House of Commons Hansard #45 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Committees Of The House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

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

Division No. 665
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion carried.

Message From The Senate
Routine Proceedings

4:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a message has been received from the Senate informing this House that the Senate has passed a bill to which the concurrence of this House is desired.

Message From The Senate
Routine Proceedings

4:40 p.m.

The Speaker

It is my duty, pursuant to Standing Order 38, to inform the House that the question to be raised tonight at the time adjournment is as follows: the hon. member for Compton—Stanstead, Immigration and Refugee Board.

Criminal Records Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

moved the second reading of, and concurrence in, amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to amend another act in consequence.

Criminal Records Act
Government Orders

4:40 p.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Parliamentary Secretary to Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act.

Hon. members will remember an identical bill received unanimous support from all parties, as Bill C-69, in the previous session of parliament. I am happy to report that Bill C-7 received unanimous support at third reading in the other place.

Moreover, and I feel it is important to stress it, every justice minister and General Solicitor in the federal, provincial and territorial governments have supported the thrust of this document. In the long run, Bill C-7 will help us ensure the security of our children and other vulnerable persons.

Bill C-7 will help us to better protect our children by authorizing the use of a special notation in the Canadian police information centre system, also known as CPIC, to indicate to a police force doing a check that a pardoned person has already been found guilty of a sexual offence. It will then be possible to ask the CPIC management to make the sealed records available.

Thus, organizations responsible for taking care of children that are considering hiring an applicant or using a volunteer will have a better way to determine if that person received a pardon for a sexual offence conviction. The special notation will ensure that such records are not overlooked during the criminal records check for screening purposes.

My distinguished colleagues will probably remember that the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs had expressed some reserves about the bill. Consequently, the honourable senators adopted some motions to amend it.

Without prejudice to the thrust of the text adopted by the members in this House, the motions resulted in four amendments that change the structure of the bill to improve its implementation.

The first amendment specifies that the notation system only applies to sexual offences. Indeed, it has always been very clear that this bill was aimed at this type of offences, not others.

The second amendment takes the list of sexual offences out of the regulations and incorporates it in the legislation as a schedule to the act. This being said, the list of offences has not been amended as such since it was reviewed by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

The third amendment takes the definitions of “children” and “vulnerable persons” out of the regulations to incorporate them into the act.

Finally, the fourth amendment changes the wording, but not the substance, of the definition of “vulnerable persons” by removing the word “handicap”, but keeping the word “disability”.

I would like to thank the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs for their judicious comments. I am convinced my distinguished colleagues will be pleased with the proposed amendments which, I say it again, have to do with the wording and not the substance of the bill passed by the members of this House.

I want to thank all my colleagues in this House and the other one for their invaluable contribution to and support of Bill C-7.

Passing Bill C-7 will result in significant changes based on efficient measures already put in place by the current government, on the unanimous recommendation of the provincial and territorial justice ministers.

These changes have been endorsed by every party and I believe they are consistent with our common concern and commitment to do everything we can to protect our children and other vulnerable persons against sexual predators who might be out to harm them.

On this side of the House, we encourage the members of the other parties to express interest and support for this essential piece of legislation. I therefore ask the House to concur in these amendments.

Criminal Records Act
Government Orders

4:45 p.m.

Reform

Eric C. Lowther Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-7 which would amend the Criminal Records Act to make criminal records of pardoned sex offenders available for background checks. This will ensure that the sealed records of sex offenders seeking positions of trust particularly over children will be available for screening purposes.

I appreciate the comments of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada. His involvement in the entire process from the beginning has been positive. He has been true to his word as an hon. member all the way through. I am glad to see we are at this stage today where hopefully the bill will go on to royal assent.

This bill has a long story behind it. I will not go through all of it but I will highlight it briefly a little later. It is important that we understand what this bill is actually doing. We talk a lot in the House about the importance and the care of children. This bill makes a significant step in the direction of caring for children.

A lot of people do not realize today that when those convicted of a criminal offence finish serving their time of either four or five years, they can apply for a pardon. A pardon does not mean they did not do it; it just means their record is no longer accessible by the public. Just about everybody who applies for a pardon gets a pardon. That means there are many people who have been convicted, who have served their time, who have received their pardon and whose records are not accessible to the public. Maybe that is okay.

Where there is concern and why this bill is before us today is in dealing with children when those applying for positions of care or trust over children have a previous conviction of a sexual offence particularly toward children. This bill would open up those records or allow access to those records so that those who are hiring people or bringing on volunteers or putting people in place to care for children can perform thorough checks. The criminal records check would penetrate right into the pardoned record so there would be no doubt that there is no history of such grievous crimes against children. It would give parents and the people involved the peace of mind that everything possible had been done.

As the parliamentary secretary mentioned earlier, the way we are going about doing this is simply by flagging the records in the existing police information system, CPIC. We have the information so all we are really doing is flagging it to make sure that when necessary this information can be accessed.

A number of controls have been put in place throughout the process and throughout the committee examination of this bill to make sure all the various interests are protected. I am not going to go into that. We have done that in previous debates on this bill and I do not think we need to cover that ground again. The House has heard it, the committees have heard it, it has been passed two or three times. We are at the final stage of this whole process.

There is another reason that this is important. The police made it very clear to us in their testimony before the committee that there is a high rate of recidivism, of repeat offences for those who have been convicted of a sexual crime particularly against children. That is why this kind of legislation is needed.

In fact, the police who were before the committee mentioned that they only catch a fraction of those who commit these kinds of offences. This is all the more reason that we need thorough record checks so children are not put in positions of risk, or offenders in a place where they can reoffend.

Bill C-7 has also brought some other improvements to the mix. There are changes on how pardons are processed. This is long overdue. We could do more than what the bill does but one thing it does is once someone has applied for a pardon and has been turned down, they have to wait at least a year before they can reapply. That is a step in the right direction.

I am pleased to say that when it looked at the bill, the other place improved it. I was concerned that the list of sexual offences which this bill applied to was in the regulations before it went to the other place. This meant that they could be changed by bureaucrats without coming back to the House for debate. The Senate incorporated those types of offences into the bill itself so that there is assurance that it is all covered by the legislation. It did a good job.

This debate and the debates on previous bills which have brought us to where we are with Bill C-7 have been interesting. The committees heard testimonies from witnesses. Victims groups mentioned that sexual crimes committed against children were not a one time thing. The victims stated that it was like a life sentence. It was something they would never be free from or be able to forget. This is the reason we do not want to submit any more children to that kind of life sentence and we are doing everything we can to protect them from being in those situations ever again.

The police also pointed out that people who have this sickness, a predisposition to sexual offences, often work their way back into a position of trust with children. There is no way to make sure they are excluded from those positions unless we have access to every possible record we can find. That is another reason Bill C-7 is before us and has broad support in the House.

The police associations had also documented along with Correctional Service Canada that the psychiatric community holds no confidence that there is any kind of reliable treatment for people who have this predisposition. Even though they may have served their time and have had no further convictions and have received a pardon, there is no confidence that the problem has been addressed or that there has been any reliable treatment applied to the individual who has this illness.

I will touch briefly on another link that ties into a current issue that is also before the House and the supreme court. The Canadian Police Association and two detectives from British Columbia who deal with these kinds of crimes came before the committee. They said that in almost 100% of the cases, people who were involved in sexual crimes, particularly those against children, were consumers of pornography. Often they would find child pornography with the individual.

That issue is before us. That issue has generated the largest petition, by fourfold, that the 36th Parliament has ever seen. There are 350,000 signatures on petitions from coast to coast. The petitioners want to see the laws upheld and strengthened that make sure that the possession and purchase of child pornography is something that Canadians do not have to tolerate.

Our party put forward a supply day motion where the House could have used the notwithstanding clause in the charter. We could have upheld the law in B.C. and we would not have had a delay of a year plus where the gates have been open to the consumption of child pornography in this country. I am sad to say that the government did not take that opportunity and use the charter as it was intended.

In fact the Prime Minister himself had once written that that was the very intention, the very reason the notwithstanding clause was included in the charter, to protect against the legalization of child pornography. Yet his own government did not take advantage of that opportunity which the official opposition presented to the House. The consequence is we have opened the door to the consumption of this grievous material. We are still waiting for a ruling on the issue from the supreme court.

We can see these two issues are linked. If we are going to all this effort to protect children and make sure they are not put in the hands of sexual predators who target children, why would we not also ensure that the child pornography issue is dealt with straight up and firmly, as quickly as we can, to make sure we close that door?

Often the people that are caught up in this cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality after a while and children end up being the victims.

When the arguments of freedom of speech are used and it makes the most innocent of our society a target for abuse, we have gone too far. We must all be responsible for the health and welfare of our community and take a more balanced approach to these arguments around freedom of speech, because they just do not work.

I will give a brief review of how this important bill came to the House. Back in the 35th Parliament, almost five years ago, a petition came to the House from 25,000 people in British Columbia who were concerned about the need to better protect children. It was presented by the hon. member from Fraser Valley, a member of my party. When he presented it, he did not stop there but also went on to submit a private member's bill that would have done fundamentally what Bill C-7 does, which is to give to institutions that are caring for children and parents the access to the pardoned record of anyone they are putting in a position of caring for children.

That was five years ago. That private member's bill was in the mix. It was not drawn but it was waiting. When the election was called it died on the order paper. It never did see debate in the House. In 1997 when I came to the House and I looked for a number of private members' bills to submit, I saw the bill from the member from Fraser Valley and thought it made a lot of sense. I wanted to put it forward. That was Bill C-284.

Most of the members of the House understand this, but for those who are listening, unfortunately there are more private members' bills than we can get to the floor of the House so there has to be a draw. Fortunately Bill C-284 was drawn. The next test it had to go through was whether it was going to be votable or just debated and aired in the House with no vote. Very narrowly it was deemed to be votable. That meant we could debate the issue and vote on it.

Every member of the House debated it. There were mixed feelings at the time. Some supported it but some did not. Some had reservations. When it came to the vote it passed second reading in the House. A private member's bill from the opposition passed second reading in the House. It was a good sign that we had consensus on the need to do all we can to better protect children.

I submit that if we could have had the same vote on the notwithstanding clause on the child pornography issue in B.C., we might have seen the same positive result. Unfortunately it did not happen.

Once the bill passed second reading it went on to committee. I have to commend all the members of the justice committee. They did a good job. They listened to the witnesses. They listened to the police. They listened to the victims groups. They listened to parents who had children who had been victims. They even listened to some of the civil libertarians who thought that once pardoned always pardoned and we should not have access to the record. They questioned hard, saw past the partisan politics and said, “We are talking about children and we want to minimize the risk”. Clearly at the end of the day in that justice committee there was consensus for supporting Bill C-284, which is the bill I had been fortunate enough to bring to that point.

About that time, through access to information, we know the government was aware this private member's bill was to come to the House and it proactively drafted a piece of legislation which was very similar to my Bill C-284. That was fine. I felt there were some weaknesses in the government's bill and decided, together with the Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada, to bring both bills to committee. I am sharing this information with members of the House who may think private members' bills cannot have an impact. They do and this is a real life story of one that did.

The government bill, which is a copy of the one I submitted more or less in intent, went to committee and we effectively as a committee combined the best parts of both bills into the government bill. The committee agreed to accept four amendments which strengthened the government bill. I felt they were critical amendments that took the discretion out of whether or not we would release these records. At the end of the day the committee supported the four amendments and in turn I withdrew my motion and said that Bill C-69 should be brought back to the House for a vote.

It is important to note that there was some give and take throughout the process. What was good about this process was that for once we saw some partisan politics being put aside and people actually working together.

Bill C-69 was brought back to the House and I must say it was good when the bill was passed at third and final reading and moved on to the Senate. With all this work, all these witnesses, all this cost and all this time, I wondered if we would ever see it come back from the Senate.

I know other bills went to the Senate later than Bill C-69 but came back to the House sooner. I thought maybe we had lost the sense of priority on this bill. I must commend the parliamentary secretary to the solicitor general. He has continued to fulfil his commitment that he would get it back from the Senate. In fact when it came back from the Senate there were a number of improvements. Things that were in the regulations and subject to change by bureaucrats were now incorporated right into the bill in an appendix. They did a good job and strengthened the bill.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to go back to my riding and to thank the many associations across the country that sent in letters of support. I will be sending each one of them a letter when the bill goes for royal assent thanking them for their efforts.

I personally applaud members of the House for passing this bill and the justice committee which put aside partisan politics and worked to improve the bill before us. I also applaud the parliamentary secretary and some good Senate amendments.

The media may never cover this bill because we did not fight on it. There is no arm wrestling or sensationalism around it. They may never hear too much about it. We worked too long to get it here, five years to make it happen, but finally we are here.

Some may say it is not a big thing and ask what is the big deal in getting access to pardon records. In the scope of all government legislation out there maybe it is not a big thing. However, if one, two, ten or a hundred children are protected from being in a situation where they are assaulted by a sexual predator because of access to this information, then for each one of those children this is a big thing.

I thank members of the House for supporting the bill. I hope we send it quickly for royal assent and not let things get stalled at this point. It is critical that we do it. It would give us all a refreshing sense of purpose in light of some of the other things we face in this place.

At this point in time I would like to move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 26(1), the House continue to sit beyond the ordinary hour of daily adjournment for the purpose of considering the Senate amendments to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to amend another act in consequence.

Criminal Records Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Will those who object to the motion please rise in their places?

And more than 15 members having risen:

Criminal Records Act
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

More than 15 members having risen the motion is deemed withdrawn.

(Motion deemed withdrawn)

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

February 9th, 2000 / 5:05 p.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the second reading stage of Bill C-20, an act to give effect to the requirement for clarity as set out in the opinion of the Supreme Court of Canada in the Quebec Secession Reference.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

An Act To Give Effect To The Requirement For Clarity As Set Out In The Opinion Of The Supreme Court Of Canada In The Quebec Secession Reference
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Shame, shame.

The House resumed consideration of the motion pertaining to the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-7, an act to amend the Criminal Records Act and to amend another Act in consequence.