Debates of March 13th, 2001
House of Commons Hansard #27 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.
- Interparliamentary Delegations
- Questions On The Order Paper
- Message From The Senate
- Aboriginal Affairs
- Semaine Nationale De La Francophonie
- Minister Of Finance
- Customs And Revenue Agency
- Airport Facilities
- Grants And Contributions
- Member For Edmonton North
- Solange Tremblay
- Premier Of Quebec
- Learning Disabilities Month
- National Epilepsy Month
- Corporate Concentration
- The Economy
- International Co-Operation
- Employment Insurance
- Research And Development
- Amateur Sport
- Points Of Order
- Division No. 17
- Criminal Code
Art Hanger Calgary Northeast, AB
Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association which represented Canada at the meeting of the defence and security committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held in Washington, D.C., and Colorado Springs from January 30 to February 6, 2001.
Questions On The Order Paper
March 13th, 2001 / 10:05 a.m.
Derek Lee Parliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons
Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.
Questions On The Order Paper
Is that agreed?
Questions On The Order Paper
Some hon. members
Message From The Senate
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 certain bills, to which the concurrence of this House is desired.
Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC
That the government establish a national sex offender registry by January 1, 2002.
Mr. Speaker, I advise the Chair that we in the Canadian Alliance will be splitting our speaking times today. This could be a good day for the House of Commons or it could be a very sad day. We will be voting tonight to determine whether members of parliament, not just the government, want to see a national sex offender registry installed in Canada.
Today I think it is important that we on all sides do away with the partisan politics that exists so often in the House of Commons and think about what is best for the children and women in our country. The motion today reflects the need for Canada, not the government nor the opposition, to have a national sex offender registry. We are asking the majority government to implement it by January 2002. That is a long time for the House of Commons to put in a bill that is absolutely necessary. I have seen bills go through the House in a matter of days.
My colleagues and I in the Canadian Alliance have pro forma legislation already developed and ready to go should the government need it and want to work with it. We are prepared to go right through committee with this to start it moving.
I want to first talk about what is a sex offender registry. I will give some of the common criteria used in the United Kingdom, the United States and Ontario. We would expect to see a national sex offender registry established and maintained by the Department of the Solicitor General, which basically means that it would be the solicitor general's responsibility, and the involvement of the parole and prison system, as well as the RCMP.
It would contain the names, addresses, dates of birth, list of sex offences and any other prescribed information about a person convicted of a sex offence anywhere in Canada.
The need for a national sex offender registry is important. We have heard from many victims. One in particular, who we heard from this morning, is Jim Stephenson, the father of a child who was murdered by a sex offender. Victims are saying that it is no good just to have a sex offender registry in just one province because people move from that province to another province where there is no criteria at all, no registry in existence.
Information that would be included in a registry would be collected from the offenders themselves and from any other source available to the minister, that is, their CPIC system, correctional services, parole board, et cetera.
The need to have offenders themselves report is important because it then puts the onus on the individual to show up and admit the sex offence and to produce the criteria. Once the offender has registered there is then a hesitancy inborn that the offender had better not reoffend. If an offender does register, then police have good reason to worry about it and then make a check.
The registry would be available only to the minister and police forces for the purposes of crime prevention and law enforcement. This takes away any argument that it would be public information and that the privacy act would be offended, and so on and so forth.
The registry could apply to every person convicted of or found not criminally responsible for a sex offence due to a mental disorder or who is serving a sentence for a sex offence on the day the act comes into force. That is important. After the bill receives royal assent everybody convicted goes on the registry and all those currently in prison go on the registry.
Today there are about 6,000 inmates and people on parole in the country who have been convicted of sex offences. That is a lot of people considering that there are 15,000 people who are incarcerated. There is over a 30% recidivism rate for sex offenders. A registry would help police curtail that recidivism.
Another criteria could be that every offender who resides in Canada is required to register in person at his or her local police station.
