House of Commons Hansard #192 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was life.

Topics

Business of the House

May 27th, 2002 / 11 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), it is my duty to inform the House that the motion to be considered tomorrow during the consideration of the business of supply is as follows:

That this House has lost confidence in the government for its failure to persuade the U.S. government to end protectionist policies that are damaging Canada's agriculture and lumber industries and for failing to implement offsetting trade injury measures for the agriculture and lumber sectors.

The motion standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North is a votable item. Copies of the motion are available at the table.

It being 11.05 a.m., the House will now proceed to consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved that Bill C-437, an act to provide that persons who commit a sexual offence involving a child serve the entire sentence imposed without early release or parole and be found to be child predators, and to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, in summary, the child predator act defines the expression “child predator offence” to cover sexual offences involving children that include sexual activity by the offender. It would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to prevent any unescorted temporary absence, day parole, full parole or statutory release being granted to a person who has committed a child predator offence or who has been found to be a child predator under the new provisions of the criminal code. Thus, the bill would ensure that the full term of the sentence would be served in custody in every case of a child predator offence.

Further, the enactment would amend the criminal code to provide for an application to a court to find a person to be a child predator on the basis of having committed a child predator offence and having shown an inability to control sexual behaviour or an indifference to the consequences of that behaviour for victims.

The enactment would allow the court to order an offender who is found to be a child predator to be held in custody for an indeterminate period if the offence were a second or subsequent child predator offence and would require the court in all such cases to order counselling and, in the case of any subsequent release, avoidance of contact with children, electronic surveillance and monthly reporting to police of residence and place of work for at least five years after his or her release.

If the offender is not found to be a child predator the court, on passing sentence for a child predator offence, may still make any or all the orders specified in the enactment and find the accused to be a long term offender and shall in all cases order avoidance of contact with children and monthly reporting to the police.

The Minister of Justice would be required to establish procedures to ensure that any breaches of an order, including a failure to report to police, would result in an immediate issuance of a warrant for the offender's arrest and the notification of the relevant police authorities.

One of the Liberal government's biggest failures has been its refusal to strengthen the criminal justice system and its ability to deal with violent and repeat offenders. The result is that we feel less secure in our homes and communities.

According to the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics, crime has steadily increased since 1993. However it was not until recently, when the regional psychiatric centre in Saskatoon was forced to accept convicted pedophile Karl Toft, that people in that community really understood the extent to which the criminal code did not adequately protect society.

Toft is the notorious child sex offender who received a 13 year sentence for 34 sex attacks on boys while he worked at a youth training facility. What is truly disturbing is that Toft, whose victims could ultimately number in the hundreds, became eligible for parole after serving only a fraction of his sentence. Not only was Toft eligible for parole, even though his prospects for rehabilitation were poor and he was a high risk to reoffend, he actually qualified for release into a community based halfway house.

It should have been a foregone conclusion that a predatory offender like Toft would have to spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. However at the time of sentence he was given concurrent as opposed to consecutive sentences. Therefore, despite the heinousness of his crimes against children, Toft became eligible for parole after serving only two-thirds, nine years, of his sentence.

As a result, and following a brief evaluative stay in Saskatoon, National Parole Board officials quietly released Toft. This occurred despite the objections of his victims who have been forced to live with the emotional and physical scars of what was done to them.

As a result, I introduced this private member's bill designed to prevent a repeat of this situation. Bill C-437, the child predator act, would ensure that all individuals convicted of a sex related crime against a child would serve their full sentence and be declared a dangerous offender. The dangerous offender designation is essential to keeping pedophiles behind bars indefinitely. There would also be greater emphasis placed on deterrents because the sentencing provisions would apply to first time offenders.

From a judicial perspective and where the safety of our community is concerned, the child predator act is a common sense approach that puts the safety of our children ahead of the rights of pedophiles.

While the Liberal government refuses to consider changes to the criminal code, the onus is on elected representatives at all levels of government to continue telling it like it is in the hope that public opinion will force changes to be made.

