House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was census.

Topics

The House resumed from September 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Old Age Security Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona had the floor. There are 11 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks. I therefore call upon the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to continue with my speech on this bill. As indicated, I spoke yesterday on it for a number of minutes and I have about 11 minutes left, but for those who are listening in today and who did not have the benefit of listening to the presentations yesterday on this bill, I will recap and then point out some of the things that this bill would do.

It would suspend payments of old age security, OAS, and guaranteed income supplement, GIS, to all persons 65 years of age and older while they are serving time in a federal correctional facility, which, of course, would be a sentence of two years or more.

It would suspend payments of the spousal or survivor allowance to eligible individuals between 60 and 64 years old while the individual is serving time in a federal facility.

It would maintain OAS and GIS payments to spouses and partners of those who are incarcerated, and provide to receive these payments at the higher single rate based on the individual rather than the combined spousal income. It also would maintain the spousal allowance benefits to the spouses of incarcerated individuals.

The bill would allow the provinces to opt in by entering into agreements with the federal government to suspend OAS, GIS and spousal allowance benefits on the above terms to all individuals incarcerated for a sentence that exceeds 90 days in a provincial facility. This would take a process of having all of the provinces opt into this bill. Notwithstanding the above, the benefit payments could still be paid during the first month of the incarceration. Benefit payments would resume the month that an individual was released on earned remission, parole, statutory release or a warrant expiry.

In terms of some of the positive aspects of the bill, which speakers on this side of the House have noted, there is an inherent and undeniable logic to suspending payments designed to provide for the basic necessities of life in cases when the taxpayer is already funding the basic necessities of life, and that has been mentioned by almost all of the speakers to this bill.

Another positive aspect of suspending pensions for prisoners is that it does have a lot of support out in the public. It would save between $2 million a year and up to $10 million per year if all of the provinces and the territories were to opt in. The bill would also mitigate, to an extent, the financial impact on spouses by allowing them to receive OAS and GIS payments at the single rate based on their individual rather than a combined spousal income.

I did deal with an issue here yesterday to which I still do not have an answer. I asked at what point, what year and what government was in place when the OAS and GIS benefits were initially provided to inmates of federal institutions. I understand that the year was 1979 when Joe Clark was the Conservative prime minister. It was the Conservative government of Joe Clark that started paying OAS and GIS payments to federal prisoners in the first place. I asked whether, in developing this bill, the government had gone back to those days to determine the debates that had occurred and why the government in those days decided to provide these payments to the prisoners in the first place.

Was there Hansard debate available here in the House at the time? I am sure this must have come before the House of Commons for debate. If there is no Hansard available, then how did this measure start? Was it an administrative decision on the part of Joe Clark and the Conservative government to provide these pension benefits to federal inmates? Exactly what was the process? Was there a court intervention? Did somebody take the issue to court and win a court case and that is why the federal government made that move?

We know that when we get this bill to committee there will be an opportunity to ask these questions and more so we can get a full understanding of where this issue came from. Essentially, like a lot of the government's justice initiatives, it is basically knee-jerk. It is based on what the latest polling shows or what the latest press articles are. When an article comes out, the next week the government introduces a bill to deal with that issue. When in actual fact we know, and the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan pointed out very well yesterday, that what we need is complete pension reform in this country

We need to move forward. We have seen some good signals coming from the Conservative government that it is prepared to look at doubling the benefits of the CPP as opposed to taking the private route and rewarding private insurance companies on Bay Street. I applaud the Conservatives for that because that is to the benefit of Canadian citizens and not something we would necessarily expect coming out of a Conservative government.

In the area of the Criminal Code, it has been mentioned several times in the House that the Criminal Code that is 100-plus years old, that it is out of date and that it needs a lot of revisions. It is time for the government to take a total view of things and make an announcement that the Criminal Code will be revised, get all the parties involved and embark on this process.

I still go back to what has not been accomplished under this minority government. When we compare the minority government period of Lester Pearson from 1962 to 1968, those six years, to this government which is pushing five years, it is only a year away from actually exceeding being probably the longest minority government in history and it has very little to show for its now five years in office.

