House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was gst.

Topics

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for Papers
Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from May 4 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the third time and passed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

May 12th, 2004 / 3:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak to Bill C-12 today. What the bill is intended to do, which is quite different from what it actually does, is to make amendments to the Criminal Code that are intended to safeguard children from sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect.

Clearly these are issues that should have been dealt with a long time ago. In fact, I have been in the House for over 10 years now, and when I first came here the government promised it would deal with these issues. Legislation has appeared on a couple of occasions before and it was supposed to deal with some very serious problems regarding child exploitation, abuse and neglect, yet nothing concrete has happened.

I can safely say that things are no better now when it comes to protecting our children than they were when I came here 10 years ago. In fact, if we take a careful look at the law and the way the courts interpret the law, I think it is safe to say that things are actually worse now and the law actually does a poorer job now of protecting children than it did 10 years ago.

Now we have Bill C-12, which is supposed to fix these flaws in the law, but clearly Bill C-12 will not do that. There are several clear gaps in this legislation, which really make it clear that it will not do the job that it is intended to do. Again, the stated purpose of the legislation is fine, but what the legislation delivers is not. Frankly, that is a common problem that I have seen over the past 10 years. We have seen legislation that states a noble goal but then once delivered really does not do it.

The government seems extremely weak when it comes to putting forth effective legislation and that is too bad, especially when we are talking about protecting our children. I am going to point out some of the specific areas where this legislation clearly fails.

First, this legislation does not eliminate all defences for the criminal possession of child pornography. That is what the Canadian public wanted. It wanted all defences for the possession of child pornography eliminated.

Second, it does not raise the age of consent for adult-child sex. Since I have been here, I have seen literally tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands, possibly millions--it probably is in the millions--of names presented on petitions from Canadians who have called on the government to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16. What has the government done about these hundreds of thousands and probably millions of petitioners? It has ignored them, and that is really another serious flaw in this legislation. The government did not listen to the people who really understand what has to be done, but I will get to that later.

The third thing this legislation clearly fails to do is institute mandatory sentences for child sexual assault. What more important role has the law than to protect our children? To me the answer is clear: there is none. There is simply no more important role of the law than to protect children, yet this legislation clearly fails to do that.

The laws in the United Kingdom and the United States put in place mandatory sentences for sexual assault against children. Why is this so difficult or why is this government so unwilling to do that in Canada? Quite frankly, I do not have the answer.

I do not have the answer. It has been so frustrating. Several members of our party have taken on this issue with everything they have. We have all spoken to this issue. We have all encouraged the government to get serious about protecting our children. Yet what do we get? We get Bill C-12, which absolutely, certainly and clearly will not do that. Why? I will not try to answer for the motives of the government. I can say that this will not do it.

Because of this, Canada is becoming a global haven for child predators. That is not the kind of reputation I want for our country. One of the things we do not want Canada to be is a haven for sexual predators, yet because of our weak law that is exactly what we have become. It is shameful and it is embarrassing. More important, it is a failure of the Government of Canada to protect our children. It is such an important failure that it has to be corrected. The government has made several attempts to correct this over the years but it has clearly failed.

I want to go back to the issue of who the government listens to when it comes to making laws with regard to this issue. Does it listen to the Canadian public? No. As I have already said, we have had petitions presented in the House that have been signed by hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people. I would venture to guess that all of us in this party have presented petitions on this issue. Clearly the government has not been listening to the Canadian public.

This government tends to be elitist and wants to listen to a certain elite group of people that knows better than the general public; that seems to be the way it thinks. If that is what it wants to do, has it listened to front line police officers? That would make sense. Front line police officers know that child abuse takes place and they know how it takes place. They know where they fail in building a case that would stand up in court because of the law put in place by the government. Front line police officers know all these things. They also know the unbelievable damage this predation does to children and their families and their communities. Front line officers have told the government that, but does the government listen? It does not.

Until the government listens to child advocates, to front line officers and to the Canadian public, it will never fix this problem. I just want to say that a Conservative government will. We will. We have been speaking out on this issue and putting forth concrete recommendations for change. We have put amendments to legislation that the government has brought forward. Those amendments by and large have been ignored.

But when we form the government we will fix this issue, because to us the protection of our children is important. It is something we see as one of the most important things a government can do and clearly one of the things government is expected to do. We will do that.

Part of this problem has come about as a result of the artistic merit defence. How many people have called the offices of every single member of Parliament, including Liberal members, to say they were upset with the Sharpe decision? In that case, the Supreme Court interpreted artistic merit and said that in the law it should be interpreted in the broadest sense possible.

While members of Parliament on both sides of the House have heard about this again and again, the government has done nothing to fix the artistic merit problem in Bill C-12. It simply is not going to change in that regard, but this has to be fixed. That is a big part of the reason why this problem has been allowed to carry on for so long. It simply has to be fixed. I have very little faith that this will happen, but I hope it will before Parliament is dissolved. If the government does not fix it, we will.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Fitzpatrick Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I want to relate to the House an experience I had in my lifetime. I practised law in rural Saskatchewan for 23 years, in the great community of Nipawin, Saskatchewan, a community of 5,000 to 6,000 people. When people have lived in a community as long as I have, everybody knows one another.