I have the psychiatric evaluation of child sex offender Karl Toft. I do not have time to read it all into the record but I will read one paragraph which will highlight the seriousness of the situation. The psychiatric evaluation reads:

You have been diagnosed as a homosexual pedophile...the highest risk category for sexual reoffending even after intensive treatment, with a personality disorder with schizoid and anti-social features. The prognosis for individuals with this profile is generally poor as therapy is difficult.

Despite that evaluation, the guy was released after having served only two-thirds of his sentence, having been convicted of 34 sex offences against children.

Releasing pedophiles into our communities is highly dangerous and I am appalled that they spend such little time in prison. The bill would prevent the release of deviant sex offenders into the communities where they prey upon our children.

Studies prove that pedophiles are incurable and are a threat to our children. They belong behind bars. The Liberal government has refused to make child predators subject to an automatic dangerous offender designation when they are sentenced, which would ensure that they remain in prison indefinitely.

I of course appeared before the committee that reviews private members' business to request that this bill be deemed votable but the Liberal members who sat on the committee declined that request. I would like now to request the unanimous consent of the House to deem the bill votable.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the hon. member have the unanimous consent of the House to make the bill votable?

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to participate in the debate on this private member's bill, Bill C-437, sponsored by the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt. I want to congratulate my colleague from Humboldt for bringing forward this private member's bill. It is a timely piece of legislation.

The bill aims to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to prevent any unescorted temporary absences, day parole, full parole or statutory release being granted to an individual who has committed a child predator offence and who has been found to be a child predator under the new provisions of the criminal code. In other words, if the bill were ever passed, child sex predators would have to serve their full time in custody. That is a novel idea: making rapists and other sadistic predators spend their entire sentence behind bars where they can no longer pose a threat to children.

I would respectfully recommend to the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt that this or a similar bill go even further and eliminate the statutory release for all offenders and that day parole and escorted absences be used much more discreetly. Unfortunately the bill is not votable and therefore will not become law. It is highly unlikely that this or any other measure aimed at eliminating statutory release or limiting day parole and escorted temporary absences ever will be a reality with this government at the helm.

There is ample reason to support measures such as those that we find in the bill. Correctional Service Canada figures from 1989 to 1994 reveal that some 4,980 persons, or 60%, who were convicted of violent offences such as child molestation, manslaughter, rape or attempted murder repeated their crimes, that is, they repeated their crimes while they were on conditional release from the penitentiary.

Statistics do not provide an adequate picture of how repeat offenders become progressively more violent. Therefore, I would like to provide the House with a few prime examples of why statutory release, day parole and even escorted temporary absences for sex offenders, particularly child sex offenders, need to be eliminated or restricted. Here is one example:

Since 1975, Allan Wayne Walsh of Mission, B.C. had more than 60 convictions for kidnapping, confining women, sex crimes, robbery and weapons offences. In 1983, he was convicted of 26 offences, including two counts of rape, and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Ten years later he was out on parole. Within months he used a knife to try to rape one woman and then raped and robbed another. On September 21, 1995 he was convicted of seven new offences, including sexual assault, which led the crown to have him declared a dangerous offender. These seven additional offences never would have occurred if Walsh had served his full 25-year sentence. Seven innocent people would have remained unharmed if this dangerous offender had served out his full sentence of 25 years.

Seven families who were devastated would have remained unharmed.

The Canadian Alliance believes in truth in sentencing for all violent and all dangerous offenders. We do not have truth in sentencing today. Truth in sentencing means that if a 25 year sentence is imposed, a 25 year sentence is served. In essence we support no parole for violent offenders, no reduction in the term decided by the courts upon consideration of the facts.

Another example that exemplifies my point is that of Ronald Richard McCauley, another British Columbia rapist who was sentenced to 17 years after two vicious rapes in which his victims were left for dead. At the time of sentencing, McCauley was another one who had an extensive criminal record. In 1992 when McCauley came up for parole he told the parole board he felt that had he not been caught he would have become another serial killer like Clifford Olson. The board, noting that McCauley appeared to benefit only superficially from treatment, turned him down, but two years later in 1994 McCauley got statutory release and was out. In 1995 McCauley was under investigation in the murder of two Vancouver women.