During the same time, the Pearson government had resolved some very controversial issues. It brought in the new Canadian flag, which was very controversial to the members of the Conservatives at the time. It unified the armed forces, also extremely controversial, melding the air force, the navy and the army together in one unit. It brought in the Medicare Act. That government did a lot of things and the present government could be doing the same thing.

I look to Manitoba as well, under the Conservative government of Gary Filmon, where, in a minority situation, it got a lot of things done because it was trying to make parliament work.

However, here we have a group that is undecided as to how it wants to proceed. It develops a wedge politics attitude and every issue it looks at it wonders how it can drive wedges between the opposition parties and create division within the country. That is not how Lester Pearson ran the government.

I do not know how long it will take for the government to figure this out but I hope it does it soon because it may not be around that much longer. I would hate to see the Conservatives wake up years after the fact and realize that if only they had done this. I can see the Prime Minister, 10 years from now, saying, “I was the Prime Minister for five years and I could have done X, Y and Z but I let the opportunity pass”.

Once again I would call on the government and the Prime Minister to take the initiative, to do the comprehensive revisions to the pension system in this country, to initiate major changes to the Criminal Code and, by doing so, will develop a national vision for the government, which it does not have at this time.

As was pointed out yesterday, our member for Burnaby—New Westminster has a motion, Motion No. 507, tabled before the House where he requested that the government prohibit the payment of old age security and guaranteed income supplement payments to individuals serving life sentences for multiple murders, except for the individuals released from prison, and allocate the proceeds to a victims compensation program administered by the provinces. This is a very sensible approach in that it would cut the payments to mass murderers, 19 of them in the system right now, and it would take the proceeds from their pensions and put them into a compensation fund for the victims where it rightfully belongs. That would go a long way to helping victims in this country. It shows vision and it shows leadership, something that is severely lacking from the government on this particular issue.

We are offering solutions that try to contribute to the problems in the country.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, if we look at the demographic changes in our country, we will have an explosion of those people who will be needing pensions. We also know there is a significant problem today of people not having enough savings and not having enough pension security.

I would ask the member's opinion on one of the things I think we could do. When pensions were put together, the average life expectancy was roughly 60 to 62. Today, the average life expectancy of a woman is 82 and for a man it is 80. There is a large gap between the time of retirement and the average end of life.

I would ask the member whether one of the challenges that a government would have and one of the solutions would be to incentivize individuals to be able to work after the age of 65. Maybe one way to do this would to enable people to take a part of their CPP tax free in order to incent them to work after the age of 65, and that number would actually increase from 65 to 70. This way it would have less pressure on our CPP levels while providing an incentive for people to work.

We are also seeing a contraction in our workforce as our population ages. The amount of workforce we have will contract because we know our population reproduction rate now is about 1.5 children per woman and the number needed just to maintain a population is 2.1 children per women.

Does my friend believe that a significant reformation of our pension system to incent individuals to work beyond the age of 65 would be to allow them to keep part of their CPP tax free?.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am always interested to hear from the member because he makes very insightful speeches on not only this but many topics.

I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance would be more than prepared to let him know this. In the last budget, and I am not sure whether it was in that 880-page omnibus budget bill that was presented before the House or whether it was in another part of the budgetary process, but the government actually did deal with part of what he just spoke of. It tinkered with the rules a bit to give incentive to people who wished to work an extra two or three years and they will get paid a little bit more than if they were to take early retirement. That is already on its radar and it was dealt with last year to that small extent.

I read an article about that issue where an analyst said that it was a bit of an incentive. People who stayed in the workforce an extra three or four years would gain a little bit but at the end of the day it really was not that much and therefore the incentive for staying probably was not worth staying the extra three years. It is not really quite enough. Perhaps what the member is suggesting, combined with what the government is already doing, might actually achieve the desired effect.

I do not think what has been done with the system right now will achieve the results that the government itself is looking for here. It did not offer a big enough incentive for people to stay in the workforce those extra two or three years.

The member is welcome to check with the parliamentary secretary on this issue because he has all the details. However, it was passed and I believe it is in force as we speak, or should be. What the hon. member has mentioned is certainly an added benefit that we should look at because I do not think what the government has done will give it the desired effect. I could be wrong but I do not think so.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Is the House ready for the question?

