House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was flag.

Topics

Competition Act
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of the Bloc Quebecois will vote against this motion.

Competition Act
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, NDP members present tonight vote no on this motion.

Competition Act
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Harvey Chicoutimi, QC

Mr. Speaker, the members of our party will vote in favour of this motion.

Competition Act
Government Orders

6:55 p.m.

Independent

John Nunziata York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be voting in favour.

(The House divided on the motion, which was agreed to on the following division:)

Division No. 109
Government Orders

7 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

(Bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Points Of Order
Government Orders

March 17th, 1998 / 7 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Bonwick Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek unanimous consent to table the following documents: Hansard of March 9, 1998 and a news release from the office of Deborah Grey, member of Parliament.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

As a point of clarification, these are the documents that were referred to in debate earlier today.

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent to table the documents?

Points Of Order
Government Orders

7 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Points Of Order
Government Orders

7 p.m.

Reform

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. It is not necessary for the member to table copies of Hansard since they are a public record. Is that not true?

Points Of Order
Government Orders

7 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

Whether or not it is necessary to table them, the hon. member has unanimous consent and they are tabled. The House will now proceed with the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

7 p.m.

Liberal

John Finlay Oxford, ON

, seconded by the hon. member for Kamloops, moved that Bill C-245, an act to amend the Criminal Code, penalties for sexual offences involving children, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to perform one of my most important duties as the member of Parliament for Oxford. This duty is to introduce legislation when I see that current legislation is not responding to a need within our society.

Over the last year and a half I have identified such a need. I have found that those who sexually prey upon our children are merely being slapped on the wrist by our judicial system. This seems horrendous to me and to my constituents. Finding that the sentences for these crimes against our children are inadequate, I introduce Bill C-245 which we have before us today.

I would like to thank the NDP member for Kamloops for seconding the bill. The bill will increase the maximum sentence for sexual assault on a child to life imprisonment without possibility of parole for 25 years. As well the sentence for forcible confinement of a child is increased to 14 years from the current 10. The definition of child pornography would extend to any information or reproduction transmitted by electronic means.

In the next few minutes I want to share with hon. members why my constituents and I believe the bill should be passed by Parliament.

The current maximum sentence for sexual assault is 10 years. According to information obtained through the adult criminal court survey, the average sentence given in 1993 and 1994 for level two sexual assault and level three sexual assault was 1,287 days, less than four years. Yet level two and level three sexual assault are sexual assault with a weapon and aggravated sexual assault. These statistics were compiled using data from nine provincial jurisdictions.

There is no real distinction between sexual assault on a child and other charges of sexual assault.

I would like to share with this House the average sentence for sexual touching of a child under 14. For this charge, in which sexual intent must be proven, the average sentence imposed by the courts was 288 days, not even a full year. Furthermore, 77% of the accused in solved violent incidents involving children under 12 had a relationship with the victim. In 31% of these cases, the accused was a member of the victim's immediate family.

As members can see, these are not statistics that make one sleep easily at night.

I spent 36 years of my life in education as a teacher, union representative, principal and superintendent. I worked with our children. I am witness to the effects of abuse on children. I know the innocence of a child is destroyed by sexual abuse. I have heard the confusion and self-guilt in the mind of a sensitive teenage boy after his experience with a pedophile.

We as legislators must ask ourselves how an average sentence of 377 days for level one sexual assault can atone for the loss of a child's innocence and self-respect.

Bill C-245 speaks directly to sexual assault upon a child. The bill seeks to amend section 271 of the Criminal Code by increasing the maximum sentence to imprisonment for life with no parole eligibility for 25 years if found guilty of sexual assault on a child under eight or under fourteen who was under the offender's trust or authority or dependent on the offender.

I want to make it very clear that this sentence is the same sentence as that for first degree murder. It is my belief and that of many of my constituents that in the very worst cases of child sexual assault the sentence should be equal to that of murder. Why? Because these assaults have murdered the child's soul, the child's self-esteem and the child's mind.

We cannot see a Martin Kruze throw himself off a bridge without knowing why. His abuser led him there and pushed him off with his continued abuse as surely as if he were present.

One constituent wrote to me of the sentence received by a sex offender. The writer said “He gets a lousy two years probation and my child gets life”. Two years of probation to walk the streets, be employed and have a life while the child is devastated and emotionally murdered and his parents hope that just maybe he might find his life worth living again.