In another instance, in 1983 James Ronald Robinson of Ottawa was convicted of manslaughter in the stabbing death of Roxanne Nairn, a 17 year old grade 12 student. He was sentenced to three years on a manslaughter conviction, but again, he also was released early despite being caught trying to smuggle hashish into jail while returning from an unescorted pass. In 1990 Robinson spent two years in jail for raping and threatening to kill a woman he had lived with after his release from prison. On March 6, 1995, he was charged with another count of sexual assault on another victim whose life was hurt and damaged.

In another instance, despite having consecutive sentences adding up to 27 years, and despite having committed crimes while on parole, Claude Forget was given an escorted pass to visit his sister in 1993. He escaped. Forget forgot how to get home and two months later he shot two police officers. In September 1995 he was up for parole after serving only a very small fraction of his sentence because parole loopholes required any new sentence to be merged with any existing sentence. In Forget's case, this meant that he was eligible for parole almost as soon as he was convicted of the attempted murders because there was no consecutive sentence. Forget was granted a full parole hearing in December 1995.

I will give the House yet another example, one from 1986, and one which we have read about in many of our papers. Martin Dubuc, a Montreal hockey coach, was convicted of molesting team players:

After his release from prison he did not let a lifetime ban on coaching in Quebec stop him. He changed locales, becoming a coach and eventually president of the minor hockey association of southwest Montreal. As well, three different school boards in the Montreal area hired him as a substitute teacher. In September of 1995 he pleaded guilty to using the telephone to threaten boys aged 10 to 13.

More and more of these types of cases have occurred and will continue to occur unless amendments are made to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, amendments such as those contemplated in this private member's bill, Bill C-437.

There will be no discernible impact on the recidivism rates unless the government is willing to go the extra mile. The Liberals' soft on crime approach to justice simply is not working. What we need to do is implement zero tolerance for violent offenders and zero tolerance for sex offenders, which means we have to come down hard on those sadistic criminals who prey upon the weak and vulnerable members of our society.

The only way to truly protect our children from sex offenders is to keep those offenders locked up for their full sentences, then closely monitor them following their release and have their names and whereabouts registered on the national sex offender registry that the government has promised for months although we see no evidence of any registry coming forward.

There is probably no crime short of murder that offends the sensibilities and values of a community more than that of sexual assault on a child. It is most unconscionable when criminal acts such as these take place because they victimize the weakest, they victimize the most vulnerable and they victimize the most innocent among us as a society. Yet the government seems to remove itself from any type of remedy for the problem.

I therefore stand today to again congratulate the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt. I am fully supportive of this private member's bill, Bill C-437.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:20 a.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak today on Bill C-437, which creates the new category of child predator, and restricts release on parole for offenders in this category.

An examination of this child predator act, which the member is asking us to support, might lead one to conclude that there is not, at the present time, any legislative instrument to deal with this category of offenders, and this is not the case.

Contrary to what some might suggest, I am not against this bill today because of any softness of attitude toward those who commit sexual offences on children. The truth is that I cannot see the point of creating a new category of offender. The deviant behaviour involved is already, by definition, addressed by the criminal code provisions on dangerous offenders. Dangerous offenders, the large majority of whom are in fact sexual offenders, can already have sentences of indeterminate length imposed upon them.

A dangerous offender is a dangerous offender. Calling one a child predator will change nothing.

If an offender cannot be classified as dangerous under the present criteria, there is still the possibility of declaring him a long term offender, and thus subject to the addition of a maximum of ten years monitoring at the end of his sentence. This category was created specifically for sex offenders for whom it is advisable to add a long period of monitoring once they are back in the community in order to reduce the risk of repeat offences.

These provisions, which exist only in Canada—I repeat, only in Canada—have been held up as examples by experts in other countries, who saw them as an excellent means of closely monitoring high risk offenders within the limits imposed by our charter of rights and freedoms. Too often we try to adopt new solutions that are copied from what is done in other countries, where there are not the same wise measures as there are here.

I would point out in particular that this bill is particularly off track when it proposes restriction of gradual release or parole for this category of sex offenders, which is in my opinion contrary to its avowed objective of protecting Canadians.

This bill starts from the premise that public security is less threatened by an offender who serves his entire sentence, and then is required to report to the police once a month once set free. My colleague may not know this, but an offender under conditional release is subject to much stricter conditions than that, and can be sent back behind bars if he is deemed likely to reoffend. Once the sentence has been served, the police cannot act on a mere hunch.

Whether on day parole, full parole, or statutory release, the offender must report to a parole officer. The offender must abide by the conditions established by the National Parole Board, or risk having his parole suspended by his parole officer and being sent back to jail. Also, the parole officer can discuss the offender's behaviour with his entourage, such as his family or his employer, which makes it possible to detect any increase in the likelihood of reoffending. The police certainly do not have the time to monitor all sexual offenders this closely.

The other premise of this bill is that longer sentences constitute the best guarantee of public safety, which is not true.

According to research dating from May 2002, the longer a person is incarcerated, the greater that person's chances of reoffending upon release. This study was based on 111 studies, involving more than 442,000 offenders. I think that conclusions based on this amount of supporting data deserve to be taken into consideration. The conclusions stated specifically that a longer prison sentence was associated with a slight increase in the chances of reoffending, the repeat rate of approximately 3% rose to 7% when the sentence was longer than two years. So it is not by locking criminals up for longer that we will protect the public over the long term.

Even if this bill were passed, most offenders would return to the community one day. Experience has taught us that the best way to reintegrate offenders is to give them gradual freedom, and to monitor and supervise them properly to help them live their lives in abidance of the law.

The fact that the parole program begins with short escorted absences is not a coincidence. These are followed by unescorted temporary absences designed to evaluate the offender's ability to adjust to life in society. Day parole is a less restrictive form of freedom, but it does involve significant monitoring and controlling, since the offender must go back to a halfway house every evening. Full parole brings the offender closer to full release, but the parole officer can follow up on that person and take action if he deems that the situation is deteriorating.

Taking action does not necessarily mean putting the offender back in jail immediately. It may mean to make him go for counselling, impose stricter parole conditions, or require the offender to see his parole officer more often. It may also mean sending the offender back in jail if there is a serious risk that he may reoffend.

We must also not put all sexual offenders in the same boat. The risk of reoffending varies from one individual to another. Our system is based on that reality. We can evaluate the risk posed by an individual but not an homogeneous group and, depending on the seriousness of this risk and our ability to monitor it in the community, decide when the individual should be freed. If the offender is automatically released, something which is often criticized, he will be monitored until the end of his sentence. However, if he remains incarcerated until the end of his sentence, we no longer have the right to monitor his activities once he is released.

As I mentioned earlier, when an offender requires long term monitoring, we have two options. A dangerous offender is necessarily imposed an indeterminate sentence and remains under the surveillance of the parole board for the rest of his days, even if he is released.

If an individual is deemed to be a long term offender—and this is an option that already exists—he may be under surveillance for a maximum of ten years after the end of his sentence.

Finally, these figures show how important it is to ensure that offenders remain in the community without reoffending. An excellent way to help them achieve this is precisely to monitor them through a parole program.

In conclusion, it is not at all necessary to create new categories and to eliminate the discretionary power in the whole system. What we must do is to make educated choices based on current knowledge, so as to truly help increase public safety. This is a very important issue. It is unfortunate that there is not more time to debate it, but that is the way things are.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-437. I must say that I have found it extremely difficult to take a position on this issue because of the distinction that must always be made between the purpose of good legislation, i.e. protecting children, and the means used by that legislation to achieve that purpose, i.e. creating a new system or a new status for those who commit sexual offences against children. If someone is found to be a child predator, he would now have to serve his full sentence, with no possibility of early release or parole.

It is only after long reflection on the fundamental purpose of Bill C-437, which is to protect children, that I declare myself in favour of Bill C-437 in principle—and only in principle. I do not, however, support the means used by this bill to attain the aforementioned goal of protecting children.

To begin with, it is impossible not to be sensitive to the welfare and especially the safety of children, who must be protected against any attempts to commit sexual offences against them and must most certainly be protected from possible attacks by sexual predators.

We have only to look at the dictionary definition of predator, an animal naturally preying on others, and link it up with child to realize immediately the extremely great risk that a sexual predator may pose to any human being, whether male or female, and that this risk is even greater when a child sexual predator is involved because, as we know, a child is defenceless.

Everyone will remember the terrible tragedy which took place in Belgium some years back when child sexual predator Marc Dutroux was arrested for kidnapping and murdering several young children. The public will also remember the 1996 White March in which 300,000 Belgian men, women and children demonstrated against all forms of pedophilia and against those crimes which could have been prevented if a rigorous system of surveillance had been put in place to thwart people like Marc Dutroux.

We do not need to look to other countries to seek out examples of these terrible predators. We need look no further than our own, where we have the recent cases of two sexual predators in Ontario, Paul Bernardo and his wife, and of Conrad Brossard in Quebec, who is alleged to have just recently committed his latest heinous crime against a Trois-Rivières woman. These cases are proof that no civilized society is safe from the hideous misdeeds of these monsters, who must be made incapable of perpetrating any further acts, in order to protect potential future victims.

There are not many means of neutralizing these dangerous beings, who represent a danger not only to society as a whole but also and particularly to potential victims. They can be sentenced to death, as they are in the United States and many other countries, or they can be imprisoned, in countries like Canada where the death penalty has been abolished.

In the latter case, however, the whole issue of the potential rehabilitation of these sexual predators crops up, with the eventual possibility of their being released on parole. That possibility stirs up enormous fears if a child predator is concerned.

Many people are absolutely convinced that child predators are never cured and remain an ongoing danger, because of the phenomenon of recidivism.

That fear is what has prompted the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt to propose Bill C-437, when he learned that notorious child sex offender Karl Toft had just been released. According to the member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, the Saskatoon Regional Psychiatric Centre was forced to accept what the sponsor of Bill C-437 describes as this “pedophile found guilty of 34 sexual attacks on young boys, whose victims could ultimately number in the hundreds”.

The member went on to say:

Studies prove that pedophiles are incurable and are a threat to our children. They belong behind bars. The Liberal government has refused to make child predators subject to an automatic dangerous offender designation when they are sentenced, which would ensure that they remain in prison indefinitely”.

Therefore, even though the goal of Bill C-437 is eminently laudable, the means used to attain this goal pose serious problems and are ill-adapted to the fundamental principles of our criminal law system. In fact, the definition of child predator offence is unclear in that it does not define rigorously enough the seriousness of the sexual offences contemplated and how much criminal behaviour must tolerated before someone is found to be a child predator, with the very serious ramifications that may ensue. The proposed legislative wording seems to allow for the term child predator to be applied retroactively, contrary to the usual custom that legislation not be retroactive. For these two reasons, the bill is not acceptable in its present form.

In addition, this bill creates a special system for child predators. I see no reason to exclude women or men from this form of protection against sexual predators, for their lives surely deserve just as much attention from the legislator as do those of children. We have only to think of the fifty or so women in the Vancouver area who have allegedly been kidnapped and murdered to realize that all human beings, men, women and children, must be protected against predators and that this protection must not be limited solely to children.

It must also be pointed out that proposed section 753.11 in Bill C-437 provides for a dubious and unusual system requiring the Minister of Justice to monitor whether an offender is in breach of an order against him. A simpler and more effective system of administrative monitoring should be provided for, if required.