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

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

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eliminating Entitlements for Prisoners Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I declare the motion adopted. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from June 16 consideration of the motion that Bill C-22, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

When this bill was last before the House, the hon. member for Elmwood—Transcona also had the floor. There are 18 minutes remaining in the time allotted for his remarks on this particular bill. I therefore call on the hon. member for Elmwood--Transcona.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to continue debate on what is now Bill C-22. I think this may be my last speech for a while, so all members can relax.

This is also a very important bill. Once again, it has been five years plus that we have been waiting for this bill, now titled Bill C-22. It was called Bill C-58 before the government prorogued the House. It is the child protection act online sexual exploitation.

There are some important points here that the members should know about this bill even though it has been knocking around now for five years and many speeches have been made about it. It is one of these bills where there really is not a lot of disagreement on the subject.

I personally am not really sure how it is going to play out. The reality is once we send it to committee, which should be fairly soon, and once the committee hearings are proceeded with, I really do not foresee many amendments to this bill and I do not foresee a lot of controversy with this bill. If anything, we may find that this bill is, in some respects, already out of date because it has been five years since we started discussing about it.

It is an act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service. Basically, an ISP is now going to be required to take action on this issue.

Bill C-58 was introduced in the House of Commons on November 24, 2009 by the Minister of Justice. Bill C-58, now Bill C-22, was intended to fight Internet child pornography by requiring ISPs, or Internet service providers, and other persons providing Internet services, for example, Facebook, Google, Hotmail, to report any incident of child pornography.

This requirement included several things, but one was that if a person providing Internet services was advised of an Internet address where child pornography may be available, the person must report that address to the organization designated by the regulations.

I know the member for Mississauga South is bound to ask me a question about the whole issue of the regulations. Once again, until the bill passes, the government sets up the regulations, and we actually will not know what the details will be of this particular part.

Also, if a person has reasonable grounds to believe that the Internet services operated by that person are being used to transmit child pornography, the person must notify the police, that is a logical thing, and also preserve the computer data.

In terms of provincial and international measures, in June 2008, my home province, the Manitoba Legislature passed a law requiring all persons to report to cybertip.ca, which seems to be a very successful longstanding website, any material that could constitute child pornography.

Ontario passed a similar law in December 2008.

Thank goodness Ontario and Manitoba moved ahead because if they waited for the federal government, they would have been waiting an awful long time to get the job done.

The United States and Australia adopted laws in 2002, eight years ago, and in 2005, Australia imposed this requirement on the ISPs.

In terms of the current legislation that affects this area, we have section 163.1 of the Criminal Code, which was passed under the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien back in 1993. This was actually a very good initiative in its day, prohibiting the production, the distribution, the sale, and the possession of child pornography.

The definition under the legislation is a visual representation of explicit sexual activity with a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of 18, the visual representation for sexual purposes of persons under the age 18, or any written material advocating or counselling sexual activity with a person under the age of 18.

Internet child pornography takes the form of images, sound recordings, videos, drawings of accounts of sexual assaults on persons under the age of 18. In 2002, Bill C-15A amended subsection 163.1 of the code, which prohibited the distribution of child pornography by introducing the term “transmits” and made available to prohibit the distribution of child pornography online. The bill also added subsections 163.1 and 163.1 (4.2) to the code making it an offence to deliberately access child pornography by visiting a website, as an example.

Bill C-15A also provided for a special warrant in relation to Internet child pornography under section 164.1 of the code. If there are reasonable grounds to believe that child pornography is accessible through an ISP computer system, the judge may order the ISP to provide the necessary information to identify and locate the person who posted it. In addition, the judge may order the ISP to remove the Internet child pornography in question.

With regard sentencing, child pornography offences are considered hybrid offences. The prosecutor may choose whether the accused should be charged with an indictable offence and be liable to a summary conviction. The offences of producing, distributing and selling of child pornography, if treated as indictable offences, are punishable by a maximum prison term of 10 years and a minimum of one year. On summary conviction, they are punishable by a maximum prison term of 18 months and a minimum term of 90 days.

