House of Commons Hansard #82 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was money.

Topics

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, in answer to the question put by the hon. member, as you probably know, it is not up to the government to determine which allotted days go to which political parties. That decision is made following discussions among the parties. However, according to the usual pattern, the first allotted day goes to the official opposition. Of course, the opposition parties are free to make that determination on their own.

Business of the House
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

I believe that answers the question of the hon. member from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, who now has the floor to speak to Bill C-23.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to the other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am addressing Bill C-23, just like my colleague, the hon. member for Jonquière, and our critic on issues relating to the Solicitor General, the hon. member for Châteauguay.

I am well aware that this is no ordinary bill. When it comes to sex offenders, there is a mix of caution, rejection, biases and, of course, anger. Indeed, it is not easy, from a human point of view, to explain behaviours that we find reprehensible from early age and from the moment we begin to socialize.

Having said that, the Bloc Quebecois wants to be cautious. Our critic on issues relating to the Solicitor General, the hon. member for Châteauguay, pointed out that we support the principle of establishing a sex offenders' registry. Of course, we would like to see a number of benchmarks that Bill C-23 currently does not meet.

I should point out that, as Quebeckers, 1993 was a great and memorable year for us. As we all remember, this is the year the Bloc Quebecois became the official opposition. It is also the year an interdepartmental committee was established with the Deputy Minister of the Solicitor General, the Deputy Minister of Health and the Deputy Minister of Justice. We began working on a framework that was to lead to the creation of the registry that is now the object of this bill.

It is interesting to remember that the 1993 report included a number of findings. The first one was that a separate registry, that is a specific registry for sex offenders, would duplicate part of the information that is already collected by the Canadian Police Information Centre.

As a member of Parliament, I had the pleasure, in the nineties, to sit on the subcommittee on organized crime, when the situation was particularly disturbing. That committee travelled all across Canada. I was able to see that the Canadian Police Information Centre has very sophisticated files, as it should. We already have databases that allow us to track down individuals who have been convicted of a punishable offence, whether by summary conviction or criminal indictment.

The working group's second conclusion was that it would be desirable to have access to the full criminal history, rather than narrowing it down to sex offences. That is debatable. Should we have a specific registry for sex offenders or should we know all about the criminal background of an individual who has been convicted of any criminal offence?

We were told that a separate system would be expensive, that there would certainly be privacy issues—I will come back to that because it is extremely important. And of course, a comprehensive screening system is necessary.

We are in favour of establishing a sex offenders registry. We would hope there would be a number of safeguards along the way. There is, of course, the issue of protecting personal information and also that of proportionality in sentencing. That is very important.

I cannot agree with the previous speaker who seemed to be saying that compatibility with the charter is not important. As you know, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has great strengths and great flaws. It invalidated important provisions of Quebec's Bill 101. So for us it is negative. The late René Lévesque opposed the charter because the section on multiculturalism was incompatible with the social choices made by Quebec. But in terms of main protections in criminal law, such as the doctrine of audi alteram partem , the right to be heard and to have a fair defence, and the other main protections found in section 7 of the charter, we are in favour.

These provisions are also found in the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Quebec was one of the first legislatures, the first nation within Canada, to adopt a Quebec charter, in 1975. In 1977, the Parti Quebecois government made significant changes to it, even adding social condition to article 10, which is still not part of the Canadian Human Rights Act, despite the many bills tabled by this member of the Bloc Quebecois.

Our colleague, the hon. member for Sherbrooke, has taken up the cause since this matter relates to human rights.

The intent of the bill is to amend the Criminal Code. This is interesting because criminal law constantly seeks to maintain balance.

I can say that there was a former Minister of Justice who, in the early 1970s, published a white paper. The Criminal Code, obviously, is used to sanction, to coerce and to invite us to maintain a balance between the great values of integrity of person and peace among communities. Which Minister of Justice published this white paper on criminal law reform? The one who is now Prime Minister.

It is interesting to note that the then member for Saint-Maurice was the Minister of Justice. Unfortunately, these years bring back bad memories because that Minister of Justice unilaterally patriated the Constitution, which Quebec's own National Assembly has never accepted. The National Assembly is not likely to ratify this document from 1982 any too soon. It is a document which eroded the authority of the National Assembly, and we will never accept this. The Bloc Quebecois is the direct outcome of this rejection of the Constitution Act, 1982.