Finally, we must ask ourselves whether the existing criminal code system is not entirely sufficient to cope with the admittedly very serious situation of child sexual predators, and whether it is really necessary to create this special new system solely for children.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I would indicate quite clearly, as did the previous speaker, that we in our party support the idea behind the bill. We support the sentiment that we must do everything in our power to protect our most valued and valuable asset: our children. Yet I have real reservations about the method by which Bill C-437 might invoke that.

I very much commend the hon. member who has moved the bill. This is a cause he has long been engaged in and strongly believes in. Bill C-437 is intended to bring about a greater system of protection for children. It is intended to enforce many of the things one would assume should already be happening in the system of release, the parole system and the prison system. Were it to be enacted, the bill would further define the expression “child predator” in the criminal code to cover all sexual offences involving children that include sexual activity by the offender.

We in our party support the sentiment behind the bill. It is laudable that we encourage every effort to protect children and ensure that fairness for the victim prevails in the system. This is often lost. Victims are often thrust into a life of fear not only of what has happened but of the legal system which can be extremely cold and difficult to navigate. The system is at times unforgiving and lacking in compassion and information. I have often heard this from victims.

Bill C-437 would create a separate type of sentence in the criminal code. This is quite clear from the wording of the amendment, the effect of which would be to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to prevent unescorted temporary absences, day parole, full parole or statutory release from being granted to individuals who have committed child predatory offences or been found to be child predators under the new provisions of the criminal code.

There will be a need to clarify the definition. This is not to be misinterpreted, but there is a scale of sexual offences in the criminal code. We can never forget that. It may sound clinical but I am saying this to clearly indicate that there is a scale for looking at types of offences. It ranges from inappropriate touching, which is not to be condoned but is one type of offence, to the horrific cases of rape, murder and serial rape and murder we have seen in the country.

With respect to sentencing, Bill C-437 seeks to ensure the entire sentence is served in custody in every case in which a child predator offence is perpetrated. Yes, there would still be the full protection of due process. Individuals would still be able to avail themselves of due process from the time of disclosure to a conviction or not guilty finding. We must ensure all the protections currently afforded remain in place and that due process is not interfered with.

However Bill C-437 is about what happens after the fact, after the finding of guilt. That is an important point. Because of the special nature of the offence and the special type of harm to society and the individual that results from it, we very much need a change in response and attitude by the justice department. That is implicit in the legislation.

Bill C-437 would amend the criminal code to provide for applications to the court to find people to be child predators on the basis of having committed offences against children or their inability to control their sexual behaviour. A finding of guilt and a finding of that designation would have certain consequences. We are talking about a type of dangerous offender application, something which is already permissible under the criminal code. We are talking about the worst of the worst.

I shudder to mention the names Olson and Bernardo but these are the types of predatory, sexual and violent offences envisioned by the criminal code change. We can talk about rehabilitation in the context of some offenders, but at the upper end of the scale rehabilitation is no longer a consideration. Rehabilitation of these offenders is virtually non-existent.

When looking at the intent of our justice system the protection of the public must be given precedence. This is brought about by deterrence and denunciation. It is why I recognize what the hon. member is trying to do. He is trying to draw a clearer line to distinguish the types of offences that are so horrific and damaging in their psychological and physical impact on victims. Such offences require special treatment. The offenders should be denied early release or any leniency that could be misinterpreted as condoning or embracing that type of behaviour.

Bill C-437 would give courts the ability to hold offenders for an indeterminate period of time. This is akin to the dangerous offender applications that currently exist. The bill calls for mandatory treatment. This should happen in every instance. It is a resource question. It is a priority question within the penal system and the parole board.

Under the bill counselling would be ordered in all cases to ensure avoidance of contact with children after release. Electronic surveillance might be employed as well as monthly reporting to the police. Certain parameters in the system which are now discretionary would be made mandatory in instances where sexual predators have been identified.

