House of Commons Hansard #139 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sex.

Topics

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1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, it would appear that government members do not believe that bringing in legislation will be of any benefit. That is what I hear them saying. I hear them saying that a hodgepodge, throwing it in with CPIC, will be the answer.

Not one province in Canada believes that. Not one police force in Canada believes that. My only assumption is that the Liberals do not seem to understand that high risk offenders do not pay any attention to provincial boundaries. They move back and forth. It is imperative to have a national sex offender registry.

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1:35 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, following up on the previous question, the government continues to say that it has an adequate registry. I am beginning to wonder if it is talking about the one that is supposed to be in existence. If we look at the amount of time and money it is spending on the gun registry, is it trying to tie it into that? Certainly the present registry is not the one Canadians want. Would the member comment on that?

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1:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, I do not think the government really wants to have the half a billion dollars and growing in the gun registry connected with what we are trying to do here. I can assure the hon. member that the cost of doing what we want to do with this registry would make the expense of the gun registry look like a Sunday school collection. I would do that without any hesitation of the cost of the national registry we are talking about.

The police say that they are pleased to lend their collective voices in support of a national sex offender registry. That is what they are saying across Canada.

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1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Brenda Chamberlain Guelph—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, members on both sides of the House are worried about sexual offenders. There is no doubt about that.

For Alliance members to try to portray themselves as the good people who are defending the interests of people and the Liberal members as the terrible people because we do not is simply quite untrue.

The reality is we do have something in place called CPIC. When I met with police officers from Guelph, Ontario, they told me it was a good system. It needs more money and more expansion and that is happening. We on this side of the House always work to expand and make things better.

It is wrong to simply throw out a system that works and which the police back. To do that at the gain of real political points is a cheap shot.

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1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Roy H. Bailey Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Madam Speaker, the hon. member knows very well that I never in my life made a cheap shot of that nature in the House and I did not do it with this issue.

Let me quickly respond. If what we have presently is the answer, why do the police continue to say that they want a quicker response, that they want the registration to be this way or that way? The hon. member would know that in her province the police support the provincial registry. It is not something that only we are saying. It is being said across Canada.

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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion of the hon. member for Langley--Abbotsford on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Justice.

We on this side of the House are unequivocal in our support for any feasible measure that will effectively protect our children, indeed all of our citizens, from sexual predators. At the same time, however, I would urge all members to exercise caution and not jump at any measure that promises a quick fix, that claims to be a cure-all for this most pressing problem. I fear that a temptation in the specific area of sex offender registries is to leap first and look later. That appears to have happened all too often in some jurisdictions that have gone before us.

In fact this morning in the justice committee the hon. member for Prince Albert commented that often we are too quick to pass laws, to push a button that makes us feel good, but we are weak in evaluating and monitoring. Now the opposition wishes to charge forward on this issue. It seems to pick whatever process best suits its political purposes. What hypocrisy.

For example, over the last decade, the number of registries of sex offenders has jumped from a few isolated ones to registries in the 50 American states, in the United Kingdom, in Scotland, Ireland and even recently in Canada, in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia.

Given the implementation of these registries, one might easily assume that these registries stop sex offenders in their tracks. With all of these registries by now, one might assume there are all kinds of studies that empirically support such claims. Imagine my surprise when I found out that not one single study has been published that empirically concludes that sex offender registries reduce reoffending rates. Imagine my surprise when I found out that in many jurisdictions quite the opposite has happened.

For example, in the majority of states in America that have implemented a sex offender registry, anyone, even those of us sitting at home in Canada, can log on to the Internet and see pictures and addresses of every known sex offender living in that state. In many cases their pictures will be available like that for the rest of their lives. Has that active publication of personal information reduced sex crimes? Apparently not.

Here in Canada where sex offender registries have yet to have any impact on available data, the incidence of violent sexual offences per capita has been steadily dropping over the past few years. This is not the case however in most U.S. jurisdictions that publish the names of sex offenders over the Internet. At the same time these states have all experienced atrocious acts of vigilantism against these offenders. While some may say “Very good, they deserve it”, I and the government could never condone any such system that invited retaliation.

The question is, why would anyone pass a sex offender registry law that to date seems to have had so little positive effect? All too often these policies are drafted in haste, in a crisis situation born of desperation. All too often we have seen an isolated tragedy involving a sex offender and a child which causes an immediate legislative call to arms. In their haste, as has often been the case in this highly emotional issue, legislators fail to understand all the consequences of their emotionally drafted bills.

