therefore, it is important that when we are looking at all of these aspects we are consistent in our enforcement, in what we do.

The third thing that the bill will do is ensure consistency among those two new offences and the existing offence of luring a child. Here I would like to bring to bear what happened to Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French. They were unsuspecting kids who were lured by a pedophile, and we reflect upon how this bill may have protected them or given a harsher sentence to Karla Homolka.

The fourth thing that the bill would do is expand the list of specified conditions that may be added to prohibition and recognizance orders to include prohibition concerning contact with a person under the age of 16 and the use of the Internet or other digital networks, and expand the list of enumerated offences that may give rise to such orders and prohibitions.

That brings me to what has been happening currently. Our kids go onto computers and they are more computer savvy than their parents. They access Internet sites and the parents are probably not aware of it. These may be latchkey kids or they may be kids whose parents are at home, but when they are locked in their rooms and they are on Facebook, they have no idea who they are communicating with. It is important that we have checks and balances in place that go after the providers of Internet services to ensure the protection of these kids, to ensure the traceability of the information.

The protection of children is a priority for the Liberal Party. As a party, we have stood firmly against the proliferation of online child pornography for over a decade. In 2002, the former Liberal government made it illegal to deliberately access a website containing child pornography, rather than just having possession of such materials, and it was the Liberal government that put into place Cybertip.ca, an online reporting tool for child pornography. Cybertip is an important tool because, as I mentioned, with the Internet and its proliferation, it is important that we know how to trace the source, to ensure that our children are safe, to ensure that we find the children who have been abducted for the purpose of the sex trade, and to find the perpetrators.

Making laws without having the tools or the means to enforce them does not make for good law, so I hope that when this legislation goes before committee, it will be calling on numerous witnesses so that they can have a wholesome discussion and a wholesome production. I am pleased to see that Bill C-54 introduces a series of new minimum penalties for crimes against children, but as I mentioned, the bill has so many other permutations and combinations that it is important that it be looked at properly at committee. The Liberals will be supporting this legislation to go before committee, in order to hear from a variety of witnesses, and we will assess at that time whether the Conservatives have introduced sufficient penalties or whether additional amendments are required.

As I mentioned earlier, what comes to mind here is the Paul Bernardo case. When he and his wife abducted two kids, Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French, it horrified Canadians. It horrified the whole country to know that such heinous crimes could be committed, that we had such disturbed individuals in our midst.

My question would be does the bill do enough to ensure that what happened with Karla Homolka, who was able to reduce her sentence through plea bargaining, cannot happen again? We all want safe communities. We all know that there are sick minds that access the Internet and pornographic sites that dehumanize children and women. This dehumanizing makes victims be treated as objects of pleasure.

If one looks at the five things that the bill has introduced, I would love to see a very strong enforcement tool that would allow police officers, or people who are given the duty to ensure enforcement, to be able to access the material, to be able to trace the source, be able to ensure that protection takes place, be able to facilitate that information whether it be across Canada or with Interpol or other agencies, because this type of crime, as I mentioned earlier, is not only done in Canada but is worldwide.

Children being abducted for the purpose of sex slavery is a horrendous crime and it is a crime against all children. In countries in the developing world where they do not have the same protection we need to ensure that when we enforce legislation we have a global approach to it because the globe is where we need to look at. A troubled mind will do anything.

We need to also invest in areas like mental health and education. The Liberals unconditionally supported Bill C-22, which would make the reporting of Internet child pornography mandatory for Internet service providers and other persons providing Internet services. In fact, we believe that the government took too long to bring this to bear and we need to ensure that if we are serious about crimes against children, if we are serious about protecting them, if we are serious about ensuring that children have safe lives, that we live in safe communities, that we are not always looking over our shoulder, or over the Internet to ensure the safety of our children, then we need to see that Bill C-54 be sent quickly to committee and be looked after.

Today, December 6, is a day of remembering the 14 women who were gunned down by a crazy person. These were students at university. Violence against women is not just violence against women themselves, but it is violence against children as well. When a woman is abused it affects the child and the psychology of that child. It affects the whole family. It makes the family dysfunctional. Violence against women that results in death at the hands of a spouse, or common-law partner, or a deranged person still makes society unsafe.

It is important that the government not speak from both sides of its mouth. If we want smart solutions for violent crimes then we need to ensure that our gun laws are strict, that registration is there, that women and children are protected.

I would urge the government not to just see things in silos but to take a holistic approach to this bill. I would ask the government to ensure that we have a wholesome discussion on the bill and that we find a solution relevant to the whole community.