The offences of possession and viewing of child pornography on the computer are punishable for indictable offences by a maximum prison term of five years and a minimum term of 45 days and on a summary conviction by a maximum term of 18 months and a minimum of 14 days.

In terms of statistics on this issue, according to Statistics Canada, which gathers all types of information on pornography and not just Internet child pornography alone, child pornography offences have increased significantly in Canada from 55 offences in 1998 to 1,600 in 2007. I have some statistics that indicate how serious the issue is in Canada, which I will get to in a couple of minutes.

It is currently estimated that there are over five million child sexual abuse images on the Internet. According to an analysis by cybertip.ca, from 2002 to 2009 54.7% of the images on Internet sites contained pornographic images of children under the age of 8, 24.7% were of children aged 8 to 12, and 83% were girls. Over 35% of the images analyzed showed severe sexual assault. Children under the age of eight most often subjected to sexual assault was at 37.2% and extreme sexual assault was at 68.5%. Older children were usually shown naked or in an obscene pose.

The fact of the matter is that this situation is just getting worse. We are seeing this whole problem snowballing and getting bigger on a day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year basis while we sit here and do not take action.

The cybertip.ca study showed that the Internet sites containing child pornography are hosted in close to 60 countries. We know which countries are hosting these sites. For example, in the United States 49% of the sites are hosted in the United States, in Russia 20%, in Canada 9%. When we consider that we have only 30 million people in the country and 9% of the sites are hosted in Canada, that is a very large percentage. In Japan it is 4.3% and in South Korea it is 3.6%.

These sites are very difficult to track down because all of the child pornography files hosted on a web page are not necessarily hosted in the same location. For instance, image A may be hosted in Canada while image B on the same web page may be hosted in the United States. The web page itself might be hosted in yet another country such as Japan.

Similarly, an illegal site can hide the host location through an anonymous proxy server or through server rerouting. There are a lot of technical terms here that the average individual may not be familiar with. Suffice to say that whatever laws exist, the criminal elements, and we are talking about criminal elements, try to be one step ahead. When there are tough laws in one country, they simply move to another country.

The Liberal Party critic for this area has spoken several times on this bill. He has pointed out countries that have simply blocked the sites rather than put money into fighting this problem. Maybe that is the answer.

I asked the minister at the time, who is no longer even a member of the Conservative caucus, why she was announcing that she was going to spend $42 million chasing these sites. I asked her whether this was new money or old money. That was a year ago. She was still a Conservative and a minister in those days.

In Hansard she tells me that she is going to get back to me on this issue. I have yet to hear from her or anybody else in the government as to whether the $42 million to track down these sites is actually new money or just the same old money being announced over and over again.

What I suggest is that rather than spend $42 million to chase these criminals, because that is who they are, we look at those countries that have simply blocked the sites. That is the problem solved right there, it seems to me. We would not have to keep throwing endless amounts of money at the problem.

Identical sites may also be simultaneously located on different URLs. In such cases, it can be very difficult to remove the child pornography. Even if the site is closed down, the offensive material may still be accessible on the Internet. Moreover, illegal sites regularly change location so that they can avoid being shut down.

I want to deal with the penalties under this act before I run out of time. The fact is that these penalties are not tough enough. For individuals, the penalties being proposed are perhaps accurate. However, when we start dealing with companies, and if one considers that criminal groups are running these sites, these fines are simply the cost of doing business. I think the fine for a third offence is approximately $100,000. I will get to that at the end if I have time.

As I indicated, illegal sites regularly change location to avoid being shut down. In a period of 48 hours, Cybertip.ca counted 212 IP addresses in 16 countries for a single website. A website can also change location in just a few minutes by utilizing a network of personal computers as zombies. These zombies relay the content of the website hosted on another server.

Cybertip.ca recommended that when zombies are detected, ISPs running the networks to which these computers are connected should be able to suspend service for those computers until the infected computers are restored.

Another reason this whole problem is snowballing day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year into a bigger and bigger problem is the fact that the computer hardware and software has gotten so much better.

I can recall, perhaps 10 years ago, when the Rolling Stones announced that they were going to do the very first concert on the web. Nobody had done it before. That was in the days when the cameras were operating at 15 frames per second. We all remember those images being choppy. It was certainly in its infancy. The Internet was very slow in those days. We did not have the gigabit ethernet pipes we have today.