I must say, too, that when one practises law, the law sometimes leaves something to be desired. From time to time we encounter things that just make us just shake our heads and wonder why the people who make the laws in the land, in Parliament and so on, do not remedy them.

A couple I knew quite well came to my office in tears. They had a great family. I knew some of the kids. Some of them were in university and some out of university and so on. Their daughter, who had just turned 14, had them weeping in my office. The problem was that the girl had taken up with a man who was 48 years of age. The parents were very concerned about this situation. They believed that it was an abusive and exploitive situation. The girl was too immature, in their minds, to make decisions like that herself, and she was in this situation. Quite frankly, I found it appalling.

I told them that there must be something we could do in this land, that there had to be a law that would allow parents to be parents and take care of their young children and protect them from those sorts of situations. In the peace and quiet of my own law office that evening, I went through everything I had, including the Criminal Code, the provincial laws and so on.

I found that under the provincial laws it is the parent's responsibility to provide children with schooling and the necessaries of life and so on until they are of legal age. That was clearly in the law. As well, there are custody disputes between parents who are splitting up as to who would have actual guardianship of these of 14 year old children so they can see them through their teen years and make sure they come out as good, solid young Canadian adults.

Then I went to the Criminal Code. I said, “There has to be something missing here. I cannot believe the law would not empower parents”. I went through the Criminal Code and found the provisions that this government is responsible for and refuses to do anything about. It basically gives a 14 year old the right to have sexual relationships as if she is a full adult. There is no help for the parents. It occurred to me that every sexual predator, especially those with a pedophiliac background, knows that this is the law of this land. And in this Internet age, boy, is that a huge opportunity. It is not a crack in the door. It is opening the barn door right up for a whole pile of exploitation.

One of the difficult things I had to do in that particular situation was to phone those people the next day to be the messenger for the law. Quite often as a lawyer one gets shot for being the messenger. One of the reasons I am here is that I hope I can influence the law sometimes so that we can be a better messenger when advising people and telling them what the state of the law is. It was a very painful experience for me to let those good folks know that there was nothing in the law that would help them. The police could not do anything; their hands were tied. The whole thing was just total nonsense.

There are 301 of us who were sent here. We are supposed to bring our common sense to this House and deal with matters like that. It seems to me that this is not a complicated issue. If we had questions and comments now, I would once again like to ask members opposite to give me one single reason why 14 year olds should not be protected and under the care of their parents and not left to be exploited by sexual predators and pedophiles in our society. This is shameful.

This is shameful; if only there were one ballot question on this in the next election when people go to mark their ballots. The Liberals mention things like artistic merit to defend the right of people who exploit young children to hide behind some sort of bogus argument like public good or artistic merit. Another thing that the Liberals hang their hats on is these sorts of defences.

Some say there has to be a youth offenders act because these people are not responsible for their actions and cannot be dealt with in criminal court and we have to treat them differently. However, when it comes to sexual relationships with 48-year-old men, then they are old enough to make those decisions, the state has no interest and neither do their parents and they can get out of the picture. This is appalling.

We talk about the culture of corruption and incompetence. I would say that one of the appalling things is the mentality to defend these kind of laws which falls within the parameters of corruption as well. Where are people's ethics and values when they can honestly stand behind these sorts of protections afforded to these sexual predators and people that prey upon our youth?

Every Canadian would want this House to stand up for 14-year-old people and support the parents who are trying to help their kids out, instead of letting them down like this.

I was not planning on speaking to this issue, but I am certainly glad I took the opportunity to do so. I wish there were questions and comments because the last time this bill came before us, I never heard a member from the opposite side come up with one intelligent reason why we could not change this law.

In fact, I want to raise an issue. When the question was raised the last time, a member of the Bloc actually stood up and said he thought the age should be lowered. He said that in his riding people want it lowered. I think he mentioned 12 years of age.

It made me scratch my head. Maybe I am from the wrong planet or the wrong part of the country. I am from rural Saskatchewan and people there are out of touch with this modern world. It has passed me by very quickly. I cannot actually believe that the member's constituents in the riding that he represents in that province would actually believe there would be anything good coming from lowering the age to 12 years from 14 years.

Once again, if people are scratching their heads and cannot find a reason to vote in this election, I would say this issue alone should get all Canadians out to vote, if they cannot figure out a reason to vote in the next election. Parliament should be a force for good. We should not be defending those people who are not there to do good things for our young people.

This is something that the lawmakers could do. It could be very effective. It would certainly help the police. It is appalling that police officers do extensive investigations on pedophiles. They set their trap only to find out that the victim of the pedophile was a 14 year old.

In my riding last summer there were two men in their twenties charged with sexual assault of a 12-year-old girl. They were acquitted. If I can believe the newspaper accounts in this case, they picked up an aboriginal girl 12 years of age and I guess they gave her liquor and so on and had a sexual situation with this young girl. It was a very painful thing; there was a lot of publicity in my province of Saskatchewan.

What was their lawyer's defence when it came to arguing the case before the judge? They thought she was over 14. Guess what happened? The judge acquitted them. The assaults had taken place. The girl had clearly been assaulted. The sexual relations had taken place. The judge acquitted the two men in their twenties because there was a reasonable doubt. Maybe someone thought there was a chance she was be 14.

I find this whole area very disturbing. This should not be a partisan issue. It should be a common sense issue, but common sense does not seem to be a strong point for the members opposite.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen: