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

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Thank you, Mr. Comartin.

Mr. Moore.

March 29th, 2007 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses. I certainly heard some thoughtful insights today on the bill, and some important issues have certainly been raised.

I want to focus on the reason we brought the bill forward, and that was to prevent the exploitation of children, 14- and 15-year-olds, from adult sexual predators. That's the main issue and the main reason this bill was brought forward.

Mr. Gillespie or Mr. Sullivan, you've dealt with victims of crime, each of you. Why is there the need to raise the age of consent? We know there were measures that were brought in on Bill C-2. There is the issue of luring. Yet there was always the call that to really protect young people, 14- and 15-year-olds, the age of consent had to be raised.

Maybe you could just speak to what the current limitations are in the code that prevent us from being as effective as we could be once the age of consent is raised to 16.

10:05 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

Paul Gillespie

From the investigative standpoint of a front-line officer, it is heartbreaking to see the results of some of the life decisions that have been made by children of 14 and 15 years old because they were allowed to. In my opinion, children are often simply not capable of or able to make such serious life decisions, nor should they be able to. On the other side of the coin, you have very seasoned, mature adults who are very focused on having some kind of a relationship with a child through conning, persuading, or coercing a child into doing things.

On the thought that there could be some consent, I don't think a child under the age of 16 should be legally allowed to give consent. I believe it simply goes against the moral fabric of Canadians that somebody under that age might be able to be involved in a relationship with an older person, typically a man, with all of the repercussions that come from those relationships.

It is heartbreaking to be involved in an investigation and see the families come to us, expecting us to do something, and we can't do anything. I again think there is a general lack of knowledge in Canada on exactly what the laws actually say.

Again, this is a personal point of view on what it's like to deal with these situations.

Steve.

10:10 a.m.

President, Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime

Steve Sullivan

I would echo what Paul said.

The justice system is not a pretty place for victims of crime, especially young victims who have been abused or sexually exploited. I think it's one of the reasons the reporting rates are so low, and it's one of the reasons the numbers get even lower as it proceeds. It's a difficult thing.

For us, the issue is whether or not adults should be having sex with children 14 and 15 years old or younger. I think most Canadians would say no to that.

It's tough. When you get into the close-in-age exemption, we all agree there should be an age when young people can experiment with their peers. Personal relationships are difficult. They're not defined in black and white, as the law often demands, but I think at some point we have to make the cut-off.

Although I haven't considered the presumptive issue, one of the concerns I would raise is on putting young people into the courtroom to possibly testify on these things, to answer questions on whether or not they were exploited, and those kinds of things. I think if we simply cut off the age at five years, in many cases we would spare young people from going through that process.

There are going to be cases, as Mr. Lee has mentioned. Whatever the laws are, there are going to be cases where there is a grey area.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Thank you both for that.

There's a message that we want to send out.

To both of you or to anyone else who has expertise in this area and wants to comment on it, we heard testimony today and we've heard testimony before about individuals who develop a relationship with a 13-year-old child, and they wait until he or she is 14. To be clear, this legislation is targeted at adults who want to exploit 14-year-old and 15-year-old children and take advantage of Canada's age of consent as it currently stands.

How fast is the message going to get out to the community you talked about that is behind what we see on the Internet? We heard prior testimony that they perhaps know the law better than anyone around the table as to what the age of consent is and what types of sentences people in Canada receive. They're very aware of the situation.

We also heard testimony that the average Canadian is not aware of it. To use the situation of the 45-year-old man, they think it is illegal for that person to have sex with someone who's 14 years old.

If this bill passes, how soon is that community going to get the message that things have changed and Canada is not the destination it was for people who want to have sex with 14-year-old and 15-year-old children and are significantly older than them?

10:10 a.m.

Consultant, As an Individual

Paul Gillespie

If I might, at the speed of light is the short answer, at the speed that the Internet allows.

The one thing I have learned about the criminal element and those who would use computers and the Internet to facilitate their crimes is that they use it very well. There is a tremendous networking capability, and intelligence passes back and forth. They have news groups, chat rooms, and bulletin boards for anything and everything. Every time I give a press conference different chat rooms go up, and exactly what I said appears on some of these bulletin boards.

I think they will very quickly get the message, and I think it's very important that they do so. It would send a very strong message.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Do I have time for one more question?

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Art Hanger

Quickly.

10:10 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

I want to ask a question to the CBA.

Mr. Kindred, I don't know if you remember me, but I remember you from law school at UNB, when you were a bright up-and-coming law student.

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

We won't hold that against him.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

We have an age of consent now; it's 14. We've heard that there are always going to be challenges when you have a “line in the sand” type of thing. We're raising it to 16, and the close-in-age exemption is five years. Does the CBA have any comment? I know you say the support, the close-in-age exception—On that close-in-age exception, should it be larger or should it be smaller?

If there's time, anyone else can comment on whether the close-in-age exemption should be greater than five, less than five, or if five is a good, approximate—that takes into account the intent of this legislation. It is not to criminalize young people from having sex, but to prevent older people from victimizing young people.

10:15 a.m.

Branch Section Chair, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Conference, Canadian Bar Association

Kevin Kindred

I appreciate that the question was directed at me, but Ms. Gallagher is more an expert on the criminal issues, so I'll defer to her.

10:15 a.m.

Treasurer, National Criminal Justice Section, Canadian Bar Association

Margaret Gallagher

Thank you.

Certainly the close-in-age exemption is essential in the CBA support. We are satisfied with the five-year exemption; we feel that it is realistic and it is fair.

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Moore Fundy Royal, NB

Okay.