What has happened is that today we have a much more technologically advanced system that is designed perfectly for these criminal elements to take advantage of. Taking advantage of it they are.

Governments are sitting around, basically proroguing Parliament every year. We are thrown a bill that is really non-controversial in the sense that just about everyone agrees with the bill.

We passed pardon legislation dealing with the Karla Homolka situation in June in literally a day and a half. If the government really wants to accomplish something here and get the bill through, it only has to sit down with the House leaders and make an arrangement to sit for perhaps a few hours extra in the evening, given that there is not a lot of disagreement about how important the bill is and how it should be passed and put into effect to deal with the issues.

Any person may inform an ISP or other person providing Internet services that a web page, host page, Facebook page, or e-mail appears to contain child pornography. The ISP or other person providing Internet services must then report the address of the site, page or e-mail in question as soon as possible to an organization designated by the federal government.

For example, under Manitoba law, the designated organization is the national reporting agency Cybertip.ca. I want to say that Cybertip.ca has played a very important role in this whole process so far.

After being notified by a member of the public or an agency that child pornography may appear through the Internet services it provides, the ISP or other person providing the Internet services may have reasonable grounds to believe that child pornography is being transmitted through its services. It may also reach this conclusion on its own. When this is the case, the ISP or person providing the Internet services must notify the police as soon as possible.

I am running out of time, but I want to deal with a couple of other issues. There is a provision in the bill that the police must keep the computer data related to the child pornography offence for 21 days. Several people have questioned whether 21 days is appropriate. It seems not only to me but to a number of other people that 21 days may be too short a period for that to properly happen.

I also dealt with the offences. In terms of individuals, the fine is $1,000 for the first offence, $5,000 for a second and a maximum of $10,000 or six months for a third.

For corporations, the criminals who are running these sites, it is only $10,000 for the first offence, $50,000 for a second and $100,000 for a third, which is no more than the cost of doing business.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to Bill C-22 about online child pornography.

It is hard to imagine a more despicable, disgusting and appalling crime than the abuse of a child.

It is impossible for any of us to imagine that such a thing is possible, but we all know that today it is far too common. Unfortunately, the victims who bear the brunt of this abuse lay all too silent.

Most child victims of abuse are never found or are found far later in their lives. Their lives unravel at inexplicable times, and when we scratch the surface and go back into what started this, we often find episodes of child abuse.

Those who commit the abuse are often not found. Once individuals are found, it is discovered that not only have they had a few victims, but generally there has been a long-standing pattern of victimization. Many have abused dozens and dozens of children over a prolonged period of time. It is a psychiatric sickness, but it is also a cancer in our society that is absolutely intolerable.

The bill goes some way toward dealing with that and specifically with dealing with online child pornography. It was introduced on May 6 in the last Parliament and is being resurrected again in this Parliament.

The bill basically obligates people to report all website addresses they are aware of that may contain pornography. There is an obligation to report them to police if it is believed that a child pornography offence has or will be committed, based on the services one has. The provider must also preserve the relevant computer data for 21 days after notifying the police.

Failure of sole providers to report such a thing will result in fines of between $1,000 and $10,000, and failure of corporations to do this will result in fines of between $10,000 and $100,000. It is important to note that the bill does not require online providers to proactively seek out child pornography.

Therefore, the Liberal Party of Canada, given its long-standing history of addressing this issue, will be supporting the bill to go on to committee stage.

Legislative initiatives to deal with this go as far back as 2002, when the Liberal government of the day, for the first time, introduced legislation to deal with and criminalize online pornography and those people who contribute to it.

It would be worthwhile to talk a bit about facts and to discuss the depth and scope of this terrible problem.

The Internet is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it provides great opportunities to learn and disseminate information. The dark side of this, of course, is the issue we are talking about today, which is child pornography. It is important for us to understand what this actually means. No one thinks it is innocuous, but it certainly has to be dealt with in terms of how serious it is, as I mentioned, because of the long-standing trauma it inflicts on children. Children are not only being exposed to child pornography on sites but are also being victimized by it, as individuals try to lure children through the Internet capabilities they have.

