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 sexual.

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

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I've enjoyed hearing the responses so far, so I'll try to touch on an area that hasn't received any questions so far. Maybe I could direct this toward Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Nuttall.

Obviously, one angle we have to look at this from is that of the victims. I wanted to get some information shared with the committee on what this means for the victims of sexual exploitation, of children who are exploited. What are the long-term consequences for someone who might have been abused before, but who didn't fall under the previous law? When we look at raising it to 16, what is that going to do in terms of the protection of those 14- and 15-year-olds who may not have been protected before? How is that going to help communities? How is that going to help families? How is that going to help neighbourhoods?

Perhaps I could get a response from Mr. Sullivan and Ms. Nuttall on that point.

10:35 a.m.

Coordinator, Affiliated with Citizens Addressing Sexual Exploitation, White Ribbon Against Pornography

Judy Nuttall

The work that we've been doing in Barrie has really been trying to wake parents up, to wake the community up to what is going on, so that they can begin to face the situation. As Mr. Gillespie said, people just won't believe it. If a statement or a strong move is made by Parliament, they will see that something is done, and it will reinforce their ability to deal with these situations.

One of the difficulties with children who are—I'd like to describe one child I've taught, only please don't go back to the school board I come from, because I'll be in terrible trouble and get kicked out.

I came across a girl who was extremely—

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

On a point of order, Mr. Chair, I just wish to point out to Ms. Nuttall that these are public hearings. If she's concerned that she could get into trouble by giving out information, then she might want to think twice.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Maybe you can couch your statement without making any reference to anyone.

10:35 a.m.

Coordinator, Affiliated with Citizens Addressing Sexual Exploitation, White Ribbon Against Pornography

Judy Nuttall

Okay.

Let's say there is a girl whose strong ambition—and it's more than an ambition—is to be an actress. There's something that lies behind it that you can't put your finger on. She cannot respond to discipline, and she's very disruptive. Just one example is that she says she can't write because it will hurt her hand. This is an 11-year-old. The thing is, this child and many like her may be in a situation in which they need help, they need to have the ability to reach out. That does come from education, from the word getting out that something is appropriate and something else isn't, and they can do something about it.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Excuse me.

Did you have a point of order, Mr. Petit?

March 29th, 2007 / 10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

I agree with Ms. Jennings because I believe our witness is going a bit too far. She is describing a situation which some may recognize. This is a public hearing, and I think that we have a duty, as committee members, to warn our witness that the information is public, and it may be a problem. So, it would be good for the chair to remind her of a few points.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Petit and Ms. Jennings.

Just for your own benefit, ma'am, just try to keep your comments very general. Try not to make reference to specifics, if you possibly could. It is a public hearing.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Patrick Brown Barrie, ON

We are short of time, so maybe I could get Mr. Sullivan's comments on the long-term consequences for those 14- or 15-year olds who weren't covered under existing legislation.

10:40 a.m.

President, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime

Steve Sullivan

Generally one of the benefits is that hopefully we prevent kids from being exploited by those who would seek to do that. I don't think any of us is naive enough to think that when we pass this law, people won't still be motivated, but hopefully when the word gets around, as Paul mentioned, it will stop some people from abusing children.

I think one of the things we have to recognize is that many of the young people in these situations won't recognize right away that they are being exploited. There may be benefits to these relationships that most of us wouldn't think of: acceptance, gifts, attention that they don't get from their parents, and all those kinds of things. They might not recognize it here and now.

In a general sense we've dealt with some historical victims of sexual abuse who are now reporting and going through compensation boards to get compensation, or reporting to police. The long-term implications are lack of trust and lack of intimate relationships. Some turn to alcoholism and self-abuse and all those kinds of things. The long-term implications of sexual abuse for individuals—and it's not just limited to 14- and 15-year-olds, but any victim—can be life-altering.

I think, hopefully, it will prevent some victims, stop some abuse before it gets too far, and also give enforcement and parents, as Mr. Thompson mentioned, the power to intervene when those situations are going on, and hopefully prevent even longer-term impact of this abuse.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Go ahead, Mr. Petit.

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Thank you to all witnesses who have appeared before us this morning.

My first question is for Mr. Gillespie, but it is in a slightly different vein. The bill seems to be supported by all parties. When you have children, in our society, oftentimes you drop your kids off in the morning to catch their school buses, and do so until they are in grade 6. Then, they go to high school, and in my province, the CEGEP. Often, parents lose touch with their kids. Parents and their children come home at different hours and in the end the relationship is a difficult one.

At some point, the young woman or the young man turns 14 and experiences an adrenaline rush. It happens among all adolescents, and parents have no power over it. They may see that things are not going well, they feel responsible, guilty and do everything in their power to solve the problems.

Mr. Gillespie, I don't want to discuss the question of new technologies. According to you, would this bill help parents as was stated earlier on? The age of consent is being raised to 16. Could this bill, in some cases, help parents who are no longer able to fulfil their roles because of these very modern lifestyles and the furious pace of things? Forget about the word "luring". I don't want to discuss computers. I simply want you to tell us whether, based on your experience, this bill could help.

10:40 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

Paul Gillespie

I think so.

Let me first say that you're right. Kids are kids, and some children are going to make decisions in various life situations and potentially make mistakes. This bill will stop, however, those who will take advantage of those situations in which children may wish to get outside of the rules within the family and make some bad decisions. If it will at least deter some of those from getting involved with some of these kids, I think it will help parents, because they will perhaps have a little more sense of safety, a sense that older men are not allowed to prey on their children no matter what they want to do. It will not, certainly, stop everything, but I do believe it will make a difference and allow a little more control over your kids.

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Gillespie, you know as well as I do that in large cities where there are a number of ghettos and where newcomers often settle, parents work long hours and children are sometimes left to their own devices, thereby ending up in street gangs which, at some point, will sexually exploit them.

We know full well that other legislation, other Criminal Code provisions can help us here. Also, immigrants arrive here with 14 or 15-year-old children. That is my case, I'm an immigrant and I experienced having to adapt to a new culture. So I'll repeat my question, because street gangs are a serious problem in our large urban centres.

Would this bill, if it were passed, help parents report "unfortunate" behaviour among their teenagers with respect to street gangs which may be exploiting them or may exploit them in the future? Could this help? Of course I am not referring to computers here, but to events in the real world.

10:45 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

Paul Gillespie

I think you've made an interesting observation. Certainly, within different cultures and different lifestyles, and certainly with new immigrants, it raises several new issues and challenges. However, I think if the line is drawn definitively that this is not legal, it will at least allow parents potentially a little bit of comfort, and hopefully children will start to make better decisions.

The truth is there are always going to be older people willing to exploit younger people, whether it's for the purpose of enticing them into a street gang to commit criminal activity or to perhaps perform sexual favours. I just think it will help society in general if the line is drawn in the sand: this is off-limits, and that is the law.