That said, Bill C-23 adds an extremely important provision to the Criminal Code. This provision amends sections 490.02 to 490.09. It would, therefore, establish a certain number of offences. For persons found guilty of this series of offences, the courts can determine, at the Crown's request—this must be kept in mind; it is not automatic—the list of offences, which I will share with you and which lead to the offender being listed on the registry.

These are pretty serious offences, as hon. members will see. We are talking about sexual offences involving children, and this is covered, of course, by section 490.02, under invitation to sexual touching and sexual exploitation for instance.

You may remember, Mr. Speaker—I think you were a member of this place at the time—that in 1995 the Criminal Code was amended to include sexual exploitation taking place not only in Canada but also abroad.

We were witnessing the emergence of the whole sex tourism industry. Unfortunately, there were fellow citizens of ours who travelled abroad, often to such sun destinations as Cuba, Mexico or Thailand, to have a good time without always bothering to respect the dignity of those whose country they were visiting and, sadly, engaged in activities related to sexual exploitation, against which there was no legal recourse.

Back in 1995 and 1996, the hon. member for Québec had put a bill forward. The debate that took place in this House was most worthwhile. Once again, we can clearly see how vigilant the members of the Bloc Quebecois are.

That having been said, offences requiring registration include sexual offences against children, invitation to sexual touching and, of course, sexual exploitation.

Another extremely reprehensible activity, which people do not want to be negotiable for those engaging in it, is incest. There is also child pornography, which the Fraser commission dealt with in the days of the Conservative government. There is luring by means of a computer system.

Mr. Speaker, without imposing, would you be kind enough to ask if I could have another five minutes to finish my speech?

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent for the hon. member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve to speak for five more minutes?

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member will therefore have five more minutes.

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that there is a spirit of great camaraderie developing increasingly in this House, and we are better parliamentarians because of it. I will continue in this spirit of frank camaraderie, which makes us all better human beings.

Clauses 490.02 through 490.09 list some extremely important offences. I had got as far as incest, which has been in the Criminal Code since the 19th Century. This cannot, of course, be tolerated.

Then there is child pornography. As I said, the Fraser commission addressed this in 1985, and then there is luring a child using a computer; stupefying or overpowering for the purpose of sexual intercourse; living on the proceeds of prostitution of a person under age of eighteen.

As an aside, in connection with prostitution, in the summer of 2000, the leader of the Bloc Quebecois, the member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie, mandated me along with my colleague, the member for Longueuil, and my former colleague, the member for Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, who as members know is not an independent Bloc MP but an independent MP, to head a task force on the phenomenon of street prostitution. This is not a trifling matter in major centres. For instance, in Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, there are some 100 to 120 sex trade workers in operation from the time the snow melts until October.

We must not show prejudice here. None of us ever knows how life's ups and downs will end up affecting what happens to us. When one addresses the phenomenon of prostitution, one realizes it is not one-dimensional. These are not just women with a drug abuse problem. That is one reality, and certainly a dominant one in the prostitution picture, but it would be wrong, and overly narrow, to try to bring the debate down to that dimension alone.

Incidentally, I would like to share a little secret. I know that everything that is said here is highly confidential. When I was first elected in 1993, one of the first issues I had to deal with, as the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, was street prostitution. There was a march organized in my riding, where I met with sex-trade workers. You can imagine my surprise to learn that one of the sex-trade workers I met was a former page in the House of Commons. She had worked here. This is not a joke. This helped me understand one thing clearly, and that is that we never know where life will take us. Some people's lives take a turn for the worse and they face hardship. However, that does not make prostitution acceptable for most people.

In the report we tabled, we proposed a whole plan. I am convinced that prostitution must be removed from residential neighbourhoods.

There is quite a selection process to become a page in the House of Commons. One might think that if someone is a page in the House of Commons, that this person comes from a good family, that this person was well off. This person, relatively speaking, is quite well educated. However, despite all this, there I was dealing with a person who was a sex-trade worker. So we see how there are lessons we learn in life that shape us and that help us reconcile ourselves with fate.

In closing, I would like to say that even though we support this bill, our concerns will revolve around the whole issue of protecting privacy. We have in mind the example of what they did in Great Britain, where they set up a registry that is not available to the general public. I will have an opportunity to speak further on this at third reading.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

April 1st, 2003 / 4:20 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among the parties and I think that if you ask the House would give unanimous consent for the following motion.

I move:

That the second report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, presented on Wednesday, March 19, 2003, be concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Does the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have unanimous consent to propose the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is there unanimous consent of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?