Here is a little bit of information. Seventy-six per cent of offenders convicted of Internet-related crimes against children admitted to sex crimes against children that were previously unknown to law enforcement. Each offender admitted to 30.5 victims; so every person picked up as an offender has, on average, abused 30 children. That is an absolutely staggering number of children per abuser.

Of the 1,400 cases of reported child molestation, child pornography was used in the majority of cases by those who were the molesters. Child molesters almost always collect child pornography, and 80% of purchasers of child pornography who have been charged have actually been active abusers. We can see the strong connection between those who are actually engaging in and looking at child pornography and the fact that those individuals are also abusing children. There is a direct correlation.

The absence of contact with a child is probably the most significant factor in limiting the production of child pornography and the opportunity to access to children, which is an essential factor in the production of child pornography and child abuse.

The RCMP stands out as a shining example of a Canadian police force that has done an extraordinary amount of work in this area. The RCMP is known worldwide as being a leader in the area of combatting child pornography. All of us in the House should commend the RCMP for the excellent work it has done and the men and women who have to endure looking at these sites and horrible images. This cannot be an easy thing for them to do. For those men and women who work within the RCMP and who have to look at these sites, witness this horrible abuse and try to identify those individuals who do this, we thank them for their service to Canada and particularly for their service to the children of Canada and the world.

The RCMP has a site called cybertip.ca. This site has received over 35,000 reports, 90% of which were considered to be child pornography. If people who are watching this debate today are aware of or know of individuals who are engaged in child pornography or child abuse, I ask them to please contact 911 or cybertip.ca.

Only 30% of children who disclose that they have been sexually abused do so during childhood. As I said before in my opening comments, as a physician I have seen a lot of patients who have been abused sexually and oftentimes they have different problems. When their lives start to unravel and an indepth history is done, too often it is found that they have a history of sexual abuse.

I used to be a correctional officer. I also, as a physician, I worked in the jails. The number of people in jail who had been abused sexually as a child is very large. Many of them not only have psychiatric problems, but they also have substance abuse problems, a lot of which stems from early sexual abuse. Many of the pedophiles in jail were sexually abused as children. It is a vicious cycle that goes around and around.

The Liberal Party supports the bill. We also support the work that the RCMP has done.

One of the things we have to look at is the early childhood period. We need a better way to reach these children so when they are abused, they have a safe place to go to talk about it so the perpetrators can be arrested and the children can be taken out of that situation.

As I said before, only 30% of children disclose that they have been sexually abused before the age of six, which means that 70% of children who are sexually abused prior to the age of six never tell. They endure years of abuse unknown to anybody. We can deal with this by providing opportunities.

I will give the House a real life example of the impact of this.

I worked in a jail where two sisters around the age of 14 had been picked up for prostitution. Their mother, who I knew because I had treated in the detox unit and in emergency, had a substance abuse problem. She was prostituting her two little girls to raise money to pay for her drug abuse problem.

I told the two young women that they would wind up dead if they did not stop, and they laughed it off. A year and a half after that one of the girls was found dead in a ditch in northern British Columbia. After that, I was walking through the pediatric ward doing my rounds and this girl looked familiar. She was still a teenager and she had a very bad stroke affecting half of her body. Because of the environment she was in, she had been exposed to drugs. I do not know what happened to her after that, but what a profoundly tragic end to two little girls who could have had a full and complete life if it were not for the situation they had been in.

If we take a look at the broader scope, there is child sex tourism. This is a situation where we have adults from the west going to countries, generally third world countries but sometimes a lot go to eastern Europe, where laws are lax and interest is limited in terms of child abuse. Adults are going far away to Southeast Asia, eastern Europe, areas of extreme poverty, and they are using the very unstable situation to fulfill their warped and twisted sexual appetites.

The victims of this are literally millions of children. In fact, it is estimated that in India, there are 1.2 million child prostitutes. In Thailand, a favoured destination of pedophiles, 40% of the prostitutes are children. If we look at the cycle, sometimes individuals go into rural and impoverished areas that are in the grips of deep poverty. They tell parents that if they bring their sons or daughters to them, they will ensure the children get jobs and the money will go to the parents. They tell them that their children will do domestic work or some other legitimate form of activity. Instead they take the children and use them as sex slaves.