Another criteria could be that persons convicted of a sex offence that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years or less would have to report to police for 10 years. Persons convicted of a sex offence that a carries longer sentence would have to report for the rest of their lives.
A police officer may obtain a warrant to arrest a person who fails to register and report as required. A person convicted of a first time offence could face a fine of up to $25,000 or up to a year in prison. A person convicted for a second offence could face a fine of up to 25,000 and up to two years in jail.
Where do I get these criteria from? That is pretty well the criteria that Ontario uses for its sex offender registry. David Tsubouchi, the Ontario solicitor general, has basically said this about Ontario's sex offender registry:
Since it is now clear that the federal government will not accept its responsibility in this matter, Ontario will do what is right and act to protect its citizens.
I will not stand here today, and I hope none of us do, and slight the government for not implementing a sex offender registry. That is not what this is about today. This is about talking to our colleagues on the other side who have a majority in the House and who will determine tonight whether or not this bill comes into effect and the work begins on it. This is about us trying to convince all colleagues from all parties that a national sex offender registry is necessary for the protection of women and children.
I hope we do not get into fault finding or rhetorical statements from the other side. or from any side. Many people are watching the debate today and I think they will judge us on our decorum on the issue and the logic that we use for putting such a system in place.
I will quote some members of the British Columbia legislature and the current premier of B.C., Ujjal Dosanjh.
Here is one quote by B.C. Attorney General Graeme Bowbrick:
A national registry would help ensure consistency across provinces and give police a co-ordinated enforcement tool.
B.C. Premier Ujjal Dosanjh states:
I'm calling on the federal government to open their eyes and ears and hearts to the concerns of Canadians across the country and set up a national sex and violent offender registry right across the country.
Saskatchewan is calling for the same thing. There has to be a co-ordinated effort across the country.
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police, and on it goes, all support an integrated police information system, a sex offender registry. Virtually every law enforcement agency in the country wants this registry.
Yesterday we received a letter from the Canadian Police Association which states:
On behalf of the 30,000 front-line members of the Canadian Police Association, we are pleased to convey our support for the creation of a National Sex Offender Registry. The Canadian Police Association is firmly on record in seeking a registry to assist in the investigation and apprehension of repeat sexual offenders.
I received a call from Kevin Nierenhausen of the Sexual Abuse Victims of Canada. He was asking for the same thing, the implementation of a national sex offender registry.
I have one minute left in this opening speech to appeal to all my colleagues in the House, and to all those watching to encourage all members of parliament, all the Liberals on the other side and all opposition members of parliament, to please do away with partisan politics in the House of Commons and implement a national sex offender registry. It is so vital and important for law enforcement and critical to the protection of our women and children.
Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC
Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for Langley—Abbotsford for this initiative today. As he has already mentioned, hopefully we can have a good debate today without any of the flights of rhetorical work for which the House is famous. This is a bi-partisan issue and an issue that concerns everyone in the country.
Does the member think there would be enough time to actually draft the necessary legislation and get the co-operation of the provinces on an issue like this? It would give us a year but there is a lot of detailed work to be done. Would that be enough time? Would we be able to pull it together in such a way that the provinces, the victims groups and the federal departments could get all the i 's dotted and the t 's crossed?
Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC
Mr. Speaker, the date of 2002 is ample time. The government and ourselves in opposition would have many areas upon which to draw. The United Kingdom has a sex offender registry. Every state in the United States has a national or a state sex offender registry. Ontario has an outstanding example of it. Other provinces already have drafts available. This is not something that we have to reinvent. In fact, the Canadian Alliance has been working on draft legislation for a year and it is ready to go. It is not meant to embarrass anybody. It is meant to help. We are prepared to give this document to the government and to work with it. It can use the document if it wishes or it can draw on Ontario, as we have, or on any other organization.
In conclusion, I remind members of a letter that I received from Jim and Anna Stephenson, whose child was murdered by a sex offender. They wrote:
In 1988 our eleven-year old son Christopher was abducted, raped repeatedly and murdered by a known pedophile. Among many recommendations contained in the verdict in the 1992 Inquest into his death was a proposal for a national sex offender registry. Since then, my wife and I have been advocates for various changes in the criminal justice system.
Claiming there are programs and legislation currently in place and that a National Registry would only duplicate what currently exists, the Federal Government has yet to move in this direction.
That is not meant as fault finding. It is meant to say where we have to go. The letter continued:
In the continued absence of any Federal initiative, Ontario recently announced that it would introduce its own Sex Offender Registry. The legislation is named “Christopher's Law” in the memory of our son. While the other provinces have not announced plans to introduce legislation of their own at this time, each has indicated that Ontario's initiative is being followed closely.
We applaud the Ontario Government for the leadership it has shown with the introduction of the Sexual Registry. At the same time, however, Canadians everywhere, and not only those who are citizens of Ontario, also deserve protection from those who present danger to repeat a sexual assault. Clearly such protection is only possible under a National Registry.
Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS
Mr. Speaker, I commend the hon. member for bringing the motion forward. It is crucial in its timing and its content. It is one that we in the Progressive Conservative Party will certainly be supporting.
My question to the hon. member is quite simple. The registry that he speaks of has terrific preventive aspects to it. We know there is an existing firearms registry that was ill-conceived and has been entirely expensive. It is not based on safety and is probably doomed to failure.
The computers currently in place to register guns have no effect on safety. Does the hon. member feel that there could be any application of the firearms infrastructure that is in place? Is there any way that some of that infrastructure may be applied to a sex offender registry, which would have a much greater effect in terms of safety?
Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC
Mr. Speaker, I compliment my colleague on his work in terms of promoting a national sex offender registry. It is well acknowledged.
The resources that are tied up in the gun registry may well be used. I know an upgrade to the CPIC system is coming which may well be used. When we hear from the solicitor general on the issue hopefully he can shed some light on it.
Stockwell Day Leader of the Opposition
Mr. Speaker, I begin by congratulating and thanking the member for Langley—Abbotsford for the excellent motion. I commend him for all the work he does on important areas like this one.
Most parents keep a close eye on their children, but we as parents have all experienced those moments of terror when a child slips out of sight at a shopping centre, a playground or an amusement park. It can take a few seconds for a child to go missing and it is easy to fear the worst. One of the worst fears is that a sexual predator has taken the child.
For some, like the parents of Christopher Stephenson, the moments of terror can actually last a lifetime. When 11 year old Christopher disappeared in 1988, there was no reprieve. There was no happy reunion. A repeat sex offender, Joseph Fredericks, abducted Christopher from the mall where he was shopping with his mother. Fredericks took Christopher to a field where he repeatedly raped him. At some point he took him back to his apartment. At some point he murdered him.
An inquest into Christopher's murder led to recommendations that the government should create the national sex offender registry which the member for Langley—Abbotsford is proposing. Had such a registry existed and police officers were able to go right away to check the residences of all known offenders in the vicinity of Christopher's disappearance, they may have been able to save his life. The recommendations were made back in 1992 and the federal government has not acted.
Today we urge all parties to vote in favour of our motion that the government create a national sex offender registry. Such a registry would not only help to allay the fears of every Canadian parent, but it could save the lives of children like Christopher and help protect children from sexual predators.
The Ontario government has not waited for the federal government. As already mentioned by the member for Langley—Abbotsford, the former solicitor general of Ontario, David Tsubouchi, went ahead with legislation that became known as Christopher's Law in honour of Christopher. Around the time Mr. Tsubouchi introduced the bill he said:
Since it is now clear that the federal government will not do what is right and will not accept its responsibility in this matter, Ontario will do what is right and act to protect its citizens.
The Ontario legislature unanimously passed Christopher's Law last April. We are calling for the same all party support today for the creation of a national sex offender registry modelled after Christopher's Law.
Ontario is not the only province calling for the creation of such a registry. British Columbia plans to create its own registry. Its premier, as we have heard today, has called on the federal government “to open their eyes and ears and hearts to the concerns of Canadians across the country and set up a national sex and violent offender registry right across the country”.