Unfortunately many victims of abuse find that life is not worth living again. And far too many of their abusers walk the streets after a sentence that does not reflect the severity of their crime.

My office has received many letters like the one I have just quoted from. Some are short and simply indicate support for this bill. Others are long and tell of the writer's experience with sexual abuse. These letters are not easy to read because they talk of the hurt and betrayal felt by the victims.

Of the three main cases I have received correspondence on, all have told of abuse delivered by someone known to the victim and to his or her family. The abusers were not strangers but a stepfather, a neighbour and a “big brother”, that is in this case a volunteer from the Big Brothers organization.

I would like to quote from one letter I received from a woman in my riding whose son was abused by his Big Brother volunteer. The mother says “I cannot believe when this man came to my house, when I thought it would be good for my son to have a big brother to look up to, a father figure in his life, that he could end up doing the things he did to him. I interviewed this man for at least two hours and was happy to think that my son was lucky to have a man like this in his life”.

Many years later this mother was devastated by the news that this man, this father figure, had sexually abused her child beginning at the age of eight. The woman's son had a very troubled adolescence. He spent time in jail and his mother now knows why. This woman has asked me to do everything I can to ensure that those who prey upon our children, as this man did on her son, are punished severely for their crimes. I want us to promise her today in the highest legislative body in this land that we will not let her down.

This issue was brought to my attention through a case in my riding. A father was convicted on three counts of unlawful confinement for locking his three sons in wire cages in a dark basement, three counts of administering a noxious substance for making them eat their own feces and drink their own urine, and three counts of assault for beating them. In addition this man was convicted of numerous sex charges, including three counts of intercourse with a girl under 14. The victims of the sexual assaults were his three stepdaughters. The perpetrator of these crimes was sentenced to 18.5 years in prison but he will be eligible for parole in just over six.

I would like to offer my thanks to the Woodstock Daily Sentinel Review for bringing this case to my attention. The reporter who covered this trial for the Sentinel Review called it the most disturbing case she has ever had to report on.

I can honestly say that this bill represents a fine example of how the press and the community has worked with me, their local member, to try to correct the weakness in our judicial system.

Because of the frightful instances of forcible confinement in the aforementioned case, I have included in Bill C-245 an amendment to section 279 of the Criminal Code. This amendment would increase the maximum sentence for forcible confinement to 14 years from 10 in the case of a parent or ward who confines their child and thereby harms the child's physical or mental health. Anyone who questions why I felt an increase in this sentence is necessary need only recall what that father did to his sons.

The final section of Bill C-245 would ensure that the definition of publication in the case of child pornography would cover display, transmission or storage by electronic mail and the Internet.

Some think government has no business regulating the information superhighway but I suspect that protecting our children in society from those who would trade in child pornography is far more important than any supposed right on the Internet.

Information technology is an incredible development. I continue to encourage my constituents to take advantage of the Internet to benefit themselves and their communities, but we cannot allow criminal use of the information superhighway to endanger our children.

It is my belief that my introduction of this bill into the House of Commons was my duty as the member of Parliament for Oxford. As I stated at the outset, it is a duty I take very seriously. As a member of Parliament and as a citizen of this great country of ours, I also have another duty. That duty is to speak for and to protect those members of our society who cannot protect themselves.

Each of us here in this House has a moral obligation to protect our children from those who prey upon them. I do not doubt for a moment that all members feel this obligation to our nation's children.

Bill C-245 is not a votable bill. During the subcommittee meeting I was asked by the member for Brandon—Souris why I felt my bill would increase sentences when in fact it did not impose a minimum sentence for these crimes. It was an excellent question. I dare say some members who are to follow me in this debate will raise this as an objection. For this reason, I offer my colleagues an answer.

Parliament speaks with a loud voice in the courtrooms across this land. If we were to pass this bill, we would be saying to our judicial system that the protection of our children is paramount.

Our voice with the governor general's signature attached would say that in the worst cases of abuse, those who prey upon our children must be removed from society for life. Our voice would represent constituents across the country who speak through us and who want their children protected.

Some changes may need to be made to this bill. I feel our colleagues on the justice committee can make these changes in the best interests of our children.

The support I received for this bill from the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the Canadian Police Association has let me know that our front line law enforcement officers agree with increased sentences to protect our children.