The children have no hope and no future. They are horribly abused. They suffer from malnutrition. Sometimes they get pregnant early on. They acquire HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They die an early death. They are victims of extreme violence. They are often gang raped and no one hears about them. They are silent victims in this ever-growing epidemic.

Bill C-22 is an effort to try to deal with this.

We all see cases from time to time that come to forefront when individuals are caught. However, the number of people who are engaged in these behaviours, westerners who go abroad to engage in the sexual abuse of children, and who are actually caught is very small. Only a tiny fraction of these parasites are caught.

It speaks to the failure internationally of countries working together and collectively to address this. Too many times, domestic police forces turn a blind eye. In many of these impoverished countries, children have no rights. They are not really seen as being worthy of the protection of whatever legal rules they have. As a result, children are treated as little more than chattel. This leaves an environment that is ripe for this kind of dramatic sexual abuse and the horrible situations these children endure.

It occurs all over the world, as I said. It is very common in eastern Europe. It is very common in parts of Africa and certainly in Southeast Asia, but we are not immune from this here. Individuals acquire children and bring them to Canada and the United States. Children are abused in our country and we do not even know about it. The Internet is a route to doing that. When people are aware of the type of child pornography on the Internet, it is not a victimless crime. It is very much a crime, period, and the victims are the most underprivileged people in our society.

There are also a number of other very interesting endeavours taking place. The RCMP has, again, been at the forefront of it. It is trying to do a scan to determine the extent of the problem. It is trying to get a better handle on who does this so the people can be identified. It is trying to do a better job of understanding why people would try to go down this route in the first place and how they can be identified before they start to wrack up the number of victims.

Victim identification is also another challenge. Canada has not done a very good job on this. This is certainly something that needs to be addressed and dealt with.

All of us are very pleased that this issue has been brought forward, unlike the gun registry, which dominated the beginning of this Parliament. It is not even, by any stretch of the imagination, an issue that should be consuming Parliament in any way shape or form. There are thousands of other important issues that affect Canadians, such as jobs, money in their pockets, health care and myriad of other issues. This, at least, is an issue that is important.

It is also important to understand that the RCMP is working in an area that has received short shrift. When there is a disaster, in times of extreme insecurity, such as what occurred in the Tsunami in Southeast Asia, what is occurring in Pakistan today and what occurred in Haiti during the earthquake, children are extremely vulnerable. People lure children, taking them into sex slavery and prostitution. Like vultures they descend into these environments and try to find children who are lost, orphaned and found on the streets. At a time of insecurity, when the rule of law has been shattered, they go in and try to find children to abduct. This is a huge challenge, one on which compliment the RCMP for engaging in.

Right now the there is a strategy called “Operation Century”, which is an effort to try to prevent children, during the time of natural disaster, from being subjected to these kinds of abuses and from being abducted from their homes to be trapped. It is part of a national strategy in which the RCMP is engaged.

This all started back in 2002 when, for the first time, legislation was adopted and implemented to deal with something that was very new, which was the use of the Internet as a tool to capture children and use them for sexual abuse and to commit violent acts against them.

There is a national strategy for the protection of children from sexual exploitation on the Internet. The strategy was first launched in 2004 under then Prime Minister Paul Martin, and it extends to this day. I am very happy that the House has chosen to take this.

I hope all of us can agree that this is about our most vulnerable citizens, the children of our country and children from afar. Children deserve to have a life free of these kinds of abuses and violence, sexual abuse and exploitation to which some are subjected. No children should be subjected to that.

I think all of us support the RCMP's efforts to prevent it. We must work together to implement the legal tools that it needs to deal with an every-changing complex issue, which is the use of the Internet to exploit children.

Protecting Children from Online Sexual Exploitation Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I recognize the hon. member has completed his remarks and used the time allotted. There will be 10 minutes for questions and comments following his speech, but I think in light of the time, it is almost 11 o'clock, we will proceed with statements by members. He will have the full 10 minutes when debate resumes on this bill in due course.