We know that many Liberal members of parliament also support the creation of such a registry. Peter Warkentin, the Liberal candidate in Surrey Central, advocated for a registry during the last election.
To day we are asking the Prime Minister and his Liberal caucus to give more than a blessing to an idea, to put partisan concerns aside and to vote in favour of creating a national sex offender registry.
It is not a new idea on the other side of the House. When federal and provincial justice ministers met in Regina in October 1998, we understand the Minister of Justice told Alberta justice minister Jon Havelock that the federal government promised to amend the present system to allow it.
We have also heard some of the arguments some Liberals have raised against creating such a registry, arguments like the Canadian Police Information Centre already does the job and that the registry would duplicate what CPIC already does. We can ask any police officer who uses CPIC if the system does what a national sexual offender registry would do. CPIC does not tell police where all sex offenders in any given area are living.
We need to have legislation to mandate the collection of data necessary for police officers to do their job in this special area of crime prevention. We need to have legal requirements for sex offenders to provide that information and sanctions when they fail to do so.
There are an estimated 4,500 sex offenders either in prison or under some form of community supervision. Most researchers say that pedophilia is incurable and the risk of reoffending can remain for the rest of that person's life. Rapists also show a high degree of recidivism for violent crime. It is time for the Canadian government to show its concern for the victims of sexual predators. It is time for the House to do something concrete to prevent sexual offenders from drifting from place to place under a cloak of anonymity, putting vulnerable children and citizens at risk.
Christopher Stephenson's father, Jim Stephenson, wrote to the member for Langley—Abbotsford last Friday in support of the motion before the House today. He said he was encouraged that the Canadian Alliance was raising the need for a national sex offender registry for debate and a vote. He wrote:
Canadians everywhere, and not only those who are citizens of Ontario, also deserve protection from those who present danger to repeat a sexual assault. Clearly such protection is only possible under a national registry.
We hope that members of all parties will remember Christopher Stephenson today. We hope they will consider the lives of other children that may have been saved as Christopher's might have been. We hope they will consider the abuse and violation of innocent victims that may be prevented by the creation of a national registry. It is time that we set aside partisan politics and work together.
Every day we sit in the House as elected people and look across the aisles into the eyes of one another. We plot, plan and strategize, which is something politics and parliamentary behaviour is all about. Tonight when we vote, and as we look across the aisles, can we picture the eyes of Christopher or the eyes of our own children? I will be picturing the eyes of my grandchildren.
It is time to set aside partisan differences. It is time to work together for our children. Let us do this together.
That the motion be amended by substituting the number “1” with the number “30”.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The amendment is in order.
Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC
Mr. Speaker, I listened to the hon. member's speech with great interest and I too have great concerns about what is going on. Parents now walk their children to and from school and a lot of parents absolutely refuse to let their children play in parks.
It has always been my understanding that the government's first and foremost responsibility is the safety and protection of its law-abiding citizens. Our children are the most vulnerable. Should that not be the government's first and foremost responsibility?
Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC
Mr. Speaker, I would concur with that suggestion.
We always talk about the future being our children. We need to think of their literal future. It should absolutely be the utmost and foremost in the minds of not only of opposition party members but also of government members. I want to presume that will be the case. I do not want to make a political statement to the contrary but we will see tonight. I presume that the children of this country are in their hearts.
Howard Hilstrom Selkirk—Interlake, MB
Mr. Speaker, I was in the RCMP for 30 years. What the hon. member said about the Canadian Police Information Centre is accurate. It does not provide the full scope necessary for a police officer to keep track of the sexual predators who are loose in society.
I would also like to indicate that at the present time police forces are releasing information into the community about the whereabouts of an individual sex offender. However they are sometimes under civil threat of a lawsuit when they do that.
Will this registry help in the area of protecting our police forces when they do take action to monitor and follow these predators to make sure their whereabouts are known?