In almost every single case where a legislative body has passed a sex offender registry bill, the same scenario was played out: a painful and highly publicized case of kidnapping and murder of a child, followed by community outrage, calls for action and passionate speeches calling for new and better tools to combat this problem. Were the resulting registries always the best tools for the job? Was careful analysis of sex offender traits and trends used to model and shape a policy designed to reduce reoffending? Were legislators solely dedicated to finding the right policies? Or were there other factors at play, factors such as revenge, blame and politics?

How well did the resulting registries work? Did sex offenders all stop offending? The data suggests otherwise. For example, in one of the most comprehensive recidivist studies ever undertaken, a recent study by the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives looked at over 45,000 historical sex offenders in the United States and concluded that 87% of these convicted offenders do not commit another sex offence after release. This rate is substantially better than that observed for other forms of property and violent crimes. Yet sex offender registries typically target 100% of convicted offenders regardless of their determined threat or likelihood of recidivism based on a personal profile. In most cases all of these offenders are required to register for the rest of their lives.

Instead of focusing its efforts on, for example, the 13% who are likely to reoffend, police forces in the states that have sex offender registries must spend their resources on monitoring 100% of all convicted sex offenders, over 200,000 of them to date in the United States, regardless of their likelihood of reoffending. Most criminology experts argue that the registry concept is incredibly inefficient.

Many of the American registries are facing a new threat from their state and federal supreme courts where rights based challenges against lifelong mandatory registration requirements are starting to proceed through the appeals process. The news is not great. Many states, including Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey, have had their respective registries struck down in whole or in part as a result of clashes with state constitutional rights, few of which are as stringent as the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Certainly there are lessons to be learned from these experiences.

When the United Kingdom drafted its sex offender registry and forced Ray Whiting to register for his sex offence related murder of Jason Swift, how did it happen that after his statutory release for that crime he managed to rape and murder yet another victim, young Sarah Payne? Why did the local police admit that the U.K. sex offender registry, as it existed, was of little use in monitoring the offender, or in preventing the subsequent crime, or in treating the offender, or in investigating and apprehending that offender?

Why did subsequent inquiries conclude that toughening the existing sex offender registry would have had little impact in preventing cases like the Sarah Payne tragedy? Why was it that most experts concluded that Whiting's failure to receive therapy and assistance in integrating into the community was the chief factor that caused this tragedy? Why did the U.K. government introduce in the following year a new sex offender registry law?

What then do we make of sex offender registries? Are they perfect? Certainly not. Are we intent on repeating these types of mistakes? Hopefully not. Can we learn from the experience of others? I sincerely hope so.

The motion before us today is an example of the desire to sprint ahead without having examined all the pitfalls that may lay ahead. The implication of this motion is that the government is doing nothing while our children remain in danger. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I would like to note the solicitor general's efforts to date on this matter. The solicitor general rose in the House last March and stated emphatically that he supported the motion by the member for Langley--Abbotsford, as did all members present, because this nation already possessed one of the most technologically advanced criminal registries in the world, the Canadian Police Information Centre. We know it as CPIC. Further, he told the House that his department would begin evaluating potential improvements to CPIC in the specific areas of sex offences, citing the criticism that CPIC was not address searchable by police officers.

In a very short period of time he fulfilled that commitment when he announced on September 11 last year that a new database within the CPIC system was to be created: the sex offender category. Further, he announced that the database would be address searchable and would be up and running within a year, funded completely by the federal government.

That is not all the government has done in recent years to combat the dangers of sexual predators. In 1997 we proclaimed Bill C-55 which strengthened the dangerous offender rules in part XXIV of the criminal code and also created a new sentencing provision called long term offender.

As a result of these changes, prosecutors in almost every province are aggressively pursuing dangerous offender and long term offender designations. In fact, since 1997 the number of successful dangerous offender applications has doubled each year.

The 1997 legislative package also created a new category called the long term offender. It targeted individuals who were clearly a threat but who would not meet the threshold as a dangerous offender. This new designation recognized that released sex offenders who received supervision and treatment in the community experienced dramatically lower recidivist rates than offenders who were released at warrant expiry without conditions for supervision or treatment.

In addition to their custodial period, long term offenders can be sentenced to up to 10 years of community supervision and conditions following the termination of their custodial period. This innovative measure has already resulted in over 100 successful long term offender applications.

The government also recognized that there were new emerging areas of sex crimes that needed to be targeted specifically. In 1997 and later in 1999, parliament passed important measures to protect children from being drawn into the sex trade. A new offence of aggravated procuring was created, with a minimum five year sentence, to deal with those who use violence against a child and force that child into prostitution related activity. Special protections were instituted to make it easier for children to testify in court against pimps.