I feel that this bill should be voted on by members of this House. For those members who are not familiar with the cases I have dealt with in my riding they need only look at cases in their own ridings. Any members who have dealt with children have met those who have suffered from the horrors of abuse.

We can all remember the recent problems within Maple Leaf Gardens or with Graham James and Sheldon Kennedy. We can recall the abuse perpetrated on our aboriginal children in orphanages and residential schools, religious or otherwise. Thank God for people like Sheldon Kennedy who spoke out about the years of abuse he suffered. He has battled back to be a model for victims but we must also remember that for every Sheldon Kennedy there is a Martin Kruze who saw as his only escape, especially after a ridiculously short sentence given to his abuser, a jump off Toronto's Bloor Street viaduct.

I would ask members to look into their hearts and ask themselves if we would be performing our duty if this bill was not put to a vote. It is time to send a message to sex offenders that the time for judicial slaps on the wrist has past. Canadians will not allow us to pass the buck to other jurisdictions or wait until some obscure commission passes recommendations.

If this House decides in approximately 35 minutes that this bill should not be votable I ask those members present to look into the eyes of a victim or the mother of a victim and tell them why they have to wait for justice. If amendments should be made let us send this bill to committee so it can hear witnesses and make changes to improve the bill.

Early in my speech I read from a letter sent to me from an abused child's mother. I would like to refer to that letter again. This mother says:

Child abuse of any kind has to stop, and the introduction of your bill will certainly be a start. I am tired of those people being set free and sent to counselling and everything is okay. It certainly is not okay, that doesn't do a thing for the victims who have to live with this the rest of their lives. In requesting higher sentences for these sex offenders, how can I ask this be considered out of line, when, in fact, the children are sentenced to life without parole, in trying to live with what was inflicted upon them.

It is time to perform our duty and to protect our children. I ask this House for its support of Bill C-245.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

7:15 p.m.

Reform

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to be able to speak today to the bill sponsored by the member for Oxford dealing with penalties for sexual offences involving children.

I commend the member for Bill C-245. I support the amendment he is making to the Criminal Code. I wish that more members from his side of the House would also recognize that creating stiffer penalties would go a long way to curbing crime in Canada, especially of this heinous type.

Reform members came to Ottawa in 1993 with a commitment to the Canadian people to reform Parliament. Included in those reforms was the promise to be supportive whenever possible of the people's agenda over party manoeuvres. We promised not to oppose government legislation or private members' bills simply for the sake of opposition. If a bill enhances public safety we will support it. We therefore support the member for Oxford.

Bill C-245 if passed by this House will change the definition of publication in the case of child pornography to cover transmission by electronic mail or posting the material on the Internet or any other electronic net. This amendment to the Criminal Code is simply in keeping with the advances of the technology and the prevalence of child pornography on the Internet today. I applaud the hon. member's effort in this regard. However, this amendment should and could have been enacted by the government. However, there is a pattern. The government is weak. When action is needed there is a pattern of Liberal government weakness.

While this government is introducing legislation which deals with technology and privacy it has neglected to make the necessary Criminal Code amendments to protect our children from the perverts who surf the net. It is not surprising given the low priority this government places on the protection of society and in particular our children. We have discovered sex slavery in Canada and sadly we have juvenile prostitution in every major city. The government has done little while at the same time shuts down private members' bills that deal with these things. The government is weak.

Despite claiming in June, 1997 that revamping the Young Offenders Act was a priority, the justice minister has failed to bring one single amendment. The minister's failure in this regard has put our children who are most often the victims of crime at needless risk.

We also support the increase in the maximum penalty for forcible confinement from 10 to 14 years in the case of a parent or a ward who confines a child and thereby harms the child's physical or mental health.

The Reform Party fully supports the penalty of imprisonment for life with no parole eligibility for 25 years for anyone found guilty of sexually assaulting a child under 8 or a child under 14 who is under the offender's trust or authority or who is dependent on the offender.

I do, however, question the age of eight years. In 1994 the Liberal government refused to amend the Young Offenders Act to include 10 and 11 year olds, claiming they were much too young to be held accountable for their criminal behaviour. I therefore have to wonder why the hon. member for Oxford has not at least included 10 and 11 year olds. I would recommend including children up to the age of at least 13, in recognition of the vulnerability of children within this tender age group.