I have a similar bill in this regard which talks about banning contact between convicted sex offenders and children in dwelling houses. This is because of the frequency of contact between offenders and children in dwelling houses. It is where most offences are perpetrated.

Bill C-437 would require the minister of justice to establish procedures to ensure that any breach of an order including failure to report to police resulted in the immediate issuance of a warrant for arrest. That is common sense. It is what should be occurring now. Bill C-437 would codify some existing tenets which have flexibility and require discretion in the field and within Correctional Service of Canada. Under the bill offenders identified as sexual predators would be treated with special caution and in some instances given no leniency.

This is a sentiment we should embrace. The Progressive Conservative Party commends the mover of the motion in this regard. It is trite to say how important children have become in our society. Everyone recognizes that. It is a sentiment everyone should be quick to embrace.

Cautious estimates note that one in three young women are sexually abused before the age of 18 and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 16. These are startling figures. Even more frightening is that most abused and neglected children never come to the attention of the authorities. The cases we hear of are but a fraction of what is occurring.

Sexual predators in some instances are never caught. It goes without saying that this is sad. There is a serial element to their behaviour when there are no deterrents or consequences. They can be found in every province. It is not a rural-urban issue. There is not a higher instance in some provinces than in others. It is prevalent throughout. There is a high rate of recidivism. This is another important factor in the mover's motion. The life altering and lasting implications for the victims and the damage that results is shocking and abhorrent to Canadians. We have heard time and again of these events and the impact they can have on a child.

We should bring the bill to the justice committee where amendments can be put into place. I respect what the hon. member is trying to do. However we should change the bill's details to make it possible, charter proof and applicable under the law.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand and speak to Bill C-437. I commend the hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt who brought the bill forward.

This an important issue. The bill would make people who commit sexual offences against children ineligible for parole. It would create a sex offender registry to which offenders would have to report for five years concerning their residency, employment and other things.

A number of people have spoken to the bill in the House. The hon. member for Crowfoot said he fully supported the bill. He commended the member for bringing it forward although he said he would like to see changes. The hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough said very eloquently that the bill was not perfect but was something we needed. He said we should get it to committee where we can make changes and work together in a non-partisan way to see that it becomes law. Unfortunately, government members ensured the bill would not be votable. The hon. member asked for unanimous consent but was denied it by the government.

Bill C-437 seeks to protect the most vulnerable in society: our children. The hon. member for Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough talked about statistics and the disturbing number of children in our society who are subjected to sexual predators. Also disturbing has been the government's refusal to act on the matter prior to the bill coming forward . It refused to let the bill go to committee so it could be fine tuned to make it charter proof. There needed to be changes.

In British Columbia where I come from we had the Robin Sharpe case. The man preyed on our most innocent and vulnerable: our children. He went through a number of trials beginning at the trial division. He was acquitted of possession of child pornography. The case went to the court of appeal and all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. All through the process there was a need for the government to bring in a clear law to protect children. The cases were thrown out because section 164 of the criminal code violated his rights under the charter.

The government could have intervened and brought forward a tight and bulletproof law. Opposition members are trying to fill in the void. The hon. member for Saskatoon--Humboldt has brought forward Bill C-437 in an attempt to protect children. He spoke eloquently about the case in his province of a pedophile, Mr. Karl Toft, who was convicted for 34 sexual attacks on boys. He read into the record part of the psychiatric report which said it was one of the most severe cases. The report said there was no possibility of rehabilitation and an extremely high likelihood of Mr. Toft reoffending.

The recidivism rate is well over 50% for these types of sexual predators. Yet we as legislators are refusing to deal with the issue. Bill C-437 is not perfect. The hon. member for Crowfoot said we could tighten it up and make it positive in some aspects. The Tory member says he applauds the hon. member and understands what he is trying to do, but would like to see some changes in committee. That is where we could tighten the bill up. Yet government members are refusing to allow this to happen. The most vulnerable in our society, our children, have no opportunity to stand and defend themselves. It is unfortunate that we will not do it for them.