Bill C-15A, which is now before the House, contains new provisions that would make it an offence to lure minors over the Internet for the purpose of committing a sexual offence. However, none of these initiatives happened overnight.

While I agree with my colleagues that this is an urgent problem, cobbling together a mandatory sex offender registry without looking at all the issues, all the details and all the facts will not result in good legislation.

Instead, the solicitor general has taken a different approach. He has asked his officials to work with all the provinces and territories to fully explore the issue, to determine what is and what is not feasible in the Canadian context, to determine what works and what does not, and to find out where some jurisdictions have succeeded and where others have failed. I fully support this approach and this side of the House fully supports this approach. It is obvious to me that the provinces also support this approach. Why else would they be participating fully in the federal-provincial-territorial working group on high risk offenders currently seized with this matter?

Canadians must abide by many rules, many laws and many conventions that are uniquely Canadian. The division of powers between federal and provincial governments is quite different from that found in, for example, the United States or the conventions and laws of the unitary styled United Kingdom. We have a constitution, including a charter of rights, that is unique and, while similar, is different from the American bill of rights. Any proposed national sex offender registry can only be successful if it is designed and drafted within this unique Canadian context.

It is for those specific reasons that there are high level discussions taking place among the federal, provincial and territorial officials on what kind of registry system would be workable in the very unique Canadian context. From the issue of charter and privacy challenges, to how information could be transferred from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and from computer system to computer system, to whether non-compliance should be a criminal code offence, there are many choices and the solicitor general is looking for a consensus among our partners before proceeding further.

That approach makes sense. If we are going to have a registry, we should have one that works, that is efficient and affordable, that will recognize the impact of the charter of rights and freedoms, that is not in breach of federal or provincial privacy laws, that local police agencies will have the ability and resources to administer, one for which all provinces and territories from coast to coast to coast can agree on a consistent approach, and one that will not drive convicted sex offenders underground with changed identities and no hope of rehabilitation.

In closing, I must decline to support the motion, not because I do not wish to protect our children from sex offenders, because I do, but because I insist that my government does more than just pretend to protect our children from sex offenders. I will not support any measure that is not properly understood, not completely explored and does not receive full scrutiny at every level.

No measure within the criminal justice system exists in a vacuum, sex offender registries included. The task of preventing recidivism by sex offenders needs an effective, multi-faceted approach, from investigation to capture, from charge to prosecution, from sentence to release and, finally, from community supervision and treatment to rehabilitation.

A sex offender registry, in whatever form it ultimately may take, is just one piece of this very big puzzle. It will be no panacea, but if we do it right and do it carefully maybe it can work. If we are careful it will not be a strain on police resources, it will not drive violent sexual predators underground and it will not bring a flood of charter challenges.

I urge my colleagues on all sides of the House to give our federal-provincial-territorial officials a chance to do their work, to reach a consensus and to evaluate the options. At that time we will be in a much better position to know where we should be headed, what legislation to support and how best to make our children safe.

Let us take the necessary time to study the issue carefully and positively. Let is take the necessary measures to enact effective strategies that will protect our children and indeed to protect all Canadians.

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Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Randy White Langley—Abbotsford, BC

Madam Speaker, I do not know what to say about that speech. We do not need a sex offender registry but we are building one. I have heard more contradictions in that speech today than in most speeches in the House.

What really escapes me, however, in the comments my colleague on the Liberal side made, is that we do not need a registry that is convoluted, costs a lot of money, drives offenders underground and makes criminals out of people. I think he also said that we should study this for a long time and make sure it is done right and conclusively.

It seems to me that this is the government that brought in something called a gun registry quickly, which drove more innocent Canadians underground, and that cost somewhere we think in the neighbourhood of $650 million.

Does the member opposite think the gun registry was a darn good idea? Could he also tell us why that registry, such as it is, was such a great idea and a national sex offender registry is not a good idea?

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Erie—Lincoln, ON

Madam Speaker, if my friend wants to know what to say about that speech, I will say it was an excellent speech.

We have the CPIC system which is already in existence. We have a national security system. We have a system that is in place that can be improved upon. However we should be looking with our partners, the provinces and the territories, at how to implement a system that would be effective, cost efficient and would thereby protect all the children. Is the gun registry a good system? Yes. I think it is an excellent system. Gun control is effective and necessary. It is something that all members in the House should be advocating.