I also find it questionable that the member for Oxford has proposed what can only be considered a heavy penalty, one which would not be supported by a majority of his own 1700 colleagues.

In 1995 a majority of Liberal members voted against eliminating the faint hope clause for murderers. I question why this member and his Liberal colleagues would ever agree to put a child molester behind bars for a minimum of 25 years when they have repeatedly failed to keep murderers locked away for at least the 25 years.

Let us not forget that it was the Liberal Party which gave us the faint hope clause, claiming some hope must be given to first degree murderers.

Clifford Olson raped and killed 11 innocent children and after serving only 15 years of his life sentence this sadistic killer took full advantage of the Liberal made faint hope clause and applied for early release.

I might add that the former justice minister is directly responsible for Olson's full press court. The former justice minister failed to bring in Bill C-45 in time to prevent Olson from once again terrorizing these victims' families. There was plenty of warning. There was no excuse.

I and many of my colleagues were there the day Olson, to the horror of the nation, was once again terrorizing his victims' families. I and many of my colleagues were there, at court, the very day Olson, to the horror of the nation, was once again granted the absurd privilege of making a mockery of our justice system.

Last week when representatives of the Canadian Police Association were in Ottawa they left a message for the Liberal government. Topping their list was the elimination of the faint hope clause. Perhaps finally the justice minister will see to it to repeal section 745 of the Criminal Code and keep murderers behind bars where they belong.

There are a number of other areas which require attention. To date the justice minister has done little or nothing with regard to enhancing public safety.

Conditional sentences for violent offenders must be eliminated. How many more rapists must walk free before the justice minister amends specifically her predecessor's flawed section of the Criminal Code?

I point to one significant omission in Bill C-245. It does not amend the Young Offenders Act. Therefore, anyone under the age of 18 who sexually assaults a child will not be sentenced to life imprisonment. The maximum sentence they will receive under the YOA is three years, plus a possible two years of additional control.

Adolescent males commit approximately 20% of sexual assaults against teens and adults, and between 30% to 50% of such assaults against children. According to the forum on correctional research, January 1995, sexual assaults committed by youth are as serious as those committed by adults.

Without changes to the YOA the maximum penalty a youth can receive for raping or molesting a child will remain three years, with an additional optional two years. If the young offender is released into the community no one will know because of the privacy provisions of the YOA which do not allow for the publishing of young offenders' names, including young rapists. I mentioned that today in my question to the justice minister and received a very unsatisfactory answer.

Jason Gamache was a sex offender, but this fact was not made known to his neighbours. An unsuspecting mother allowed Mr. Gamache to babysit her young daughter. Her daughter was raped and killed by Gamache. The mistakes in the provincial administration of this case were all started by the secrecy provisions of the Young Offenders Act.

On September 26 my colleague from Crowfoot introduced a private member's bill to amend the YOA. Unlike the Liberal justice minister, the member for Crowfoot worked all summer on Bill C-210 and at the first opportunity introduced his bill.

We in the Reform Party have introduced many private members' bills on the Young Offenders Act. Where are the minister's? Amending the YOA is a priority for the Reform Party, as it is for many Canadians.

In June, 1997 the justice minister said that the YOA was a priority, and yet we have seen nothing.

Last year the justice committee travelled throughout the country, spending close to half a million dollars reviewing the act.

In April, 1997 the committee tabled a report containing a number of recommendations for amending the YOA and the Reform Party produced a minority report which was rejected by the committee because it was too comprehensive. We ensured that our report was given to all the provincial attorneys general, many of whom have been requesting similar changes to the Young Offenders Act.

Since the former justice minister mandated the committee to review the Young Offenders Act upon the 10th anniversary of its enactment, the Reform Party has questioned the commitment of the justice minister and the Liberal dominated justice committee to effectively change this act which is now 14 years old.

This government failed during its first three and a half year mandate to improve public safety and it is failing again. This justice minister has done very little. It has been a very weak performance.

The member for Oxford can count on Reform's support but, interestingly, he cannot count on the support of his bleeding heart pals who refuse to keep murderers locked up for at least 25 years. By the process of this bill today, we can see that the justice agenda of average Canadians is reflected in the Reform Party position and not the bureaucratic, top down agenda of the Liberals.

The conclusion is obvious. If Canadians want a good justice system they need to elect a Reform Party government.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

7:25 p.m.

Bloc