Evidence of meeting #59 for Justice and Human Rights in the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was young.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Paul Gillespie  Consultant, As an Individual
  • Lynn Barr-Telford  Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • Tamra Thomson  Director, Legislation and Law Reform, Canadian Bar Association
  • Margaret Gallagher  Treasurer, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association
  • Kevin Kindred  Branch Section Chair, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference, Canadian Bar Association
  • Judy Nuttall  Coordinator, Affiliated with Citizens Addressing Sexual Exploitation, White Ribbon Against Pornography
  • Steve Sullivan  President, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime
  • Martha Mackinnon  Executive Director, Justice for Children and Youth
  • Karen Mihorean  Assistant Director, Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, Statistics Canada
  • William Trudell  Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers
  • Jason Gratl  President, B.C. Civil Liberties Association
  • Kim Pate  Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies
  • Andrew Brett  Member, Age of Consent Committee
  • Nicholas Dodds  Member, Age of Consent Committee
  • Dave Quist  Executive Director, Institute of Marriage and Family Canada
  • Daphne Gilbert  Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, University of Ottawa, As an Individual
  • Christina Godlewska  Articled Student, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Who would like to begin the response?

Mr. Trudell.

12:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

I ask that question because that's what we're talking about.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Mr. Trudell, you have the floor.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

That's what we're talking about here.

12:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

William Trudell

If you invite me back tomorrow I might be able to answer the question. I'd have to think about it.

It's an emotive question. I think it probably--

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

I just want to interject one quick thing, Mr. Trudell. It's a difficult question, but this is a difficult issue. That is what we're dealing with. In Canada a 50-year-old man can have sex with a 14-year-old, and in fact they do. So I'm asking, should we as a society accept that? Is it ever acceptable?

12:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

William Trudell

Yes, it would be acceptable in certain circumstances, because we don't make laws right across the board. There have to be all kinds of factors in that example.

But let's just go back for a couple of seconds. If there are Americans coming across the border to have sex with Canadians, I think there are laws in the American jurisdiction that cover that kind of offence. So it's not just like it's open season. I didn't bring them with me, but there are American offences that cover that.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Mr. Chair, I just want to interject on that point before you leave it. We don't want to rely on the Americans to protect kids in Canada.

12:55 p.m.

Chair, Canadian Council of Criminal Defence Lawyers

William Trudell

No, but you were talking about open season.

You know what? I think it's really important that you mentioned the close-in-age exemption. Five years is an arbitrary figure; it's picked. That's why I've become very attracted to the idea of the presumption that was introduced. It wasn't our idea; it was introduced by a person who was sitting here earlier this morning. That really covers what you're trying to do in the protection of this act, but it also leaves it open for a judge to decide.

It's good that there is this close-in-age exemption; that's probably why you're getting a lot of support for the bill. But because five years is arbitrary, I think that you might want to go a little bit further to cover those circumstances where there may be explanations a judge would be satisfied in dealing with.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you.

Mr. Gratl, did you want to respond to Mr. Moore's question?

1 p.m.

President, B.C. Civil Liberties Association

Jason Gratl

I'd have to say that the example is a telling one, because it's not obvious that there is anything like an epidemic or open season on relationships between 14-year-olds and 40-year-olds. People like to trot out that example as something unseemly because, I think many of us would agree, it is unseemly—perhaps not to those actually in the relationship, but many of us looking from the outside in might think it's unseemly and inappropriate.

The question is not, though, whether it's inappropriate. To my mind, the question is whether the criminal law should be brought to bear on the issue. When I think about it, I think, gee, aren't there a lot more troubling social issues out there where we actually know that there's a great deal of child exploitation, particularly in the area of abuse by persons in positions of trust, power, and authority? We know that the majority of child sexual abuse occurs within the family by somebody in a position of trust.

If attention is to be paid to this issue, why shouldn't it be paid to the area in which there actually is an epidemic, rather than this marginal issue, which seems to us to be an issue of moralizing, of concern over what kind and when children are having sex, rather than the actual predatory relationships that do exist that we know about, that we have statistics on? That's our position.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Ms. Pate, do you care to reply?

1 p.m.

Executive Director, Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies

Kim Pate

I would certainly support the last point made.

I would invite Professor Gilbert to talk a bit about the implications again in terms of the constitutional issues of marriage, because, as many of you well know, especially in generations preceding ours, a gap of more than five years between marriage partners is not unusual. My understanding is that would still be permissible currently under many of the marriage laws. So I'll wait and let Daphne come to that.

1 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Mr. Dodds and Mr. Brett, we'll get to you in a moment.