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1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Madam Speaker, as with my colleague from the Canadian Alliance, I cannot believe the speech that the member for Erie--Lincoln just delivered. It was unbelievable. I hope there are a lot of Canadians out there watching the sad display of a speech in the House about the need for a national sex offender registry.

He talked at great length about how the provinces had to buy in, that there had to be agreement from the provinces and that we had to look at what was successful in other countries. Yet that was not the case with the now infamous firearms registry. The government forged ahead no matter that the majority of the provinces were opposed to it. The majority of Canadians were opposed to it, the ones who at least understood what was happening with that registry. The cost has been astronomical.

Montfort Hospital
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride that I rise to speak today. I would like the House to recognize the tremendous efforts made by Gisèle Lalonde and the committee to save the Montfort hospital during the last five years.

Last Friday, the Ontario government announced that it accepted the decision of the Court of Appeal of Ontario. This court found that the Montfort hospital was essential to the survival of the French language community in Ontario and that the rights of that community were guaranteed by the constitution. This is a victory for all Franco-Ontarians, as well as for all francophones in Canada.

My colleagues join with me in paying tribute to the perseverance of Gisèle Lalonde and her committee. The battle has been a long one, but we have come out of it stronger and more unified.

More than ever, I am proud to be a Franco-Ontarian.

National Defence
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, the dark shadow of the Liberals continues to loom over the Canadian armed forces. First the Liberals eradicated the army, navy and air force with an ill-conceived policy of unification. Then they took the word armed out of Canadian armed forces. Now they want to get rid of the Canadian identification and just call it forces.

Is there a Liberal in the House who can tell Canadians and our men and women in uniform what this is all about? Apparently this accelerated assault on our Canadian military heritage is being driven by a desire to connect with young people.

When the Liberals learn that our Canadian military heritage is what attracts young people to the military we will be accomplishing something. Renaming or disguising the armed forces will not attract new recruits; it will only further tarnish the image of a once proud institution.

Member for Calgary East
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to extend my best wishes to the hon. member for Calgary East who underwent successful heart surgery yesterday.

I had the privilege of getting to know the member for Calgary East before my election to the House when we were on the same trip to Africa in 1999. I was with him when he made a triumphant return to his old high school in Arusha, Tanzania. I learned much about this country from him.

I am sure all hon. members join me in wishing the member for Calgary East a speedy and full recovery, and a quick return to the House.

Research and Technology
Statements by Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I rise in the House to pay tribute to the members of my research, innovation and technology advisory committee which just presented me with their final report.

Last January, when I first gathered this group together, I asked them to look at my riding of Northumberland and work with stakeholders to form a vision for the technological future of my riding. It was my feeling that as a rural riding we faced unique challenges in the new economy that needed to be addressed quickly.

The hard work done by all members of this group has had long lasting effects right across my riding. In the coming months I look forward to working with the many stakeholders to implement many of the recommendations in the report.

I wish to express my sincere thanks to chair Susan Hale and the committee members for their great spirit of volunteerism that has lead to this report.

Boreal Forest
Statements by Members

February 5th, 2002 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canada is home to the world's largest remaining wilderness forest. Our boreal forest is a beautiful wilderness area with millions of square kilometres of sensitive woodlands, wetlands, fast flowing rivers and deep lakes, which protect caribou, wolves, bears, migrating birds, et cetera. Canada's boreal forest is increasingly under threat from logging, mining, oil exploration and hydroelectric dams.

Let us remember that the boreal forest played a vital role in our nation's history. Native peoples, and later voyageurs, used its mighty rivers to travel and discover this country.

Canada's boreal forest is a great legacy. Governments, federal and provincial, must ensure its protection. I ask Canadians to let their elected representatives know how strongly they disapprove of the heavy logging of the boreal forest. Future generations deserve the protection of this most valuable common good.

Cambodia
Statements by Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Lévis-Et-Chutes-De-La-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, February 3, Cambodia held its first local elections. Over 1,000 foreign observers were present for this historic event, which represents one more step towards the introduction of real democracy in this country, which has been ravaged by more than two decades of dictatorship and civil war.

Cambodia's local elections are a step in the direction of increased representation of the rural population, which accounts for almost 85% of the country's 11 million inhabitants. Preliminary results indicate that Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cambodian People's Party won a majority in the 76 communes.

However, these results are disputed by human rights defence groups, which have noted irregularities. In addition, the election campaign was punctuated by violence, with eight candidates and a dozen activists losing their lives. The Cambodian government will therefore have to work to improve the safety and transparency of the next elections.

For its part, the international community must pursue its efforts to help the Cambodian people build a modern and democratic state.