This is a serious problem and there are obviously holes in our current criminal code. There are holes in our legislation. We see repeat cases all the time. There are the severe cases like the Karla Homolkas and the Paul Bernardos, which are enough to send chills up anyone's spine, but there are also tens of thousands of cases for which we need to tighten up the legislation to ensure these people are not released. One of the key aspects of the bill is that sexual predators would not be eligible for parole. We could track them once they are released because the rate of reoffending is so high. Once they have served their full terms, we would know where they are working and where they are living.

The Canadian Alliance has called for the creation of a national sex offender registry in supply day motions. It was even voted upon by all members of the House. It passed yet we have not seen any action. That is the frustrating part. The issue has been brought before the House by numerous members, albeit opposition members, who recognize the void in our criminal code legislation. Yet the government has stonewalled every single time while our most vulnerable in society are put at risk.

There are a number of positive aspects to the bill. I do have some concerns as to whether the bill would be bulletproof with respect to the charter, but we could make it happen. We could take it to committee. I am sure the member would be open to listening to members from all sides as long as we followed his intent to protect our children and ensured these sexual predators would not reoffend.

We could make the necessary amendments. I am sure the member would be more than willing to listen to those amendments and the arguments, as long as we tried to do that. But no, the bill will get an hour of debate today and it is not votable. The member asked for unanimous consent to make this serious matter votable.

I can imagine the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we spent on the Robin Sharpe case alone as it went from the trial court to the court of appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada and back down to the trial court division, taking years and years. Children who were victims of sexual predators watched these shenanigans go on for years with no results.

It is our job as legislators to ensure that the legislation in the criminal code is there. When it is not working we should do something about it. I mentioned a specific case but there are many more.

I applaud the member for Saskatoon--Humboldt for bringing this forward as well as the member for Crowfoot and other members who have spoken on the bill. Unfortunately we have not heard a lot from the government side. I appeal to all members of the House to put partisanship behind us and let the bill go to committee in the name of all children, their own children and grandchildren who could be subject to sexual predators.

I will ask members to think once again, to re-evaluate this and let the bill go to committee. I ask for unanimous consent to make the bill votable which would allow it to go to committee where the necessary changes could be made. This would be a positive aspect for all Canadians and something of which every member of the House could be proud.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the hon. member have unanimous consent of the House to make the bill a votable item?

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleagues from Saanich—Gulf Islands, Crowfoot and Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough for expressing a degree of support for the intent of my bill.

I want to express my profound disappointment that Liberal members refused to allow the bill to proceed through a legislative process. I would like to state for the permanent record that the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine spoke against the intent of the bill, and I will be making some comments on that in a moment.

I would also like to state for the record that the Minister for Citizenship and Immigration and the member for Brossard—La Prairie are the ones who declined unanimous consent of the House to allow this legislation to proceed. I urge the constituents they are supposed to represent to bear that in mind at the time of the next federal election. The priority of their Liberal members of parliament was to mollycoddle child sex offenders as opposed to protecting our children.

I am astonished at the remarks made by the Liberal member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine who in her remarks said that putting criminals behind bars would not protect the public and that it was important for offenders to be released into society. It is clear that she is detached from reality. She does not appreciate the obscenity in releasing a guy like Karl Toft who was convicted of 34 sex offences against children and as I stated in my previous speech the number is probably in the hundreds. He would only serve nine years behind bars and then be released into our community. That is obscene and offensive.

The Liberal members are shirking their responsibility as representatives of their constituents by not allowing the bill to go forth. Once again I would like to express my profound disappointment at their lack of willingness to represent their constituents who would virtually unanimously agree that releasing such a deviant into society after only nine years, considering the number of victims that he has left in his wake, is completely unacceptable. Their unwillingness to allow this child predator act to go to committee is inexplicable and highly disappointing.

Child Predator Act
Private Members' Business

Noon

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The period provided for consideration of private members' business has now expired. Since the motion has not been selected as a votable item, the item is dropped from the order paper.

We shall now proceed to Government Orders.